"B.C. Taken To Task for Failure To Inform Public"

"The [British Columbia] provincial government routinely fails its legal duty to promptly inform citizens of risks to public health and safety, warn legal scholars at the University of Victoria."

"Failures to disclose include air pollution, deteriorating infrastructure, parasite infestations, contaminated water and disease risk. Relevant information has been withheld from potential victims, scientists and the media — in some cases for almost a decade, says the university’s Environmental Law Clinic following a study of six cases across B.C.

On Tuesday, the group asked the province’s information and privacy commissioner for a full investigation into what it says appears to be 'an ongoing system-wide failure' by government to disclose in timely fashion information with clear public safety implications.

The pattern needs to be addressed 'before a catastrophe occurs,' it warned.

'Concerns about ‘panicking’ the public must not become an excuse for withholding information,' the call for investigation says. 'In many cases, the fact that the information is alarming is precisely why it must be disclosed.'

The submission, filed on behalf of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, says that under provincial law, public bodies are required to act 'without delay' in publicly disclosing information about any 'risk of significant harm to the environment or to the health or safety of the public.'"

Stephen Hume reports for the Vancouver Sun June 5, 2012.

Thursday, June 7, 2012