Protecting democracy is the job of us all

Protecting democracy  is the job of us all

Those who followed the Scottish referendum on independence, the push by many there to form a separate country (45 per cent voted “Yes!”), will appreciate that the win by the “No” side means the United Kingdom (UK), which is seen as too often pursuing the interests of “the London elite,” will now evolve into a federation roughly the same as what we have in Canada.

It is ironic that the Westminster Parliament, known as the cradle of parliamentary democracy for the modern world, is now looking to Canada, one of its youngest offspring, as a model, to borrow from so it can evolve to survive. The UK is comprised of Wales, Scotland, England and Ireland, each of which is now demanding more control over its affairs much like what our provinces have, including greater independence and state-like powers.

Since it was the Quebec sovereigntists with their concept of “Sovereignty-Association” (presented in the 1980 referendum for an independent Quebec) that forced Canada, in a 30-year process, to change and adapt, perhaps they are due credit for being catalysts in the evolution of this new, less centrist and more accommodating form of democracy that is now making its way to London.

Canada’s great democracy is something we take for granted, but all of us should appreciate the freedoms we enjoy in this, one of the best countries on the globe. Unfortunately, that democracy and those freedoms are continually under siege. It is essential that we we never stop fighting to maintain and protect them.

This week, from September 22 to 28, is “Canadian Right to Know Week.” Approximately 40 countries around the world recognize the annual initiative to raise awareness about freedom of expression and the right to access government information and data. On Friday, September 26, the Canadian Association of Journalists will host Freedom of Information or FOI Friday in Ottawa, including a moderated discussion panel with the Information Commissioner of Canada.

It will cover trends, topics and current issues related to Access to Information in Canada, as well as the role that the Commissioner plays in ensuring freedom of information and transparency in Canada.

The way the current federal government works, the Commissioner has her work cut out for her. In case you don’t know her, you should. Her name is Suzanne Legault. She is fighting for you. (www.oic-ci.gc.ca)

Governments are becoming more and more secretive. It has become the norm. That is dangerous. Governments are supposed to work for and be accountable to “the People.” The mindset of too many in government seems to have changed and too often the approach is paternalistic – “doing what is right for the greater good.” Worst of all, they judge on their own what that “good” is.

Unfortunately, the secretive practices of our senior government have trickled down to the provincial/territorial level and even to municipal governments. That trend needs to be reversed. One aspect of this is the use of communications staff who are inserted between people and government to massage and spin information so that it enhances the image of those who govern. It should not be allowed to happen, yet it has become pervasive.

Additionally, whistleblowers inside government who do not agree with the way things are being done, or who can point out mismanagement, waste or inefficiency should be protected, even encouraged. There needs to be legislation for this.

Our governments, unfortunately, do not always operate in the public interest and at times will try to get away with what they can. They will only be accountable if enough people demand it. We urge you to be aware of what limits and restrictions your government places on your Right to Know, and to take action with others to ensure transparency and access in all that they do.

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  • northernjock
    September 23, 2014, 9:04 AM

    Perhaps next time you write about global issues you can get the make up of the country correct? The United Kingdom comprises of Wales, Scotland, England and NORTHERN Ireland.

    You risk offence to the people of Éire otherwise. It’s kind of important to many of them, given the history of N.I.

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