Meet the persecuted wealthy white male

A commentator on Rabble, David J. Climenhaga, pointed out that when the NDP and the Liberals go begging for campaign funds they use standard marketing techniques like features and benefits and occasionally stray into urgency, loyalty and rewards.

The Conservatives on the other hand are all about pain points. What could Conservatives possibly be pained about, one might ask. Well, it’s exactly as it was stated in the infamous video, “the lying piece of s**t” media. (Except in their fundraising emails, they replace “lying piece of s**t” with “elites.”)

Everyday the media elites are out to get Conservatives and that’s why they need your donation. Never mind that no one would argue that the major dailies in Canada are bastions of liberal discourse. The only one that comes close is the Toronto Star, but even then it’s only a watered down type of liberal discourse, trying hard not to offend.

Nevertheless, the Conservatives portray themselves as a persecuted minority, which is quite ironic since they are constantly accusing actual minorities as trying to portray themselves as persecuted. The general accusation is that if something bad happens to a woman or a minority it’s their fault rather than the fault of society. If something bad happens to them, it’s quite reasonable to start pointing fingers.

In the uproar over the resignation of the University of BC president, Arvind Gupta, people complained about baseless speculation when a professor said that he had, perhaps, lost a “masculinity contest”. However, you don’t have to scroll down too far in the comment section to find people alleging that he only got the job because he was a visible minority.

Based on my many years of experience on the Internet, I’m going to speculate and say that the number of people who believe that there are a great number of affirmative action jobs available vastly exceeds the number of affirmative action jobs that actually are available.

When I was harassed on the Internet for filing a human rights complaint, one or two of the commentators actually said that the individual with six months of experience who took my job deserved the opportunity just because new reporters deserve the opportunity. Of course they do. They deserve the opportunity to learn through the reporter role as I did for four years before taking on the editor role. They don’t deserve the opportunity to have a qualified woman fired just because they’re a man, and then to do an inept job and disappoint an entire community. That benefits absolutely no one.

And yet, I’m the one who should have pulled up her bootstraps and stolen a paper route from an eight-year-old. Let’s face it, if it wasn’t stealing a paper route that day, it would have been something down the road like not bringing the new publisher coffee or expressing an opinion during a meeting. There’s no amount of bootstrap pulling that’s going to overcome a sexist attitude to women at work, just as there is no amount of evidence that’s going to convince #AngryCon that the Mike Duffy trial is a poor reflection on his party rather than a media elite conspiracy to get at the persecuted wealthy white male.


Backlash silences discussion about discrimination

To live on the Earth, especially as a modern human being is to do a substantial amount of violence to it. Today we call it our footprint.

Although I call myself a vegetarian, I realize that it’s impossible to live a truly vegetarian life. When the farmer plows the field, he or she is going to turn up a few dead bodies of the ground animals that were living on it. The environmental effects of my dinner plate don’t end with the production. There’s also the transportation to take into consideration.

Though I could live a subsistence existence by growing and preserving my own food, I choose not to, which makes me a hypocrite. Most of us are living our lives as hypocrites refusing to acknowledge our footprint not only on the land where we live, but on the lands of people we will never meet.

Our obsession with cheap material goods creates unhappy working conditions for people in other countries. Our dependency on resources creates global warming, which causes drought and famine in Africa.

Some of us are driven to denial to deal with the overwhelming reality of our lives. I remember having this discussion in a fourth year seminar at university. One of the most calm, accepting students in my entire year, who had never seemed to argue with anyone about anything, suddenly objected to the very idea that he was doing violence just by living. However, when faced with the evidence, he had no facts to rely on, but just kept repeating, “That’s going too far.” Eating meat, driving a car, living on native land. To talk about it was going too far.

Backlash against human rights is kind of the same thing. If you stand up for native rights in this country, you will inevitably find someone willing to angrily denounce your argument. One only needs to read the comment section on the CBC website to know it’s true. In fact, Aboriginal groups have complained to the CBC about allowing racist comments on their website. And yet, here we stand on land that we took from others, or, at the very least, we are benefiting from decisions that were made long ago and never rectified.

Though the statistics won’t back them up, there are numerous people who will deny that racism and sexism exist in Canada and reverse the blame onto the people complaining about the problem. I’ve yet to see the headline that reads, “Gender discrimination solved” or “Same opportunities given to everyone.” Without evidence, the comment section is the only place for these views.

Although I could have picked from hundreds of examples, I recently read an article about racial discrimination in the Durham Catholic and Public School Boards from Oshawa This Week. Parents of black students are complaining that their children are disproportionately being disciplined for fighting and bullying.

There are three comments under the article all blaming the students. I’m guessing the commenters don’t know the students and are completely unfamiliar with the facts of their cases. Here’s one example:

“Why am I sick of hearing that every thing they don’t like is RACISM ?? Do the crime, do the time !!! Just look around its no different any where else, Look at all the people that get shot in Toronto, They are not white !!! I wonder why !!!”

I don’t know. Maybe the students feel victimized by racism because people make random, unsubstantiated allegations about “crimes” and equate them with all the gun violence in Toronto simply because of the colour of their skin. Could that be it?

The biggest problem with backlash is it stops us from talking and looking for solutions. Who would want to come forward to talk about their struggle if they are just going to be accused of “crimes” and of trying to deflect blame? It’s difficult to address the realities of the situation if you are just going to be shouted down in the comment section.

How do we tackle racism and sexism if we can’t talk about it in a healthy way? I myself have experienced being drowned out and defamed by ignorant comments just for raising my experience with sexism in the workplace. That’s why I’m looking for solutions. Censorship of the Internet is not the answer. We need to find ways through education, media coverage and government programming to find a solution that builds dialogue rather than building up walls between us.

The Trumpification of Web 2.0

In the 1980s people loved legal dramas and police procedurals. In this world crime doesn’t pay and the people without morals always get caught in the end, even if there are a few twists and turns that try our faith ever so slightly.

By the end of it all, the killer is locked up and the police and the lawyers, our heroes, throw their jackets over their shoulders and saunter out into the evening air with some clever, parting quip.

It cost the networks a tidy sum to come up with these dramas. They had to hire the dashing cops and lawyers and pay for the writers to come up with original stories, which got harder and harder each year.

Then some evil genius came up with a plan. It’s hard to make people hate a criminal. You have to have a diabolical plot with a bit of suspense and mystery. You have to have a sympathetic victim that we can all like. You have to make your cop/lawyer hardboiled, but not so hardboiled that they are unsympathetic. It’s easy to make us hate each other. We are full of flaws. We say the dumbest things. We gossip. We try to make others look bad. What if we just took a bunch of regular people and put them in a house – or even better, an island – and let them do the dumb stuff that humans do when no one is looking. Of course, in this case, everyone would be looking. In the 1990s police and legal dramas were cleared from the prime time schedule for an ever-multiplying number of televised “reality” shows.

This mean and petty environment launched a thousand careers, including that of what, frighteningly, seems to be the Republican frontrunner. Donald Trump likes to portray himself as a business mastermind, but the truth is he was born into wealth and not losing it all doesn’t make you a brilliant entrepreneur. Nevertheless, he puts himself in the position of judge and juror of a process that either supports or ridicules the actions of individuals vying for a position with his company declaring, “You’re fired” to one contestant a week.

Another “workplace” type model, is America’s Next Top Model. Although I couldn’t stomach The Apprentice, I did watch a few clips of this show randomly on the Internet. They mostly involved the staff around the modeling shoots berating the contestants for minor infractions. In one clip I watched Tyra Banks, the host, berates a model she had just “fired” because she was smiling and not sad enough. Apparently, she was especially angry about it, because she had come from a “poor” background (her grandmother had to sew her bathing suit for the competition… or something). And, being from a poor background, the model should have been especially humble and destitute looking… or something.

Let us not forget the numerous cooking shows where the celebrity chefs engage in behaviours that would land them in court in real life.

Now, we’ve segued straight from the 1990s into Web 2.0 – the world in which everyone has an opportunity to report and judge everyone else’s transgressions whether the transgressions are legal or not.

What is the point of this kind of haranguing of individual private citizens? In this climate the title of one of these 1990s reality shows becomes even more prescient – “Big Brother.” It doesn’t matter if you did anything wrong. It doesn’t matter if you agree with someone else’s interpretation of how you should behave.

I think of that model whose grandmother sewed her bathing suit. She probably thought she was being gracious by smiling at the other contestants before leaving the stage. It probably never occurred to her or anyone else that there was something wrong with her actions until someone said there was and that person was suddenly the loudest, most powerful person in the room.

Millions of people are not surprised or offended when people take their workplace concerns to court or to tribunals such as the Human Rights Tribunal. Workplaces are full of conflict and there’s always going to be someone who loses out, just as business transactions will often land the participants in court. This is why the procedures have been set out for us.

So what does one gain by ridiculing one individual citizen for not being successful in a case in which the evidence was never even heard? Just like on network TV, it’s hard to be the dashingly handsome justice seeker doggedly pursuing his quarry for the safety of the entire city with a clever quip always at the tip of one’s tongue for one’s deserving enemies. It’s easy to be the pathetic snitch who gets to bully behind an anonymous moniker on the Internet.


BC Human Rights Tribunal ignores the reality of workplace discrimination

The Human Rights Tribunal pretends that it’s impossible to prove gender discrimination in the work place, unless there is some sort of sexual harassment or very obvious sexual language.

However, this attitude denies the realities of women’s experience. Yes, sexual harassment is all too common and extremely detrimental when it happens. But, it’s even more common that a woman would be denied opportunities, be subject to unexplained hostile behaviour and her comments and suggestions would be ignored and mocked. Discrimination in the workplace often manifests itself in opportunities given to less qualified people who don’t have the same gender, racial or other characteristic.

The tribunal needs to listen to women to find out how they experience discrimination in the workplace because the reality is that millions of women have experienced it to various degrees of seriousness. The fact that I was fired because of it kicks it up a notch and justified the human rights complaint, which was dismissed without a hearing on grounds that were unrelated and even denied by the employer.

By denying the right of women to have their experiences heard and recognized, the Human Rights Tribunal is not fulfilling its mandate to uphold the Code, which states that its purpose is not only to stop discrimination, but also “to identify and eliminate persistent patterns of inequality.”

Education is the missing piece in human rights legislation

One thing that is missing in the Human Rights Tribunal legislation of today is a prevention or education component.

In BC, the education component was removed and shuffled off to the Human Rights Coalition, which now operates as the Human Rights Clinic. The name basically says it all; it’s a legal clinic.

The focus on legal action detracts from the reality of discrimination in Canada today. The reality is that most people want to get along with their employees and people can be educated out of their prejudices.

However, when the employees’ only action available when their rights have been violated is to threaten a legal case before a tribunal, the tendency of employers is to dig in their heels and deny that they did anything wrong rather than to seek information about how they could do things better or to communicate with the employee about solutions.

When employers search for information, they find information about how to legally respond, rather than how to ensure that their workplace is fair and encourages participation by everyone in accordance with their skills.

With their focus on the individual, the Human Rights Tribunal is not in a position to educate on issues of human rights. They are looking for problems with the case and, if they don’t find it, problems with the individual who brought the case forward.

This does nothing to bring the parties to a closer understanding or society closer to a world free of discrimination, which is where we should be headed.

When I was a student at university in the 1990s, my classmates and I were sitting in the lobby of a building waiting for our classroom to open. One student turned to his neighbour and starting making fun of the LGB Centre’s signs around campus. Instead of laughing along, the neighbour started asking him why he was bothered by them and started challenging his prejudice in a calm, non-judgmental manner. The classmate was clearly affected and almost immediately started talking about where his prejudice came from and started reconsidering it. Amazingly, in the course of a short five-minute conversation he agreed that he would think about it before he made those type of comments in the future.

In fact, as a student I saw many of those moments occur, as people coming from small-town environments and microcosmic high schools were exposed to people from around the country and world in a learning environment. People are willing to ask questions about the things they had always been taught to be true. They just need someone to start the conversation. Although there are fewer opportunities, it’s not impossible to have those types of discussions in the world of government, work and business.

In my book, I want to examine some of the alternatives to our current focus on antagonistic legal action and propose some solutions to how to return education and cooperation to the system.


Community newspaper journalism and Halo 3 – a comparative study

The other day I was reading an article that helped explained why men in the workplace often act in a bullying way towards women.

OK, in truth the article wasn’t about the workplace. It was about the online world of Halo 3. I have never played this game and know nothing about it, but it turns out that when men are really good at the game they are courteous and complimentary to female players. However, when they stink that’s when the claws come out. Men mask their insecurity by bullying and ridiculing women.

The lead to this story called it a “research finding that should surprise no one.” Given the findings, that men who suck at stuff act like idiots, it comes as no surprise to me that the world of community newspaper journalism is ripe for sexist and belittling behaviour, such as the behaviour I experienced after Black Press bought the Grand Forks Gazette.

For one thing, the barrier to entry as a community newspaper journalist is extremely low. The qualification is generally a two-year diploma from a community college. I attended a college that allowed me to do this in one year because I had a Bachelor’s degree. After a month or two of this, I complained to the Dean that the work was not challenging and there was so much horseplay in the newsroom, I wasn’t able to produce professional work.

In response, I was told that they didn’t really expect many of their students to become journalists. They would be happy if the students just learned to read the newspaper.

For another thing, community newspapers are owned by companies that identify very little with journalism as a higher calling. They are motivated by ads and if journalism sells ads, they support it. If journalism happens to upset an advertiser, consider yourself a glorified wedding and birthday photographer until it blows over. In this environment, companies tend to hire “yes men” to run the show and don’t care for people who ask questions (which would, of course, be the journalists.)

I’m not saying that all publishers I worked with are like that. I had a very good run at the Grimsby Lincoln News where no one tried to interfere with any of my stories. Also the Grand Forks Gazette was a great newspaper when it was being run by Glacier, and I even didn’t experience problems when it was previously owned by Hollinger. I also didn’t experience any interference with my reporting when I worked for a small family-owned paper in Sturgeon Falls (that’s in Northern Ontario), although I only worked there briefly.

However, I did experience a situation like the situation with Chuck Bennett when I worked for another small paper in the Niagara region. The editor who hired me was initially complimentary about my skills, but within weeks became extremely anxious. Every time I tried to talk to him, he took it as an affront. He became fixated on minor things unrelated to journalism and made bizarre and unreasonable demands.

For example, one day he decided he needed to have a photo of a band practicing for a Christmas concert on the front page of the newspaper. He told my coworker to take a picture of four students practicing at a high school in the next town over. Granted, this is the Niagara region so towns are close together. In any case, the coworker went there and took a lovely photo, suitable in everyway. When she came back, the editor threw a tantrum on the basis that there were only three students in the photo instead of four and demanded that she drive back, drag the students out of whatever academic subject comes after band and take the photo again.

Another time, I was assigned to weekend photos. One of the photo assignments was to take photos of children at the bowling alley. This was on the weekend photo list every week and we had a stack of unprinted children bowling a mile long. In fact, in the three months I worked there, we probably ran a bowling photo twice. I made an executive decision not to take the children bowling photo that week. You guessed it, tantrum.

I moved back to Grand Forks because I missed the mountains and the friendly small town environment. I loved the activism of the town and the fact that people were actively engaged in their community.

Sure enough, what is the first thing that happens when Black Press buys the Grand Forks Gazette? New publisher becomes fixated on something completely unrelated to journalism – his demand that I take over a paper route from a child, and refuses to discuss it in a reasonable manner.

I can’t really say it any better than the study authors:

“As men often rely on aggression to maintain their dominant social status, the increase in hostility towards a woman by lower-status males may be an attempt to disregard a female’s performance and suppress her disturbance on the hierarchy to retain their social rank.”

Yes, I guess that must be it.

No chance of success

The obvious question is why would the Chair of the Human Rights Tribunal lie and say someone was fired for cause when the evidence directly contradicts it.

This is the other troubling part of the administrative tribunal system in Canada. The tribunals can’t investigate and they can’t try every case, so the reasonable thing to do is to wipe some of them from the roster.

Without a compelling reason to do so, that wouldn’t be allowed under the law as it is written, so the next obvious step is to think of a compelling reason. That’s when we come back to the inordinate focus on credibility. In this day and age, if the evidence doesn’t support the dismissal, the tribunal needs to question credibility.

In this regard, the tribunals have become, more or less, lawyers for the other side. Instead of examining evidence from a dispassionate perspective they are looking for grounds for attack, simply so they can clear the roster.

The official language they use is “no reasonable chance of success.” If the employer or service provider fails to establish that there is no reasonable chance of success, the tribunal can step in and suggest a few reasons, for example failing to steal a paper route from an eight-year-old.

At this stage, the tribunal doesn’t have to prove it, they just have to say it, and it doesn’t matter what the employee says. There is no hearing and they’ll never have a chance to respond.

Imagine working long nights for two years to meet deadlines, driving down country roads to track down your source, showing up to confront someone at an event after they ignored your phone calls and emails, proofreading that last page at 11 am six hours after the reporters have gone home refusing to do the unpaid overtime that you regularly volunteered for, and the only thing anyone would ever know about your career as a journalist is that you once questioned a whim of a new publisher to steal a kid’s paper route.

Does that seem like a system that promotes human rights in the workplace? This is my motivation for writing this book. It’s time the Human Rights Tribunal and other tribunals like it started being held to account for decisions that aren’t evidence based.

Dumbing down the debate

The other day I was reading a blog on the Georgia Straight website, written by a Vancouver lawyer, who was talking about human rights.

While we all have rights, only some of these rights are covered by the Human Rights Code. Some of them only appeal to your sense of justice, but aren’t codified anywhere. The example given is the tenant who complained that the landlord violated her rights by shutting off the water. Of course, she could probably go somewhere else to complain about that, so it’s not a great example.

In any case, I bravely scrolled down to the comments knowing exactly the sort of opinions I would find there and wasn’t disappointed.

No matter where I turn, I’m watching or reading about someone who is having their ‘human rights’ violated. It’s become a ‘knee jerk’ action now. There use to be a time, when you could tell people to ‘be quite’ or ‘you’re an idiot, get back to making my hamburger’, without landing in court over a human rights violation. It’s only going to get worse.

This is what I like to call dumbing down the debate. If people are expecting respect in the workplace and asking for it, the little guy or gal should be supporting them. After all, he or she could be next, right?

But instead, we have sad little wage slaves doing the exact opposite of what would benefit them by siding with the bullies and the employers that would rather silence dissent than create respectful workplaces.

The dumbing down happens through superficial media coverage, brought to you by corporations that are campaigning against your pension and your living wage. The more you are focused on attacking the little people, the easier it is for them.

I grew up as an idealist. Wherever there was a problem there was a solution. That’s why I was shocked when people who called themselves journalists had no interest in even asking questions about my case. They just accepted that I was ridiculous because I didn’t deliver newspapers, and that was the end of the story.

First of all, to believe that someone who had experience and was doing their job well, should be fired for one instance of not stealing a paper route from a child, takes a leap of logic. Any journalist with any integrity would be questioning it. But, instead, we have reporters who think that their job is to ridicule someone when they’re down instead of asking questions or thinking critically.

It’s no wonder the debate has sunk so low, given the quality of our media and the number of people willing to buy into a dialogue that doesn’t benefit them.

The life of a self-represented litigant

If a Tribunal makes a decision that is “patently unreasonable” or in some cases just fails on the basis of “correctness,” you can take your case to the courts.

Given that the Human Rights Tribunal said I was fired with cause for not delivering newspapers even though the employer was not even attempting to make this argument, this seemed like a good idea. One cannot simply make up a cause to justify tossing one’s case without considering the actual evidence can they?

One would think this would fail on both grounds – the “patently unreasonable” and the “correctness.”

Without getting into the gory details, there are some additional considerations around these two different things depending on whether you are talking about procedural errors or factual errors and on what tribunal made the decision.

In any case, I filed my case in the Supreme Court of BC. This is the court that is always complaining that self-represented applicants are clogging the system with their not knowing what they are doing and saying, etc, etc. Based on my experience, that’s a load of crap.

Even if I wanted to go on and on and make a lot of unrelated arguments, which is the stereotype of the crazy litigant, the judge, L.A. Loo, would not have let me.

The only times where my not knowing what I was doing could have impacted anyone’s time was in the filing of the documents, but the clerks I dealt with were very polite and helpful.

The opposing lawyer spoke for about two hours, whereas when I stood to speak, the judge was extremely impatient and rarely let me finish my sentences. I had written my arguments down and she seemed offended that I would be reading them to her. She let the opposing lawyer explain to her the standard for review (the whole unreasonable versus correct thing) and accepted the facts as the Tribunal had described them rather than how they were presented in the evidence.

The situation was nerve racking at one time I may have sounded choked up, but quickly recovered. In her written decision, Judge Loo made it sound like I was highly emotional despite the fact that I had mere minutes to speak and then was pretty much shut down.

There was a report by a University of Windsor law professor Julie Macfarlane, who stated that for self-represented litigants the system offers a “false promise of ‘access to justice.’” The National Self-Represented Litigants Project (2013) interviewed 259 self-represented litigants and found them to be a disillusioned bunch. Many complained that they were treated contemptuously by the judge and there was no oversight over the judges’ behaviour.

As a result they lost faith in the system and suffered personally through their struggles to access justice, which was time consuming and emotionally draining. Many of these litigants were earning over $50,000 a year and still couldn’t afford a lawyer or had already depleted their savings early on in the process.

Meanwhile, it’s the judges who believe it’s the people who are the problem. In my experience the judge went in with a preconceived notion about self-represented people, deferred to the Tribunal’s decision without anything resembling oversight, and overly relied on the opposing lawyer for legal direction. It seems to me with that the real problem judges have with self-represented litigants is that they don’t have a lawyer telling them about the law, which makes them have to go look stuff up.

It’s a hard life, I’m sure.


Smile, we don’t care about your skills

Yesterday, I was scrolling through the CBC website and happened to click on an article announcing a new executive director at CBC Radio.

The article says Susan Marjetti was the managing director of CBC Toronto and the Ontario region. She is replacing Chris Boyce, whom the broadcaster has determined mishandled the Gian Ghomeshi affair.

There is an unsmiling photo corporate photo of her attached to the article.

I wanted to show you what our progressive, post-feminist countrymen had to say about the appointment in the comment section below, but the blatantly sexist and discriminatory comments about her based on her photo appear to have been removed today.

All that remains today is some discussion about how people feel about the new host of Q, how people feel about popular music being played on the CBC, and these two comments based on the photo:

“Artsie photo head could use a happy pill methinks.”

“She looks like ‘Pat’ from SNL.”

Trust me it was much worse yesterday, but the gist of the matter was she wasn’t feminine enough and she wasn’t smiling. Clearly, we cannot trust our radio services in the hands of such a person can we?

The modern day corporate executive likes to smile for his photo so he can appear likeable in case he someday has to explain why his company dumped 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico or why his popular current affairs host has been arrested for assault. However, it’s not a requirement of the job, and you will still see unsmiling men and women in corporate headshots if you Google it.

What’s different is the message. You would never see a comment complaining that a man didn’t smile for his corporate photo, or wasn’t hunky enough.

If you Google it, you’ll find pages of forums, articles and discussions of women complaining that they are just going about their business when strange men on the street interrupt them telling them to smile.

What is it about women’s facial expressions that men find so disturbing? And why do men find it so acceptable to take ownership of the facial expressions of people they don’t even know.

I took offense to this type of language at work and this is another reason why the Human Rights Tribunal ridiculed me for complaining that I was fired for a job that I was good at and replaced by a male reporter with only six months experience. The message is clear. It’s not what you can do; it’s how you look. Coming from the Human Rights Tribunal, that’s a pretty disturbing message.