Democracy is messy

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Written by Submitted

In 1937, the newly elected Social Credit Party of Alberta introduced the Accurate News and Information Act. It required newspapers to print “clarification of stories that a Committee of Social Credit legislators deemed inaccurate, and to reveal their sources on demand.”  The legislation was overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Today, the federal Conservatives are taking a page out of Premier Aberhart’s playbook.  But they don’t plan to get thwarted by the Supreme Court—they intend to thwart the Supreme Court.
Bill C-461, currently before Parliament, would undo the Supreme Court of Canada’s recognition of the importance of confidential journalistic sources for the CBC. It would make it impossible for the public corporation to conduct investigative journalism for the purpose of holding those in power to account. Not surprising that CBC is under attack as it does one of the better jobs of exposing government missteps.
At the World Press Freedom Day luncheon in Ottawa on May 3, two Canadian journalists – Stephen Maher (Postmedia News) and Glen McGregor (The Ottawa Citizen) were honoured as the 15th recipients of the World Press Freedom Award.  These two reporters worked in collaboration to expose the Robocalls Affair.  They stuck with the story despite the personal and professional smear campaigns and vilification by both the Harper government and some newspapers controlled by Sun Media.
The Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) believe key components of freedom of expression are: access to information, protection of journalist sources, and protection for whistleblowers.  They argue that each component ensures citizens access to more than one source and allows them to more objectively evaluate governments’ policies and performances.
In Canada, some Requests for Information have taken over two years to process and almost 45 per cent of all requests exceed the 30-day limit provided under the law. Government-appointed Information Commissioner, Suzanne Legault, made a gutsy, although likely career-limiting decision in 2012 to investigate seven federal departments. The evidence was piling up that government scientists have indeed been muzzled and Legault is now seeking the facts.
Politics is all about power, but it must be subject to limits.  As annoying as the press may be to elected officials, they do serve democracy well.
Do we really want to live in a country that hears only the voices of those who agree with the governing party?  Democracy is messy and those who choose to run should not be afraid of that fact.
There were 107 journalists and media workers killed doing their jobs in 2012, primarily in those countries fighting for democracy.  In total 600 journalists and media workers have been killed in the last ten years. Even this minute, others are being held captive by groups believing that their viewpoint is right and “the end justify the means”.
Members of Canada’s press corps may not be putting their lives on the line, but this year’s winners of the World Press Freedom Awards put their and their families’ reputations on the line to expose the Robocalls Affair–the single largest affront to democracy in Canada ever—a systematic attempt to stop voters from voting.
May such a travesty of democracy never happen again in Canada and may ALL those behind it be caught and prosecuted, not just a token scapegoat.
Today the loudest voices may argue that Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor are villains.  But when history is recorded, a far different story is likely to be written.

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