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CP24 personality alleges ‘systemic pattern’ of discrimination in human rights claim against Bell Media

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A well-known Toronto television personality has filed a human rights complaint against Bell Media, alleging “a systemic pattern” of racism, sexism and discrimination, adding that during her 11 years with the company, she was “treated as a token and a commodity.”

In a complaint filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission on Wednesday, Patricia Jaggernauth, a weather specialist, remote reporter and co-host for the Bell-owned news channel CP24, describes being repeatedly passed over for promotions and earning less than a living wage.

Jaggernauth says she watched as white colleagues, often newer ones, made it higher up the corporate ladder, while she wasn’t even offered a contract — something she attributes to the fact that she is a racialized woman.

Part Guyanese and part Jamaican, Jaggernauth claims she was denied full-time stable employment and was instead forced to work weeks straight without a day off — an experience she says landed her in hospital with pneumonia because she felt she had no choice but to put work ahead of her health.

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“I almost died doing what I loved because a freelancer can’t say no. Every hour is bread, every hour is rent, every hour is that tank of gas,” said Jaggernauth, who resigned from Bell Media last Tuesday.

In an email to CBC News, a Bell Media spokesperson said, “We do not comment on matters involving current or former staff members, but can confirm that Bell Media takes allegations of any potential discrimination very seriously, and are committed to a safe, inclusive, and respectful work environment where employees can thrive.

“If a matter is brought to our attention where an employee did not feel adequately supported, a process is triggered to review and address when required.”

‘Good enough to fill in but never … to invest in’

In an exclusive interview with CBC News, Jaggernauth broke her silence about her time at Bell.

At first, she said, landing a job there felt like “a dream.”

 

‘How come I was never enough?’

Journalist Patricia Jaggernauth alleges she was repeatedly passed up for job opportunities at CP24, leaving her struggling with her mental health.

“I’m the girl living in metro housing that got out. I’m the one that was never supposed to succeed,” she said. “I knew that I loved people, I loved community, I loved conversation … And where I was working provided that — but not ever on a contractual basis, always as a fill-in.

“How come I’m always good enough to fill in but never good enough to invest in?”

Jaggernauth says she was guaranteed just two days of work each week, and called at random to fill in for hosts who were off sick or away. With no certainty as to what her weeks would look like, she says she relied on the ability to take on other jobs to supplement her income — something she had done throughout her time there.

This past summer, management moved to limit that ability, blocking her from performing any paid activities outside of the company without management approval, according to her formal complaint. The rule was originally created in 2019 when Bell employees unionized, but was never enforced until this year, she says.

“Bell has done this while at the same time denying Ms. Jaggernauth promotions she has earned and is qualified for, and while refusing to provide her with full-time work,” the complaint reads.

“At Bell, people of colour are cynically used as tokens,” it adds.

Long days, short turnarounds led to breakdown: complaint

Jaggernauth’s complaint comes on the heels of Bell Media’s recent dismissal of celebrated chief anchor Lisa LaFlamme, who said she was “blindsided” when the company ended her contract at CTV National after more than 30 years as part of a “business decision.” The move caused an uproar and in the days that followed, CTV News executive Michael Melling went on leave from the company.

In 2019, Jaggernauth says she contracted a virus and was hospitalized after “years of long days, short turnarounds, lengthy work stretches and being told to work for weeks upon weeks, non-stop.”

After a three-month unpaid sick leave, she says she pleaded with Bell for more stability. What she was offered, she says, was a part-time contract formalizing her two days of work per week and giving her access to medical and dental benefits — with no additional shifts, no change to her wage and no ability to continue freelancing outside of Bell.

The complaint says the treatment Jaggernauth faced led her to suffer “a breakdown” during the most recent Bell Let’s Talk Day while live on the air. In the segment, later posted to YouTube by CP24, five hosts open up about their mental health.

The last host to share is Jaggernauth, who speaks candidly about her personal and professional struggles, including the toll of working weekends for 11 years.

“I’m going to cry. Oh my God,” says in the segment, tearing up. “In this industry what I’ve found is you get to be in the bright lights, you know, here you have this amazing career and people think you’re a multi-millionaire, you’re so lucky, but do you want to put my shoes on guys?”

Jaggernauth alleges none of her supervisors reached out at the time.

The complaint says the treatment Jaggernauth faced led her to suffer ‘a breakdown’ during Bell Let’s Talk Day while live on the air. In the segment, posted to YouTube by CP24, five hosts open up about their mental health. (CP24/YouTube)

‘I’m walking away and I will persevere’

It wasn’t until two weeks later when she reached out to her manager for help that a therapist was offered, she says. Ineligible for therapy through a benefits plan, Jaggernauth says she was finally offered a Bell-recommended therapist, but ultimately says she didn’t feel safe with the arrangement and declined the help.

The complaint says Jaggernauth had repeated conversations with management about her concerns at Bell — concerns she says were not taken seriously. Among those she spoke to were Melling and the company’s president, “however her complaints were sidelined,” according to the complaint.

Bell Media employees are part of a union, however given settlements between employers and unions are often kept secret through non-disclosure agreements, Jaggernauth says she felt a human rights complaint was the best way forward.

A complaint at the commission can not only result in payment of denied wages but also monetary damages for alleged discrimination. It can also force policy changes such as pay equity, says Jaggernauth’s lawyer Kathryn Marshall of the firm Levitt Sheikh.

Jaggernauth says for her, the complaint goes beyond money — it’s also about demanding change for women who look like her in the industry and for women overall.

As for her next steps, she says, “I came from hardship. I persevered. I started this career with hardship and I persevered, and I’m walking away and I will persevere.”

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Emergencies Act: Social media was key to protests, expert says

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OTTAWA –

Social media acted as the “central nervous system” of the “Freedom Convoy” protest in Ottawa last winter, the Public Order Emergency Commission heard Tuesday as it considered the role of misinformation in the lead up to the invocation of the Emergencies Act.

The policy phase this week follows six weeks of fact-finding hearings into the events that led to that decision, which included testimony about online threats and the role social media played in organizing the protest against COVID-19 public health measures.

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Before thousands of trucks started rolling toward Ottawa last January, a loose group of protest organizers communicated mainly over TikTok and Facebook, the commission heard over those weeks of testimony. Many of them had never met in person until the protest began.

“Social media was the central nervous system of the convoy, and exploration of its role crosses numerous domains, such as law, psychology, history, sociology and public policy, to name a few,” Emily Laidlaw, the Canada Research Chair in Cybersecurity Law at the University of Calgary, wrote in a report for the commission.

Social media was used to fundraise, connect organizers and spread their message. It was also used to contrast the accounts of traditional media outlets and provide a different view of what was happening on the ground, Dax D’Orazio, a political scientist and post-doctoral fellow with Queen’s University, testified during an expert panel discussion before the commission Tuesday.

“It was a way of creating meaning, finding community and building, eventually, momentum for social and a political movement,” he said.

The inquiry is seeking the expert input to bolster its analysis of whether the government was right to use the Emergencies Act in response to protests that took over downtown Ottawa and halted trade at several border crossings.

The expert testimony will inform Commissioner Paul Rouleau’s recommendations about how to modernize the Emergencies Act and identify other areas for further study. It will also help him and his team study the impact of the purposeful or inadvertent spread of false information during the protest, which was explicitly written into the commission’s mandate.

Experts testified that regulating disinformation is a difficult prospect, especially since it’s not illegal to spread falsehoods.

“It’s lawful but awful,” said Laidlaw during the panel discussion. “For the government to create legislation that targets lawful expression, it likely won’t survive constitutional scrutiny.”

The experts defined disinformation as the intentional spread of false information, while misinformation was described as people spreading false information that they themselves believe to be true.

It would be difficult to draft laws that distinguish between the two, said Jonathon Penney, a legal scholar at York University. “It’s a question of intent,” he said.

The panellists also explored the relationship between extremist views and social media, which can provide an echo chamber that serves to confirm people’s existing biases.

Studies have shown the internet can help entrench extremist values, said Vivek Venkatesh, an education professor at Concordia University.

People who subscribe to extremist views increasingly turn to “fringe media” instead of taking in news from traditional sources, said David Morin, a national security expert with Sherbrook University, who spoke at the panel in French.

He said “self-made journalists” associated with those fringe outlets were present in Ottawa during the convoy protest, and produced “alternative information” for viewers.

For example, Morin said some alternative media sources reported that hundreds of thousands of protesters attended the Ottawa demonstration, when police reports show the true number was far lower.

The inquiry is on a tight timeline to complete its work, with Rouleau expected to submit final recommendations to Parliament at the beginning of February.

Another panel on the flow of essential goods and services, critical infrastructure and trade corridors was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2022.

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U.S., European media outlets urge end to prosecution of Julian Assange

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WASHINGTON –

The United States should end its prosecution of Julian Assange, leading media outlets from the United States and Europe that had collaborated with the WikiLeaks founder said on Monday, citing press freedom concerns.

“This indictment sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press,” editors and publishers of the Guardian, the New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and El País said in an open letter.

Assange is wanted by U.S. authorities on 18 counts, including a spying charge, related to WikiLeaks’ release of confidential U.S. military records and diplomatic cables. His supporters say he is an anti-establishment hero who has been victimized because he exposed U.S. wrongdoing, including in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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Monday marked twelve years since those media outlets collaborated to release excerpts from over 250,000 documents obtained by Assange in the so-called “Cablegate” leak.

The material was leaked to WikiLeaks by the then American soldier Chelsea Manning and revealed the inner workings of U.S. diplomacy around the globe. The documents exposed “corruption, diplomatic scandals and spy affairs on an international scale,” the letter said.

In August, a group of journalists and lawyers sued the CIA and its former director Mike Pompeo over allegations the intelligence agency spied on them when they visited Assange during his stay in Ecuador’s embassy in London.

Assange spent seven years in the embassy before being dragged out and jailed in 2019 for breaching bail conditions. He has remained in prison in London while his extradition case is decided. If extradited to the United States, he faces a sentence of up to 175 years in an American maximum security prison.

His legal team has appealed to the High Court in London to block his extradition in a legal battle that has dragged on for more than a decade.

“Publishing is not a crime,” the media outlets said in their letter on Monday.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

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Top media outlets demand US end prosecution of Julian Assange

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US charges against WikiLeaks founder threaten press freedom and set ‘dangerous precedent’, US and European media say.

The United States must end its prosecution of Julian Assange, top global media organizations have urged, saying the US indictment against the WikiLeaks founder threatens free expression and freedom of the press.

In an open letter on Monday, five leading media outlets denounced the US’s prosecution against Assange, who is wanted on 18 counts, including a spying charge.

“This indictment sets a dangerous precedent and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press,” wrote the editors and publishers of The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El Pais.

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“Holding governments accountable is part of the core mission of a free press in a democracy.”

The letter comes exactly 12 years after the media outlets published revelations gleaned from WikiLeaks’s release of more than 250,000 confidential US military records and diplomatic cables, known as “Cablegate”.

The material was leaked to WikiLeaks by then-US soldier Chelsea Manning and revealed the inner workings of Washington’s diplomacy around the world.

The documents exposed “corruption, diplomatic scandals and spy affairs on an international scale”, Monday’s letter said.

“Twelve years after the publication of ‘Cablegate’, it is time for the US government to end its prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secrets. Publishing is not a crime,” the media outlets said.

The 2019 US justice department indictment accused Assange of causing “serious damage” to US national security with the leak, as well as putting US government sources in danger of physical harm or detention.

But Assange’s supporters say he is being prosecuted for exposing US wrongdoing, including those committed during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He remains in custody in Britain pending a US extradition request to face trial and could face up to 175 years in prison in the US if found guilty. Assange is appealing against the British government’s approval of his extradition.

Monday’s letter noted that, when Barack Obama was president and Joe Biden his vice president, the US administration held off on indicting Assange, as journalists involved could have also had to face prosecution.

That changed under President Donald Trump, when the US justice department charged Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act, which the media outlets said “has never been used to prosecute a publisher or broadcaster”.

The letter is the latest example of pressure on President Biden’s administration to end Assange’s prosecution.

Last year, leading human rights groups, including Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union, called on Washington to drop the charges.

“The indictment of Mr Assange threatens press freedom because much of the conduct described in the indictment is conduct that journalists engage in routinely – and that they must engage in in order to do the work the public needs them to do,” they wrote.

In July, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador also said he gave a letter to Biden in defence of Assange, while also renewing a previous offer of asylum to the WikiLeaks founder.

“I left a letter to the president about Assange, explaining that he did not commit any serious crime, did not cause anyone’s death, did not violate any human rights, and that he exercised his freedom, and that arresting him would mean a permanent affront to freedom of expression,” Lopez Obrador said.

Colombia’s left-wing President Gustavo Petro said last week that he met with WikiLeaks spokespeople and planned to ask Biden not to charge a journalist “just for telling the truth”.

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