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#Metoo movement causing confusion in many men, fear of missteps with women: experts



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  • They keep falling like dominoes: Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Patrick Brown and most recently members of the Canadian pop-rock band Hedley, high-profile or celebrity men who have been accused of sexual misconduct as the #metoo and #timesup movements continue unabated.

    Experts say these social media campaigns of outing males for alleged wrongdoing have created a climate of mistrust between the sexes and left many ordinary guys feeling confused, fearful and wondering whether any of their past actions towards women will somehow come back to haunt them.

    “When I speak with younger men, and this is in and out of the workplace, they’re just swearing off women,” said Christine Hart of Calgary, who describes herself as a gender intelligence expert. “Not in droves, but socially they are so confused by what’s going on out there and they’re scared that something could be taken the wrong way.

    “So guys are coming together and saying ‘I don’t even interact with women anymore, I barely make eye contact,'” said Hart, who does presentations to corporations and public forums to help improve understanding and communication between men and women.

    “On the social level, they’re just so afraid of doing something that’s accidentally wrong.”

    Ayan Mukherjee, a Toronto registered psychotherapist who works with men, agreed there is a lot of trepidation around social interactions with women.

    “I think men are also feeling like, ‘You know what? It was already kind of hard to reach out to women from a dating point of view, even if you’re trying to reach out in a healthy manner and a sex-positive manner,'” he said.

    “Now it has become even harder in the sense that one false, unconscious move and you have been categorized … there is no spectrum from being someone who just flirted badly or made a faux pas versus a serial rapist.

    “And right now, they are fearful that social media vigilantes are not looking at it as a spectrum, that if you have done something even on the mild side of the spectrum, you are now being categorized as a rapist or a molester.”

    Being painted by the same sweeping brush as those alleged to have mistreated women has also angered many men, said Hart.

    “They’re upset with these men for disrespecting women in the way that they are,” she stressed. “And it’s coming from a real heart-centred place … they’re pissed about it.”

    Jack Mardock, a Denver-area dating coach, said many men are also feeling apprehensive about previous dating encounters or relationships with women, casting their minds back to examine whether they acted in a disrespectful or potentially sexually aggressive manner.

    “I talked to some of these guys and said ‘Did anything happen in the past?'” he said. “And they would talk about how when they were in college and were conversing with someone of the opposite sex, but none of it was inappropriate.

    “But the fact that they think it might be inappropriate, it’s not good.

    “So when you have guys thinking ‘Oh God, what if I did something in the past, what if it comes back to haunt me, they just end up putting their heads down … either outside of work or in work,” Mardock said. “And inside the workplace, I think it may get worse.”

    Hart is already seeing a change in the work environment, with fewer men willing to mentor more junior female colleagues — a spin-off of the #metoo and #timesup movements that she said could inevitably harm women’s career aspirations.

    There’s also anxiety over another possibility: that a woman may lie about or exaggerate an allegation of sexual misconduct, potentially destroying a man’s career or blackening his reputation in the court of public opinion.

    “Men are very worried about that, to the point where when I’m talking to HR specialists, men are taking preventive measures,” she said, citing the example of a man who ended a romantic relationship with a female co-worker and sent all the text messages and emails between them during the breakup to his company’s human resources department.

    “They’re finding that people are wanting more stuff tracked.”

    Some men publicly vilified for alleged sexual misbehaviour are beginning to fight back against what they call “wrongful” accusations and demanding that the women prove their assertions through the justice system.

    Patrick Brown, who was forced to resign as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives last month, has mounted a campaign in recent days to clear his name, alleging two women who spoke out against him were lying and possibly manipulated by his political enemies inside and outside the party.

    He also vowed to sue CTV News, which broadcast the allegations. CTV has said it stands by its reporting.

    On Friday, Brown officially joined the race to reclaim the party’s top job.

    Journalist Steve Paikin, long-time host of TVO’s current affairs program “The Agenda,” took to Facebook earlier this month to dismiss as “100 per cent false” an allegation that he propositioned a woman for sex in exchange for airtime.

    Paikin said the claim was made by former Toronto mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson. While stopping short of announcing legal action, he wrote: “You’ve defamed me Sarah. I have no idea why, but you have. And I simply can’t allow that to stand.”

    While the #metoo and #timesup movements have given women a forum to push back against perpetrators of sexual misdeeds through public shaming — a cultural shift the experts say many men support — there is a potential for negative fallout.

    “People think, well, because of all this, it must be very, very good for women. Women have all the power,” said Mardock.

    But he says the movements have put women interested in dating men at a disadvantage.

    “The dating game is not good for women like this, because you’re missing out on quality guys,” he said.

    “The healing that has to take place has to come from an awareness of the issue that these men who have done this do not represent all men — they just don’t.”


    — Follow @SherylUbelacker on Twitter.

    Sheryl Ubelacker, The Canadian Press

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    Alberta suspends caribou protection plan, asks for assistance from Ottawa



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  • EDMONTON — Alberta is suspending portions of its draft plan to protect threatened woodland caribou, saying more research needs to be done and that Ottawa needs to help out.

    Environment Minister Shannon Phillips told the house Monday that the province is acting on concerns about the economic impacts of the protection plan.

    “The federal Species at Risk Act is an extremely inflexible instrument that has already had negative economic consequences (in Alberta),” said Phillips.

    “We are going to do our best to make sure that we protect jobs on this.”

    She said she has sent that message in a letter to her federal counterpart, Catherine McKenna.

    Phillips is urging the federal government to help Alberta come up with a workable solution rather than have Ottawa impose an environmental protection order.

    Alberta’s draft plan is in response to a federal deadline under the Species at Risk Act passed last October and is designed to help threatened woodland caribou recover in 15 different ranges.

    The province released its draft plan on Dec. 19 and then held a series of town hall meetings.

    “The public meetings were attended by thousands of Albertans who are concerned about the impact caribou range plans will have on their communities and on the industries that support those communities,” stated Phillips’ letter, which was co-signed by Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd.

    The province plans to spend more than $85 million in the next five years to restore caribou habitat by eliminating seismic lines, building birthing pens and bringing in other measures.

    It has already invested $9.2 million and the estimated cost over the next 40 years is $1 billion.

    Phillips said the feds need to step up on planning and consultation, and on the money side as well.

    “Caribou recovery cannot occur without an infusion of federal funds to restore habitat necessary to ensure population growth,” she wrote.

    “While we need more time and partnership from the federal government on this matter, we also need your support in not prematurely implementing federal protection orders that will not have effective outcomes for Canadians and Albertans.”

    The federal government has the option of imposing an environmental protection order if a province doesn’t come up with a plan to protect the caribou. The order would halt any development, such as oil drilling, that could harm the animals.


    Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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    Five Things to know about Canada’s forthcoming peacekeeping mission in Mali



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  • OTTAWA — The Liberal government has unveiled Canada’s 12-month UN peacekeeping commitment to the west African country of Mali. It includes two Chinook helicopters to provide medical evacuations and logistical support, along with four smaller, armed Griffons to act as escorts for the larger transports. Here are five things to know about Mali and the mission.

    1. Lots of Canadian aid dollars. Mali has relied heavily on Canadian foreign aid, with only the United States and France contributing more. In 2014-15, Canadian development spending reached $152 million. Since 2012, Canada has also contributed $44 million in humanitarian aid following the country’s 2012 crisis (more on that below) and about $10 million to support the UN peacekeeping mission, making Canada its ninth-largest supporter.

    2. The 2012 crisis. It started when soldiers overthrew the country’s president, creating a power vacuum that was filled by an Islamic insurgency. The fall of Libya in 2011 busted the locks off Moammar Gadhafi’s arsenal, spreading weapons across north Africa, which armed various militia groups, including al-Qaida linked organizations. France led a war in 2013 that succeeded in driving the jihadists out of the stronghold they established in northern Mali. A UN peacekeeping force was established that year, and it has become its most dangerous mission with more than 160 fatalities.

    3. Canada’s drop in the peacekeeping bucket. Canada’s contribution of 250 personnel is far less than many of its allies. The UN mission comprises more than 13,000 troops. Germany, the country whose air support operations Canada will be replacing, has authorized the deployment of more than 1,000 troops. In addition to the UN mission, Germany has contributed 350 troops to a training mission for Mali’s military. France has 4,000 troops deployed to a counter-terrorism mission in northern Mali separate from the UN’s peacekeeping efforts. “This announcement is a small but important step towards Canada’s re-engagement in peacekeeping,” said peacekeeping expert Walter Dorn of the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, noting that Canada’s contribution to peacekeeping has hit an “all-time low” of a couple of dozen.

    4. The political peace process. In June 2015, a peace agreement was signed between the Malian government, Tuareg rebels and other rebel groups. The Tuareg first sparked the 2012 rebellion, but that was soon hijacked by the better-armed jihadists. Those jihadists are outside the peace process. Gen. Jonathan Vance, Canada’s chief of the defence staff, said “there is a prospect of a brighter future for Mali” but that “the basic deconstruction of Libya and the rise of terror groups, terror armies” has to be addressed.

    5. The human rights situation. The UN’s latest report on the human rights situation, tabled last month, offers a grim update of the situation in Mali. Between January 2016 and June 2017, it documented 608 cases of human rights violations involving almost 1,500 victims. These occurred across the country, including Gao, where the Canadian air contingent is expected to be based, and further north in Timbuktu. The perpetrators include signatories to the peace process and “non-signatory and splinter armed groups.” The vast majority of the victims are men. The abuse included illegal detention, torture, extrajudicial executions, recruitment of child soldiers and sexual violence.

    Sources: Government of Canada, The United Nations, Deutsche Welle

    Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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