TORONTO, Nov. 10, 2016 /CNW/ - The country's top media union is calling for strict measures to restrict the ability of police to put journalists under surveillance.
"It is too easy to spy on journalists in Canada and impede freedom of the press in Canada," says Unifor President Jerry Dias.
"Journalists rely on their sources to get stories that are in the public interest. When police tap the phones of journalists, it puts a chill on people being willing to talk to them."
In the wake of news that Montreal police monitored the iPhone of La Presse columnist Patrick Lagacé, several other cases have come to light. The journalists involved were writing stories about the police themselves, and corruption in the Québec construction industry.
A more rigorous system is needed for granting warrants to police to monitor journalists, said Dias.
Unifor is calling on federal and provincial attorneys general to immediately direct Crown Attorneys and police forces that warrants relating to the surveillance of journalists must always require the approval of the Attorney General before going to court and that a panel of federal judges must review each warrant application.
"Such a rigorous process would help ensure warrants are issued only if truly needed, and prevent police from being able to judge-shop for a sympathetic ear," said Paul Morse, President of Unifor Local 87-M which represents journalists in newspapers across southern Ontario.
"The Attorneys General in every jurisdiction should raise the bar for the police and Crown attorneys, and they can do it tomorrow without the need for legislation."
Currently, the law only requires approaching a single judge for wiretaps, and a justice of the peace for other electronic surveillance such as GPS tracking and text messages. Such a system opens the door to police to take their applications directly to judges that will be more sympathetic to their warrant.
Federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien has spoken out on Parliament's responsibility to take action to protect journalists from unjustified police surveillance. The Quebec government has announced it intends to investigate the surveillance of La Presse reporters.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers, including 12,000 media workers. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged.
For further information: Please contact Unifor Communications National Representative Stuart Laidlaw at Stuart.Laidlaw@Unifor.org or (cell) 647-385-4054, or Unifor Local 87-M President Paul Morse at firstname.lastname@example.org (cell) 905-536-5650.