Public has a right to access information from public institutions—even about UFOs

Public has a right to access information from public institutions—even about UFOs

TORONTO – The Canadian Constitution Foundation is pleased to announce that it is assisting a freelance investigative journalist in his appeal of a decision by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to deny him access to records about Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) and Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) detected at or near nuclear power plants.

Daniel Otis’s investigations into UAP have appeared in publications like CTV News and Motherboard by Vice. Otis’s reports contribute to a better understanding of how governments and government agencies are responding to these unexplained phenomena which are of significant interest to the public at large.

To assist with his reporting, Otis has made more than 200 requests under federal and provincial freedom of information laws to agencies like the Department of National Defense, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Royal Canadian Air Force. Historically, these agencies have nearly always provided the records requested with information that poses a security risk blacked out.

But last year, OPG denied Otis’s request under Ontario’s Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act (FIPPA) to provide records of UAP detected near Ontario’s nuclear power plants. Otis had sought the records after receiving an anonymous tip. While records were identified, OPG refused to provide copies, at first citing an exemption in FIPPA that says records shall not be disclosed if disclosure could reasonably be expected to seriously threaten the safety or health of an individual.

After Otis appealed the decision to Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner (the IPC) OPG raised a dozen other legally dubious reasons that it cannot provide even redacted records. These reasons include the constitutional division of powers and the federal Nuclear Safety and Control Act and related regulations. OPG’s interpretation of the law is incorrect, as illustrated by the decision of New Brunswick Power, which is governed by the same constitution and federal regime, to provide Otis with records of UAP sightings at or near its nuclear plant.

“For more than two years, I have used freedom of information requests to uncover case files, procedures and briefing material about unidentified objects and lights in Canadian airspace,” Otis said from Toronto. “While this might seem outlandish at first, I have obtained thousands of pages of relevant material, including 70 years of reports from Canadian pilots, soldiers and police officers.”

Otis is urging Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner to order and oversee the release of redacted records in this case.

“Ontario Power Generation, a multi-billion-dollar provincial Crown corporation, has put the weight of their legal team into fighting my request,” Otis added. “By simply redacting and releasing records, we could achieve a reasonable outcome that protects sensitive personal and security-related information while providing important data that researchers and the public can use to help unravel the enduring mystery of sightings like these.”

Otis has retained the Canadian Constitution Foundation to assist with his appeal to the IPC.

“Ontario’s freedom of information law is clear that the public has a right to access information from public institutions and exemptions must be limited and specific,” said CCF counsel Josh Dehaas.

“Mr. Otis has been more than reasonable in his request,” Dehaas added. “He simply wants those parts of the documents that are not exempt from disclosure so that he can do his job and inform the public about the UFOs that have been reported at or near OPG’s nuclear plants.”