Archive for : December, 2017

Sometimes “I’m sorry” is not enough.

Sometimes “I’m sorry” is not enough.

Let’s consider two cases where an apology was clearly needed but is, equally clearly, insufficient.

Lindsay Shepherd

You will have heard of the case of the teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier, Lindsay Shepherd, who was demeaned and berated by her faculty supervisor and two hench-persons for daring to show, without repudiation in advance, a TV Ontario debate involving Jordan Peterson, the man who abhors genderless pronouns. According to the tribunal, one or more persons had complained and so corrective and retributive action had to be taken. According to the tribunal, the person or persons who complained could not be identified because of ‘confidentiality’.

It was wrong in itself to rebuke a teaching assistant for showing a public broadcast of a debate on a contentious social issue. Such matters are the lifeblood of critical inquiry. And, indeed, after an initial review, both the President of the University and the supervising professor apologized.

But then it was revealed that there never were any complaints about use of the broadcast. The complaints were made up. The professors lied. Why we don’t know, it doesn’t matter. What we do know is that THEY LIED.

Another apology has been rendered, but it is not enough, cannot be enough. Some person or persons used a lie as an excuse to berate and demean a teaching assistant. This action took place in an institution that purports to seek and revere truth. This action took place in an institution that purports to abhor and reject abuse and harassment.

I will not suggest what sanction is appropriate but I know, I think we all know, that it is not enough to say “I’m sorry” when you have been caught lying for the primary purpose of demeaning and abusing another person. The professors’ allegations, stated publicly, would have constituted slander. You don’t just walk away from that with an “Oops”.

Trudeau and Morneau

The Ethics Commissioner, an Officer of the Parliament of Canada, has found that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance violated the law with respect to the Conflict of Interest Act. Mr. Trudeau did not report a free helicopter ride and vacation offered by the Aga Khan. Mr. Morneau did not report a villa he owned in France.

Both Ministers have apologized, providing the assurance that the errors were innocent. One claimed that he didn’t think the law applied to a gift from an ‘old family friend’ (whom he seen but once in 30 years). The other said it was a simple oversight.

Even if the Ministers were genuinely clueless about this, they do have advisors who are paid to advise about just such questions. If the advisors did not see any problems, perhaps they did not do their job. If they did advise there was a problem, and their advice was rejected, then the Ministers were not clueless; they would have known their actions were wrong.

No one needs to suggest that Messrs. Trudeau and Morneau sought any personal gain in these conflicts. Let us accept that they are honourable men.

Honourable men or not, they broke the law. “Ignorantia juris non excusat”: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. And indeed, they should have known, whether through the briefings they all received on conflict of interest, or through the advice of staff and/or officials.

As honourable men, they should know that it is not enough to say “Oops, I’m sorry” when found in violation of the law. If these cases were in the legal system, an apology would be relevant to the sentence given, but would not change the culpability for the offence.

Fraud for Fraud: Some People’s Idea of Social Justice.


Fraud for Fraud: Some People’s Idea of Social Justice.

Loblaws has admitted to fixing the price of bread in certain circumstances, over 14 years. It’s not a stretch to conclude that this constituted fraud, if not theft. In penance, Loblaws is offering a $25 gift card to eligible customers.

Some social justice “genius” has suggested that every Canadian apply for the card, and then donate it to a food bank. They see a $907 million charge against Loblaws, and $907 million for food banks. An Internet meme is born.

Those who take this Internet meme seriously display a sad ignorance of math, law and indeed social justice.

The purpose of Loblaws’ offer is to compensate those who paid too much for bread in its stores. So you would need to be old enough to have shopped for bread, and to actually have shopped for bread in a Loblaw store.

Let’s start with the math. For Loblaws’ costs to be $907 million, more than 36 million Canadians would need to participate. That would include the 8 to 9 million Canadians less than 19 years of age. Almost all of these were not shoppers over the previous 14 years of Loblaws fraud. So the maximum number of those potentially eligible would be more like 28 million to be generous.

But not all, or even most, of these shoppers bought grocery products at a Loblaws store. Loblaws has about a 34% share of the grocery market (including its stores under different names). That suggests the potential number of those eligible would be closer to 9.5 million, if all applied.

Let’s consider what the meme is asking us to do. It is suggesting every Canadian, whether they were of an eligible age or not, whether they shopped at Loblaws or not, whether they bought bread or not, should get a card and donate it.

To apply for a card
• if you are or were not of an eligible age
• if you did not shop at Loblaws
• if you did not buy bread at Loblaws
is to attempt fraud on Loblaws. So the meme counsels law breaking.

That the law breaking is intended to achieve a good purpose is irrelevant. Bank robbery is still bank robbery even if the robber gives the proceeds to the poor. Murder is still murder, even if the victim ‘had it coming’.

Social justice is not served by lynch mob justice. Lynch mob justice demeans us all – and risks provoking a greater tyranny.

Take such silly memes away.