Politicians have ‘no role’ in police decisions: Freeland on Rebel News arrest

Politicians have 'no role' in police decisions: Freeland on Rebel News arrest © Provided by The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Thursday she would not weigh in on the recent arrest of a Rebel News personality because politicians have no say in the operational decisions made by police.

David Menzies, a commentator for the online site, was arrested Monday by an RCMP officer providing security for Freeland while Menzies was trying to ask the minister questions outside an event in Richmond Hill, Ont.

A Rebel News video shows Menzies being told he was arrested for assault because he pushed into an officer. In the video, Menzies can be heard saying that the officer was the one who bumped into him.

York Regional Police said Menzies was released unconditionally after it was determined there was no credible security threat. The RCMP said it is “looking into the incident” and the actions of everyone involved.

On Thursday, Freeland told reporters that Canada is a rule of law country and a democracy.

“Operational decisions about law enforcement are taken by the police of jurisdiction,” she said at a news conference in Toronto.

“Quite appropriately, political elected officials have no role in the taking of those decisions and that’s why I don’t have any further comment.”

Menzies said in an interview that he believes he was arrested because the Liberals do not like his outlet or its questions.

“It was a very sad state of affairs and it deserves the global and viral coverage that it is getting,” he said.

Menzies has been arrested multiple times in interactions with both Liberal and Conservative politicians.

That includes a 2019 arrest in Whitby, Ont., during a campaign stop by former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, who is now Opposition House leader. Menzies was arrested after multiple members of Scheer’s staff repeatedly asked him to leave and told him he was not welcome to attend the event.

At the time, Scheer told reporters that it was the Conservative party’s policy to not give interviews to Rebel News, saying his event was for accredited media only.

In July 2021 in Thornhill, Ont., Menzies was arrested at an event for Melissa Lantsman, who is now deputy leader of the Conservative party. She was the nominated Conservative candidate at the time.

Lantsman said in a press release following that episode that Menzies was asking her “homophobic” questions that related to her sexual orientation. She ultimately left the event because she felt unsafe, she said.

Rebel News said at the time that Menzies had not made any homophobic remarks and that he was arrested because of the questions he was asking about her work.

In most of those cases, Rebel News crowdfunded following the arrests for money to “save David Menzies.”

But Menzies said he did not set out to get arrested.

Menzies said his most recent arrest got the most attention because of social media.

“It was the biggest story in the world for a few hours at least,” he said.

Elon Musk, owner of social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, weighed in online, as did English personality Russell Brand who commented on the situation as a man in an “adorable fedora” being “slammed” by police.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre also shared news of the arrest on his X account.

“This is the state of freedom of the press. In Canada. In 2024. After 8 years of Trudeau,” he posted above the video. In a followup post, Poilievre claimed Menzies was arrested for questioning a Liberal minister.

Poilievre did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did Lantsman or Scheer.

In Canada, journalistic speech is protected under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and there are very few exemptions, such a libel and defamation, that limit what journalists can say and write.

Marilyn Gladu, the Conservative critic for civil liberties, pushed to have the arrest studied at the House of Commons heritage committee. It failed to get support from other parties.

Menzies said he does not think it’s hypocritical for the Conservatives to come to his defence despite him being arrested at their past events.

“This wasn’t Pierre Poilievre shutting down the process of journalism. So until he does it, I can’t complain about him or condemn him,” Menzies said.

Source: Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press