CJFE honorees will watch how Trudeau government does

Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union will be honoured by the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression on Dec. 2. (Jameel Jaffer's Twitter)

Two Canadians being honoured by the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CFJE) will be keeping a close eye on how the in-coming Liberal government deals with human rights and privacy issues.

Veteran investigative journalist Ken Rubin will receive the inaugural CJFE Investigative Award, the group announced Monday. His work has shed a spotlight on the asbestos industry and the influence that lobbyists have on Canada’s Food Guide.

The Ottawa-based reporter, who’s also credited for helping create Canada’s Access to Information law, has been working in an investigative capacity for the duration of the last eight prime ministers and says that “none of them seem to want to release things.” He adds that the same goes for provincial, territorial and municipal governments.

“It’s not like changing the culture of secrecy is going to happen overnight, unless you break the mentality,” he tells Yahoo Canada News. “If you have your ministers swear oaths of secrecy for cabinet then you’re not changing from the top down the mentality.”

He suggests that incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have an oath of service and disclosure for his cabinet ministers, rather than an oath of cabinet secrecy.

“(That should be) followed by a directive that would tell his new cabinet ministers and the public service that they shouldn’t operate out of silence or fear but out of disclosure and be forthcoming,” he adds.

Jameel Jaffer, a Canadian-born, U.S.-based lawyer, will receive the media watchdog’s Vox Libera Award. As the deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, director of its Center for Democracy, and board member of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Jaffer is a prominent critic of American national security policy.

He says it’s important for groups like the CJFE to continue keeping a critical eye on how the government releases information.

“Democratically-elected governments, such as the Canadian government and governments around the world are invoking concerns about security to justify infringement of core democratic rights,” he tells Yahoo Canada News. “We’ve seen that over the last decade in Canada. I’m not the only one hoping we’ll see some changes now.”

The previous Harper government passed earlier this year Bill C-51, the anti-terror legislation that allows greater authority for police and the country’s spy agency. The Liberal government, which supported the bill, has said it’d amend it once in power.

The CJFE will also recognize Saudi freelance journalist Safa Al Ahmad with the International Press Freedom Award. The filmmaker is known for putting herself in the line of danger to produce documentaries on uprisings in places like Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

The awards will be handed out at a fundraising gala in Toronto on Dec. 2.

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