A reasonable apprehension of bias — that’s what we learned to call it in law school.
It’s the legal standard, in Canadian law, for disqualifying a judge or decision-maker in an administrative tribunal.
Bias is prejudice, mostly. It’s an unreasonably hostile feeling or opinion about a person or group. In law, we learned, it can be “real” or “perceived.” That is, it doesn’t have to actually happen right out in the open — the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled it can even happen when a decision-maker “might have” acted unfairly.
That’s when a judge or a decision-maker can be disqualified, and kicked off a case. But is a reporter a decision-maker, in the legal sense?
On Friday, the CBC — along with their newsreader Rosemary Barton, and Parliamentary Bureau reporter Jean-Paul Tasker — sued the Conservative Party of Canada. For real.
Their complaint: on the Internet, the Tories used 17 seconds of CBC video. About the Tories.
In the case of the CBC lawsuit against the Conservative Party, however, the bias is not merely perceived. It is real. And it inarguably disqualifies Barton, Tasker and the CBC — all important decision-makers about the information millions of Canadians receive during this election — from broadcasting anything about the Conservative Party.
Truly: how can Andrew Scheer, or any of his candidates, now believe that the CBC will treat them fairly in news coverage? More importantly, how can the CBC’s viewers and listeners now believe that what they are seeing and hearing is free of bias?
After all, how the CBC handles a news story … can destroy a political career in short
Whether they intended it or not, the CBC and Barton and Tasker have provided clear evidence of an appalling bias. They have shown they are utterly disinterested in being fair.
That lawsuit wasn’t a legal action. Given that the Tories now may win the election, it was a political suicide note.