Federal bureaucrats disregard the privacy act, tip-off suppliers about journalist inquiries

Journalists working in some developing countries could get in trouble for trying to scrutinize on-going public projects, sadly, so do journalists in Canada.

Apparently, some federal government officials donot understand how the privacy act works when it comes to revealing journalists’ names to companies which they inquire about. According to an article on the Chronicle Herald, earlier this year, a Postmedia reporter had called federal officials at the Department of National Defence and Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to ask for an official statement related to welding problems in the first six Irving arctic patrol-ships delivered to the government by Irving shipbuilding.

As Canada’s privacy commissioner released a press statement recently which confirmed that governmental officials had broken the privacy rules a year ago when they revealed this reporter’s name to the company.  The PSPC said the violations were under investigations and stressed that employees should make such requests as anonymous in the future.

This is clearly not the first of these privacy violations. This year 2019, the Globe and Mail confirmed that personal information about one of their reporters was passed to Irving Company; the reporter, in this case, had made inquiries about the investments of the same company in a French chips factory in Alberta as a way to fulfill their obligations of re-investment in the shipbuilding contract.

A similar incident also occurred three years ago, in 2016, when aPostmedia reporter was asking questions about Canadian Surface Combatant project that costs 60$ billion from taxes and PSPC officials had passed the personal information of the reporter to a public relations agency that works for Irving.

Looking at such previous events, it is easy to see the extent to which the relationship between government officials and large companies like Irving. It appears Federal officialsnowadays are always in a hurry to placate large corporations.

In the issue with the reporter who made inquiries about the welding problem, the Irving Shipbuilding president Kevin McCoy testified in the parliamentary federal committee that officials had told him that the Postmedia reporter had thrown cruel accusations against his company but after checking emails, there was no evidence of any cruelty, it was just a reporter seeking for answers to his fair inquiries.

In any civilized country, every trained journalist knows the consequences of spreading false news. They also fully comprehend their rights and the legal tools available to them when it comes to obtaining information that should be available for the general public. The role of the governmental officials, in this case, should be to cooperate with them to guarantee full access to the truth in addition to establishing a better democratic relationship between media, federal officials and companies based on Transparency and credibility. At the end that will lead to a better Canada.

It is highly unlikely that the media is going to stop scrutinizing such contracts any time soon, therefore Paul Schneidereit, writing for the Chronical Herald, advises Irving to “grow a thicker skin.”


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