Speaking notes for Suzanne Legault, Information Commissioner of Canada, at the 2015 Grace-Pépin Access to Information Awards Ceremony

Indigenous Awareness Week
Celebrating Living Traditions
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
30 Victoria, Gatineau, Québec

Introductory Notes – Commissioner Suzanne Legault
To the winners of the 2015 Grace-Pépin Access to Information Award:
Ken Rubin and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC)

Welcome everyone. What a wonderful prelude to our ceremony today. Thank you to Métis elder Monique Renaud for this morning’s smudge and to the Indigenous drummers.

I am very honoured to be here today during Indigenous Awareness Week.  I would like to thank the organizers and the tenants of our building at 30 Victoria for their hard work in planning this year’s series of activities around the theme of “Celebrating Living Traditions.”

We are here today to present the 2015 Grace-Pépin Access to Information Award.

The Grace-Pépin Award was established in 2011 by all information commissioners and ombudspersons in Canada, to recognize outstanding contributions by individuals and groups in the field of access to information. It was created in memory of former Information Commissioner John Grace and Marcel Pépin, who was the founding president of Québec’s Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec. Both of these individuals made significant contributions to the promotion of access to information in Canada. It is in their memory that each year my colleagues and I honour an outstanding contributor to the field of access to information in this country.

We had many excellent nominees this year. It was not easy for the selection committee to choose a winner, as all the nominees have contributed significantly to the promotion of access to information.

I am proud to say that the Canadian access to information community is dynamic and strong. And this strength is apparent in the work of this year’s recipients.

I would like to thank the selection committee for their commitment, due diligence and hard work. They had a difficult task this year reviewing all of the nominations. This year’s selection committee was comprised of:

  • Brian Beamish, the Information and Privacy Commissioner for Ontario
  • Lise Millette, Presidente de la Fédération professionelle des journalistes du Québec
  • Charlene Paquin, the Manitoba Ombudsman
  • Teresa Scassa, Canada Research Chair in Information Law at the University of Ottawa, and
  • Catherine Tully, Information and Privacy Commissioner for Nova Scotia

It is therefore a great honour and a privilege for me to present the 2015 Grace-Pépin Access to Information Award to Ken Rubin and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

It is now my honour and privilege to present the 2015 Grace-Pépin Access to Information Award to both Ken Rubin and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Mr. Ken Rubin is one of Canada’s most resilient access to information advocates. Over the past several decades, his work in access to information has brought to light numerous issues of significance to Canadians. He is a well-known commentator on information practices in Canada and has filed thousands of access to information requests since the law was enacted. He has uncovered many records related to matters of public interest. These include: improper spending by government officials, the involvement of the federal government in the arrest and imprisonment of Maher Arar, and government support of the asbestos industry.

Mr. Rubin has consistently demonstrated a steadfast commitment to the democratic principles of openness and transparency in government.

In its nomination letter, the Canadian Association of Journalists stated that through his work, Mr. Rubin has:

“…not only laudably and repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to freedom of information but also his commitment to the responsibilities of Canadian citizenship.”

The mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was to acknowledge the impact and consequences of what happened in the Indian Residential Schools. A key goal for the TRC was to report and document the history, the purpose, the operation and the supervision of the Indian Residential School system, including its impact on human dignity and the ongoing legacy of the residential schools.

On December 15, 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada published its final report on the residential school tragedy in Canada. The Commission’s perseverance in obtaining historical information and its determination in documenting the story of the survivors opened the door to frank discussions about this sad chapter in the history of our nation.

Without their work in reaching out to communities and survivors, documenting their stories and fighting for the release of historical records, a lasting and important legacy might have been lost, and with it, the opportunity for a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples based on mutual respect and understanding.

In its nomination of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Canadian Library Association wrote, “The Commission’s work to support reconciliation is perhaps the most socially significant national work we have seen in decades – for all of us living in Canada, whether our families arrived in the last few decades or have been here for centuries.”

The leadership of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was composed of:

  • Senator Murray Sinclair
  • Dr. Marie Wilson, and  
  • Chief Wilton Littlechild. Unfortunately, Chief Littlechild was unable to attend today’s ceremony.

In conclusion, I would like to thank each one of you, including Mike De Souza, Stéphanie Perrin and Debbie Rubin, for joining me and our recipients today. Ken Rubin and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada have done an extraordinary job in making the government more open and transparent.

Please join me in congratulating Mr. Rubin and the members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Their commitment and passion have, and continue to, contribute to the pursuit of truth.