The following article is printed with permission from Run With Life Blog –
Background (Updated July 20, 2013) –
Media Release: Blogger Takes Ontario Government to Court over Suppression of Information
OTTAWA , July 18, 2013– “In January 2012, the Ontario Liberal government amended its freedom of information law to exempt any abortion-related data from Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. As a blogger and a member of the new media, I’m taking on the government and challenging them over this undemocratic move. Tax-payers should know how their tax dollars are being spent,” explains Patricia Maloney.
By means of Bill 122, the Broader Public Sector Accountability Act, the Ontario government amended the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) to restrict data relating to the “provision of abortion services” from the public. There is no recorded debate in Hansard of this amendment, and it did not come to the public’s attention until after the provision came into effect and Maloney exposed it.
Maloney, the author behind the blog Run with Life, discovered the amendment when the Ministry of Health responded to an FOI request she made in March 2012. After breaking the story on her blog, the amendment caught the attention of the national media. Among others, Margaret Somerville covered it for the Calgary Herald and Barbara Kay wrote about it in the National Post.
“I’m not interested in patient or physician names, or the identification of hospitals. I respect the dual purposes of freedom of information laws; to ensure government accountability by providing information to taxpayers while ensuring the privacy of Canadian citizens. But data relating to provincial trends and rates of a publicly funded medical procedure are fair game,” elaborates Maloney. “The government has not restricted this type of generalized data for any other medical procedure. This amendment is without precedent or justification.”
“And without this data, how will we know if safe-sex campaigns are effective? Or the sex-education program that Premier Kathleen Wynne has promised to introduce?” Maloney asks. “Or if there is a sudden spike in tween or teen abortions? This is an important healthcare issue. And now the public is running blind on a government expenditure previously identified as costing as much as 30 to 50 million dollars each year.”
In March 2013, the Ministry of Health denied Maloney’s FOI request. Maloney retained constitutional lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos, and appealed the decision to the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC). The IPC upheld the Ministry’s decision stating that the new section to the FIPPA was clear in its exclusion of documents relating to the provision of abortion services. Maloney is now seeking a reconsideration of the IPC’s Order (by the IPC) and a Judicial Review of the Order (by the Ontario Divisional Court).
“As a blogger, Ms. Maloney benefits from the freedom of expression and freedom of the press guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” explains Polizogopoulos. “The Charter protects her right to comment on matters of public interest. The allocation of taxpayer funds for a medical procedure which remains the source of much controversy is certainly a matter of public interest and the suppression of that information cannot be justified in law.”
For More Information
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act
See section 65.(5.7) “This Act does not apply to records relating to the provision of abortion services.”
Bill 122: Broader Public Sector Accountability Act, 2010
See Part VIII, section 24 (17) which amends FIPPA by adding subsection (5.7) to section 65. This amendment to FIPPA was not debated in the Ontario legislature, was not considered at committee hearings, and was passed into law without any input whatsoever from the public, and without any public comments by a single member of the Ontario legislature. The amendment goes against the spirit of Bill 122, which was supposed to increase accountability, not reduce it.
Legal Submissions: Maloney v. Information and Privacy Commissioner (Ontario) et. al.
Notice of Application for Judicial Review (July 2013) Application Record of the Applicant (July 2013)
Relevant Run With Life Blog Posts
Freedom of Information in Ontario aborted (May 9, 2012)
Ontario’s Stealth Attack on FOI – the series (December 23, 2012) This post includes all published information as of December 23, 2012, including commentary from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Institute for Marriage and Family Canada, The Interim, Brian Lilley (SunNews), Nick Vandergragt (CFRA)
The Hidden Cost of Abortion in Ontario (January 18, 2013) This post speculates on the reasons why the Ontario government wants to hide abortion-related information
Ontario abortion doctors very busy in 2010 (December 5, 2011) The post includes important OHIP information accessed through an FOI request in 2010 is now off-limits to the public because of this recent change to FIPPA. This request revealed from OHIP billing records that the total number of abortions in Ontario is about 45% higher than reported by the Canadian Institute of Health Information, which does not rely on OHIP billing records to gather its data.
Margaret Somerville, “Democracy hurt by abortion stats secrecy” – Calgary Herald, May 22, 2012
Barbara Kay, “McGuinty Liberals put ‘top secret’ label on abortion figures” – National Post, June 5, 2012
“Ontario cuts off access to abortion data” – National Post, August 10, 2012
Kelly McParland, “Ontario judges abortion statistics too sensitive to share” – National Post, Aug 10, 2012
National Post editorial, “Why Ontario hides abortion statistics” – August 11, 2012
Letters to the editor (Jakki Jeffs, Patricia Maloney, Andre Schutten), “Citizens ready for abortion truth” – National Post, August 11, 2012
Claire Hoy, “It’s all politics, pure and simple” – Orangeville Citizen, August 16, 2012
Paul Tuns, “Ontario hides abortion statistics” – The Interim, September 20, 2012
Lauren Klammer, “Hypocrisy behind Bill 122: The passing of Bill 122 in Ontario, supposedly to improve transparency, means abortion statistics will be even harder to find” – Institute of Marriage and Family, August 8, 2012
Deborah Gyapong, “EFC blasts government suppression of reliable abortion data” – The BC Catholic, August 21, 2012
Mike Schouten Mike Schouten: Give us the facts on abortion – National Post, May 2, 2013
Faye Sonier, “Fighting to Keep our Elected Representatives Accountable” – National Right to Life, July 18, 2013
Patrick Craine, “Pro-life blogger taking Ontario gvmt to court over suppression of abortion stats” – LifeSite News, July 18, 2013
Robyn Urback, Robyn Urback: Ontario’s prohibition on access to abortion data will finally be challenged in court – National Post, July 19, 2013
Laura Armstrong, Blogger asks courts to intervene after government denies request for abortion data – Ottawa Citizen, July 19, 2013
Suppression of Abortion Data in Ontario
In this report, The Evangelical Fellowship, explains how abortion data is being withheld from the Ontario public. For more information on abortion data suppression in Ontario, British Columbia and problems with data reporting across Canada, download a copy of our report ‘Black Holes: Canada’s Missing Abortion Data.’