Categories for Feature

I can’t comment on this

But the fact that I’m posting it here should tell you plenty.

From Canadian Lawyer Magazine:

Toronto lawyer Warren Kinsella has settled a claim he launched against a Twitter subsidiary for refusing to take down an allegedly defamatory tweet.

Kinsella sought $200,000 in damages from the social networking service after it declined to remove a tweet sent by a columnist of Your Ward News — a publication described as being racist, homophobic and misogynistic.

“The defendants condoned the tweet by allowing it to remain visible on Twitter and/or by failing to have it removed in a timely manner,” said a statement of claim filed at the Ontario Superior Court.

“Mr. Kinsella pleads that the defendant is responsible for this publication and any other republications.”

The tweet in question was sent by Your Ward News columnist Lawrence McCurry and included an image of a doctored photograph of Kinsella sitting on a porch with text that said he had killed a student who was delivering Your Ward News, according to the statement of claim.

Your Ward News had made headlines recently as the Toronto Police Service arrested the publication’s editor, James Sears, and its publisher, Leroy St. Germaine, in November for promotion of hatred against an identifiable group.

Kinsella and his wife, Lisa, were part of a push to get Canada Post to stop delivering the publication. The couple also later started a private criminal prosecution against Sears and St. Germaine for allegedly uttering threats against them in Your Ward News.

In his statement of claim, Kinsella says McCurry tweeted the allegedly defamatory material to voice his distaste for the private prosecution after court proceedings in September.

Kinsella said the tweet was defamatory, libellous, and “falsely and maliciously implies that Mr. Kinsella murdered another human being.”

Kinsella said he reported the tweet to Twitter the same day it was posted and that the website blocked it from his view. But Twitter refused to take it down entirely and it was still visible to the general public, according to the claim.

Kinsella claimed that Twitter was liable for the publication and republication of the tweet, and that any re-tweets constituted republication. In addition to the $200,000 he sought in general, aggravated and punitive damages, Kinsella requested an order forcing Twitter to remove the Tweet.

It is not clear what the terms of the settlement were, as it was confidential and Kinsella’s lawyer in the matter, Jeff Saikaley, declined to comment on the case.

But since the statement of claim was filed, the tweet in question has been taken down. McCurry says he was locked out of his account until he removed the tweet. He adds that the tweet’s contents were satire.

Toronto lawyer Gil Zvulony, who was not involved in the matter, says the law around the question of whether internet intermediaries can be held liable for the defamatory statements of their users is a grey area, as these types of claims often settle.

“There are a lot of different views and not a lot of common law decisions that take a united approach to the issue, which means there is a lot of wiggle room for parties to argue one way or another, and that leads to uncertainty in the law,” he says.

He adds the Law Commission of Ontario is currently looking at the issue in a review of the provincial defamation laws and how they should be updated for the internet age.

Twitter Canada did not provide comment by deadline.


Joe Strummer, gone so long, gone too soon

The sticker affixed to the London Calling album shrink-wrap, 38 years ago this month, boldly declared that the Clash were “the only band that matters.” If that is true – if it was more than record company hyperbole – then Joe Strummer’s death 15 years ago today, of a heart attack at age 50, was a very big deal indeed.

It wasn’t as big as John Lennon’s murder, of course, which came one year after London Calling was released, and shook an entire generation. Nor as newsworthy, likely, as the suicide of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain in 1994. No, the impact of the sudden death of Joe Strummer – the front man for the Clash, the spokesman for what the Voidoid’s Richard Hell called, at the time, “the blank generation” – will be seen in more subtle ways.

For starters, you weren’t going to see any maudlin Joe Strummer retrospectives on CNN, or hordes of hysterical fans wailing in a park somewhere, clutching candles whilst someone plays ‘White Riot’ on acoustic guitar. Nor would there be a rush by his estate to cash in with grubby compilation and tribute discs. Punk rock, you see, wasn’t merely apart from all that – it was against of all that.

Punk rock was a specific rejection of everything rock’n’roll had become in the 1970s – namely, a business: an arena-sized, coke-addicted, utterly-disconnected-from-reality corporate game played by millionaires at Studio 54. Punk rock, and Joe Strummer, changed all of that. They were loud, loutish, pissed off. They were of the streets, and for the streets. They wanted rock’n’roll to matter again.

I met Joe Strummer for the first time on the night of October 16, 1979, in East Vancouver. Two of my Calgary punk rock buddies, plus my girlfriend and I, were loitering on the main floor at the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE). We were exhilarated and exhausted. We had pooled our meager resources to buy four train tickets to Vancouver, to see Joe Strummer and the Clash in concert. Their performance had been extraordinary (and even featured a mini-riot, midway through). But after the show, we had no money left, and nowhere to stay.

The four of us were discussing this state of affairs when a little boy appeared out of nowhere. It was near midnight, and the Clash, DOA and Ray Campi’s Rockabilly Rebels had long since finished their respective performances. Roadies were up on stage, packing up the Clash’s gear. The little boy looked to be about seven or eight. He was picking up flashcubes left behind by the departed fans.

We started talking to the boy. It turned out he was the son of Mickey Gallagher, the keyboardist the Clash had signed on for the band’s London Calling tour of North America. His father appeared, looking for him. And then, within a matter of minutes, Topper Headon appeared, looking for the Gallaghers.

Topper Headon was admittedly not much to look at: he was stooped, slight and pale, with spiky hair and a quiet manner. But he was The Drummer For The Clash, and had supplied beats for them going back almost to their raw eponymous first album, the one that had changed our lives forever. We were in awe.

Topper asked us where we were from and what we thought of the show. When he heard that we had no place to stay, he said: “Well, you’d better come backstage with me, then.”

Sprawled out in a spartan PNE locker room, Strummer was chatting with lead guitarist Mick Jones and bassist Paul Simonon, along with some Rastafarians and a few of the Rockabilly Rebels. They were all stoned, and grousing about an unnamed promoter of the Vancouver show, who had refused to let them play until he was paid his costs. The Clash, like us, had no money. That made us love them even more.

Joe Strummer, with his squared jaw and Elvis-style hairdo, didn’t seem to care about the band’s money woes. While Mick Jones flirted with my girlfriend, Strummer started questioning me about my Clash T-shirt. It was homemade, and Strummer was seemingly impressed by it. I could barely speak. There I was, speaking with one of the most important rock’n’rollers ever to walk the Earth – and he was acting just like a regular guy. Like he wasn’t anything special.

But he was, he was. From their first incendiary album in 1977 (wherein they raged against racism, and youth unemployment, and hippies), to their final waxing as the real Clash in 1982 (the cartoonish Combat Rock, which signaled the end was near, and appropriately so), Strummer was the actual personification of everything that was the Clash. They were avowedly political and idealistic; they were unrelentingly angry and loud; most of all, they were smarter and more hopeful than the other punk groups, the cynical, nihilistic ones like the Sex Pistols. They believed that the future was worth fighting for.

The Clash were the ones who actually read books – and encouraged their fans to read them, too. They wrote songs that emphasized that politics were important (and, in my own case, taught me that fighting intolerance, and maintaining a capacity for outrage, was always worthwhile). They were the first punk band to attempt to unify disparate cultures – for example, introducing choppy reggae and Blue Beat rhythms to their music.

They weren’t perfect, naturally. Their dalliances with rebel movements like the Sandinistas, circa 1980, smacked of showy dilettante politics. But they weren’t afraid to take risks, and make mistakes.

Born John Graham Mellor in 1952 in Turkey to the son of a diplomat, Strummer started off as a busker in London, and then formed the 101ers, a pub rock outfit, in 1974. Two years later, he saw the Pistols play one of their first gigs. Strummer, Jones and Simonon immediately formed the Clash, and set about rewriting the rules.

While political, they also knew how to put together good old rock’n’roll. Strummer and Jones effectively became the punk world’s Lennon and McCartney, churning out big hits in Britain, and attracting a lot of favourable critical acclaim in North America. Some of their singles, ‘White Man in Hammersmith Palais’ and ‘Complete Control,’ are among the best rock’n’roll 45s – ever. Their double London Calling LP is regularly cited as one of history’s best rock albums.

After the Clash broke up, Strummer played with the Pogues, wrote soundtrack music and formed a new group, the world beat-sounding Mescaleros. He married, and became a father. But he never again achieved the adulation that greeted the Clash wherever they went.

Strummer didn’t seem to care. When I saw him for the last time – at a show in one of HMV’s stores on Yonge Street in July 2001, which (typically) he agreed to give at no cost – Strummer and his Mescaleros stomped around on the tiny stage, having the time of their lives. They didn’t play any Clash songs, but that was okay by us. Joe Strummer’s joy was infectious, that night.

As the gig ended, Strummer squatted at the edge of the stage – sweaty, resplendent, grinning – to speak with the fans gathered there. They looked about as old as I was, when I first met him back in October 1979. As corny as it sounds, it was a magical moment, for me: I just watched him for a while, the voice of my generation, speaking to the next one.

I hope they heard what he had to say.


The Ballad of the Social Blemishes, 40 years later

Forty years.

Forty years ago tonight, the Social Blemishes – me, Ras Pierre, Rockin’ Al and a few others miscreants – took to the makeshift stage in the gym at Bishop Carroll High School in Calgary for the first-ever performance of a punk band in our hometown. In all of Alberta, too.

We were opening for local luminaries Fosterchild, and we were terrible. But we were hooked: maybe this punk rock stuff would never win us fame or riches or groupies, but could there be any better way to alienate our parents, teachers and peers?  Nope.

And, besides: it was fun. Case in point: we even got our picture in the Calgary Herald, up above.  The guy on the far left (ahem) was John Heaney, who went on to be Rachel Notley’s Chief of Staff; beside him, Ras Pierre, now a multimillionaire engineer in Alberta (and my best friend, still); Yours Screwly, in shades, homemade Sex Pistols T-shirt and (seriously) a dog collar; Rockin’ Al, a standout stand-up comedian and performer; Allen Baekeland, later a famous Western Canadian DJ; Pat O’Heran, an award-winning Hollywood filmmaker; and, behind the skins, Ronnie Macdonald, another successful engineering technologist type, but in B.C.

Me and Ras Pierre would leave the Blems to form the Hot Nasties – and Al and Ronnie would go on to the Sturgeons or the Mild Chaps or Riot 303.  Along the way, one of the songs we wrote, Invasion of the Tribbles, was to be covered by British chart-toppers the Palma Violets. Another one, Barney Rubble Is My Double, ended up covered by Nardwuar and the Evaporators.  And Secret of Immortality was to be covered by Moe Berg of Pursuit of Happiness.  Not bad.

Anyway, because I’m going to taking a dirt nap any day now – or so says one of my sons, now the same age I was in that photo, up above – I’ve immortalized the Social Blemishes in Recipe For Hate and its sequel, New Dark Ages. Meanwhile, The Ballad of the Social Blemishes is a song about our departed-too-soon former manager, Tom Wolfe, and will be out in the New Year on Ugly Pop Records.  A demo outtake of the tune is here.

Forty years: I can’t fucking believe I’m so old.

The only solution is to continue acting like I’m seventeen.  (Sorry, Lisa.)

Gabba gabba hey!


Watch this Rosemary Barton exchange with Justin Trudeau. Wow.

It is truly something else.  Among other things, it means that Trudeau needs to get better prepared before he scrums again on this mess.

And it means CBC needs to get Barton back to the Hill, where she can do more of this sort of grilling. Fearless. Wow.

The first thirty seconds here are brutal.  This is an election ad.



Trudeau broke ethics rules?

Yes. So says the Ethics commissioner:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke multiple federal ethics rules when he accepted a ride on the Aga Khan’s private helicopter and stayed on his private island over the holidays in 2016, the ethics commissioner has ruled.

In a ruling posted on the website of the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Wednesday morning, Commissioner Mary Dawson said that her investigation into two complaints about the trip found that Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act when he and his family accepted the trip but also dismissed several of the specific violations brought within those complaints.

Well.

I have previously defended Trudeau on this “controversy,” but that doesn’t matter anymore. While the penalty is puny, this decision is something we will be hearing about for years. I don’t think this has ever happened to a Prime Minister before. Ever.

Trudeau has no option but to accept the report, apologize, and promise never to do it again. And staff heads need to roll at PMO, I think. Who let this happen?

Anyway. Those year-end interviews aren’t going to be a lot of fun, now.

Nope.


Best and worst of Canadian political 2017

For my bestest-ever editor, the Hill Times‘ Kate Malloy – who oversees one of the few truly still-successful newspapers in Canada, by the by – I’m doing my clichéd year-end roundup of the year in Canadian politics.  It’s fun, if nothing else.  And, um, I need to file it later today.

But – because I am for, by and about the people – I want to open it up to the people.  So, I am asking you, O My Readers, to offer your votes and commentaries in comments.  The best ones will be tucked into the aforementioned year-end column.

So here goes:

  • Most successful Canadian politician:
    • Justin Trudeau
    • Brad Wall
    • Jagmeet Singh
    • Um, that’s it, because I literally can’t think of anyone
  • Least successful Canadian politician:
    • Bill Morneau
    • Melanie Joly
    • Max Bernier
    • My God there are so many possibilities
  • Best political win in 2017:
    • Trudeau flipping two CPC ridings in by-elections
    • Scheer’s come-from-behind leadership victory
    • A turban-wearing Sikh man winning a party leadership in the Trump era
    • Something Warren hasn’t thought of, which frankly happens a lot as he gets older
  • Biggest political screwup:
    • Trudeau, Butts et al. sucking up to Trump with nothing to show for it
    • Scheer’s relationship with the racist/anti-Semitic luminaries at The Rebel
    • Singh and his party going into the witness protection program
    • Warren doesn’t want to in any way influence your vote, but please don’t forget Melanie Joly: Netflix, Canada 150, Holocaust memorial, $6 million non-hockey hockey rink and doing nothing about the death of dozens of Canadian newspapers
  • Story that will dominate Canadian politics in 2018:
    • The end of NAFTA
    • Election upheaval in Ontario, New Brunswick, Quebec (and municipal elections too)
    • #MeToo finally landing on Parliament Hill and exacting divine retribution
    • Lisa Kinsella running for Toronto city council and Warren being forced to start acting his age, for the first time ever

Booklist: Recipe For Hate “explodes off the page…a dark and engrossing tale”!

Wikipedia: “Booklist is a publication of the American Library Association that provides critical reviews of books and audiovisual materials for all ages. Booklists primary audience consists of libraries, educators, and booksellers. The magazine is available to subscribers in print and online. Booklist is published 22 times per year, and reviews over 7,500 titles annually.”

My publisher Dundurn Press has told me Booklist is “hugely influential.”

Wow.

I can’t quote the full review – it isn’t out until next month – but I’m allowed to offer up a couple of lines.  So here you go:

“Kinsella’s book explodes off the page from the start…a dark and engrossing tale of punk-rock heroes fighting for justice.” —Booklist

Now, when is Lisa Kinsella going to get me a movie deal, so I can meet her long-ago friend Brad Pitt?


Premiers: who’s up, who’s down, who cares

I don’t put much stock in Angus Reid’s little Premier’s popularity poll thing, and neither should you.  I think the Reid folks do it mainly for fun, and to get some free publicity, and it unfailingly it provides both.  Their release is here.

That said, a few observations:

  • Brad Wall, unless I’m wrong, will go down as perhaps the most-liked provincial Premier in recent memory
  • John Horgan should be enjoying more of a honeymoon
  • Dwight Ball, once politically DOA, is somehow back – how come?
  • Brian Pallister, who has fallen figuratively and literally, could very well be a one-term wonder
  • Philippe Couillard has been trying to please everyone, and has ended up pleasing no one – he’s in trouble
  • Rachel Notley up? Jason Kenney needs to consider the possibility that his extreme social conservatism is driving partisan Alberta Liberals and Alberta Party folks to the NDP Premier
  • Brian Gallant must be happy he didn’t go through with that snap/surprise early election this Fall, eh?
  • Stephen McNeil: I have no comment, and you likely don’t either
  • Kathleen Wynne rounds out the bottom, again, but is up for the third consecutive Reid poll – she’s headed in the right direction

What does it all mean, O Smart Readers? Comments are open!


Column: #MeToo, Ottawa, and what to do if it happens to you

That didn’t take long.

Last Monday Monday morning, this space wondered why the #MeToo movement had yet to alight in Ottawa.  Seventy-two hours later – and just as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was about to take the stage at his annual Christmas party – TVA broke a major story: a senior staff person in Trudeau’s own office was under investigation.

TVA was the first to disclose that Trudeau’s deputy director of operations, Claude-Éric Gagné, was being investigated for “inappropriate behavior.”  Gagné has been on leave since November, TVA reported.While Gagné’s name is known, Trudeau actually refuses to name him. The Prime Minister is also refusing to provide any details about the allegations, but CBC News has confirmed what TVA first revealed – that the alleged wrongdoer was Gagné, and that the allegations involved “inappropriate behaviour.”

Problematic, here, is this: (a) we don’t know who the investigator is (b) we don’t know his or her mandate (c) we don’t know who is paying him or her and (d) we don’t know what powers the independent investigator actually has.  We need to.

A principle of natural law is that you cannot investigate yourself. For this probe to be meaningful, the independent investigator needs to truly investigate – and truly be independent.

That said, Gagné – who is innocent until proven otherwise, of course – is perhaps the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  For days, Ottawa’s corridors of power having been buzzing about a coming media bombshell.  A major news organization has been probing sexual misconduct by elected and unelected officials.  And the expectation is that the revelations will bring to a speedy (and deserved) end to many political careers.

That, too, is one of the most positive outcomes of the #MeToo cultural revolution: since the Harvey Weinstein story broke, many victims have felt that they can finally step forward, and name names.  They have finally felt that they will be believed.  They need to be.

Case in point: after the Hill Times published my column, this writer received multiple calls, emails and direct messages about the two men I’d written about.  Two women stated that they, too, had been harassed by the nameless former journalist, and provided new details about what had happened to them.  And one individual – with intimate knowledge of Ottawa’s journalistic and political heavy-hitters – confirmed that statements about the other man, apparently in the form of affidavits, exist.

Hollywood, major media organizations, Capitol Hill in Washington: in recent weeks, all of these places have seen harassers, abusers and rapists driven out.  It was highly unlikely, then, that Ottawa would continue to be immune.  During this writer’s days on the Hill – working as a Special Assistant to Jean Chretien and then as a Chief of Staff – stories about sexual misconduct were endemic.  It is highly unlikely, in the intervening years, that the problem has disappeared.  The names of these “men” were known.

Why not name names, then?  Because it is up to the victims to decide that, and not anyone else. One of the women I heard from told me a horrible story about a man still working on Parliament Hill.  She provided a great deal of detail.  But she made clear that she did not want her name used, or the story told now.  Her wishes need to be respected.

But, for the many other women who have endured in silence, and who are now considering whether it is time to tell their story, we say: it is also your decision.  It can only be your decision.  But you are not without options.

Here is a list of places you can turn to:

  • House of Commons Chief Human Resources Officer: Pierre Parent oversees the office that investigates abuse complaints on the Hill. His phone number is 613-992-0100.
    His email is parent@parl.gc.ca.
  • House Respectful Workplaces Program: Myriam Beauparlant manages this program, and ultimately reports to Parent. Her phone number is 613-996-2068.  Her email is beauparlant@parl.gc.ca.
  • Party Whips: Some complaints originate with the main party whips – which can problematic for women who want to make complaints about the whip’s partisan colleagues, of course. That said, there is no evidence that any of the whips have been anything but diligent during the lifespan of the current Parliament.  The Liberal whip, then, is Pablo Rodriguez, at 613-995-0580.  His email is rodriguez@parl.gc.ca.  The Conservative whip is Mark Strahl, at 613-995-2291 and mark.strahl@parl.gc.ca.  The NDP whip, finally, is Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, and her number is 613-992-0336, while her email is marjolaine.boutin-sweet@parl.gc.ca.
  • Police: Many cases of sexual harassment constitute a crime.  For those who have been the victim of one, the mandate of the RCMP’s Parliamentary Protective Service includes providing police services to Parliamentarians, Hill employees and visitors.  They have policing jurisdiction over the Hill.  Their inquiries number is (613) 943-6530; their email PPSCommsSPP@pps-spp.parl.gc.ca.

For those who have heard or experienced something, there is always the news media – who, in Canada and the United States, have been at the forefront of exposing sexual harassment and sexual violence cases.  And, in official Ottawa, a good media listener is never hard to find.

Whatever route you choose – and however much you wish to keep confidential – is up to you.  And only you can now if it is time to tell your story.

But if this man can provide two pieces of advice, it is this: if you do not act, the abuser will almost certainly continue to abuse other women.

And, of course, there has never been a better time than now.

Because #MeToo is working.


Hill Times calls Recipe For Hate one of the best books of the year!

Here’s today’s front page:

And here’s the interview Laura Ryckewaert did with me:

Having already explored the timely issue of discrimination and hate in society in multiple works of non-fiction, former Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella has tackled the topic yet again, this time using fiction, with his latest “punk rock mystery novel,” Recipe for Hate.

“We do live in a dangerous time, we live in a dark time, all of us, and Recipe for Hate is about a previous dark time, but hopefully it provides some ideas about how to have hope,” said Mr. Kinsella, a lawyer and president of Daisy Consulting Group, and a former Liberal strategist to Jean Chrétien.

Recipe for Hate is Mr. Kinsella’s eighth book and second foray into fiction. Published by Dundurn Press in November, the roughly 300-page book is the result of three years of work, and was intended for a young adult audience—a first for Mr. Kinsella, though a broader readership has since picked it up, said the author.

Set in Portland, Maine, in the late 1970s, the book centres on the X Gang, a punk group, and their friends, who grapple with, and investigate, the murder of two of their own at the hands of neo-Nazis. The book’s title, with permission, came from the 1993 Bad Religion song.

In Recipe for Hate, Mr. Kinsella ties together his own experiences in the punk rock scene and his past exploration of extremism and Canada’s far right, using both real events and people, albeit largely with names changed—a real-life-inspired run in with The Clash’s Joe Strummer aside.

While multiple characters in the book are based on real people, Mr. Kinsella declined to reveal the inspiration for all but one: Sharon Martin, who is first introduced in Chapter 35 as an assistant district attorney and was inspired by Alberta-based judge Sheilah Martin. Ms. Martin was last month nominated to the Supreme Court of Canada by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.). She previously taught Mr. Kinsella when he was a young law student at the University of Calgary.

“She had an impact on my life, so I made her one of kind of the heroes of the book,” he said.

The following Q&A has been edited for style and length.

What prompted you to write this book?

“I’ve written books about terrorism, extremism on the left and the right, punk rock, lots of books about politics and I just didn’t want to write another book about politics, and I wanted to challenge myself. Back when I was in law school at the University of Calgary I worked nights and weekends at the Calgary Herald and came across a story [which inspired the book’s main antagonist] that—probably because I was like 23, 22—I didn’t get an opportunity to write, and I always felt like it was unfinished business. So, I don’t want to spoil the ending, but when the book says on the back that there’s a lot of incidents based on real events, it’s true. There’s quite a few things there, and that [main] character, if you get to the end, you’ll see that person existed.

“It was hard. Like I thought, ‘Oh you know, I’ve written seven books this is going to be easy.’ It was really hard, and the people at Dundurn, they were really great with me, they were patient with me, and they taught me a lot about how to do this kind of book right and how to do it better.”

What did you find so hard about writing this book?

“It was getting the voice of young people. So [Catcher in the Rye author] Salinger, what he did—not that I’m in any way comparing myself to J.D. Salinger—is that he would just go in diners and sit there and listen to teenagers. And so I kind of did some of the same stuff—and mainly, our kids, Lisa and I have six kids, and most of them are teenagers, so it was partly just listening in the way they express themselves, the way that they think, because I wanted it to be authentic.”

Your book is based on real events. Can you tell me what those events were and why you wanted to write about them?

“Sure, there’s some of them I can tell you without being a spoiler. The assassination of a talk show host actually took place—that was the killing of Alan Berg in Colorado. The attack of the former broadcaster was a wonderful old man named Keith Rutherford from Winnipeg, and he was attacked on his front lawn by some neo-Nazi skinheads in Edmonton, and they blinded him. The leafleting, kind of the explosion in the hate groups—all of that stuff happened. When I was in the punk scene, when we were confronted with the presence of the neo-Nazis it led to a lot of violence, and partly that was one of the reasons why my friends and I packed it in because the scene was had gotten so violent. So there’s all kinds of events in there that are based upon things that actually took place.”

Christopher X is one of your protagonists. His chosen moniker is something of a mystery that is left unanswered. Why did you give him the last name X?

“I knew guys like him, and I knew girls like him in the scene who were kind of mysterious and distant, but people you looked up to. And so I decided I wanted him to be—and I’ve also always loved all the different manifestations of X.

“From Malcolm X to you name it, and it just seemed to fit him that little parts of him should be unknowable, and so the kids who read it could see bits of people they know or maybe bits of themselves.”

StatsCan recently reported there were 1,409 police-reported hate crimes in Canada in 2016, an increase for the third year in a row. Why do you think we’ve seen an increase yet again?

“The StatsCan data truly is the proverbial tip of the iceberg, because if you were to go coast to coast and enquire with all the different police agencies you would find that most of them don’t even have a biased crimes unit or office, and very few of them have the resources to track—truly track—hate crime in the way that is done in the United States. So you know I think the problem is significantly worse, and also there’s kind of mischaracterization of some crime or so on. Like you’ll have, in some jurisdictions, a kid will spray paint something on the side of a wall and they get charged with vandalism. But then an officer will come along and say, ‘well, it wasn’t just spray paint on the side of a wall, it was a swastika on the front door of a synagogue,’ and that takes it into a different orbit. You need police officers who can look at—that’s why I saw the StatsCan data, I think, even though it showed a rise, I think it’s even worse.

“To answer your question why, if that’s happened, why has it happened: It’s Trump. A white supremacist is the president of the United States, and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to these guys, they can’t believe their good fortune.”

What lessons does your book hold for dealing with hate and racism?

“Fighting back, confronting it. I know there’s many people who will say—and I’ve had many editors over the years and neighbours who have said, ‘You know, let it go,’ as Lisa and I are in the middle of, with some others, fighting a neo-Nazi newspaper in Toronto, we were in court with them again on Monday, but it doesn’t work, right. You know they just—they flourish. Good journalism: factual, tough, probing journalism really hurts these guys. Governments properly funding the police, and having educated police forces, hurts these people. But the thing that hurts them the most is when communities reject it, instead of adopting the ostrich strategy and just sticking their heads in the sand. When they say, ‘No, you don’t speak for us, you’re not welcome here,’ it drives these people away. And they never fully go away, admittedly, but they’re back now in a very dramatic way—you know, six Muslims being murdered at prayer in Québec City—the problem is here and we need to deal with it. Not talking about it is not going to work.”

A House of Commons committee is studying religious discrimination in Canada—the study sparked by private member’s motion M-103. What did you make of the vitriolic reaction to M-103?

“What was most noteworthy for me was the reaction. It was a resolution—it wasn’t even law—it was just a resolution, and how well organized, and how vehement and vituperative the opposition was to it, up to and including candidates to be leader of the Conservative Party of Canada adopting that and hanging out with Rebel Media and all that. That told me again that the beast was awake, that it was back and they were bold, and they were feeling bold and strong again because of Trump. It became safe for them to be openly hateful in the way that they were.”

lryckewaert@hilltimes.com
The Hill Times