Canadian media refuses to attend Press Freedom scrum after Liberal minister denies access to two conservative journalists
In a rare moment of media solidarity, Canadian news outlets threatened to boycott a press conference with Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland at the Global Conference for Media Freedom: London 2019 after the only two conservative journalists present were denied access to the scrum.
According to several accounts, reporters Andrew Lawton from True North, and Sheila Gunn Reid from The Rebel, were the only two Canadians barred from a media availability event with Minister Freeland.
In what caused a wave of outrage Wednesday evening, former Conservative Party candidate Cyara Bird tweeted that Natalie, her 17-year-old cousin, had been suspended from school for having “rejected the idea” of wearing a rainbow poppy instead of the traditional red-and-black one at their school’s Remembrance Day ceremony.
The Post Millennial reported on the initial claims, reaching out to the Interlake School Board and Stonewall Collegiate, Natalie’s school, for comment on the matter. While both declined to provide comment on the suspension, the Interlake School Board posted a poorly-received clarification to their Twitter account which stated that no students had been mandated to wear a rainbow poppy.
As the situation developed, The Post Millennial published a subsequent article featuring a statement from Natalie with additional details that clarified the situation. Rather than having been suspended for rejecting the poppy during choir practice as Bird’s initial tweet read, Natalie outlined that she had been suspended for “rejecting the idea” of the rainbow poppy replacing the red-and-black poppy, plastering posters in her school which included criticisms of the rainbow poppy symbol. Natalie’s father also confirmed that she had in fact been suspended until after the Remembrance Day holiday.
On November 8th, Cyara Bird issued a statement on her Twitter addressing the viral fallout from the coverage of her initial tweets. Apologizing that her “words were misconstrued,” Bird goes on to reiterate earlier sentiments she had made on her Twitter about her support for the LGBT community and veterans.
Bird had put her social media accounts on private early this morning after facing a barrage of criticism and abuse for her initial tweets on her cousin’s suspension.
The Post Millennial reached out to Bird for comment, but Bird stated that she would not be discussing the matter further.
EXTRA, EXTRA: Reporter evokes Old Testament, asks Scheer if homosexuality a sin, belabouring non-issue
Politics in Canada and media’s coverage of it bear little resemblance to the real-world street these days, and Parliament Hill is a great example of this troubling and widening divide.
On Wednesday, rookie and returning Conservative MPs who voters sent to Ottawa gathered with senators for a caucus at West Block to discuss the federal party’s future and its leadership in the aftermath of a losing, Liberal minority government finish on Oct. 21.
Under the shadow of petroleum icon EnCana’s HQ exodus last week to Denver, Colorado, a nationalized $4.5 billion “leaky pipeline” that cannot get twinned, soured relations with China and uncertain USMCA trade deal ratification stateside, some reporters remained fixated by embattled party leader Andrew Scheer’s position on gay sex.
I use the term “gay sex”, because one reporter’s combative entrée and followup question during Scheer’s scrum, after he survived his first leadership test at caucus, was phrased in rather Biblical terms: “Do you believe that being gay is a sin?”
And the reporter did not stop:
This line of questioning is inspired by a facile notion that if Scheer won’t march in a Pride parade, which he hasn’t, then the public is left with no other option than to believe the Conservative leader would roll back LGBT rights to the Age of Antiquity.
As Scheer attempted to reiterate his party’s inclusiveness–something he’s repeated ad nauseam since longtime Liberal minister Ralph Goodale (defeated this election) tweeted a 15-year-old speech against gay marriage Scheer made as a backbencher –the reporter interjected:
“But you’re not giving your personal opinion,” demanding that he come clean.
Scheer: “My personal opinion is that I respect the rights of every single Canadian… and to always fight for the rights of every single Canadian, including the LGBT community.”
Goodale’s August 22nd Tweet, boosted a day later by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Svengali of divisiveness, Gerald Butts (no longer available on Twitter), triggered media who in the moment, conveniently forgot that like Scheer, and on two occasions himself Goodale also voted against the notion of same sex unions in the Commons.
Goodale’s bit of craven hypocrisy was ably noted by National Post‘s Chris Selley in the same 24-hour news cycle, but the media remained hellbent on the subject, pestering Scheer about it prior to the official election period and throughout, tossing in abortion too because why not – all Christians hate that, too, right?
Even the U.S. Democratic Party took a similar anti-gay marriage position up until the end of President Barack Obama’s second term in 2012.
But besides the mainstream media’s selective application of its religiosity matrix that lit the firestorm over Scheer and Pride, America’s first black POTUS’ endorsement of Trudeau in the 11th-hour of a campaign blighted by #TrudeauBlackface was ironic in itself, on top of a gleeful reception of it by Butts and Co.
On the matter of Old Testament crime and punishment, affixing it Scheer’s Christianity and employing conjecture that he would impose “God’s law” on Canadians were he ever PM, it’s worth taking some time to unpack this to understand the level of cockamamie logic it took to arrive at such an idea.
So come on a journey back through time to a relatively lawless period about 1,000 years after the invention of soap, and some 3,100 years before the discovery of penicillin, when Genesis was written.
Interpretations differ on what actually happened between Noah and his son Ham in the Old Testament’s first chapter, when God populates the Earth, gives humans free will, then gets very angry when they misbehave.
Some believe Ham sodomized his father, others insist Noah walked in on Ham railing one of Noah’s wives.
Regardless, Ham’s fate for his transgression leaves his son Canaan “cursed”; his descendants known as Canaanites are enslaved by the Israelites, who later murder them all after God commanded the children of Ham be annihilated.
Harsh punishment indeed, and similar incidents pepper the Bible for all types of sexual sinning including God’s destruction of the twin dens of iniquity, Sodom and Gomorrah. Leviticus edicts set down around the 6th century BCE–Babylonian times–have been interpreted as injunctions on incest and homosexuality; citations later weaponized by the Church to persecute gays well into the 20th century.
Though the issue of gay marriage rights in Canada is settled in law, and has been since 2005 when we became the first country outside of Europe to legalize such unions, a largely esoteric debate about Old Testament scripture and “God’s word” on homosexuality continues in theological circles and online forums.
But by and large, anti-gay interpretations profited by those clamouring for the gay marriage law to be reversed, have largely been reduced to fringe views in wider Canadian society.
Unfortunately, outside the castle walls of places like Canada in which hate crimes are pursued and prosecuted, the body count continues to rise for scores of unwitting LGBT victims of Islamic State, Iran, Putin’s Russia and myriad global backwaters where life is cheap and human rights codes, non-existent.
The 20th century is littered with state sanctioned and monitored behaviour regimes, ideological impositions–religious or irreligious–that ended with the murder of millions in places like China, where this very moment the regime rounds up Uiyger Muslim men for re-education camps, Uiyger women left to be raped by the local Chinese.
These parallel applications of guilt-by-association or non-association, in the extreme–and that’s what we’re talking about here, the extreme application of ideology whatever that happens to be–are reduced to trifling footnotes whenever next year’s pride roll call is taken by some of the more militant Pride committees.
While Scheer’s attendance at such an event is demanded to prove his “solidarity” with LGBT, conversely some Pride organizers prevent community police officers from marching in solidarity, or put caveats on their attire; either anathema to the original Pride mantra of inclusiveness and love, regrettably lost as well in this fog of cognitive dissonance.
It’s so predictable in a way, and even used as comedic device in a 1990s Seinfeld episode, where Kramer’s attendance at an NYC March for AIDS is insufficient and he’s beset upon to “wear the ribbon”.
But these contradictions never seem to bother reporters too much, except when the aim is to smear, as Vice magazine did when it “outed” then-Conservative Foreign Affairs Minister John “Rusty” Baird in 2013.
In this abject bit of gibberish–Is Canada Run by a Gay Mafia?–the author remains seemingly oblivious to the fact that if Baird is gay, he likely wanted it kept a secret whilst travelling to commit statecraft in backwaters that still handed out cruel and unusual punishment for homosexuality.
If you can stomach the snark, it is insightful reading for a taste of the mainstream’s paragon of virtue mindset, considering that outside of Western and westernized nations, it’s a hard time whatsoever finding a Pride event, let alone getting any sort of LGBT rights, particularly in the Old Testament’s cradle.
Unless of course, you happen to reside in modern day Jerusalem for example.
In the Holy Land and not far from Jerusalem Pride, LGBT rights are pretty much non-existent. The political strife in Egypt has seen LGBT there harassed and arrested, Syria is in ruin following civil war and Islamic State infestation, and in nearby Ramallah or Gaza Strip, forget about it.
Asylum seeker John Calvin–a Christian convert and grandson of Palestinian terror group Hamas’ co-founder–told CNN in 2015 as much, before his asylum claim was denied by Canadian authorities and Calvin sought refuge in New York City.
Yet Scheer’s Pride avoidance–perhaps a national record of some kind, like his claim he won the “strongest majority government in Canada’s history” in #elxn43–remains a constant source of aggravation for members of the press gallery, despite plenty of issues arguably more worthy of asking Opposition members’ to opine upon.
Our country is on the brink of total Balkanization. There is no doubt about that. It’s spurred by separatist sentiments in the West, a resurgence of separatists Bloc Québecois and Indigenous leaders, like Treaty 8 chiefs caught in the middle who are speaking out. The situation only becomes more contentious with Bloc MPs holding a go-to power balance in the Commons.
When this East-West divide couldn’t get any worse, we remain a doormat for illegal migrants making bogus asylum claims that further burden an already overloaded immigration system.
Given this totally unnecessary, quasi-domestic/foreign affairs baggage and presented with former Immigration critic for Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, Calgary Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel, media still required a few minutes from her to opine on Scheer’s Pride no-shows.
Here is a two-minute exchange on the issue that occurred during Conservatives’ Wednesday confab, when MPs slip out to fill news slots and talk politics without divulging any specifics about ongoing caucus deliberations. In this context, without anything else to talk about, reporters were primed and so was Rempel.
But how many will pay any mind or attention to other aspects of Rempel’s response–a laundry list of real discrimination LGBT folks in Canada still face and how her party is committed to addressing them.
For G.T. Lem–who bills himself on Twitter as “1 Source For Videos That Cut Through The Right-Wing Noise & Counters The Anti-Liberal Bias Narrative With FACTS”–his takeaway is that Rempel “DEFENDS” Scheer’s choice, while downplaying her (rather accurate) description of what’s become a “symbolic” political litmus test.
Forget that there are LGBT people who do not go to Pride, for whatever reason and non-LGBT folks, who love it. Having freedom of choice and rights also means the right not to participate or being kowtowed to do so, but if you’re Scheer or anyone who takes a position contrary to supposed mainstream progressivism, then look out.
If you had just arrived from another planet, or were transported by time machine from Ancient Babylon, you’d probably think the entirety of Planet Earth had gone mad; mankind’s inhabitants anyways, or as Trudeau calls us: Peoplekind.
Whatever the collective mental state of the nation, CBC’s Rosemary Barton is also under the spell of Scheer’s take on LGBT rights and took to Twitter to punctuate his response to the low-rent ‘is being gay a sin’ query.
And so the inordinate amount of time spent on Scheer’s Pride record, apparent harbinger for low information voters and media types who believe a Conservative Scheer government would quash all and sunder rights for our LGBT neighbours, friends and colleagues. Nobody credible seriously believes this garbage, yet media remain transfixed it’s a totally real possibility and one the day’s most pressing issue.
Unfortunately, or fortunately–depending on one’s political persuasion or adherence to social mores–the Q&A moment about alleged gay sinners competed against what was perhaps Scheer’s finest stump speech hour, given in fewer than seven minutes to reporters, and seven weeks too late.
With a nod to “a frank discussion (in caucus) about the last election campaign”, acknowledging his disappointment and desire “to get it right the next time”, Scheer launched into a rebuke of Trudeau that rings as true today, as it was when the campaign began on September 11.
“The sad truth is, Trudeau has left this country more divided than ever before,” said Scheer. “Picking fights with premiers, pitting region against region, Trudeau has set the stage for a national unity crisis… this is Trudeau’s mess but Conservatives are here to clear it up.
Though it’s never too late for Scheer to attend one of Canada’s smorgasbord of annual Pride events, even in a far flung place like Inuvik, Northwest Territories, for Conservatives’ governing fortunes, their leader’s newfound gumption isn’t going to re-order the planets or turn back the clock to August 22.
That’s when Scheer and his advisors should have hit this head on. But they didn’t and here we are in this parallel universe of litmus tests and virtue signalling, heading into the 44th federal government frame, a minority government no less, as serious national challenges boil in realpolitik, both domestic and foreign.
After his caucus voted down a change to the party’s constitution enabling it to toss their captain–a mandate that still remains within party’s membership purview–Scheer emerged swinging for the fences promising to restore “ethics and accountability” and getting “the energy sector back to work.”
As Trudeau spent the last few days at his favourite surfing spot in Tofino, B.C., home of Pacific Rim National Park, Scheer demanded the PM return to Ottawa and blasted our G7 surfer dude for “stok(ing) the revival of the separatist Bloc Quebecois and has sown the seeds of disunity in the West”.
“These are pressing issues of national importance that need to be addressed so I am calling on Justin Trudeau to reconvene Parliament as soon as possible, to do so.”
So will Canadian voters give Scheer a second chance and will media extract the same pound of flesh from Trudeau for his perceived shortcomings? That remains to be seen. Conservative Party members will have the first say anyways, at a mandatory leadership review set for their April convention next year.
As for Trudeau, his immediate future will depend on the confidence of the House, pretty much a sure-thing given he can tack right or left for support without having to compromise with Conservatives.
And as for Scheer and the LGBT issue, stay tuned for Pride Month June 2020, if he even lasts that long. In the interim, Scheer said that Baird has been tapped to conduct “a thorough and external review of the campaign”.
It takes only a cursory examination of our tumultuous human history to appreciate that periods of liberty—when individual citizens are largely free to speak, think, believe and act as they choose—are vanishingly rare and must be jealously guarded. In the span of three days last week, incidents in Toronto and Vancouver demonstrated that shockingly few people seem to understand this, and fewer still actually care.
Both incidents involved radical feminist Meghan Murphy, who had speaking engagements booked at the Toronto Public Library and Simon Fraser University (SFU) in B.C. on the topic of sex-based rights and their apparent conflict with gender identity.
The first event went ahead despite petitions, protests, threats to the library of ex-communication from PRIDE events, and even denunciation by the Mayor of Toronto. But for the fortitude of Chief Librarian Vickery Bowles, who described freedom of expression as “a hill to die on,” the mob would have had its way: the event would have been cancelled.
Indeed, the second event was scrubbed from its initial venue at SFU, due to threats of violence and disruption from so-called “activist” groups. Had the organizers not managed to find a last-minute replacement location, the heckler’s veto would have won the day.
Most thoughtful people would agree that a conflict of rights between two groups should be sorted out in a rational and fair manner, and that the best way to do that is by undertaking a thorough examination and discussion of the issues, which includes hearing and listening to the other side. But intolerant mobs have instead decided that anything Meghan Murphy or her following says, or might say in the future, is unquestionably “hate” speech that must be stopped at all costs.
This is not new a new phenomenon in our times. Any speaker whose ideological outlook doesn’t conform to that of the mobs will face attempts to deplatform them. Recently in Vancouver, the University of British Columbia Free Speech Club attempted to bring two “politically incorrect” speakers to campus, but was thwarted by high security fees after UBC determined there would likely be damaging protests. The event was moved to the local Hellenic Centre, which then faced online harassment and bullying from groups such as the “Revolutionary Student Movement” and the “Revolutionary Communists.” Death threats were made to the organizer of the event and a police presence was required to ensure it could proceed.
As anthropology professor Mark Collard, one of the organizers of the cancelled SFU event, told me, “In 300,000 years, humans have only managed to discover two ways of dealing with political disputes: conversation and democracy, or violence.”
If the mobs get their way, there will be no conversation. But if we can’t have a conversation, we are left with violence or threats of violence. In Toronto, baying crowds numbering in the hundreds lined the walkway where the much smaller group of mainly women exited the building after Ms. Murphy’s talk. As though channelling medieval witch-burners, they chanted, “walk of shame, walk of shame.” At least one called for their deaths, expressing the wish that they would “bleed out.”
Just three days later, under threats of violence from mobs in Vancouver, Professor Collard withdrew his support for Ms. Murphy’s event at the Harbour Centre on SFU’s downtown campus. Having been advised by SFU’s security chief that the risk of violence ranked “11 on a scale of 1 to 10”, he was told to choose between freedom of speech, which he considers of utmost importance, and the safety of attendees.
It is difficult for any group or individual to find a platform if they dissent from the increasingly narrow range of acceptable speech. Who gets to speak and what they say is being decided by modern-day Brownshirts, some of whom have already demonstrated that they have lost their grip on basic human decency by beating journalists and shouting down little old ladies with walkers.
Nearly 100 years ago, a newly-formed extremist group in Munich—including a large number of students and young middle-class professionals—started patrolling the streets and disrupting the meetings and speeches of those they disagreed with. Daniel Siemens’ book Stormtroopers: A New History of Hitler’s Brownshirts describes how the movement grew to include bloody street battles between fascists and communists, which the fledgling German democracy proved unable to control, accelerating the erosion of the free and democratic society and paving the way for Hitler’s rise.
There is no question that ordinary people can easily be swept up in political violence, believing themselves to be on the side of right. But the inevitable result is to ensure the demise of a civil and free society unless the adults among us who value our freedoms start taking a stand.
Sadly, the “adults” are doing a shockingly poor job at even grasping the issue. It wasn’t just the mob outside the library that the fearless Ms. Bowles had to withstand. The pressure came too from mainstream media like the CBC, as well as the Mayor and Toronto city councillors who challenged her stance. The Council appallingly voted 20-1 to review the Toronto Public Library’s policies on the use of community spaces. The message has been delivered that city politicians would be quite happy to see unpopular opinions censored.
For civil society and liberty to survive, institutions like governments, courts, universities and libraries need to take seriously their commitment to the fundamental freedoms of Canadians and stop enabling the mobs by tacitly endorsing their tactics.
Universities should make it clear that freedom of expression and academic freedom are non-negotiable. If security fees are to be charged at all, the invoice should be rendered to those who threaten violence or the disruption of events, and universities should file formal complaints with police about criminal behaviour. Demanding such fees from event organizers, who are doing nothing wrong by exercising their free expression rights, is grossly unfair.
Those who host or organize events need to hold fast and find some backbone. Backing down under vague threats of potential violence is ceding control of the discourse to the heckler and the mob. The SFU event should have proceeded as planned, and any disrupters dealt with firmly and immediately, using legal tools that are readily available.
Police need to ensure the safety of people attending events, as they did at the Murphy event in Vancouver at the replacement location. While protestors have every right to stand outside and peacefully demonstrate (even with cardboard guillotines as they did outside the Vancouver event), violence and threats of violence need to be taken seriously and dealt with by police. Violence needs to be met with criminal charges and a firm message from the courts: mess with our liberty at your peril.
And ordinary citizens, too, need to step up before this country becomes toxic and unlivable, with people speaking their opinions only in hushed whispers around their kitchen tables. We expect our public institutions to uphold our Charter freedoms, but we should all be standing up for the free exchange of ideas.
In 1867 the British philosopher and political theorist John Stuart Mill delivered an inaugural address at the University of St. Andrews:
Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.
Future historians may decry our times as the turning point when Lady Liberty laid down her torch and gave up the fight; or, they may proclaim it as the time when our free and democratic order was defended by ordinary people standing up to the mobs and declaring, “Enough!”
Lisa Bildy is an Ontario-based lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. Her Twitter handle is @LDBildy.
In a newly released clip taken during the protests outside of Saturday’s GIDYVR debate featuring Jon Kay, Meghan Murphy, and myself, professional anti-bigotry activist Amanda Jabbour is seen racially abusing an interracial couple.
“Is that your mail-order bride?” Jabbour is seen repeatedly pointing at the Asian partner of the attendee, before asking “How much? How much did you pay?”
Jabbour, who identified herself to Press for Truth reporter Dan Dicks in a separate video as representing the PACE society with colleagues at the protest, is also seen yelling at and following the police officers protecting the entrance of the Pan Pacific Hotel, stating “your only purpose is oppressing people” and demanding to be allowed inside the private venue, where the debate was taking place in the conference room.
In Dicks’ video, Jabbour is also seen confronting an unidentified cameraperson. Jabbour aggressively approaches the woman, goading “next time you kick me, it better be f*cking hard, b*tch!” Jabbour had tripped over the camera person’s leg moments prior. Jabbour then attempts to lick the woman’s camera before rushing back to Dicks and holding her hand over his filming cell phone. Both journalists are also targeted by Jabbour blowing cigarette smoke at them.
Jabbour is listed as the Occupational Health and Safety Facilitator for the PACE Society, a charity focused on de-stigmatizing sex work and supporting sex workers. Jabbour is also the founder of Sault Ste. Marie Sex Workers’ Rights.
PACE Society’s most recently published annual report states the 62% of their funding is provided by the government, with the City of Vancouver and the Province of British Columbia appearing to provide the majority of the support. While this information is not provided in any subsequent reports, the 2015 annual report stated that 82% of PACE’s funding was spent on salaries for staff.
The Post Millennial reached out to Jabbour via the PACE Society, but PACE instead offered an email where “comments or concerns” could be sent. When clarification was sought on whether or not a comment would be given, PACE hung up, and subsequent calls were not answered.