Report to the 72nd General Assembly
Mexico City, Mexico
October 13 – 17, 2016
A number of developments have generated controversy in recent months, including the September 21 seizure by the Quebec provincial police, at the request of Quebec's judicial council, of a computer owned by reporter Michael Nguyen.

In an article published in June, Nguyen reported that a judge had insulted and acted abusively toward several court employees after a Christmas party at the courthouse. Quebec's judicial council claims that the reporter hacked into its computer systems to get the story, but Le Journal de Montréal says that its reporter acted within the strictest standards of professional journalism and never committed such a violation. The computer has been placed under judicial seal and remains in police custody until a judge can rule on the validity of the search warrant used in the seizure. The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) has condemned this act and expressed its solidarity with Nguyen, and the CAJ has said that it hopes the computer is returned to the journalist.

The restructuring of the journalism industry has been dominated by the phenomena of media mergers and a radical shift in how media outlets report and disseminate the news, as their business models have crumbled.

Between 2015 and 2016, Canada dropped 10 spots in the World Press Freedom Index as a result of what has come to be called a "dark age" for journalism during the conservative administration of Stephen Harper, according to Reporters Without Borders. As a legacy of Harper's nearly 10 years in office, many protections for free speech and press freedom were dismantled.

Access to information held by the federal government has not yet been reinstated, and Canada's access to information (ATI) system is broken. While the federal administration of Justin Trudeau won office on the promise of greater transparency and more open government, it has stumbled in taking its first steps in that direction.

While some protections for government whistleblowers have been hailed, in practice there are no substantive resources to protect journalists wishing to thoroughly investigate irregularities.

And whistleblower protection in the private sector is an even tougher issue. The climate is one of apathy and indifference, where few are willing to come forward to denounce illegal activity for fear of jeopardizing their careers.

Daniel Therrien, the privacy commissioner of Canada, has said that the government should do more to defend people's right to protect their private information. "We're trying to use 20th century tools to deal with 21st century privacy problems," he said.

In a troubling development, multiple media outlets — both print and online — have reported that millions of pieces of personal information are being accessed, handled, and traded as part of a new "industry" devoted to sharing medical and health insurance information, among others.

The province of Ontario passed a so-called anti-SLAPP law (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) to counteract the use of defamation suits by business moguls and corporations against those seeking to expose illegal activity or abuses of power.

The anti-SLAPP law prevents large sums of money from being used to avoid such revelations. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association had been advocating for this bill, which had already been passed in Quebec.

The Anti-terrorism Act, or Bill C-51, passed by the Harper administration in 2015, not only takes aim at terrorism. It grants exceptional powers to police to go after any activity that they feel "undermines safety," as well as any activity that may be "detrimental" to the country's interests. Bill C-51 introduced major, sweeping changes in adopting national security measures. It granted information-sharing power to more than 17 federal agencies, expanded police powers to allow for the preemptive arrest of terrorism suspects, criminalized the "promotion of terrorism," allowed the minister of public safety to add names to the Canadian no fly list, and bolstered the powers of the secret intelligence service (CSIS), which would go from being a mere observation and intelligence-gathering agency to having powers to conduct secret actions that go well beyond mere observation.

Bill C-51 could become one of the greatest threats to freedom of expression and the right to privacy.

Four large financial groups with strong connections to the United States own more than 70 percent of all newspapers, radio stations and television stations in Canada.

Hedy Fry, a member of the Canadian Parliament and chair of the Heritage Committee, said that the government would take decisive action to examine the phenomenon of media concentration.

According to Fry, the government would conduct a detailed study of how Canadians, and especially local communities, get their news on municipal and regional issues and events through print, radio, television, and online media. The study would help determine the impact of media concentration on local news coverage and the role of online media in freedom of speech. The Guelph Mercury, a 149-year-old newspaper, shut its doors in January, and since then the Postmedia Network has left dozens of reporters jobless throughout the country, recalling the closures of the Ottawa Journal and the Winnipeg Tribune.

In London, Ontario, Postmedia closed the longstanding offices of the once mighty London Free Press and shut down its printing press, moving the newspaper's printing operations to Hamilton, where the Londoner, a small newspaper owned by Metroland Media, is currently printed.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the regulatory agency for media outlets in Canada, has warned that more than half of all television news stations are in danger of closing.