My latest: when zero tolerance doesn’t mean zero

Zero tolerance. 

That’s what he said.  Those are the words he used. 

Justin Trudeau has said, many times, that he and his party have “zero tolerance” for sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. 

As recently as 2018, he gave inspiring interviews to Canadian Press and CBC about the subject.  Here’s what he said. 

“We have no tolerance for this — we will not brush things under the rug, but we will take action on it immediately,” he declared to The Canadian Press, describing how his political party and government regard sexual harassment. 

He said the same sort of thing to CBC Radio in an interview around the same time.  There, the self-proclaimed Feminist Prime Minister proclaimed: “I’ve been very, very careful all my life to be thoughtful, to be respectful of people’s space and people’s headspace as well.”

He respects your headspace, our Prime Minister does.  So, as if to emphasize the point, he noted he had earlier banished a pair of Liberal MPs for alleged sexual impropriety. 

In 2014, he expelled two MPs from the Liberal caucus — Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti — before he told them why.  An investigation came later, and it determined that Andrews had indeed engaged in harassing behaviour (groping and grinding), while Pacetti was found to have had having sex with someone (without explicit consent). 

So far so good.  We don’t need sexual creeps and crawlies in our lives.  We particularly don’t need them in Canadian public life.  Well done, Trudeau. 

And then, two years ago this week, this writer received a message from a female Member of Parliament.  One who really was a feminist, and one who had female friends in all of the political parties in the Hill. 

“Have you seen the story about Trudeau groping a reporter in BC?” she said.  “It happened years ago, but still.”

I had not, I told her.  The Liberal Party’s “zero tolerance” policy was a hot topic, that June, because of a controversy swirling around Liberal cabinet member Kent Hehr.  An Alberta woman, Kristin Raworth, had tweeted to me vague allegations of sexual impropriety by Hehr, who was and is a quadriplegic. 

Hehr properly removed himself from cabinet while an investigation was underway.  He later lost his Calgary seat in the 2019 election.  (Tellingly, perhaps, Raworth was later obliged to apologize, retract, and pay substantial damages for false allegations – “he hit his wife” – she made against this writer in March.)

But two years ago, the Kent Hehr story had made sexual harassment stories big news.  Me Too, too. 

And a Member of Parliament had just told me Justin Trudeau had groped a reporter in BC.  She had the article, she said.  She sent it to me. 

It was an editorial, unsigned, from the Creston Valley Advance.  It was easy to determine who the author was, but I would not name her (and have never named her).  I posted a screenshot of the editorial, the reporter’s name on the Advance’s masthead removed.  Apart from asking “what?” in the title of the post, I said nothing else. 

The editorial was titled “Open Eyes.”  The author stated that Trudeau had groped her, quote unquote, at a beer festival in 2000.  Trudeau had “inappropriately handled the reporter,” the editorial read, while she was in assignment for the Advance as well as the National Post. 

When confronted about his actions – which, in many other cases, would be regarded as a sexual assault – Trudeau offered an explanation, not a real apology.  “I’m sorry,“ he said.  “If I had known you were reporting for a national paper, I would have never been so forward.”

Meaning: you’re fair game, woman, if you’re reporting for a small paper. 

When I posted the screenshot of the editorial, it went viral, as they say.  It became international news.  When Trudeau – now a Prime Minister – finally deigned to respond, he offered up an explanation that has since become an object of ridicule.  There hadn’t been a “negative interaction,” he said, although the editorial certainly suggested that was not the case. 

Said Trudeau about his victim: “Who knows where her mind was, and I fully respect her ability to experience something differently.”

Implying the victim had some unnamed mental instability, and declaring that she experienced sexual assault “differently” doesn’t sound terribly feminist, does it?  But Justin Trudeau survived the scandal.  He was re-elected. 

Two years later, the issue is back.  This time, a Liberal backbencher is facing assault, break and enter, and criminal harassment charges from 2015.  A woman is among the victims.

And Trudeau knew all about it.  The allegations were substantiated by an internal Liberal Party probe, the CBC revealed this week. 

But Trudeau let the backbencher run under his party’s banner anyway.  Trudeau signed the MP’s nomination papers.  

We could go on, but – by now – you get the point.  And the point is this. 

When Justin Trudeau said he had a “zero tolerance” policy, he didn’t actually mean there was “zero tolerance” for sexual misconduct. 

He meant there was literally zero that he wouldn’t tolerate.

Trump, from one who would know

This comes from a Republican, Steve Schmidt. He ran John McCain’s 2008 campaign for president.

“Donald Trump has been the worst president this country has ever had. And I don’t say that hyperbolically. He is. But he is a consequential president. And he has brought this country in three short years to a place of weakness that is simply unimaginable if you were pondering where we are today from the day where Barack Obama left office. And there were a lot of us on that day who were deeply skeptical and very worried about what a Trump presidency would be. But this is a moment of unparalleled national humiliation, of weakness.

“When you listen to the President, these are the musings of an imbecile. An idiot. And I don’t use those words to name call. I use them because they are the precise words of the English language to describe his behavior. His comportment. His actions. We’ve never seen a level of incompetence, a level of ineptitude so staggering on a daily basis by anybody in the history of the country whose ever been charged with substantial responsibilities.

It’s just astonishing that this man is president of the United States. The man, the con man, from New York City. Many bankruptcies, failed businesses, a reality show, that branded him as something that he never was. A successful businessman. Well, he’s the President of the United States now, and the man who said he would make the country great again. And he’s brought death, suffering, and economic collapse on truly an epic scale. And let’s be clear. This isn’t happening in every country around the world. This place. Our place. Our home. Our country. The United States. We are the epicenter. We are the place where you’re the most likely to die from this disease. We’re the ones with the most shattered economy. And we are because of the fool that sits in the Oval Office behind the Resolute Desk.”

“Zero tolerance”

In the Trudeau era, it means there’s literally zero you won’t tolerate.

My latest: 2020 sucks

It’s more like an ordeal, than a year. That has been 2020. 

In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens famously declared that “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” 

But you can’t really say that about these times. They are the worst in living memory. There is no glorious revolution to celebrate, as Dickens did. 

The three horsemen of the current apocalypse are well-known: the coronavirus, the collapse of the world economy, and the lethal racism that seemingly permeates too many institutions. It is not an exaggeration to say that these three things have reordered our present view of the world. 

Indeed, against those three things – Covid-19, global recession and widespread systemic racism – many have been measured. Many have been judged. 

Many have been found lacking. 

So, Donald Trump will lose in November because he has failed the test of all three. He called the coronavirus “a hoax.” He repeatedly promised an economic rebirth that never came. And – because, he is in his essence a white supremacist – he badly miscalculated how to respond to the historic rebellion against police racism and brutality. His response: threaten to send in American troops to confront the American people.

But others are in the process of being judged, too.  And not just in the United States. 

In the middle of an unprecedented global uprising against racism, Conservative leadership candidate Erin O’Toole issued an unambiguous dog-whistle, proclaiming he wanted to “take Canada back.” From whom, he didn’t say. He didn’t have to: his is, and was, the party of the barbaric practices hotline. 

Justin Trudeau was caught wearing racist blackface, and was so completely lacking in self-awareness – so incapable of shame – he later turned a Black Lives Matter protest into the backdrop for a photo op. Plunging into a crowd on Parliament Hill when, just the days before, he had exhorted us all to keep away from crowds. 

The RCMP, once our proud national police force – once even a symbol of the country itself – is being judged, too. As the Mounties’ leadership plays semantic games about what “systemic racism” means, its membership shoot an Indigenous woman to death during “a wellness check.” They gun down an Indigenous man in a New Brunswick street – why, we do not know. And they brutalize and beat another Indigenous man – a respected chief in Alberta – in a parking lot. All this, from a police force whose Commissioner told the Globe and Mail “we don’t have systemic racism,” before reversing herself.

Many media have done a commendable job documenting all of these serial failures by those who are supposed to know better. In the grinding, grueling Spring of 2020, our media have mostly served us well. 

Not CBC, however.

CBC recently decided to destroy the career of Wendy Mesley, a Gemini-winning journalist who has worked at the national broadcaster for 40 years.  Her offence? To express concern about a possible panelist who might use the N-word. 

Mesley did not say the word on air.  She was in a private meeting with CBC staff, discussing the suitability of the guest who might say it.  She expressed disapproval.

That didn’t matter to the craven, dissembling cowards who run the CBC.  They summarily cancelled the remaining episodes of Mesley’s show, and suspended the award-winning journalist.  Mesley had apologized, quickly and unambiguously.  Veteran CBC journalists like Neil MacDonald and Bruce Dowbiggin had come to her defence. But the CBC’s “leadership” was undeterred.  Mesley was gone, and few expect her to come back.

This would be the same CBC, of course, who once gave a platform to the founder of the American Nazi Party to spew white supremacy and anti-Semitic bile on-air.  The same CBC who brought robed Klansmen onto a show to advocate separation of the races.  The same CBC who hosted Anne Coulter, who calls non-white immigration “genocide.”

The same CBC which, not long ago, gave an uncritical platform to Gavin McInnes, the founder of the white supremacist Proud Boys.  While the clueless CBC host did precisely nothing, McInnes advocated “issuing a bounty” on Indigenous people.  McInnes – who had previously written “Ten Things I Hate About Jews” for Rebel Media, and called Muslims “sandbox savages” – was permitted by CBC to spew racist invective without opposition, without context.

The CBC, in its scramble to look tolerant, now looks like something else entirely: a farce.

We live in profoundly troubled times.  We are at risk of losing much to a troika of grim threats – coronavirus, recession, systemic racism. We need leadership.

Too often, this year, we’re not getting it.