When No Does Not Mean No: why the PM and his top aides dumped Jody Wilson-Raybould

What happened to Jody Wilson-Raybould that holds true for most women in Canada?

They are badgered and brow-beaten by men. Either the men are more powerful, or judge themselves more powerful and important than the women.

Often, men badger, hector and cajole women to get sex.  This is where the campaign “No means no” came from. Without an ‘enthusiastic’ yes, it is now assumed women do not consent to sex.  Hold on, not so fast.

Many men in powerful positions believe – or want to believe –the woman gave her consent.  Consider the case of  Jian Ghomeshi. Back in 2015, Ghomeshi was the first of a long line of men in high positions who fell from grace because they took what they wanted from women.  We all remember that the men refused to take ‘no’ for an answer.

In the case of Jody Wilson-Raybould, we see a woman whom a handful of men at the very top tried to “turn.”  Of course the issue was not sexual per se, but part of the same concern:  “no means no”. “No means no” applies to politics, business, the workplace and many matters outside the bedroom.  Clearly a gender thing was going on – and the powerful men refuse to see it that way.

gods-clipart-janus-12Janus, the two-faced god


The SNC-Lavalin scandal began when the Director of Public Prosecutions, Kathleen Roussel, refused to give the company a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) so SNC-Lavalin could avoid a criminal trial.   Wilson-Raybould supported Roussel’s decision not to give the DPA.  In “discussions” throughout the fall of 2018, Wilson-Raybould noted that three times in one month she or her chief-of-staff, Jessica Prince, were prevailed upon by the Prime Minister and his men to reverse Roussel’s decision.

  • ·On 6 September 2018, Ben Chin, chief-of-staff to Liberal Finance minister Bill Morneau, told Jessica Prince that if SNC-Lavalin didn’t get a DPA, the company could leave Quebec, and imperil the Liberals in the Quebec election.   There was a warning that the “bad news” could go public, and bite into the Liberal brand.
  • 16 September: Two senior advisors to Trudeau contacted Jessica Prince and urged her (and by extension Wilson-Raybould) to find a ‘reasonable solution’.  They told Prince that SNC’s next board meeting was on 20 Sept.  And the advisors talked about problems for the Liberals in the upcoming Quebec election.
  • 17 September: To Wilson-Raybould, the Prime Minister stressed the potential loss of jobs [since disproved—ed.], and warned that SNC would move away.Michael Wernick, then Clerk of the Privy Council, stressed there was an SNC board meeting on the 20 Sept, and SNC could move to London “if this happens”.  He also warned of a Quebec election very soon.  The PM “jumped in stressing that there is an election in Quebec and “I am an MP in Quebec… .”

In the lead up to Christmas, there were more efforts to sway Wilson-Raybould including phone calls, demands by Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s then chief-of-staff and a cajoling and threatening phone call with Michael Wernick,Men-Cool-2447

Liberal party men in suits

The powerful men’s lies were monstrous. First, in early February 2019, the Prime Minister himself said “ the allegations are false”, referring to the Globe and Mail’sstory about the PM’s push for the DPA. That lie in itself was the signal that it was “open season” on criticism of Wilson-Raybould by members of the Liberal caucus.

The top men insisted they did not pressure Wilson-Raybould.  They just wanted her to seek ‘outside advice’ or a second opinion.  However, as University of British Columbia professor Andrew Martin, a specialist in legal ethics, said “The only reason to suggest to get an outside opinion is that she’s wrong.”   Put simply, Martin says that it’s a way for the government to say: “I’m going to bug you, until you say what I want.”

Neither the Prime Minister, nor Butts, nor Wernick believed that 20 meetings, phone calls and texts amounted to pressure. They said that people (read ‘women’) “experience situations differently.”

After all, women should be used to men’s pressure tactics.

Of course none of this was sexual per sebut it’s part of the same idea that for women, no does not mean no: that women cannot be taken seriously. When women say no they are not taken seriously.

What would a man have done had he been asked for a DPA? A male Attorney General could have easily joined the old boys’ club (like the new AG, David Lametti). Or if he had said ‘no’ it would have been taken seriously.  Whatever Lametti does, he will be taken more seriously than Wilson-Raybould.  When a woman says no, it is deemed frivolous and counter-productive.  When a man says no, it is assumed he has a good reason.

This strengthens my point– that gender is at the heart of the SNC-Lavalin scandal.




What to Watch; What to Read

A new Swedish mini-series (on Netflix), Quicksand,  offers a shocking look at youth crime and drugs in a small city in Sweden.   A very lovely 17-year-old high-achieving high school senior gets involved with a similar-aged male friend.  While she is a sterling student, he is from a very rich family and rarely attends  — let alone passes– his courses.

The young woman, Maja, is charged with murder and inciting violence when we find out about a mass-shooting in Maja’s classroom. A teen’s time in solitary in prison is well presented and the court case is impressive.  There is no over-acting, little sentimentality and Maja’s relationship with adults, especially her parents, her boyfriend’s dad and her teacher are well sketched.  When you’ve watched all the episodes, I’d like to know if you think justice would work the same way in Canada. Poster_for_Quicksand_(TV_series)

Very much worth watching is a quiet and stubbornly thoughtful film Leave No Trace (also on Netflix).  A father and his 13-year-old daughter live in a camp they create in an Oregon forest. leave-no-traceThe forest is “public”park, and though the family treads lightly and is hurting no one, park authorities destroy their camp and toss them off the land.  Their homelessness is short-lived when the authorities force the father and daughter to live as tenants on a Christmas tree farm. The father has to cut down harvest the trees while the girl goes to the local high school.  There is suspense in this film, and watching it I found the subtext kindly and hostile at the same time.  I highly recommend it; you won’t forget it.

the-goldfinch.jpgThe Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius, 1654.

The brilliant novel that held my attention for 600 pages is The Goldfinch. The book begins when a 13- year-old boy in New York City steals a Dutch master’s painting, The Goldfinch (pictured above), from a major gallery.  Why he takes it, you have to discover — it all makes sense.  His family falls apart, and he becomes a ward of social services.  Finally, a  long-lost father and his girlfriend take the boy to live live with them in Las Vegas.  A decade passes and the now young man, back in New York, joins an older friend in his antiques business.  This book shows the reader how much the author, Donna Tartt, knows.  She knows about fine art and art theft; she knows about youth, drugs and social services; she knows about violence, gambling and casinos; she knows about antiques and furniture restoration.  She  understands  the very rich and she knows about debt and larceny.

Shegold knows about “Russian” or Ukrainian mobsters and Dutch paintings –and she writes about everything brilliantly.  I downloaded the book on my e-reader and could go nowhere without reading a page –or 5 — in the supermarket, on the bus, waiting for a friend at a cafe. The GoldFinch takes you into a world that is exciting and a faux-visual delight.  The book has unforgettable characters, irony a bit of humour and some tragedy.

Somehow this week I happened on a new French novel (in translation) called Adele.  I don’t know if you’ll like it. adeleAdele is a narcissist — luckily for her so is her husband.  Her professed love for her 3 year-old son becomes a game, and the reader sees how Adele is consumed by her need to be loved and to be sexually exploited.  It’s an easy read, and a tough read.  I got it from the Halifax Public Library, which also has The Goldfinch.

Yay — NS finally made it to the middle of the pack!

Finally, we have almost made it to the middle of the pack. Yay!

This week’s minimum wage hike in NS from $11.05 to $11.55 an hour  means there are three provinces with a lower minimum wage than ours – but they are quickly catching up. Saskatchewan (at $11.06), Manitoba (at $11.35) and Newfoundland and Labrador (at 11.40) fly below our radar.  However PEI, at $12.25 an hour, is the highest in the Atlantic region and 6% higher than in NS.


NS Minimum wage goes up to $12.10/hr in 2020, and $12.65/hr in 2021. 

In NS, if you  work 40 hours a week at minimum wage you earn $462 a week, or just over $24,000 a year.  However to earn minimum wage of $11.55, you have to have worked for the same employer for at least three months.  If you have not worked the requisite three months for the same employer, you will earn the “inexperienced” wage of $11.05 an hour.   An employer can pay any new employee (who is not in a union) 50 cents  below minimum wageor  $11.05 for the first three months.  For a  40 hours’ work, an “inexperienced”  employee earns only $442 a week – a 4.3% cut from minimum wage!

However low minimum wage workers’ wages are, they are in fact lower than that! How many low paid jobs offer 40 hours’ work a week? Perusing today’s job listings on Indeed, a major online job search site, less than half the Halifax area jobs posted offer 40 hours per week.

Here’s a partial rundown:

Warehouse worker $14 per hour 30 hrs per wk.
Administrative assistant No wage specified 20 hrs
Administrative assistant No wage specified   7 hrs
Warehouse associate $12 20 hrs
Office Cleaner $12-$15 29.5 hrs
Dog handler $11.55-$12.00 6-20 hrs
Administrative assistant $15 24 hrs
Hotel housekeeper $12-$15 24 hrs
Editorial assistant $14 30 hrs
Dishwasher $12 20 hrs
Marketing assistant $14 30 hrs
Admin. in real estate office No wage specified 20 hrs

To be fair, there are two unionized-jobs which stand out for their higher wages, and longer hours.  One is a service attendant at VIA Rail ($26.27/hr), and the other is a help desk technician at a university ($23-28/hr).

The Living Wage Campaign, supported by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-NS, calculated the Living Wage in Halifax in 2016 at $19.17 an hour.  This means two adults in a family must eachearn at least $19.17 an hour for a 35 -40 hour work week for a household to meet its basic needs. What are basic needs? The Living Wage calculation is based on a family with two wage earners and two children under age 12.  The household may own a modest family car, use a bus pass, pay for daycare and after-school care, buy groceries and pay rent and utilities.  The Living Wage also includes money to buy clothing, pay for medical expenses, cover ‘social inclusion’ – such as swimming lessons, or going to occasional movies– and ensure a family is not under severe stress due to lack of money.


NS minimum wage is 39.7% lower than Halifax’s Living Wage. In 2016, 6.6% of employees in Nova Scotia earned minimum wage ($10.70/hr at the time). 32%  or 125,200 of all  NS workers earned $15 an hour or less.

Oh –the bright spot on the horizon:  Indeedrecently posted an ad for President of NSCAD University.  True it’s a “killer” 48 hour week, but the job does pay $231,000 per year.



Art by Night

The private galleries along Sherbrooke St have wonderful art in their front windows. Even last night’s rain and cold didn’t take away from what I saw. Tall ceramic vases, though these look like bronze.  And on the right blown glass thru raindrops on glass.

Bronze mother and child: M2-mother and life-size. This king and queen made in aluminum m2-alum One of four live size goats in front of a white tableclothed restaurant.  They  look like they’re made of wood, probably bronze. m2-goatOur Face To Face dinner with some attendees at the Independent Jewish Voice Canada Dinner, at a Crescent St. Mexican bar. M2-dinner

3 blocks in Montreal

I’m in Montreal for a Face-to-Face Conference of Independent Jewish Voices -Canada.  Today it was sunny for the later half of the day, so I took a walk near our apartment, which is on Guy near Sherbrooke.  I walked south, and the sun made the shabby black snowbanks run like crazy.

This lovely sculpture is called Emily Carr et Ses Amis — it’s by the Regina artist Joe Fafard.      Fafard, whose famous sculptures of politicians (such as Trudeau here and Diefenbaker here) and many others, tend to be whimsical and even humorous.  Unfortunately, Fafard died at age 74 earlier in March.  I’ll miss him.  This large sculpture created in 2005 in bronze commemorates the famous painter, Emily Carr (1871-1945).  The female artist who was not counted amongst the Group of Seven– she was never considered for membership.  The sculpture includes her dog, Billie, and her monkey Woo.  I don’t know her horse’s name, but the old photos on the left seemed to give inspiration to Fafard.  On another site I found this photo of the sculpture dwarfed by snow.  I saw this sculpture on the corner of Sherbrooke and St Marc St.

Older buildings, on the left are some walk up apartments.  Then there are the row houses along de Maisonneuve.  I saw this old brick apartment building for sale. Along the 2000 block of Sherbrooke are blocks of stately wonderful apartments, with these blue awnings and tents at each of 5 entrances.  Delightful.mtl-on-topThis photo above right is a lovely old brick building on de Maisonneuve which I think used to be a church.  But the architects built these concrete boxes on top to “expand” the premises.  Doesn’t look great.  Too incongruous.

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Two graphics from this week’s issue of The People’s Voice…  the Canadian Communist Party’s bi-weekly newspaper.  I read it while having the weakest and most tepid coffee in Montreal (it turns out) the Presse-Cafe.  And here’s a cartoon.mtl-cartoon

This editorial was welcome: mtl-jewsAbout how criticism of Israel isn’t anti-Semitic.   Finally, below three types of tea I bought since we can’t get them in Halifax, and a sign for “sugaring-off” at the local grocery store.’Tis the season.

What to Read, What not to Watch…


Reading lately has been a treat.  I’ll start with These Poor Hands. poor-handsFirst published in 1939, this book is written by BL Coombes, a coal minder in south Wales.  He  spent 30 years underground, because it was a better job and income — marginally — than subsistence farming.  He is a great and witty writer. He talks about strikes, he talks about the negotiations with mine masters to whom the miners were little more than slaves.  He talks about the miners singing on the walk to the pits which was as far as 10 miles from their home.  If you ever wonder about how and why the welfare state in the UK evolved, this book is for you. I couldn’t put it down.  Coombes  was witness and writes about men’s deaths, outrageous ‘accidents’ and even skirts around family issues and finances of the impoverished miners. Excellent.

On a totally different note, I read a murder mystery, courtroom drama written by the former Canadian Chief Justice of the Supreme Court — Beverley McLachlin.  I think in this case you can tell a book by its cover. full2Trendy, quick witted, intemperate. These are good things about the book. The bad things are a weak plot, characters straight out of central casting, and a woman defence lawyer  whose ego is half the size of Grouse Mountain.  This is one of the only books I’ve read in which the second half of the book is better than the first! McLachlin also knows how to tie up loose ends yet  make the book end with an untidy, fractured feel about it.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit sick of series of the dark mysteries or thrillers from Scandinavia.  For example, I first got hooked on Border Town because it takes place in Lapeenranta, Finland.  60 km from the Russian border — and I’ve been there! I’ve been there only in winter, so the summer outdoor scenes make the place look green, alive and almost sexy.  Lapeenranta has a university with a business school (don’t go screaming) so Larry and I made a presentation there maybe 8 years ago– in the dead of winter. The Netflix series Border Town features a psychologist-cop which to me is a frightening — rather than reassuring — skill set and a Russian emigree woman cop who is more interesting.  However the script is tedious. The murder victims are  haphazardly drawn, and the reason for the murders almost impossible to fathom.  However, the acting is good, everyone’s thin, and well it’s very Finnish. border!



Police Power

“Mounties issue warning about release of high-risk offender

“Adam Mitchell Cox, 31, is expected to be released from the Dorchester Penitentiary on Monday. Nova Scotia RCMP have issued a warning about a man described as a high-risk offender who has completed a sentence for several offences at the Dorchester Penitentiary.


“Adam Mitchell Cox, 31, is expected to be released from the New Brunswick prison Monday. 

“His criminal record dates back to 2005 and includes convictions for theft, mischief, breach of probation, sexual interference and sexual assault.”

“Nova Scotia RCMP said the warning is for all citizens, particularly those in the Beaver Bank area.”

This warning, complete with a large mug shot of Cox, was published in Halifax Today, an online news outlet from the Halifax radio station C95.

I emailed C95 to ask why they published this “warning” from the RCMP.  I asked what good would it do — for the public or for the ex-con?  Today I got a call from a reporter at C95 to ask why I was against publishing the ex-con’s rap sheet and the warning to Beaverbank residents.

There’s a 2012 book everyone interested in civil liberties and ex-prisoners should read by American novelist Russell Banks, Lost Memory of Skin. skin  In this fictional book, a young man who is convicted of a mild sex offence (and if you read the book you will see what I mean) is prohibited from being within a 100 metres of a school, a playground, a sports centre, or a park.  He is prohibited from working or  volunteering   any place children are present or expected to be present; he is forbidden to be employed where kids under age 16 could be and forbidden to use the internet.    Ultimately a whole community of men like him end up living under a bridge in south Florida because it was the only place to live which was beyond the 100 meters  from a school or park but close enough to walk  to work, if they are lucky enough to find it.  They have to walk everywhere because public transit is off limits as kids also travel on buses.  The young man had to quit his job as a restaurant dishwasher because families with kids ate there.

According to the RCMP’s press release, the same prohibitions have been place on Cox who in fact has served his sentence.

If you consider for a minute — YOU probably LIVE within a couple of hundred metres of a school, playground or park.  Imagine your life if you were forbidden from living or walking near a school or park, or prevented from using the internet.  Cox had these and other restrictions imposed on him — not for a couple of years– but for 25 years. 


The C95 reporter insisted the public had the right to know that a dangerous ex-con had been released.  “Why?” I asked, “are we in favour of vigilante justice? What good does it do to know an ex-con lives in the neighbourhood? Doesn’t this just feed the old Harper agenda of law and order? ‘You did the crime so do the time’?” — except that Cox did do the time.

The reporter suggested I should go along with this because police are the authority and they’ve figured this matter out.  “Really?”  I said, ” This is the same police* who have just been found to have stopped black people in Halifax SIX TIMES more often than they stop whites.  This is the same police force in which women officers have launched more than 1100 complaints of sexual harassment by  male officers–  which one Member of Parliament describes as  “mind boggling.”

Let’s see if this goes anywhere.  Clearly the idea of rehabilitating the ex-con has gone out the window.  Ivan Zinger, Canada’s Correctional Investigator, says  “If the conditions of confinement aren’t conducive to rehabilitation and safe reintegration, then the $115,000 we spend per inmate is not a great outcome.”  Zinger said that the conditions in federal prisons (including Dorchester which incarcerated Cox) “serve no underlying correctional, rehabilitative or public safety purpose.”

And let’s not forget the racism in prisons and who exactly gets incarcerated.  Indigenous men represent 25.2% of all males in custody in federal prisons.  Only 5% of Canadians are Indigenous.  While 82.4% of Indigenous inmates serve their whole sentences, only 65% of non-Indigenous prisoners serve their whole sentence.  Ten percent  of the Canadian prison population is African-Canadian, though African-Canadians  represent only 3% of the Canadian population. For more on these outrages and what you can do, see prison activist, writer and academic El Jones’ blogs here and in the Halifax Examiner here .

I’m no expert in this matter of crime and punishment.  But it can’t be good to target, name and shame ex-cons in our midst.  After all, 95% of people in prison do get released. They have to walk and live among us.


 *the RCMP works with Halifax police in various suburban areas of HRM.