Question No. 380

Ms. Elizabeth May: With regard to the recommendation made by Jeremy Wallace, Deputy Director of Climate Change at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), that funding provisionally approved on April 29, 2011, by the DFAIT Planning, Advocacy, and Innovation Office, for the purpose of supporting an art exhibition by Canadian artist Franke James in Eastern Europe, be cancelled based on a determination that, “concerns that the funding proposed would not be consistent with our interests (…) and would in fact run counter to Canada’s interests more broadly”: (a) what specific criteria and evidence did the government use to determine that Ms. James’ art exhibition would constitute a threat to the interests of Canada; (b) for each correspondence, including e-mails, that relate to this determination, including those between Ministers’ exempt staff and departmental staff at DFAIT, (i) what are its details, (ii) what are the names of the sender and recipients, (iii) on what date was it sent; (c) on what evidence did DFAIT rely in order to justify the redactions, under Sections 20(1)(c), 21(1)(b), and 15(1) of the Access to Information Act, to the correspondence released to Ms. James under her Access to Information Act request on this matter on August 16, 2011; and (d) with regard to the Right to Freedom of Speech enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, on what legal grounds did DFAIT base its decision to withdraw support and revoke Ms. James’ allotted funding?

Hon. John Baird: Mr. Speaker, in response to (a), missions submit advocacy project proposals to the Planning, Advocacy and Innovation Division at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which are then reviewed and assessed against Government of Canada priorities. It is common practice for the officials involved and our missions to have back and forth discussions regarding these proposals, before making final eligibility decisions. The recommendation from the Climate Change and Energy Division was based on current priority areas for climate change funding, including the provision of support to assist vulnerable countries in tangible ways to adapt to climate change, and to support their substantive participation in international climate change negotiations.

In response to (b)(i), on May 2, 2011, a request was forwarded by a public affairs counsellor at the Canadian embassy in Rome, enclosing exchanges with a cultural affairs officer at the Canadian embassy in Zagreb. The exchange provided further background and discussion on the proposal.

In response to (b)(ii), the above-mentioned email communication was from a public sffairs counsellor at the Canadian embassy in Rome to the Climate Change and Energy Division, enclosing exchanges with a cultural affairs officer in the Canadian embassy in Zagreb.

In response to (b)(iii), May 2 and April 21, 2011.

In response to (c), in order to redact information requested under the Access to Information Act, DFAIT relies on recommendations from subject matter experts within the program areas who provided the records, recommendations from other involved program areas, as well as the review and discretion exercised by experienced officials within the Access to Information division. Information was redacted in certain instances where its release was determined to cause a specific, current and probably injury. Paragraph 20(1)(c) was invoked to exempt sensitive financial information belonging to a third party. Paragraph 21(1)(b) was invoked to protect the frank exchange of ideas between government officers. Subsection 15(1)–International was invoked in some instances to protect Canada’s position for the purpose of international negotiations, and in others to protect Canada’s relations with foreign governments.

In response to (d), Foreign Affairs and International Trade provides operational funds to Canadian missions to promote and defend Canada’s interests abroad in line with government priorities. While funding for the mission project proposal was identified and provisionally approved by DFAIT, upon further consultations, we did not provide funds to our mission in Zagreb. Thus funding to the artist was never given, nor was it withdrawn. Any implication of political interference involving DFAIT’s decision is false.