“I wonder if some of the news people in this country are taking it several steps too far.” Millroy ponders

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I am all in favour of the #MeToo movement and its bringing to light the injustices many women in the work place have lived with for years.

But I wonder if some of the news people in this country are taking it several steps too far, running allegations of “touching” incidents against individuals who are named while their accusers are not.

CTV News took down Ontario Progressive Leader Patrick Brown through its story about the sexual interactions he, as a single man, had with two women outside the workplace. It cost Brown the leadership of his party.

Now it appears some news organizations are attempting to do the same thing with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

After the 1998 death of Trudeau’s brother, Michel, in an avalanche in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, the Trudeau family launched a campaign to raise money for the construction of a new backcountry cabin in memory of Michel and other victims of backcountry avalanches.

In 2000 the future prime minister, then a teacher in Vancouver and at the age of 29 still single, was in Creston to accept a donation of $18,500 from the Kokanee Summit, a festival sponsored by the local Columbia Brewery.

During that time he had some interaction with a female reporter from the Creston Valley Advance, interaction with which she took issue.

She spoke with her publisher, Valerie Bourne, about the incident and later, when he returned from holidays, then editor Brian Bell.

As Bourne recalled it in an interview with the National Post, the reporter told her the alleged incident between her and Trudeau was brief, lasting no longer than the blink of an eye.

She told the Post she left it up to the reporter to decide whether or not the she wanted to pursue the matter further and her recollection was that the meeting ended with the reporter deciding to keep the matter between the two of them.

To Bourne’s surprise, however, a 240-word editorial soon appeared on page 4 of the paper, accusing Trudeau of unwanted touching. The Post says it is its understanding that the editorial was written by the reporter, who has declined to comment.

The editorial resurfaced in April of this year, verbatim and without context or comment, in Frank Magazine in Ottawa, and recently was placed on Twitter by Warren Kinsella, a former Liberal operative who is a frequent critic of the prime minister. From there it was picked up by other news organizations internationally and became the topic of critical columns by Andrew Coyne in the National Post and Mark Bonokoski and Brian Lilley in The Toronto Sun. .
The editorial accused Trudeau of inappropriately “handling” the reporter while she was on assignment.
“It’s not a rare incident to have a young reporter, especially a female who is working for a small community newspaper, be considered an underling to their “more predominant” associates and blatantly disrespected because of it,” the editorial read.

“But shouldn’t the son of a former prime minister be aware of the rights and wrongs that go along with public socializing? Didn’t he learn through his vast experience in public life that groping a strange young woman isn’t in the handbook of proper etiquette, regardless of who she is, what her business is or where they are?”

The editorial said Trudeau “apologized a day late” for being “so forward” because the reporter was also reporting for The Vancouver Sun and National Post.

My problem with this taking life in publications now is the same that I would have had if I had known about the editorial when it was published.

There is no detail of what happened. Just the vague word that something did.
The editorial started out with an accusation of inappropriate “handling” and then later upgrades it to groping, a term which denotes it was contact of a sexual nature.

I find it strange that the word “handling” is in quotation marks but the word that precedes it, inappropriate, isn’t. The term groping is also not in quotation marks.

I am not concerned that this incident happened, if it did happen, 18 years ago. I don’t think there should be a time limit on sexual assault.

But I also don’t believe that the news media should run stories about allegations of misconduct against anyone unless the accuser is named and the circumstances of the allegations are revealed or it is reporting on a case before a court or a provincial body.
What have members of the news media become when they will simply publish and/or broadcast stories of allegations of what could be construed as sexual assault from people who have nothing to lose since they will remain anonymous.

Does anyone in the media stop to think how dangerous this can become? Are people going to be allowed to make such allegations without a scintilla of information as to what was involved?

When I started in this business more than 60 years ago, the what, why, where, when of an event had to be included in the story about it.

The “what” is the major thing missing in this story. What is it that Trudeau is accused of doing?

In Brown’s trial by media, CTV News reported on two women who said they had sexual interaction with Brown, a single man, in his bedroom in his home.

One said he asked for oral sex and she gave it to him. The other said he kissed her and climbed on top of her, without her permission, and she could feel his erection on her legs. When she asked him to stop, he stopped.

As I said in a column decrying the action by CTV News, these are simply scenarios that undoubtedly are being played out as I write this and also while you are reading it. After all, you will recall the location on each occasion was Brown’s bedroom.If charges of a sexual nature are laid in court, the identity of the victim is protected from publication. I have no problem with that. These people had the courage to come forward with their complaints in a public forum, where they will face cross-examination by the defence.

A case in point involves a Sault doctor who has been appearing before a disciplinary panel of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

Dr. Brian Shamess has been accused of professional misconduct by the college in regard to complaints from three women. The complaints range from inappropriate touching of a patient’s breasts and back to inappropriate comments about her appearance.

The complainants may be unnamed, but they have taken their complaints to a proper body for hearing, a place where both accuser and defendant can state his or her case.

Some in the news media are insisting that Trudeau must address this issue head-on, that rather than simply sticking with the statement staff put out for him that he doesn’t recall any “negative interactions” with the reporter that he has to say something.

Why?

The way I look at it there is really nothing to defend because the allegations against him are essentially unknown..

Until the reporter spells out what happened, and she certainly didn’t in the editorial, it would be folly for Trudeau to participate in what would essentially amount to trial by media.
In my Feb. 3 column on this site, I asked if either woman would have told her story if Brown had been an average Joe working at an average job, rather than being the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party with a good shot at being the next premier of the province?

And would CTV News have been interested in carrying their allegations.
The answer, of course, is an unqualified no.