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CWB to raise constitutional question in “gag order” case

The CWB is questioning the constitutional validity of an order-in-council prohibiting the board from advocating retention of single-desk marketing. They argue that the ruling infringes upon its right to voice dissent.


June 6, 2008
By Canadian Wheat Board

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June 5, 2008

Winnipeg, Man. – The CWB this
week filed notice in federal court that it intends to question the
constitutional validity of an order-in-council (OIC) prohibiting the CWB from
advocating retention of farmers’ single-desk marketing system.

The CWB argues that the federal directive
infringes upon its right to voice dissent and violates Section 2(b) of the
Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which provides for "freedom of thought,
belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media
of communication…".

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"By prohibiting the expenditure of
funds for the purpose of advocating in favour of the single-desk system, the
Government has prevented the CWB from questioning and challenging the
Government’s policy," reads the notice, filed June 2.

A one-day hearing will be held in federal
court in
Winnipeg on June 16 as part of
the judicial review of the OIC, issued in October 2006. The case will be heard
concurrently with a CWB challenge of another OIC, issued in January 2007, that
ordered the CWB to pay interim
CEO Greg Arason a salary
set by the federal government without proper consultation with the board of
directors as directed by the Canadian Wheat Board Act.

"At the most fundamental level, both
of these cases are about farmer control of the Canadian Wheat Board," said
Larry Hill, chair of the CWB board of directors. "The government has
overstepped its authority in areas that should rightly be the purview of the
CWB’s board of directors, who are accountable to farmers."

The CWB’s application, posted online at www.cwb.ca
states that the OIC was issued for an improper purpose: to prohibit the CWB
from making public statements opposing the Government of Canada’s policy
regarding the future of the CWB and to prohibit communication with western
Canadian wheat and barley producers regarding the CWB’s statutory purpose.

The CWB has requested an order declaring
the OIC unlawful, vague and unenforceable and in contravention of the Charter
of Rights and Freedoms. The application also states that the CWB, as a
corporate entity, cannot express its views without incurring costs. All
communications from the CWB necessarily result in the expenditure of funds.

Controlled by western Canadian farmers,
the CWB is the largest wheat and barley marketer in the world. One of
Canada’s biggest exporters,
the Winnipeg-based company sells grain to over 70 countries and returns all
sales revenue, less marketing costs, to Prairie farmers.