Yukon shortlisted for Code of Silence

Yukon's government is a runner-up to receive the Code of Silence Award. Each year the Canadian Association of Journalists gives the tongue-in-cheek prize to a secretive public body.

Yukon’s government is a runner-up to receive the Code of Silence Award.

Each year the Canadian Association of Journalists gives the tongue-in-cheek prize to a secretive public body.

It’s the first time Yukon has made the shortlist.

The territorial government is nominated for its refusal to disclose the pay and perks received by deputy ministers.

Such disclosures are routinely made by almost every provincial government. But here, such information is “private.”

Yukon’s Access to Information Commission is currently conducting an inquiry into the matter.

Yukon’s up against some stiff competition for the Code of Silence.

Other runners-up include Prime Minister Steven Harper and his government. Harper won the prize last year for what the CAJ calls a “remarkably secretive communications apparatus.”

The federal government is accused of muzzling civil servants and cabinet ministers, and of blackballing reporters who ask tough questions.

In the past year it’s also begun to block the access of journalists to government experts. In their place, publicity wizards spin off canned e-mails.

Another nominee is the RCMP, for secrecy surrounding Taser use following the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski. The force has refused to release documents related to Taser safety, forcing journalists to fight lengthy access-to-information battles.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is also nominated. It took the agency nine months to produce inspection records from the Maple Leaf plant at the centre of last year’s listeria outbreak, which killed 22 Canadians and triggered hundreds, if not thousands, of illnesses.

Communication records with the company have yet to be released.

Other nominees are:

* Fort Erie’s Economic Development and Tourism Corporation, which spends $750,000 in taxpayers’ money with no open meetings or transparency;

* Canada’s human rights commissions, which, among other things, dragged Maclean’s magazine into a quasi-judicial hearing for printing an article deemed to be offensive to Muslims. These commissions expect defendants to pay out of pocket for legal costs while the accusers have their cases paid for by the state, even when the charges are absurd;

* Alberta’s Ministry of Children and Youth Services, for failing to release quarterly reports by the province’s Child and Youth Advocate, which include recommendations on how to improve the struggling child welfare system;

* Human Resources and Skills Development Canada for charging the Toronto Star $6,500 for information the agency collects to determine whether a company may hire foreign workers. In the end, the released information had all company names blacked out.

The Code of Silence will be awarded at CAJ’s annual meeting in Vancouver on Saturday.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.