Patrick Brown: Am I missing something?

By TONY SEED

International Women’s Day March, Toronto, March 2017

(Revised and expanded from a Facebook post on January 25) – CBC TV’s The National hosted by Michael Serapio devoted the first 21 minutes of its 3-4 p.m. newscast on 25 January to the case of Patrick Brown, who has resigned/sacked as leader of the Conservative Party in Ontario although not his seat as an MPP after two women accused him of sexual misconduct. The case is dominating the news cycle. Premier Wynne, head of a government known for corruption and selling out the interests of the working class as in the case of U.S. Steel, was “shocked.” For its part, the Ontario PC Party declared it “unequivocally upholds the principle that a safe and secure society is what we expect and desire” and has “a message of change.” Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called the Brown allegations ‘heinous.” Tory MP Lisa Raitt says she has an “open door” for anyone experiencing harassment. All apparently stand for women’s empowerment.

The next seven CBC minutes were split between Justin Trudeau’s response from Davos to sexual misconduct allegations about federal Minister of Sport Grant Hehr that he had verbally harassed women during his time as a member of the Alberta Legislative Assembly, and Donald Trump’s triumphalist arrival at the Davos Economic Forum of the world’s imperialist elite.

CBC Ottawa correspondent David Cochrane did point out that the Hehr incident is the sixth case for the Trudeau Liberals in the past there years, which he opined does not bode well for a party trying to brand itself as “a strong support of feminism” – as well as trying to differentiate itself from the misogyny, racism and aggression espoused by the U.S. and other big powers in the name of progressive values. Left unsaid and oblivious was the tragic farce of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the obstruction by Trudeau’s government. [1] (Since this afternoon Hehr has likewise resigned.) In the next 30 minutes CBC added two other man-in-the-street interviews from Barrie, Brown’s home base, amongst other items. Gone was an interview with a man who accused the Wynne Liberals, who are behind the Conservatives in the Ontario polls heading to a June provincial election, of being behind it all!

In all this feverish coverage of MeToo epiphanies in Ontario, I did not see an item or even hear a single mention of Jamie Baillie, leader of the Nova Scotia Conservative Party, who also resigned on January 24 as leader as well as his seat as a MLA for Cumberland South over a case of sexual harassment, although CBC reported it the previous night. Or did I miss it? It does not appear on the front page of the CBC website today either. Regardless, none of these parties referred their dossiers on Brown, Hehr and Baillie to the police for criminal investigation.

If all victims of sexual harassment and violence are equal and are being called upon by leaders and spokespeople of the cartel of ruling political parties to have the courage to speak up, how is that the women in Nova Scotia and the Indigenous women and girls count for less? It seems there is a hierarchy in the state broadcaster’s news reporting on violence, which Maritimers know as “regional disparities,” rather than a principle of universality.

Is this merely a wrong choice of editorial topics or emphasis by the newsroom, or something else? What does these latest scandals say about politics in Ontario? In Nova Scotia? About Canada?

The Globe and Mail today editorialized and proclaimed “a new era”. It intoned:

“Would he [Patrick Brown] have been forced out in a different era? One hopes so, but it doesn’t matter. We live in a new era. The permission for men to use their positions of power or celebrity to commit acts of sexual impropriety – or worse – has been revoked, because now women who come forward with credible allegations can do so without being disbelieved, accused of complicity, written off as attention-seeking, or silenced with threats. The benefit of the doubt is being more evenly distributed in our society, and women who have been harassed are finding their voice.” (“Globe editorial: Patrick Brown can protest his innocence, but he had to go,” January 25, 2018) [2]

Herein lies the duplicity. When the Globe and Mail speaks of “a new era,” it is an era not defined by the people themselves where women are empowered as part of securing the rights of all. It is a “new era” defined in a manner which favours the maintenance of class “positions of power or celebrity” of anachronistic institutions that the people are saddled with, to serve the interests of the international financial oligarchy to access the labour and resources of Canadians and overcome “obstacles.” Everything the Trudeau and provincial governments does is to block, marginalize and eliminate the resistance of the people including women and young girls and their fight for their right to be and to control their own destiny. In contrast, the actions of women make clear that the role of women in a modern society is nothing less than a leading one, in which women refuse to be victimized and instead demand everything they require to provide their rights, the rights of the most marginalized and the rights of all with a guarantee. (For an excellent photo review of the mass actions and demands being raised on the 2017 International Women’s Day, see here.)

Lip service is paid to the victims, but it seems that all the feverish media speculation zeroes in on the jockeying and scrambling amongst the ruling parties in power to see who will rule the roost.

Right on cue, an opinion piece in the same Globe edition declares “It’s not over for Ontario’s PC Party.” It specifies what must be done by the Tories to regain the moral high ground in order to get power. The author works for Navigator Ltd., which presents itself as “Canada’s leading high stakes public strategy and communications firm” and which represented CBC’s radio show host Jian Ghomeshi. In addition to crisis management, they also promise “reputation recovery.” The firm is linked to both the Conservative and Liberal parties.[3] It states:

“The ability to preserve the reputation of a brand and contain structural damage is greater when the basic tenets of containment strategy are followed…. If this endeavour is to succeed, between now and June 7, the Tories must settle on a party leader and a new leadership team, continue to raise campaign funds, review and renovate their policies, burnish their tarnished brand and reassure voters that they have the machinery in place to lead the province.”

How a major political party got in this situation is not to be investigated or discussed. The issue is reduced to self-serving PR and strategy. Is it little wonder that co-deputy leader Sylvia Jones referred to Brown’s resignation as “a hiccup” in its drive to power?

Context is important. It is known that the cartel system of parties has been in crisis since the 1990s and that the big bourgeoisie for years has been aiming to simplify its obsolete and undemocratic first-past-the-post system to the two-party system. The Ontario provincial election was being set up along this line (Conservatives v the Liberals, who have held power for 16 years), as was the federal election in 2015. But life has its own logic. Conditions trump authority. The political crisis is deepening.

“Many straws floating down the stream tell which way the current runs”

Do we not see a double standard of the monopoly media towards such brutish political leaders and their fixation on the individual as the problem? One hundred and fifty six young American women have said they were assaulted by Dr. Larry Nassar of Nassar, official doctor of USA Gymnastics, who has been sentenced to 175 years in prison. They have raised the just demand that the enablers – Michigan State University (where he was employed), USA Gymnastics, and the US Olympic Association – must be held to account. Will the media go after these agencies with the same ferocity as they did the Russian Olympic athletes?

Should not these enablers, the political parties and a corrupt political system and culture also be held to account? It is more and more impossible for the voter to believe anything any politician promises. In Nova Scotia, Baillie had been branded as the compassionate Conservative. Robert Duvet, editor of Nova Scotia Advocate, told me he had even spoken out against sexual assaults, and work in support of mental health. “Not your typical cut and slash stuff,” he added. The Brown case occurred when he was a member of the caucus of the Stephen Harper government. When Harper’s neo-liberal agenda proved disastrous, he was tarred and feathered as extremist and replaced by the sunny ways Trudeau Liberals.

The military and police agencies of this government currently face unprecedented accusations of sexual violence. Nine hundred and fifty two claims have already been filed by women in a class-action suit, settled in 2016, against the RCMP, an agency of the Crown, and there are another 1,400 people who have registered but not yet filed. The women were sexually assaulted, harassed or discriminated against at any point after September, 1974, when the federal police force began to recruit women.

A RCMP doctor in Halifax who also had a family medicine practice is now accused of sexually assaulting some 40 police women. Yet nowhere does the reports in the monopoly media even acknowledge that this agency of the Crown actively commits violence against Indigenous women and girls today. That the RCMP has not brought about a single one of “20 changes to its policies and culture that are aimed at reducing sexual assault, harassment and discrimination” (a condition of the settlement of the class action lawsuit) – gives a clear idea of where this government continues to head. It is calling on women to become police women with the Canadian Forces.[5] As for the military, it continues to wash the horrendous gang rape by British soldiers in April 2015 at CFB Shearwater in Dartmouth. (See Tony Seed, “British Royal Navy sailors arrested and charged for alleged gang rape in Halifax,” April 22, 2015)

In August 2003 I wrote something I think stands the test of time:

“The amorality and conscience of the media is sociopathic and its outlook is pragmatic: whatever works is the truth. It merrily sails along, confirmed in its own self righteousness, as it is on the outlook for the ‘wrong-doers’. Since it opposes the ‘wrong-doers’ then ‘we’ (as they say in the media) must be ‘good’ and ‘doing good’. The individual leader who is ‘good’ one day just as easily becomes ‘evil’ the next. This or that individual politician is occasionally outed as a lying bastard: the end justifies the means. In this way, the pragmatic outlook reduces all affairs of concern to the people to a personal level in which the evil nature of whatever or whomever is to be blamed for the failure to achieve success and prosperity. The underlying notion is that the people and their collectives are incapable of playing any independent role in society, of empowering themselves. This outlook becomes embraced even by the ‘left wing’ ‘opponent’. Instead of examining their own neo-liberal political program or the role of gutter journalism for their electoral shortcomings during the past election, the NDP and several trade union officials openly blamed the electorate for their poor showing and started public speculation about their leader’s personal future.” (See “The Nova Scotia Elections: A Media Above Society,” Shunpiking Online, August 2003. At the time I was writing in the context of a “scandal” orchestrated by the Halifax media around the driving record of then NDP leader Darrel Dexter for allegedly “lying” on a questionnaire about an impaired driving charge in his youth – a charge associated with bad judgment or indiscretions in his youth.)

One feature of this latest scandal is clear: it shows the space that the Ontario workers can independently occupy in the June provincial election to advance their demands against the anti-social, anti-national assault of the rich and their system. They must establish their own reference points and abandon once and for all the reference points the political parties of the rich and the monopoly media give themselves and seek to impose on the people. The times present an historic opportunity to step up the work for political renewal.

Notes

1 On the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Massive memorial march in Vancouver, February 14, 2014

The Trudeau government launched the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls on December 8, 2015. Since then, little has been done to expedite the work of the Inquiry in the manner warranted, given that for more than 40 years the families of the victims and their advocates have demanded the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls be solved. Its first hearings only began on May 30, 2017. The families of the victims and their advocates need justice and closure for the more than 4,000 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls recorded since the 1980s, and most importantly, to honour their memories by ensuring that this epidemic of violence against Indigenous women in Canada is ended.

Philip Fernandez had a good account in TML Weekly last June. He pointed out that despite hearings finally getting underway, a major concern has been the fact that from the get-go, the Trudeau Liberals imposed political control over the Inquiry and framed its mandate. The mandate was set to examine the “systemic causes of all forms of violence – including sexual violence – against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLBTQ throughout Canada; underlying social, economic, cultural, institutional and historical causes contributing to the ongoing violence and particular vulnerabilities of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLBTQ in Canada; and institutional policies and practices implemented in response to violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLBTQ in Canada, including the identification and examination of practices that have been effective in reducing violence and increasing safety.”

Nowhere does the Inquiry even acknowledge that the agencies and agents of the Crown actively commit violence against Indigenous women and girls today. As well, the very fact that the reasons why cases of missing women and girls continue to go unsolved are not to be investigated shows that the Inquiry is not serious. Efforts by the families and advocacy groups to raise their concerns about the mandate and the framework of the Inquiry, including its omission of the role of police, the Canadian state and its colonial relations with Indigenous peoples so as to ensure its success have been blocked. (See Philip Fernandez, “Do Not Let the Trudeau Government Off the Hook for the National Inquiry!,” TML Weekly, June 3, 2017 – No. 20, and “Families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and
Girls Refuse to be Sidelined,” TML Weekly, November 25, 2017 – No. 38)

2. “We live in a new era.”

In its pathetic editorial, the Globe argues, “Would he [Patrick Brown] have been forced out in a different era? One hopes so, but it doesn’t matter. We live in a new era.”

Can history be so easily dismissed and memory erased by verbal sleight of hand? HA case in point: former federal cabinet member and Nova Scotia Liberal premier Gerald Augustine Regan from 1970 to 1978 was alleged to have attacked some 36 women over a period of four decades and was exonerated in December 1998 on three charges. The alleged serial sexual predator continues to draw a lucrative pension and his son who inherited his seat in Halifax is speaker of the House of Commons. Reagan became extremely wealthy through politics, owning a 6-story apartment building in Ottawa among other things, such that he was able to afford Canada’s top criminal lawyer Edward Greenspan to “vindicate” himself. Since the infamous Regan case, how many politicians in Canada have been prosecuted for sexual violence and harassment?

What about all the other allegations against this bastard, namely those made by almost forty women? They were apparently referred to during the preliminary hearing in 1996, but the judge stayed further charges. Regan had such a sense of entitlement that he even argued that it was he who was the victim of Crown persecution. The judge at his trial agreed, and ordered a stay of nine “minor” (the judge’s word) sexual-assault charges, including a charge of fondling a 14-year-old babysitter.

Only after the jury pronounced its verdict was the publication ban lifted. Why they were silenced was the subject of Stephen Kimber’s investigative book, Not Guilty: The Trial of Gerald Regan, “Nearly three dozen women – baby-sitters, office staff, job seekers, law clients, reporters, party workers, a legislative page, even a corporate executive – had told police what seemed to be strikingly similar stories detailing how they’d allegedly been attacked by Regan over a forty-year period between the fifties and the nineties.” (Click here for Stephen’s website for more. For Deborah Seed’s review of Not Guilty from Shunpiking Magazine, click here.)

The real heroes in this case included Mike Marshall, who was a good friend of mine. Mike is a very modest, humble working man, who lived down North Street from our Shunpiking Magazine office, formerly active in the NDP. He personally wrote and hand-delivered a pamphlet as far back as the 1984 provincial elections to 6,000 of Regan’s constituents. He informed them that he knew some women whom their MP – ironically, then a federal cabinet minister in charge of women’s affairs – had allegedly assaulted. Interestingly, Mike told Stephen Kimber that no one had called him about the pamphlet’s claims. The claims weren’t reported in either the local or national media (local reporters, CBC executives, friends of female reporters), nor were they investigated by the police until 1993, nor did they lead to a lawsuit from Regan against Mike Marshall. A strange reaction? Indeed.

The free lunch afforded Regan was exceptional but then hardly. I had a similar reaction when I pitched a story to Atlantic Insight magazine in the early 1980s about corrupt real estate investments by Regan’s successor, John Buchanan, in his Spryfield constituency; ditto a story on how the organizers of the Nova Scotia Military Tattoo were personally profiting from the militarization of culture.

What has changed in the Nova Scotia legislature? Read this first-person account by a former legislative page, researcher and senior ministerial advisor titled “#MeToo: Politics & Misogyny in Three Acts.” It was posted today. History matters.

3. About Navigator Ltd.

“At the head of Navigator is Jaime Watt, who came to prominence by leading Mike Harris and his ‘Common Sense Revolution’ to election success in 1995 before resigning from the government over a past conviction for fraud. Unsurprisingly, Navigator Ltd.’s team includes a number of former Conservative (or PC) campaign managers and communications experts. Randy Dawson, one of the managing principals of the firm, helped lead Alison Redford’s Progressive Conservatives to victory in 2012, but the firm also helped cast a shadow on Redford’s troubled tenure when it was revealed that her government had granted two ‘sole-source’ contracts to the firm, which was against government policy…

“Navigator was hired by former Ontario Liberal attorney general Michael Bryant when he was charged with running over bike courier Darcy Sheppard in Toronto. Initially, the news reported on a high-powered lawyer running over a cyclist, inflaming cyclist-motorist division in Toronto. Soon, however, the media began reporting on Sheppard’s past: his problems with addiction, his anger management problems, the possibility that he might have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and his alleged drunken behaviour on the night of the accident. Navigator had been researching and giving tips to the media all along.” (Alan Jones, “A Look at Navigator Ltd., the $600-an-Hour PR Firm Jian Ghomeshi Hired,” vice.com, October 30, 2014)

4. On Trudeau’s progressive values

The Trudeau government has given itself the dishonourable task to convince women – who are in the front ranks of the opposition to aggression and war – to consider the “equal opportunity” offered for recruitment as soldiers, police or spies on behalf of NATO and its members. This is what it calls empowering women. This is criminal indeed. Internationally, Canada has a history of financing various projects to recruit and use women as a means to meddle in countries” internal affairs in the name of “empowerment.” Canada has been playing this card for some time by “training” women to participate in UN-facilitated peace negotiations as part of the anti-Syrian government opposition forces. See “Training the Syrian Opposition in the Name of Empowering Women,” TML Weekly, May 28, 2016.) The appointment of Canadian Clare Hutchinson to become NATO’s new Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security, which was announced at the 2017 Halifax International Security forum, is an attempt by NATO to give Canada credit for its nefarious activities and bolster its attempts to make war and aggression “progressive.”

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