An Ontario judge has struck down key portions of Canada’s national secrecy law, tossed out RCMP warrants used to search a reporter’s home and delivered yet another stinging rebuke to the Mounties over the Maher Arar affair.
Justice Lynn Ratushny of Ontario Superior Court, in a ruling yesterday, quashed three sections of the so-called leakage provisions of the Security of Information Act, passed following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The provisions were used by the RCMP in 2004 to search the home and office of Ottawa Citizen reporter Juliet O’Neill, in an attempt to find the source of leaked information about the Arar case that had embarrassed the force.
The sections of the law that were struck down were drawn from the decades-old Official Secrets Act, long criticized as archaic. They dealt with communicating, receiving and failing to return official information.
Ratushny said all three provisions were unconstitutionally vague and too broad, violating the principle of fundamental justice in the Charter of Rights. She ruled they contravened the constitutional guarantee of a free press.
“They have not been well-tailored to suit their purpose,” she wrote. “They arbitrarily and unfairly and with a blunt club of criminal sanction restrict freedom of expression, including freedom of the press.”