Canada's government-funded French language broadcaster is challenging the work of Gatineau police after they arrested one of its journalists "for doing his job."
Antoine Trépanier was arrested Tuesday night after spending a few days working on an investigation about a woman who had practiced as a lawyer in Ontario without being a member of the law society.
The woman, Yvonne Dubé, is a director at a Gatineau affiliate of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada. She was found to be practicing as a lawyer in 2011 and 2012 without a licence, Radio-Canada's Trépanier reported.
Trépanier also reported that her former boss was Ottawa lawyer Christian Jacques Deslauriers, who was suspended on Feb. 23 by the Law Society Tribunal for three months and fined $12,500 for failing to ensure that a student-in-law at his office "was properly licenced."
National Observer has not been able to verify the allegation that she practiced without a licence, and she denied this allegation in the Radio-Canada report. But the public broadcaster said that Trépanier acted legally and ethically in pursuing the story and seeking comment from Dubé.
"We find that his arrest was without basis, that he was just doing his job and that he was respecting the journalistic standards and practices of Radio-Canada 100 per cent," said Yvan Cloutier, a Radio-Canada director in Ottawa-Gatineau, in a separate report.
The news outlet explained that Trépanier called Dubé three times and sent her one email to arrange an interview. She also answered some of his questions over the phone and was quoted in his report.
While she had initially agreed to an on-camera interview earlier this week, Radio-Canada reported that she then cancelled it at the last minute.
The following day, on Tuesday, March 13, Trépanier called her again to offer her another chance to do an interview.
It is a standard practice in responsible journalism to offer the subject of an investigation every opportunity to comment and respond to allegations.
But Gatineau police say that a woman later came to a police station in the Hull sector of town and complained she was being threatened by a man.
"The alleged victim drafted a formal statement indicating that she feared for her safety following threats and repeated messages from a man," the police said in a statement. "Judging the statement to be credible and based on an analysis of the elements presented, a police officer contacted the person to inform him that he was subject to a criminal harassment complaint related to his work and that he would have to proceed with his arrest."
Trépanier received the call in the evening and proceeded to the police station with two other managers from the newsroom before midnight on March 13 to sign a promise to appear in court on June 20. He was also instructed to stop contacting Dubé.
Trépanier has not been charged with any crime and Crown prosecutors have not yet decided whether he will be charged.
The police said it considers freedom of the press to be essential and that the public has a right to have access to accurate news and information delivered with rigour.
It also said it had no intention of restricting freedom of speech and the work of a journalist.
"At the same time, (Gatineau police) believe entirely in respecting the rights of victims who wish to make a complaint in order to ensure that their files can be treated impartially," the police force said in its statement. "Police officers work in an impartial and neutral manner with the elements at their disposal, and they do this, without any regard for political ideals, for the jobs or the status of individuals."