Update On The Freedom of Information Request With The Toronto District School Board Regarding How It Dealt With The Hijab Hoax

In a week’s time Raving Canuck has raised just under $800 or 40 per cent of the $2,000 goal to fund our journalism project of finding out what happened at the Toronto District School Board during the Hijab Hoax debacle, and what led to the TDSB sanctioning a rushed press conference at one of its schools only a few short hours after the fabricated incident was alleged to have occurred.

The vast majority of the fundraising money has come from the generosity of complete strangers interested in getting to the bottom of this. I believe we’re on track to reach our target, but I’ve also put up ads on our website promoting the fundraiser to help ensure we reach our goal. I also have a few other ways we can help promote the fundraiser and reach more people wanting to fund this project.

Last week I spoke with the TDSB’s Freedom of Information Coordinator about the exorbitant $955 processing fee estimate. The coordinator, who was helpful in answering my questions, suggested I either revise the request (reducing the communications I get back) or appeal the cost estimate with the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s Office. I do not want to reduce the FOI (Freedom of Information) return because I don’t want to miss any relevant communications that might be important to this story. Instead, I’m getting pro bono assistance from a former journalist and legal expert (with expertise in filing FOIs) as to how best to move forward with this FOI request. I believe it’s worthwhile to take a little bit of time to try and get the processing fees knocked down so that more of your money goes towards funding other investigative journalism projects, instead of towards paying government bureaucrats.

In the mean time, we will continue to try and reach our target of $2000. If the processing fees are knocked down, which seems unlikely at this point, I will publish the new cost estimate and reallocate the savings to our next FOI project, an investigation into Ontario hospital emergency room wait times and bed shortages.

After publicizing the TDSB’s fee estimate last week, a startup news outlet’s (Blacklock’s Reporter) publisher from Ottawa, specializing in FOI requests at the federal level, suggested the estimated fees associated with my request were outrageous.

Although that might be true federally, at the provincial and municipal levels the steep estimated processing fees from the TDSB is all too commonplace for FOI requests.

I also had a chance to interview Ontario PC leadership candidate Doug Ford last Sunday and asked him if he would look into reforming the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. He said he is open to changing it if he becomes premier of Ontario.

During the upcoming election I will try and get a response and commitment from all parties’ leaders on what they would do to fix the cumbersome provincial and municipal FOI systems if they become the next leader of the province.

I will give another update in a week’s time. If you want more independent investigative journalism in Canada and Ontario please consider supporting us.

Thanks again to all of our recent donors for helping to fund this endeavour!

 

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