Challenging the Government of Ontario

Yesterday, I was at Queen’s Park for a press conference announcing a Charter challenge to section 65(5.7) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“FIPPA”). The FIPPA exists to make government information public and to protect personal information from being made public. Section 65(5.7) of the FIPPA excludes any and all information related to the provision of abortion services. This section therefore excludes statistical information which contain no personal characteristics. Pro-life blogger Patricia Maloney and the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada retained me to challenge this section.

The case is about freedom of expression, government transparency and the right of citizens to be aware of and comment on important information of a public and political nature. Read the Notice of Application here.

Physcians’ rights: 2 articles published in December

In December 2014, I had two articles published on physicians’ conscience and religious rights. The first was an article published in FOCUS magazine, the publication of the Christian Medical and Dental Society. See pages 25 and 26 for the article, “Protecting our Patients and Physician’s Rights.

The second article was a piece I co-authored with Larry Worthen, the executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society. It was published by LifeSiteNews and entitled “Ontario College of Physicians’ new policy violates basic tenets of law.”

Abortion Statistics Case Moves Forward

LifeSiteNews recently wrote an article about Pat Maloney‘s case and how it’s progressing. I’ve been working with Pat on this case and the article highlights some of the major issues this challenge raises, like access to information.

A pro-life blogger suing the Ontario government over its refusal to provide access to provincial abortion statistics has submitted the written arguments to Ontario’s Superior Court. The court is expected to hear the case at the end of October and issue its decision three to six months later.

“When governments are allowed to hide information, it prevents us from being allowed to keep them accountable to us for how they are spending that money,” Patricia Maloney, who blogs at Run With Life, told LifeSiteNews.

With the help of constitutional lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos, Maloney is hoping to convince the court that the Information and Privacy Commissioner erred last year when it upheld a previous ruling from the Ministry of Health denying her request for the province’s abortion statistics.

In 2010, the Ontario Liberal government quietly amended its freedom of information law with Omnibus Bill 122 that in part excluded “records relating to the provision of abortion services” from freedom of information requests.

You can read more about Pat’s case on her website here. She also lists the media coverage her case has garnered, including pieces from the National Post, Calgary Herald and Ottawa Citizen.

The basis of the challenge is that the Government of Ontario and the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) have misinterpreted the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). Our position is that section 65(5.7) of the FIPPA, the newly amended provision, cannot mean a ban on all materials related to the provision of abortion services, but must mean a ban on materials related to the provision of abortion services which contain personal information.

We come to this conclusion as the FIPPA has two goals: to make government documents public and to protect personal privacy. The number of abortions performed and the cost of those abortions is not personal information and therefore restricting access to that data is inconsistent with FIPPA’s goals. Section 65(5.7) must have been intended to cover only data related to the provision of abortion services which contain personal information.

This position also supports a constitutional interpretation of the FIPPA. Section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press. As a blogger, Pat Maloney benefits from freedom of the press. In order for Pat to exercise her freedom of expression and comment on issues of public importance, such as abortion and the use of taxpayer dollars, Pat needs access to these documents. The government and the IPC’s interpretation of section 65(5.7) results in a violation of her freedom of expression. It cannot therefore be a proper interpretation.

This case is scheduled to be heard in the last week of October 2014. We expect a decision one to six months later.