Report to the 71th General Assembly
Charleston, South Carolina
October 2 – 6, 2015
Eighteen national organizations, among them several press freedom association, sent a joint letter to Canada's major political parties in September urging them to concretely commit to reform the country's access to information system, which they said is vital to maintaining a healthy democracy.
One of the signatory entitities was Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, whose Executive Director, Tom Henheffer declared that Canadians were being left in the dark, urgent access to information reform was needed "to hold politicians and public institutions accountable, to keep the public informed and ensure Canadian democracy continues to function."
Canada adopted its Access to Information Act over 30 years ago, making the country a world leader in this right but decades later it had stagnated and left the country far behind countries like India, Mexico, South Africa and Slovenia, declared Center for Law and Democracy Executive Director Toby Mendel. Added Vincent Gogolek, Executive Director of Freedom of Information and Privacy Association: "The black holes in the Access to Information Act have to be closed."
In a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper these and other organizations, including Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), PEN Canada and OpenMedia, called for "the immediate and unconditional dismissal" of proposed legislation – Bill C-51: Anti-Terrorism Act 2015 – which they saw as being irresponsible, dangerous and ineffective, and if passed would detrimentally impact the people's democratic values and fundamental rights, limiting freedom of expression.
Meanwhile a bill for a new law in Quebec seeking to create penalties for anyone committing "hate speech and speech inciting violence" towards faith-based groups was described by a former provincial politician, Fatima Houda-Pepin, as violating freedom of expression.
Faced with declining print subscriptions and ad revenue the publisher of the newspaper Winnipeg Free Press, announced he is asking readers to pay for stories as they do for iTunes songs – one at a time, known as micropayments. Meanwhile Torstar Corp., publisher of the Toronto Star, said it planned to remove the paper's digital paywall by year-end and at the same time launch a new tablet app. Three of the country's free daily Metro daily newspapers of the Star Media group – in Regina, Saskatoon and London, Ontario – recently published their last print editions, but continue to produce Web versions.