Rain It In
June’s cover story, “Owen’s Ark,” surprised me. Calgary survived the flood because it was prepared? The community came together not because of any official preparedness, but through a common desire to help others. My family was hit by the deluge; we lost half of our home and possessions. But we saw no sign of official involvement until a week later, when garbage trucks were sent into the hardest hit communities. They hauled away the mud and debris that had been shovelled, tossed, carried, and dragged by the thousands of people who just showed up—who weren’t sent by anyone, who were caked in filth, who worked twelve-hour days, and who brought food and water, along with smiles, laughter, and words of encouragement.
A year later, we are fighting for the promised relief money—handled by an agency that says it “wasn’t prepared for a natural disaster of this size.” We are repairing houses and installing in-home flood-mitigation systems required by the government. Some of us can’t even move back yet, and are having to deal with the straining costs of both rent and mortgage payments.
I noticed your cover line at a local grocery store, and I pointed it out to those standing in line. We all just laughed.
“Owen’s Ark” is fantastic, up until the vacationing Chris Turner smugly mentions rebooking flights and returning home weeks later to the illusion of a city where nothing had happened. Make no mistake—that was just an illusion. In those few weeks, thousands of Calgarians busted their butts to help their neighbours clean up. I hope the author got a nice tan.
Jesse Brown astutely describes the dearth of mainstream media criticism in Canada (“Nobody’s a Critic,” June). However, he fails to mention one organization that has provided just that since 2007: the non-profit Canadian Journalism Project. Its websites (the English j-source.ca and the French projetj.ca) are supported by many of the country’s university and college journalism schools; they break news and offer commentary, criticism, and resources by journalists and academics, all with a tiny staff (one for each). Canadian media and journalism is their beat, and they cover it well: indeed, three years before the Globe and Mail spoke publicly about Margaret Wente’s attributions, the Canadian Journalism Project was raising the issue.
Journalists can become complacent, but that trap is no different than it was thirty years ago. The Internet provides a great forum for policing the media, as evidenced by the Wente fiasco, but we can’t let a system of volunteer bloggers and tweeters take the place of real media reporting.
— katharine blair (@katharine_blair) June 7, 2014
— Carly Lewis (@carlylewis) June 5, 2014
— JohnRalstonSaul (@JohnRalstonSaul) July 9, 2014
Hugh Brewster’s “Outcasts” (June) is an important reminder, in this season of pride celebrations and WorldPride, that we owe a debt of gratitude to Jim Egan and his partner, Jack Nesbit. Egan, in particular, stood up for gay rights when it wasn’t personally profitable to do so.
“We respected him, loved him, and, as long as we live, we'll miss the pleasure of his company,” Gay lib, Cdn. style: http://t.co/k6YNDVvW4f
— Alec_Scott (@Alec_Scott) July 10, 2014
I take exception to the fact checking of “Canned Laughs” (June). What really hurt Servitude, which I wrote and produced, weren’t negative reviews, but the consolidation of distribution companies that threatens all filmmakers. Maple Pictures, our distributor from day one, was thrilled with the movie, but was bought by Alliance Films the same day Servitude celebrated a sold-out world premiere. Alliance had no stake in the film, and treated it as such. (Alliance Films itself no longer exists; Entertainment One purchased it in 2012.)
I stand by Servitude—the first picture to emerge from the Telefilm Canada Features Comedy Lab. While it might not be to everyone’s taste (and clearly not to Jason Anderson’s), it plays extremely well with fourteen-year-old boys. As Ivan Reitman said to me, “It earned big laughs from beginning to end, and that’s hard to do.”
Too bad Dave Cameron and Jim Cameron consistently use gendered pronouns to refer to the goalie—a position played by both men and women (“Behind the Mask,” June). Consider this: “Maybe we can’t see past the goalie’s singular equipment. In his hulking getup, he could safely be mauled by a bear. The aura falls away when we spy him in plain clothes.” Here, the goalie as a symbol for Canada becomes exclusively male. True, the writers focus on NHL goalies, who are usually men (though Manon Rhéaume played two exhibition games in the early ’90s). But that is no excuse; they also refer to junior and house leagues.
Lac La Biche, AB
John Macfarlane’s point about the CBC retooling and setting a new, improved course is well-taken (Editor’s Note, June). To extend his metaphor, serving up cultural broccoli fulfills the public broadcaster’s mandate better than its current fast-food options, particularly on the TV side. However, budgetary “trimming” by successive governments seems less about eliminating redundancies and more about ideology.
Necessity may well be the mother of invention, but let us not be content with budgetary crumbs. It is a slippery slope to the CBC’s outright elimination.
“Stand Down” (July/August) referenced the findings of the coroner’s inquest into Steve Mesic’s death before that inquest had concluded. The Walrus regrets this and two other errors, which are corrected online.
This appeared in the September 2014 issue.