Earlier this week, National Revenue minister Gail Shea threatened the CBC with legal action, but the media organization has refused to reveal the names thus far. On Friday, the CRA commissioner tried a different tact, issuing an open letter addressed to CBC president and CEO Hubert Lacroix.  

By Tamara Baluja

The Canada Revenue Agency is offering a compromise to the CBC, saying the broadcaster can keep secret the original source of information, but still reveal the 450 names of alleged tax cheats.

The CBC is one of the dozens of media organizations that belong to the U.S.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which released explosive stories last week about how the rich and powerful hide their assets in offshore tax havens.

Earlier this week, National Revenue minister Gail Shea threatened the CBC with legal action, but the media organization has refused to reveal the names thus far. On Friday, the CRA commissioner tried a different tact, issuing an open letter addressed to CBC president and CEO Hubert Lacroix.  

“I would expect that both the CBC and you, as its president and CEO, have an interest in ensuring that appropriate action is taken if individuals are not respecting their tax obligations,” said CRA commissioner and CEO Andrew Treusch. “Taking action against individuals who are not respecting their tax obligations is in the best interest of the public and law abiding Canadians.”

He added this could be done without infringing on CBC’s journalistic mandate.

“I understand that the CBC is reluctant to provide this data, citing concerns with journalistic independence and protecting sources,” he said. “I can assure you that the Canada Revenue Agency has not asked for the source of the information and will treat any information you provide with strict confidentiality in the same manner it treats all taxpayer information it receives.”

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CBC media spokesman Chuck Thompson said Lacroix received the letter on Friday, however, it has no intention of giving up the names.

“We will take it under advisement,” Thompson told J-Source. “As a journalistic organization, as a member of the ICIJ and as a matter of journalistic principle, CBC does not reveal sources or any background information.”

UPDATE: The Canadian Association of Journalists said it was "appalled" by the government's call to share information. “Governments invariably keep asking journalists to hand over information they should have been able to find if they had been doing their jobs properly,” CAJ president Hugo Rodrigues said in a statement released Tuesday. “Journalists are not police officers and they’re not Canada Revenue Agency fraud investigators – Canada already employs people for these roles.”

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Tamara Baluja is an award-winning journalist with CBC Vancouver and the 2018 Michener-Deacon fellow for journalism education. She was the associate editor for J-Source from 2013-2014.