There was the time it decalared that "Women are not people." The other time they declared "Indians are not people," (leaving aside that First Nations people are not from India, still pretty offensive) and that corporations, including cigarette companies, should have "freedom of speech" in advertising.
This one though, takes the cake.
The Supreme Court of Canada has declared that Police have the right to demand the identity of any journalistic source, and that protecting confidentiality is a crime.
So, in Canada, a Watergate investigation would be illegal (and impossible). Investigations of criminal activity, poltical corruption and, I suspect, judicial corruption and incompetence, are now just about done with.
Here's the story, spoiled for length. Make my blood boil:
Ottawa — Globe and Mail Update Published on Friday, May. 07, 2010 9:50AM EDT Last updated on Friday, May. 07, 2010 10:27AM EDT
The Supreme Court of Canada slammed the door shut today on a concerted attempt by the press to establish a right to protect confidential sources.
In an 8-1 ruling, the court said that in an age of blogging and Twittering, the media are too amorphous to enjoy such a right and too ungovernable to exercise it properly.
“The bottom line is that no journalist can give a source a total assurance of confidentiality,” the majority said.
“All such arrangements necessarily carry an element of risk that the source’s identity will eventually be revealed.”
Mr. Justice Ian Binnie said it was a “simplistic proposition” to suggest that a journalist should be able to decide on his or her own whether to grant blanket immunity to a source.
To grant blanket immunity “would blow a giant hole in law enforcement and other constitutionally recognized values such as privacy.”
The ruling means that the National Post and reporter Andrew McIntosh may now have to hand over an envelope sent by a confidential source, assuming police still wish to learn the source’s identity.
The court recognized that many vital public issues have been enhanced by investigative reporting and that confidential sources in these sort of cases will very possibly win court approval in future for confidentiality arrangements.
In a dissenting view, Madam Justice Rosalie Abella agreed that there should be no blanket privilege but concluded that The Post should not have to hand over the envelope.
Peter Jacobsen, a lawyer for The Globe and Mail, told reporters that while the case is a blow to the press, it should not be seen as eliminating any possibility of protecting confidential sources in important cases where journalists act responsibly. He said that he retains considerable hope that The Globe will succeed in another case the Supreme Court is now considering, in which a Globe reporter who broke the federal sponsorship scandal has been ordered to divulge the identity of sources in a civil lawsuit.
The saga began when Mr. McIntosh received a brown paper envelope in 2001 containing a leaked document that appeared to expose a major political scandal surrounding then-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.
However, police believe that the document was forged.
Rather than bringing down a government, a police quest to determine the identity of the sender spawned a landmark case involving press rights.
The case was seized upon by media lawyers as a golden opportunity to attach constitutional protection to the right of a journalist to protect confidential sources.
They warned the Court against turning editors into an investigative arm of the police and smothering the sort of enterprising journalism that protects the public good.
However, the court heard strenuous objections from the federal government and six provinces, who maintained that giving blanket protection to journalists will open the door to abuse.
“The fact that a promise is made or that documents are given in the context of ‘investigative journalism’ does not automatically bestow constitutional protection on the promise or the documents,” a federal brief argued.
Had the document Mr. McIntosh received been authentic, it could have unravelled the so-called “Shawinigate” scandal, involving the role that Mr. Chrétien may have played in loans made to a country inn and golf course in his Quebec riding.
The document purported to show that the owner of the golf club owed money to Mr. Chrétien's holding company, and that he planned to repay it with a loan from the Business Development Bank of Canada.
Media lawyers argued that regardless of the source’s authenticity, source confidentiality is a serious undertaking that is now strongly protected in most U.S. states and Commonwealth countries.
“A journalist's credibility would be seriously damaged in the eyes of both sources and the public at large if the journalist were to be conscripted into becoming an investigative arm of the state,” a brief on behalf of the Globe and Mail stated.
Mr. McIntosh has always stressed that he believes that his source sent him the document in good faith.
However, police want to track down whoever created or sent it, possibly through obtaining a saliva sample from the stamp.
In a trial ruling, Ontario Superior Court Judge Mary Lou Benotto initially quashed the police warrant as being an unreasonable restriction on freedom of expression.
The Ontario Court of Appeal later reversed her ruling and ordered the Post to hand over the document in the interests of allowing the police to do their job.
Link: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/nat ... cle1560097
Note that even though there may be cause to seek identity in this case (on the basis that fraud nullifies all contracts), there is no possibility of protecting legit sources or of setting up a vetting process for seperating wheat from the chaff.