Subpoena/legal order

RCMP in British Columbia obtain court order for return of document leaked to Capital Daily

The Supreme Court of British Columbia upheld a court order for the return of an RCMP document leaked to Capital Daily managing editor Jimmy Thomson. 

The RCMP obtained the court order after Thomson contacted police to ask for comment on the document, which relates to RCMP conduct around protests against logging in the Fairy Creek watershed in B.C., according to Capital Daily

The document “raised questions about an important ruling by (redacted), and how the RCMP has been abiding by it or avoiding it in the context of Fairy Creek,” Thomson wrote

Court records describe the documents Thomson received as “a collection of open-source social media material assembled by a person retained by the RCMP to assemble this information.” 

Camilo Ruiz, an independent photographer who has documented the Fairy Creek protests, also received documents described in court as “disclosure regarding disciplinary proceedings against RCMP officers.” 

Ruiz published an article based on the documents on Jan. 23, 2022, but was required to remove it after the court order. He later re-published the article with most of the contents redacted, in compliance with the order.

The documents Thomson and Ruiz received were included in material disclosed to people charged with criminal contempt of an injunction against anti-logging protests in Fairy Creek. While the people charged have the right to see that material – “discovery” – they may not share it. 

Thomson received the documents on Jan. 18, 2022 and began reporting a story, he explained in a tweet. When he asked the RCMP for comment, they obtained a court order to ban Thomson from reporting on the documents. 

The B.C. Supreme Court upheld that court order. In the June 21, 2022 decision, the court ruled that while the journalists had presented strong arguments, protecting the integrity of the discovery process was more important. 

In the decision, Justice Douglas Thompson said he was sympathetic to Capital Daily’s argument that “unlawful RCMP actions have impaired the media’s ability to do their work at Fairy Creek, that the RCMP is not respecting the Access to Information and Privacy process.” 

While reporting the Capital Daily story, Thomson also made an access to information request for the leaked document. In response, the RCMP told Thomson his request would take an additional 30 days beyond the 30 day deadline mandated by access-to-information legislation. 

The RCMP notified Thomson on Oct. 5, 2022 that his request had been denied, eight months after it was initially filed.