Sunday, November 29, 2009

Privacy laws bite bid for doggy justice

A Calgary dog owner seeks damages after her border collie cross was attacked by another dog. Trapper was left with a gaping chest wound but has recovered after about $1,300 in vet bills. Shirley Poole, Trapper's owner, seeks compensation. Calgary bylaw officers will not release the name of the attacker's owner, citing the FOIP Act. Shirley's son, Phil Towler, sought legal advice but he was told that the costs of identifying the owner through the FOIP Act is prohibitive.

My best wishes to Trapper for his full recovery. For Shirley and her son, I do hope they find the attacker's owner is so that they can seek some compensation. It should not be so hard to find out who the other owner is. Outside of the FOIP Act, there's a long history in law that courts are to be open to the public, and that our rights to court information supersedes any right to privacy. The principle behind this is that justice cannot be perceived as being just and fair unless it is open to scrutiny. Shirley and her son are obviously interested members of the public, and are entitled to this information.

All they have to do is attend court on December 3 and look for names and courtrooms for the related charges.

The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) has given greater recognition to the constitutionally protected right to open courts than to the fundamental value of privacy. Discussion Paper, Judges Technology Advisory Committee on Open Courts, Electronic Access to Court Records, and Privacy, May 2003 (See 5)

See also FOIP Guidelines and Practices, Section 1.5, Records Excluded from the Act