CP story on Bernier v. Kinsella et al.: “Maxime Bernier has lost”

Key bits below. Full story, by my former Herald colleague Joan Bryden, here.

“OTTAWA — Maxime Bernier has lost his defamation fight against a columnist who repeatedly portrayed the People’s Party of Canada leader as racist, misogynist and anti-Semitic during the run-up to the 2019 federal election.

His defamation suit against political strategist and pundit Warren Kinsella was tossed out of Ontario Superior Court on Wednesday.

…Justice Calum MacLeod ruled that Bernier had not proved that the harm to his reputation outweighs the importance of protecting freedom of speech on matters of public interest.

MacLeod said Bernier also failed to meet the test that Kinsella had no defence of justification that would have a reasonable chance of success had the defamation suit proceeded.

“This is not a case of ‘false news’ with no foundation in fact. Mr. Kinsella was basing his comments on actual positions taken by Mr. Bernier and on actual events,” MacLeod wrote in his ruling.

Nor was Kinsella alone in concluding that Bernier was racist and xenophobic or pandered to neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Such characterizations of Bernier were “rife” in mainstream media, the judge added.

“Mr. Kinsella may have approached his task with particular caustic enthusiasm but, at worst, Mr. Kinsella’s postings can be seen as a drop of vitriol in a sea of criticism.”

MacLeod said there’s no evidence to suggest Kinsella’s efforts caused [Bernier to lose his seat in Parliament], noting that Bernier himself admitted that few of his constituents were likely to have read Kinsella’s broadsides, written in English.

During the election campaign earlier this fall, Bernier attracted large crowds with his opposition to vaccine mandates and other public health restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19. His supporters were prominent among the angry, profanity-spewing protesters who dogged Prime Justin Trudeau’s campaign.

Experts who follow hate groups have said the anti-vaccination fringe has been infiltrated and exploited by white supremacists.”


My latest: punk rock and the plague!

Pandemics aren’t a ton of fun.

The current one has caused economic chaos, political instability and no shortage of anxiety, planet-wide. For musicians and for those who promote live music, however, it’s been really, really — really — bad.

For months, musicians haven’t been able to make a living playing gigs — because, in the era of illegal downloading and low-return streaming, gigging is how most of them keep the lights on. Around 75% of their income is derived from live shows.

Meanwhile, the clubs and bars and arenas that offer shows haven’t been able to do so for 20 months, give or take. The World Economic Forum estimates that the music industry is worth around $50 billion annually — and half that figure, from live shows, simply evaporated when COVID-19 commenced upending our lives.

So, for Calgary punk rock legends Chixdiggit — and for the legendary Bovine Sex Club in Toronto, Canada’s own CBGB — their joint return, this past weekend, was really, really (really) good. It was the 30th anniversary of both the club and the band, and the Bovine was packed — with verified, fully-vaccinated punk rock fans.

Before taking to the Bovine’s stage, Chixdiggit — KJ Jansen (guitar and vocals), Billy Dixon (guitar), Tyler Pickering (drums) and Rob Gruszecki (bass) — gathered in the storied apartment of club owner Daryl Fine, and talked about their first big shows in two years.

“Alberta didn’t really have lockdown, but you guys (in Ontario) had a lockdown,” notes Jansen, the band’s frontman. “Not to get political, but we had a premier that kind of made us jealous of Ontario’s premier.”

Even so, the decision to play the 30th anniversary shows didn’t happen overnight, says Jansen, because the band, and the Bovine, wanted to do them in the right way. The safe way. At the Bovine on the weekend — where Yours Screwly was naturally in attendance, being a bit of a Calgary punk myself — I witnessed more security and screening than I’ve experienced anywhere else.

“The original 30th anniversary party was going to be 40 people in seats, sitting down,” says Fine, the club’s longtime owner, and the guy with one of the biggest Rolodexes in rock’n’roll. “It would have been less of a celebration. Conveniently, (Doug) Ford has opened us up and allowed us to be full capacity.”

Bovine Sex Club owner Daryl Fine.
Bovine Sex Club owner Daryl Fine.

Even with all the precautions they’re taking, Hansen and Fine agree that it was essential that Chixdiggit’s shows were hale, hearty and healthy. Says Fine: “We have a 100% protocol for vaccine passports. We’re checking everyone at the door, plus the Bovine has a 100% staff mandate for two vaccines. We’re not too nervous. And the fact that venues and bars are complying is helping Ontario succeed in lowering the case rate.”

“And that was a big part of Chixdiggit wanting to come out here,” says Hansen. “Alberta’s pandemic was handled very differently. When we looked at Ontario’s vaccination rate compared to Alberta, I thought, holy s***, that sounds like a paradise. So, if we were going to come back and play a show, we wanted to do it at the Bovine in Ontario.”

And what a show it was. Chixdiggit reminded all in attendance why they are considered Canada’s best-ever punk band. Their tunes — about girls, growing up and hockey — are catchier than a drawer full of fish hooks. And, at the Bovine over the weekend, they had the place rockin’ like it hasn’t in a long, long time.

“We want to put on a great show,” concludes Hansen, “and we want to keep everyone safe.”

And they did, on both counts.

— Warren Kinsella, who is older than dirt, was a member of Calgary’s first punk band, the Hot Nasties, and we’re not sure why we let him in here.