Speaking notes for Suzanne Legault, Information Commissioner of Canada

19th Annual World Press Freedom Day Awards Luncheon

Ottawa, ON
May 2, 2017

Check against delivery

Thank you.

It is again an honour and a privilege to join all of you and celebrate World Press Freedom Day.

The theme for this year is “Critical Minds for Critical Times.”

This is indeed a “critical time” for freedom of information and freedom of the press.

The public is being fed “fake news”, democratic institutions are being slowly eroded all over the world, journalists are subjected to state surveillance, jailed and killed. Last night I received an email from an Indian colleague who reports that in India so far 57 Right to Know activists have been killed.

At a time when fact checking is ever more important, our Access to Information Act is applied to encourage a culture of delay. It is applied to deny disclosure. It acts as a shield against transparency. The interests of the government trump the interests of the public. Our new government has delayed their promised reform indefinitely.

Our democracy rests on courageous people with critical minds to protect, to defend and to promote our fundamental freedom.

Today, we honour such an outstanding person with the Spencer Moore Award for Lifetime Achievement, Mr. Jim Bronskill.

Jim is an award winning journalist with over 25 years of experience.

His countless stories based on access to information requests have revealed many controversial practices by Canada’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies. His work feeds public debate and holds our governments to account.

This work includes, notably, his relentless pursuit of Tommy Douglas’ security files held by Library and Archives, and his investigation that shed light on the RCMP’s use of Tasers. The latter garnered Jim the Michener Award and a National Newspaper Award.

As an experienced leader in the field of access to information, Jim has shared his knowledge and expertise in several publications. Among them, is “Your Right to Know: How to Use the Law to Get Government Secrets”, written with David McKie.

Jim is not only a respected journalist and an expert in using freedom of information laws, he also teaches in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University. His course teaches master’s students how to obtain and use records to tell important stories on public policy issues.

It is with great pleasure that I present the 2017 Spencer Moore Award for Lifetime Achievement to Jim Bronskill.