File a complaint
1. Time limit for filing a complaint
A complaint must be submitted within three months following the publication of the article or the broadcast of the report or program giving rise to the complaint.
2. Attempt at negotiating a settlement
The Council asks that all grievances first be expressed directly to the media organization in question. This step affords an opportunity to correct or clarify published information, or even to publish information or a point of view previously omitted, and by so doing, provide redress to the complainant and put an end to the procedures.
On receipt of a complaint, if the Council deems that this preliminary step was overlooked, it will ask the plaintiff to attempt to obtain redress, and offer to assist in that process.
3. Identity of the plaintiffs
The individual filing a complaint must be clearly identified (name, phone number and address). Any individual, organization or publicly or privately owned company may file a complaint with the Quebec Press Council regarding an alleged breach of journalistic ethics in the print or electronic media (radio, television, and Internet). The grievances may also relate to a violation of the freedom of the press and the right of the public to be informed.
The complaint must be sent, in writing, to the Council’s Executive Secretary, or via email or post using the online complaint form.
Ms Caroline Locher
Quebec Press Council
905, avenue De Lorimier, bureau 1131
Tel: (514) 529-2818
Fax: (514) 873-4434
4. Identity of the media
The complaint must contain all of the following information:
– name of the media organization
– name of the journalist (or host)
– title of the article or program
– date of publication or broadcast
– a precise and succinct account of the reasons for the complaint.
The plaintiff shall expose, as precisely and succinctly as possible, the facts that support his grievances, and the motives for filing a complaint. Some examples of grievances : accuracy of information, imbalance, partiality, disrespect for social groups or persons, etc.
Note: for an in-depth description of the professional and ethical standards of journalism, consult our code of conduct, “Rights and responsabilities of the Press”.
6. What documents must I submit to the Council?
Along with your letter or form, please include a clear photocopy of the article, or articles, that represent the object of the complaint, or any other document serving to support your complaint. In cases where the complaint concerns a radio or television show, you will need to supply a recording or an official transcript of the broadcast. If for some reason you are unable to obtain either of these, the Council will make a request to the media outlet involved. If your complaint concerns information published online, please include a printout of the Internet page or supply the complete URL address of the article or report in question.
7. Annex A
Plaintiffs also have to sign a form, called Annex A, in which they engage to inform the Council of their decision to refer any aspect of their case to any judicial or quasi-judicial body, administrative tribunal or discipline committee. Such a decision brings an end to its review by the Council.
8. What happens next?
The Council will transmit the complaint in full to the respondent (the journalist and the media organization involved), who then have 15 business days to give their version of facts. That unabridged response will then be sent to you, to which, if you choose, you may in turn respond within the same time limit. The Executive Secretary has the discretion to extend these time limits, without however, exceeding twice the allowed amount of time.
You may withdraw your complaint at any time by written notice to the Press Council.
You will receive a form entitled Annex A that you will be required to sign. This form represents a commitment on your part to informing the Council if you take legal action for the same grievance as the object of the complaint submitted to the Press Council for adjudication. An ongoing lawsuit automatically results in the closure of your complaint file as the Council cannot interfere in any judicial process.
Once all the necessary information has been gathered, your file will be submitted to the Journalistic Ethics and Complaints Committee for examination. This committee, assisted by the Executive Secretary, is comprised of a rotating membership of eight members from media organizations, journalists and public members on the Board of Directors. The Council renders its decision within six months of receiving the final documents required to begin the examination.
In cases where your grievance leaves little room for interpretation and for which there already exists a well-established precedent, your file will be submitted to the Select Committee of Journalistic Ethics and Complaints for review by 3 members of the Board of Directors.
All decisions are first transmitted to the parties involved and are then made public and released in the shortest possible time frame. The responding media organization has a moral obligation to publish or broadcast the Council’s decision.
9. What if I disagree with the Council’s decision?
All decisions reached regarding complaints submitted to the Press Council, with the exception of those regarding the admissibility of a complaint, can be appealed with the Appeals Committee. The Appeals Committee will evaluate the file with attention to how it was examined and adjudicated by the Journalistic Ethics and Complaints Committee and if it complies with the “Guide de déontologie du Conseil de presse du Québec” (French only, translation not yet completed) and the Council’s own precedents.
The appeal must be submitted using the form intended for that purpose, or by letter, within 30 days after the decision is mailed. Once again, we ask that you submit a clear and succinct account of the reasons for your appeal. The Committee does not accept any further material to be added to the file at this stage. All decisions by the Appeals Committee are final.
The appeal will be rejected automatically if the time limit is exceeded.