Federal ministries launch investigations after officials provide Irving Shipbuilding with information about Postmedia journalist
Two federal ministries are investigating potential violations of privacy laws after government officials shared details about a Postmedia news story and the journalist pursuing it, with representatives of Irving Shipbuilding.
Following a tip, Postmedia submitted questions on March 6 to two departments, National Defence and Public Services and Procurement Canada, about possible problems with some of the welding on HMCS Harry DeWolf, the first of the six new Arctic patrol ships Irving is building for the Royal Canadian Navy as part of a project that will cost taxpayers $3.5 billion.
However, just 90 minutes after submitting questions — and before receiving a response from either government department — an Irving representative emailed Postmedia to say the company had been made aware of the inquiry and wanted to discuss it. Irving Shipbuilding President Kevin McCoy then telephoned and after a brief discussion, threatened legal action against the news organization. Irving’s lawyers would be “making sure you understand that if you write something false about our reputation we will pursue it,” he said.
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This is the third time information about Postmedia’s investigations, as well as a reporter’s personal information, have been shared with the defence industry. It is the second time specific inquiries regarding government shipbuilding have been communicated to Irving. Owned by one of the richest families in Canada, Irving Shipbuilding is also the subject of allegations of political interference in the case of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, claims the company denies.
In response to the call from Irving, Postmedia clarified that fact-finding inquiries were in progress. Nonetheless, within an hour David Henley, Irving Shipbuilding’s vice-president and general counsel, emailed Postmedia saying he understood the news organization was “preparing a story which suggests there are substantial problems with welds” on the Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, and that the Harry DeWolf would be coming out of the water so the issue could be fixed.
“We are unaware of your source of information but wish to advise you that you are being misled,” Henley wrote. “There are no material issues with the welds on the AOPS and there is certainly no plan to take the first AOPS out of the water. Any story that suggests this would be false and defamatory to Irving Shipbuilding.”
On the night of March 6 DND confirmed to Postmedia that although there have been issues with welding on the ship, the problems were “minor” and said they did not require the vessel to be docked for repairs.
The Royal Canadian Navy’s first Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship, the future HMCS Harry DeWolf, is assembled at Irving Shipbuilding’s Halifax Shipyard in December 2017.
Both DND and PSPC admitted last week, however, that they had provided Irving with personal details and other information about a Postmedia journalist.
“We are currently verifying whether this constitutes a violation of the Privacy Act,” DND said in a statement. “Regardless of that outcome, we …read more