Offended by Offence

Christie Blatchford on McHale et al.

Today, a professor that I know and respect sent me a message telling me that he had signed the Open Letter (now withdrawn on the basis of its libelous statements) because he had “reservations about particular panelists from the militia in Caledonia” due to their methods, which “the open letter captures”.  He then went on to ask: “Are there not others involved in the conflict who bring a more balanced view to the conflict in Ontario? Christie Blachford [sic] for example has written about Caledonia from a critical perspective without advocating vigilantism”.

After Ms. Blatchford was informed about the professor’s query, she provided an email responding stating that she could not attend because she is currently working on a book about Caledonia, and did not have the time to participate.  She also made some comments in response to the professor’s reference to “vigilantism”, and requested that I forward them to him.  After receiving this reply from Blatchford, the professor in question is now reconsidering his original position on the matter, and so I thought that others who signed the petition might be interested in what she has written.  Reprinting Blatchford’s comments is not meant to endorse the ideas of Vandermaas and McHale; Blatchford’s views are only one opinion, and her impressions of McHale and Vandermaas’ could be mistaken or be based on an unrepresentative sample of the evidence available.  It is only to suggest that until the voice of McHale and Vandermaas are heard we will not be able to develop an informed opinion on the Caledonia conflict, and the appearance of these speakers should not be “protested” on the basis of questionable allegations.

In Blatchford’s words:

“…[the professor] writes that I have written critically about Caledona “without advocating vigilantism” — the clear implication that Mr. McHale and Mr. Vandermaas have done so. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have attended three recent rallies in Caledonia, two of them organized by Mr. McHale, both of which were cancelled when self-styled anti-racists from Toronto showed up to out-shout the group. Mr. McHale sensibly cancelled the rallies both time. He always urges his supporters to be polite, respectful, civil, and peaceful. (In fact, he also asks people not to swear, which would exclude me, I confess.) In the course of researching my book, I have also reviewed video footage of earlier rallies in Caledonia and at Queen’s Park that were organized by Gary and Merlyn Kinrade; the footage of the rally at the Legislature is actually touching, because they were all dressed up, in suit and tie, and their remarks were as respectful as their attire.

On the one occasion that I know of where a Six Nations member, Clyde Powless, showed up and asked to speak at a Mr. McHale rally, he was greeted politely by Mr. McHale and allowed his turn at the microphone to say his piece. It was but a couple of weeks later at another rally that Mr. Powless assaulted Mr. McHale (he pleaded guilty to this offence in 2008). This was typical and telling — on the few occasions there has been violence at a McHale rally, it was not committed by him or his supporters, but rather by those who wish to deny him the right to speak.

While I grant you that the Caledoniawakeupcall website looks a little cartoonish, it is a well-documented (with original court files, newspaper stories, etc) site, and the cartoonish aspect does not accurately reflect the serious nature of the organizers.

I’ve come to know Mr. McHale quite well, Mr. Kinrade and Mr. Vandermaas a little, and have found them always to be fierce advocates only of freedom of speech and non-violent civil disobedience. I think it is just a little ironic that at a time when George Galloway’s supporters (including university professors) are arguing he should be allowed to enter Canada and speak — and I agree with them and have said so publicly — another professor is advocating censoring Gary McHale et al.” (Personal communication from Christie Blatchford, April 28, 2010).

9 thoughts on “Christie Blatchford on McHale et al.

  1. Oh, this is rich. If you want balance do not include Christie Blatchford in your debate. I would also question your professor’s familiarity with Ms. Blatchford’s writing on Caledonia. If he read her work intently he’d be more likely to have called her a McHale cheerleader. You already have a McHale cheerleader or two on your panel.

    Further, signing a petition of protest — one that is not a call for censorship — IS free speech.

  2. My intent of this post is not to create “balance”; it is to investigate the claim as to whether or not McHale and Vandermaas can be considered to be engaged in “vigilantism”. The question is, what evidence is there that McHale and Vandermaas have engaged in vigilantism? Having observed various activities of McHale and Vandermaas, Blatchford is disputing this claim. Is she right? If not, why not? It is true that Blatchford is a supporter of McHale, but maybe she has come to this conclusion honestly and fairly. I have stressed that she is just one observer, and there is a need to determine if her observations are representative of reality.

    Signing a petition “protesting the presence” of speakers is an aspect of free speech? What does it mean to “protest the presence” of a speaker? Does this not mean that one is advocating that the speaker should not be present? These are evasive word games trying to avoid responsibility for the consequences of a political demand. With this logic, next we will be circulating petitions demanding that demands for censorship be banned!

  3. So ‘informed content’ (comment above) wants to impugn the credibility of Christie Blatchford – winner of the Governor General’s Award for her book ’15 Days’? You have to be kidding, right?

    Well, if Blatchford can’t be trusted, how about John Nicol of the CBC National News Investigative Team who spent 4 hours with McHale and me, and many hours verifying our facts before writing the two stories below? Got any insults about him? Is he a “McHale cheerleader,” too?

    ■CBC News, Feb 02/10: The 2 men who are putting a police chief on trial
    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/02/02/f-caledonia-fantino.html#ixzz0eQTy1nlY

    ■CBC News, Feb 02/10: Ont. top cop pushed for charges against protester
    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/02/02/fantino-mchale-opp-caledonia-protest.html

    What if you stopped the insults and do what these two respected journalists have spent countless hours doing – ask honest questions and see if we have the evidence to support our position? How about contributing to the debate about whether or not aboriginal protesters have the right to attack innocent people or not?

    Mark Vandermaas, Founder
    Caledonia Victims Project

  4. Mark,

    You make many assumptions about my intent, which, I think, demonstrates precisely the kind of activist diatribe you’ll bring to Ms. Widdowson’s debate.

    As a reader, I have every right to my personal opinion of Ms. Blatchford’s reporting and writing. I find it to be very poor and transparently biased — on many subjects. This is just one subject. I can speak, from experience, to her dogged determination to tell a particular story. In this case, she supports your argument. Champion her all you want. I would not want her to be my principle supporter given the number of people who dismiss her immediately based on the reputation she has earned, which is, admittedly, based on opinion.

    McHale is a self-imported activist in the Caledonia situation. Fine. He has the freedom to do so (despite what Fantino said, did, and tried to do). In sharing my distaste for Christie Blatchford I never said I disagreed with the McHale et al argument that “protesters [do not] have the right to attack innocent people.”

    Frances brought up Blatchford and I was responding to that, particularly her claim in a related post that she was seeking balance on the panel, and her professor friend’s suggestion that Blatchford would be a better choice. I think you and McHale can speak for yourselves; it is my opinion that Ms. Blatchford’s opinions are not necessary. She is one of many hacks with awards. Frances’ unnamed but respected professor friend does not, in my opinion, know Blatch’s work well nor her reputation.

    I actually support Frances’ decision in the first place. Put McHale on the panel and seek balance. Blatchford doesn’t get her there.

    As for free speech, yes, Frances, one can protest the presence of an individual without calling for censorship, as I have done here. I presented an argument against Christie Blatchford’s involvement and you are free to disagree.

  5. For the record, it was never my idea to invite Christie Blatchford to present (although I would be happy to have her observe the Forum). The matter was put to her by another person. I think that we have enough representation of the “rule of law” side of the debate, and I was disturbed that we had not been able to obtain representation from the “aboriginal sovereignty” side. Although I tried to get such a presenter for a number of months, no one with this perspective would agree to sit on the panel. Fortunately, I recently heard from Wes Elliott, a negotiator for the Six Nations, and he has agreed to sit on the panel.

  6. Christie Blatchford is paid to write columns for the Globe and Mail in a style that’s well read and sells newspapers.
    And it may be interesting to note Forum presenter Gary McHale may already know of Mr. Elliott, he is a member of the Hoskanigetah of the Grand River.(Haudenosaunee Men’s Fire)
    Should make for an interesting afternoon at the Conference.

  7. Well, let’s not be too clever by half. You did choose to post your unnamed but respected professor friend’s idea so while you did not, for the record, propose the idea yourself you were quite content to have it floated, otherwise why post it? For the record, I do not consider Christie Blatchford to be worthy of the space she is given within the pages of the “venerable” Globe and Mail and I choose to opine that Mark is a fan because she is an ally. Fair enough. I choose to read and dismiss Ms. Blatchford’s writing. Glad you got some “balance” for your panel, though. Wish I could be there to watch the theatre that will ensue. I do wish you luck in promoting actual debate but I fear the lines in the sand are drawn by your your panellists and the differences will remain intractable.

  8. Libel is the stock and trade of the radicalized element attempting to silence the truth about Caledonia.

    I’m sure Mr. McHale and Vandermass could retire comfortably on the awards they could make on the multitudinous libel that has been spread against them. But they choose to fight for the unheard voices of Caledonia.

    Bravo to both of you, and remember, your slanders haven’t an ounce of truth to stand behind.

  9. “Informed Content”, I do not know why you continue to attribute motives to me when none exist. Here’s what happened: I forwarded the message to McHale and Vandermaas because statements had been made about them and they deserved to be able to respond to them; Mr. McHale forwarded the email to Christie Blatchford. Then Ms. Blatchford sent a message to me, asking that I forward her message to the professor. I am not using the professor’s name because he was kind enough to inform me that he had signed the Open Letter (unlike some people!), and I didn’t want to embarrass him. Surely you can understand that? After all, for some reason, you have decided to remain anonymous.

    I did not post the letter because I wanted to have Ms. Blatchford come to present at the forum. I want McHale and Vandermaas to present beause I had originally invited them based on the writings of Mr. Vandermaas, and the fact that he has some interesting things to say about the rule of law. I am hoping that, by posting Ms. Blatchford’s letter, people will reconsider “protesting the presence” of McHale and Vandermaas (whatever that means). Instead of “protesting” the fact that an important exchange is being initiated, they should come and listen to McHale and Vandermaas, analyze their arguments, and respond critically, if necessary.

    “Theatre” could ensue on May 5; I hope that this is not the case, since the ideas at stake are too important. Whether it does or not, however, is irrelevant. The important thing is that opposing points of view are being aired and the kindly inquisitors have not been able to stop this. Although the “lines in the sand” might have been drawn by these individuals, the extreme positions are not my concern. It is the people who are in the middle, who have no vested interests in these issues who I want to reach (especially those who identify as aboriginal). These people have not made up their mind on these issues and will be able to listen fairly and openly to the arguments being presented. Hopefully, after this has transpired, we will all understand more about these issues than we did before.

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