We are in the Federal Court of Canada today, suing Justin Trudeau’s hand-picked debates commission.
That’s because a few days ago, Trudeau banned our Rebel News reporters from attending this week’s leaders debates. It’s an outrageous act of censorship and it’s illegal too — not that Trudeau has a problem with either of those things.
Our lawyer Chad Williamson made an urgent application to the court, and they agreed to hear this case on an emergency basis. The three-hour trial will happen today at 2 p.m. ET, noon MT.
(12:00 PM MT / 2:00 PM ET)
I'm live-tweeting our Federal Court challenge of Trudeau's suppression of independent media. It's also being live-streamed on Zoom. To get the Zoom link, to read all the court materials, to learn more about why we're suing, and to help us, go to LetUsReport.com
The Federal Court hearing is now live on Zoom! I'll be live-tweeting it. You can get the link to watch for yourself at LetUsReport.com. Looks like the judge is Justice Elizabeth Heneghan: https://fct-cf.gc.ca/en/pages/about-the-court/members-of-the-court/judges/the-honourable-elizabeth-heneghan
Our lawyer is Chad Williamson: https://www.williamson.law/
There are literally seven lawyers representing Trudeau. Four lawyers and one student-at-law from the Debate Commission, and two lawyers from the Justice Department. They're easily into $1M fighting against us by now -- Trudeau wasting taxpayers' money.
Of course money is the least of it -- this is Trudeau just obsessed with stamping out independent media. You might recall that in 2019 he tried to ban Rebel News journalists from the debate, too. The Federal Court slapped him down hard: https://canlii.org/en/ca/fct/doc/2019/2019fc1424/2019fc1424.pdf
What's interesting about this case is how important it is -- and how ignored it is by the mainstream media. Trudeau has banned ELEVEN Rebel News journalists. Silence from the Media Party. Imagine if Stephen Harper had banned 11 lefty journalists. Imagine the (appropriate) uproar.
In Canada, soon there will only two types of journalists: those paid by the government and those banned by the government. No-one else; no independent journalists. Just everyone on the take -- or in handcuffs.
I'm not exaggerating when I say handcuffs -- in the past 18 months our reporters have been handcuffed, jailed, physically assaulted and "banned" by police forces across Canada, including Trudeau's personal RCMP bodyguards.
We have filed a major lawsuit against the Toronto Police Service and expect to file one this week against the Montreal Police. Their excuse is that they're following orders -- and they are: orders from thin-skinned politicians who like to censor independent voices.
I'm just killing time -- I'm not sure why the hearing hasn't started; all the lawyers (and the judge and clerk) seem to be in their place, and the Zoom call is broadcaster (at least for me.)
The "special sitting" of the court is underway! It sounds like the judge herself is in Newfoundland; other lawyers are in Ottawa and Toronto; and our lawyer is in Calgary. It's truly a national event.
The judge has some comments. And her first comment is chiding the government! She says their "huge" filings have not impressed her!
Chad Williamson, our lawyer, is up first!
Chad starts by thanking the court for having such an urgent hearing. He also thanks Trudeau's lawyers for their "cordiality" towards him.
Chad is describing Rebel News to the judge -- we take strong positions on issues of public importance. He also says our viewership is "surprisingly" large -- 1.5 million YouTube subscribers, etc
Chad refers to the 2019 election where Trudeau's hand-picked commission banned us.
Chad says he's asking the judge to give a court order allowing us to report on the debates.
Chad blames Trudeau's debates commission for the compressed/condensed hearing. (They waited till the last moment to tell us we're banned.)
Justice Heneghan breaks in and says Chad doesn't have to address the urgency of the matter. She accepts how urgent it is. (I love listening to her Newfoundland accent! I like her style! I know I shouldn't put any stock in that, but I like it anyways.)
Justice Heneghan breaks in again. She says "bias" is an aspect of procedural fairness, so she says Chad doesn't have to say a whole lot about it, if he's covering procedural fairness already.
Chad says the process was designed specifically to reject Rebel News -- just like it was in 2019.
Chad describes the 2019 rules that Trudeau used to keep us out; and is now describing the 2021 rules to keep us out. A "poison pill" written specifically just to get us.
Chad points out that Trudeau's commission banned us because we're not in the Parliamentary Press Gallery. But we're members in good standing of the Independent Press Gallery, which has similar ethical standards.
Chad points out that we're in good standing of the IPG -- but that Trudeau's commission implies we're not. How absurd -- the IPG says we are. In fact, @CandiceMalcolm swore an affidavit to that effect.
Trudeau's commission claims we're in a conflict of interest, but the other media aren't. Chad refers to Rosemary Barton and John Tasker, who literally filed a lawsuit against the Conservative Party during the last election, (and Barton is moderating the debates).
For some reason, Trudeau's commission claims that our crowdfunding is for some reason a conflict of interest. But Chad points out that other media raise funds (and in the case of the Toronto Star, they pay cash for stories, e.g. footage of the late Rob Ford.)
Trudeau's commission says that by "becoming" part of the story, we're discredited. But Chad points out that many important stories involve our journalists -- e.g. our journalists being arrested. And that's a great journalistic tradition.
Chad says, a reasonable person would see the slant against Rebel News. Chad says the commission would normally be entitled to deference by the court -- but not when it's unfair and biased.
Chad says the anti-Rebel "poison pill" rules are unfair, and the fact that Trudeau's commission is brazen about it doesn't make it acceptable.
Chad says we challenge narratives other media do not -- and that's important to a healthy democracy. He says it's irreparable harm if we're kept out of the debates. Not just for us -- but for million(s) of Canadians. He says our "tough questions" are needed.
"Let's call it what it really is: censorship".
Chad says, if we're allowed in, no harm would come to the commission. What harm would there be? But if we're kept out, grave harm would be done to us and our viewers.
Chad says keeping us out would keep journalism as an "old boys club". I think he's right. Insiders keeping out outsiders.
(12:42 PM MT / 2:42 PM ET)
Chad's done his submissions. Now Justice Heneghan calls on the lawyer for Trudeau's debate commission, Ewa Krajewska.
Krajewska is on the defensive immediately. She's defending her hundreds and hundreds of pages of submissions -- the first thing that the judge says was too much.
The judge says she "gave up" last night -- Trudeau's lawyers just sent too much in. She's not impressed.
Krajewska claims we were provided procedural fairness, because they published their "poison pill" criteria, so there was no secret censorship agenda. (It was a public censorship agenda!)
Krajewska claims that because we're a "protagonist" in stories, we can't come to the debate. But then how do Rosemary Barton and John Tasker, who both personally sued the Conservative Party, be allowed in?
Krajewska says they need to "protect the public interest" by keeping us out. That's not the public interest. That's Trudeau's private interest.
The judge asks Krajewska if the commission just adopted someone else's criteria for who gets in.
The judge notices that we asked for a judicial review last time (and the government fought against it).
The judge and Trudeau's lawyer Krajewska are going back and forth about the accreditation process.
Continued Federal Court thread (details at LetUsReport.com). Krajewska claims Trudeau's accreditation process is from the @caj Note: the CAJ itself says their opinions are NOT meant to be used for government accreditation of journalists.
You can read our written submissions at LetUsReport.com. We've also posted the government's submissions, too. They're so voluminous, they are becoming a problem for the court to handle/find/sort. This is clearly frustrating the court. Seven Trudeau lawyers did this.
Krajewska claims Trudeau's commission "wants to be as inclusive as possible". What a wicked lie. They'll let anyone in -- including foreign state media, like Vietnam's government broadcaster. Just not Rebel News. They're obsessed with us.
Trudeau's lawyer said they only let in high quality, professional ethics-following journalists -- and they say we're not that. But Trudeau accredited the Vietnamese state broadcaster. How does that serve Canadians? How are they independent? How are they even journalists?
I just checked -- one of Krajewska's filed documents is 978 pages long. That's just one volume. I'll have to add it all up -- what were they trying to do to the judge? Besides bulldoze her under a ton of paper. That's arrogance.
HILARIOUS! Trudeau's lawyer told the judge Rebel News didn't complain to the government about their accreditation rules when we applied. The judge burst in: "why should they!" The lawyer pushed back. "I disagree, counsel!" said the judge.
Justice Heneghan: there's a presumption that the process is fair. Anyone who applies is entitled to a fair shake. Trudeau lawyer: if someone has a concern, they should raise that at their first opportunity. Justice Heneghan: "we'll leave that for now."
How arrogant are Trudeau's lawyers? They dumped 1,948 pages of filings on the Federal Court judge on the eve of an emergency hearing. They're trying to bamboozle her. And she knows it. And she clearly doesn't like it.
The judge and Trudeau's lawyers are going through some of our news stories, including some by @SheilaGunnReid. Trudeau's lawyer specifically complains about Sheila's coverage of a Trudeau expense scandal in India. Trudeau's lawyer says that's proof Sheila shouldn't be let in.
The judge is going through some of Trudeau's 1,948 pages of filings. She found Sheila's story. Trudeau's lawyer says this is why Sheila shouldn't be allowed in.
Trudeau's lawyer is furious that @SheilaGunnReid crowdfunding a Charter challenge of a lockdown law. Trudeau's lawyer says that should disqualify Sheila from covering the debates. Because shut up.
Trudeau's lawyer told the judge that because we challenged the hotel quarantine laws, we're not allowed to cover the debates. Our reporter was trapped in one of these jails. Because we fought back, we can't cover Trudeau? Welcome to the Kafkaesque world of Trudeau censorship.
Justice Heneghan is clearly frustrated with Trudeau's lawyer. I'm almost starting to feel sorry for Team Trudeau.
"This might all be wishful thinking". Justice Heneghan dismissing Trudeau's lawyer's latest gambit. I don't want to read too much into the judge's banter, but I'm sure glad it's Trudeau being taken to the woodshed, not our lawyer Chad.
(1:30 PM MT / 3:30 PM ET)
We're now at the half-way point in the three-hour hearing. You can watch the Zoom broadcast too. Link available at LetUsReport.com, where you can also see our case, and Trudeau's monstrous 2,000-page filings that have irritated the judge.
The judge tells Trudeau's lawyers it may be the "idea" that these government-run debates would be of a high calibre -- but whether or not that's happening is another matter. Ouch.
Eve Krajewska, Trudeau's lawyer, says that other media were banned. (She doesn't say who.) But Krajewska claims that proves they're not singling us out. (She can't cite the names of the other media who were banned -- I'll try to find out.)
The court is taking a break. I'm enjoying the banter. I am grateful that our judge is from Newfoundland. She cuts through the bluster and gets straight to the point. I hope that her own identity as an outsider makes her sympathetic to us as outsiders. LetUsReport.com
The court is back! Justice Margaret Heneghan presiding. Trudeau's lawyer Ewa Krajewska is still talking. Frankly, if I'm reading the room, she's been talking a bit too much for the judge's taste.
Trudeau lawyer Krajewska: the issue is whether there's a strong "prima facie case" that the applicant (Rebel News) is clearly right. Krajewska says that's the standard we have to meet to get this emergency injunction.
By the way, we met that standard in 2019, when we had this same fight -- and won. Trudeau's lawyers have had two years to plot their revenge. I wonder if they'll get it.
Trudeau's lawyer is saying they had secret rules last time, but they're rules are public now. (Our lawyer said: biased rules that are public are still bad.)
Trudeau's lawyer says as long as they apply their criteria properly, they can ban us if they want to. This is such a transparent "bill of attainder" -- a law drafted just to get one particular entity: Rebel News.
Trudeau's lawyer is trying to defend the hypocrisy of accrediting Rosemary Barton and John Paul Tasker -- both of whom personally sued the Conservative Party -- but banning us.
Trudeau's lawyer just went through a list of Parliamentary Press Gallery journalists who are in a conflict of interest -- they're lobbyists; they sue people; they fundraise, whatever -- and claims "that's different".
Justice Heneghan stops the trial to correct Trudeau's lawyer's repeated mispronunciation of her name. Not a good sign.
Trudeau's lawyer is still butchering the judge's name.
Trudeau's lawyer actually claimed that the public wanted the government to take over election campaign debates. She's just engaging in Trudeau fan fiction now. It's sort of gross, but he pays her well.
Trudeau's lawyer wisely not attempting to say Justice Heneghan's name anymore. It's not that hard: HEE-nuh-hann.
Trudeau's lawyer is saying that, no matter what the judge orders, they still might ban our people from attending in person for "Covid reasons".
Trudeau's lawyer mercifully wraps up.
(2:15 PM MT / 4:15 PM ET)
Kerry Boyd, one of Trudeau's seven lawyers (this one from the Justice Department) is now speaking. He says he'll keep his remarks to five minutes.
Boyd says the Justice Department itself "takes no position" on this motion but he wants to highlight the law.
Boyd, the Justice Department lawyer, is giving the legal history of the debate commission. And he's reviewing the law for a judicial review and the law for an injunction.
Justice Heneghan interrupts Boyd to remind him that she can hear "evidence in support of a breach of procedural fairness".
I sure like this judge. If we lose, it will make me feel a bit better. And if we win, it will make today even more wonderful. I really think this case could go either way. Just as long as our lawyer Chad doesn't butcher the judges name, like Trudeau's lawyer did.
Justice Heneghan suggests she really doesn't need to hear from this government lawyer. So he says he'll wrap up quickly.
Justice Department lawyer's done. Our lawyer Chad Williamson is ready to make a reply.
Chad says he's ready to go -- he'll be "extraordinarily brief". Judge gives him a five minute break first.
Court is resuming. Justice Heneghan presiding. Chad Williamson, our lawyer, is up next.
Chad: asking leaders questions in the scrum is essential. That's what the 2019 Federal Court ruling said, when we beat Trudeau last time. That's all Rebel News wants -- to ask questions.
Trudeau is trying to fashion a framework that only excludes Rebel News, but something doesn't exclude automatically exclude other preferred journalists.
Trudeau's commission didn't "check" the CAJ guidelines against any legacy media -- only against us.
Chad calls this a "bill of attainder" -- a law just applying to Rebel News.
Chad mentions that Vietnam's state media was approved -- but there's no way it would have passed Trudeau's Rebel News poison pill test.
Chad: Rebel News are outsiders. Citizen journalists. Diverse background. Challenge narratives -- embody the spirit of the commission's mandate of inclusivity.
Chad: In 2019 "Rebel News was allowed in and did tremendous work without any complaints"
Chad: Rebel News went to court to defend a journalist's rights, who was detained in a covid quarantine. Does that mean going to court for his rights means he can't ask politicians questions?
Chad: The @caj explicitly says they object to government organizations using its guidelines to exclude media.
Chad: In the spirit of inclusiveness and diversity, "how about just a couple" be accredited? How about the same amount for legacy media organizations?
Chad: even if criteria are clear, if it's unlawful, that decision must be substituted by the court.
Chad thanks the court and finishes up.
Judge says she'll have her ruling by 11 a.m. ET tomorrow.(Not sure how we're going to get journalists in from Vancouver to Ottawa in time.)
Judge wraps up. It's over. She says she'll have her ruling no later than 11 a.m. ET -- 12:30 p.m. in Newfoundland. And that's that. If you want to help us with our legal costs, please go to LetUsReport.com. Thanks!