September 30, 2018 9:52 pm

Calgary councillor urges open communication around sexual abuse after lifting Herald boycott

WATCH: Ward 3 Coun. Jyoti Gondek has lifted her Calgary Herald boycott after speaking with the paper's leadership team. Michael King reports.

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A Calgary city councillor has lifted her Calgary Herald boycott after speaking with the paper’s leadership team.

When Coun. Jyoti Gondek tweeted out that she would not grant interview requests from the Calgary Herald until the paper recognizes the potential damage of an editorial column, she didn’t know what the response would be.

In a Facebook post, Gondek said the days following her boycott have been interesting.

“My social media accounts have lit up. I really didn’t expect such engagement,” Gondek said. “I am happy in hindsight that I spoke up when I did.”

Councillor Jyoti Gondak tweets that she won’t be responding to Calgary Herald interview requests.

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The Ward 3 councillor was concerned with an opinion piece titled “What happened in high school should stay there” published in the Herald Wednesday.

The op-ed defended United States Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, saying he doesn’t deserve to be scrutinized over sexual assault allegations from more than 30 years ago.

While Gondek realizes her boycott of Herald reporters could have been seen as an attempt to muzzle the media, she said that wasn’t the case.

“When something sparks this much controversy and you know that it’s an issue for people and it’s hit them in some sort of meaningful way, it’s about more than printing a column,” Gondek said. “It becomes about engaging.”

Gondek reached out to the Calgary Herald editorial team, wanting to speak about the potential that the editorial piece could bring to victims of sexual abuse.

“Full credit to [the Herald] for actually calling me and having that conversation,” said Gondek.

READ MORE: Calgary Herald faces fallout over commentary defending Brett Kavanaugh

Both Gondek and the Herald said the conversation was very respectful and both sides agreed on the importance of free speech.

In an email statement to Global News, Lorne Motley, Post Media’s West Region editorial vice-president, said the paper’s values were not represented by the column but that it was still important for it to be printed.

“An opinion piece can run contrary to a paper’s values, as exemplified by the Lakritz column,” said Motley. “But we continue to defend her right to say it.”

In the days following the op-ed, the Herald published two editorials of their own, explaining that the paper strongly disagrees with the column but that opinion pages are a valued platform.

“The op-ed pages are designed as a place for dialogue and ideas of all streams — including ones we may not like,” said Motley.

READ MORE: Halifax artist’s cartoon shows assault on Lady Justice in wake of Kavanaugh hearing

Danielle Aubry, executive director of Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse, said while she doesn’t agree with the editorial, the controversial pieces do get people talking.

“When we see that type of information coming out in a major newspaper, people want to get involved,” said Aubry. “We’ve seen that at our centre.”

As for Gondek, she hopes that Calgarians can follow suit and start openly conversing about important issues.

“For everyone who was upset or outraged or had an opinion, I hope they’ll come together to have a broader conversation.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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