• Stuart Benson

'I won't be a victim'

Amos talks about impacts of infamous image


Will Amos is still trying to process everything that has happened since a screenshot of him in the nude was leaked to social media and national news outlets on April 14.


A screenshot leaked of Pontiac MP Will Amos naked while changing in his office during an April 14 hybrid parliamentary session. The following day the leader of the federal House of Commons Pablo Rodriguez called for an investigation into who shared the screenshot. Low Down file photo
A screenshot leaked of Pontiac MP Will Amos naked while changing in his office during an April 14 hybrid parliamentary session. The following day the leader of the federal House of Commons Pablo Rodriguez called for an investigation into who shared the screenshot. Low Down file photo

Since then, the Member of Parliament for Pontiac’s name and image have been discussed by late night comedians and written about by international outlets like CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. As the story went viral, Amos has been inundated with interview requests and denied all, with the exception of a French language interview with La Presse, two in English with The Canadian Press on April 17, and now one with The Low Down on April 19.


Understandably, Amos said he would have much rather spent the last few days discussing the upcoming federal budget or the April 13 press conference he delivered with Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson regarding Bill C-28, than the leaked photo, which is why he has chosen to do so few interviews since the incident.


“I'm still kind of absorbing it,” Amos said. “I don't think anyone in our family was ever expecting me to be featured on Jimmy Kimmel or [Jimmy] Fallon,” referring to two late-night talk shows.


Amos, however, said he would prefer to avoid the unwanted attention and notoriety he has received from the leaked photo, especially, he said, with consideration for his wife, Regina, and their two young children.


Fortunately, said Amos, school closures and internet monitoring at home means he has been able to shield his children from much of the attention, but not all.


“The big message to them is that you can make mistakes in life and that's OK,” said Amos. “Put on a smile and move forward because that's all there is to do.”


Speaker’s investigation ‘in Canada’s public interest’


As for Amos’ message to the public, he hopes the discussion can refocus on what he believes is a much more important issue than his own momentary embarrassment.


“Top of mind is the Speaker's investigation into the sharing of the image,” Amos said.


On April 15, Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez asked House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota to investigate who took the screenshot, as parliamentary rules prohibit any video recordings or photographs of parliamentary proceedings, including the non-public portions.


“It's in Canada's public interest, because if there's no accountability for this kind of behaviour, who's to prevent it in the future,” Amos argued, adding that it could be more traumatic next time. “Of course, I was in a vulnerable moment, but you could imagine other more vulnerable moments.”


Amos isn’t aware of any specific updates on the Speaker’s investigation, but said his understanding was that the Speaker was in discussions with the respective party whips and that he would collaborate with the process if asked.


Amos also clarified that the investigation wouldn’t touch the potential criminal aspect of the leak, specifically mentioning section 162.1 of the Criminal Code. This states that any person who knowingly publishes, distributes, transmits, sells, or makes available an intimate image of a person, knowing that the person depicted did not give their consent, is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to five years in prison.


Amos believes a majority of people who saw the leaked image probably just saw a picture of a naked parliamentarian, without considering the legal or personal privacy concerns. However, given the current situation, Amos said he’s not the best messenger to bring those concerns to the fore.


“If I'm the one running around yelling that we have to focus on privacy laws, it's an immediately self-interested declaration,” Amos said.


Amos said he has been heartened to see the level of maturity around the discussion from constituents in community Facebook groups he belongs to, with specific kudos to discussions he has seen in Wakefield and Chelsea Folks.


“The community appreciates that it's not just about ‘Will Amos’ — it could have been their son or daughter, or their grandmother who has trouble with technology,” Amos said. “Maybe it's better that it's me, so that this issue actually gets more attention.”


Online ridicule had ‘partisan bent’


Amos also made note of which parliamentary colleagues were quick to offer him support or condemn the leak, and which ones took it as an opportunity to humiliate and ridicule for partisan gains.


Conservative MPs Garnett Genuis and Pierre Poilievre, among others, shared tweets containing the leaked image from Toronto Sun columnist Brian Lilley or National Post parliamentary journalist Christopher Nardi. Most, if not all of these tweets have since been deleted, but as Amos said he has already learned: screenshots can have a life of their own on the internet.


“I do think it is relevant that people understand that there was most definitely a particular partisan bent to the online ridicule,” Amos explained. “I won't be a victim, but I will say, Members of Parliament and candidates from only one party ridiculed me — only one.”


Amos said he will leave it to the public and the media covering the story to make determinations about what that implies, but any further discussion or speculation about who may have leaked the image is not something he is willing to get into.


“It’s unseemly,” Amos said. He’d rather leave the investigation to the independent and non-partisan Speaker’s office.


“I'm not going to worry about it, I'm just going to worry about my job, which is to represent the constituents of the Pontiac, and the pandemic,” Amos said. “I'm just hopeful that there will be accountability; it's what everyone deserves.”


As to what will happen next, Amos is practicing the advice he gave his kids: “Put on a smile and move forward.”


“I haven't taken any time off, nor will I,” Amos said. “We're in a pandemic, we gotta focus.”