Canada faces a worsening situation when it comes to freedom of the press, dropping four spots to 22nd position in global rankings compiled by Reporters Without Borders.
Several reasons were cited for Canada’s falling position on the 2017 World Press Freedom Index:
- police surveillance of journalists in Quebec
- a court order demanding that VICE News reporter Ben Makuch provide the RCMP all communications with a journalistic source accused of terrorism
- prosecution with possible jail time of journalist Justin Brake with The Independent for covering protests against a hydroelectric project in Labrador
- lack of legal protections for journalists while laws such as Bill C-51 inhibit free speech and expression under the pretext of national security
Current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stated that it is important to “have a strong and free media that is able to do its job,” but has yet to take significant action to address the declining state of press freedom.
“Prime Minister Trudeau has strongly advocated for a ‘free media’ but the past year has shown this to be dead letter,” says Reporters Without Borders in the press freedom index.
Recently the Senate passed Bill S-231, the Journalistic Source Protection Act. Sponsored by a Conservative senator, it which would help protect the confidentiality of journalistic sources and limit approval of search warrants against journalists to higher level judges. The bill is now before the House of Commons.
Attack on democracy
“When journalism is under attack, our democracy is under attack,” said Kevin Metcalf, communications coordinator with Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, in an email to supporters.
- Montreal police spying on Patrick Lagacé spotlights threat to all journalists
- Court order to arrest reporter covering Muskrat Falls is unacceptable
Ricochet first reported on the case of The Independent, a publication covering Newfoundland and Labrador, whose editor and journalist Justin Brake was charged with mischief and civil contempt for the “crime” of having reported from an occupation of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric facility’s construction site.
Canada plummeted from the top ten in global press freedom rankings last year. Reporters Without Borders called the Harper years a “dark age” for journalism in Canada.
World Press Freedom Index: Top 22
- Costa Rica
- New Zealand