A group calling for more transparency in connection with the COVID-19
The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — A group dedicated to transparency, calls on governments to make public-by-default of the crucial documents related to the pandemic COVID-19.
The Canadian COVID-19 Accountability Group is urging officials to publish proactively documents relating to the application of the law in respect of health and safety, scientific research, and the research and public health contracts, grants and loans to businesses and organizations.
The coalition includes academics, lawyers and representatives of groups, anti-corruption and the protection of whistleblowers.
In a report published Monday, she said that the pandemic COVID-19 has required significant measures, both political and financial, to slow down the spread of the disease.
But the coalition argues that the private and public sector organizations have been less than transparent with the media and the public about these actions.
“The Canadians are kept in the dark about everything, how much money is being spent to combat the pandemic, up to basic data, such as the places where the virus spreads,” says Ian Bron, a former whistleblower (on Transport Canada and the marine safety) and an advocate for accountability established in Ottawa. It is he who has coordinated the initiative.
“We know that when governments and businesses work without public oversight, the risks of fraud and misinformation increase significantly.”
In the pandemic period, these are lives and the limited financial means that are put in play, ” said Mr. Bron.
“The Canadians are kept in the dark about everything, how much money is being spent to combat the pandemic, up to basic data, such as the places where the virus is spreading ”
Ian Bron, a former whistleblower
The group echoes a recent call from the federal commissioner for information, Caroline Maynard, for the agencies to publish proactively, the documents related to the pandemic.
The prime minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that his government had put the emphasis on transparency at the time of announcing the various aid programmes aimed at countering the impacts of the COVID-19.
“We know that openness and transparency are essential to continue to keep the trust of the public. When people know that their governments are open with them and share openly everything that is in the process of doing, they not only have confidence for their future, but they have confidence that the system is working to protect them and, therefore, the economic recovery is going to be even easier,” he answered in French.
In his response, Mr. Trudeau seemed to acknowledge, however, that there was a challenge of transparency on which his government is working to do more.
“We know that there is basically an issue of trust”, he said adding that this confidence is necessary to ensure that the population continues to apply the instructions of the public health.
The president of the Treasury Board, Jean-Yves Duclos, revealed Monday, having reminded his colleagues and the officials to ensure that “do everything that is possible to do” in terms of transparency despite the drawbacks related to the crisis.
The minister Duclos, who is responsible for the implementation of the Law on access to information, said there should be discussed with the curator Caroline Maynard about the means to be more proactive in the publication of documents and the use of technological tools to provide better access to the public.
The coalition wants to see a clear statement indicating that the government of Canada will protect anyone who reports wrongdoing to the public or the private sector in the field of health and safety, science, or of misappropriation of public funds, especially during the crisis of the COVID-19.
It also recommends the creation of an ombudsman of the COVID-19 to advise and support Canadians who wish to disclose any wrongdoing of which they are witnesses.
Many Canadians have witnessed acts suspicious will have questions and will need guidance to report what they have seen, considers the group.
“Even those who are in organizations with disclosure mechanisms, such as a telephone line for whistleblowers, may not know (or trust them), says the report. They would benefit from support to decide where to go, express their concerns and understand the evidence they need to disclose the credible wrongdoing.”
The report calls for an awareness campaign to inform employees on how to report wrongdoing regarding the expenditure of public funds related to the pandemic, as well as the non-disclosure or manipulation of information on the COVID-19.
The coalition recognizes that its recommendations are ambitious and will require the work and leadership that is consistent and constant.”
Some can be enacted quickly while others, such as the development of a comprehensive law on the denunciation, will require more time, ” said the group.
“However, without these reforms, it will be difficult for citizens to hold people accountable for their actions and inactions during the pandemic, as well as to prevent future failures that could put at risk taxpayers’ money and the lives of Canadians.”