Marie-Maude Denis v. Marc-Yvan Côté

(Quebec) (Civil) (By Leave)

(Sealing order)


Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Freedom of expression and press - Journalist and confidential source - Judgments and orders - Interlocutory orders - Courts - Jurisdiction - Police investigations concerning respondent - News reports disclosing information and documents arising from investigations - Journalist forced to divulge identity of her confidential sources - Court of Appeal finding that it had no jurisdiction to hear appeal - Parliament’s intention as regards s. 39.1 of Canada Evidence Act, added to that Act by Journalistic Sources Protection Act - Scope and implications of reversal of burden of proof in s. 39.1(9) - Elements to be considered in new balancing exercise provided for in s. 39.1(7)(b) - Jurisdiction of provincial intermediate appellate courts under s. 39.1(10) - Canada Evidence Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C 5, s. 39.1.


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Mr. Côté alleged that certain documents and information arising from a police investigation relating to charges of fraud, bribery, corruption and breach of trust had ended up in the hands of a journalist, Ms. Denis, who had published certain details from them. Mr. Côté filed a motion for a stay of proceedings before the trial judge, alleging that the information disclosed had been deliberately leaked by agents of the state and that the leaks were an abuse of process that would compromise the fairness of his trial. He therefore tried to compel Ms. Denis to testify in order to force her to divulge the identity of her sources so that he could find the persons responsible for the leaks and support his position. Ms. Denis applied to have her summons as a witness quashed, relying on the confidential protection of her sources.

The Court of Québec dismissed the motion to divulge the identity of the sources under s. 39.1(7) of the Canada Evidence Act. The Quebec Superior Court allowed Mr. Côté’s appeal and authorized the disclosure by Ms. Denis of the identity of her confidential sources. The Quebec Court of Appeal dismissed a subsequent appeal by Ms. Denis, finding that it had no jurisdiction over her appeal under s. 39.1(10) of the Canada Evidence Act.

Lower Court Rulings

February 12, 2018
Court of Quebec

200-01-199659-164, 2018 QCCQ 547
Motion by Ms. Denis to quash summons as witness allowed (application by Mr. Côté for disclosure of confidential sources dismissed)
March 22, 2018
Superior Court of Quebec

200-36-002657-187, 2018 QCCS 1138
Appeal by Mr. Côté allowed (disclosure by Ms. Denis of identity of her confidential sources authorized)
April 12, 2018
Court of Appeal of Quebec (Québec)

200-10-003504-185, 2018 QCCA 611
Motion filed by Ms. Denis to stay execution of Superior Court’s judgment dismissed -and- Motion filed by Mr. Côté to dismiss appeal of Ms. Denis allowed (lack of jurisdiction)