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March 1997 Volume 16 Number 4
ASA SYMPOSIUM INVENTS A NEW WORD
by Jim Bowman
The verb "to FOIPP" and the adjective "FOIPPable" emerged as innovations to the archivist's vocabulary at the ASA-sponsored symposium "Freedom of Information, Protection of Privacy and the Documentary Record in Alberta: Implications for the MUSH Sector" held in Calgary on February 28 and March 1.
Organized by ASA Education Committee Chair Rick Klumpenhouwer and Archives Advisor Elizabeth Denham, the smoothly-run event was attended by about 200 archivists and officers of local government authorities and educational institutions. Its objective was to prepare for the application of Alberta's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPP) to these types of organizations, which is expected soon. (The acronym MUSH refers to municipalities, universities and colleges, school districts, and health care authorities).
Speakers at the symposium included several archivists and administrators who had experience implementing FOIPP requirements for local government authorities and educational institutions in B.C., Saskatchewan, and Ontario. Although they came from different types of organizations in different parts of Canada, some common themes emerged from their presentations:
Many of the presenters felt that archivists are ideally positioned to act as organizational FOIPP Coordinators. Archives are accustomed to providing user-friendly information services, and are likely to be perceived as neutral in the event of a dispute between a citizen and a bureaucracy. Archivists usually have comprehensive knowledge of their sponsoring organizations, and of the ways in which their information systems are linked.
Saturday's luncheon speaker was Alberta's Commissioner of Information and Privacy, Bob Clark. The affable former Alberta cabinet minister and business consultant recounted some of his experiences dealing with civil servants. He asserted that freedom of information and protection of privacy are now firmly entrenched, and warned that "there are serious implications if you choose not to go down this road." He advised public servants that "it's better to release information on your own terms than to have it drug out of you by the Commissioner". He predicted that information requesters will get more sophisticated, and that FOIPP coordinator positions will be excellent career opportunities.
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