OTTAWA, May 19 /CNW/ - They hoarded information about deadly hospital infections, racial profiling and the gun registry.
Now, they are among the nominees for the Canadian Association of Journalists 10th annual Code of Silence Award, dishonouring the most secretive government, department or agency in Canada.
"It's a bumper crop of concealment this year," said CAJ President Mary Agnes Welch. "Governments wilfully withheld information and stymied the public's right to information about some very serious issues."
The winner will be announced at the CAJ's annual awards gala during its national conference in Montreal later this month. The nominees are:
- The office of Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan, which sat on an
RCMP report backing the long-gun registry for almost two months in
the fall of 2009, not releasing the document until two days after a
contentious vote in Parliament on a backbencher's private member's
bill to kill the registry. The bill passed second reading when 12 NDP
and eight Liberal MPs, under political pressure in their ridings,
backed ending the registry.
- The Vancouver Island Health Authority, for delaying the release of
records on the spread of disease in a Nanaimo hospital in the summer
of 2008 that killed three people and eventually infected more than
90 others. The health authority received an interim report in
October, 2008, from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control on the
outbreak of Clostridium difficile at Nanaimo Regional General
Hospital, and a final report in January, 2009, but refused to
publicly release the information, despite repeated media requests,
until June of 2009, when VIHA was also ready to announce its
response. The investigation's report included finding a lack of
hand-washing facilities and overcrowding at the aging facility, which
contributed to the spread of infection.
- The Alberta government, for chronic delays in responding to FOI
requests. In January, Alberta's top court ruled the province's
Information and Privacy Commissioner cannot take "routine
extensions" in privacy cases, a finding which also covers complaints
under health and access to information laws, and must justify such
extensions on a case by case basis. Critics argued the frequent
delays were caused by the government's deliberate underfunding to
information and privacy offices.
- The Toronto Police, for the seven-year legal fight waged with the
Toronto Star before providing data on arrests and details of
incidents in which police stopped and documented encounters with
citizens without laying charges. The data, which the police fought
the release of right up to the province's highest court, formed the
basis of a ground breaking 2009 series in the Star called
Race Matters. The Star is still appealing the $12,000 in programming
fees charged by the police after the data was ordered released.
- The Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, for
taking two-and-a-half years to comply with a 2006 freedom of
information request for inspection findings and student complaints
related to the province's 400 private career colleges. A second FOI
filing showed the delay occurred after the initial request had been
flagged as a media request, labelled "contentious," and the sought-
after records routed through an assistant deputy minister's office
for review. Ironically, the file's final internal recommendation was
to "fulfill the request as soon as possible," for fear being
ultimately ordered by the Information Commissioner to release the
documents could become part of the story. Which is exactly what
The 2010 Code of Silence Award will be handed out at the CAJ's gala award ceremony on Saturday, May 29 at the Grand Plaza Hotel in Montreal, the highlight of the CAJ's annual training conference.
Registration for the conference is still open. Visit caj.ca to see the full schedule or to register.
The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization with more than 900 members across Canada. The CAJ's primary role is to provide public-interest advocacy and quality professional development for its members.
SOURCE Canadian Association of Journalists
For further information: For further information: visit www.caj.ca Or call: Mary Agnes Welch, CAJ President, Work: (204) 697-7590 or Cell: (204) 470-8862; John Dickins, CAJ Executive Director, Cell: (613) 868-5442