Rebel reporter forced out of Pickering City Council meeting by police

Mayor Kevin Ashe proves that Pickering, Ont., is surely the most censorious municipality in Canada when he orders Rebel News reporters to be evicted from council chambers by police! But why?

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Recently, we reported that the City of Pickering, Ont. (population: 105,407), looks like it is a municipality situated in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rather than the Dominion of Canada. We do not exaggerate.

Under the “leadership” of Mayor Kevin Ashe, numerous initiatives have been put in place to shut down debate and contrarian viewpoints.

Examples: if someone says something or posts something on social media that is deemed to be negative towards a city councillor, that person shall receive a visit by a bylaw enforcement officer and be served with a notice of… trespass!? Several citizens have received such notices, prohibiting them from venturing on to city properties due to committing the sin of… “wrong thought”?

Delegation times by constituents have been slashed from 10 minutes to five minutes; there is no longer a Q&A period; recording meetings on cellphones is now prohibited; Councillor Lisa Robinson says the live feed video of council meetings are allegedly being manipulated and censored; and finally, several members of the Durham Regional Police Service are now commonplace fixtures at council meetings, always on standby to remove or even criminally charge those who do not “behave.” (Supposedly there is no real crime occurring in Durham Region…)

And check out this whopper: media outlets need to be “approved by council" to be deemed worthy enough to cover the meeting. And approval to cover council is not based on a simple majority, either. Rather, a journalist has to receive two-thirds of the vote!

These rules are equal parts outrageous and draconian. We live in a democracy – such as it is under the Trudeau Liberals – in which there should be no restrictions whatsoever on the media when it comes to covering a city council situated in a taxpayer-funded facility. But this is inexplicably the entrenched reality in Pickering.

And worse, as we discovered last Monday, the mayor apparently likes to change the rules on the fly in order to get a desired outcome.

Here’s the skinny: in May, Rebel News staff went to the City of Pickering to cover that month’s council meeting. Par for the course, prior to the meeting, council voted on whether Rebel News was worthy to attend. And we received the necessary two-thirds approval.

It was certainly worth the drive to Pickering: many constituents were enraged at how they are being treated and many had some terse words for the mayor and council members. Par for the course, malcontents were ejected.

So it was on June 24, we returned to Pickering. We took our seats in the front row and started to record the proceedings. At one point, a city employee approached us and said we were not permitted to record. We responded by saying we had been granted approval the previous month.

Well, not so fast. This individual explained journalists do not receive blanket permission for the entire year to cover meetings. Rather, they must be voted on prior to EACH meeting. This was, by the way, news to us.

We were then told to leave the building ASAP. But wait a minute: no vote whatsoever had taken place to approve or disapprove Rebel News. Thus, during a break in the proceedings, we respectfully asked the mayor why no “media vote” had taken place.

Suddenly, the story had changed: apparently, in addition to getting council’s blessing, we also had to apply in writing prior to the council meeting taking place. Yet, that was not the case in May. We simply showed up, we were approved by a two-thirds vote, and got to cover the meeting. The question arises: why the inconsistency? What exactly changed between May 27 and June 24?

We received no tangible answers. But we can speculate. Which is to say, Mayor Ashe likely did not look fondly on Rebel News interviewing citizens about the city’s behaviour. As well, Rebel News published a long form interview with Councillor Robinson, who often seems to be the one sole voice of reason on council (and yes, she has paid a steep financial price for espousing contrarian views due to so-called code of conduct violations.)

In any event, instead of providing answers, the mayor called for a recess. Next thing we knew, police were frog-marching Rebel News out of the building under threat of trespass. It was disgraceful.

Regardless of one’s political leanings, is this the sort of government any reasonable person craves? The idea that attendance by members of the free press is voted on by elected representatives. And if, God forbid, some of these officials feel that media coverage as being less than favourable, then those previously approved media members are banished?

Is this what’s driving Mayor Ashe? That he wants media watchdogs to become lapdogs? And to think Mayor Ashe started the meeting with a moment of silence to pay respects to those who have fallen in the numerous conflicts in the world, concluding this short service saying how thankful he was that we live in a democracy in which contrarian opinions are tolerated!

As we were banished from the Pickering City Hall, we found it perversely ironic that just about 100 metres outside this edifice stands the city’s cenotaph. The cenotaph honours those Canadians who made the ultimate sacrifice in preserving our democratic rights and freedoms. If those soldiers were alive today, what, pray tell, would they have to say about the Orwellian ideology that has now sadly taken root in the City of Pickering?

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