You have up to one (1) month, following the date of publication of an article or broadcast of a news story or program, to file a complaint.
The Quebec Press Council, a self-regulatory mechanism for the media, renders decisions in matters of journalistic ethics. Its scope of action encompasses all news media distributed or broadcast in Quebec, regardless of whether they are members of the Council or whether they are print or electronic (radio, television, digital) media.
The Council cannot be equated with a civil court: it has no judicial, regulatory or coercive powers, and it imposes no sanction, instead relying on moral suasion. It wields undeniable authority, however, conferred by the rigour of its actions and the confidence and support placed in it by media entities and the public.
A person who wishes to file a complaint must first directly contact the media entity involved, in writing or by phone, to give it the opportunity to issue a correction or clarification.
1. Who can file a complaint?
Any individual, organization, or publicly or privately owned company may file a complaint.
2. How to file a complaint
Your complaint must clearly, precisely and succinctly explain the facts of the matter and the grounds for filing the complaint. You must submit it to the Council using the form intended for that purpose.
If you have any questions, contact us by e-mail (email@example.com). Complaints submitted by e-mail will not be considered.
When filing a complaint, you must provide your:
- telephone number;
- e-mail address.
You must explain the subject matter and details of the complaint, identifying:
- the title of the journalistic production;
- the name of the journalist and the media entity;
- the publication/broadcast date;
You must also attach to your complaint:
- a copy of the journalistic production (e.g.: audio file, video file, text, screen capture)
- Note: In some cases, locating video and audio clips is difficult if more than a month has passed since their broadcast;
- any material that serves as evidence of what you are alleging in your complaint.
3. Can we consider your complaint?
Upon receipt of the complaint, the Council will apply the conditions set out in its By-law 2 (sections 9 to 14) to determine admissibility.
To be deemed admissible:
A complaint must:
- be submitted within one month following the publication or broadcast of an article, report or program;
- concern a news media entity that is distributed or broadcast in Quebec;
- pertain to a significant and specific breach of journalistic ethics.
A complaint must not:
- be a general comment or criticism;
- concern a case of defamation or reputational harm;
- refer to the content of an advertisement;
- state a difference of opinion.
The Council will suspend consideration of a complaint if it:
- is informed of the existence of proceedings before any court, administrative tribunal or arbitrator dealing with a matter identical to that of the complaint;
- receives a copy of a formal demand or has reason to believe that a respondent is likely to face criminal or penal proceedings in relation to the facts that are the subject of the complaint.
4. How we process the complaint
You will receive a letter from the Council if your complaint is deemed admissible. If you have not heard from the Council within three months, this means that the complaint has been deemed inadmissible under By-law 2.
Once a complaint is deemed admissible, it is forwarded to the Council’s mediation service. Mediation is a process for informal resolution of a complaint.
If the complaint is not resolved by mediation, it is forwarded to the journalist and media entity involved along with a Statement of Complaint, to which they are invited to respond within 20 days, giving their versions of the facts. That response is then forwarded to you, the complainant, for you to comment on, also within a 20-day deadline. At the request of one of the parties, the General Secretariat of the Press Council may extend the time limit to not more than 40 days.
Once all information has been gathered, the case file is submitted to the Complaints Committee for review and a decision. This Committee has a rotating membership made up of six members of the Press Council’s Board of Directors, representing the public, media entities and journalists.
The decision is first transmitted to the parties involved and then made public, in a news release and on the Council’s website. If the Council finds in favour of the complainant, the respondent media entity has a moral obligation to publish or broadcast the Council’s decision.
Because of the high volume of complaints that the Council receives, it usually takes more than a year for a decision to be rendered.
5. Contesting a decision
A decision of the Complaints Committee can be appealed to the Appeals Committee, which may uphold or overrule it in whole or in part. In any event, it will render the appropriate decision. It will not, however, substitute its own appraisal of the facts for that of the Complaints Committee, unless there has been a substantive error.
The appeal must be submitted online within 30 days after the decision is transmitted. The Council requires a clear and succinct statement of the grounds for the appeal. That statement must not contain any new matter of complaint and must pertain to the matters raised in the initial proceedings. The appeal cannot be merely a comment on or general criticism of the decision. The decisions of the Appeals Committee are final.
If these criteria are not complied with, the Appeals Committee may deem the appeal inadmissible from the outset.