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January 29, 2024
PEN Canada is deeply concerned at the Edmonton Police Service’s (EPS) arrest of Cree/Iroquois/French freelance journalist Brandi Morin and calls for the immediate dismissal of all charges against her ahead of a court hearing scheduled for February 1. Ms. Morin was arrested during a police raid on an Indigenous encampment on January 10.
Ms. Morin is a well-known journalist who has reported extensively on Indigenous land and environmental rights and has won awards for her work on Truth and Reconciliation, and residential school grave discoveries. According to the information available to PEN, Ms Morin was arrested and charged with obstructing a police officer after she refused to comply with peremptory orders to leave the vicinity of a police action or be forcibly removed.
A statement by Ricochet Media notes that although Morin “repeatedly identified herself as a journalist, offered a letter of assignment from her outlet, and filmed everything up until the point she was handcuffed and had her camera taken away” she was nevertheless arrested and detained for several hours.
Canadian law protects journalists from arrest or detention when they are reporting on matters of public interest and not engaged in violent activity or serious attempts to obstruct police. Several court rulings have also underscored the importance of protecting journalists from undue police restraint when covering Indigenous issues.
In a 2019 ruling by the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal (Anderson v. Nalcor Energy) Justice Green makes reference to The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission while noting that “to achieve the goal of reconciliation, better understanding of aboriginal peoples and aboriginal issues is needed. This places a heightened importance on ensuring that independently-reported information about aboriginal issues, including aboriginal protests, is available to the extent possible.”
In 2023 Ms.Morin was awarded PEN Canada’s Ken Filkow Prize for her bravery in “advancing freedom of expression in Canada.” In November 2021, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrested and detained a previous winner of the Filkow Prize, photojournalist Amber Bracken, along with documentary filmmaker Michael Toledano, while they covered Indigenous-led protests of a controversial pipeline project
PEN Canada is a nonpartisan organization that celebrates literature, defends freedom of expression, and assists writers in peril at home and abroad. The English-language Canadian centre was founded in 1983 and is proud to be one of over 100 chapters of PEN International.
Media contact: Eilish Waller, Communications Coordinator, PEN Canada, firstname.lastname@example.org