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Dr. Siddika Mithani steps down as CFIA president

Dr. Siddika Mithani steps down as CFIA president

Jean-Guy Forgeron will assume her role in the interim

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

The search is on for a new president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Dr. Siddika Mithani, who Prime Minister Trudeau appointed as president of the CFIA in February 2019, retired last week.

She “retired from the Public Service effective Friday, January 20, 2023. We congratulate Dr. Mithani on her planned retirement at the culmination of a decades long career in the public service and wish her all the best in this next chapter,” a notice announcing her retirement says.

Thomas Gerbet, a reporter with Radio-Canada, posted a copy of the notice on his Twitter account.

Until the prime minister appoints a replacement, Jean-Guy Forgeron, the CFIA’s executive vice-president, will act as the agency’s president.

Jean-Guy Forgeron
Jean-Guy Forgeron

The president of the CFIA is responsible for “carrying out the agency's mission, which is to safeguard food, animals and plants, which enhances the health and well-being of Canada's people, environment and economy,” the CFIA’s website says.

Multiple Canadian ag organizations had been calling for Dr. Mithani to be replaced.

In October 2022, the National Farmers Union, with the support of 14 other ag groups, sent a letter to Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau to communicate concerns about the relationship between the CFIA and CropLife Canada.

An article by Thomas Gerbert in September 2022, the letter says, “provides alarming evidence of inappropriate collaboration between our public regulator and the private corporations whose products it regulates, to the point that it appears CropLife is effectively directing the CFIA.”

When regulatory agencies are influenced by the interests they regulate and don’t act in the public’s interest, that practice is called regulatory capture.

The organizations felt the CFIA was engaged in regulatory capture with CropLife.

“We therefore ask that the President of the CFIA be replaced with a new leader who will uphold an unwavering commitment to protecting the interests of Canadians, our food and our environment in order to restore the CFIA’s reputation and credibility.”

Upon learning of Dr. Mithani’s retirement, the National Farmers Union is repeating its calls to ensure the next CFIA president acts accordingly.

“We therefore urge Prime Minister Trudeau to ensure the next President of the CFIA is someone who will uphold an unwavering commitment to preventing regulatory capture…,” the group said in an Jan. 24 statement.

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