Press Release: Press freedom – BCCLA at Supreme Court of Canada to Argue for Rigorous Test to Compel Information from Press

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For Immediate Release

Ottawa – Today, May 23, 2018, the BCCLA will make oral arguments at the Supreme Court of Canada in a critical case for the freedom of the press, Vice Media Canada Inc. et al v. Canada.  The case considers a court order made under s. 487.014 of the Criminal Code requiring Vice Media Canada Inc. and its news reporter Ben Makuch to provide certain information to the police.

The BCCLA’s position is that a judge making an order to compel information from a journalist must balance the public interest in the investigating and prosecuting crime with the public interest in the media’s right to gather and disseminate the news.

The BCCLA will argue that the public interest in investigating crime requires a judge to determine whether the information sought from the journalist will be of real value to an investigation of a relatively serious crime. Police should not seek information from media outlets when investigating minor offences, or where the evidence is not critical to the investigation. Additionally, the police should make efforts to find the information from other sources before seeking it from a journalist.

The BCCLA says that the judge must also consider the impact the order would have on free expression and freedom of the press. Caily DiPuma, Acting Litigation Director of the BCCLA, warns against the frequent use of such orders: “Freedom of the press is foundational to our democracy and must be strongly protected. If orders compelling journalists to provide information became commonplace, there is a serious risk that journalists will alter their practices in a way that results in less openness and transparency, harming the public’s right to free expression and the free flow of ideas of information. Orders that compel a journalist to provide information to the police should rarely be granted, and if granted, must be narrow in scope”.

The BCCLA is represented by Tae Mee Park and Andrew W. MacDonald of Bersenas Jacobsen Chouest Thomson Blackburn LLP.

Our argument is available here.

What: oral arguments in the case Vice Media Canada Inc. et al v. Canada.

When: hearing begins on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 at 7:00 am PT / 10:00 am ET.

Where: Supreme Court of Canada (Ottawa)

Who: Caily DiPuma, BCCLA Acting Litigation Director, available for comment in Vancouver. Contact by email [email protected] or phone 604-630-9758 (office) 604-3491423 (cell).