Thursday 27 December 2012

When free becomes "free": blog post teaser: maybe "liars, tramps, & thieves" is a bit harsh but...

After over an hour "working with" Bell--including their Loyalty department--I discovered there are different home phone packages! The one I had was the Cadillac, with multiple "free add-ons" that I never used. Like three-way calling, multiple voice mailboxes, etc. When I last discussed phone service with them a couple of years back, I was told these add-ons were free. 

Well, surprise surprise: sometime over the past few years, free became "free"! 

And then there was the Internet bump-up when I signed up for their Fibe TV service (btw, their movie channels aren't worth a plug nickel, much less the $13 I was paying for them...)

Figuring out the cost of  those "free" options cost at makes your head spin.
We will now be saving $49 a month on our Internet, TV, and home phone package. That's $588 a year...

And man, am I writing one angry letter! 

And maybe a blog post or two...not to mention the tweets. Stay tuned for more...

Wednesday 26 December 2012

The Meaning of Children hits #5 on Amazon's Bargain Books List!

Humbled and thrilled to be able to let you know that, thanks to Ereader News Today and the Master Koda Indie Authors group promotion (still on till Dec. 28th), The Meaning of Children's Kindle edition has risen to #5 this morning on Amazon's Bargain Books Bestseller list!

For the entire list of 20+ Indie Author Boxing Day Bargain Books, please click here.

If you've hesitated to read The Meaning of Children because you're convinced you are NOT a fan of short stories, this is the book that will change your mind! Short stories are perfect for commutes; many readers have told me how much the enjoy reading just one before bed. Savor each one, like fine chocolate.

Here some comments that may convince you, from my many incredibly kind Amazon readers (4.8 stars overall average):

"When Beverly Akerman Tweeted a special offer on The Meaning of Children, I hesitated. I've never had children and live halfway around the world from my partner's beloved grandchildren. Children have never played a big role in my life. But that is the mark of a skilled author, to take a subject that may be foreign to us and make it universal, familiar.

"She also overcame my aversion to short stories. I love to immerse myself in a book, not be pushed out of it after a handful of pages. More skill on the author's part.

"I read one story, then another, then another, each time caught up in the storytelling, each time satisfied at story's end. The diversity of the stories is one of the book's strengths. Akerman crawls into the minds of so many different characters and each time makes them believable. She holds childhood out like a rough stone, chipping away at its many stages until the book becomes a fine gem.

"I read every story with delight, grateful to be in the hands of such a skilled writer."

"wonderfully entertaining"


"takes you back to the time you were a child. No matter you did not grow up in Montreal or Jewish, the situations, conflicts, joys and fears are universal. Akerman grounds emotions with rich descriptions and a strong sense of place."

"I can't stop thinking about this book."

"A life-altering read is so rare..."

"every story is about innocence and the loss of innocence"

"Many of her characters are damaged, rather tha[n] flawed, which makes these stories both quirky and compelling."


More feedback and interviews here and here.

Monday 24 December 2012

The Meaning of Children featured today on The Jewish Daily Forward

Very excited to be featured TODAY on The Jewish Daily Forward! Thanks so much to Renee Ghert-Zand (whom, I discovered as we Skyped, is a former Montrealer!) for the great Q&A on The Sisterhood Blog.

Here's the start of the piece:

Q&A with Scientist-Turned-Novelist Beverly Akerman

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Beverly Akerman

For most of her adult life, Beverly Akerman was a molecular genetics researcher at McGill University and the Montreal Children’s Hospital. But in 2003, after several years of feeling an underlying malaise and professional unhappiness, she decided to make a mid-life career switch. Following dreams she set aside for 20 years as a busy working mother of three, Akerman became a fiction writer. She published her first short story in early 2006, making her the first Canadian fiction writer ever to have sequenced her own DNA.

Akerman, a 52-year-old lifelong Montrealer, has published more than 20 stories to date, 14 of which are included in a 2010 collection titled, “The Meaning of Children.” Her fiction has appeared in Canada, the U.S. and Germany and has received numerous recognitions, including the David Adams Richards Prize, the J.I. Segal Award, nominations for a Pushcart Prize, and a place among the CBC-Scotiabank Giller Prize Readers’ Choice Top 10. Akerman spoke to the Sisterhood about her book, her hometown, her Jewish identity and her aversion to happy endings.

THE SISTERHOOD: All of the stories in “The Meaning of Children,” except for one, are written from the perspectives of girls or women. Do you generally only write from the female point of view?

BEVERLY AKERMAN: I’m a strong feminist and I don’t think that there are enough women’s stories told. Literature is full of women’s books, but not these kinds of stories… There are things that girl children go through that are interesting to me. I do have more stories now that are written from a male point of view, but I intended to write from a woman’s point of view.

To what extent are these stories autobiographical?
The child stories come from things that bothered me in my past. They were not maybe literally things that happened to me, but they were drawn from certain images from my childhood. In some cases, there are experiences of mine and of people I know in the stories. For instance, I do write a lot about foster children, and growing up my parents did take in foster children. Writing about foster children has been a kind of my way of saying goodbye to them. I think my parents were, at the time, more concerned about the foster children re-integrating with their families than with what it was like for us to part with these children after having shared a life with them.

The collection is divided into three parts — Beginning, Middle and End — and each one corresponds to a major life stage. Do you feel more comfortable writing about one of those stages?

Friday 14 December 2012

Canada's schizophrenic Conservative government: Drunk drivers vs. "law-abiding" gun owners

(from the archives of "The Gun Control Yenta," March 12, 2010)

Why does it make sense to assume all shotgun and rifle owners are law-abiding citizens, but that everyone behind the wheel of a car is a drunk? Isn’t that the message behind the federal Justice department’s recent proposal to institute random roadside breathalyzer tests?
On one hand, the government, hiding behind the skirts of its latest sock puppet, sends Candice Hoeppner to pontificate: “Irrational government policy had to be challenged…The long-gun registry is a massive Liberal policy failure and it needs to end. It makes no sense to force law-abiding individuals with firearms licences to register their long-guns. It makes no sense to believe the registry will prevent a gun crime from taking place.”
But apparently it makes perfect sense to assume that all drivers are drunk. Memo to Justice Minister Nicholson: if a policy has the Western Standard saying “Harper government wants full-blown police state,” you have a problem on your hands—a “Houston-we-have-a-problem”-sized problem.
Minister Nicholson is said to approve of the random breathalyzer idea, while Mothers against Drunk Drivers Executive Director Andrew Murie does, too (by the way, aren’t there any actual mothers capable of executive directing that organization? Or is this an example of “the best woman for the job” being a man? I’m just asking).
Purchasing a gun must magically confer “law-abiding” status on an individual through some noble alchemy of lethal weapon possession. Meantime, the latest example of small town gun mayhem unfolds on our front pages: the sad murder of Ontario Provincial Police Constable Vu Pham, 37, allegedly by the late 70-year-old Fred Preston, former reeve of the Township of Joly, and lifelong resident of Sundridge ON. Const. Pham was a Vietnamese War survivor and father of three who also spent part of his youth in Sundridge. Current accounts suggest Mr. Preston may have gone off the deep end after his decades-long marriage broke up. Add a gun to the mix and voila: the perfect domestic violence storm. A “domestic violence call from what is reportedly the home of Mr. Preston’s estranged wife in Leadbury” preceded the shooting, according to The National Post, reporting that a man named John Driscoll resides at the home, since put under police guard. (Talk about closing the barn door after the horse has skedaddled!)
Tim Williams, an acquaintance of Mr. Preston, said, "I'm quite stunned at this news, given his personality."
But should anyone really be surprised? Anger and guns make a lethal cocktail.
Roughly 100,000 Canadian women and children annually take refuge in domestic violence shelters. How many of them live in homes with rifles or shotguns, remembering some 11 million such guns are in Canadian hands (and that 90 per cent of those hands are male)? How many Canadian women have been threatened with guns? How many of these guns are owned by “law-abiding” gun owners?
How long does it take to pull a trigger, anyway? That’s the amount of time it takes for a “law-abiding” gun owner to become a law-breaking one.
Here’s how the gun registry helps prevent crimes, including murder (I’m typing slowly so even the dullards among us will understand): knowing who has which guns allows the police to remove them as a preventative measure, should it become necessary. For example, in this case, if Mr. Preston’s estranged wife had been threatened by him and reported this to the police, they could have removed the guns from Mr. Preston’s possession. ALL his guns, which wouldn’t be possible if he hasn’t listed them with the registry. 
Why do critics of the long gun registry persistently ignore this simple truth? Enforcing the registry DOES prevent crime. Since its creation, close to 23,000 firearms licenses have been refused or revoked because of just this kind of public safety concern. And it only costs $3 million a year to maintain, despite gun lobby bluster.
For years now this “tough on crime” government has encouraged the flouting of the Firearms Act—still law in this land, despite their efforts to ignore it. They instituted an “amnesty” for those who failed to renew their gun licenses and waived or refunded licensing fees, over $120 million-worth. Far from being “tough on crime,” they actually facilitate law-breaking!
Canada's Supreme Court has ruled, “The registration provisions cannot be severed from the rest of the Act. The licensing provisions require everyone who possesses a gun to be licensed; the registration provisions require all guns to be registered. These portions of the Firearms Act are both tightly linked to Parliament’s goal of promoting safety by reducing the misuse of any and all firearms. Both portions are integral and necessary to the operation of the scheme.” 
Const. Pham’s shooting is a tragedy--for his family, his community, for us all, as is the death of Mr. Preston. But just imagine how much more danger our cops will be in when they pull us over to sample our breath if our gun laws are even further eroded.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

My Encounter with Canada Writes: Close Encounters with Science

I just finished up a rewarding stint as a reader with CBC's Canada Writes, science edition. The latest theme was "Close Encounters with Science." It was a moving and humbling experience.

The challenge:

"Send us a true personal story of a close encounter you had with science and technology. We were looking for personal stories that gave us an insight into human nature and how changes in our understanding of the world have made a lasting effect on who we are."

Along with Scott Fotheringham, I read through the 600+ submissions and sent in my choices (I was limited to 15...) Here's the longlist, 29 stories that are worth your time. 

Twenty-nine: makes me think Scott and I only agreed on one, lol. But the truth is, it was incredibly hard to choose. I could have selected 50, or more, that were worthwhile!

(Scott, by the way, is a novelist and PhD from Cornell who no longer works in science, either. I think we probably should talk...:)

 Enjoy this trailer for his well-reviewed speculative novel, The Rest is Silence; I look forward to reading it very soon.


 Here is an excerpt of the interview I did with Canada Writes my experience reading for the contest:

Can you describe a couple of the stories from the challenge that struck you as standouts?

There were so many wonderful stories, it was hard to choose. But some were just stellar. “Firsts,” about a technician working overnight at the hospital, analyzing blood sent from the ER. Who thinks about the lab tech? We get these machine readouts from our blood tests…we don’t really think about the person at the other end of the pipette. The writer had me right there with him (or her), feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders when called upon to diagnose leukemia in a child. That really touched me. There were many, many stories about electrification, and television. About all kinds of things: Skype and texting, the moon walk. Many were about children learning from their parents; “The New Age” is a quiet story of a kid going outside with Dad and brother to watch Sputnik pass overhead one night in October 1957. “Better Living Through Chemistry,” about what getting the meds right has meant to a person with schizophrenia. A woman who waited six months for an MRI and was so distressed by its claustrophobic nature, she stopped the test. How she was able to depend “on the kindness of strangers.” One about a teacher who knew how to talk physics so that young guys would listen. The experiment a six-year-old designed to identify the tooth fairy…I could go on and on. It was the way the writers communicated the meaning, the emotion, the small epiphanies attached to the scientific or technological experience. The stories I chose all answered that question: how did you feel when it happened? And they did it by bringing me along on the journey.

You can read the 29 stories on the longlist here. Congratulations to all who entered!

"The next task is in the capable hands of CBC host and author Nora Young, who will select the winner of this challenge. That person will receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts.

The winner will be announced on Canada Writes on Wednesday, December 5th. Stay tuned!"

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Quebec corruption: let's not forget Rene Levesque vs. Edgar Trottier

An excerpt from "IS HIS LIFE OVER OR HAS IT JUST BEGUN?; It's early, but Michael Bryant may get a second act" by Lynda Hurst. Originally published in the Toronto Star, Sept. 5, 2009.

[...In February, 1977, following a dinner party that had rolled on until 3:45 in the morning, Parti Quebecois Premier Rene Levesque ran over and killed a 62-year-old homeless war vet, Edgar Trottier, who was sprawled in the middle of the road. Levesque said he didn't see him until 10 feet before he hit him. The car dragged Trottier 100 feet. Though it was widely suspected Levesque had been drinking, Montreal police didn't give him a breathalyzer test - though they did to Trottier. ("Quebec is the only place in the world where it is the victim who is given the blood test," a former provincial Liberal minister dryly commented.) The incident drew most of its nudge-nudge media coverage from the revelation that the woman in the car with the hugely popular premier was not his wife, but his secretary and mistress, Corinne Cote. Three days later, Levesque gave a rambling speech, explaining that he'd "just lived through a difficult moment. I'm still turning it around in my head. I can't get rid of it completely. I can't get rid of it at all. We always think these things happen to others, but suddenly fate is there, and it happens to you too. It's a shock to the system." But no charges were ever brought and the coroner's office ruled out an inquest. Calls for a public inquiry faded into the blue. Five months later, Levesque was given his penalty a $25 fine for driving without his glasses. He remained premier until 1985. In his autobiography, Memoirs, published a year later, Levesque didn't mention the incident. In an interview, however, he said that he'd wanted to quit politics at the time "I felt like disappearing forever." Why exclude reference to it then? "I didn't think it was part of the story. It was sad, but everybody has accidents. Why make a big to-do over it? I keep the memory, though. It's no fun to think you've hit somebody."...]

Wrote John Allemang in The Globe and Mail (January 18, 2003) in "The partying premier," an article about then-B.C. premier Gordon Campbell's drunk driving charges:

[...To many commentators looking back from the morally upright perspective of 2003, it seems amazing that the combination of alcohol, a car, a partying premier and a dead body didn't lead to Mr. Lévesque's resignation at the very least, if not a coroner's inquest and serious criminal charges...

Witnesses described the roads as slick that evening. The temperature was -11 C, a cold night to be out, which may be why a homeless 62-year-old war vet named Edgar Trottier was causing a disturbance inside the Queen Mary Veterans Hospital around the same time. His ploy to get a bed for the night didn't work. The hospital called the police, who, instead of taking the inebriated Mr.Trottier into custody, dropped him off where they thought he wouldn't cause any more trouble...

In another oversight that indicates the degree of the police officers' distraction -- though not the reason for it -- no one seemed to notice that Mr. Lévesque's licence required him to wear glasses. Coroner Maurice Laniel discovered this through an anonymous tip from a Lévesque enemy, and only after he had already exonerated the premier of criminal responsibility in a report based on the drawn-out police investigation. But then no one expected Mr. Lévesque to be wearing glasses, since he was never seen in them, and for a good reason. Though he suffered from myopia, he didn't own a pair, and out of a misplaced sense of comfort, vanity or supreme self-confidence, he saw no need to adjust behind the wheel. It was a highstakes game that the police suddenly found themselves involved in...

...when Estanislao Oziewicz and William Johnson reported in The Globe and Mail that Mr. Lévesque had been driving without glasses, the francophone media turned on them. "The press gallery in Quebec was pro-péquiste," Mr. Oziewicz recalls. "The information about the premier's driver's licence was right there in information released by the Quebec justice minister to the media, but either they couldn't be bothered to pick up on it or they just didn't want to write that Lévesque required corrective lenses...]

Friday 16 November 2012

Mordecai Richler School in the Plateau?

Following last night's CBC broadcast of my Facebook quest to name a proposed new school in Cote St. Luc for Mordecai Richler, I heard from Julien Feldman, an English Montreal School Board Commissioner. He's been working on a plan to rename a building on St. Urbain Street, right near the original Baron Byng High School that Mr. Richler made famous by its fictional alter ego, Fletcher's Field High.

Here's the exchange, which is ongoing...

From Julien Feldman: "This is a good initiative, but I've actually spoken to Richler's family about re-naming the Bancroft building on St.Urbain, just up the street from Baron Byng. The school governing boards who operate the building will be asked to consider the proposal very soon."

  • Beverly Akerman Julien, how many kids in the school? I understand it recently had a near-death experience. How likely is another such experience to occur in the not-too-distant future? How much support does the proposal have from parents? Are they not concerned about the possible reaction from the French communities?
  • Julien Feldman The Bancroft building is actually two schools - Bancroft Elementary and MIND high School, for a total of about 300 students. The elementary school is the fastest growing in the EMSB, thank to its incredibly successful bilingual program and the growing influx of anglos into the the Plateau. It's bucking the trend to declining enrollment.
    Last year there was an EMSB administration proposal to move kids to a different building, but that was unanimously rejected by the EMSB council of commissioners because of its rapid growth, so it was no real "near-death" experience.
    It's quite uncertain whether the Cote St. Luc high school will ever happen. Two years ago it flopped because of lack of demand. Only a couple of dozens kids said they'd enroll. Part of the problem is that its proponents have pre-defined as a religious school.
    The Cote St. Luc building is not Wagar, but in fact the "Palatucci Centre". The proposed high school would start off as a few classrooms inside the Palatucci Centre, if there's sufficient demand. The last effort only attracted a few dozen students and was cancelled.
    As for reaction form the local community, there is considerable support from the local borough and its Councillors and Mile End is the most mufti-cultural in the city.
  • Beverly Akerman so the proposal is to name the building, is that right? 300 students in both schools? how fast is the "fastest growing in the EMSB"? and i don't think the CSL proposal has anything to do with religion, btw.
  • Julien Feldman That's correct. Michael Applebaum and Marvin Rotrand baptized the Fletcher's Field gazebo, but a building on a major artery is obviously more appropriate and more substantial than a few classrooms in the West End.
    The CSL high school proposal is for a "heritage" program, which is in fact a euphemism for a religious component. The basic idea is to attract Jewish day school students back into the public system.
    If you'll recall, this new proposal emerged from the the failed effort to move Royal Vale from NDG into the Palatucci Centre, affecting hundreds of kids currently attending Royal Vale building in elementary and high school.
  • Beverly Akerman Julien, I led the Royal Vale fight to keep the school in NDG a few years back. And you unkindly misrepresent the heritage program. Cote St. Luc has one of the oldest populations of a Quebec municipality. Now they're trying to attract new younger families with new developments, and a public high school--and wonderful new aquatic facilities--is part of that strategy. I can respect that, and also the absence of coercion this time.
  • Beverly Akerman And their persistence. Please don't condescend to me.
  • Max Layton Again, a Richler high school in the St. Urbain area is absolutely appropriate because that's what he wrote about and where he lived. But a high school in Cote St Luc should be named for my father, Irving Layton, because that's where we lived and he wrote many poems about it. Surely, Montreal is a big enough city to have room for two great writers -- and two schools!
So there you have it: Plateau? Cote St. Luc? Richler? Layton? How about Leonard Cohen? You can vote at until November 30th.

 And you can schmooze here or on Facebook.

Please also see my article about the EMSB's 2011 attempt to move the high school component of Royal Vale School into the old Wagar building, now officially known as the Giovanni Pallatucci facility.

Who was Giovanni Pallatucci

"Giovanni Palatucci saved the lives of 5,000 Jews destined to die in death camps during World War II. From 1938 to 1944, Palatucci was first in charge of the Office of Foreigners and later Chief of Police of Fiume, a city in northern Italy..."

Thursday 15 November 2012

Mordecai Richler High School in Cote St. Luc? Help "make it so!"

Here's the CBC Local Montreal News segment from Nov.15th. Also on their website

From what I understand, the Cote St. Luc civic administration has teamed up with the English Montreal School Board to try to promote the creation of a new EMSB high school in Cote St. Luc (at the site of the old Wagar High).
Now, at, the EMSB is soliciting names for this new, projected, high school. So I’ve started a campaign to have it named in honour of the man I think was the greatest English Montreal writer of the twentieth century, Mr. Mordecai Richler.

I started a Facebook campaign which you can find here--please join us!


The response includes suggestions from Glen Rotchin and Max Layton that the high school, instead, be named for Irving Layton who apparently actually lived in, as well as wrote about, Cote St. Luc. Others have suggested a different sort of compromise: The Layton-Richler Academy. Or noted that if it was named Mordecai Richler Institute, it could be called, for short, MRI. 

In other words, we’re having fun with this!

I’d just like Montrealers (and those who have Montreal in their hearts) to know about the “name the school” campaign and hopefully vote to have the school, if it actually comes to be, named after Mr. Richler. My interest in his work is of longstanding—here are links to a couple of pieces I’ve written, one at Rover Magazine, the other for Maisonneuve Magazine's blog

I think I've got more MR elsewhere on this blog (but I actually don't have time to look it up because I've got to get ready to see David Bezmozgis at Blue Emet!)

I guess the clincher here is the article I saw a few days back that shows one in five EMSB elementary school grads are going to private schools for high school. We clearly need to change things if we want to keep these students in the public sector. Royal West Academy can only take so many of them (a whole 'nother story). Maybe this new school is the start of bringing students back to the public sector.

Last year, among the English Montreal School Board’s 1,727 Grade 6 graduates, more than one in five left the board altogether. Rather than sign on with EMSB high schools, the majority of the 382 pupils who left went to the private sector for their secondary schooling.” (from Janet Bagnall’s Montreal Gazette column, Oct. 31st)

Please pass the word along!

Notable supporters so far:

CBC's Nancy Wood
Terry Mosher (aka Aislin)
Michael Posner
Paul Vermeersch 
Linda Leith
Mikhail Iossel
Arjun Basu
Andrew Phillips (Toronto Star)
Ray Brassard (Montreal Gazette) 
Howard Richler
Karl E. Jirgens
Lally Cadeau
Ken McGoogan...and LOTS of other wonderful people! (Thank you all)

Will update as things progress...

PS EMSB, a new building would be nice! 

PPS I would have preferred a library, perhaps. But you know Montreal: "one island, one city, one snow plow, one library..." 


Tuesday 13 November 2012

“Everybody knows”

[Please note: things are moving so quickly on the Charbonneau Commission inquiry and fallout that this column is already out of date...but I put it here because...I guess I just had to!]

Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay at a press conference at City Hall where he announced his resignation.
Photograph by: Dario Ayala , THE GAZETTE  Read more:

The recent resignations of the mayors of Montreal and Laval, Gerald Tremblay and Gilles Vaillancourt, have left me wondering whether, sometime when I wasn’t quite paying attention, Quebec’s regularly scheduled legal system was substituted with “Survivor: Quebec Politics,” a system of public bullying of those “everybody knows” are guilty. 

It’s as though we’ve decided to skip over all that legal mumbo jumbo we used to call a trial in favour of public shaming, metaphorical tarring and feathering, and the throwing of the bums out.

The Charbonneau Commission into the granting and management of construction contracts, and its associated sideshows, is as close to a legal lynching as anything I’ve ever seen. 

Quebecers are desperate to end these recurring episodes of corruption, and sooner, rather than later. But how does anyone prove to the court of public opinion that he or she DIDN’T do something, when “everybody knows” something nefarious has been going on? 

Messrs. Tremblay and Vaillancourt’s situations became increasingly untenable as time—and innuendo—mounted. But once Martin Dumont alleged Mr. Tremblay knew about dirty versions of municipal campaign expenses, it appeared a line was crossed.

And yet…

Within days of Dumont’s allegation, the Commission’s earlier songbird, Lino Zambito, was disputing Dumont’s version of some facts. Dumont said he met Zambito twice in 2004 in the offices of Union Montreal chief party fundraiser Bernard Trepanier. Zambito denies ever having been in the party offices. He denies even knowing where they are.

Somebody has some ‘splaining to do.

This is why we’re supposed to have a measured, dispassionate, and independent justice system. Instead, it seems we’re bent on satisfying a pack of jackals baying for blood.

If Mr. Duchesneau, former anti-collusion investigation head and current Coalition Avenir Quebec MNA, amassed these allegations, why didn’t he act on them? If he had evidence, why weren’t there charges? 

Jean Charest was vilified for arguing against the public inquiry. He warned that revealing names in public would tar those named as guilty, all without due process. Just mention a monicker and that person immediately loses the presumption of innocence, no matter who, exactly, is shooting off his mouth. But the presumption of innocence is the foundation of our system of laws and we tamper with it at our peril.

If someone accused you of malfeasance--diddling your boss’s accounts years back, say--how easily could you prove your innocence? Even if you were innocent? Especially if you were innocent.
Take, as an object lesson, another case in the news, that of former RCMP deputy commissioner Barbara George. After a distinguished 30-year career with the Mounties, she tackled a high-profile 2007 inquiry into an RCMP pension fund scandal. 

Barbara George
RCMP Staff Sergeant Mike Frizzell accused her of stifling his investigation into the pension fund imbroglio. MPs of the Public Accounts Committee bought Frizzell’s account and held George in contempt of Parliament

By the time it was over, according to Global news, members of the House of Commons committee said she lied during testimony before them, Liberal then-MP Borys Wrzesnewsky alleged outside the House that she committed perjury and, finally, her reputation destroyed, George was forced to resign from the RCMP.

There was only one small problem: Barbara George was innocent. She was actually exonerated by the RCMP and the Ontario Provincial Police, in separate investigations. But the truth didn’t matter and her career was destroyed.

Is it wise to put all this faith in the words of men like Zambito and Dumont? Why are they coming forward now? I understand the media and political opposition are going to town on this dog and pony show, but seriously: were these men suddenly having trouble sleeping nights? 
Who’s to say they aren’t settling a few scores with their accusations? Drive-by shooting of reputations, as it were.

The Charbonneau Commission hasn’t even hit its stride and already has the heads of two of our mayors. I sure hope all the accused are guilty. And, failing that, I hope they, like Barbara George, can take action against those who slander them. Recently, former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewsky publicly apologized to Ms. George as part of the $4 million libel action settlement.

I have no sympathy for liars, fraudsters, mobsters, or corruption. But naming people in the absence of corroborating evidence and without their being able to mount a defence is more like McCarthyism than a sober, dispassionate investigation. Which is what is meant by that blindfold on those statues of Lady Justice. 

Not that Mr. Tremblay’s or Mr. Vallaincourt’s refutations would have made much difference in this climate. Because, as Leonard Cohen might have said, “everybody knows” the jig is up.


Sunday 28 October 2012

My Pushcart nominated essay, "Six Pixels of Separation," now available at Amazon

What a fantastic essay! 
 I love it more with each reading!

~ Sylvia Legris, Editor, Grain Magazine

I'm pleased to announce that my Pushcart Prize nominated essay, "Six Pixels of Separation," has just been published at . Normally, I would have put it up on this blog...but I've now accepted (just like The New York Times) that writers must be compensated for their work, and so this 4,000 word piece is available online for the nominal sum of $2.99 (USD).

Six Pixels of Separation originally appeared in Grain Magazine during Sylvia Legris' tenure (Vol. 37.4, Summer 2010, p. 34-43, for those of you who want to read along at home).

Sylvia liked it so much, she also submitted it to Canada's National Magazine Awards, to be considered  in TWO categories: 'Personal Journalism' and 'One of a Kind.'

This is one of my very favourite pieces since I started writing full-time in 2005 and I'm very glad to be able to share it with you in this lovely edition, featuring a photograph of the cabin we five Fishtrap Fellows used when we were welcomed to the 2008 Summer Fishtrap Writing Conference.

Here we are at Fishtrap back in 2008 (funny that all five Fellows that year were women...we called ourselves the Fellas). These are some of the most impressive writers I have ever been privileged to meet, and I'm thrilled to be able to introduce them to you here, in case you haven't yet "met" them. From left: Jennifer D. Munro (originally from Hawaii, a woman who writes with affecting humour of her fertility travails--please see The Erotica Writer's Husband and Other Stories), me, Judith Groudine Finkel, novelist, and author of the moving short story "Two by Four", and two wonderful poets, Anna Ross (Hawk Weather), and Lorraine Healey whose The Habit of Buenos Aires won the Patricia Bibby First Book Award.

Here's the blurb from Six Pixels of Separation; I do hope you find the time to check it out!

"A couple of summers ago, I flew from my home in Montreal across the continent to Oregon for the first time, on points cadged from my husband. He travelled a lot for work. Because I quit science to pursue art several years back, I sponge off him shamelessly these days. And not just for plane tickets..."

One evening, after an argument with her husband about sex, Beverly Akerman wraps herself in a blanket and starts reading Raymond Carver. What follows is a heartfelt melding of reflections on love, sex, the Holocaust, evolution, literature, coincidence, windmills, and a trip to and from the Wallowa Lake, Oregon, celebration of writing and life known as Fishtrap. Read this astonishing essay by a major new writing talent.

Essay section headings: 

I: Irrigator evolution
II: Moraines
III: Raymond
IV: Darwin’s faith
V: Making a difference
VI: Valuables          
VII: Keeping track
VIII: The fellowship of the rings
IX: Renard
X: Rich
XI: The Dalles
XII: Change
XIII: Conflict
XIV: La langue française
XV: Arbeit macht Frei
XVII: The hard part
XVIII: Windmillus sapiens sapiens

Includes 13 footnotes.