July 15, 1969 – John Turner is now perhaps best known for his relationship with Princess Margaret and, as prime minister and leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, losing the 1984 election to Progressive Conservative Brian Mulroney. But, in 1969, he was the Grits’ golden boy and making a name for himself as the federal government’s justice minister. One way he did that was by advocating for freedom of information.
In an interview about wiretapping with a Globe and Mail reporter, Turner said, “I do not think you can have a right-to-privacy statute without at the same time having a freedom of information statute. In other words, I think it ought to be incumbent upon the state to publish more information about what goes on at both the provincial and federal levels. I would like to see freedom of information dealt with at the same time as right to privacy, as companion pieces of legislation.”1William Morris, “Views on a New Law to Protect Privacy: Wiretapping and Bail,” Globe and Mail, July 15, 1969.
The newspaper supported that proposal in an editorial, writing that it was a “very importance concept for the Justice Minister to espouse” because “Canadian governments have been notoriously secretive about information that ought to be in the public domain.”2Editorial, “Minister with a Philosophy,” Globe and Mail, July 15, 1969. Nor would it be the last time Turner spoke out against secrecy.
This post is part of a series of articles documenting major events in the history of freedom of information in Canada. To see the complete version of that developing timeline, click here.