Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts


Media Studies


Dr. Jacquie Burkell

2nd Supervisor

Dr. Pam McKenzie



In January 2014, the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that Canada’s foreign intelligence agency CSEC was engaging in warrantless electronic surveillance of Canadians by monitoring communications metadata. Prior to these disclosures Canadians knew very little about metadata and about how the CSEC used information technology to collect electronic intelligence. Media outlets such as newspapers are important sources through which Canadians learn about issues such as warrantless surveillance of citizens. However, to date no research analyzes how Canada’s warrantless domestic collection of metadata has been represented in the Canadian new media. This thesis addresses this gap by analyzing the representation of the Canadian government’s warrantless domestic collection of metadata in three Canadian news publications, the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and the National Post, from January 2013 to December 2016. This project performs a qualitative and quantitative content analysis of 91 articles on this topic.

The following factors were studied: how the CSEC and the OPC define metadata, how the stories define metadata, the topics observed in the introductory paragraphs of the articles, and how the topics develop over time. The study found a highly significant relationship between the year that the articles were published and the topics that were observed in the introductory paragraphs of the stories. Furthermore, across all news publications there was a fairly even distribution of articles that define metadata by including either the CSEC’s or the OPC’s definition of the term. This means that if Canadians learned about this issue by reading any of the three news publications, they would develop a range of perspectives of how metadata is defined. In addition, if Canadians only read the introductory paragraphs of the articles in any of the three publications they would be equally informed about how the coverage on this issue changes over time.