“Consortium News has sent libel notices to the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada’s version of the U.S. National Security Agency, and to a major Canadian television network, Global News, for a report that said Consortium News was ‘part of a cyber-influence campaign directed by Russia,’” a statement on Tuesday by CN Editor-in-Chief Joe Lauria read.
The original Global News article published on December 10, which cited internal CSE documents marked CEO (Canadian Eyes Only), alleged that CN partook in a Russian disinformation campaign to discredit top Canadian officials, including then-Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan.
The article referred to a CN publication titled, “A Nazi Skeleton in the Family Closet,” which exposed Freeland’s maternal grandfather, Michael (Mykhailo) Chomiak, as the editor of a Nazi-sponsored Ukrainian-language newspaper called Krakivski Visti who also settled in a confiscated Jewish apartment in Krakow.
Freeland for years had avoided publicly discussing her family history, stating that her grandparents’ love for Canada was inspired by their escape from Soviet-occupied Ukraine as refugees and described her grandfather as simply a lawyer and journalist, CN stated.
However, Freeland appears to have known about her Nazi past for decades. In March 2017, Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail reported that Freeland edited the work of her uncle by marriage John-Paul Himka, a retired history professor at the University of Alberta, who in 1996 uncovered Chomiak’s former role at the Krakivski Visti publication.
When pressed about her family history, Freeland neither denied nor acknowledged the revelation, only chalking up the findings to an alleged Russian disinformation effort.
"I don't think it's a secret. American officials have publicly said, and even [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel has publicly said, that there were efforts on the Russian side to destabilize Western democracies, and I think it shouldn't come as a surprise if these same efforts were used against Canada," Freeland said during a press conference at the time.
The current deputy prime minister’s dismissal of the subject was subject to widespread scrutiny from the Canadian media at the time.
The controversy was seen by some as the real reason for the expulsion of four Russian diplomats from Ottawa, including press secretary Kirill Kalinin, who Ottawa alleged to be behind a disinformation campaign.
“Trying to silence an official spokesman of the embassy doesn’t mean you are right ... Expelling someone for voicing an alternative opinion or giving a different analysis of a situation is very un-Canadian,” Kalinin countered in an interview.
Consortium News (CN) was founded by renowned American investigative journalist Robert Parry, who played a pivotal role in the Associated Press’ coverage of the Iran–Contra affair. The outlet employs a number of esteemed journalists and even former members of the US intelligence community. According to Lauria, the publication is funded exclusively by the readers, without any monetary assistance on the part of any government.