CBC/Radio-Canada has provided a series of documents to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, some of which were sealed, following an Order by the Committee that the Corporation produce records—in both their redacted and un-redacted forms—which had been requested under Access to Information by Quebecor Media Inc. and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
While CBC/Radio-Canada has chosen to comply with the Order, it does so under protest and with strong reservations about the purpose for which the documents have been requested.
A legal opinion provided to CBC/Radio-Canada by outside counsel concludes that the Committee’s Order falls outside of the scope of the parliamentary privilege on which it is based, and constitutes an unconstitutional incursion into the domain of the courts, contrary to the constitutional separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches. That opinion was enclosed with the documents.
At a speech before the National Press Club in Ottawa today, CBC/Radio-Canada President and CEO Hubert T. Lacroix said: “After serious consideration, we decided to provide the documents to the Committee this morning, but to seal some of them. At the same time, we formally expressed concerns about some important constitutional questions and boundaries, and we have asked the members of the Committee to read the Borden Ladner Gervais opinion—which we provided to them—and reconsider their course of action. It is also important to consider the precedent this sets – not only for ourselves as an independent Crown corporation and media company, but potentially for any broadcaster, any business or indeed anyone concerned with the proper separation of powers between our various branches of government.”
The Corporation has decided that it would not be in the best interests of Canadians to bring this new matter before the Courts, in what would inevitably be a lengthy and costly series of judicial proceedings. The decision not to challenge the Order in Court was also based on the nature of the five specific access to information requests which were identified by the Committee.
“This is, for us, about the critically important concept of independence from political influence and our ability to act—as we have always done as a public broadcaster—within a competitive broadcasting ecosystem,” added Lacroix.
CBC/Radio-Canada is slated to appear before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics on November 24, 2011.
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CBC/Radio-Canada is Canada's national public broadcaster and one of its largest cultural institutions. The Corporation is a leader in reaching Canadians on new platforms and delivers a comprehensive range of radio, television, Internet, and satellite-based services. Deeply rooted in the regions, CBC/Radio-Canada is the only domestic broadcaster to offer diverse regional and cultural perspectives in English, French and eight Aboriginal languages, plus seven languages for international audiences