Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vigorously defended Canada’s free press, and said he would consider stricter safeguards after it was revealed that police spied on at least eight journalists. Trudeau yesterday said Canadians are rightly concerned after Montreal and Quebec provincial police were found to have monitored the communications and movements of reporters at several news organizations. It is “troubling for all Canadians,” he said, “because not only is freedom of the press important, it’s one of the foundational safeguards of a free democracy, of a free society,” Trudeau declared.
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On Monday, La Presse journalist Patrick Lagace said he learned the police had been tracking his texts and movements through his smartphone’s GPS. Police wanted to know the reporter’s contacts and whether they may have information about open cases, as well as who within the force might be leaking information to the media. And they did so with judicial authorization, obtaining no less than 24 warrants to snoop on Lagace. Others came forward throughout the week with similar accusations.
The revelations prompted strong protests from officials, press freedom advocates and the media, with a group of editors issuing an open letter on Tuesday urging the government to safeguard journalists’ right to protect their sources’ identities.
Trudeau said he spoke with the heads of Canada’s federal police and spy service and was assured “there is nothing of this sort happening at the federal level.”
“We have strict rules in place (against spying on journalists) and I’ve been reassured that these are being followed,” he said.