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News February 27, 2020

Seven police forces in Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland named the most secretive law enforcement agencies in Canada

The police forces in Sudbury, Windsor, Peterborough, Longueuil, Quebec City, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, and the Ontario Provincial Police share the distinction of winning the 2019 Code of Silence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Government Secrecy in the category of law enforcement agencies. 

The award is given annually by The Canadian Association of Journalists, Centre for Free Expression at Ryerson University, News Media Canada, and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression to call public attention to government departments and agencies that put extra effort into denying public access to government information to which the public has a right under access to information legislation.

The four press-freedom advocacy groups recognized the six police forces receiving the 2019 award with this citation:

Following the deadly shooting in Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood, a national debate began around the issue of banning handguns. The Globe and Mail decided to find out where the guns in Canadian crime came from by submitting access to information requests to 36 police forces across Canada. Of those 36 forces, most did not collect any kind of information on where their crime guns came from. Three police forces that did (Peterborough, Windsor, and Sudbury) indicated that there would be significant fees for their data with one request having an estimate of $24,460. They also warned it could be many months before records would be produced. Disturbingly, four other police forces (Ontario Provincial Police, Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, Quebec City, and Longueuil) flatly refused to release anything at all. The refusal of the OPP was especially concerning as it maintains the Firearms Tracing and Enforcement database (FATE), which logs the results of all trace requests by police services in Ontario - exactly the data being sought. With the conversation about a federal gun ban heavily pivoting on the debate around the legality of firearms used in crime in Canada, transparency around where the guns are coming from is a necessity.

The CAJ, CFE, News Media Canada and CJFE will announce the 2019 Code of Silence Award recipients in the Provincial  and Federal categories in the coming weeks. The previously announced recipient of 2019 Code of Silence award was the Town of Erin (ON) in the Municipal category.

All four organizations will continue to advocate for substantive reform to access-to-information laws in Canada.

For more information:

James Turk, Director, CFE, 613.277.0488,