After Patrick Lagacé, other Montreal journalists worry they, too, were spied on

Following revelations Montreal police obtained warrants to spy on a La Presse columnist, other Montreal journalists are raising concerns they may also have been tracked by law enforcement authorities

Reporters at 98.5 FM, Radio-Canada come forward with concerns of their own

Montreal police Chief Philippe Pichet is recorded with a mobile device as he speaks to the media about the tapping of a newspaper reporter's smart phone at a news conference on Oct. 31 in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Following revelations Montreal police obtained warrants to spy on a La Presse columnist, other Montreal journalists are raising concerns they may also have been tracked by law enforcement authorities.

Monic Néron, a court reporter with the news station 98.5 FM, believes she may have been the target of investigators, as well.

Néron said a source told her police have been looking at their own officers' phone records to find out who's been leaking information to the media. 

"Last spring, someone told me, 'Maybe you are under surveillance.' And at that time, I didn't believe it," she told CBC News.

Monic Néron, a reporter at 98.5 FM, is concerned she was tracked by Montreal police. (98.5 FM)
In her case, she said police probably didn't need a warrant, since cell phones issued to police officers are likely the property of their employer.

"We don't know for sure but, honestly, we had enough information to be very worried. And today, the question is what are we going to do now?"

Police were reportedly tracking Lagacé as part of an investigation into one of their own officers who they suspected was committing crimes. Investigators found that the officer under suspicion had called Lagacé.

Reportedly, that was enough to convince a justice of the peace to grant 24 warrants over the course of this year.

Our job is central to exposing some of the problems in our democracy.- Julian Sher, investigative journalist

Experts say the warrants, which allowed police to track Lagace's movements and to see who he was in contact with, wouldn't have been very difficult to obtain.

However, if police had wanted to listen to the content of conversations, such warrants would have been more difficult to get.

Radio-Canada reporter also targeted?

At CBC's French-language service, Radio-Canada, there's concern investigative journalist and radio host Alain Gravel was also tracked by police.

Jean-Pelletier, senior producer of Radio-Canada's Enquête, said he has no proof members of his team have been spied on, but he's extremely concerned.

Pelletier said the Lagacé case is very similar to a situation involving Gravel a few years ago.

Alain Gravel is the host of Radio-Canada's national morning show and the former host of the French-language network's investigative program Enquête. (Radio-Canada)

Like Lagacé, Gravel had been in contact with a Montreal police officer suspected of committing crimes, and police internal affairs investigators discovered that the officer under suspicion had called Gravel.

Pelletier said he's written to Montreal police Chief Philippe Pichet, asking him point blank if Gravel was under surveillance, and if so, to explain why.

Sparking a discussion

Julian Sher, senior producer of CBC's investigative program the fifth estate, said many important stories have been broken thanks to anonymous sources who may not have come forward if they believed their identity could be revealed.

"The fact that the Montreal police would deliberately try to spy on one of our colleagues to find out his sources flags that danger," he told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

"It sparked a discussion and allows people to understand what our role is.… Our job is central to exposing some of the problems in our democracy."

Politicians respond

Montreal police Chief Philippe Pichet has so far resisted pressure from the political opposition to step down over the controversy.

Neither Mayor Denis Coderre, who recommended Pichet for the top job, nor Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard have called for his resignation. 

Coderre said Wednesday that city council will continue to examine the allegations behind closed doors in case subjects come up that may wind up in the courts. 

"I will always be there to protect the rights of journalists to do their jobs," he said. 

"This is not a public court. There is a process to follow."

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said Tuesday the government would issue a directive to make it more difficult to obtain a search warrant that would target a journalist. (CBC)

On Tuesday, Couillard said he would assemble a committee of experts to look into the protection of journalistic sources.

Couillard also said the government will issue a directive to make it more difficult to obtain a search warrant that would target a journalist, raising the bar to a higher level – on par with lawyers and judges.

with files from Emily Brass, Sarah Towle and Steve Rukavina


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