Categories for Musings

In Tuesday’s Sun: why Kathleen Wynne should be Prime Minister

So, 1,200 of your family, friends and neighbours are murdered, or go missing. Would you be upset?

How about this: the murders and the disappearances have been going on, unchecked, since 1980. Is that upsetting?

No? Then, let’s say you go to Ottawa for help, and they shrug and refuse to do anything.

Upset yet?

At this point in the column, you’ve likely figured out that the 1,200 missing or murdered people aren’t your family, friends and neighbours. They’re aboriginal women and girls.

Right about now, therefore, you are perhaps performing the calculus of the missing and murdered indigenous women issue, an issue that now has its own online hashtag, #MMIW. The calculus goes like this: (a) it makes me sad, but it’s been happening for a long time (b) it’s never really going to stop (c) these women have sort of made themselves victims with their “lifestyles.”

Now, we don’t even have to say, out loud, that if the 1,200 murdered or missing were, say, debutantes or Rotarians or hockey players, nobody would be looking for something else to read in today’s paper. If it had been a bunch of white girls who had been killed or disappeared, there would be no collective societal shrug taking place.

Holy God Almighty, there’d be a hue and a cry like none this nation had ever seen. You’d have mild-mannered suburbanites storming Parliament Hill with pitchforks and torches, if we were talking about twenty Midget “A” teams, or the entire population of Tilt Cove, Newf. or Greenwood, B.C.

But it’s aboriginal women. And so, nobody’s enraged, and nobody’s storming Parliament Hill.

Actually, wait. Kathleen Wynne is. And the provincial Premiers – of all partisan stripes – are right behind her.

Wynne, to her great credit, has been raising MMIW, an issue in which there is no political upside, and in which there are even fewer votes. She has been relentless on the issue, demanding an inquiry into what happened to these women, and why, and how we can stop it.

Stephen Harper, hearing her, has shrugged. No judicial inquiry, he said, and some columnists and editorial boards – Andrew Coyne, Tom Walkom, Jeff Simpson the National Post – dutifully lined up behind him. Simpson called it all “posturing.” Walkom said: “don’t need it.” From the Post, the same: “we don’t need a national inquiry.”

It’s true that inquiries sometimes do little, or they do more harm. After Gomery, Somalia and the like, Canadians are weary of self-mandating, self-financing judicial circuses, merrily stomping all over peoples’ constitutional rights. That part is true.

And it may also be true, as Harper says, that hundreds of missing and murdered indigenous women isn’t just a sociological problem – it’s a criminal one.

But if Harper is right, then, why not treat MMIW as a criminal matter – that is, the biggest mass-murder and mass-abduction case in Canada’s history? If it’s a crime – and it is – then why not create a special team of RCMP and federal prosecutors to start bringing indictments? They all work for Harper, after all.

But he hasn’t done that. He likely won’t do that. Because, as above, (a) it’s sad (b) it’s not news (c) the victims made, you know, bad choices.

So where do you stand, assuming you’ve made it this far? With Harper or Wynne?

Personally, I’m a proud Dad to a young aboriginal woman, and I can state – without getting into all the details – that the Prime Minister knows of her. I can also state that, on aboriginal issues generally, Stephen Harper – remember his residential schools apology, here – is not nearly as retrograde as some suggest.

But he needs to do something, and not just shrug. He has the power to do something, and should use that power. For a judicial inquiry, or a police probe.

And, until he does, “Prime Minister Kathleen Wynne” is sounding better and better to not a few of us.

Into the wild

The movies I love the most, as Lisa or my kids or family might tell you, are movies like Castaway, Life of Pi, All Is Lost, Open Water, and Into The Wild. Which might suggest that, were it not for the ones I love, I’d be gone, baby, gone. Into the wild.

That’s not to suggest I have unrealistic expectations about what the outcome might be. In those last two movies, the protagonist dies, badly. Nature wins.

I live in one of the biggest cities in the world, yes. That’s true. But I dislike – actually, I hate – that I can look out a window, and never see a tree, and only see swarms of people and cars. It doesn’t feel right. (And the zealotry about how wonderful big cities are? It’s bullshit. Nobody who is sane thinks big cities are wonderful.)

This amazing story, therefore, is recommended to you. It’s well worth a read. I loved every word.

Not because it’s a great example of long-form journalism, a genre now as hard to find as the hermit himself. Not because the writer worked so diligently to “get the story” – he’s a con man, like all the great journalists are, and he genially uses deceit and guile to get what he wants. Not because of the insights the hermit has to pass along – after such a long time alone with his thoughts, he’s much more glib than profound. Not because it’s Maine, which I love.

No, you should read it because (I suspect) there are many others out there like me. And we’re always re-watching Into the Wild, and we’re always, always eyeing the exits.

Way to go, daughter

Beacher Emma Kinsella was one of around 4,000 young athletes who travelled to the North American Indigenous Games in Regina in late July. She was invited to swim for Team Ontario, which won the swimming competition. Swimmer Emma Kinsella receives some of her six medals at the National Indigenous Games this July.

She won six medals at the event, two as part of relay teams, and four individual races, including silver in the 200m individual medley and 50m backstroke, and bronze in 100m backstroke and 100m butterfly. Her races were in the U19 division.

The view from here

Doing edits on the new book, 30,000 words in. Dunno if it’ll sell two copies, but it may surprise a few folks.

Heading home in two days. Other surprises await there, too.

(Baseless speculation welcome, as always.)



How to deal with online assholes

I’ve been doing this web stuff – it’s a web site, people, not a blog – for about a decade-and-a-half.

At the start, I didn’t have comments – partly because the web-site-based platform I used, designed by Bjorn and Boris, simply didn’t permit me to do so – and partly because I wasn’t wild about providing an open forum for some jerk to libel someone else, and get me sued in the process.

In 2007, I finally decided to give comments a shot. My web platform had been modernized, and the law had become a bit less muddy. So I opened it up, and was glad I did: I think my commenters are pretty darned smart, and they make me think. Hopefully they make you think, too.

Anyway. With the good, of course, comes the bad.

The trolls. The haters. The defamers. The stalkers. The assholes. Because they have no life – they tend to be unattractive, unsuccessful, unemployed men, between 30 and 55, who are consummate losers – the online world is where they live.

They have all sorts of fake names: Bocanut, Sattva, Skippy, others. They come and go, but one thing is constant: they hate. They live to make others feel lousy.

The New York Times has a fascinating story about these assholes I encourage you to read, here. It has some good tips on how to deal with haters.

Now, through a decade-and-a-half, I’ve developed some tips of my own. Here they are, for you to use, gratis:

Call the cops: If they’re really bad – if they are persistently stalking or harassing you – call the police. I recently recommended someone do that, after being endlessly abused by a very senior John Tory operative. She did. A detective went to visit this creep, and gave him a warning. A file is now open on him, and the attacks (for now) have subsided. (And, yes, John Tory [and CP24] knew about the harassment, and – as far as I know – did nothing about it.)

Expose them: Lots of tools now exist to track a hater’s IP, his geolocation, you name it. (Hell, I’ve got software they tells me what kind of computer and operating system trolls use.) Use them. When you are sure about a hater’s identity, shame them online. When you are unsure, seek help: whenever I do so, very talented folks always step forward to help flush the knuckle-draggers out. Thus, thanks to free online tools and online good samaritans, “Bocanut” becomes who he really is – Borys Demchuk, recently let go by Johnvince Foods of North York, who harasses women online. And who we’re going to sue (see below).

Sue them: I have, plenty of times, and I’ve won plenty of apologies (see here). I sue when someone goes after my family, my business, or my professional reputation. Suing someone in Small Claims Court, for real and meaningful defamation, is your legal right – and it’s quite inexpensive and easy to do. You don’t need a lawyer – just a real case, and a determination to see it through. Take my word for it: when you hit them in the pocketbook, they thereafter tend to be much more careful. Or they disappear.

Block early, block often: That’s the advice of my pal Steve Ladurantaye, and it’s advice I’ve been following for years. If some anonymous creep has been coming after you on Twitter, Facebook or elsewhere, block ’em. Their mission in life is to make others feel as worthless as they are – so don’t let them. Turn them off. You’ll feel better when you do.

Read the Terms of Service: If a troll is relentlessly stalking you, defaming you, and upsetting you, check the terms of service for the web platform they favour. Inevitably, their attacks will contravene the rules. Carefully document what’s happening and file a complaint. Nine times out of ten, the troll will be shut down.

Consider the source: The Internet is a bit of an equalizer, which is good: it gives a voice to people who would not otherwise have one. But there’s an unhelpful side to that, too. Namely, it gives a platform to cruel bastards, one that sometimes seems far out of proportion to their significance in real life. So, always consider the source: if some anonymous piece of human garbage is sliming you on Twitter, check their metrics: you’ll inevitably find that they are followed by no more than a dozen people. That is, practically nobody cares about them. You shouldn’t, either.

Consider what they have to say: Sometimes – just sometimes – a critic will have something to say that you need to consider. Sometimes, their criticism of you will be right. Sometimes, a critic won’t be a troll; sometimes, they’ll be a thoughtful person with some thoughtful (but critical) things to say. Heed them, if you can. I try to, by opening up comments every day – and I inevitably receive criticism that gives me pause. Criticism doesn’t always equal hate.

Anyway, that’s my list of tips and tactics. Hopefully, you found it useful. And, if you didn’t, I say:

Everyone’s a damned critic.