CJFE is troubled by efforts of the Quebec Enterprise Register (REQ), a government body that assigns corporate numbers to Quebec companies and thereby authorizes them to operate in the province, to restrict information on Quebec companies from the public and the media.
Last year, the REQ reportedly requested that OpenCorporates, an open database on corporate networks worldwide, remove its information on companies operating in Quebec. In a similar move last July, the register restricted CBC Radio-Canada from searching the registry via individual names of company heads. This past April, both OpenCorporates and CBC Radio-Canada filed lawsuits against the REQ.
OpenCorporates tracks the government structures and networks of over 100 million companies. Widely used by journalists, NGO’s, government bodies and businesses, the database was developed in the interest of “fighting corruption, money laundering and organized crime” at the corporate level. Accordingly, OpenCorporates has requested a declaratory judgment challenging the lawfulness of the REQ’s demand, in addition to its dilution of accountability from Quebec companies and its infringement on the public’s right to know. Quebec Minister of Employment and Social Solidarity Francois Blais, who holds purview over the register, has requested a review of the request’s legal basis.
Meanwhile, CBC-Radio Canada is fighting the registry’s decision to bar searches of individual names of company managers and directors. The registry cites confidentiality reasons for the restriction. As CBC argues in their suit, this move is not only “unreasonable and illegal,” but a blatant violation of the freedom of the press to pursue and investigate matters of public interest. Being able to search for individual names has been crucial to the broadcaster’s ability to uncover misconduct and criminal activity within corporate entities.
CJFE calls on the REQ to cease its demand for the censure of information critical to corporate accountability, and its restrictions on CBC Radio-Canada’s investigative abilities. Moreover, we support the efforts of both OpenCorporations and CBC Radio-Canada to rectify these baseless infringements. The registry’s actions are not only illegal, but also work directly against legitimate public interest in the activities and governance of the country’s most powerful economic players.
A copy of this letter was sent to Enterprise Registrar, Hermel Grandmaison, Quebec Enterprise Register.