Skip to content

GuelphToday journalist's treatment by OPP an ‘egregious abuse of power’ (UPDATED)

Village Media is lodging a formal complaint after one of its journalists was detained on the job in Guelph
A pedestrian was killed in an incident on the Hanlon Expressway Wednesday morning.

UPDATE (5 p.m. Thursday): A Wellington County OPP officer returned the confiscated SD card to reporter Richard Vivian on Thursday at 5 p.m. The handful of photos taken before the card was confiscated remain on the card intact. Vivian was told any questions would have to be directed to the coroner's office.


The Canadian Association of Journalists is calling the detainment of a GuelphToday journalist and seizure of his equipment an ‘egregious abuse of power’ and a ‘blatant violation of press freedom.’ 

Brent Jolly, the national president of the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ), said he was “absolutely flabbergasted” when he learned a senior GuelphToday reporter Richard Vivian had been detained and his memory card seized by the OPP and the coroner’s office at the scene of a fatal collision Wednesday morning. 

Village Media plans on filing formal complaints with the coroner's office and the OPP.

Vivian arrived at the scene of a fatal collision at the intersection of College Avenue and the Hanlon Expressway around 9 a.m. Wednesday. He was there just seconds and took just a few photos before an OPP officer turned and shouted at him, grabbing his arm and seizing his camera.  

“I think it was an absolute egregious abuse of the individual’s power and a blatant violation of press freedom,” Jolly said. “I just don’t understand how this got into a case of potential physical assault of somebody. It’s not just can you please step back. He put his hands on Richard and physically assaulted him.”

The OPP later released a statement that officials are aware of the incident and are “reviewing the circumstances of the interaction between the member of the media and one of the OPP investigators.” 

In an interview, OPP Staff Sgt. Karen Medeiros couldn’t comment on the incident, but said that when a coroner is investigating a death, police are to act under the direction of the coroner. 

Likewise, Stephanie Rea, issues manager with the Office of the Chief Coroner said she couldn’t comment on the incident “due to privacy provisions” when asked what their policy is regarding the detainment of journalists and seizure of equipment. 

She did say that coroners “have the authority to seize anything the coroner has reasonable grounds to believe is material to the purposes of the investigation as per Section 16 2(c) of the Coroners Act,” and that they will be conducting a review “to ensure proper processes were followed.” 

However, Vivian noted that though the OPP have deferred responsibility to the coroner’s office, the OPP officer involved in the incident appeared to detain him and seize his camera before interacting with the coroner on scene. 

As the act does not define what is considered to be “material to the purposes of the investigation,” and Rea did not offer further clarification, it remains unclear as to how Vivian's photos constitute as evidence to their investigation.  

Jolly said the vague language in the act was not only concerning, but that he has never heard of a coroner directing the detainment of a journalist or seizing their equipment. 

“This is the first time I’ve ever heard of a coroner demanding law enforcement collect evidence from journalists,” he said. “It seems pretty far-fetched.”

He said the coroner’s office should be challenged to say what evidence in particular they would have gained by taking Vivian's photos of the scene.

He also said there should be some clarity around the vague language in the act.

If there isn’t, he fears these types of incidents will become more common practice. 

“And that's certainly something I don't want to see happen,” he said. 

Village Media editor in chief Michael Friscolanti said what happened was “completely unacceptable,” and that “the Ontario Provincial Police should immediately apologize for the officer’s behaviour and the coroner's office should return the SD card that was seized.”

“Richard was performing his job as a journalist: reporting from the scene of a fatal accident that occurred in his community. He was not standing inside a taped-off police scene; he was on a busy sidewalk where other people were walking,” he said. 

Friscolanti said the OPP officer “had no right or reason to grab Richard, detain him, or demand that he hand over his camera equipment. The officer’s behaviour was a gross violation of press freedom and a flagrant abuse of power.”

Village Media will be lodging formal complaints with both the OPP and the Office of Ontario’s Chief Coroner, Friscolanti said.

At the time of writing, the memory card has not been returned to Vivian, though the act states any items seized must be promptly returned when the investigation at hand is over. It's not yet clear when that will be. 

Taylor Pace

About the Author: Taylor Pace

Read more


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks