The Canadian police continue to regard journalists as their assistants. Increasingly narrow ownership of the written press was still a concern.
The press freedom situation is satisfactory, except for the problem of the police regarding journalists as their assistants in fighting crime. They obtained search warrants twice in 2003 allowing them to seize videotapes to help in investigations.
Written press journalists remained concerned about concentration of ownership in the hands of a few large groups - CanWest Global Communication, Torstar, Quebecor/SunMedia and Thomson Corp in the English-language press and Quebecor, Power Corp. and Hollinger/Unimedia in the French-language media. A survey of more than 300 journalists published in January 2003 showed 56% thought the news that was reported routinely reflected the views and interests of media proprietors.
Two incidents disturbed defenders of press freedom - searches of the home of Stephen Williams, who wrote a book about a serial killer, and which violated the confidentiality of sources, and the brief confiscation in March of copies of a film opposing the Iraq war, which customs officials said could be "hate propaganda."
Harassment and obstruction
A Quebec judge granted search warrants on 4 June 2003 allowing police to search the offices of TV stations TQS and TVA and Radio Canada and seize film of radio presenter and child prostitution suspect Robert Gillet that had been taken after a court appearance on 30 May and included possibly incriminating remarks by Gillet. After strong media protests, police backed off and went to a private company that had recorded the footage when it was broadcast.
The Toronto High Court dismissed a libel case against the daily Toronto Star on 25 June by the Toronto Police Association seeking C$2.7 billion (€1.76 billion) in damages for a series of articles in October 2002 reporting systematic police racism based on computer analysis of police records. The court said the articles had caused trouble but did not libel every police officer.
Quebec police seized film of a farmers’ demonstration from the offices of the regional TV station CJPM, in Chicoutimi (Quebec) on 10 October. It showed an angry farmer who had the previous day slaughtered a cow and its calf, which was illegal because it officially amounted to negligent use of a firearm in public. The station, which is part of the TVA Group, appealed to the Chicoutimi high court but lost the case.