August 4, 2020
Commissioner Thomas Carrique
Ontario Provincial Police
Dear Commissioner Carrique,
I am writing on behalf of CWA Canada, the country’s only all-media union, to express my deep concern about an incident involving one of our members, CBC reporter Colin Butler.
Specifically, I was shocked to hear that an OPP officer threatened Butler with harassment charges for doing his journalistic duty: “Police told a CBC News reporter he would be charged with harassment if Pitter, who is a public official, was contacted again in regard to this story.”
Here is the link to the full CBC story: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/london/ontario-nurse-covid-19-conspiracy-social-media-1.5659338).
It is the professional and legal obligation of all journalists to attempt to contact the subject of a story, even if that requires repeated efforts. Failure to do so could result in legal action from a subject or discipline by an employer. And the Supreme Court of Canada has stated that “it is inherently unfair to publish defamatory allegations of fact without giving the target an opportunity to respond.”
For an OPP officer to threaten a journalist for doing their job is inappropriate, unacceptable, and likely illegal. It is also a threat to our democracy.
I call on you to investigate this matter, retract the threat, and issue an apology on behalf of the OPP.
President, CWA Canada
The Media Union