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Appeal court overturns order

Unanimous decision means reporter doesnt have to reveal identities

BC’s highest court has ruled that a reporter for the Province newspaper does not have to reveal the identities of confidential sources.

A three-member panel of the BC Court of Appeal set aside Justice Paul Williamson’s order to Elaine O’Connor, a Province reporter, to name the person who gave her a copy of an anonymous report to Elections Canada alleging former MP Blair Wilson had violated the Elections Act by not declaring campaign expenses correctly.

The allegations were part of a Province story published in October 2007.

After the article was published, Wilson, who represented West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding, was forced to resign from the Liberal caucus. He ran in the next federal election as a Green Party candidate and lost. Elections Canada investigated the allegations, determined Wilson had made only minor errors in reporting and did not charge him for any offences.

Wilson sued the Province for defamation. He also named Judi Tyabji Wilson, a former Liberal MLA and party executive, her company, Tugboat Enterprises Ltd., Liberal Mark Marissen and Steve Janke, a political blogger who published the three-page letter on his website.

During pre-trial proceedings, Wilson demanded to know the name of the anonymous source of the Elections Canada letter, identified only as a “citizen in the riding.”

O’Connor refused to name the source, saying she had received the information after promising confidentiality.

In her reasons for judgment released Friday, April 27, Madam Justice Catherine Ryan wrote that the identity of the source is not relevant to whether the statements in the anonymous report are true or false.

“The identity of the source has potential relevance to the dispute between Mr. Wilson and the other defendants,” Ryan wrote. “Rather than turning first to the appellants at this stage of the proceedings, Mr. Wilson ought to exhaust his discovery process with those defendants he suspects provided the anonymous report to the press.”