We received some emails and Facebook messages over the weekend, demanding to know why The Citizen didn’t cover Saturday afternoon’s rally in the CN Centre in support of the trucker’s convoy in Ottawa.
We also covered a public rally in September featuring Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada, that drew similar crowds raising similar issues.
Each rally was louder, more boisterous and angrier than the one before it.
We’re all pretty used to the usual “Citizen sucks” and “lamestream media” insults about why we don’t cover their concerns (read: publish their statements, regardless of whether they’re true or not) but by the time the September event happened, it had evolved into veiled threats and intimidation. Yelling at a Citizen photographer and trying to knock a camera, a delicate piece of equipment worth thousands of dollars, out of his hands was the final straw.
Come to our event, not for honest reporting, but so that we can call you names, yell in your face and try to wreck your stuff? No thanks.
It's simply not safe for me to assign my staff to these events any more, not just for the boorish behaviour they encounter when they get there but also for the increased risk of acquiring COVID from people who refuse to respect social distancing or anyone who does. Workers in this province have the right to refuse unsafe work and managers must accommodate those concerns when raised. The Citizen shop steward representing our unionized employees has stated clearly that he believes those events are unsafe and I agree with him.
We weren’t particularly surprised in early December when Prince George RCMP said they were called after anti-vaccine bullies were intimidating people lined up at a vaccine clinic.
We covered numerous rallies in 2021, from Black Lives Matter to Every Child Matters to events focused on old-growth logging and homelessness. While we were sometimes criticized for our reporting (what unites every group holding protests is arguing about crowd size and complaining about photography that doesn’t make it look like there was a massive turnout), the only events my staff were harassed at were anti-vaccine protests.
Social media posts by Ottawa reporters covering the truckers convoy also clearly showed numerous examples of bullying, intimidation and blatant efforts to prevent them from doing their jobs. No efforts were made by more thoughtful, conscientious protesters nearby to intervene on behalf of these reporters – or my staff last year – when they were harassed and threatened.
So we won’t be reporting on these local rallies in the future and if you’re looking for coverage of it, feel free to look elsewhere. There’s plenty of other stories to cover in Prince George and we’ll be focusing our attention on those.