Journalistic Sources Protection Act

An Act to amend the Canada Evidence Act and the Criminal Code (protection of journalistic sources)

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Evidence Act to protect the confidentiality of journalistic sources. It allows journalists to not disclose information or a document that identifies or is likely to identify a journalistic source unless the information or document cannot be obtained by any other reasonable means and the public interest in the administration of justice outweighs the public interest in preserving the confidentiality of the journalistic source.

The enactment also amends the Criminal Code so that only a judge of a superior court of criminal jurisdiction or a judge within the meaning of section 552 of that Act may issue a search warrant relating to a journalist. It also provides that a search warrant can be issued only if the judge is satisfied that there is no other way by which the desired information can reasonably be obtained and that the public interest in the investigation and prosecution of a criminal offence outweighs the journalist’s right to privacy in the collection and dissemination of information. The judge must also be satisfied that these same conditions apply before an officer can examine, reproduce or make copies of a document obtained under a search warrant relating to a journalist.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Oct. 4, 2017 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill S-231, An Act to amend the Canada Evidence Act and the Criminal Code (protection of journalistic sources)

April 11th, 2019 / 1:15 p.m.
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Ali Ehsassi Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Chair, first of all, allow me to thank both members who spoke to this issue. I will start off by saying that I completely agree with them that this is a very serious issue and we should all be concerned about this. However, just to put it in context, it's important to recognize and appreciate that our government understands that safeguarding the confidentiality of the appointment process is very, very significant.

Now, I suspect that the members, before appearing here today, had an opportunity to jog their memories, to look back and try to put this in context. As each and every one of you is fully aware, regrettably we had a very similar process in 2014. That was the aborted appointment of Justice Marc Nadon. As regrettable as this is, it has been known to happen before. I find it quite astounding that no one has brought up the parallels with what we saw a few years ago.

The reality is, as my learned friend Mr. Cooper actually mentioned, this is truly not the appropriate venue to consider this issue.

In 2014 we were faced with a very similar dilemma. It's assumed that the name of Justice Marc Nadon was shared with other members as well, but at that particular juncture, though, nothing actually happened and nothing was done.

When the member today says that there is attempted indifference, there is no attempted indifference. This is something we should all take very, very seriously.

I can say that am very proud of the government. The member actually said that when this first came up and the Prime Minister was approached, he did not immediately deny that the leak had not occurred from the Prime Minister's Office.

There is a reason for that. When we put a question to an official, we expect the official to actually do their due diligence. We don't expect them to play partisan politics with these issues. We expect them to look into it and when they speak, to speak with authority, which is exactly what happened in this particular instance.

We are now saying that we shouldn't be playing politics with this issue. I completely agree. However, I have done a bit of research and it's my understanding that the members here actually went to PROC with this issue as well. Again, I am certain that no one here thinks that PROC is the appropriate venue for that either.

This is really becoming an abuse of process, when we're trying to politicize everything and we're trying to make sure that we don't get around to dealing with all the issues that Canadians expect us to deal with.

The other issue that hasn't been mentioned as of yet is the fact that expecting our justice committee to look into this would be tantamount to investigating journalists. Surely every single member here today recognizes that one of the cornerstones of our democracy is freedom of the press. It would be highly irresponsible for any of us to advocate hauling in journalists and actually do an investigation.

Given the gravity of the situation, I completely agree with you that it's very, very unfortunate. We should all be concerned about this. I would ask the members here not to play politics in this particular committee but to look at the historical parallels we've seen in the past. Let's just make sure that all those safeguards are in place to ensure that something as regrettable as this never happens again.

Having spoken of what happened in 2014, I think it's also important to acknowledge a bill that was adopted in 2017. It was a Conservative bill. It was a Senate bill, Bill S-231, which talked about freedom of the press. A Conservative member, Mr. Deltell, actually brought that bill to the House. He was talking about how incredibly sacrosanct and important freedom of the press is.

So I would ask every single one of us to consider these types of issues. What Mr. Deltell said in Parliament, when he was introducing that bill, I think speaks for itself. If I may, I'd like to quote what he said:

What we are talking about is one of the cornerstones of our very democracy. We are talking about a free press and freedom of expression here in the House of Commons, but first and foremost, from coast to coast in this country, the protection of journalists' sources. That is why the quality of the bill tabled by the hon. Senator Claude Carignan in the upper House, two months ago months ago, cleared the way and gave a clear mandate and clear signal to all whistleblowers in this country that when they talk to a journalist, they are free to do that and no one will interrupt them in the process.

Obviously, what the members are suggesting is that we have journalists come here and share their sources with us. That is certainly not something we can do, and for that reason, I am very much against this motion.

Thank you.

October 18th, 2017 / 3:15 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall Ottawa

October 18th, 2017

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that Ms. Patricia Jaton, Deputy Secretary to the Governor General, in her capacity as the Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 18th day of October, 2017, at 1:00 p.m.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Wallace

The schedule indicates the bills assented to were Bill S-226, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights and to make related amendments to the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and Bill S-231, An Act to amend the Canada Evidence Act and the Criminal Code (protection of journalistic sources).

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

October 4th, 2017 / 6:35 p.m.
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The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill S-231 under private members' business.

The House resumed from September 29 consideration of the motion that Bill S-231, An Act to amend the Canada Evidence Act and the Criminal Code (protection of journalistic sources), be read the third time and passed.

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 29th, 2017 / 1:55 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario


Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House today and speak to Bill S-231, an act to amend the Canada Evidence Act and the Criminal Code, otherwise known as the journalistic sources protection act.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude. There are sometimes issues that arise in the House for which there is all-party agreement that action is necessary and appropriate. In this case it is very appropriate for us to take the opportunity to acknowledge, first of all, the outstanding work of Senator Carignan, with the assistance of Senator Pratte, in ensuring that this very important issue was brought forward, as they sponsored bringing Senate Bill S-231 before the House. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank and acknowledge the work of the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent for helping bring the bill before the House.

The issue that is contained within Bill S-231 is an issue that affects and concerns all Canadians in the aftermath of the Lagacé issue that arose in Quebec. In other instances as well there is legitimate concern among Canadians about the protection of our journalists and journalistic sources. The independence of a free press is the hallmark of our democracy, and it is critical. All members of the House recognize the importance of protecting our journalists and allowing them to do their job.

The bill before us today reflects that shared value that everyone in the House and all Canadians feel about the importance of the fifth estate, of journalists, in helping keep Canadians informed and in having the ability and the freedom to bring forward issues that might not otherwise be made public, thereby protecting the rights and the values of all Canadians.

It is also important to acknowledge the important work that our Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security did. I want to thank the chair, the hon. member for Don Valley West, and the members of that committee for the very conscientious way in which they approached the bill to ensure that it reflects long-standing traditions in our common law and creates protections while upholding and maintaining the important values that were represented in the Senate bill. Frankly, as a former police officer, I feel that the clarifications that the public safety committee brought to the bill did much to restore all Canadians' confidence that the law will be appropriately applied.

In particular, I wanted to acknowledge the work of the committee to ensure that this legislation did not provide a shield for criminal behaviours that might be perpetrated by a journalist, yet provided those absolutely essential protections for journalists when doing their job. I am very confident that the legislation that has been produced and is before the House is worthy of all-party support.

While the amendments brought forward by the public safety committee are limited in number and scope, they are important for very many reasons. They ensure that the new measures in Bill S-231 will apply in appropriate circumstances without undermining the important protective measures that are arguably already in place in a very complex area of the law. Second, I believe that the work of the SECU committee in bringing forward these amendments provides more clarity in terms of how these measures are intended to be applied in practice. This will be invaluable assistance to those engaged in journalistic practice throughout the country and those who are tasked with the important job of keeping all of our communities safe.

I believe Bill S-231, as amended, will translate into better protection to all confidential journalistic sources to the benefit of all Canadians and I believe it is worthy of all-party support.

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 29th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
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Mona Fortier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity to speak to Bill S-231, an act to amend the Canada Evidence Act and the Criminal Code (protection of journalistic sources).

Please allow me, Madam Speaker, as others have done before me, to express my gratitude to the Senate sponsor for his hard work and dedication in relation to this important bill. My thanks also go to my colleague opposite, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, for his role in helping move Bill S-231 expeditiously through the House. Finally, I would like to thank the various witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security during its study of the bill, including representatives of the media who shared their compelling stories and the important challenges they have faced in protecting the confidentiality of their sources in the course of doing their work, particularly in the aftermath of the events in Quebec last fall.

Evidently there is overwhelming support for the bill's overall objective. This bill truly reflects a multi-partisan consensus. All agree that due consideration must be given to the protection of journalistic sources. This is true not only when someone is seeking the disclosure of a document or information before a court that would identify a journalistic source but also when law enforcement officers are seeking a warrant, or other court orders, to obtain information or documents relating to a journalist.

Before I get into the various measures proposed in the bill, I would like to remind members that Canadian law is not silent in this regard. In fact, the protection of journalistic sources afforded by common law and the Constitution are rigorous.

Because of this, we have a responsibility to ensure that this bill reflects the common law as much as possible to avoid unintended consequences. More specifically, we have a responsibility to ensure that we do not unintentionally undermine existing protections. We must also ensure that the new protection measures introduced by the bill would apply in all appropriate cases, but only in appropriate cases. I will come back to this shortly.

This, in essence, is what the proposed amendments to Bill S-231 made by the public safety committee are all about. As we know, Bill S-231 would amend two acts. The first set of proposed amendments relates to the Canada Evidence Act. The amendments are aimed at protecting the confidentiality of journalistic sources in the courtroom context. The second set of amendments relates to the Criminal Code and seeks to protect confidential journalistic sources in the investigative context by introducing a new process for the issuance of search warrants, and other orders, in relation to journalists' communications and their belongings.

I will focus first on the second series of amendments because they target the main concerns arising from the Lagacé case, which had to do with whether common law protections for the confidentiality of journalistic sources are in effect given due consideration when warrants and orders are issued against journalists.

In essence, the new process proposed in Bill S-231 for obtaining warrants and orders concerning journalists would not only codify the existing common-law protections but would also add additional safeguards to ensure a high level of scrutiny when the state wished to intrude on the privacy of a journalist. For example, such warrants would only be issued by superior court judges, and only if there was no other way to obtain the information and if the public interest in the investigation of the crime outweighed journalists' right to privacy in doing their work. Also, the resulting evidence would be automatically sealed. All these new measures would be designed to protect the confidentiality of journalistic sources at the investigative stage, before the state has brought charges or obtained evidence.

The amendments that the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security made to the new process and to the changes to the Criminal Code proposed in Bill S-231 can be summarized as follows: first, the override clauses were removed from the proposed changes to the Criminal Code in order to prevent potential conflicts with other federal laws, particularly with regard to matters of national security and privacy protection. The rules set out in Bill S-231 are sufficiently clear and there is no need to override other federal laws in this regard.

The second amendment relates to the scope of application of the proposed Criminal Code process in practical terms. As originally drafted, the new requirements for police to apply to a judge of a Superior Court for a warrant, authorization, or order relating to a journalist would have applied in all cases where a journalist was involved, regardless of whether police were actually aware that their investigation related to a journalist.

This needed to be fixed, because in real life, particularly in this day and age of online crime, police do not always know the identity of the suspect, let alone what that person does for a living. Unless police know a journalist is involved, they cannot logically be expected to apply the new Criminal Code process. The amendment made at committee makes it clear that the new process only applies if police are aware that a journalist is implicated.

That said, if and when police subsequently find out that their investigation relates to a journalist's communications, the amendment would require that they apply to a judge at a Superior Court so that the warrant or order can be confirmed and appropriate conditions can be imposed to safeguard journalistic sources. In the meantime, police would be prohibited from examining the evidence and from making copies of it. I believe this is a significant improvement to the bill.

Another important issue with regard to the proposed new Criminal Code process for issuing warrants and orders in relation to journalists—and I think we are all in agreement on this aspect—is that this process is intended to protect the confidentiality of journalistic sources. It is not, however, intended to protect journalists from criminal investigation and prosecution when they engage in criminal conduct.

The original version of Bill S-231 did not make that distinction. The changes made by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security clearly state that the new Criminal Code criterion for issuing a warrant, authorization, or order relating to a journalist does not apply when the journalist engages in criminal conduct.

Such a warrant or order would, however, still be issued by a judge of a Superior Court, and, where necessary, the judge would be able to protect the confidentiality of journalistic sources by ordering that some or all of the evidence be sealed. This, in my view, is a very sensible and necessary amendment.

Insofar as Bill S-231's proposed new Canada Evidence Act provisions are concerned, it is important to remember that they seek to protect confidential journalistic sources by allowing a journalist to object to the compelled disclosure of information or document on the grounds that it identifies, or is likely to identify, a confidential journalistic source. The provisions would also ensure that disclosure in such cases is only authorized if certain conditions are met.

I wanted to speak briefly about the amendments made by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, but since I have very little time left, maybe I can ask one of my colleagues to present them.

In closing, the amended bill we are proposing will provide better protection for confidential journalistic sources, in the interest of all Canadians, and it deserves everyone's support.

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 29th, 2017 / 1:35 p.m.
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Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Madam Speaker, as I was saying earlier, I had the opportunity to be here in the House to hear the farewell speech of former NDP leader Ed Broadbent. He said that we tend to focus more on what divides us, that 80% of the time we are in confrontation mode, and 20% of the time, we are not talking about what unites us.

I have to say that I am very pleased to rise in the House today following my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie, only to agree with her and the rest of the House, and support an important bill that, in a way, preserves one of the pillars of our democracy, specifically, freedom of expression.

I would first like to commend the hard work done by the bill's sponsor, my Conservative colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent, who is himself a former journalist and who understands, from first-hand experience, the importance of being able to protect journalistic sources. Unfortunately, in recent years, these sources have been mistreated, and there have even been attempts to expose sources that have revealed some of the scandals that unfortunately occur in our public institutions and elsewhere. Hats off to my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent for taking the lead on this bill.

My colleague was only able to sponsor this bill because, in the wake of a scandal that erupted in Quebec, Conservative Senator Claude Carignan took the bull by the horns and proposed the bill we are discussing today, Bill S-231, an act to amend the Canada Evidence Act and the Criminal Code regarding the protection of journalistic sources. Senator Carignan tabled his bill less than a year ago in November 2016. The bill was passed by the Senate in April 2017, which shows how fast it has progressed.

Last spring, the bill was tabled in the House, where it was slightly amended with the collaboration of the government, the NDP, our sponsor, and our party. Now we are at the final stage in the House, the statements leading up to the vote at third reading, after which the bill will move forward. Since the House of Commons has made amendments, the bill will have to go back to the Senate for the changes to be approved. It is interesting to note that this time, it is the House of Commons that is acting as the chamber of sober second thought for the other place.

The bill we are discussing today, as my colleague said, introduces a key component: it changes the burden of proof. That is one of the key components of the bill. What is more, my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent mentioned that this bill was reviewed by the Department of Justice and police forces to ensure that it is balanced.

According to La Presse, the interesting thing about this bill is that it will take Canada from slacker to leader. We will be on par with countries that have measures to protect journalistic sources, countries such as Australia, Germany, France, and Great Britain. This is a positive outcome to an alarming situation. Let us not forget that a Quebec journalist, Patrick Lagacé, was under police surveillance by a municipal police force. That is troubling.

This is nothing new. In 2007, a former Bloc Québécois MP, Serge Ménard, introduced a similar bill. Unfortunately, we were under a minority government at the time and the bill died on the order paper.

Today, we truly have an opportunity to achieve the desired result and a chance for the bill to receive royal assent. I will come back to that a bit later.

Of course, journalists like Patrick Lagacé were wiretapped. Closer to home, Senator Claude Carignan reminded us that among the examples of journalistic revelations based on confidential sources wanting to reveal information, there was the famous sponsorship scandal.

Globe and Mail reporter Daniel Leblanc relied heavily on information from a confidential source known as “Ma Chouette” in writing a series of articles on the sponsorship scandal. The confidential information he got from his source about fraudulent activities related to the sponsorship scandal resulted in what was certainly Canada's biggest political scandal in recent decades. The problem is that Mr. Leblanc, who did his job to protect democracy, had to fight tooth and nail to defend himself in court and protect the journalistic source who enabled him to expose the scandal.

If not for those whistleblowers, if not for people being able to talk to reporters in strict confidence, hundreds of millions could have been squandered without the Canadian people ever getting wind of it. In a healthy democracy, the media function as a check and balance and journalists do enjoy press freedom. That is a basic right, but, as we saw with Mr. Leblanc, who was taken to court, it is a fragile one.

I would like to quote a Supreme Court ruling, because it is important. The top court asked us to take action, in a sense, because we have a constructive dialogue with it. In the National Post ruling, the court states:

The role of investigative journalism has expanded over the years to help fill what has been described as a democratic deficit in the transparency and accountability of our public institutions. There is a demonstrated need, as well, to shine the light of public scrutiny on the dark corners of some private institutions.

The Supreme Court goes even further:

...unless the media can offer anonymity in situations where sources would otherwise dry-up, freedom of expression in debate on matters of public interest would be badly compromised.

Freedom of expression is one of the pillars of our democracy. It is what is at stake here today, and what we want to protect. As I have already mentioned, and as we have heard in previous debates, the bill aims to protect sources, reverse the burden of proof, and clarify the definition of “journalist”. In addition, if this bill passes, going forward, only Superior Court judges, as set out in section 552 of the Criminal Code, will be able to rule on the terms and conditions. In Quebec, it would be a Quebec court judge.

Time flies, but I just want to say that this bill provides parameters. In particular, it provides a definition of “journalist”. The purpose is not to place journalists above the law, but rather to give them the tools to protect their journalistic sources. It is a bill to protect journalistic sources.

In closing, I want to quote Senator Carignan:

Honourable senators, the purpose of this bill is to protect the best interests of Canadians and preserve their trust in the integrity of their institutions. It is about protecting ourselves against attacks on one of the pillars of our democracy, Canadians' right to information and sound administration of their public institutions.

There is no better way to defend this bill than to quote Senator Carignan.

My colleagues and I know that politics is a matter of trust. We know how important it is to maintain trust between the public, our political institutions, and our public institutions. We truly have a chance to do that today, especially considering that the symbol of our democracy, the governor general, will take office next week. I hope that with the co-operation of hon. members of the House of Commons, we will give her the opportunity to stand up for freedom of expression by giving royal assent to this bill to protect journalistic sources.

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 29th, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
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Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleagues for their warm reception. I am delighted to rise here this morning to speak to Bill S-231 on the protection of journalistic sources.

Journalists play a vital role in our democracy. Parliament is a fundamental democratic institution, but I believe that journalism is, as well. Just look at what programs like Enquête and The Fifth Estate have achieved. Those are two of the most commonly used examples, but they are not the only ones. All journalists, including our friends in the parliamentary press gallery and parliamentary correspondents—they all do extremely important work.

In order to do their job, however, they must be able to work freely, without undue interference. Unfortunately, we have seen a very troubling trend in that regard. There have been some disturbing examples, like the ones reported in Quebec, specifically in Montreal involving Patrick Lagacé and Joël-Denis Bellavance, but we have also seen a broader, long-term trend that should be setting off alarm bells among those who care about our democracy.

For example, under the Liberal government, Canada's global ranking for freedom of the press dropped 14 points. That raises a lot of questions. That is why Bill S-231 is a real step in the right direction, quite timely, and so important.

The bill will do a number of things. It will allow journalists to better protect their sources. That is important because when journalistic sources do not feel protected, they keep quiet. Speaking of sources, they are drying up. They are holding on to information that can sometimes be crucial, which prevents journalists from giving us the complete story and getting to the bottom of things.

Through the proposed legislative changes in this bill, a journalist could refuse to disclose information if he believes that the confidentiality of his source would be compromised. In fact, the onus is reversed. Now it will be up to the police to prove that the information they are looking for is more important for public safety than the right to protect sources. That is a key component.

We are also going to take the power to issue search and surveillance warrants away from justices of the peace. Obviously, we still need some judges to have this power, so it will be transferred to superior court judges. I think this is a very important change. I would like to cite one figure I find quite surprising: 98% of the search or surveillance warrants requested by Montreal police were granted. I think that is a very high success rate. It is not that I do not trust the police or think they are not being diligent, but that percentage seems a little high to me. I think it is a good idea to keep a close eye on this.

Let us take a closer look at what this bill is proposing. A judge will be able to appoint defence counsel, of a sort. Normally, when this kind of warrant is requested, the journalist or media outlet being targeted is not notified.

Obviously, someone who wants to conduct a search or surveillance is not going to notify the target. The target does not know what is going on. Having a special advocate to defend the rights of the journalist or media outlet will ensure that all perspectives are taken into account and result in a more fair and comprehensive legal process. There are other elements that I will not mention here today, but I think they are all very important.

Nevertheless, I want to emphasize that this bill is not perfect. During the Senate debates, the definitions of “media” and “journalist” were narrowed somewhat. We have so many platforms nowadays that it is hard to pin down who exactly is a journalist, who is a part-time or full-time journalist, and what counts as traditional media versus new media. It is important to work with fairly broad definitions of “journalist” and “media” even if that means judges have to make their own calls about that as necessary.

This is an important bill whose time has come. I know the Liberals slowed the process down a bit, but I think they eventually came around to our view that we really have to pass this bill quickly. I hope that this bill will be sent to committee soon and come back to us for third reading before too long. That is all I have to say.

The House resumed from September 19 consideration of the motion that Bill S-231, An Act to amend the Canada Evidence Act and the Criminal Code (protection of journalistic sources), be read the third time and passed.

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 19th, 2017 / 6:25 p.m.
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Kyle Peterson Liberal Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak again on Bill S-231. I recall that the last time I spoke in the House, I think at second reading in May, my time was also truncated. Perhaps I will be able to say what I need to say in the short period of time we have.

This bill came to the House by way of its sponsorship by my good friend from Louis-Saint-Laurent in the other place. It is being debated here in the last few minutes of private members' business on our second day back after we have been in our constituencies for the summer. These facts should not belie the importance of this bill. This is a fundamental bill. This will fundamentally underline what we see as important to Canadians and as Canadians.

Fundamentally, this bill is about democracy. It has been said that democracy is the worst government, except for all of the other types. We need to hold what we have dear. We must cherish our democracy. Our democracy is not going to remain strong and robust if the good people in this place and throughout Canada stand idly by. Democracy, like all that we love and cherish, must always be nourished. It must always be improved. At its essence, this bill would improve our democracy.

Why is that so? It is for many reasons, but let me take the brief time I have to elaborate on one or two of them. I believe it was the British member of Parliament Lord Macaulay who first said that the media is the fourth pillar of democracy, after the executive, Parliament, and the judiciary. The media plays just as important a role. None of us here today would imagine that democracy could exist without Parliament. None of us here today could possibly fathom democracy without an effective judiciary. None of us here would even dare to dream of government or democracy existing without an executive answerable to Parliament.

I suggest that a robust media is as important as these other three branches of government. Without the protection of journalists and journalistic sources, there can be no free media. Make no mistake about it, that is how democracies die in this world: it is when journalists cannot do their job, cannot speak truth to the people who send us here, are afraid of the state, or fear for their safety and that of their families. This is what we are talking about here. We need to make no mistake about this.

Bill S-231, in its essence, is at the foundation of democracy. I urge every member to support it. It is a fantastic piece of legislation. It has been amended in committee. This is what we need to support. This bill highlights where democracy, the law, and journalism meet, all of which are important and fundamental principles of our free society.

Professionally, I am a lawyer, and I am entitled to privileges. Lawyer-client privilege is one of the most sacred tenets of our law. I could not possibly have done my job as a lawyer without my client having the full and utmost confidence in knowing that whatever they said to me, I could never tell another soul. That fosters truth. That is how people can be confident in this system and how they can be free to say what they need to say.

As a lawyer, I do not think that that privilege is any more important than the same privilege a journalist has they are speaking to their sources. How will the wrongs of the world be righted if good people do not have other people to speak to and explain the wrongs. Those journalists take those stories of woe, corruption, and fraud and bring them to the people. Without journalism, these stories do not see the light of day. Not only will these stories or the people who want to tell the stories potentially die, but I also suggest that democracy itself will die.

I for one will not stand by and let democracy die. I urge all members to support Bill S-231.

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 19th, 2017 / 6:15 p.m.
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Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to speak to Bill S-231 to protect the confidentiality of journalist sources. I wish to commend the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, who I know is very passionate about this. It was good to see that he had the opportunity to speak today and to express his passion.

Freedom of the press is a fundamental Canadian value that is protected by the charter. Our government supports this and will defend charter rights. We know that journalists play a key role in ensuring that Canada remains a free and democratic society. Therefore, as my colleagues have said, we will be supporting the bill with the amendments made at committee.

The bill would protect journalists and their sources. That is the distinguishing factor here. We know journalists are protected under section 2(b) of the charter. However, case law has demonstrated that their sources are not protected. That is part of the reason why the need for this has come forward.

It is important to protect the sources of journalists for a number of reasons, the main one being that it enables us to get closer to the truth. We know journalists have sources who are reliable and who would hesitate to come forward if they knew their names would be disclosed. It is important to know that is not sneaky or inappropriate. We have to recognize that certain risks and costs that are taken are not fair and that people are coming forward in the interests of truth. They need to have that assurance.

I relate this to my own life because I, unlike the member, I am not a journalist and have never taken on that role. However, I was a chaplain in a high school and had students come to see me. Over the years, we formed beautiful relationships of trust, friendship, and those sorts of things. If there were any issues or anything that students thought needed attention, they could come to me. The importance for them when they were going to share certain things with me was that it would be in the interest of the community. They would tell me things like a fight was going to break out after school and that it would happen in the park a half mile away. However, they would only tell me that if I promised I would not say where my source came from. Was what they were telling me important? Absolutely. Did I then notify the authorities so the police would be there and there would not be a brutal fight? That is exactly what I did. Did it prevent that fight from happening? Yes.

There are many other examples. Some of these examples were very serious, such as mental health issues, where self-harm was happening. Students would come to me in the interest of protecting another student, in the interest of saving that other student's life. However, they would tell me that I could not reveal where I got the information. I could give them that assurance, and I could follow up and reach out. At the end of the day, justice was served and help was offered. It was a good thing because I had that right.

The goal of journalists is a bit different, but they are after truth and they want accountability. They want Canadians to be informed. This is very important for a free and democratic society. We want Canadians to be informed as well. We, as a government, want to be accountable. For those constituents who have said that they want members to make a difference, to be honest, and they want to be able to trust us, that is exactly what I want to deliver. I want to restore their faith. That is why I am here today.

We, as a government, want to ensure that journalists get the information they need in order to keep us accountable. We want to be held to account. If an investigation is required, we want to ensure we have the information to lead us to that investigation. We do not want that information to be held back. At the end of the day, we know all Canadians will benefit from it.

The bill does many things, but what I want to focus on next is the test that is used. The common law would apply in a situation where we are talking about journalist source confidentiality privilege. The common law uses the Wigmore test. That test has four criteria: one, the communications must originate in a confidence that they will not be disclosed; two, this element of confidentiality must be essential to the full and satisfactory maintenance of the relationship between the parties; three, the relationship must be one that in the opinion of the community ought to be diligently, deliberately, and consciously fostered; and, four, the public interest served by protecting the identity of the source in this particular case must outweigh that of the public interest in getting the truth.

Bill S-231 codifies and simplifies that legislation so that we are not involved in conflicts and wondering what test to use. The test here is simple: the administration of justice outweighs the public interest in preserving confidentiality. It is simplified and codified so that we do not have to go back to the Wigmore test.

This also applies to warrants. The bill includes conditions that allow any material seized by a warrant to be held until a decision is made. This ability to build conditions into a warrant is important because the warrant can be issued and the conditions can be set.

The other thing I would like to talk about, which is very important and very different, is that the burden of proof now shifts to the person who wants the information disclosed. I know that journalists will appreciate and value that very much.

At the end of the day, the bill puts in place a robust and unprecedented protection of journalists' sources by clarifying the test, by preventing conflict of interest law issues, and by ensuring that new safeguards will only apply in appropriate places. I am pleased about this change for journalists. I want to encourage journalists and impress upon them today how important we, as representatives, as members of Parliament, believe their job is. They are doing a very important job. We want to help them do their job well. We think this legislation will help them do that.

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 19th, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, there are a few thoughts that come to mind right away when we are debating Bill C-231, and one of those thoughts is reflecting on Arnold Chan, and some of the things he advocated for were to bring people and parties together in terms of how we can improve things if we work together. The bill going through the committee process demonstrated just that, where we were able to take a piece of legislation and improve it, with individuals from different parties working together and ultimately seeing amendments brought forward, which has improved the legislation we are debating here today.

Freedom of the press is something we should never ever take for granted. We understand it is a fundamental pillar to good governance, to the whole issue of democracy. When I was first elected in 1988, I quickly found out the important relationship between the media and politicians. I will not go over the stories, but there were some embarrassing moments. At that time I may have had some different thoughts about the media, but I can honestly say today—with the experience I have gained over the years as a parliamentarian, whether inside the Manitoba legislature or here in the House of Commons—how important it is that we have an independent press, a press that feels it has the freedom to do what is necessary to ensure that there is a higher sense of accountability through the media on a wide variety of issues, whether it is within the political realm or any other realm on which media representatives will report.

I know when the issue first surfaced—if we were to narrow it down, and it has already been referred to—it was an incident where police officers in Quebec obtained warrants to monitor the cell phones of a fairly well known and respected journalist and a number of others. The journalist who garnered a great deal of attention was Patrick Lagacé. There was an instant reaction from coast to coast to coast that something was wrong. It did not take long for things to come together, whether it was inside the House of Commons or outside in different communities that realized this action was a serious offence against a profession that we need to ensure has a sense of independence and the ability to protect its sources.

My colleague across the way said he was a journalist for 20 years, and I am sure he speaks from experience in terms of how important those sources are. I cannot say how many times I have had a journalist come to me and ask what I would share off the record. Sometimes it is important to have those off-the-record discussions to give some depth on the issue at hand, whatever it might be. We should always be careful if we go off the record, but we find incredibly good reporters who want to be better informed and have a better sense of what is taking place behind the story.

Equally, when we look at some of the issues that are so critically important for the public to become aware of, the sources of information that make the public aware do need to be protected.

A vast majority of Canadians recognize the value of a free press. We should never take it for granted, and the Prime Minister makes sure that direction comes from the government through the different ministries and that direction is given in the mandate letters that are issued to the ministers. In the mandate letter issued to the Minister of Justice, the Prime Minister tasked the minister with ensuring that the rights of Canadians are protected and that the guarantees set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are respected. The minister recognizes that freedom of the press is fundamental, that it is a Canadian value as stated in the charter. Moreover, in the spring of this year, during question period here in the House, the Prime Minister himself made a fairly clear statement indicating that the government strongly believes in the protection of journalistic sources. It should surprise no one that our government understands the importance of this issue.

We saw good work done by the standing committee. It reflected on the previous debate, reviewed some of the incidents that have occurred, including the one that I cited earlier, and came up with ways to improve the system. That is the way I look at Bill S-231.

I applaud the actions of those individuals whom I have named and the many whom I have not named, because as I have indicated, we should never take those fundamental issues for granted. We do need to stand guard and protect our democracy, our free press, those fundamental pillars that ultimately made Canada the great country that it is.

Journalism and the way the media reports events have greatly changed. I make reference to the days when I was first elected. I can remember sitting in the Manitoba legislature and looking into the press gallery, where I could see representatives from all the different mainstream media. There were three reporters from the Winnipeg Free Press and two from the CBC. CTV had a reporter there. Even Global had a permanent reporter there. There was also a reporter from the Winnipeg Sun. Other media outlets were also there. Back then there was no blogging, no Internet, and no social media.

I appreciate the member's discussion about what a lot of people question: what is a journalist? Today, with issues like fake news and so forth, there is a great deal of concern about that. I appreciate the member across the way recognizing that. We recognize that journalism is an honourable profession in this legislation, a profession with high standards, a profession that is the main source of income for its practitioners. To me it is also important for a journalist to be employed by a main media outlet. These are important things. We need to recognize that there is a difference between CTV National News and Joe Blow on some blog claiming to be a journalist.

I appreciate the debate that we have had here today and I look forward to an ongoing debate on the issue.

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 19th, 2017 / 5:55 p.m.
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Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak to this situation, because it is in the context of events that occurred in Quebec.

Last spring, Quebec media revealed that journalists had been under police surveillance, meaning that their telephone conversations had been tapped. Of course, people were shocked to learn about it. It was reported that journalist Patrick Lagacé was not the only one who had been under surveillance, and that other journalists had been under police surveillance, not just for a few weeks, but for periods of four to five years. They included journalists from Enquête, even Alain Gravel. This was clearly a serious situation.

Many people were shocked, and after some hesitation, the Quebec government decided to launch an inquiry into the protection of journalistic sources on November 11, 2016. Other measures were also adopted by the National Assembly of Quebec, including a unanimous motion stressing the importance it attaches to the protection of journalistic sources.

Quebec Minister of Justice Stéphanie Vallée stated:

The new disclosures are extremely serious, and as mentioned, it is essential that the public trust in its public institutions, in all institutions.

Thus, it is important to remember the principle behind the protection of journalistic sources. It has to do with public trust in its institutions. A number of scandals have been uncovered by journalists who did a tremendous amount of investigative work, and by sources who never would have spoken up without the anonymity provided by the protection of journalistic sources. Without it, some of those stories might never have come to light.

It is really important that those kinds of things be made public, because it helps us move forward and create a healthy democracy. Without the work of journalists, there might even be more wrongdoing. Thanks to journalists, who do rigorous investigations and often get information from sources who could face serious consequences if their names ever got out, we have access to that information. Since people know that some oversight exists, perhaps this keeps them more honest in their work.

Given that the commission of inquiry is mandated to make recommendations on police practices and ways to protect sources, I think this could produce very positive results. Since the bill before us addresses only about 75% of the problem, it will be important to follow up on it, especially after what we have learned from Quebec, in order to settle things for good and address other protections that could prove necessary.

After what happened in Quebec, something needed to be done. People realized the magnitude of the problem, and since the federal government did not want to create its own commission of inquiry to protect journalistic sources, claiming that these problems did not exist at the federal level, it was important to find a solution. That is why Bill S-231 was introduced in the Senate.

This bill is based on another bill from 10 years ago. There was an attempt to solve this problem 10 years ago, but unfortunately, thanks to our sometimes inefficient parliamentary process, it was not successful, because bills died on the Order Paper, work stopped and started, and there were back-to-back minority governments.

Back in 2007, all political parties were unanimously in favour of taking action. Unfortunately, no action was taken. Then we learned that journalists had been spied on for years. That is terrible, but I applaud Mr. Ménard for the work he did 10 years ago to protect journalistic sources.

Bill S-231 resurrects most of the measures in Bill C-426, which was introduced 10 years ago, and it adds other measures to keep it current because new laws have been passed, so some additions were necessary to keep journalistic source protection up to date.

Let us consider the true ramifications of these revelations. In light of the revelations about the police surveillance of journalists, Canada's international ranking in terms of freedom of the press dropped 14 spots to 22nd. This had an extremely negative impact on Canada's image, a country considered to be rather free. It came to light that behind the image, the police were allowed to spy on journalistic sources.

The thing that really got me in all of this was how long it went on for. The spying did not just go on for a short period of time, for a week or two because the police thought that the journalists were in contact with certain people. The police were listening in on the telephone conversations of renowned journalists in Canada for four or five years. They listened to all the details of the journalists' lives. It makes no sense. There was no specific timeframe involved. It was truly an ongoing wiretap to try to gain some information. When we look at this mess, the first thing that comes to mind is that we should have gone further to solve this problem 10 years ago.

Now, 10 years later, it is vital that we pass the bill. It will not solve the problem in its entirety, but I estimate that it will address at least 75% of it. That is why we cannot allow parliamentary procedure to again prevent us from taking action on this problem.

It would have been good for the present government to introduce its own bill to resolve this issue. This is a members' bill. However, for the sake of Canada's public image, we can no longer afford to not act on this issue. Freedom of the press is a fundamental principle in Canada and Quebec. Our journalists deserve to know that they can do their job without being spied on with impunity. Furthermore, Quebeckers and Canadians deserve to know that they are protected when they speak to a journalist, and that there will be no fallout.

With respect to employment insurance, we remember that in 2013 we learned that investigators had quotas for recovering payments from the unemployed. Had the journalist not investigated this story and had there been no guarantees to protect the source, we perhaps would never have learned about this. For that reason, it is important to protect our sources. Otherwise, people will not dare blow the whistle on such situations. When people no longer report such situations out of fear that they will not be able to remain anonymous, and when this has consequences, we stop making progress and democracy suffers.

Given that the protection of sources is closely linked to democracy, it is vital that we address this issue now. I hope that we will do so once and for all and that it will not take another 10 years.

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 19th, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.
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Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak in support of Bill S-231, an act to amend the Canada Evidence Act and the Criminal Code regarding the protection of journalistic sources, otherwise known as the journalistic sources protection act.

I would like to begin by thanking the Senate sponsor for his diligence and hard work on this very important bill, which aims to ensure that the protection of journalistic sources is given due consideration whenever they are at issue in Canadian courts. I would also like to thank my colleague opposite, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, for shepherding the bill through the House and his commitment to journalistic freedom. The bill has moved swiftly through the House, thanks to the broad support from all parties.

As we all know, this issue was brought to the forefront a little less than a year ago following events involving the use of investigative tools targeting journalists, in particular revelations that police in Quebec had obtained warrants to monitor the cellphones of several journalists. Following this incident, the Quebec government reacted swiftly and amended its guidelines and safeguards for obtaining warrants that target journalists. As a result, journalists are now listed alongside lawyers, judges, and members of the National Assembly for whom added safeguards and special protocols are in place in relation to warrant applications.

In November 2016, the Quebec government also launched the Chamberland commission to study the issue of the protection of journalists' confidential sources. The commission's hearings have recently concluded and the commission's final report is expected by next March. lt is in this context that Bill S-231 was introduced last November.

In essence, Bill S-231 proposes changes to the Canada Evidence Act and the Criminal Code to enact special regimes to protect confidential journalistic sources. The Canada Evidence Act proposals would create a unique regime applicable any time the media wished to protect a journalistic source. This new regime would codify the common law developed and interpreted through several Supreme Court of Canada cases, while introducing some added protections. For example, the bill would place the onus on the person who seeks disclosure of the information instead of the person seeking to protect the information, as is currently the case.

The Criminal Code proposals relate to how investigative tools, such as search warrants and protection orders, can be issued and executed when they target journalists. Although the goal of these proposals is to protect journalistic sources, the procedure will apply any time a journalist is targeted by an investigative tool. The bill also proposes a triage procedure that requires the sealing of evidence collected and a review by a court before the information is disclosed to the police. Finally, the bill proposes that only Superior Court judges can issue an investigative tool in relation to a journalist.

When the merits of the bill were debated in this chamber at second reading, members expressed support for the bill's laudable objective and solid foundation. Members also expressed the view that the bill could be further improved, bearing in mind the complexity of the law in this area.

This bill is being reported back to the House today with amendments adopted by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. It was a pleasure to study this bill at committee. I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank my committee colleagues from this side, as well as across the aisle, for their collaboration during the bill's study. The bill, as amended, truly reflects a multi-partisan initiative.

I will focus the remainder of my remarks on the substantive amendments made to Bill S-231 by the committee.

With respect to the amendment to the Canada Evidence Act provisions, the public safety committee deleted the override provision found in proposed subsection 39.1(2) from the Canada Evidence Act portion of the bill. The override provision was problematic because it could conflict with other federal legislation, including matters of privacy and national security. We also did not think it was necessary to give effect to the protections for journalistic sources contained in the bill.

The committee also amended the test found in proposed subsection 39.1(8) of the Canada Evidence Act portion of the bill for the disclosure of information or a document that identified or was likely to identify a journalistic source.

In essence, Bill S-231 has been amended to replace the reference to “the essential role of the information or document in the proceeding” with “the importance of the information or document to a central issue in the proceeding”, as this more accurately reflects the common law as confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The committee also improved the bill by moving the condition added by the Senate at committee at proposed paragraph 39.1(8)(c), which relates to whether “due consideration was given to all means of disclosure that would preserve the identity of the journalistic source”, to a new proposed subsection 8.1, separate and apart from the test for authorizing disclosure. I think this should strengthen the protection, since it ensures that the source's identity is protected as a separate step, even when the document in question is admissible.

The public safety committee also made a few, and in my view, important improvements to the bill's proposed changes to the Criminal Code. First, the committee amended proposed subsection 488.01(2) so that it would not apply, despite any other act of Parliament. As I mentioned earlier, such an override provision is not necessary to give effect to the protections for journalistic sources contained in the bill and could conflict with other federal legislation, including in matters of national security. Proposed section 488.03 was also removed from the Criminal Code portion of the bill, for the same reason. These are sensible amendments, and I agree with them.

The committee also added a knowledge element to proposed subsection 488.01(2). As originally drafted, this subsection would have required that a warrant, authorization, or order relating to a journalist only be issued by a judge of a superior court, regardless of whether police were aware that their investigation related to a journalist. This is problematic, because in practice, for example in relation to online crime, police may not know the identity of the person they are investigating. If police do not know that they are investigating a journalist, they cannot be expected to follow these new requirements that would have been imposed by Bill S-231, as introduced, when obtaining a warrant, authorization, or order. I therefore agree with the amendment of proposed subsection 488.01(2) to ensure that it only applies if police know that they are seeking a warrant, authorization, or order in relation to a journalist.

Importantly, the committee also amended the bill to add a new process to confirm the validity of a warrant, authorization, or order issued outside of Bill S-231's new regime—in other words, obtained in good faith under the regular process—in the event that an officer subsequently discovered that the target of the investigative tool was a journalist. According to this new process, once they became aware that the warrant related to a journalist, police would be required to, first, inform a judge of the superior court; second, refrain from examining or reproducing the evidence; and finally, seal it until the superior court judge disposed of the application. The superior court judge would have the ability to confirm the existing warrant, vary it, and impose appropriate conditions to safeguard journalistic sources or revoke the order if the judge was of the opinion that the officer knew, or reasonably ought to have known, that the application related to a journalist.

The importance of this amendment cannot be overstated, because it would allow appropriate measures to be taken to protect the confidentiality of journalistic sources, even in cases where a warrant was issued in good faith outside of Bill S-231's regime.

Finally, the last key amendment made by the public safety committee is the addition of proposed subsections (4.1) and (4.2) to proposed section 488.01 of the Criminal Code to ensure that the new test for the issuance of warrants, authorizations, or orders relating to journalists would not apply when the application relates to a journalist's criminal activity. This amendment recognizes that it should not be more difficult for police to obtain a warrant against a journalist if that journalist is engaged in criminal activity.

I believe that these targeted but important amendments are perfectly in keeping with the spirit and important objectives of Bill S-231. I hope that all members support this bill, as amended, with bipartisan support, by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 19th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
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Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time that I have had the privilege of rising in the House, specifically to speak to Bill S-231, but I do it every time with some emotion. Having enjoyed the privilege and good fortune of being a journalist for 20 years, I am fully aware of the perils that lie ahead for the profession if, unfortunately, it cannot be practised with all the freedom bestowed upon us. Bill S-231 allows journalistic practice to be carried out in the noblest, safest, and fairest way for the public.

This is the third reading of this bill, which means that if parliamentarians agree, in a few hours, days, or weeks we will pass this very important piece of legislation that has a fantastic history.

About a year ago, misfortune befell journalists in Quebec, when it was discovered that senior journalists were the subject of police investigations and that their phones, iPhones, for example, their work tools, were being tapped. We learned that people whose job was to inform Canadians had been under surveillance far too regularly.

As soon as word got out about Patrick Lagacé, we learned that many other leading journalists in Quebec had been the subject of investigations either by the Sûreté du Québec, the Montreal police, or the RCMP. They include Patrick Lagacé, Vincent Larouche, Marie-Maude Denis, Alain Gravel, Isabelle Richer, Éric Thibault, Denis Lessard, André Cédilot, Nicolas Saillant, Félix Séguin, Monic Néron, Joël-Denis Bellavance, Gilles Toupin, Daniel Renaud, and Fabrice de Pierrebourg. Those are just some of the seasoned journalists who have been working in Quebec for years and who need to gather information in order to do their jobs properly.

When they learned that all these people were under investigation and were being wiretapped, Quebeckers, particularly journalists, were shocked. That was when Senator Claude Carignan decided to draft a bill that would protect journalistic sources so that journalists would never again be prevented from doing their jobs properly.

The beauty of Bill S-231 is that it sets out clear safeguards and makes the public the primary beneficiaries of a free press.

What we are talking about is one of the cornerstones of our very democracy. We are talking about a free press and freedom of expression here in the House of Commons, but first and foremost, from coast to coast in this country, the protection of journalists' sources. That is why the quality of the bill tabled by the hon. Senator Claude Carignan in the upper House, two months ago months ago, cleared the way and gave a clear mandate and clear signal to all whistleblowers in this country that when they talk to a journalist, they are free to do that and no one will interrupt them in the process.

This is a cornerstone of democracy. This is a cornerstone for whistleblowers. This is a cornerstone of journalism, so that is why I am so proud to be the godfather of the bill here in the House of Commons, thanks to the studious and very well done job by the hon. Senator Claude Carignan in the upper House.

Let us now take a detailed look at the issue to see what is so important about this bill and why it is so good for the future of press freedom in Canada. There are four key parts to this bill. First and foremost, it protects not journalists themselves but journalistic sources, the whistleblowers who uncover wrongdoing and want to tell a journalist about it.

The bill also defines a journalist. Anyone can write the odd blog post and call themselves a journalist, but a real journalist is someone who meets certain criteria, which we will get into later.

If a police officer wants to conduct an investigation—and they are in no way being prevented from doing so—they are given even better tools to do that.

In the future, superior court judges will be able to issue warrants to the police. I will be sharing some examples later that are a little disturbing, to say the least.

Lastly, it reverses the burden of proof. Police officers will have to prove that wiretapping is absolutely vital to the investigation. That reverses the burden of proof. Those are the four key parts of this bill: protecting sources, defining who is a journalist, enabling superior court judges to issue warrants, and placing the burden of proof on the police. We must take the time to look at all four of these closely.

I will begin by talking about protecting sources. I mentioned it briefly earlier, but it is fundamental. In plying their trade, journalists are not immune to making mistakes, but when journalists want to do a thorough investigation, they must have the freedom to do so and, more importantly, the ability to speak openly to someone who wants to share information. They also need to have assurances that that individual will not be targeted by a few people with bad intentions. Sources are therefore protected, but journalists themselves are not. Why? Because journalists are still seen as vectors in all this. One of the key components of this exercise is based on the source, and that is why we want to protect sources. This is why we also realize that the only way journalists can do their jobs properly is if their sources are protected.

Some people may call themselves or see themselves as journalists, which can be problematic. I would like to read the definition of “journalist” as it appears in the second paragraph of subsection 39.1(1) of the bill:

Journalist means a person whose main occupation is to contribute directly, either regularly or occasionally, for consideration, to the collection, writing or production of information for dissemination by the media, or anyone who assists such a person.

Clearly, no one can suddenly begin calling themselves a journalist overnight. They must practise that trade for a media outlet or in a serious, recognized, and established sector. It must be their livelihood. The definition clearly indicates that not just anyone can call themselves a journalist. This is crucial because, as a journalist myself for 20 years, I remember being angry and annoyed at times when people claimed to be journalists, when in the end, apart from some friends who saw their scribbles, they definitely were not journalists. With the amazing and spectacular evolution of the media and the means of communicating information, anyone can quickly publish something online, but that does not mean they have the serious and rigorous fundamental skills needed to practise the profession correctly and responsibly.

I mentioned earlier that warrants authorizing police to investigate will now be issued by superior court judges. That is the third key part of the bill. Again, the police will never be prevented from doing their job properly or from stopping evildoers from doing bad things.

We are protecting whistleblowers, but at the same time, we are also protecting police officers, who need to do their due diligence. The difference is that the police will have even greater moral authority whenever they need to intervene, because they will have received authorization from a superior court judge.

Let us take the example of the Montreal police, better known as the SPVM. Does the House know how often the SPVM was given permission to investigate when it was asking so-called justices of the peace? Fully 98% of the SPVM's applications for warrants to investigate were granted. Is there even any point asking a justice, if they are going to say yes 98% of the time? I do not mean to put down those serving as justices of the peace, as their work is important and essential, but when it is a question of listening in on conversations between a journalist and a source, we need to make sure the decision lies with an experienced superior court judge.

In fact, this will give the police even more authority to do their job. Bill S-231, introduced by Senator Claude Carignan, strikes just the right balance. Yes, this bill protects the source, but on the off chance that a police officer needs to conduct an investigation into potential wrongdoing, then the officer will also have the moral authority to do so, because he or she will be armed with a warrant issued by a superior court judge.

We believe that strikes the right balance.

The last point I want to address is the reverse onus. Again I will cite the bill, specifically clause (9) on page 3, regarding the burden of proof:

A person who requests the disclosure has the burden of proving that the conditions set out in subsection (8) are fulfilled.

The idea behind this is to ensure that everything is legitimate. People cannot just pretend to be journalists, nor can people expect investigations to always be conducted right away or granted by lower court judges 98% of the time. These things have to be done properly. In the end, the police officer has the burden of proof to ensure that the entire process is done correctly and legitimately.

When the bill was introduced in the Senate it obviously caught the attention of journalists, but also of observers. I will quote a few people who were enthusiastic about the initiative, including the editor of Le Devoir, Brian Myles, who commended the senator “for achieving a miracle by generating an all-but-consensus among media owners and editors in Quebec and Canada”.

Tom Henheffer is the executive director of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. In an article on April 12, 2017, he said, “Senator Carignan’s bill is the beginning of full legal recognition for the role that journalists play in serving the public and protecting democracy. The Liberal government must offer its complete support”.

So far that has been the case, and may it continue to be for the remaining hours of this debate.

The Globe and Mail's David Walmsley said, “We’re here because [we] are facing enormous threats”.

They are facing enormous threats when it comes to protecting sources. The Globe and Mail has spent up to $1 million in the past few months protecting journalistic sources. Today we are witnessing the culmination of a very important exercise that is of great value to Canadian democracy, since we are at third reading stage of the bill.

In the last few months, we have seen a threat to many journalists who have to work correctly and protect the whistle-blowers. These people all across this country, in the public service or elsewhere, can see bad things happening and want to call the shots, want to blow the whistle like we used to say, but they must say that to journalists with the clear protection that belongs to them. This is why this bill is good. This bill is correct for journalists, but first and foremost this bill is great for Canadian democracy.

For that reason, we hope to have the support and co-operation of the entire House of Commons at this third reading stage. To date, the work has been done in a rigorous, positive, and constructive manner. There was the study in parliamentary committee where people with different views were able to provide input. I was even asked to appear before a parliamentary committee for the first time, which I enjoyed. I was accompanied by Senator Claude Carignan, the sponsor of the bill, and by another senator, the Hon. André Pratt, who was in the noble profession of journalism for decades, and had a stint as the editor-in-chief of La Presse. At the end of his career, he was a distinguished columnist at that newspaper.

I am very proud to have sat with these two parliamentary colleagues, Senators Pratte and Carignan, to push for the bill and especially for the protection of working journalists' sources. This bill is the embodiment of what must be done to protect what is very precious in our democracy, freedom of the press.