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Bruce Dowbiggin

The PM Who Tells “Made-Up” Stories To The World

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Here’s a pro tip for Erin O’Toole if he wants to become PM. Promise you will never, under any circumstances, fly the flag at half mast on Canada Day.

Seems like a no-brainer, right? Well, not if you’re Justin Trudeau in the throes of white liberal guilt over residential schools. On July 1 he ordered that the national colours be taken to half-mast to honour the rez children who he said had recently be “discovered” in unmarked mass graves.

To emphasize the “perfidy” of the people who’d abandoned these children to the cold earth the trust-fund product posed, head bowed, with a teddy bear at a Saskatchewan cemetery. This was to underline the message he’d been pitching for years to the international community: Canada had executed a genocide on the native peoples of Canada. His nation was inherently evil.

That’s the way his paid-off media pals saw it, too. In the papers and on electronic media there were anguished calls for criminal charges, investigations of the Catholic Church. The suddenly uncovered “mass graves” (sudden to them at least) were proof of denying the past. Woke Toronto journalists competed for who could damn the killers of the Rez kids, who’d supposedly been murdered and dumped in shallow graves behind the school at midnight.

David Butt, a Toronto criminal lawyer writing in the Globe and Mail, claimed “The discovery of thousands of unmarked graves of Indigenous children on the sites of former residential schools…looks and smells like criminal activity.” Activist firebrand Robert Jago said anyone questioning the validity of his own genocide allegations should be considered equivalent to “Holocaust denial” and punished as a hate-speech purveyor.

International media— pumped by Canadian activists— jumped at the story, too. Here’s the UK Independent headlining “mass graves” being discovered and hinting darkly that TB deaths at rez schools wasn’t accidental.

Just one problem. The 751 graves in Saskatchewan are well known and may contain white families, too, says  Cowessess First Nation band member Irene Andreas . “There is no ‘discovery’ of graves.  We buried our dead with a proper funeral. Then we allowed them to Rest In Peace…To assume that foul play took place would be premature and unsupported.

“All your elders have knowledge of every grave. The Band office has records from the Bishop’s office, the Church board and from cemetery workers who were in charge of digging graves and burials… So please, people, do not make up stories about residential school children being put in unmarked graves. No such thing ever happened.”

In his brilliant analysis of the evidence that Trudeau and Singh hype, Hymie Rubenstein (who taught and wrote about Indigenous and other cultures at the University of Manitoba for 31 years) says there has never been verified proof of even a single child killed in the century-plus the residential schools operated. No name, no body, no second-hand witnesses.

Furthermore, the sobering death rates of Rez children were in line with the terrible mortality rates for children from all causes in the years the schools were employed from 1870-2000 . (For example, researchers found that all the Alberta native children waiting for entrance into residential schools in 1912 carried TB.)

As for the charge of secretive burials, children who attended the schools testified to having attended Christian burials for children who died. There was no disrespect in their burials. On the the issue of “unmarked graves’, native bands rarely marked graves after mourning the dead both young and old. That’s if they marked them at all. Chief Joe Pierre of the ʔaq’am in Cranbrook, explained, “Graves were traditionally marked with wooden crosses and this practice continues to this day in many Indigenous communities across Canada. Wooden crosses can deteriorate over time due to erosion or fire which can result in an unmarked grave.”

No matter. Trudeau is happy to foment international rage against the Church and the politicians of the day if it helps him get re-elected in September. His teddy-bear stunt served to deflect from his abject failure on the indigenous-peoples file and his high-profile firing of Kwak’wala member Jody Wilson Raybould as his justice minister. As always he knew a sympathetically curated media lie would be around the world before the facts (in Churchill’s words) could ever get their pants on. His purchased press would see to that.

The man who wants another mandate as PM so he can vilify Canada to the world has plenty of political cover. The NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, the bespoke socialist, visited the Saskatchewan cemetery to claim, “This is a crime of genocide, the worst crime possible. And what we need to do is prosecute it like a crime.” Looking to create an election issue he demanded an independent prosecutor.

There is bad news for Singh’s pandering demand that charges be laid now using modern ground-penetrating technology.  Kisha Supernant of the University of Alberta explained to the National Post, “What the ground-penetrating radar can see is where that pit itself was dug, because the soil actually changes when you dig a grave.” But bodies or evidence of foul play? As Supernant notes, the technology “doesn’t actually see the bodies (or coffins). It’s not like an X-ray.”

The final and most damning charge levelled by Trudeau and the radicals against their own nation is that of genocide. That from 1867- present Canada conceived and perpetrated a slaughter on the order of the Nazi Holocaust (1940-45) or the Armenian massacre (1915-17) or the Rwandan mass killing of Tutsis (1994). Despite the fervent support of progressive media they have fallen short.

According to the UN Convention’s formal post-1948 commentary, “To constitute genocide, there must be a proven intent on the part of perpetrators to physically destroy a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. Cultural destruction does not suffice.”  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report, in 2015, tried hard to equate the treatment of natives in residential schools with genocide, before settling for the legally inert term cultural genocide, one Trudeau, Singh and the Canada haters immediately abridged to genocide.

While that has spurred radicals to destroy the name and statues to John A. Macdonald, the facts don’t support a charge of genocide against him and successive government. As Rubenstein points out, “Macdonald quadrupled Ottawa’s native budget to deal with the crippling Western famine in the early 1880s. This event was caused by the collapse of the Prairie bison herds, an outcome over which Canada had absolutely no control; nonetheless, Macdonald mustered substantial government resources to meet the challenge.

“Consider also that Ottawa successfully vaccinated almost the entire native community against smallpox at great expense and effort, virtually wiping out this highly contagious killer among a people with no natural immunity to the disease.” Hardly sounds like the actions of a government intent on genocide.

This led Irwin Cotler, chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights and former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, to note, “If we say everything is a genocide, then nothing is a genocide.”

Certainly the pain and tragedy felt by many Rez school children was real. And their treatment in regards to cultural and language issues, in the fullness of time,  looks unacceptable by today’s standards. Like the 100,000 British Home Children shipped to Canada in the same era to work as indentured slaves to farmers and others— often against their parents’ wishes— there are many unknown graves of those who didn’t survive. It is a period we devoutly wish we had to do over again.

But the memories of those children are stained by the self-serving political theatrics of today’s politicians who seek to run a country they’re spent years denigrating to the world. Remember on September 20 that a vote for Trudeau and Singh is a vote for those who exploit innocent dead.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). The best-selling author of Cap In Hand is also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, his new book Personal Account with Tony Comper is now available on http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

BRUCE DOWBIGGIN Award-winning Author and Broadcaster Bruce Dowbiggin's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience . He is currently the editor and publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster website and is also a contributor to SiriusXM Canada Talks. His new book Cap In Hand was released in the fall of 2018. Bruce's career has included successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster for his work with CBC-TV, Mr. Dowbiggin is also the best-selling author of "Money Players" (finalist for the 2004 National Business Book Award) and two new books-- Ice Storm: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Vancouver Canucks Team Ever for Greystone Press and Grant Fuhr: Portrait of a Champion for Random House. His ground-breaking investigations into the life and times of Alan Eagleson led to his selection as the winner of the Gemini for Canada's top sportscaster in 1993 and again in 1996. This work earned him the reputation as one of Canada's top investigative journalists in any field. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013) where his incisive style and wit on sports media and business won him many readers.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Jerry Came to See The Babies. And They Walked Out On Him

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Cometh the hour, cometh the comedian. Or, you can learn a lot about a demographic by what makes them laugh.

The legacy/ lunacy media schvitzed itself over a few furious sociology majors and look-at-me drama queens walking out on Jerry Seinfeld’s commencement address at Duke University last weekend. But the significance of his admission that he was 70 was probably far more newsworthy to those now in retirement, binge-watching his eponymous TV series on one of those down-the-dial channels.

If we had a dollar for every Boomer who said, “Seinfeld is 70?” while watching the address we’d be Warren-Buffett-rich this morning. He doesn’t look like any 70 year olds we know. Fifty? Maybe. But listening to his familiar delivery, the mocking on his honorary degree costume, it was easy to believe that we, too, are much younger than our blood-thinner prescriptions say.

It also pointed out the evolution of Boomers’ comedic tastes. When they came of age in the late 1960s/ early 1970s Woody Allen best profiled as his generation’s comedic muse. With a dozen classic movies ranging from What’s New Pussycat (1965) through Play It Again Sam (1972) to Annie Hall (1977) Allen’s self-deprecating nebbish captured the romantic/ridiculous self-image of Boomers with “Some drink deeply from the river of knowledge. Others only gargle”.

The neurotic, insecure Allen then decided to become Ingmar Bergman, and Boomers— now assembling jobs, children and first spouses— moved on. But for that 12-year span the bedraggled standup comedian was the go-to with lines like “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you” and  “The only love that lasts is unrequited love.”

Woody’s pointed contemporary political references in those years were few (conflating “D’you” for “Jew” with Tony Roberts in Manhattan) and self-deflating (see Annie Hall). His most prominent political jabs were framed in absurdist material like Love And Death and Bananas. Culturally he was merciless but affectionate about his Brooklyn upbringing. In short his were perfect date movies for Boomers seeking love to advertise their pretensions.

Flash forward from Woody to Seinfeld (created with Larry David) which was anti-romantic in the extreme. The characters were sociopaths. The situations often cringeworthy. The 24-minute formula harkened back to Lucy and the Honeymooners. And while schlock like Friends trod the same ground it was Seinfeld that somehow captured the Boomer  zeitgeist. 

Why? Boomers going through middle age were too disillusioned with how life was turning out to romanticize anymore. The self-obsessed characters were people they knew from work, school and dealing with government. Smirking Bill Clinton was the face of an era. “When we did my show in the 90s, it was so easy to make fun of things. It was so easy,” Seinfeld told Amy Schumer.

Significantly, Seinfeld the Show was cultural. Or quasi-cultural. It was never about politics per se. It was about the people who thwart you in life. Whose vanity ruins your plans from school days. Who go 50 mph in the left lane. “When is Jerry going to see the baby?” It rarely challenged its fans on an emotional level. It was mostly about navigating madness.

And often about the most mundane elements of life. The address on the weekend contained The Seinfeld Doctrine of Lowered Expectations. “It’s easy to fall in love with people. I suggest falling in love with anything and everything, every chance you get. Fall in love with your coffee, your sneakers, your blue zone parking space. I’ve had a lot of fun in life falling in love with stupid, meaningless physical objects. 

“The object I love the most is the clear-barrel Bic pen — $1.29 for a box of 10. I can fall in love with a car turn signal switch that has a nice feel to it, a pizza crust that collapses with just the right amount of pressure. I have truly spent my life focusing on the smallest things imaginable, completely oblivious to all the big issues of living.”

Reaching across the generations Seinfeld delivered Dad jokes and bromides to kids who education probably cost $100 K a year. “I think it is also wonderful that you care so much about not hurting other people’s feelings in the million and one ways we all do that,” he said. Then he explained why that might be a fruitless pursuit. Not in Curb Your Enthusiasm darkness. But sobering.

That’s why it was in character for him to let the furious demonstrators depart at Duke without comment. So was appearing at Duke, the Ivy League of Tobacco Road, founded by the people who made jillions selling nicotine. And why he let them garb him like Thomas Cromwell in the absurd 16th century cape and hat so he could score few laughs.

Because laughter is his means of dealing with jerks like the outbound Hamas crowd. “What I need to tell you as a comedian: Do not lose your sense of humour. You can have no idea at this point in your life how much you are going to need it to get through. Not enough of life makes sense for you to be able to survive it without humour.”

Yes, He has been vocal lately about the effect of political correctness ruining TV comedy. Drawing flak from former friends and fans who are in the Biden re-education camps at the moment. But his annoyance at ruining an art form far outweighed any complaints about Covid and Ukraine.

As opposed to the nihilism of his former partner David, his insouciance and comic patter represent an antidote for where most of his original fans are at the moment. Woody Allen, their former idol, is now seen as a pedo and a failed nouveau vage auteur. Disillusioned with virus lies, electoral shenanigans and soaring prices, Boomers on a pension are unanchored, floating through what used to be North American society (when only women had babies).

In fact, Boomer spectators watching Seinfeld’s 17-minute speech maybe summed it up for themselves by recalling the Seinfeld mantra, “It was a show about nothing.” And they’d be right. Jerry is the man for those times.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Now for pre-order, new from the team of Evan & Bruce Dowbiggin . Deal With It: The Trades That Stunned The NHL & Changed Hockey. From Espo to Boston in 1967 to Gretz in L.A. in 1988 to Patrick Roy leaving Montreal in 1995, the stories behind the story. Launching in paperback and Kindle on #Amazon this week. Destined to be a hockey best seller. https://www.amazon.ca/Deal-Trades-Stunned-Changed-Hockey-ebook/dp/B0D236NB35/

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Why Do The Same Few Always Get The Best Sports Scoops?

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The Toronto Maple Leafs made the “what colour is that green light?” decision to fire their head coach Sheldon Keefe last week. The removal of Keefe after five years followed a dispiriting first-round playoff series loss to a very ordinary Boston Bruins team. Coaching may or may not have been the root cause of that loss. (Keefe himself admitted “teams are waiting for the Leafs to beat themselves”.)

The real reason for the firing is 1967, and we don’t think we need add more than that.

In essence, the management of MLSE— the owner of the Maple Leafs and a lot of other sports stuff in Toronto— needed to throw a body to the baying hounds of disappointment. Also known as Leafs Nation. Newly minted CEO Keith Pelley, fresh from the PGA Tour/ LIV psychodrama, was certainly not going to pay the price.

Nor was GM Brad Treliving who has only been on the job for two seasons. The key decisions on Toronto’s lopsided salary cap were decided long before Treliving occupied his desk. That left two people in vulnerable positions. 1) Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, who has been drawing an MLSE cheque for a decade. 2) Keefe.

When was the last time you saw a coach fire a team president? Precisely. Keefe joins the list of (briefly) unemployed coaches who circulate in the NHL like McKinsey consultants. Shanahan gets a lukewarm mulligan from Pelley. But after the failure of the Kyle Dubas experiment— “who needs experience?”— and now just a single playoff series win in a decade Shanny’s best-before date has arrived.

Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan attends a news conference in Toronto on April 14, 2014. Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said Peter Horachek will remain the team’s interim head coach until the end of the season. Shanahan met the media Friday for the first time since coach Randy Carlyle was fired on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Depending on who he and Treliving enlist to coach— remember, Mike Babcock was too tough and Keefe was probably too player friendly— it had better produce instant results. Because Shanny, the pride of Mimico, is out of chances. The coach choice will also be affected by whichever player or players that management decides are superfluous to ending the Leafs’ ridiculous run of misery.

The Leafs brass’ press conference last Thursday did little to shed light on what happens after Keefe’s expulsion. Just a lot of MBA determinism on a bed of baffle gab. A crabby Steve Simmons question/rant briefly threatened the harmony of the moment, but order was restored. And the media bitching switched from the press box to social media and podcasts.

Speaking of the fourth estate, the other unmentioned aspect of this story— indeed every story in the NHL these days— is just how it was revealed to the public. When people sipped their morning Tim’s or Starbucks the (almost) coincident bulletins came down the social media pike about Keefe’s dismissal.

Predictably, Chris Johnston of Sportsnet and Daren Dreger of TSN announced the breaking news within heart beats of each other. While there had been speculation on Keefe’s fate for days, the announcement coming from the networks duo confirmed the story in the minds of the industry. That allowed everyone else drawing a cheque as a hockey journalist to pile in and swarm the dead body.

In today’s sports journalism, where social media has replaced newspapers, scoops are governed by a protocol. There are the heralds— in the NHL it’s currently Johnston and Dreger— and then there are the disseminators. The days of a rabble of reporters all scrambling to get a story bigger than who-will-play-in-tonight’s-game are gone. Today, it’s a very narrow funnel for scoops.

It’s the same in the NFL where Ian Rappaport (NFL Network) and Adam Schefter (ESPN) monopolize the tasty scoops on behalf of their employers, who also happen to be NFL rights holders. In the NBA, Brian Windhorst (ESPN) has the inside rail when it comes to the LeBron James/ Steph Curry scoops. In MLB… it’s probably Ken Rosenthal  (The Athletic) but no one cares about baseball anymore, do they?

The leagues like it this way, doling out stories to guys they can trust. None of this is criticism of Johnston or Dreger, who have deftly maneuvered themselves into the coveted “from their lips to your ears” spots. From our own experience we can remember the exhilaration of having the best source or sources on the really big stories. Like Johnston/ Dreger, we worked hard for a long time to develop those sources and only very reluctantly let anyone else horn in on our stories.

It was also our observation that this order of things journalistic suited a lot of reporters who either couldn’t get good sources or didn’t want the stress of being first on stuff. It was enough that, like the Keefe story, they’d get the goods eventually and most fans would not care who was first. So long as you had a take. So be it.

Some resentful types took potshots at our work if it upset their pals in the dressing room or the management suite. On the Stephen Ames/ Tiger Woods story in 2001, we had the late Pat Marsden tell us on air that we’d done a great job on Ames’ criticisms of Tiger. Only to hear him lambaste us— again on FAN 590— only minutes later as we listened driving home from the studio. But we digress.

Many reporters are complacent in playing the game, so long as their bosses didn’t enquire why they are getting scooped all the time by the same few rivals. With the death of daily newspapers that doesn’t happen much any longer. (Many editors today may only see stories when publication brings a libel notice.) For them a salty take is good enough.

The scoop business is also affected by the multiple roles now demanded of sports media types. In addition to their “day job” on a beat they also have to supply digital content and talk-back hits to the Mother Ship. Most also are feeding a weekly podcast, dictating time on air rather than time working the phone. There are only so many hours in a day to chase a story.

Better to play the Breaking News waiting game.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Now for pre-order, new from the team of Evan & Bruce Dowbiggin . Deal With It: The Trades That Stunned The NHL & Changed Hockey. From Espo to Boston in 1967 to Gretz in L.A. in 1988 to Patrick Roy leaving Montreal in 1995, the stories behind the story. Launching in paperback and Kindle on #Amazon this week. Destined to be a hockey best seller. https://www.amazon.ca/Deal-Trades-Stunned-Changed-Hockey-ebook/dp/B0D236NB35/

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