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#MeToo movement looks to November midterms

Brett Kavanugh’s ascension to the Supreme Court over the weekend was met with loud opposition from many, especially those who support the #MeToo movement; because it showed that their painful stories were still not believed and appeared to have no relevant impact where it needed to.

Kavanaugh who in his hearing claimed he was the victim of character assassination amidst very strong, sexual assault allegations from Dr Christine Blasey Ford was confirmed in a narrow 50-48 vote, that saw him promptly sworn in at a private ceremony, by Chief Justice John Roberts and the man he will replace, retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, thereby cementing his lifetime appointment as a Supreme Judge in the United States.

As  the senators voted on the confirmation of what has to be President Trump’s most controversial nominee, protesters in the gallery shouted ‘Shame!’ and when he arrived at the Supreme Court in Washington to be sworn in as an associate judge, he was met by hundreds of protesters demonstrating on the steps of the building.

Many of those protesters who waved such signs proclaiming  ‘Women must be heard’ , ‘Believe Survivors’ and the most telling, ‘A woman brought you into this world and women will vote you out’, were arrested, and lead down the court steps with their hands in plastic cuffs behind their back.

Many took to their social media to express their disappointment, lively distrust and the questioning of the legitimacy of their legal system, with Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“The anger is real,” Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, warned on ABC’s “This Week.”

This bitter political fight became the cultural litmus test for the year-old  #MeToo Movement, which inspired women to speak out about their painful incidents of sexual harassment and abuse, as it collided with the ‘patriarchy of a political establishment dominated by ageing white men’ and received a serious blow.

Prior to his confirmation on Friday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a Democrat who along with her peers staged a last stand against confirming Kavanaugh, warned against what the backlash of such an appointment would mean for the country’s ethics.

“Today, in just a few hours, the United States Senate is going to turn its back on righteousness,” she said. “It’s going to turn its back on fairness and reason. And make no mistake, it is going to turn its back on women.”

With Kavanaugh becoming the 114th Supreme Court Justice, those following the #MeToo movement have set their sights on the November midterms, an outlet, that Winnie Wong, a senior adviser to the Women’s March, explained will allow women to voice their frustrations and be a ‘powerful political force’ for change.

She explained that the people she’s protesting with are ‘fired up’ and ‘enraged’ and said that they were only just getting started in their movement.

Barbara Smith, a psychotherapist who works with traumatized children, is also looking towards the midterms saying, “It’s important to vote to make our voices heard loud and clear”.

The 67 year old from Virginia noted her work and career was centered on helping people and families to find middle ground, however this situation had the feeling of domestic abuse. “Someone abuses their power and then they say: ‘Why can’t we all get along? Why are you so angry about this?’ It’s an issue of power. If we try to lower the partisanship while this group of people has all this power, they are going to continue to abuse it.”  She said.

The midterm is indeed an outlet for many to show that this kind of behavior where they are made to feel shut out is unacceptable and cannot continue.

 

 

 

 

 

President Trump’s mocking of Dr Ford sparks outrage

The apparent mocking of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh by United States President Donald Trump has sparked wide spread outrage and real fear that it will be even harder for survivors of these heinous deeds to come forward.

“I had one beer. Well, do you think it was — nope, it was one beer,” Trump said, mimicking Ford’s testimony. “How did you get home? I don’t remember. How’d you get there? I don’t remember. Where is the place? I don’t remember. How many years ago was it? I don’t know.”

These comments were made during a rally in Southaven, Mississippi Tuesday night by the President and unsurprisingly have many advocates for victims of sexual assault positively livid.

Ian Henderson, Director of Legal and System Services at the  Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA)  is worried that the President’s remarks will not only discourage victims from coming forward about assault, but also that if they do they might not be believed.

“It creates a disincentive for survivors to come forward,” said Henderson. “There are already enough reasons why victims don’t come forward because of fear of not being believed. But on the flip side, we’ve seen a lot of positive movement on social media like #IBelieveSurvivors and #WhyIDidntReport.”

The White House has come to the defense of the President, saying that it was not mocking Dr. Ford; instead he was simply stating facts.

“The President simply pointed out the facts of the matter and that is what the Senate will have to use to determine whether or not they vote to support him or not,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday.

The President also reacted to the public’s outcry from the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh and expressed his concern of how this would impact other men.

“It is a very scary time for young men in America, where you can be guilty of something you may not be guilty of,” Trump said. “This is a very, very — this is a very difficult time. What’s happening here has much more to do than even the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice!”

Actress, activist and sexual assault survivor Alyssa Milano, who continues to be very public in her support of Dr. Ford, reacted to Trump’s comments, saying that it was in fact a ‘scary time for women’.

“Men are having a hard time right now? I mean, c’mon,” Milano said. “Women, young people, have had it difficult for generations and generations and generations.”

In an interview with MSNBC, where she spoke of the backlash against victims who spoke up about their abuse, she said that right now they were in the process of finally defining their boundaries, and would no longer be silenced.

“And if that means men have a hard time right now, then I’m sorry, this is the way the pendulum has to shift for us to have the equality and security in our country.” She said.

Henderson, also took issue with Trumps’ comments, saying that they completely discount men and boys of sexual violence and lumped men into the ‘category of potential perpetrators or at least complicit in rape culture’.

 

 

An uber movement: Women share their journeys

 

Share Her Journey’ is a five-year TIFF initiative, which aims at reversing the current situation of underrepresentation of women in the film industry through a mix of concerted advocacy and fundraising efforts to achieve gender parity in film both on screen and behind the camera.

Last year’s data show that of the top 250 films, only 18 percent employed women directors, writers, producers and editors. In the same year, of the top 250 films 30 percent employed women in technical jobs behind the scenes.

Yesterday, I attended the ‘Share Her Journey’ rally where a few thousand people gathered on King Street to hear a panel of well-respected women in film speak in the name of all the women in the industry to advocate for gender parity and diversity. According to one of the speakers on the panel, Geena Davis, who looked out from the stage, the crowd was full of men, which is significant evidence that change is actually happening. Men are listening and perhaps rethinking behaviours that may not have not violated basic rules of consent, decency, and respect, but were still a reflection of gender inequality.

Geena Davis delivered a very inspiring speech which can be summarized by her statement “no more missed opportunities.” Since 2009, Geena has devoted herself advocating for more gender equality on screen through the Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media. She said that in order to move forward and in the right direction, the leaders in the industry need to shift from an “unconscious gender bias” to a more “conscious gender bias”. The gender imbalance issue can be solved very quickly almost instantly by changing male first names into female first names in scripts, turning male characters into female characters, “If a script says ‘a crowd gathered’, add comma, ‘half of which is female’.”

Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Founder and Director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, took the stage later “to depress” the crowd with some more stats that confirm a lack of inclusion and diversity in the entertainment industry. Stacey describes the steps that she feels need to be taken in order to move forward. The first step is accountability: “Companies need to set inclusion goals, and the public needs to hold those companies accountable.”; second is community: She has worked with the Geena Davis Institute for a number of years and she knows that connection is empowering. The third step is tenacity: in other words, never give up. “We must feel that our voices and our stories matter” Stacey said.

Other speakers on the panel included director Nandita Das who shared her experience as a “female director”. She explains that after years of taking offense about being addressed as a female director, she started to own it.

Mia Kirshner, Canadian actor and co-founder of the #AfterMeToo movement, talked about the lack of resources available to survivors of sexual harassment.

Amma Asante relays her experience as a director of colour being told that her project to make a film about World War I was too big for her.

Actress Amanda Brugel brought in the perspective of a mother and the necessity to teach young boys the proper way to behave so that they will not have to unlearn later on in life. She calls herself a “male mobilizer” as opposed to a “male sympathizer”. She urged everyone to call out inappropriate behavior, not to support the work of people who have been found guilty with sexually-related charges, and to support the work of women.

Finally, another accomplished woman took to stage, Cathy Schulman, film producer and winner of an Academy Award for Crash in 2004. Cathy urged artists to create art that makes a difference and executives running companies, to hire people who reflect diversity.

Sharing ideas and stories with others on social media has helped to create powerful movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp which have forced everyone to rethink, refocus, regroup, reframe, and relearn. In other words, let’s keep talking about it, let’s make some noise and let’s share the journey.

#MeToo must broaden to include males too

 

Since actor Jimmy Bennett accused Italian actress Asia Argento of sexually assaulting him when he was 17, the discussion over sexual harassment has shifted and broadened. It is very clear that men can be victims too. To complicate matters further, men may not come forward with their stories because of the shame associated with being a male and uncomfortable admitting to being vulnerable to women with perceived power and privilege.

Bennett spoke to the New York Times last month stating that he decided to speak out after Argento claimed she had been raped by Harvey Weinstein. Bennet said that when his story first came out, he felt ashamed and afraid especially because, as a man, he feared his narrative would be received with “stigma”. Bennet and Argento first met in 2004 when he played Argento’s son in the film The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.

Argento, who has been one of the leaders of the #MeToo movement, paid Bennett $380,000 after he accused her of assaulting him. She admitted that the payment was made by her late partner Anthony Bourdain in October 2017 after she publicly accused Weinstein. In an Instagram post Bennet wrote, “My trauma resurfaced as she came out as a victim herself.”

Argento has denied any sexual misconduct stating being “deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false”. She said the two were just friends and that their friendship ended when Bennett “unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me”. She has claimed that celebrity chef and TV personality, Anthony Bourdain, who died last June, made the payment to avoid any bad publicity, and out of compassion for Bennett who seemed to be in a difficult financial situation.

Since the allegations against Argento broke, the actress has suffered a number of setbacks. Rose MacGowan has spoken against her stating feeling “betrayed” by her fellow #MeToo movement leader. CNN has yanked episodes of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” that featured and were directed by her. X Factor Italy fired her as a judge in the program. An attorney for Weinstein criticized Argento’s “stunning level of hypocrisy”. Just recently, McGowan’s partner, model Rain Dove, leaked text messages from Argento to the media. The texts reveal that she slept with Bennet and that he in turn sent her unsolicited nude photos since he was 12.

To those who used the Argento’s story to discredit the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke, who launched the movement in 2006, in a tweet stated “I’ve said repeatedly that the #metooMVMT is for all of us, including these brave young men who are now coming forward.” Burke stated that the discussion needs to shift from the individuals to power and privilege.  She continues that in order for the male-female dynamics to really change, it is imperative that everyone becomes “comfortable with the uncomfortable reality that there is no one way to be a perpetrator … and there is no model survivor”.

She The People: Laughter is a women’s movement #too

 

Spending time at a comedy club can be an uplifting experience that leaves one with a warm glow, but The Second City show “She The People” is also absolutely hilarious and brings tears to the eyes. As the subtitle suggests, ‘Girlfriends’ Guide to Sisters Doing It for Themselves’ it is a show for women, and men—I took my partner with me and he shook with laughter—acted, written, directed by women. If the purpose of the show is to demonstrate that women can do it by themselves, they totally succeeded. Not only are The Second City women capable of writing, directing, acting, singing, dancing, and putting a show together without male input, but they are equally capable of making the audience shriek with laughter while making cutting political statements.

The show is an edgy collection of sketches—I counted at least 20—that portray situations that women live through on a daily basis, in the attempt to deconstruct and highlight the sexism that still exists in everyday life. The show was originally conceived and written for the Chicago theatre before the #MeToo movement broke. The Toronto edition has been updated to better reflect the present time, a different geographical context and to draw inspiration from the #MeToo movement. It is unquestionable that the sheer number of women coming forward to speak out against sexual harassment and various shades of sexism could no longer be swept under the rug. The vast explosion of incidents worldwide have made us all more receptive to conversations highlighting not only the injustice in a largely male-dominated society, but the stereotypes that revolve around women, including racism and misogynism.

Carly Heffernan, director of the show commented “I do think the #MeToo movement has made audiences more receptive to a show like She The People. More and more individuals want to support women telling their own stories with their own voices. For She The People, the movement also directly affected some of the show’s content. The Second City, being a satirical sketch comedy theatre, should reflect the world around us, no matter how tough, unfair, or just plain absurd that world may currently be. Shining more light on uncomfortable issues is how we move forward and more than ever audiences are craving the catharsis that comes from that light being shone.”

Carly’s words are reflected in a sketch that sees one of the six female characters waking up following a ten-year coma and learning that all her favourite actors are sexual offenders, Bill Cosby, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey. But that is not all! Donald Trump is President of the United States. Every shock from receiving such astonishing news was measured by the water she was sipping being spat into the face of the unwitting deliverer of the news.

Another sketch sees the character of a school girl who complains to her female teacher that a boy pushed her. The teacher tells her that no one will believe her. After all who else saw! An early warning to prepare the girl to the reality that women are not to be believed when they speak out. Although, as the teacher adds, things are getting better, which also means they are getting worse.

Many aspects in the present culture include stereotypes  of immigrant communities. In this sketch, the character of an Asian woman is asked where she is from. It seems still common enough to assume that non-white people are from a faraway land. However, as it turns out, she is from Scarborough.

Which woman has not feared becoming like her mother? I have and overcame it, and so did the character in another sketch. After being confronted with the realization that she is more similar to her mother than she likes to admit, acceptance kicks in.

A few sketches address the issues of women’s looks, body image, outdated beliefs of femininity, and how women are depicted in adverts. Advertising still relies heavily on gender stereotypes, pressurizing women to attain impossible standards of beauty and perfection. Women are still judged based on their looks rather than what they say, states the character hiding under the guise of a dinosaur. In another sketch, a strip tease performance never ends as there are multiple layers of spandex to remove.

In the penultimate sketch, an alien has taken all men away, aside from Justin Trudeau whose mother fought off the invaders. With no more men around, what are women to do? How do they envision their life to be? Will they stop wearing a bra? Perhaps even wearing pants will be optional! They could have their first elected female Canadian prime minister! They will even ensure that the Ontario’s sex ed curricula stays the same. With a finale that sounds like a hymn for women to find self-assurance and self-confidence, the possibilities seem endless.

As Carly stated “it was an absolute joy to work on!” It certainly was an absolute joy to watch!

Woman of the Week: Jennifer Huggins

“Defeat is not an option,” reads the bold tagline for Jennifer Huggins’ business, and the mantra for her life’s journey.

I first met Jennifer a few years ago at her gym, Kingsway Boxing Club, tucked away in the sprawling industrial streets of West Toronto. I was immediately amazed by her determined spirit and dynamic success. As well as being an established owner of two locations in the GTA, she is a boxing coach, an official AIBA referee, a travelling magician’s assistant and the creator of the Fight To End Cancer annual fundraiser.

Although now heavily immersed in the boxing world, Jennifer’s eclectic odyssey didn’t begin in the ring. Rather, it began in the rink. At age 14, she was training as a national figure skater when an unfortunate neck injury put her in recovery for over a year. During this time, she stumbled upon a nearby boxing gym. “I realized…I wasn’t in love with the sport of figure skating. I was in love with the competition,” she said.

Off came the skates and on went the gloves as she worked her way through a world that was permeated by an old-school mentality. For Jennifer, this both attracted and challenged her, as she tried to find a footing in the industry. “I found myself going from a female-dominated sport where I couldn’t get any attention, to being in a male-dominated world where I got a lot of attention for the wrong reasons- being a female, being in a male-dominated sport, being, quote unquote, ‘too pretty’ to be a boxer,” she told me.

And it wasn’t just her gender that turned heads, but her age as well. Working with veterans in the ring, Jennifer often felt that she was looked at as inexperienced or undeserving of her achievements. The lack of support was only exasperated when the Hollywood flick, Million Dollar Baby was released, she told  me, prompting many to question whether boxing was a suitable path for a young woman—or, really, for anyone. What they didn’t realize, she says, is that, no matter who the athlete, boxing is actually a very safe and technical sport.

It was at this point that Jennifer used her rivalrous attitude to power a journey of education. Supporting herself and working out of her apartment studio as a personal trainer, she offered free boxing lessons to newcomers, hoping they would walk away with a new appreciation of the commonly misunderstood sport and its participants. And, luckily, it worked.

Within a few years, her business was booming, which led to the opening of not one, but two boxing gyms in her west end neighbourhood. The rapid success, however, also spurred an unexpected sense of guilt. Her community had offered her so much support, she recalls, that it was now time to give something back.

Partnering with Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation in 2011, she founded the Fight To End Cancer (FTEC) annual charity event. FTEC invites CEOs, executives and leading corporate players to step into the boxing ring- many of them for their first time. After six months of intense training, the contenders go head-to-head in Olympic-style boxing bouts at the charity’s annual black-tie gala. Since its inception, FTEC has donated over $850,000 to cancer research and is gunning for a $1 million goal at the 2018 gala this June.

Nodding back to the slogan that’s defined her journey, Jennifer hopes that in illness, and in life, “defeat” is a word that will one day be abolished. “In sports, for example, you’ll hear, ‘Canada was defeated by Russia,’ or ‘Canada defeats Germany,’…“That’s one thing I’d love to see people fix the definition of, or not use it anymore, because it’s such a finishing term,” she said. “I think what we need to learn is that defeat is not an option…you always have something to fight for.”

A true fighter, day in and day out, Jennifer has become somewhat of a trailblazer in Toronto’s female boxing scene. When I ask about her thoughts on the #MeToo movement, she tells me that it’s this same sense of fearlessness that’s been the movement’s greatest triumph. “It’s definitely made way for more open dialogue for people, and for women especially, who didn’t feel comfortable with certain things, to actually bring them to the forefront,” she said. “Where this movement is really helping is allowing people to feel confident in letting others know, you know what, this is not OK for me, and I think that’s what was lacking before.” Matching the re-ignition of confidence that this movement has sparked, Jennifer too hopes to inspire courage in every person that walks through her gym doors.

“I guess the common theme is that there’s so much we’re capable of,” she concluded. “Watching people empower themselves, and being a part of that process, is something that will always keep me going.”

Photography by Vincent Dayrit

 

 

Does it take 60?

How many victims have to come forward before media will believe that a respected and well-known public figure is a predator. In the case of beloved actor and comedian Bill Cosby, the number was 60 women. In the case of producer Harvey Weinstein, it was 65.

But why does it take so many women for the public to believe a woman’s account?  Do people actually think that a woman wants to be in the spotlight for an experience that they likely wish they could forget? This is never the case. The first victim steps up to address sexual harassment or assault. If it wasn’t for women bravely speaking up and calling foul against these well-known figures all women would continue to suffer mistreatment and gender inequality in silence.

A respected specialist in psychology and in the behaviour of sexual predators, Leonie Adamson shared the warning signs of a sexual predator and says “They can wield a lot of control and power.”

They are very attentive and use manipulative language, she says. They build a sense of loyalty in their target that they will use to manipulate them after they form a bond. Often these individuals  groom their co-workers and build a large and supportive social network, who can’t imagine them doing any wrong.

The predator will play the victim when caught and turn the spotlight on the victim, working to discredit him.her and alienate them.

The predator will work to make the victim dependent on them and groom them so the actual victim might be swayed to think that she is at fault, even when the predator is clearly in the wrong.

The predator will also use the bond created earlier to learn about the victim and know how to push buttons and to ridicule her.

But when these victims do finally come forward, why are they shamed and discredited? It’s because the predators have spent years building their public persona. – grooming their co-workers and followers, they turn to social media knowing if they discredit their accuser they win. This makes the plight of the victim all the more difficult which is why so few woman don’t come forward. Predators know all too well the control and power they can flex, and many enjoy the thrill that comes from destroying  the credibility of their victim, and the hero status bestowed by those too foolish to see they are being duped.

Steve Paikin is a public figure and host of The Agenda on TVO, he sought and received the Order of Canada. An investigation was launched by TVO after Sarah Thomson, former mayoral candidate, privately accused him of propositioning her for sex back in 2010. Paikin made the decision to go public with the accusation. But the investigation was curtailed from the start when Mr. Paikin and TVO refused to give confidentiality to witnesses who had information on other instances of misconduct.

Evidence brought forth by Thomson was rejected and without confidentiality witnesses refused to give testimony. The investigation came up inconclusive because the offer of confidentiality was never given to the witnesses-and once again the shame and defame strategy so often used by sexual predators succeeded in burying the truth.

But time has shown that the truth always rises to the surface. There will always be people who believe everything they read in the media, but it is refreshing to watch people who bother to “READ THE FINE PRINT”  reach out with support to Ms. Thomson. Maybe the world is changing.

Omissions from investigation into Steve Paikin

This ordeal I have had so far with Steve Paikin is the perfect example of what happens to women who speak out on powerful media personalities. I was warned by many PR experts not to take part in an investigation that was controlled and paid for by TVO as the scope of the investigation could change and eliminate evidence that could damage Mr. Paikin.

Despite their warnings I was surprised to see that the investigator did not even mention my reason for stepping forward with my allegations. In giving my statement I explained to her that a friend of mine had learned that Mr. Paikin was involved with his wife – he felt Paikin was destroying their marriage. The wife had also appeared on the Agenda.  I realized that my inaction 8 years ago had enabled Paikin; and although I had told a lot of people about his behaviour, it had done nothing to stop him. I had an ethical duty to step forward. The husband was willing to give his testimony to the investigator, but required a confidentiality agreement. The investigator tried to get TVO and Mr. Paikin to agree to it, but they refused and limited the scope of the entire investigation.

My case also had some pretty concrete evidence the biggest being an email I received from my assistant after we had lunch with Paikin.  

The email relays very clearly the events that happened, as well it pointed out that I believed exposing him would hurt me. Yet the investigator chose to assert that for some reason I coerced my assistant into writing an email that could have hurt me politically.  And she refused to give it much weight in her overall calculation. We found the email after weeks of searching through all my files – from boxes in my basement to storage drives and old cds. Many of my email files were erased over the years, but I had saved some onto a number of storage drives. On one of the drives I found the email my assistant had sent to me back in 2010,  and my lawyer had it authenticated by an outside validation company to submit as part of our evidence. 

The FacebookTranscript with EA  my EA wrote earlier this year also back up his initial email and the fact that Mr. Paikin came on to me in response to my request to get on his show..  

The questions I messaged to my EA were the same questions any investigative journalist would ask when piecing together an article. I wanted to make sure that I hadn’t inaccurately added anything to my recollection.

Despite checking with the witness, I did make one mistake in the article I wrote about my #MeToo story. I had forgotten that when I ran for the liberals in 2011 my campaign manager had secured me a spot on the show as the liberal candidate.  I inaccurately wrote that I was never given access to the show after my lunch with Paikin.   At the time I wrote the article, all I remembered were the years after 2011 when I hadn’t been able to access the show. I began advocating for transit expansion in 2012 as head of the Transit Alliance.  We ran a huge campaign around dedicated transit funding. Our events saw hundreds of people attend, most of the press came out, and I was on radio programs and other television shows as the go-to transit advocate in Toronto. But when I tried to get on the Agenda, Paikin’s response was “take me up on my previous offer.” Not getting access to the show year after year to talk about transit expansion became much bigger in my mind than one brief appearance in 2011 to talk about the liberal election platform.

Going into the investigation I thought that I was luckier than many women because I actually had a witness – my assistant – who had heard everything Paikin had said to me. He had served as my aid during the formal campaign period, but also during the informal wind down stage of the campaign. His role was to attend events, meetings and canvass beside me. It was not a position for a meek individual.  He had to be strong enough to face very opinionated people, and he could hold his own quite well in policy discussions. He prided himself in being a strong feminist. This is why his decision to back-peddle on his testimony and on what he had written quite emphatically in 2010 as well as in his facebook messages to me this year was so devastating.  I was shocked. I tried to figure out why he would do this to me. At one point I felt sorry for him. I wondered what could have happened to make him give up his feminism. I thought that perhaps he was intimidated by Paikin’s inflamed blog, and that he just needed encouragement. But as more time passed I began to wonder what had made this man I knew so well, completely compromise his ethics in such a way.

I went over and over the timeline during that day in 2010. We returned to the office after the lunch with Paikin and spoke about the come-on with a woman who was working for me at the time. We spoke about the fact that I couldn’t come out publicly on Paikin because it would ruin my chances of getting elected.  But I don’t remember much more about the afternoon, I would have had to leave around 2:30 to pick my kids up from school. We had started the day hoping to get me on Paikin’s show, and I might have suggested my assistant email me if they came up with an alternative way to get me on – his email seems to be addressing that issue.

That TVO and Mr. Paikin took my complaint to the public after I specifically indicated I wanted it to be kept private, is a tactic that has proven effective for protecting powerful men, but one that most corporations would not condone. Sexual impropriety investigations must be kept private to protect witnesses and encourage others to come forward. Instead, TVO allowed Mr. Paikin to come out loud and threatening over social media.  I wasn’t protected but shamed. The shaming was so extreme that it made conditions unsafe for other witnesses to step forward. TVO, is an agency of the Ontario government and their handling of my private complaint, was disgraceful. CEO, Lisa De Wilde did not follow protocol, and employees might have perceived that stepping forward on Mr Paikin would lead to their own public shaming. Their complete disregard for protocol should be addressed by the Minister of Education, who is responsible for TVO.  

During the investigation we had a witness who was, at one time, an intern at TVO, she had heard rumours and was told by another employee that Mr. Paikin did this all the time. The employee refused to come forward, which isn’t surprising given the public shaming TVO allowed Paikin to put me through.  

Another witness who worked at TVO for 3 years wrote an email to me:
“Good on you girl for exposing Paikin. He has previous for that type of behaviour and it’s been well known at TVO for years.
I wrote: “ Thanks – the hate is pretty rough. Did you work at TVO?
Yes I did, for three years. Can’t really go into it in depth. It’s not worth my life being disrupted.”

None of the evidence above was entered into the investigators report – it’s almost as if she didn’t want the public knowing about the witnesses who were afraid of being publicly shamed.   There are hundreds of articles written about how sexual predators  bully people into silence.  They are often charismatic, they surround themselves with supporters. And they often groom their families, friends and co-workers into believing in their image.   “Even people who know them well cannot conceive that they are capable of exploiting others sexually. Such predators are masters of deceit,” states Psychology Today.

Today as I reflect back over the past several months, I know that  eventually the truth will come out, more women will step forward with their own experiences. The #MeToo movement has proven that there is strength in numbers. 

I remember how vicious the press were over my claims that Mayor Ford was on cocaine, and the ridicule I received from the likes of Christie Blatchford for even suggesting the Mayor had substance abuse problems. I remember how Newstalk 1010 gave entire shows over to discrediting me. I remember how they all went silent when the truth came out. He needed help, and their lack of impartiality may have enabled him, and possibly delayed that help.

Once again the clickbait media have circled around Mr. Paikin declaring him the saintliest man there ever was on television. Once again they ignore the signs, they avoid the hard investigative work, and they attack the messenger. When the truth comes out,  I know they’ll slink away again hoping nobody remembers how they victim shamed and blamed me for stepping forward. I will remember. I hope you do too.

Mr Paiken: You allege that I defamed you. I did nothing of the sort. I specifically told you I wanted this out of the public eye, and instead you blew it up into a spectacle. You know Steve, you could have just chosen to admit you made a mistake and listened.  You could have decided to do better going forward for the sake of every woman you know. That response would be far classier than making yourself into a mid life power trip cliché.

Woman of the Week: Katrina Turnbull

There are some women I’m quickly drawn to and I easily become friends with. Usually this has to do with their willingness to be real and open about who they are and about their own failures and successes. I immediately connected with Katrina Turnbull.

Katrina was named one of Ottawa’s “Top 25 Influencers” by Ottawa Life Magazine for good reason. Thousands of readers view her mommy blog Oui C’est Chic , for honest, clever advice from this mother-of-two. Katrina also joins the morning crew at CTV Ottawa often for live segments, where she unveils the latest trends for kids and busy women on the go. She also hosts Bell Fibe’s Capital Style Files, which showcases the fashion sense of influential figures in the nation’s capital and contributes to the Huffington Post.

Katrina gives off the sense that she has it all together – in part because of her fashionable clothing and perfectly applied makeup. Yet, Katrina is the first to admit that her busy schedule- parenting, blogging, and preparing T.V. segments- can get overwhelming. She explains how she tries through her work to assist women with their own daily struggles by offering advice.

“Working women and mothers are always taking care of other people’s needs before their own. It’s an unsustainable model, which is why so many women feel burnout and are unable to devote time to their own self-care. I want women to know that not only is it okay for them to put themselves first once in a while, but it is necessary in order to fuel their minds and soul, so that they can be more productive and nurture others.”

It’s obvious that Katrina is someone who wants to support and empower women. While grabbing a coffee, she was attentive, respectful,  and offered helpful advice to me about starting and maintaining a successful website. She demonstrated how she is doing her best to build other women up. Katrina said this is a critical goal set in her work and in her personal life, adding that she was “fortunate enough to have met strong, confident women” who wanted to help her succeed, while imparting lessons from their own lives. She is set on “paying it forward.”

 Katrina  admires a number of high profile business women who have inspired her. Designer,  Diane Von Furstenberg is at the top of her list of women she most wants to meet, because “she is a champion of women and believing that women are allowed to shape themselves into the type of person they want to be.” Katrina admires her because the designer came from humble beginnings and “hustled her way into a dream career by” carving out her own spot in an industry that was  male-dominated.

Despite her success, Katrina admits that roadblocks and challenges are a part of her journey. She is all too aware about how some women can be more focused on competing than supporting and empowering one another.  She also shared how the MeToo movement couldn’t come at a better time. Despite not feeling there is a clear answer to fixing the issue of harassment in the workplace, Katrina spoke about feeling undervalued simply based on the fact that she is a woman and not a man.

Katrina was the victim of harassment  as a young server in Ottawa and she shared her #MeToo story with me:

“We were forced to wear skimpy uniforms, flirt with customers to get bigger tabs and tips, etc. Complaining about a customer grabbing or propositioning you led to the bar managers taking away our best tables and punishing us by giving  bad shifts for the next few weeks.”

The overall mentality passed down from the head honcho at the nightspot was that women working at the establishment, were mainly there to look good- Katrina added that when such sexist rules come from the top, it’s very difficult to stand up for yourself and change the setting. She eventually had enough and quit.

Her belief now is that Canadians will continue to make a societal change because of the nation’s progressive nature.

Katrina has her sights set on continuing to be a positive influence on women by way of her entrepreneurial projects. For more about Katrina, visit her site.

Photography provided by Valerie Keeler

G7 meetings make women’s rights a focus

Sunday is definitely the day of the week that I love to head to my favourite brunch spot with friends and family.  It seems that world foreign affairs ministers are of the same mindset. G7 representatives gathered for a meeting at Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland on Sunday, after she invited the counterparts to her home for brunch.

The meeting was apparently relaxed and informal  ahead of their upcoming agenda that will be quite the opposite. Over the next few days, they will carry on with closed-door meetings at the University of Toronto. On the list of issues to discuss is the ongoing war in the Ukraine and conflicts  in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Palestine.

The meetings this week will lay the groundwork for the G7 summit in Charlevoix, Quebec, slated for June. U.S. Secretary Rex Tilerson, Is not taking part in this week’s meetings after recently engaging in direct talks with the North Koreans. North Koreans surprised the world when their radical leader Kim Jong-un announced he is suspending ballistic missile testing.

Talks this week will also focus on cyber threats and combating violent extremists. Another major subject on the agenda is determining ways to curb human trafficking, mainly involving women.

Most victims of human trafficking are women and girls,” said Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on Friday. “The government of Canada is committed to fighting this abhorrent attack on basic human rights and dignity.”

The topic of human trafficking falls under the Liberal government’s agenda for international feminism and the push for gender equality. Liberal’s have taken a stand in support of women and the agenda represents the shift that is taking place internationally, when it comes to the rights of women.

The focus on fair treatment towards women in the workplace and various societal circumstances is proof that the #MeToo movement is bringing changes on all levels- as slow moving as they may seem to be. Top levels of government making feminism and rights of women a top priority, demonstrates that voices are being heard.