Canada FOI Resource Website

By Stanley Tromp, Vancouver
Freedom of information policy, study, law reform, journalism

A non-governmental resource site


About the Author

Stanley Tromp is a graduate of the University of British Columbia Political Science department (B.A., 1997), where he completed the course in international law at the UBC Law Faculty, and won the 1996 essay prize on the Responsible Use of Freedom from St. Mark’s College at UBC. He graduated from the Langara College journalism program (Vancouver, 1993), and was awarded the best Langara journalism student prize from the B.C. Yukon Community Newspaper Association (BCYNA).

He has been nominated for a Webster Award (2015), a Canadian Association of Journalists award (1997), a B.C. Newspaper Foundation award (1999), and won a Canadian Community Newspaper Association prize in 2013.

While a reporter for the UBC student newspaper the Ubysseyhis freedom of information act request for the UBC-Coca Cola marketing contract in 1995 prompted a five year legal dispute, a successful B.C. Supreme Court appeal, and an influential ruling for disclosure by the B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner. His appeals have also been the subject of 22 other rulings by the B.C. Commissioner.

For news articles, he has made hundreds of FOI requests, including to foreign countries and American states, and has been called “one of the more diligent and creative practitioners of access-to-information reporting” by a B.C. legislative columnist. His news stories have been published in the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun, the Georgia StraightVancouver Magazine, the Vancouver CourierThe Province (Vancouver), the Financial PostThe Canadian Press, The Courthouse News, and many other publications; plus editorials on FOI topics.

He has also produced many non-FOI stories – notably one in 2008 from research in the British Archives. This revealed that in 1948, the British governor of Newfoundland in secret memos had urged the British naval chief to send a warship with 200 armed sailors to stand by near St. John’s out of sight, to quell any potential riots by people opposed to the Confederation vote result. (Link)

He has spoken often to House of Commons and Senate committees in Ottawa considering ATI Act amendments, and has made four presentations to British Columbia legislative reviews of the provincial FOIPP Act, plus the Alberta FOIPP review. He was one of the founders of the group B.C. Journalists for Freedom of Information (BCJC) in 1998.

In 2007-08, as an aid to FOI scholars and advocates, he spent a year compiling the first World FOI Chart, an Excel spreadsheet comparing all the world’s FOI laws, with NGO commentaries, posted at his website. The Chart was the foundation of his book Fallen Behind: Canada’s Access to Information Act in the World Context, a book one lawyer called “by far the most comprehensive comparative analysis to date of Canadian and international access to information laws.” It was fully revised and updated in 2020.

In 2019, to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1989 Romanian Revolution, he utilized the FOI laws of Britain, the United States and Canada to obtain 1,000 pages of diplomatic cables that had been sent from inside their embassies in Bucharest during the upheaval. For the interest of the Romanian people, he scanned all the papers and posted these as PDFs on his website; these received thousands of web visits from that nation and prompted many news reports there. (Link)

He spent the two years of the COVID-19 shutdown in research, to compile a database of all 6,500 news articles produced through the federal Access to Information Act since its passage in 1983, plus 2,000 news stories resulting from the British Columbia FOI law, and writing 100 word summaries of each. The result was published by its sponsor BC FIPA in August 2021. This ATIA News Story Index and B.C. FOI News Index were created to demonstrate the value of FOI laws to public, and thus help built support for needed law reforms, plus providing a morale boost and story ideas for reporters and journalism students.

That month also saw the posting of his  Time for Change: A List of 206 Recommendations for Access to Information Act Reform, the most comprehensive catalogue of needed amendments to the ATI Act, produced for the Centre for Free Expression at Ryerson University.

His FOI website – www.canadafoi.ca – has been consulted by the general public, journalists, university professors, courthouse and parliamentary librarians, politicians, senior bureaucrats and Crown lawyers from many nations (and all the items noted above can be found there).