OTTAWA, May 14 /CNW/ - When you've waited 13,000 years, what's another
That was the attitude of Natural Resources Canada when they barred an
internationally-known Canadian researcher from speaking about his work
on the breaking of a prehistoric ice-dam 130 centuries ago until vetted
"media lines" could be approved by the minister's office.
Journalists in Canada facing deadlines had to interview British
scientists lauding Scott Dallimore's groundbreaking study published
last spring while federal bureaucrats fretted about the wider
implications of an unscripted interview about an event that happened
centuries before humans planted their first crops or built their first
The debacle earned Natural Resources Canada the ignominious Canadian
Association of Journalists' Code of Silence Award that shines an
annoying light on the most clandestine government department.
"What could be so secret about a 13,000-year-old ice dam that merits
muzzling a top Canadian scientist?" said CAJ President Mary Agnes
Welch. "Some ice ages apparently haven't ended."
NRCan geologist Dallimore was the Canadian co-author of the study on the
ice dam published in the journal Nature. He was told he had to get "media lines" cleared by his minister's
office before responding to requests for interviews. It took a full
week for Dallimore to get ministerial approval, by which time the study
had been released and his international co-authors widely interviewed.
The case was so egregious it resonated with editorial writers and was
held up internationally as evidence of the Harper government's
obsession with message control.
The winner was announced at the CAJ's annual awards gala and national
conference in Ottawa Saturday night. The other nominees were:
Alcool NB Liquor for refusing a request by CBC New Brunswick for a
report on altering pension rules and flouting the word of the
province's access to information commissioner.
The Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services for intransigent
secrecy around daycare inspection records.
The Ontario Ministry of Government Services for secrecy around troubling
civil servant Internet surfing habits.
The Ontario government for its proposal to undermine access to vital
hospital information by adding a loophole that excludes documents
related to quality of patient care from access to information rules.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his continued vise-grip on the
public's right to know.
Last year's winner of the Code of Silence Award was the Toronto Police
"Once again, there was no shortage of government departments stingy with
information the public has a right to know," said Welch. "We salute
NRCan for illustrating just how timeless the obsessive spin-doctoring
The CAJ is Canada's largest national professional organization for
journalists from all media, representing about 800 members across the
country. The CAJ's primary roles are to provide high-quality
professional development for its members and public-interest advocacy.
SOURCE Canadian Association of Journalists
For further information:
Mary Agnes Welch, CAJ President, Work: (204) 697-7590 or Cell: (204) 470-8862
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