Equality for


The Canadian Association for Equality turns out to be not exactly what it says on the tin.

CAFE’s attempt to stage an “Equality Day” concert on the Toronto Islands fell apart this week when the proposed venue and sponsors were alerted to the group’s alleged ties to the men’s rights movement, a label applied to a broad spectrum of virulent anti-women ideologies that often blame feminism for male oppression.

The host venue and sponsors pulled out of E-Day Thursday, saying that when CAFE approached them they weren’t fully aware of the nature of the event or the group’s cause.

Gee I wonder how that happened. Could it be the name, maybe? Is the name a little misleading, possibly?

CAFE says it’s committed to improving the “status, health and well-being of boys and men” but is not part of the men’s rights movement. The E-Day debacle has renewed accusations by the group’s critics that it is deliberately wrapping itself in benign language in an attempt to legitimize what it knows is a very controversial mission. No one would object to something called Equality Day, but presumably Equality for Men Day would have raised some red flags.

CAFE plans a scaled down version of E-Day, (less up-with-men jamboree, more leafleting a public space) at the corner of Yonge and Dundas Sunday at noon. The Ride for a Dream event, which combats violence against women, is happening at the same time across the street. We hope to god this is a coincidence.

You mean, because you hope CAFE isn’t actually counter-leafleting an event that combats violence against women? That would be bad, for sure.

Ahead of the event we called the group to ask about its beliefs. The bizarre interview that followed won’t do much to assuage concerns that CAFE is being disingenuous about its activities, or that it is trying to put a female-friendly face on an anti-women agenda.

Because CAFE has made clear that it has a different interpretation of the interview than we do, we’ve posted the audio in full so readers can judge for themselves.

Then we asked about the press release we received from CAFE that said the organization was “working with support from City Councillors [and] MPPs.” This was surprising because CAFE had previously reported it was having difficulty getting councillors on board. On CAFE’s website they report Councillor Gord Perks said, “I have better things to do with my time” when they approached him.
Fong, who said she wrote the press release about E-Day, would not or could not tell us who the councillors and MPPs were. Instead she passed the phone to a man named Justin (at 3:49 of the interview).

Justin declined to give us his last name, saying he was “working behind the scenes as a volunteer” and wasn’t authorized to speak for the group. He too refused to tell us which politicians are backing CAFE. He claimed that supporters have been harassed, bullied, and sometimes stalked and he couldn’t identify them in order to protect their safety.

At that point I paused and wondered – is that Justin Trottier? Is it? Then I realized I might find out if I kept reading instead of wondering.

We put it to Justin that an equally plausible explanation for his refusal to name names would be that CAFE does not in fact have the support of any councillors or MPPs. He agreed that the group’s critics would indeed say that, which was “perfectly fine. They can say lots of things,” he said.
Then he put Fong back on the phone.
As the interview continued, we could hear Justin speaking in the background. It sounded like he was helping Fong answer our questions. We asked her if the man talking was Justin Trottier, a well-known and controversial critic of feminism whose name does not appear on CAFE’s list of officials. She said no.
We asked again if the man was Trottier, and again she said it was not.
Now, we can’t say that Fong was lying about this. But later we compared our interview to recordings of Trottier’s many previous public appearances, and the man Fong assured us was not Justin Trottier sounded like Justin Trottier. A lot.

What a fascinating once-in-a-lifetime coincidence. Isn’t life exciting.

As our interview progressed, a pattern emerged. We would ask a question, the man-who-definitely-wasn’t-Justin-Trottier would say something in the background, and Fong would repeat his words back to us.

We thought this was strange, and we pointed it out. When we said it sounded like Justin was answering for her, Fong appeared to take offence. “He’s not speaking for me,” she said. “I am the writer of the news release and I am the one who put this out there so you can speak to me.”

You know what they need? They need a chatbot, that’s what. They need a Siri.

Then there’s a whole sequence where the journalistic “we” asked about A Voice for Men and Fong said there was no connection, none at all, nope nope nople, and “we” said what about an article on their site touting an AVFM conference, and Fong said first no connection and then we’ll look into it.

When we pressed them on their relationship to the group, Justin told Fong who then told us that CAFE has attended AVFM events.

“We attend events to explain how we’re different from them,” Justin said in the background.

“We attend them just to identify our difference from them,” Fong repeated into the phone.

Justin Trottier will probably be Prime Minister one day.

Update: a sleuth friend uncovered the deeply hidden right out in the open fact that the Denise Fong in the story who passed the phone to Mystery Justin Who Is Totally Not At All Justin Trottier is engaged to…

wait for it

…Justin Trottier.

Comments

  1. artymorty says

    Trottier’s fabulously wealthy philanthropist uncle served on the CFI Board of Directors and has been a (likely major) donor of theirs, so I can imagine the “nebulous connection” that persists between the younger Trottier and CFI could have something to do with cash flow. Allegations along these lines have arisen before.

    (But no doubt some of the current board members continue to be sympathetic to Justin Trottier, so that’s likely a factor, too.)

  2. says

    Yeah… Umm…That guy in the office, that was… Ummm… That was Justin… ‘Poitier’. No relation.

    (And sweet FSM. Somebody really has to find that loon a new hobby.)

  3. melody says

    Let’s make it clear that HJ Hornbeck is talking about Centre for Inquiry and not Center for Inquiry, which has the same branding, but is indeed a separate organization. :)

  4. Athywren says

    Whaaaat? They’re not actually an equality organisation? But their name says…..
    I don’t know, next you’re going to tell me that the American Family Association aren’t a friendly group who provide kids-go-free day trips for young families, or that the English Defence League aren’t dedicated to the maintenance of the Received Pronunciation within sporting events?

    Honestly, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’d be on the receiving end as well, I think it’d be quite funny to see them get their “equality for men” for a while. Might give them a little perspective.

  5. Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk says

    Update: a sleuth friend uncovered the deeply hidden right out in the open fact that the Denise Fong in the story who passed the phone to Mystery Justin Who Is Totally Not At All Justin Trottier is engaged to…

    wait for it

    …Justin Trottier.

    Okay, I totally LOL’d at this. This frantic denial that it’s Justin Trottier is all just so freaking ridiculous – what, is he ashamed of having his name linked to the lolCAFE? What?

  6. Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk says

    Oh wait, after I posted I totally realized that they’re having a woman speak for them so that they can say “Hey, totally not anti-woman, see!”

  7. Athywren says

    Oh wait, after I posted I totally realized that they’re having a woman speak for them so that they can say “Hey, totally not anti-woman, see!”

    “I’m not sexist! Some of my best friends are feeemales!”

  8. Onamission5 says

    Oh jesus keerist. She’s not even speaking for them, as in putting their-and-her ideas into her own words then presenting those ideas to the public. They are literally speaking through her, like she’s nothing more than an inanimate microphone or a puppet. Flip the switch and pull those strings and your douchebaggery is magically transformed!

    I think it’s creepy enough when parents do this with their children, but just as (if not more) creepy when it’s one adult using another to parrot their horseshit as to lend it some semblance of credibility. Has a lingering you don’t get to think I will tell you what you think vibe. Paternalism at its finest. Yuck.

  9. says

    I hadn’t read this post when you first did it. Just wanted to add some kudos to Ben Spurr at Now for doing actual reporting. Wish we had more of it and that it wouldn’t even merit mention. But it’s far too rare and welcome when it’s done.

  10. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Justin Trottier will probably be Prime Minister one day.

    I very much doubt that – and hope not too!

    Too obvious and liar and even the group he “shadow shoguns” wants to keep his name away from them to avoid guilt by association.

    Not a promising start to a political career then!

  11. says

    Hj Hornbeck @ #1 – He was fired (or asked to resign, I forget), then almost immediately returned as a volunteer. At some point he was re-hired at as a communications director (I believe it was around spring 2012), but his contract was not renewed in 2013. He did, however, remain as a volunteer and communications/press releases continued to go out with his name on them. A few months later, a big announcement was made that he would be stepping down as a volunteer, then I heard through the grape vine that his stepping down date had been postponed.

    I’ve largely squelched my involvement with CFI-Canada at this point, but I have heard that he remains as a volunteer (or was as of early April), which is way passed even his postponed deadline for stepping down.

    As for the shadowy/puppet-master aspect of his involvement with CAFE, I personally suspect that having a female mouthpiece is a big part of it. Another, I think, is that the board of CFI-Canada has warned him on a few occasions that he had to choose between putting his name on CFI stuff and putting his name on MRA stuff. Given all the flak CFI (on both sides of the border) has come under for sexism, having strong ties to the MRA movement is a really bad PR move.

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