“Access to Information and Freedom of Information are ‘dual purpose’ devices with complicated and implications. They operate in the service of transparancy and accountability, and in so doing, as LaForest notes, they facilitate democracy. But they also circumscribe the limits of transparency by codifying a range of exemptions and quasi-exemptions that curtail access and legitimize government secrecy.
ATI/FOI mechanisms regulate the interactions between groups with competing interests and reflect what philosopher Sissela Bok refers to as the politics and ethics of concealment and revelation. Some Canadian ATI/FOI regimes are reasonably
effective from a public interest standpoint, while others are so out-of-date or dysfunctional that they can reasonably be described as “broken”. From the standpoint of an academic, though, ATI/FOI mechanisms of all types can be incredibly useful – and
despite growing interest, they remain underutilized by the Canadian scholarly community.
Individual researchers can use ATI/FOI mechanisms to gain access to otherwise unobtainable “back stage” government records, but in so doing, they – we – also make these records accessible to others and contribute to the broadening of the pool of publicly-accessible information. In this sense, all ATI/FOI research, regardless of whether and in what form the results are published, leaves a mark in the public domain.”