The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Thursday, April 28, 2005

First Casualty of the Election

The election hasn't been called yet, already it's claimed the first casualty.

It's been apparent for weeks now that there has been a deep split at the Winnipeg Free Press between the editorial page and the editors of the newspages. One has been railing against the corruption exposed by the Gomery Inquiry and calling for an immediate election; the other has been promoting the federal Liberal party and local Liberal MP's at every turn.

Guess which was which.

Call us precient or paranoid, but The Black Rod was in the midst of writing about this scism at the very hour the stretcher was called onto the battlefield.

Wednesday, the paper made it clear it speaks with one voice, and that voice is not the voice of ex-Publisher Murdoch Davis, who has been unceremoniously shown the door. And with him, we expect, will go all those calls for the resignation of Paul Martin and his Liberals.

There can be many reasons for a change of top management, ranging from financial misdeeds to personnel matters (read hanky-panky), but the timing of Davis' departure seems to point in one direction---politics.

The day after the ban-on-publication on Jean Breault's testimony was lifted and everyone could read for themselves of the kickbacks, payoffs, inflated contracts and general corruption enmeshing the Liberal Party, the Winnipeg Free Press editorial du jour declared an election was needed, immediately. Given the paper's staunch support of the Liberals in the last election, this was a shocker.

The day after Paul Martin's grovel on national TV, the FP editorial on Friday declared "Mr. Martin is Wrong", citing "the evil that has been disclosed" and concluding the public needed "a chance to clean house in Ottawa."
This week, with the publisher conspicuously missing from his office, the editorials in the Winnipeg Free Press came out strongly for corporate tax cuts. The words "Gomery" and "evil" have been nowhere to be found, like Murdoch Davis.

The litmus test of our supposition will be whether the Free Press editorial page endorses the same-sex marriage of Paul Martin and Jack Layton even without the necessary legislation.

It's hard to say who ordered the tumbrell for Davis---newspaper owners Ron Stern and Bob Silver, who pretty much turned the Free Press into a Liberal cheer-sheet last June or soon-to-be-owners the Aspers, who were just promised $100 million from the federal Liberals. Hmmm.

No one would like the answer more than Ottawa bureau chief Paul Samyn whose Tuesday scoop is looking more and more like what's known in the business as a C.E.S.-career-ending story.

In what was an obvious Page One story at any other newspaper, Samyn's story appeared buried innocuously in the second section of the Winnipeg Free Press.

Samyn cited official documents showing that proponents of the Asper Human Rights Museum tried to get taxpayers to pay for limos, gourmet coffee, and in-room hotel movies. More than half the expenses the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights wanted to pass off onto the public purse, was $12,000 for consulting services from former Liberal Party candidate Glen Murray!

One quote in the story seems fishy, though. "We don't pay people to negotiate with us to get contracts from us" said Daniel Snidal, a payments officer with Western Economic Diversification Canada.

Oh? Since when? Somebody better tell Judge Gomery, the rules have changed.

Of course the placement of the story was such that it wasn't meant to be read. Not like the Page One stories "Spring election? Bad idea" and "Day-care cash at risk", which is part of a series, following "Gas-Tax Money at risk" and "Floodway expansion money at risk."

The Gomery Inquiry story on Tuesday consisted of ten paragraphs on Page 10. The daily picture of Liberal MP Reg Alcock was on Page B2.

Even better proof the firing of Davis was all politics, was evident in the April 28th edition of the Free Press.

Page 3 blared "PM to make key visit to Winnipeg" ... and right beneath the story, the announcement "Davis out as Free Press publisher". Right underneath it. The juxtaposition makes the message very clear.

It turns out that Davis was axed the same day- the same day, mind you, as an exclusive interview with Prime Minister Dithers was granted to Samyn.

Amazingly, with all that is going on in Ottawa these days, the most extensive comments made by Martin were in defence of - you guessed it - his appointment of Glen Murray to chair the National Roundtable on Kyoto and Martin's bleating about the "partisanship" of the parliamentary committee that rejected the nomination.

"I really hold the Tories responsible for that."

Memo to Paul Samyn: next time remind the PM that his new bedmates, the NDP also voted, without exception, to reject Glen Murray. They didn't see Murray as "an outstanding mayor who had extensive involvement in environmental issues." Maybe they'll have to sleep on the couch for awhile.

The other person left hanging by the sudden disappearance of Murdoch Davis is new Editor Bob Cox. Before he could even see his new office, he's lost his mentor.And his job is getting tougher than ever, even if you discount the political "guidance" he's going to get when he arrives.

Case in point: the story that topped the second section of the Winnipeg Free Press on Tuesday, headlined "Katz cleared of conflict" by Mary Agnes Welch.

Ostensibly the story is about twin reports by the city auditor and the provincial ombudsman exonerating Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz of any suggestions of conflict of interest over the sale of the old Winnipeg Arena. The arena will be sold to land developers represented by Katz's friend and business partner Sandy Shindleman instead of to a group that wanted to build a water park.

But if you read deep into the story - deep, deep, deep into the story---over onto the jump page, you'll find that the city auditors recommended what Mary Agnes calls "small tweaks" to the way the city handles "requests for proposals."

The only hint of what these changes will be is a mention of "clarifying exactly what kind of information must be included in a proposal." This sounds more than a "small tweak" to us.

This sounds like exactly why they rejected the water park proposal.

And if that's the case, wasn't the selection process flawed? Not to mention behind closed doors.

We can't help but think that the rehabilitation of Sam Katz in the pages of Free Press is directly connected to the fact that despite the parallel municipal lordship being established by Lloyd Axworthy, Sam Katz is the man who runs things in this town, and the feds have to hand him the cheques, and not Dan Vandal, Murray's was-to-be heir-apparent.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Hold the presses!!

The Black Rod has just learned that the Winnipeg Free Press has parted ways with publisher Murdoch Davis.

Davis had been impossible for reach for days but no one could figure it out. Then this morning a high-level meeting resulted in the unceremonious dumping of Davis without so much of a "wish him well."

Morale skyrocketed among the ink-stained wretches of the newsroom when the terse memo was released today at 2PM. "Davis wasn't all bad", it was suggested. After all, he had managed to unload the former editor, the not-missed Nicholas Hirst, as well as longtime Sports writer Scott Taylor and editor Buzz Currie as fallout from the Taylorgate affair.

Co-owner Ron Stern pledged to "work more closely with the newspaper" and he made reference to the "fine team" at the broadsheet, in the short memo announcing Davis' departure.

Wags say the man on the spot is now incoming editor Bob Cox, hired by Davis mere weeks ago to fill Hirst's chair and get the newspaper back on track as something worth reading.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

EXCLUSIVE: "Daddy they're beating him up"

A ten-year-old girl holds the key to the story behind the shooting of Matthew Dumas by a City of Winnipeg police officer.

This young eyewitness has helped The Black Rod reconstruct the final five minutes of the troubled life of the teenager who died of a police bullet in January.

The story begins as Matthew Dumas ducked into the back yard of a house on Dufferin Avenue after managing to elude the police officers who were chasing him that afternoon.

Matthew had been unfazed by the huge signs proclaiming Beware Of Dog, and, indeed, by the big dog itself who was chained in the back yard and whose native name meaning "bear" accurately describes its size. The dog's barking aroused the home's resident who opened the back door to see what was going on.
He found Matthew, winded but calm, standing beside his back door. The youth asked if a certain boy lived there, certainly a ruse to explain his presence there. He had a cigarette in his hand and the home's resident gave him a light from his own smoke.

A moment later, a police officer showed up, no doubt attracted by the barking dog. He asked the homes' resident if he knew the boy, and, told not, he took the youth by one arm and lead him into the back lane to the north of the house. The policeman was unarmed.

The resident stepped back inside his home, but seconds later he heard his daughter cry out: "Daddy, they're beating him up."

Looking out a back window with a clear view of the path to the lane, she was watching two policemen (the 'they' in her statement) fighting with Dumas.

By the time her father looked, Dumas had broken away and was running east in the lane. Her father saw a police officer give chase. He then saw an amazing sight--- Dumas and the police literally running in circles through the neighbourhood.

Another witness said that this time they had their guns out. Dumas ran past several houses before turning south, through a yard and onto Dufferin Avenue. He ran west on Dufferin, then north through the same yard where the police had caught up to him. He reached the lane, then turned east again, down the lane, and---apparently lost the police.

The account of Crystal McManus (Winnipeg Free Press, Feb. 2) takes up the story perfectly. She just passed Andrews and was walking east on Dufferin when a police officer, with his gun out, passed her. This is the Metis officer who fired the fatal shots.

She heard a message coming across a police radio stating that "one suspect was still at large and was armed". This recollection is crucial to the story as we’ll see later.
Up ahead she saw two other officers come out onto Dufferin from between two houses.

These would presumably be the two who were chasing Dumas. Another eyewitness said they had their guns out. They started walking west toward Andrews Street, when suddenly, out from a yard stepped Matthew Dumas. He was now sandwiched --- two policemen to his left and one to his right. He turned right.

By then, he and the chasing police were exhausted. He was walking, not running, west on Dufferin, with the two police officers walking lock-step behind him towards a townhouse complex, according to witnesses who take up the story here.

They saw one of the police officers reach Matthew and try to subdue him with pepper spray. Matthew would not stop. Ahead of him the lone policeman began backing up. He had his gun drawn. He told Matthew to drop the weapon he had in his hand, but the youth didn't listen. The policeman fired his gun, killing Matthew. Only four or five minutes had elapsed from the time he stopped in the back yard of the house on Dufferin to the time he died of a gunshot.

In his hands he held a screwdriver. Without prompting, an area resident immediately referred to it as a car thief's tool-of-the-trade.

He didn't have it when he stood at the back door to the house.

He obviously produced it either during that final chase or, more likely given the warning issued on the police radio overhead by Crystal McManus, during the fight in the back lane.

Matthew Dumas was described as a good-natured youth, average in height and build and no physical match for two policemen. If ever he needed a weapon, this was it.

The neighbourhood is still shaken by what happened that day. But without taking a position on the alleged reason Matthew was shot, residents remain irritated at the way they were treated by police in the minutes, hours and days after the shooting.

They say that police officers who canvassed the area immediately after the shooting were abrupt and disinterested in what residents had to say. They are still upset that police initially said only one shot was fired. Everyone you talk to instantly says they heard two shots and wonder why the police gave out wrong information.

They wonder why city crews showed up within 48 hours to clear the snow from the sidewalk where the shooting took place. They say the snow was knee deep along the curb and the house sides of the sidewalk, but that a clear path existed all down the centre of the sidewalk and that there was no snowbank blocking the retreat of the police officer who shot Matthew Dumas.

They wonder how the city moved so quickly to get rid of the snow, and yet their efforts to get the city tear down a burned out two-storey house right beside the scene of the shooting have fallen on deaf ears for 6 months.

And, most sad and troubling of all, they tell of a neighbourhood where residents and police are so mutually afraid of each other that a shooting like that of Matthew Dumas was almost inevitable.

It's a story of police so scared that we were told of incidents when police have taken their guns out of their holsters at the mere approach of someone while they were making an arrest, even if it was just someone asking "What's going on?" in his own back lane.

It's a story of residents so scared of police that instead of being relieved to see police officers walk the rough neighbourhood, they tense up and wish them gone as soon as possible.

There is evidence suggesting that the residents’ distrust of the ACTIONS of the city and the police AFTER the shooting is legitimate, and should have been addressed by the authorities. But there is also evidence that they distrust the media too - for portraying them as blaming the police for Dumas' death and giving currency to the radicals who used their situation to score political points.
What is the story behind the story - how is it that newsrooms and reporters and journalists of Winnipeg, failed to discover the obvious, and report what happened in the back lane?

Not only would they have been able to learn what we did, about the fight before the shooting (that only the Black Rod has reported on) but they would have learned that, contrary to what the Terry Nelsons claim about race relations, the neighborhood affected by this tragedy is by no means, a boiling pot of tension and hatred.

The residents wanted to help and were shut out. They wanted to know what happened out their back doors and were told to mind their own business. Their elected representatives are silent and the media turned a deaf ear.

A homeowner in the area took pictures of the scene of the backlane fight, showing police markers in the trampled snow, but couldn't interest any Winnipeg newsroom, especially, he said, APTN.

He said the police spent more time poking around the back lane than they did at the actual scene of the shooting. Surely that was a clue that should have aroused the curiousity of any reporter.

Instead, newsrooms were too busy lining up interviews with speculators rather than with witnesses.

Speaking of speculators, the CBC talked to ten "experts" -- in the theory of police work ---to come up with a story blaming the police for not handcuffing Matthew Dumas. They missed entirely the story of the fight between Dumas and police in the back lane because they didn't speak to one single expert in fact gathering.

Their reporter even ignored the CBC’s own story, which was posted on their website the day after the shooting, in which they reported:
"When officers caught up with him, police say Dumas brandished some type of weapon and fought with them."

Obviously this was dismissed as a police fabrication --- dismissed until a ten-year-old girl’s frantic cry surfaced --- here.

Now, four months later, the facts are still there to be gathered.

And the burned-out house that Matthew Dumas walked past towards his end, still stands, like a haunted reminder to the neighborhood, that no one is listening to them and no one is answering their questions.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

CBC Helps The Black Rod Reconstruct Police Shooting

Last evening CBC-TV tried to restore the credibility of Terry Nelson, shattered by letters he wrote espousing anti-Semitism and full of demagogue threats. Suddenly revived was a story about a police shooting of a Native man this winter, that no one from MSM properly covered in the first place.

You will recall that Nelson was at the forefront of native leaders depicting city police as murderers, when 18 year old car thief Matthew Dumas was being apprehended as a suspect in an East Kildonan robbery.

Reporter Ian Flett took a camera to an unspecified address next to the shooting location, and interviewed an elderly native man who is a police witness. The witness, he said, stepped forward because there was something not right about what he saw and how the police chase ended.

CBC used the opportunity to once again allow an "expert" to blame the police for the death, and thereby revive the anti-police hysteria that Nelson whipped up in the first place.

The witness told CBC that Dumas knocked on his back door, looking for someone who didn't live there. Before anything much happened a police officer appeared on the doorstep, and the witness exclaimed, 'oh man you're caught'.

The officer grabbed Dumas by the arm and led him away.

The CBC, instead of asking, what actually happened that led to the shooting, instead devoted an unusually long chunk of airtime, to speaking with a defence lawyer from Toronto. He blamed the police for failing to handcuff Dumas immediately to "control the situation."

Chief Ewatski in a terse response, said it had to be up to officers to be able to evaluate a situation on its' own merits.

The Black Rod knows what CBC does not, that this witness fills in a missing piece of the puzzle of the story uncovered by The Black Rod at the time.

We were aware of a witness who said Dumas and a police officer who was chasing him had scuffled in a back lane and the officer "gave as good as he got". This explained to us, the reports that an officer had lost his radio.

However because we could not confirm the details of this confrontation to our satisfaction, we did not include it in our original report of Feb. 2.

Now the CBC witness has filled in the blank.

As you remember Dumas took off and was being chased down the black lane. The officer caught him on the backporch where he had hoped to hide in a friends house, took him into custody and was leading him away.

It is not unimaginable that when the officer radioed for a cruiser car Dumas broke away, a fight ensued (as our witness had said months ago), the cop lost his footing and dropped his radio in the snow, and the chase resumed and headed onto Dufferin Acenue.

The Black Rod has tried to reconstruct what happened in those fateful minutes. We will only find how accurate this timeline is at the inquest.

We have gone right to the beginning and revisited the Elmwood neighborhood
where a group of youths broke into the wrong home on Martin Avenue W. This error sparked a sequence of events that led to Dumas being shot on Dufferin in the north end.

The Black Rod has learned that the youths, went to the home in search of somebody they had a beef with over drug money. They broke the window to open the front door around 1PM on January 31st only to find new tenants in the rental. Their target was nowhere to be found.

This was not so much a case of breaking into the wrong house, as much as the invaders not realizing the person they were looking for had moved away.
(When newsmen went to the area their cameras filmed the townhomes at the end of the block, in the mistaken belief the break-in had been there and not where it actually occured, across the street in a house. Our information is, that one of the suspects lived or hung out at those townhomes.)

What seems like a comedy turned tragic.

Police have been told that one of the invaders phoned Spring Taxi from the house, but that is unlikely. Our sources suggest a fourth member was sitting in a running taxi they planned to use to make their getaway and got a call on a cel phone.

When police attended the house they tracked down the cab over the Redwood Bridge to the 200- block of Dufferin in the Lord Selkirk developments and the investigation gradually moved past RB Russell High School a few blocks to the west.

It was never confirmed that Dumas was one of the EK suspects, but our sources noted he was seen hanging around Martin Avenue in the past. Dumas certainly attracted the attention of police in the North End by bolting when approached.

When Terry Nelson writes, that natives "soon (they) will be killing police officers on a regular basis" he is refering to the controversy over this shooting and the pathological need to always, somehow, blame the police, cry racism and play the victim card.

Here is our original report, and the reader can factor in the new information about the last few minutes of the chase.

The Black Rod originally published Feb. 2, 2005
Today's topic: The Politics Behind The Race Card

The simmering anger of Winnipeggers over slanted media coverage of the police shooting of Matthew Dumas reached a fever pitch Thursday as CJOB tried to separate itself from the media horde and joined CKY in resisting the urge to pander to a politically correct fringe.

One of the most inspired performances by Charles Adler in some time saw him rip the tear-jerker story shown on CBC TV by airing the audio part of the report and dissecting it.

CBC hustled leather-girl Krista Erickson from behind the anchor desk Wednesday onto the mean streets of the North End to file a maudlin piece for Peter Mansbridge to intone a solemn preamble for to set up the telecast to a, er, THE, National audience.

The story portrayed Winnipeg as a city divided, with the entire North End (looking curiously all native with nary a white person in sight) united as 'victims' against a 'racist' police and justice system, and against the rest of the city that supports the cops while their young are gunned down. Shades of JJ Harper, replete with Harper's nephew doing a blubbering guest turn.

For once Adler's "it's an outrage" act was not an act, as Chuckles correctly deduced that he was misled when CBC filmed his gabfest the day before. He predicted the tall foreheads had no intention of airing any of the comments of Adler's audience. That is because the callers had seen through the politics of the race card.

But not CBC. If anything, they ran towards it. Maybe the desparate CBC smelled ratings (about 40,000 viewers have abandoned the now third-place dinnertime newscast in the past decade, and about 100,000 since the 24 Hours/I-Team heyday).

What the CBC brass should have smelled was the stench of their complicity in the attempt of a radical native leadership to foment distrust and to propagate an agenda designed to create an artificial class of native leaders, designed to parallel the existing structure but with no real justification except that, well, they are native and the rest of us cannot be trusted to investigate this shooting or to deal with their community as police, judges, jurors, parole officers, social workers ... we should just foot the bill for it all.

A-Channel showed Chief Irvin McIvor saying he wants the aboriginal population recognized as "equals" with Manitobans. But there is a distinct disconnect between the values of most Manitobans and those of the media darlings.

The sad and frightening thing to see is who the Indians have chosen to be their poster boy.

1) One TV outlet ran a clip from one of the ceremonies where Matthew Dumas was called "our young warrior". Based on the facts, the term seems to embody being:
*a convicted car thief,
*a mugging suspect fresh out of jail for possessing a knife,
*wanted on a warrant for breaches of probation,
*in current possession of a knife (ditched during the chase) and the tools-of-the-trade for a car thief (a screwdriver),
*who was shot while menacing a police officer, after not stopping when nailed with 3 blasts of pepper spray and after being ordered, repeatedly, to drop his weapon.

2) Frightening because they have chosen to gamble away all their credibility on this guy. It will take years for the good will of Winnipeg citizens to come back.

What tells the whole story about the Native community in Winnipeg is who they chose as a poster boy--- and why. Dumas's mother said on TV he was a kid who had had a few run-ins with the the law and "I never met anybody who didn't". Think about that warped view of what is "normal".

That statement will echo throughout the city, out of the North End, into the suburbs, into Waverly West (which will surely sell out now), into Headingley (hey, new water park, no race problem)...

3) Frightening because of who the "spokesmen" for the aboriginals turned out to be. Demagogues. Mini-Al Sharptons. Terry Nelson (no stranger to the authorities). People who want to turn this into a race issue for their own purposes. People who don't care if the cop was a Metis because they want to turn this into a hate-all-cops cause, a they-hate-us issue.

For instance:
The Winnipeg Sun: "Nelson said 'the cop didn't have to kill Dumas. There is a racial issue in terms of the way Winnipeg police have been dealing with aboriginal people,' he added."
"Nahanni Fontaine, director of justice (!) for the Southern Chiefs Organization, said yesterday's revelation doesn't change anything. 'The fact still remains we have a dead child on our hands shot by the cops,' she said."

Believe it or not, this attitude towards the police is so blinding that supporters are actually saying they would rather have had the police beat Dumas with their clubs.

Think about that.
They are saying they would support having an aboriginal youth beaten Rodney King-style on the streets of Winnipeg. Of course, how would they have reacted to that? Well, we guess, exactly the same way they are reacting now.

4) Where are the other native "leaders"? Where is Mary Richard? A community activist, a politician, an elder. Hers is one voice that would have been welcome, if only she had spoken up.

Where is NDP MLA and Speaker of the House George Hickes? Is he busy rehearsing how to shut down the opposition in Question Period when the House finally sits again in March? The shooting took place in his riding yet he is nowhere to be seen.

Where is NDP Minister Eric Robinson? Too busy handing out puffed-up tourism and feel-good arts and music awards? The Black Rod recalls he was very vocal in support of the criminal gang the Manitoba Warriors. Is the Indian "establishment" only supportive of criminals? (Remember the Manitoba Warriors all pleaded guilty of a raft of charges.)

Where are all those First Nations leaders like David Chartrand, president of the Metis Federation, who were smiling ear to ear last week when the mayor signed an agreement with the Manitoba Metis Federation and Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs "to train and recruit indigenous peoples for firefighting, police, transit and other operations."

Not a word from them either. Oh wait, Chartrand was a late entrant to the "can't we all get along" bunch that emerged around the time the shooter was ID'd as a Metis.

5) And look at the frightening void in the non-native leadership of Winnipeg. The Mayor is out of town.

He always seems to be out of town when an emergency comes up. Remember Sam was silent last summer when Natives including a teen were playing fatal shooting games on Selkirk Avenue. He hasn't even issued a statement of any kind about what's happening in town. Somebody email him and bring him up to date.
The deputy mayor Mike Pagtakhan is out of town.
Gord Steeves (St.Vital) , the Chair of Protection and Community Services, is out of town.

No other single councillor has stepped up to defend the city and its citizens, not even Secretary of Urban Aboriginal Opportunities Lillian Thomas.

And the Chief of Police has abandoned his force. He has been in touch with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, but he has not said a single syllable of support for the men and women he ostensibly "leads", nor to the people who pay his salary, the citizens of Winnipeg. The Invisible Man. He should be fired.

Oh, and now how are the politicians and good corporate citizens like the Winnipeg Free Press going to convince people that it's safe to come downtown and go to the new Arena?

6) The media - not just CBC - gave the demagogues a platform right from the get-go. If there is any attack on police officers attending a call, the news media will carry the blame. Instead of providing a platform for reverse racism, they should be demanding that the native 'establishment' come out of hiding and support the legal process that establishment helped put into place.

Media comparisons to JJ Harper are an insult to his memory.

He was an innocent, unarmed man walking home in the dead of night, not bothering anyone when he was literally grabbed from behind by an over-excited police officer.

The incident on Dufferin Avenue was a hot pursuit of a robbery suspect who resisted pepper spray, would not drop his weapon and advanced on a cop despite being warned. And all in broad daylight in front of a dozen witnesses. No shrining violet, this boy.

7) After the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry report came out, the police went into a frenzy of affirmative action hiring. The federal courts have since ruled we can't send Natives to jail except in exceptional circumstances because there are too many in jail. The province is negotiating a separate probation service for them (there are now 5,500 Indians on probation in Manitoba). And it's still not enough; it will never be enough for the demagogues.

The NDP adopted the AJI as an election issue to use against the Conservatives, and by doing so they bent their principles of treating people fairly without considering race.

Now they will learn that they can never compromise with people who don't want to compromise. The NDP lost their principles, and the Tories have no balls. That's frightening too.And it's going to backfire big time.

8) Remember the civic election? The biggest issue never discussed was the Urban Reserve concept, coming soon to a tract of land near you. Election hopefuls like Donald Benham couldn't run away fast enough from the question of which neighborhood would hold it ( ie - River Heights), who would police it, and what would happen to property values.

Over on CBC radio, there was Glen Murray's heir-designate, Dan Vandal, claiming (a)downtown Winnipeg was safe - (recently disproven by the Downtown Biz reaction to our recent reports on muggings and strung-out panhandlers) and (b) guaranteed that there would be action on the Urban Reserve plan "within 90 days."

The foundation of the plan turns out to be a $2 million dollar Government House, an aboriginal "parliament building", to house some sort of council made up native leaders who can continue to treat the Matthew Dumas' of the world like innocent children, and not like repeat offenders.

(Seemingly the urban reserve depended on both Vandal and Glen Murray getting elected, since now the idea is stalled and native bands argue over squatting rights to Winnipeg for the project. Or maybe it depended on rapid transit. We'll have to ask Don Benham. )

The citizens of Winnipeg are not about to accept as autonomous neighbours a community with leadership that glorifies gangsters like Matthew Dumas, that insists it is our fault Dumas came at a cop with a screwdriver and got shot to death, that claims the cops on streets near the U.R., are racists plotting against their community, and that expects average Winnipeggers to pay for their new monument, their new bureaucracy, their new inquiry, and their new justice and social services system.

THE ASPERVILLE HORROR Part 2: cue Terry Nelson

Just when you thought it was safe to go to the human rights museum....

The Aspers, a close family, working together to fulfill their dad's dream project, didn't see it coming. Fresh from a successful reveal of the striking design for the Museum that is to be their father's legacy, they thought they could relax.

But, as in all scary stories, that's exactly when something loathsome falls out of a dark closet. Cue Terry Nelson, or, as he is known in court circles, Roseau River Chief Terrance Nelson.

Terry Nelson has his own issues with the Human Rights Museum. And the Asper's have theirs with Terry Nelson, starting with the matter of a couple of letters containing extreme anti-Semitic viewpoints.

Terry Nelson called a news conference this week, ostensibly to apologize for the latest of those letters. We're sure the Aspers would have preferred that the apology not come on the heels of the good news about the museum, but better sooner than never. Right?

We watched the farcical performance where Nelson pretended to apologize for the sentiments he expressed in his letter to the Winnipeg Free Press a week ago. His lack of real regret was obvious to everyone, just as the reason for the news conference.

When some of the contents of the letter were made public last week, the reaction was muted, to say the least. It was only when National Chief Phil Fontaine chastized Nelson that he offered his apology. He discreetly failed to mention Fontaine, as well as the fact that Fontaine sits on the Asper family's National Advisory Council for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. But everyone knew who twisted his arm to say sorry.

Still, The Black Rod felt something was missing, something other than genuine remorse.

We got our answer thanks to which posted the entire three-page letter, plus a previous letter sent two years ago to Izzy Asper at Canwest Global. Reading the whole file helped us understand what the true story was.

The Terry Nelson sideshow is more than simply a case of misguided anti-semitism as portrayed by the news media. It's more serious and more frightening, if you can imagine.

The story starts with CJOB's Charles Adler. Terry Nelson has been nurturing a hatred for Adler for two years, a hatred that manifested itself in the letters to Izzy Asper and to the Free Press.

If Nelson was simply critical of Adler's radio show, or his newspaper column, or his barely-watched television segment, then we could offer no defence. But Nelson makes it personal and crosses a line.

Adler has strong opinions about native government (or lack thereof) and his views stand out starkly in a field of CBC cheerleading and the benign neglect by the rest of the news media. Adler challenges the politically correct reporting of native issues and that has driven Terry Nelson right over the bend.

One specific column in the Winnipeg Sun tipped Terry Nelson into the realm of the bigot.

In that column Adler wrote about two police officers convicted of driving a native youth to the outskirts of Saskatoon and leaving him to find his own way back. He almost froze to death. Adler pointed out that when the two cops asked to be sentenced by the native community in a sentencing circle, the native community went ballistic. Gone were the usual words of conciliation; they didn't want the police officers getting off easy, they demanded a more punitive punishment, like prison. Adler called this hypocrisy.

Terry Nelson was incensed. Saskatchewan native leader David Ahenakew was being condemned for endorsing the Nazi slaughter of Jews in Europe. Nelson saw a parallel. You see Charles Adler is Jewish and, to Nelson, he's "the voice of the Jews."
Since Asper is also Jewish and the Jews apparently control the media, Nelson approached him with his complaint. He wrote:

"Your holocaust museum is to include history of how racism affected indigenous people. A museum on human rights financed by the same people paying Charles Adler to promote hatred simply doesn't make sense...

Where will Jews be in condemning a member of their race? ...

Worry less about an old man like David Ahenakew and worry more about what Charles Adler the Jew is teaching native youth who hear him on CJOB and who read what he writes about Indians in the Winnipeg Sun. Ahenakew never had a national television program, a province wide radio show or a byline, Adler does and as such, he represents you and all Jews."

Nothing happened. Adler wasn't fired. In fact, he was thriving and, in that, Nelson saw a conspiracy. A conspiracy of Jews. He dove deeper into the pool of anti-Semitism and found what he "knew" was there. He wrote the Free Press:

"CanWest Global Communications a Jewish owned multi-national owns two hundred media outlets throughout Canada and the world. Does anyone ever examine the hatred that this group teaches about First Nations people in Canada?...

Jews do in fact own a lot of media and it is how they manage what Canadians view that angers many people. Real hatred of other people is clearly evident by their own words and actions, long before Ahenakew statements became public.

The deliberate and effective use of media to promote hatred of native people is real. It is not only Ahenakew that is angry...

The Jewish silence is deafening. It is not just one article, there are thousands of articles and stories carried by Jewish controlled media that are evidence of hatred against recognized races of people..."

This time Nelson demanded the Aspers condemn Adler, then fire him, or was it vice versa? If Adler wasn't fired and Ahenekiw was convicted, well, who could blame natives for retaliating...

It "will surely cause natives to hate Jews even more then (sic) some of them do now and what Jews fear the most, active promotion of hatred against Jews in Canada will only rise dramatically amongst natives as they make a martyr out of an old man...Natives are killing whites now, soon they will be killing police officers on a regular basis."

Anyone tempted to dismiss this as rhetoric should think twice.

Based on the content of his two letters to the media, its clear that Terry Nelson has spent enormous time casting himself as a victim, but its equally clear that he has a perverted sense of what makes one a victim.

In his letter to Izzy Asper, Nelson had the audacity to extol the victimhood of the killer of Jeff Giles.

"Do you want Charles Adler to teach our youth that Jews hate us? One out of three native youth will become an inmate. In Canadian jails, our youth are being treated worse than animals, so they come out and kill people like Jeff Giles. "

For the record, Jeff Giles was murdered by Jason Starr, a career criminal and street gang member who had been released from prison only six days earlier. He and some friends stole a car and robbed the Arlington Street Foodfare where Giles worked. When Giles chased the robbers he was shot down in cold blood.

It's comforting to dismiss Terry Nelson as a wingnut. But the memory of the buffoons taunting police in the days after the shooting of Matthew Dumas, another career criminal in the making, shows he's not alone in his delusions.

Only one low-profile aboriginal leader went public with some tepid criticism of Nelson's anti-Semitic comments.

None of the high-profile aboriginal politicians spoke up. It appears they only like the high-profile at election time. Oscar Lathlin, Eric Robinson, George Hickes---two NDP cabinet ministers and a speaker of the House.

When it came to a matter of principle, they took the coward's way out--silence.

Even Nelson's prediction of race war wasn't enough to stir them. And their silence only empowers him. We'll soon get to see more of his demagoguery.

His letters show that one of the buttons that Adler pushed to drive Nelson ballistic was with his discussions of an urban reserve for Winnipeg. Nelson has entered into discussions with the City of Winnipeg over an urban reserve in St. Boniface, and he's not lacking delusions of grandeur.

The complete failure of the Manitoba Framework Agreement Initiative (MFAI), a ten-year experiment to develop a model for Indian self-government, along with the waste of $50 million it cost, is no deterrent to Nelson's big plans.

He already envisions building a $2 million Government House on this urban reserve, although to what end is never discussed. But Nelson's opinions about the role of natives in Winnipeg are no secret. His letters are clear:

* " We reserved our lands in treaty. Reserved means set apart, not part of. We never asked to be part of Canada or to become Canadians "

* " Canada has no legal right to collect taxes from our people in our own homelands. "

He even fosters dreams of raising a private army.

* "...we need to work together with other people or we need to be strong enough to gain the respect of white people. Under Jay Treaty we as Canadian Indians have dual citizenship in the States. At least ten Roseau River youth should join the US army in the next five years. If 633 First Nations did the same, in less than ten years Canadian Indians will have over 6000 trained soldiers."

Add these fantasies to Nelson's anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and the blend is potentially disastrous.He ended his news conference with these words:

"Will there be violence between natives and whites? I stand by my prediction."

Asperville Horror may be closer than you think.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

THE ASPERVILLE HORROR - UN Oil for Food scandal touches HR Museum

It had been a successful day.

The bold design for Izzy Asper's dream project, the proposed Canadian Museum for Human Rights, was met with kudos.

The federal government announced $100 million in funding, taking the budget over the hump. The last drops of champagne had been drained, the streamers pulled down and the banners for the museum were all packed away when the Aspers felt a chill trickle down their collective spines.

Like a scene out of the Amityville Horror, a sense of impending misfortune settled over the family. It was the Asperville Horror.

And it wasn't just the presence of federal Liberals stinking with the taint of corruption, kickbacks, cover-up and scandal. The sight of a large Liberal oozing sincerity as he promised to spend a hundred million dollars of taxpayers money to buy election support was only a foreshadowing of what was to come.

Yesterday, a dark cloud passed over the Asper project with the news that a member of the museum's National Advisory Council had shown up on the radar of investigators unravelling the Oil-for-Food scandal that has rocked the United Nations to its core.

It's turning out that Asper museum advisor Maurice Strong, an extremely well-connected former Manitoban, has coincidentally been in business at different times with two men who have become targets of the Oil-for-Food investigation. Both men are suspected of buying influence to promote the Oil-for-Food program which Saddam Hussein used to skim billions (that's with a "b") from money intended to buy food and medicine for ordinary Iraqis.

The latest twist in the investigation came this week with the arrest of Korean businessman Tongsun Park for acting as an unregistered agent of Iraq. Pretty small potatoes until you read the details of the unsealed indictment. It's a classic tale of influence peddling.

According to the FBI , Iraq agreed to pay Park ten million dollars for his help in getting the Oil-for-Food program approved. The indictment teases the reader with coded references to a cooperating witness (CW-1) who was Parks liason with Iraq, and to two high ranking United Nations officials (UN-1 and UN-2).

CW-1 says that Park told his Iraqi contacts he needed more of the promised money up front because he had used $1 million of his payments to date to invest in a company owned by the son of UN-2. The company had gone belly-up, he said.

Yesterday, Maurice Strong said in a statement that in 1997 Tongsun Park had invested in an energy company that he, Strong, was "associated" with. In January, 1997, Maurice Strong was named a special advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Believe it or not, some accounts at the time referred to him as the second most powerful man at the United Nations, although that's the least likely evidence for his being UN-2.

Investigators are quick to point out that there is no suggestion that Strong personally received any of the tainted Oil-for-Food money. But he was exactly the sort of person of influence that the conspirators would want to reach.

In an even greater coincidence, in 1999, Strong joined the board of directors of Air Harbour Technologies, the same day as Kofi Annan's son Kojo Annan. Kojo Annan is being investigated for collecting large and undisclosed payments from a Swiss company hired by the United Nations to monitor oil-for-food imports into Iraq between 1999 and 2003.

Air Harbour Technologies was a company registered in either Cyprus or the Isle of Man (accounts vary). It provided consulting on "building design." Strong resigned in 2000, saying the company was badly run. Before he signed on as director, AHT was involved in scandal over a hugely expensive airport in Zimbabwe, a country whose horrendous human rights violations warrant an exhibit to itself in the Museum for Human Rights.

And then, as if things couldn't get worse in the Asperville Horror---enter Terry Nelson.

To be continued ...

Monday, April 18, 2005

New Editor at the Winnipeg Free Press

Another exclusive for The Black Rod.

The Winnipeg Free Press is only hours away from announcing that Bob Cox is the paper's new Editor.

If the name sounds familiar, you have a good memory.

Bob covered the courts for the Winnipeg Free Press more than 20 years
ago. He also worked here as the local Canadian Press reporter a number of years.

He moved on to the Edmonton Journal where he worked with current
Free Press publisher Murdoch Davis. Davis obviously has a long memory, too.

Bob is presently the Night Editor at the Toronto Globe and Mail.

We welcome Bob's return and hope it will mean a better relationship between the FP and the blogosphere. Bob recently saw his name spread across cyberspace when he was asked by the Minneapolis Star Tribune to comment on the work of Capt. Ed in breaking the ban on publication at the Gomery Inquiry. We quote:

"Within hours of (the blog) being posted people found it and were passing it around," said Bob Cox, the night editor of the Toronto newspaper, The Globe and Mail. "There was a great desire amongst Canadians for the information. As a Canadian journalist, I can tell you it's frustrating," Cox said. "Every Canadian with a computer can sit down and read it but we can't publish it. We're kind of envious that he can do this."

We hope he shares his opinion of bloggers with the high mucky-mucks at the Winnipeg Free Press when he comes. The last time we heard from the Freep was after we exposed the carefully-crafted puff piece on Lloyd Axworthy's "discovery" of the blogosphere. Newspaper owner Bob Silver personally told us never to darken his computer door again. OOOH, we tgouched a nerve.

Sunday, April 17, 2005


The Black Rod originally posted March 10, 2005

There was a time you would read the newspaper and never once give a thought as to why they published certain stories.

The only reason it made the papers was because it was 'news'. If it wasn't, it wouldn't be printed. It stood to reason. They were professionals. They knew better than us what "news" was and what wasn't. And they were careful to separate the "news" from the paper's political leaning which was relegated to the editorial pages. We knew it was so because they told us it was.

Kinda quaint, ain't it. But that was newspapers PI---pre-Internet. We know better now.

This may be news to the Winnipeg Free Press where it is business as usual despite a recent dipping of a toe into the world of the blogosphere.

The Black Rod last commented on the shameless shilling of the Winnipeg Free Press in a post-budget, pre-convention Liberal love-a-thon.

We noted the many Liberal faces prominently being promoted in the news pages as if they were news. We even drew attention to how the Liberal choir sang the praises of "urban visionary" and former mayor Glen Murray, who may or may not be contemplating a triumphant return to our shores.

We noticed, but failed to mention, that one prominent name was missing from the pages of the shilling daily. But he didn't. Nevertheless, he must have been chuckling up his sleeve because he knew how soon he would be stealing their thunder.

For on the very day The Black Rod went out, Lloyd Axworthy stepped from behind the curtain in an op-ed piece for the ever-helpful Winnipeg Free Press.

Gone was the diplomat. Enter the unabashed warrior. And in his sights: the enemy, aka the government of the United States.

What prompted such a screed? The Black Rod suspects it was watching his entire world order chip away piece by piece thanks to George Bush.

Day after day there's been another "Bush Was Right" story. In Der Spiegel, Le Figaro, the Toronto Star, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, The Independent, McLean's magazine (not you, too, Peter Mansbridge?) and that was before the stories in Newsweek, on the Jon Stewart show, and on National Public Radio. We mean, how much could Lloyd take before he had to spew?

Well, instead of recommending a long rest, the Winnipeg Free Press took only a few days before hailing Axworthy as a hero in a page one story. "Cyberspace world all abuzz over Axworthy's Rice rebuke" sang their headline.

But it is instructive which blogs reporter Dan Lett quoted for his story. Were they the only ones he had been pointed to, or were they his personal favorites in his off-hours?
Either way, the blogs he cited, and the ones he didn't, illustrate how the pre-Internet ways no longer withstand scrutiny.

The two blogs named in Lett's story--- truthout and dailykos---are very familiar to anyone who followed the latest presidential election in the US. In case you didn't, let us enlighten you -- one is to the far left of the Democratic Party, and the other the extreme far left. The difference can be explained as the message of dailykos is "Bush is Hitler" and that on truthout is "Bush is Worse than Hitler."

Markos Moulitsas Zúniga of the Daily Kos (he goes by the handle "Kos") was secretly accepting fees from the Howard Dean campaign for "advice" during the Democratic primary campaign. He received $3,000 (U.S.) a month for four months. Zuniga is now also a major Democratic fund-raiser.

William Rivers Pitt is the lead writer for the alternative daily news magazine He is a former New York Times reporter and author of two books: War in Iraq - What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition is Silence. Mr. Pitt is currently working on his third book, Four More Years--Truth, Justice and the Ethic of Total Opposition. He worked for a time as press secretary to leadership candidate Dennis Kucinic, the Democrat closest to the Canada's NDP.

We note that Lett did not quote any reaction from the right to Axworthy's article. So let us remedy that oversight. Here are some posts from the conservative site FreeRepublic:

To: bourbon
This is a really unprofessional letter. Is this really the former Canadian Foreign Minister or a parody?
posted on 03/04/2005 2:54:33 PM PST by Incorrigible

To: bourbon
Shocking really. I expect rants from radio hosts but not from those schooled in diplomacy.The Libs in Canada seem to be becoming more unhinged than the Libs in the USA.
19 posted on 03/04/2005 3:22:38 PM PST by Incorrigible

To: bourbon
This is really childish. Is it a parody of some sort?
23 posted on 03/04/2005 3:25:46 PM PST by 68skylark

To: 68skylark; Alberta's Child; headsonpikes; Clive; UpHereEh; NorthOf45 Could y'all please clear up the confusion on this thread surrounding, (1) who Lloyd Axworthy is and (2) whether or not this article is a "parody." No one seems to believe me. Many thanks, FRiends.
28 posted on 03/04/2005 3:33:39 PM PST by bourbon

To: bourbon
This is no parody - this is how fatuous Canucklehead pontificaters actually write when they think that the Americans aren't reading! Lloyd Axworthy typifies the smug and smarmy Liberal Party triumphalism that Canada has endured since the collapse of the Conservatives post-Mulroney.
Stephen Lewis is another Canadian lefty narcissist, full of bloated self-regard, who bloviates regularly on Canadian moral superiority. Google him at your peril, unless wearing gumboots. So please do NOT export to us any of your own corn-fed Yankee lefties; we've got more than enough of these quivering eunuchs already!
32 posted on 03/04/2005 3:47:48 PM PST by headsonpikes

To: bourbon
Good Lord, who is this condescending jerk? It may come as news to him that the unwashed below the border have heard of all those marvelous progressive snake-oils that he hands down as received wisdom from on high. Trouble is that we reject them. These guys do think they rule the world, don't they? Fortunately this particular intellectual dwarf has never been in a position of any political importance. I'd hate to think of the damage he could cause if he'd risen as high as, say, mayor of Toledo.
posted on 03/04/2005 3:03:58 PM PST by Billthedrill

To: Billthedrill
On this score, you might want to explore the concept of the 'Responsibility to Protect' while you're in Ottawa. It's a Canadian idea born out of the recent experience of Kosovo and informed by the many horrific examples of inhumanity over the last half-century. Many Canadians feel it has a lot more relevance to providing real human security in the world than missile defence ever will.
Axworthy's concept of "real human security" sounds suspiciously like a backrub or a warm hug. Oh, and just how does Canada exercise this 'responsibility to protect?' With kindly-intentioned backpackers and aid-workers? Surely, he can't be foolish enough to suggest that Canada's weighty "responsibility" can be discharged via deployment of the country's underfunded and miserably depleted armed forces?
12 posted on 03/04/2005 3:12:45 PM PST by bourbon

To: bourbon
These Canuckistani tinkerbells can really get snippy, can't they?
42 posted on 03/04/2005 4:07:54 PM PST by Tacis

Soros, Moore and Kennedy, nicely bundled and spewed forth as liberal hurl.

We now know something we did not know before, and that is that Canada can no longer be depended upon as a friend, and trust is waining fast.
71 posted on 03/04/2005 5:43:47 PM PST by Cold Heat

To: bourbon
New Canadian nuclear shield, each Mountie will carry a pocket full of sharp rocks and in case of missile attack they will hurl them at the passing rockets with vengeance!!!
76 posted on 03/04/2005 6:05:18 PM PST by TheForceOfOne

Here's the laugher... Axworthy was Foreign Affairs Minister during Kosovo. There was no UN Sec. Coun. Resolution, but they went ahead anyway. Him and Chretien, Clinton, France, Germany et al... they can bitch forever about Bush not having a 17th, 18th or 19th Resolution for Iraq, but they don't have a single one for Kosovo until after the fact.
145 posted on 03/05/2005 10:35:30 AM PST by captcanada

To: Trinity_Tx
I too, thought it was a parody at first. Nobody could really be that rude and insulting, and just plain wrong without it being a joke. But I continued reading and it became clear that this is what passes as intelligent and enlightened writing among the elite left in Canada. It doesn't speak well for the University of Winnipeg, I might add.
162 posted on 03/05/2005 3:15:04 PM PST by Dog Gone

To: gipper81
"Lloyd is still pissed that his ice hockey team left Winnipeg years ago." Me too. I still cannot believe that Winnepeg does not have a team. That is just wrong.
152 posted on 03/05/2005 10:53:32 AM PST by concrete is my business

In the interests of being fair and balanced, we should note that the Axworthy article was received extremely well by the website of the extremely loony left wing of the Democrats, Democratic Underground.
On the anti-Bush continuum, DU is "Bush is Hitler and we should have shot Hitler". Here, then, is a sampling of the posts on DU:

3214930, I know Lloyd AxworthyPosted by Canadian Socialist on Thu Mar-03-05 08:36 PM
as he was my MP when I lived in Winnipeg. As well, I'm an alumni of the University of Winnipeg. Great liberal arts school! I have so much respect for this man; he's always been one of my heroes.

3217607, I want to kiss this man
Posted by MountainLaurel on Fri Mar-04-05 10:19 AM
It's so refreshing to hear someone calling a spade a spade when it comes to the Bush junta. However, this guy should probably stay away from small planes for a while. :scared:

3212658, Almost like saying "Condi, go take a flying f**k at yourself"
Posted by indepat on Thu Mar-03-05 02:27 PM

3212871, Here's to condi... A good swift kick in the face.
Posted by Auntie Bush on Thu Mar-03-05 03:00 PM:kick:

3216030, Lloyd Axworthy
Posted by journalist3072 on Thu Mar-03-05 11:32 PM
I was listening to Radio Canada Intl on my shortwave radio this evening, and he was interviewed on As It Happens. I absolutely loved it. He was saying how basically, there really isn't any debate here in Washington nowadays. It's basically Bushie's way or the highway. And he said Condi needs to come to Canada and see the debate that takes place there, with all points of view being expressed.

3216165, The 'master' comment is going to get him in trouble
Posted by quaoar on Thu Mar-03-05 11:59 PMAs in referring to Bush as Condi's "master." The slavery allusion probably went right over his head. Otherwise, he's dead on.

3216753, You gotta love Lloyd
Posted by yvr girl on Fri Mar-04-05 03:17 AMThe letter was snarky and erudite at the same time. A thing of beauty.

In his follow-up column in the Free Press, Lloyd Axworthy has confirmed Dan Lett's view that he is a hero to a new generation, and does he rejoice in the adulation. His ego now well fed by the attention, the Ax wants more.

He wants to engage in public diplomacy with average Americans through the Internet.

Having bought into the conspiracy theory that the US government is controlling the information being presented to the public, he thinks if they only knew the "truth", Americans would join the "global community" who, in his mind, see things exactly as he does.

Unfortunately unless he reads the Black Rod, Lloyd won't know - that he is only being applauded by the rabid anti-Bush camp. The same bunch that congratulated Dan Rather for his "expose" that was based on made-up documents. And Rather was exposed, humiliated and driven out of his anchor chair - by the bloggers.
We sent a copy of this Black Rod to Free Press owner Bob Silver, just as we have sent every one previous. However we struck a nerve, because for the first time, he responded via email, and told us, he never wanted to hear from us again.

Makes you wonder what he was so upset about.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Spring Has Sprung; Crocus Scandal Blooms

originally posted April 4/05

The Black Rod

Ahh, you know spring has sprung when the Crocus Scandal blooms.

The Manitoba Securities Commission has announced a "statement of allegations" against the Crocus Fund board of directors. It says they "acted in a manner contrary to the public interest" in the way they handled the setting of the real value of shares in the fund last year.

The Crocus board can dispute and challenge these allegations at a public hearing set for May 6. Or they may choose to settle with the commission before then.

In the meantime, the statement confirms the sequence of events outlined in The Black Rod four months ago.

Now, when we take the details in the Securities Commission's release and mix in the names of the players that we identified in January, add in what we've learned since, and we get a much fuller picture of what occurred in the fall and winter of 2004.

And it's not a pretty picture. It's much worse than the newspaper stories would lead you to believe.

For five whole months, from April to September, the fund's valuation sub-committee did not meet. (The sub-committee recommends the share value to the board of directors at regular intervals throughout the year.)

The Securities Commission says this was because valuations were not completed or were not available until mid-September.

We suspect this was due to the still-mysterious resignations of the staff of valuators.

We also believe it was the fresh eyes of a newcomer to the Crocus family, John Pelton, who joined in April 2004 as Senior Vice President, Investments, that zeroed in on problems.

Because, when the committee did meet, the statement of allegations says, "senior officers" realized that the "net realizable value" of the portfolio should be lowered by $15 million. That wording suggests that some of the assets were not worth what they were listed being worth in the prospectus.

(Here we suggest re-reading The Black Rod [Hollywood edition] Crocus goes to the Movies. If you didn't receive it, let us know, and we'll send one out.)

The full board was given the bad news Sept. 23, 2004. And there was more.

There were "significant risks" with some of the rest of the portfolio. The way the Securities Commission puts it, the risks came from "managing the portfolio as well as the actual investee companies."

To us, that translates into a risk of conflicts of interests between the fund and the individual companies.

Or, as in the Crocus venture into moviemaking, were losing ventures being propped up to defend their recorded value on Crocus books?

Furthermore, the valuations committee had also only been able to complete their examination of 23 of 50 companies that Crocus had invested in, less than half. The board should have known that the $15 million drawdown might be just the start.

The Crocus Fund announced a reduction of its share price Sept. 27. That same day they said goodbye to James Umlah, Chief Investment Officer and President of Crocus Capital Inc., who was leaving to take control of another company. Pelton took Umlah's job as CIO while Laurie Goldberg, Chief Operating Officer since January, took over at Crocus Capital. Overnight, there were two new business-savvy men at the helm of important arms of Crocus.

With the sudden cut in share value, the public was left with the impression that Crocus had acted decisively when faced with a problem, and that the future would be smooth sailing. After all, didn't Crocus have a reputation of good, prudent management?

The Securities Commission picks up the story almost two months later.
The Crocus Finance and Audit Committee met to finalize the annual audited financial statement that had to be released soon. They were advised there was "an issue" and another writedown was possible.

Exactly what the "issue" was has not been explained. But it was another red flag that should not have been ignored.

Nevertheless, the same day, two members of the audit committee signed 8 backdated share valuation certificates, thereby committing themselves to authenticating the value of shares as far back as Sept. 24, or almost two months earlier.

Crocus CEO Alfred Black says this isn't a "high-level policy issue" because each certificate basically calculates the funds sales and redemptions over the previous week. In the small picture, he's right.

But in the big picture, there's a danger to dismissing what they did so cavalierly.

The Crocus Fund had exhibited a loosey-goosey attitude to the valuations of its shares almost all year. For five months the committee in charge of evaluating the worth of the portfolio hadn't met; when it did, it recommended reducing the value of the portfolio by $l5 million, with more than half the portfolio still to be evaluated; it had warned the Board of significant risks and potential writedowns, and still board members acted as if nothing was wrong as they sold shares to an unsuspecting public ... It's more than an oversight; it borders on negligence.

Three days later - it only got worse.

The Securities Commission says "senior officers", who we believe were Pelton and Goldberg, warned the board that another "significant" writedown was necessary. Necessary.

In plain language, Crocus had been selling overvalued shares for months.

We believe that after these men settled into their new jobs following Umlah's departure, they learned details of Crocus operations that they had not known, and which made them shudder.

As the evaluation of the entire portfolio wasn't complete, the officers couldn't agree how big the writedown had to be, but they said the board should start their thinking at $23.5 million and go up.
Remember that two months earlier they had written off $15 million in value, so the possibility exists that as early as September the real value of Crocus was at least $38.5 million less than the book value.

But why stop there? Were the shares equally overvalued during the 2004 RSP season?

Despite the bombshell of a massive revaluation on the horizon, the board of directors did nothing. At first they clung to the reed of a disagreement between "senior officers" over how big the writedown should be. While even the optimists agreed a writedown as likely, they disagreed over the amount.

We believe the disagreement pitted Pelton and Goldberg, the new faces at Crocus, against Sherman Kreiner, President and CEO and the man behind the vision of the labour-managed fund.

The board put off any decision until the optimist faction had a chance to make its arguments at a meeting Nov. 30. After hearing his pitch, the board members made a bold decision --- to look into hiring someone from outside the company to evaluate the portfolio.

But from here on in the statement of allegations tells a story of increasing desperation.

Thursday, Dec. 2 The board meets in-camera to discuss issues including "the roles of senior management." Seeing as how they probably knew what jobs they hired people to do, we assume this has a deeper meaning. We suggest they were looking into how much input senior managers like Kreiner and Umlah had into valuations. They also discussed how a writedown in value would affect sales in the coming RSP season.

Friday, Dec. 3 Redemptions exceed sales by $67,000 to $27,000 over the week. The Securities Commission makes no reference to the sudden reversal. There's no indication of a leak from the board of a pending devaluation, so the numbers must be coincidental.

The next week is a series of almost daily meetings and conference calls as the board tries to manage the rising storm.

Saturday, Dec. 4 A committee is asked to talk to two of the senior officers.

Sunday, Dec. 5 Board member Wally Fox-Decent tells the pair that the board is "not comfortable with the size of the proposed devaluation." According to the Manitoba Securities Commission, he then asked the men if they would sign a new prospectus with a smaller writedown. They said no.

Monday, Dec. 6 The board meets in-camera and realizes there's no delaying the inevitable. Director Peter Olfert, president of the Manitoba Government Employees Union, expressed concerns that Crocus would miss the coming RSP sales season if a renewal prospectus could not be quickly approved.

Wednesday, Dec. 8 The officers meet with the board and refuse to sign off off on a new prospectus until all the valuations have been completed.

Thursday, Dec. 9 A delegation is directed to meet with the Securities Commission to advise it that Crocus would stop trading shares. As The Black Rod reported four months ago, that delegation consisted of Laurie Goldberg, John Pelton, board member Albert Beal and Alfred Black.

Friday, Dec.10 The Securities Commission announces Crocus has stopped trading shares. Crocus announces CEO Sherman Kriener has "retired" and director Wally Fox-Decent has resigned.

This past week Crocus approved a cut in its portfolio value of $46 million, dwarfing even the most pessimistic estimates of a writedown last fall.

The Securities Commission allegations has board members accused of acting "contrary to the public interest." That's an interesting term. And it should echo through the halls of the Manitoba Legislature.

Because if anyone acted "contrary to the public interest", it was the government, that had a representative sitting on the Crocus board of directors the entire time and who said nothing.

The watchdog did not bark.

And more than 33,000 shareholders have watched their savings evaporate.

Crocus will have to answer to the Securities Commission.

But what Commission will determine whether the government of Gary Doer is guilty of acting "contrary to the public interest" ?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Canada's Greatest Superhero; Adscam heads West

The Black Rod

A giant wave of names, dates, numbers, truths and lies is sweeping across the blogosphere and the mainstream media. It's threatening to overwhelm readers and reporters alike. But amidst all this turmoil, The Black Rod has managed to uncover the greatest secret of the entire scandal.

Read on. But keep this information from the prying eyes of American bloggers. They can't keep a secret.

Today's topic: Adscam's Greatest Secret Revealed
The true identity of Canada's Greatest Superhero

By day, he's meek, mild-mannered Mr. Dithers, a politician in a bad suit droning endlessly about health care.

But by night, he's transformed---into Capt. Wire Brush, foe of the foes of the Liberal Party, sworn to scrub clean every stain on Canadian politics.

Where once he dedicated his powers to fighting the horrors of unchecked carbon dioxide and the imminent threat of missile defence, he's now facing the battle of his life against the evils unleashed by his arch-nemisis - Auditor General Woman.

With his boy companion Scotty at his back, Capt. Wire Brush is determined to win. But the odds are immense.

He must root out a gang of invisible invaders who have infiltrated the Liberal Party while posing as staunch card-carrying members. And they might be, but that's not important.

What's important is that this mystery band (don't forget they're invisible) has engaged in a criminal conspiracy of kickbacks, extortion, money laundering and general law-breaking (all of which is merely innuendo and allegations and has not been proven) to smear the good reputations of real Liberals everywhere.

What a task. But Capt. Wire Brush and his pal Scotty are undaunted. Well, maybe a little daunted.

They haven't decided if they want to go after Shawiniganman, the aging superhero who may have gone rogue. He's weak, but still dangerous.

And how much longer can they ignore the threat from Scary, the evil Westerner? Not long at all, my friends. They must gear up to fight he who threatens all the values the Liberal Party holds dear - the right to spend taxpayers' money as they please, the right to call anything that clears the Party an "audit", the right to use the RCMP to intimidate whistleblowers whoever they may be, and the right to rule in perpetuity.

But what can Capt. Wire Brush do? Already his powers have been diminished by blog-o-nite, a weapon so terrible not even the League of the CRTC can diminish it.

Truth leaks out.
Names are named.
Oh, the horror, the horror.

If only he had been able to capture that wily American, Captain Ed, drag him from his Quarters, and bring him to Liberal justice here in Canada. Things would have been different then, eh, Captain Ed?

But Capt. Wire Brush knows he needs time. Time will let spirits heal. Voters will forget, the news media will get tired. And then Capt. Wire Brush will pounce.

Until then, he may need to go to his Fortress of Bolly-tude on the West Coast, as far from Ottawa as possible. There he can learn from the legendary crime-fighter Turncoat, who only last year revealed his secret identity as Ujal Dosanjh, the former NDP premier of British Columbia.

Turncoat abandoned his brethren to join the Liberal gang of thieves, extortionists and money launderers because ---they better reflected his personal values? Or maybe it was destiny. After all, Turncoat had lots of experience dealing with people in his own party who, shall we say, have attracted the attention of the RCMP. And we're not talking about the marijuana grow-operation found in a Surrey home belonging to Ujjal when he was Attorney-General. (The home, not the pot, silly.)

We're referring to the marijuana grow-operation found in the home owned by David Basi, the assistant to B.C.'s finance minister, and a member of the Young Liberals who campaigned for Mr. Dithers during his bid for party leadership.That home was located on Shawnigan Lake.

Holy Shawiniganman, Scotty! Quelle coincidence!

In the meantime, Mr. Dithers, aka Paul Martin to his close friends and co-conspirators, said Tuesday that he has a moral authority -- nay, a moral obligation -- to stay in power and govern.

We hope he's using something other than the low bar of Liberal Party morality, here, because more and more this scandal is beginning to resemble ... Watergate.

We know it's been said before. And it's not just that Martin's "moral obligation" delusion of grandeur could have come right from Richard Nixon's mouth.

- Richard Nixon said,"I'm not a crook."
- Paul Martin's spokesman said, "A crook is a crook is a crook." (Hey, close enough for government work.)

- The Nixon White House called the Watergate break-in a "third rate burglary." - The then-leader of the Liberal Party, Jean Chretien, called Adscam a "problem of accounting." Paul Martin concurred.

Last week the Martin camp declared that the Liberal party had itself been a victim of a small, it's always small, group that used party credentials to do bad things. This is what's known in 'Gatespeak as a "modified, limited hangout," a term used by John Ehrlichman, one of Nixon's most trusted aides.

It means admit to what is already known and let some lower level Party People take the blame, so that the coverup can continue successfully. Paul Martin is confident he can keep the lid on, even in the face of widespread outrage. Because he has the major news media on side.The CBC interviewed Donna Dasko of Environics Research when the first reports of Jean Brault's testimony began leaking onto the blogosphere. She didn't have a poll, she had an opinion.
Nobody cared about the Gomery inquiry evidence, she said. An election was pointless. The Liberals would win again, so why bother?After the ban on publication of Brault's evidence was lifted, CBC Newsworld interviewed two political scientists - Heather McIvor of University of Windsor and Henry Jacek of McMaster University. Their conclusion: none of Brault's evidence is corroborated, nobody cares anyway, it's not important outside of Quebec, the Liberals are not losing support and voters don't want to go to the polls.

The CBC's overarching message is clear. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. There's no need for an election.

Meanwhile the country's private broadcasters were doing no better in reflecting the nations outrage. Witness Sunday afternoon's episode of CTV's snorefest Question Period, where Chief Political Correspondent Craig Oliver managed to keep a straight face while Susan Delacourt read from the same script as Donna Dasko. No one cares, the misdeeds were by the "old" Liberal party, no one wants an election, do I get the home version of the show as a parting gift ...

On Tuesday, her mouth still twisted by the bitter aftertaste of crow, Susan’s byline swung from a Toronto Star story headlined: " Conservatives surge ahead: liberals in freefall."

So it turns out that the song "Nobody Cares" is really the story of frightened reporters without a clue what real people think. Imagine how Susan must have been dragged to her keyboard, kicking and screaming the chorus, "No no, the numbers are LIES !!"

We will not hold our breath waiting for her to come back onto our television screens to explain how she was right and Canadians were somehow wrong in having strong opinions about Adscam after all.

Thirty three years ago, it was the newspapers that broke the Watergate story and kept it alive, month after month.

Martin knows this is Canada, and he can count on the papers and the CBC to ultimately save him. Despite some aggressive reporting into Shawinigate and the sponsorship scandal a few years ago, there haven't been any real damaging original stories since the last election. They may stray into Gomery territory for awhile, but they'll be back when it counts, at election time.

There are no ink-stained Woodward-and-Bernstein's in the Adscam scandal.
That role is being played by the blogosphere. But the blogging community in Canada is still learning how to communicate and cooperate and time is short. It only took the Liberals a month to shake the stench of corruption in Sheila Fraser’s last Adscam report before the last election.

In Tuesday's Toronto Star, columnist James Travers wrote:
"If paying back workers with taxpayers dollars worked in Quebec, then why not elsewhere? In fact, way back in 2002 The Toronto Star reported that similar tactics were allegedly used coast-to-coast. In Atlantic Canada, a fantasy federal contract is said to have paid a provincial Liberal campaign organizer. Out West, a prospective candidate's salary was allegedly reimbursed through inflated advertising payments."

We hope someone will dig out the details of these incidents.
The Black Rod has been collecting Manitoba-based stories that were never followed up on.

Canada's National Ukrainian Festival was given $30,000 in 2001. However an access-to-information request showed that the festival had actually been awarded $34,500 by Public Works Canada. Festival organizers were told that the other $4,500 was a commission to Compass Communications in Halifax.

They were told to send a bill to Compass, but to make the bill out to Media/IDA in Montreal. The letter to the Ukrainian Festival was written by Pierre Tremblay, a very familiar name in the Adscam investigation.

Conservative MP Bill Casey asked the obvious question in the House of Commons:
"Does the minister have any idea at all why Public Works would tell a Manitoba organization to send this bill through one Liberal advertising agency in Nova Scotia and have it funnelled through another one in Montreal for an event in Manitoba to be paid for by Ottawa?Did the government pay commissions to Media/IDA Vision in Montreal or did it pay commissions to Compass Communications in Halifax, or did it pay commissions to both of these Liberal advertising firms?"

He never got a straight answer. Nor has anyone.

Compass is owned by Tony Blom, a Liberal strategist who is also related to former Nova Scotia Liberal party president Gerald Blom.

Government records show it received $463,365 in commissions and more than $4.6 million for production costs related to events between 1998 and 2001. The names Compass and Tremblay showed up again in documents surrounding sponsorship of the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg in 1999.
Compass Communications billed $1.6 million in fees and commissions.

Objections were raised as to whether the sponsorship project met the government's own rules. "Pay it," said Tremblay, who overruled the naysayers.

NDP MP Pat Martin has invoices showing the Pan Am Games Society received $634,000. A letter dated May 1, 1999, from Games president Don MacKenzie to Blom indicates the group was expecting another $300,000 from Compass. He’s still wondering where that money went.

"I believe this sponsorship program blew way out of control," said Pat Martin. "It appears to have turned into a cash cow. The abuse began immediately and the abuse extended it seems beyond Quebec's borders at least to Halifax and now to Winnipeg."

Paul Martin wants credit for cancelling the sponsorship program when he became Prime Minister, for firing the heads of Crown corporations involved in the scandal, and for recalling Alfonso Gagliano as ambassador to Denmark.

Here's a few things he should take credit for, but doesn't.

  • Despite two audits raising red flags, Treasury Board, with him as vice-chairman, reduced its oversight of the sponsorship program. In 2001 it cancelled the requirement for quarterly reports on the advertising and sponsorship activity of the government.
  • The Liberal Party's policy chairman wrote Paul Martin in February, 2002, pleading with him to look into rumours that taxpayer's money was going into the pockets of Liberal-friendly ad agencies in Quebec. Martin ignored the letter.
  • When the Liberal Party moved in March, 2002, to get Alfonso Gagliano out of the country ahead of the auditor general's report into the sponsorship program, Martin said nothing.
  • When the foreign affairs committee looking into Gagliano's qualifications for the post of ambassador to Denmark met, Liberal MPs ruled that members couldn't ask a single question about his 25 years in politics.
  • "This is not a trial, and this is not a prosecution," said Liberal MP John Harvard. Harvard has since received his reward for helping get Gagliano off the hook, Paul Martin appointed him Lt. Governor of Manitoba.
  • In May, 2002, Auditor General Sheila Fraser released the first of her reports into the sponsorship program, confirming the rumours that Martin ignored in February. The Liberals responded by launched a smear campaign. Paul Martin said nothing. He later appointed MP Dan McTeague, one of the smear campaign's major voices, as Paliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  • Paul Martin left cabinet shortly after Fraser's report, but he stood shoulder to shoulder with his Liberal caucus while they brayed and hooted their support for Jean Chretien in the face of Opposition questioning over Fraser's report.
  • He said nothing when Veterans Affairs Minister Rey Paghtakan told veterans' widows he was going to cut their benefits because there wasn't enough money to go around.
  • Rey Paghtakan is being considered for appointment to the Senate by Paul Martin.
  • After he became Prime Minister, Martin called an election before the Public Accounts Committee that was holding hearings into the Sponsorship scandal could finish its work and submit a final report.
Winning the election sent the Liberals under Paul Martin a message----they could get away with anything. They became even more blatant.

This year Manitoba MP Reg Alcock didn't even have to look for an advertising agency to give one of his advisors a shadow job. He just put him on the public payroll.

City Councillor John Angus announced he would be working for Alcock even as he got paid by the city. If there was ever a conflict between the people he was pledged to represent and Reg Alcock, he said, then he would stand aside (and refuse to represent his constituents). The news media reported this fact, without criticism.

Only The Black Rod called him on it and shortly afterward Alcock announced he had found money in the public purse to pay Angus who then resigned from council.

The Winnipeg Free Press wrote a glowing tribute to Angus when he left.

To conclude we return to the Watergate analogy:

Jean Brault is like CIA spook James McCord, the first of the Watergate burglars to break ranks.

The country is now waiting for the Canadian equivalent to Nixon counsel John Dean, the insider who knew chapter and verse about Watergate break-in and coverup, and told all.

- Perhaps the worst news for the Martin government (apart from the polls) came Monday in the form of an editorial of support in the National Post from Chairman David Asper.

Asper wrote that people shouldn't judge Paul Martin on the basis of Jean Brault's unsupported testimony. He compared Paul Martin to his former client, David Milgaard, someone everybody thought was guilty but who turned out to be innocent.

- The last time David Asper wrote such a missive for the paper was in 2001 in a public letter supporting Jean Chretien.

"Put up or shut up" Asper said at the time, defending Chretien from the accusations of Shawinigate. He said the Prime Minister had been cleared of wrongdoing by the RCMP and Ethics Counsellor Howard Wilson and the news media should either put up convincing evidence against him or SHUT UP and let the P.M. govern in the national interest.

Sound familiar?

Unfortunately for David Asper (and Mr. Chretien), one year ago a judge of the Quebec Superior Court ruled Shawinigate was ten times worse than anything suggested by the news media at the time of the Asper letter.

Where was Capt. Wire Brush when we needed him?

We got Mr. Dithers instead.