December 21, 2017

Canada - RSF and CJFE welcome results of inquiry into police surveillance of journalists

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and local partner Canadian Journalists For Free Expression (CJFE) have sent the following letter to Quebec's Minister of Justice and Public Security Minister welcoming the recommendations issued last week by the Chamberland Commission. The Commission was tasked with investigating the 2016 revelations that multiple journalists had been under police surveillance in an attempt to identify their sources. RSF and CJFE urge Quebec's government to implement the Commission's recommendations in order to better protect journalists' sources in Canada.

Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée

Édifice Louis-Philippe-Pigeon

1200, route de l'Église
9e étage

Québec (Quebec) G1V 4M1

Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux

Tour des Laurentides
2525, boulevard Laurier
5e étage

Québec (Quebec) G1V 2L2

December 21, 2017

We are writing on behalf of two non-profit, non-governmental organizations that work to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world: Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

CJFE and RSF welcome the recommendations of the Chamberland Commission on Protection of Confidentiality of Journalistic Sources, and its clear statements in support of the important role of press freedom and source protection in democratic society.

The Chamberland Commission issued a report on December 14 in response to revelations in 2016 that at least 13 Quebec journalists were targeted by a judicial authorization application in order to ascertain the identity of their anonymous sources. CJFE and RSF submitted a written memorandum to the Chamberland Commission that offered recommendations to better protect source confidentiality.

The Quebec spying scandal was cited as one of the factors behind Canada’s decline in this year’s RSF World Press Freedom Index. In 2016, Canada fell from 18th to 22nd place. Only two years ago, Canada was ranked in the top 10.

CJFE and RSF endorse the Commission’s two key recommendations—one on the protection of journalistic material and sources, and the other to prevent politically motivated investigations by police forces. The adoption of a new Quebec Journalistic Material and Sources Protection Act, echoing the recently passed federal law, would help to ensure the protection of journalistic material and sources in all matters falling under Quebec’s constitutional jurisdiction.

We suggest the definition of ‘journalist’ in any new legislation be widened beyond the federal legislation to reflect the emergence of newer practitioners of journalism such as citizen journalists, and to include the many who would not list the craft as their “main occupation.”

CJFE and RSF also welcome the Commission’s supplementary recommendations covering police investigation practices, judicial authorizations and contacts between police and the media, and call on the government of Quebec to adopt them in full.

We applaud Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée and Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux for their promise to carry out the Commission’s recommendations. The government of Quebec must now act swiftly to enact the the Chamberland Commission’s recommendations, and ensure that journalists in Quebec have the legal protections they need to perform their crucial public-interest role.

We thank you for your attention and look forward to your reply. Yours sincerely,

Alice Klein,

CJFE President

Margaux Ewen

RSF North America Director