Friends of the Cawthra Bush
Greater Mississauga Area
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How far will this go? Will you be next?
Imagine a place where Government censorship is legalized and unethically applied to those who hold governments and institutions accountable. Imagine a place where individuals are penalized based on allegations of being guilty by association. No, this is not a Soviet style backwash; it is happening right now in the City of Mississauga to law-abiding taxpayers trying to protect one of the few remaining environmentally significant forest/wetlands in Mississauga from development.
Evidence clearly indicates that the City of Mississauga and the Ontario Government are using the Mississauga grassroots community group, Friends of the Cawthra Bush (FCB), as scapegoats to set frightening legal precedents. The legal opinions so far are that a great injustice has occurred. The FCB does not have the financial resources of our Provincial & Municipal Governments do, to win justice in the courts. The Green Party intervened to support the FCB and our cherished democratic principles with its system of accountability; but they too were denied access to City records. This denial to a legitimate and recognized political party is an affront to the very principles of democracy and the residents' representation of their community's interests.
The rulings of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC), affects all Ontarians rights: their right's as citizens and taxpayers to know what their government is or is not doing, the right to be meaningfully involved in community and government decisions and the right to access public records by way of the Freedom Of Information (FOI) Act. In the information age, accurate information is vital for the public to participate in the government's decision-making process. The IPC has turned the FOI process into a powerful weapon for bureaucrats and politicians to use for their own self-serving interests. A process that increasingly, only lawyers can navigate.
This story is fresh to the media.
Not yet public, is the story of the researcher for the FCB who requested access to City of Mississauga's records under the FOI Act, as well as the IPC Order numbers that lead up to this sorry state of affairs.
In addition to labelling this individual as a "Frivolous and Vexatious" FOI requester, the IPC has effectively placed a permanent ban on all future FOI requests regarding the Cawthra Bush and more! The IPC has decreed that the City of Mississauga be empowered with the authority to deny the public access to its records, by any individual(s) and organization(s), the City chooses to claim are somehow associated with the FCB researcher, Donald Barber. To put it bluntly, the IPC has legalized government censorship and cover-up, triggered by the mere claim of guilty by association.
This can easily spread throughout Ontario.
Because of this individual's many successful efforts to protect the historic Cawthra Bush on behalf of the community, over the last 9 years, the City of Mississauga has twice banned him from City property.
The first occasion was when he alerted the Ministry of Nature Resources (MNR) that the City of Mississauga was undertaking works the MNR said should not be done. (The Cawthra Bush has been deemed a Provincially Significant Wetland Complex, the habitat of a Federally designated Threatened Species, the Jefferson Salamander, an Old-Growth ecosystem in an urban setting, it also has an ephemeral stream, Chimney Building Crayfish and rare plants.)
The second incident occurred while he was appealing to members of the City's Urban Forest Management Advisory Committee (UFMAC) to aid the Green Party in helping the community residents access City of Mississauga records. During this event the City of Mississauga's security staff wrongfully assaulted two residents, one of them a senior.
Despite claims of an open door policy in Mississauga, UFMAC now holds private meetings at undisclosed locations and times, preventing public access to meetings, agendas, or minutes. This access has in the past given the FCB, enough lead-time to effectively review City plans. Currently there is no opportunity for effective resident oversight or input regarding the City of Mississauga's activities in the Cawthra Bush. This and other evidence clearly shows that the City of Mississauga is slowly destroying the Cawthra Bush.
Parties of note that have supported the Cawthra Bush & FCB include, Natalie Helferty (who wrote supporting the Green Party's efforts), the Canadian Environmental Law Association and the Toronto Zoo's - "Adopt-A-Pond" newsletter, Amphibian Voice (Summer - 02), gave the two page centre spread to the Cawthra Bush, its Vernal ponds and Fairy Shrimp.
In the past, the FCB have used the FOI Act to acquire government records that have empowered the community to present the most environmentally responsible forest and wildlife management options for the Cawthra Bush to the City of the Mississauga; many of which were incorporated into the City's plans. The FCB's commitment to fact-based decision-making has resulted in the support of many individuals in the academic community and institutions. These include the University of Toronto, the University of Guelph, the Toronto Zoo, the Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation as well as the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Biology at the Royal Ontario Museum.
The Green Party, like most of us, supports environmental responsibility, political accountability, and democratic rights. Environmental concerns that are based on scientific facts are a major part of Green Party's political platform causing scientific method and democracy to work together perfectly. Science strives to discover the facts and governments that use these facts (not political fabrications), to base their decisions on, govern the most responsibly. Good science provides us with our environmental concerns for the world today and is aimed at improving our health and well-being.
Denying political parties the right to function as a neutral third party, such as the Green Party was, denies taxpayers their right to protect their communities environment, that their families health, depends on. In addition, the City's plans and actions cannot be fully reviewed by knowledgeable persons. This shows political favouritism by the IPC towards the current local politicians and their bureaucrats.
Since the IPC has selectively applied the FOI, our fundamental values based of democracy, transparency and accountability are discarded. All residents are deprived of their basic rights; including the right to be meaningfully involved in decisions that affect their environment and health. Who will be the next person(s) or organization to be labelled as "Frivolous and Vexatious" and permanently denied access to public records. Will it be you? Will it be your elected representative that will be denied access to government records for research purposes; or to inform you about your government's actions, or to represent your interests and lobby for you, keeping the balance of power intact.
story began when a method was discovered to use the
an FOI Appeal, the City of Mississauga gave misinformation to
City staff who are on record with their intentions to sue the FOI
City of Mississauga refuses to recognize all their community
the Mayor of Mississauga the kind of person to encourage staff to
IPC ruling is being used to deny non-FOI requests for access to City
rulings are also being used to deny access to personal records,
facts are being removed from the decision making process,
of FOI requesters is legalized. For the purpose of denying
This story is heavily documented, including videotapes, pictures and audiotapes. The records also show our successes over the years. If you think this is enough to write an interesting story, there is much more information for a follow-up story. The FOI requester who is being victimized wants to protect Canadians by helping others see how the democratic process has failed (so hopefully they can avoid it), and how our bureaucrats, politicians and the IPC have manipulated the FOI process to suit their needs.
Thank you for taking the time
to consider this information.
Contact information; Don Barber (905) ***-****
- E-mail Watcher0I0@eol.ca
- web-site home.eol.ca/~donbar
Mail to; Station B, Box 1504, Mississauga, Ontario. L4Y 4G2
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