gagged_westmountmag

The Hammer Comes Down
on Gag Orders

Unscrutinized gag orders equals abuse

By Linda Hammerschmid

When a gag order or directive is issued, no one is safe.

Non disclosure contracts and statements, Court orders prohibiting release of information on cases and directives against disseminating relevant information to the public by employers (public or private) only serve the interests of those insisting on secrecy.

Non transparency has become the rule, not the exception on a continent where “free speech/expression” is supposed to reign supreme. Allowing those in power to issue these types of restraints protects no one in the end and does a disservice to the truth in the process.

Transparency seems to be an antiquated notion now, to be avoided rather than to be craved.

Already we are encapsulated by half truths and inaccuracies. To deprive the public at large from access to the very information that would shed light on any subject guarantees that we remain in the dark, or worse, we rely on rumours and innuendos, a much more insidious outcome than the truth could ever be.

Transparency seems to be an antiquated notion now, to be avoided rather than to be craved.

While the new Civil Code in Quebec, at Article 2 (ergo not buried in the depths of the tome) mandates that transparency is paramount, all too often parties are allowed to obfuscate this rule because it is encircled by the premise that it is only required when the parties opt for the voluntary dispute process. Out and out litigating doesn’t seem to be covered.

While the Code goes on to state that parties are “duty-bound” to keep one another informed, the loopholes and non enforcement of these duties permits the continuation of information abuses. Just a fleeting perusal of the index of the Code shows how “transparency” is treated: you can’t find it listed in either language.

So when I read stories like the one out of B.C. about staff at a private school who can be summarily fired for “triggering” remarks (whatever they are defined to mean by the school) and a comprehensive gag “order” is issued, my concerns are substantiated.

… the Code shows how “transparency” is treated: you can’t find it listed in either language.

Actually, the first lawyer reaction I had was to wonder how a non judicial body can issue an “order”. Another deep concern I have is the disregard that educational institutions are demonstrating lately towards free speech. When guest lecturers are protested against by students (and non students) which results in a school disinviting the lecturer or cancelling the lecture, I worry how this generation, and future ones, will ever learn to “listen” to divergent opinions and more importantly, will the systematic erosion of certain information result in the truth being eradicated from living memory?

© 2016 Linda Hammerschmid

Image: Jennifer Moo via StockPholio.net


linda hammerschmid
Me Linda Hammerschmid is an attorney and has been practicing Family Law since 1982. She is the Senior Partner at Hammerschmid & Associates at 1 Westmount Square, Suite 1290. She is a founding and current member, and past Secretary (28 years) of The Family Law Association of Quebec. She is a frequent guest on CBC TV/Radio, CTV and CJAD, providing commentary on Family Law. You can also hear her regularly on the CJAD show “Passion” with Dr. Laurie Betito, the last Thursday of each month. She and her dog Mac are members of Therapeutic Paws giving joy to the less fortunate. Me Hammerschmid can be reached at (514) 846-1013 or by e-mail at <hammerschmid@vif.com>. All inquiries will be treated confidentially.


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  1. Brian Johnston

    Well penned article.
    I was forever concerned about the NDA I signed when leaving Valeant Pharmaceuticals.
    Definitely 1 sided on the corporate side with any consequences.
    Real eye opener,Thank You…..


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