Maybe Money Can’t Buy Happiness . . . But it Buys Plenty of Silence in the Political & Legal Culture

Illustration credit: thehumanist.com

By John Devine

Government funding controls can certainly go too far. This truism has come to the attention of the Awakening News through various channels, including an Ontario sexual assault centre official who anonymously expressed concerns to this news outlet about anticipated reprisals from the provincial government—such as possible funding cuts.

 We contacted this centre simply to get their views (and/or learn of their specific programs) regarding sexual assault cases—since our news outlet has tried to call attention to allegations of verbal, physical and sexual assaults within the gaming industry, mainly because the major media ignore that angle.

Upon gaining knowledge of Awakening’s concerns about apparent constitutional breaches, an executive-level employee at one of the assault centres replied to us: “We are in careful negotiations with the Ministry at this time and you are at-risk of jeopardizing our funding.”

In another case several months ago, a member of Ontario’s media (who will also remain anonymous) said that the media outlet for which he works had decided not to help spread the word about Awakening News’ concerns over various important public issues, including workplace hazards created by the apparent breach of labor laws and other problems within area casinos. This is because most major media (radio-TV-print) receive a steady flow of gambling-advertising money which comes through a government agency, Ontario Lottery & Gaming (OLG).

Incidentally, former Casino Rama operator Penn National some years ago obstructed our media’s right to free speech and free press regarding the distribution of Worlds Apart, a former newsletter and forerunner of Awakening News.

The inaction of the anonymous media member we contacted confirmed, however, that casino-ad money does indeed amounts to “hush money” in the event the media was to consider reporting significantly on the downside of gambling at a time when Ontario plans to add even more casinos at Woodbine Ajax and elsewhere.

For the record, since the Woodbine Ajax expansion on Toronto’s west side (like Pickering’s to the east) poses a threat to business activity and jobs at Casino Rama, we do recognize that despite the deep-seated financial and social problems casinos can cause, Casino Rama is still a major employer for Orillia and the surrounding area and it’s important to remain objective.

 In 2008 in the middle of the economic meltdown, yours truly wrote to then-Canadian Auto Workers Union chief Buzz Hargrove,  voicing my concerns over the conflict that likely would arise if the CAW were to win the support of Casino Rama workers. I explained that if the CAW had to go in front of the Ontario government to seek millions of taxpayer dollars to bail out the Canadian auto industry, then the CAW may be obligated to approach the same government that just granted the bailout and address the allegations of lawless behavior inside Casino Rama. This effort to disclose that potential conflict cost yours truly (a former casino worker) a week’s wages.

However, approximately six years later the Auto Workers Union returned, only under the name of UNIFOR, which did win the support of Casino Rama workers but refuses to expose the fact that these casino workers have been denied protection of the law due to apparent corruption inside the Ontario Ministry of Labor.

ENTER ‘OIPRD’ AND ITS BROAD MANDATE

After writing about these matters to MPP Caroline Mulroney, the minister responsible for the Ontario Attorney General’s office (and daughter of former PM Brian Mulroney) we realized—and this is fresh news to us—that the AG’s office is highly deferential to an agency called the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD).

Indeed, it has become clear that, given the nature of the AG’s relationship with the OIPRD, the AG is delegating authority to an independent agency even though there’s little or no accountability as to whether the OPIRD is self-serving or is accountable to the Constitution.

RECALLING THE WILSON LETTER

The Awakening News, which strives to be a politically-neutral, whistleblowing publication interested only in transparency, fair play for all and partiality toward none, learned of the OIPRD’s basic mandate recently when the AG replied to correspondence of ours which asked the AG for help regarding the “Wilson letter.”

In its rather generic reply to Awakening News’ correspondence, MPP Mulroney’s office stated: “The OIPRD is an arms-length agency of the government with independent authority delegated by the legislature to address public complaints regarding police services in Ontario. As such, the agency renders its decisions without interference from police, the government, or the community.”

Without interference? It appears the legislature had no intention of exercising oversight over a review panel which, as experience shows, renders final decisions with little or no basis given for its decisions. Are the OIPRD decisions constitutional? What defense could the OIPRD bring forward if a constitutional challenge of its decisions was brought to the courts?

Anyway, the Wilson letter, simply put, is a letter written in February 2015 by MPP Jim Wilson to former Premier Kathleen Wynne, in which he informed Wynne that he had been contacted by yours truly (John Devine) about allegations of human rights abuses, sexual assaults, unmitigated workplace hazards and even claims of intellectual property theft at Casino Rama.

A detailed package about these allegations was shared with Wilson and forwarded to Premier Wynne but both Premier Wynne  and new Premier Doug Ford have remained silent about the Wilson letter and the allegations to which the letter refers.

POLICE GET INVOLVED

 Yours truly has written about Casino Rama abuses and other matters to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), only to have the same police come to our door with what looked like threats of reprisal. Yours truly then forwarded the concerns of our right to free speech and free press being violated by the OPP, to the RCMP.  The RCMP replied, saying these allegations are not their jurisdiction and sent our allegations of the OPP obstructing the judicial process to the OIPRD.

The OIPRD then sent an official complaint form to us. We filled out the form and returned it to OIPRD as instructed. About a week later the OIPRD replied saying, “it’s best the public does not hear about this”— a directive that evidently cannot be changed by the AG’s Office.

And now even the AG seems to automatically refer complaints to the OIPRD, even though the expectation regarding the Wilson letter was that the AG would contact the Ontario Premier’s Office, not simply file everything with the OIPRD—which is like hitting a “dead end.” So, the AG, having received our whistleblower information, is delegating complaints to an “arms-length” agency which evidently does not have to explain the basis of its decisions and its decisions appear to be final.

WHAT ABOUT TURNING TO THE MEDIA?

And if you contact the conventional media about these matters, one typically finds that the CBC has been silenced or at least partly compromised by the additional $500 million promised by PM Justin Trudeau BEFORE he was elected (let’s not influence elections, Justin), even while non-publicly-funded media  pad their coffers with casino ad dollars.

Unfortunately, Awakening’s efforts to bring this story to the voters in the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Leadership Race, in the more recent general provincial election, and now in the  Orillia municipal election, have been unsuccessful. This begs the question: Would Premier Ford have won his position as PC party leader (or would the race perhaps have been closer) if PC voters had learned that Ford did not respond to requests that he apprise himself of the Wilson letter?

 As they say, money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness. But it can buy a culture of silence.