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HAT Forum - "The Public Has a Right to Know - But Do We?"

  • The 519, Room 304 (check lobby screen to be sure) 519 Church Street Toronto, ON, M4Y 2C9 Canada (map)

A recent newspaper article on the discovery of the bodies of Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky in Manitoba focussed on the discontent with the RCMP for their failure to provide information, down to the most minor detail. Freedom of information advocates cried, “The public has a right to know.”

But do we? Reading the article in my condo thousands of kilometres from BC or Manitoba, I wondered do I have a right to know? What benefit, besides satisfaction of my morbid curiosity, would be gained?

This issue comes up in many criminal investigations and invites many questions:

·       Does the public have a right to know? If yes, why?

·       What might be some of the constraints on that right? Issues of national security? Hampering an ongoing investigation? Harm to the victims of the crime and their friends and family?

·       Are there situations where the public clearly does need to know, for example to ensure public safety. In the late 1990s sexual assault survivor Jane Doe sued the Metropolitan Toronto Police for violating the Charter in failing to protect her from a serial rapist.

·       Are there other circumstances where freedom of information is an important consideration?

·       The Freedom of Information system is arduous and expensive. Does it need to be reformed to make access easier?

Let’s discuss.

NOTE: The HAT Forum adheres strictly to the City of Toronto Policy on Non-Discrimination (http://www.the519.org/public/content/policy-files/The519SpaceUsePolicy.pdf)