Canada’s reporter monitoring shows disregard for human rights – free press advocate to RT

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The monitoring of journalists' phone calls by Quebec police proves that the Canadian government is willing to sacrifice the rights of citizens in order to protect itself, the executive director of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression told RT.

Although people generally think of Canada as a “very free, democratic nation with a really robust free press,” that idea is “just not the truth,” Tom Henheffer said. Instead, Canada actually has “no official press protections whatsoever.”

The phone monitoring scandal proves the government is willing to infringe on the rights of its citizens in order to “prevent information that might make them look bad from getting out,” Henheffer said. He noted that the process is easy for authorities because “police have basically almost no oversight and almost unlimited ability to eavesdrop on Canadians.”

Henheffer said Canada is currently in a “post privacy world,” noting that there has been a “huge culture shift” over the past five to 10 years, where “privacy no longer matters, human rights no longer matter.”

“Everything is done in the name of security. And that is a huge, huge problem because it is an absolutely false argument that we must sacrifice our rights in order to make our country more secure. That is completely untrue. Sacrificing rights hurts security.”

Henheffer went on to state that the scandal could have negative consequences for whistleblowers.

“Canada has basically no meaningful whistleblower protection...it's extremely difficult for whistleblowers to come forward in this country because now they know the government is spying on journalists, which means that if they go bring information to a journalist, the government could easily identify them...they could easily be prosecuted, certainly lose their jobs, so there's very little incentive for whistleblowers to come forward...”

Henheffer has called for a national investigation into the monitoring of journalists, noting that he feels it is “very likely that other police forces and other security intelligence agencies are spying on journalists in other parts of the country.” He is also pushing for new legislation to protect press freedoms and “enshrine them in law.”

Noting Canada's “broken system,” Henheffer called on the government to restore democratic institutions – but said this can only happen if Canadians “stand up and let our government know that this needs to happen.”

Henheffer's comments come just one week after it was revealed that police in Quebec had been secretly monitoring journalist Patrick Lagacé's phone calls in an effort to identify his sources. Days later, police admitted they had done the same to six other journalists.

The revelation prompted outrage from former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, who said the scandal shows that “surveillance technologies have outpaced the growth of democratic control.”

The monitoring of journalists' phone calls by Quebec police proves that the Canadian government is willing to sacrifice the rights of citizens in order to protect itself, the executive director of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression told RT.