Natural Resources Canada wins Code of Silence Award

OTTAWA — Natural Resources Canada has the dubious honour of being this year’s winner of the Code of Silence Award from the Canadian Association of Journalists.

OTTAWA — Natural Resources Canada has the dubious honour of being this year’s winner of the Code of Silence Award from the Canadian Association of Journalists.

The award is meant to shine an annoying light on the most clandestine government department.

Natural Resources gets the crown this year for muzzling an internationally-known Canadian geologist.

Scott Dallimore was kept from speaking about his work on the breaking of a prehistoric ice dam 13,000 years ago until vetted “media lines” could be approved by the minister’s office.

Dallimore co-authored a study on the ice dam that was published in the journal Nature.

Journalists in Canada facing deadlines had to interview British scientists lauding Dallimore’s groundbreaking study while federal bureaucrats fretted about the implications of an unscripted interview.

It took a full week for him to get ministerial approval for media interviews, by which time his international co-authors were widely interviewed.

The case resonated with editorial writers and was held up internationally as evidence of the Harper government’s obsession with message control.

“What could be so secret about a 13,000-year-old ice dam that merits muzzling a top Canadian scientist?” said CAJ president Mary Agnes Welch.“

“Some ice ages apparently haven’t ended.”

The winner was announced at the CAJ’s annual awards gala and national conference in Ottawa on Saturday night.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was named a nominee for the award for his continued vise-grip on the public’s right to know.

Last year’s Code of Silence winner was the Toronto Police Service.

The CAJ is Canada’s largest national professional organization for journalists from all media, representing about 800 members.