Sunday, May 6, 2018


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

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?