Award recognizes the most secretive government, department or agency in Canada
The Canadian Association of Journalists has just released their nominations for their “Code of Silence” award. This year for the first time, the Canadian Human Rights Commission has been nominated for their culture of secrecy and entitlement. The Code of Silence award is to highlight secretive government agencies that engage in “secrecy and lack of accountability."
The nomination for the Canadian Human Rights Commission reads:
Canada's human rights commissions, federal and provincial, for their efforts to censor speech that merely "offends." Given enormous powers by the state, even to issue gag orders for life, human rights commissions and tribunals are not bound to give an accused the same rights they'd get in a court of law. The accuser has their case paid for by the state, while the defendant must pay out of pocket, even when the charges are absurd.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission has a long history of denying any public oversight or access to any of their files. From denying dozens of Access to Information requests, to claims of national security to prevent disclosure of their online spy ring, to a bunker mentality at their offices, the CHRC should win this award hands down.
Here are just a few recent examples of the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s secretive and abusive tactics to deny information:
- The CHRC hid from disclosure to any respondent that CHRC staff used pseudonyms to engage respondents while their cases were either under investigation, or before the Human Rights Tribunal. This is in stark negligence to the disclosure rules of the Tribunal, which the CHRC refused to comply with – in order to keep their internet spy ring secret. Only after 8 months of litigation, and the Section 37 ruling at the Federal Court in the Lemire case, did the CHRC admit to using pseudonyms online. This lack of fundamental disclosure calls into question the legality of every single Section 13 ruling, which involves a respondent and the internet.
- DISCLOSURE BY CLUES: The CHRC disclose highly censored documents to defendants, and when the defendants dare to complain about the highly censored lack of disclosure, the CHRC responded that they will leave “clues” as to the origins of the material. (yes, that’s right, the CHRC actually wrote in the letter they will be leaving “clues”! And true to their word, the CHRC blacked-out names, but if the document was held up to a light source with just the right angle, the censored information could partially be seen. This sort of disclosure of government documents that the tax-payers of Canada paid for – is both insulting and on par with a third-world government like Iran or Communist China)
- The Privacy Commissioner of Canada spanked the CHRC for refusing to disclose information to Marc Lemire from a Privacy Act request he filed. Even after the Privacy Commission ruled that Lemire’s complaint was “well founded” the CHRC sent Lemire horribly blacked-out and almost unreadable documents.
- Mark and Connie Fournier went to the CHRC offices in Ottawa to speak with the Access to Information officer, who demanded information from them to fulfill an Access request they filed. Upon arriving and giving their names, they were surrounded by security staff, and only allowed to speak to the Access to Information officer via a phone in the lobby. They had some papers for the Access to Info officer, which they had to slip into a little slot in the glass. The Fourniers were “spooked” by their experience and wrote that “It is absolutely frightening that these people, who spend their days hidden behind a security guard and bulletproof glass, have the power to utterly destroy the lives of Canadians, and they don't even have to look their victims in the eyes.”
- The CHRC respond to Access to Information requests, like they are a national security agency. Routinely, the CHRC has responded with “we neither confirm, nor deny the existence of that information.” By not even acknowledging they hold the information requested, an appeal is almost impossible, as it is up to the person appealing the request to prove that the CHRC actually does have the requested information.
- Multiple Access to Information requests on the amount of money paid to the CHRC’s #1 witness – Richard Warman, have been denied.
- Access Requests on the investigative techniques, training material, and Section 13 investigators manual has been totally denied.
- Correspondence from the CHRC’s Access to Information and Privacy office, comes unsigned and refuses to even reveal what officer even worked on the request. No phone number is provided to contact the office.
- In Tribunal hearings, the CHRC employs a “disclosure by ambush” technique, which involves disclosing hundreds of pages on the first day of the hearing, which denies the respondent any reasonable ability to study or use any of the information. The CHRC has also used a technique known to it’s victims as “disclosure by ambush – maximum disruption,” where the CHRC refuses to produce documents as per the rules of the Tribunal, and then weeks or months after their witnesses are no longer on the witness stand they produce the material (often hundreds of pages), usually highly censored, thus rendering it almost useless.
- CHRC lawyers claim to “misplace” evidence, and then happen to find it, once the material is no longer useful for the defence.
The full story of how the Canadian Human Rights Commission blocks all disclosure of information is covered in the book - Silencing Thought: The Human Rights Industry's War on Freedom of Expression
CHRC – Should win the Code of Silence Award
The CHRC will go to any length to hide and prevent disclosure of their corrupt practices. This includes not releasing any information under the Access to Information Act or the Privacy Act. At tribunal hearings, when the CHRC is ordered to disclose information, they either claim to have “misplaced” the evidence for years (then mysteriously find it only days before hearings…) or they use Section 37 of the Canada Evidence Act, to prevent disclosure of information.
The effect of the CHRC blocking every single attempt at getting information has lead to an obsessive culture of secrecy at the CHRC. This culture of secrecy has lead to unfair hearings against individuals due to non-disclosure of vital information. This also makes researchers and journalists investigating them a very long, frustrating and costly process.
The culture of secrecy combined with Section 27 of the Human Rights Act gives the CHRC literally carte blanche to undertake any actions they deem acceptable. For instance; financially underwriting complainants, bankrupting defendants, spying on Canadians, posting objectionable material online, trying to entrap people by sending them hate material and even violating the constitutional rights of the victims.
The Code of Silence Award is a good first step to highlight the issue, but a full judicial inquiry or Royal Commission is really needed!
Harper, Yukon and Alberta governments among the nominees for the Canadian Association of Journalists' Code of Silence Award
OTTAWA, May 19 /CNW/ - For the second year in a row, Prime Minister
Stephen Harper and his spin machine leads the nominations for the Canadian
Association of Journalists' Code of Silence Award.
"The Prime Minister's remarkably secretive communications apparatus was
the hands-down winner in 2008 and journalists from all over the country have
nominated him again this year," said CAJ President Mary Agnes Welch. "But he's
got some stiff competition - governments from Alberta to the small town of
Fort Erie, Ont. are denying the public's right to know in the same old
The prestigious Code of Silence award recognizes the most secretive
government, department or agency in Canada. The winner will be announced
Saturday at the CAJ's annual awards gala. The nominees are:
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government for muzzling civil
servants and cabinet ministers, blackballing reporters who pose tough
questions and building a huge spin machine designed to staunch the
flow of information. This year, the apparatus has gained power.
Reporters with legitimate questions get canned e-mail answers from
public relations staff with no chance of a live interview with a real
expert. And reporters are being excluded from events they used to
- Fort Erie's Economic Development and Tourism Corporation for spending
nearly $750,000 in taxpayers' money yearly with no open meetings or
transparency. The corporation, using $2 million in taxpayers' money,
recently put in a bid to buy a money-losing local racetrack, but
public information on the deal has been scant. Even certain town
councillors are not given access to information about finances and
policies, even though the corporation is an arms-length town agency.
- Canada's human rights commissions, federal and provincial, for their
efforts to censor speech that merely "offends." Given enormous powers
by the state, even to issue gag orders for life, human rights
commissions and tribunals are not bound to give an accused the same
rights they'd get in a court of law. The accuser has their case paid
for by the state, while the defendant must pay out of pocket, even
when the charges are absurd.
- The RCMP, its partner organization the Canadian Police Research
Centre and police forces across Canada that refuse to divulge
information about Taser use. Municipal police forces have frequently
refused to release information about Taser use, and the RCMP has been
uncommonly secretive since the death of Polish immigrant
Robert Dziekanski. Calls to the RCMP are vetted through the
communications office in Ottawa, which routinely ignores requests for
information, refuses to release documents that ought to be public and
forces journalists through lengthy battles to gain access to data and
reports on Taser safety.
- The Yukon government, which is staunchly refusing to disclose the
salaries of top civil servants even though nearly every other
province does so as a matter of routine. The Yukon News is embroiled
in a lengthy hearing on the matter, and the province's Access to
Information Commissioner is currently conducting an inquiry.
- Human Resources and Skills Development Canada for charging the
Toronto Star $6,500 for data on labour market opinions, the
government approvals needed before an employer can hire foreign
workers. Ottawa eventually released some information, but the names
of all employers were blacked out.
- Alberta's Ministry of Children and Youth Services for failing to
provide journalists and the opposition with access to quarterly
reports of the Child and Youth Advocate. The reports detail specific
cases of child abuse and contain recommendations to improve the
struggling child welfare system. But the Alberta government refuses
to release them. Instead, the province released three years of
backlogged annual reports all at once last year, reports that one
journalist called "thin gruel". Accessing the quarterly reports
requires a slow, expensive freedom of information request.
- The Ontario government for waging a four year battle to keep secret
its spending on outside lawyers and consultants in civil corruption
cases. The Toronto Star first made an access request in March, 2004
and finally received documents showing Ontario spent $23.4 million
including $12.1 million on one legal firm. Lawyers described the
spending as outrageous and said it showed a gross lack of oversight
in litigation of a civil case where potential awards should still
outweigh costs regardless of the public interest.
- The Canadian Food Inspection Agency for dramatic delays and
extensions on requests related to the listeria outbreak that killed
22 Canadians and triggered hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of
illnesses. Requests filed for inspections records on the Toronto-area
Maple Leaf plant at the centre of the outbreak took nine months to
produce, and communication records with the company are still
embroiled in delays. For one of the biggest public health issues to
face Canada in recent years, details behind the cause of the
outbreak, the apparent delay in warning Canadians and the agency's
handling of the aftermath remain filled with unanswered questions.
The 2009 Code of Silence Award will be handed out at the CAJ's gala award
ceremony Saturday, May 23 at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver, the highlight of the
CAJ's annual training conference.
Registration of the conference is still open! New this year - reduced
fees for unemployed journalists. Visit caj.ca to see the full schedule at to
The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization
with more than 1,300 members across Canada. The CAJ's primary role is to
provide public-interest advocacy and quality professional development for its
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
It’s time to end the censorship of the extremist Canadian Human Rights Commission!
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