TWIN FREEDOMS SPEECH

Speaking to the Canadian Bar Association, Justice Minister John Turner advocated for privacy and freedom of information. (Image by Government of Canada)

September 2, 1969 – Having advocated for freedom of information in an interview with the Globe and Mail, Justice Minister John Turner would elaborate on that concept in a speech  to the Canadian Bar Association.1John Turner, “Twin Freedoms: The Right to Know and the Right to Privacy” (address, Annual Meeting of the Canadian Bar Association, Ottawa, ON, September 2, 1969). The coverage of that speech focused on the minister’s announcement that the government would introduce legislation prohibiting wiretapping and electronic surveillance techniques, something he won plaudits for among pundits. For example, in an editorial, the Brandon Sun wrote that that legislation “could be among the most important accomplishments of the Trudeau government, a major step toward the just society.”2Editorial, “This Could Be the Just Society,” Brandon Sun, September 4, 1969.

But, in the same speech, Turner also acknowledged “there is a tendency in government to refuse information to its citizens under the guise of privacy which is disguised as the public interest. Government secrecy is sometimes legitimated as the state’s right to privacy, but it may well be a denial of the public’s right to know. If individual privacy is a foundation of democracy, the citizen’s right to know is fundamental to any participatory democracy. The public cannot be expected to dialogue meaningfully – still less decide – if it is refused the very information which would make such a dialogue and decision-making possible.”3John Turner, “Twin Freedoms: The Right to Know and the Right to Privacy” (address, Annual Meeting of the Canadian Bar Association, Ottawa, ON, September 2, 1969).

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.

References   [ + ]

1, 3. John Turner, “Twin Freedoms: The Right to Know and the Right to Privacy” (address, Annual Meeting of the Canadian Bar Association, Ottawa, ON, September 2, 1969).
2. Editorial, “This Could Be the Just Society,” Brandon Sun, September 4, 1969.

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