The federal Conservatives on Wednesday continued to push for an apology from Digital Government Minister Joyce Murray over her allowing a post on her community WeChat group that sought to crowdfund a lawsuit against Global News for its reporting on China.
It’s the second time the opposition has demanded an apology and the government has not done so.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week called the post “unacceptable.”
During the question-and-answer period of the House of Commons Special Committee on COVID-19, Tory MP Ziad Aboultaif pressed the government on what is being done to ensure someone is held responsible for allowing the post to go up on Murray’s WeChat group.
“Does the minister accept responsibility for this attack on Canadian journalists?” Aboultaif asked.
“The minister made clear two things: first, that person was not part of her network and second, she does not share the views that were shared,” responded Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos.
Aboultaif asked again, and Duclos again brushed off questions.
“I think the honourable member, who I respect very strongly, is going a bit beyond the customs of rationality and reason and I would encourage him to come back to reason and rationality.”
The exchange continued for several further questions, with Duclos reiterating variations of his first two responses repeatedly without answering the questions.
Last month, an investigation by Global News journalist Sam Cooper revealed that China launched a state-level operation in January to corner the global market on personal protective equipment even as it was publicly insisting that the coronavirus outbreak spreading through its population was under control.
That report has since prompted threats of a lawsuit by a group calling itself the Maple Leafs Anti-Racism Actions Association because it feels that the report on the stockpiling “maligned” Chinese-Canadians.
“We are not attacking the integrity of Mr. Sam Cooper or calling him a racist,” the press release said. “We expect that some Canadians of Chinese heritage may not feel the same way as we do towards Mr. Cooper’s report.”
It continued: “We are committed to the Canadian value of freedom of the press and we regret that we have to take this action to protect our community’s image and integrity.”
One Canadian former diplomat who served in China has called the strategy “lawfare” — trying to weaponize the law to silence scrutiny.
“Global News is committed to following journalistic standards and practices, and we stand by Sam Cooper’s article and support his ongoing investigation in a matter of significant public interest,” a spokesperson for Global News said.
“We are increasingly concerned by what appears to be an organized effort to discredit our journalist, our reporting and our news division as we investigate the serious issue of foreign influence in Canadian affairs.”
The virus has since infected more than 6.2 million people globally and killed 372,479.
In Canada, there are now 92,737 cases and 7,415 deaths.
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