Whistleblower exposed faulty Canadian government analysis after 1973
Chilean military coup d'etat
TORONTO, Nov. 5, 2013 /CNW/ - Forty years ago, a young civil servant
undertook a courageous and solitary action, one that would forever deny
him a career in government employment. But it was an action that
provoked a reversal of Canadian foreign policy, saved thousands of
refugee lives, and changed the character of Canadian society.
This year, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is honouring
Bob Thomson as the second ever recipient of its Integrity Award, to be
presented at its 16th annual gala on December 4 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto.
The Integrity Award was first presented in 2011, when it was jointly
awarded to Dr. Shiv Chopra, Dr. Margaret Haydon and Dr. Gérard Lambert
for whistleblowing on issues involving public health and food safety.
Four decades ago, General Augusto Pinochet and the Armed Forces of Chile
overthrew the democratic government of President Salvador Allende. In
the violence that followed, thousands of Chileans were killed or
disappeared and tens of thousands were detained, tortured and
At the time Bob Thomson was a young employee of the Canadian foreign aid
programme (CIDA) in Ottawa. That's where he saw the secret telexes from
the then Canadian ambassador to Chile, Andrew Ross, who thought the
violence was lamentable but necessary. Ross recommended that the
Canadian government should quickly recognize the military junta and
deny refugee status for persons claiming political persecution. The
cables claimed that human rights abuses were minimal and the generals
would not remain in power.
For Bob Thomson it seemed that Canada's foreign policy was being
constructed on the foundation of the flawed analysis in the Ross
cables. He leaked them to a Member of Parliament.
And that created a huge controversy in the House of Commons and the
media. Historians now recognize that Thomson's leaking of the "Ross
Cables" ignited so much public outrage that the government was forced
to re-examine the analysis being supplied by its ambassador. As a
result, Ottawa reversed its foreign policy and in the following years,
Canada brought 7,000 Chilean refugees out of one of the most brutal
Latin American dictatorships and welcomed them to new lives in Canada.
"It was the forty-year anniversary of the coup that brought Thomson's
actions to our minds once again," says Arnold Amber, CJFE President.
"But it is never too late to recognize the significance of his actions.
It is also noteworthy of the contributions that the 7,000 Chileans have
made to Canadian society in academia, science, the arts, trade unions
and in Parliament. We are a better country because of them."
The CJFE Integrity Award honours Canadians who act in the public
interest when they speak out about dangerous, unethical or illegal
practices they uncovered or experienced in the course of doing their
jobs. The award highlights the right of all Canadians to take action in
the public interest, and their right to freedom of expression in doing
The CJFE Gala is made possible by the valued support of Scotiabank, CTV
News, CBC News and Sun Life Financial along with many other
organizations and individuals in the media, legal, academic and
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) monitors, defends and
reports on free expression and access to information in Canada and
abroad. Rooted in the field of journalism, we promote a free media as
essential to a fair and open society. CJFE boldly champions the free
expression rights of all people, and encourages and supports
individuals and groups in the protection of their own and others' free
Follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #cjfegala.
SOURCE: Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
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