Offended by Offence

New Directions in Aboriginal Policy Forum – Final Program

Please note:

With respect to Wes Elliott, a mistake has been made.  He is not a negotiator, but is on the negotiating team.  I apologize for the error.



The final program for the New Directions in Aboriginal Policy forum at Mount Royal University on May 5, 2010 has just been completed.  It is posted on the New Directions in Aboriginal Policy Forums page and is cut and pasted below.  The posted program now contains the abstract for the presentation of Wes Elliott  (Six Nations of the Grand River Territory) – “Allies of the Crown: Honouring the Treaties is the Formula for Peace”.  The abstract states that

“The Great Law of Peace contains the principles which the Creator gave to the Houdensaunee people to live in harmony with one another and the land. This foundation formed the oldest confederacy of nations in the world. It is our Constitution. When European contact came, two wampum belts or treaties, were agreed upon: the Two Row and the Silver Covenant Chain. They became the Law of the Land. Today they are still the Law of the Land. They govern the conduct between our nations. They supercede any laws created for so called justice.

In Caledonia, both treaties have been violated. In Brantford, both treaties have been violated. In negotiations, both have been violated.  We have never been conquered. We are the only native nations in Canada that are allies to the Crown. We have our own language, culture and history, but most of all, we uphold our part of the Treaties. The basic understanding of these treaties, the honouring of them, then abiding by them, is the formula for peace”.

We are very pleased that Mr. Elliott has agreed to make this presentation and to critically engage the position of Mark Vandermaas and Gary McHale.  Once again, the forum does not endorse either position; its only goal is to present diverse points of view.  Although many will not agree with the arguments presented, Mount Royal University is a strong supporter of academic freedom and critical inquiry.  It is by being exposed to challenging points of view, in fact, that enables all people to develop intellectually.


New Directions in Aboriginal Policy

Free Public Forum at Mount Royal University

Nickle Theatre (Main Building, West Gate)

Calgary, Alberta, May 5, 2010

Sponsored by:

Mount Royal University’s Department of Policy Studies,

Arts Scholarly Events Committee, Office of Provost and Vice-President, Academic,

and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

8:30-9:00              Coffee

9:00-9:20              Opening Remarks

Sabrina Reed (Associate Dean, Faculty of Arts, Mount Royal University) – Welcome

Frances Widdowson (Mount Royal University) – The Kindly Inquisition Influencing Aboriginal Policy Formulation

9:20-10:00            Keynote Address

Don Sandberg (Frontier Centre for Public Policy) – The State of First Nations in Canada Today

10:00-10:15         Coffee

10:15-12:00         Panel I – Private Property and Native Economic Development (Chair: Kari Roberts)

Tom Flanagan (University of Calgary) – Beyond the Indian Act: Restoring Aboriginal Property Rights

Albert Howard (Independent Researcher) – Field of Dreams: “Building” Aboriginal Economies with Property Ownership

Glenn North Peigan (University of Lethbridge) – The Treaties, Economic Development Funding and Aboriginal Dependency

Joseph Quesnel (Frontier Centre For Public Policy) – The Politics of Cutting Your Losses: Non-viable Reserves and Aboriginal Economic Development 

12:00-1:00            Lunch Break

1:00-2:45              Panel II – Aboriginal Sovereignty, Indigenous Nationalism, and the Rule of Law (Chair: Miriam Carey)

Ron Bourgeault (University of Regina) – The Aboriginal National Question: Colonialism, Self-Determination and the New Right

Wes Elliott (Six Nations of the Grand River Territory) – Allies of the Crown: Honouring the Treaties is the Formula for Peace

Gary McHale (CANACE) – The Face of Aboriginal Sovereignty Versus the Rule of Law in Caledonia

Mark Vandermaas (Caledonia Victims Project) – Listening to Victims: A Fresh Approach to Reconciliation and Healing

2:45-3:00              Coffee

3:00-5:00              Panel III – Traditional Cultural Revitalization and Aboriginal Education (Chair: Jennifer Pettit)

Andrew Hodgkins (University of Alberta) – Bilingual Education in Nunavut: Trojan Horse or Paper Tiger?

Joseph Lane (Independent Researcher, Australia) – Aboriginal Educational Successes in Australia: Mass Tertiary Education and the Development of an Indigenous Academic Class

David Newhouse (Trent University) – Canada Meets the Good Mind

Frances Widdowson (Mount Royal University) – The Good Mind and Critical Thinking: Exploring the Implications of “Indigenous Knowledge” Meeting the Academy

5:00-8:00              Reception (Faculty Centre)

9 thoughts on “New Directions in Aboriginal Policy Forum – Final Program

  1. Don’t ‘file’ your post under “freedom of speech” if you aren’t going to allow critical responses.

  2. My name is Jim Windle and I am editor of Tekawennake News at Six Nations. I have covered the Caledonia situation weekly from before it even began and continue to do so.

    I hope your forum will apply some form of proof of some of the stories I know that will be presented by Mr. McHale and Vandermaas.

    I have investigated a number of the stories McHale and Vandermaas and their core of followers have been issuing to the media and have found some to be true, but many more to be totally fabricated or grossly embellished.

    Just a heads up.
    Jim Windle

  3. Wes Elliott has been invited to respond to McHale and Vandermaas. Being more specific about your allegations would be helpful. What are the “totally fabricated” or “grossly embellished” stories to which you refer?

  4. Well Frances, tomorrow is the big day, I can hardly wait for the news reports that will be sure to follow, given the events of the last couple of weeks.
    It may be interesting to note that Mark Vandermaas’s “Caledonia Victims Project” web site has a ‘New Directions on Aboriginal Policy Forum’ post protected by password and closed to the public at large, and no comments whatsoever are allowed on the site.
    Did Mark issue you a password so you can enter the site and read the contents of this secretive post?
    I’m sure Mr. Elliott can fill you and all the other attendees in on what Mr. Windle speaks of in his comments above.

  5. Thanks very much, once again, for your insinuations Mr. Whittle. I have no such password, and have no idea what you are talking about. The “big day” tomorrow promises to be a model for how controversial subjects can be discussed in an academic environment. Mr. Windle should provide evidence for what he is talking about; it is nonsense to suggest that people should wait to hear from someone else to determine if what Mr. Windle is alleging is true.

  6. Having now heard Mr. Vandermass’s presentation, what’s your evaluation of its scholarly value? I’m loathe to challenge such a preeminent and vigorously-empirical social scientist, but I’ve been brought up to believe that the plural of anecdote isn’t data. Perhaps you disagree.

    Or maybe the important thing isn’t what was said, but who said it? As his abstract proudly proclaims, this is the first time ‘victims’ of the protest have had a seat at the policy-making table. By his calculation (methodology not described), failing to listen to non-native victims has cost 4.1 billion dollars.

    You obviously feel strongly about the inclusion of “local knowledge” in public policy.

  7. I think that the presentation has the same value as all anecdotal evidence. It is not that I disagree with the inclusion of local knowledge in public policy, I just think that it should be challenged if more systematic evidence is provided. Besides, most of my objections to “traditiona/aboriginal/indigenous knowledge” concern the incorporation of its spiritual component.

  8. Below is a response from Mark Vandermaas about Jim Windle’s allegations. Vandermaas requested that I remove Windle’s allegations because they were unsubstantiated and libelous. I declined and encouraged Vandermaas to post a response, as I think that it is difficult to determine the truth of the matter before the fact.



    Response to Jim Windle allegations of “totally fabricated” stories by ‘New Directions in Aboriginal Policy’ forum presenters Vandermaas & McHale

    [PDF version, 12P]

    by Mark Vandermaas
    While working on another story following presentations at Dr. Widdowson’s 2010 ‘New Directions in Aboriginal Policy’ forum by Gary McHale and myself at Mount Royal University on May 05/10 I discovered a previously unseen comment on her blog by Jim Windle, an editor/reporter with the Six Nations-based Tekawennake newspaper who claims many of the stories Mr. McHale and I have presented to the public have been “totally fabricated”:

    “My name is Jim Windle and I am editor of Tekawennake News at Six Nations. I have covered the Caledonia situation weekly from before it even began and continue to do so. I hope your forum will apply some form of proof of some of the stories I know that will be presented by Mr. McHale and Vandermaas. I have investigated a number of the stories McHale and Vandermaas and their core of followers have been issuing to the media and have found some to be true, but many more to be totally fabricated or grossly embellished. Just a heads up. Jim Windle”
    Given the persistent, four year campaign of deliberate smears on our reputations by Caledonia occupation supporters (that found their way into a pre-forum campaign to have us ‘disinvited’ from Mount Royal) I suggested that Dr. Widdowson remove the comment given that Windle had not responded to her request for supporting evidence. Widdowson asked instead that I submit a response based on her belief that open dialogue will help readers decide what is true and what is not. She also felt that a debate on where one draws the line in publishing unsubstantiated allegations in the name of free speech would be useful.

    I will discuss this aspect of the story after providing facts to help readers decide who is fabricating stories about Caledonia and who is not:

    1. Statements to forum supported with references: Contrary to Windle’s assertion that the New Directions forum should expect fabrications and embellishments, a comprehensive list of supporting reference citations for every major statement in my presentation (Listening to Victims: A Fresh Approach to Healing and Reconciliation) is available at the link below. These references include a number from the two Six Nations media outlets – including Windle’s Tekawennake: [21P, 8.5MB]
    2. Windle ignores Widdowson request to provide supporting evidence: Before preparing this response I confirmed with Dr. Widdowson that Windle had not responded to her request that he provide evidence to back up his allegations. Mr. McHale’s website has served over 1TB of data in the form of 14,000 news stories, editorials and documents since he began it in 2006 which have been read by over 1.1 million visitors. I have written over 350 stories about Caledonia and related issues on my blog. One would think it shouldn’t have been too difficult for Windle to provide a sampling of the “many” stories he claims are “totally fabricated or grossly embellished.”
    I challenge Jim Windle to cite 3 “totally fabricated” stories from each of our sites and provide a detailed list of facts from each that he can prove were falsified.

    3. History of false allegations by Windle: Jim Windle has made false allegations against Mr. McHale and me in the past:

    a. Between June 24-30/09 the Tekawennake published several stories that attempted to link McHale and three of his associates – including me – to white supremacist groups trying to exterminate native people. Jim Windle authored at least one of these articles as part of his attempt to smear us. On July 14/10 the Teka published the first of two ‘clarifications’ which accompany a two-part op-ed series authored by us:

    “Between June 24-30, 2009 the Tekawenakke published several stories in our on-going coverage of the Caledonia conflict which might lead some readers to believe that members of the CANACE (Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality) organization, which has advocated on behalf of the residents of Caledonia, includes members or associates with Neo-Nazi, KKK or other white supremacist ties. The Tekawennake wishes to clarify that we have no evidence that Doug Fleming, Merlyn Kinrade, Gary McHale or Mark Vandermaas are associated with or sympathizers of such groups, and offer the following Op-Ed as the first in a two-part series giving them the opportunity to communicate their purpose and agenda in their own words.” [7p, 1.5MB]
    b. On Dec 10/07 Jim Windle accused me of fabricating “sickening” allegations that a freelance employee of the Teka who is also a nurse was disciplined by the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) for sexual misconduct towards patients.

    (The man in question was employed by the Teka as a videographer and is well-known for deliberately provoking confrontations with non-natives using vile language and grotesque taunts while he films their reactions. McHale, his wife and I have all experienced this man’s disgusting provocations some of which have been captured on video and in court testimony.)

    As with the allegations herein, Windle claimed to have investigated my statements. After receiving his accusations I posted documents from the College of Nurses of Ontario on VoiceofCanada which confirmed my allegations beyond all doubt and sent Windle a link to the story. Although he promised to contact the College himself he has never apologized to me or acknowledged that my facts were correct:
    4. One previous complaint by Windle: According to Jim Windle he has been covering Caledonia “from before it even began” in February 2006. McHale and I have been writing about Caledonia since June 2006, yet in the last four years I have only received one complaint from Windle to which I provided incontrovertible proof to back up my statements as outlined in 3b above.

    It was not until four years into the crisis, on the eve of our presentations at Dr. Widdowson’s ‘New Directions in Aboriginal Policy’ forum, — after it became clear we were not going to be prevented from speaking — that Windle suddenly claimed to have conducted investigations which revealed much of our work to be falsified.

    I have certainly made the occasional error. When made aware of such I have corrected the record and provided an explanation and/or apology where appropriate. If Windle wants to provide a list of significant errors he has found I will be happy to review them and make whatever corrections are necessary.

    5. Windle not an independent journalist re Caledonia crisis: Windle’s comment leads readers to believe he is an unbiased, independent journalist. Unfortunately, he neglected to mention that he is the leader of a pro-occupation group called TRUE (Two Row Understanding through Education) which works closely with CUPE 3903’s First Nations Solidarity Working Group (FNSWG), a union committee from York University that has actively supported illegal native occupations in the Haldimand Tract since 2006.
    Windle’s connection to CUPE 3903 goes beyond mere cooperation, however. According to a Nov 15/09 CUPE 3903 FNSWG report his TRUE group received planning and organizational support along with money from the union which originally came from an anarchist group:

    “Working group members have been involved in organizational and planning meetings of TRUE and have also attended and spoken at TRUE public events. In the spring of 2008, the working group applied for and received a $3000 grant from the anarchist Freedonia foundation to support antiracist organizing and non-native communities surrounding Six Nations. So far, $1000 of that grant has been disbursed to TRUE to help cover the cost of their public events while the other $2000 will be spent in 2009. To date, TRUE has held over a dozen events, with the average attendance at meetings being between 100 and 200 people.”
    [NOTE: if this document is unavailable at the URL above, readers may contact me for a PDF copy]

    Readers may recall the storm of controversy that erupted when a campaign was orchestrated to convince Mount Royal University to ‘disinvite’ McHale and me from speaking at the forum. This campaign was the work of members of CUPE 3903. A petition begun against us as part of that campaign was removed by the online petition hoster after we complained about its libelous content and comments made by signatories:
    CUPE 3903 made a previous – and very public – attempt to smear us as white supremacists in 2009 at a Cayuga, Ontario protest, an event which was covered by Windle and the Teka via the very pieces which resulted in the ‘clarifications’ cited in 3a above.

    CUPE 3903’s financial and organizational support for Windle’s TRUE group (which, to the best of my knowledge, has not been involved in illegal activities itself) is only one detail in its November 2009 report which outlines, in surprisingly candid detail, some of the local’s long history of active support for native extremists against non-natives. CUPE claims the groups it supports have caused $2B in economic damage in the Haldimand Tract. MPP Toby Barrett puts it at $4.1B:
    Tom Keefer is a key leader for CUPE 3903’s FNSWG as well as the co-author of the November 2009 report revealing the union’s intimate relationship with Jim Windle. In October 2008 he wrote a paper entitled Declaring the Exception: Direct Action, Six Nations, and the Struggle in Brantford in which he outlined a plan showing how economic warfare against Brantford could force the government to concede an area which would not be subject to Canadian law:

    “A second way for Six Nations to win is if they can escalate their blockades in a manner that continues to financially hurt the City of Brantford while also making clear that attempts at police or military intervention would be costly and impractical means of resolving the situation. By escalating direct action tactics and mobilizing a larger number of people from Six Nations, this approach might force the City of Brantford to recognize Six Nations land rights and sovereignty through some kind of wideranging and innovative agreement with the Confederacy and the HDI.”

    Keefer also makes clear that the organization founded by Gary McHale and Mark Vandermaas – Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality – is the key group standing in the way of their goals:

    “Just as Six Nations is at the forefront of native activism in Canada, McHale and CANACE are the most sophisticated grassroots anti-native political force currently active. […] Indeed, CANACE has managed to shift the public political debate around native land rights to the right.”
    [NOTE: if this document is unavailable at the URL above, readers may contact me for a PDF copy]

    The Canadian Association of Journalists promotes a comprehensive ‘Statement of Principles and Ethical Guidelines’ for professional journalists which may be useful in judging Windle’s treatment of us and the Caledonia issue generally:
    These are some of the code’s most applicable provisions:

    We will not allow our own biases to influence fair and accurate reporting.
    We will report all relevant facts in coverage of controversies or disputes.
    Reporters are responsible for the accuracy of their work. Editors must confirm the accuracy of stories before publication or broadcast. Editors must know in detail the documentation to support stories and the reliability of the sources. Editors are responsible for the accuracy of any facts they add or changes they make.
    We will not hold office in community organizations about which we may report or make editorial judgments. This includes fund-raising or public relations work and active participation in community organizations and pressure groups that take positions on public issues.
    We will not accept payment for speaking or making presentations to groups we report on or comment on.
    We will not report about subjects in which we have a financial interest.
    Mr. Windle’s TRUE group activities, and its financial and organizational relationship with CUPE/anarchist benefactors who openly support native groups involved in criminal activities against non-natives seriously call into question his ability to function as an professional journalist with respect to Caledonia issues. Moreover, they reveal much about his possible motives for making unsupported allegations against those of us who advocate on behalf of victims of native lawlessness — who, as detailed in my presentation to the forum, include aboriginals.

    6. Ryerson Review of Journalism re Jim Windle: Jim Windle made similar, sweeping claims of fabrication/exaggerations against non-native media as reported by the Summer 2008 edition of the Ryerson Review of Journalism:

    “He’s [Windle] disappointed that his rivals have focused on juicy, unproven details instead of investigating and reporting the facts. He tried to substantiate stories of children fearfully eating lunch under their desks and Canadian flags pierced with bullet holes – what he calls “outrageous crap” – with school and OPP officials, but was told both were gross exaggerations. “I’m not saying nothing happened. But I am saying that 80 per cent of what got out to the major media either didn’t happen or was completely embellished,” says Windle. “There was so much misinformation being fed to the mainstream that only the native population and those who took it upon themselves to research the facts knew the real story.”
    It appears Windle believes that only native people and he – out of the hundreds of reporters who covered Caledonia – can know and/or report the truth, and that non-natives are liars.

    It should be noted that neither of these stories – children fearfully eating lunch under their desks or Canadian flags being pierced with bullets – have ever been reported by Mr. McHale or myself (nor is Windle cited by the Review as directly accusing us of doing so). In fact, we have never heard anyone tell these stories until Windle was quoted in the Ryerson Review of Journalism, and we have never heard them since.

    More significantly, there is a very strong element of truth behind the stories:

    A. VANDALIZED CANADIAN FLAGS: Photos of native occupiers with vandalized Canadian flags are available, including one with the middle torn out it being used to taunt residents living near the occupation site:
    B. SCHOOL LOCKDOWNS AND EFFECTS OF OCCUPIER INTIMIDATION ON CHILDREN: Various parents have reported on how their children have been negatively affected by the intimidation of native protesters – including how Notre Dame Catholic Elementary School was repeatedly locked down and even closed for days due to threats posed by nearby native lawlessness: (see p15-17)
    C. FIREARMS & SHOOTINGS: Residents have reported hearing gunshots from the occupation site, and the Six Nations newspaper Turtle Island News carried a story stating that an occupation leader admitted firearms were on the site. This report was printed after a man at the occupation site with an AK47 assault rifle made threats over a drug deal gone bad and then travelled to a nearby smokeshack where he shot a native man in the arm:
    We are in possession of approximately 1,000 hours of audio recordings from OPP/occupier radio traffic that prove native security at the Douglas Creek Estates authorized the shooting of both civilians and police officers when they strayed too close to the occupation site. Clips from the tapes have been posted online by an unknown party: (audio clips from OPP/DCE occupiers) (summary of 6 clips found on above site)
    Windle may be correct in saying children were not eating lunch under their desks, and that flags were not riddled with bullets but these are not proof that “80%” of Caledonia stories were false; they are merely ‘straw man’ arguments set up to draw attention from the larger truth that the protesters he supports did have firearms on the site; they were vandalizing Canadian flags; and were committing acts of lawlessness so serious that children were locked down in school or prevented from attending at all.

    7. Ryerson Review of Journalism re McHale & Vandermaas: More than one professional journalist has privately complimented our reporting during the past four years. In public, the same Summer 2008 edition of the Ryerson Review of Journalism in which Windle was quoted cited both Mr. McHale and I for providing information about the Caledonia crisis when other media failed the community.
    McHale and I were interviewed for four hours by CBC National News investigative reporter John Nichol who spent weeks verifying our statements and facts before publishing two important stories about us. Christie Blatchford, who is writing a book about Caledonia, has spent even more time reviewing our stories and the evidence we have gathered.

    CBC News, Feb 02/10: The 2 men who are putting a police chief on trial [PDF]
    CBC News, Feb 02/10: Ont. top cop pushed for charges against protester [PDF]
    Globe & Mail, Feb 02/10: OPP’s chief’s pursuit of activist laid bare in emails [PDF]
    Frances Widdowson blog, April 28/10: Christie Blatchford on McHale et al
    Our activities and statements have been closely scrutinized by many journalists during the past four years, including a number who were initially cool or downright hostile to us. If any one of them had found we were fabricating stories or evidence, I doubt they would have remained silent about it.

    Summary – Conclusion

    The people of Six Nations deserve to hear the unvarnished truth from their reporters something which has been in short supply during the past four years – at least when it comes to reporting about non-native activists and their concern for victims of native aggression and OPP racial policing. On a positive note, notwithstanding my concern over Windle’s most recent allegations which gave rise to this piece, I am very pleased that his publisher-employer, the Tekawennake, has taken an important step in the right direction by clearing our names and by allowing us the opportunity to communicate our message directly to the people of Six Nations. Hopefully, this is a sign of good things to come.

    DISCUSSION: Free speech & open debate vs. character assassination:
    when is it acceptable to publish unsubstantiated allegations?
    One of the things I admire about Dr. Widdowson is her determination to facilitate disparate viewpoints because she believes (rightly, I think) that open debate is the only true solution to providing long term solutions. Our participation in the forum in the face of determined opposition is a product of that commitment to academic freedom.

    Nevertheless, her suggestion that I respond to Windle’s serious allegations as an alternative to her removing them raises several issues:

    1. What is the line between free speech & open debate vs. character assassination & libel?

    If Windle had offered an opinion about me/us or the issues, even if it was offensive, I would not be overly concerned. If he had confined his statements to specific examples with specific facts he could prove were wrong, that also would have been acceptable.

    Unfortunately, he went much further: he represented himself as a subject matter expert and as a supposedly independent editor of a newspaper to make a declarative statement that he – a professional journalist – had investigated our work and found we had “totally fabricated” many of our stories.

    Jim Windle is not merely another John Q. Public offering an uninformed opinion to be given little, if any, weight. Based on his statements a reasonable reader would be fully justified in believing that our work had been investigated by an expert and found to be mainly falsified. This is no minor slight. In my opinion, the publishing of Windle’s allegations – until proven – is a clear case of enabling a gratuitous character assassination that should never have seen print.

    2. Is every comment one receives worth posting or debating in the name of free speech?

    Regional News reporter Bill Jackson, also a long time journalist in Caledonia who was himself assaulted by native protesters, concluded his commentary to me on the similar topic of what, if any, obligation does a newspaper have to print ‘both sides’ of a story with this paragraph (emphasis in original):

    “I believe that journalism requires a certain amount of objectivity. Some say that there is no such thing as objectivity and that a balanced story from a spectator’s perspective is the only way to present the news accurately. Yet newspapers constantly use objectivity to justify ignoring certain issues entirely. Otherwise, newspapers would chronicle everything that happens in life – an impossible and mostly frivolous task.

    “I believe that it’s fair to publish opinion of any individual when it comes to crime, history or land claims, if it adds to a news item or simply makes for good feature reading. But the ink and credence we give to such items needs to be more closely scrutinized.

    “News should be used not only to serve and inform the readership – a task that any piece of Grub street can accomplish – but it should also tell what’s relevant and true. This is what reporters and newspapers are for.”

    Bill Jackson, Reporter/Photographer, The Regional, May 20/08
    Putting Windle’s comments through Bill Jackson’s publication test: they may indeed be relevant – but only if they are true. If proven false, that is a completely different story that could also be reported – after the evidence has been reviewed. Not everything has to be printed simply because someone wishes it so.

    3. Even if unsupported allegations are not libelous, does this make it acceptable to publish them in the name of free speech and/or the facilitation of debate?

    Firstly, I do believe Windle’s accusations of fabricated stories may be libelous, but even if they do not meet this legal threshold does this automatically mean they should be published?

    As I said to Dr. Widdowson in one of our email exchanges:

    “…would you allow someone, in the name of free speech, to post on your blog that (say) David Newhouse or Ron Bourgeault had “totally fabricated” most of their research without the accuser providing a shred of evidence to you? I hope not.

    “I have posted hostile comments about me on my own site, but I would never allow anyone to post a comment like Windle’s about you and your work (or anyone else’s) unless they proved it to my complete satisfaction.”

    How does the public sort through what is true and what is not if the professionals presenting the information don’t insist on supporting evidence from sources before publishing? Don’t we look to journalists, academics and researchers to do this basic work for us? To sift through innuendo, lies and half-truths to find verifiable facts? If debate is the goal of a publisher, then it should only take place after the publisher is satisfied that the accuser has laid out a cogent case for alleged wrongdoing that then can be addressed by the accused. Forcing the accused to respond to non-specific ‘ghost’ allegations is fundamentally unfair and needlessly burdensome.

    Dr. Widdowson has argued to me that she has no way of knowing what is the truth until she hears the evidence. This is logical, but the airing of that evidence could have – and, in this case, I would argue should have – taken place in private and then reported upon if she wished to do so.

    Fortunately, due to our personal experiences with Jim Windle and his CUPE associates I was able to construct a detailed and (I believe) convincing rebuttal, but what if the next accuser to have ‘ghost’ allegations published by an academic is unknown to us? How could we do anything but offer a denial that will leave even more mud sticking to us than Windle’s?

    Are we required to publicly respond to every unsubstantiated accusation because a well-meaning academic wants to see who would be left standing in a debate in pursuit of truth and knowledge? Imagine the chaos and ruined lives if police or journalists assessed evidence with such methods instead of simply insisting that an accuser provide evidence.

    Surely, the bar must be set higher – much higher than this.

    4. Is responding to attacks on one’s character an opportunity or a burden?

    I am thankful for the opportunity extended by Dr. Widdowson to publish this rebuttal, just as I was when she removed comments containing false allegations that we were associated with white supremacists prior to the forum, but any future benefits that might accrue from a debate on Jim Windle’s reporting do not change the fact that some of his mud will stick to us – precisely as he intended. As I wrote to Widdowson:

    “Windle got exactly what he wanted – he got his sleazy allegations about us permanently posted on the site of a key academic in the field of Aboriginal issues without even having to provide any evidence. I don’t think it’s ‘scholarly’ to force us to waste time defending ourselves against malicious allegations that you already know are false – as proven by his refusal to provide evidence. This isn’t free speech or honest debate, it’s a deliberate character assassination.”

    From the perspective of this accused – who has had to carry the burden of investing many hours in preparing this rebuttal, and will bear any future potential damage from Jim Windle’s ghostly allegations – good scholarship should require the researcher to first investigate competing claims of wrongdoing in private, and then – and only then – report their findings which can then be debated within an atmosphere of reality.

    No one can presume to know the unintended consequences of publishing attacks on another’s reputation. The appraisal of future benefits from publishing unsubstantiated allegations should be seen through the eyes of the accused who must suffer both the burden of response and the potential damage to their reputation, and not through the eyes of an academic hoping for an unknowable benefit from a public debate – no matter how well-intentioned that hope may be.

    Mark Vandermaas
    Founder, Caledonia Victims Project
    Editor, VoiceofCanada

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