Incorrect Fox News tweet on Quebec City mosque attack earns scorn of PMO

Appropriate quick action by PMO. Expect this will not be the last time that these kinds of corrections and messages will be needed and which I suspect will be more effective than general messaging or statements:

The director of communications for the Prime Minister’s Office has written to Fox News, asking it to remove a tweet that she says is “dishonouring” the victims of the Quebec City mosque shooting.

Kate Purchase sent the letter to Bill Shine, co-president of Fox News Channel, asking the organization to remove a tweet that incorrectly reported the suspect in the shooting was of “Moroccan origin.”

Fox News responded by saying it regretted the error and would delete the tweet.

Amid the chaos that characterized the initial hours after the shooting, the incorrect information was also reported by a number of Canadian news organizations, including CBC News.

The Fox tweet only mentioned one possible shooter, while other organizations reported that there were two possible shooters, including one that was of Moroccan origin. Fox ‘s tweet contained text across an image of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying “We condemn this terror attack on Muslims.”

While two men were initially arrested, police have only charged 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette. The second man, 19-year-old Mohamed Belkhadir, was not involved in the shooting but rather was a witness to the attack that left six dead.

A link contained in the Fox News tweet leads readers to a story about the shooting in which Fox explains that its initial reporting on the incident later proved to be incorrect.

But Purchase wanted that tweet updated to reflect the most recent information.

“Sadly, this misleading information has been left to stand on the Fox News Channel’s Twitter account and continues to circulate online even now,” Purchase wrote.

“These tweets by Fox News dishonour the memory of the six victims and their families by spreading misinformation, playing identity politics, and perpetuating fear and division within our communities.”

Fox News Tweet

A screengrab of the tweet by Fox News, which went out Monday. (@FoxNews/CBC)

Purchase goes on to say that Canada is an “open, welcoming” country and a “nation of millions of immigrants and refugees.”

Moving beyond the tweet, Purchase says that “we need to remain focused on keeping our communities safe and united, instead of trying to build walls and scapegoat communities.

“If we allow individuals and organizations to succeed by scaring people, we do not actually end up any safer. Fear does not make us safer,” she says. “It makes us weaker. Ramping up fear and closing our borders is not a solution. It distracts from the real issues that affect people’s day to day life.

“For all of these reasons, we ask that Fox News either retract or update the tweet to reflect the suspect’s actual identity.”

Late Tuesday, managing director Refet Kaplan issued a statement saying the organization regretted the error and had made moves to correct it.

“ initially corrected the misreported information with a tweet and an update to the story on Monday,” Kaplan said in the statement. “The earlier tweets have now been deleted. We regret the error.”

Source: Incorrect Fox News tweet on Quebec City mosque attack earns scorn of PMO – Politics – CBC News

‘Feminist’ Trudeau under attack for attending gender-segregated event at Ottawa mosque

Awkward. Valid to raise questions about appropriateness.

While in general, always better to engage and be present, PMO needs to think more about the guidelines when accepting such invitations or choosing locations. Respect should be mutual, while I can understand women MPs covering their hair as a sign of respect, the mosque should have allowed the women MPs to enter by the front door, not the side door, equally as a sign of respect.

And that would allow the PM to support those within Muslim communities who wish for more egalitarian mosques:

Canada’s self-styled feminist prime minister was praised Tuesday by one of the world’s most powerful women for his commitment to gender equality even as he was taking it on the chin from other women for appearing at a gender-segregated event the previous day.

International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde told reporters at a Parliament Hill news conference she was “appreciative” of Trudeau’s commitment to a government that was “gender-equal.” Trudeau had just told Lagarde the next Canadian representative to the IMF would be a woman, a first for the country.

Yet, Trudeau’s appearance Monday morning at a gender-segregated mosque in Ottawa brought criticism from some of the same women who had admired his work toward gender equality.

 “Right now we have these political leaders — ironically, politically liberal leaders — who are just putting blinders on their eyes about their values,” Asra Nomani said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C. Nomani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who describes herself as a liberal, is the author of Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam.

“That’s the big differential for liberals, they fancy themselves as honouring the women’s body and yet the segregation by its very definition hyper-sexualizes women’s bodies. That’s the great irony.”

 Trudeau was at the mosque Monday to mark Eid al-Adha, considered the holiest of feast days for the world’s Muslims. Three female MPs accompanied Trudeau during his brief remarks, though they had to arrive by a side door and stand with their heads covered. They did not address the mosque.

Worshippers at the mosque are separated by gender. Men were on the main floor where Trudeau spoke. Women and girls were in a balcony or in other parts of the mosque. Nomani said that recent surveys indicate about two of every three mosques separate men from women, but that is up from a decade ago when only about half did.

“I will meet with Canadians regardless of where they are in Canada,” Trudeau told reporters Monday afternoon. “I will speak to inclusive growth, help for the middle class. I will talk about gender equality. I will talk about the rights of the LGBT community. We will continue to promote the values which bring us together.”

Source: ‘Feminist’ Trudeau under attack for attending gender-segregated event at Ottawa mosque | National Post

Un-Googled: Trudeau government had Harper web pages removed from search results

While it appears to have been standard practice in previous transitions, there is a need for easy and transparent access to historical documents.

My experience with the Library and Archives site is mixed in this regard, either directly with LAC or through Google searches:

Dozens of government web pages related to former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s time in office have been removed from all Google search results at the new Liberal government’s request.

In fact, the requests on behalf of the Privy Council Office to remove sites such as Harper’s site and the former PMO’s 24seven video website from search results began Nov. 4, 2015 – the day Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government was sworn into office.

A few days later, on Nov. 9, 2015, the government asked Google to clear the index for the prime ministerial website for any page published prior to Nov. 4, 2015. The request was unsuccessful, however, because Google did not offer that option, according to documents tabled by the government in the House of Commons.

On Jan. 27, 2016, the government asked Google to remove dozens of sites containing Harper’s news releases in English and in French from search results.

Cameron Ahmad, spokesman for Trudeau, insisted the prime minister’s office did not make the request to have the websites related to Harper removed from Google search results and was not aware it had happened.

Christiane Fox, assistant secretary for communications in the Privy Council, said the requests to Google were part of the Privy Council’s standard transition from the Harper government to Trudeau’s. She said the content of Harper’s prime ministerial website was transferred to Library and Archives Canada but did not know whether it was online and available to the public.

In total, the documents tabled in the House of Commons show the government made 51 requests to Google between November 4, 2015 and March 3, 2016 to remove the government record of Harper’s time in office from its search results.

Attempts to access those url’s produce error messages – regardless of whether you search using Google or a web browser like Safari. Googling “Prime Minister Stephen Harper” and “news releases” leads you to Trudeau’s news releases, which begin the day his government was sworn in.

While government departments generally make the previous government’s news releases available on their websites there is no pointer on the prime minister’s website to archived news releases from any of his predecessors.

A check of an Internet Archive version of Stephen Harper’s prime ministerial website after he took power in 2006 does not include press releases from his predecessors. It is not known if requests were made at the time to remove his predecessor’s web pages from Google search results.

Conservative MP Candice Bergen, who tabled the order paper question asking about government requests to have material removed from search results, said she was “shocked” to learn the government had removed the pages related to Harper’s time in office from Google search results.

“Regardless of what somebody might think of Stephen Harper, Stephen Harper served the Canadian public as a member of parliament and then as prime minister for over 10 years.”

Bergen described the move as “Orwellian” and “censorship”, adding it was “sneaky”, “petty” and “not transparent.”

Bergen said she wants to know who decided to request the Harper pages be removed from search results and whether there was political direction behind the move.

Fox could not explain why some of the requests to Google to remove Harper era websites from search results were made in November at the time of the transition and dozens of others were only made in January.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was critical of the decision to remove Harper’s web pages from search results.

“I don’t think that’s appropriate. There’s a new government and I think people who want to google things in our past should be able to google things in our past.”

Source: Un-Googled: Trudeau government had Harper web pages removed from search results

Privy Council Office’s new delivery unit increases capacity for centralized control, say experts

Will be interesting to assess in a few years but it is designed to deliver on the government’s agenda:

The Privy Council Office’s Results and Delivery Unit, created by the new Trudeau Liberal government, has increased the capacity for more centralized control over government, say experts.

But while there are early positive signs it will be used to strengthen cabinet, it remains to be seen what the effect will be in practice in the years ahead.

“We don’t really know [yet] whether it will result in centralized control, but what it does mean is that we’ve now increased capacity at the centre,” Anna Esselment, an assistant professor of politics at the University of Waterloo, said in an interview last week. “There’s always suspicion when greater capacity occurs in the centre that this will ultimately mean greater power for the prime minister.”

In a recent interview with The Hill Times, Alex Marland, an associate politics professor at Memorial University and author of Brand Command, said “central control is deepening far more than people know or seem to care about.

“The creation of delivery units in the centre of the Liberal government are an excellent example of PMO control. It is not lost on me that if the Harper administration had created those we’d be hearing howls that Canada is becoming an authoritarian state,” he said. “It is the role of academics to see beyond public personas of political leaders, especially when everyone else is distracted by them.”

The Liberal government announced the appointment of former Ontario deputy minister Matthew Mendelsohn to the new role of deputy secretary to cabinet on results and delivery on Dec. 23, putting him in charge of the PCO’s new Results and Delivery Unit (RDU).

The RDU has been created within the PCO and “will support efforts to monitor delivery, address implementation obstacles on key priorities, and report on progress to the prime minister,” as well as facilitating “the work of government by developing tools, guidance, and learning activities on implementing an outcome-focused approach,” explained PCO spokesperson Raymond Rivet in an email response to questions from The Hill Times. It’s “designed to help ministers deliver on commitments and help the prime minister track progress on the delivery of top priorities,” he said.

…As for Canada’s federal delivery unit, there are a dozen staff listed as working in the office of the deputy secretary to cabinet on results and delivery: Francis Bilodeau, assistant secretary; Valerie Anglehart, executive assistant; Christina Norris, director of operations; Craig Kuntz, director of data; Mélanie Lavictoire, cabinet committee coordinator; Bruce Wang, senior analyst; Yanic Allain, administrative assistant; and analysts Kevin Dobbie, Sophie Hashem, Karim Moussaly, and Melissa Tan.

Source: Privy Council Office’s new delivery unit increases capacity for centralized control, say experts |

All Pearson, no Pierre: Inside Trudeau’s inner circle – The Globe and Mail

Good series of articles and profiles of the 12 in PM Trudeau’s inner circle.

Applying the usual diversity measures, two-thirds are male, and one is visible minority (13 percent).

Will be interesting, once staffing is complete in PMO and Ministerial offices, to analyze the full picture, as staffers are one of the recruiting pools for future candidates (and the Liberals had recruited more visible minority candidates than other parties (16 percent compared to 13 percent for the CPC and NDP).

Source: All Pearson, no Pierre: Inside Trudeau’s inner circle – The Globe and Mail

Neil Macdonald: Government sensitivity over you hearing about ‘sensitive’ information

While MacDonald is unfair to CIC DM Anita Biguzs (she had no option but to investigate the leak), his broader points are valid:

But to Biguzs and her fellow mandarins at Citizenship and Immigration, the public should never have been told any of these things in the first place, and the fact that it was constituted a grave crime.

Interestingly, Biguzs’s memo does not call the information leaked “classified.” She calls it “sensitive.” There’s a big difference.

Classified information is an official secret, determined by security professionals to be potentially injurious to national security. (Or at least that’s supposed to be how it works.)

Disclosing an official secret is a crime.

“Sensitive information,” on the other hand, is anything the government doesn’t want the public to know, and, as noted, the government that Biguzs has served for a decade doesn’t want the public to know much.

Prosecuting embarrassment

Using Biguzs’s logic, federal scientists who decide the public should know about a scientific finding about the quality of the air we breathe or water we drink are unethical underminers of democracy, too, unless they seek permission to speak, which is rather difficult to obtain nowadays in Ottawa.

Of course, when a government does want reporters to know something, the information is suddenly not sensitive at all anymore, and democracy is well-served by its disclosure, sometimes even — and I speak here with some experience — when it’s an official secret.

In the case of the immigration and passport stories, apparently, the government was embarrassed, so the RCMP are now stalking the department’s hallways, further intimidating an already scared group of bureaucrats.

Politicians, including Harper’s Conservatives, love to talk about the supreme importance of accountability. It is a word that has been milked, flogged and ridden practically to death.

So Biguzs and her political masters might want to ponder this: If the information about the refugee review and the faulty passports had been divulged in a timely fashion, as a matter of public accountability, democracy would not only have been served, there’d be no need to call the police.

Source: Neil Macdonald: Government sensitivity over you hearing about ‘sensitive’ information – Politics – CBC News

Prime Minister’s Office ordered halt to refugee processing: Globe article and response

Following this Globe story, PM Harper stated that:

… when it comes to admitting refugees, his government ensures the selection of the most vulnerable people while keeping the country safe and secure.

“The audit we asked for earlier this year was to ensure that these policy objectives are being met. Political staff are never involved in approving refugee applications,” Harper said. “Such decisions are made by officials in the Department of Citizenship and Immigration.”

No PMO vetting of refugees, say Conservatives

But it appears that it was not prompted by security:

Sources tell CTV News that a temporary halt to the processing of some Syrian refugees was ordered earlier this year to make sure the types favoured by the Prime Minister’s Office were being prioritized.

Department of Citizenship and Immigration insiders told CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife that PMO staff went through the files to ensure that persecuted religious minorities with established communities already in Canada — ones that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper could court for votes — were being accepted. Insiders say PMO actively discouraged the department from accepting applications from Shia and Sunni Muslims.

Private applications, which are often from church groups, were allowed to continue while the rest were on hold.

Should this be true, it is highly inappropriate both in substance (taking identity and ‘shopping for votes’ politics to a new level) and in process (PMO directed rather than PCO directed), not to mention morally wrong given the impact on refugees and the delays incurred.

During my time at PCO (1998-2000), when PMO had concerns about handling of files, PCO would play a strong policy coordination (and sometimes direction) to departments in close coordination with PMO. But the bureaucratic chain of command was respected.

This indicates a lack of confidence of CIC (and Minister Alexander’s ability to direct the department) to implement preferences for more vulnerable ethnic groups. Globe article that started it all below:

The Prime Minister’s Office directed Canadian immigration officials to stop processing one of the most vulnerable classes of Syrian refugees this spring and declared that all UN-referred refugees would require approval from the Prime Minister, a decision that halted a critical aspect of Canada’s response to a global crisis.

The Globe and Mail has learned that the Prime Minister intervened in a file normally handled by the Citizenship and Immigration department in the months before dramatic images of a dead toddler brought the refugee crisis to the fore. The processing stop, which was not disclosed to the public, was in place for at least several weeks. It is unclear when it was lifted. At the same time, an audit was ordered of all Syrian refugees referred by the United Nations in 2014 and 2015.

The Prime Minister’s Office asked Citizenship and Immigration for the files of some Syrian refugees so they could be vetted by the PMO – potentially placing political staff with little training in refugee matters in the middle of an already complex process.

PMO staff could have also had access to files that are considered protected, because they contain personal information, including a refugee’s health history and narrative of escape, raising questions about the privacy and security of that information and the basis on which it was being reviewed.

As a result of the halt, and the additional layers of scrutiny, families that had fled Syria and were judged by the United Nations refugee agency to be in need of resettlement had to wait longer to find refuge in Canada. It also meant there were fewer cases of UN-referred Syrians approved and ready for sponsorship when the public came forward in large numbers after the drowning death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi in August.

The Prime Minister’s Office did not directly respond to a request for comment, nor did it confirm Stephen Harper’s involvement.

A spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, however, said the government was concerned about the integrity of the system and ensuring that security was not compromised in any way.

“The processing of Syrian Government Assisted Refugees resumed only after there was confidence that our procedures were adequate to identify those vulnerable persons in most need of protection while screening out threats to Canada,” said Chris Day, spokesman for Mr. Alexander. He noted that processing of privately sponsored refugees, who are not referred by the UN but by their Canadian sponsors and who make up a growing portion of Canada’s refugees, continued throughout this period.

Critics have long complained about the centralization of decision-making in the PMO – and it would be unusual for a prime minister to sign off on refugee files that have already been vetted by the UN refugee agency, Canadian visa officials and in a small minority of cases by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Canada Border Services Agency.

Source: Prime Minister’s Office ordered halt to refugee processing – The Globe and Mail

Une poursuite en diffamation contre Harper devant les tribunaux: NCCM Case

Will be interesting to watch (earlier story Why Stephen Harper owes Canadian Muslims an apology):

Le bras de fer entre l’avocat de Stephen Harper et celui d’un groupe musulman qui poursuit en diffamation le premier ministre lui-même a commencé mardi, en pleine période électorale.

Le Conseil national des musulmans canadiens (NCCM) poursuit M. Harper et son ex-directeur des communications, Jason MacDonald, pour avoir affirmé à la télévision Sun News que l’organisme avait «des liens documentés avec une organisation terroriste telle que le Hamas».

Le groupe musulman assure avoir toujours dénoncé le terrorisme et demande une rétractation publique pour laver sa réputation ainsi qu’un montant de 100 000 $ en dommages-intérêts. Mais l’avocat du premier ministre a été clair mardi lors d’une requête présentée devant la cour: il entend prouver que le Conseil a bel et bien des liens avec le Hamas.

Mardi, les discussions ont tourné autour d’une demande de l’avocat du premier ministre, Peter Downard, d’avoir plus de temps pour interroger les intervenants, mais surtout d’avoir accès à plusieurs documents de la NCCM. Sa requête va de la liste des donateurs du groupe musulman à des informations sur certains de ses administrateurs, en passant par les documents liés au changement de nom du groupe (anciennement CAIR-CAN).

L’avocat de l’organisation, Jeff Saikaley, croit que ces documents ne sont pas pertinents à l’affaire, certains n’existant tout simplement pas, et il aimerait aller de l’avant avec le procès.

La juge de la Cour supérieure de l’Ontario Liza Sheard a réservé à plus tard sa décision sur l’affaire. Les deux parties devront s’armer de patience dans cette cause, puisqu’une autre requête devrait être entendue en novembre, et le procès comme tel risque de ne pas commencer avant plusieurs mois.

Une poursuite en diffamation contre Harper devant les tribunaux | Fannie Olivier | Actualités judiciaires.

Why Stephen Harper owes Canadian Muslims an apology – The Globe and Mail

Following the accusation by the Prime Minister’s Office that the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), and its predecessor organization CAIR-Can, were associated with banned terrorist group (Hamas), the NCCM launched a lawsuit. Will be interesting to see how the lawsuit turns out.

Given the Conservative government’s strong support for Israel and its closer relationship with the Canadian Jewish community than with the Canadian Muslim community, no surprise with the following comment:

Prime Minister, the Canadian Muslim community is tired of being a political punching bag. And in case you have any doubt, we will neither be intimidated nor will we be silenced.

Canadian NGO: Why we are suing the Prime Minister’s Office | Toronto Star.

More nuanced commentary, but with the same fundamental message, is by Omer Aziz:

There is a broader issue here, and that is the sheer ease with which one can tarnish Muslims – not just foreign ones, but fellow citizens – and get away with it. Canadian society rightly isolates and condemns racists, homophobes and anti-Semites. The excommunication of racial supremacists has been so effective that even a false charge of racism or anti-Semitism can ruin a career or, if assiduously repudiated, discredit the mudslinger. Being called a terrorist-sympathizer, a Hamas supporter, an al-Qaeda apologist, or whatever potentially libelous charge someone throws at you to exploit your Islamic faith can also ruin your career, but comes at little cost for the alleged libeler if it is false.

During a brief stint as a Parliamentary intern I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Harper on a few occasions, and I do not think for a moment that he harbors an ill thought toward Muslims. He is doing what he thinks best for the country that elected his party three times to government. Whether he realizes it or not, however, his office has smeared a national organization established to represent Muslims, making mere punching bags out of citizens, dehumanizing them, and debasing the venerable Prime Minister’s Office. He owes the NCCM and all Muslims an apology.

Why Stephen Harper owes Canadian Muslims an apology – The Globe and Mail.