SQ spied on six reporters, as La Presse calls for end to wiretapping
Published Wednesday, November 2, 2016 4:25PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, November 3, 2016 8:14AM EDT
Montreal police weren't the only ones spying on reporters.
It turns out the Sureté du Quebec also had warrants to tap the phones of at least six reporters -- and once again the main goal appears to be figuring out which police officers were talking to the press.
The reporters being spied on include Eric Thibault of the Journal de Montreal, Denis Lessard of La Presse, and Marie-Maude Denis, Alain Gravel, and Isabelle Richer of Radio Canada.
On Wednesday evening, Felix Seguin of TVA learned the sixth reporter targeted by the SQ was noted gangster specialist Andre Cedilot.
Richer is outraged.
"I feel attacked in my certitude which is that I believe in a democratic society like ours it won't happen. I believed that until today. Now I'm shocked, I'm in the middle of a TV series on HBO. It's unreal. I couldn't believe it," said Richer.
An SQ spokesperson said the police force was not listening to conversations, but was keeping track of every number dialled.
The investigations into the reporters began in 2003 as the SQ was investigating the former president of the QFL labour union, Michel Arsenault.
He resigned as the head of the labour union in 2013 after Radio Canada broadcast a report that looked at his ties to then-Premier Pauline Marois and her husand's investments, and the union's ties to organized crime.
Several reporters covered the SQ investigation of Arsenault, and that prompted then SQ chief Mario Laprise to find out who was leaking information, and to get warrants for wiretaps.
The current SQ director, Martin Prud'homme, said he is upset to learn of the wiretaps an is calling for an independent third party to review the warrants and the police investigations.
This comes the day after Premier Philippe Couillard called for the Ministry of Public Security to investigate the SQ, Quebec City police, and Montreal police.
On Monday and Tuesday La Presse columnist and CJAD contributor Patrick Lagacé learned he was the subject of at least 24 search warrants as Montreal police tried to figure out which officers were talking to the press.
The police department was also keeping track of all phone calls between police officers and three other reporters: Felix Seguin of TVA, Monic Neron of 98.5 FM, and freelance journalist Fabrice de Pierrebourg.
Cease and Desist
Meanwhile La Presse is calling on Montreal police to stop tapping Lagacé's phone, and to stop using all the information collected during the course of its investigation.
The newspaper's lawyer, Sebastien Pierre-Roy, sent a legal letter to police calling the force's actions "a scandal and an unprecedented attack on the freedom of the press."
The lawyer said he has not had any response to the letter he sent to Montreal police on Monday, and so he is going to head to court to end the wiretapping.
Police began tapping Lagacé's phone as part of an investigation into drug traffickers, information about which was leaked to Lagacé.
Many people have called for Montreal Police chief Philippe Pichet to step down, but so far he has refused.
Mayor Denis Coderre said will get explanations from the police chief, but that will happen during a closed-door session of the city's public security commission.
"I think that we have a process. We will respect that process. Mr. Pichet will remain as director, and through the process we will see what happens then," said Coderre.
The Quebec Federation of Journalists is demanding an immediate public inquiry into how police were allowed to request and obtain mandates to spy on reporters.