Muslim panelists 'not available,' unredacted document says
Release of talking point 'deemed reasonable due to passage of time' after CBC News complaint
The Department of Foreign Affairs has released previously blacked-out information from a document about a closed-door consultation last fall about its yet-to-be-unveiled Office of Religious Freedom.
The decision was made after CBC News complained about the redaction to Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault, who's responsible for enforcing the Access to Information Act. Muslim panelists "not available," unredacted document says
The document showed scripted talking points for department officials about the controversial consultation in Ottawa last October.
The gathering of about 100 hand-picked participants included an address by a panel of six speakers, four of whom were Christian, one Jewish and one Baha'i.
The unredacted talking points address the hypothetical media question of why there were no Islamic panellists:
"If pressed – Why were there no panellists of the Islamic faith?"
The scripted answer:
"We invited panelists [sic] from the Muslim community who, unfortunately, were not available."
It is unclear why the department blacked out the lines in the first place, as they were presumably designed for public consumption. In a letter the department wrote: "The information that was exempted has now been deemed reasonable due to the passage of time."
The department originally justified the redaction under subsection 21(1)(a) and (b) of the Access to Information Act, which covers advice or recommendations for a government or minister and consultations in which government officials or the minister participate.
In a letter to CBC News, the information commissioner wrote that the information was "properly withheld" at the time of the request last November.