Radio-Canada to test Journalistic Sources Protection Act before SCOC

Radio-Canada, the French-language arm of the CBC, will test the federal Journalistic Sources Protection Act before the country’s highest court.

The Supreme Court of Canada (SCOC) has announced it will hear an appeal filed by Radio-Canada after investigative reporter Marie-Maude Denis was compelled to reveal anonymous sources in a Quebec Superior Court decision last March.

The case stems from the political financing for public contracts trial of former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister and Roche VP Marc-Yvan Côté. A series of Mar. 2016 arrests by Quebec’s Unité permanente anticorruption (UPAC), followed the broadcast of two documentaries on the investigative program Enquête in 2012 and 2015. The documentaries were the result of information obtained by Denis that exposed ties between Quebec Liberal Party fundraising and the awarding of public contracts.

The lower court ruling compelled the veteran reporter to testify at the trials of Côté, former Quebec deputy premier Nathalie Normandeau, and four other co-accused.

Now facing several corruption charges, Côté’s lawyers say information leaks from highly-placed government sources led to the media reports, and make it impossible for their client to get a fair trial. 

His lawyers further allege in a stay of proceedings motion that the leaks “are not the fault of a lone wolf, but of a group of representatives of the order trying to establish a parallel judicial system in Quebec, with access to confidential documents likely to cause significant political damage.”

Denis declined to testify in March, saying at the time that without the promise of confidentiality, it would be impossible for journalists to do their jobs.

The Journalistic Sources Protection Act was passed unanimously in the House of Commons last fall. It allows journalists to not disclose information or documents that identify or are likely to identify a journalistic source unless the administration of justice outweighs the public interest in preserving the confidentiality of the source.

Denis was recognized earlier this year by The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) with the CAJ Charles Bury Award. The award is given under circumstances of exceptional merit to those people or organizations that have made a significant contribution to Canadian journalism.