Fri. Mar 1st, 2024

Redacting a document creates a 'mystery,' says expert | Public inquiry into foreign interference

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According to Pierre Trudel, professor of law at the University of Montreal, this “black box effect” can affect public confidence in institutions.

The Canadian Press

The public and media face a “black box effect” when the government cites reasons such as national security to justify its decision to keep information secret, according to an expert heard by the Committee on Foreign Interference on Tuesday .

The black box effect is essentially an effect by which the public finds itself kept in ignorance, said law professor at the University of Montreal Pierre Trudel.

For example, when a document is not made public for reasons of national security, according to him, the public and the media are faced with a mystery.

He often does not know what it is about, what it is about, what it is about, why the information cannot be disclosed and therefore it gives the x27;impression that we must take his word for, continued the head of the Center for Research in Public Law.

A counterweight to this black box effect is necessary, in his opinion, otherwise trust in institutions risks being undermined.

The public may consider that the temptation may be great for a public decision-maker to invoke the exception […] to hide situations or facts which do not fall under this exception, but would aim, for example, to hide an awkwardness.

A quote from Pierre Trudel, professor of law at the University of Montreal

Public inquiry into foreign interference

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Mr. Trudel believes that the Canadian judicial system is empowered to exercise a check and balance when it is called upon to certify, with complete impartiality, that the disclosure of documents truly risks harming national security.

We have judges who have the independence, impartiality and rigor to attest and reassure the public about the existence and reality of the reasons why certain types of matters must be withheld from the public. information, said the expert.

In his eyes, Judge Marie-Josée Hogue, who chairs the work of the commission on x27;foreign interference, is well placed to exercise this counterbalance.

Everything indicates that she will be confronted with this question during her mandate, given the quantity of information protected by the seal of confidentiality which must be examined by the commission.

One ​​of the lawyers on Ms. Hogue's team said Monday that about 80% of the documents received by the commission are classified. Of these, 80% have the highest protection ratings, meaning they are considered top secret or higher.

Since she was appointed to head this public and independent inquiry, Commissioner Hogue has insisted on her desire to maximize the amount of information that can be revealed to the public.

Commission lawyer Gordon Cameron clarified that the latter will have the option of pleading with the government that, in certain cases, the disclosure of information classified would not harm national security.

In the event of a disagreement between the commission and Ottawa, the Federal Court could have to decide on the disclosure, or not, of information.

Another expert who testified Tuesday, Michael Nesbitt, argued that the commission will need to apply pressure to get the full picture and to share as much #x27;information possible.

Commissions of inquiry are set up for important subjects only and are often […] #x27;one of only a few sources of transparency and therefore accountability, so they must have the will to push on behalf of all of us, said the professor at the University of Calgary.

Ms. Hogue must submit a first report no later than May 3. The final report is expected by December 2024.

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