“I’m shocked. … I never heard of these elections,” Mr. Meghna Randhawa, a resident in Ottawa riding told the Globe, referring to the fact that his name and phone number ended up on a list of party members in Ottawa misused for a candidate’s election campaign.
Randhawa was a student who was interviewed in a Globe investigation over alleged blatant fraudulent activities in contentious PC nomination race under Patrick Brown – including ballot-box stuffing, ineligible voters and fake memberships. Despite known to an associate of Mr. Dhillon -- the target of the Globe investigation and a political operative convicted of fraud, Mr. Randhawa provides the quote to the Globe, allowing his real name used in the story.
While nomination races are a cornerstone of democracy and the first step to winning elected office, there is no independent oversight by federal or provincial electoral watchdogs. As such, media watchdog role, supported by public participation, plays a crucial part in restraining politicians’ behavior and ensuring that elected leaders possess honesty and integrity. In the end, Canadian democracy largely depends on the civic responsibility of the average Canadian – a woman on Bloor-Spadina subway, or a man taking Scarborough RT.
Sources with the real name made the allegation in the investigation story more convincing and credible, especially in an era of fake news. However, people like Mr. Randhawa seemed hard to come by in the Chinese community. In investigating an alleged vote-buying practice by a Chinese Canadian candidate, Chinese News has heard complaints from multiple sources, but none of them agreed to go on the record or to have their real name used in the story.
Source A said that she was a witness of the candidate’s questionable practice. While A frowned upon such behavior, A didn’t want to become a whistleblower, out of fear from a “marginalized individual.”
Source B claims to be another witness in the alleged wrongdoing. In its effort to verify the allegations, Chinese News asked for source B’s real name and wanted to meet in person. However, source B used his alias in talking to the paper. One day after the planned meeting, B suddenly canceled the meeting, citing packed schedule at work. Chinese News further effort to contact B turned out to be futile.
Source C made her allegations through a video taken by a bystander, who refused to allow the paper to either possess or make a copy of the video.
Anonymous sources are frequently used in investigation reports – even though in mainstream media such as the Globe and the Washington Post. The most popular anonymous source was Deep Throat, then the associate director of FBI. The data he leaked to the Washington Post reporter had led to the Watergate story that brought down then-president Richard Nixon.
The Washington Post granted Deep Throat anonymity because he was holding a key position in a US law enforcement agency, and exposing his identity could comprise his job, reputation, and livelihood.
However, journalism must abide by specific policies in using anonymous quotes, and most importantly, the source’s name and full details must be known to the paper. By granting anonymity unjustifiably and merely attributing all allegations to “a source,” it would degrade the quality of journalism and ruin the credibility of the claims.
Apparently, none of the sources in the Chinese News investigation would have as much at stake as Deep Throat if they come forward with their real names. The risks they are facing pale in comparison with his. They are reluctant to do so because of the widely spread Not In My Backyard syndrome in the Chinese community. However, it is the civic engagement and political participation that has led to the success of Canada’s democracy. Remember that in 2019.
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