Chris Lewis, the new police commissioner for Ontario, Canada, says it is against police policy for officers to pretend to be journalists to gather evidence on suspects, but he can’t rule out it happening again. He said it would only happen in “rare” cases where public safety is an issue. “To save a life to get close to that person, then we might do what we have to do,” Lewis said. Media advocates are launching a court action against the practice, saying it undermines the public’s trust in reporters. Lewis first said his officers would no longer pose as reporters, citing a 2007 policy change that stopped the practice. But he added that exceptions could arise.
In 2007, an Ontario provincial officer pretended to be a journalist at a Mohawk rally held in conjunction with the Aboriginal Day of Protest. Recently an officer posed as a journalist to gather evidence from an inmate in a prison. Three Quebec provincial police officers posed as protesters at the summit of the three North American leaders in Quebec in August 2007. The group Canadian Journalists for Free Expression is aware of a handful of cases in Ontario, but called it the “tip of the iceberg.” Police across Canada employ the tactic, said Arnold Amber, CJFE’s president, who called it a “lousy practice.”