Who took the photo (above) on the CBC website of convicted would-be assassin Jaspal Atwal with Sophie Grégoire Trudeau?
And why should the public even care?
More on that in a moment, but first, some background.
Last week, Conservative MPs held an overnight filibuster designed to keep attention on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's recent trip to India.
The 21-hour sitting reportedly included nearly 260 confidence votes. This all came in response to the Liberal majority preventing Trudeau's national security adviser from testifying before a House committee.
This adviser, Daniel Jean, reportedly told Canadian journalists in India that factions within the Indian government might have played a role in Atwal's name appearing on the guest list at an event with the Trudeaus at the Canadian High Commission in Delhi.
According to Jean, the goal was nothing less than sabotaging Trudeau's trip.
Conservative MPs say that if Jean can give a briefing to reporters, he can surely speak to a Commons committee.
But the Liberals won't even allow Jean to speak for a half hour to the Public Safety and National Security Committee.
In the meantime, the Canadian public still has no idea who took the photo of Sophie Grégoire Trudeau with Atwal, who was convicted of attempted murder in an attack on visiting Punjab cabinet minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu.
The mystery continues even though this one photograph has likely contributed to the Liberal party's significant slide in opinion polls.
Canadians also have no idea how this image ended up in the hands of the media.
On the CBC website, the photo credit simply says "Name withheld by request."
Was the photo made available by Atwal or Indian consular officials? If so, that could give credence to theories that Indian government officials might have had a hand in its dissemination.
That's the belief of many in the Sikh community.
Conversely, if the photo was made available by someone within the Liberal entourage who was appalled by Atwal's presence, that would provide a different explanation.
The national media have tended to pooh-pooh the involvement of the Indian government in all of this.
Normally, the name of a photographer who takes pictures for a news story is not important.
But in this instance—with even a hint that the Indian government or rogue elements within it were trying to undermine the Canadian government—it takes on special significance.
The identity of this anonymous shutterbug could unlock a key aspect of this mystery.
Judging from the Liberals' fall in the polls, this story has the potential to influence the outcome of the next Canadian election.
That, in turn, could have an impact on how the Canadian government addresses a range of crucial issues, including climate change, in the years to come.
I have a hunch that the Prime Minister's Office knows who took the photo.
That's because Sophie Grégoire Trudeau would be closely monitored by Canadian security officials at any overseas event.
At the same time, intelligence officials can't just spy on journalists willy-nilly, given the constitutional protection accorded the media under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Montreal police recently found themselves mired in scandal for snooping on reporters, which was one of several factors leading to the replacement of the police chief.
If Canadian security officials were tracking who was feeding information to Canadian journalists, this would open up a whole new can of worms for the government.
So there's a stalemate.
Jean won't testify to explain how he came to the conclusion that the Indian government or elements within it wanted to smear Trudeau. And CBC won't reveal how it received the photo or who took it.
Meanwhile, a significant portion of the Sikh community in Canada feels that once again, it's being tarnished by the Indian government.
CBC Journalistic Standards and Practice lay out the rules
There is a way out of this maze for those, like me, who wonder who snapped the image of Atwal with Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and who shared it with the media. And it might not require the appearance of the national security adviser before a House committee.
CBC Journalistic Standards and Practices offers clear language around the protection of sources and granting confidentiality.
Does the withholding of the photographer's name meet the public broadcaster's criteria in this regard?
To provide some background, I've reproduced below what the CBC website says about granting confidentiality:
Our ability to protect sources allows people with important information to come forward and expose matters of public interest. If we do not properly protect our confidential sources, potential sources will not trust us. This compromises our ability to expose abuses of power.
We offer protection to sources based on such factors as: the potential impact and importance of the information on the lives of Canadians and its potential influence on public policy.
We also consider the extent of personal or professional hardship and possible danger the source may face if his/her identity becomes known.
We must make every effort to establish the source’s credibility and find means to corroborate the information.
Once we have undertaken to protect a source, we ensure no details that could lead to identification are used on air. We are careful in the use of research material. We use the best technical tools to hide an identity for broadcast.
Whenever anonymity is granted, both the journalist and the source must be fully aware that this commitment extends to CBC as well, and is not merely limited to the journalist granting it.
There may be legal implications in granting protection. Journalists should be familiar with relevant regulation or seek legal guidance.
Before a confidential source is used in a story or a story is published based on the information provided, the managing editor must be told who the source is, and what the agreement entails.
Disclosure of sources within the journalistic line of responsibility should not be confused with public disclosure of sources.
Seniority of required approvals will depend upon the scope and scale of the story and its potential impact on people or institutions.
Three points stand out for me in the passage above:
1. We also consider the extent of personal or professional hardship and possible danger the source may face if his/her identity becomes known.
2. Before a confidential source is used in a story or a story is published based on the information provided, the managing editor must be told who the source is, and what the agreement entails.
3. Seniority of required approvals will depend upon the scope and scale of the story and its potential impact on people or institutions.
It's open to anyone to file a complaint to CBC Ombudsman Esther Enkin if they don't feel that CBC was justified in withholding the name of the photographer.
As a former executive editor of CBC News, Enkin is as familiar as anyone with CBC Journalistic Standards and Practices.
All anyone has to do is drop her a line and ask if CBC News staff and managers fulfilled their obligations under the rules in granting anonymity to whoever took the photo of Atwal.
Here are four questions that could be asked of her:
1. Did CBC consider the extent of personal or professional hardship and possible danger to the source when the photographer was granted confidentiality?
2. Was the managing editor informed of the source's identity?
3. Did senior CBC officials consider the scope and scale of the story and its potential impact on institutions?
4. And if these rules were broken, will she recommend that CBC News add a proper photo credit to its online story so the Canadian public can learn the identity of the photographer?
It shouldn't be too difficult for Enkin to conduct such an investigation. And if she does her work diligently, she might even deliver an answer before voters go to the polls in the next federal election.