CATHARINES, ON, Oct. 15, 2018 – The Regional Municipality of Niagara is the 2018 recipient of the Code of Silence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Government Secrecy in the category of municipal government.
The award is given annually by The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ), Centre for Free Expression at Ryerson University (CFE), News Media Canada and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) to call public attention to government departments and agencies that put extra effort into denying public access to government information to which the public has a right under access to information legislation.
The awards jury, which comprised representatives of the four press-freedom advocacy groups, recognized the regional municipality with this citation:
Regional Municipality of Niagara wins the 2018 Code of Silence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Government Secrecy for delaying or denying FOI requests and forcing lengthy and expensive appeal processes, as well as refusing to communicate with local media on issues of public interest. Extensive coverage by Grant Lafleche, reporter for St. Catharines newspaper The Standard, exposes secrecy around council members’ expenses and refusals to speak on high profile public issues, as well as requests from several council members to fire The Standard‘s management and replace them with those more compliant with Regional Municipality of Niagara’s wants.
This past year has seen Regional Municipality of Niagara as the subject of two Ontario Ombudsman investigations: the first, for an unlawful seizure of a reporter’s notes at a council meeting, and most recently, suspicions of a tainted hiring process for a high paying chief administrative officer job.
The coalition of press-freedom groups will announce the federal and provincial recipients of this year’s Code of Silence awards in the weeks to come.
The CAJ is Canada’s largest national professional organization for journalists from all media, representing over 600 members across the country. The CAJ’s primary roles are to provide high-quality professional development for its members and public-interest advocacy.
For more information:
Karyn Pugliese, CAJ president
James Turk, Director, CFE