Photo: Annik MH de Carufel Le Devoir
Justice Jacques Chamberland (centre), president of the commission of inquiry, was supported by the commissioners Alexandre Matte and Guylaine Bachand.
The justices of the peace, magistrates have been victims of “unfair treatment” on the part of the class of journalism, and deplores the chief judge of the Court of Québec, Lucie Rondeau. A year after the uncovering of the cases of reporters being monitored by the police, she complains that the media have exaggerated the scope of the protection of journalistic sources.
“Patrick Lagacé referred to by the 24 warrants of police surveillance “, headline in The Press on 31 October 2016. Many people could not believe that justices of the peace magistrates had allowed the SPVM to spy on the comings and goings of the featured columnist for the montréal daily — not to mention its registers, telephone — in order to discover its police sources said. Other cases of journalists controlled by or under judicial authorizations have headlines. It was the emotion. The quebec government has set on foot, ten days later, the Commission of inquiry into the protection of the confidentiality of journalistic sources.
Photo: Council of the magistrature du Québec
“What it has revealed, it is first of all that the journalists were wrong to believe the public that there was a legal protection of journalistic sources greater than what the law said actually. It has mislead the public by saying that the justices of the peace have failed to protect journalistic sources as the law asked, ” Ms. Rondeau said in an interview with Le Devoir.
Several people have suddenly had the impression that justices of the peace magistrates had “stupidly” approved requests to mandate police surveillance on journalists, she laments.
That said, Ms. Rondeau is suspected, however, police officers have misled the justices of the peace, judges do not disclose all the springs of a case in order to be granted the same means of investigation : search, seizure, access to places, etc, “This is the reality : the justice of the peace goes there with what the police officer said to him,” said Ms. Rondeau, two months after the end of the public hearings of the commission Chamberland. She reminded in the same breath that the justices of the peace, magistrates do not have power of investigation, that ” the media have failed to highlight “. “The evidence [submitted to the commission Chamberland] shows that one may question as to whether the police have assumed the proper obligation of frank and complete disclosure,” says the president of the Council of the magistrature du Québec at the other end of the wire. “I leave you to conclude. “
In his eyes, the justices of the peace magistrates are free from all reproach. For evidence, ” none of the decisions of the justices of the peace magistrates was overturned by the higher courts “, she said.
In addition to allowing police to” use a device, or a technique, or a method of investigation, or to do any act which would, without this consent, a search, a search or seizure unreasonable “, the presiding justices of the peace adjudicate debates for more than 120 laws of québec and 42 federal laws and president a large number of court appearances of detainees, the weekend, in region.
On the other hand, Ms. Rondeau deplores the decision of the Parliament of canada to withdraw from the hands of the justices of the peace, magistrates and judges the processing of applications for warrants for electronic surveillance against journalists.
The multiplication of cases of journalists controlled by the police, with the permission of the justices of the peace, “revealed the weaknesses of the systems,” according to the author of the draft law on the protection of journalistic sources, Claude Carignan.
“Personally, I can tell you that I think it would have been wise to wait for the results of the commission Chamberland [of journalistic sources] before going forward. Well, the legislature has made its choice, ” says Ms. Rondeau, the tone resigned.
The judges of the Court of Québec is in charge of dealing with requests for surveillance against journalists since the entry into force of the federal law, on the 18th of October last. “It was not difficult to assume this jurisdiction “, she says.
The chief judge of the Court of Québec will read the report of the judge Jacques Chamberland, as well as commissioners Guylaine Bachand and Alexandre Matte, expected at the latest in march next year, with ” all the seriousness it deserves “. Are you putting in force the recommendations that are therein ? “We’ll see. “