Category Archives: Blog

Are you willing to see journalism wed mediation?

Resolution

Resolution, by artist in residence Jason Skinner. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

Journalism has to change – this is something I’ve argued for years and tried to put into practice since launching Tomorrow.

One of those changes is in the way we react to stories of conflict in the community. Sometimes we report on the fights, sometimes we ignore arguing neighbours. But instead, what we could do, is be mediators.

Huh? Reporters solving disputes? That usually gets a chuckle. But it is no great stretch of the imagination because we do it all the time.

North American journalism has seen the rise of the concept of “solutions journalism” while local papers around the world routinely make calls on behalf of the “afflicted”, with a call from the press frequently resolving a problem before it ever makes it to print or to broadcast.

I wrote mediation into the core principles of Tomorrow because I believe journalism can more proactively help people solve problems. I took an introductory training course with Sacro1 in 2015 and am even more firmly convinced the two spheres are complementary.

But the Mediate 2015 conference2 in Scotland raises further questions beyond initial ones for the practicality. Two issues in particular apply to journalism and the goals of this site: theory and power.

Read our news coverage of the Mediate 2015

The first is, like mediation, Tomorrow is founded on principles and core beliefs that define journalism and its practice. But, theory “is not your sales pitch”, as Professor Elizabeth Stokoe told the conference.3 Tomorrow practices what it preaches, but that doesn’t yet mean readers understand or value both. This extends to trying to explain how mediation would work within and alongside journalism, something I will continue my work to develop as a theory but more importantly practice.

The second issue is power. Language is the biggest one perhaps, and as Dr Tamara Relis4 told the conference, it is one aspect of lawyers operating in “parallel worlds” to people hoping to resolve disputes through mediation.

And her language used to describe this problem was equally from a position – an academic one – of power.

She said: “In contrast, the litigants, who are most often paying for these services – who are, at least theoretically those that the civil justice system is there to serve, to assist, – in contrast to the professional actors, are predominantly unsophisticated in litigation and mediation and thus do not know in advance what they should be doing or what they can be doing during the processing of these cases, which in my examples are life altering cases.”

In the news coverage of the conference, I trimmed that quote down to its base level, because the original is a dense description of a dense legal language and system. It has to be unpacked twice. I have the power to report, accurately, but the responsibility to report in a way that will engage anyone, regardless of their background.

Reporters are in positions of power – we are educated and trained to arranged words to tell stories, and those have power. We have access to situations, locations and experiences many others wouldn’t. There are already types of power dynamics in any mediation, so for journalism to insert itself into the process makes it even more complicated and potentially dangerous.

But is a marriage of mediation and journalism worth pursuing? Yes. Because the alternative is one of standing only to the sidelines to observe. We don’t do that anyway, with columnists telling communities what to believe and how to vote, and with approaches such as solutions journalism, where we tell readers, listeners or viewers the way to solve problems. We are in the heart of communities but we frequently assume that means we know best. Mediation means the community knows best and then journalism could, in many cases, report that.

Prof Stokoe said the word “willing” most often got people from “no” to “yes” about the potential for mediation. So, are you willing to consider how reporters could solve problems in communities? Are you willing to help us balance our power and that of others? And are you willing to view journalism in new ways? I hope there is power in these theories.

  1. Completed mediation skills (40 hours) course delivered by Scottish Community Mediation Centre and awarded five credits at SCQF Level 6. The centre is part of Sacro (Safeguarding communities – reducing offending).
  2. Original conference website.
  3. Wired talk from November 2015 of similar but shortened content to that of the conference
  4. Website listing some of Dr Relis’s publications.

Scots law for most vulnerable hides behind closed doors

LSA website

Screen grab of LSA website. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

A major annual “conference” is taking place in Glasgow, UK, next month, covering how UK and Scots law affect the disadvantaged in Scotland.

Legal Services Agency’s (LSA) 26th annual conference, “Protecting Fundamental Rights in Scotland”1 will cover human rights, campaigning, housing, mental health and human trafficking – all areas of considerable concern to government and campaigners and affecting some of the most vulnerable in society.

But despite the importance of these subjects, reporters are not allowed to attend.

The LSA, promoting, the event states:

This year’s annual conference aims to discuss what is next for protecting fundamental rights in Scotland and what effects this may have on social welfare law, and some of society’s most vulnerable people, in Scotland.

“The day is intended to give an opportunity, through plenary sessions and workshops, to look at most, if not all, of the areas of concern to those in disadvantage in Scotland.”

Who is the conference for? The summary explains:

“This conference is for everybody who is interested in tackling the unmet legal needs of those in disadvantage in general and in particular the areas of law covered by LSA and partner organisations. If you are interested in mental health and incapacity law, housing, asylum and humanitarian protection and human rights, this is the event for you. The conference is aimed at updating everybody’s technical knowledge, promoting discussion and in particular working out the issues for the future and how they should be tackled. The conference will be of key interest to solicitors, advocates, advice workers, WROs, policy makers and community activists.”

Speakers include Lord Wallace of Tankerness, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords and a former deputy First Minister of Scotland. He will be speaking on “the forthcoming proposals in the UK Parliament”. Other speakers include LSA solicitors, Glasgow University lecturers, Glasgow City Council housing staff, housing association staff, homelessness campaigners, and a director of Amnesty International.

A member of the House of Lords is paid by the taxpayer. Council officials are paid by the taxpayer. Most cases involving society’s most vulnerable don’t pay except through legal aid – again, covered entirely by the taxpayer. Under both Tomorrow’s principles of championing accountability and openness, what happens on the public purse matters.

I asked to report on the “conference” via a private Twitter exchange. I was told:

Hi Tristan, Just had a meeting with CEO. Unfortunately he has said we don’t really do spaces specifically for reporters. We work on Chatham House rules (sic) and value the ability for our speakers to be able to speak freely at our events. Really sorry about that, it is of course open for you to just come in your personal capacity!”

Chatham House rule,2 created in 1927, states:

When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

Now, the identities of speakers are already public on the website. They are individuals in positions of privilege and power and they are sometimes the last hope the most vulnerable in society have of achieving justice, protection from the state or private parties, or help when they most need it. These are issues of profound public interest affecting thousands of people in Scotland and beyond. Scots law and wider UK law is changing and debate about how new rules are implemented is crucial to understanding the actions and choices of politicians who enact them.

Without an understanding of the law by the general public, they are in positions of even more vulnerability because they are at the mercy of professionals who hold all the cards of distinct language, procedure, privilege, etc. Those professionals may be acting in the best interests of clients, but the clients will still have to place trust in those professionals because they have no background from which to ask questions or raise concerns. The role of the press is to provide information, however superficial sometimes, of what might affect any individual in the community. That includes, especially, the law.

Solicitor friends have argued these events must be closed to reporting because lawyers may discuss individual cases to help learn best practices, etc. A professional reporter could not quote a half-detailed legal case anyway – quite apart from possible legal issues if vulnerable individuals are involved, a good reporter doesn’t relay half a story when they can’t confirm facts such as a person’s identity, when the case took place, the outcome, etc. This is, in fact, one of the main reasons immigration cases don’t get reported in the UK, because their outcomes are sent in private to clients, not read out in open court. Any attending reporter is left with half a story, so they wouldn’t bother.

The issue is whether solicitors would speak “frankly” about cases or the law if they knew a reporter was attending. That would generally be the case with any situation – it is why reporters attend government hearings, courts, war zones and anything in between.

Do reporters get to go anywhere and everywhere? No. One form of journalism, usually self-declared “guerrilla journalism” involves frequently undercover and aggressive projects on subjects considered to be hidden. Other outlets talk of “adversarial journalism”.

In the case of the immigration courts and tribunals, almost universally ignored by the press, I take an approach of reporting and pushing for greater openness. That doesn’t require hidden cameras or being confrontational, in my view.

In the case of this “conference”, I asked to attend. Reporters generally do not and should not pay to attend events, whereby money goes to the organising body. We should remain as distinct observers. So attending and paying in a “personal capacity” but not allowed to report is pointless and absurd. It ensures the law remains in the hands of those with power, in this case power affecting for good or ill, those “most vulnerable people”.

The LSA is entitled to refuse access to a reporter, as they are to refer to this event as a “conference”. But “private meeting” might be more accurate.

UPDATE (Nov 23, 2015): Through the conference website, I formally applied to attend, as did another reporter. We identified ourselves as reporters. The response was an offer of a place, an invoice of £85 and the statement: “Can I particularly draw attention to our standard condition including application of the ‘Chatham House Rule’.” I rejected this place for the same reasons outlined above.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.
  1. LSA website conference page. And screen grab of the page here.
  2. Explanation from Chatham House.

Election polls blurred independence of news media

In April 2012, just after the provincial election in Alberta, Tomorrow declared a position on Facebook that requires repeating after the 78-day Canadian federal election.

Between the start of the campaign on August 7 and election day on October 19, there were a staggering 347 polls, or an average of more than four a day.

This included:

  • 113 national polls
  • 167 individual constituency polls
  • 67 polls on leadership preference and perception1

There were even more done privately by political parties but never released to the public.

Some, such as polls from Nanos Research,2 have been daily and some have been sponsored or organised with major media firms. They became the basis for much of the narrative of the election.

CBC’s poll aggregator, for example, always flagged up who was leading and which party had the biggest change, up or down. So the first thing a reader saw was the top party and who was losing. And that created a trend. Then opinion writers questioned parties who don’t accept the “reality” of polls.

Media can gauge public opinion in a number of ways. The most direct is the “vox pop”, quizzing around four to six people for their opinions. Sometimes we identify them by name, age and occupation, sometimes just as faces on a TV screen. This is usually somewhat balanced and expresses viewpoints with occasionally nuanced positions.

The other way is to commission a poll from a wider sample of hundreds or even thousands of people with set questions and potential responses.
These approaches are used to both fill space and time for a media outlet but also to appear relevant: “We know what ‘the people’ are thinking – here it is.”

But they also allow the media to dictate narratives. As has been better described by Jon Stewart, former host of The Daily Show, Fox News uses comment in the morning to drive news to drive comment to drive news to drive comment throughout its daily cycle.

Similarly:
“Polls say the party is sliding.”
“People say the party is sliding.”
“Reports have the party sliding.”
“A new poll says the party is sliding.”3

The polls drive comment to drive news to drive further polls. And in this most recent election, they became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Even worse was unethical abuse of “polling” public opinion on election night when a CBC reporter announced he had told voters waiting in line to vote in British Columbia that they, as a media outlet, had declared the winner based on the rest of the country’s early results. That used incomplete numbers to sway further results.

And it is a breach of the third principle, “independence and accountability”. Even though our ninth principle is “observe and engage”, attempting to direct results through the power of the media is a step beyond engaging.

In 2012, we stated:

The Alberta election results, wildly different from pre-election polls, prove the flaw of polling and the dangerous media addiction to said polls. To meet our own commitments to accuracy, Tomorrow will not commission, use, or comment on political polling as a sole basis for news. Polls may be referenced in features but should not be taken as fact. That a poll was conducted is a fact. Percentages of small samples for polling do not guarantee the facts of eventual electoral results.

Without core principles, there can be no core journalism strength.
Tomorrow reasserts this position. It is the correct one for maintaining independence and it ensures our focus remains on asking important questions and presenting original and exclusive news coverage, particular of politics, as we did during the 78-day election without needing a single poll.

  1. Wikipedia lists public released polls here and here.
  2. Nik Nanos, who was involved in the Charlottetown Accord referendum in 1992 was interviewed by Tomorrow in 2012 and his website can be found here.
  3. These are not direct quotes from any news source, just impressions of the tone.

Balibo Five remembered to afflict the complacent

Malcolm Rennie

Malcolm Rennie, 28, from Neilston, Scotland, was murdered on October 16, 1975, by the Indonesian military in East Timor. Image courtesy campaigners.

As a young reporter starting at the Barrhead News more than a decade ago, I got a phone call or letter in the mail – I can’t remember which now – about the murder of a reporter from Neilston, East Renfrewshire, on my patch.

Malcolm Rennie was 28 when he was killed during a “terror-and-destabilisation” campaign by the Indonesian military in East Timor. He and four colleagues with Australian TV were brutally shot and stabbed, then mocked up to look like armed and legitimate targets, and then supposedly victims of crossfire between opposing forces.

It was neither. It was murder, and in 2007, after years of delays and campaigning by families, a New South Wales coronial inquest heard from 66 witnesses and concluded that the five men were “shot and/or stabbed deliberately, and not in the heat of battle, by members of the Indonesian Special Forces, including Christoforus da Silva and Captain Yunus Yosfiah on the orders of Captain Yosfiah”. The government was advised that Australia had jurisdiction to prosecute. It has not. The UN has also refused to issue arrest warrants.

Rennie, Brian Peters, from Bristol, and Australians Greg Shackleton and Tony Stewart, and New Zealander Gary Cunningham are today remembered as the Balibo Five, for the town where they were killed on October 16, 1975. A film, Balibo, was made in 2009 and is widely available.

These men were not the only reporters killed in East Timor – Roger East in December 1975 and Financial Times reporter Sander Thoenes in 1999 were also victims of Indonesian forces. And all, for their efforts, are remembered by people of what is now the independent Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.

Why do the people of Timor-Leste remember when many beyond that corner of the world do not? Because the reporters were carrying out some of the most important roles journalists have: as witnesses, as investigators, and as comforters of the afflicted.

The classic US journalism line is “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”. But when I wrote the core principles for Tomorrow, I amended it to “afflict the complacent”, because complacency is what allowed Indonesian occupation of Timor-Leste for a quarter century. It is what allows those responsible for anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 civilian deaths – potentially one in three of the population – to evade justice. And complacency allows the reporters of the start of that invasion and everything that happened after to be forgotten.

As a reporter, and admittedly a very comfortable one compared to those who throw themselves into war zones, I feel the deaths of my colleagues because they were doing what is, at its best, more than just a job. Being a reporter is who you are, bearing witness, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the complacent – those course through our veins.

And so I remember Malcolm Rennie today. And I remember his colleagues. And I remind myself why journalism matters.

But behind all journalism is people. And I give the final words to Margaret Wilson, one of Malcolm’s cousins and someone still fighting for justice.

“We are very aware of the significance of this anniversary, and I wish I could tell you that there is progress being made towards achieving justice, but I really can’t,” she told me by email.

“I think people should, and must, still care, because this remains of the most blatant examples of political and commercial expediency trouncing human rights. This administration made all the right noises over the Charlie Hebdo affair, but when I wrote to the Prime Minister [David Cameron] to applaud his support of journalistic freedom and condemnation of violence to suppress it, and to remind him that a similar outrage concerning British citizens had gone unpunished for 39 years, all I got in reply was a standard note from a civil servant thanking me for my letter.

“At the moment, we are in contact with the Foreign Office and have been promised to be put in touch with a British police liaison officer, with a view to the police here considering the feasibility of pursuing a prosecution  here, but this is a painfully slow process.”

The Art of Politics: Canadian federal election 2015

#artpoli

The Art of Politics, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on September 19, 2015. Poster by Jason Skinner

Getting to the ART of what matters in the Canadian federal election, come down to Cafe Cempoal Calavera Negra in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the morning of Saturday, September 19, 2015 and work with artist in residence Jason Skinner to create collages of what issues matter most to you.

Anyone of any age is welcome between 10am and 12pm to work with Jason. Rather than politicians making promises and the media reporting them, Tomorrow will report on public issues, through community art. This isn’t a partisan idea and we don’t want party or politician messages; it’s about trying to express what’s important through art and relaying that message to other voters and candidates through Tomorrow.

This meets our core principle commitment to promoting responsible debate and mediation, and also furthers our work earlier this year to develop new approaches to election reporting. Journalism doesn’t need to follow politicans – it needs to lead with what’s really going on the community.

Stay tuned for full coverage of #artpoli this weekend.

Morgan Bird wins double swimming gold

Morgan Bird

Athlete in residence Morgan Bird, by artist in residence Jason Skinner, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Tomorrow’s first athlete in residence is now a gold-medal winning swimmer having taken two top spots at the Para Pan Am Games in Toronto, Ontario.

Morgan Bird, who we first interviewed during the London 2012 Paralympics, broke Para Pan Am records in both the 400m freestyle S8 and the 50m freestyle S8.

In the 400m on Sunday, Morgan finished in a time of 5:19:33 to claim her first gold, then just 90 minutes later mopped up the 50m in 32:00.1

The 21-year-old told broadcaster CBC: “I did not see that coming. It’s been a busy night for me. I followed both race plans well I think. I’m really happy with the results.”2

You can read all of Morgan’s writings as athlete in residence about her training and hard work that have lead to this point. And we extend our own, acceptably biased, congratulations to Morgan and her family and friends in Calgary, Alberta, on these accomplishments.

UPDATE: Morgan won silver in the 100m freestyle S8 on Thursday evening in a time of 1:10.53. This was an improvement on her earlier time of 1:11:15, the fastest amongst the two heats and a games record time until it fell to gold medalist Mallory Weggemann of the United States.

  1. Full results from the Para Pan Am website.
  2. Video interviews available for Canadian viewers.

Our third birthday and a year of growth

Tomorrow marks its third birthday today with continued growth and new readers – but there’s much more work ahead.

Three years on from reporting our first story (and five since claiming the url), we are pushing our principles and covering an ever greater array of subjects and corners of the globe. We have added an athlete in residence to our artist programme, carried out our first investigation and began coverage of immigration courts and tribunals.

Make a wish

Can websites make wishes? “Do androids dream of electric sheep?”

Since the start of 2015, Tomorrow has had 5,500 unique pageviews, with an average read time of 2.02 minutes and a bounce rate of 77.46 per cent. Compared to the same period in 2014, unique pageviews are up 21.19 per cent, read time is steady and bounce rate is an 8.47 per cent improvement.

Our third year compared to our second showed a 22.63 per cent rise in unique pageviews up to more than 10,300 and a bounce rate improvement of 7.65 per cent.

Despite the growth in readers, this has not translated to comments on stories, suggestions for news to pursue or donations to fund our efforts. So we must keep pushing to convince any member of any community, story by story, that news has value, and that Tomorrow’s contribution to quality content and commitment to ethical principles makes us worth supporting.

News builds community, as our tag line says, but we need the community to build it with us. We have exciting and daring stories planned for the months ahead so do please keep reading and watching and engaging.

657 world destinations that tried to hack this website in 48 hours

There are some remote corners of the planet with great communities and fascinating stories.

They are also home to computers and servers, and over the 48 hours of June 18 and 19, they were used to attempt breaking in to Tomorrow.

Our web security blocks the IP address for a period after three attempted logins. But throughout these two days, an individual or system tried to get in at times every two to five minutes, using IP addresses predominantly around Russia to base their attacks.

With 219 blocked IP addresses at three login attempts each, that’s 657 attempts. None was successful.

But we thought it would be useful, in the spirit of openness and transparency, to show what this attack – which is still ongoing – looks like.


View 657 hacking attempts in a full screen map

There is no identified reason why Tomorrow is receiving this attention, but most online attacks are simply because they can.

Internet security is something all individuals and organisations have to be aware of, constantly.

Tomorrow knows this from experience – we were hacked in late 2012, replaced with various selections of propaganda and it took months to rebuild. Their access to the site was because, admittedly, there was a silly username of “admin” – never do that by the way – and someone could get in. Lesson learned, security improved.

Tomorrow hacked

Screen grab of Tomorrow in December 2012 after being hacked.

Tomorrow hacked

Another part of the Tomorrow homepage in December 2012 after being hacked.

But few if any website or organisation is immune and we keep working to ensure Tomorrow keeps going. If you would like to help us stay on top of security advances, do please consider a donation.

In the meantime, check out some of the world’s most used IP addresses.

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Reporting – its training and its practice – for indigenous peoples must change

THE Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools in Canada has implications for Tomorrow as a news organisation.

Tomorrow has reported on indigenous peoples before and will again. But amongst the 94 recommendations of the report, one in particular relates to the media:

We call upon Canadian journalism programs and media schools to require education for all students on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations.1

As directing editor of Tomorrow, I can say this site endorses the recommendation without question. I did not have any substantial education on these subjects at any level of schooling, nor during post-graduate journalism studies in the United Kingdom. I have since been educated in most of the areas referred to, through the interviews conducted and research carried out. I had to seek out that education because it was not offered. Self-education will always continue.

And that is one extension Tomorrow would add: education can’t be limited to journalism schools. It must continue throughout careers. No reporter in any field should avoid reporting indigenous issues. And specialists in indigenous reporting should not be used as an excuse for others to avoid the subject or building contacts. Similarly, the other media recommendations relate specifically to public broadcaster CBC and independent broadcaster APTN. The points made could and should easily apply to any media outlet.

Tomorrow’s 10th core principle is to educate and entertain. The first part of that applies to us as a news organisation – education must always continue because that is the only way to ensure we meet the 11th and last principle, to promote responsible debate and mediation. Those are not possible without knowledge, which requires observation and engagement (principle 9).

These principles are always related anyway, but this week they particularly apply to the recommendation of the TRC report. It is entirely justified under our core principles and we commend it to all journalism schools and to any reporters who may work for us in future. We will also recommend education on the topics to our athlete and artist in residence going forward.

Reporters must maintain a degree of impartiality and independence from inquiry reports and conclusions, so we can effectively challenge how they will be taken forward or whether they are implemented at all. But when those conclusive fingers point squarely back at us, we must address them.

Tomorrow encourages all engagement on how best to ensure our core principles are met for the TRC recommendations, for indigenous peoples, and for any community.

  1. Page 10 of the “Calls to Action”. The report and documents can be found at the TRC website.

Immigration courts – are we blind to justice?

US Court House in Philadelphia

The United States Court House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the Immigration Court for the city sits. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

TO paraphrase a US government representative, immigration courts might appear to be a great deal of boring admin, but the future of where people live the rest of their lives is hugely important.

The systems that make decisions about future lives in thousands and tens of thousands of lives every year should be some of the most watched and monitored of any country. They are the opposite.

I have now reported on the judicial or quasi-judicial systems for immigration in three countries – the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. They differ in many ways but are consistent in being ignored by reporters, sometimes with a dangerous and highly dubious deference to the governments running the systems. That is a fundamental clash with Tomorrow’s core principles and is the reason for our recent coverage.

Canada’s system is a near absolute failure in being open to any scrutiny.

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada hearing offices in Toronto, Ontario.

The Refugee Protection Division is designed to be private by default. Anyone can apply to observe a case but it must be done in advance and then get approval of all parties. I was told at the front desk on floor four of the tribunal hearing offices of 74 Victoria Street, Toronto, Ontario, that even the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) would have to apply in advance. According to 11 pages of government legalese explanations of just the differences between public and private hearings that would be enough to deter any potential visit, only the government’s own immigration officials can attend at any time. That means the system is not only secret, it is beyond even international spot checks.

Similarly, at the end of a full day attending public Immigration Appeal Division hearings, the press officer for the overarching Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada appeared a couple seats away from me and introduced himself after the hearing. He pointed out reporters tell them before attending, just as the US immigration court system “strongly” recommends on its website that reporters notify the press office before attending.

Informing one side in even a tribunal system that the press will attend is a fundamental breach of our core principle of independence (#3) and is a deference to government that would not happen in almost any other context.

Would you expect a food inspector to announce a spot check of a restaurant? The cleanliness can have life and death consequences. A court system or quasi-judicial system making decisions about the future lives of the same human beings who might go to that restaurant. To trust the system is functioning without ever bothering to report on it is a dereliction of duty on the part of the media who know full well that “justice must be seen to be done”.

In the case of Toronto, the following media outlets are nearby (distances in a straight line according to Google Maps):

  • CityNews – 567m
  • Toronto Sun – 948m
  • Toronto Star – 1.01km
  • CTV – 1.05km
  • CBC – 1.08km
  • Globe and Mail – 1.76km
  • National Post – 2.3km

I have found no stories of their attendance at cases in the past year, but welcome any correction to that fact should they offer it.

In terms of openness, Philadelphia courtrooms had generally open doors with appointed judges and the names of individuals appearing on display in the waiting room, regardless of the type of case.

In Toronto, a quasi-judicial, administrative tribunal system, doors are closed whenever cases are on and you could only find out names by asking at the front desk. Any case involving refugees, even if the government were to argue that the person could safely return to their country of origin, cannot be disclosed. That is contradictory and hints at a scrutiny that should be provided into how the Canadian government is assessing the legitimacy of refugee claims and threats they may or may not face.

So while a reporter could almost always sit in on testimony from a rape victim even though that person’s identity would never be revealed, an identical case within the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada system would be blocked from any scrutiny other than that of the very government deciding the legitimacy of the case.

And make no mistake, Tomorrow has the firm principles of being a safe harbour and comforting the afflicted so this is not about identifying people at risk. This is about seeing how they are treated by a country that proclaims to be a beacon of human rights and freedoms. Surely one of the greatest tests of that is to examine how the government treats those claiming sanctuary after following that beacon through the darkness, to examine the effectiveness of counsel for refugees, to seek out the holes in support systems for refugees and all the other elements that cross paths in these small administrative rooms.

Reporters are not testing these systems enough, they are showing deference to power, and justice is not being seen to be done.

I hope through Tomorrow’s recent coverage – and this will in no way be the end to it in years to come – that I am not only meeting this site’s core principles but am also explaining why they matter and why these immigration courts and tribunals matter in civic society and modern reportage.