The Ottawa Citizen
Then and Now
It all started innocently enough as a conversation with a most pleasant voice in the Ottawa Citizen’s advertising department. She explained that, based on the number of words in the ad, it would require half a page in the Ottawa Citizen and a full page in the Sun, at $4,100+tax and $2,500+tax respectively, for one day. I warned her that our ad (I use the pronoun “we” and “our” when speaking on behalf of my company, Boreal Books) might be controversial. In that case, she said, it would have to be reviewed by higher-ups and therefore to allow seven days before publication, assuming it was approved.
On the third day after receiving our advertising copy, she called to say the Citizen had rejected it. As often happens when given bad news that resonates emotionally, I missed some of what was said next. At seventy, my recall faculties are still pretty good, but not as good as when I could remember almost every word spoken during a lengthy conversation. If the decision makers at the Citizen read this and there is disagreement about what that pleasant voice said and what I understood, assume that I understood wrong.
It seems that the reason for the rejection was due to what the Citizen considered a preposterous claim that could not be removed without attacking the heart of Shooting the Messenger (no pun intended). Still, I offered to modify and resubmit. She said I could do that, but it would have to be approved by the same people, and again, please allow for seven days.
After hanging up, the impression I got when told the bad news, that this was history repeating itself, was overwhelming. If this was indeed history repeating itself then the Citizen had no intention of publishing the ad, no matter what. This was on my mind when I quickly drafted a new ad and sent it out that same day. There was no time to waste; that critical window of opportunity, for Canadians booksellers in particular, when people decide which new release they are going to take to the beach and the cottage, could be closed after only three iterations with the decision makers at the Citizen.
Would it be possible for the paper to publish this Saturday the following simple, to the point advertisement? The claim made cannot be disputed if the decision makers have read https://www.boreal.ca/STM/journalism.htm.
Shooting the Messenger
Till Death Do Us Part
244 pages $14.50 CDN
Thirty-five years ago the capital's leading newspaper, the Ottawa Citizen, could have made a difference but instead deferred to the powers-that-be who did not want what they did to become public knowledge. It’s in the book. If you see this advertisement, it is because the paper has had a change of heart.
The reaction was what I should have expected: “Did you really think we were going to publish that?” she asked.
“It was worth a try,” was my response.
What to do? What if I tried to allay the decision makers’ qualms about the perceived controversial claim (but isn’t this how you get people interested in your book?) by providing a number of excerpts? This is what I did next.
I apologize for again burdening you with a thankless assignment, but I would like to present a case for you to pass on to the decision makers that I hope will convince them they were wrong to reject Boreal Books’ advertising for Shooting the Messenger – Till Death Do Us Part.
From my understanding, the rejection is largely based on my claim, in the synopsis, that there was a multi-year, multi-million dollar fraud committed by members of Canada’s Foreign Service and administrative staff which they consider preposterous, not because the then Editor-in Chief, Keith Spicer, may have acquiesced to a cover-up.
Spicer spent a large part of his professional life as a mandarin in the service of political masters. That he would seek to protect other mandarins at the expense of a nobody is understandable, if deplorable. Following are two excerpts which will give you a feel for the adjudicator the Citizen, under Spicer’s watch, praised in print after he found me guilty of insubordination because he feared offending Joe Clark.
In a brief prepared for the Federal Court of Appeal, Treasury Board admits pulling a fast one with Joe Clark’s letter to me. In their Memorandum of Points of Arguments, lawyers for the Board acknowledged that Clark’s letter probably influenced Thomas W. Brown’s decision, but that the point is moot because neither Evelyne nor myself asked that he disqualify himself after he admitted to being concerned about the impact of the letter.
10. The applicant was immediately informed of the content of this conversation and at no subsequent time did the applicant or his representative request that the Adjudicator consequently disqualify himself from the case.
Cross-Examination of Evelyne Henry. Transcript added to the case by Order of the Court dated December 12, 1986.
I was not aware that this was an option, but surely Evelyne was. If she knew this was an option and did not exercise it, even after the adjudicator told her that he was ruling against her client to avoid making Clark out to be a liar, then her ethical lapse is doubly inexcusable. As to the actual fraud, without revealing how it came to light, two short excerpts where perpetrators admit to it.
During my hearing before Thomas W. Brown, Foreign Affairs claimed that I was fired because I refused to produce a report on currency gains and losses in the more than one hundred countries Canada had an embassy, high commission or consulate using a pencil and paper and a calculator after denying me access to the department’s mainframe computer where over a hundred thousand financial transactions received electronically each month were stored along with the programs that performed the calculations and collated the massive 300+ page monthly Currency Fluctuation Report.
The same year that I brought the first printout to my Director showing a seven million dollar shortfall in moneys that should have been returned to Ottawa, unbeknownst to me, the Treasury Board and Foreign Affairs were already making plans to integrate my system into the larger departmental Financial Management System (FMS).
I sent this proof of perjury to both Foreign Affairs and Treasury Board asking that the pension I lost when dismissed on a bogus insubordination accusation be reinstated. No such luck. Both said the case was closed. I have been trying to get my pension back ever since. It would have made a big difference. We might have kept the house where my wife had hoped to die.
As a Foreign Service Officer, who was also a neighbour for a number of years, told me, with barely concealed glee, that was never going to happen; the Foreign Service had a long memory.
If the decision makers have other concerns about our initial submission, I will try to address them; if not, I have to insist that the Citizen accept our advertising.
To my surprise, the Citizen was no longer accepting my emails. I sent the above under a different address. A short time later each link was visited, if only briefly, suggesting that it did not matter, whatever evidence we provided for the claims made in our ad, it would never be accepted. History is, indeed, repeating itself.