Saturday, December 17, 2011

Joseph Beres, CFIA: "we are turning the PR tide to our favour"

On November 9, a few days after a media conference during which the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) announced to the world that there were no confirmed cases of salmon-killing ISA virus in Brisih Columbia, Joseph Beres, Inspection Manager at CFIA, wrote the following email:

It is clear that we are turning the PR tide to our favour, – and this is because of the very successful performance of our spokes[people] at the Tech Briefing yesterday, – you, Stephen, Peter and Paul were a terrific team, indeed. Congratulations!

One battle is won, now we have to nail the surveillance piece, and we will win the war also.


His colleague Dr. Con Kiley, who had taken a lead role during the CFIA conference declaring BC to be an ISA-free zone, wrote in that same email chain:

"Concentrate on the headlines, that's often all that people read or remember. Both the "Top Stories" and the "Related Pieces"."

Yesterday, this email exchange was entered as evidence at the Cohen Commission, and so I wrote to Mr. Beres the following message:

On Fri, Dec 16, 2011 at 3:30 PM, Ivan Doumenc wrote:

Mr. Joseph Beres
Inspection Manager
Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Cc: the public

Dear Mr. Beres,

It was revealed at the Cohen Commission today that on November 9, you wrote an internal email addressed to several of your colleagues at The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which read:

Joseph Beres' message here >

Commission Counsel Brock Martland suggested that this language evokes the attitude of a "hockey game", where the politicized discussion of science becomes "an adversarial thing".

Mr. Martland asked one of your colleagues at CFIA, Dr. Kim Klotins, whether this kind of cheering for one side against another was part of the mandate of CFIA and what could possibly be your state of mind when you wrote this email.

Dr. Kim Klotins declined to comment, stating that she could not second guess what you were thinking.

I believe Dr. Klotins has a point. So I thought that instead, I would ask you the question directly. Could you please explain what was the meaning of your comment in this email written shortly after the CFIA's phone media conference last November? Is it part of your professional responsibilities as an inspection manager to take sides?

Your comment is potentially troubling as it may suggest that you had no intention of finding the ISA virus. Is this true?

Thank you in advance for you interest in my inquiry.

Yours very truly

Ivan Doumenc
Vancouver, BC

And last evening, Mr. Beres wrote me the following answer:

On Fri, Dec 16, 2011 at 5:49 PM, Joseph Beres <> wrote:

Dear Ivan Doumenc,

Thank you very much for your e-mail, this provides me the opportunity to explain first hand what I was thinking when I wrote to Dr. Kiley the following:

"It is clear that we are turning the PR tide to our favour... Congratulations! One battle is won, now we have to nail the surveillance piece, and we will win the war also."

I was thinking that, with a successful Tech Briefing done, we served the public interest very well by telling the truth: no assumptions, no speculations, no hidden agenda, but the unvarnished truth. As a CFIA employee, I was, and am, proud of the way how we conducted the ISA suspect investigation from day one, including the Tech Briefing in question.

For the record, since its inception, the CFIA, as a federal Agency, has established an international reputation which is second to none in telling the truth. For example, when we confirmed the first case of BSE or a low path Avian Influenza finding, we reported them to the OIE (International Animal Health Organization) without hesitation, regardless of what the potential immediate economic impact would have been.  As a side note, the same CFIA official, Dr. Kiley, who did the Tech Briefing for the ISA and to whom I sent my congratulations, was also closely involved in the above mentioned two cases (BSE and low pat AI), thus contributing to the Agency's international reputation as a truth-teller. So my congratulatory note to him was deeply rooted in history.    

In this context, "winning the war" for me meant to stick with our principle of telling the truth, as we always did. We did so by upholding scientific evidence not suppressing it. As a regulatory Agency mandated to safeguard animal health in Canada, preserving the CFIA's reputation as a truth-teller is the key for us, - both the public trust and international trade hang in the balance. The war I mentioned, therefore, is not against anything or anyone, but it is our continuous effort for the cause of our credibility. 

So my state of mind was and is the following: by telling the truth first is how we want to earn and preserve the public trust and build public relations, - so good PR comes second as a by-product.

Thank you for the opportunity again. Should you need further clarification on my position or what I meant, please let me know.

Joseph Beres DVM
Acting Regional Director
BC Mainland-Interior
Burnaby, BC

I think Mr. Beres' response speaks for itself so I won't comment on it. I would recommend, though, that you widely forward this edifying exchange to your email lists and Facebook friends. I would also suggest that you send Mr. Beres your own letter of inquiry and/or give him a call.

I will keep you informed on any further developments.


  1. what a liar. I read 'guilty' all over his response. Just follow the money. We need more transparency of corporate interest in the government sector. If anyone wants to do some investigative reporting on this issue I'm sure they will find a goldmine of corruption. Salmon farming needs to be stopped immediately as they have no idea of the long-term complications they are going to cause to BC's entire eco-system.