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Canadian News Oct 7, 2019 4:57 PM EST

Judge orders Trudeau government-appointed commission to give access to journalists banned from debates

A federal court judge ordered Trudeau-government appointed Leaders’ Debate Commission to accredit conservative reporters which were previously barred.

Judge orders Trudeau government-appointed commission to give access to journalists banned from debates
Graeme Gordon Montreal, QC

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be up to date.

A federal court judge ordered Trudeau-government appointed Leaders’ Debate Commission to give journalist accreditation to conservative reporters who were previously barred from covering the “official” leaders’ debates, the English one taking place on Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. ET.

The judge agreed with the legal counsel of right-wing news outlets Rebel Media and True North that they had established the outlets would face “irreparable harm” if the commission’s rejection of their applications for media passes stood.

The Post Millennial can confirm there is now a signed court order that requires the commission to give accreditation to Andrew Lawton of True North, as well as David Menzies and Keean Bexte of Rebel Media, journalist accreditation to the debate this evening, as well as the French one.

“I’m delighted that the judge granted the application,” said Rebel Media founder and self-described commander Ezra Levant said to The Post Millennial after the hearing. “It was a very high standard [the judge] said was met. You don’t get an emergency injunction easily.

Summit Management Office of Global Affairs and the Parliamentary Press Gallery advised the commission on which journalists and outlets to give accreditation to, eventually the commission only denied True North, The Rebel and two other unnamed outlets.

Justice Russel Zinn questioned the commission’s lawyers why in the one affidavit the Parliamentary Press Gallery president claimed he decided the two outlets practiced advocacy.

The lawyers for True North and The Rebel argued other outlets such as the Toronto Star also practice advocacy and that some of their journalists tell readers to vote for the Liberals. They also pointed out that the Toronto Star‘s Atkinson Principles tells it journalists to be social justice advocates.

“I think that justice was delivered,” said True North founder and Toronto Sun columnist Candice Malcolm. “We were up against the odds, we we’re going up against the state. And they had their high-priced lawyers, a team of them, they’d been trying to intimidate us all weekend by asking for over-the-top ridiculous things… What the judge ruled today really vindicated us as journalists.”

“…This is not abnormal. This is normal. Abnormal was what they tried to do. And abnormal is the absence of any media association — Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, PEN Canada, The Canadian Association of Journalists, in fact their name was invoked against us,” said Levant.

“The true civil libertarians are no longer on the left, in fact if anything they were used against us by the government. This is normal, this is what the Charter is about,” said Levant.

The Post Millennial has previously reported on Justin Trudeau’s Liberal election campaign barring True North‘s Andrew Lawton from getting accreditation to cover Trudeau.

The Leaders’ Debate Commission had argued news outlets True North and The Rebel should not be allowed into the national debate because they have previously acted in what the commission deemed an advocacy role, such as fundraising and petitions.

“I think that the independence of the commission has definitely come into question,” said Malcolm.

“Everyone know what is going on with the Parliamentary Press Gallery. They’re biased. They consider themselves the in-crowd and they are trying to prevent competition and other interesting upstart media companies from coming in with a different perspective, showing a different side of the story, appealing to a different segment of the Canadian population. And they’re trying to act as gatekeepers to stop us, and they failed.”

Critics of the commission’s decision also pointed out how it accredited environmental-focused media outlet the National Observer, which also does fundraising. The Leaders’ Debate Commission also accredited state-sponsored news outlets from Vietnam and Qatar. The commission was founded by the Trudeau government in 2018.

Numerous incidents involving the police and both Rebel and True North journalists made headlines over the past week, as journalists from the conservative, independent outlets tried to do their job on the campaign trail.

Justice Zinn said he would give the reasons for his decision at a later date as the commission barred the news outlets the last business day possible before the first debate, which resulted in the emergency injunction occurring hours before the debate started. He will also consider awarding costs of legal counsel to True North and The Rebel.

“I’m very, very proud with Canada right now,” Levant said shortly after the judge gave his decision.

The commission did not respond to request for comment before publishing.

Full disclosure: The journalist of this report previously contributed to True North on a freelance basis for a six-month period ending in this summer. He also wrote critical coverage of The Rebel in the past for Canadaland.

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