Most Canadians trust media, but a similar share worry about fake news being weaponized: survey – National


Nearly three-quarters of Canadians profess trust traditional media, but the same share admitted to be worried about false information, and fake news being weaponized, said a poll released by a global communications firm on Thursday.

The Edelman Trust Barometer found 71 per cent of Canadians saying they’re increasingly concerned about fake news, with the share of worried respondents having climbed six points from last year.

Some of this anxiety may come from a lack of understanding about what “fake news” really is, Edelman CEO Lisa Kimmel told Global News.

WATCH: Edelman Trust Barometer

“What it’s now evolved to, that term, is if people don’t like coverage by the media, then it’s coined as fake news. The president of the U.S., who anytime there’s negative coverage around him, just terms it and deems it fake news,” she said.

This share is on par with the rest of the world, as 73 per cent of respondents in the 27 countries surveyed by Edelman reported their concerns about the weaponization of “fake news.”

Anxiety about the future may be driving an increase in news engagement among Canadians.

WATCH: Trump says public ‘loves’ border patrol, but ‘fake news’ does not

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The share of Canadians who claimed to consume news every day was 42 per cent, up 11 points from 2018.

Meanwhile, the share of people who have disengaged from the news has fallen from 54 per cent to 33 per cent.

Traditional media may be seeing an uptick in trust — but the opposite is true of social media.

In every market surveyed — Europe, North America, Latin America, and the Asia Pacific, Middle East and African regions — social media was considered the least reliable source of information.

In the U.S. and Canada, social media commanded the trust of only 34 per cent of respondents.

Who do Canadians trust most? Their employers, apparently

“It’s not surprising, given the fact that fake news has been disseminated over social media, that social media is now the least trusted source for general news and information,” Kimmel explained.

However, it’s important to note that while trust in media rose in Edelman’s latest report, media organizations remained the least-trusted institutions among those polled in the survey.

In Canada, approximately 61 per cent of men and 53 per cent of women indicated that they trusted their media.

That was higher than the average of all 27 countries that were surveyed — there, 50 per cent of men reported trust in media, compared to 45 per cent of women.

See the full results of the poll here. 


Edelman conducted an online survey of over 33,000 people in 27 countries. 

The margin of error was considered three ways.

There was a “27-market global data margin of error” which showed a margin of 0.6 per cent among the general population, 1.3 per cent among respondents considered the “informed public” and of  0.8 per cent among a “global general online population.”

There was also a “market-specific data margin of error” of 2.9 per cent among the general population and 6.9 per cent among the informed public.

Finally, there was an “employee margin of error” of 0.8 per cent across 27 markets, and an additional “market-specific” margin of error of anywhere between 3.2 and 4.6 per cent.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Canadian accused of smuggling ‘enormous amount of drugs’ into China: state media – National


A Canadian citizen is set to be tried on drug charges in the Chinese port city of Dalian, Chinese state media reported amid already-heightened tensions between Beijing and Ottawa.

Global Times, a tabloid operated by the Communist Party of China, identified the suspect as Robert Lloyd Schellenberg.

Schellenberg was scheduled for an appeal hearing for Saturday, Dec. 29 after he was earlier found to have smuggled “an enormous amount of drugs” into China, according to, a news portal operated by Dalian authorities.

READ MORE: China won’t stop flood of fentanyl into Canada, sources say

The Dalian government news portal stated sarcastically that Schellenberg’s audacity was to be admired given that he “actually dared to smuggle drugs into China.” It pointed out that Chinese criminal law offers “no sympathy” for drug crimes.

Global News reached out to the Canadian government for comment, but a response was not forthcoming.

WATCH: Destination Canada pulls tourism ad in China

China has some of the harshest drug laws in the world.

People found guilty of smuggling large quantities of drugs face sentences ranging from 15 years’ imprisonment to life imprisonment and even the death penalty, the Global Times reported.

In 2009, China executed British citizen Akmal Shaikh after he was caught smuggling heroin. Shaikh’s death prompted outrage in the U.K. over the apparent lack of any mental health assessment.

The following year, Chinese authorities executed Japanese national Mitsunobu Akano for smuggling drugs.

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau says people around the world ‘extremely disturbed’ by detention of Canadians in China

Schellenberg’s reported detention comes as Canada and China spar over the fate of Canadian nationals Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who were detained in China on suspicion of endangering national security.

Their detention came shortly after Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Chinese tech giant Huawei, in Vancouver at the behest of U.S. authorities who are seeking her extradition.

WATCH: Ottawa demands China release two detained Canadian men

China has demanded that Canada release Meng immediately, but neither country has drawn a direct connection between her arrest and the detention of Canadians in China.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Justin Trudeau’s India trip highlighted the power of social media


Justin Trudeau’s disastrous trip to India can now be considered globally infamous.

The Washington Post released a list of the 10 most-read columns in its Global Opinions section on Thursday, and not one but two of those pieces were about Trudeau’s trip to India last February.

When I sat down with him in Montreal for the Star’s interview, I asked him exactly what he regretted about it — or at least, what he’d learned from the reputation-bruising experience.

It was, Trudeau said, a lesson in the downside of social-media sensationalism, which has often played to his advantage. In other words, just as it doesn’t take much effort or depth to go viral in a good way, one misstep can also go viral in a very bad way.

“A story with me and Trump in it gets more ‘likes’ or a story about my socks gets coverage,” he explained. “Those are all sort of positive. But the flip side is also true …. It started with a few people pointing out that there was a theoretical snub at the airport, even though there wasn’t. And that started a line.”

Trudeau said he found it notable that journalists on the trip saw it very differently from those who were watching from afar. These reporters “had a very different experience than those who were writing headlines and seeing what was getting clicks in the online world.”

But he says in retrospect that communications around the trip, as well as some security issues, were obviously bungled. Earlier this month, the special parliamentary committee on national security issued its report on the trip, specifically on how Jaspal Atwal, a man convicted of attempted murder, had made it into events organized by the Canadian delegation to India.

Trudeau said that some elements of the trip, especially “people-to-people relations” with business and trade interests in India, went well.

“But it all got overshadowed by this narrative that caught fire, that had we been quicker to respond or had we thought about it differently … it might have been salvageable,” he said, though also noting that the Atwal issue was a “genuine, substantive” problem with how the trip was organized.

What Trudeau didn’t spell out for me, or any of his other year-end interviewers, was the thinking behind what most people will vividly remember about the trip — the wardrobe choices, the cringeworthy efforts at cultural appropriation, dancing and bowing, and so on. Presumably all that has been rethought — we likely shouldn’t expect to see Trudeau sporting any other national attire anytime soon. More generally, maybe it can be even be added to the rules for all politicians about avoiding hats or any photos that show them eating.

Quite apart from India, Trudeau also seems to be thinking a lot as he heads into 2019 about how bad news travels quickly on social media. He said he is aware, for instance, that foreign actors may try to harness this power to make trouble for all kinds of political people during the election, as security experts have been warning.

“There are going to be attempts by groups around the world, whether they are actual state actors or subgroups in different countries, to try and shift the narrative,” he said.

What surprised me somewhat, though, was what Trudeau saw as the antidote to mischief, misuse or worse on the social media front.

“There’s all sorts of things we can and must do around the tools,” he said. “But the biggest and most important thing … is educating the public.”

Cynical or even skeptical people might wonder, as I did, whether this sounds a little inadequate to the magnitude of the democratic threat. But no, the prime minister insisted, education is the best weapon against misinformation. “I think citizens who are thoughtful and aware of the kinds of forces and competing interests and narratives out there, they are a very, very powerful bulwark against that kind of challenge.”

The interview wasn’t long enough for me to ask him to parse that thought with his India trip experience. Is Trudeau saying that a little more knowledge might have thwarted the “narrative” that took hold on his India trip?

At any rate, it’s an enduring story, as the Washington Post’s top-10 list proves — and apparently a global one, too.

Susan Delacourt is the Star’s Ottawa bureau chief and a columnist covering national politics. Reach her via email: or follow her on Twitter: @susandelacourt


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Year of change for Canadian sports fans in 2018 as media rivals stepped up to compete


The way the NHL regular season is shaping up, it’s a good bet that five of the seven Canadian teams could reach the playoffs this spring.

That’s the kind of playoff CanCon that Rogers was hoping for when it signed a massive $5.2-billion US, 12-year deal to land the league’s broadcasting rights in 2013, a move that gave Sportsnet an immediate edge in its long-running rivalry with TSN.

After some early challenges, Rogers is set to get more bang for its buck as more teams from north of the border move into contention.

« Rogers gambled that Canadian teams would be coming back, » said sports marketing expert Richard Powers, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. « When they signed that deal, Canadian teams were really in a lull.

« They have come back. »

The partnership between the media giant and the league was announced in November 2013 and the deal kicked in for the 2014-15 season. Five Canadian teams made the playoffs that spring but three crashed out in the first round and the others were eliminated in Round 2.

The worst-case scenario for Rogers arrived a year later as Canadian teams were shut out of the post-season. Five teams made the cut in 2017 but three were eliminated in the opening round, with the Ottawa Senators making it to the conference final.

Last spring, only Winnipeg and Toronto reached the post-season. The Maple Leafs made a first-round exit while the Jets were eliminated in the conference final.

« The length of that deal was extraordinary and the amount that they paid was extraordinary, » Powers said. « I think they’re actually leveraging it quite well. I don’t know what else they can do. Everybody knows it’s Rogers. »

Sportsnet, which is part of Rogers Media, bills itself as Canada’s No. 1 sports media brand. The network’s main rival since its inception in 1998 has been TSN, which calls itself Canada’s sports leader, and is a division of Bell Media.

Changing landscape

The sports media landscape had a much different look two decades ago. Nowadays, each network boasts multiple feeds, online and mobile viewing options, and an impressive lineup of marquee international properties.

In addition to hockey, some of Sportsnet’s domestic offerings include the Toronto Blue Jays/MLB (the Blue Jays are owned by Rogers), the Grand Slam of Curling and the Canadian Hockey League. TSN’s lineup includes some regional NHL games along with the Canadian Football League, world junior hockey championship and the Season of Champions curling events.

« I think (the rivalry is) great for consumers and for viewers, » Powers said. « It keeps both teams, at each network, it keeps their eyes on the ball so to speak, no pun intended. They are looking for ways to beat the competition … so I think the ultimate winners are the fans and the viewers. »

Two of the more notable contracts — Sportsnet’s MLB deal and TSN’s deal with the CFL — run through 2021. One deal that is up in just over a year is TSN’s contract with Curling Canada for the Season of Champions events.

It will be worth watching to see if Sportsnet doubles down on a ratings winner like curling by trying to land the package, which includes the Tim Hortons Brier, Scotties Tournament of Hearts and world championships.

Fans react while watching the NFL’s Super Bowl, one of the biggest television events of the year. (Roni Bintang/Reuters)

« Sometimes you acquire rights just to sort of put a stake in the ground in terms of the bigger picture, » said Vancouver-based marketing communications executive Tom Mayenknecht. « That’s where I would really start. The bigger picture is that we probably have the most competitive sports television landscape that we’ve ever had in this country. »

However, one big question mark remains as Sportsnet has yet to name a successor for president Scott Moore. He left the company in October, with Rogers Media president Rick Brace currently handling the position on an interim basis.

Moore has said that if Sportsnet hadn’t landed the NHL rights, the network would have become a « regional, inconsequential player. » He added the deal has paid for itself each year because Sportsnet can enjoy the financial returns that come with it.

« If you’re going to buy sports media in this country now, you’re going to call us first, » Moore told The Canadian Press last October. « It used to be all the big deals went to TSN and we got what was left over. »

In addition to traditional broadcasters, subscription video streaming services like DAZN could make more of a dent on the Canadian sporting scene over the coming years.

Online powerhouses like Twitter, Facebook and Amazon could be in the mix as well.

One example of the changing dynamics came last summer at the RBC Canadian Open golf tournament. Coverage was provided by a varied lineup that included TSN/RDS, Global TV, DAZN, Twitter, PGA Tour Live, the Golf Channel and Facebook.

The hammer comes with hockey though, and the Canadian sports media landscape could have a much different look when talks begin on the next NHL deal.

The current contract expires in 2026.

« TSN and Sportsnet are no longer the only players within, » said Mayenknecht, who hosts a sports business show that airs on TSN Radio and other stations around the country. « They’re the lead players for sure, but they’re part of a much more organic, changing landscape. »


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Former St. Mike’s students in court for sex assault case as police update media on investigation


The case of six former St. Michael’s College School students facing criminal charges in connection with a cellphone video shared on social media showing the sexual assault of another student in a locker room returned to a Toronto court Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, Toronto police say they will update the media on the police investigation into ongoing allegations of assault and sexual assault at the school at 11:30 a.m.

Police last week revealed they are investigating a total of eight incidents at the school.

The six boys are each charged with sexual assault with a weapon, gang sexual assault and assault. All were granted bail at a court hearing in November. Their identities are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The Crown in court Wednesday said she has not yet finished vetting the evidence that must be disclosed to the defence, including videos that require redaction. She noted some of the disclosure requires judicial authorization to release — likely in part because police have said the video connected to the charges is considered child pornography.

The court appearance comes as police investigate eight incidents at the prestigious, private all-boys school. Police have released limited information about the incidents, but they include two alleged sexual assaults, three alleged assaults and one incident related to threatening.

Last week, the school announced that members of a “respect and culture review” committee will examine the school’s culture and policies relayed to physical, verbal and sexual abuse, including hazing.

The school’s interim principal also announced the cancellation of the varsity basketball season for this school year and the junior and varsity football seasons for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Lawyers appeared in court on behalf of two of the boys on Wednesday.

The boys are scheduled to return to court Jan. 28.


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Prospective tenants using social media photos to help with ‘nightmarish’ Toronto housing search


Just a couple of days after posting in a Facebook group that she was in search of a cheap place to rent in Toronto, Tyne Robinson had a handful of apartment options to visit.

It’s a rare occurrence in Toronto these days for prospective renters to find various options to choose from, especially if they’re operating with a modest budget. A one-bedroom condo in Toronto on average has surpassed $2,000 a month, according to market research firm Urbanation.

But Robinson, 22, whose post in the Bunz Home Zone group said she was searching for a room with a maximum monthly rent of $850, was able to quickly attract the attention of potential landlords. One of her tricks was to use a picture of herself and link to her Instagram page, where she has nearly 2,500 followers.

“I do think it helped get more responses,” she said, adding a number of her friends found rental apartments after using pictures in their “in-search-of” posts. Since many homeowners/landlords may be looking for roommates, Robinson said it’s important to find someone they think they can get along with.

“Social media is a form of personal expression and if people could see the things I post and they’re into similar things, then they would message me,” she said.

Most people searching for places to live on the Bunz group included images. Some while on vacation, eating dinner, socializing with friends or their pets, or simply in professional outfits. And it’s not just on Facebook and other social media. Even Craigslist and Kijiji websites are awash with images of individuals, but young and old, and couples looking for places to rent.

“As the rental crisis gets worse, people are now going into the rental market and when they realize how nightmarish it is, they quickly start to try to get a leg up on other competitors,” said Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Association.

“There’s no actual guarantee it’s really going to help, but if you got a face on your application versus 10 that don’t, maybe it humanizes you a little bit more and makes you stand out,” he said.

Lilliana Molek, 19, another prospective renter who recently posted pictures in the same Bunz group — including one showing her relaxing on the water, another at a workplace — in the hopes of finding a roommate for under $700 in the city’s west end, said it adds a level of trust to the potential interactions she hopes to have with the landlords.

Pictures were her way of saying “I’m a real person,” she said.

When she’s reading through posts, she often stops and reads those with pictures while scrolling past those without pictures, she said.

“I also think there’s a lot of superficiality today. People judge a lot based on simply your appearance,” she said. “If you’re a good-looking person, you look more trustworthy, more approachable, and a person would be more inclined to live with you.”

The risk for a prospect tenant of sharing pictures is that it can fuel sentiments of discrimination from some landlords if tenants happen to be from a historically disenfranchised group — such as a disabled individual or a person of colour, Dent added.

“The first thing that a landlord notices is the colour of your skin,” said University of Toronto professor David Hulchanski, whose research focuses on housing and rental markets.

He said he’s encountered many people from minority groups who say landlords tell them a place is taken, and if they phone back and don’t have an accent, they’re invited to view the same apartment.

The use of pictures while looking for rent, much like adding a picture to a resume while applying for a job, shows how hopeless the situation has become and how tough it is to find a good place at a fair price, Hulchanski said.

“People will do their best to attract the attention of the landlord for an available place,” he said. “Some are saying ‘I have nothing to lose, here’s who I am if you are interested, or if that helps.’”

Gilbert Ngabo is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @dugilbo


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PETA threatens to sue Toronto, Astral Media over removal of anti-Canada Goose ads


People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is threatening to sue the city of Toronto and Astral Media for removing anti-Canada Goose ads.

The animal rights group said Friday that it will commence legal action against the city and Astral, if they do not repost ads the group paid to put up in September that criticized the Toronto-based luxury jacket maker for using goose down and coyote fur in its jackets.

The ads featured images of the animals with captions saying « I’m a living being, not a piece of fur trim » and « I’m a living being, not jacket filling » and were put up at bus shelters between Canada Goose’s headquarters and the home of the company’s CEO, Dani Reiss.

PETA’s assistant manager of clothing campaigns Christina Sewell told The Canadian Press the ads were meant to run for four weeks, but were up for less than 24 hours in September.

A woman wearing a Canada Goose jacket walks past PETA protesters in front of the New York Stock Exchange during the Canadian company’s IPO in March 2017. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

« Astral let us know they had to pull the ads because they had too many numerous complaints, » she said.

A spokesperson for Bell Media Inc., which owns Astral, confirmed it removed the ads because they were not in line with a part of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards that restricts ads from disparaging organizations or causing public ridicule.

Ads didn’t violate standards, PETA says

PETA claims it is not violating the standards.

« PETA’s position remains that its right to free expression includes the right to place this particular artwork — in its current form — on city property, and that the removal of its artwork violated this right, » the group said in a letter it sent to the city, Bell Media and Astral Media on Thursday.

PETA says it will begin legal action against the city of Toronto and Astral Media, if they do not repost ads the group paid to put up in September. (PETA/Canadian Press)

Asked about the ads, city of Toronto spokesperson Eric Holmes said Astral « is responsible for applying the standards and any decisions related to the approval and removal of advertising content on these assets. »

Sewell, who called the ads « benign, » said PETA doesn’t have a timeline for how soon it will take legal action if the ads aren’t reposted, but is committed to carrying out their threat.

A Canada Goose spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Canada Goose defends use of fur

The company has long been in PETA’s crosshairs.

PETA members, sometimes dressed as coyotes, have protested in front of the apparel company’s stores and have repeatedly billed Canada Goose as a perpetrator of « shameless cruelty. »

« There are so many cruelty-free alternatives out there and things that are made out of plants or synthetic. Fur is hugely detrimental to the environment, » Sewell said, noting that Canada Goose hasn’t gotten in touch with PETA since it unveiled the ads.

« We have been campaigning for several years now and we are very hard pressed to get a direct response from the company. »

Canada Goose previously fought complaints about its use of fur, saying that it is committed to the ethical treatment of animals, that « having fur trim around a jacket hood disrupts airflow which helps protect the face from frostbite » and that it uses goose down because it is « one of the world’s best natural insulators. »

« We do not condone any willful mistreatment, neglect, or acts that maliciously cause animals undue suffering, » the company’s website says. « Our standards for the sourcing and use of fur, down and wool reflect our commitment that materials are sourced from animals that are not subject to willful mistreatment or undue harm. »


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Supreme Court decision on Vice Media a major ‘setback’ for investigative reporting in Canada: experts – New Brunswick


The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to compel a Vice Media reporter to hand over material about an accused terrorist will have a damaging effect on investigative reporting across the country and weaken Canadian democracy, say experts and press freedom advocates.

On Friday, Canada’s highest court ruled in a 9-0 decision that Vice reporter Ben Makuch will have to turn over any communications with Farah Mohamed Shirdon, a Calgary man who left Canada to join the so-called Islamic State.

Jeffrey Dvorkin, director of the journalism program at the University of Toronto Scarborough, said the decision is a major “setback for journalists in Canada” as it could leave them open to being perceived as operating as “police agents.”

“Anytime a journalist says to a confidential source, ‘I promise keep your name out of the story,’ now journalists can’t give that guarantee,” Dvorkin said. “We are going to see more intimidation from organizations that are going to prevent journalists from doing their jobs.”

READ MORE: Canadian jihadi Farah Mohamed Shirdon killed in Iraq airstrike in 2015

Dvorkin said that confidential sources, like whistleblowers, might think twice about speaking with a journalist if security agencies can compel journalists to reveal information.

“This is going to be the detriment of journalism and our democracy in general,” he said.

The Supreme Court decision centers on several articles written by Makuch in 2014 based on interviews he had with Shirdon, an outspoken Canadian ISIS member who was infamously featured in a propaganda video that showed him ripping up his Canadian passport and throwing it in a fire.

Shirdon was charged by RCMP with six terror-related offences and investigators obtained a production order in 2015 for Makuch to hand over any communications with the suspected terrorist in order to build their case.

Global News first reported in September 2017 that U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees U.S. military operations in Syria and Iraq, found that Farah Mohamed Shirdon was killed in the city of Mosul on July 13, 2015.

VICE Media and Makuch had fought to have that production order overturned in three lower courts, but the decision was upheld by the Supreme Court on Friday. Several civil liberties groups and media outlets, including Global News, acted as intervenors in the case.

READ MORE: Vice Media challenges RCMP demand for reporter materials in top Ontario court

Writing on behalf of the majority, Justice Michael Moldaver said the production order for Makuch’s materials should stand because disclosure of the materials would not reveal a confidential source as Shirdon used the media to publicize extremist views.

“Mr. Makuch’s own conduct shows that the relationship was not confidential in any way,” Moldaver wrote. “It was Mr. Makuch, not the police, who identified Mr. Shirdon to the public, by publishing the articles that linked Abu Usamah to Farah Shirdon and the YouTube video.”

“The production order strikes a proportionate balance between the rights and interests at stake,” the court ruled. “The order is narrowly tailored, targeting only the journalist’s communications with the source, and those communications are not available from any other source.”

Vice media said the court’s decision “has failed to recognize the importance of a free, and independent press.”

“Today’s decision will no doubt have a chilling effect on both sources, who may be reluctant to talk to reporters, and on journalists themselves, who could be less inclined to report on sensitive issues,” Vice said in a statement. “We strongly believe that the journalism — which is already under attack across the globe — needs to be free from state intervention.”

Karyn Pugliese, with the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, said the ruling is a “dark day” for Canada and reporters will now have to reevaluate when to offer sources anonymity.

“It’s not just about media rights, it’s about the public interest,” she said. “If people are afraid to come forward because they see us as agents of the police — that’s concerning — people won’t come forward.”

WATCH: Canadian terrorism researcher comments on death of Canadian foreign fighter

In its ruling, the Court avoided the Journalistic Sources Protection Act that the Trudeau government enacted in 2017, which aims to shield sources from police investigation.

“Going forward, this new regime will govern production orders relating to ‘journalists,’ even where no confidential source is involved, the facts in this case arose before the JSPA was brought into force,” the court said

Dvorkin said the JSPA is still “very murky” and has yet to be tested in court and it does not put journalists’ sources entirely beyond the reach of a court orders.

A spokesperson for Public Safety Canada said in an email that the ministry is reviewing the decision, which they said attempted to “strike a balance between” the priorities of security agencies and the rights of a free press.

“The intersection between the two is crucial to our democracy. That’s why a unanimous ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada is ‎so significant,” said Scott Bardsley in an email. “We all need to examine and understand the Court’s analysis.”

*With a file from Mike Armstrong

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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The double-edged sword of how social media spread the St. Mike’s scandal


Teenagers sharing, with little thought or effort, video clips of St. Michael’s College School students brutalizing each other makes Glen Canning think of his daughter.

“It’s inexcusable, it’s death by a thousand cuts, and it has terrible consequences,” Canning says of the viral spread, from teen’s phone to teen’s phone, of images of “absolute cruelty” involving clearly identifiable victims.

“I think about the kids who shared Rehtaeh’s photo and wonder what they think about that — it contributed to her death — and how that must feel. It’s awful.”

Rehtaeh Parsons, his 17-year-old daughter, killed herself in 2013 after prolonged bullying and shame fanned by the spread of a 2011 photo through her Nova Scotia hometown. It showed her at a party vomiting out a window while a teen had sex with her.

Rehtaeh said she was sexually assaulted. The boy said it was consensual. He was convicted only of distributing child pornography for sharing the photo with friends.

“I spend my time trying to get young people to speak up, to not be a bystander just taking out a phone and recording — that’s participating,” he says.

“What’s happening now speaks volumes to failures in the system — with the kids, with the school and with the parents, who have to become more involved in what their kids are up to.”

While many people are shocked at the digitally documented and shared abuse at the storied private school, emerging details are familiar to experts in teen bullying, hazing and social media use.

“There appears to be dominance, control over others and a lack of empathy in the kind of hypermasculine environment that can lead to bullying and violence,” says Roy Gillis, a University of Toronto associate professor of psychology.

The case shows the “kind of naive oversharing going on, particularly on social media, by young people. In cases like this it multiplies the humiliation of the target.”

The other side of the social media coin is that recording and sharing abuse has made student-on-student hazings and assaults, which have happened at different types of schools for many decades, discoverable and undeniable.

“The exposure does shine a light on the problem,” Gillis says, adding he hopes it leads to prevention programs; better supervision of locker rooms and other high-risk areas; teacher training on helping sexual assault victims; and knowledge such abuse must be immediately reported to police — something St. Mike’s failed to do.

“It’s a wake-up call to all of us to protect our students.”

St. Mike’s has announced it is launching an independent review of student culture in the wake of the incidents.

The school is also hiring a full-time social worker and four security guards to patrol the washrooms and locker room and has created an anonymous voicemail line for students to report inappropriate behaviour.

Toronto police Det. Sgt. Paul Krawczyk of the sex crimes unit has publicly warned anyone possessing the St. Mike’s videos to delete anything that qualifies as child pornography, hopefully stopping their viral spread.

In an interview he notes that today’s teens grew up with smartphones and are accustomed to pulling them out to record all manner of events.

“They can’t wait to show it to someone else, maybe be the first to share,” photos and videos rather than process the reality in front of them, he says. “The same goes for traffic accidents. Why is it the instinct for many people now to record the victim of an accident instead of helping?”

Krawczyk says he uses such scandals to talk to his own children “about what my expectations are and I ask if they have any questions. I think many parents let devices be their babysitter and don’t really talk to their kids about these things.

“The children have to know that they can speak to their parents without them freaking out or automatically taking their electronic devices away from them.

“Kids also need to know that what is right is right, and what is wrong is wrong. Plain and simple. If it is wrong, put a stop to it. Say something. You are part of the problem if you don’t say anything.”

David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering Toronto politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider


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Little action on Ottawa’s promise to help struggling media sector


OTTAWA—Nearly nine months after the federal Liberal government announced it would spend $50 million over five years to boost “local journalism in underserved communities,” not one dollar has gone out the door.

Nor has the government outlined how it intends to facilitate charitable support for professional “non-profit journalism and local news.” Nor how it intends to support “the transition to digital media.”

Unifor president Jerry Dias, whose union represents nearly 12,000 workers in the media sector, says there need to be some “dramatic changes” in the way local newspapers are funded.
Unifor president Jerry Dias, whose union represents nearly 12,000 workers in the media sector, says there need to be some “dramatic changes” in the way local newspapers are funded.  (Justin Tang / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO)

All were promises made in last year’s budget and repeated in the heritage minister’s mandate letter.

It’s baffling to those in the journalism industry, newspaper publishers and the country’s largest media union, especially with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau championing the need for strong traditional media this past week.

In France, Trudeau emphasized his government’s commitment to supporting the need for a vibrant free press to hold government and their institutions to account.

However Jerry Dias, president of Unifor which represents nearly 12,000 workers in the media sector, says the time for talk is past, and it’s time for action.

“You’re not going to all of a sudden change people’s habits to buying print media, I get all that,” said Dias in an interview. “But we’ve closed over 200 local newspapers in Canada so there has to be a mechanism in which to fund them. There needs to be some dramatic changes.”

A 2017 report by the Public Policy Forum said from 2008 to 2016, 169 local media outlets closed and another 54 reduced services, a trend that accelerated in 2017, most notably with the swap of assets by Torstar and Postmedia. A subsequent followup report in September shows the quality of news coverage across the country has also declined.

Yet Dias said what the federal government announced in last February’s budget amounted to “nickels and dimes.”

“What they threw at it was no solution, it was more tokenism than anything else,” he said.

News Media Canada, which represents 800 daily, weekly and community newspapers, had urged the government to provide $350 million to support a Canadian Journalism Fund, and was disappointed with last year’s announcement of $10 million a year, for five years.

John Hinds, president and CEO of the industry association, said the association’s numbers show that from 2009 to August this year, 137 Canadian daily or weekly community newspapers ceased publication, 38 of which closed since January.

“It’s pretty chilling,” he said in an interview.

Yet the industry is still waiting for details of how the government will meet its nine-month old promises of support.

“We were told they would issue an RFP (request for proposals) at some point for a group to look at sort of managing the fund because they don’t want to do it on their own” in order to respect the independence of media outlets, Hinds said.

“Our view would be that we’d like to replicate the model that they followed in the U.K. with the BBC, where the BBC has funded 120 journalists to work in local newspapers,” he said.

News Media Canada has talked to Canadian Press, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and a Quebec media coalition about joining forces to submit a proposal, Hinds added. “We’d love to get working on it, as you know time is off the essence on this. But to date, we haven’t had any followup.”

Simon Ross, spokesman for Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, insisted the government is moving “to quickly implement” the measures promised last winter, but he declined to provide any details “because I don’t want to scoop myself.”

“What I can tell you is we are working with organizations across the country so we can implement this as quickly as possible and to ensure that it respects journalistic independence because that of course is very important.”

Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamacc


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