TORONTO, Nov. 1, 2016 /CNW/ - The surreptitious monitoring by police of the mobile phone of La Presse columnist Patrick Lagacé is a severe violation of press freedom in Canada, a coalition of Canadian journalism unions and industry groups says. "A free press relies on journalists being able to meet and speak freely with sources on the issues of the day," said Carmel Smyth, President of the Canadian Media Guild. "By targeting some journalists' phones to identify those sources, police are putting a chill on people talking to reporters." For several months earlier this year, Montreal police monitored Lagacé's iPhone to determine his whereabouts and who he was talking to and texting with. The information could be used to determine Lagacé's sources on stories he wrote critical of police, and to attempt to intimidate journalists as well as their sources. "This is an unjustifiable intrusion on Lagacé's privacy, amounting to state-sanctioned spying on a journalist based on the mere possibility of wrong doing by the reporter's sources," said Howard Law, Unifor Director, Media Sector. "A free press is essential to a functioning democracy. For police to target journalists and their sources in this way not only makes it difficult for reporters to do their essential work, but damages our democracy." "We are calling on the SPVM and all police forces to stop this dangerous practice. We are also asking governments across Canada to speak up publicly against this alarming development in our democracy and to adapt their policies and laws to better protect sources and the freedom of the press," said Pascale St-Onge, President of the Fédération nationale des communications (FNC-CSN). The Canadian Media Guild is the country's media-only union. We represent 6,000 media workers across Canada and defend quality journalism.