Well, I must say, that story that moved on the CP wire this morning by Parliamentary Press Gallery colleague Jennifer Ditchburn sure had us talking in our Sun Media newsroom in Ottawa. (And in other newsrooms as well apparently!)
I don’t want to knock Ditchburn’s writing on this because it’s a bit of a complex story but it’s quite clear from many reactions to those who read her story that many of you finished reading the first draft of her piece (it has since been updated) and came way with the belief that Sun News Network colluded with the political staff working in Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s office to produce and broadcast a ceremony for Citizenship Week that was stuffed with fake new Canadians.
Now, it turns out that ceremony was stuffed with fake new Canadians — six of the nine were government bureaucrats pretending to be new Canadians — but as the very same e-mail chain upon which Ditchburn built her story demonstrates, there was no collusion. Both Kenney’s office and my colleagues who produced and broadcast this ceremony in Toronto had no idea it was stuffed with fakes.
Here are the records released to Ditchburn as a result of her Access to Information request: It’s a PDF with 157 pages of e-mail correspondence involving Citizenship and Immigration Canada bureaucrats that were sent after Sun News Network asked Kenney’s office in late September if we, like CBC, could have a swearing-in ceremony at our headquarters to broadcast during Citizenship Week. (We got the PDF from the department which you or any Canadian can do for any ATI request that’s been released to the requester and I’ve spent a chunk of the day going going through this)
The person behind our request to broadcast a citizenship ceremony was producer Dayna Gourley, a broadcast veteran who has worked at Global and City TV. On November 9, we were saddened to hear that she was leaving us for CBC, where she works today.
Most of the time, in those 157 pages of records released under ATI, Gourley’s named is blacked out by the government censors. But on two occasions the censors missed it.
From those e-mail exchanges here’s what we know:
• On Oct. 17, Leblanc wrote that she had eight “new Canadians” confirmed fo rthe ceremony and was working hard to find two more.
• At 3:24 p.m. on Oct. 18 Leblanc wrote to her colleagues that she had “10 confirmed candidates” and provided what appeared to be brief biographies of the candidates. The names and biographies were blacked out by government censors.
• At 6:12 p.m. on Oct. 18, another bureaucrat, Raylene Baker, writes her colleagues to say “a couple of hours ago” they had found the final ninth and 10th new Canadian for the ceremony.
• At 10 a.m. on Oct. 19, the ten “new Canadians” showed up at the Sun News Network studio in Toronto for the hour-long ceremony/broadcast.
• At 1 pm. on Oct. 19, Leblanc sends an e-mail to her colleagues, to provide “a quick wrap-up of the Sun TV event that took place this morning” In this e-mail, for the first time, she says, “In the end, we had three new citizens attend — I anticipated that it would be a low turn-out after doing follow-up calls yesterday, so I asked six CIC employees to come to the ceremony so that we’d have the right numbers. The rest of the nine people who had previously confirmed either cancelled at the last-minute or no-showed.” (page 127 of that PDF file above)
Now, you might ask, what about that e-mail in which a Sun News Network producer say “Let’s fake the oath.”
OK: You can read it for yourself by downloading that PDF link above. It’s on Page 80.
The producer is the aforementioned Dayna Gourley. She sends an e-mail on Oct. 11 to Leblanc in response to a message Leblance had sent earlier that day. Leblanc asks Gourley in the first e-mail “if you’ve decided on whether you’d like to proceed with filming a ceremony next week.”
Gourley tries to phone her. Get Leblanc’s voice-mail. Leaves a message and then writes this:
I tried to call you and left a more detailed message.
Let’s do it. We can fake the Oath.”
Now I have no idea what Leblanc and Gourley are talking about here. Tried to reach Gourley today to ask with no success. Gourley left no e-mail records behind on this matter on her Sun News computer.
But it seems quite clear that it cannot possibly be colluding with a bureaucrat to fake stand-ins because a week later, the bureaucrats, including Leblanc are still scrambling to find real Canadians. And they do — real enough that they circulated biographies of these real Canadians.
So that’s all I’ve got: Let me know if you’ve got questions: I’m happy to try to answer them…