A court battle resumes this morning in Toronto to make public police search warrants used in Project Traveller, a massive crackdown this spring on what police allege is a violent street gang involved in gun running and pot and cocaine trafficking.
Of interest are warrants that might shed light on whether those arrested have any association with Mayor Rob Ford. CBC News and seven other media organizations in July applied to the court to unseal a police affidavit used to obtain a warrant to search a handful of residences as part of their crackdown on the Dixon City Bloods in the Rexdale area.
Since then, however, media lawyers have learned there were at least 39 separate search warrants granted in Project Traveller, for addresses in both Windsor and Toronto. They will argue today that all should be unsealed. In July, CBC News, the Toronto Star and others appeared in court arguing the information is of great public interest, given the criminal allegations against 40 people arrested.
The media argued the public deserves to know whether the warrants reveal any evidence that Ford may have been consorting with some of the alleged drug dealers. A string of media articles has suggested Ford knew several members of the Dixon City Bloods and, according to the Toronto Star, was even caught on video smoking what appeared to be a crack pipe.
Justice Phillip A. Downes in July ordered the Crown prosecutor in the Project Traveller case to return to court no later than Sept. 12 with proposed redactions, blacking out portions of the police material in order to allow at least a partial release to the public.
The Crown recently provided lawyers for the media (reporters are not yet allowed to see the material, or report it) with an 119-page police document, of which 110 pages are entirely blacked out, according to documents filed with the court.
The Crown argues they need to protect information about sensitive police electronic surveillance (believed to be wiretaps that are potentially ongoing) claiming "that particular information relates to police investigative techniques that cannot be disclosed" citing Section 193 of Canada's Criminal Code.
According to documents filed with the court, media lawyers plan to argue today that blacking out 100 pages is excessive.
“The Crown’s position is entirely implausible,” argues Toronto Star lawyer Ryder Gilliland, disputing claims that any information about wiretaps can’t be released to the public.
News organizations hope to discover whether police have any information connecting Mayor Ford to any of the Project Traveller suspects.
In particular, the media hope to obtain search warrant materials related to a specific residence: the home of Mohamed Siad. The Toronto Star reported this summer that he was arrested and had his home searched as part of Project Traveller.
The Star also reported that Siad is the individual who showed them, and tried to sell, a video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, in which the Star said he appeared intoxicated, made racist and homophobic remarks, and was seen smoking what appeared to be a crack pipe.
CBC has never seen such a video and cannot verify its authenticity or whether it exists. Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford has insisted on various occasions that he is not addicted to crack, and denies any such video exists.