And now, the rest of the story -

And now, the rest of the story


In this week’s print edition there is a short profile under this byline of Senator Nancy Ruth, the last paragraph of which contains a surprise twist.

Four weeks ago, as is well-documented, Ms. Ruth advised a gathering of aid groups to “shut the f— up” about Canada’s funding of access to safe abortion overseas (in this week’s Maclean’s, you’ll see she admits saying so was a mistake, even if she stands by the concern she was intending to convey). Those comments drew an official rebuke from the Liberal side. But, in a subsequent letter to Liberal critic Anita Neville, the panel that participated in that day’s discussion actually defended Ms. Ruth, as follows.

We are writing in response to your press statement, issued May 3. While we very much appreciate that you took the time to participate in the discussion, we disagree with your assertion that Prime Minister Stephen Harper used Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth to blackmail, bully and intimidate the international development community into toeing the Conservative line about abortion.

While many Canadians share your concern about the narrowing of democratic space to discuss important issues such as women’s rights in our foreign aid and foreign policy, this forum was a brave attempt to address just that.

As you know, this event was actually hosted by Senator Ruth. It was a space provided graciously by the senator to give women’s rights groups an opportunity and forum to discuss critical issues on the status of Canada’s reputation as a women’s rights leader on the international stage. The Prime Minister did not send Nancy Ruth. In fact, as you are aware, she supported the Association of Women’s Rights in Development and other interested groups by hosting the panel on Parliament Hill to ensure the broadest participation of civil society and parliamentarians.

We wish the focus to remain on the important issues raised during the panel: the consequences of Canada’s refusal to fund safe, legal abortion in its maternal health initiative, the troubling degradation of Canada’s reputation as a women’s rights leader and the “charity chill” currently plaguing the sector. The forum was designed to create a non-partisan space for an open and rational discussion of the issue of women’s rights and how Canada can effectively regain its leadership in advancing women’s rights on the global stage. Senator Ruth’s own statement was that women’s groups should not allow these important issues to become a political football and we fear the assertions made in this statement do just that.

We believe that Senator’s Ruth’s comments, while perhaps overly colourful, were made in good faith in the context of a challenging discussion on tactics moving forward. While we may not agree, we appreciate the opportunity to finally express dissent in an open and public forum and we owe thanks to Nancy Ruth for creating that space.


And now, the rest of the story

  1. How congenial that the guests of the party want to be invited back, and are thusly playing nice.

    I feel obligated to point out, however, that when I invite people to my parties, and they come, have fun, and then I tell those guests at one point or another to "shut the f— up", they probably won't come to any more of my shindigs.

    • I think you underestimate your charm.

    • More like…"the sales people don't want to get too far from the cheque book"? Clearly you've never worked in sales Lynn!! It wan't a "party" it was a frank policy discussion hosted by the biggest cheque book in the country, trying to provide an insight into how to save their sacred cow. Good intentions and a buck sixty nine will get you an extra large double double in Ottawa.

      • buck seventy two… inflation is killer…

  2. Looks like they have taken her advice one step further, instead of shutting up they are thanking there benevolent gawds for being told to shut up.

  3. This is very gracious of the panelists and speaks highly of them and Senator Ruth. It's a shame the Liberal party preferred misrepresenting Senator Ruth to following the panel's request to actually advance the dabate over access to abortion. I'd be interested in hearing the panel's views on the Liberal's behaviour on this since the PM's maternal health initiative was announced.

    • I agree, let's stop the noise and get on with the debate.

    • Well said. Kudos to Senator Ruth and the panelists, and shame on the Liberals for their blatant misrepresentation of what Nancy Ruth said. Epic Libprop fail.

      • nope

      • Hold on – "blatant misrepresentation?"

        I've been assuming that the Libs made the same mistake I initially made, and misinterpreted Ruth's remarks. I had to learn about Senator Ruth and her history before the comment took on completely the opposite meaning.

        I think you're making two mistakes here: 1) treating the Libs as a monolith, or at least as though they maintain tight control over messaging, and 2) attributing to malice what could be attributed to error.

        Whatever Lib made those remarks should publicly apologize (a golden opportunity for some useful political posturing too!) but "blatant misrepresentation" seems to go too far.

        • I think you're making two mistakes here: 1) treating the Libs as a monolith, or at least as though they maintain tight control over messaging

          Liberal press release:

          In other words, this wasn't just a few Liberals speaking out of turn. I have no idea why you think I'm "treating Libs as a monolith."

          2) attributing to malice what could be attributed to error.


  4. As I understood it, Senator Ruth wasn't speaking as a Conservative mouthpiece, she was speaking out of concern for Canadian womens' right to choose. In other words, less "shut up or we'll take action" and more "shut up and stay off the radar or Harper will take action."

    Isn't that correct? In that light, her statement means something entirely different.

    On the other hand, how could anyone seriously profess to care about progress in womens' rights while identifying as a Conservative?

    • To be fair, I believe she was a Progressive Conservative.

      • To be fair, wasn't she appointed by Martin?

        • To be fair, it used to be considered good form to appoint those who were best qualified, regardless of their political affiliation.

          • To be fair… no, screw it. These are the Macleans comment boards.


          • Heh, I love Fridays at the Maclean's boards.

          • Apparently, being fare can get you eaten…….

          • Well as long as fair is out the window :P I hardly believe that Martin appointed a Con who was qualified, rather one that was outspoken and ran contrary to Con policies. It's not like Nancy is your typical Con..

    • "On the other hand, how could anyone seriously profess to care about progress in womens' rights while identifying as a Conservative?"

      Dunno if it'll help, but perhaps you should take a wee stroll on over to the comment thread linked to Steyn's latest "article". You'll see some stunning displays of misogyny – now I wasn't aware of this, but apparently if a woman with child is left by her husband, then it is entirely her fault (or more likely she left her husband in order to spitefully stick him with child support payments). Oh, and we should force women on public assisstance to take depo-provera. Fascinating stuff really.

      By the by, "Style" was doing some yeoman's work over there and should be commended. His/Her comically low rating is a direct result of challenging the SDA crowd on their central beliefs about welfare.

      • I tried reading the comments on Steyn's article. I had to come back to the blogs, because they were burning my eyes.

        • I think it's kind of intriguing…how they've pretty much internalized the meme that anybody to the left of Ayn Rand is a frothing Communist Nazi or Marxist Socialist.

          They *actually* think that Obama is a socialist. I've known socialists, worked with socialists, socialists have been my friends, and Mr. Obama is no socialist.

      • Thanks for the tip – good lord, I had no idea there was an SDA stampede on this site.

        Style has my sympathy. A negative 244 rating for calling Steyn a worthless hack? And having read a bunch of the other columns, well, I think I need a shower and a drink.

        • I still remember the first time I came across Mark Steyn – I thought he was a lesser Colbert. Imagine my surprise when I found out that he was actually serious.

          Personally I think it's a stain on this august publication to be giving a forum to someone whose sole puprose in life is to whip up hate and discord. He's an odious little man and may God have mercy upon his soul.

      • Thanks, it's a different world over there. I hadn't appreciated how civil and constructive the discussions are on the other Macleans blogs before I wandered into that one.

        You didn't see the guy claiming that most (50 to 75%) of single mothers are prostitutes (he's seen the secret government documents that prove this, but he can't share them).

        • There should be separate commenting scores for Steyn's blog. Wear your -60 like a badge of honor.

        • I wish people wouldn't do that. It discourages commenters from expressing points of view that run against the prevailing opinions of other commenters. On a Wherry thread almost any right-leaning comment will get thumbed down regardless of quality, and on a Steyn thread almost any left-leaning comment. Does it really accomplish anything to segregate commenters by viewpoint? Carried to extremes we'd just have separate echo-chambers.

          I completely ignore thumb-ratings and don't thumb people down unless they're really rude – it's about quality, not viewpoint. But a lot of folks seem to treat it as a venue for personal vendettas or go around thumbing down anything with which they disagree. Very childish.

          Basically the whole thumb-rating system is not only useless, but worse than useless.

          Perhaps it could be salvaged if people are able to thumb good comments up, but not down. Then at least the idiotic down-rating-for-anything-with-which-I-disagree or automatic-down-rating-for-this-particular-commenter will stop.

          • I'll have to disagree with something strongly enough to respond to it in order to thumb it down (gee, that doesn't sound right. Assign it a thumbs down?)

            I won't thumb and run.

          • I use the thumbs quite a bit….if nothing else I find that (when I return to a thread) it is a very nice visual cue to mark new material from posts that I have already purused.

            But, similar to you, I do try to use the thumbs more as feedback for style rather than for viewpoint.

            Modifying your suggestion to only allow up thumbs, I'd propose that both of the existing thumbs be kept, and a third "neutral" thumb is added. Just blue skying…….

          • "Carried to extremes we'd just have separate echo-chambers."

            I'd say the thumbs up/down on the Steyn thread have been carried to extremes – I've never seen triple-digit numbers here before, and certainly not on a Wherry thread.

          • Agreed on the comment ratings. Obviously, it's not nearly as bad on the Wherry threads as on the Steyn threads, but it's certainly a barrier to reasonable discourse. At least on the Wherry threads we generally have the same cadre of commentators, so the rating bias isn't as pronounced (and, fully recognizing my own bias here, I'd say reasonable right-of-center comments at least retain mediocre ratings there, even though unreasonable left-of-center ones shoot up undeservedly).

            But then again, just a day or two ago on a Wherry I noticed you and I posted more or less the same thought, I was at +4, you were at -4. Didn't make sense (grrr liberal web media?)

          • Actually now that I look back over it, Style's comment referred to Steyn as a "worthless hack" and an "idiot". So it was pretty rude….and hence well deserving of the thumb-downs.

            However, for cases where a lefty actually posts something civil on a Steyn thread, the thumb rating gets very infantile very quickly just as it does on Wherry threads.

          • Actually, now that I look back over it, I notice that you, whom I always assumed liked to position him/herself as a moderate conservative, said nothing when those on your side of the aisle claimed that most single mothers are prostitutes, or that women on welfare should be forced into taking birth control, and did nothing to defend "Style", whom you knew to be someone who posted in good faith.

            (and to even consider comparing the content on a Wherry thread to a Steyn thread beggars belief.)

          • Fair enough – but given the overwhelmingly high positives for subsequent comments calling me a retard, illiterate, stupidd butt etc., I don't think it's my intemperance that offended people.

        • This has to be an IntenseDebate record. At the moment, your Steyn-bashing comment is sitting at -267, with 122 replies. There are tens of thousands of Steyn fans around the world who visit just to read his columns, and hundreds of them obviously have ID accounts.

        • Oh man, I totally missed that one! Mine eyes understandably glazed over far too soon it would seem.

          That one's going in the crazy bank – the l'il lady won't believe it when I tell her (she's only recently discovered the lunacy residing at the Toronto Star's message board…and I don't have the heart to tell her about the G&M just yet ;)

  5. As a sometime activist I've heard this kind of advice before about how we should be careful not to criticize publicly or too stridently because someone is working "behind the scenes to get this done."

    Invariably the person working behind the scenes just becomes more and more compromised until they are as obdurate as the system they are ostensibly trying to change. If Senator Ruth, or others who are fighting the good fight internally, want to prevent that from happening, they should spend more time listening to and taking the advice from the advocates, and become comfortable with their public criticism, because being quiet has NEVER worked.

  6. Because deluded lefties are using abortion as a wedge issue, a compassionate conservative gives sound advice and gets whipped by the mob. It is the local political abortion angle that's the problem not the maternal health initiative.

    What a shame for the left that the agrieved parties have acted honorably and recognized that sometimes help for avoiding harm (by allying with a antagonistic position) is just as important as helping their cause. They were given sound (colloquial) advice on how to proceed without throwing out the baby with the bath water (sorry, but better than the fetus with the amniotic fluid) and post facto, it looks like Sen Ruth gave sound (though unpopular) counsel.

    • Telling people to STFU in no way furthers debate. I don't care how well-intentioned it is, or whose mouth utters it.

      We wouldn't be having this discussion if Ruth had said "pick your battles," even though, most of the time, that's what I think she meant.

    • This became an issue when the Cons decided to have a different foreign policy than national policy. Had they maintained the status quo we wouldn't be having this discussion at all.

      • Actually the Cons would have been quite happy with the status quo until the Libs decided to turn it into a wedge issue.

        • No doubt they were ignorant of and thus complacent about the status quo, until they decided to actually pretend they cared about maternal health. Then the poor ignorant Conservatvies became aware that maternal health includes icky things like contraception and safe, legal abortion, and they made fools of themselves again and again on the issue, while trying to caterf to their base of stupid people.

          The fact is that the Liberals are not competent or courageous enough to make Conservativew look like fools, but Conservatives do it quite well themselves.

    • Now, this is how the thumb thing works. "Deluded lefties' makes my thumb act on its very own. It heads straight to the 'down' and then I don't need to read the rest of the comment. Not a 'style' decision; it has to do with civility.

      • Nice to see that you "self indentify" with the wrong side of the equation. The actual organizations trying to help out others get it…why am I not surprised you don't?

  7. Here's what Anita Neville said at the time:

    Sending Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth to threaten and blackmail Canada's foreign aid community is the most extreme example yet of how this deceitful and intolerant Prime Minister operates.

    Pretty sad, Anita. Let's see if you have the decency to apologize to Nancy Ruth for falsely accusing her of threatening and blackmailing.

    • I thought the Liberals missed the boat big time. They should have hailed Nancy Ruth for speaking the truth, they completely misser her point. Which really, isn't all that shocking.

      • I agree–not shocking at all, really. Yet another example of the Liberals choosing to take the low road, and falling flat on their faces.

        • So you agree that Harper is a vindictive jerk who will cut funding to women's groups which criticize his policies.

          You do realize that battered women are advised to keep quiet find that it doesn't work. The batterers will always find excuses to keep hitting them.

  8. It's not "Ms. Ruth" or "Senator Ruth." She's like Cher or Madonna; she no longer uses a last name. So it's always Nancy Ruth. How is this so hard?

    • Fair enough, but it IS harder than Cher or Madonna. Those two each have one first name and no last name. Nancy Ruth has two first names and no last name. I agree that people should have figured this out by now, but it's not exactly a crazy error to make. Heck, I'd probably even make it, and I know it's a mistake.

      I don't think it's all that bad that people continue to presume that Senator Nancy Ruth's given name is Nancy and that her surname is Ruth, or that they occasionally make that mistake in writing her name. It's an entirely unconventional naming convention she has going, even more so than Madonna or Cher. Are there any other examples out there of well-known people who have TWO unhyphenated given names but don't use a surname? 'Cause another analogy might help people remember. One way to remember the proper use of Senator Nancy Ruth's name? She's found in alphabetical lists of Senators under "N" not "R".

      • Madonna Louise Ciccone, actually, though she's only known by her first name.

    • How is this so hard?

      Because most of us normal people, when we hear two non-hyphenated names for one person, reach the conclusion that we are hearing a first and a last name. Especially when preceded by an honorific like "Senator." Come to think of it, I bet most abnormal people leap to that very same conclusion.

      It seems weird having to commit that explanation to 1's and 0's on a Rogers hard drive. But I hope that helps you in your understanding of our obvious mortal failings as mere ordinary humans.

    • It's obnoxious beyond belief and unacceptably immature for a Senator.