Categories for Feature

Spare a thought for Melania Trump (and all political spouses)

Married to a serial philanderer, a rank misogynist and an admitted sexual assaulter.  It can’t be easy.

Is she aware?  Of course she’s aware.  There’s plenty of evidence, right there in plain view.

She refuses to travel with him to his (medicated) State of the Uniom, and takes her own car.  She is in seclusion after a story breaks about her husband’s tryst with a porn star, and the hush money paid to said porn star. She refuses to travel with her husband to important international meetings. She condemns online bullies, knowing full well – as does the world – that her husband is the biggest online bully in the history of the world. She swats away his hand in public.  She declines to celebrate the fact that she is married to Donald Trump.

She wept, we are told, when he won – because (we suspect) she knew (a) it would only encourage him to continue to act like a pig (and it has) and (b) it would mean that she would have to continue to be with him (and she has).

At the start, I didn’t think she was serious First Lady.  Now, I think that she truly deserves our sympathy – for all that she has to endure in public, day after interminable day.  It must be excruciating.

So, say a prayer for Melania Trump, then, and all political spouses like her.  It can’t be easy to be married to a politician like that.

 


#MeToo bits and pieces, this and that

Apropos of nothing, here’s what I and others are hearing:

PROVINCIAL

  • Hearing Patrick Brown was dragging down the PCs among women.  With him out of the picture, there is more gettable vote for the provincial Tories – but only if they pick someone modern, centrist and new, like Ms. Mulroney or Mr. Phillips…
  • Ms. Mulroney has half the party right now – but what is their party?  Hearing that more half of those much-trumpeted 200,000 memberships are paper memberships.  The real figure is closer to 60,000!
  • What does that mean?  That means the PCs are ripe for a SoCon or Doug Ford takeover – the party is simply not as broad-based as claimed.  But can DoFo do the political mechanics of selling lots of memberships in a very short time frame? Doubt it.
  • Mr. Fideli does well in the North, Ford is the dominant one in the GTA, Mulroney does well in Eastern Ontario – but, again, there is a lot of undecided out there because politics is moving so fast!
  • Criminal charges are coming.  Stay tuned!

FEDERAL

  • A major PMO charm offensive is underway.  Your guess is as good as mine as to why – but one can only presume that (as we saw last week with Mr. Hehr) the #MeToo juggernaut is claiming Liberals as well as Tories…
  • Hearing CTV, the Star and the Globe are working the #MeToo stuff hard – as well as enterprising folks at Global TV.  Not sure what, if anything, CBC or Postmedia are doing…
  • The Scheer Tories are in a state of turmoil – because the (smart) women wanted to jettison Mr. Dykstra, and the (stupid) men didn’t.  When/if charges are laid, the women will look even smarter…
  • Hearing at least one more Tory MP is in big trouble – and that he, along with various Liberals (elected and otherwise) are very, very nervous…

That’s what we’re hearing. How about you?  Comments are open, but not for libel.

 


Column: #MeToo isn’t just coming to political Canada – it’s here

The Conservative MP shook his head.  We were in a restaurant at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, getting caught up.

He’d just told me that a little-known backbencher named Patrick Brown was going to seek the PC party leadership. I’d told him all that I had heard about Brown was that he “had a zipper problem.”

The Tory MP shook his head. “I know this guy,” he said. “I’ve worked with him. His personal life is boring. He’ll win.”

And he did.  But his personal life sure wasn’t boring.

**

Two years later. Patrick Brown has asked to meet this writer. He didn’t ask that the meeting be off the record. I was curious.

We are in his big corner office at Queen’s Park. His Chief of Staff is there, too.

Brown is smaller than I expected. He seems anxious, a bit on edge. He asks me this: “What are the biggest problems I face?”

It’s a good question.

“I don’t have any skin in this game, so I’ll give it to you straight,” I said. ‎”You have three problems. One, nobody knows who you are. Two, nobody knows what you believe in.

“Three, you have a problem with women. The data says they have a holdback about you. You need to fix that.”

Brown didn’t look concerned. ‎ “We have a plan to deal with that,” he said.

He may have had a plan, but it didn’t work, did it?

Nope.

**

It was late, late on Wednesday night. I had just posted about Brown’s emotional denial of a CTV story – one detailing serious allegations of sexual misconduct by the PC leader. While Brown spoke, his most senior advisors – guys I knew and respected and considered friends – sent me a joint sttaement. They’d all quit.

So. A regular reader – one who had asked me to speak at a #MeToo rally in Edmonton – tweeted at me. This is what she tweeted:

“My political #MeToo moment @kinsellawarren: I’ve debated this. But that’s the power of sexual harassment. My first day working at the Alberta legislature I was told to avoid being in an elevator with Kent Hehr. He would make comments. He would make you feel unsafe.”

I retweeted what she said. Within hours, hundreds of others retweeted or liked it, as well. It went viral.

Thursday morning, as revelations about Patrick Brown‎ were still landing – and revelations about the just-dumped Nova Scotia PC leader, as well – Kent Hehr abruptly cancelled a funding announcement in Toronto. And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced he would be speaking to Hehr.

I contacted my Alberta friend. “Hey,” I said. “Your tweet got noticed.

“Well done.”

Hours later, Hehr resigned.

**

This writer has been saying for weeks that #MeToo was going to hit Canadian politics. It has struck with a fury in Hollywood, the media, Washington and the cultural elite. It was only a matter of time before it took down the creeps and criminals slithering through the Canadian corridors of power, too.

There are other men who are about to be exposed. Count on it. The media have been on their trail for many weeks. Once it gets through the editors – once it is okayed by the lawyers – other men will be going down. It is overdue. It is needed.

One of these men is very, very powerful. The stories have been known about him for three years. They are in affidavits, plural.

His name will shock you.

It is up to the victims who swore those affidavits to step forward and tell their story. Not me or those like me. It will take courage – telling truth to the powerful always takes courage – but now, I’d say, is the time.

The country needs to hear their story, and judge.

I do not think the judgement will be in this man’s favour.

**

I was on my way to Calgary to start teaching at my alma mater, the Faculty of Law. A journalist contacted me. She asked me if there had been an increase in the number ‎of defamation cases, or warnings, aimed at women who speak up about alleged harassers and abusers.

“Impossible to know for sure,” I told her. “But it’s also impossible there aren’t many more cases out there. Women considering [telling their] #MeToo story should remember this: in law, the truth is an absolute defence.”

The journalist is unconvinced. “Yeah,” she says. “But truth ends up being the same old he-said-she-said game in court.”

“The balance tilts in favour of female complainants, these days,” I replied. “And appropriately so. Every lawyer knows that.”

She is still doubtful. She says so.

Me: “I’m telling you a cultural shift is underway. The law isn’t immune to that.”

And:

“The time for them to speak out is now. Now.

“Something is happening out there. And it is glorious and overdue and righteous. It’s time!”

**

Before I board the plane, I hear from a former Prime Minister. I tell him what an honour it was to work for him – a man who married his high school sweetheart. A man whose conduct was beyond reproach. A man who never tolerated such conduct by his staff or his caucus or his cabinet. Ever.

“It was different, many years ago,” he says. “It was difficult for women to complain.”

He paused.

“Those days are gone,” he said. “And that’s a good thing.”

 

 


Why women don’t report assault and harassment – and what we can do about it

As regular readers know, Kristin Raworth and I are social media friends. You know this because Kristin wrote to me earlier this week about #MeToo and cabinet minister Kent Hehr.

Here’s what she wrote:

That posting caught peoples’ attention, and then it caught fire. Within hours, Hehr would be out of cabinet.

Kristin was interviewed and applauded. (I was in Calgary when it happened, and was interviewed as well.) In the same week Messrs. Baillie and Brown were felled, it was big news.

And then, the online assault began.

They didn’t go after me, naturally, because I’m a man. They went after Kristin, whose only sins had been (a) to be brave and (b) tell the truth.

Read this:

Kristin Raworth was afraid to go home Saturday night.

The Edmonton woman came forward with sexual harassment allegations against former federal cabinet minister Kent Hehr this week.

Now she wishes she had never said a word.

Raworth was greeted with broad support when she tweeted out allegations about Hehr Wednesday night.

That has since turned to death threats on social media and email, threatening voicemails left on her work line, and 3 a.m. calls to people close to her, saying they’re going to track her down.

I’ve been in touch with Kristin since I got back from Calgary and learned about the threats. She’s exhausted and overwhelmed.

In my view, neither the Trudeau nor the Notley governments are doing what they always claim to do – namely, protect the victim. Believe in the victim.

I’ve started a petition to push Trudeau and Notley to do more.

Please sign it. Brave women like Kristin deserve our support, now and always.

Support Kristin by signing here!


Me on #MeToo at CBC #YYC

Heading back to TeeDot this morn after a great time in Calgary.

I did some radio and TV stuff at CBC Calgary yesterday – on #MeToo but also Kent Hehr, Patrick Brown and Recipe For Hate.

Here’s a bit of it:

Q: Public servant Kristin Raworth tagged you in a tweet late Wednesday accusing Federal Sport and Disabilities Minister Kent Hehr of sexual harassment. The following day Hehr resigned from cabinet. Did you know her?

A: She was a Twitter friend, so I don’t know her well. I didn’t know she was going to do it. What we all tell our kids, what you put on the internet, what you put on social media, it’s forever.

I’ve been writing quite a bit about #MeToo. She had asked me to come and speak at a #MeToo rally she was hoping to organize in Edmonton. I said ‘By all means, I’d love to.’ And then she was moved to write this story about this cabinet minister, and then it just tumbled out. It literally went, per the cliche, viral.

Q: Do you believe her?

A: I do. There’s just a whole bunch of corroborating evidence and then she had a number of people backing up the story. This former minister was somebody who had demonstrated that he was careless with the things he had said to people.

You are teaching a class to law students about communications at the University of Calgary right now. On this incident, what would you tell your students?

The key thing, in his case, in former Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown’s case, you get ahead of it.

You can’t hide. Inevitably these things come out. We live in an era where everybody has got a camcorder, a tape recorder and a camera in their pocket, every single person.


Good morning, class

I’m home in Cowtown, prepping for the millionth time for Law 599.02. Intimidated does not begin to describe it.

But current events assist me. The objective of the course is to teach legal professionals how to communicate better on behalf of their clients. So, I will talk about:

  • how Patrick Brown’s lawyers perhaps could have served him better with better communications
  • how Kent Hehr might have survived if his advisors had done a better job

I’m not saying both of these men didn’t richly deserve what they got, of course: they did. I’m no Blatchford/di Manno: I don’t think you’re a genius just because you have a penis. There’s no guy in Canada who is more of a #MeToo supporter than Yours Truly.

But lawyers have a professional obligation to fearlessly represent their clients, no matter how scummy said client may be. Muttering “no comment,” or not returning a reporter’s perfectly-legitimate phone call, ain’t representing your client.

Anyway. I’m nervous – can you tell?

Off to class Professor Kinsella must go. Have a good one, everybody.


#MeToo and #PCPO

Patrick Brown is gone.

And he had no option. The Ontario PC leader at first emotionally denied the allegations, and said he would fight them in court. A few hours later, when the magnitude of the scandal had become all too clear, he resigned. He had no choice.

The allegations were far too specific to be made up. They were backed by the reporting of one of the biggest news organizations in the country. And, they were consistent with rumours that had been raging around the Barrie MPP for years.

What now?

The PC party, once one of the most powerful political machines in Western democracy, is in chaos. They had built their entire election effort around Patrick Brown. Do they have enough time to recover?

If they move quickly, they do. They need to come together around the right leader right away. Already, names like Lisa Raitt, Lisa MacLeod, Steve Clark, Caroline Mulroney and Rod Phillips are being mooted. Those are solid candidates.

Late into the night, last night, Machiavellian types were telling me that all of this is good news for Kathleen Wynne and Andrea Horwath. I’m not so sure. The new PC leader may be experiencing a political honeymoon right around the time the writ drops in June. The Liberals, in particular, had built their entire election strategy on demonizing a man who will no longer be there.

Anyway, all of that is politics. Forget about all that crap.

Instead, I say: the young women who came forward deserve our support and our thanks. They were incredibly brave, and they did the right thing.

Today, as I head to Calgary to start teaching at the faculty of Law, I am thinking about them. Not Patrick Brown.

Because Patrick Brown is gone, and he is unlikely to be missed.


Professor Kinsella, I presume

I am heading to Calgary tomorrow – to start teaching at my alma mater, the University of Calgary Faculty of Law.

I am going to be teaching communications to second and third-year law students.  And I am extremely nervous.

It isn’t the teaching communications part – I’ve done that for years with Prime Ministers, Premiers, Ministers, CEOs and whatnot.  It’s “giving students their money’s worth” part – it’s the “giving them something they will later find useful” part.

When I was studying law at U of C – and I started on September 4, 1984, the day Brian Mulroney won a massive majority in the House of Commons, and the Liberal Party was all but wiped out – there were “hard law” courses (like Contracts, where I was taught with an iron hand by now-Supreme Court Justice Sheilah Martin) and “soft law” courses (like, perhaps, the one I’m going to be teaching).

Except I don’t think better communications by and for lawyers should be an elective.  In my view, there are few groups worse than lawyers, doctors and engineers at communicating.  They/we stink at it, generally.  Better communications by professionals should be mandatory.

In their rules of professional conduct, the various bar associations require lawyers to advocate on behalf of their clients in the media.  And that’s good.  But they don’t teach them how to communicate.  That’s bad.

I’m going to be teaching the class in person, and over the Interweb thing, for the next few months.  I’m going to be in Calgary a lot.  And it’s going to be a bit intimidating – but, hopefully, somewhat useful for the students I’m privileged to teach.

Because, above all, I hope to be useful in life.  And to you, O Gentle Reader.

Ras Pierre Schenk and me in Calgary, shortly before my law school days.

Not exactly as pictured.


Wondering why the haters are getting bolder?

Neo-Nazi “newspapers” being delivered to thousands of GTA residents.  The Klan passing out leaflets in B.C.’s interior.  The homicidal Combat 18 getting active in Calgary.  Alt-Right postering on Manitoba university campuses.  Soldiers of Odin and its ilk – neo-Nazi biker gangs, in effect – holding anti-immigrant/anti-Muslim rallies all over Ontario and Quebec.  And so on, and so on.

Trump and Brexit have made them bolder, for sure.  Anti-immigrant sentiment, too.  Social media being used to promote hate and division in Western democracies, of course.  All of those factors have helped the far Right.

But a big part of the reason why haters are again on the march in Canada is this: we lack an effective legal mechanism to fight them.  The criminal law has some provisions, but those prosecutions are (appropriately) rare and convictions are (usually) hard to get.  Group defamation statutes don’t exist.  And individual civil actions – like the ones Lisa and I have launched, out of our own pockets – cost a fortune.

Not so long ago, Canada had a provision in the Human Rights Act that helped, a lot.  It was called section 13, and it filled the big gap that existed between the criminal and civil law.  It gave relief for citizens seeking to fight Holocaust-denying, Hitlerite, homophobic, bigoted hate sheets like Your Ward News – which has kept publishing, even after being charged criminally last November.

But the Harper gang got rid of section 13 – with the actual complicity of some Liberal MPs.  We warned them they would be creating a huge opportunity for the neo-Nazis and the white supremacists, but they didn’t listen.

We need section 13, or something like section 13, back.  The laws we have are clearly inadequate to deal with Your Ward News, the Klan, Combat 18, the alt-Right, Soldiers of Odin and the like.  We need something more.

I am very encouraged to hear that the Minister of Justice is considering doing so.  This news report gives me hope.

The Minister, meanwhile, needs encouragement.  Here’s how you contact her to say that Canada needs a better way to address the surge in hate.  Do it now – it matters.