Categories for Feature

The gun lobby are terrorists

Good morning, Your Honour. We appear before you this morning to argue for the proposition that the defendant, the National Rifle Association of America, hereafter referred to as the NRA, is properly classified as a terrorist organization. And, accordingly, that the NRA’s directors and officers have been engaged in a campaign of terror against civilian populations.

Our indictment of the NRA, as you know, arises out of section 802 of the USA Patriot Act, No. 107-52, which has expanded the definition of terrorism to cover “domestic,” as opposed to international, terrorism.

Therein, the Patriot Act, which was overwhelmingly supported and passed by all parties in Congress, sets out that a person has engaged in domestic terrorism if they do something that is “dangerous to human life,” which the NRA has in fact done since the earliest days of its 1871 charter in New York State.

To be successful in prosecuting a crime under the Patriot Act, it must be shown that the NRA, one, intimidated or coerced the civilian population — which they have done, ceaselessly, for generations.

Two, that they have influenced the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion — which they have done, with armies of millionaire gun lobbyists threatening elected representatives with defeat and disgrace if they do not do the NRA’s bidding.

And, three, most crucially, we must show the NRA has attempted to affect the conduct of our government by “mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.”

We cannot state for a fact, Your Honour, that the NRA has actively engaged in assassinations or kidnappings. We can state, however, that the NRA will be shown to have energetically advocated measures that are bound to lead to mass destruction, even in the wake of the killings of 20 children in Newtown.

One of their recent advertising campaigns even offers up the former president’s own children as rhetorical fodder, and is ample evidence of the NRA’s willingness — like any terrorist organization — to terrorize children and parents to achieve its political goals.

We also take the view that at the time Thomas Jefferson and other founders ratified the Second Amendment, they did not intend it to be applied to the mass murder of six-year-olds using assault weapons. It was to be applied to flintlocks, which were what existed at the time of the amendment’s promulgation.

We are aware that the definition of terrorism is broad, Your Honour, and there is a robust debate about when it applies.

But under section 802 of the Patriot Act, we remind you that this court need only find the NRA has — within the territorial confines of the United States — engaged in a campaign of intimidation or coercion of our government, and our citizens.

You need only find that the NRA seeks to affect the conduct of government by advocating “mass destruction.”

Lobbying for guns in schools is that, Your Honour. So is openly threatening members of Congress so that they will lift bans on assault weapons. So is helping teenagers to purchase AK-47 assault weapons at gun shows. So is calling law enforcement “jack-booted government thugs.”

So is suggesting the last same president of the United States facilitates murder. So, most of all, is assassinating minimal efforts to prevent something like Newtown from ever happening again.

All these things the NRA has done, Your Honour. All of these acts of intimidation and coercion are not dissimilar to the campaigns of the Taliban or al-Qaida.

They may wear expensive suits, Your Honour, but the NRA is not much different from the terrorists. They deserve to be treated as such by this court.

Brown is kicked out of caucus – but will he run for leader again? (updated)

I’m told he plans to.

Now, Vic Fedeli did what a few of us felt he needed to do – he needed to kick out the former leader:

But get this:

Is this nuts? Yes, Virginia, it is nuts.

How can you run for leader of a party when you have been booted out of that party’s caucus?

Again: this guy is a human wrecking ball. He wants to bring everyone else down to his level.

That only works, I think, if there isn’t more damaging stuff about him out there.

And, believe me: there is.

Watch this space, folks.

UPDATE: From smart reader Robert White:

Brown can’t run for the leadership unless the official party interim leader signs his nomination papers. Brown is officially out of caucus, and cannot get his nomination papers signed for the riding of Barrie unless his pending litigation is completed by 5:00pm tonight.

Brown is officially out of the Queen’s Park legislature as a sitting MPP due to the fact that he has not signed up under independent status, and can’t sign up for PC Party nomination in his riding. Fedeli can’t commit political suicide by reneging on his vow that he would only sign the nomination papers if Brown cleared his reputation.

Bye bye, Patrick ‘the Clown’ Brown.

Politics in Ontario is fun this time round.


Patrick Brown thinks he’s still leader (updated multiple times)

He has had “Progressive Conservative leader” on his Facebook profile for weeks.  Now we know why.

He’s launching the first political coup in modern Ontario history.

This guy is in (deserved) exile on Elba, and he’s still insisting everyone call him Emperor.  The Emperor wears no clothes, more like.

My view? Vic Fedeli needs to boot him out of the PC caucus – because the only coup conspirator appears to be Patrick Brown himself. This guy thinks he could be Premier? This is how he behaves?

Patrick Brown: a kid throwing a tantrum.

Sources close to Patrick Brown say he never signed a resignation letter and is still leader of the Ontario PC Party, CityNews has learned.

The sources further claim the party leadership race is invalid and someone in the PC party crafted the resignation letter without Brown’s authorization or signature.

“(Brown) is fighting for everything; he is fighting for his political life and he is not going to give it away,” one of the sources said.

According to the sources, if the PC party goes ahead with the leadership vote on March 10, it could be met with a legal challenge.

The sources also said Brown is being encouraged to take his seat in the chair of leader of the Opposition when the legislature resumes on Feb. 20.“It is his rightful and lawful seat,” one of the sources said.

“This is an assault on our democracy. We can basically go into an election without a leader in June if the party pushes back.”  

UPDATE: Oh, and check this out: here’s Brown’s own hand-picked lawyer – a guy who was the PC Party’s lawyer, until recently – over on Facebook.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Brown claims he didn’t authorize the “he’s still the leader” insanity, here.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: But, um, here he is, in his own words, telling Global that: “The resignation was sent out without my permission.” So which is it? Did you resign, or did you not resign?

From next week’s column: PR tips in the #MeToo era

There’s a couple of them that seem particularly germane this morning.

I wonder who I am referring to?

Don’t attack your alleged victims. In the #MeToo era, even Harvey Weinstein – the rutting pig who essentially started the movement – understood that you don’t victimize the victims twice. That is one the best things that have happened, post-Weinstein, in fact: in the court of public opinion, the balance of proof has shifted. More and more of us have a tendency to give women alleging sexual abuse the benefit of the doubt. You needed to remember that. You didn’t.

• Put up or shut up. It’s been more than three weeks. You’ve called the allegations against you “defamatory,” over and over and over. Well, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is, big little man. Either issue a Libel Notice, or don’t. But if you don’t – and, so far, you haven’t – you are reminding everyone that, mostly, what was said about you was true.

Happy birthday

Many guys will understand what I mean when I say this: your father is both a bit of light, and a bit of shadow, over your path through life.

Mine, T. Douglas Kinsella, MD, OC, would have been 86 years old today. So many years after we lost him, he remains a constant in our lives. He still illuminates some of the path. Without even being here, he still quietly persuades me to examine the choices I have made.

Me? I have made bad choices. I have been reckless and cruel with the hearts of too many. I have not lived by the single rule he left us.

“Love people, and be honest,” he said to us, and I often feel I have done neither.

He saved many lives as a physician, and he won accolades, and he was a member of the Order of Canada. But for us – my brothers, my nephew he raised, my closest friends – he was the man we aspired to be. Not for the distinctions he received, but for how he was, in his soul.

He was unfailingly honest; he was kind to everyone he met. He married his high school sweetheart, and was with her every single day for 50 years, and my God how they loved each other. We would sit there at the kitchen table in Calgary or Kingston or Montreal, and we would listen to him. He’d listen to us, too, and persuade us to try and figure things out. There were some great times, around that table.

The best thing is having a father like that. The harder thing is knowing that you will never be like him.

I had a dream that he died in 9/11; I don’t know why, but I did. I woke up weeping, and remembered that I wasn’t a boy anymore, and that he has been gone for more than a decade. I don’t think he would like what his son has become. I know I don’t.

So I put on my pants and shoes, and went out into the day, looking for what’s left of the path.

Happy birthday. I miss you.

Patrick Brown, P.I. (updated)

Welcome to today’s class in how not to do P.R., folks.  Today’s case study is Patrick Brown, former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

Three weeks ago, CTV  broadcast a report that Brown had engaged in graphic sexual misconduct with two very young women.  He denied the allegations of the two young women, but he stepped down a few hours after the CTV report.

His party started a leadership race to replace him.  All of the candidates seem to be a lot more popular than he was.

Three weeks after he resigned, Brown hired a PR firm and started a media tour.  He attacked the young women who made the allegations against him.  The two young women doubled down on their stories, refusing to back off.

I have been told by CTV folks that Brown has not taken steps to sue them or his accusers.  And he’s rapidly running out of time to do so.  In my view, until he serves a Libel Notice, I don’t give a rat’s ass about whatever he has to say.  It’s all spin or bullshit, at this point.

Oh, and this: Patrick Brown has hired private investigators. (UPDATE: These guys, I’m told.)

I found that out on-air, on CFRA on Monday afternoon.  I was on Evan Solomon’s show with Karl Belanger and Alise Mills when Alise said she was working with Brown, and that he had hired private investigators.  Here’s what she said: “Patrick has hired someone to do the forensics, a P.I., he’s got a very strong legal team.”

That was news.

Evan and I started questioning Alise, who I know to be an honest person.  She didn’t walk back her statement.  She stood by it.

To repeat: Patrick Brown has hired private investigators to do “forensics.”  Forensics are defined  as “scientific tests or techniques used in connection with the detection of crime.”

So, whose crime?  And who are they investigating?  There are only three possibilities, because there are only three groups of participants in this sordid tale.

  1. One possibility is Patrick Brown has hired private investigators to do “forensics” on him.  Given that he’s the client, this isn’t highly likely.
  2. Another possibility is that Patrick Brown has hired private investigators to discredit the CTV team who worked on this story.  I’ve been told by two sources at CTV that they think P.I. types are indeed following them around.
  3. The only other possibility is that Patrick Brown has hired private investigators to discredit and attack the two young women who made the allegations in the first place.

Those are the only possibilities.  If it’s either 2 or 3, it is big, big news: a sitting member of the provincial legislature has hired private investigators to go after the media and two young women who claim to have been sexually assaulted. (Another possibility: he’s investigating other MPPs: but that would be a clear violation of their Parliamentary privilege.)

Anyway. If the above is true – if what Alise Mills revealed on Monday is indeed the case – I do not see how Patrick Brown can be permitted to retain his seat.

Digging up dirt on reporters, doing their jobs?  Digging up dirt on alleged victims of sexual assault? Digging up dirt on fellow MPPs?

That’s not the kind of person we need in our provincial parliament.

Sub judice and a dead boy

On Friday night, in Calgary, I spotted tweets by the Prime Minister of Canada and the Minister of Justice about the verdict in the trial of the “man” who shot Colten Boushie in the back of the head with a semi-automatic handgun at point-blank range. It was, for the record, an appalling, disgusting, truly unjust verdict.

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice, however, decided to offer comments on the verdict and the victim. They did this before the Crown had made a decision on an appeal.

On Saturday morning, I raised the matter with my class at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Law. To a one, my students expressed tremendous sympathy for the young victim and his family. To a one, they also expressed concern – as I did – that the Prime Minister of Canada (generally) and the Minister of Justice (specifically) would comment while there was still the possibility of an appeal.

“Have Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould harmed the Crown’s position?” I asked.

To answer that, you need to know what the sub judice rule is.

The sub judice rule is a rule of court, a statutory rule, a parliamentary convention, and a practice that has developed in the interaction between media and public officials…

The term subjudice literally means “under judicial consideration” or “before the court or judge for determination.” At its most basic, the sub judice rule prohibits the publication of statements which may prejudice court proceedings.

That is from a lengthy Dalhousie Law Journal legal analysis of the rule. On the face of it, the comments by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice were, indeed, statements on a court proceeding.  But was the court proceeding still underway? And, if so, were they statements that could prejudice a court proceeding?

Our highest court has mainly left it to provincial appeal courts to figure out what the sub judice rule means.  Our provincial courts, meanwhile, have said there must be a clear intent to interfere with a trial.  And/or, there must be a real and substantial risk of prejudice – beyond a reasonable doubt – to the administration of justice.  And/or, if the comments were made in good faith to inform the public about a matter of pressing importance, no contempt finding follows.

Looking at those appeal court rulings, you’d be moved to say that Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould could safely say what they did.  But I’m not sure you’d be right.

That’s because they’re not just individuals – they are the two most senior and powerful lawmakers in Canada.

Here in Ontario, to cite just one recent and local example, cabinet ministers have resigned because they named young offenders.  Those were cases of statutory contempt, however, where there was a clear and written prohibition about naming a young offender.  But what about a situation like the Colten Boushie case?  What do the courts say?

Here’s one case that is right on point:

Comments made by higher level members of government, such as Ministers, may be seen to have more impact. This was illustrated in the case of Director of Public Prosecutions v Wran, in which the Premier of New South Wales stood in front of a court house and publicly stated that an accused was innocent. The Court of Appeal found him guilty of contempt, giving weight to his position as Premier, which would increase the newsworthiness of his prejudicial comments.

My view is that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice should not have commented – not because of the sub judice rule, per se, but because of paradox.

This is the paradox: because of their positions – because of the powers with which they’ve been entrusted – Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould may have hurt the very thing they (and most of us) desire:

Justice for the dead boy named Colten Boushie.

Column: should government name things for a neo-Nazi?

Should the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia name something after a neo-Nazi?

It’s not a hypothetical question.

Fall River, Nova Scotia (pop. 11,526) is a little community in Halifax’s regional municipality.  By all accounts, it’s a lovely spot, and the locals are nice.  If you go hiking on a trail in the area, you may spot a bear or a bobcat or the occasional coyote.

Tillmann Brook runs alongside such a trail.  According to Natural Resources Canada, who oversee such things, Tillmann Brook’s name is designated as “official.” The decision apparently goes back to 1999, and would have been made by something called the Geographical Names Board of Canada, with some participation by Nova Scotia’s government, too.

Tillmann Brook is a river, basically, that flows from Soldier Lake into Miller Kale.  There’s a little waterfall on it, and people are known to regularly hike there to take a look.  What’s less known, however, is whether any of the visitors – or even locals – are aware of the origins of Tillmann Brook’s name.

Because there’s a problem with its name – and John Mark Tillmann is the problem.  He’s proud of Tillmann Brook’s name change, and he has even been known to pose beside a Tillmann Brook sign for a photograph.

Making a Nazi salute.

He’s a notorious sort of fellow, John Mark Tillmann is.  You may have even him on TV.  He’s perhaps better known for being a very successful art thief: in January 2013, police arrested him for just that.  Interpol, Homeland Security, the FBI and the RCMP and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary were involved in the case – and found more than 10,000 artifacts at his home, including a letter written by George Washington, valued at more than a million dollars.

He thereafter pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, theft, possession of property obtained by crime, possession of a forged document, obstruction of justice and providing a false statement.  And he was granted full parole just three years later.

Born in Halifax in the Sixties, Tillmann was a handsome, charming fellow.  He grew up in a relatively affluent family.  He obtained a degree in marketing, and travelled to Russia, where he learned to speak the language.  While there, he married a beautiful Russian university student, and the two of them were a veritable Bonnie and Clyde, travelling all over Europe and the Americas, swiping art and artifacts.

Tillmann mainly stole valuable things, the police say, for kicks.  CBC’s Fifth Estate and American media have paid a lot of attention to his art heists.  Less attention, however, has been given to his political views.

That’s unfortunate – because John Mark Tillmann is a self-admitted Nazi fan.

When the cops finally showed up, they found Nazi paraphernalia all over his impressive waterfront home in Fall River.  There was a framed photo of Adolf Hitler in a window, which Tillmann called “a special spot in my home.” Tillmann says Hitler is “a great man – one of the greatest men in history.  A decent man.”

There were Nazi armbands and insignia and whatnot, too, all carefully maintained.

Asked about his Nazi leanings by the Fifth Estate in 2016, after he got out prison, Tillmann said: “I stand by that. I stand by that today.”

Oh, and there’s a Nazi flag that he’s position over a railing, too, where neighbours could see it.  Maybe he wanted them to see it.  In Fall River, in fact, there is a widely-held view that Tillmann – aided and abetted by his mother – successfully lobbied to get the brook’s name changed to Tillmann, to emphasize his German antecedents.  To make Jews feel uncomfortable.

“There’s a Jew who lives near there,” says Tillmann in a self-made 2011 home video.  “It’s an appropriate name to put near him.”  He then gives dark laugh.

So, how did all that happen?  How did a proud Nazi supporter get a name change – to, as he admits, make Jews feel uncomfortable?

The folks at the Geographic Names Board of Canada know all about the Tillmann Brook problem, but they say they can’t talk about it.  They refer a writer to Nova Scotia, who they say initiated the name change.

Nova Scotia’s Geographic Information Services, meanwhile, said a “support Specialist” would respond.  Days later, they still haven’t.

So: how was a known and notorious Nazi enthusiast allowed to pull a fast one on two levels of government – so he could upset Jewish Nova Scotians?  And, now that they know, will they clean up their mess?

Many questions.  In the John Mark Tillmann case, answers remain elusive.


Kathleen Wynne is the luckiest politician alive

Here’s why:

• Andrew Horwath’s New Democrats have been in a witness protection program for months – and, when they finally start to show signs of life, they lose their Chief of Staff to allegations he was indifferent to complaints about sexual harassment

• Caroline Mulroney is revealing herself to be completely unprepared for the top job – she looks and sounds uncertain, she’s nervous and she’s clearly out of her depth – and increasing numbers of worried PCs are saying Wynne would eat her alive in a leader’s debate

• Christine Elliott is doing again what she did in 2009 and 2015 – she’s phoning it in, and giving an entirely new dimension to the Trumpian epithet, “low energy”

• Doug Ford is amazing and charming PCs everywhere – he’s being disciplined, strategic and working his tail off – but he’d still be easy for the Libs to demonize in a province-wide vote

• Oh, and for good measure, the last thing the PCs needed – for Patrick Brown to start doing the rounds in the media, and demonizing those young women who came forward – is, incredibly, actually happening

At this point, I am hearing from many, many senior and experienced Progressive Conservatives that Doug Ford may well win this thing. Incredible, I know, but he is doing what he should be doing: working. Elliot simply isn’t – and Mulroney is decidedly not up to the job.

Like I say: Kathleen Wynne is the luckiest politician alive.