Mansbridge Slams Information Secrecy in Canada
Posted on 14 Jun, 2014
By Ryan Hicks
“That’s why we’re here. To break this culture of secrecy,” said Peter Mansbridge on Friday at a conference co-sponsored by the CBC and the University of Winnipeg called “Holding Power to Account,” an international conference on investigative journalism, democracy, and human rights.
It’s death by a thousand cuts. And we’re bleeding.
He recalled a headline in the Toronto Star back in April that read, “What the public is not allowed to know. Public information being kept secret.” That headline, he said, was not about blocked access to public information in countries notorious for their secrecy, but about his own country.
“Not China. Not North Korea. Canada,” he said.
Mansbridge made his remarks exactly one week after the 70th anniversary of D-Day, when thousands of soldiers died on the beaches of northern France in World War 2 ultimately leading to the liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany. “They died for freedom and one of the pillars of freedom is openness. It’s a free and open media. A media that doesn’t accept. A media that pushes for freedom, for openness,” he told the 320 delegates from 15 countries.
Public institutions cloaked in secrecy, which keep public information in the dark, “is not what those guys died for on those beaches,” he said.
“We’re at a critical point”
Mansbridge also criticized recent cuts to investigative journalism, including those to the investigative program Enquête. The award-winning program airs on Radio-Canada (the French version of the CBC). He said it could lose one-fifth of its staff. The CBC also made cuts to its investigative team in the same round of layoffs, although not to the same extent, he pointed out.
“My company, my corporation, the CBC, the public broadcaster who has a mandated interest in investigative journalism. Who boasts that we have more investigative journalists that any media organization. This is where we’re cutting back?” he asked.
“We should be investing more in these programs. Not cutting them.”
Enquête is credited with exposing corruption in Quebec politics and the construction industry, which included ties between the Mafia, politicians, and union bosses.
“Without Enquête, it would be very likely everyone in that scandal would be carrying on as if nothing was wrong,” he said.
It is not only CBC/Radio-Canada that is facing tough choices. All news organizations are facing cutbacks acknowledged Mansbridge. And the current situation has him worried.
“It’s death by a thousand cuts. And we’re bleeding.”