The British Columbia government is facing new criticism of its freedom of information system, this time related to the death of a woman who was picking Blueberries in Pitt Meadows.
Ping “Amy” Guo was found dead on Pitt Meadows farm on Aug. 15. At the time, concerns were raised she may have been killed by an animal, potentially a black bear.
Officers with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, including specialists with Predator Attack Team attended, and were in the area for several days.
Now, some local residents say the believe conservation officers may have killed several bears in relation to the attack, but that they haven’t been able to get any answers from the province.
Ellie Lamb told Global News there were a number of bears who used to frequent the area, including a mother and cubs, who have subsequently disappeared.
“They are concerned because they knew these bears very well, and as I said, they are no longer around. They do not see them anywhere,” she said.
Residents filed a Freedom of Information Request, at the cost of several hundred dollars, which Lamb said came back heavily redacted.
“They have not received anything back,” Lamb said. “One individual did recently receive 270 blank pages, saying stay in touch, so there has been no information given out as to what happened to the bears that went missing.
Last week, Guo’s family filed its own lawsuit against the farm and the City of Pitt Meadows, alleging a dog was likely responsible for her death.
The suit claims the farm was negligent for failing to ensure the property was safe for visitors and for failing to warn Guo of the potential presence of dangerous animals. None of the claims have been tested in court.
The B.C. Conservation Officer Service will only say that because the death is the subject of a police investigation, it cannot comment.
Lamb said the absence of information from the province is troubling.
“We’ve been told in the past that it’s public information, freedom of information is for the public, there’s no secrets, nothing that’s being hidden,” she said.
“Obviously we feel that if we need to get info on a situation that is a concern to residents, we should be able to apply for a freedom of information and get those answers, but that is not what has happened.”
B.C.’s freedom of information system has long faced criticism that it is slow and unresponsive to citizens and media.
Last fall, the NDP government faced criticism over changes to the system which will charge applicants a $25 fee for requests.
Michael McEvoy, B.C.’s information and privacy commissioner, said that fee will make the government less accountable to citizens.
“This legislation will make access to information to harder,” McEvoy said in October. “It is the public’s information. They have the right to that information.”