‘Caribou Legs’ was stopped from filming a police officer outside Montreal
By Mark Rendell, CBC News Posted: Sep 16, 2016 12:05 PM CT Last Updated: Sep 16, 2016 1:17 PM CT
“I was calling out to the crowd: ‘Is there somebody with a camera or phone?’ And one of the community members came up with their cell phone and started taking pictures, and [the RCMP officer is]… blocking her and telling her she was not to take any pictures and leave.
“She didn’t put the camera away, she continued to take pictures close up and away, and I don’t believe that she said anything, she refused to leave the situation,” adds Sibbeston.
An RCMP spokesperson declined to comment on the Fort Simpson incident, saying it was currently under internal review.
There is also the case of Northern News Services journalist John McFadden, who was charged with obstruction of justice while taking photos of police searching a vehicle in Yellowknife last year.
- Reporter charged with obstructing police was inciting a crowd, says police witness
- Reporter tells very different story than police testifying at his obstruction trial
In court, officers claimed McFadden got in their way during the search.
McFadden denied the charge, saying he was not interfering with the search and simply doing his job.
The judge is expected to rule on the matter next month.
“There’s absolutely no general law that would prohibit a member of the public from taking video or photographic footage anywhere in a public place,” says Yellowknife defence lawyer Caroline Wawzonek.
“You can’t get in the way of an investigation and you can’t get in the way of a police officer,” Wawzonek continues.
“If you actually intercede in a way that prevents them performing their duty they can ask you to get out of the way, they can ask you to move, they ask you to leave. And if you’re actually to the point of obstructing them you could be charged.
“But to the extent that you’re able to stand back and you’re a non-interfering member of the public, there’s absolutely no reason they wouldn’t have the right to take that photograph.”
If the issue is so clear cut, why then do we continue to see situations where police officers try to prevent people from filming them?
According to Wawzonek, there’s frequently a “misunderstanding about the boundaries of the law… and people make mistakes. Officers who are otherwise acting appropriately can make mistakes in the heat of a moment.”
If you find yourself in this kind of situation, Wawzonek says “the safest course of action is to remain calm and dispassionate about it… and just say: ‘thank you, but I have the right to take pictures in a public place.'”