Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to also rise today to speak to Bill S-231. I would like to begin by thanking my colleague, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, for recognizing the importance of this issue and supporting the bill from the other place.
Today, we are speaking about a bill that cuts to the very heart of democracy: freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Those are two concepts that every good and flourishing democracy must uphold. This is imperative and I see the importance of the need to bring this forward today.
One of the reasons these two principles, freedom of the press and freedom of speech, are important is that we are in the pursuit of truth. Our society, western democracy, is always predicated on the pursuit of truth. Truth, typically, needs no defence, but it does need to be brought into the light in that we need to see what the truth is.
As parliamentarians, we have a duty to protect the public and to reduce public health and safety risks by ensuring that everyone knows what the truth is. That can only be found out in certain ways because there are forces in the world that want to limit the truth. They want to hide the truth. Exposing truth can only be done when private citizens engage in a public discourse to bring the truth to light. Sometimes the truth is ugly. Sometimes it is not something everyone wants known. However, in a lot of cases, when the truth is brought out into the light, we can then make appropriate decisions that will make our communities and society better.
That is why, in the defence of truth, we need to ensure that sources are able to bring forward the truth, and to do that with some anonymity, to ensure that our democracy continues to flourish, because if we can stifle truth, we will make decisions based on false information. We will make decisions that are based on misinformation that will then have significant ramifications down the road. The truth must be brought forward. It must be unbiased, and our decisions should not be driven by hidden agendas, whether for profit, prestige, or influence. All these kinds of things can have the effect of people trying to limit the truth.
I am very much in support of the bill. It will improve the likelihood of someone bringing the truth forward and approaching a journalist to say, “You should probably know about this. However, if I do go public with this my life might be at risk, so I need you to bring it forward.”
Journalists take on some of that risk when they come forward as well. We must commend the journalists that do the hard work of bringing truth to light. That is very important. As a society, we must always focus on what the truth is. It is not always what we would like it to be, but it is the truth at the end of the day. Again, I go to the fact that it does not need a defence, but it does need to be brought into the light.
Often, sources find themselves in positions of conflict, where the release of information could harm the organization they work for or harm the security of their job. If they go forward with information that could harm their organization or threaten the security of their job, that is to some degree an understandable situation, but we all know situations where accusations have been made and significant things have happened in terms of people's lives being ruined. Therefore, if we could to some degree share the impact of that with the rest of society, that would be great.
In the past, whistle-blowers have been shunned, demoted, threatened, sued, fired, and their lives have been significantly affected. However, we must commend these people for their pursuit of truth, for identifying the moral good for society in the pursuit of truth. If there is a moral ill that is happening in society and decisions are being made without a key piece of information being brought to the forefront, it is significant and we must have the ability to bring that significant piece of information to the forefront and minimize the backlash or impact that could happen to the person who is bringing it forward.
I would like to bring forward the case of a whistle-blower. Dr. Chopra, a Health Canada scientist, was pressured in the 1990s to approve bovine growth hormone as a veterinarian drug. He had concerns about this drug. Despite his concerns, the pressure to allow this drug to go forward continued, and the pressure was immense. He could not make headway within the organization, so he went public with it and was immediately fired. However, under the bill before us, Dr. Chopra would have been allowed to go to a journalist, go public, and be more anonymous about it.
It is people like Dr. Chopra, who put their livelihoods on the line for the moral good in the pursuit of truth, that the bill would help protect. It would also ensure that we have a society that has all the information it needs to make important decisions.
Specifically in this place, we make a lot of decisions that, in some cases, could be a life and death situation. Therefore, we need to have all the information when we are making decisions, and the pursuit of truth is an immensely important aspect of that.
Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are the two principles that we are dealing with today, and behind those two principles is the idea that we pursue truth. Democratic nations in the world typically recognize that the truth does not need defence. If the truth is brought to light, we have to deal with it. Yes, there might be situations where it may be uncomfortable for particular people, but at the end of the day, if we have that truth, we will be able to flourish and make proper decisions.
Democratic countries also recognize that there is risk in the world. We have all heard of situations where somebody noted in their particular workplace that there was a danger, but when they talked to their supervisor or manager, nothing happened. They felt they wanted a particular thing to change, but if they went public with it, they would immediately be fired. This would not do any good for the rest of the employees in that business, because that risk or danger would still be there. However, with a source safety net, such that we are discussing today, they could go to a journalist, tell their story, and the person would not necessarily be identified. This is a very important component.
This is particularly important when it comes to government. If a government can bury the truth, bury the reality, then it can dictate reality to some degree. If we are not pursuing truth, if we can bury the truth, we can rewrite history or rewrite the reality, which is incredibly dangerous when people are making decisions about what type of government they want. We know that propaganda is often a non-truth or half-truth being put forward as a truth. Therefore, we need to ensure that truth is something that we pursue. We need to ensure that we have freedom of speech and freedom of the press in this country in order to be a viable democracy.
I am supporting the bill, and I would like to thank the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent for bringing it forward.