The federal government did not consult with the Parliamentary Press Gallery before it refused to accredit True North’s Andrew Lawton in October.
A story by Blacklock’s Reporter found that contrary to the government’s claims that the Parliamentary Press Gallery, an independent group, set the criteria for who can be accredited, the government never asked the Gallery’s directors what they thought about accrediting True North.
“The Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery was not involved, no,” Gallery Clerk Collin Lafrance said.
“I was just helping out on behalf of the Press Gallery.”
During the election, the Leaders’ Debates Commission refused to accredit True North’s Andrew Lawton and Rebel News’ David Menzies and Keean Bexte in a last-minute decision.
On October 7, Federal Judge Russel Zinn ordered the commission to accredit the three after challenging the decision in a court injunction.
“I find that the decisions are lacking in discernible rationality and logic, and thus are neither justified nor intelligible,” Zinn wrote.
True North is also entitled to compensation from the federal government for its legal fees.
The Commission claimed that it was the Press Gallery that helped “develop internal media accreditation guidelines,” adding that the Gallery “conducted an initial review of the applications.”
Despite these claims, Blacklock’s found that the Press Gallery’s board of directors had not met for months.
Lafrance, who was the one who refused to accredit Lawton, said he had not talked to the Press Gallery at all during the time, claiming he was told to ban him by the Debate Commission.
“Talk to the Commission,” he told reporters.
Lafrance told Lawton in an email that he was refused accreditation based off of True North’s alleged “advocacy,” without defining what advocacy meant to the gallery.
Meanwhile accredited media like the Toronto Star were admitted despite their mission statement stating they are “advocating for social and economic justice,” which the federal judge pointed to as an example in his ruling.
“Absent any explanation as to the meaning to be given to the term ‘advocacy,’ and given that the Commission accredited some organizations that have engaged in advocacy, I am at a loss to understand why the Commission reached the decisions it did,” Justice Zinn wrote.
A few days after the federal election the federal government informed True North that they are intending to appeal the court’s ruling, arguing that the judge’s decision was wrong.
True North has yet to receive compensation for its legal fees but will have to be dragged into another expensive legal fight for press freedom.