A representative from Canada’s federal government slammed the Toronto Star’s Oct. 13 front-page story claiming that “the Conservative government wants to help unemployed Canadians find careers as strippers and for-hire escorts,” the Toronto Sun reported.
“This story is completely and utterly false,” Ryan Sparrow, a spokesman for human resources and social development minister Diane Finley, is quoted as saying. “In fact, the draft note cited by the reporter has not been seen by the Minister’s office, nor would it ever have been a policy under consideration by our government.”
Sparrow went on to criticize the reporter for not calling for comment prior to publication, especially considering the reporter called several other people for comment in the story. Sparrow is quoted as saying that if the reporter had called for comment, he would have been told that “there is absolutely no basis in fact to claim this is government policy.”
Further, the government said the newspaper has a “blatant lack of journalistic standards” and that it intends to file complaints with three press regulatory figures – the Ontario Press Council, the Star’s public editor Kathy English and the Parliamentary Press Gallery.
The Star reported the government’s response to its reporting the memo in an Oct. 14 follow-up report. In the report, Canadian minister Finley is quoted as saying she’s never seen “and would not approve such a policy.”
The Sun reported that Richard Brennan, who wrote the article for the Star, stands by his reporting. “The documents speak for themselves,” he is quoted as saying.
The Canadian Repress further reported that Sparrow said that The Star’s memo “was drafted at a junior level, according to Finley’s office, and circulated to the provinces for discussion.”
Brennan’s Oct. 13 article reported that the draft memo indicated that jobs as exotic, erotic, nude, striptease and table dancers as well as “escort, chat line agent, phone agent for personal services and telephone agent for personal services,” would “be acceptable for posting on Job Bank,” despite having been labeled “morally offensive” in a 2003 memo from the Human Resources and Social Development office, the office for which Sparrow now speaks.
The job bank is a website posting jobs available in Canada.
His reporting was based on “a draft Oct. 1 memo.” He also reported comment from New Democratic Party parliament member Pat Martin, dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford (who pushed for and got courts to decriminalize prostitution earlier this year), and Canada Christian College president Charles McVety.
His report also claimed that “The job posting change is at odds with the Conservatives’ outrage over the recent federal court decision stating that Canada’s prostitution violated the Constitution. The government immediately appealed the decision, saying ‘prostitution is a problem that harms individuals and communities.’”
iMediaEthics has written to Brennan asking if he contacted the government for comment prior to publication and if and how he verified the memo’s authenticity. We also wrote to Sparrow for comment and more information. We will update with any responses.