Quebec provincial police raided the home of a Montreal reporter Thursday morning, seizing his computer, files and some of his clothes, after he wrote about lax security in Montreal-area hospitals. Eric-Yvan Lemay of Le Journal de Montreal reported in February that Montreal-area hospitals had left patient files unattended in their corridors. Police raided his home at 6:45 Thursday morning.

Quebec provincial police raided the home of a Montreal reporter Thursday morning, seizing his computer, files and some of his clothes, after he wrote about lax security in Montreal-area hospitals.

Eric-Yvan Lemay of Le Journal de Montreal reported in February that Montreal-area hospitals had left patient files unattended in their corridors. He took some of the files to a hospital bathroom and videotaped himself leafing through them to prove that he had easy access. According to Postmedia News, the video was posted on Le Journal de Montreal's website and several excerpts, with patients' names protected, were published in the newspaper.

Sun Media, which owns the French-language newspaper, said the raid at 6:45 on Thursday morning followed a complaint from Honore-Mercier Hospital in Ste-Hyacinthe, Que., and quoted Lemay as saying the raid was “a completely illegal and unreasonable search that has no place in a democratic society."

Sun Media said it was told by police that the raid followed a complaint about theft of confidential documents, but quoted Le Journal de Montreal Editor Dany Doucet as saying that no documents were removed from any hospital.

Lemay has not been charged but is suspected of theft under $5,000, Le Journal de Montreal Managing Editor George Kalogerakis said in a Canadian Press report.

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Canadian Journalists for Free Expression condemned the raid, saying in a letter to Quebec Minister of Public Security Robert Dutil that "CJFE believes this raid to be an attempt to intimidate Lemay and other journalists. This demonstrates a lack of protection and support for press freedom in Canada, and could have a chilling effect on the ability of journalists to provide fair and accurate reporting."

The Canadian Association of Journalists also protested the raid. "The CAJ cannot understand at this time why the journalist who exposed the hospitals' apparent inability to lock down confidential patient information has become the subject of a criminal investigation," CAJ president Hugo Rodrigues said. "It's mind-boggling the province has chosen to investigate the messenger rather than show itself taking action on protecting patient confidentiality."

A further protest came from the La Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec.

Sun Media noted that it was the second police action against Le Journal de Montreal this year. Last month, the public security department ordered a probe to determine who leaked information to the newspaper regarding a mole in the Montreal police force.

The raid also brings to mind the Royal Canadian Mounted Police raid on the home and office of Ottawa Citizen reporter Juliet O’Neill in 2004, in connection with her reporting on the Canadian government’s security files on Maher Arar, an Ottawa engineer who was arrested in the U.S. and flown to Syria to be tortured for several months, allegedly partly on the strength of information Canada had provided to U.S. intelligence agents.
 

Grant Buckler is a retired freelance journalist and a volunteer with Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and lives in Kingston, Ont.