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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

The tale of two teachers

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Jim McMurtry

Some have criticized me for stating that the good, as well as the bad, of residential schools should be recognized. I stand by that statement…. Others have criticized me for stating that the Truth and Reconciliation Report was not as balanced as it should be. I stand by that statement as well.

At L.A. Matheson, a high school in Surrey, B.C., a poster in Annie Ohana’s classroom suggests society is too moralistic about sex work, the quote coming from an avowed Satanist. National Post writer Jamie Sarkonak described her classroom in this way: “The walls are covered with Social Justice posters. Some of them sloganeer about ‘decolonization,’ others ‘inflame racial politics.’” Ohana drapes herself in a Pride flag and speaks openly of her pansexuality as well as her subscription to wokeism, identity politics, Social Justice, and DEI.

In March Ohana appeared on CTV after being roundly criticized on X by an Ottawa teacher, Chanel Pfahl, the latter chased out of the profession a few years ago for questioning Critical Race Theory. Ohana said that Pfahl “seems to be making a lot of assumptions that were simply based on misinformation, lies, and in fact, puts myself and other teachers and students and my community in danger.” She also argued she was teaching about “critical thinking” and creating “empowered citizens that can speak up for themselves.” A Canadian flag hangs forlornly in her classroom, atop it is scrawled, “No pride in genocide.”

So far, she has faced no direct consequences for her political position or trying to indoctrinate her students. Indeed, she has won three teaching awards.

I, on the other hand, was walked out of my classroom and career for suggesting the only thing buried in Kamloops was the truth. In the eyes of my employer, I had put students and the community in danger by saying students who died while enrolled at a residential school did so from disease and not murder.

Northrop Frye wrote in The Great Code that the aim is “to see what the subject means, not to accept or reject it.” There is nothing wrong with the teaching of either me or Ohana as long as we are not steering students toward belief. In a 100-page investigation report on my teaching, an assistant superintendent of the Abbotsford School District wrote:

It in my view cannot be overemphasized that Mr. McMurtry having no knowledge of his students and more particularly whether any of these students had Indigenous descent in making his comments that provoked a strong student response and which was contrary to the school’s message of condolences and reconciliation. Regardless of his intent he left students with the impression some or all the deaths could be contributed to ‘natural causes’ and that the deaths could not be called murder or cultural genocide.

My fault was that I didn’t promote a “message of condolences and reconciliation.” Not only was this message never communicated to teachers, the message runs counter to the educational aim of seeing what a subject means. The message is also that the deaths of at least some Indian residential school children were attributable to murder, for which there is still no evidence.

Senator Lynn Beyak was the first prominent Canadian to wade into the increasingly turbulent waters of Indian residential schools. Labelled a racist and facing the prospect of ejection from the Senate, she retired in 2021 from her senate position but not from her convictions.

Some have criticized me for stating that the good, as well as the bad, of residential schools should be recognized. I stand by that statement…. Others have criticized me for stating that the Truth and Reconciliation Report was not as balanced as it should be. I stand by that statement as well.

George Orwell wrote in 1945 in an introduction to Animal Farm, “At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas of which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it.” Queen’s law professor Bruce Pardy wrote last year: “A new standard of practice is emerging for Canadian professionals: be woke, be quiet, or be accused of professional misconduct.”

Annie Ohana is a better approximation of that mythically average teacher than I. Most teachers appear woke or know enough to be quiet and go along, standing for land acknowledgments, using individualized pronouns with students, speaking of gender identity and sexual orientation, distinguishing students based on race, reading Social Justice books over literary classics, and accepting revisionist history. They go to school wearing the right colour for the occasion: rainbow, pink, orange, red, or black. At staff meetings they are woke and quiet.

I am an avatar of Lynn Beyak, standing outside the orthodoxy and condemned by “all right-thinking people.” Our issue is also the same. Indian residential schools were not the genocidal project that federal members of parliament voted as a genocide on October 27, 2022.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, headed by two Indigenous men and a woman married to an Indigenous man, travelled for six years across Canada, and heard from 6000 former students. The Commission’s bias was evident in its final report:

Physical genocide is the mass killing of the members of a targeted group, and biological genocide is the destruction of the group’s reproductive capacity. Cultural genocide is the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group. States that engage in cultural genocide set out to destroy the political and social institutions of the targeted group. Land is seized, and populations are forcibly transferred and their movement is restricted. Languages are banned. Spiritual leaders are persecuted, spiritual practices are forbidden, and objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed. And, most significantly to the issue at hand, families are disrupted to prevent the transmission of cultural values and identity from one generation to the next. In its dealing with Aboriginal people, Canada did all these things.

What the final report does not mention is:

o   the educational value of the schools;

o   the alternative was no education at all in remote areas where a day school was not feasible;

o   that both Indigenous chiefs and parents saw them as a treaty right and petitioned to keep them open into the sixties;

o   that parents had to apply to send their children to residential schools;

o   that the mandatory attendance which began in 1920 was to go to school (one-third going to day school, one-third to residential school, and one-third never going to any school);

o   that the schools took in orphans and served as a refuge for children and in some cases adults who were abused on the reserve or without the necessities of life; and

o  that many former students testified their time there was the happiest in their lives.

My natural allegiance is to fellow teachers, and I don’t doubt that Annie Ohana and others within the Critical Social Justice educational movement teach their students about critical thinking and create empowered citizens that can speak up for themselves. However, such critical thinking should also be directed against the orthodoxy these teachers are imposing on captive groups of students. As well, if their students are indeed empowered citizens, they should come to their own conclusions, no matter the ideological perspective of their teacher.

 Jim McMurtry, PhD, was formerly a principal of Neuchâtel Junior College in Switzerland and a college lecturer, but mostly he was a teacher. He lives in Surrey, B.C.

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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

The Great Canadian Hoax exposed

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Colin Alexander

Grave Error: How The Media Misled Us (and the Truth about Residential Schools) edited by C.P. Champion and Tom Flanagan, Truth North and Dorchester Review, 343pp, $21.99) is a companion volume to Frontier’s From Truth Comes Reconciliation, which was published in 2021 (second edition is forthcoming). The two reviews published here are by Colin Alexander and Peter Best. The book demonstrates that there is no forensic evidence of Indian Residential School children that have been murdered and buried in residential school yards. There are a number of reasons for not believing the claim that children were murdered in these schools. Canadians are anxious to know the truth about the schools, and this book along with Frontier’s book go a long way to dispel the myths that have developed about the murder of residential school children. The book has been a top seller on Amazon since it was published in early January 2024.

This scholarly book of essays demolishes the narrative that any children went missing from Indian residential schools (IRS), let alone thousands, or that there are mass graves. Grave Error, in fact, debunks what essayist Jonathan Kay calls “a media-fuelled social panic over unmarked graves.” Mainstream media around the world—not just in Canada—ran with this press release issued on May 27, 2021:

This past weekend, with the help of a ground penetrating radar [GPR] specialist, the stark truth of the preliminary findings became known – the confirmation of the remains of 215 children who were students at the Kamloops Indian Residential School [KRS]. …

To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths,” stated Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir. “Some were as young as three years old. …

Mainstream news media and politicians took the press release to heart, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lowering flags on federal buildings to half-mast for six long months. So debauched have the Enlightenment’s principles of inquiry become, along with those of responsible journalism, that it took outsiders to question the truth of this release.

Yes, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) found disturbed ground in the orchard near the school. That is because the land had buried drainage tiles from a septic system that had been installed in 1924. In any case, except for orphans and those whose upbringing was beyond their parents’ capacity, the IRS required a minimum age of six for admission.

No children were murdered and buried surreptitiously at night. Schools were paid on a headcount of children, so there was not a single name unaccounted for. There is a death certificate for every death, with burials either in the nearby cemetery or returned to their reserves. TB and other communicable diseases rampant everywhere caused most IRS deaths a century ago. Since the introduction of antibiotics, the death toll has been much lower. Many graves in recognized cemeteries are unmarked because the customarily used wooden crosses deteriorated over time. Despite that, in December 2021, Canadian Press called unmarked graves the story of the year!

Len Marchand’s autobiography, Breaking the Trail, provides an antidote for the horror stories at KRS. A former attendee during the time of the alleged murders and burials, he became Canada’s first Indigenous cabinet minister. The worst he says of his time there was that meals included mushy potatoes.

Essayist Ian Gentles says the juggernaut of misinformation began with the CBC program The Journal on October 30, 1990. Interviewed by Barbara Frum, Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Phil Fontaine, said he had been physically and sexually abused at his school. This led to a tsunami of former IRS attendees asserting similar allegations. Unfortunately, Ms. Frum did not ask who perpetrated the abuse, whether staff or fellow students. Or why he did not make a complaint to the police. I emailed Mr. Fontaine asking those questions but without receiving an answer.

Some essayists accept the proposition that there were real atrocities. I am not sure they were widespread. There were only a few successful prosecutions reported by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. There are probably some abuses at boarding schools. Was it really an atrocity to cut an IRS attendee’s hair on arrival or to exchange a uniform for an orange shirt? Essayist and former staff member at Stringer Hall in Inuvik, Rodney Clifton, has described children on their return after the summer break with their families. They were often in poor physical condition, and some were still wearing the clothing, unwashed in the meantime, that they left the school with.

Essayist Tom Flanagan scores a bull’s-eye when quoting John Ioannidis, medical researcher at Stanford University: “The greater the financial and other interests and prejudices in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.” With money almost unlimited for Indigenous issues, a multi-billion-dollar industry has grown out of pleading for money and telling Indigenous youth to feel sorry for themselves. By extension, the industry has prospered from laying guilt on schoolchildren and taxpayers. As shown in Lonely Death of an Ojibwa Boy by Robert MacBain, that includes what I construe to be a fraud, the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack charity.

I also disagree with essayists saying the Indigenous were dealt a bad hand, let alone that they need new treaties. What about the previously downtrodden Asian Canadians who have surpassed their white counterparts in incomes? Yes, Canada welcomed Indians into the armed forces for the Boer Wars and the two World Wars, only to treat them like dirt when the wars ended. But today there has been a role-reversal. Now Indigenous leaders can say whatever they want, and no one calls them out on saying outrageous things.

To me, the failure of Canada’s Indigenous policy derives from the excesses of the welfare state which, since the demise of the fur trade, destroyed self-reliance and work ethic—Indigenous cultures were destroyed, if you will. Now Canadians kowtow to demands for renewed tribalism and self-determination resembling South Africa’s apartheid. That would give leaders prestige and money for doing little. For followers, it connotes marginalization and second-class citizenship. No one is considering the needs of next generations living in violence-wracked settlements having no economic reason to exist, and in urban slums. It eludes notice that those who are educated and skilled and engaged in or preparing for rewarding employment seldom become addicts or commit suicide, and they seldom go to jail.

The billions paid out for the IRS and mass graves hoaxes are not delivering acceptable housing or any other help that works. I know an unemployed and all but unemployable Inuk who got a cheque for $95,000 in April 2023. By July he had blown it all and was again scrounging for cigarettes. Many billions add to GDP and salve a nation’s conscience. But enriching prostitutes and drug dealers does not address real needs.

That said, there are templates, notably in Asia, for raising Third World peoples into the First World in a single generation. I recommend Grave Error as a starting point for radically different thinking about what needs to be done to help Indigenous Canadians succeed in our country.

Colin Alexander was publisher of the Yellowknife News of the North for many years, and the advisor on education for Ontario’s Royal Commission on the Northern Environment. His latest book is Justice on Trial: Jordan Peterson’s case and others show we need to fix a broken legal system.

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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

The Toppling of the woke authoritarians

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Tom Slater, editor of Spiked.

If you – like me – loathe authoritarian, faux-progressive scolds, it’s actually been a good few years. I know it might not seem like it, with the ‘Queers for Palestine’ contingent currently running riot on American university campuses, but hear me out. Across the Anglosphere, one politician after another, beloved by the media but increasingly disliked by the public, have exited the stage, often jumping before they were pushed.

This week, we bid farewell to the SNP’s Humza Yousaf, whose year-and-a-bit-long premiership in Scotland produced more scandals and disparaging nicknames – Humza Useless, Humza the Hapless, etc – than it did any positive legacy. In the end, he proved himself to be as illiberal as he was inept. His Flagship policy, the Orwellian, broad-sweeping Hate Crime Act, alarmed voters and sparked a tsunami of spurious complaints, many of them about Yousaf himself. We can only hope it will now collapse under the weight of its own absurdity. (One thing’s for sure, voters are furious about it: only one in five Scots wants the Hate Crime Act to stay.)

Then, Humza managed to accidentally collapse his own government. He was apparently surprised to learn that his decision last week to suddenly terminate his party’s coalition agreement with the Scottish Greens –following some internal friction over trans and environmental issues – left the Greens angry and unwilling to prop up his minority government. As his short reign ends, Yousaf has at least managed the incredible feat of being even more unpopular than the leaders of the widely disliked Tories and the crackpot Greens, with an approval rating of -47. Yousaf – who was crowned first minister by SNP members and never gained a mandate from the people – was in negative numbers for all of this tenure.

Only in March, democrats were also toasting the demise of another despised, virtue-signalling leader who owed his position to elite politicking rather than democracy. Namely, Leo Varadkar. He became Irish taoiseach in 2017, after Fine Gael made him party leader. Even then, he had to rely on his support within the parliamentary party – in Fine Gael’s leadership-election process, the politicians are given much more weight than the members – given the membership voted two-to-one for his opponent. When Varadkar led his party to the polls in 2020, Fine Gael actually lost seats. Only by getting into bed with Fianna Fáil, his party’s supposed bitter rival, was Varadkar able to cling on to power.

Like Yousaf, Varadkar was a visionless leader who came to see superficial ‘social justice’ as his route to a legacy. While nominally on the centre-right economically, he was credited by international media with ‘Ireland’s transformation into a secular progressive state’. He clearly warmed to this image of himself, even if the Irish people did not. ‘We have made the country a more equal and more modern place’, he said in his resignation speech (my emphasis), ‘when it comes to the rights of children, the LGBT community, equality for women and their bodily autonomy’. This notion that Varadkar’s Ireland – like Yousaf’s Scotland – needed to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, that voters and their values desperately needed a politically correct makeover, gave the semblance of substance to his otherwise hollow premiership.

Ireland’s historic 2018 referendum, in which 66 per cent voted to overturn one of the Western world’s strictest abortion bans, was indeed a seismic blow for freedom. But Varadkar can hardly take credit for the decades of grassroots campaigning that got it over the line. His fingerprints were, however, all over the ‘family’ and ‘care’ referendums earlier this year, which produced two historic, humiliating defeats. Varadkar utterly failed to convince the people that this campaign to change the wording of the Irish constitution – to update the meaning of ‘family’ and to remove references to women’s role in the home – was anything other than an exercise in elite moral preening. He even insisted on holding the vote on International Women’s Day, just to heighten the sense of moral blackmail, even though doing so meant radically shortening the time the pro-amendments campaign had to prepare. The ‘family’ and ‘care’ amendments were rejected by 67 and 74 per cent of voters respectively. Varadkar tried to limp on, noting all major parties had backed the amendments. But this ballot-box revolt left his authority in tatters. He resigned two weeks later.

When Varadkar wasn’t talking down to voters, he was trying to censor them. Before he resigned, he had been toiling to pass Ireland’s own insanely draconian hate-speech bill, aimed at expanding restrictions on ‘incitement to hatred’ and adding gender to the list of ‘protected characteristics’, opening the door to criminalizing people for refusing to bow to the trans cult. To Scots, this may sound familiar. Indeed, it was as if Varadkar and Yousaf were competing to be the most censorious. Where Scotland’s Hate Crime Act criminalizes even private conversations in your own home (removing the so-called dwelling defence), Ireland’s proposed legislation would criminalize mere ‘possession’ of offensive material, including memes. From your phone’s camera roll to the family dinner table, no area of life is now safe, it seems, from the state censors. Having sailed through the Dáil in April 2023, the bill is now stuck in the upper house, after an almighty backlash from voters and civil libertarians. (Varadkar’s successor, Simon Harris, says he intends to table amendments to assuage voters’ concerns.)

Say what you will about Leo and Humza, at least they were occasionally – unintentionally – entertaining. Both were famously gaffe-prone. (Who could forget Yousaf’s tumble from his knee scooter, or Varadkar’s Monica Lewinsky joke in DC?) The same cannot be said for Nicola Sturgeon, the former Scottish first minister, Yousaf’s mentor and the walking embodiment of the prickly puritanism and mad identitarianism of our age. She looked upon the masses as reactionary filth – she once smeared her opponents as ‘transphobic… deeply misogynist, often homophobic, possibly some of them racist as well’ – all while ushering in the most reactionary agenda Scotland has seen for decades. Her already hated ‘gender self-ID’ reforms collapsed in 2023, when the public realized they would mean putting rapists in women’s prisons – which, by a grotesque quirk of fate, had become the ‘progressive’ position.

You could be forgiven for forgetting that the SNP was founded to achieve the ‘liberation’ of Scotland from the UK, rather than the ‘liberation’ of perfectly healthy genitals from the bodies of confused young people. It speaks to the grip of woke identity politics over the technocratic, centre-left imagination that Sturgeon was not only sidetracked but, in part, brought down by her dogged, fanatical pursuit of ‘trans rights’.  Then again, social engineering has characterized much of the SNP agenda since it first came to power. Ending the Union has often taken a back seat to reforming Scots, from the SNP’s crackdown on offensive football chants to its profoundly creepy ‘named person’ scheme, which would have assigned a state guardian to every child had it not been held up in the courts on human-rights grounds.

One of the hallmarks of our woke, technocratic ruling class is that they increasingly define themselves against their own citizenry. Leaders today draw their moral authority not from the democratic endorsement of their electorates but from their ability to rise above the throng, to oppose our supposedly backward values. Skim-read the resignation speeches of Sturgeon, Yousaf and Varadkar and you’ll find them all peppered with rueful references to ‘populism’, ‘polarization’ and the supposed ‘toxicity’ of contemporary discourse. Voters are forever the implied villains of the piece, for refusing to just shut up and let the adults get on with governing.

All this speaks to why elites have become so insanely authoritarian in recent years. What we used to call illiberal liberalism, along with greenism and multicultural identity politics, has held a malign sway over our rulers for decades. But all these tendencies have been sent into overdrive over the past eight years. In the wake of Brexit and the rise of a more populist, democratic politics, our leaders have been confronted with the chasm that exists between their values and ours. And having failed to convince, they can only compel, coerce, punish. This self-righteousness has also bred an obnoxious, unabashed narcissism. In her resignation speech, Sturgeon used the words ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘my’ 153 times. ‘Scotland’ appeared 11 times.

Covid added further fuel to this fear and loathing of the populace.

Politicians, already gripped by the panic about supposedly dim, irresponsible voters being manipulated by disinformation, gave full vent to their most authoritarian tendencies – locking us down and raging against any dissent. Arguably, no one did so as enthusiastically as New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, who was showered with praise by the globalist great and good for subjecting her own citizens to an unhinged ‘Zero Covid’ experiment. Naturally, she also became a campaigner for global censorship during this time, telling the United Nations in 2022 that ‘misinformation’ constituted a modern ‘weapon of war’, and calling on global leaders to confront climate-change deniers and peddlers of ‘hate’. She announced her resignation as prime minister and Labour leader in January 2023, just as she was enjoying her lowest-ever poll ratings while in office, all to the swoons of international media. Labour was wiped out later that year, in the worst election defeat of a sitting NZ government for decades.

Politicians seem to be going out of their way to alienate and infuriate voters, pursuing unpopular policies at the very same time as they demonize and clamp down on debate. On climate, they have embraced a programme of national immiseration, to be borne on the backs of the working classes, who are expected to just accept being colder, poorer and less mobile. On immigration, they have thrown open the doors to migrants and refugees on an unprecedented scale, without seeking public consent and without ensuring proper provision for – or vetting of – those arriving. On culture, they have embraced a new form of racism under the banner of anti-racism, and a misogyny and homophobia posing as ‘trans inclusion’. Meanwhile, voters are beginning to realise that all those calls to censor ‘hate’ and ‘misinformation’ are calls to censor them.

Even in Justin Trudeau’s Canada, a land long held up as ‘immune’ to populism, a backlash is stirring. The Canadian premier embodies woke authoritarianism in its most cartoonish form. When, in 2018, a woman confronted him at a corn roast about Canada’s enormous influx of refugees, he accused her of ‘racism’ to her face. Hell, he once corrected a woman who said ‘mankind’ instead of ‘peoplekind’. Worse still, his outrageous clampdowns on dissent make his contemporaries look subtle by comparison. When truckers rebelled against Covid mandates, he invoked emergency powers to freeze their bank accounts, break up their rallies and forcibly clear the streets. Of course, he’s also now trying to pass his own piece of censorship legislation, Bill C-63 – which, among other alarming provisions, would allow for people to be placed under house arrest if they are deemed likely to commit a hate crime. You know, like ‘precrime’ in Philip K Dick’s The Minority Report. Incidentally, Trudeau’s Liberal Party is currently trailing the Conservatives by a steady 19 points in the polls.

Wokeism. Climate extremism. Kindly authoritarianism. This is now the operating system of Western, ‘centrist’ politics. Take Joe Biden, America’s somnambulant president. At the 2020 election, even anti-woke liberals insisted this scion of the old Democratic establishment – a man so old he can’t even be slurred as a Boomer (he’s actually Silent Generation) – was the man to return America to normality, before the BLM riots and MAGA mania. ‘If you hate wokeness, you should vote for Joe Biden’, declared a piece in the Atlantic, arguing that Trump is to the culture war what kerosene is to a dumpster re, fueling the woke extremes. That take has aged like milk. On his first day in office, Biden signed sweeping Executive Orders on ‘racial equity’ and gender ideology. He later tried to apportion Covid relief on the basis of race. He’s a Net Zero zealot. He has allowed the justice system to be weaponised against his opponents. He invited Dylan Mulvaney to the White House, FFS. Biden’s return to ‘normalcy’ has been so successful millions of Americans are starting to wonder if Donald Trump might actually be the saner choice.

Everywhere, political leaders are pursuing the same batshit, authoritarian policies and everywhere they are colliding with reality – and the electorate.

Yousaf, Varadkar, Sturgeon and Ardern may have stepped down, but they did so in the face of growing public fury. Biden and Trudeau may not get the same privilege. Plus, while technocratic centrists remain in power or the ascendancy in various nations, they are at least being forced to adapt, albeit insincerely, to the new political reality – one in which voters are increasingly unwilling to put up with the punishing green policies, out-of-control transgenderism and woke censorship that have been rammed down their throats for years. And so, Labour’s Keir Starmer has suddenly worked out what a woman is. The SNP is watering down some of its ludicrous. Net Zero targets. Welsh Labour is paring back its more insane anti-car policies. The Irish government is finally, tacitly, admitting that it has let migration and asylum get out of control (albeit by just blaming it on the British).

The new authoritarianism is far from defeated. It is a feature, not a bug, of our technocratic ruling class. Worse than that, it is what gives our leaders meaning. The conviction that they are saving the world from a climate armageddon, that they are the protectors of all those supposedly easily offended minorities, that they must censor and re-educate the masses for our own good, has provided moral purpose to an otherwise simpleminded and disorientated elite. It won’t be easy to dislodge this stuff. But as one political leader after another exits the stage, having shredded their authority with voters, we see that the common sense of the demos remains our greatest defence against the insanity of the elites – if only we can find better ways to channel it. If there is hope, it lies in the masses. Always.

Tom Slater is editor of Spiked.

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