Asbestos Expose: Fiasco for Government
The Quebec Labor Relations Board upheld the right of a journalist to keep confidential sources who disclosed information about the existence of asbestos contamination in Quebec government buildings.1 The findings of the June 19, 2007 administrative tribunal relate to a newspaper article published in November 2006 by Journalist Karine Gagnon in Le Journal de Quebec2 which exposed the potential health threat of asbestos in buildings administered by the government's property company: Societe Immobiliere Quebec (SIQ).3
Denis Petitclerc, a source cited by Gagnon in her article, was immediately fired by the SIQ, his employer; Petitclerc has brought an action at the Labor Relations Board challenging the dismissal. The demands by SIQ lawyers that Gagnon hand over all her notes, recordings and research for the article and reveal the identity of her sources were dismissed by the tribunal. A court decision quashing the warrant forcing disclosure of unnamed whistleblowers was upheld by the tribunal. This was the first time a Canadian Labor Board had ruled on a reporter's right to protect her confidential sources.
It is of interest to note that the newspaper did not support the journalist at the tribunal, claiming that a current lock-out at their headquarters prevented it from so doing.4 Ms. Gagnon was defended at the hearing by Jacques Lamoureux, a trade union-appointed lawyer. The newspaper's current labor conflict seems to be a convenient excuse for the decision to keep a low profile in this case; a more plausible explanation for its cowardly refusal to defend one of its own journalists could be the desire to keep in the good books of the powerful asbestos lobby in Quebec, the only Canadian province in which chrysotile asbestos is still being mined.
June 24, 2007
2 Le Journal de Quebec is a French-language daily tabloid in Quebec City.
3 Journalist ordered to reveal sources. http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/84240/Quebec
4 Cauchon P. Une journaliste de Quebec refuse de devoiler ses sources. June 20, 2007.