New Brunswick

Police response to blogger's arrest 'disappointing,' says group

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association says it's disappointed in a response from the Fredericton Police Force about defamatory libel charges against well-known blogger Charles LeBlanc.

Charles LeBlanc facing defamatory libel charges

A national civil liberties group is disappointed with the response of the Fredericton Police Force about defamatory libel charges against well-known blogger, Charles LeBlanc.

Last month, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association wrote a letter to police Chief Barry MacKnight questioning the arrest and seizure of computer equipment from LeBlanc's apartment in January.

MacKnight recently responded, but said he can’t comment on the case further because it is an ongoing investigation, said Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel with the association.

"The danger here is that someone criticizes the government, criticizes the police, criticizes anybody that is acting improperly — or who he or she thinks is acting improperly — and suddenly himself or herself is in front of the courts charged criminally," Des Rosiers said Thursday.

"So, it's a dangerous tool to use in a democracy. Indeed many countries do not have criminal libel."

LeBlanc is facing charges under Section 301 of the Criminal Code of Canada. The alleged victim is a member of the Fredericton police force.

Des Rosiers said the association has filed a right to information request to find out more about the charge of criminal libel.

The association wants to know whether the charges were approved by the attorney general, and whether the officer LeBlanc is alleged to have libelled was involved in the investigation or present during the search and what kind of oversight there is for this type of case.

Criminal libel is a very rarely used provision, Des Rosiers said.

"We continue to think that this is not an appropriate charge, that they should not proceed with this criminal charge. So we're hoping that the police will also recognize how much of a dangerous tool this is," she said.

"There's a better course of action and this is not a constitutional or an appropriate one here."

Des Rosiers said her association will stay on top of the case.

The association is designed to protect the freedoms of Canadians and has intervened in court cases and organized rallies.