On the subject of those fake new Canadians at the citizenship ceremony

- February 2nd, 2012

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:

“Hi Tracie

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…

 

Categories: Politics

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23 comments

  1. Doug says:

    fact: Producer and bureaucrat discussed “faking the oath.”

    fact: the oath was faked.

    your conclusion: “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.”

    Such counter-intuitive reasoning is way, way over my head, please elaborate as to how the fact that they were “still scrambling” proves that they weren’t planning on faking the oath, given evidence that they were.

    Unless of course, “fake” is just Sun News/Gov’t slang for “do”.

  2. rasa masa says:

    You very carefully leave out some pertinent parts.

    The CBC showed the entire ceremony, and planned it for a couple of months before citizenship week (I had to look it up, it’s in October), your network were scrambling to put something together at the last minute and only wanted a small part of the ceremony.

    Jason Kenney’s staff forced immigration department to add a last-minute citizenship ceremony at the network even though the staff at the office tried repeatedly to get Sun News Network to go to an already scheduled event. The bureaucrats knew it was a bad idea from the start.

    Sounds like the immigration department did whatever they could to accommodate an unreasonable request. If Sun News Network cared about fairness, they would take this one on the chin. ‘We messed up, forgot about Citizenship Week, scrambled to put something together at the last minute, and Immigration Canada did what they could to make it happen’.

    Don’t know if there was collusion or not, but for me that’s not the point.

    Some people that work in a government office are getting flak for doing what they could to respond to a request that they knew right from the start was a bad idea. They shouldn’t be holding the bag, while your network tries to pretend they had no part of this fiasco.

  3. Rasa masa is an idiot says:

    This is a straw man being built by the left, move on.

    The idiot producer is now with her own kind

  4. Simon says:

    I’ll do a bit of math for those of us who know this language
    journalistic dishonesty = Sun News

  5. simon says:

    In truth, this whole scenario isn’t worth the time of this reply.

    However the cookie crumbles …or should I make that “wafer” the whole affair is trivial and smacks of juvenile ‘gottcha’ games of the same standard as Wafergate. Television is theatre of a sort and as anyone in theatre can attest, “The show must go on”. And go on it did…an unfortunate situation perhaps but what does happen in the real world.

    People getting their nickers in a knot over this and that includes the opposition parties and their enablers need to grow up.

    Oh, and that includes you Ms Ditchburn.

  6. David Akin says:

    @Simon: Well, I’m sorry you feel that way, Simon. It certainly would be dishonest if we knew ahead of time that these bureaucrats were fakes. We didn’t. Tracie Leblanc’s colleagues at Citizenship and Immigration Canada clearly didn’t know.

    @Rasa Masa : I don’t think I’m spilling any state secrets here to say, yup, we were scrambling! The network’s not even a year old and our planning for future events could be improved. But you know what? I’ve worked at Global and at CTV — and they scramble too! But do read the e-mail exchange: Kenney’s office actually tried to call off the event — if the bureaucrats e-mails can be believed — but it was the bureaucrats themselves who called off Kenney’s office and told them — and us — that the event could and would proceed. Again, I’ll draw on my experience with other networks where bureaucrats have shown similar willingness to try to bend over backwards to help with logistics of a particular shoot.

  7. simon says:

    Note: Simon @8:13pm is NOT simon @ 8:18pm

  8. David Akin says:

    @Doug Whatever oaths were administered were not faked. The only thing that was fake was the bureaucrats passing themselves off as Canadians. There is no evidence in any of the bureaucrats’ e-mails that anything other than the “new Canadians” were faked.
    Take a look at what the judge said about the oaths here:
    http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/TopStories/20120202/citizenship-reaffirmation-ceremony-judge-120202/

  9. Confuscan says:

    I doubt Sun TV was in on the “fake” new Canadian game. In fact, I view that as a red herring.

    The more interesting and relevant question is why was the Department apparently bending over backwards to accommodate this ceremony at Sun TV? Seems like a lot of work given the email chain. And more importantly, why would bureaucrats volunteer as stand-ins? Perhaps some prodding with a very sharp stick helped and I would like to know who was holding the stick. That would be interesting.

    Apologies if this shows up twice. Fighting losing battle with comment system.

  10. John Smith says:

    I like the way you throw Gourley under the bus while pretending you aren’t.

    And blame her on the other networks while pretending you aren’t.

  11. John Doe says:

    Hey John Smith (fake name perhaps)
    How is this throwing someone under a bus.

    “Hi Tracie

    I tried to call you and left a more detailed message.

    Let’s do it. We can fake the Oath.

    Its called quoting an ATI report

  12. rICH says:

    Although Dayna Gourley deleted her emails upon leaving SunNews: IT personnel should be able to recover those emails. It would be interesting to see what they say, also Ms. Gourley should make herself available to answer questions.

    Was this pre planned when she left Sunnews?
    Did Ms Gourley leave Sunnews with an axe to grind?

  13. I read Jennifer Ditchburn’s story early this morning on a CP twitter feed. I found it lengthy and confusing. I thought it was a lot to do about nothing. I really think we have bigger fish to fry than to play the gotcha game either on media outlets or the governing party. People should get a life. Why was Jeniffer Ditchburn so interested in this? Did Gourley get the ball rolling? I am not into conspiracy theories, but something is fishy here.

  14. Peewee Schroeder says:

    What I want to know is why the so-called journalists and “SPUN” media couldn’t get off their lazy asses and go to one of the 13 real citizenship ceremonies taking place the next day.

    Instead they seem to be able to call up the minister’s office and order up a bunch of civil servants to waste their time arranging a special, separate ceremony just for SUN’s benefit.

    That’s the real scandal here.

  15. Ed the Hun says:

    My question is did the ex-Sun producer (now CBC producer) plan to depart Sun BEFORE the ‘fake’ event was planned (with her having at least substantial knowledge of the actions being planned)? Or was it just coincidence? Did she tip-off or someone at Mother Corp (i.e. Ditchburn or someone responsible for authorizing what stories to follow) and lead her to the right area regarding the Access request? Did the ex-Sun producer have a confidentiality agreement in-place regarding activities at Sun TV?

    Was any of this done on purpose to cause embarrassment to either Sun Tv or the government?

    All seems reasonable to question given the likelihood that Ditchburn would even have reason to question the validity of the original event that celebrated Canadian citizenship. A routine and ceremonial event only…in fact my understanding was that the Sun TV event was a ‘Re-affirmation’ Event…can’t any Canadian therefore attend and be involved? Who knew that the ‘fake’ bureaucrats were even there? Sounds like the Sun TV producer did…

    Certainly not opposed to anyone, reporting-the-news…but am quite opposed to any news agency MAKING the news with the intent of embarrassing the government.

    Can’t wait for Evan to have the CBC producer on TV that was involved to get the entire story straight…

  16. Gabby in QC says:

    I’m with Ed the Hun & Karl Gotthardt on this. It smells fishy that a former Sun Media employee currently working for the CBC, which Jennifer Ditchburn also works for, was originally involved in this affair. Did Gourley give Ditchburn a lead?

    Also, the opening sentence of Ms. Ditchburn’s piece is misleading:
    “Six federal bureaucrats were drafted to pose as new Canadians for a citizenship reaffirmation ceremony broadcast on the Sun News network, an event requested by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s office …”
    Ms. Ditchburn creates the impression that the particular event for Sun News, including the faking, was “requested by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s office.”

    Ms. Ditchburn also says this:
    “Let’s do it. We can fake the Oath,” reads an email from an @sunmedia.ca email address, the name blacked out of the document. …”
    So the question arises: how was Mr. Akin able to ascertain the name of the person who wrote that, whereas Ms. Ditchburn appears to be shielding it under the cover of “the name blacked out of the document”?
    I’m sure I’ve seen Ms. Ditchburn billed as “an investigative reporter”. How come she missed that detail? Did she plod through all 157 pages of the information she requested or was she provided with the Cole’s Notes version so she could write her story?

  17. Sam McVety says:

    David, I don’t understand your reasoning here.

    You wrote: “Both Kenney’s office and my colleagues who produced and broadcast this ceremony in Toronto had no idea it was stuffed with fakes.”

    How do you know for a fact that Kenney’s office had no idea fakes were used? Have you been in dialogue with Kenney’s office and you’re taking them at their word? Were you involved in the planning of the event? Admittedly from the redacted email you can’t see what Kenny’s office has said, nor obviously is it known what has been said verbally. The point is though it isn’t known, yet your statement suggests you know conclusively, how is that?

    You wrote: “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.” This does not seem clear to me. It seems entirely possible that though Sun TV and the governmental officials attempted to have a legitimate ceremony they both acquiesced to having fake new citizens when real ones were not forthcoming. That still constitutes collusion.

    The statement from the Sun TV producer: “Let’s do it. We can fake the Oath” suggests a willingness to not adhere to the strictures of an above board ceremony. How can you say on the one hand it isn’t clear what’s meant by that statement, but that even though you don’t know what it means (though the meaning is obvious) you know there is no collusion?

  18. Ed the Hun says:

    But ultimately this will just fall off of the MSM’s radar right away. They won’t have to even try to explain this at all. They made their ‘accusation’ and smeared the government (not to mention their arch-rivals, Sun) and now time to move onto the next ‘scandal’. Keep throwing mud at the wall and hope that some sticks. They have 3 more years for this practice and I promise you, you’ll see more of these ‘faux’ scandals.

    Accusations and smears will be made by the MSM…even when the story falls apart, it will quickly get washed aside by those who ‘make the news’. And no one will make them accountable.

    The 5th column thrives in Canada.

  19. Pierre says:

    @Gabby in QC – just to clarify something, since you’re so interested in getting the facts straight. Ms Ditchburn does does not “work for” the CBC – she is an employee of the Canadian Press – a news gathering agency that many news outlets use as a source for information, photographs, and background.

    This is not a CBC ploy, this is Sun Media trying not to look amateur when they got caught with their pants down while trying to pull up the minister’s pants, that were also down around his ankles. Your “left wing” hatred is clouding your reality, but that has always worked so well for the far right. Don’t let facts get in the way of defending your ill-conceived position on a huge blunder.

  20. David Akin says:

    @Sam McVety: The “Sun TV producer”, as I said in the post, is a broadcast journalism veteran named Dayna Gourley. She’s excellent. So excellent that CBC, like any broadcaster in our business on the lookout for good talen, poached her from us. We’d probably hire her back if we could cuz she’s really good at her job. I’ll put my reputation beside her reputation to say that that e-mail is being taken way out of context.

    I wish Dayna could contribute to this debate and explain the context of that e-mail. But I bet, she’s in a tremendously uncomfortable position. She’s now a CBC employee who, while working at Sun News Network wrote what many (including lots of CBC journalists) now think is a “smoking gun” e-mail about CBC’s sworn enemy which is also her former employer! Will CBC encourage/allow her to explain this? Would she want to? Talk about a weird journalism ethics dilemma!

  21. Gabby in QC says:

    “Gabby in QC – just to clarify something, since you’re so interested in getting the facts straight. Ms Ditchburn does does not “work for” the CBC …”

    OK, so Ms. Ditchburn is not a full-time employee of the CBC, but she DOES work for the CBC on a regular basis, often appearing as a panelist on Power & Politics and sometimes also on At Issue. See, I watch the CBC! And I don’t want it shut down!

    Maybe the position of people’s pants fascinates some readers as much as it appears to fascinate you. I’m more interested in the fact that some journalists are quick to doubt politicians’ words and question their motives, ascribe all manner of lies and trickery to them, yet when their own motives are questioned, they become hypersensitive. With so many more important issues to talk about this week, one can justifiably wonder about the timing and the source of this trivial and apparently isolated case — using stand-ins for a re-affirmation ceremony.

    IMO, this is an example of “wafer-chasing” journalism, an apt description coined by a commenter elsewhere.

  22. Sherri says:

    Pierre at 3:28pm
    Your hatred comment about so-called extreme right wing Gabby in QC is simply ridiculous. It is almost childish lazy routine partisanship.

    Anyone familiar with Gabby’s commenting across the Canadian blogging landscape would be hard pressed not to agree that Gabby provides some of the most engaged, clear and balanced comments. More amazingly, Gabby’s comments veer from the daily canned meme’s and are often offer deeper, more creative and thought out analysis type commentary. For those of us who lean even slightly to the centre or centre right Gabby is anything but extreme.

  23. Jane Doe says:

    Anyway you look at this, what I see is a journalist who refuses to ever take responsibility for his actions. What I see is the government and a network working together. What I see are excuses about both of the above. I say grow up and start acting like an adult.
    Aren’t you embarrassed yet?

Comments are closed.