Clarification regarding recent media reports

Elizabeth May

The unfolding of the secret, vicious and violent life of one of Canada’s most popular radio hosts has dominated the news in Canada this week.  In the course of a fast-moving story, I initially defended Jian, as a friend, then learned of the actual accusations and apologised for my initial reaction. 

Unfortunately, another misunderstanding has surfaced which I need to correct – the absurd idea that I was upset by the Ottawa shootings and blamed that for my initial reaction. I never did that.

First, just to nail this down (given that tweets circulate as though they are “fresh” when they are out of date), I sent out a tweet late Sunday night. The next day, after reading the media accounts, realizing four women were sharing their stories of being sexually victimized, I wrote a blog apologizing for not waiting to see what was being shared before suggesting I supported Jian in relation to those charges. 

When the accusations were made clear, I supported the women involved. Though I still insist on the legal principle of the presumption of innocence, I cannot insist on it in a way that would ever cast doubt on the experience of any woman. As a lawyer, too, I also acknowledge the role that the criminal justice system can sometimes play in re-victimizing women and I understand and support the women who wish to remain anonymous. I commend the actor Lucy DeCoutere for her bravery in coming forward.

Subsequent to all that, I was interviewed by Laura Kane of Canadian Press. I expressed regret that I had not waited to see what was being shared before tweeting support. And I said I wished I had waited to see the nature of the allegations before relying on Jian Ghomeshi’s self-serving Facebook post to frame the nature of what would be revealed against him.  I reiterated my support for any woman who has faced a violent assault. Tweets out of context had been flying around (and continue to circulate). 

One tweet accused me of “buying into rape culture” which I took to mean being accepting and contributing to a culture that normalizes violence against women and silences their voices – or worse, even celebrates it as in the “rape chants” in frosh week last year.  To correct that, I tweeted back that “as a feminist I do not buy into rape culture.” I would have used quotes around the words but it was too much for the 140-character space of Twitter.

All of this I explained to Laura Kane.  At the end of the interview she asked if reflecting on all this, I had any lessons learned about Twitter.  And thinking it over, reconstructing sending the tweet between flights Sunday, I said that it reinforced that I always need to review what I have written and reconsider before hitting “tweet.”  That is my usual practice, but on Sunday night I was still feeling somewhat unsettled.  She asked why and I explained that it had been because of the experience of being in lock down for ten hours on Wednesday, the “close calls” for so many of my friends, and that I was a bit more emotional than usual.  I never “blamed” my actions on the shootings.  It was a question about lessons learned. Stop and review every message before hitting tweet. In times of additional stress, be double sure.