Privacy is one of our greatest gifts living in a free and democratic society, but as we branch out using electronic devices, that wall of confidentiality becomes ever so shrinking. This is becoming very apparent when Quebec provincial police confessed that several reporters' cell phones were spied on during 2013. It appears this was necessary as part of a police inquiry after a labor union boss filed a complaint that his name was leaked to the public. Unnamed sources revealed that the Sûreté du Québec (Quebec Provincial Police, QPP) were tracking three Radio-Canada journalists. This brings the total to six people after a Montreal newspaper reporter revealed that the police were tracking his portable phone calls.
The current hosts of the investigative program, Enquête, Marie-Maude Denis and Isabelle Richer as well as the show’s former host, Alain Gravel, were having their incoming/outgoing phone calls and texts tracked by the police. Denis tweeted in French, "I've just learned that my incoming and outgoing calls have been spied on by the Sûreté du Québec in 2013.” Gravel said, "My turn to get a confirmation that I was targeted by court mandates to obtain a log of my calls by the SQ.” Richer tweeted, "Surreal … The SQ spied on my cell phone following a formal complaint made by Michel Arsenault in 2013.” Crime reporter Eric Thibault and La Presse’s National Assembly bureau chief Denis Lessard and an unnamed journalist were all targets of the police investigation.
Michel Arsenault was the president of Quebec’s Federation of Labor (FTQ) at the time and came under fire when a witness revealed that some labor unions had ties with organized crime and Arsenault was aware of it but turned a blind eye and did nothing to alleviate the situation. Arsenault was furious to know how his name got leaked to the public and filed a formal a letter of complaint to the SQ. This action forced the police to make a formal inquiry and probably prompted the warrant for their cell phone activity.
SQ spokesman Capt. Guy Lapointe told CBC that since 2013 there are new protocols and people in place. He pointed out that this incident happened during a prior administration and that it is now much harder to target a reporter. It must follow a chain of command with final approval by the director. Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux is convening a panel to launch an administrative inquiry and that “there could be sanctions.” Earlier this week it was revealed, the Montreal police obtained 24 warrants this past year to track one of La Presse’s columnists. This prompted another uproar and La Presse to take legal action against the Montreal police. Gravel said, "I don't think we've seen such a crisis here in the history of journalism. We have to get the facts and then make sure that measures are taken to make sure this doesn't happen again.”