I have become very concerned about the extent to which important aspects of the Cohen Commission are operating in secret. This is supposed to be a public inquiry.
To participate in the inquiry and get access to the Commission’s database of documents provided by Participants, I was required by the Commission to sign an Undertaking that I would not disclose those documents until they became part of the public record as an exhibit. I believed that was reasonable in respect of the database.
However, the Commission Counsel has now interpreted that Undertaking as applying not just to the database, but to all Applications, correspondence and legal material filed by Participants in proceedings before the Commission.
On April 13th 2011, I made a formal request to the Commission to be released from the undertaking on a limited basis so that I might report to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency information which I consider of urgent public interest, in respect of a very significant risk to wild salmon. On April 21, the Commission Counsel ruled on that Application. Under the Commission’s new rules, the outcome of my request to make a report I feel must be made to protect wild salmon is not supposed to be made public, and all Application material, including the submissions of the government and other participants are being kept secret from the public. Earlier applications have also been kept from the public. Commission counsel has directed that I cannot say what the information is, I cannot say whether I have made a report or not, and I cannot say what the position of the Federal and Provincial Governments were.
This is unacceptable to me.
I believe that the Cohen Commission should be a “public inquiry” and that information should not be suppressed unless there are compelling public interest concerns. This is an inquiry into the fate of wild salmon, and not matters of national security or espionage.
I have instructed my lawyers to make a formal Application to the Commissioner to allow public access to my most recent Application and the Application materials, and in future to all other applications and correspondence to the Commission. If necessary, I have asked my lawyers to make application before the Federal Court to get a ruling that will end this secrecy, and any more proceedings behind closed doors.
I will keep you posted.