Activist or Journalist – OPG bans me from Beavergate Meeting as City Agrees to Look at Proposal – Many Thoughts by Jamie Gilcig

CFN – So Wednesday we three get to the Civic Complex.   Rebecca Sorrell was asked if we’d take a meeting with City Officials, OPG, and the Minister of Natural Resources before her second request to speak before council was submitted.  (The first was refused)

There’s a hitch though.  I’m stopped.

I’m told that I can’t separate my role as activist or journalist.

I offer to not use my camera, ME2, and just sit in and participate but I’m told that OPG will walk if I’m present.

What a lot of people forget when working in groups is to check their ego.   I saw the look in Rebecca Sorrell’s eyes and without any fuss or muss step down.   I end up waiting nearly two hours for the meeting to end.

It gives me time to make some calls and work on some notes for the follow up to Beavergate.  It’s been inspiring to work together as a team.  It’s been inspiring to combat stubbornness and ignorance without being overly emotional about it.

Since my first story April 25th a lot of neat things have happened.  Yes, it’s important to save the beavers in Guindon Park, but this is also a metaphor about getting elected officials and those that work on behalf of the public to listen to we the public.    It’s about the process and holding people accountable.   It doesn’t always have to be an us or them fight.

Cornwall Politicians have failed big time when it comes to listening and responding to the public in a meaningful way.   There’s been a mean spiritedness in how Beavergate has been handled.

As positive these first few strands of light are, and the meeting did show some huge strands of light, the bottom line is that the only reason this meeting took place is because of internal and external public pressures.

Yesterday the Standard Free Holder came out with a story on Beavergate.   It was written by Cheryl Brink.   I’m not sure which journalism school she went to, but the Free Holder last I looked was a Broadsheet newspaper.   I personally practice Gonzo Journalism.


Gonzo journalismis a style of journalism that is written without claims of objectivity, often including the reporter as part of the story via a first-person narrative. The word “gonzo” is believed to be first used in 1970 to describe an article by Hunter S. Thompson, who later popularized the style. The term has since been applied to other subjective artistic endeavors.

Gonzo journalism tends to favor style over fact to achieve accuracy—if accuracy is in fact meant to be achieved at all—and often uses personal experiences and emotions to provide context for the topic or event being covered. It disregards the “polished”, edited product favored by newspaper media and strives for a more gritty, personable approach—the personality of a piece is just as important as the event the piece is on. Use of quotations, sarcasm,humor, exaggeration, and profanity is common.

Among the forefathers of the new journalism movement, Thompson said in the February 15th, 1973 issue of Rolling Stone, “If I’d written the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people—including me—would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism.”[

That being said it’s very very important to have facts in a story and even to occasionally fact check.

Ms Brink wrote in her blog:

A group of a dozen or more protesters hit up city hall this week, despite not making it onto the evening’s agenda. The Save the Beaver petitioners brought signs and homemade t-shirts, hoping to make a plea for the end to trapping of the country’s national animal in Guindon Park. When they realized they wouldn’t be invited to speak, they left in a rather noisy fashion. “I’ll see you next council, Mr. Kilger,” said Rebecca Sorrell, the unofficial leader of the group, and the petition’s author.

Personally, I don’t think they’re going to get too far. Trapping for the purpose of population control has been going for more than two decades with very little controversy; the beavers are still around but the roads haven’t flooded. The city has little motivation to make changes … plus a couple of traps were stolen from the park this year, which I’m sure will do the opposite of helping this group’s cause.

As this video of part of the protesters entering council shows there are well over a dozen.  Why lower the number? Why leave out the facts?  Why leave out how Beavergate started?   Why slur the group by suggesting that somehow they were behind traps being allegedly stolen from Guindon park?

A quick telephone call to the police would have given Ms Brink the police report filed April 26, 2012 numbered CW12005380 in which the Trapper, Mr. Quinn, complained of one trap, valued at $33 being stolen from near its location near the Forest Washrooms.

Why would there be a trap near the washrooms next to the RC track where kids play?

When I started Beavergate after hearing about the plight of Guindon Park from Mr. Wyatt Walsh my first home work was talking to experts; scientists, biologists, and gaining the facts of this situation.   Could not Ms. Brink.   Ms Sorrell and her group didn’t start until after the 26th.  Why slur them, even loosely in her story?    As well I spoke to Mr. Pat Quinn the trapper who said four traps were stolen and that complained that we media were a big part of the problem and hung up on me.

My request for a 90 day moratorium was met by the trap being moved to the beaver lodge – clearly showing a lack of good faith or willingness to dialog.

Was it because Council and the CAO have a hard on for CFN?  I don’t know.  I do know it was unnecessary.

After the meeting I again; for the third time emailed Mayor Kilger, the CAO, Council and management requesting an immediate 90 day moratorium of trapping in Guindon Park.

I hope this time it’s met with the reality that we as a city have a huge opportunity.     Lesley Fox of  The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals has clearly offered to send at their cost a team to deal with the issues of Beaver Control in Guindon Park.

Not only will this ultimately save the city dollars.  It will help Guindon Park become an even better attraction.  They also will be training city staff at no cost and some volunteers who are excited about the opportunity as this service, which is evolving very quickly can be costly and is a growing area of jobs as there’s an acute shortage of people that can provide these services.

So as you can clearly see this is a huge opportunity for we citizens of Cornwall Ontario.  It’s truly a win win situation for all involved if they embrace it.

OPG left the meeting first last night.   Since that first phone call to me where they basically lied they’ve been a dark shadow on this process.   I hope Ms Haliday’s employers in Toronto realize that there are always options to better the environment and respect your neighbors.

As for Ms. Brink’s comment above:

Trapping for the purpose of population control has been going for more than two decades with very little controversy

It’s our job in the media to help bring issues to light.  If we in the media don’t bring concerns to our pages how ever will an issue become controversial enough to bring pressure on our elected officials to respond?

And to end this piece is a video we shot with Rebecca Sorrell, her wonderful dog Ridley who hopes to play safely in the future in Guindon Park and Mr. Wyatt Walsh who expertly reputed OPG’s Engineers report to kick off the meeting.

Ms Sorrell is not going to let her tootsie off of the gas pedal.   Her petition continues online and in stores like Island Ink Jet (3rd street and Pitt across from the Royal Bank) and she still hopes to present to council with her supporters at the next meeting.

You can post your comments below.


We just received word from Mr. Stephen Alexander, General Manager Planning, Parks, and Recreation Services from Cornwall Ontario

There was an e mail last night asking for consideration of a 90 day moratorium on traps in the park. 

 In fact,  following the meeting,  staff determined , and put into action  steps to remove the only trap that was remaining in the park while we are considering if any other approaches can achieve the objectives of protecting the park infrastructure etc.  for park users. 

To my understanding,  from information this morning,   by the time you get this e mail it may have in fact been removed,  together with the signs. 

I personally want to thank Mr. Alexander for this amazing gesture and step forward by the City Management of  Cornwall Ontario!



  1. I’m still shocked that you weren’t gang beaten at Au Vieu Duluth.

    As far as the lady refusing to participate at the meeting I have only one thing to say about that.

    Holy Gilles Latour!

  2. Author

    Aw Wow! You generally only get gang beaten when you’re in the wrong. 🙂

  3. Actually, a person can be both activist and journalist. I wonder what would have happened if David Suzuki himself had shown up to sit in on the meeting.

  4. A free consultation to help deal with the beaver problem? Of course they would refuse. In my life here, I’ve found the city is only willing to pay a LOT of money for consulting fees that yield zero results. Leaving just enough money in the coffers to pay for legal settlements. I think I’ll just move away. Apathy.

  5. @ Mare. Suzuki would have been stoned to death by a particularly vocal and local man of the cloth.

  6. It’s pretty easy to agree to remove the traps now that the beavers are gone. is it really a victory, or did the city just waste enough time to finish the job? You don’t need traps if you’ve gotten rid of all the offending critters.

  7. How can people be refused entry to a public meeting? Does someone have something to hide? Oh right! This is Cornwall aka Scandal City where the heavies like to play heavy.

  8. If a person is in a “Public” Relations position for a corporation or government, there are two rules when dealing with the press: Never say “No comment,” and never show fear by being autocratic. The public will indeed conclude you’ve something to hide. Besides, banning reporters is what happens in dictatorships and communist countries not in democracies.

  9. It still sounds like there could be another round of trapping but that the citizen group is going to lobby for a change of bylaws so that trapping is no longer allowed and that the humane methods offered by the Society for the Protection of Fur Bearing Animals will be favoured by the group in its presentation to the City.

    I do not think this fight is over because the legislation has not changed yet. And Bella B is right, the City won because there are no beavers and who knows how long it will take to have new ones move in. There still is no guarantee that new beaver families will be safe. So it sounds like round one is over and round two begins.

    As for the admin being shut out of the meeting and excluded in general by the City, it is unacceptable. Sounds like this guy is either crazy or he is a hero, the public is going to have to decide and stop sitting on the fence. Speaking of which here is a song dedicated to admin:

  10. Mr.Gilcig:
    Think this could have been a good story, especially, reporting being barred from this meeting. From Prime Minister on down these officials feel they are all powerful and answer to nobody.

    I do take issue when this story moves to the young reporter just starting out in this every changing landscape of new media. Reporters are being fired at the Washington Post for comments in personal blogs so its a minefield for the rookies.

    Made many mistakes when I started out..but never took a cent from anybody…keep my thoughts to myself and did everything in my power to report honestly and accurately.

    Prof who appeared at project truth stated that the public wasn’t served during that mess and pointed out the “duelling” between columnists at the two local papers was wrong and didn’t help
    In Cornwall,
    journalists barely scratched the surface and let one of the largest stories in the community
    remain clouded in rumours and allegations for more than two decades. It shows that best
    practices journalism matters for accountability and the ability of citizens to make sense of
    important issues in their community.


  11. Author

    David in my three years here at CFN I have been utterly shocked by most of the local media bailing on stories, purposely misreporting others leaving HUGE wads of facts from the story.

    Another example from Ms Brink was in the Provincial elections. CFN organized a video all candidates debate at the Best Western. It was announced to her employer and they were offered to attend, but chose not to. The clips are up on you tube and were made available to all.

    Ms Brink purposely kept reporting that another debate was first. Why? You tell me? I am far from a perfect journalist and days not even sure if I should call myself a journalist; but what I do know is that you have to state facts in a story and sometimes even support them.

    Ms Brink is paid to report by a major newspaper chain. She’s a professional journalist. I know that a retraction and apology has been requested about her coverage of Beavergate. We need to hold our media to accountability to. How will the public every trust journalists otherwise and then who will hold politicians and leaders accountable for us?

    That also means the community has to support the media as well. In Cornwall, what amounts to a lot of press releases get the most advertising. I know CFN for example would be larger and have more staff if we were fairly supported by Cornwall. We’re not which is why we are constantly pressured to move to Ottawa or Montreal.

  12. Mr. Gilcig:
    You have earned my respect by a thoughtful reply to my observations!

    I think its a nightmare for Journalist starting out. People that guided me, said a good Journalist keeps their opinion out of news stories. Other sites claim to make it to the “big Leagues” you must have a blog be on twitter…to show that your prepared to report on all platforms.

    In my view the 24 hour news cycle has spun out of control with friends at the major newspapers in Canada expected to file to the website instantly with story, photos,video then into copy for the print edition. This rush leads to bad journalism and many mistakes and is a small part in the failure of so many great newspapers. The Brave journalist Christiane Amanpour says”what will the bloggers do when all the newspapers die”.

    Many times a story is picked up by so many internet sites that don’t have staff that they just put up a copy of the story on hundreds of sites. This leads to stories like the dentist who pulled out her boyfriends teeth ending up in the LA Times…then proven a hoax Without boring you to tears, will agree that a blog on the newspaper site…that is seen by your editor…is way different than a personal blog where the line between your work as a reporter become blurred. That in my view…is a recipe for disaster.

    Thank you again Jamie.
    Could you please clarify …when you talk of retraction…is this about the news article….or the newsjunkie story??
    I read the newspaper story Beaver Battle and it seemed fine…..but I don’t know the facts.
    But when reading the blog….not so fine….as a news story.
    Would agree that while it might be fine to express your own thoughts on the news…doing so about stories
    that are part of your beat as a reporter……shouldn’t be allow by her newspaper. Or at the very least an editor should vet the blog!!

  13. Mr: Gilcig:
    Wonder why I bothered trying to give Ms Brink a break. Guess have a soft spot for young reporters coming into my business.
    Seems if you leave a softball question on her blog then she gives a reply..anything three posts from me are taken down.
    At least you have the decency to answer comments directed your way.
    Let the reader decide if the comments are worthy of an answer
    Many of the major news organizations I have worked for take a very dim view of staff putting themselves in a conflict of interest position and these rookies are quickly shown the door.
    If your readers or even your major sources of information, start to feel you have an agenda..or even a position that they can’t support both groups will start to ignore you.
    My Comment that vanished
    Many months ago left a note from noted journalism prof saying reporters shouldn’t be combining their work and blogs. Now the door is open for “Gonzo”s” like Mr Gilich to be attacking this reporter with her own thoughts.

    CBC journalists do not express their own personal opinion because it affects the perception of impartiality

  14. New York Times rules on blogging
    Number One…don’t comment about news beats you cover!!
    New York Times rules on personel blogs….Staff members who write blogs should generally avoid topics they cover professionally; failure to do so would invite a confusion of roles.
    Given the ease of Web searching, even a private journal by a staff member is likely to become associated in the audience’s mind with the company’s reputation

    CBC journalists do not express their own personal opinion because it affects the perception of impartiality
    Is this comment not worthy of a reply???
    SO with other comments deleted by the junkie…we can run a poll on whether this note will also vanish

  15. Note to news junkie

    Bagdad Bob said,

    May 21, 2012 at 3:39 am

    You claim to be a news junkie then why post that the theft of traps will hurt their cause. What are you using for facts???? The first duty is to report accurate information this “story” implies the protesters took them..this is tabloid reporting unless there is proof.
    My understanding is one of the city hall gang took it to try and trap some voters..which they will have to do after paying out quarter of a million for a guy who no longer works for the city.

  16. OK ! Time to share a little story .. One beautiful sunny fresh late spring day , my boys and I were walking along the path behind what is known now as the Domtar remains…My boys are both on the autism spectrum scale…so peaceful outings are life changing and life learning for them.. as we walked and noticed the various flaura and fauna of the newly refreshed area.. we saw a beaver gently swimming towards his planned home building . A small den on one side of the former canal. It was an excellent opportunity for me to share the history and vitality of nature and man living together. I`d rather appreciate some natur in its natural environment than paing money to see sad examples in a zoo. Animal control can be safe and accomadating by relocation. My kids would be heart broken to learn of the painful demise of such proud creatures. Nice going Ms Sorrel…

  17. by the way off topic i can also appreciate Mr David James sense of news reporting integrity… the very foundation of news reporting is based on objective wording and unslanted facts. Without those cornerstones of journalism, it would not be journalism but actual constant editorialism..

Leave a Reply