Yesterday finally saw that long-anticipated Daniel Jean appearance before the Commons public safety committee, and it was…not explosive. Much of it was simply reiterating everything we’ve heard before – that Jean was sensitive to misinformation that was appearing in media outlets that suggested that RCMP and CSIS didn’t take Jaspal Atwal’s appearance seriously, that there was a possibility this was an attempt to embarrass the Canadian government into looking like they didn’t take Khalistani separatists seriously, and that Jean himself suggested the briefing and PMO simply providing him with a list of journalists to reach out to. And when the Conservatives demanded to know about the “rogue elements in the Indian government” or “conspiracy theory” allegations, Jean corrected that he didn’t say those things.
Jean says he didn't say the Indian government set Canada up. He said he stressed there seemed to be coordinated misinformation by actors in order to reinforce the notion that Canada is complacent on [terrorism].
— Althia Raj (@althiaraj) April 16, 2018
Now, some of the journalists involved in the briefing are disputing a few details, and in particular the notion that Jean had suggested that perhaps Indian intelligence was involved (which he denied yesterday). And there remains this concern trolling that senior bureaucrats don’t normally go to the media like this so he “must have” been put-up to it by PMO, which I’m not really sure is the case, particularly because as we heard in later releases about Jean’s briefing, and in his testimony yesterday, he highlighted the use of “fake news” and propaganda by hostile outlets, which is why we wanted to correct them as a neutral third-party. This is not really a widespread concern just a few years ago, particularly given the way that it was seen as interfering with elections and whatnot, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he wanted to be more proactive about it.
Of course, the real hitch in all of this is that some of the sensationalized reporting around the original briefing, coupled with the torque applied to it by Andrew Scheer and company to the point where the story being proffered in the House of Commons didn’t match reality (which is Scheer’s stock in trade these days) have spun this whole narrative beyond what was a “faux pas,” per Jean. And when Jean’s narrative didn’t match Scheer’s, it was Scheer who tried to insist that Trudeau spoke about the “rogue elements” (he never did – he very studiously avoided any specifics and only said that he supported what Jean said), and that it was up to Trudeau to provide clarity for his apparent contradictions when he didn’t actually make any – it was Scheer himself who put forward a false narrative and has been caught with his pants down over it. But let’s also be clear – a lot of the reporting around this has not been stellar either, between sensationalization and omitting of aspects (like his concern about the misinformation being fed to Canadian media), coupled with a refusal to call Scheer out on his disingenuous framing of the whole thing, has led these false narratives to grow out of control. And they keep getting dragged on longer by things like yet more false claims being piled on, such as with the chickpea tariffs and the allegedly cancelled meeting that never existed, but do we call it out? Not until days later. And some journalists should own up to their role rather than get their backs up (like they did yesterday) so that we can move on from this whole incident because we really do have better things to discuss.