PUBLICITY SUGGESTIONS ALARM COMMISSIONERS

The Royal Commission on Security also commented on concerns surrounding administrative secrecy. (Graphic by Government of Canada)

June 26, 1969 – The Royal Commission on Security’s abridged report was tabled in the House of Commons. The commission, which was announced on November 16, 1966,1Bob Cohen, “Security Probe: Commission Due to Meet Soon,” Ottawa Citizen, November 17, 1966. had three members: Montreal industrialist and former deputy minister of trade and defence production Maxwell Mackenzie, former national Co-operative Commonwealth Federation leader M.J. Coldwell and former Laval University law dean Yves Pratte. They were charged with conducting an inquiry into “the operation of Canadian security.”2Canada, Royal Commission on Security, Report of the Royal Commission on Security – Abridged (Ottawa, ON: Minister of Supply and Services, 1969), iii.

But, as part of that inquiry, they also commented on the “controversy” surrounding “the extent to which governments maintain that their administrative activities should remain confidential.”3Canada, Royal Commission on Security, Report of the Royal Commission on Security – Abridged (Ottawa, ON: Minister of Supply and Services, 1969), 79. In their report, the commissioners stated:

“…we would view suggestions for increased publicity with some alarm. We think the knowledge that memoranda might be made public would have a seriously inhibiting effect on the transaction of public business. We believe that the process of policy-making implies a need for wide-ranging and tentative consideration of options, many of which it would be silly or undesirable to expose to the public gaze. To insist that all such communications must be made public would appear to us likely to impede the discussive deliberation that is necessary for wise administration. In Canada, the bureaucracy is not vast, and the number of serious inquirers quite small. It seems to us that there is no reason why controlled access to specific administrative files or documents cannot be permitted and arranged on an ad hoc basis when a genuine requirement can be established.”4Canada, Royal Commission on Security, Report of the Royal Commission on Security – Abridged (Ottawa, ON: Minister of Supply and Services, 1969), 80-81.

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. Bob Cohen, “Security Probe: Commission Due to Meet Soon,” Ottawa Citizen, November 17, 1966.
2. Canada, Royal Commission on Security, Report of the Royal Commission on Security – Abridged (Ottawa, ON: Minister of Supply and Services, 1969), iii.
3. Canada, Royal Commission on Security, Report of the Royal Commission on Security – Abridged (Ottawa, ON: Minister of Supply and Services, 1969), 79.
4. Canada, Royal Commission on Security, Report of the Royal Commission on Security – Abridged (Ottawa, ON: Minister of Supply and Services, 1969), 80-81.

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