The country remains a world beacon of civil liberties, but the media is threatened by the law on journalistic sources. A physical attack on a community newspaper editor also aroused alarm.
The 2004 law forcing journalists to hand over files and reveal the names of sources if police require them in criminal cases on journalistic sources again posed a threat to the media in 2007. Lawyers in June demanded that Karine Gagnon, of the Journal de Québec, hand over notes and tapes she made for a 24 November 2006 article about asbestos in government buildings. One of those quoted, Denis Petitclerc, was immediately dismissed by his employer, the Société immobilière du Québec. The demand was made by his lawyers before a labour court, but since the case was not a criminal one, Gagnon was not obliged to comply.
It was the third time the law had been used to target journalists. Ken Peters, of the Hamilton Spectator, was fined C$30,000 in 2004 for refusing to reveal the name of a source. The law provides for a fine of up to C$250,000 or a six-month prison sentence.
The few cases of violence against journalists in Canada concern mainly foreign journalists or those who belong to minorities. Jawaad Faizi was beaten with a cricket bat near Toronto on 17 April after being accused of “writing against Islam” and harming the reputation of a Muslim welfare organisation in an Urdu-language community weekly, the Pakistan Post. The wife and children of the paper’s editor, Amir Arain, had earlier been threatened. The two journalists had filed a legal complaint about the threats the day before the attack.