The federal Department of Environment and Climate Change says it needs six months to submit a document to La Presse, saying doing so within the time limits prescribed by the Access to Information Act would disrupt its operations.

The Social Network Analysis for Online Wildlife Trafficking that La Presse wishes to consult was commissioned by Ottawa from the firm DB3 Consulting Inc., in July 2021, at a cost of $37,406.25.

Since the document is not publicly available, La Presse requested a copy through the federal Access to Information Act – the request was sent on February 27, 2023.

“A 150-day extension is required beyond the prescribed 30 days to process your request,” Environment and Climate Change Canada responded on March 28, bringing the total time to 180 days, or six months.

Meeting the legal deadline “would seriously impede the operation of the institution due to the large number of documents involved in responding to the request”, states the response signed by the Director of Access to Information and Privacy. protection of departmental personal information.

“Consultations with other federal institutions are also necessary to follow up on your request and would make it virtually impossible to meet the deadline,” she concludes.

The deadlines required by both the federal government and the Quebec provincial government to respond to access to information requests are “a major issue that has persisted for a few years and which does not seem to be improving”, notes the lawyer. Marc Bishai, from the Quebec Center for Environmental Law (CQDE).

“One of the solutions would be to have more information directly available online,” to counter the difficulties some government departments and agencies are having in responding to requests on time, he said.

It is normal that sensitive information is not disclosed publicly, recognizes Me Bishai, citing for example the exact location of specimens of endangered species that must be protected.

“In other cases, it would be important for the public to be able to know what’s going on,” he said, believing that the state has a duty to show how it is fulfilling its obligations, including protecting wildlife and wildlife. flora.

The CQDE also underlined last week the “fifth anniversary of a commitment not kept by the Government of Quebec” in terms of the public’s right to information, namely the creation of a public register giving access “in one one click to essential environmental information.

“Five years later, this is the only part of the EQA that has still not been implemented,” laments the CQDE, which is asking the Legault government to commit to creating it by the end of the year.

“We are aware that there is still work to be done and that is why I have asked the teams of my ministry to present me with a timetable for the implementation of this register quickly”, indicated the Minister of l Environment, the Fight Against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks, Benoit Charette, in a statement sent by his office, noting that the Registry of Environmental Assessments, the Registry of Protected Areas and data on the quality of the are available.

In the meantime, the processes for challenging a refusal to provide documents or the imposition of an additional delay to do so are themselves “imperfect and could be improved”, both federally and provincially, says Me Marc Bishai.

“It’s very difficult for us members of the public to challenge those kinds of motives, because we don’t know what’s going on inside a government department or agency,” he says. .

The internet has become the “world’s largest 24-hour marketplace for wildlife trafficking,” complained the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and nongovernmental organizations. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), last November, in Panama. Voices called in particular to compel digital platforms to remove content related to cash trafficking and to impose high penalties on them if they fail to do so.