No consent, no pic - The Orca

No consent, no pic

Dene Moore

Dene Moore: Yes, MP Will Amos should have made sure his camera was off – but that doesn’t justify distributing naked photos without consent. Politicians deserve better treatment from the public, but also from each other.

The other day, I was catching up with a friend on the phone, a thing we middle-aged people still do sometimes. She was having a bad day in what has been a bad year – and at the end of her list of woes she declared that at least she didn’t accidentally strip naked on a Zoom call.

It’s hard to avoid the topic of MP Will Amos’s unfortunate gaffe. It’s made headlines across the country around beyond our borders, in the New York Times, The Guardian, People magazine, TMZ, the BBC, the South China Morning Post and Sky News.

Amos was apparently getting ready for a virtual meeting of the House of Commons, changing after a run, when his video automatically connected on the call. House colleagues on what was an internal House video feed, not a public broadcast, saw Amos nude in the background.

That’s when the story goes from amusing to abuse.

One of Amos’s colleagues, presumably a duly elected Member of Parliament whose job is to exercise the kind of judgment that shapes our country, decided to take a photo, and leak it to the media.

Amos’s reaction is admirable. He quickly addressed his mistake and issued an apology.

“I made a really unfortunate mistake today & obviously I’m embarrassed by it,” he wrote on Twitter. “My camera was accidentally left on as I changed into work clothes after going for a jog. I sincerely apologize to all my colleagues in the House. It was an honest mistake + it won’t happen again.”

Now I’m waiting for the apology from the others who didn’t make a mistake, but rather conscious decisions to violate Mr. Amos’s privacy and potentially commit a federal offence by distributing a nude image without his consent.

The Government House Leader has called for an investigation and social media sleuths are already dissecting details of the screen shot to catch the culprit.

We will find out. There will be apologies and probably some rule changes in Work From Home Parliament procedures to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

My problem is that this is emblematic of the nasty, often childish behaviour in many of our political institutions.

As my friend said: “What kind of people are these?!”

The photo was meant to embarrass the MP, and it was fairly widely distributed without thought for the wider implications.

Few, if any, other trades are practiced against a more constant hum of criticism than politics. Some is fair game; the expected, even constructive partisan fray.

But the discourse has become more and more coarse. Or at least, more publicly coarse and that has spilled over into the way the public views and values politicians.

Current and former MPs including Catherine McKenna and Michelle Rempel Garner have spoken about the insults they have endured – even threats. I have to wonder, though, if a similar photo of a female MP would have been so gleefully passed around?

In my local area, MP Todd Doherty issued a stark and rather heartbreaking message this week on Facebook:

“Today I received another threat,” the member for Cariboo-Prince George said in a video message.

“I don’t run and I don’t hide. You threaten my family, you approach my family and I will take appropriate action. And that’s not a threat. That’s a promise.”

If the lawmakers of this country want the public to value their work, they can start by valuing it themselves. Grow up.

Dene Moore is an award-winning journalist and writer. A news editor and reporter for The Canadian Press news agency for 16 years, Moore is now a freelance journalist living in the South Cariboo. Moore’s two decades in daily journalism took her as far afield as Kandahar as a war correspondent and the Innu communities of Labrador. She has worked in newsrooms in Vancouver, Montreal, Regina, Saskatoon, St. John’s and Edmonton. She has been published in the Globe and Mail, Maclean’s magazine, the New York Times and the Toronto Star, among others. She is a Habs fan and believes this is the year.


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