July 6, 2020

25° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast


Advertise With Us

MP's all-male calendar filled with plagiarized text

A handful of <em>Free Press</em> readers noticed suspicious phrasing in the biographies, which they found on Wikipedia. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Free Press files)</p>

A handful of Free Press readers noticed suspicious phrasing in the biographies, which they found on Wikipedia. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Free Press files)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/2/2019 (513 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — A Manitoba Liberal MP is taking more heat from constituents for his all-male calendar of "notable Canadians" after they noticed passages that appear to have been plagiarized from the internet.

The calendar Winnipeg Centre MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette recently sent out also drastically misstates Chief Peguis’s lifespan. Ouellette accused the Free Press of bias for reporting on the errors.

"Attention to detail matters," said area resident Teresa Prokopanko, who was raised by academics. "Plagiarism was pretty big (for them). It’s important to set that example."

She was among a handful of Free Press readers who noticed suspicious phrasing in the biographies, which they found on Wikipedia.

Prokopanko retrieved the mail-out from her recycling bin after reading the Free Press report Wednesday about a calendar of "notable Canadians" who were all men. She noticed Chief Peguis’s lifespan was marked as 1872 to 1918.

Historians believe he was born around a century earlier. Peguis died on Sept. 28, 1864.

Of the 12 men featured in the calendar, 10 have profiles whose text is exactly what appears on their Wikipedia profiles; two of those have phrases paraphrased from other parts of the crowdsourced encyclopedia’s text.

The remaining two are taken from local institutions.

North End activist Sel Burrows’ profile is lifted from a University of Manitoba news release, while the text describing philanthropist Abdo El Tassi is almost verbatim from the Royal Winnipeg Rifles website.

"I wouldn’t say I feel really worked up about it, but I do think it’s worth pointing out and calling to account," Prokopanko said. "Some of these things can really strike home."

On Friday, Ouellette reiterated the apology he issued a day earlier.

"I’m very sorry if anyone was offended. Obviously, people in the office made some mistakes, those mistakes will be corrected into the future and we will ensure these types of mistakes do not occur," he said.

The MP would not say whether he’d personally vetted the flyer. "At the end of the day, I am responsible in my office for what leaves the office, and I accept that responsibility." Previously, he cited "a lot of young people working in the office" and "a busy time around Christmas."

Ouellette noted Wikipedia pages are crafted communally. "These were short blurbs; we weren’t taking, for instance, massive amounts of information," he said.

As for the incorrect information about the year of Peguis’s birth and death, "I’m sure Chief Peguis is happy he’s 100 years younger," Ouellette quipped. "Chief Peguis still has a trail named after him and is a very notable person from Manitoba."

The all-male calendar attracted widespread attention after it was posted online by Manitoba NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine.

Ouellette said Friday the media scrutiny he’s faced is because "the NDP (is) in the death throes" provincially and federally, and accused the Free Press of bias. The phone call was then disconnected.

Prokopanko feels the media attention is merited, but imagines the issue will blow over. "I’ve been pretty happy with Ouellette’s leadership, and I think he’s got a lot to offer," she said. "I hope this doesn’t become a stumbling block that lasts for him."



Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.


Updated on Friday, February 8, 2019 at 6:08 PM CST: Update

February 9, 2019 at 7:53 AM: Final

The Free Press will close this commenting platform at noon on July 14.

We want to thank those who have shared their views over the years as part of this reader engagement initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Free Press will announce new opportunities for readers to share their thoughts and to engage with our staff and each other.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.


Advertise With Us