Accountability group demands govts stop keeping Canadians ‘in the dark’ on COVID-19 data
OTTAWA, Ontario, May 28, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – A group of accountability experts is calling on governments across Canada to be more transparent with the public regarding information related to COVID-19, saying citizens “have been kept in the dark” and whistleblowers should be protected.
The call to action came from the “Canadian COVID-19 Accountability Group” that May 22 released a white paper titled “Protecting Whistleblowers and Increasing Transparency in Canada in the age of COVID-19.”
The white paper was made in response to the “Constantine Cannon challenge for the Financial Times Global Legal Hackathon.”
Constantine Cannon is an international law firm known for representing whistleblowers. They put out a challenge as part of the Hackathon titled “WHISTLEBLOWERS AS FIRST RESPONDERS: HOW TO STEM THE TIDE OF FRAUD AND CORRUPTION IN THE MAELSTROM OF COVID-19.”
The Canadian COVID-19 Accountability Group was one of 11 “teams” from across the globe taking part in the “Constantine Cannon challenge.”
Ian Bron, an accountability advocate and former whistleblower based in Ottawa, coordinated the group’s challenge effort. In a May 25 press release, he said Canadians have a right to know what their governments are doing regarding the coronavirus.
"Canadians are being kept in the dark about everything from how much money is being spent to fight the pandemic to basic data about where the disease is spreading," Bron said in the press release.
“We know that when governments and corporations operate without public scrutiny, the potential for negligence, fraud, and misinformation dramatically increases. And, during a pandemic, that puts lives and scarce dollars at risk."
The Canadian COVID-19 Accountability Group is made up of former whistleblowers along with accountability experts with backgrounds in law, policing, and journalism.
According to their press release, the group includes “representatives from organizations that have been at the forefront of fighting for whistleblower rights,” such as members of Anti Corruption & Accountability Canada.
In their white paper, the group's first proposed recommendation is to improve government transparency “by making certain broad classes of records open by default.”
“Such a change is consistent with the democratic right of Canadians to know what their governments are doing, and how their funds are being used,” the group said in the white paper.
The group also is calling on governments in Canada to protect COVID-19 whistleblowers and fix the current whistleblower laws in Canada, which they say are “broken.”
And they are asking that whistleblowers be financially compensated in some form to act as an incentive.
The group says this “would help level the playing field between employees and employers and serve to encourage Canadians to come forward."
The group's fourth recommendation revolves around education and awareness to “inform Canadians of their rights with respect to access to government records and the disclosure of wrongdoing.”
Finally, the group is proposing the creation of both federal and provincial “COVID-19 Ombudspersons” who would “provide advice and support for Canadians who witness pandemic-related wrongdoing within the public and private sector and need to report it.”
The group is recommending that ombudspersons be “paired with powerful new open records laws to provide Canadians with documents and data that public bodies are routinely withholding.”
In May, Health Canada approved human trial testing of a coronavirus vaccine derived from fetal cells harvested from an aborted baby decades ago.
An Ontario doctor warned that the Canadian government’s new deal with China to produce a coronavirus vaccine is a “dangerous endeavour” and that “the role of our governments is to build trust through transparency and accountability.”
The Alberta-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) has been vocal about government transparency due to restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus.
In April, the JCCF announced that it was legally challenging the Alberta provincial government over the constitutionality of Bill 10, the Alberta Public Health (Emergency Powers) Amendment Act, 2020. It filed the court challenge on May 1.
Bill 10 gives Alberta government ministers complete authority to enforce public health orders put in place to combat the coronavirus without the legislature’s approval or public input. The United Conservative government under Alberta Premier Jason Kenney rammed through Bill 10 on April 2 in less than 48 hours.