Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters at a news conference in Whitehorse on Dec. 21, 2017. New ATIPP laws are coming into effect April 1. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News file)

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters at a news conference in Whitehorse on Dec. 21, 2017. New ATIPP laws are coming into effect April 1. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News file)

New access to information laws will take effect April 1

“Our government remains committed to government openness and accountability.”

The Yukon will be getting a new Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPP) starting on April 1.

This version of the reformed Act has been in the works since 2016, when the government undertook a review that criticized the current version of the law.

In 2016, a government report reviewing the act found that it “contains complex and unclear language, timelines in different sections that do not line up, and unclear provisions around consent.”

The report also found that the Act was outdated in terms of technology, the definition of personal information was legally very broad and the current ATIPP system required users to have a high understanding of the structure of government in order to track down records.

It also noted that survey respondents wanted a more transparent government and suggested methods to get there. One of the commitments made by the government was to repeal changes made in 2012, which included a new rule that kept all ministerial briefing notes away from the public.

“Yukon’s IPC recommended a broader public interest override and repealing sections that prevent access to briefing materials prepared for ministers or the premier in respect of forming a new government,” reads the report.

The new law, first drafted in 2018, will now come into effect on April 1, 2021.

“Our government remains committed to government openness and accountability. We believe the default of government should be to disclose information rather than deny access to it,” said Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn in a statement published Feb. 3.

“This will increase Yukoners’ access to information, strengthen the protection of their privacy and make government decision-making more transparent,” he said.

Yukoners can use ATIPP to access their own private records stored by the government. The laws are also often used by media, opposition politicians and concerned groups in order to access government materials.

Jurisdictions across Canada that fall under ATIPP laws have their own criteria for what information can be obtained and exceptions.

For example, Yukon’s ATIPP law has sections that prevent public release of “information subject to legal privilege” or “disclosure harmful to intergovernmental relations.”

Government staff have been undergoing training in preparation for the new Act to take effect. There are also new public training materials available online to help Yukoners navigate accessing information. Those resources include an ATIPP Act Interpretation Manual.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

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