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Murdering Justice

Murdering Justice

Activists Killed by Police in Canada
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Had It Coming

In writing a book about #MeToo, I could have gone two ways.
   The first, the easy route, would have been to lean into my own frustrations, anger, and indignation at the world, developed during thirty-four years of living as a human female. I could have collected those grievances—all those times that a man took credit for my work or a date pushed too far, or that time in a taxi when I barely escaped from the driver. I could have harnessed all the memories of men telling me to “Smile!,” of my ideas not being taken seriously on account of my gen- der, of having my butt patted on the street or on public transit or at a bar. And I could have rolled it all in with the gnawing reality that in 2019 women continue to earn less for the same work as men, represent only a quarter of House of Commons seats, and—as of 2018—total exactly one CEO among the top hundred most influential companies in Canada. That situation doesn’t even begin to approach the level of inequality for women of colour or for women in countries where by law they’re second-class citizens, where they’re under the thumb of male guardians, where their access to education is limited, where they’re routinely subjected to sexual violence as part of domestic life, or civil strife, or war. And then I could have taken that Molotov cocktail of resentment, lit it on fire, and lobbed it into the world, screaming, “Burn it all down!” That’s a book that would have earned me a lot of love on Twitter. It would have been simple to talk about and promote. The fury that many women are experiencing and voicing right now is real and warranted, and writing 70,000 words about why would have been cathartic.
   But that is not the book I’ve written.
   At the time I started researching this book, I’d already spent more than two years immersed in many of these issues. I’m a journalist with The Globe and Mail and in the summer of 2015, I began investigating how police handle sexual assault allegations. As part of that research, I interviewed well over a hundred people connected to the criminal justice system—sexual assault complainants, police officers, lawyers, judges, sexual assault nurses, academics, activists, and front-line support workers. I’d read through thousands of pages of court transcripts and police files. Building on what I’d learned through that reporting, I turned my mind to the #MeToo movement. I thought I’d have firm opinions on everything related to the movement, but the more I read, the more I pushed myself beyond the confines of like-minded social media silos, the more open conversations I had with those in my social and business circles, the more I realized that that approach wasn’t going to cut it. It’s been done. I came to see that a more useful and honest book about #MeToo wouldn’t shy away from the tough questions that the movement has raised.
   Unfortunately, as a culture we aren’t very good at having nuanced, complicated discussions. The public space is not a safe venue to talk about controversial subjects. Social media and call-out culture—the tendency to aggressively shame and reprimand people for real or perceived missteps—has seen to that. Instead, people are talking it out in private, with friends they trust not to rip them apart on Twitter. My goal with this book is to bring those discussions into the open.
   At this extraordinary moment of change in how men and women interact, the path forward isn’t simple. It’s important, I believe, to uncover and evaluate the facts, to expose outdated myths that pervade institutions, and to bring rigour, openness, and compassion in equal measure to this very important conversation. I’ve come to embrace the nuance and messiness that comes with those tough conversations. So rather than lighting a match to that oily rag, with this book I’ve tried to make the case for progress as well as healthy debate. 

I was eighteen when police in Eagle, Colorado, arrested Kobe Bryant on accusations that he’d raped a woman in a hotel room. I don’t remember how I heard about it, but I do remember my first thought upon learning the news: “Well, what did she expect going to a hotel room with an NBA player?”
   The woman was nineteen, barely a year older than I was at the time. She’d been working the front desk at a mountain lodge when Bryant checked in on June 30, 2003. The twenty-four-year-old basketball all-star was in the area for knee surgery. He arrived late with a small entourage and asked the woman to show him around the facilities. After the tour, she escorted Bryant back to his room. He invited her in. They chatted for a bit. Flirted. And when he kissed her, she kissed him back. It was flattering, she later told police, that the famous Los Angeles Laker seemed interested in her. She was okay with the kissing.
   But then Bryant started to grope and fondle her. The teenager moved towards the door, but Bryant blocked her path. “I try and walk to the side, and he would walk with me,” she told police. That’s when, she alleged, the six-foot-six shooting guard put his hands around her throat and squeezed—not hard enough to close her windpipe, but hard enough to make it clear that he was in control. Bryant removed his pants. He bent her over a chair. When he removed the teenager’s underwear, she again protested, but he ignored her. “Every time I said ‘no’ he tightened his hold around me,” she told police.
   The woman told police that Bryant proceeded to rape her. He did so with one hand gripping her throat while she wept. When she was eventually able to leave, Bryant’s T-shirt was stained with her blood. Almost immediately, the woman bumped into a friend, the hotel bellman. She tearfully recounted that Bryant had choked and raped her. A sexual assault examination performed fifteen hours later revealed two one-centimetre lacerations and several smaller tears in her vaginal region. The injuries were “consistent with penetrating genital trauma.” Officials also documented a bruise on her jaw.
   Bryant initially lied to investigators and said he’d never had sex with the teenager, but he changed his story after police indicated that they had physical evidence from the rape kit. In his new version of events, Bryant admitted that they’d had sex, but he claimed it was consensual—and in fact, she had been the one to initiate it. The ensuing media coverage trumpeted Bryant’s athletic accolades, questioned the complainant’s character, and minimized the severity of the allegations by sprinkling basketball references throughout stories that were otherwise about rape. “On the hardwood, he often controls the court. But facing allegations of felony sexual assault by an unnamed nineteen-year-old woman, basketball superstar Kobe Bryant may find himself on another court where three-point plays don’t count,” NBC News reported after the arrest. The headline in the Los Angeles Times reassured fans that they had reason to doubt their star’s accuser: “Alleged victim in Bryant case is a 19-year-old graduate of local high school who is said to be fun-loving, outgoing and emotional.” The Associated Press story painted a portrait of a man deserving of compas- sion: “Sitting not far from the court, where everything comes so naturally to him, Kobe Bryant found it tough just to speak. After waiting several seconds to gather himself, the Los Angeles Lakers’ guard choked back tears and his voice quivered. ‘I’m innocent.’”

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Values in Conflict

32nd Couchiching Conference, C.I.P.A
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Blamed and Broken

Blamed and Broken

The Mounties and the Death of Robert Dziekanski
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Chapter 1 | Why Are The Police Not Here?

At first, no one notices him. He’s dressed in tan pants and a windbreaker that’s nearly white. His clothes are loose-fitting and flap as he walks, as if he were covered with a sheet like a Halloween ghost. He could be a ghost, if not for the luggage cart he’s pushing toward the meeting area of Vancouver International Airport. There aren’t many people here to notice him, anyway. It’s nearly one on a Sunday morning. Flights have all but ceased. The normally crowded greeting hall is now populated by perhaps a dozen tired-looking figures dressed for the city’s mid-October chill. Bleary-eyed, most are patiently focused on the swinging glass doors that automatically open as each newly arrived passenger emerges from the International Reception Lobby, known as the IRL. The IRL is a semi-secure part of the airport, just outside the cavernous high-security hall that houses baggage carousels, Customs, and Immigration. Beyond the one-way glass doors on the public side, there are repeated scenes of welcome: parents hugging children, reunited partners kissing, and friends shaking hands. The touching sentiments are brief in these wee hours and most head quickly toward the exit and home, arm-in-arm or holding hands.

No one is waiting for the invisible man as he approaches the automatic doors with three suitcases piled neatly on his cart. As he crosses the threshold, the doors close behind him. He follows the long walkway marked by a wood and steel railing, which ends in the public greeting hall. He pauses briefly. His head moves from side to side as if he’s scanning for something or someone. Instead of heading for the exit he turns his cart sharply and almost trips as he steers his luggage back toward the glass wall from behind which he had just appeared. A few minutes later, the man hoists his bags from his cart up and over the railing, piling them on the floor by the automatic doors, like a barricade. Once over the railing himself, he begins hitting the glass doors with his hands. He is no longer invisible. People turn and stare.

The banging reverberates to a section of the hall where a young man is stretched out on a row of bench chairs. Paul Pritchard is trying to get some sleep after several seemingly interminable flights from Shenzhen, China. A rootless traveller at twenty-five, Pritchard has been on the road for years, having left his home in Victoria, B.C., at eighteen. Pritchard was teaching English in China when his father called him to say the lung cancer he was battling was terminal, and could Paul come home? Hours earlier he had made it to San Francisco to catch a connecting flight to Vancouver.

Pritchard has never been one to embrace convention or authority — as a teen he had encounters with the police. He used a fake university degree and bogus teaching certificate to land the job in China. Pritchard routinely refuses to stand in line while planes are boarding. As fate would have it, as he sat waiting for the Vancouver flight lineup to shorten, he fell asleep in a chair right beside the gate. He awoke half an hour later. The plane was gone. The only other flight he could get put him in Vancouver long past the deadline to catch the last ferry to Vancouver Island, where his father waited in Victoria.

Pritchard has no money for a hotel room, so he crashes on the benches in the airport terminal with his big blue backpack. In countless ways, Pritchard’s long-standing suspicion of authority and penchant for shortcuts has carved the path that has brought him to this moment. Unable to sleep, Pritchard stands up to get a better look at the spectacle unfolding by the glass doors.

In 2007, cellphones are not nearly as ubiquitous as they are today. Those that have built-in cameras can manage to record only notoriously bad, pixilated images. The first iPhone, which has a slightly better resolution, isn’t on the market in Canada yet. Pritchard is not using his phone to record the scene, however; he is making use of the digital camera he bought for his travels. He instinctively grabs it, but doesn’t turn it on.

As Pritchard looks on, he strikes up a conversation with a traveller from Texas, who is just as curious about why the hell that guy is banging on the glass. They are trading thoughts and speculation, when a man in a suit with his hands in his pockets strides up to the peculiar scene. Lorne Meltzer wants to get through the doors that are now blocked by suitcases and their increasingly irrational owner. Meltzer is a limo driver here to pick up a client coming in on a flight from New York City. Meltzer has an access card that allows him to open the swinging glass doors so he can wait in the IRL for his fare. He approaches just as the wild-eyed man smashes a chair against the glass.

“Hold on!” Meltzer yells, as he reaches inside his coat for his access card. The man clenches his fist as if anticipating Meltzer’s hand will emerge from his jacket gripping a weapon. Meltzer thinks that on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the point at which the man is ready to attack, this guy is at nine. Meltzer swipes his card on the reader. The doors open.

When the man doesn’t budge, Meltzer loses it. “Look you fuckin’ asshole, I need to get through here,” Meltzer yells, just inches from the man’s face, which is now glistening with perspiration. The man’s black hair is matted with sweat. His eyes are glassy. He slowly backs down and starts hauling his bags through the open doors. He begins to build a makeshift barricade on the threshold using his luggage and some stools from a dark and deserted information counter beside the doorway.

Why am I not filming this? Pritchard suddenly thinks. Years of travel have taught him to point a camera at anything that might be worth a look later on.

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