November 22, 2021
Hon. Marco Mendicino
Minister of Public Safety
Confederation Building, Suite 203
House of Commons
Sent via email
Dear Minister Mendicino,
We at the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent, non-governmental organization that champions press freedom globally, write to express our grave concern about the November 19 arrest and ongoing detention of journalists Amber Bracken and Michael Toledano by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
They should be released immediately and unconditionally; any charges they are currently facing should be dropped. The RCMP owes Bracken, Toledano, and the public an explanation about why these two journalists are still being held.
Bracken, an award-winning photojournalist on assignment for The Narwhal, and Toledano, an independent filmmaker, were reporting on land defenders’ demonstrations inside an injunction area in Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia.
The RCMP has accused Bracken and Toledano of embedding with the protesters. However, legal precedent shows that reporters embedding with protesters is not cause for arrest or prosecution in Canada. In the Crown’s case against journalist Justin Brake, the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court affirmed reporters’ rights to be present and report on protests in areas that are closed to the public.
In a November 19 statement, the RCMP confirmed that two individuals who identified themselves as journalists were arrested along with land defenders. Public attention surrounding the detentions and correspondence with the RCMP’s British Columbia team have made it apparent that they are aware that two journalists are in the RCMP’s custody. It is hard to fathom why the RCMP has decided to keep Bracken and Toledano in its custody.
At CPJ, we have documented the increasingly challenging reporting conditions–including arbitrary arrest–that reporters face around the world while reporting on protests. We are deeply disappointed that we are witnessing this pattern of behavior in Canada.
The CAJ and CPJ have documented the RCMP’s restrictive behavior of detaining reporters who are reporting on land rights issues on Indigenous territory. It is time for this pattern to stop.
As a member of the Media Freedom Coalition’s Executive Group, it is imperative that Canada’s commitment to democratic values and the defense of a free press around the world be applied locally, in accordance with Section 2b of its Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The RCMP needs to be held accountable for its repeated violations of the rights of the Canadian media. As the minister responsible for their oversight, we call on you to take immediate steps to correct the RCMP’s actions and to ensure that going forward, journalists’ right to report will be protected in this country.
Joel Simon, Executive Director, The Committee to Protect Journalists
Brent Jolly, President, The Canadian Association of Journalists