Author: The Wall of Law

‘I truly have never before seen a photograph so compelling’

Portrait of Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, inventor, teacher, and environmental activist, Margaret Atwood. (Photograph by Markian Lozowchuk; Wardrobe styling by Jessa Pegg/Judy Inc.; Hair and make-up by GianLuca Orienti/Judy Inc.)

In September, Brian Bethune wrote about Margaret Atwood and The Testaments, her much-anticipated sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, in which the renowned author takes her anti-woman dystopia to the age of Trump.

What a superb Maclean’s, so full of top-notch articles that I enjoyed. However, the most outstanding feature of all was the Margaret Atwood cover story. The accompanying photo by Markian Lozowchuk was one of the most alive and beautiful imaginable. One almost expected Atwood to actually speak! I kept that page sitting open all evening on the coffee table, and every time I left the living room had to go over and look again. I truly have never before seen a photograph so compelling. How on Earth will you ever produce another issue to equal the October one? Thank you for such a happy experience!
—Shirley Bush, Toronto

Battleground Ontario

In September, Ottawa Bureau Chief John Geddes wrote about the 30 ridings outside Toronto that swing between Liberals and Conservatives—and could decide the federal election. The best place to watch the fight, he wrote, might be Milton, where Liberal star Adam van Koeverden faces Tory veteran Lisa Raitt.

While your pieces on the ridings in suburban Toronto were both good, I found it odd that neither recognized how absurd it is that a few suburban voters essentially get to choose the government for the entire country. The concerns of voters in “safe” ridings are of equal value to those in “swing” areas, and yet I doubt they’ll get equal attention from politicians or the media. Of course, if our beloved PM had kept his promise to ditch the electoral system that routinely leaves half of Canadian voters without representation, this would be less of an issue.
—Carl Sack, Surrey, B.C.

First debate

On Sept. 12, Maclean’s and Citytv hosted the first federal leaders debate of the campaign, just a day after Justin Trudeau called the election. Three federal leaders—Andrew Scheer, Jagmeet Singh and Elizabeth May—debated onstage. (Watch a full replay, and don’t miss these must-see moments.)

Kudos to Maclean’s for having the debate and to Paul Wells for a fantastic job moderating it. In my opinion, this debate was better than most I have seen here in Canada or in the U.S. The participants were fairly respectful of each other, allowing co-debaters to make their points, which enabled viewers to hear what the party leaders had to say, whether or not we agreed. Thank you!
—Denise Oster, West Vancouver, B.C.

I watched the Maclean’s debate and I must say I was very disappointed. I feel that the four sections allowed the non-attending leader to set the agenda, which showed a definite bias. The economy and the environment are not a single component of politics in Canada—they are completely separate, although related, and need to be dealt with independently with the understanding that all our political issues are related to the outcome of good government. Lumping the economy and the environment together and not allowing each leader to make the relationship between them in their comments, if they chose to do so, just continued the narrative that Justin Trudeau is trying to convince Canadians of. I expected better of Maclean’s.
—Vern Seymour, Thunder Bay, Ont.

Thanks to Maclean’s and Paul Wells for hosting this debate. Elizabeth May seemed to be the only participant with the courage to tell it like it is (re our climate crisis) and to detail what needs to be done to mitigate the dangers ahead. That’s what real leaders do. The other parties are so busy trying to nitpick and one-up each other’s pronouncements in mini-steps to win a few votes here and there that they don’t see the big picture. That is, if we don’t deal with the climate crisis first and foremost, then everything else is moot.
—Judy Shute, Bracebridge, Ont.

What’s the big idea?

In September, Senior Writer Paul Wells wrote that the federal election demands a candidate who can rise up to challenging times of trade wars, global instability and public-health crisis. The odds, he wrote then, weren’t looking good.

We keep voting the same way and expecting different results, which makes us fools… Here are a couple of “big ideas.” First, acknowledge the way that we are doing politics is killing politics. The three fundamental counts against our first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system are (1) low voter turnout, (2) wasted votes and (3) outcomes that do not match the popular vote. On Count 1, the fewer the voters, the better chance for a big party to win. On Count 2, the more wasted votes, the better chance for a big party to win. On Count 3, a big party can benefit—maybe, probably—from the quirkiness of FPTP. Results range from an exaggerated majority to the wrong winner to anything in between. A second big idea: actually institute a form of proportional representation, as chosen by the National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform. The party-line retort is not seeing a workable form of proportional representation that has consensus among Canadians. But there are many countries that use a working form of proportional representation. And a pro-reform stance requires convincing voters. With pledging to move toward proportional representation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a big idea worthy of hero status. Instead, he engineered his own failure. Meanwhile, opponents of electoral reform have created uncertainty with misinformation and disinformation. Voters have become compliant and politically complacent. It is reported the Russians are using trolls to undermine democracies. Voters are rejecting electoral-reform referenda in various provinces: is that evidence the interference is working? Nothing changes if nothing changes.
—Ray Jones, Kamloops, B.C.

Unsafe at home

In September, Senior Writer Anne Kingston published a months’-long Maclean’s investigation into intimate-partner violence that revealed how systems, politicians and people have failed women and girls.

This was an extremely disturbing story about women still being subjected to verbal and physical abuse at the hands of their spouses and other male relatives close to them. The courts are of little help, and the police are limited in stopping the violence. More detailed statistics will not change the number of deaths. Women have to defend themselves; no one is going to do it for them. One of the best self-defence courses is Wen-Do: it builds confidence and teaches basic moves any woman can use. Women must have zero tolerance for verbal abuse, and it is most important that they be allowed to defend themselves by using tasers and pepper spray. That they are illegal when guns that shoot multiple rounds per minute are not is ridiculous.
—Josephine Hughes, Tillsonburg, Ont.

U-Haul your own way

In October, as part of our Before You Go series, Rachel Wallace-Oberle wrote to her son, who packed a U-Haul and left for a new job as a pilot far away.

Every teenager should be made to read this to inspire him or her not to depend on parents but to go out and make a life for him or herself. Parental assistance is too easy, while self-encouragement is healthier. A little work here and there can only build character and self-reliance.
—Bill Gruenthal, Burnaby, B.C.

A new safety net

In July, Associate Editor Shannon Proudfoot wrote a personal essay that reflected on her working-class roots in a country that often ignores or erases socio-economic lines.

The article about class spoke to me as the first in my family to go to university, in the early 1970s. My paternal grandparents, however, had both been well-educated before political turmoil and hardship made that goal impossible for my father. Class is hard to define—and to hold onto. I, and many others, have benefited from the security and opportunity that public policy made possible: medicare, pensions, student loans, employment equity and job protections. Public policy helped grow the middle class and perhaps led many working-class people to feel middle class in Canada. But the world is changing, rapidly. Public policy must, too. A new class is emerging—the precariat—marked by chronic insecurity and detached from old norms of work and labour. Steep inequality, technological disruption, the gig economy and other factors affect a growing number of Canadians at varying income and education levels. They are anxious, time-stressed and insecure, with reason. A basic income for 18- to 64-year-olds would provide needed hope for a better future, similar to income guarantees for seniors and children. It can give everyone a fairer chance, restore trust in government and reduce many costly social ills. That’s a class act!
—Sheila Regehr, Chairperson, Basic Income Canada Network, Toronto

Farm team

Our September cover stories—there were four—profiled every major national campaign director headed into this fall’s federal election. Senior Writer Paul Wells wrote about Jeremy Broadhurst, the Liberal campaign director. (Check out the profiles of the ConservativeNew Democrat and Green campaign directors.)

I can’t get over the four campaign managers on the front cover. They are hoping to guide the leader on how to make an impression, yet they dress like they are going to bring in the wood. Did they not know that they were going to have their picture taken? I know that it’s 2019 and it’s cool to have the knees out of your jeans, but the front cover of our national magazine! Thanks, I must get back to my wheelbarrow now.
—Jim Ringrose, Campbell’s Bay, Que.

Saving cetaceans

In August, Lindsay Jones wrote about the fearless rescuers who venture into the choppy North Atlantic to save right whales from certain death.

The story about whales made a passing mention of the Newfoundland and Labrador whale rescue team. However, no acknowledgement of Newfoundland and Labrador’s role in creating the original whale rescue team back in 1979 by the late Dr. Jon Lien and his colleagues was made. These people created both the techniques used in whale rescues to this day and the trust within the fishing community that enables whale rescue groups to operate successfully. In the decades since Dr. Lien’s original experiments with various rescue techniques, the present-day group, under the leadership of Wayne Ledwell, as well as other groups in Canada and elsewhere, continue to use Dr. Lien’s techniques and have rescued a large number of whales, turtles, sharks and other species entangled in fishing gear or endangered through natural causes.
—Jim Winter, St. John’s

A view from Quebec

In August, Stephen Maher wrote about Amrit Kaur, a Sikh Quebecer who wanted to be a teacher in her home province–but, after Bill 21, decided to move to B.C.

Shame on Maclean’s for its biased piece on Amrit Kaur. To assert that she “will not be able to teach” in Quebec is a lie; to accuse Quebecers of racism for committing to strict secularism is a slander. Universal Canadian practice prohibits all public servants from exhibiting partisan affiliation while on duty. Quebec’s Bill 21, far narrower in scope, prohibits those who exercise public authority over others from wearing visible religious symbols or clothing while on duty. That ensures that our public authorities are, and are seen to be, exempt from religious influence. Remember that many come to Canada from societies where religion and state power are intermingled; some may have fled for that very reason, and certain religious symbols could awaken memories of the inequity or oppression they escaped. Accordingly, and contrary to the misleading impression Maclean’s has given, Quebec’s minorities are far from unanimous in rejecting Bill 21. Those who oppose it are chiefly religious hard-liners and their surrogates. Why didn’t Maclean’s consult even one moderate? Ms. Kaur would be perfectly welcome to teach in Quebec as long as she complied with Bill 21. We have not rejected her; she has rejected us. Moreover, to conflate race and religion and allege that Bill 21 will “mostly affect” minorities is the rankest intellectual dishonesty. Christianity, which embraces all racial groups, is the nominal religion of the vast majority of Quebecers. There are far more Quebecers wearing crosses than kippas, turbans, hijabs and all other religious apparel combined, and those doing the jobs in question would be required to remove their crosses at work. Maclean’s tendentious article has gratuitously demonized millions of Quebecers.
—Charles A. Bogue, Stoneham-et-Tewkesbury, Que.

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By The Wall of Law October 18, 2019 Off

What’s in the proposed UK-EU Brexit deal?

BRUSSELS — Britain and the European Union have a Brexit deal — and if it is ratified, people and businesses will finally have a measure of certainty about what lies ahead.

That’s a big if. This is not the first time the two sides have proclaimed an agreement — only for it to be shot down by lawmakers in London. Former Prime Minister Theresa May struck a deal with the EU in December 2018, but Parliament rejected it three times.

Here’s a look at what is in the new agreement, and how it differs from May’s rejected deal.

IRISH BORDER

Ever since negotiations began more than two years ago, the key hurdle to a deal has been finding a way to keep goods and people flowing freely across the border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland — the only land border between the U.K. and the bloc. An open border is vital to the regional economy, and underpins Northern Ireland’s peace process .

May’s rejected deal contained a policy known as the backstop that kept Northern Ireland in harmony with EU trade and customs rules to eliminate the need for border checks. But that was opposed by Brexit-supporting British lawmakers, who said it would hamper Britain’s ability to strike new trade deals around the world.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted that all of the U.K. — including Northern Ireland — must leave the bloc’s customs union, which would seem to make border checks and tariffs inevitable.

The proposed deal solves the problem by keeping Northern Ireland aligned with the rules of the EU single market for goods — so border checks are not needed — and also eliminating customs checks at the Irish border. Instead, customs checks will be carried out and tariffs levied by Britain on goods entering Northern Ireland that are destined for the EU.

That effectively means a customs border in the Irish Sea — something the British government long said it would not allow.

But the EU has compromised, too, by allowing Northern Ireland special access to its single market. And the deal gives Northern Ireland a say over the rules, something that was missing from May’s previous rejected agreement. After four years, the Northern Ireland Assembly will vote on whether to continue the arrangement or end it.

___

Apart from the section on Northern Ireland, the deal is largely the same as May’s rejected withdrawal agreement. It lays out the terms of Britain’s departure, including:

TRANSITION PERIOD: If the deal is ratified, Britain will leave the EU on Oct. 31 but remain inside the bloc’s single market and bound by its rules until the end of December 2020, while the two sides work out a new trade relationship.

DIVORCE BILL: Britain agrees to cover contributions to staff pensions and commitments to EU programs the U.K. made while a member for the funding period that runs to 2020. The bill has previously been estimated at about 39 billion pounds ($50 billion).

CITIZENS’ RIGHTS: EU citizens now living in Britain, and Britons living or working in EU countries, won’t lose their rights to live and work in those areas.

TRADE: In a non-binding political declaration that accompanies the withdrawal agreement, the two sides promise “an ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership across trade and economic co-operation with a comprehensive and balanced Free Trade Agreement at its core.”

Details of that trade deal, and many other aspects of the future relationship, will only be settled once the U.K. has left.

EU leaders worry that Johnson’s Conservative government plans to tack toward a low-tax, low-regulation economy after it leaves the bloc. To lessen this worry — and in a concession by the U.K. government — the declaration commits both sides to maintaining a “level playing field,” with “common high standards . in the areas of state aid, competition, social and employment.”

SECURITY: The two sides say they will have a “broad, comprehensive and balanced security partnership” but say the “scale and scope” of the relationship will depend on how close the future relationship is.

TRAVEL: EU citizens will lose the right to live and work in Britain — and vice versa — but citizens of the U.K. and the EU will not need visas for short visits.

___

Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit and British politics at https://ift.tt/2QQDXv6

Jill Lawless, The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law October 17, 2019 Off

Ontario Cuts Compensation For Victims Of Crime

Doug Downey is sworn in as Ontario Attorney General in Toronto on June 20, 2019.

TORONTO — When the man who had forced Charlotte* to stay in the sex trade was arrested in 2015, she had no assets to her name. He had been taking all her paycheques and her payments from the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). 

“He just completely tarnished everything I worked for and everything that I had,” Charlotte, whose real name cannot be used due to a tribunal-ordered publication ban, told HuffPost Canada.

“It was very, very traumatizing. It scars you.”

Charlotte’s lawyer, David Shellnutt, applied for funding through Ontario’s Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB) in 2018. The GTA mother-of-two got $30,000 later that year.

“It helped me a lot,” Charlotte said. “It was good to know that, obviously what happened to me was horrible, and the government was willing to at least give me a new starting point.”

She was able to pay off the debt from loans and phone bills that accumulated while she was being trafficked and bought a car, so that she can take her two young kids to school and to the park. 

PCs cap funding for pain and suffering

When Shellnutt told Charlotte that Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government was getting rid of the CICB and capping pain and suffering payments at $5,000 in the meantime, she said her heart sank for future applicants. 

“I feel like $5,000 is just gonna be like a slap in the face,” she said. 

“It’s for their benefit,” Charlotte said of the Ontario government that will save money from the decision. “It’s not for us. It’s like basically shutting us up and saying, ‘We don’t give a crap about you.’”

I feel like $5,000 is just gonna be like a slap in the face.Charlotte

The CICB paid out $32.8 million for pain and suffering in the 2017/18 fiscal year. Payments go to people who have been trafficked, victims of domestic violence and hate crimes, and the immediate family members of murder victims. 

Premier Doug Ford’s government, in its first budget, amended the law so that pain and suffering payments would not exceed $5,000 and so that the board would eventually be dissolved. As of Oct. 1, the government terminated all new CICB applications and launched its replacement program, the Victim Quick Response Program+ (VQRP+), which only provides “short-term” financing for “essential” needs, like medical treatment, short-term counselling and funeral expenses. 

Government says it will provide support more quickly

A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General said the VQRP+ will get funding to victims more quickly than the CICB process did. 

“Victims no longer have to pay out of pocket for any eligible expenses, or relive their trauma through a long and complex process that took years to complete,” Brian Gray told HuffPost by email.

“VQRP+ does not make decisions based on quantifying the amount of pain and suffering of a victim; rather, the program is designed to ensure victims receive the immediate and tangible supports they need when they need them.”

The government is also increasing funding for short-term needs like transportation, accommodation and crime scene cleanup, Gray said.

Lawyer David Shellnutt says it's

Shellnutt, Charlotte’s lawyer, said the government’s assurances are meaningless. 

“I’m a lawyer, and I’m like fumbling through different websites … I can’t find any information on this,” he said of the VQRP+. “What about someone who’s been a victim of crime and is just trying to seek some help? Come on.”

He said that the larger pain and suffering awards showed victims that the government believed their stories and believed that what happened to them was wrong.

“It’s not enough to just get someone to a safe location. If we want people to reintegrate back into society and heal, we’ve gotta stick with them a bit longer than just getting them a safe hotel,” he said.

“It’s almost unfathomable to me that they would cut this.”

For Charlotte, the $30,000 was helpful, but she still said it didn’t come close to making up for what she went through.

“I, physically, mentally, emotionally, still have to deal with it for the rest of my life,” she said. “It still haunts you.”

She hopes to go back to school and eventually open a salon to create jobs for young women who might otherwise end up in the sex trade. 

“That’s so dear to my heart now. I’ll never be able to not think about that.”

*Name has been changed

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that Charlotte applied for compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board in 2016. She applied in 2018.

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By The Wall of Law October 17, 2019 Off

Farrow books sells across Australia despite legal threat

CANBERRA, Australia — Ronan Farrow’s new book is being sold in Australia despite threats of defamation lawsuits that the Pulitzer-winning journalist believes led some Australian retailers to drop the bestseller.

“Catch and Kill” covers events leading to Farrow’s New Yorker magazine expose of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct as well the reporter’s account of his contentious divorce from his previous employer, NBC News. The detailed stories on Weinstein published by The New York Times and The New Yorker in 2017 shared a Pulitzer Prize and are credited with igniting the global #MeToo movement.

Farrow’s book also makes repeated references to former National Enquirer editor in chief Dylan Howard, whose lawyers sent letters to Australian booksellers threatening lawsuits.

Amazon Australia and Booktopia declined to comment Thursday on their decisions not to sell Farrow’s book.

A number of smaller Australian book retailers received letters from Howard’s law firm McLachlan Thorpe Partners, but most did not.

Lawyer Andrew Thorpe, who signed the letters, did not respond when asked by AP who had received them.

One letter shown to The Associated Press said Howard believes the book contains “false and defamatory allegations.” The letter warns that if the Australian publisher, Hachette Australia, is sued for defamation, “our client will have no alternative but to join you as a party to those proceedings as a distributor.”

Hachett Australia spokeswoman Anna Egelstaff declined to comment on the legal threat but said the book had been distributed as planned.

“It’s been distributed widely across Australia. It’s now available in bookshops and some online retailers,” Egelstaff said.

Farrow tweeted that some Australian book outlets had “caved and banned it due to frivolous legal threats.”

Farrow added that he hoped Australian readers “can import or buy from an independent bookseller, and avoid outlets that yield to these kinds of intimidation tactics.”

Robbie Egan, chief executive of the Australian Booksellers Association, said the two big online retailers were the only Australian outlets he knew of that had decided against stocking the book.

“There’s no legal threat: it’s just the threat of the possibility of legal threat,” Egan said. “I can’t recall anything like this and I’ve been doing it (selling books) for 25 years.”

David Gaunt, owner of Gleebooks in Sydney, said he had not been notified by the publisher or anyone else of a legal threat. He had sold out of the book by Thursday.

“There’s no way it would have got the publicity that it’s got if it hadn’t been for the attempt to ban it,” Gaunt said. “Unless people contacted the publisher to say: ‘What should I do?’, the publisher is being very relaxed about the whole thing.”

Mark Rubbo, managing director of Melbourne retailer Readings, said he disregarded the legal letter he received because of the important issues the book raised.

“The letter just said it may contain defamatory content — so it didn’t say it did — and I didn’t feel that was a strong enough reason not to sell it,” Rubbo said.

Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press


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By The Wall of Law October 17, 2019 Off

The Latest: Key UK party says it won’t support Brexit deal

BRUSSELS — The Latest on Brexit (all times local):

8:10 a.m.

The leaders of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s key Northern Ireland ally say they can’t support the draft Brexit deal struck between the government and the European Union.

Support from the Democratic Unionist Party is key to Johnson’s plan to get an agreement approved by parliament. But DUP leader Arlen Foster and the party’s parliamentary chief Nigel Dodds say they “could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues.”

Those arrangements are key to guaranteeing an open border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland — the main obstacle to a Brexit deal.

Without the DUP’s support, any deal is unlikely to be ratified by the U.K. Parliament.

Foster and Dodds said they would continue to work with the U.K. government to get a “sensible” deal.

___

7:30 a.m.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his 27 counterparts from across the European Union are converging on Brussels for a summit they hope will finally lay to rest the acrimony and frustration of a three-year divorce fight.

Yet high anxiety still reigned on Thursday morning with the last outstanding issues of the divorce papers still unclear and Johnson uncertain whether his allies at home will back the compromises he needs to make a deal.

Technical negotiators again went into the night Wednesday to fine tune customs and VAT regulations that will have to regulate trade in goods between the Northern Ireland and Ireland, where the UK and the EU share their only land border.

The summit starts midafternoon and is slated to end some 24 hours later.

The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law October 17, 2019 Off