CAFE is in the news again – the Canadian Association for Equality, you know, founded by Justin “not THAT Justin” Trottier, formerly the ED of CFI-Canada. Why is it in the news again? Because it’s been discovered that it cited women’s rights organizations on its application to the Canada Revenue Agency for charitable status, which it got.
…when the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE), a self-described “men’s issues” organization, applied to the Canada Revenue Agency for charitable status last year, it listed the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), Egale Canada, and Status of Women Canada as potential participants in its “regular panel discussion series” on women’s and men’s issues. The CRA granted CAFE charitable status in March, 2014.
There’s just one problem: none of the groups listed has ever been involved with CAFE.
The executive directors of Egale and LEAF said they had no knowledge of ever being approached by the organization, and said they would not work with CAFE if they were asked. Before NOW contacted them, neither organization had any knowledge that CAFE had listed them on its application.
A spokesperson for Status of Women Canada, the federal agency, told NOW in an email that none of its representatives had ever been involved in a CAFE event.
Sneaky, eh? Deceptive? Sly? Less than forthright?
LEAF’s executive director Diane O’Reggio was shocked to learn CAFE had associated itself with her organization, which has been defending women’s legal rights for almost thirty years.
“We’re concerned that this organization has used our name in this manner,” said O’Reggio. “We absolutely are not associated with this group and what they stand for.”
“We’re obviously a feminist equality organization and we think the beliefs that they espouse are absolutely in contradiction and opposite to the work of what our organization does.”
O’Reggio said it was “very disingenuous” for CAFE to suggest to the CRA it had a working relationship with LEAF, and she’s concerned the men’s group used her organization in order to gain charitable status.
Helen Kennedy of Egale Canada suggests that CAFE is trying to paper over the nature of the group by using these names.
The group also claimed it was planning to work with university scholars from women’s studies departments, and specifically named Professor Sarita Srivastava, an associate sociology professor at Queen’s who studies anti-racist challenges to Canadian feminist groups. On its application CAFE said it was “currently” setting up a panel discussion to include Srivastava.
Reached by email, Srivastava told NOW that she was “stunned” to learn her name was on the form, which was date-stamped in a National Capital Region mailroom on July 26, 2013. According to Srivastava, more than four months before that she turned down an invitation from the group to speak about misogyny as part of a panel discussion on “misandry,” the highly disputed term men’s rights activists use to describe systemic anti-male discrimination.
On the other hand she also says she didn’t actually spell out that she would never work with the group, so it’s possible that they could have intended to invite her to future events.
Yes it is, and that’s where the slyness comes in.
CAFE also listed only more benign lectures and books on its application, leaving off the overtly anti-feminist items. That looks perilously close to lying by omission.
NOW emailed a list of questions about this story to several of CAFE’s email accounts and to its founder, Justin Trottier. Trottier isn’t included among the members of CAFE’s leadership on the group’s website, but his signature appears on the CRA application’s supporting documents and he is named in the application as the organization’s chair. Despite repeated attempts, NOW did not receive a response.
It has proven difficult to get Trottier to speak on the record about the group he created. In a strange phone interview with CAFE last month, a man who would only give his name as “Justin” refused to reveal his full identity to NOW and claimed he was merely “working behind the scenes as a volunteer.” He could then be heard feeding answers to CAFE spokesperson Denise Fong, who is Trottier’s fiancée.
During that interview Fong and “Justin” also denied CAFE had any association with a Voice for Men (AVFM), an online U.S. misogyny group, even though the CAFE website was promoting an AVFM conference at the time.
Justin Trottier is the gift that keeps on giving.