Call for Submissions to BC Committee to Review the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

12/01/2016 / Action Items 

The British Columbia legislature has appointed a Special Committee to review the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) in B.C. This Committee is accepting submissions from anyone who would like to speak up, until January 29, 2016.  We have filed an official submission asking the Committee to recommend ending the censorship of abortion-related information that the B.C. FIPPA currently allows. 


This exemption for abortion statistics is unique in the health care field; it is the only medical procedure for which hospitals are not required to keep detailed records.  Private clinics are not even required to report how many abortions they perform each year. These records should include data on complications during or following the procedure, physical or psychological follow-up care required, gestational age at time of abortion, or reasons given for the abortion.  Clearly this random exemption is political in nature, with no bearing in fact and no constitutional ground to stand on. 


We aren’t the only ones who can speak up – you can too! Please take a few moments to make your own submission to the committee telling them they should make a recommendation that Section 22.1 be removed from the FIPPA.  Submissions can be made as attached documents or, if your message is brief, written in the comments section of the form.  There is no need for a lengthy or detailed submission, but everyone who their lends voice, even in a small way, adds weight to the seriousness of this request.


You can read our full submission (6 pages) by clicking on the attachment below.  To get you started on your own, here is our executive summary, followed by a few key talking points you could include if you are willing to join us in making a submission.  


Executive Summary:


In 2001, the NDP government of British Columbia introduced Bill 21. This bill added new stipulations to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), including exempting most abortion-related statistics from public freedom of information requests. Abortion is a highly-charged cultural and political issue but, as a publicly-funded medical service, it should not be treated differently than other medical services in terms of statistics and reporting. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner heavily criticized this bill because it reduced government accountability. 

This censorship of statistics on one specific issue is overbroad and unnecessarily limits access to information regarding government spending on a medical service. A legal challenge has been launched against the constitutionality of a similar provision in Ontario. It is clear that this particular section should be repealed from the British Columbia FIPPA to avoid legal action.


Key talking points:

  • abortion is treated differently than any other publicly-funded medical procedure

  • the BC NDP mandated that hospitals were required to perform abortions while at the same time passing a law allowing them not to report their statistics relating to these procedures

  • telling women they don’t deserve to know about a procedure that can affect them is demeaning and a disservice to women

  • legal action has been launched against a similar law in Ontario’s FIPPA, and can be expected here if this change is not made


All submissions to the committee are due by January 29, 2016. Please make this a priority this week or next, so that the Committee will recognize that British Columbians are not going to accept government attempts to stifle the abortion debate and risk women’s health for political reasons.

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