Mr. Speaker, I know that my time is limited, but I want to comment on this bill emanating from the hard-working member for Louis-Saint-Laurent. We appreciate his efforts in getting this bill into this place from the other place.
This bill brings up a number of questions of law. I spent many years practising as a lawyer. The bill engages the charter under subsection 2(b) and under section 8, of course. Subsection 2(b) protects freedom of the press. Section 8 protects all Canadians from unreasonable search and seizure. It also engages the common law on a number of occasions.
There is something called privilege under the Canada Evidence Act and under common law in Canada. There is a specific privilege, journalistic source privilege, that is engaged from time to time. It is meant to protect journalists and to protect their sources, because without unfettered access to these sources, journalists could not do their jobs. Subsection 2(b) of the charter would therefore be undermined, freedom of the press would be prejudiced, and our democracy would suffer.
I think everyone in this House agrees that a robust and free press is a fundamental pillar of a democratic society. We would be hard pressed to find any member who does not agree with that. That is why this bill is an important one, which the House should give due consideration to, considering all the consequences. It puts it in the proper legal framework as well as in the sense of a social framework.
We have heard many members speak eloquently about how journalism has changed, how media has changed, and how people are getting their news from other sources. I do not disagree with that at all. That is quite apparent.
Something that has not changed, something that is almost immutable, is that journalists, especially investigative journalists, need to have the proper tools to do their jobs. Whether their stories are written in the print media, spoken on the radio or on television, or frankly, are on their own blogs on the Internet or on their social media pages, when journalists rely on sources to get their stories, generally speaking those sources ought to be protected.
I mentioned the common law before. This has been known as the Wigmore test. It has been considered by the Supreme Court. There is a significant threshold that needs to be met.
Journalistic source privilege is assessed on a case-by-case basis, but it is not something that should be taken lightly.
When the House considers this private member's bill, it would serve us well if we gave some consideration to how the law exists now. I think our analysis must be this: does the law need to be improved? Frankly, I am not in a position to come to a conclusion just yet. I appreciate the time to consider this bill.
The Wigmore test, as it is known, and it was determined by the Supreme Court in R. v. Gruenke, requires that:
(1) the communications must originate in a confidence that they will not be disclosed; (2) this element of confidentiality must be essential to the full and satisfactory maintenance of the relation between the parties; (3) the relation must be one which in the opinion of the community ought to be sedulously...
That is a great old word that means diligently, deliberately, and consciously.
Fourth is that the public interest served by protecting the identity of the source in the particular case must outweigh the public interest in getting at the truth.
I think we have to remember number four. In essence, journalistic privilege is meant to serve the public interest, and we need to keep that in mind when we consider whether to support this bill.