B.C. government takes three months to produce nothing

A request for records blew past three deadlines, spanning three months, only to withhold all records

This is part of our ongoing Okanagan Incorrectional series, detailing the problems B.C.’s newest jail has been facing since its opening. Find part three on Friday in the paper and online.

A B.C. lawyer who advocates for inmates’ rights says she is concerned about a lack of transparency and independent oversight at B.C. Corrections.

Jen Metcalfe, executive director of Vancouver-based advocacy firm Prisoners’ Legal Services, said that lack of oversight can lead to a “potential lack of accountability.”

“We would like to see changes that would require B.C. Corrections to publicly report on things like use of force and rates of solitary confinement, similar to the oversight that the federal Correctional Investigator provides for the Correctional Service of Canada,” Metcalfe said.

The comment comes after the B.C. government blew past a twice-extended deadline to produce effectively nothing after receiving a freedom of information request from the Western News.

The request was for any and all incident reports of violence between inmates and staff at the Okanagan Correctional Centre, and it had an initial deadline of Feb. 28.

Two extensions were granted on that file, ultimately to March 21, but that deadline came and went with no indication the request was still being processed until email correspondence came on April 3 indicating it was still in the works.

Finally, on April 10, 12 business days after the due date, the a response came from the freedom of information department:

“Please be advised the records you requested are withheld in their entirety pursuant to section(s) 15 (Disclosure harmful to law enforcement), and 22 (Disclosure harmful to personal privacy) of FOIPPA,” the release reads, referring to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The response did, however, note that there were eight substantiated incidents of inmate assaults on staff and zero substantiated incidents of staff assaults on inmates, but provided no details.

The Western News has challenged the lack of disclosure with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, but an OIPC investigation can take months or even years.

Another request, this time for records pertaining to inmate complaints at the jail, was put to the information and privacy watchdog in October. But an investigator was not assigned to that OIPC file until March, and there has been no word from the investigator since.

The B.C. government held a public consultation on FOIPPA this spring, with online engagement open until early this month. But a Ministry of Citizens’ Services spokesperson said there would be no information from the government on potential changes to the act or the results of the engagement for at least a few weeks.

In its March newsletter, the Freedom of Information and Privacy Association called for penalties for interfering with information access rights, a duty to document (particularly, pushing against a failure to create documents or destroying them) and bringing education subsidiaries under FOIPPA.

“We are getting more calls and hearing more stories from concerned citizens who are not able to get the information they are looking for,” the FIPA call to action reads. “This lack of transparency fosters a culture of secrecy with no accountability.”

Report a typo or send us your tips, photos and video.

Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

Send Dustin an email.
Like the Western News on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

WATCH: Coldstream producer treats neighbours to live music from safe distance

Neighbours practiced social distancing as Jeff Johnson played songs from his front steps

Sparkling Hill Resort donates produce to Vernon food bank, gloves to hospital

Operating manager says layoffs resulted in spare materials that are much needed amid COVID-19

Vernon woman baking for those in need amid COVID-19

Crystal Hedlund launched a GoFundMe page to generate funds for baking materials

Okanagan distillery hands out thousands of sanitizer bottles, needs help in COVID-19 fight

Okanagan Springs is donating hand sanitizer to help fill COVID-induced shortages

WATCH: Vernon neighbourhood holds COVID-19 cookware concert for solidarity

Residents came outside to clang pots and pans in a show of solidarity amid the coronavirus pandemic

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

No hesitation; two bystanders assist in South Okanagan house fire rescue

“I’d do it for anybody,” says Penticton man after assisting in house fire rescue

RCMP, firefighters rally in support for health care workers in Kelowna

Pandosy Street was packed with supporters Saturday night

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

Spain warns EU’s future at stake; New York governor calls Trump’s idea ‘federal declaration of war

Earth Hour 2020 kicks off online Saturday night

Action moves online due to COVID-19

B.C. COVID-19 cases rise 92 to 884, one more death, 81 in care

Outbreak action underway in 12 long-term care homes

B.C. veterinarians want to smooth the fur of COVID-19-worried pet owners

Vets expect to continue giving your fur buddies the help they need while social distancing

Most Read