Friday, February 29, 2008

My, my, my!

I always believed "Shawinigate" was a real scandal and Jean Chretien was a crook. In fact, I had quite liked Chretien before this story came along and made him look -- to me -- like a typical little chiseler.
But now this story pops up. And my, my, isn't it interesting? Shawinigate was all over the front pages. I believed Andrew McIntosh was cheated out of a National Newspaper Award. He owned this story, which ran day after day after day and seemed like such an exemplary piece of investigative reporting (but the NNA people gave him one the next year for a now-forgotten story about sleazy dealings by long-forgotten Tory leadership candidate Tom Long.)
Back in those days, the National Post was breaking new ground as the most reckless political newspaper in Canada. Whether it was Bob Fife's front-page blockbusters built on anonymous "sources" that never stood the test of time, the tax-cut and brain-drain agenda pushing on the front page (what ever happened to the brain-drain?), the deliberate misrepresentation of the "billion dollar boondoggle" in the Department of Human Resources Development (a fake "scandal" that destroyed the career of Jane Stewart, an excellent minister) or Shawinigate, the Post shook things up on the Hill.
But my, my, my. The Shawinigate memo was a fake? That's a story I never saw on the front page. Someone tries to destroy a sitting prime minister with fake documents and no one at the Post (or the Globe) sees this as news? It's not on the front page? It's bigger news than the original story.
But look what the Post and Globe have done. They've gone to court to protect the person who tried to frame Chretien, just as the Ottawa Citizen went to court to protect the person, likely a Canadian intelligence officer of some type, to destroy Mahar Arar by leaking bogus documents to Juliette O'Neill.
Now the attempted framing of Chretien is being touted as a Freedom of the Press issue. My take: if a source gives you fake documents to try to destroy a Prime Minister or smear a guy who's being tortured in a third-world jail, you owe them no protection whatsoever. In fact, you have a civic obligation to report a crime and a journalistic duty to write what you know.
With this kind of outrageous manipulation of public opinion, and with this type of playing fast and loose with truth (remember "truth", fellas), small wonder the public hates journalists.

National Post ordered to hand over document at heart of 'Shawinigate' (CRAFT-Post-Appeal)
Source: The Canadian Press
Feb 29, 2008 13:45

TORONTO - Enforcing the law must at times outweigh the need to protect an anonymous source, Ontario's highest court said Friday as it ordered the National Post to surrender documents at the heart of conflict-of-interest allegations against former prime minister Jean Chretien.

The Ontario Court of Appeal overturned an earlier decision quashing an RCMP search warrant issued against the daily newspaper and reporter Andrew McIntosh, who in 2001 was sent what appeared to be a 1997 loan document from the Business Development Bank of Canada.

The document outlined a $615,000 mortgage to the Grand-Mere Inn, located in Chretien's home riding of St-Maurice, Que.

A footnote in the document said the inn owed Chretien's family company $23,040 in 1997, at the same time Chretien was lobbying the bank president to grant the inn a loan.

Police eventually concluded the document was a forgery, and set about obtaining both the document and the envelope that contained it in order to investigate its origins and ultimately prosecute the alleged forger.

In 2004, however, Ontario Superior Court Justice Mary Lou Benotto quashed the search warrant and assistance order issued to the Post on the grounds that it would break McIntosh's pledge to protect the identity of his source and violate the media's ``constitutionally entrenched right'' to gather and disseminate information.

``In this case, the eroding of the ability of the press to perform its role in society cannot be outweighed by the Crown's investigation,'' Benotto ruled.

The three-judge Appeals Court panel, however, disagreed.

``The document and the envelope are not merely pieces of evidence tending to show that a crime has been committed - they are the very actus reus (guilty act) of the alleged crime,'' they wrote in a 23-page decision.

``Without the document and the envelope and the ability to conduct forensic testing of them there can be no further investigation, no ability to get at the truth.''

Intervenors in the case, including the CBC and the Globe and Mail, had argued that ordering the documents be handed over would result in a chill between reporters and sources and impair the ability of the media to properly do its job.

If the allegations of forgery were true, the documents would be the central piece of evidence in an ``especially grave and heinous crime,'' the Appeals Court concluded - ``a criminal conspiracy to force a duly elected prime minister from office.''

In such cases, the newspaper's right to protect their anonymous source _ particularly one who might be involved in such a crime _ is trumped by the responsibility of police to enforce the laws of the land, the panel wrote.

``Although, in pursuit of their constitutional right to gather and disseminate the news, journalists are entitled to protect their sources, that entitlement loses much of its force when journalists use it to protect the identity of a potential criminal or to conceal possible evidence of a crime.''


© 2008 The Canadian Press

h/t Kinsella


James said...

Now, about that receipt written on a napkin...

James Goneaux said...

Sorry, hit the enter button...

Anonymous said...

I think the counter-argument has always been that the docu is in fact legit and this is one of the RCMPs political - not law enforcement - operations (see: 2006 election).

At the very least, it must be the longest running and most expensive investigation in history for something that can, at most, result in a single mischief count.

Paul Wells said...

The Post devoted considerable coverage, at the time, to the government's claim that the document was a forgery. I don't recall whether we ran those stories on A1, but offhand I'd be surprised if we didn't. If I had access to Informart I could show you, but... well, don't get me started on the Infomart thing.