Right-wing fringe newspaper is appearing on doorsteps across the Maritimes
'The last thing we need is this landing in Canadians’ mailboxes,' says MP Lenore Zann
January 15, 2021, 8:08 am ASTLast Updated: January 15, 2021, 1:18 pm
This story contains a correction
Sarah Jeffers sat down and cried after opening her mailbox on Tuesday morning. Inside was an unfamiliar newspaper, filled with what she described as racism and hate.
The publication, the Epoch Times, featured a front page splashed with anti-China rhetoric. The paper is known for promoting pro-Trump rhetoric and disseminating conspiracy theories about QAnon and vaccine misinformation.
Jeffers was shocked to see it delivered to her home in Truro, N.S.
“This was something that was indiscriminately dropped in everybody’s mailbox. It didn’t matter who you were, it didn’t matter what background you came from,” she said in an interview. “And my heart broke for anyone that was Asian in my community, or friends that I had in other parts of Canada that would have received that.”
The newspaper — advertised as a free sample — is making its way through Atlantic Canada this week. The Signal has heard from residents in Truro and Chester in Nova Scotia, and in Newfoundland and Labrador who have received the publication.
There are reports of the newspaper being delivered in Ontario, Alberta, B.C. and P.E.I.
The Epoch Times website reads, “Every penny of your subscription cost helps us deliver truth and tradition — our motto — to every Canadian.”
“Obviously this is a well funded paper,” Jeffers said, noting there are no advertisements inside the newspaper.
“I wonder how much Canada Post is being paid to have this sent out.”
Complaints to MPs
Jeffers’ representative in Parliament, Cumberland-Colchester MP Lenore Zann, said she’s heard complaints from Nova Scotians about the newspaper.
“The last thing we need is this landing in Canadians’ mailboxes,” Zann said.
Zann said she contacted the office of MP Anita Anand earlier this week. As minister of public services and procurement, Anand is responsible for Canada Post.
Zann said according to Anand’s office, the newspaper is being distributed countrywide and that MP offices have received a number of complaints about it this week. A statement to Zann, which was forwarded to The Signal, said Anand has requested that her officials look into the matter further.
“It’s also worth noting that Canadian Post operated independently,” the statement reads.
Zann said the publication “absolutely” has the power to influence thought, politics and opinion.
Kurt Phillips, founder of Anti-Racist Canada and a current member of the board of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, said the Epoch Times “is one of the few examples of right-wing extremist propaganda that really frightens me.”
He is concerned about the “echo chambers” circulating around hate groups, whose extremist views are being propped up by propaganda disguised as a newspaper.
This isn’t the first time the publication has made its way to Canada.
Last May, the federal government rejected a request from a Toronto postal workers’ union and ordered Canada Post to continue its circulation of Epoch after deciding it didn’t reach the criminal threshold for hate speech, the CBC reported.
The office of the minister of public services and procurement said in the statement sent on Thursday that “after an initial legal assessment of [Epoch Times] material, it does not appear to meet the required criteria for prohibiting distribution.”
It is unclear when the legal assessment was done.
Canada Post has a legal obligation to deliver all neighbourhood mail, according to the Canada Post Corporation Act.
Anybody with a business customer number who’s registered with Canada Post on its website can use neighbourhood mailers, a tool commonly used in campaigns and flyers. It offers to send “direct mail to every mailbox in Canada,” Canada Post says on its site.
Media literacy to combat propaganda
Kurt Phillips said Epoch Times is “dangerous because it physically looks like journalism on the surface.” That’s why media literacy is so important, he added.
As a junior and senior high school teacher in Alberta, he said he discusses media literacy with his students to encourage critical thinking and to trust news stories that are backed by more than one publication.
“Why do you think it’s presenting this message in the way that it is?” Phillips said he asks his students. “What is a reliable website to get information from and what makes it reliable?”
Drew Garvie, the Ontario leader of the Communist Party of Canada, said he believes the Epoch Times does violate speech laws and notes that conspiracy theories around COVID-19 have resulted in an increase in violence against people of Chinese origin in the country.
Project 1907, a grassroots organization that aims to elevate Asian voices, found that over 600 incidents of anti-Asian racism had been reported since the onset of COVID-19 in April into September. The report states that “Canada has a higher number of anti-Asian racism reports per capita than the United States.”
Garvie wants the mailouts to stop.
“I think it’s dangerous that the government is dismissing this,” he said.
“This is a paper that’s filled with conspiracy theories,” he said. “Do your own research and don’t accept that just because it comes in the mail and looks like a newspaper, it doesn’t mean it’s not filled with lies.”
The Epoch Times did not respond to an interview request.
Correction: Jan. 15, 2021: An earlier version of this story misstated Kurt Phillips' role with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.
Have a story idea? Let us know