MP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke spoke about the government’s recent payment of $10.5 million to Omar Khadr in the video.

By Grant Buckler

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression has condemned Conservative Member of Parliament Cheryl Gallant’s use of the terms “fake news,’ “elite-stream media” and “media-splaining” in video posted on Facebook on July 10.

In the video, the MP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke spoke about the government’s recent payment of $10.5 million to Omar Khadr. “Editorialists and columnists have been tripping over themselves in a rush to justify Justin’s payout to Khadr,” she claimed in her online mock-newscast called Gallant Nightly News.

She said mainstream media outlets are defending the government’s action because they are seeking a subsidy from the government. In June News Media Canada proposed that the government revamp its Canadian Periodical Fund into a Canadian Journalism Fund that would include a 35-per cent subsidy for eligible media organizations’ spending on editorial content.

“Such comments by an elected official amount to an assault on the trusted institutions of Canadian media and displays an effort to undermine one of the pillars of a functioning and healthy democracy,” said CJFE in a letter sent to Gallant’s office and to that of Geoff Regan, Speaker of the House of Commons. “Concerningly, her video mirrors a rising anti-democratic trend we have seen in politics and political discourse over recent months.

“In the video, Gallant endorses the work of unnamed ‘rebel’ outlets in the Canadian media whose narratives diverge from the ‘elite-stream media,’” continued the CJFE letter. “Promoting propaganda, slandering politicians, denouncing media institutions and encouraging public mistrust for rigorous and ethical reporting are recognizable hallmarks of totalitarianism. There are disturbing precedents for this behaviour in 1930s Germany, Egypt’s military dictatorship and the contemporary United States.”

Since the Khadr payout was announced, while some media commentators have criticized it a number have argued it is justified regardless of Khadr’s past actions because past governments violated his rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,  and that an ongoing court case would probably have gone in Khadr’s favour, forcing the government to pay the money anyway in addition to spending more cash on fighting the case.

“Gallant’s statement that this is “fake news” is more than just a lie, it’s an example of toxic American-style discourse permeating Canadian politics,” Tom Henheffer, CJFE’s executive director, told J-Source. “This kind of rhetoric puts sound bites ahead of facts and erodes trust in the Canadian media and in Canadian democratic institutions.”

CJFE wants Gallant to apologize. It has also asked the Speaker to review her purported use of her parliamentary office to produce the video and whether funding for it  was procured in accordance with parliamentary ethics procedures. CJFE also asked for the term “fake news” to be added to an officially recognized list of unparliamentary language.

According to Global News, the controversial video has disappeared from Gallant’s Facebook page.

Grant Buckler is a retired freelance journalist and a volunteer with Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and lives in Kingston, Ont.