Blogger seeks public inquiry into police actions

A New Brunswick blogger is demanding a public inquiry into the Fredericton Police Force's handling of a raid that seized his computer equipment and the threat of criminal defamation charges.

UNB law professor says decision on an inquiry rests with Premier David Alward

A controversial New Brunswick blogger is demanding a public inquiry into the Fredericton Police’s handling of a raid that seized his computer equipment and the threat of criminal defamation charges.

Fredericton social activist and blogger Charles LeBlanc had his computer seized in January and was informed he would be facing charges of criminal defamation.

Attorney General Marie-Claude Blais issued a statement last week saying the case against LeBlanc would not proceed.

The Fredericton Police will be moving forward on an independent review of the LeBlanc case.

However, there are calls from LeBlanc, and others in the legal community, that a public inquiry would be the best avenue to investigate the issue.

Steven Foulds, LeBlanc's lawyer, said the review of the police force’s actions doesn't go far enough.

Foulds said a public inquiry is needed to see if the Fredericton Police targeted a person because he criticized the police.

"I think the perception of a lot of people in Fredericton is that there appears to have been some very heavy handed tactics against someone who has been a critic of the Fredericton Police. And so that's a little bit more than optics," he said.

LeBlanc has written many critical blog posts about the Fredericton Police and members of the force.

When asked on Tuesday, LeBlanc said he doesn’t know if his critical blog posts led to the police raid and the threat of charges.

"I can't answer that. That's why we need a provincial inquiry. And if it happened to me, what other people did it happen to that we'll never hear of?" LeBlanc said.

UNB prof calls for inquiry

It isn’t only LeBlanc and his lawyer who are calling for a public inquiry.

Jula Hughes, a law professor at the University of New Brunswick, said she believes a public inquiry would be an important step so many of these questions can be answered.

"That way we could all learn what happened, and why it happened, and it would be very clearly independent of the Fredericton Police," she said.

Hughes said the decision of whether or not to call a public inquiry rests with the premier.

Hughes was one of six UNB law professors who wrote to the province’s attorney general last month expressing concern about the potential charges against LeBlanc. They argued a conviction on criminal libel charges was unlikely and would not be in the public interest.

Fredericton Police Chief Barry MacKnight would not say whether he felt a public inquiry was needed into the actions of his officers.

"Do I think that's necessary? I think that an independent review is necessary. I don't know all of the logistics of what a public inquiry entails, so I don't know if that's necessary. I think an independent review is necessary, and those are the steps that we're taking right now," he said.

MacKnight, however, has already admitted the force’s handling of the LeBlanc file does not look good.

"The questions that have been asked about whether or not the actions of police department with respect to Mr. LeBlanc were vindictive, or based on certain motives...the concern that I have is that that impacts public trust, and we need to do something to make sure that people understand what happened. And an independent review is a good way to do that," he said.