TORONTO – An Ontario judge has ruled that a law prevents him from releasing wiretap information contained in search warrants used to arrest several people with possible links to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
Police used dozens of search warrants as part of “Project Traveller,” a massive gang investigation that led to more than 40 arrests in the city’s northwest this spring.
Several media outlets including The Canadian Press, the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, CBC, CTV and Postmedia have been involved in a court battle to access the warrants and the information officers submitted to obtain them.
The documents have been sealed or heavily redacted.
In a hearing last week regarding one warrant, lawyers for the Crown said most of the text must be blacked out because the document contains references to wiretaps.
Lawyers for the media, however, argued the information should be released, given that evidence presented in a criminal or civil proceeding is exempt from the prohibition.
In a ruling issued Monday, Ontario court judge Philip Downes said the process officers underwent to request the warrants does not count as a criminal or civil proceeding.
He ordered the Crown to hand over only a redacted version of the warrant.
The decision is likely to affect the application to unseal 36 additional packages containing more than 80 warrants, which may also refer to wiretaps.
“I am hopeful that my ruling on the narrow issue raised at this stage will ultimately mean a more expeditious resolution of all the subsequent unsealing applications in relation to the Project Traveller authorizations,” Downes wrote in his decision.
Downes also asked the Crown to release a list of the addresses searched during the raids so that the media could better decide which warrants to seek.
Among them is an address linked to Mohamed Siad, a man the Toronto Star says tried to sell the newspaper a video alleged to show Ford appearing to smoke crack cocaine. Siad was arrested during Project Traveller.
The paper also published a photograph of the mayor with three men, one of whom was gunned down on a city street. The other two men were arrested as part of “Project Traveller.”
Ford has said he does not use crack and the alleged video does not exist.