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Canadian high court to hear confidential sources case

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
The Canadian Supreme Court is delving into fraught journalistic territory, agreeing this week to hear a case that centers on the compelled disclosure…

The Canadian Supreme Court is delving into fraught journalistic territory, agreeing this week to hear a case that centers on the compelled disclosure of confidential news sources, according to The (Toronto) Globe and Mail.

The high court agreed to take the case, The Globe and Mail reported, after the Ontario Court of Appeal decided the National Post must give police investigators an envelope it received in 2002 containing paperwork that "could have linked former Prime Minister Jean Chretien to a conflict of interest scandal." The letter was sent anonymously.

The National Post declined to publish a story about the document, determining it was forged. But the police wanted to run forensic tests on the envelope to figure out who forged the document, The Globe and Mail said, so investigators got a search warrant to obtain it from a top editor at the paper.

The National Post first had the search warrant quashed as "unreasonable in light of the (news) media’s constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression," the Globe and Mail reported, but earlier this year the Court of Appeal sided with the government.

“Assuming the document was forged, either the forger or some other person sent it to the National Post to create controversy and undermine the authority of a sitting prime minister of Canada,” the appellate decision said, according to the newspaper. “The National Post itself admitted that if the document was forged, it would be evidence of a criminal conspiracy to force a duly elected prime minister from office…There will be some cases – and this is one of them – where the (reporter’s) privilege cannot be recognized."

In seeking review from the Supreme Court, a National Post lawyer wrote that the appellate court neglected to take into consideration fundamental media rights, displaying instead a "structural bias against press freedom," the National Post reported. The case is not expected to be heard before next spring.