Senator Claude Carignan Tables Bill to Protect Journalistic Sources in Canada

November 22, 2016

Bill S-231

 

Ottawa, November 22, 2016 

 

Today in the Senate Chamber, Senator Claude Carignan tabled Bill S-231, the Protection of Journalistic Sources Act.

 

Senator Carignan felt impelled to table this important legislation following the recent disturbing news that the Montreal Police Service spied on Quebec journalist Patrick Lagacé using electronic surveillance. Also the provincial Sûreté du Québec has admitted it tracked the communications of a handful of other journalists over the course of years.

 

“This Bill recognizes the fundamental role of journalists in our democracy. It protects the privilege of journalistic sources’ secrecy—which legislation had yet to acknowledge—and seeks to protect whistle-blowers,” said Senator Carignan.

 

The Protection of Journalistic Sources Act is the first concrete legislative measure in Canada Seeking to protect journalistic sources. It intends to amend two major pieces of legislation.

 

First, S-231 will amend the Canada Evidence Act to protect the confidentiality of journalistic sources. It will allow journalists not to disclose information or documents that identify or are likely to identify journalistic sources. 

 

Second, this bill will amend the Criminal Code to only allow a Superior Court or Québec Court judge to deliver mandates, authorizations or orders for wiretapping and electronic surveillance. S-231 will also ensure that the burden of proof sways in favour of journalists. 

 

“Freedom of the press is fundamental to democracy,” said Senator Carignan. “Without the protection of a law, journalists will not have the assurance that they can freely retrieve the information the public warrant having.”

 

In actuality, the Protection of Journalistic Sources Act will also have the following other effects:

 

Upon completion of an investigation duly authorized by mandate, the information collected will be sealed by the court and none of the parties can consult it without the tribunal’s permission.

 

If an officer wants to examine the information that a journalist collected and is now sealed, a notice will be sent to the journalist concerned and to their news organisation. They will have ten days to oppose the officer’s request if they believe this information could identify an anonymous journalistic source.

 

If the journalist opposes the disclosure, the onus will be on the Crown to prove that this information is crucial to an ongoing investigation, the burden of the proof is reversed in favour of the journalistic source.

 

 

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Information (media only): Jenn Gearey

Office of the Honourable Senator Claude Carignan, P.C., Leader of the Opposition in the Senate 613-992-0240 – jenn.gearey@sen.parl.gc.ca

 

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