Shield laws read more

Press freedom

Trudeau hasn’t said whether he’ll actually adopt shield laws in Canada

Trudeau endorses legal protections for journalists, but doesn’t commit to actually doing anything about it

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday journalists should be able to protect their sources, but has yet to endorse legislation that would do exactly that.

“Yes, of course, journalists should always be able to protect their sources.”

Trudeau then went on to dodge a question about whether his government would continue its demands for a VICE reporter’s correspondence with a source.

“Yes, of course, journalists should always be able to protect their sources,” Trudeau said during an exchange with NDP leader Thomas Mulcair in the House of Commons.

His government has not, however, done anything to ensure that is the case, nor has he said anything about Bill S-231, a Senate bill that would give journalists legal protection from the cops and courts when it comes to their anonymous sources. Canada currently has no statutory protections for journalists in that regard.

These sorts of laws are frequently referred to as shield laws, and afford journalists similar legal rights to doctors and lawyers.

The question from Mulcair comes on World Press Freedom Day. In a statement to commemorate the day, Trudeau condemned the “censorship, intimidation, false arrests and violence” that journalists face elsewhere in the world, but lauds the widely recognized and respected” freedom of the press in Canada.

Trudeau dodged the question about the case against VICE and chose to answer the question about C-51.

Yet Canada’s standing when it comes to press freedom is slipping. In a new worldwide ranking of press freedom by Reporters Without Borders, put out last week, Canada fell out of the top 20 countries, coming in behind Samoa.

The organization attributed the drop to a number of events over the past year, including the revelation that police in Quebec had been spying on reporters and the news that the federal RCMP had been fighting in court to obtain interview notes from VICE reporter Ben Makuch.

When asked by Mulcair if the government would drop its case against VICE national security reporter Ben Makuch and make changes to Bill C-51, Trudeau dodged the question about the case against VICE and chose to answer the question about C-51, saying the government would make its promised changes to the bill.

Since 2015, VICE has been fighting a production order from the RCMP for Makuch to hand over his communications with an alleged Islamic State fighter.

Cover: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

M-F 7:30PM HBO