Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Debbie Zimmerman's SLAPP suit fizzles!


Debbie Zimmerman is a well-known individual around the Niagara area and she has worked hard at trying to remain so. She is seen popping up at the Roundtable for CKTB, at the Niagara District Council of Women, or making speeches at A Better Niagara, a non-profit citizens group with executive director Ed Smith. From time to time you may see a letter to the editor published by Ms. Zimmerman. Her curriculum vitae can be considered fairly impressive: from 1989 to 2014 she represented Grimsby on Niagara Regional Council, and for two terms, 1997 through to 2003, as Regional Chair. Currently, she is the CEO of the Grape Growers of Ontario. In addition to these impressive achievements Debbie Zimmerman might be called a SLAPPer.

Today most have heard the term SLAPP suits or the Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. It is a weapon used to shut down public discussion on matters of public interest by those usually who fear the truth. Often it is journalists and publishers who find themselves slammed with SLAPP suits to shut down and withdraw any article which raises uncomfortable questions or uncovers information which is preferred to remain in a closet.

The Ontario government passed the Protection of Public Participation Act in 2015. This was an attempt to help defendants of these lawsuits to seek to have those actions dismissed in a relatively expedient and less expensive manner. Sadly the operative word though is “relatively,” as the cost of any legal action is extremely high. Journalists working in the traditional hemisphere of publishing giants are protected by their publishers. They can now argue a new defense called “responsible communication” provided by the Supreme Court of Canada in two rulings in 2008 and 2009, WIC Radio Ltd. v Simpson and Grant v Torstar Corp.

Yet the threat of a lawsuit still is a difficult and a daunting issue to deal with, even with a publisher at one's back with deep pockets. Winning a lawsuit such as this only brings potential relief for legal costs and nothing else. The plaintiff who files the SLAPP suit faces no other consequences for their allegations. So the independent journalist, the blogger, faces a greater risk when slammed with a lawsuit. Whether mainstream journalists like it or not it is a fact that serious bloggers or independent journalists are providing real news and sometimes news that the mainstream scribes decide to censor. As such these individuals are at a greater risk to the threat of a SLAPP suit.

One independent journalist, Jessie Brown, who had established CANADALAND in 2013, a news site and podcast breaking stories that traditional or mainstream journalists would not, understands the looming threat of SLAPP suits. In an interview with Columbia Journalism Review, ('Jessie Brown punctures Canada's media bubble', by Simon Liem Jan/Feb 2015), Jessie Brown spoke of a decision he had to make whether to publish or not. Brown had been given information by an anonymous source alleging that CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi had been using his fame to lure and sexually assault women. Without hesitation Brown knew that if he published what he had uncovered he would be sued and “characterized as a crackpot blogger.” Rather than risk a crippling lawsuit Jessie Brown took all his information to Keven Donovan a leading investigative journalist with The Toronto Star. Eventually, an article by Brown and Donovan regarding Ghomeshi was published, and the rest is history. There was an ensuing trial and in 2016 Ghomeshi was acquitted of five of the charges and he signed a peace bond and aplogised to his accuser on the sixth. Jessie Brown knew what a SLAPP suit would do to him, his family and the story itself.

As publisher and journalist of my website, Mayorgate, I have on several occasions broken stories that local media refused to do. I have also often spoken loudly against the self-imposed censorship of news by the only real newspaper in this town, the St. Catharines Standard. Granted there is Niagara This Week, a paper which is delivered free to homes once a week, but the real news is expected to be provided by The Standard. Simply put the public has the absolute right to know what is happening in their community from a free and unbiased press, and that is a cornerstone to a true democracy. Mayorgate's goal is to provide news, information, and commentary; to stimulate discussion and questions without allegiance to anyone's policies or agenda.

Rumours had been floating of an alleged affair between the Mayor of St. Catharines at the time, Brian McMullan and Regional Councillor Debbie Zimmerman. As rumors are often unverifiable Mayorgate avoided paying attention, until in early 2014 a brown paper envelope was left at my work station whilst I was at lunch. The contents of this envelope were a shock to read. It was a copy of the divorce papers filed by Patricia Ruth McMullan, the now ex-wife of Mayor Brian McMullan.

What were rumours now found absolute and undeniable substance in legal fact as per filed court papers. The questions this raised were enormous. Both Brian McMullan as Mayor and Councillor Zimmerman sat on regional council, just the issue of conflict of interest was alarming. Reading those divorce papers and the allegations by Mrs. McMullan raised even more dangerously alarming questions.

I published an article titled 'Degradation of Public Office' on May 19th 2014. In early June a Notice of Action in the form of a letter, dated June 2nd, 2014 from Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP, signed by Jordan Goldblatt on behalf of his client Debbie Zimmerman was received. This is where I should clarify what I meant as being a SLAPPer. It was never anything so gauche or kinky as slapping literally. Debbie Zimmerman now joined the myriad of individuals who find the need to remove the public's ability to know the truth and to discuss or question events. This was news, real news and without a doubt of public interest. This action was simply designed to threaten, harass and intimidate so that the article was removed and an apology provided to Debbie Zimmerman. Though it was no ordinary threat or accusation of defamation, it went further to threaten with a Criminal Code complaint under S. 298.

The Criminal Code of Canada under s. 298(1) – Defamatory Libel states, “A defamatory libel is a matter published, without lawful justification or excuse, that is likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or that is designed to insult the person of or concerning whom it is published.” Further as s. 300 – Punishment of Libel know to be false, states, “Everyone who publishes a defamatory libel that he knows is false is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.”

Debbie Zimmerman threatened me with potential imprisonment for raising questions that any reasonable individual would have a right to ask. These questions were not based on rumours but on court-filed documents. This made me wonder if I was in Egypt or Saudi Arabia and Zimmerman was a princess. The threat in writing was followed by a Statement of Claim, to which I responded with a Statement of Defense, and an article on Mayorgate, not an apology.

Mayorgate's article 'Debbie Zimmerman Attacks Mayorgate' made the threat public. After the claim by Zimmerman and my defence were filed the following five years remained silent. There was no exchange of affidavits of documents, no discoveries or court dates for trial. Silence remained until the Ontario Superior Court of Justice sent me an Order Dismissing Action for Delay dated the 11th of June 2019. 



Threat of potential imprisonment hung over me for five years. The Protection of Public Participation Act as useful as taking an aspirin for a broken leg. Zimmerman's fear of the truth or public questioning reached a crescendo only to fizzle out like a pricked balloon. To add, Zimmerman's five years of silence after the commencement of legal action was also The Standard's censorship of the news.

Much later the Standard did publish a letter to the editor written by Debbie Zimmerman which begins with “Abraham Lincoln once compared elections to a fire.” One might think this a slightly ambiguous phrase possibly, or maybe President Lincoln said more to put it into context? Maybe Zimmerman extracted her shortened version from these words by Abraham Lincoln; “Elections belong to the people. It's their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” No ambiguity here, none at all. Whatever quote she got it from she continues in her letter to say that women in politics “faced a heightened scrutiny our male counterparts did not,” and finished “women in politics became more effective leaders because the electorate was so closely scrutinizing who we were.”

Zimmerman's letter was published on October 17th, 2018 and a nagging question remains, is it the scrutiny or the fire that she fears? That fear took another step towards the sublime by naming a local activist Fred Bracken as a co-defendant in her legal claim against me. It appeared that Mr. Bracken besides posting a comment on my article, as anyone may, had tweeted several times questioning the alleged affair, and linked my article to it. Now anyone in Canada for that matter, even China, has the legal right to read any article that I had written and if they wish attach it anywhere. As long as they don't claim they wrote it. Zimmerman decided that through his actions Mr. Bracken had republished my Mayorgate article.

Naming Mr. Bracken as a co-defendant to me, especially as I had no association with him whatsoever, had me wonder what kind of fixation did Zimmerman have on him? Really it was not an odd question as Maryanne Firth of The Standard gave it more credence with her article, 'Trespass notice ruled a charter violation' published November 26th, 2015. Maryanne Firth writes, “In her affidavit Zimmerman alleged Bracken also made unfounded allegations regarding her personal life,” Firth further claims that court documents allege that Bracken was standing in the public gallery and “asked Zimmerman why she was suing him personally because of an article he had written about her.”

Bracken had not written any article about Zimmerman and was being sued as a co-defendant in my lawsuit as already explained. Who gave this information to Maryanne Firth of The Standard? Firth eludes to some “court documents” but what does she mean? Was it the lawsuit? Was it a simple empty affidavit? Exactly what was Maryanne Firth saying here? People rely on clarity from a newspaper, facts that are verifiable, something tangible. All of that may be true, but the Standard was the newspaper that ensured not a word of the alleged affair or divorce of former Mayor Brian McMullan reached the public's ears. If that's not censorship than someone please explain what is the English meaning of the word.

Before any yelping squeezes from the Standard's editors or 'journos' for my comments, I will impart more information. I interviewed Patricia McMullan, the ex-Mrs. Brian McMullan, in a Tim Hortons in Thorold with a witness present. This interview took place on the 9th of January 2016, lasting one hour, 54 minutes and 33 seconds. How am I so precise? The interview was recorded. Patricia McMullan provided some disturbing information, and one thing that she said was that she went to see Doug Herod of The Standard. Doug always thought he was clever or funny in his style of commentary, but here he listened to all Patricia McMullan had to say, looked at all she had brought him and then said, there was nothing he could do. These were the words of the ex-Mrs. McMullan to me.

Debbie Zimmerman's panic or desire to shut down any public comment apparently still exists today. On May of 2019 something popped up on Twitter. The handle was @HarajukuNiagara – Niagara4Now, and the tweet read: “Grant's claim to fame: an award for “investigative journalism” err publishing illegally supplied closed session info. Debbie's claim to fame? Turner? Expensing hotel bills to taxpayers for a lover's tryst? #sad #nobailout.” This tweet had Zimmerman tagged.





Within a very short time Niagara4Now's tweet was removed and was not seen again, and under the handle @HarajukuNiagara the account had been renamed HND. Now these are only presumptions and who knows what is fact here. Is the Grant referred to Grant Lafleche of the Standard? Did Grant LaFleche threaten the mysterious Niagara4Now? Or was the Debbie referred to in the tweet Debbie Zimmerman? What hotel bills could have been “expensing” to taxpayers? There is a tag @dzimmermangrap1, is that a possible clue? Since Niagara4Now has disappeared was he or she threatened by Debbie Zimmerman just like I was? Questions without answers, or at least none that Debbie Zimmerman will provide if asked.

Zimmerman through her lawyer Jordan Goldblatt of Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP issued, served and filed a threat through the courts. Zimmerman used the justice system as her personal threat tool she pulled out of her handbag, as she might a stick of lipstick. I did not aplogise. I wanted to go into court. I wanted to gather all the evidence needed to defend myself against Debbie Zimmerman's allegations and threats. Zimmerman decided to let the court dismiss her action after five years. Now the question is, does our justice system provide consequences for such intentional threats?

Zimmerman paraphrases President Lincoln but I prefer this quote from Marie Henein, (Senior partner at Henein Hutchinson LLP), a very well known Canadian lawyer when she appeared at IdeaCity's annual conference in June 2019. Ms. Henein said: “That's what its about, all under the guise that this, an elected official is the true voice of the people. That's a scam, friends, a complete and utter scam, snake oil.”




Sunday, October 14, 2018

Niagara Regional Housing: another regional authority under question

Public housing struggles to meet the needs of the community in every part of Canada. In the Niagara Region the Niagara Regional Housing Authority, NRH, oversees this task. The NRH is an arm of the Regional Municipality of Niagara even though it operates as an authority with its own board of directors. Funding for the NRH is primarily provided by the Niagara Region at approximately 60%, and both provincial and federal governments provide some 17% with a balance coming from its own operations through rents. At the end of the day 80% of the NRH operating budget is public money; taxpayers' dollars.

The NRH mission statement as read on its website claims “to expand opportunities that make affordable housing an integral part of building healthy and sustainable communities in Niagara.” Its strategic plan for 2013-2016 states that the “NRH demonstrates our commitment to this vision and to Regional Council's focus on Niagara as a healthy community, that supports a safe, healthy, diverse culturally rich community where people of all ages and incomes enjoy a high quality of life.”

Seniors' residences comprise approximately 45% of the public housing the NRH oversees, some they own and operate but the majority are semi-private and are funded by the NRH. Staff at the NRH whether management or not are public employees paid by the public purse. So an authority such as the NRH funded by the taxpayers' dollars would be expected to be answerable to public scrutiny, and to be diligent in overseeing its responsibility in shepherding public money. Well, in theory, yes, in practice it has left serious and alarming questions needing answers.

The Paderewski Society Home in St. Catharines is one such semi-private seniors home. It's life began as a vision of one man, Leopold Skorski, and is a registered non-profit society with a set of by-laws and an elected volunteer board of directors. Although it is a registered non-profit organisation its operational funding is entirely provided by Niagara Regional Housing, which is public money. Much as been written on this website relating to the Paderewski, with the most recent article detailing the trial completed late 2017.

As members of a society, we are aware that if we unlawfully take something that does not belong to us we will face an investigation and consequences. In the case of the Paderewski, a Superior Court justice said in his decision that the Purchasing and Tendering Policy had been breached. That same justice said the by-laws of the Society had been breached and the policies of the NRH. He called this very suspicious. A Forensic Auditor, Robert Forsyth, stated under oath fraud had been committed. Should this not be enough for a full police investigation and the guilty face consequences? Public money had been stolen and the NRH fully aware of this fact and nothing has happened.

After the trial, emails were sent to Niagara Regional Chair Alan Caslin and the current Chair of the NRH, Henry D'Angela advising them of the Superior Court's Justice decision and the testimony of Auditor Robert Forsyth. Remember the NRH is predominately funded by Niagara Region's tax dollars. Chair Alan Caslin has never responded, Chair of NRH Henry D'Angela on July 10th 2018 confirmed by email that he had forwarded the concerns regarding fraud to staff. His email had two names which he had c.c'd: Donna Woiceshyn, CEO and Shelly Upton. On July 12th 2018, Shelly Upton, Manager Housing Programs responded stating: “I have had an opportunity to review the Superior Court decision attached to your email as well as our files and records involving the Paderewski Society Home.” She continued that the NRH “has investigated allegations of improper spending at Paderewski on several occasions since 2009. Following each investigation NRH wrote to the Board of Directors of Paderewski confirming that no financial irregularities had been found.” Shelly Upton finished by saying that NRH “considers the complaint regarding the purchasing and tendering processes related to the fencing installed in 2011 closed.” Chair D'Angela referred to Shelly Upton July 10th at 1:13 pm., Shelly Upton closed the files July 12 at 7:20 pm. This had to have been a truly exhaustive review of records and files, although Upton did not surprise anyone.

Regional Chair Caslin's lack of interest in the fraud of public money is not so surprising with all he has had hang over him. First, there was the information of Alan Caslin's personal association with Justice Edwards who had heard a Motion filed against the Niagara Region, and a ruling in favour of the Region. Then there was the feeding frenzy by regional councillors in grabbing personal property belonging to a journalist and a private citizen. In this case, the Ombudsman slammed the Region after its investigation. Finally, there is the whole question of the hiring of Region's CEO Carmen D'Angelo. Yet Caslin and the NRH not caring about fraud is hard to accept, unless one reviews evidence put forward during the trial.


Entered into public record were minutes of the Paderewski Society Home board meeting on November 13th 2013. Present at the meeting was Lorraine Small, a manager with the NRH, and a manager who had supposedly looked into allegations of financial irregularities. Ms. Small advised the Board in November of 2013 to take legal action against Leopold Skorski to shut him up and stop him from asking any more questions. Lorraine Small is a public employee, paid with public money yet how did she have the legal right to provide such advice? Legal action was taken by the Board of the Paderewski against Leopold Skorski, Alexander Davidoff and Alexandra Davidoff in February of 2014.

Further testimony was provided by Stella Fensom, building manager at the Paderewski during the trial in 2017 who is the center of the questions of fraud, that Laura Beckwith another manager at the NRH at the time, handed over a copy of a letter written to the RHRA by defendant Alexander Davidoff. The Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority is a provincial body established to assist seniors in many facets of their lives. This provincial authority sent a copy of the letter they received to the NRH so that they look into the issues raised. Under no circumstances was anyone at the NRH permitted by law to provide a copy of the letter to a private non-government body who they advised to take legal action to silence questions being asked. Chair of the NRH at the time, Shirley Cordiner admitted to sharing the letter and then said she ordered all files to be deleted. Does that smell a little of the provincial Liberals and McGuinty? Paderewski lawyer at the time, Rachel Slingerland of Martens Lingard, refers to the illegally obtained letter in her Notice of Action dated February 27th 2014.

Shirley Cordiner, former NRH Chair went further writing a letter dated December 18th 2013 in which she stated that all the allegations made, in particular relating to two contracts: the Gale Force Fencing and Glen Paul, who had been investigated and no irregularities found. Both the judge at trial in 2017 and the Forensic Auditor Robert Forsyth found massive irregularities. Robert Forsyth called it fraud and Justice Henderson called it very suspicious and a breach of the Purchasing & Tendering Policy.

The timeline in all of these actions by the NRH staff is of crucial legal importance and raises the possibility of questions of complicity in the fraud. Can there be another explanation and can there be an explanation of why no investigation has been conducted of the fraud? Niagara regional staff had become involved directly in a legal action by a third party who is financed by public money. This same third party was improperly investigated by the NRH staff for fraud.


Questions relating to the absolute lack of interest in fraud of public money do not stop with the NRH or the regional government of Niagara. Malte von Anrep, Q.C, with Lancaster, Brooks and Welch LLP, and the lawyer for the Paderewski founder, Leo Skorski, wrote Mayor Walter Sendzik of St. Catharines on May 11th 2018. Mayor Sendzik did not bother to reply.

Chris Bittle is the federal representative for the Trudeau Liberals in St. Catharines, and a former lawyer with Lancaster, Brooks and Welch. An email was sent July 3rd 2018, stating out the details of the fraud and offering to make available all the legal documents. Niagara Regional Housing is in part funded by the federal government, MP Chris Bittle pops his face into photo-ops, and more importantly, Chris Bittle does not shy from public comment about local issues. Several months ago when a public storm broke in relation to a regional councillor from Niagara, MP Bittle played out his attack against the councillor publicly. That issue had nothing to do with a federal politician. Now he is silent, why?

The provincial elections swept the Liberals out of Queens' Park and brought forward two local former St. Catharines councillors into the glamour of provincial politics. Both Jeff Burch and Jenny Stevens were Merritton Ward Councillors and both have been elected as NDP representatives, and both have been featured in articles in Mayorgate.

Jeff Burch as a councillor found himself under investigation by Integrity Commissioner Suzanne Craig for lying to City Council. Craig was not able to complete her investigation but in her final report she clearly stated that she had not cleared Jeff Burch of these very serious allegations. Today Burch struts as the NDP Municipal Affairs Critic and on August 7th 2018 an email was sent to him relating to the fraud with a link to Justice Henderson's decision. The NDP, the New Democratic Party, which attacks the sitting Conservative government of Doug Ford has shown no care at all for fraud of the public purse. Burch has not responded to the email.
Fellow NDP representative Jenny Stevens, like Burch, was a former St. Catharines councillor, and in the 2010 municipal elections claimed to go out at night to fix plumbing for constituents. Jenny Stevens is also rather famous for her telephone answering machine message where she confirmed that the former Mayor of St. Catharines, Brian McMullan had fixed a fine for a resident. Stevens is Veterans Legions, and Military Affairs Critic and like compadre Burch she manages to pop out of her seat now and again to poke at the Ford government. She also received an email on August 7th 2018, and like Burch, Stevens ignored everything. The NDP is the official opposition in Ontario and it has much to say about the government, yet the NDP has shown that public money is not an issue of concern.

As a last resort, a letter was sent to Premier Doug Ford with the Justice Henderson Ruling and Robert Forsyth Testimony. Little expectation remained as previously both the NDP's Jeff Burch and Jenny Stevens, and the Federal Liberals through Chris Bittle ignored this very serious situation. A letter arrived dated September 17th 2018 signed by MPP Steve Clark, the Minister for Municipal Affairs. Minister Clark begins his letter with, “Premier Doug Ford has forwarded to me your letter regarding your concerns with the Niagara Regional Housing Authority.” Premier Ford had not ignored the material sent to him and through his minister, Steve Clark provided guidance and confirmation for the next steps to be taken.










It is difficult to understand how fraud by a non-profit seniors' housing provider be ignored, particularly when identified by a Superior Court Justice and a Forensic Auditor. The local newspapers The Standard, Niagara this Week and its editors have decided to censor all information relating to this, local regional government and its housing authority have closed their files, provincial opposition and the federal representative simply ignore everything; yet the Charter of Rights guarantees equality of law and this cannot be permitted to simply fade. Answers are demanded to serious questions and they need to be sought out.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Paderewski Society Home battle continues

The Paderewski Society Home for seniors in St. Catharines, Ontario, is a nicely kept residence where seniors from Polish background can spend their twilight years. It was the dream of one man, Mr. Leo Skorski, a Polish immigrant to Canada, who worked hard and did well for his family. Leo wanted to find a way to give back to the community which gave him and his family so much. As a result, the Paderewski Society Home came to life providing a clean well run seniors residence.

Today Leo Skorski, a man in his early 90's, sharp and full of life as ever, continues a fight which began in February of 2014. After the Paderewski was built and all the legalities completed Skorski served as the Board President for several years, transferring his uncompromising integrity and honesty from his personal and business life to the running of the seniors home. Eventually, Skorski became a resident at the Home and as the by-laws of the Home required, he had to step down from his position as the President of the Board of Directors. Although he stepped down as president he had not relinquished his concerns as to how the Home was run.


By 2009 the questions surrounding the actions of the Board of Directors of the Paderewski and the building manager Stella Fensom had grown immensely for Skorski, he enlisted the help of friend and Queen's Council, Mr. Malte von Anrep from the law firm of Lancaster, Brooks and Welch to find satisfactory answers. For some five years, Malte von Anrep on behalf of his friend and client made attempts to find satisfactory answers to the serious questions raised. The solicitor representing the Paderewski, Rachel Slingerland of Martens Lingard LLP, provided responses that to Skorski seemed ambiguous at best. Numerous attempts at communication with Niagara Regional Housing who funds over 90% of the operating budget of the Paderewski Society Home equally proved fruitless to Malte von Anrep and Leo Skorski.

Finally, in late 2013 Skorski was introduced to me, publisher of Mayorgate by Niagara Regional Councillor Andy Petrowski. Interviews with Leo Skorski and his lawyer Malte von Anrep, attempts at obtaining comment from Paderewski Building Manager, Stella Fensom which had been left unanswered, reviewing dozens of documents including responses by Niagara Regional Housing; all provided the basis for an article. Prior to publishing, I had contacted the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority – a provincial body – relating to matters affecting seniors and the operation of seniors' residences. In addition to the RHRA, I contacted the Minister for Seniors Affairs seeking advice on the issues raised by Leo Skorski.

An article titled, 'Seniors Languish in Intimidation' was published in late January 2014. February saw three Notice of Action documents prepared and served by lawyer, Rachel Slingerland of Martens Lingard LLP claiming defamation. The three recipients were: Leo Skorski, Alexandra Davidoff, daughter of Alexander Davidoff, and Alexander Davidoff, publisher of Mayorgate. It was no surprise that questions raised in the article by Leo Skorski needed to be silenced but Alexandra Davidoff had no connection to the article. Her only connection to this website – Mayorgate – was to produce as an artist on occasion caricatures to articles. This was a clear attempt at intimidation and nothing else.

Once the Notice of Action was delivered the games began and continued for over three and a half years. Paderewski's lawyer, Rachel Slingerland, attempted to stall or stop a forensic audit from being conducted, she attempted to refuse to have Paderewski Board President, Sabina Glowacki from being questioned under the Examination procedure. Most notable of all was the refusal by Rachel Slingerland to examine Alexandra Davidoff as part of the Examination for Discovery process. And the refusal was clear, Slingerland knew that no evidence existed against Alexandra Davidoff.

Then in 2017, Rachel Slingerland, of Martens Lingard LLP walked away from the Paderewski as clients and a new lawyer took over the baton. Taking over the carnival was lawyer Zijad Saskin of Broderick and Partners LLP. A trial date was finally set and the trial judge was Justice J.R. Henderson.

It was a trial that lasted nine days, beginning on July 31st 2017 with testimony provided by President of the Board Sabina Glowacki, Board Member Tony Sotola, Building Manager Stella Fensom and Forensic Auditor Robert Forsyth. At question was the issue of Defamation and did the defendants harm the reputation of the Paderewski Society Home by making comments that were absolutely untrue in the article published on Mayorgate.

Defamation Law has changed dramatically since the Supreme Court decision in Grant v. Torstar Corp, 2009. Until this decision, the protection of reputation was the key to defamation action. Now a new defense had been brought forward that of responsible communication about matters of public interest.

A trial is pretty much like a game, and that is not said with any disrespect for the law or our system of justice; Law and its administration is a key component to a democratic society, still, the analogy presented is hard to ignore. The key players are the lawyers who do not play for any permanent team, their companies are nothing more than agents. Their mantra is in the best interest of the client, and as long as they are paid that is apparently the only rulebook.

In this case, the best interest of the client involved the malicious and vexatious prosecution of an individual even when both lawyers were fully aware that no evidence existed. Rachel Slingerland of Martens Lingard issued her Notice of Action in February 2014 and was immediately told that the defendant, Alexandra Davidoff, had no involvement with the Mayorgate website or the articles written and published. Rachel Slingerland had to have a motive for this act, after all, she is supposedly university trained and had passed the Bar.

Rachel Slingerland left the firm Martens Lingard and another lawyer from Broderick & Partners LLP, Zijad Saskin took over the file as the Paderewski lawyer. Saskin in taking the file would have had to review everything and would be fully aware that the action against one of the defendants was nothing more than intimidation but apparently the law mattered little to Zijad Saskin. On August 3rd 2017 the morning of the fourth day of the trial Justice J.R. Henderson said, “First of all, with respect to the Plaintiff's case against Alexandra Davidoff, in my view, there is no evidence that has been presented by the Plaintiff at this trial that would justify the claim against this defendant. Therefore the action against Alexandra Davidoff is dismissed.” (as per official transcript by Carol A. MacLean, Certified Court Transcriptionist).

Moments prior to dismissing the action Justice J.R. Henderson said, “I certainly have a question as to the evidence against Miss Davidoff,” to which Zijad Saskin representing the Paderewski Society Home responded. “As, I mean, as far as I'm concerned Your Honour, I, I would agree with your finding that there is no evidence against Miss Davidoff and as far as I am concerned, I would consent to an order dismissing the action against Miss Davidoff.” (from trial transcript by Carol A. MacLean, Certified Court Transcriptionist).


The trial continued with a judgment by Justice J.R. Henderson provided on the 3rd of November 2017. After reading the reasoning for judgment one can't help but burst into a rendition of the well-known song by Meatloaf, “Two Out of Three Aint Bad.” In this case, the plaintiff is a non-profit corporation, run by a volunteer board of directors, and “funding for the operation comes from NRH,” (page 3, paragraph 11, Justice J.R. Henderson, Reasons for Judgment – Introduction). Simply put the plaintiff, Paderewski Society Home, is a non-profit organisation solely funded by public money granted through a regional government body, the Niagara Regional Housing Authority.

At trial were three defendants: first was Leopold Skorski, a retired and successful businessman, who came up with the concept of a seniors' home for individuals of Polish heritage. He raised the financing, completed all the government red tape and built the Paderewski. He then served as the first president of the Board from its opening in 1991 to July 2007. Defendant Alexander Davidoff, the publisher of Mayorgate, interviewed Leo Skorski, then his lawyer Malte von Anrep, Q.C., of Lancaster, Brooks & Welch, gathered documents from various sources particularly the NRH and the plaintiff's legal representative. The third defendant; Alexandra Davidoff, had the action dismissed against her by Justice Henderson.

Skorski raised a number of questions about the monthly financial statements, tenant concerns, and the operation of the Paderewski Home. He enlisted the aid of Malte von Anrep, Q.C., and took these concerns to Niagara Regional Housing. At best he saw the responses he got as inadequate, Skorski then turned to Mayorgate in an attempt to bring public attention to the serious issues he felt were left unanswered. Justice Henderson at paragraph 6 in his decision states, “The Mayorgate article is the essence of the complaint in this action.”

Defamation Law is based on the principle that the plaintiff must prove that the words were reasonably capable of a meaning that can injure a plaintiff's reputation, and Justice Henderson says as much in paragraph 20 of his decision. At paragraph 147, Justice J.R. Henderson states: “I must consider the nature of the reputation that has been lost. In my view, given the financial irregularities, the Board's mishandling of Skorski's complaints, and the Board's questionable conduct at the AGM, the reputation of the Paderewski Home has been tarnished by its own actions. This was not a pristine well-run organisation at the time of the publication of the Mayorgate article.”

Further at paragraph 146, Justice Henderson writes, “I must look at the conduct of the plaintiff. In my view, Skorski was right to confront the Board about financial irregularities, but the Board mishandled and ignored his complaints. If the Board had reasonably considered Skorski's criticism, these matters may not have escalated to the point of the Mayorgate article. That is, Skorski went to the media only after his criticisms, some of which were accurate, had been ignored by the Board and the public authority.”

Then at paragraph 144, Justice Henderson writes, “given that there is public funding of the Paderewski Home, the allegations of tenant abuse may affect the plaintiff's source of public funds, and may also affect its reputation in the community to the extent that possible private fundraising may be suppressed.” What private fundraising is Justice Henderson eluding to when at paragraph 11 he confirms that the funding of the operation is provided by Niagara Regional Housing? At paragraph 146 he writes that Skorski had been ignored by public authorities, and by “public authorities” he meant the NRH, (Niagara Regional Housing). Several exhibits had been provided at trial, such as the letter from NRH Chair Shirley Cordiner where supposedly NRH staff conducted investigations and found nothing wrong at the Paderewski. The most alarming of all was a copy of the Paderewski Home Minutes of the Board of Directors Meeting of November 13th 2013, where it states, “Ms. L. Small from NRH visited the office on November 6, 2013” and then on page two, “Ms. Small suggested that the board again consider taking legal action against Mr. L. Skorski for harassment.”


Paderewski Society Home Minutes, November 13, 2013, part of trial exhibit #3, at tab L and on public record

There is a great deal more to question in the Justice Henderson decision. At trial, evidence had been provided by Forensic Auditor Robert Forsyth who had conducted an audit of the Paderewski Home. Forsyth testified that he felt on a balance of probabilities that there had been civil fraud, and in the opening to paragraph 66 Justice Henderson writes, “I specifically accept Forsyth's opinion that the Board violated its own internal Purchasing and Tendering Policy (PTP) in relation to the GFC contract.”

Through paragraphs 68 to 72 Justice Henderson discusses the GFC contract that spiraled to some $30,000. At paragraph 69 Justice Henderson writes, “I agree with Forsyth that this transaction is very suspicious.” Then further, “I also agree that the acceptance of the original GFC repair bid constitutes a violation of the plaintiff's own PTP.” At paragraph 70, “This again is a violation of the PTP of the plaintiff.” then again in paragraph 71, “Again the Board violated the plaintiff's own PTP” and finally paragraph 72, “Accordingly, I find the plaintiff violated its own internal regulations and failed to operate as directed by the NRH, with respect to the GFC contract.”

Following discussions of the GFC contract, Justice Henderson moved to the issues of Glen Paul, “the manager's carpenter”. In paragraphs 76 to 86 Justice Henderson dissects the contract which amounted to over $10,000. He begins writing again, “This is a clear violation of the PTP” at paragraph 76, then he says that Stella Fensom, the building manager, claimed that the privacy screen contract was a custom job and could only be done by Paul, to which Justice Henderson adds, “but those reasons were never recorded, and in fact are clearly untrue.” Further at paragraph 78, Justice Henderson writes that Fensom “deviated from the proper rules in so many ways, and then failed to disclose that she had a connection to the contractor is extremely suspicious.”

Justice Henderson raises the fact that the directives of the NRH were violated by Stella Fensom and the Board of the plaintiff in paragraphs 79 and 80. In paragraph 81 he begins with, “there are suspicious circumstances surrounding the payment to Paul,” then he writes at paragraph 84, “Finally, and significantly, the entire Paul contract is suspect because Paul is the brother of Fensom's daughter-in-law. Moreover, despite questions from Skorski and from Forsyth during the investigation, Fensom denied that she had a family connection to Paul until shortly before the start of the trial. I accept Forsyth's view that the fact that Fensom deviated from the proper rules in so many ways, and then failed to disclose that she had a connection to the contractor is extremely suspicious.”

Justice Henderson states Forsyth testified that there had been civil fraud but that he did not accept Forsyth's ultimate conclusion that fraud occurred. He said, “the missing elements of civil fraud are the proof of a loss to the victim (plaintiff) and the benefit to the fraudster (Fensom).” It can be taken then that Justice Henderson saw the Board of the Paderewski as the possible victim and building manager Stella Fensom as the fraudster.

Robert Forsyth provided lengthy testimony at the trial, and on page 9 of the trial's transcript it reads: “A Supreme Court case, a judge summarized four elements of civil fraud. Here I'm going to use the words Paderewski and Ms. Fentom [sic], Fensom. So a false representation was made by Ms. Fensom or somebody else in, in Paderewski. Some knowledge of that, that representation being false was known to, they call them the defendant. The false representation caused someone to act and there was a loss.” The Supreme Court case Forsyth referred to was from Bruno Appliance and Hryniak. Further at page 40 of the transcript, Forsyth says, “As a civil expert, I can deal with what I'm given but I don't have the power to compel bank statements. I don't have the power to, to speak to all of the contractees and distant people. I could only speak to Ms. Fensom and the Board so I could not follow up on things that I might otherwise have done.” He continued in response to a question by Malte von Anrep, “What I had was consistently being told he was met at the Royal Canadian Legion. There was no connection. There had been no situation where they met socially other than I think it was at Cat's Caboose, and at other places. That, that's what I was given to understand. Well, now there's a connection, a connection that seemingly was denied. So, first of all, that tends to make me even more dubious of any explanations offered by Ms. Fensom. Secondly, if, as I understand it, Ms. Fensom's son was married to the sister of Paul, that in a way provides motivation. It supplies the missing link.”

Forsyth further said, “on the balance of probabilities, makes me conclude that there was fraud, using my earlier definition of fraud, where now – excuse for me for one second – for now I, I know that there's a false representation. I know that, that Ms. Fensom knew or ought to know that, that there is some facts, material facts that weren't there. Paderewski did the contract because of Ms. Fensom's providing the information and that there was a loss. So I have apparently all the elements of a civil fraud.”

Robert Forsyth has a Masters in Social Psychology, an MBA in Management Science. He is a Certified General Accountant, a CFI, and in 2000 was certified as a forensic investigator. Since 2003 all his work has been in forensic accounting. He has been involved in ninety investigations or consulting assignments either for the Government of Ontario Ministries or for various lawyers in private practice, and an expert witness in ten court or arbitration cases. Forsyth was contracted by Niagara Regional Housing to prepare and deliver seminars on fraud and ways to prevent it and how to audit and investigate for fraud. Justice Henderson did not accept Forsyth's conclusion on fraud at the Paderewski.

Justice Henderson would not accept the word fraud, he preferred to say that the transactions were very suspicious and that the PTP had been breached. Then he turned his attention to the Annual General Meeting in his decision. Beginning with paragraph 92 through to 95 he dissects the By-Law of the plaintiff, the Paderewski, and the process that provides for the election of the Board. At paragraph 96 Justice Henderson says, “Accordingly, I accept that Skorski and his group had reason to believe that they were eligible to participate in the meeting, vote in the election, and run for office, provided they were not tenants of the Paderewski Home.” This has been said by Leo Skorski for several years and the facts he provided for the original article.

The conclusion to paragraph 96 was more of an eye-opener, “I do not make any finding as to whether the results of the 2013 election were valid, but I find that the decision by Glowacki to terminate the meeting, and prohibit Skorski and his group from participation was an irregularity in the process.” So once again Justice Henderson agrees with Skorski and now that's two out of three, and Meatloaf is about to sing... but wait, this is Justice Henderson.

In relation to potential tenant abuse or neglect, paragraph 97 shows where Justice Henderson was going. He writes, “The only tenant of Paderewski who testified at this trial was Skorski, and he testified that he did not live in fear at the Paderewski Home and that he had not been the subject of any abuse. Thus, any evidence of abuse of tenants by a Board member or by Fensom is hearsay evidence, and must be treated with caution.”

Hearsay evidence is tricky and when a judge makes such a statement it would be expected the statement is carried to both sides, here in this case, it did not appear to be by Justice Henderson. First, Skorski had fought for over ten years to bring the truth to the surface, and at age 91, he was threatened with eviction. Three main individuals: Mr. Janusz Zelichowski, Ms. Helen Cholawski and Mr. Dolbaczuk who spoke out and provided written statements, had all passed away before the trial had begun, others were hesitant to speak to an outsider.

Tony Sotola testified regarding the incident with tenant Zelichowski. At paragraph 104 Justice Henderson writes, “I find that Sotola did not do anything wrong to start the confrontation and that Zelichowski inappropriately responded by striking Sotola with his cane.” During his testimony Board Member Tony Sotola was asked by Malte von Anrep, “I'm not asking whether they convinced you to call the police or not, I'm saying to you, suggesting to you that nowhere in either your version of the events or Mr. Zelichowski's version of the, of the events, is there any mention of you being struck by a cane. Isn't that a fact?” Tony Sotola responded with, “That's a fact.”


In the end, Justice Henderson says at paragraph 116, “the statements in the Mayorgate article about tenant abuse and neglect are not substantially true,” and at 117 “I also find the statements in the Gestapo letter are not justified.” The meaning of the word substantially used by Justice Henderson implies that he saw some truth but not largely, mainly or greatly. Yet more alarming was the label Justice Henderson put on a plea for help from a 91-year-old for his fellow senior tenants.

Henderson is a Justice within the Canadian judicial system, a system built on the principles of the Charter of Rights. Canada does not accept any form of labelling in our society; be it on race, religion, or beliefs. Justice Henderson took that plea or help by seniors and labelled it “the Gestapo letter,” and then used that label eight times throughout his written judgment. Was it for effect or impact? In paragraph 6 Justice Henderson writes, “the plaintiff relies on one letter written by Skorski to NRH in early 2012, hereinafter called “the Gestapo letter”.” That statement by Justice Henderson is not “substantially” true as the letter is addressed to “Mr. Mayor, Mrs. Beckwith,” and its content primarily refers to the Mayor.

The mere connotation of the label “the Gestapo letter” brings to mind the horror of Nazi Germany, antisemitism and the most horrific abuse of human rights and murder. In the Statement of Claim by the plaintiff there is no mention of the letter at all. During trial the lawyer for the plaintiff, Zijad Saskin, referred to the letter and did not call it a “Gestapo letter.” Defendant Leo Skorski explained that many of the tenants are survivors of the Nazi occupation of Poland. He explained that it referred to in the sentence, “We have a genuine complaint and proof of the “Gestapo” style of treating helpless seniors,” actions taken by the Manager and a questionnaire circulated among tenants.

Out of the five paragraphs of this letter four begin with Mr. Mayor, and reading the letter there was no expression of anger or hatred which would be associated with such a label as Justice Henderson slapped on it. The letter finishes, “You have [You refers to Mrs. Beckwith of the NRH] the power to intervene in our situation and restore a healthy atmosphere and let us seniors live the rest of our lives in dignity and happiness.”

At the end of his decision Justice Henderson writes, “I find that Skorski in particular had good intentions” and “similarly, I find that Davidoff had good intentions as he believed that Skorski had raised issues of public concern.” The real crunch comes in paragraph 147 as Justice Henderson writes, “In my view given the Board's questionable conduct at the AGM, the reputation of the Paderewski Home has been tarnished by its own actions. This was not a pristine, well-run organisation at the time of publication of the Mayorgate article. I find that the unfounded complaints of tenant abuse reduced Paderewski's reputation, but other conduct by the plaintiff has also undermined its reputation.”

With such a conclusion defendant Leo Skorski who fought for well over ten years for the truth was asked for a comment, his response was: “I was very disappointed, because the opposite side was under oath did not tell the truth, regardless that I presented three written proofs and a forensic audit proof that fraud was committed, Justice was not served.” An opportunity for comment was provided to Skorski's lawyer, Malte von Anrep, who refused to respond. The lawyer for the plaintiff, Zijad Saskin was sent an email with a number of questions for his clients and an opportunity to provide comment on the proceedings completed before Justice Henderson. No response has been made available by the plaintiff lawyer Zijad Saskin, Stella Fensom nor by any member of the Paderewski Board of Directors.


Justice Henderson ruled in favour of the plaintiff and Meatloaf left the building with the lyrics of his song, 'Two Out of Three Aint Bad' in his hands. The ruling by Justice J.R. Henderson is under appeal at the Ontario Court of Appeal and this saga has not found an end as yet.







Sunday, May 6, 2018

#WeToo

Vengeance is referenced in the bible, yet from experience how often has the act of revenge been accompanied with unexpected consequences. All too often as human beings, we feel that payback is sweet and at times it may be. Our society has treated women, on the whole, less than fairly. Many will say that it is a gross understatement and one can shout out example after example of the unfairness through our history.

It is difficult to comprehend today what makes a woman less deserving of the right to vote or access to basic education. Today these wild barriers have become a thing of the past, yet society still has treated women in a less than comparable manner to men. Although women move within the circles of academia and politics equally to men they still find so many doors of so-called equal opportunity if not shut, very difficult to open.

Although the idea of inequality is reprehensible in any form it is the manner in which women had been treated by men in a moral even legal sense that has brought greater attention today. The inequality had manifested in our justice system as much as in society. Too often a woman who had been assaulted found herself facing a disbelieving legal machine where she is forced to prove that she had not in fact mitigated the circumstances of the assault.

This inequality brought to life a spark in a young woman born in The Bronx, New York.  Tarana Burke, at the age of fourteen, joined the 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement whose purpose was to create grassroots community organisers, and to this day has remained an activist in the community.  After graduating college Burke developed an African-centered all-girls programme titled Just Be with its ultimate goal to "ensure that young women move through adolescence and into adulthood with a strong sense of self-worth and healthy self-esteem." (Wikipedia, Tarana Burke).

In 2006 Tarana Burke still eager to find a resource that would help young girls heal created the Me Too My Space page, and the response was almost immediate with young women wanting to know how to be a part of the movement.  It was not until October 2017 that Burke had become aware of the MeToo hashtag being used without credit to her.  Actress Alyssa Milano started using #MeToo as an internet hashtag partially as a response to the accusations surfacing against Harvey Weinstein.  Later Milano acknowledged Burke's much earlier use of the phrase and the movement that it had created, and Burke has remained supportive of the #MeToo hashtag.

Tarana Burke's goal was to help young women heal and to develop a sense of self-esteem and self-worth, she had been quoted as saying that the movement was about “empowermental empathy.” Now it is a fair question to ask if the #MeToo movement has shifted from Burke's original ideals? After all, the word empathy does not equate with a presumption of guilt simply based on accusation alone.

Hashtag MeToo appears to have become a mighty weapon, a divine sword of vengeance. Should an imperfect or as some say even broken system of justice where procedural fairness has been ignored be replaced by another extreme version? Whether it is popular to ask that question particularly by a male should not silence the need to seek an answer.

Today we are faced with a smothering blanket of fear wielded and manipulated by the MeToo Movement, where a mere accusation is enough to end everything. This new system of justice where an accusation is enough to exact consequence is not only gripped the world of entertainment but has spread across the board of society into government and all corners of the business world.

No one can deny that harassment of any kind must be fought and that sexual harassment has been a silent weapon used by predators for a long time. The unveiling of Harvey Weinstein was a good thing and needed to be done, but what has followed has gone to an extreme that threatens the very foundation of justice or procedural fairness.

An accusation of sexual harassment or any form of sexual impropriety is enough to have an individual removed from his job and face a public storm. In most cases, the accusation or allegation is not accompanied by evidence and all too often is based on something that happened in the past. Even words spoken in an inappropriate manner are enough for the MeToo banners and T-shirts to start waving in the air.

One such example comes from Canada when Steve Paikin, host of the TVO political show Agenda, was accused by a formal mayoral candidate Sara Thompson of sexual impropriety. Thompson, a candidate in the 2010 mayoral campaign for Toronto, accused Paikin of asking her if she would sleep with him. The allegation by Thompson claims that Steve Paikin made this advance in exchange for putting Sara Thompson on his show.

Thompson sent Steve Paikin an email outlining her position which he provided to the TVO executives. To their credit, TVO did not cave into the hysteria created by MeToo and did not remove Steve Paikin as host of the programme. Lisa de Wilde, CEO, in a press release stated that Paikin will remain as host until an independent investigator Rachel Turnpenny – a lawyer specialising in workplace investigations – completes her inquiry.

The investigation took eleven weeks and twenty-one witnesses were interviewed at the end of which a 27 page report was released by Rachel Turnpenny of the law firm Turnpenny Milne LLP. Steve Paikin had been cleared of any wrongdoing. A CBC article by Kristin Tushony and Samantha Beattie, (Steve Paikin cleared after investigation into allegation of inappropriate comment, April 27, 2018) quotes from the report, “At times, the investigation had some serious concerns with Thompson's approach to the investigation. The investigator learned that Thompson was contacting potential witnesses in what appeared to be either a fishing expedition to secure other potential complainants against Paikin or to garner support for her recollection. Thompson also demonstrated a tendency to suggest to witness a version of events (in line with her own perspective) prior to their interviews with the investigator.” The full report and appendix were released on tvo.org.

MeToo has become a powerful weapon and most corporations cave in, TVO in this situation did not see that an accusation alone was enough. It takes courage to stand up against any form of pressure which attempts to exact actions otherwise not contemplated, as it takes immense courage to publicly critique and examine the realities of a phenomenon like MeToo.

Margaret Atwood, an extremely well known Canadian author wrote an opinion piece titled 'Am I a bad feminist?' for the Globe and Mail, published January 13th 2018. Atwood wrote this in response to being labelled what she refers to as a “Bad Feminist.” This label had found itself justified in part for an Open Letter called UBC Accountable that Atwood had signed in November 2016.

"In November of 2016, I signed - as a matter of priniciple, as I have signed many petitions - an Open Letter called UBC Accountable, which calls for holding the University of British Columbia accountable for its failed process in its treatment of one of its former employees, Steve Galloway, the former chair of the department of creative writing, as well as its treatment of those who became ancillary complainants in the case," Atwood's own words from the Globe and Mail article.

Steven Galloway was a UBC professor who had been accused of sexual misconduct. He did not know who his accusers were and was forced to sign a confidentiality agreement so he could not even defend himself. After an inquiry conducted by a judge found that there had been no sexual assault, Galloway was fired anyway. Atwood had signed this petition with a number of other prominent people, several of who have withdrawn their signatures after a frenzy of pressure.

In her article Atwood says that the MeToo Movement is a symptom of a broken legal system that found a new tool on the internet, she adds: “If the legal system is bypassed because it is seen as ineffectual, what will take its place? Who will be the new power brokers?” That is the danger now society faces and these new power brokers appear to care little for a fair procedure or legal rights. It has become a new religion, a fever-pitched shrill which marches on the warpath.

Europe in many ways has seen the MeToo Movement in a different fashion. French actress Catherine Deneuve along with some 100 french writers, performers and academics had written an Open Letter which appeared in Le Monde, saying gallantry is not “macho aggression.” Euronews published a translated version of the Letter on January 10th 2018, 'Catherine Deneuve says “flirting is not a crime," criticises #MeToo movement' where the Open Letter states: “Rape is a crime. But insistent or clumsy flirting is not an offence, nor is gallantry a macho aggression.” Out of all the sentiment expressed in this letter the most powerful was, “#metoo has defacto led to, in the press and on social networks, a campaign of public denunciations and indictments of individuals who, without being given the opportunity to respond or defend themselves, have been put on exactly the same level as convicted offenders.”

Deneuve faced a backlash of attack for signing this letter and on January 15th 2018, in an article by Christopher Hooton for the Independent said, “Yes, I like freedom, I don't like this characteristic of our times whereby everyone feels they have the right to judge, to arbitrate, to condemn. A time where simple denunciations on social media generate punishment, resignation and sometimes, and often, lynching by the media.” Deneuve, on the other hand, finished by saying, “I am a free woman and I will continue to be. I warmly salute all the victims of odious acts who may have felt offended by the letter published in Le Monde, it's to them and them alone that I apologize.”

To disagree with MeToo is to face a potential backlash of accusation and attack for taking an anti-feminist stand, yet our democratic society is anchored in the freedom of speech for all and a belief that justice is equal to all. Somehow MeToo forgets that and appears to demand punishment purely on an accusation, is that justice?

There is no denying that MeToo had brought to public attention some serious predators like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. Through this Movement five women had made public the actions of famous New York architect Richard Meier, a partner in Richard Meier & Partners. One of his accusers was paid $150,000 as a settlement which adds more credibility to the accusations. Hadley Keller for his article in Architectural Digest, March 13th 2018 published Meier's apology: “I am deeply troubled and embarrassed by the accounts of several women who were offended by my words and actions. While our recollections may differ I sincerely apologise to anyone who was offended by my behaviour.” Richard Meier has stepped down from the company carrying his name until a full HR investigation is complete.

Charitable organisations such as the Red Cross, Oxfam and Plan International UK have come face-to-face with allegations of inappropriate behaviour and more. The need to dump staff and place promissory notes of pending investigations have found their way into collection boxes. Of all organisations facing this tsunami is the Vatican. Nuns are describing how they are mere slaves to bishops and cardinals. After all the cleaning, washing, cooking and serving they are not permitted to sit at the same table repast.

Still, for all the publicised victories the MeToo Movement seems to roll through the landscape of society with the air of intimidation of sexual misconduct stemming from alleged incidents committed ten or more years in the past. One such example comes from the Los Angeles County district attorney's office where five cases of sexual harassment against filmmaker James Toback were dropped. Even though there were several hundred allegations made against Toback, the five which the police brought to the D.A. had fallen beyond the statute of limitations.

Statue of Limitations could have played an important role in the Bill Cosby situation but justice, as broken as it is, claimed to be, found the crimes that Cosby was accused of could not go free. Bill Cosby had been called a raping monster by one accuser, and it was the courage of one woman, Andrea Constand, to endure a retrial and heavy examination by the Cosby defence lawyer which brought him to justice. Cosby was convicted of three counts of sexual assault, (each carrying a conviction of 10 years imprisonment); his lawyer has said that Cosby will appeal.

Time is not only the issue that some of the women have had to deal with, although that can be a completely separate topic of discussion. No investigation into any allegation can ignore the motivation behind the accusation. Indian-American comedic actor Aziz Ansari who won a Golden Globe award for his Netflix series 'Master of None' has had to face these questions.

According to all accounts, Aziz Ansari met a young woman at a party which later led to the two of them going on a date. After the date the young woman, anonymously, provided the website Babe an account of her encounter with Ansari claiming sexual assault. Ansari has not denied the date or of engaging in sexual activity, only that he thought everything was completely consensual. If Ansari was a surburban fella who took a girl to a restaurant and later to his apartment, no dissatisfaction of either party would be made public. Aziz Ansari is not a suburban fella; he is a Golden Globe winner and the topic for all talk show hosts to dissect and discuss his life and reputation, while the young woman remains anonymous.

Washington Post and Variety had reported that allegations of inappropriate overtures had been made by veteran broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw in mid-1990's. The accuser is a former NBC News and Fox News correspondent Linda Vester. Brokaw denies these allegations and wrote an emotional letter to friends and associates from which CBC News quotes: "She couldn't pick up the phone and say I'd like to talk. I have issues from those two meetings 20 years ago. Instead she became a character assassin. Strip away all the hyperbole and what has she achieved? What was her goal?" (Tom Brokaw 'hurt and unmoored' by sex harassment allegations, Associated Press, April 27, 2018).

Then there is Paul Bliss who was CTV's Queen's Park Bureau Chief, a veteran reporter and news anchor. As Postmedia's Christie Blatchford said, “he did the truly modern death.” (Christie Blatchford: There was no other way this story could end but in Paul Bliss being disappeared, National Post, March 8, 2018).

Paul Bliss found himself at the opposite end of this new justice stick. He had been accused of sexual abuse. The accuser was a former CTV employee, Bridget Brown, and the incident of sexual abuse had happened in 2006. Blatchford states, “she wasn't hurt, … disgusted and traumatized, yes. Hurt no,” and went on to have “an excellent career at CTV.” Then why such an allegation twelve years later? According to the article “Brown was struggling with CTV's coverage of MeToo. In particular the slightly smug reporting of some of their reporters on the Patrick Brown story.” Blatchford further writes Bliss was “done in by publicly made allegations of sexual abuse and the climate of corporate fear wrought by #MeToo.” A career shattered by allegation alone, now Bliss has launched a 7.5 million dollar lawsuit over the dismissal; suing the broadcaster, its parent company, and the woman who made these public allegations. “Bliss claims that he and Brown had a consensual encounter and that she had defamed him.” None of this has been proven in court yet.

The matter which had upset Bridget Brown so much was the public allegation of sexual misconduct by two women against former Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown. Former yes, as the public allegations had been the reason his leadership of the PC Party ended. One of the women originally claimed she was in high school and under the legal drinking age, later changing her story that she was out of high school and of legal drinking age at the time of the incident. Again the alleged incident occurred several years ago when Brown was a federal MP representing the Barrie, Ontario area.

Patrick Brown has denied these allegations from the beginning calling them false and malicious. Still, it is the power wielded by the MeToo fever that brought an end to his leadership of the political party. Now Patrick Brown has filed a statement of claim that seeks damages of $8 million and an order that CTV remove all material in its possession that alleges sexual misconduct to CTV News. Yet again the action has not been proved in court, and regardless of whether Brown wins his action, the allegation will haunt his name after the gavel falls.

MeToo's power comes from making the allegation public and forcing life-changing consequences purely based on the allegation. Requiring an investigation and evidence to prove the allegation does not make one insensitive to women, nor does it mean that requiring such basic rights makes one complicitous with a potential offender.

In England Bill C 51 is almost law heading for a second reading in their Senate. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner in London, Cressida Dick is quoted by Christie Blatchford for National Post, in 'Unlike Canada, U.K. has learned sex assault victims' aren't always victims' (National Post, April 2, 2018) as, “What seems so elementary - that the first job of police isn't to support victims or anyone else, but rather to investigate complaints – got lost in 2014, when the national acceptance of victims as inherently being truthful went to a flat-out recommendation that the presumption that a victim should always be believed should be institutionalized.”

Police Commissioner Cressida Dick was referring to Operation Midland where accusations of a VIP pedophile ring were brought forward by one alleged victim, who was known as Nick. A number of prominent men had their reputations and lives ruined even though no criminal charges were laid. Later a report into the 'Operation' by retired high court judge, Sir Richard Henriques, found that “the presumption of innocence was set aside by detectives in their eagerness, and what they felt was their duty, to believe Nick.” Blatchford further quotes Henriques: “this protocol of automatically believing victims perverts our system of justice, strikes at the very core of the criminal justice process, will generate miscarriages of justice on a considerable scale, and should be scrapped.” According to Blatchford “And scrapped, thanks to Dick, it has been.”

The British may re-enforce the principles of a justice system where the presumption of innocence and the requirement of proof of guilt is “elementary” before any sentencing. MeToo does not use the justice system rather it has developed its own form of justice through social media and traditional journalism hungry for headlines; all of this whilst claiming that the justice system is broken.

An example of this new justice system comes in the form of a letter sent to the National Post, the writer is anonymous of course. This letter had a copy of an email attached which the writer claims was sent by a male supervisor, and which the writer claims to be “a sexually explicit message about a female colleague's lingerie.” The writer further claims that the male supervisor encouraged “all recipients of the email to approach the female colleague about it.”

Once again quoting Christie Blatchford, (Anonymous letter shows #MeToo has spread to ranks of ordinary workplaces too, National Post, February 1, 2018), “Clearly the expectation that accusers must and should and will always be believed – mouthed with nauseating regularity by every political leader in the country, among others – has permeated the ordinary workplace.” That offending email was examined and parts quoted in the article leaving one questioning the mental state of the writer of the complaint. Blatchford said, “There isn't an adult in the world, male or female, who should have taken offence at that email, there was nothing offensive about it.” What has become amazing is that both #MeToo and #Ibelieve demand that every person who makes any allegation relating to sexual misconduct is telling the truth. No evidence is required, no proof only the accuser's words. This is not fixing a broken justice system.

Finally after all the discussion of the benefits that MeToo has had on today's society and the examination of the shocking effect its followers have forced on the democratic belief of procedural fairness comes this article for the CBC. It is an Opinion piece written by Michael Spratt, titled 'The presumption of innocence is for courtrooms, not politics', (January 30, 2018). Spratt appears to have the opinion that political figures are lesser Canadian citizens and therefore should not expect any procedural fairness. He also seems to approve the system of exacting consequence on accusation alone.

Micheal Spratt tells the reader that he is going to let them in on “a little secret: that the “presumption of innocence is a legal construct.” Apparently, this legal construct was designed to protect individuals charged with a crime so as to prevent unfair deprivation of their liberty. If that is the case then the rest of society, and it is quite a big chunk of it, has no right to have an accuser prove their accusation past the raised pointing finger.

Spratt goes on to say, “To insist on the strict application of the presumption of innocence in everyday life is an absurd and insidious act of complicity to the realities exposed by the #MeToo movement.” Then several paragraphs later he says, “there is no question that as a society we should strive to be fair – to both the accusers and accused.” Is there a contradiction between these two sentences? Or is it that presumption of innocence is absurd and bordering on complicity with the accused only in MeToo situations?

"As a practicing lawyer... [Yes, Michael Spratt indeed is a lawyer!], I know allegations can destroy lives. I know that false allegations do happen. I have seen them. And it is true that we need to be vigilant against any fraying of one of the golden thread that holds our justice system together." The very same writer in the article states, "the presumption of innocence does not mean someone is factually blameless until proven otherwise. In short the presumption of innocence is a procedural protection to ensure fairness - not a moral imperative." Don't you love lawyers? The question is, has MeToo and all its offspring empowered women or simply powered up women to be the new bully?