CJFE Celebrates Quebec Decision in Favour of Protection Sources

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) commends the Quebec Labour Relations Board's decision to refuse to force Quebec journalist Karine Gagnon to reveal confidential sources in a hearing yesterday.

Last November, Gagnon, of Le Journal de Québec, wrote a report about the potential health threat of asbestos in government buildings. Immediately after it was published, a source whom she had cited in the report was fired from the Société immobilière du Québec (SIQ). He is challenging his dismissal at the administrative tribunal. Gagnon found herself drawn into the legal battle when lawyers for the SIQ demanded that she hand over all of her research materials for the report, including notes and recordings, as well as reveal the identities of all confidential interviewees.

"This is great news for journalists" said CJFE President Arnold Amber. "It is a further example of how Canadian society and judication tribunals are ruling in favour of reporters' rights to keep their confidential sources, confidential. This is the first time that this has occurred at a Canadian Labour Board, but it sets a good precedent which only adds to similar rulings in other courts.

Last year, journalist Bill Dunphy of The Hamilton Spectator was served with a production order to hand over his interviews with the head of a crime family, but also succeeded in having it quashed in court. The court ruled that police had not proven that Dunphy's material would provide any fresh evidence for their investigation and they had not made all reasonable efforts to obtain information from the subject himself. In essence, the needs of the investigation and value of the evidence did not outweigh the infringement on the special role of the media.

On the other side of the debate are lawyers for the Crown who are currently appealing the January 2004 decision by Superior Court Justice Mary Lou Benotto in the National Post case. Her decision quashed an RCMP search warrant and "assistance order" used to try to find out who leaked material to the National Post in April 2001. CJFE will be monitoring this case closely. If the Crown wins it would be a large step backwards for journalists in this area of the law.

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is an association of more than 300 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and around the world.