TORONTO — Police and politicians’ efforts to limit public access to recent events in Toronto and Vancouver Island have cast a spotlight on the role of journalists and spurred concerns over freedom of the press.
The decision by authorities in Toronto to fence off public parks last month as municipal staff and police cleared homeless encampments sparked backlash from media outlets and advocates, who have petitioned the city to allow reporters on site during the operations.
The push for media access in Toronto came on the heels of a court decision that ordered RCMP in British Columbia to allow reporters entry to blockades in Fairy Creek, where demonstrators have been protesting old-growth logging. The judge in that case, which was launched after journalists reported being blocked from the site, found police should only restrict access if there is an operational or safety concern.
In Toronto, the city has moved to dismantle several homeless encampments — which emerged during the pandemic as many avoided shelters over fears of COVID-19 — sparking protests and confrontations that have at times erupted into violence.
The Canadian Association of Journalists called the move to bar reporters from Toronto parks during the clearing of the camps “disappointing to witness and wholly unacceptable,” and stressed media rights are enshrined in law.
“Stop arresting or threatening reporters for no good reason. That’s a red line that cannot be crossed,” Brent Jolly, the association’s president, said in an email.
Tensions boiled over at Lamport Stadium Park two weeks ago after a large crowd refused to leave the site that authorities had fenced in. Multiple scuffles broke out and police were seen pushing those who didn’t comply. By the end of the day, police said 26 people were arrested and charged with offences that included assault with a weapon, assaulting a peace officer and trespassing.
A day earlier, an encampment at Alexandra Park was cleared by city staff and police after a fence was put up. That operation also saw several people arrested, including a photojournalist with The Canadian Press who was escorted out of the closed-off area in handcuffs. He was issued a notice of trespass, which doesn’t carry a charge but bars him from returning to the site for 90 days.
A spokesman for the city said staff closed off the parks during the clearings and prevented anyone from going in, “not just media,” in order to speak to those living in the encampment, as well as remove tents and debris.
“We understand and appreciate the concerns raised by the media and the role they have in bearing witness and documenting city operations,” Brad Ross said in a statement.
He said the city arranged pooled media coverage for the Lamport Stadium operation, which typically allows select members of the media access to an event so they can later share the material they gather with others.
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“The pool arrangement was designed to allow media to see the city’s actions, while ensuring the safety of all, as well as addressing the sensitivity around privacy,” Ross said.
The CAJ’s Jolly said, however, that the pool coverage the city set up for the encampment clearing was “inadequate” because it restricted the ability for journalists to “freely cover” evictions taking place in a public park.
“Attempting to control the work of journalists while they are doing their job is entirely inappropriate,” he said, adding that a pool arrangement is generally used when there is limited space for press.
“The work journalists do is both professional and conducted in service to the public and any attempts to short-circuit that work is wholly incompatible with the long-standing tradition of a free press in Canada.”
Carissima Mathen, a common law professor with the University of Ottawa, said mounting an effective legal challenge to get access to “relatively short-term” events is difficult because it likely won’t be possible to get an injunction in time.
“It’s possible that you could try and make the case right after the fact to get some kind of declaration, but it’s usually not very practical,” she said.
Mathen said it is important to consider questions like how far from a fence police and city staff are when they’re carrying out their operations, whether reporters can speak with people as they come out, and how long barricades will stay up.
In the case of Fairy Creek, since it had been happening for weeks, those journalists were able to get an injunction to stop the RCMP from barring them from entering the blockades, Mathen said.
Five Toronto councillors who wrote to the city’s mayor last month denouncing the “extreme show of force” during the clearing of encampments said any obstruction of media access to the operations is “undemocratic and unconstitutional.”
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© 2021 The Canadian Press
Montreal police were on site at John Rennie High School Thursday after threatening images were posted to social media, which may have featured a firearm.
The post included two images: the first showed what appeared to be the side of the school. The second image depicted a young man holding what appeared to be a firearm in an unknown location.
Police say the post is related to a conflict between two people who have yet to be identified, and that they were likely going to meet at the school. The threats were not directed toward the school itself.
Police got a call reporting the post at around 9:40 a.m.
Students remained in class while officers stationed themselves at the school. The board notified parents of the situation and asked them not to pick up their kids.
School board officials said in an internal note to parents that “at no point were staff or students in danger.”
School officials decided to send students home in the early afternoon as officers continued their investigation. Some were bussed out of school property at around 1 p.m.
Police say their firearm division is trying to learn more about the threats. There have been no arrests.
In a statement released later in the day, the Lester B. Pearson School Board thanked the police for acting quickly.
“Today’s incident was extremely regrettable and troubling,” the board said.
“We are extremely relieved and thankful for the prompt and thorough response of law enforcement and the professional way our staff managed the situation.”
A school spokesperson confirmed classes would resume Friday morning.
Media Advisory: Minister Osborne to Speak at YMCA Annual Enterprise Olympics Conference – News Releases – Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
The Honourable Tom Osborne, Minister of Education, will bring remarks at the YMCA Annual Enterprise Olympics Conference today (Friday, May 27).
The event takes place at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel, 5 Navigator Avenue, St. John’s at 12:30 p.m.
Enterprise Olympics is a program that encourages the growth of entrepreneurial thinking among students and teachers and provides a quality experience for young people considering careers in entrepreneurship.
– 30 –
Texas school shooter warning signs drowned in sea of social media posts – Global News
The warning signs were there for anyone to stumble upon, days before the 18-year-old gunman entered a Texas elementary school and slaughtered 19 children and two teachers.
There was the Instagram photo of a hand holding a gun magazine, a TikTok profile that warned, “Kids be scared,” and the image of two AR-style semi-automatic rifles displayed on a rug, pinned to the top of the killer’s Instagram profile.
Shooters are leaving digital trails that hint at what’s to come long before they actually pull the trigger.
“When somebody starts posting pictures of guns they started purchasing, they’re announcing to the world that they’re changing who they are,” said Katherine Schweit, a retired FBI agent who spearheaded the agency’s active shooter program. “It absolutely is a cry for help. It’s a tease: can you catch me?”
The foreboding posts, however, are often lost in an endless grid of Instagram photos that feature semi-automatic rifles, handguns and ammunition. There’s even a popular hashtag devoted to encouraging Instagram users to upload daily photos of guns with more than 2 million posts attached to it.
For law enforcement and social media companies, spotting a gun post from a potential mass shooter is like sifting through quicksand, Schweit said. That’s why she tells people not to ignore those type of posts, especially from children or young adults. Report it, she advises, to a school counselor, the police or even the FBI tip line.
Increasingly, young men have taken to Instagram, which boasts a thriving gun community, to drop small hints of what’s to come with photos of their own weapons just days or weeks before executing a mass killing.
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Before shooting 17 students and staff members dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, Nikolas Cruz posted on YouTube that he wanted to be a “professional school shooter” and shared photos of his face covered, posing with guns. The FBI took in a tip about Cruz’s YouTube comment but never followed up with Cruz.
In November, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley shared a photo of a semi-automatic handgun his dad had purchased with the caption, “Just got my new beauty today,” days before he went on to kill four students and injure seven others at his high school in Oxford Township, Michigan.
And days before entering a school classroom on Tuesday and killing 19 small children and two teachers, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos left similar clues across Instagram.
On May 20, the day that law enforcement officials say Ramos purchased a second rifle, a picture of two AR-style semi-automatic rifles appeared on his Instagram. He tagged another Instagram user with more than 10,000 followers in the photo. In an exchange, later shared by that user, she asks why he tagged her in the photo.
“I barely know you and u tag me in a picture with some guns,” the Instagram user wrote, adding, “It’s just scary.”
The school district in Uvalde had even spent money on software that, using geofencing technology, monitors for potential threats in the area.
Ramos, however, didn’t make a direct threat in posts. Having recently turned 18, he was legally allowed to own the weapons in Texas.
His photos of semi-automatic rifles are one of many on platforms like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube where it’s commonplace to post pictures or videos of guns and shooter training videos are prevalent. YouTube prohibits users from posting instructions on how to convert firearms to automatic. But Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, does not limit photos or hashtags around firearms.
That makes it difficult for platforms to separate people posting gun photos as part of a hobby from those with violent intent, said Sara Aniano, a social media and disinformation researcher, most recently at Monmouth University.
“In a perfect world, there would be some magical algorithm that could detect a worrisome photo of a gun on Instagram,” Aniano said. “For a lot of reasons, that’s a slippery slope and impossible to do when there are people like gun collectors and gunsmiths who have no plan to use their weapon with ill intent.”
Meta said it was working with law enforcement officials Wednesday to investigate Ramos’ accounts. The company declined to answer questions about reports it might have received on Ramos’ accounts.
© 2022 The Canadian Press
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