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EDITORIAL: Silent treatment

It was more than eight years ago that Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised a new era of accountability.

It was more than eight years ago that Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised a new era of accountability. But the suicide of Lucia Vega Jimenez in custody and the aftermath of obfuscation from the Canada Border Services Agency have shown just how ridiculous that promise turned out to be.

Rather than alerting the public that a woman died in their care, the CB SA held secretive strategy sessions, crafting vague, misleading statements to give the press in the event some reporter managed to ask a question.

The CB SA shrouded Jimenez's death for a month, and then provided only clipped, cryptic comments - always sent by email.

But while the Ottawa agency wasn't talking to the public, they were talking, amassing 1,700 pages of correspondence on the issue, but precious little of it had anything to do with Jimenez.

Her death might have been prevented with more frequent room checks but CB SA apparently lacked the resources to hire extra security guards.

However, they had plenty of PR flacks conspiring on how to control the story. They even monitored tweets in the runup to Jimenez's candlelight vigil in case further damage control was necessary.

Meanwhile, Canada's information commissioner is warning that her organization is in crisis due to lack of funding. The solution posed by Conservatives is to make freedom of information a little less free - charging more for information depending on who's asking.

Harper has presided over a new era of accountability all right - an era defined by tight control of the message, where no one is actually accountable.




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