Poll says Canadians want transparency, oversight and privacy protection from government

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Results released in CJFE’s annual Review of Free Expression in Canada

TORONTO – 2014 marked a new low for freedom of expression in Canada, according to Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)’s 2015 Review of Free Expression in Canada, released today. The sixth annual report shines a spotlight on the extent to which the federal government has expanded its powers to withhold information.

As the Review demonstrates, access to crucial public information becomes more restricted every year; the federal government refuses to release data which should be public; it cuts research funding that does not support its economic agenda; scientists have been silenced and charities attacked when critical of the federal government’s agenda; and years of government neglect and interference have left the country’s access to information system ineffective and out-of-date.

In a recent poll of 1,000 Canadians across the country, CJFE found that almost 80 per cent think it’s important that federal scientists are able to speak publicly about their research. The numbers show that there is a clear demand for more government openness, allowing greater access to information and providing the ability to speak.

Survey respondents also called on the government to bring oversight to its secretive surveillance practices and the use of cell phone metadata. Eighty-five per cent are concerned that the government can track the cell phone metadata (location data, call logs, etc.) of some Canadians without oversight or appropriate warrants from the courts. Furthermore, 87 per cent of Canadians are concerned with the current lack of government openness around digital surveillance and monitoring activities.

“Canadians are waking up and realizing that their right to know is slipping away,” says CJFE Executive Director Tom Henheffer. “With federal scientists being silenced, a digital surveillance regime growing out of control, and little support for journalists who find themselves in danger, freedom of expression is under attack. Our poll shows that Canadians understand that what we don’t know can hurt us, and they want change.”

The Review includes a signature Report Card, grading Canadian institutions and their handling of free expression issues. Yet again, the federal access to information system received a failing grade for a significant 30 per cent increase in complaints and other serious issues. The Canadian public, however, received much improved grades for its growing awareness of threats to free expression in the country.

Other Report Card grades include:

  • F: for Freedom of expression for federal scientists. Federal scientists are no longer allowed to speak freely to the public or media. In a 2013 survey, 90 per cent of federal scientists said they do not feel like they are allowed to speak freely about their work, while 71 per cent said politicians are interfering in the policy-making process.
  • ➢ F: for anti-terror legislation and digital surveillance practices. The federal government gives itself greater powers to spy, seize and interfere with the lives of Canadians, while also rolling back Canadians’ privacy and personal freedoms.

  • ➢ F: for charitable audits by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The CRA is auditing charities, targeting such trusted brands as the David Suzuki Foundation, PEN Canada, and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. As a result, a chill has settled across the charitable sector.

The Review is released each year to coincide with World Press Freedom Day, celebrated annually on May 3. The only publication of its kind, the Review looks at the most pressing issues of free expression in the last year, analyzes the results of major court cases and examines trends, breakthroughs and obstacles to freedom of expression.

For a copy of the Review, please visit CJFE.org/2015review.

About CJFE

CJFE monitors, defends and reports on free expression and access to information in Canada and abroad. Rooted in the field of journalism, we promote a free media as essential to a fair and open society. CJFE boldly champions the free expression rights of all people, and encourages and supports individuals and groups in the protection of their own and others' free expression rights. cjfe.org

Nanos conducted a hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,000 Canadians between Feb. 22 and 27, 2015, as part of an omnibus survey. Participants were randomly recruited by telephone using live agents and administered a survey online. The sample included both land- and cell-lines across Canada. The margin of error for a random survey of 1,000 Canadians is ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Charts may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

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For more information and to request interviews, please contact:

Laura Tribe

National and Digital Programs Lead, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

(416) 515-9622 ext.232

ltribe@cjfe.org

Tom Henheffer

Executive Director, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

(416) 515-9622, ext. 226

thenheffer@cjfe.org

fe.org

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