Environment and Climate Change Canada named most secretive federal government department
(Toronto: April 30, 2020) Environment and Climate Change Canada has been named today as the 2019 recipient of the Code of Silence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Government Secrecy in the federal category.
The award is given annually by The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ), Centre for Free Expression at Ryerson University (CFE), News Media Canada and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) to call public attention to governments, government departments and agencies that put extra effort into denying public access to government information to which the public has a right under access to information legislation.
The four press-freedom advocacy groups recognized the Environment and Climate Change Canada with this citation:
The decisions Canadians make at the ballot box are one of the only opportunities they have to influence their governments. But thanks to government secrecy, it’s becoming more and more difficult for Canadians to ensure those decisions are informed.
An example: during the lead-up to the federal election, Ottawa Citizen journalist Tom Spears wanted to know if Environment and Climate Change Canada had timed the release of research showing Canada is warming at double the global rate to coincide with their new carbon tax taking effect. So, he filed an access to information request to try to find out the answer to that question. In response, Environment and Climate Change Canada said it would take seven months to release the relevant records—well after the Oct. 21 election.
This, and countless other similar examples of government secrecy, mean Canadians are increasingly forced to rely on party propaganda to figure out who they should vote for. That may be what our parties want. But that’s not much of a basis for a democracy.
Previously, CAJ, CFE, News Media Canada and CJFE have announced recipients of 2019 Code of Silence awards in the other three categories: Provincial - Government of Alberta; Municipal - Town of Erin, Ontario; and Law Enforcement: police forces in Sudbury, Windsor, Peterborough, Longueuil, Quebec City, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, and the Ontario Provincial Police.
All four organizations will continue to advocate for substantive reform to Canada's federal access-to-information law. This is especially important in times of crisis, like now, when government transparency is essential for public trust.