A number of journalists from the Rebel, a conservative-leaning news and opinion outlet travelled to Montreal on April 9th to cover the province’s strict curfew policing as well as a peaceful march set for the afternoon of Saturday, April 10th.
Journalists are considered essential workers, but for a number of weeks, Rebel journalist Yaakov Pollak, who covers the province’s strict curfew in Montreal, has been getting hefty fines by SPVM agents for being out past 21H30, despite showing a letter of his employer confirming his right to cover the curfew, and a proof from SPVM’s own communications team certifying that journalists are indeed essential workers and are allowed to be out past curfew.
On at least two occasions, police officers from the SPVM referred to Pollak as a “Jew”, or as part of the “Jew Media”.
As the journalists from Rebel were getting ready to cover the march in Montreal, police officers showed up to their Airbnb and detained commentator Keean Bexte. The SPVM then called backup and circled the perimeter of residence.
The journalists who got out of the residence were not allowed back in, including Rebel’s founder Ezra Levant which police refused to let into his Airbnb to get medicine. Those still in the residence were not allowed out unless they agreed to a search.
Rebel journalist David Menzies was arrested and detained in the back of a police car.
For hours, police tried to obtain a search warrant for the property. While attempting to obtain the warrant they established a perimeter and refused to let the journalists head back to their temporary residence.
When reaching out to a SPVM communication officer, the officer said the journalists had been detained in virtue of the law on Public health (s-2.2). When asked which specific clause was violated, the SPVM spokesperson could not answer.
Workplace gatherings are still permissible under s-2.2.
When asked about the occurrences of SPVM agents calling Rebel journalist “Jew” or “Jew media”, the spokesperson said he was not aware of those recordings.
Journalistic freedom is a fundamental pillar of democracy, and the internet reacted strongly and negatively to the images of journalists in Canada being detained by a police force when they are travelling, on assignment, specifically to cover alleged abuses by that very police force.
More details will come.