Yellowknife RCMP searched a northern Native newspaper and seized photographs to use in a criminal investigation against striking workers at a gold mine.
"In principle I don't think we should become an investigative arm for the RCMP," said Lee Selleck, managing editor of the Press Independent, who took photographs at a scuffle between strikers and police in the Giant mind dispute.
Union members at Giant have been on strike since spring and have been locked
out of company property. On June 14, a group of about 50 pickets knocked down the mine property's front gate and fought briefly with more than 60 police and security guards.
Selleck reported the history and took photographs. Police visited the newspaper after the fight and asked for photographs but were turned away because they didn't have
a search warrant.
They obtained a warrant two weeks later and seized three rolls of film.
Selleck said police indicated they may also call him to testify in criminal trials related to the strike.
The police action threatens the paper's ability to publish complete reports on the strike, Selleck said. People may now fear their comments or photographs could put them in danger of being arrested.
"I worked hard to stay out of becoming a party to this dispute," Selleck said. "I'm sure the film seizure has the possibility to affect access to the story and self-censorship."
RCMP officials in Yellowknife say there are no plans to seize evidence from other northern media outlets or subpoena videotape shot by striking miners or their families.
The paper is considering legal action to get their film back but has yet to make a decision.
"These things have gone to the Supreme Court. Challenges of these things can be very expensive," Selleck said.
"Before we take on a case like this we want to be sure that we had a good case and that we can afford it.:
In related news, three national news organizations are fighting a police seizure of photographs and videotape on a rampage in downtown Toronto.
Police want to use the unpublished photos and un-aired videotape to identify people who smashed windows and looted 105 stores on Younge Street in a race relations riot.
The Globe and Mail, CTV and CBC will be sharing the legal costs.
Michael Doody, a lawyer for Thompson Newspapers, which owns the Globe, said the news organization will argue the search lacked details required by the Criminal Code to be of any use in a police investigation.