The Supreme Court has ruled that the media cannot guarantee unconditional anonymity to sources.
The decision was nine years in the making and at its heart were the contents of a brown envelope and a tenacious journalist who refused to hand it over.
In 2001, Andrew McIntosh of the National Post received a package. It contained information about prime minister Jean Chrétien and his alleged involvement a controversy that came to be known as “shawinigate.”
Police suspected forgery and wanted to include the reporter’s documents in their investigation. McIntosh refused, choosing to protect his source.
In the court battle that ensued, both his newspaper and the police claimed that the public interest was in their corner.
The situation raised the question: who speaks for the good of the people?
Friday’s near unanimous Supreme Court ruling means that journalists cannot, unconditionally, say that they do.