Roundup: Carrying Russia’s water

The big story that had a number of people salivating yesterday was the screaming headline in the Globe and Mail that Chrystia Freeland knew her grandfather was the editor of a Nazi newspaper, which Freeland’s own uncle had researched, and to whom Freeland had contributed assistance to. VICE printed their own version of the story, making it clear that Russian officials have been shopping this story around for a while – remember that Freeland is persona non grata in Russia and target of sanctions – and added a tonne of context to the circumstances that Freeland’s grandfather would have found himself in, most of which was absent from the Globe piece because, well, it’s less sensational that way. And then cue some of the bellyaching that Freeland’s office wasn’t very forthcoming about some of this information when asked, the accusations that this somehow undermines her credibility, and whether or not this should be properly characterised as a smear when most of the facts are, in broad strokes, true (though again, context mitigates a lot of this).

The Russian connection, however, is what is of most concern to observers. Professor Stephen Saideman for one is cranky that the Globe very much seems to be compromising its editorial standards and is now carrying Russia’s water for the sensationalism and the sake of clicks. Terry Glavin is even more outraged because of the ways in which this plays into Russian hands, and any belief that we’re immune to the kinds of machinations they’ve exhibited in destabilizing the American electoral process (and now administration) and what they’re up to with far-right parties in Europe should be cause for concern. And to that end, Scott Gilmore says that we can’t expect to be immune from these kinds of Russian attacks. So should we be concerned? By all appearances, yes. And maybe we should remember that context is important to stories, and not the sensationalism, because that’s where the populist outrage starts to build, causing us bigger headaches in the long run.

Good reads:

  • Justin Trudeau announced $650 million in foreign aid for reproductive rights, but it’s not new money.
  • Liberal backbenchers defied cabinet and voted to pass the full version of the genetic privacy bill. The government also agreed with the NDP motion on tax havens.
  • Here’s a look at the Daughters of the Vote event in the Commons yesterday, and Trudeau saying that there is an Islamophobia problem in Canada.
  • Here’s Kim Campbell’s speech for that same event.
  • The government finally tabled their bill to clean up “zombie laws” from the Criminal Code, which includes abortion laws struck down in 1988.
  • Rona Ambrose’s bill on sexual assault training for judges got fast-tracked to committee. (I have a Law Times piece where the legal community is not a fan of this).
  • Canadian MPs visiting Washington keep getting the same message about increasing our defence spending.
  • Conservative Senator Lynn Beyak thinks it should be acknowledged that the point of residential schools was “good natured,” which may be a…naïve position to take.
  • Here’s a reasoned response to the backlash over that International Women’s Day photo that Sophie Grégoire Trudeau posted to Instagram.
  • A former RCMP watchdog pens an open letter to the next commissioner about the challenge they’re taking on.
  • Preston Manning wants conservatives to stop attacking carbon pricing. (Oh look – populist politics biting good policy in the ass. How ironic, Preston).
  • The McMaster prof that Kellie Leitch keeps citing isn’t happy that his research is constantly being misrepresented.
  • Kevin O’Leary thinks cabinet is mediocre because it’s too focused on diversity, proving once again he knows nothing about politics.
  • While John Geddes looks at some of the structural reasons we haven’t seen a populist movement here, Scott Gilmore says we may not yet be at the tipping point.
  • Kady O’Malley fact-checks the Conservatives’ outrage over the Liberals’ use of time allocation (which is so completely hypocritical as to be laughable).
  • Paul Wells wonders after the country’s science policy.
  • My column this week looks at the importance of tackling the issue of gender parity in politics from the grassroots level.

Odds and ends:

I was on CKCU’s “Special Blend” to talk about The Unbroken Machine on Tuesday morning.

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3 thoughts on “Roundup: Carrying Russia’s water

  1. My, my. Look who’s clutching their pearls now, Dale!

    The “screaming headline” you refer to was tucked away discretely on page A11 of the Globe’s print edition, lest it disturb the delicate sensibilities of official Ottawa.

    And no, Dale, Jason Ling’s story on the VICE News Canada website does not include “a tonne of context…most of which was absent from the Globe piece because, well, it’s less sensational that way.” Unseemly snark aside, the fact is that Bob Fife’s article in the Globe was some 200 words longer than Ling’s story and included more context, not less, even featuring the argument that Mr. Chomiak “had told his family that he was playing a double game” and was not actually a Nazi collaborator.

    Ms Freeland does not have to atone for the apparent sins of her grandfather but she does have to answer for trying to make the story go away by dismissing it as just part of a Russian effort “to destabilize Western democracies,” thus implying that there was nothing to it. Given Ms Freeland role in Cabinet, and since she has made her grandparents a part of her political narrative, she would have been better served by owning up to what she knew when reporters came calling.

    Yes, it would be nice if stories and tips only arrived from squeaky-clean sources who don’t have an axe to grind, but, until that happy day arrives, I expect that good reporters will continue to evaluate leads that come their way and pursue those that appear promising without worrying unduly about offending either their press gallery colleagues or the government of the day.

  2. Pingback: if it ain’t broke… | Why the 3E Senate is a Silly Idea

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