Former justice minister Peter MacKay walks away from media on Parliament Hill in 2015. (Photo: Fred Chartrand/CP)At the Alberta legislature, the press gallery does not control the comings and goings of visiting media. Reporters who are not permanent members show their ID to a security guard.
Ugly squabblesLeaving the headaches of accreditation to the journalists themselves has meant that the gallery has had to sort through its own insularity and some ugly squabbles over who should enter the fold. For one, it took until 1923 for a woman to be granted membership in the gallery. Magazines didn't gain entry until the 1940s, broadcasters until the late 1950s, and photojournalists and technicians until the 1980s. The most passionate battle happened in 1976, when the gallery's executive voted to bar membership to replacement workers who had come in to replace striking Canadian Press reporters. Speaker James Jerome refused to intervene, even when newspaper owners and CP management cried censorship. Levant wrote on the Rebel website this week that "the law is clear: we have freedom of the press in Canada." "Governments do not have the power to regulate journalists," said Levant, a lawyer by training. "Any blacklist barring journalists from public events based on political vendettas is obviously illegal discrimination." But the specific relationship between parliaments and journalists is a unique one. Strictly speaking, journalists work in the legislatures at the pleasure of the Speaker and can be thrown out on a moment's notice. Parliamentary privilege being what it is, a court might not want to intervene in a dispute over access to the legislature.
Holocaust denier argued he was 'publisher, writer'Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel argued before the courts that he was a "publisher, writer, broadcaster and human rights activist," and his freedom of speech was trampled when parliamentarians — not the press gallery — barred him from holding a news conference on the Hill. "In my view, the courts would be overstepping legitimate constitutional bounds if they sought to interfere with the power of the House to control access to its own premises," then Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Louise Charron wrote in 1999. But Zundel was Zundel. There was no public outcry when he was kept from speaking on Parliament Hill. Notley, who has appointed former Canadian Press bureau chief Heather Boyd to review the Rebel situation, might find it easier to take a page from Ottawa and leave the messy business of media access to the press at the legislature.
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