Media freedom under Trudeau’s Liberals is worse than ever
According to Reporters Without Borders’ 2019 World Press Freedom Index, Canada has fallen to 18th in the world in terms of media freedom, well below Jamaica and even Costa Rica. We were 8th in the world in 2013. Such a decline in integrity signifies a major shift in our government’s position on freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and their overall approach to, and growing acceptance of, censorship.
As Reporters Without Borders explains, “Despite recent positive steps, like the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry to investigate Quebec police surveillance of multiple journalists, and the adoption of a federal press “shield law” to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources, his [Justin Trudeau’s] first two years in office have been an overall disappointment.”
Censorship began as early January 9 this year when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police set up roadblocks to prevent media outlets from documenting a protest over a gas pipeline’s construction. Such stifling government tactics continued throughout the year, with whistleblowers and journalists’ informants being forcibly exposed.
Earlier this month, we saw another instance of ongoing censorship, related to the Liberal government, when True North Media’s Andrew Lawton had his promised question period reassigned to the more mainstream CTV, effectively blocking him. The telling and ironic aspect of this otherwise small betrayal was that it occurred at the first-ever Global Conference for Media Freedom.
On a positive note, the process of repealing Bill C-51, which greatly broadened the scope of government access to private information, has begun. However, it doesn’t look like the process will be complete before the 2019 elections. Furthermore, it is still being used to justify and conduct spying, both domestically and abroad.
The digital landscape is also a point of contention on the topic of media freedom, particularly the growing role of Twitter in political discourse.
In particular, we saw Twitter go after political dissent aimed at Justin Trudeau with the hashtag #TrudeauMustGo that was trending on July 19. Mainstream sources were quick to complain, calling the tweets a result of bots, which then prompted Twitter to remove them.
Only they weren’t bots. Following mass flagging and removal, #NotaBot quickly replaced the #TrudeauMustGo tweets, showing the bots claim was unfounded and just an excuse to curtail dissent.
While some may see the hashtags as just a bit of juvenile fun being squashed, they still qualify as legitimate criticism or at least an expression of discontent, both of which will be important in the upcoming election.
In an interview with the CBC on June 26, Michele Austin, head of government and public policy for Twitter Canada, clarified Twitter’s role, explaining that all political advertisements will be banned on the platform until official campaigning begins.
The meddling representative of the foreign tech giant then went on to address concerns over potential foreign meddling.
“There has been a great concern for Canadians with regard to foreign interference,” Austin told CBC. “We’ll be taking a look at what country various tweets have originated in, if they are Canadian, if they are off-site, and making sure that we understand the context of what’s happening during the campaign and that users have a really positive experience in terms of having an authentic conversation full of information, which is one of the reasons why they come to Twitter.”
Who is to decide what constitutes an “authentic conversation”, though? Ridicule of a position is even more effective than serious debate if the position falls apart under minor scrutiny, positive or not. However, such ridicule will likely be censored, leaving only a deceptively positive impression for spectators of otherwise ridiculous or harmful positions.
This is obviously the case given Twitter’s recent feature announcement that they want to “test” on Canada only 3 months before our election.
In a tweet from Twitter Canada, they write, “You asked for more control over your conversations, so starting next week we’re testing a new feature in Canada that will let you hide replies to your Tweets.” They then added, “For transparency, viewers everywhere can see hidden replies by going to a new icon or the dropdown menu.”
As one can imagine, there were many hidden replies for this announcement.
What this means is that all negative criticism can now be hidden at the touch of a button, with users having to jump through hoops if they want to see what people actually think about a given position or statement, rather than the purely positive, manufactured façade.
“By testing in one country we want to get feedback and better understand how this tool can improve before it’s available globally,” added Senior Product Manager Michelle Yasmeen Haq and Product Designer Brittany Forks on a blog post.
The decision to test an inherently censorious feature on only one country, specifically before our election, is highly suspicious. It makes no sense to limit your total sample size when money and analytics software are not issues. If you are genuinely looking for feedback on a new feature, why wouldn’t you try to collect from the most diverse sample you can get by sampling in multiple countries at the same time? If it doesn’t work out, just roll the feature back.
In a separate interview with CBC, Austin commented on this speculation, saying, “Canada has a deep and diverse conversation on Twitter. It’s a little bit different than other countries because Canada has a very multicultural background.”
However, while Canada is diverse, our politics are not. Much like the US, we essentially have two parties to choose from, the NDP hasn’t won in decades, and both countries’ main parties hold either centre-right or centre-left positions. Furthermore, it is arguable, given the high levels of immigration, that the US is just as culturally diverse, not to mention their much larger population to sample and that they are the host country for Twitter’s headquarters.
Given the rise of populist right-wing candidates around the world, who thrive on pointing out hypocrisies and mocking weak positions, as well as Twitter’s liberal bias and history of censoring conservative voices, it seems too coincidental that this feature is being tested during an election season that falls only a year before the 2020 American elections and Donald Trump’s second run for presidency.
Thus, it appears that Twitter wants to see how effective total control over someone’s online image is and if it has a quantitative effect on voting patterns, before implementing it in other countries, specifically the US.
While some Conservative Senators have spoken out against this new feature, it has received little media scrutiny since its announcement, and I could not find any words of condemnation or opposition from our Prime Minister. As such, it is likely that media censorship will only increase this election season, with tech giants playing a more active role in what is and is not seen online.
A man was caught on camera stealing a package from a home in Ingersoll, Ont., on Monday. The thief could be seen on the home’s surveillance camera.
The Ontario Provincial Police are telling homeowners to keep an eye out for other “porch pirates” after the incident.
The Oxford OPP have said that the home is located on Cross Street in Ingersoll. They posted the video on their twitter account on Tuesday.
The thief was last seen driving a white Chevrolet Cruze.
The suspect is described as a thin, brown-haired male in his 20s who is clean shaven and stands at about six feet tall. The man was also wearing white shoes with a dark Reebok hoodie and dark pants.
The OPP had no further information on the incident when The Post Millennial was in touch with them Wednesday.
One in four Canadians have fallen victim to “porch pirates” according to a survey recently taken by FedEx.
Police have recommended that anyone expecting a package be at home during the delivery if possible or alternatively have a friend or neighbor help with receiving it.
Another option is to request a signature or special delivery instructions if the company delivering your package has those options available. Police are asking anybody with any information on the Ingersoll incident to get in contact with them or with Crime Stoppers.
The Conservatives’ motion to establish a special committee to examine Canada’s worsening relations with China succeeded in the House of Commons Tuesday night after garnering support from the Bloc and New Democrats.
Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole’s motion won the vote 171-148, in the 43rd Parliament’s first division since convening on December 5.
While not a confidence vote against the minority Liberal government, O’Toole’s small victory will establish, as per his motion, “a special committee with the mandate to conduct hearings to examine and review all aspects of the Canada-China relationship including, but not limited to consular, economic, legal, security and diplomatic relations.”
During debate on O’Toole’s proposed Canada-China committee, Liberal MPs told the House such a configuration was unnecessary as the Commons foreign affairs committee could manage any examination of the ongoing, and deteriorating file.
The vote took place in the House of Commons on the same day, one year ago, when Canadians Micheal Spavor and Michael Kovrig were detained in China, where they remain behind bars without access to lawyers and facing espionage charges.
Their arrest is viewed as retaliation after Canada detained Chinese tech-giant Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant, while she was transiting through Vancouver International Airport.
As Spavor and Kovrig begin their second year in captivity in China, Liberals have faced questions about why, after the detentions and agriculture bans – beef and pork bans have been lifted by China, while its canola embargo remains – the government continues to back the Chinese-controlled Asian Infrastructure Bank with $256 million.
Overlaying this diplomatic entanglement is more Liberal dithering on a decision whether to allow Huawei 5G technology on our domestic telecommunications networks.
Citing serious national security concerns over the Chinese-controlled company, United States wants its ‘five eyes’ signals intelligence network allies – Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia – to ban Huawei from their respective domestic infrastructure.
Parliament’s nascent Canada-China relations committee will be comprised of six Liberal members, four from the Conservatives and one MP from the Bloc and NDP parties.
If Ontario’s government accepts all proposals tabled by High School teachers’ union, the province would have to spend more than $7 billion by 2021-2022, according to the Ford government.
“The reason why we publicize this, we believe, is it’s in taxpayers’ interests to know,” Education Minister Stephen Lecce said.
In response, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation(OSSTF) president Harvey Bischof has said the Ford government is inflating numbers by applying his members’ demands to the entire sector.
Currently, the Ford government has said its $7 billion projection is based on union demands such as cost-of-living adjustments to salaries and benefits, maintaining previous class sizes, as well as other costs.
The government has said it had to apply costs to the entire sector as benefits given to one education union would more than likely be given to others. For example, CUPE which has already signed a deal has a “me-too” clause around salaries, which allows the union to ask for increases if others in the industry get them.
While unions continue to ask for data to be presented on a case by case basis, the Ford government appears to dead-on putting forward industry level costs, with both hoping to increase the importance of their argument.
With negotiations ongoing, we’ll have to wait and see how the public alongside those involved react to the ongoing negotiations over teachers’ contracts, including both high school and elementary teachers.
Elementary teachers in Ontario’s English public schools have notably ramped up their own job action on Tuesday, by moving into a new phase of work-to-rule, were teachers would not plan field trips or distribute letters and memos.
New Jersey shooting: Investigation points toward targeted anti-Semitic attack, deceased names confirmed
One of the two suspects in the lengthy shoot out in Jersey City, New Jersey, previously wrote anti-Semitic and anti-police posts online and police investigators suspect these were the motivations for the attack on a kosher supermarket on Tuesday, according to The New York Times.
A police officer was one of the six left dead from the apparent hours-long terrorist attack. The 33-year-old wife, Leah Mindel Ferencz, of the store owner and 24-year-old Hersh Deutch were two innocent bystanders killed in the suspected hate crime attack. Authorities have not yet named the victims but news outlet BOROPARK24 has reported the aforementioned two Jewish victims, which The Post Millennial independently verified as two of the victims tragically killed in the attack. The two attackers were also killed in the attack, but their identities have not yet been released. The name of the fourth victim is still unreleased.
Deutch, a student, was at the store buying lunch with his cousin who works in real estate. His cousin saw him on the ground and ran to get help after he suffered also a gunshot wound.
“I’m 100% certain that this situation would have been far more tragic than what it already is. There is enough info to know this could have been far worse,” said Mayor of Jersey City Steven Fulop said on Twitter.
The mayor also addressed rumours that the two shooters were allegedly Muslim.
“[Jersey City] and I don’t want anyone jumping to conclusions that aren’t accurate. I want to be sure the Muslim community knows we are thankful they are here in JC,” said Fulop.
Police also discovered an ideologically-filled note from the assailants’ van, according to law enforcement officials that spoke to The New York Times.
According to Fulop, the attackers first shot a detective before slowly cruising towards the store where the subsequent firefight ensued.
“The perpetrators stopped in front of there and calmly opened the door with two long rifles,” Fulop said.
The police officer murdered was identified as Detective Joe Seals, a father of five working in law enforcement for 15 years.
Seals was shot when he approached the two suspects in a U-Haul van at a cemetery. For well over an hour gunfire could be heard from the neighbourhood where the standoff took place. Police found an active pipe bomb in the suspects’ U-Haul.