A Study of the Crowd Size on Parliament Hill and the CBC’s False Reporting of it

To: CBC Ombudsman
From: John Pacheco
Date: June 8, 2011
Re: Complaint Against CBC for their False Reporting of the March for Life
Dear Mr. LaPointe,

I have take the opportunity to file an Access to Information Request with the RCMP regarding the size of the March for Life. Because it may take some time before I receive a response, I have assembled a few points for your consideration which all but proves that the CBC’s reporting was false and perhaps even intentionally committed, considering their well-known ideological pro-abort bias.

Once I receive the report from the RCMP, I will forward it on for your consideration.

As Socon or Bust readers know, we have been attempting to correct the CBC’s false reporting of The March for Life. The official response to our complaint has been, in our opinion, unconvincing and predictable. Consequently, we have filed an Access to Information request with the RCMP, seeking to secure correspondence from the RCMP which reveals their estimates of the size of the crowd on Parliament Hill on May 12, 2011.

While we’re waiting for the release of this information, let us review some of the salient facts which show rather conclusively that the CBC’s reporting was false, and perhaps even ideologically driven.

1. Hill Cam doesn’t lie.

In 2005, Steve and I were the principal organizers of the The March for Marriage. It attracted over 15,000 people. After that March, the main stream press grossly underestimated the number of people who attended the rally. The National Post, after picking up the story from the Canadian Press, realized their error, and to their credit, issued a correction. They did so after confirming with the RCMP that there were indeed over 15,000 participants on Parliament Hill. Even the CBC reported it as such. A picture of the March for Marriage rally with those 15,000 participants is portrayed above on the right. To the immediate left of that picture is the recent March for Life rally taken at 1:32PM EST on May 12, 2011. It was taken from the same “Hill Cam” which records such movements on Parliament Hill. (The participants are starting to move from the North of the Parliament Hill grounds and towards the street to begin the march through downtown Ottawa.) As one can clearly see, the size of the rallies are roughly comparable. While it is true that the March for Marriage picture shows the crowd as having a greater density to it and therefore more people in such a relatively smaller area, as one RCMP official had indicated to us at the time, the March for Life crowd covers more area. Both pictures appear to reflect rallies which are approximately the same size. But the notable and relevant observation here is that the March for Life crowd is not one third of the size of the March for Marriage crowd, as the CBC falsely reported.

2. Accurate methodology in counting.

Jim Hughes, the President of Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) and the source of the 15,000 figure, says he has been challenged on his count by pro-life attendees who were told by police officers that there were at least 20,000 present…. In an interview with LSN today, Hughes explained how he came up with his number, and defended the 15,000 figure (15,300 to be exact, he says) as accurate. While bickering over numbers plagues many political demonstrations, the Canadian March for Life does have one advantage over similar events: the crowds don’t only stand in the middle of a large open space, but march through Ottawa’s narrow streets. Thus, rather than simply eyeballing the undulating masses on Parliament Hill, anyone with enough motivation can stand by the roadside and physically count the passersby: and every year for the past decade, this is just what Hughes has done. “I find a place along the route and I camp out there and count them as they come by, and I have my own system now to do it,” Hughes explained. Originally Hughes tried to use a clicker, but he says it was “hopeless”: he couldn’t press the button fast enough to count each individual marcher. Now he counts by tens, which he says works well, and is just as accurate. Given that CLC is the main organizer of annual event, however, abortion supporters might be forgiven for taking Hughes’ count with a grain of salt. But Hughes insists that his numbers are accurate. In fact, the pro-life leader says he took the task of counting the crowd upon himself only after volunteers came back with what he says were clearly inflated numbers, based more on their hopes than the hard facts. “I think everybody wants to see large numbers, and they’re full of optimism and enthusiasm and they say well, there must have been 20,000 there,” he said. “And I say, well, that’s very nice and I’m happy about that, but let’s just keep the accurate count.” “What I will not do is I will not inflate numbers just so we all feel better,” Hughes said. (Source)

3. Post Media News’ estimate is twice as much as the CBC’s estimate.

“….While the crowd, estimated at over 10,000, largely consisted of teenagers in matching T-shirts bused in from schools across the province, all walks of life and all ages were represented in the crowd, including a crew of Knights of Columbus in full parade regalia, small groups of nuns and quite a few men of the cloth…” (Source)

Where did Post Media receive their estimate from? It wasn’t from Campaign Life’s official estimate of 15,000. Did it also come from that nebulous “police estimate” which the CBC used? While it is certainly disturbing that the main stream press steadfastly insists on severely underestimating the numbers of pro-life rallies, it is most instructive to see in this instance just how absurd the CBC’s reporting can be. It is half of what their own colleagues in the main stream press reported.

4. Videos shows flagarant under estimation in CBC’s reporting

In January 2010, a protest rally was held on Parliament Hill, protesting Harper’s decision to prorogue Parliament. In their coverage of this story, the CBC reported the following in regards to the size of the rally:

Thousands of people attended rallies in towns and cities across Canada on Saturday to speak out against Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to suspend Parliament until March….RCMP officials in Ottawa estimated that roughly 3,500 people took part in the rally on Parliament Hill. (Source)

What does 3,500 people look like on Parliament Hill? It looks like this:

Demonstration against the prorogation of Canadian Parliament in Ottawa on Jan. 23 2010

That’s a respectable size of a crowd for a rally, but you can clearly see that it only takes up a fraction of the real estate on Parliament Hill that was occupied by those who attended the March for Life. In fact, if you compare the above video with the one Socon or Bust captured at the March for Life event, one can clearly see that the March for Life rally is easily over 4 times larger (i.e. 4 * 3,500 = 14,000) than the anti-Harper rally:

5. Programming and selection of images show CBC’s ideological bias

In their video report and web story on the rally, the CBC showed its clear ideological bias.

In the first picture above is the CBC’s lead picture of the rally which appeared on their website. The impression given is one of an “angry young man”. Of the millions of possible pictures which could have captured the essence of the event, the CBC’s photographer chose a picture which was taken out of context to provide the typical liberal trope narrative for the Canadian public on the abortion issue. The picture hardly reflected the tone and, as some media reported it, the “party atmosphere“. Why didn’t the photographer take a picture of the angry and foul 100+ counter protestors? There were plenty of those, including two vulgar, bare-breasted young women who felt that showing us their bare breasts somehow justified their pro-abort views.

The second picture is the “still shot” of the rally which was shown on The National. The video can still be viewed on the web page of their story. (It’s from the same Hill CAM that showed the much larger crowd at the beginning of this post.)  You’ll notice the sparse crowd on the video image at the very beginning of the video report (before the ad). The image is repeated again at the 26-30 second mark. (By the way, you’ll also note the “angry young man” is featured at the beginning of Mansbridge’s program.) Now the question for the CBC is: why didn’t they show the crowd at its peak? Why did they show a 4 second clip of the crowd while it was obviously still assembling, as if to buttress their claim of 5,000 people? What was the motivation for showing the crowd when it was still sparse?

The CBC gave the Canadian public false information. It needs to correct the public record.

3 thoughts on “A Study of the Crowd Size on Parliament Hill and the CBC’s False Reporting of it

  1. That last picture is a disgrace.

    That picture was obviously taken from the Hill Cam. You should ATIP the CBC for that picture along with the time-stamp to see at what time it was taken. If they did a screen capture, the time-stamp will appear at the bottom. That will settle it.

  2. John, didn’t the CBC and other MSM outlets report inflated numbers at last year’s March because it fit into the meme of a scary fundamendalist right having undue power in the Conservative government? I recall being astonished that 1) the March was actually getting coverage last year, but in the context of Marci McDonald’s Armageddon Factor and the “hidden” abortion agenda 2) that figures were inflated rather than low-balled. I think last year they were reporting 15,000+ when there were 12,500 according to Jim Hughes’ count. Also—not everyone who gathers on the Hill actually makes the March through the streets, so if anything Hughes’ count is conservative.

    Another thing, a couple of years ago, Tamil Canadians protested on the lawn of Parliament Hill and numbers were reported around 22,000.

    Eyeballing the crowd at the height of the gathering for this year’s March for Life, the density and lawn cover looked similar to the Tamil protests.


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