Eight Fredericton City police officers raided the apartment of well known Fredericton blogger Charles LeBlanc on the morning of Thursday, January 19th. LeBlanc was told that he was being charged with libel under Section 301 of the Criminal Code of Canada. The libel charge stems from a summer blog post about a Fredericton city police officer. The police confiscated all of LeBlanc’s computer equipment including his monitor, external hard drive and modem.
“I can’t say anything more about it. The police told me I’d spend the next four months in jail if I mention the officer’s name. I’ll lose my apartment and end up homeless if I go to jail for four months,” said LeBlanc in a media release.
LeBlanc was handcuffed, arrested, fingerprinted, photographed and jailed for nearly six hours while the police went through his apartment. While LeBlanc was detained, the police asked him for the names of people who helped him with his blog.
“They asked me if anyone helps me with my blog, and if anyone has my username and passwords. They even wanted to know who approached me to be a blogger. Does that mean anybody who associates with me will be arrested too?” stated LeBlanc.
Earlier this week, LeBlanc pleaded guilty to causing a disturbance last summer in front of the Fredericton City Police station. LeBlanc used a blowhorn to publicize his concerns about the unequal treatment of the poor by city police. While having doubts, he pleaded guilty after consulting with friends in the social justice community. He received no legal advice and there was no duty counsel available to speak to him before he issued his plea.
LeBlanc says someone told him that the police were going to grab him on the street as soon as he pleaded guilty. “I certainly didn’t expect them to raid my apartment, take all my computer equipment and threaten me with arrest and jail if I dare to mention the officer’s name,” said LeBlanc.
A Fredericton activist, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, criticized the police move in a media release: “All this is being done to prevent Charles from going to trial on the bicycle issue (riding his bicycle on the sidewalk) and the reason for that is because they want third party vigalante reporting so they can arrest other people on trumped up charges. Poor people have had this for a long time, single parent women who have been anonymously reported by neighbours because their kids are dirty or under-dressed, the kids are taken away from them and they have to prove they are fit. The only difference is that in Charles’ case, they have this high profile guy, Dan Bussieres, the head of security at the legislature, who allegedly made the anonymous complaint against Charles. The police don’t want that to come out. We can’t have vigalantism in a democratic system, everybody reporting on everybody. It’s extremely dictatorial and besides, who are the police to decide what journalists and bloggers say. It’s a matter of freedom of speech and boils down to this: do the police have the right to eliminate opinion they don’t like?”