The Supreme Court of Canada has sent a strong message to judges, warning them that journalists should be ordered to identify confidential sources only in rare circumstances — especially the sources behind important public-interest stories. In an Oct. 22 ruling, the court overturned an order compelling Globe and Mail reporter Daniel Leblanc to answer questions, as part of a civil action, that could identify a key source consulted for his investigation of the Quebec sponsorship scandal.
As it did earlier this year in a similar case involving the National Post, the court refused to give journalists a blanket right to protect sources. But it stressed “the high societal interest in investigative journalism” and said journalists should be forced to name sources only when the information is “vital to the integrity of the administration of justice.” The court also overturned a publication ban that prevented the Globe from reporting on the federal government’s civil action to recover money paid to a Quebec aid firm.
The Quebec courts have been directed to reconsider what Leblanc should be asked to reveal, after weighing the importance of his evidence to the civil case against the public interest in protecting sources of news stories on important public issues.
Read the Globe ruling and the earlier National Post ruling.
Read the Globe and Toronto Star reports on the ruling.
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