The Globe and Mail's use of confidential sources in a story about a possible takeover of BCE Inc. has been protected from court challenge, after the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear an appeal in the case.
"This upholds the ability of business journalists to do their jobs," Globe editor-in-chief John Stackhouse said. "A decision against The Globe would have made it much more difficult for journalists in this country to act as independent auditors of Canadian business."
Investor Jeffrey MacIntosh of Toronto sought to force The Globe to reveal its confidential sources, as he pursued a potential class-action lawsuit against BCE alleging the company leaked misleading information. The Globe's story, citing confidential sources, said talks on a 2008 leveraged buyout of BCE probably would not be complete until after Christmas. Four days later, BCE said a deal had been reached; it would later fail. Mr. McIntosh said he lost $36,000 in trading activity he undertook after reading the story.
As is its usual practice, the Supreme Court did not give reasons for not granting leave to appeal.
Justice Edward Belobaba of the Ontario Superior Court found "little to no public interest" in forcing The Globe to reveal its sources for the story. "Unless the media can offer anonymity in situations where sources would otherwise dry up, freedom of expression in debate on matters of public interest would be badly compromised," he wrote. "Important stories will be left untold."
The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld that ruling, saying "the public interest in free expression must always be weighed heavily in the balance." The Supreme Court's decision to close the book has the effect of affirming the protection of confidential sources in the case.
"This decision again affirms the value our courts ascribe to the responsible use of confidential sources in public-interest stories," Peter Jacobsen, a lawyer who represented The Globe in the case, said.