Journalists could take stand in high-profile fraud case
A judge will deliberate on whether two journalists will be forced to take the stand to reveal confidential sources in the Nathalie Normandeau and Marc-Yvan Côté fraud case.
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Côté’s lawyer, Jacques Larochelle, has been trying to get the case thrown out based on leaks to the media he says has harmed his client’s chances of a fair trial.
In 2016, then Treasury Board president, Sam Hamad was forced to resign from cabinet after a Radio-Canada report revealed suspicious emails between Hamad and Côté, a Liberal party member, suggesting collusion and influence peddling.
One month later, in April 2016, Cogeco reporter Louis Lacroix wrote a story about a mysterious source, who called himself “Pierre” offering up confidential evidence against Côté and Normandeau. Lacroix wrote in an article for French-language magazine, L’Actualité that this source did not ask for money for the information. In the end, Pierre never handed over the evidence.
This week, the defence has called a handful of current and former UPAC officers to the stand and asked them, “Who is Pierre?” On Friday morning, a top UPAC investigator, Caroline Grenier Lafontaine, testified she suspected fired UPAC investigative analyst, Richard Despaties was Pierre. She said an investigation into the leaks led them to believe Despaties and Stephane Bonhomme were working together.
Bonhomme was arrested on October 25, 2017, after UPAC raided his home and found confidential papers and an external hard drive that contained information about an ongoing investigation called “Neptunium.” Liberal MNA Guy Ouellette was also arrested that day (later, he was released without being charged).
Lafontaine said details from one of Lacroix’s articles supported UPAC’s suspicion against Despaties and Bonhomme, but the investigation was still ongoing. Despaties, Bonhomme and Ouellette all testified Thursday under oath that they had no part in the leaks.
In order to clear up the mystery of who is Pierre, Côté’s lawyer, Larochelle wants the chance to call two reporters to testify — Lacroix, as well as Marie-Maude Denis of Radio-Canada. The journalists are fighting the subpoena. Their lawyer, Christian Leblanc, said a new federal law, S-231, gives more protections to journalists’ sources — and in this case where someone’s guilt or innocence isn’t even at stake, making journalists testify shouldn’t even be in question.
“Investigative journalism is too important, it should not be put aside for the facts here, which are basically that Mr. Côté is trying to get a motion to stop proceedings because of state abuse,” Leblanc said.
The judge said he will make his decision on Feb. 12.
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