Parliamentary Press Gallery executives accompanied by armed police on Friday evicted Blacklock’s. All questions were referred to a House of Commons employee. Blacklock’s said the eviction, first of its kind in the history of the National Press Building, was clear reprisal over its continued protests against media subsidies.
Eviction followed Gallery president Guillaume St-Pierre’s threat to “terminate” Blacklock’s membership. The eviction letter stated Blacklock’s managing editor Tom Korski was “impolite,” “disturbs the journalists around him” and “streams parliamentary committee hearings on his computer.”
The complaints were made by three reporters: Emilie Bergeron and Michel Saba of Canadian Press and freelancer Hélène Buzzetti, a former Gallery president. Fourteen other reporters assigned desks in the National Press Building did not sign the complaint.
“Failure to observe these prohibitions could result in further and potentially more serious sanctions including further and potentially permanent prohibitions,” wrote President St-Pierre, correspondent for the Journal de Montréal.
The Gallery refused to permit Blacklock’s to speak to the board of directors regarding reprisal complaints. “The executive did not invite oral representations,” said the eviction notice.
“We will now see the Press Gallery in court,” Blacklock’s shareholders said in a statement. “Our subsidized competitors met in secret, plotted punitive measures over petty grievances and served an eviction notice accompanied by armed police. Their conduct is outrageous.”
Blacklock’s is the only Press Gallery member eligible for federal subsidies that neither solicits nor accepts government funding. The eviction came one day after Blacklock’s published Access To Information records detailing a private meeting between 35 unnamed publishers and the Canada Revenue Agency on distribution of $595 million in subsidies.
Blacklock’s in 2020 also reported Canadian Press unsuccessfully petitioned the Commons finance committee for federal grants to cover 100 percent of revenues, the equivalent of $500,000 a week. CP President Malcolm Kirk asked for subsidies “to fully offset subscription fees paid by CP’s media clients.”
Blacklock’s at a 2021 Press Gallery meeting sponsored a motion that “all Gallery members disclose all applications for grants, rebates or subsidies to any branch of the Government of Canada” and publish the disclosures on its website. The motion was defeated. “That’s cleared up,” said then-Gallery president Catherine Levesque of Canadian Press.
“The Press Gallery action is clearly reprisal,” wrote Blacklock’s shareholders. “We will fight.”