Politics

Ex-minister Lametti agrees to send social media records to official archives following Rebel suit

In a Federal Court case that raises questions about the preservation of politicians' public records, former justice minister David Lametti has offered to transfer his once-deactivated X account to Canada’s official archives.

Chief Justice Paul Crampton dismissed motion brought by Ezra Levant and Rebel News

Justice Minister David Lametti is pictured at a news conference.
Justice Minister David Lametti speaks during a press conference in March of 2023. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press)

In a Federal Court case that raises questions about the preservation of politicians' public records, former justice minister David Lametti has offered to transfer his once-deactivated X account to Canada's official archives.

Lametti, who served as attorney general between January 2019 and last summer's cabinet shuffle, agreed to a multi-step undertaking after Rebel News and its founder Ezra Levant took him to court for deactivating his account on X, formally known as Twitter.

Lametti, who left federal politics at the end of last month, maintained an account to communicate with the public. His account had a grey check mark, meaning his account had been confirmed as representing a government or multilateral organization or official.

The court heard that after Levant realized around Jan. 25 of this year that the account had been deactivated, he quickly filed a motion on behalf of himself and his media company to have the account reinstated before it was permanently deleted after 30 days.

Ezra Levant, shown March 2, 2016.
Ezra Levant says he sees the court decision as a win. (Canadian Press)

Levant and Rebel argued that by deactivating his account, Lametti "prevented them and other X users from viewing, replying, reposting, or using the Community Notes feature on any and all posts previously made on that X account."

The community notes feature allows users to add corrections and clarifications to posts.

Levant and Rebel also argued that by deactivating his account, Lametti hindered public access to government information, suppressed "crucial voices in public debate on posts that can no longer be interacted with, shared, or commented on," and violated Charter rights.

They also expressed a particular interest in the public posts made by Lametti related to the government's decision to invoke the Emergencies Act in early 2022.

Lametti reinstated X account 

According to court documents, Lametti reactivated his account around Jan. 29 and agreed to a list of steps to preserve the account's records.

The former minister agreed to provide Library and Archives Canada with full access to government and ministerial records for the purpose of transferring them to the librarian and archivist, and to not ask the librarian and archivist to destroy any records obtained from him that are under their custody or control. He also agreed to transfer his entire X account archive to Library and Archives Canada.

Because Lametti reinstated the account, Chief Justice Paul Crampton dismissed the motion by Levant and Rebel News.

"If there ever was any risk that any data, information or other material associated with the X account might be destroyed, whether inadvertently or otherwise, the reactivation of that account, together with the undertaking, have eliminated such risk," he wrote.

"It bears emphasizing that the undertaking provides for the transfer of the entirety of [Lametti's] X account to Library and Archives Canada."

Crampton also pointed out that "a very substantial number of posts on the X Account" are available on the Wayback Machine, an internet archive website.

"I am satisfied," said Lametti in an email after the decision.

During a court hearing earlier this year, Rebel and Levant raised concerns about the transfer of data to Library and Archives Canada.

As an alternative, Rebel sought an order requiring that Lametti provide a copy of an archive of the X account to them and to the Librarian and Archivist of Canada.

"The applicants have not identified any sound basis for the court to be concerned about the ability of Library and Archives Canada to preserve the full archive of the X account," wrote Crampton.

In an email to CBC News, Levant said he still sees a win in the fact that Lametti has to submit an undertaking to the court within seven days and must give Library and Archives Canada custody of the records.

"I think that's a victory even though our preservation order was denied. Neither of the above points would have happened without our lawsuit," said Levant.

"In fact, the main thing happened the moment we filed the lawsuit: Lametti un-deleted the account."

Levant said he's still consulting with his lawyers about next steps.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Catharine Tunney is a reporter with CBC's Parliament Hill bureau, where she covers national security and the RCMP. She worked previously for CBC in Nova Scotia. You can reach her at catharine.tunney@cbc.ca

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