UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Misleading government information : an analysis of the legal remedies available to affected citizens Ward, Ian Robert


In the twentieth century, a dynamic expansion of its activities and powers has made government a major supplier of information on an enormous range of topics of concern to citizens. Unfortunately, the information which it provides is not always completely reliable: sometimes it is inaccurate, and government is powerless to protect the citizen from the consequences; at others, it proves misleading because government chooses later to disown it. The purpose of this thesis is to analyse the legal remedies available to citizens misled by government information. The analysis has two principal areas of investigation. First, consideration is given to the means whereby the citizen may be able to hold government bound by information which it has provided to him. Separate treatment is given to the situations in which the misleading information deprives the citizen of a benefit or inflicts on him a loss, and in which it subjects him to the risk of criminal liability. Secondly, consideration is given to the possibility of holding government responsible in damages for the consequences of its information being misleading. Of central importance in this wide-ranging analysis is the issue of the proper role of the courts. This stems from the fact that complaints about misleading government information frequently involve challenges to government decisions. Thus the majority of attempts by citizens to hold government bound by its information are generated by the making by government itself of a decision inconsistent with that information. Again, attempts to hold government responsible in damages for the consequences of providing misleading information commonly involve an allegation that a particular government decision relating to the provision of that information was negligent. It is emphasized throughout this thesis that the courts should refuse assistance to a citizen whose complaint of misleading government information is directed essentially towards a government decision, where that decision involves a determination of the priority of competing interests and values represented in society. The provision of a remedy in such a case would enable the courts effectively to review the choices embodied in value-laden government decisions, and as such would facilitate an unwarranted extension of their constitutional role.

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