Full disclosure, please

Anna Mehler Paperny
Anna Mehler Paperny

The RCMP has started concealing information on Taser use: they won’t reveal injuries related to Taserings, duration of shocks, whether the Tasered individual was armed, precise dates of the firings and what methods police tried before using the Taser.

The RCMP used to divulge all this information, but now says privacy concerns preclude it from doing so.

This would be an underhanded lack of disclosure at the best of times. But Canadian Taser use has risen dramatically and the country’s still reeling from the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, who died after being Tasered in Vancouver International Airport last October.

Those added factors make this secrecy alarming and farcically frustrating.

The reluctance of public bodies—be they national police forces, a university administration or a student government—to disclose information is astounding

The University refuses to release its corporate sources of research funding or any information about animal research.

Queen’s signed a fixed-term contract for Queen’s Centre construction in December because everything was coming in over bid, but said in January all the project’s finances were a-OK. When the Journal did find out Phase One was millions of dollars over budget, the University refused to reveal how much it’s paying under what’s now a three-month-old contract.

The Engineering Society has been unforthcoming regarding Clark Hall Pub operations and finances following the pub’s closure last summer. EngSoc refuses even to make public minutes from its Board meetings last year.

EngSoc refused to divulge its final election results in January because they didn’t think it was necessary; the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society tried to do the same.

What galls me most about this secrecy is the attitude behind it—the idea these bodies can withhold information because they feel like it or because it’s bad for PR.

These bodies are directly answerable to the public they serve. It’s ludicrous for them to view access to information as a privilege.

In addition to leaving people completely in the dark, failing to release that information suggests these bodies have something to hide. If they don’t, their actions are idiotic as well as duplicitous; if they do, they should own up and focus on cleaning up their act instead of trying to cover their tracks.

These bodies are covered under Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Acts, and it’s often possible to obtain withheld information through formal channels.

But that’s not the point.

Discovering the cost of a project you’re funding, or the results of an election you voted in, or how many unarmed people police Tasered last year before bothering to talk to them shouldn’t be like pulling teeth.

When someone asks for information, it would be nice if the person at the other end took a moment to think about whose interests they’re serving.

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