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TVA network apologizes for saying mosques sought exclusion of women at worksite

Last Updated Dec 15, 2017 at 10:20 am PST

MONTREAL – French-language network TVA has apologized for a baseless report that said members of two Montreal mosques asked for female construction workers to be excluded from a nearby site.

The TV network’s management posted a short statement online Friday, one day after mentioning the debunked story on air.

The network said Friday the report was based on comments Tuesday by two entrepreneurs whose versions subsequently changed.

“TVA Nouvelles regrets this situation and wishes to apologize to the various stakeholders and viewers who have been affected by this news,” it wrote.

The brouhaha erupted when TVA initially reported the mosques had requested the no-women policy for the construction site during the busy Friday prayer sessions.

TVA also said women on the site were intimidated.

A day later, mosque officials dismissed the report and said they had only asked for parking to be available on Fridays.

The provincial government referred the matter to the Quebec Construction Commission, which studied documents, met with representatives of the mosques and the companies involved and spoke to women who worked on the site.

Commission president Diane Lemieux said Thursday there was absolutely no evidence that mosque members asked for female construction workers to be excluded from the nearby site.

TVA said during its 10 p.m. newscast Thursday the story it had broadcast two days earlier had evolved to the point it could no longer definitively say the request had been made.

A reporter called it a “serious mix-up” among those implicated in the story.

Lemieux did say it appears some women were moved around the site at certain times as part of normal procedures but that these measures were possibly linked to a surplus of personnel or to operational needs.

TVA management says it is investigating the journalistic practices employed in the story, which is also the subject of several complaints filed with Quebec’s press council.

Asked about the controversy on CBC Montreal’s Daybreak on Friday, Premier Philippe Couillard said there should be an “exercise of self-examination” following the event.

“There should at least be a recognition of the social impact of what happened,” he said.

The initial report prompted virulent discussion on social media, alleged death threats as well as calls by right-wing groups for a protest at the mosques. .

“It created lots of tension in the community,” Couillard said. “We almost had a demonstration by an extreme right group because of that … that’s so sad.”

Montreal police kept close watch on the mosques Friday as worshippers attended prayers.