While Canada continues to demonstrate a strong commitment to international press freedom protections and practices, there is more room for progress, particularly with regards to press coverage involving the rights of indigenous peoples and land disputes.
Canada’s two largest newspapers, The Globe and Mail and the National Post, circulate widely throughout the country. The largest radio and television broadcaster is The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which is tax-payer funded, produces two hours of news daily, both local and national, and broadcasts a separate 24/7 news channel. Other media options include local newspapers, cable television, and other online and radio sources. More than 80% of Canadian media is owned by just 5 corporations.
Media outlets in Canada are generally free of pressure from politicians, political parties, and political movements. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is owned by the government, but operates independently. The government has publicly acknowledged that “media freedom remains an important part of democratic societies and essential to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
Canada has repeatedly demonstrated a legal commitment to freedom of the press, including “shield laws” to protect journalists and their sources. However, in a few instances, journalists have been arrested while covering protests, particularly those over indigenous rights and land usage. These arrests demonstrate that more legal protections, or better application of existing legal protections, are necessary for Canadian journalists.
Print newspaper sales have been declining in Canada for over a decade, a trend recently exacerbated by the impacts of COVID-19. The industry has made a shift to online advertisement and subscriptions, but revenues have eroded, leading to the shutdown of small outlets and loss of good-paying jobs in the journalism industry. The Canadian government also actively supports local journalism through an initiative that provides funding to outlets to hire journalists.
Although Canadians say they still have some confidence in journalism, their overall trust in the media has declined.
While journalists are typically safe to do their jobs in Canada, reporters covering the 2022 Freedom Convoy to protest vaccine mandates received death threats, were spat on, and were verbally and physically harassed. The window of a CBC Radio Canada vehicle was smashed. Online harassment poses a threat, especially to female and minority journalists.