Former ombudsman Bernard Richard says his review of the Fredericton Police’s handling of the Charles LeBlanc case raises a number of interesting questions about policing in the age of social media.
Richard, a former Liberal cabinet minister and the province’s former ombudsman and child and youth advocate, was hired by the city on June 25 to review the police force’s handling of the controversial blogger’s file.
The Fredericton Police raided LeBlanc’s home and said he would be facing criminal libel charges, under section 301 of the Criminal Code. LeBlanc was never charged with criminal libel.
The blogger is often very critical of the police force.
Richard said LeBlanc’s case brings up many interesting discussion points.
For instance, he said freedom of speech is an important constitutional right but he noted the rise of social media and bloggers has put new pressure on police forces.
"None of the crafters of the Charter of Rights envisioned social media, Facebook, tweeting and blogging when they did their work in the early ‘80s," Richard said.
"So anyone can become a blogger essentially, there are no codes of ethics, journalistic training is not required, bloggers are not required to check their sources. It is a different world out there and that poses challenges for all police forces, including the Fredericton Police Force."
Richard has started the preliminary work for his review.
He has already spoken about the process with city officials, the police chief and deputy chief, LeBlanc and his lawyers.
He said he's open to hearing from anyone with a direct or indirect interest in the case.
The former ombudsman said he does not have a timeframe on when the report will be finished. But he said he expects it will take about three months to draft his report.
Richard said his report and recommendations will be made public.
He said the issues that are wrapped up in the LeBlanc review some that interest him greatly. Richard said he feels he can make a contribution to the discussion on these issues in his final report.
"I think it poses some very, very interesting questions. In the era of the internet, the Occupy Movement, we’ve seen student protests in Quebec … all be influenced by this new age of communications that we are in," he said.
"I think those kinds of issues are important, not just for the City of Fredericton … but those questions are out there. They are fascinating."