Journalism is in crisis in Canada.
Canada is one of the few western countries without a press shield law to protect whistleblowers and journalists. It is urgent that we create this legislation if we want to maintain our position as a world leader on press freedom. This past year we've seen a series of serious press freedom violations in Canada, including the RCMP taking VICE journalist Ben Makuch to court to access his sources, the seizure of a laptop belonging to La Presse reporter Michael Nguyen, police spying on journalists in Quebec, and criminal charges against independent journalist Justin Brake. This isn’t just happening in countries like Russia or Turkey, it is happening in Canada too.
Law enforcement agencies and our government are failing to protect the ability of journalists to do their job.
The ability for journalists to disseminate information depends on an extremely fragile relationship. If journalists are required to divulge information about their sources, or if it is believed that their communications are being monitored, their sources will dry up. If that happens, the public, governments, police and security agencies, will all lose because journalists will no longer be able to tell these stories. Confidentiality is key to these relationships, and it must be protected.
Thankfully, there is hope. On April 11 the Senate unanimously passed Bill S-231 (the Protection of Sources Act), which creates a press shield law to protect journalistic sources. It is a concrete step to help cement the independence and freedom of the press. Journalists must be empowered to act as watchdogs who are able to work on behalf of their communities and readers, rather than as an investigative arm of law enforcement.
Bill S-231 cleared the Senate but this isn't the end. The bill goes next to the House of Commons before it becomes a law. That will take a lot of work. While indications are strong that support for the bill crosses party lines between all 3 major parties, the Liberal government still hasn't said whether or not they'll support it. There is a concerted effort by law enforcement to significantly reduce or eliminate the protections that Bill S-231 will offer.
It is urgent that we act now. Send this open letter to Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government. Let them know that you want them to throw their weight behind the bill, and let them know we’re counting on them to protect press freedom. If they hear us all speaking out together, they’ll have no choice but to support the bill.