Thursday, November 13, 2014

Canada's Unfortunate Personality Trait

November is a month in which we talk much about freedom, and the sacrifices made to ensure we keep it. Canadians are so thankful for the freedoms we do have, but there remains one area in which freedom is sadly lacking: Freedom of Information.
   Withholding information, or not sharing it fully, has become a Canadian personality trait. Two recent examples illustrate this.
   When Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the national war memorial, then stormed the Parliament buildings, the public learned his name from American news media. Our law enforcement bosses withheld his name despite knowing it almost from the beginning of the rampage.
   Americans are more forthcoming with information the public should know. Reporters in the U.S. got Zehaf-Bibeau’s name from the FBI. The FBI knew the name because the RCMP called them and asked if they had any information on this guy as a terrorist.
   Our law enforcement officials had no reason not to tell us the shooter’s name and did so only after American news reports named him.
   Earlier this month when Canadian fighter planes made their first strike against ISIS in Iraq, the military brass refused to give details of the mission. The strike took place Sunday and the military waited until Tuesday to say what happened. In the meantime, Canadians learned from the U.S. military that our planes had destroyed a Jeep and some bulldozers.
   That information produced smirks in many quarters: Canada goes to war and takes out a Jeep and some bulldozers! Typically Canadian!
   The mission, we learned later, was an important one. ISIS was using the construction equipment to divert water from the Euphrates River in an effort to flood areas and force civilians and Iraqi military to use mined roads.
   Our military bosses should have released the results of the mission quickly instead of sitting on them. Then Canadians would have had full information on what their pilots achieved instead of the sketchy American-supplied information that made the mission look like a bit of a joke.
   Those are two relatively minor examples. However, every day our governments and others withhold or slant information important to Canadians. 
    Canadian government folks always get it backwards when discussing public news releases. Reasons for not releasing information always come first. The reasons for releasing information come last. It should be the other way around.

My Minden Times column:

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