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How Justin Trudeau hounded a small, independent news platform even as he waxes eloquent about freedom of speech and expression

In April 2022, the Canadian government denied 'journalism licence' to Rebel News, claiming that only 1% of its content is news.

Rebel News, a Canada-based independent news outfit, has been under the scanner of the Justin Trudeau-led-government for its critical stories about the Canadian Prime Minister and his policies.

Prior to the 2019 federal election in Canada, Rebel News’ founder Ezra Levant wrote a 137-page long book titled ‘The Libranos: What the Media Won’t Tell You about Justin Trudeau’s Corruption.’

The book detailed allegations of corruption in the Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau. The cover picture of the book even had a picture of the Canadian Prime Minister and his Ministers in the trademark style of the American TV series ‘Sopranos’.

Lawn sign promoting ‘The Libranos’ book by Ezra Levant

In order to spread the word about his book amid the 2019 federal election in Canada, the Rebel News founder adopted a ‘guerrilla marketing campaign.‘ Ezra Levant distributed lawn signs with the cover of ‘The Libranos.’

After his book received an overwhelming response in Canada, the Trudeau government used the election apparatus of the country to hound him. The Commissioner of Canada Elections ruled that the use of lawn signs by Ezra Levant to promote his political book somehow amounted to ‘third-party election advertising.’

The founder of Rebel News was even quizzed for not registering his media company with the Canadian government as a ‘third party election advertiser.’

According to the National Post, the Canada Elections Act makes it mandatory for third parties to register and declare election advertising on spending a certain minimal amount.

The Commissioner of Canada Election thus claimed that Rebel News violated election norms and fined them $3000. Ezra Levant rubbished the decision and pointed out, “It’s not a political campaign plan; it’s a journalistic campaign plan. Our competitors aren’t the Liberals. Our competitors are the Media Party.”

He added, “That enraged Trudeau — especially when it became a best seller. So Elections Canada assigned more than a dozen staff to investigate me and prosecute me. They’ve been hounding me for four years. They have already fined me thousands of dollars. And I’ve had to spend $100,000 in legal fees.

The founder of Rebel News emphasised that although several books were published about Justin Trudeau at that time, it was only his book and advertising strategy that faced the wrath of the Commissioner of Canada Election.

On September 21 this year, Ezra Levant filed an appeal before the federal court against the fine levied on him for supposed ‘illegal third party election advertising.’

Counsel for Rebel News, Aaron Rosenberg, argued, “(We are) one of the few media outlets that is meaningfully scrutinizing public figures in Canada, especially the prime minister. We’re talking about a prominent Canadian author (Levant) who has shaped political discourse in this country.”

The matter came up for hearing before Justice Cecily Strickland. She noted, “The publication of the book is not really the issue, it’s the promotion of the book by way of the lawn signs.” After hearing both sides on September 21, 2023, the federal court judge reserved her decision in the case.

Justin Trudeau and his disdain for Rebel News

This is however not the first time that Justin Trudeau hounded Rebel News through government agencies. In April 2022, the Canadian government denied ‘journalism licence’ to Rebel News, claiming that only 1% of its content is news.

In September 2021, the independent news outlet was also denied accreditation for covering 2021 federal election debates but it managed to get a ruling in its favour from a federal court.

Justin Trudeau has been upfront about his disdain for Rebel News. On being asked about his attempts to censor the news outfit, he justified, “The reality is, organizations – organizations like yours – that continue to spread misinformation and disinformation on the science around vaccines…”

He blamed Rebel News for fuelling mass protests by truckers against his government. “Frankly your – I won’t call it a media organization – your group of individuals need to take accountability for some of the polarization that we’re seeing in this country,” the Canadian Prime Minister brazened it out.

Canadian Prime Minister and his hypocrisy around ‘free speech’

Justin Trudeau has been the blue-eyed hero of the global left-liberal ecosystem for supposedly championing the cause of ‘free speech’ and ‘press freedom.’

As is often the case with such ‘liberal leaders’, the Canadian Prime Minister’s crusade in support of freedom of speech is based on political convenience. In December 2020, Trudeau was lauded after he extended his support to the anti-farm law protests in India and interfered in the country’s internal affairs.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t start also by recognizing the news coming out of India about the protests by farmers. The situation is concerning. And we all are very worried about family and friends; I know that’s a reality for many of you,” Trudeau had said back then.

“Let me remind you, Canada will always be ready to defend the right to peaceful protest. We believe in the importance of dialogue and that’s why we reached out to multiple means directly to Indian authorities to highlight our concerns,” Trudeau had remarked.

With vote bank politics in mind, Justin Trudeau had also been downplaying the rising menace of Khalistani extremism in Canada under the pretext of ‘free speech’.

However, he was quick to curb the protest by Canadian truckers against his ‘undemocratic’ Covid-19 policies. “They don’t have the right to blockade our economy, or our democracy, or our fellow citizens’ daily lives. It has to stop,” the Canadian Prime Minister had said in February 2022.

His nefarious attempts to stifle Rebel News and disrupt democratic protests against his government by Canadian truckers show that his free speech advocacy is rather selective.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Dibakar Dutta
Dibakar Dutta
Centre-Right. Political analyst. Assistant Editor @Opindia. Reach me at [email protected]

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