Montreal mayor cancels investigation into police spying on journalists

In an about-face, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre announced he's cancelled an investigation into the police surveillance of journalists that was to be headed by the city's inspector general.

Denis Coderre now says investigation headed by inspector general Denis Gallant would be ‘counterproductive’

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre says it would be 'counterproductive' for the city to investigate Montreal police for spying on journalists, a matter that the province will already be investigating via a public inquiry. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

In an about-face, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre announced he's cancelled an investigation into the police surveillance of journalists that was to be headed by the city's inspector general.

Only two days ago, Coderre said that Denis Gallant, the city's anti-corruption watchdog, would be tasked with conducting an administrative inquiry into the matter.

Coderre said he made the decision to cancel the investigation after meeting this morning with Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux, who assured him the province was launching its own inquiry which would include the Montreal police service.

"It may be counterproductive to have several investigations conducted simultaneously on the same matter, especially given that Quebec's inquiry will be public and will have all the powers to allow it to discover the truth," Coderre said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.

This comes on the heels of new revelations Monday that La Presse journalist Patrick Lagacé was spied on by Montreal police in 2014 after he contacted the mayor's office, looking into rumours that Coderre may not have paid a ticket he got for an expired licence plate in 2012, before he was mayor.

It turned out the rumour was untrue and Lagacé never ran with the story, but Coderre had already put in a call to then-police chief Marc Parent. After that phone call, Montreal police obtained search warrants to look at Lagacé's cell phone logs.

'Pattern of improvisation,' opposition says

At City Hall, the Opposition said Coderre's flip-flopping is another example that the mayor has no concrete action plan.

"We've seen with Mayor Coderre a clear pattern of improvisation. He makes big announcements, with a big splash in the media saying, 'I'm taking action.' He did it with pit bulls. He did it with calèches.  He did it with bylaw P-6," said Projet Montréal Coun. Alex Norris.

When Coderre first announced an inquiry over the weekend, Projet Montréal maintained that it would be inappropriate for Gallant to oversee the file.

Today, the province's justice and public security ministers announced they've given new directives to Crown prosecutors and to police.

Before requesting any warrant from a judge aimed at a journalist, police officers will have to consult with a prosecutor and get permission from their police chief.

The bar for getting a search warrant aimed at a journalist will also be set higher – on par with obtaining a warrant aimed at judges and lawyers.