Journalist sources should be revealed as ‘last resort,’ Supreme Court says

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OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada is ordering a case concerning protection of journalistic sources back to a lower court, saying it cannot decide on the issue because the arguments have changed.

But in a majority decision, the court re-affirmed that under new laws, journalists should be forced to reveal their sources only as a “last resort.”

The court set aside an order requiring journalist Marie-Maude Denis to disclose sources who gave her information about the case of Marc-Yvan Cote, a former provincial Liberal minister in Quebec charged with fraud and bribery.

But the justices sent the issue back to the Court of Quebec for a new hearing because the Crown changed its arguments while the top court considered the case.

The court acknowledged it was an “exceptional remedy” given an exceptional situation.

Justice Rosalie Abella dissented, saying she would not have sent the issue back to the lower court because the legal issue was clear enough.

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