February 29, 2024

La Ronge Northerner

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Health Canada is sending 229 blank pages in response to a Freedom of Information request

Health Canada is sending 229 blank pages in response to a Freedom of Information request

Glyphosate in legumes created a controversy in the summer of 2021. Radio-Canada revealed it The central government wanted to increase the level of herbicide residues allowed in many food products Like lentils, beans or peas. This would have made Canada less demanding than the US and China.

While the case has created a lot of excitement, Ottawa backed down and put its plan on hold. The Trudeau government has pledged to change the law for greater transparency and independence in the process. This reform is still pending.

Meanwhile, it was revealed Bayer, the multinational company that manufactures and markets glyphosate, asked the federal government to make the change..

Waiting a year to get a vacuum

Thibaut Rehn, co-ordinator of Vigilance OGM, who received 229 blank pages, sees in it evidence that “the Canadian government is not being transparent about this.”

I found it ridiculous. We submit an access request for additional information and get 229 blank pages. »

A quote Thibaut Rehn, Coordinator of Vigilance OGM

“It is a pity that the authorities are wasting their time in sending this to us,” he added. “They may have emailed us saying the information is inaccessible. »

Industry studies behind the white pages

In each of the white pages, Health Canada has copied two sections of the Access to Information Act that justify hiding all of the content.

The first article specifies that the documents contain personal information and the second article states that they “provide financial, commercial, scientific or technical information to a government agency by a third party, which is of a confidential nature and is maintained by this third party.”

For Thibaut Rehn, “it’s too complicated” for the federal government to rely solely on industry studies. The judge and the party In the process.

We want Canada to care less about the health of its citizens and less about the trade secrets of industry. »

A quote Thibaut Rehn, Coordinator of Vigilance OGM

Health Canada invites the applicant to file a complaint

We asked Health Canada what was the justification for withholding all of this information, and what was the point of sending 229 blank pages, not to mention refusing to hand over the document.

“I can confirm that we have exempted all information under Section 19 and 20(1) of the Act. “, Health Canada’s Janet Sewell McPherson, deputy director, access to information and protection of personal information, responded via email. He also said that if he wants, the plaintiff can file a complaint.

Anyone making a formal request under the Access to Information Act has the right to complain to the Information Commissioner about any aspect of the handling of their access to information request. »

A quote Janet Sewell McPherson, Deputy Director, Access to Information and Privacy, Health Canada

Health Canada adds that “following any complaint, the Information Commissioner’s Office conducts an independent investigation to determine what the government agency took into account in making the decision to process a request” and, depending on the nature of the complaint, “may include an assessment of what factors were considered if/when exceptions are requested”.

Health Canada has made no secret of that

In 2021, Radio-Canada also revealed what Health Canada wants Allow more traces of pesticides on the berries. That’s when we discovered it The call for reform came from pesticide giant Syngenta and Agriculture Canada.

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In the interview, A Health Canada executive explained to us that pesticide companies “give us scientific data, we evaluate it, and then following this evaluation we propose maximum residue limits.”

Ottawa said its reform posed no risk to Canadians because, despite tripling the permissible limits, the dose remained harmless.

However, the controversy prompted the central government to promise to involve independent scientists in its assessment process. Currently, the government relies on the vast majority of surveys to make its decisions Produced by pesticide manufacturers.

Ottawa announced plans to invest $50 million in Health Canada’s Best Management Regulatory Agency to, among other things, improve “availability of independent data” from universities.NGO and governments.

Last month, the Canadian Institute of Food Research, reporting to Radio-Canada Health Canada, Using files from an agrochemical lobby to propose a reform on new GMOs. Part of the reform aimed at establishing a Voluntary transparency to industry than was mandatory It was abandoned following the controversy it created.