Editiorial—Protecting Sources

I first want to point out that our feature article this week is actually the first part of a two-part interview with Dr. Lloyd Robertson, who was recently a professor in AU’s MAIS, but is currently transitioning into private practice.  In this part, we find out how someone who was twice-baptized ends up becoming the vice president of Humanist Canada, and how to get into Grad School without applying.  We also look a bit at what brought him to teaching the history of Psychotherapy at AU.  Next week, we’ll delve more into the details with about what’s going on in psychotherapy today, but both parts are definitely worth a read.

That said, the issue that’s been on my mind is the very recent Supreme Court decision that has compelled a journalist with VICE magazine to turn over his notes about his conversations and dealings during the writing of a set of articles with a member of ISIS to the RCMP.

My issue isn’t really with the court ruling itself.  The Supreme Court was careful to note that the ruling only applied in this specific case, and went even further to try to assure more protections for journalists so that they would have an opportunity to speak to a judge regarding any orders to turn over information to the authorities in future (previously, police were allowed to apply for these orders ex parte, or without the journalists’ knowledge or presence during the application.  While the Supreme Court hasn’t said that’s not allowed at all, they’ve urged judges looking at these orders from police to require the journalist’s presence.)

My issue is with the RCMP pushing for everything the journalist had in connection with the articles. This is, in my opinion, a short-sighted over-reach on the part of the RCMP.  Yes, they may be able to glean some valuable information about the activities of ISIS—or maybe not, they don’t know what’s in those notes yet.  But in doing so, they’ve damaged the idea that people can talk to journalists without the authorities being able to access their information.  This is damaging to journalism and damaging to law enforcement as well.  Where people may have quietly spoken with journalists about things that they or others they knew were doing wrong without having to fear reprisals, this decision means that is no longer trustable.  Had it happened before Watergate, this decision might have meant there was no Watergate at all, as people may not have been so willing to speak with journalists, knowing that authorities could compel their information to be released, leading to reprisals from the Nixon White House.

To me, it strikes as lazy.  Someone should tell the RCMP to do their own homework.  After all, with their resources, they should be at least as capable as a lone journalist of investigating an issue. So why didn’t they?

Meanwhile, I also want to point out the second half of last week’s Fly on the Wall, and Marie Well’s perhaps controversial look at the ideas and thoughts of David L. Lewis, a man who contends that science is being held hostage to politics.  Enjoy the read!

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