Why I chose not to interview Maxime Bernier when he was in Vancouver

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      While the world is focused on today's climate strike, some in the Canadian media are discussing the second newsroom rebellion in a month.

      It came after the editorial board of the Toronto Star invited People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier for an interview.

      The Star's race and gender columnist, Shree Paradkar, has written that the event was open to anyone in the newsroom.

      However, she noted that many journalists of colour "felt let down" by the decision.

      One of her colleagues referred to Bernier as a "flat-earther" in an email to the editor-in-chief.

      "We know how these discussions unfold," Paradkar stated in her column. "This is why many of us journalists of colour decided not to participate in any capacity — neither to question Bernier nor to work behind the scenes to produce the live video."

      Earlier this month, Vancouver Sun editorial employees publicly criticized their employer's decision to publish an extremely xenophobic opinion piece by Calgary college instructor Mark Hecht.

      Hecht ended his article with a recommendation to "say goodbye to diversity, tolerance, and inclusion". 

      Bernier has raised hackles by calling for an end to official multiculturalism, a sharp reduction in immigration, and eliminating federal spending on initiatives to address climate change.

      Like the Toronto Star, I was asked if I wanted to interview Bernier. The invitation came in advance of his recent trip to Vancouver.

      I'm the editor of a newspaper. I've accepted invitations in the past to interview other party leaders.

      I am well aware of Bernier's climate-change denialism and have brought it to readers' attention.

      I thought a great deal about whether I should ask him about the basis for his beliefs in the face of an overwhelming scientific consensus that rising greenhouse gas emissions pose a serious ecological threat.

      I also wanted to know if Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May, who sits beside him in Parliament, had led him to reconsider his views, if only slightly.

      But I realized from Bernier's Twitter feed that he is merely echoing the words of Patrick Moore, cofounder of the Koch and Mercer family funded CO2 Coalition.

      This group makes the case that more carbon emissions are good for the planet. I might as well go straight to the source, Moore, rather than talk to Bernier.

      After Patrick Moore said that glyphosate, which is in the pesticide Roundup, was safe, he turned down an offer to drink it.

      I also recalled interviewing then Reform Party of Canada Leader Preston Manning about climate change in 1999. I wanted to find out why he had such a problem accepting the scientific consensus, which was already clear 20 years ago.

      “I’ve seen better science out of the oil and gas companies on this issue than I have out of the federal government,” Manning said at the time. “That’s what worries me.”

      Did I really want to listen to Bernier mouth such nonsense today? From a man who's used his Twitter feed to shower insults on teenage climate hero Greta Thunberg?

      Then there are Bernier's views on official multiculturalism. They appear to me to contradict section 27 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

      It says the charter of rights and freedoms "shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians".

      Bernier wants immigration officials to interview applicants to ensure their ideas conform to "societal norms". Those who reject "mainstream Canadian values" won't be allowed entry.

      He has also campaigned vigorously for one candidate who has whipped up fundamentalist Christians to oppose the trans-friendly SOGI 123 curriculum in B.C. schools.

      Some educators believe that if this curriculum were ever withdrawn, it could lead more kids to kill themselves.

      According to the CBC poll tracker, the People's Party of Canada has the support of 3.1 percent of decided voters, which would generate between zero and one seat if an election were held today.

      Did I have an obligation as the editor of an urban weekly to give a platform to Bernier, who's really just a fringe candidate? Most certainly not. I didn't return the phone call from the People's Party of Canada.

      Let him use other means to get his message out. Like the Toronto Star, CBC, CTV, National Post, Globe and Mail, and other media outlets that don't share my concerns. He's also going to be able to speak to Canadians in the only official English-language televised leaders debate.

      Yesterday, I felt vindicated by my decision.

      It came when one of our writers, Craig Takeuchi, told me that Bernier's campaign had used a photo from the internment of Japanese Canadians in an ad opposing official multiculturalism.

      Shame on Bernier and his party.