Here’s the fake news Saudi Arabia is playing about Canada
A segment on Al Arabiya TV has accused Canada of trampling on human rights in several cases, after Canada criticized the kingdom for its treatment of two feminist activists last week.
The Saudi outlet has suggested that Canada is the worst country in the world for women, that it has the highest suicide rate and that it treats its Indigenous people the way Myanmar treats the Rohingya – a Muslim minority massacred and driven out of Myanmar en masse last year.
Here’s a look at some of the claims levelled against Canada in a recent video from Al Arabiya TV, which was published in Arabic and English.
“Ironically, imprisonment of non-violent cases in Canada are revealed,” the video says.
Professors ‘arrested for their political views’
The Al Arabiya video falsely claimed that Canada has arrested or detained a number of individuals for “freedom of opinion,” including University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson and Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel.
The video shows text and photos of the individuals in question, over a background photo of a women’s prison in Edmonton. The cases appear to be false or misleading re-interpretations of legal or civil cases in Canada.
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Among the outright false claims in the video are that U of T’s Jordan Peterson and Denis Rancourt, a former physics professor at the University of Ottawa, were each “arrested for their political views.”
Peterson has not been arrested for his views and remains an outspoken public figure and author.
Rancourt was fired from the University of Ottawa in 2009 and banned from campus over a dispute with the administration relating to his grading system. He was subsequently arrested for trespassing on campus.
Rancourt later lost a libel suit brought against him by another Ottawa professor, who took issue with being called a “house negro” on Rancourt’s blog. Rancourt lost his appeal in the case.
‘Arrested for freedom of opinion’
The same Al Arabiya video says “Danny” Morris — an apparent reference to Chief Donny Morris of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation in Ontario — was “arrested for freedom of opinion” and imprisoned for six months. The video says Morris “called for Canada’s native population to claim their land.”
Morris and five others were originally sentenced to six months in 2007 for contempt of a court order in protesting a mining operation. However, they did not serve six months in prison. Court records show they were jailed on March 17, 2008, and released on an appeal judge’s order on May 23, 2008.
The Saudi news channel also claimed that infamous white supremacist Ernst Zundel — spelled “Ernest Zendell” in the video — was imprisoned for three years for denying the Holocaust.
Zundel served two years in a Canadian prison, starting in 1985 after he was convicted of knowingly publishing false news in the form of pamphlets denying the Holocaust. The conviction was quashed in 1987 and a new trial was ordered over procedural errors with the case.
Despite the Supreme Court win, Zundel continued to fight the government over his views, both in Canada and, later, in the United States. The U.S. eventually deported him to Canada, then Canada deported him to Germany in 2005. A German court convicted Zundel on 14 charges of inciting hatred, including denying the Holocaust, which is a crime in Germany.
Zundel was jailed in Germany for five years and released in 2010. The native German died in his home country last year.
‘Protesting against abortion’
The video cites the cases of activists Mary Wagner and Linda Gibbons, who it claims were arrested “for protesting against abortion” and sentenced to 10 years.
Each woman has spent more than a decade behind bars for offences related to their activity around abortion clinics. However, that time has been accumulated through several shorter sentences, not single sentences of 10 years each.
Wagner once entered an abortion clinic and told several patients they were committing murder.
Gibbons violated a court order in 2008 that prohibited her from hold a sign outside an abortion clinic.
Raif Badawi was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for promoting secularism and freedom of religion.
Correction: This story was updated on August 15 to reflect that the video addressed charges against Chief Donny Morris of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation in Ontario. It originally referred to a separate case involving Chief Daniel Morris of Liard First Nation in Watson Lake, Yukon.
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