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Accessibility Checklist for an Event

I’ve been asked to repost my checklist and am happy to do so. Please feel free to share, use, and repost it at any time.

How can event planners include the 20% of the population who are people with disabilities?

While this list does not address every disability or every need, it does address the baseline accessibility requirements for people with mobility issues. Right from the initial posting of the advertising or the invitation, we must feel equally included, welcome, and safe.

Toronto event planners are encouraged to choose venues already listed on

An event organizer should be able to say “yes” to ALL the following about their chosen venue:

1. Is the venue physically accessible and barrier free?

a) There no steps leading into the building. A permanent ramp is acceptable, a temporary one is not. (These ramps are the subject of insurance lawsuits after injuries. Some owners/insurance companies are trying to claim they are not liable because the disabled person using the ramp assumed the risk.)

b) There are working e-doors for entrances and exits.

c) The event is held on one flat level of the venue with no interior stairs.

d) If it is held in a store, all aisles will have wheelchair clearance and turn around space

e) The washroom is accessible meaning: e-doors at least 32” wide for entrance and exit, a stall with a low sliding lock and grab bars, large enough to permit wheelchair turn clearance, and sink, tap, soap, and towels or dryers that can all be reached from a wheelchair.

f) if there is a stage, it will be accessible with a permanent ramp, or no one will use it and all readers will all read from the floor. This applies whether or not there are disabled writers or performers appearing at the event. No disabled person in the audience should have to watch abled folks mount a stage effectively telling us we don’t belong there and are not expected to ever get there. Any stairs to the stage say one thing: that presenters are quite happy to use their abled privilege to keep us out.

g) seating will be available, with some reserved as accessible, and an empty space for chairs/scooters

h) event planners will ensure snow and ice is removed from the sidewalk, ramp, and entryway

2. All publicity must contain full accessibility information, to be posted right from the start.

a) the minimum requirements include: a map detailing parking, transit, and event entrance, information on stairs and levels, washroom accessibility, transit and parking availability, and an email and phone number of an Accessibility Contact person.

b) the venue must also have at least the same minimal accessibility information permanently posted on its own website. Event planners are encouraged to make this a condition of choosing that venue.

This list is a minimum list created by reducing the full and very detailed criteria of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Event organizers should be aware that meeting this minimum checklist does not qualify them to call their event “fully accessible.” That term requires AODA inspection and would include very specific measurements and facilities such as adult change tables in washrooms.

Event organizers need to be aware that some abled organizers have taken it upon themselves to start to use the following terms: “semi-accessible,” “mostly-accessible,” “fully accessible except for the washroom.” There is no such thing as “semi-accessible.” Either a disabled person has full and equal access to every feature of the venue, or it is inaccessible. These terms are an insult and clear proof organizers know that they have consciously chosen a venue where disabled people are reduced to second class citizens who are neither respected nor welcome.

Event planners are encouraged to go beyond this minimum checklist and post any other information important to people with disabilities, such as listed on braille on doors, ASL/CART availability, roving microphones, accessible pricing, policy for service animals, free admission for caregivers, scent-free policy, etc.

The goal is to have all necessary information available with the initial advertising so that disabled people do not need to call, research, or investigate to ask if they are welcome. Like abled people, we simply want to be able to love discovering an event and decide to attend it.

Thank you for your commitment to accessibility,

Dorothy Palmer

Canada Has a Silencing Problem

On February 5, 2018, I remember my first thought when I read Zoe Whittall’s excellently contextualized first version of CanLit has a Sexual Harassment Problem: “Finally, a national opinion piece which doesn’t toe the UBCaccountable line.”

And my second thought: “Some people are going to be pissed.”

I expected her publisher, The Walrus, to face pushback from UBCaccountable, the signatories of the “due process for Steven Galloway” letter. Especially because in the mainstream press to date, as Ms. Whittall correctly notes in her piece, the celebrity signatories of UBCaccountable have had total control of the narrative of his firing. Critics of UBCA have not been deemed worthy of equal access to publication. As previously helmed by “free speech” supporter Jon Kay, The Walrus itself was once a comfortable port for UBCA signatories with wind in their sails. They instantly got all kinds of blow-hard opinions published there unopposed. I commend The Walrus for finally publishing the other side of the story.

Before I examine the changes that were made Ms. Whittall’s piece, I want to go on record that I am not simply defending a friend. I respect Ms. Whittall’s work, but I have never met her. Believing it important to document the response to her piece, I screenshot all her tweets and those of UBCA, as it went up on Feb 5, 2018, then had an addendum added, then got pulled down entirely. As she tweeted on Feb 6, 10:56am, “It was taken down for additional fact checking after threats & will be republished. The Walrus is being very supportive…”

Once it was republished, on Feb 12 11:12am, Ms. Whittall tweeted, “It did have some factual errors that were my fault (the timeline was wrong) but what Jake says here is true” referring to this tweet quoted in hers by @McArthurMooney, “From last week. Happy this article is back up but still mad we have to pretend it had vague “journalistic” problems like it wasn’t brought down by a coordinated legal threat from aggrieved parties.”

Why do we have to pretend? We put CanLit in danger if we do.

I want to be diamond clear that I do not blame Ms. Whittall for trusting The Walrus throughout the changes to her piece. Writers are supposed to be able to trust their editors and publishers. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to be asked under legal threat to agree to make changes in the moment, to be told what is, or is not, legally acceptable when you are not a lawyer. Under that pressure, I’m sure every writer would try to salvage their work as best they could. I respect her for trying to do that under extraordinarily stressful conditions.

I also want to be clear about what I do know about that “coordinated legal threat from aggrieved parties.” Someone who directly participated in the process, who has asked me to keep their comments confidential, wrote me and twice confirmed their first-hand knowledge: “It was vetted by Walrus’ lawyers and multiple signatories made complaints. Galloway and Atwood were definitely two of them.”

I note that this stands in contradiction to Ms. Atwood’s tweet of Feb 7, 1:58pm which reads, “& for the record: Nooo, I have not sicced any litigation lawyers on any publications (recently). That’s simply a pure lie pure + simple. @walrusmagazine took a piece down for fact checking. I did not ask them to do that. If you want to know something why not just ask me?”

I suppose this statement could technically be true. Lawyers may not have been “sicced on” The Walrus as in, not physically sent snarling into the building housing them. Or perhaps, “litigation lawyers” were not sent, but “personal lawyers” were heard from. Given multiple “aggrieved parties,” there were likely multiple “legal threats”: potentially cease and desist orders, take down orders, law suits for libel, and/or other legal actions. I do know that the threat of legal big guns is every writer’s nightmare.

And we all know this: intimidated speech is not free speech.

When The Walrus removed an already published op-ed piece for after-the-fact “fact checking,” that was alarming. We need to evaluate both the quantity and quality of change it produced. In an op-ed, no one expects “fact checking” to result in the wholesale erasure of opinion. Or the cutting of whole paragraphs. We absolutely do not expect the addition new ones. In Canada, no one would have predicted this kind of silencing problem: a “coordinated legal threat” has resulted, not just in cuts to original content, but also in the forced new insertion of pro-UBCaccountable bias and disinformation.

I understand why no one dared critique it. I’m afraid even as I write this. I understand why Can Lit breathed a collective sigh of relief when it was “over.” Understandably wanting to sympathize with the legal threat Ms. Whittall experienced, people congratulated her when her piece went back up, noted some of its new strengths, and said nothing further.

But while the “threat” may be over for Ms. Whittall, it is only just beginning for CanLit. In our desire to support a single author, we failed at three more important things. We allowed the erasure of the voices and the very existence of those for whom it is most definitely not over: the Main Complainant, the MC in the group of complainants who reported Mr. Galloway to UBC. We allowed the published work of a respected prize-winning author to be taken down, rewritten and weaponized to promote the interests of a powerful man and his powerful friends. And we self-silenced, pretending not to see the terrifying implications. Capitulation emboldens bullies. Silence is complicit.
Pretending nothing happened insures but one thing: that the next writer to cross UBCA will face this “collective threat” again.

I do not make these claims lightly. I believe that it is possible to both support Ms. Whittall and to critique the heat under which her work got cooked.

And the proof is always in the pudding.

In a close reading that took several days, I copied both versions into Word and compared them word-by-word. I asked the following two questions:

1. When does a fact check become a rewrite?

All books and articles get fact checked before publication. Every writer expects small changes. We’re grateful for editorial corrections to names, dates, quotes, and events. A fact check generates the occasional edit, inclusion, and rewording, but the work itself is little changed. That is not what happened here. As per the wonder of Word Count:

• The original piece is 3,738 words and Version #2 is 4,460 words
• This is a net gain of 722 words
• But I tracked both cuts and additions: 825 words were cut
• Version #2 is 4,460 words because a total of 1,547 new words were added.
• Totaling cuts and additions 2,372 words were changed

There were many cuts to original content. Ignoring cosmetic changes, spelling, rewordings, or single word changes, Version #1 had 25 substantive content cuts:

• 19 cuts between one and five sentences
• 6 full paragraphs were cut.
• a total of 42 sentences disappeared completely.

And, even more alarmingly, there were many additions to original content. Likewise ignoring cosmetics, Version #2 had 23 substantive content additions:

• 21 additions of between one and six sentences
• four entirely new paragraphs.
• a total of 51 new sentences added
• of the original 32 paragraphs, only 11 paragraphs remained unaltered

This is not “fact checking” by any definition. It’s a full content rewrite.

2. When does a rewrite under “threat” become censorship and propaganda?

The real issue isn’t how much got changed, but what got changed and why.

In examining the changes, I admit I’m not a lawyer. I do know you cannot libel a person with the truth. I’ve also read a lifetime of magazines and newspapers and certainly know what has already been published on this matter without any legal challenge. Like all writers, I have an educated layperson’s researched understanding of libel as it applies to our work. Especially in op-ed pieces, we are protected from lawsuit by “Fair Comment,” as quoted here from the Canadian Bar Association, under defences against libel: (

4. Fair comment
We all are free to comment—even harshly—about issues of public interest, as long as we are clear that our comments are:
• statements of opinion, not fact.
• based on facts that can be proven.
• not made maliciously.

It would take forever to evaluate the over forty substantive content cuts and additions as Ms. Whittall’s original became Version #2. I’ve chosen only a few of the most important changes to evaluate here.

A) The most concerning change is the full erasure of the MC
This is the original P18. Everything in bold was cut completely:

It’s sticky territory. Attraction and desire are complicated; the last thing I want to do is induce a sex panic. But these issues become even more complicated when one party says an encounter was consensual, and another says it was not. While Galloway has claimed he had a consensual affair with the main complainant at UBC, she has stated her assault accusations were not about an affair at all. Articles on Galloway repeatedly mention that he “had a relationship” with a student—and yet, out of the two people involved, he is the only one to have classified it as such. What does this tell us about who we believe? What does this tell us about men who use their power (grades, reference letters, publishing referrals, internships) to get laid?

In Version #2, this is Paragraph 24. The first three sentences reappear identically, but with an entirely different subject matter, as bolded:

It’s sticky territory. Attraction and desire are complicated; the last thing I want to see is a sex panic. But these issues become even more complicated when one party says an encounter or relationship was consensual and another says it was not. In many ways, the conversation that has emerged after Galloway, and now Concordia, is about power dynamics. Even before Galloway was fired, UBC had started assessing whether professors should be allowed to have relationships with students, and in general, much discussion has centred on whether those relationships, if they happen, can ever be consensual. After all, in such a dynamic, a professor has control over a student’s grades, reference letters, publishing referrals, and internships. In reference to her time as a student at Concordia, author Heather O’Neill told the Montreal Gazette last month that “I was harassed by a particular professor there, who…groped me in ways that to this day make me cringe”—and also offered to edit a book of her poetry that was forthcoming at a publishing house where he was an editor.

The MC is never mentioned in Version #2. While it is easy to see why UBCA might push to erase her, what possible legal grounds would they have to do so? If The Walrus felt on shaky ground paraphrasing the MC’s words, surely they could have quoted her lawyer? The press release of lawyer Joanna Birenbaum, documenting the MC’s position that her complaint was not about an affair, but of sexual harassment and assault, has already been widely quoted by other newspapers and magazines. What, or who, prevented The Walrus from including it here?

It’s important to note that not only has the very existence of the MC been erased, she has been replaced by a paragraph that debates if students and profs should have affairs, exactly the “debate” that UBCA and Mr. Galloway’s lawyers want us to have. Not quoting the MC’s lawyer is particularly indefensible when Version #2 Paragraph 7 newly contains this direct quote from the press release of Mr. Galloway’s personal lawyer, hired beyond the free lawyer provided by his UBCFA contract:

“According to a statement by Galloway’s lawyers in November 2016, the retired justice who carried out the UBC investigation “found on a balance of probabilities that Mr. Galloway had not committed sexual assault.…The sole complaint substantiated was that Mr. Galloway engaged in inappropriate behavior with a student.”

In other words, The Walrus removes the MC’s personal account of sexual assault but does print Heather O’Neill’s personal account of sexual assault. The Walrus does not publish the already much-published press release of the MC’s lawyer, but quotes Mr. Galloway’s lawyer verbatim. This not “fact checking.” This is bias. And it continues to permeate the entire piece.

B) Version #2 reframes the piece with a long addition of UBCA spin

The original Paragraph 5 reads as follows:

(P5) In November 2016, almost 100 authors—including Margaret Atwood, Joseph Boyden, and Michael Ondaatje—published an open letter to UBC calling for “Steven Galloway’s right to due process” and critiquing the university for the way it handled the novelist’s firing after he was accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault. (It now lives on the website UBC Accountable.) Responses to the letter from activists and academics, including Galloway’s former students, classmates, and colleagues, as well as other writers, myself included, were swift. Many felt the letter writers gave their collective (and considerable) power to the side that already has the most power. As writer Flannery Dean put it in Flare, the letter “seemingly privileged the rights of one of their own—fellow novelist Steven Galloway—over alleged victims of sexual harassment, sexual assault and bullying.”

It gets expanded in Version #2 into Paragraphs 5 and 6. Everything in bold is a new pro-UBCAccountable addition to the original.

(P.5) In November 2015, Steven Galloway was suspended from his job as a tenured professor and chair of the creative-writing program at the University of British Columbia “after serious allegations.” UBC commissioned an external investigation and then fired Galloway in June 2016, citing a “record of misconduct that resulted in an irreparable breach of trust.” The investigative report was never publicly released. In November 2016, more than eighty authors—including Margaret Atwood, Joseph Boyden, and Michael Ondaatje—published an open letter to UBC calling for “Steven Galloway’s right to due process” and critiquing the university for the way it handled the novelist’s suspension and later dismissal. In it, the signatories stressed that “no criminal charges were laid against Professor Galloway at the time [of his suspension]. None has been laid since.” The university’s initial public response, the signatories argued, had “cast a cloud of suspicion over Professor Galloway and created the impression that he was in some way a danger to the university community.” They called on the university to “establish an independent investigation into how this matter has been handled.” (The letter lives on the website UBC Accountable.)

(P.6) No matter what the letter has since come to represent, or what conversation has evolved around it, it’s worth noting what Joseph Boyden, who spearheaded its circulation, originally told signatories: “[the letter] does not draw conclusions about guilt or innocence, but focuses on a process that ill-served complainants and Mr. Galloway.” Even so, the open letter largely focused on Galloway and the ways in which the university’s actions have affected his personal, public, and professional life, and it made little mention of the complainants. Responses to the letter from activists and academics, including Galloway’s former students, classmates, and colleagues, as well as other writers, myself included, were swift. Many felt the letter writers gave their collective (and considerable) power to the side that already has the most power. As writer Flannery Dean put it in Flare, the letter “seemingly privileged the rights of one of their own” over those of complainants in an investigation into sexual harassment, sexual assault, and bullying.

Since the UBCA letter in Nov 2016, I have done my best as a former union Branch President to debunk what I see as UBCA’s deliberate misrepresentation of union due process in order to create their “innocence narrative.” I find it sadly ironic and truly unconscionable to see these same factual errors reproduced uncritically here in a revision that claims to be the product of intensive “fact checking.”

For example, in P.5 there are three factual errors in these two sentences: UBC commissioned an external investigation and then fired Galloway in June 2016, citing a “record of misconduct that resulted in an irreparable breach of trust.” The investigative report was never publicly released.

Error 1: UBC did not “commission an external investigation.” UBC hired an optional consultant to do an internal investigation. Their consultant, retired B.C. Supreme Court Justice Mary Ellen Boyd, was bound to keep it internal by labour law, privacy law, Mr. Galloway’s UBCFA employment contract, and the confidentiality agreement signed by all parties.

Error 2: Legally, her report can never be “publicly released.” But, an unverifiable version was leaked, an alleged Boyd Report that the pro-Galloway defense forces who leaked it have been quoting ever since. Whenever anyone “quotes” it, they are actually “quoting” comments made by Mr. Galloway’s defense team. Everyone else has respected the confidentiality agreement. Given UBCA control of the media, they’ve sold the public and many journalists who should know better, on their spin that an optional, leaked, unverifiable consultant’s report has both authority and legal standing. Mainstream media has aided and abetted them. For example, in Margaret Atwood’s, Am I a Bad Feminist article in The Globe and Mail, Jan 13, 2018, she gets away with calling it, “an inquiry by a judge,” asserting that “the judge said there had been no sexual assault,” and proclaiming, “The not-guilty verdict displeased some people.” I repeat again for the umpteenth time: There was no judge. No charges. No courtroom. No verdict. A consultant’s report has no legal standing of any kind. UBC is free to ignore it if they wish. No one should be quoting it as fact. It isn’t.

Error 3: Even the newly-added dismissal quote is wrong in UBCA’s favour. Version #2 added this: UBC commissioned an external investigation and then fired Galloway in June 2016, citing a “record of misconduct that resulted in an irreparable breach of trust.” This is not fact checked. It’s not even cited. It’s in quotes but not attributed. Here is the exact wording of the press release of UBC VP External Relations, Philip Steenkamp, as quoted in The Canadian Press, (June 23, 2016): “Coupled with the dean’s recommendation and the investigative findings… the President concluded that there was a record of misconduct that resulted in an irreparable breach of the trust placed in faculty members by the university, its students and the general public.

The emphasis on the word the is mine. As previously documented on this blog, whenever anyone in the media incorrectly cuts the quote down to “an irreparable breach of trust,” it’s a critical error that fuels the innocence narrative. It a reduction that permits pro-Galloway forces to insist he was fired for “a breach of trust,” which they confidently reduce to one single breach of trust, which they conveniently define for us as “a consensual affair.” The Walrus needs to re-examine these additions and do a real fact check, one that does not reflect UBCA bias.

C) Did you catch the tiny but telling cut to the original P5 when it became P6?

I missed it at first, too. The original read: As writer Flannery Dean put it in Flare, the letter “seemingly privileged the rights of one of their own—fellow novelist Steven Galloway—over alleged victims of sexual harassment, sexual assault and bullying.”
Version #2 reads: As writer Flannery Dean put it in Flare, the letter “seemingly privileged the rights of one of their own” over those of complainants in an investigation into sexual harassment, sexual assault, and bullying.”

The deliberate removal of Mr. Galloway’s name is not a fact check. How can quoting a published article in a legitimate national magazine put The Walrus in any legal jeopardy? It can’t. This kind of pandering and capitulation reoccurs throughout the piece.

D) Here is another telling revision to the original P6:

(P.6 Original) … the symbolic effect of our country’s literary elite banding together to use their celebrity against a female student making a complaint against a professor feels wrong.

(P7 Version #2) … The symbolic effect of our country’s literary elite banding together without explicitly supporting the complainants felt wrong.

E) And another:

(P6 Original) If the UBC Accountable group had published its letter in fall 2017 instead of 2016, how might it have been received? Might we have worn Time’s Up pins to the Gillers?

In Version #2, this gets moved to the end of P8, to conclude a discussion of the wider issues of supporting women in CanLit: If these conversations in the CanLit community had started in the fall of 2017 instead of in 2016, how might they have been received? Might we have worn Time’s Up pins to the Gillers?

F) Pro-UBCA cuts and additions reoccur in P7 which becomes P9.

The bolded portion of P7 was cut. The addition in P9 is also in bold.

(P7) If there’s anything I’ve learned while touring a book about rape it’s that most people, including our country’s literary elite, do not believe the data we’ve had for decades about sexual assault. They don’t believe it is not the bogeyman in the alley that we most have to worry about; the majority of sexual assaults are committed by people the victim knows. Nor do they want to believe that someone can be a great friend, excellent teacher and mentor, and good husband or father and still be capable of sexual harassment or sexual assault. And they seem to think that hearing an accusation of sexual assault is “unsubstantiated”—in the case of Galloway, a pronouncement made by a retired judge in the union-approved legal proceedings at UBC—means an assault didn’t occur. All it means was that it couldn’t be proven. And is that really a shock, when we live in a world where most people don’t believe women who speak out?

P9 reads the same for the first two sentences, then becomes:
Nor do they want to believe that, like the main character in my book, someone can be a great friend, excellent teacher and mentor, and good husband or father and still be capable of sexual harassment or sexual assault. And is that really a shock, when we live in a world where most people don’t believe women who speak out?

I agree that the phrase “a pronouncement made by a retired judge in the union-approved legal proceedings” is incorrect and needed fact checking. But it could easily have been rewritten as “as UBCA claims is in the leaked Boyd Report,” and the rest of the sentence left intact. I can only assume it all got cut simply because it criticized UBCA. And, likewise, apparently the belief that someone can be an excellent teacher and still be capable of sexual assault, must only apply to Ms. Whittall’s fiction, not to real life professors.

G) Another Pro-UBCA revision and addition occurred as P11 became P14:

(P11) I found myself on stage with Madeleine Thien who’d helped spearhead the UBCAccountable site, and I didn’t want to have any tension.

Although this sentence is factual, as Ms. Thien is on record in her own letter to UBC as one of the first supporters of UBCA, it got changed to:

(P14 Version #2) I found myself on stage with Madeleine Thien, who weeks earlier, had written an open letter criticizing ubc’s handling of Galloway’s case saying, “I believe you have failed everyone involved…The university has taken a tragedy and turned it into an ugly, blame-filled toxic mess, destroying lives in the process.” I didn’t want to have any tension with Thien who had close ties to the ubc writing community.

Does this mean a writer cannot even mention a UBCA signatory, unless they also agree to quote their pro-UBCA proselytizing?

H) This is paragraph 14 of the original which was cut in its entirely:

Not only are the signatories of UBC Accountable still defending Galloway a year later, they’re now doubling down, even when others raise the question of how their actions might affect complainants or emerging writers who have experienced sexual harassment. Some of their arguments are reasonable: of course an accused professor should be allowed to defend himself. And sure, of course women are capable of lying. But such defensive rhetoric also relies on the assumption that there is an even playing field to begin with, a system that actually supports those who make accusations. That’s simply not our reality.

How could any of this be legally objectionable, let alone libelous under “fair comment|’? The fact that the signatories are still defending Mr. Galloway is repeatedly in print for all to see. Ms. Whittall’s concession statements are clearly opinions: that a professor should be allowed to defend himself and that women are capable of lying. And, presto, these very same ideas aren’t objectionable when they reappear in Paragraph 18 of Version #2, this time attributed not to discussion of UBCA, but to discussion of Ms. Whittall’s book:

P18 Version#2 When I was touring The Best Kind of People, the topic of due process inevitably came up during the question-and-answer period, and it quickly became clear to me that different people understand the concept in different ways. Some of the arguments I heard during these sessions are reasonable: of course an accused person should be allowed to defend themselves. And of course women are capable of “the full range of saintly and demonic behaviours,” as Margaret Atwood wrote in a Globe and Mail article last month.

Apparently, it’s not libelous to say women lie, as long as Ms. Atwood is the woman saying it.

I) In the next original paragraph P15, the bolded section was cut entirely.

What UBC Accountable is saying is not new and it’s not specific to UBC. It’s a very ordinary, predictable reaction to any sexual-assault allegation. It’s the reaction that kept Harvey Weinstein abusing with impunity in an “everybody knew” environment for decades, and it’s what kept Concordia from caring about its culture of gender inequity. From the outside, it appears reasonable; who doesn’t like “fairness,” after all? But it’s a smokescreen. It assumes an even playing field, and it assumes that a fair, unbiased system set up to hold powerful white men accountable actually exists. And it does not. Not at a university. Not in a courthouse. Not in Canada.

This is clearly opinion based on fact. How can it be legally actionable? And again, the last four sentences are apparently libelous in a paragraph with the word UBC Accountable in it but not libelous when applied to “people.” They reappear as stand-alone Paragraph 21 of Version #2: People assume that a fair, unbiased system set up to hold powerful white men accountable actually exists. And it does not. Not at a university. Not in a courthouse. Not in Canada

J) Another small change that speaks volumes

For several days, I thought that the original Paragraph 26, which became Version #2’s Paragraph 31 was one of the few that stayed identical, until I noticed this tiny change:

(P26) These discussions emphasize that people actually believe women everywhere are suddenly lying about assault – but to me, the real hysteria is that people think that suddenly women everywhere are lying about assault.

(P31 These discussions emphasize that people actually believe women everywhere are suddenly lying about assault – but to me, the real hysteria is that people think that suddenly women everywhere are lying about assault.

God forbid that free speech might mean that a writer is free to italicize the absurdity of what UBCA wants us all to believe. God forbid that we think at all.

K) The Curious Case of an Addendum That Didn’t Stay One:

The Walrus put up a short-lived addendum before taking it and Ms. Whittall’s piece down entirely: “An earlier version of this article did not include the fact that a 2016 investigation ordered by UBC and never publicly released, found a claim against Steven Galloway to be unsubstantiated. The earlier version also incorrectly stated that Galloway received a standing invitation in the hospitality suite of the Vancouver Writers Festival in 2016. That statement has since been removed, and the article has been updated to reflect new information.”

All the language of the “investigation” sentence magically reappears fully developed in Version #2. And the applause comment itself is incorrect and needs to be fact checked. The original read, “While working on a deadline one night during the festival, I missed Galloway enter the writer hospitality room—people reportedly burst into applause.” A “standing ovation” was never mentioned. The only place I saw it called “a standing ovation” was on twitter when on Feb 6, 9:50am UBCA devotee Brad Cran offered his opinion as to why the article got taken down: “It contained outright false information including an insane lie that Galloway received a standing ovation at the Writer’s Festival hospitality suite. She reported made up lies.”

All mention of this applause incident was cut from #Version 2. Why? Either it never happened, or folks in CanLit are too scared to admit they heard applause. If it did happen, but The Walrus didn’t look for confirmation, that’s irresponsible. If writers refused to come forward with confirmation, CanLit is in real trouble. It’s time to grow some fortitude.

And consider this: why wouldn’t UBCA want to hear applause for Mr. Galloway? Perhaps you can’t be ruined beyond measure and be “forced” to sue for damages and defamation if your colleagues applaud you?

M) I’ll end with my personal favourite change, from P10 to P12 Version #2:

I know it’s a career risk to keep being outspoken against UBCaccountable.
I know it’s a career risk to keep being outspoken against sexual harassment in CanLit.

There are many more changes both large and small made as Ms. Whittall’s original piece got reframed and rewritten. They all shift in the same wind. I can accept that some of these changes may have seemed individually reasonable at a rushed and worried time. I also believe that pro-UBCA bias is so pervasive, has so successfully saturated the press and controlled the narrative, that we don’t see it as bias. Take the graphic that led both articles, for example. It’s a cut and paste of all the most biased pro-Galloway phrases of the UBCA letter, which read together, create exactly the spin UBCA would love to perpetuate. How does that belong on a piece entitled, CanLit Has a Sexual Harassment Problem? Why did nobody catch it?

Having read and re-read the two pieces non-stop for several days, I believe they need to be seen in the aggregate. In my opinion, Version #2 smacks of two things: fear and appeasement.

The sheer number and quality of cuts and additions suggest to me that folks were running scared. It appears that they needed to accommodate so badly that they over-compensated and capitulated even when not strictly legally necessary. They cut entirely rather than reword.

Version #2 did add supportive quotes by others, by Laurence Hill, Heather O’Neill, Natalee Caple, and Nyla Matuk, which did strengthen Ms. Whittall’s intention, and I respect her for publicly appreciating that. But the safe, already-published, quotes of others were added at the expense of her original content. The integrity of her opinion was repeatedly compromised. Her voice was cut, and first and foremost, this was her piece.

Why did Version #2 result in the wholesale gutting of her personal opinions? They have disappeared, not for any imaginable legal reason, but simply because some “aggrieved parties” didn’t like them. There can be no other reason, for example, for cutting this line from P24 of her original: “It is worth noting that to the best of my knowledge no woman under the age of forty signed their name to the UBCAccountable letter.” If fact checking produced women signatories over forty, simply amend the line to “all but one signatory, or two, or whatever.” To cut it entirely is ridiculous, unless UBCA thinks they can pass themselves off as spring chickens.

I also cannot understand or defend how this addition to Version #2 P14 got past any kind of “fact checking”: “It wasn’t lost on me that nobody had published an open letter specifically in support of the complainants.” That is flatly untrue. The Open Counter Letter was posted in answer to UBCA explicitly supporting the complainants and survivors of sexual assault. Ms. Whittall signed that letter. To date, so did another 632 supporters. And Julie Rack, Natalee Caple and I have posted two further letters to UBCA supporting complainants and survivors and asking UBCA to take down their site. These are all documented on the Counter Letter site, a link not provided by The Walrus, which in its expert “fact checking” saw fit only to link to the UBCA site.

I also fully admit that the cutting from the original of Ms. Whittall’s kind reference to my fact checking of Ms. Atwood’s Bad Feminist article is a slur on my work, but given everything else that got cut, it’s no surprise. I emailed The Walrus several times over the last full week politely asking why this occurred. UBCA celebrities get instant replies and action, but I got no reply. I stand by my fact checking, especially in the light of what passed for it in The Walrus rewrite.

It is important to note that UBCA has kept up the pressure of nasty disinformation against Mr. Whittall’s piece on twitter. As the champion of “free speech,” on Feb 5 10:57pm Jonathon Kay first tweeted, “just me…or is the fact that Steven Galloway isn’t actually guilty kind of an *incredibly important* fact to leave out of an article demanding that Canadians treat Steven Galloway like he’s guilty. It’s almost like it makes the article look like a joke.” And later, “So @walrusmagazine seems to have yanked the botched @zoewhittall libel job on Steven Galloway, perhaps helping to restore sanity to this issue as Galloway gets justice from UBC. Who would have thought Zoe would be the one to make people realize how insane they’ve become?” Apparently, ableist mental health slurs are a staple of Mr. Kay’s free speech vocabulary.

And, of course, signatory David Mount also graced twitter with his “legal” opinion as to why the MC’s opinion had to be removed: “That “fact” had to be removed because it’s libelous. It is irresponsible journalism to fail to mention another fact—the fact that the independent investigator UBC hired found that the allegations could not be substantiated.” And on Feb 13 3:59pm: “The Walrus could address a potentially libelous statement by deleting it (which they did) or add a comment that the allegations have not been proven (which is the way most new outlets usually operate) or report that the allegations are false (which is the truth).”

By this “logic,” all free speech “due process” signatories should be protesting Version #2 precisely because it’s an article of “irresponsible journalism” revised to remove all mention of opposing facts. Have they done so? To quote Ms. Whittall’s excellent, but censored, original conclusion, “Of course not.”

What should we all do now? As I see it there are three choices.

1. Doing nothing. Staying silent. Pretending nothing happened.

2. Asking The Walrus to honor Ms. Whittall’s work and voice, to post a revised version that includes the legal statement of the MC and does a fact checking worthy of the name.

3. Asking Ms. Whittall and/or the Walrus to take Version #2 down. Bare minimum Version # 2 should not carry the same Feb 5 date as the original as if the “coordinated legal threat” never happened.

I do know one thing that will absolutely happen next: UBCaccountable signatories, supporters and trolls will come at me any way they can. Let them. If UBCA wants to threaten me, they’ll need more than a letter they paid some lawyer to write. They’ll need more than a Cease and Desist letter threatening legal action. They’ll need to file their case. And they’ll need to win it. They’ll need a Cease and Desist Court Order signed by judge. That, and only that, will make me take this blog article down because I honestly believe that everything I’ve written here falls under “Fair Comment.”

I suggest that all of Can Lit needs to make that same resolve. We all need to learn our legal rights about what does and does not constitute libel and defamation. Fear and silence serve only those who want us to be cowed. In case my blog gets taken down against my will, please feel free to copy, resend, and repost it now, any way you may wish.

Because this is far from over. I don’t subscribe to the theory that UBCA brought legal threat against The Walrus simply because they lost the instant airing they once had in it. I honestly believe that the interference in Ms. Whittall’s piece was only a shot across the bow, a warm up exercise for the real target of UBCA: the upcoming publication of Refuse: CanLit it the Ruins, co-edited by Erin Wunker, Julie Rak and Hannah McGregor, as announced in Quill & Quire on Jan 19, 2018.

As Book*hug publishers Hazel and Jay Millar posted on their site in response to the recent attack by UBCA signatories on Refuse co-editor Erin Wunker: “To be blunt, we feel that a line was crossed. It distresses us to learn what lengths some people are willing to go to discredit those whose points of view differ from their own.”

That line will be crossed again. I wonder how those signatories who weren’t part of this “coordinated legal threat” are feeling now? How can they continue to lend their good names to blatant interference in free speech? If I got on a friendship/due process train that became a censorship and propaganda train, I’d get off immediately. More importantly, I wonder how all the complainants feel to have had a national voice for a few hours, before they were erased yet again by powerful celebrity voices who threaten the free press and claim no harm was done?

Canada has a silencing problem. Theirs and ours. We need to fix them both.

Welcome to the CripCanLit Pledge!

We’re not calling anyone out; we’re calling everyone in.

People with disabilities are 20% of the planet. In true intersectionality, we represent every class, race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality, language, culture, and religion. Unfortunately, we are profoundly under-represented in Canadian writing. If CanLit represented us, our voices would be legion:

• one of every five books published in Canada would have a disabled author
• one of every five readers, panelists, agents, and publishers, would be disabled
• disabled writers would be nominated for, and win, one of every five awards
• we’d get our fair 20% share of publication, publicity, grants, and funding
• all Canadian readers could enjoy books representing the diversities of disability

Instead, disabled people are some 3% of Can Lit. Why is this acceptable in 2017?

The founders of CripCanLit are three disabled writers: Bronwyn Berg, Jane Eaton Hamilton and Dorothy Ellen Palmer. We believe the very definition of what it means to be a writer is deeply enmeshed in systemic ableism, in past practices, attitudes, expectations, language, and privileges, of being able-bodied. We also believe Can Lit has a unique opportunity to come together to fight ableism collectively, that the best way to make change “for all,” is to make change “by all.”

Let’s all start seeing inaccessibility for what it is: a ban on disabled people.

Let’s agree that it is everyone’s shared responsibility to end that ban, to build a Can Lit that includes all diversities, including the diversities of disability. We invite everyone to be pro-active, to support the inclusion people with disabilities right from the start, in organizing, programming, leadership, and long-term solutions. “Nothing about us without us.”

But we can’t take a seat at the table if we can’t get to the table.

Accessibility sets a baseline of support. Access makes it possible to generate further collective change together. Accordingly, we invite all readers and writers to sign the CripCanLit Pledge:

In active solidarity with readers and writers with disabilities, I will not plan, book, promote, read at, speak at, fund, nor attend, any inaccessible literary event. To be considered accessible, an event must have all the following:

1) a flat entrance or a ramp, with a main floor flat venue, or an elevator to one
2) a wheelchair/walker/scooter accessible washroom
3) a stage without stairs, or all presenters seated equally at floor level
4) accessibility information posted on the event invitation and website: entrance, venue, and washroom accessibility, transit, and accessible parking information
5) an email and phone number of the event’s Accessibility Contact Person.
If an event is posted without all the above, I will contact the organizer, request the correction, and make it clear I will not attend unless the change is made.

I also pledge my fullest support to events which go beyond this baseline, and include: e-buttons on doors, braille signage, ASL translation, roving microphones, large print handouts, transport assistance, and accessible pricing and seating.
I will actively encourage others to bring accessibly awareness into their daily lives and to sign the CripCanLit Pledge.

To sign this pledge, please list your name in the comments. Thank you!

Please feel free to tweet your support at #CripCanLit.

There’s No Such Thing as Neutral: My Reply to Mr. Stan Persky

Thank you, Mr. Persky, for the detailed recap of my article in, “Narrating Galloway,” published on your blog, (Jan 25, 2016). Since our readers have already digested some 30,000 words between us, I’m going to target four specific points of dispute in our positions.

1. What is UBC accountable for?

We agree that universities have long mis-handled investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct, but I hardly need point out that this mishandling has favoured the accused, not the complainants. Thank you for also agreeing that after their initial legally-required announcement, UBC was legally bound to silence, both by privacy law and Mr. Galloway’s UBCFA contract.

I equally assume that, although many UBCaccountable signatories do so, you also agree that UBC cannot be blamed for any subsequent public interpretation, is not morally or legally responsible for the gossip, rumour, and speculation by others. We agree that it is completely inflammatory to leap from UBC’s stated “serious allegations,” which could have been any number of things from plagiarism to financial mismanagement, to claim that UBC called Mr. Galloway “a rapist.”

But those who made that leap include the signatories. Blaming UBC for labeling Mr. Galloway abusive, or for permitting the public to think he may be abusive, is the beating heart of the UBCaccountable Open Letter and the signatory statements attached. Central to both, is the conviction that an investigation is necessary because UBC’s mishandling libeled and/or harmed Mr. Galloway’s reputation. So, convince me: Prove it. Produce even one statement by UBC which does so. Quote it. Document it. Or admit that it doesn’t exist.

In correspondence after his Walrus article, I asked signatory David Mount to do so and despite his legal training, he couldn’t produce even one libelous statement from UBC. Mr. Persky, in what you agree is my exhaustive review of the reportage, I never found one. At parent-teacher nights, on picket lines, however, I routinely encountered residual anger at schools, at the establishment, at “the man” as personified by big education, and submit this feeling bases the belief that UBC “must be” at fault. While I understand, and appreciate these sentiments, feelings are not evidence.

Believing UBC must be at fault is an act of faith. It permits people to “blame the messenger” rather than face the message. And it’s a classic diversion PR tactic. It draws attention away from Mr. Galloway to point the finger at “the bigger villain.” I ask you, I challenge any signatory, to produce this evidence of libel, or damage, or defamation from UBC. I looked hard for it. It does not exist.

2. Does the second statement by UBCaccountable fix the problems of the Open Letter?

You suggest that UBCaccountable largely fixed their Nov. 14, 2016, Open Letter with their second statement a full month later, Dec. 11, entitled “Procedural Fairness for All.” This is both textually and contextually untrue. Too little too late, the second statement does not replace the Open Letter, which remains the website frontispiece. The “Procedural Fairness” statement is hidden away three clicks later, on a back tab. It is authored anonymously and signed by no one.

It makes supportive statements about “sexual misconduct and sexual harassment,” and belatedly tries to claim UBCaccountable has only ever wanted “procedural fairness for all.” This is both hypocritical and demonstrably a lie.

The statement does not apologize for effacing complainants and survivors. The word “apology” is never used. Instead, the statement begins with a focus on themselves and how the signatories have been victimized by name-calling. The anonymous author/s of the statement never once consulted the complainants they suddenly claimed to be championing. As the MC’s lawyer affirms, they don’t believe another investigation is necessary and support the grievance process.

If UBCaccountable really wanted “fairness for all,” they wouldn’t base both documents on the leaked product of a violated confidentiality agreement. They wouldn’t quote the alleged Boyd Report as exonerating fact. They wouldn’t attempt to try the case in a court of celebrity PR. They wouldn’t lend their names to a blatant attempt to sway union due process and fan the flames of a possible suit for damages and defamation.

And they wouldn’t lie. The “Fairness” document claims the Open Letter included, “Our request for an independent investigation and a public report.” This is a face-saving falsehood, a backpedaling lie. My first Facebook criticisms meticulously outlined how the Open Letter could not possibly achieve any kind of inquiry, neither public nor independent, as all it did was to ask UBC to investigate itself. The Open Letter makes no mention of a report of any kind, to anyone, let alone a report to the public.

By calling for a “public report,” the “Fairness” statement repeats the same self-centered, dangerous and illegal call to release private information currently rightly bound by contract and privacy law. Given that it repeats and compounds the Open Letter’s faults, how is the “Fairness” statement any better? It isn’t.

3. Can an Innocence Project use people without their knowledge or consent?

In short, yes. Mr. Persky, I agree with you: signatories did not knowingly conspire to support an Innocence Project. But because the innocence narrative has so effectively controlled the discussion, I’ll paraphrase Chomsky to say that it has manufactured consent. It explains, for example, why you might not realize you are spouting defense PR when you label the relationship with the MC as “love” or just “an affair.” The successful innocence narrative needs us to forget that MC’s lawyer has specifically stated it was not a consensual affair; it was sexual harassment and abuse. How do you know what you know? With respect, you don’t. None of us do.

While I speculate a back-room PR/defense team hand at work, I don’t see you, or most of the signatories as conscious conspirators. I specifically stated that an Innocence Project likely works best when people sign on believing they do so for personal, commendable convictions. I believe most signatories had no idea to what long-term ends their names might be used. They weren’t told that the website would be built, and grow, and remain standing, as a permanent PR defense publicity hub. They weren’t told that they’d be expected to compromise their personal and professional reputations as on-going ambassadors for Mr. Galloway’s innocence. I absolutely believe, what several signatories have said publicly: they were told they were simply signing a letter.

While every adult citizen, especially writers and public figures, should fully understand anything they sign, I believe the signatories have been used and manipulated, and are just too proud to admit it. I have some sympathy for the various reasons why they may have signed the Open Letter last November.

But today, given that as written by the fact-challenged Joseph Boyden, it rejects authentic union democracy and privacy law in favour of an inauthentic, ineffectual and illegal call for “due process,” given its entrenchment as an MRA-embracing artifact of rape culture, given the on-going harm and chill it continues to cause, given that it can be seen as the opening salvo a long-game PR battle staged by Mr. Galloway and his legal/PR team, the signatories have no excuse. They have had every opportunity to do their own research and if they haven’t, they are chosing to be soldier ants. It appears they don’t care. It appears they would rather save face.

Is there even any proof the Open Letter was ever sent to UBC? UBCaccountable has never provided it. I have speculated that its real function all along was not as a letter, but as publicity, as defense PR. Given that the letter is now over two months old, we can be certain that, even if it was sent, UBC does not intend to reply. At least not until the grievance is over.

Could UBCaccountable and its signatories face future law suit for stealing the UBC logo, for statements that jointly and individually libel, defame, and damage UBC? I don’t know. I do imagine that kind of countersuit might tactically follow any post-grievance legal suit Mr. Galloway brings against UBC. And I am certain the signatories didn’t sign up to be sued, or to be dragged into court where they would have to prove they weren’t part of a PR campaign to defend Mr. Galloway by damaging and defaming UBC.

To me, it is not a question of if the Innocence Project happened. It is only a question of who planned it, who knew what all along, who got used, who are still being used, and who will be used next.

4. How can any of this possibly be defensible to anyone, for any reason?

As my dad used to say, “You can’t be a little bit pregnant.”

Anyone staying silent in this debate isn’t fooling anyone. We hear you. Silence is affirmation. Regardless of previous work or experiences, as long as anyone remains silent, as long as the signatories stay on the Open Letter, it sullies their names.
They have have refused to listen. They have chosen to continue to efface the complainants, to side with the disbelieving of women that drives rape culture, to accept the embrace of MRA, and to disregard the 1,000 signatures on two letters that oppose them. Day after day, for two long months, they have refused all calls to remove their names and take down their site.

According to spokesperson Carmen Aguirre, “the signatories stand as one.” In other words, they stand as one to support the PR tactics of a powerful man who already has full union and legal protection, who may be using them to win a grievance and possibly to further line his pockets in a suit for the damages and defamation that his team will say was caused by response to an Open Letter that they may very well have asked for, or authored, in the first place. When UBCaccountable “stands as one,” they do so on the backs of the complainants.

This isn’t going to blow over. Even if the grievance is resolved and not appealed this spring, Mr. Galloway’s team has a full year to decide to pursue a suit for damages or defamation. That could drag on for another year, or more. Are the signatories content to endorse Mr. Galloway after the grievance, possibly for another three years?

Are they prepared to face the consequences for that long? I repeat, this isn’t going to blow over. Those who continue to support UBCaccountable can expect to be challenged. All those who host, employ, or endorse any signatory, can expect to be asked why they have chosen to support the wrong side of history.

So, Mr. Persky, I call on you and all signatories, to remove your names from the Open Letter, and to ask UBCaccountable to take down its site. Asking for the site to come down, responding to harm and asking those who cause harm to stop, is neither silencing nor censorship. To label it either is a red herring. I urge all signatories to switch tactics, to continue to use their voices and clout for good.

But you can’t be a little bit neutral. There’s no such thing.

Surrogates, Sycophants, Soldier Ants, and Sheep: Debunking The Steven Galloway Innocence Project

Before we smugly tell ourselves that the spinning of fake and cherry-picked news ends at our Canadian border, let’s reconsider the story telling of Steven Galloway’s dismissal from Head of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. It reveals our own equally uncomfortable post-truths.

We have our own huge celebrities with an aversion to apologies. We give them serious media coverage, even on topics where they have no more expertise than actress anti-vaxxers or Ted Nugent. In further de-professionalization, eager to trumpet a celebrity scandal, our media legitimizes leaked documents and lazily conflates interpretation with fact. This punches the ticket for social media to rev up its own bandwagons. Surrogates, sycophants, soldier ants, and sheep, claim equal expertise. Anonymous axe bangers, sniper trolls, pop-up pundits, and an emboldened alt-right, all jump into bed with the just plain wrong. Combine these post-truthers, and yet again, a narrative absolving a powerful man accused of harming women gets shaped, spun, and swallowed.

How does a successful single narrative get constructed – in this case, one which paints Mr. Galloway as an innocent victim – when today’s public is more plugged-in than ever before? The dovetailing of mainstream and social media requires three things: a strategic control of “the facts,” celebrity endorsement that rings with moral superiority, and the tireless reinforcement of social media soldier-ants eager to shoot on sight. Before long, not only are we saturated by the truth as innocence storytellers tell it, but in the true success of the single narrative, no one realizes that the truth has been reduced to only what they tell of it.

So how do we debunk an Innocence Project?

Forty years before I became a teacher, writer, and union activist, my first training was as a historian. My mentor, Professor Craig M. Simpson, of the University of Western Ontario, taught me two skills I have thanked him for every day since: He asked me to ask myself, “How do you know what you know?” And to answer that question, he taught me the art of close reading, how to carefully evaluate primary and secondary documents for factual accuracy and bias. To separate the facts from the fictions of Mr. Galloway’s dismissal requires a very close reading, asking: “How do we know what we know?” “Where did this “fact” come from?” “Is this a primary or a secondary source?” “Is it reliable?” “Has it been re-interpreted, or misinterpreted?” “By whom?” “Who benefits from its belief?”

The first and most important point in any discussion of Mr. Galloway’s dismissal is that there are no primary sources available to the public. Nor should there be. Primary sources are the raw data, the first-hand, first-person accounts of the participants — in this case, statements from, and interviews with, both the accused and his accusers. Given the combined confidentiality requirements of privacy law, provincial labour statutes, union grievance procedure, and signed confidentiality agreements, the public rightly has no legal access to any of this documentation from any party. UBC cannot legally release it.

From this primary disclosure, came one authoritative secondary source: The Boyd Report, a summary of evidence and legal opinion by retired B.C. Supreme Court Justice, Mary Ellen Boyd. One step removed from the story, like any secondary source, the Boyd Report’s primary function is to summarize, and evaluate. The full body of primary source disclosure has always been larger than her Report.

As Mr. Galloway’s union, the UBC Faculty Association, has correctly stated, no disclosure of any kind should ever have been released. Only UBC has the full body of primary disclosure. Only three parties got legal copies of the Boyd Report summary: Justice Boyd, UBC and Mr. Galloway. All signed confidentiality reports; by law, they can share it only with legal counsel. The Boyd Report got leaked illegally and selectively. Accordingly, any social media commentary on it, any articles that cite it, are all secondary sources twice removed. They are secondary sources quoting a leaked secondary source. None of them are authoritative. All of them are interpretive.

And they are unverifiable. Because the Boyd Report was leaked, no article that cites it can be fact-checked to it. Nothing can likewise ever be checked to the larger body of disclosure which has never been leaked. Accordingly, any journalist or social media “expert” who quotes the Report does so in one of three ways: 1. They have seen what they were told are redacted portions of it, which they cannot fact check or confirm. 2. They have been given what they were told was the Boyd Report, told by whoever leaked it to them that is complete and unaltered, which they likewise can neither fact-check nor confirm. 3. They have never read any part of the Report, and have written a thrice-removed secondary source that simply re-quotes prior media coverage.

Someone could “leak” anything they wanted and call it the Boyd Report. Who could prove them wrong? Given its wholly unverifiable nature, journalistic integrity requires it should be labeled what it has never once been called: “the alleged Boyd Report.” Anyone who claims to have seen any part of it cannot confirm its authenticity. No journalist has ever seen the full body of disclosure. In short, any writer who claims to know the full story of why Mr. Galloway was fired is clearly “over-stepping.” Anyone who asserts his innocence is spinning a story of their own making. A close reading does not support this interpretation.

As recapped in The Ubyssey, (June 22, 2016), on November 18, 2016, Mr. Galloway was suspended with pay from his position as tenured associate professor and chair of Creative Writing after UBC received “serious allegations of misconduct.” UBC found itself in a proverbial Catch-22: Legally-bound both to make an announcement and to say as little as possible in it. To protect the privacy of all parties, UBC could not divulge specifics. Many have suggested the announcement could have been more judiciously worded, and rightly pointed out that UBC’s only answer to the media hounding that followed should have been, “We cannot comment on an on-going investigation.” UBC should not have given any follow-up interviews, even ones that remained deliberately vague to protect the privacy of all involved.

On the other hand, if UBC had been more specific, if they had done what Mr. Galloway’s supporters seem to think they should have done, and officially stated that he was no threat to to student body, they would have been lying. They didn’t know if he was or not. They suspended him with pay pending investigation to determine exactly that. And if they had released any further details, Mr. Galloway would have had cause to sue them. To date, if UBC releases any details of the investigation, any of the parties could still sue them. After a few initial public statements repeating that they could not elaborate, no doubt at the urging of lawyers, UBC refused all further commentary and have done so ever since.

Supporters of Mr. Galloway and the complainants have both criticized UBC’s process, but only one side has exploited it. Mr. Galloway’s defenders seized upon UBC’s minimal announcement, not as legally required and protective, but as damaging, as the first “proof” of a lack of “due process.” They leapt to condemn legally-mandated silence as “proof” that UBC’s process was everything they have called it since: “mishandled,” “flawed,” “unsubstantiated,” “botched,” “secretive,” “undemocratic,” and “shady.” In cynical opportunism, they filled the void created by those who respected legal silence with “news” of their own making.

The media aided and abetted this spin. To date, no publication has explained the the legal requirement for silence. None explain why parties are bound by law to respect signed confidentiality agreements. No one asked who violated theirs and why. By not debunking the misrepresentation of legal silence, the media empowered the sexier innocence interpretation: that silence means secret and suspicious.

The facts are far less sensational. Each step and every deliberation of UBC’s seven-month review had by law to remain private. Two days after suspension, UBC took an extra, voluntary step to ensure that due process via third-party objectivity. As confirmed again in The Ubyssey. “On November 20, 2015, the Honourable Mary Ellen Boyd, a former justice of the BC Supreme Court was engaged to conduct an investigation. Her report was given to the Dean of Arts—Dr. Gage Averill—on April 25, 2016.”

Consider what the innocence narrative asks us to believe: that Justice Boyd reviewed the case for five months, then gave her findings to UBC who reviewed all “flawed” disclosure for another two. The Arts Dean re-reviewed the entire “botched” body of of primary and secondary disclosure, including the Boyd Report, and passed his recommendation on to then-UBC-President Martha Piper. During this “mishandled” process, reviewers met with Mr. Galloway and the complainants. During this “shady” process, Mr. Galloway had the free legal counsel of his union, UBCFA. After a seven-month investigation, he was fired by a “undemocratic” vote of the 21-member UBC Board of Governors, all bound by the “secretive” Code of Ethics found on their website. They voted for termination without severance or a departure package. Of course all these legally-vetted, democratic decisions were “unsubstantiated.”

The innocence narrative hinges most critically on what happened next: UBC’s press release. UBC VP External Relations, Philip Steenkamp, is quoted here from The Canadian Press, (June 23, 2016): “Coupled with the dean’s recommendation and the investigative findings… the President concluded that there was a record of misconduct that resulted in an irreparable breach of the trust placed in faculty members by the university, its students and the general public.”

Please read this statement aloud. Then ask anyone who has followed this story why Mr. Galloway was fired. They’ll confidently say, “For a breach of trust.” And they will be wrong. Please see UBC’s reason for dismissal: “A record of misconduct.” Steenkamp stipulates that it was this “record,” defined as multiple instances of “misconduct,” that then, “resulted in an irreparable breach of the trust placed in faculty members, by the university, its students, and the general public.”

How did the media get it wrong? In search of a soundbite, the media swapped cause for result. They ignored “a record of misconduct,” to embrace a recognizable, but in this case erroneous and invented soundbite: ‘a breach of trust.’ This phrase does not appear anywhere in the press release. In the Globe and Mail (October 28, 2016) Marsha Lederman correctly wrote, “an irreparable breach of … trust.” But within hours, all reports of Mr. Galloway’s dismissal began inaccurately reducing and rephrasing the cause to, “an irreparable breach of trust,” and then even more reductively, “a breach of trust.”

Why did we all get it wrong? Because we heard it so often. Over the next six months, from June to date, this reductive story-telling triumphed. Mainstream and social media dovetailed, repeating “a breach of trust,’ until no one questioned it. The soundbite often gained the legal weight of capitals, began appearing as, “A Breach of Trust.” When I check my Facebook posts, I number myself as committing that error. The soundbite sounded authoritative, so I accepted it and repeated it. I was wrong. My apologies.

Enter UBCFA President, Mr. Mark Maclean. In post-dismissal heat, under professional responsibility to defend his union member, on June 22 in the Ubyssey, Mr. MacLean stated: “We wish to clarify that all but one of the allegations, including the most serious allegation, investigated by the Honourable Mary Ellen Boyd were not substantiated.” UBCFA immediately recognized they should not have commented on a confidential report, and have correctly refused to comment since.

Mr. Maclean’s comment, already a biased, defense interpretation, has since been re-interpreted beyond recognition. Social media soldier ants began quoting it to “prove” that the “breach of trust” had not been a serious one. They began insisting, not only that they knew Justice Boyd had rejected all allegations but one, but that they knew which one. Lamenting the unfairness that Mr. Galloway was fired for “one lone breach,” and “not even the most serious one,” they began chanting that UBC had “overstepped the Boyd Report.” In his November 23 press release, Mr. Galloway’s personal lawyer, Mr. Olthuis, then kindly supplied exactly what he wants everyone to believe that one breach had been: something no one should lose their job for, something Mr. Galloway had already apologized for: a consensual two-year affair.

Inseminated by a strategically leaked report, allegedly the Boyd Report, this reductive story-telling again birthed “truth” by repetition: Kerry Gold’s article in the Walrus, Madeline Thien’s letter to UBC, the Open Letter by Joseph Boyden, signatory statements on, Mr. Olthuis’ press release, and the swarming of sycophants, especially on twitter at #ubcaccountable. It found its greatest misrepresentation in another Walrus article by David Mount. Each spin deserves individual examination.

Enter Ms. Kerry Gold. In her Walrus article, “L’Affaire Galloway,” (Sept. 14, 2016) she admits, “The Boyd report has never been released to the public—but the contents were made available to the Walrus during the course of my reporting.” Was she shown “the contents” or the whole report? How can she be sure that what she saw even was the Boyd Report? She can’t. Did she check with anyone who had read the Boyd Report for confirmation? Apparently not. Since “the contents” were only “made available,” perhaps she wasn’t’ allowed to keep a copy? These questions raise serious concerns about both the motivations behind this “leak,” and the biases of any reader who accepts its any of its reportage on face value.

Ms. Gold betrays her sympathies in her first sentence, “When the police arrived at his Holiday Inn room, Steven Galloway had been crying, but he was not, he insisted, suicidal.” Just as she does not state how she got the leaked Report, she likewise does not divulge how she got an equally confidential Ohio police report which she quotes verbatim to explain those hotel tears: “The police report states that Galloway was ’very upset at these false allegations, as they are likely to lead to him losing his job’.” One can only hope the Walrus fact-checked that an American police officer really did risk his job by unprofessionally, in writing, denouncing Canadian “allegations” as “false.”

Ms. Gold further fails to mention that her possession of the alleged Boyd Report violates a signed confidentiality agreement, but eagerly interprets the law in favour of the party who likely broke it: “But after studying the matter, Boyd threw out nearly every allegation made against him, including the assault claim… Only one complaint stuck: Boyd determined that Galloway had conducted an inappropriate relationship with a middle-aged student—a relationship that, according to sources, had lasted several years …” Ms. Gold ends with her expert legal opinion condemning UBC’s treatment of Mr. Galloway: “despite his having been largely exonerated by the report it commissioned—he was fired.”

Let’s be clear: this secondary source “exoneration,” this personal interpretation of an unverifiable “leaked” report, by someone who is not a lawyer, whose sympathies clearly lie with the accused, who has never produced the alleged Report for verification or fact-checking, this biased spin, has backboned the Innocence Project ever since. As have the on-going attempts to discredit the complainants.

Enter Ms. Madeleine Thien. Twelve short days after the Walrus article, she published her September 26, 2016, letter to UBC. In open defense of her friend, Mr. Galloway, Ms. Thien writes, “I make no apology for knowing the precise details of the report. I was given the document to read in late June 2016, after UBC’s decision to terminate Steven without severance…” She adds, “As a survivor of sexual assault, I do not take the law lightly…” and “My work in China, Cambodia and Zimbabwe has convinced me that we are dependent on the foundation of criminal and constitutional law, the necessity of evidence, and a right to a fair hearing. Without these unassailable rights, any individual can have their life destroyed.”

Having seized this legal and moral high ground, using a leaked report she has no legal right to read, let alone divulge, Ms. Thien then proceeds to ignore a non-disclosure agreement, to substitute her celebrity for law and legislation, and in a potentially life-destroying fashion, to violate the dignity and privacy of nine complainants. She quotes their private testimony at length, rejecting it all as petty hogwash. She provides her own expert legal opinion: “Ms. Boyd … found that she could not, based on the civil standard of proof on a balance of probabilities, substantiate the primary allegations of the main complainant.” If we are to believe Ms. Thien, UBC’s executive, Board of Governors, and fleet of lawyers, had no reason and no evidence of any kind, when they fired her good friend Mr. Galloway.

Did the media press Ms. Thien, as they should press any source quoting an alleged Boyd Report no one else could read? No. Were they careful to note that her interpretations came from a layperson and an upset friend? No. Was any concern for the possibility that she might be opening to herself to charges from the complainants whose privacy she violated? Apparently not. Ms. Thien’s letter revved up the social media bandwagon, was widely reported in the mainstream press. Every article showcased her impressive writing awards, cementing her as a true celebrity who need not be challenged. No one seemed the least bit concerned that she, or they, might be being used to spread, confidential private information, or even fabricated information. No reporter asked who the leak and the letter served.

That’s still a question still worth asking. Were Ms. Gold and Ms. Thien hand-picked by Mr. Galloway and/or his lawyers, given the alleged Boyd Report, and asked to leak a favorable interpretation? Were they coached? We’ll never know. We’ll never know if either got the whole, complete and unaltered Report, and neither will they. We do know they weren’t given the full body of primary disclosure.

What motivated Ms. Thien, who stated that she got the report ‘in late June,” to draft her letter a full three months later, on September 26? Again, we’ll never know. We do know that her letter, addressed to UBC officials and Mr. Galloway, immediately also went to the press. Coincident with the three-week award season immediately following its publication, when her recent novel did as well as expected, and won both the Governor General’s Award and the Giller Prize, Mr. Galloway’s Innocence Project got to bask in the reflected celebrity light of the kind of free publicity that no one can buy.

On a personal note, three years ago, I spent a weekend at the same five-person work table as Ms. Thien at the Canada Council Forum on the Literary Arts. In that short acquaintance, I found her an intelligent listener, a calm, kind, and above all measured thinker. I struggle to believe that the section of her letter detailing a vicious point-by-point takedown of the complainants was her idea. After years of court battles with a spouse in default of his support payments, the language of that section sounds less like the dispassionate summary tones of a Justice and exactly like a rebuttal from a defense lawyer out to discredit the complainants’ testimony. And I instantly recognize Ms. Thien’s first sentence. It’s off-tone to her otherwise heartrending letter, but is the stock legalese that prefaces all legal correspondence to document and authenticate future court disclosure with a follow-up hand-written signature: “Sent by email. Signed letter to follow to all recipients by post.”

Let’s be specific: rejecting the idiotic notion that the Justice or UBC leaked the Report, either Mr. Galloway and/or his counsel leaked what it claimed was the Boyd Report to Ms. Gold and Ms. Thien. In other words, an unverifiable document, strategically leaked by the accused, cherry-picked in selective sympathy by two hand-picked surrogates–these two totally suspect biased interpretations have become the secondary sources quoted ever since as if they were primary sources. As if they were gospel.

Enter Ms. Marsha Lederman. When social media asked questions about the leak that journalists should have, pro-innocence voices tried to pin it on the complainants. Ms. Lederman’s Globe and Mail article (Oct 28, 2016), “Under a cloud: How UBC’s Steven Galloway affair has haunted a campus and changed lives,” proves that impossible. She saw only two heavily redacted portions of the Boyd Report that the two complainants she interviewed showed her. By law, any portion of the Report given a complainant would be limited to their own testimony, with as Ms. Lederman confirmed “information about other complainants and witnesses edited out to protect confidentiality.” To get even these portions, Lederman adds, “the women had to submit requests under freedom-of-information legislation.”

Like Ms. Gold, and Ms. Thien, Ms. Lederman had no way to fact check the authenticity of what she was shown, but to date, tweeting true-believers continue to blame the complainants for leaking the whole Boyd Report. This is absurd. As per the Freedom of Information Act and as reported by Ms. Lederman, the Ancillary Complainants own only redacted portions confined to their own testimonies. As confirmed by the Main Complainants’ lawyer, Laura Birenbaum, the MC could not possibly have leaked the Boyd Report because neither she nor her lawyer have never been permitted to see it. Mr. Galloway would have full rights to sue UBC or Ms. Boyd had any of the complainants ever been given a full copy of the Report, and a full copy is what both Ms. Gold and Ms. Thien claim to have read.

Enter Joseph Boyden, another good friend of Mr. Galloway, and author of the founding document of the UBCaccountable website, originally entitled, “An Open Letter to UBC: Steven Galloway’s Right to Due Process,” (Nov. 14, 2016). Signed by over eighty CanLit “glitterati,” it repeatedly references the Boyd Report. It perfects the practice of writers prejudging union due process and substituting their esteemed selves for arbitration, while hypocritically demanding their own “due process,” one that tramples contractual agreements, privacy and labour law, employment legislation, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It asks an employer to release the private information of a fired employee and all employees involved in his dismissal. Ten minutes on Google confirms this knee-jerk, un-researched call for “due process” both arrogant and ignorant.

Substituting celebrity for authentic expertise, Mr. Boyden’s Open Letter has been wholly criticized for the impact of its content. It now needs equal examination of its pivotal role in the factual disinformation of the innocence project.

From my years as a union activist, in prior Facebook posts, I have openly speculated the following: That the burst of pro-defense publicity in the fall of 2016, curiously a year after suspension and five months after dismissal, was a well-timed publicity campaign to influence Mr. Galloway’s March grievance. That in the short game, it may have hoped to bring UBC to the table for early settlement over the winter holiday. That in a longer game, the site stands as a pro-innocence publicity hub until the grievance is settled. And that in the longest game, media saturation and narrative control may be a most effective way to prime the public any possible jury for a post-grievance legal suit for defamation or damages.

It can’t be a coincidence. The Open Letter is tactically inaccurate in all the right places, a masterpiece of interpretation masquerading as fact. It actually blames UBC for following the law and Mr. Galloway’s contractual agreement. It asserts that this silence hurts Mr. Galloway, when in truth it legally protects his privacy. It implies that a lack of criminal charges equates to innocence.

It states, “The University has refused to make the findings of Justice Boyd’s report public” conveniently avoiding the fact that to do so would break the law. It quotes Ms. Gold’s interpretation of the alleged Report as fact, asserting: “an independent journalist” has “revealed that all but one of the allegations investigated, including the most serious one, were unsubstantiated.” In other words, while demanding “due process,” the Open Letter endorses the process of jury by journalists who agree with them.

It states, “The University terminated Professor Galloway’s employment without severance and without reference to the original allegations.” This is patently untrue. Steenkamp’s press release clearly states that investigations into the allegations based Mr. Galloway’s dismissal for “a record of misconduct.”

Most ludicrously, the Open Letter claims, “Professor Galloway himself has been denied the right to speak publicly while his case is being grieved.” Mr. Galloway signed a confidentiality agreement with the advice of his UBCFA counsel. All parties signed it. Every grievance in Canada is confidential. Mr. Galloway in not being “denied.” He is being protected by privacy law and his union contract. It appears equally obvious that he has a leaked Report, friends, supporters, signatories, legal surrogates, and a small army of soldier ants, all quite willing to speak for him.

And in a final flipping of the logic pancake, while simultaneously lamenting that UBC has released no evidence for the last year, The Open Letter concludes, “There is growing evidence that the University acted irresponsibly.” The only evidence growing is that which the promulgators of the innocence narrative have seeded and cultivated themselves.

Why did writers board this bandwagon? I imagine reasons vary. Some signed for friendship. Some because they honestly believed “due process” sounded like such a darn good Canadian thing. Some have worked for PEN. Perhaps they saw the Open Letter as just another letter about a persecuted writer, one they hadn’t personally researched, but that someone they trusted asked them to sign. Some signed simply because they were flattered to be asked. An offer to hang out with the cool kids is always hard to resist. Those that signed based on cronyism, based on broken-telephone insider scuttlebutt otherwise known as gossip, they should seriously ask themselves who they believed and why. Did they sign based on the very kind of “whisper campaign” that Ms. Thien’s and the Open Letter claim to reject?

Enter the press release of Mr. Galloway’s private lawyer, Mr. Olthuis, dated November 23, 2016, a short nine days after the Open Letter. It goes without saying that a lawyer’s press release is the ultimate in biased secondary sources. By law, by rules of professional conduct, lawyers must give their clients a vigorous defense. This press release does exactly that. It points the finger at UBC: “the harm flowing from UBC’s conduct has reached such a level that Mr. Galloway has requested us to clarify the following issues on his behalf.” How UBC created escalating harm from a year of silence is not explained.

It quotes and coopts the Boyd Report. How can a lawyer not incur legal jeopardy for quoting a Report that violates his client’s signed confidentiality agreement? I’m not a lawyer; I’m guessing. Perhaps there is no liability in quoting those very same portions already conveniently made public as leaked by Ms. Gold and Ms. Thien: “Ms. Boyd found on a balance of probabilities that Mr. Galloway had not committed sexual assault. Of the other allegations made against Mr. Galloway, Ms. Boyd found that one constituted a violation of UBC policy.” Mr. Olthuis further explains that this one violation was merely an affair.

Enter the contradicting press release of the Main Complainant’s lawyer, Joanna Birenbaum, made the next day, November 24, 2016. This is the only secondary source to counter a full year of pro-innocence spinning. Ms. Birenbaum states the MC, “has stayed silent since Galloway was suspended out of respect for the process and the confidentiality of everyone involved. The so called “secrecy” of the process has protected Galloway, perhaps more than anyone else. MC is committed to preserving the fairness and independence of the March 2017 hearing. Mr. Galloway is instead waging a battle in the press.”

She affirms her client’s complaint was not about “a consensual affair,” but was about “sexual assault and harassment.” She notes that the MC has not seen “the report that Galloway has paraphrased so extensively and for his own benefit in the national media,” because he has appealed UBC’s decision to release the redacted report to her, asserting that her seeing it would violate his privacy.

She concludes, “Through his high-profile contacts, Mr. Galloway is calling for an inquiry into UBC’s handling of the case. There is no need for such a call and there never has been, Mr. Galloway has always had a right to a fair hearing. The upcoming March 2017 labour arbitration will consider both the process and the substance of his termination.” In short, Ms. Birenbaum’s statement debunks every strand of the innocence narrative, disputes it in both form and content.

Why did anyone stay on the innocence bandwagon once they realized they hadn’t heard both sides of the story? Why did signatories instead begin rebroadcasting fake and cherry-picked news through a celebrity megaphone?

As signatory statements got added to, they condemned UBC’s “failed process” and parroted the need for “due process” like a stack of broken records. As self-appointed judge and jury, they proclaimed that Mr. Galloway was unjustly fired for “a breach of trust,” that was “only an affair.” No citing of their sources is included or possible. Like actress anti-vaxxers who haven’t done any medical research, they reference paid defense surrogates and quote the quotes of interpreted quotes of quotes of the alleged Boyd Report as if they were fact.

Some excoriate UBC in terms borderline libelous. Signatory Brad Cran denounces, “the poor process and malignant release of information by UBC…” And uses his expert legal opinion to ridicule the complainants: “This is of course even more troubling now that we know that Galloway was actually only accused of one count of sextual impropriety (which was dismissed by Madam Justice Boyd) and that none of the other allegations were even complaints of sexual assault. In fact, many of the ancillary complainants read like student gripes one might find on…”

Consider another moral high ground seized by signatory Ms. Carmen Aguirre, the UBCaccountable spokesperson. As also published in the Walrus, she writes: ‘living under ultra-right-wing dictatorships and fighting them … Due process has been, and is, one of the most important principles of my life.” She continues with her own legal opinion: “And due process was what Galloway was denied when he was called a rapist.” Firstly, I have never found even one instance where critics called Mr. Galloway “a rapist.” I have read repeated comments from signatories and supporters claiming both they and Mr. Galloway have been called “rapists.” More to point, the only party who could deny Mr. Galloway “due process” is UBC, and they have most certainly never called Mr. Galloway “a rapist.”

Inadvertently, however, Ms. Aguirre has written one of the most accurate of signatory statements when she blames gossip for driving this story. But instead of seeing her fellow signatories as fueling it, she ridiculously suggests that UBC is responsible for all gossip that followed their announcement. In her expert legal opinion, she it is UBC’s fault that Mr. Galloway has been “slandered” and “defamed,” as a “rapist” when he was only “found guilty of having an affair with a married student his age.” She concludes those truly deserving apology are Mr. Galloway and signatories who were likewise called nasty names. By this logic, the CBC is responsible for all gossip about Jian Ghomeshi. Does anyone sincerely believe that a different announcement from UBC could have prevented gossip?

Why do Canada’s elite writers, so stylistically varied in their own work, sound so much alike on Why the same slighted tone, the same mantra of “due process” chanted word for word? It suggests they see the Open Letter by their esteemed selves as beyond criticism, and their statements as epistles that likewise don’t require the first job of any writer: research. Some effectively accuse UBC of slander and/or liable without any clue what those terms mean. Slander is spoken; libel is written. Both have three legal thresholds: someone must make a false statement publicly, they must know it to be false, and it must be made to cause harm. After a close reading of every signatory statement, I cannot find a single citation to any spoken or written statement by UBC that fits these criteria.

How do the signatories know what they know? They don’t. They just believe it.

Enter the push back. The Open Letter generated an immediate social media tsunami. It got attacked for a lack of empathy. For poor research. For erasing and retraumatizing complainants and survivors. For centering a powerful man. For making it harder to report sexual assault. For being on the wrong side of history. For furthering rape culture. Indigenous women asked Joseph Boyden how he could both pen this letter and support the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Some signatories removed their names. Most preferred to lick their perceived wounds, to add their insult to Mr. Galloway’s perceived injury.

Enter the organized push back. A Counter Letter and a letter from Sexual Assault workers jointly earned some 900 signatures. In the face of this criticism, lacking Ms. Thien’s and Ms. Aguirre’s experience fighting foreign fascism, signatories needed a home-grown moral high ground. They clung to the mantra of ‘due process” long after it was repeatedly pointed out to them that the Open Letter was useless on its face, that it ineffectually asked UBC to investigate itself and report to no one. That if they wanted “a public inquiry” they had to draft a proper petition addressed to the government, and if they wanted “an independent inquiry” or “judicial inquiry” they needed to write a new letter to specify this demand.

As the moral authority of “due process” began to fade, some signatories began claiming they were saving Mr. Galloway’s life, as if a celebrity signature were a substitute for medical care. Margaret Atwood apparently thought she was appealing to sympathy for marginalized groups, or perhaps for a “hands off” attitude towards criticizing marginalized groups, when she tweeted that Joseph Boyden had confirmed that Steven Galloway was indigenous and adopted. The notion that Mr. Boyden could confer indigeneity on whomever he liked, did not have the result she anticipated.

In search of even higher ground, signatories revealed their stellar research skills yet again. They began to quote a completely irrelevant section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 11, which states that in the event of criminal charges: “Any person charged with an offence has the right a) to be informed without reasonable delay of the specific defense, and d) to be presumed innocent until proven guilty…” Should Mr. Galloway ever be charged with a criminal offense, perhaps this two minutes on Google will be useful to him. Unless he faces criminal charges, it is of no use to him or this discussion.

I understand why writers might board an innocence bandwagon, but why did they stay on it? I can find no possible justification for the way they dug in their heels, even when joined by Men’s Rights Activists who sneered at feminism and rape culture, and eagerly embraced Mr. Galloway as their new falsely-accused poster boy. Known MRA supporters began tweeting and making videos. Their vicious attacks on the complainants warrant legal scrutiny for charges of libel and defamation. Several signatories and innumerable soldier ants and trolls, retweeted MRA posts. When called out for doing so, the signatories deleted them. Some resorted to the very insult and name calling they claimed to repudiate. For whatever reasons — conviction, pride, fear of deserting the privileged pack, arrogance, inertia — few removed their names.

The Innocence Project spun unfettered for a full year before finally being contradicted by another secondary source; the Main Complainant’s legal press release. Having statements from opposing lawyers, permits us to outline the differing legal arguments, but paid press releases do not settle any legal questions. A lawyer’s press release is a professionally biased, one-sided, secondary source, one written in the best professional defense of a client. No one should ever consider such a press release as either an authoritative or unbiased source, let alone treat it as if it were a primary source.

Enter David Mount and his article, again in the Walrus: “Why Steven Galloway May Get his Job Back.” (Dec. 22, 2016). To bring the innocence narrative full circle, he warns, “Those who have given support to the complainants in this case should prepare themselves for the possibility that Galloway will be reinstated”. Mr. Mount identifies himself as a student of Mr. Galloway and as having a JD from the University of Victoria. In fact-checking for this piece, he confirmed that he has not passed the bar exam, never practiced law, and has not read the Boyd Report, except for the redacted portions in the Globe and Mail.

This may explain his many errors of fact, research, and reductive logic.

In the first telling error for someone ostensibly hired for legal expertise, Mr. Mount writes: “The Main Complainant against Galloway and some of the Ancillary Complainants may testify if UBC asks them to do so (and if they choose to do so.)”

Firstly, either party, UBC or Mr. Galloway, can call witnesses. If Mr. Galloway disputes the complainants’ testimonies, his lawyers should call them. And “choice” is not an option. In every province in Canada, either party in an arbitration has the power to compel a witness to testify via subpoena. In The B.C, Arbitration Act under Subpoena to Witness, article 7 (1) reads: “A party to an arbitration may issue a subpoena to a witness” and 8 (1) reads, “An arbitrator may order that a witness at arbitration testifies under oath.” If Mr. Mount does not know these basic facts of Grievances for Dummies, if the Walrus did not fact check it, what else have they gotten wrong?

Just about everything. It must next be said that no one knows, and we should not know, exactly what Mr. Galloway is grieving. All grievances are private and confidential. Although Mr. Mount does not claim to have ever been in a grievance, or for that matter in a union, he confidently states, “an ex-employee who initiates a grievance typically wants to be ‘made whole’ by getting his or her job back.”

This assumption is untrue. Dismissed employees can and do grieve everything under the sun as permitted by provincial labour legislation and their contractual agreements: severance pay, settlement packages, benefits extensions, payment in lieu of notice of dismissal, costs, damages, medical bills, pay for time lost, vacation pay, pension adjustment, for a dismissal to be re-labeled as “early retirement” or “by mutual agreement” – the list is endless. If anything is “typical,” dismissed employees often have little interest in returning to a poisoned workplace and seek either relocation within the bargaining unit, or the best possible conditions of termination.

In further error, Mr. Mount bases his entire article on a misquoting of the UBC press release that leads, in a feat of reductive logic, to Mr. Galloway’s reinstatement. He states: “When describing the reason for firing Galloway, UBC used the phrase “irreparable breach of trust.” No, they didn’t. This is untrue.

To spin it as if were true, he treats defense lawyers like authoritative, unbiased, primary sources: “In fact, according to Galloway’s lawyers, all but one of the accusations brought against Galloway were dismissed by Boyd. The only finding that could be substantiated was a “breach of trust.” This is his second post-truth. Not only did Mr. Galloway’s lawyers never say this, the only person who has ever said this is Mr. Mount.

The alleged Boyd Report has been allegedly quoted in only six secondary sources. None of them have ever said that “the only finding that could be substantiated was a ‘breach of trust.’”

1) UBCFA president Mark MacLean told The Ubyssey (June 22,2016): “We wish to clarify that all but one of the allegations, including the most serious allegation, investigated by the Honourable Mary Ellen Boyd were not substantiated.” He does not state which allegation was not substantiated.

2) Ms. Gold’s only mention of the word breach is to quote Steenkamp correctly, “a record of misconduct that resulted in an irreparable breach of the trust placed in faculty members by the university, its students and the general public.”

3) Ms. Thien quotes the alleged Report at length, never mentioning a “breach” or “a breach of trust.”

4) Ms. Lederman, claiming only to be party to redacted portions shown her by two Ancillary Complainants, never claimed to have seen, and logically would not have seen, any summary conclusions from Justice Boyd. These alleged redacted portions are likewise the only portions Mr. Mount has read.

5) In possession of an official Boyd Report, in his press release, Mr. Olthuis frequently quotes it, but he likewise never mentions either a “breach” or a “breach of trust.” He writes: “Of the other allegations made against Mr. Galloway Ms. Boyd found that one constituted a violation of UBC policy. The sole complaint substantiated was that Mr. Galloway engaged in inappropriate behaviour with a student. When he labels that behaviour “an affair,” that is his interpretation, not a quote from Justice Boyd.

6) Ms. Birenbaum, also in possession of an official Report, states, “Mr. Galloway has issued an apology but he wouldn’t appear to be apologizing for the finding he has admitted was made against him by Ms. Boyd, which was misconduct for ‘inappropriate sexual behaviour with a student’: conduct which is an abuse of trust and his position of power.” Ms. Birenbaum never once uses the phrase “breach of trust.” She states that her client rejects the very word “affair,” considers it an invention of Mr. Galloway’s.

Incorrectly labeling the dismissal “a breach of trust” permits Mr. Mount to then wax a faux lawyersplain as to why Mr. Galloway will get his job back. “Does ‘breach of trust’ constitute sufficient grounds to fire a university professor? In general, the answer is no.” He explains, “The typically accepted form of punishment for a breach of trust is a written reprimand.” He confidently, but irrelevantly,claims ‘a breach of trust’ requires progressive discipline, not dismissal. This is an utterly ludicrous warping of the UBC press release, which never uses the phrase, “breach of trust,” period.

Mr. Mount also asks us to believe that UBC didn’t mean what they did say. In Mr. Mount’s esteemed legal opinion, UBC didn’t mean, “an irreparable breach of the trust placed in faculty members by the university, its students and the general public,” they meant a contractual breach of trust that existed only between Mr. Galloway and UBC. No, UBC’s didn’t use the word breach colloquially, they used it as legal terminology, as a contractual “Breach of Trust” between employer and employee. As he reinterprets: “Contrary to what one might suppose, the ‘trust’ relationship at issue here is not between the professor and the student. The trust, as it is defined by the law, is between the professor and the university.”

Mr. Mount then confidently lists case law for something no one else but him has ever said Mr. Galloway did. Not unsurprisingly, Mr. Mount can find only three precedent cases where a professor was fired for a “breach of trust,” way back in 1996, 1997, and 2007. He warns that all three of these male profs were similarly fired for “consensual romantic relationships,” and that when they grieved dismissal, all three were reinstated. He concludes: The case law in Canada would appear to be very clear on this point: Firing a professor for ‘breach of trust,’ constitutes an excessive form of punishment. If the arbitrator in the Galloway grievance follows this established principle, he or she will likely reinstate him…”

In further reinforcement of the innocence narrative, he warns: “The facts that have been disclosed thus far suggest that UBC clearly overstepped. … And the arbitrator may argue that the recklessness of UBC—which effectively convicted Galloway through its public statements—has played a large part in the manner by which the public perceived (or, many might argue, misperceived) Galloway’s actions.”

What “reckless public statements”? He does not quote or document a single one. Perhaps the Walrus didn’t feel the need to ask if any existed or not.

In a potentially libelous spin, Mr. Mount goes further, implying that since UBC “overstepped” the Boyd Report, it now may be covering its behind by fabricating “new” disclosure: “What are these new allegations? Is there a supplemental report about them? If there was any substance to them why wasn’t Boyd re-engaged to investigate them? Or was UBC so dissatisfied with Boyd’s conclusions that university administrators decided to forego any new investigation of untested allegations?”

Despite legal training, Mr. Mount chooses to mock the legal requirement of silence. As almost-a-lawyer Mr. Mount knows full well, the Boyd Report is a summary opinion, not the larger full body of disclosure. It has always been the job of arbitration to weigh all primary and secondary disclosure. And, as he equally knows, UBC was under no obligation to hire anyone once, let alone twice. And even if they did, UBC still could not disclose any part of either report.

Mr. Mount does his best to end with legal-sounding gravitas, “it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that UBC’s treatment of Galloway was motivated not by the the legally cognizable facts of this case, but as a post facto reaction to the bad press that the university received for its mishandling of past sexual assaults on campus. Such an impulse is perhaps understandable from a public-relations point of view. But employment law is not governed by the publicity needs of the employer.”

Fortunately, employment law and union grievance procedures are likewise not governed by an Innocence Project, or by the publicity needs of someone fired for “a record of misconduct,” who has everything to gain from the disinformation that they were “only” fired for “a breach of trust” that was “only” a “consensual affair,” that “only” requires a slap on the wrist before “full reinstatement.”

Two days after his Walrus article, on Dec. 28, 2016, in borderline libelous innocence spinning, Mr. Mount suggests that UBC was out to get Mr. Galloway all along. As @fakedavidmount he tweeted, “Why did UBC use “breach of trust for grounds for firing Steven Galloway? Answer: UBC couldn’t find any other reasons”

In short, Mr. Mount’s comments reflect Innocence Project toadyism at its finest. Who does it serve? It potentially frightens anyone who may be called to testify, silences them out of fear that Mr. Galloway may be returning to UBC as their Chair. Is it either authoritative or unbiased journalism? Three days after his article, Mr. Mount signed the UBCaccountable Open Letter and began pursuing a book deal.

On social media, sheep and signatories went even further to discredit UBC. On December 24, 2016, signatory Brad Cran tweeted. “students were gathered by UBC and converted into complainants…” I copied his tweet to mine and replied: “UBC “CONVERTED” them into complainants? This libels them both.” And then I tweeted, “#ubcaccountable Are you seriously accusing UBC & complainants of conspiracy, fraud, and evidence tampering, to frame SG?” I expected and got no reply.

And I accept the irony. My entire professional life has spent been on the other side of the fence, defending teachers against the misguided, harmful, and yes, sometimes malicious acts of administrations, board executives, and provincial governments. Having repeatedly served as career-ending Picket Captain and lost some six months’ wages in multiple strikes, I’ve more than earned the right to question educational institutions. But in this case, to the critique and chagrin of my union colleagues, I am for the first time in my life asking a different question.

Who needs an Innocence Project? Who lets one happen in their name?

If I was a union member secure in my professional conduct, I certainly wouldn’t let my friends use their names and reputations, let them look like fools for signing an un-researched, juvenile call for “due process,” or risk increasing legal liabilities on an increasingly libelous website, all to fight my battles for me. It wouldn’t be necessary and I wouldn’t permit it. I’d trust my union and private counsel to defend me, expect an arbitrator to rule in my favour, and know that I could appeal and sue if they did not. I would be so profoundly embarrassed by the circus that is UBCaccountable, I would have long ago begged them to stop. Unless … Please finish that sentence as you see fit.

After a close reading of secondary sources, to paraphrase an alleged quote from the alleged Boyd Report, “based on a preponderance of secondary source evidence,” I can find nothing that suggests UBC’s process was either “flawed” or “mishandled,” either unfair or any kind of rush to judgement. In fact, UBC’s extended review process checks every contractual box. Universities cannot be held responsible for public gossip and rumour that follows a dismissal, or for a scandal-loving media and social media who fanned the gossiping fires. If any statement by UBC injurious to Mr. Galloway existed, it would be a secondary source available on line. There is no such secondary source. There is nothing but gossip and rumour, to say that UBC ever defamed, slandered, or libeled Mr. Galloway.

We must separate action from aftermath. Even if we bought into every contention of the innocence project: that UBC process was “flawed” from the start, that it deliberately and callously damaged Mr. Galloway’s reputation, that it “overstepped” the Boyd Report, that it is culpable for every word of gossip since, and that critics of signatories are nothing but “envious” “witch hunters,” so what? That’s all the stuff of aftermath. None of it affects the primary evidence. Mr. Galloway could still be guilty of a dismissible action, of a “record of misconduct,” as documented in the full disclosure of primary sources. That full disclosure, and only full disclosure, can tell the full story.

Until arbitration, I stand by my previous posts defending union due process. Given the extensive process of review, no doubt meticulously vetted by UBC’s lawyers, I remain convinced that Mr. Galloway is not likely to be rehired. Having said that, I fully admit that I don’t know how an arbitrator who reads all primary disclosure may rule. None of us do. But I hear the union speak. When a union member is dismissed without severance or settlement package, that telegraphs how certain the employer and their lawyers feel about his dismissal: as fully justified.

I believe that Mr. Galloway may emerge from his grievance with little or nothing. I believe the concerted PR push for early settlement suggests that his defense team fears likewise. I doubt Mr. Galloway will appeal the arbitrator’s decision. I think his legal team is primed and ready to jump right into a lawsuit for defamation, damages, destruction of personal and professional reputation, loss of lifetime income, pain and suffering, and anything else they can legally add to th fire.

I further speculate that the recent flip-flop decision to remove then rehire Mr. Furlong as a UBC speaker, may be a direct result of UBC lawyers looking ahead, and insisting that UBC must not risk handing Mr. Galloway’s lawyers what they will be delighted to call, “an irresponsible and reputation-damaging pattern of acting on unproven rumour, a pattern of premature and biased judgement against men accused of, but never convicted of, sexual improprieties.”

And I lastly speculate that this lawsuit has been the real goal all along.

Consider “A Review of Damage Awards in Defamation, by B.C. lawyer David A. Gooderham of Alexander Holburn Beaudin and Lang, published on, (Oct. 3, 2012). He notes that large damage suits are relatively rare in B.C. Accordingly, winning a high-profile, high settlement, celebrity defamation case would be quite a feather in any lawyer’s cap.

Reviewing applicable case law, Mr. Gooderham lists three factors as producing the highest awards in B.C.: 1) “the content of the defamatory words;” 2) “Mass media dissemination (and distribution by Internet) is a key factor that may—and, in many cases, will—escalate damages;” 3) “the conduct and motives of the defendant” or possibly in this case, the defendants. Despite the lack of “defamatory words,” UBCaccountable supporters have done a fine job making the public believe that both UBC’S press release and its silence were defamatory. They’ve done a stupendous job ensuring mass media and social media coverage, and endlessly condemned the “conduct and motives” of both UBC and the complainants. In what possible world could all of this be a coincidence?

As I ponder such a lawsuit, this is my biggest fear: Will the complainants only be called as witness, or will Mr. Galloway’s lawyers add them as correspondents, and jointly sue both UBC and the complainants? UBCaccountable supporters on social media have laid the groundwork, have often suggested that the complainants colluded with each other and with UBC to bring Mr. Galloway down. In search of a larger award, Mr. Galloway’s lawyers should add the complainants as correspondents. It permits them to argue against their joint conduct and motives.

This kind of courtroom slaughter is a most-sobering, possible next chapter in this story. It could drag on for years. UBC, Mr. Galloway, and their expensive high-profile legal teams, could all be prepared to throw the complainants under the liability bus. The transcript will be public record.

So, I’m asking you, ubcaccountable signatories, is a soul-destroying, court-room trashing of complainants really what you signed up for? Does it concern you that without your knowledge or approval, that is what your names and reputations may have been destined to suppost all along?

Just as I have speculated that the Innocence Project may have been strategically timed to influence Mr. Galloway’s grievance and/or future legal proceedings, which explains the hire beyond UBCFA counsel of a lawyer of Mr. Olthius’ stellar caliber, I equally wonder if other professional advice is at work here. Given the use of traditional PR tactics in reputation management campaigns–muddy the facts, control the narrative, hand-pick the messengers, refine the message, seize a moral high-ground, humanize the client, point the finger elsewhere–it is more than reasonable to ask if public relations professionals have been co-operating with the defense, and steering the innocence spin all along.

Have we all been had? As a publicity stunt, the Open Letter is the exact opposite of poorly written, and the uproar exactly what was hoped for. It would be a supremely clever defense long game to get a boatload of celebrities to float your innocence narrative for you, to champion a moral “due process” high ground they honestly believed in, but didn’t understand, to have them shout for months that the lack of “due process” proves your client has been railroaded. That he’s “the real victim.” That he should be exonerated, if not compensated and/or rehired. And the icing on that cake? To get them to do so in an Open Letter that you know will never achieve the “due process” it calls for, thusly ensuring that your client will never have to be scrutinized in an inquiry you can claim to support, but know he will never have to face. All entirely legal. All utterly brilliant.

So, in my own defence of “due process,” I’ve taken sides. I freely admit that taking sides in this story is an act of faith, not of evidence. I make that choice when I say I believe the complainants. I believe them for many reasons: Because the best UBCFA contractual protections for retaining Mr. Galloway have already failed under legal and employer review. Because statistics show complainants rarely lie about sexual assault. Because so many first-person on-line accounts repeatedly describe a poisoned teaching and working atmosphere. Because despite vicious attacks on social media for the last eighteen months, the complainants have maintained the courage of their convictions. And, most importantly, because disbelieving women is the very first phallic thrust of rape culture.

Now that I’ve followed a story about a writer I have never met for several months and some 20,000 words—this piece alone is 10,300 words and I thank you for staying with it—I’d like to explain my motivations. Besides a deep belief in union due process, researched opinion, and ethical political action, I honestly believe that this tale also contains a truly important lesson about diversity in CanLit.

As a disabled writer, I’ve listened all my life to established CanLit writers claim they are entitled to write about marginalized groups to which they do not belong because they will use two things: empathy and good research. The elite writers of the Open Letter made no use of either, even when called out on both, even when the lack of both caused harm. Their behaviour strips off their false veneer. It reveals their real agenda: We will defend writers like ourselves at all costs.

To the question, “How do you know what you know?” they answer like a basket of arrogant, self-serving deplorables: “I got attacked too! And I am much too important to be accountble to the lowly likes of you.” To me, they will forever beproof of the non-negotiable need for the authentic own voices of all marginalized groups. Any able-bodied writer who ever claims to speak for me, must know that thanks to the Open Letter, I will forever see them as a hypocrite and a fraud.

And I offer some other big picture questions for your collective consideration. I begin with one raised by writer Stan Persky, the only signatory to engage my Facebook posts with respectful debate: Does the spinning of an innocence narrative require a conscious conspiracy?

Absolutely not. In fact, it probably works best when there isn’t one, when supporters of it believe they are acting out of their own combined personal beliefs: friendship, personal experience, a moral high ground, a defense of apple-pie “due process,” and a distrust of university process. The best proselytizer of an innocence narrative is one who truly believes they are simply exercising individual democratic free expression. Followers can carry a party line without being party to, or even aware of, plans made above them. An innocence project isn’t a one-member-one-vote equal information enterprise. I’ve never claimed a conscious conspiracy; I have worried all along about manipulation and usury. I think most signatories and supporters drank the Kool-Aid honestly, without any idea that it had created its own thirst. I imagine very few hands are needed to push open the envelope, add water, and stir.

Mr. Persky also raised a second thoughtful question: Why are potential allies attacking each other? As he so fairly points out, many of the signatories have feminist experience, and should be allies against sexual harassment and assault. I agree, they should. Once they drop a harmful, ineffectual, dubiously-conceived tactic, I welcome their voice and their work.

Anyone with celebrity clout must use it wisely. Signing a letter is no substitute for informed activism. The long hard work of listening and learning must continue. There is every reason to educate ourselves, to seek out the opinions of survivors and those who have been doing this work for years. There is excellent reason to support the much-needed government-mandated review of sexual assault policy in all Canadian universities. There is no reason to substitute celebrity for that work or expertise.

And I agree again with Mr. Persky, our positions are not mutually exclusive. Supporters and critics may face off from a seemingly un-crossable distance, but I suggest the mind-shattering possibility that both versions of the story might overlap. The “record of misconduct,” the “one” allegation Justice Boyd allegedly supported, could very well be the same thing: the “relationship” that Mr. Galloway calls “a consensual affair” and that the MC calls “sexual harassment and abuse.”

We don’t know. We do know that a person can have honest concerns about the way UBC handled this matter, and on-going concerns about how universities on both sides of our borders have handled sexual harassment and assault. Surely, we can challenge university policies and procedures without causing further harm to staff, students, complainants and survivors?

We can hold universities accountable for safety and well-being without spinning innocence narratives for powerful men who already have expert union and legal counsel. If we really believe there should be a public or independent inquiry into UBC, we can respect that hard-won democratic right by petitioning for one properly. If we believe in research, evidence, empathy, fair treatment for all, and due process, we can take our names off a PR site that has none. We can join those voices asking for the site to come down. Simply put, there is no good reason for making women more afraid.

The only reasonable, responsible, educated, adult thing to do is to stop spinning fake and cherry-picked news, and let union due process proceed. An arbitrator is legally charged with a close reading of all primary and secondary documentation. Their deliberations, as they should be, will be private. But their ruling will the only fully-informed decision in this entire story.

“A lie can race around the world while the truth is still tying up its shoelaces.” That’s one of my favorite aphorisms from the venerable Professor Simpson. When I researched it for this essay, I discovered that, as attributed to Charles Spurgeon, I’ve been misquoting it for forty years. It should read, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

It’s a critical difference. This single narrative Innocence Project has not “raced around the world;” it has only gone half way around it. So please, ask yourselves, “How do I know what I know?”

Will it travel any further? Up to you.