Vancouver Sun and Gordon Hoekstra: FAIL!

“On the left you can see yesterday’s Vancouver Sun cover page the day after more than 60 First Nations announced they will not allow the Enbridge pipeline through their territories, on the right you can see today’s Vancouver Sun cover page the day after one First Nation announced they support the pipeline.”

Reprint of an item posted December 4 by Paul Kamon at Urban Diner‘s UD Forum.

This pathetic newspaper acts regularly as an advocate for big business, misinforming readers by promoting a pro-corporate view of the world. Enbridge succeeded in buying the loyalty of a small group of individuals and Postmedia headlined the news without reservation or contextual explanation. When representatives of the broad community of First Nations people reemphasized pipeline opposition, Postmedia minimized the news.

It performs similarly with scant reporting on the Cohen Commission, despite federal and provincial officials being guilty of intentional deceit, boldly spreading outright lies regarding the evidence of ISA virus in BC salmon stocks. I repeat BC Cabinet Minister Don McRae’s unequivocal statement in the BC Legislature:

“I’m pleased to say that over 5,000 samples have been tested for ISA in the last several years. How many came back positive? Let me think about it for a sec. Zero — not one. ..We’ve put forward everything we have. We’re not hiding anything.”

Compare McRae’s statement to the words of Dr. Kristi Miller, head of molecular genetics for the DFO at the federal Pacific Biological Station, who told the Cohen Commission she has reported multiple positive tests for the ISA virus and been shunned by colleagues for the results.

Vancouver Sun reporter Caspar Milquetoast (aka Gordon Hoekstra) downplayed official truthiness, preferring to emphasize the official position that no evidence of ISA has been ‘proven’. Hoekstra’s report, published also in other Postmedia fish wraps, contains no mention of efforts to intimidate the scientists, damage their professional reputations, cast aspersions on laboratory work and deny them rights to publish peer reviewed findings in respected science journals. Those are strange goings-on, conducted by an agency that should be guardian of the oceans, protecting public interests, not protecting investments of foreign fish farming corporations.

Hoekstra did though find space for B.C. Salmon Farmers Association head flack Mary Ellen Walling. She is confident federal and provincial testing has shown there is “no ISA in salmon farms in B.C.” Damien Gillis provides the rest of that story:

[Dr. Kristi] Miller related how Mary-Ellen Walling, head lobbyist for the BC industry, had reneged on a handshake deal made with Miller as she was about to take the stand the last time around at the Inquiry. Up until that point the BC Salmon Farmers’ Association had been obstructing all efforts to obtain fresh samples of their fish for testing – but in the glare of the media spotlight brought about by Miller’s appearance at the Commission, they’d promised at the last minute to share fish with her lab. Well, that didn’t last long, as Walling recently backtracked and refused to provide samples, insisting Miller stick to studying wild fish for now.

Miller related similar difficulties in getting samples from the Province’s farmed fish health auditor – explaining in tragicomic fashion how the samples they did eventually send over were thawed and thus totally degraded and useless to her.

You see why they don’t want tests conducted on farmed salmon? So they can say that tests have not discovered ISA in farmed salmon. The industry decided that reneging on its cooperation agreement would be less damaging than results of the tests.


The Globe and Mail, nearly always light years ahead of Postmedia in quality, offers a piece by Mark Hume that demonstrates the vast difference in objectives. One journalist aims to inform readers, the other aims to misinform. Gordon Hoekstra was so keen to serve the fish farming industry, he ignored the major story. Mark Hume did not: Federal agency accused of intimidation over salmon disease

Damien Gillis again provides important analysis at The Common Sense Canadian, an environmental news agency that should be on your Christmas list.

Winning the Salmon PR “War”? Emails Reveal Government Scientists Acting Like Flacks

“…More emails released during Friday’s hearing revealed the lengths to which senior CFIA and DFO staff went to clamp down on Dr. Kibenge’s work. One note from Dr. Klotins to Dr. Kiley stated, “Dr. Kibenge did test the fish submitted by A. Morton. I believe we must check those samples for integrity. I’m thinking we should also advise all laboratories in Canada to not test any more samples of wild finfish for ISAv from the Pacific Ocean (Canada and US). K.” (emphasis added)…

“Commission Counsel Brock Martland posed a similar question to senior DFO manager Mr. Stephen Stephen, who took the stand in the afternoon. This time it was in reference to his alleged attempts to shut down the research into ISAv being conducted on the Pacific Coast by Dr. Kristi Miller. “Did you suggest Dr. Miller shouldn’t continue her ISAv research?” Martland inquired. Stephen answered, “I did suggest that until CFIA completes their investigation we should defer further testing…

The day ended with yet another example of DFO covering up ISAv science. This time it involved an unpublished 2004 paper by Dr. Fred Kibenge’s wife, Molly Kibenge, which made headlines when it was leaked to media a few weeks ago. Dr. [Simon] Jones headed up the lab where Kibenge was a post-doctoral student at the time of the paper and it was his decision not to publish it. Moreover, Jones also didn’t see fit to disclose the document to the Commission, even though he was legally required to – especially given its significance relative to these special hearings into ISAv.

Martland asked Jones, “Why didn’t you produce these documents to the Commission earlier? Didn’t you understand this was going to be an issue?” “No, I didn’t understand that,” replied Jones…”

More reading at the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, Cohen Aquaculture Daily – December 16, 2011

8 replies »

  1. Another great catch Norm. More than that, you have brought a fine analytical eye to the news media industry.

    We're dealing with massive corruption, lies and deception on all official fronts here in BC. As far as I can see there are only a few, rare, examples of people with integrity in positions of leadership in BC now. Certainly not politicians of any stripe, not government bodies (especially top bureaucrats), not unions, nor law enforcement or the legal industry. And certainly not the “news” media.

    The BC news media have reverted to the Medieval roots of their industry — Jesters of the Court, there to entertain and protect those in power.

    There are some brave and ethical pillars left: the Auditor General, the Children & Youth Representative, firefighters and the BC Ambulance Service (who are fighting desperately to keep from being wiped out entirely by government hell-bent on privatizing that “business sector”). But that's about it.

    The rest of the so-called “watchdogs” have thoroughly discredited themselves: Police Complaint Commission, Ombudsperson, and sadly, even the Privacy Commissioner. As for the justice industry or the faux justice industry (i.e. friends of government hired to deliver whitewash reports on scandals when they become too hot) — cue the laughter.

    I cannot imagine what we the concerned public would do if it weren't for the Internet and determined, ethical blogger journalists like yourself Norm. Just try to imagine what a solid lock the news media would have on our knowledge of what is really going on. It's frightening.

    I don't see anyone else doing the breadth, depth and quality analysis of the news media that you are doing. I guess even the journalism schools are too scared to criticize the hand that feeds them.

    This is a breeding ground for the ultimate explosion, a revolution. Sad that it has come to this.


  2. Fish wrap and a refuge for 3rd rate reporters, that is what the Vancouver Sun has become. WE do not have a mainstream media in this province, rather we have the bureau of propaganda, that kow-tows to “Big Sister” (a.k.a. Premier photo-op) and prints want she tells them to print.

    The Vancouver Sun is a newspaper no-more, as it is the mainstream source for 'yellow' journalism.


  3. Norm,

    Thanks for the article on the BC Liberal propaganda rag called the “Vancouver Sun”. There was a time that the newspaper did good and accurate work – those days are now gone as is the newspaper's reputation. Down the toilet as they say, with all the rest of the crap !

    Please keep up your good work !!!

    This article has been sent far and wide today 🙂



  4. Thanks for this reaffirmation of sorts Norman Farrell.

    Exactly why I have not read the online version of the Vancouver Sun since I don't remember when, and have refused to shell out my hard earned $ for for even longer than that. Such pap.

    If you don't read the newpaper, you're uniformed. If you read the newspaper, you're mis-informed — Mark Twain


  5. Actually that was just one person who claims to speak for the Gitxsan nation. Others were surprised by the deal, and angered that Gitxsan leaders were not consulted. That doesn't get on the front page of the Sun either.


  6. Furthermore, I just looked at the proposed route of the pipeline and it appears that the pipeline passes well south of Gitxan territory. ???


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