Canada

News outlet retracts elements of allegations premier broke COVID restrictions | CBC News

An Alberta online news agency has withdrawn elements of a recent article alleging the prime minister and other government officials violated COVID-19 public health regulations.

The revocation comes little more than a day after Prime Minister Jason Kenney’s attorney sent a cease and desist letter calling the article “false and defamatory”.

The Western Standard released a story Wednesday claiming the prime minister attended gatherings in violation of the province’s COVID-19 restrictions.

This prompted the Prime Minister’s Legal Department to send a letter asking the point of sale to remove the item and any related tweets, issue a written revocation, apologize to the Prime Minister and those named in the article, and no further defamatory content in connection with the statements or to publish the article.

Citing unnamed sources, the original article alleged that Kenney and several cabinet ministers attended meetings at a particular restaurant during the time the dining rooms were closed in Alberta. It was also said that similar gatherings were attended in a lobbyist’s private home. These details have been removed.

Calling the content of the article “an invention from start to finish,” Kenney said he never broke the rules of dining in restaurants during the pandemic.

The publication has now removed most of its specific allegations from history. It said the update should “add Premier Kenney’s disapproval and remove some of the matters the Prime Minister is currently denying”.

The Western Standard had previously told CBC News that it was standing by the content of the story. Now the article indicates that a health breach would have occurred had the information “proven to be accurate”.

“None of the alleged gatherings has been proven to have taken place; however, the details have been verified by several credible sources within the government,” it said on Friday morning.

CBC News has requested an updated comment from the Western Standard.

Redemption does not address any injunctive relief

The deletion of certain paragraphs from the article does not meet the injunction requirements, and the Prime Minister’s Office says those demands remain.

“As we said on Wednesday night, ‘The story released by the Western Standard tonight is a total fiction without any basis,'” a statement from Kenney’s office said.

“The letter from the prime minister’s lawyer is perfectly clear and our position remains the same.”

Former MLA Derek Fildebrandt, the editor of the Western Standard, resigned from the United Conservative Party’s caucus in Alberta in 2017 amid controversy. Kenney said Fildebrandt would no longer be allowed to run under the party’s banner, and the two men have since divided over the circumstances surrounding that decision.

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