• Toronto, University of Toronto
  • November 22, 2011 - 19:00


Freedom (Or Not) of Information in Canada


SUZANNE LEGAULT, federal Information Commissioner
JIM BRONSKILL, investigative reporter with The Canadian Press
PAUL SCHABAS, media lawyer with Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP
HUGH WINSOR, veteran parliamentary reporter and columnist

Tuesday, November 22, 7:00 p.m.
Innis Town Hall, Toronto

Read the blog here or the story on J-Source. Find out more about the Ipsos Reid poll on access to information. View event photos:

Photos: Roger Cullman

Is government secrecy trumping transparency? Canada has a bad reputation when it comes to freedom of information. Our country fared poorly in a of 68 countries with FOI laws, and it was also ranked last in a 2011 University College of London study of five modern democracies. Even Canada's Information Commissioner admits the system is on life support. What’s behind the decline in compliance and the long delays?

Suzanne Legault, the Information Commissioner of Canada, gave us a behind-the-scenes look at access to information and privacy in Canada. After her presentation, she joined a panel discussion with Jim Bronskill, an investigative journalist with The Canadian Press and Paul Schabas, a media lawyer with Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP in Toronto. The discussion was moderated by veteran parliamentary reporter and columnist Hugh Winsor.


SUZANNE LEGAULT has been Canada's Information Commissioner for two years. From June 18, 2007 until June 30, 2009, she was Assistant Commissioner for the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada, responsible for the Policy, Communications and Operations Branch. In 2006, she participated in the Federal Public Servant in Residence Program and worked with Dr. David Zussman, Jarislowsky Chair in Public Sector Management at the University of Ottawa. Legault began her career in the Public Service in 1996 at the Competition Bureau, where she held increasingly senior positions, including Special Advisor to the Commissioner of Competition.

JIM BRONSKILL is a reporter in the Ottawa bureau of The Canadian Press news agency, specializing in security and intelligence, the RCMP and justice-related issues, and a journalism instructor at Carleton University. He has considerable experience using information laws to uncover stories, and was part of a team that collaborated with the CBC/Radio-Canada to earn the 2008 Michener Award for their ongoing series on RCMP Taser use. Before joining CP in November 2003, Jim was a reporter with Southam News (now Postmedia News). He previously held various positions at CP and has also worked for the Ottawa Citizen, the Owen Sound Sun Times and TVOntario.

PAUL SCHABAS is a litigation partner at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP in Toronto. He has a wide-ranging trial and appeal practice, with extensive experience in constitutional, media and public law, and is a long-time advocate for freedom of information. He frequently acts for Canada’s major media on defamation and free expression matters and has been counsel on many significant Charter and human rights cases. Schabas has appeared many times before the Supreme Court of Canada including, recently, as lead counsel in Grant v. Torstar (responsible communication in the public interest), in Toronto Star v. Canada (mandatory publication bans) and in Ontario Public Safety and Security v. Criminal Lawyers' Association (access to information).


HUGH WINSOR is one of Canada's leading commentators on public affairs and a senior member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery. He originally joined the Globe and Mail in 1969 as a member of the Editorial Board as a foreign affairs writer and columnist, and has been involved in the reporting and analysis of a wide range of political topics. Four decades later, he continues to write for the paper on an occasional basis as an emeritus member of the Globe’s Ottawa Bureau.