North American Forum in Ottawa: why no press?

As reported by Colin Horgan on iPolitics (Monday, October 15) this past weekend members and invited speakers at something called the North American Forum gathered in Ottawa “away from reporter’s prying eyes”:

The North American Forum, an annual meeting of leaders from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, brought together politicians, ambassadors, CEOs for major firms, and academics for a two-day series of panels to discuss key issues facing North America in the near future.

The North American Forum website lists the following mssion statement:

“The North American Forum is a community of Canadian, Mexican and American thought leaders, whose purpose is to advance a shared vision of North America, and to contribute to improved relations among the three neighbors”.

The same website states that at 2012’s meeting in Ottawa “Participants will focus on a key challenge—energy security in the context of renewed North American economic competitiveness.”

Horgan’s article states “reporters were barred from entering the Forum’s events.”

Scheduled speakers included Canada’s ambassadors to the U.S. and Mexico, and their counterparts from those countries.

Governor General David Johnston hosted forum participants at Rideau Hall on Friday, with a dinner that included remarks Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

As Hogan reports:

The following morning, National Defence Minister Peter MacKay gave a keynote address to the breakfast crowd, prior to a panel on new avenues in North American defence and security, featuring RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson and NORAD Commander General Charles Jacoby Jr. Following that, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defence, Ashton Carter gave a keynote address.

Here is a press release from Canada’s Department of  National Defense about Minister MacKay’s appearcance before that organization at its 8th annual event. From the press release:

Minister MacKay took the opportunity to promote Canadian democratic civil-military relations in the hemisphere and stress the importance of enhancing bilateral and regional defence relationships. He also highlighted Canada’s ongoing commitment in North American defence and issues of mutual interest, and the important role Canada assumed in hosting the first trilateral meeting of North American Defence Ministers on March 27, 2012.

While this event features a mix of private sector leaders and thinkers, the prominent presence of government officials begs the question of accountability.

It’s no secret that discussions held in private can be more honest and productive. The almost magnetic attraction international leadership events exert on (frequently violent) protest movements might seem like a great incentive to keep a low profile. There’s a sound argument that private organizations have a right to establish their own rules for attendance and admission.

But is it really good form to involve a whole spectrum of important public servants – and intentionally exclude the 4th estate? if public officials are participating to that degree, don’t citizens have some right to know what is being said in the capacity of those official roles?

Thoughts and comments on that question are welcome.

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4 Comments on “North American Forum in Ottawa: why no press?”

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  1. mervel says:

    I think its a mistake. This is the future; it is a very important issue. Just selfishly from an American’s standpoint we have talks with our number one trading partner Canada and our third largest trading partner Mexico and it gets no coverage?

    I mean we spend so much time worrying about all of these other places and ignore these two countries; the are critical for the US economically, socially, environmentally and culturally.

    Part of not letting the press in means that most Americans won’t know or care as much as they should. They see Canada as a this far north frozen place with few people and Mexico as this big poor problem on our southern border.

    Instead we have three countries that make up North America that are also are single largest trading block.

    Also I love North America, I have traveled somewhat, and I always find my favorite is still North America.

  2. Is this the same meeting that I’ve seen characterized as the Bilderberg meeting, a secret society of power brokers? If so, it has not escaped the attention of protest movements and the refusal to allow media coverage has probably backfired by fueling conspiracy theories about them and their agenda.

  3. Lucy Martin says:

    Re: James Bullard’s 8:17 pm question

    No, those are totally different groups, as best I can tell.

    According to that group’s website, the Bilderberg meetings are much older (circa 1954) and include European and North American involvement.

    The North American Forum only began meeting in 2005 with a focus on common concerns of the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

    There is sometimes no accounting for conspiracy theories.

    But a reasonable level of media access can address concerns about what’s being discussed and whose interestes are being served.

    Again, my question is focused on public officials, who have a higher level of open accountability. Academics – if employed by tax-supported institutions – may have similar obligations. (Or so it could be argued.)

  4. Pete Klein says:

    With little to base my thoughts upon, I do express some concern with the “purpose is to advance a shared vision of North America.”
    Whose shared vision? The vision of the haves who attend the meeting or the vision of everyone who is excluded.
    This points to a never ending problem with all “leaders.” They have a tendency to think everything is about them, everyone is stupid and everyone needs to follow their genius.

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