The Supreme Court Law Review: Osgoode’s Annual Constitutional Cases Conference

Article Title

Bad Ad(Vice): On the Supreme Court’s Approach to Press Freedom, Source Protection and State Interests in R. v. Vice Media Canada Inc.


Does a journalist have to turn over records of online chats with a non-confidential source to the state, so that those records can be used to prosecute the source? That is the question at the heart of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R. v. Vice Media Canada Inc. In Vice, the source allegedly left Canada to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS); the journalist contacted him through an encrypted instant messaging application and published articles based on their conversations. After charging the source with terrorism-related offences, the RCMP obtained an ex parte production order requiring Vice Media Canada (Vice) and its journalist to hand over the chat records. All nine judges — the five-judge majority, led by Moldaver J., and the four-judge concurrence, led by Abella J. — concluded that this production order should be upheld.