This may surprise a lot of my foreign friends (and probably a bunch of my Canadian friends as well), but Canada has a Senate. Unlike the American Senate, our Senators are appointees who serve for life, somewhat like Supreme Court Justices. They are supposed to be an arms-length body appointed from a wide swath of Canadian life whose job it is to scrutinize legislation passed through the House of Commons (something akin to the American Congress, but not really).
The most distinctive features of Canadian Senators is the fact that, unless you’re particularly interested in federal politics, they’re entirely anonymous. Canadian Senators don’t really make a big splash, and they’re rarely found in the headlines except when the entire Senate is under discussion for some reason or another. That all changed when Harper appointee Patrick Brazeau agreed to a boxing match with Liberal member of Parliament Justin Trudeau. Overnight, Senator Brazeau went from anonymous public servant to household name. But of course, because nobody checks to make sure celebrities aren’t total pieces of shit, this happened:
It was a relatively sleepy week on Parliament Hill, with MPs having gone back to their ridings a few days ago. But Sen. Patrick Brazeau managed to wake up everyone with a Twitter attack on a reporter who filed a story about his 25 per cent absence rate in the Senate. Canadian Press reporter Jennifer Ditchburn probably didn’t expect the response she was about to get when she tweeted the link to her story.
The honourable senator responded soon after.
“@jenditchburn no wonder I didn’t mention why with the assinine reports you guys have to make. No regard for personal lives or situations.”
But he wasn’t done, suggesting Ditchburn change her name to something that started with a “b”.@jenditchburn while u smile Jen, others suffer. Change the D to a B in your last name and we’re even! Don’t mean it but needs saying.
Get it? Because her name’s Ditchburn, so changing it would make her Bitchburn! It’s hi-fuckin’-LARIOUS! But apparently he didn’t mean it, it was just something that needed to be said. By a Senator. On the internet. Usually this is the point in the post where I say “in soandso’s defence” and try to present the opposing argument in as honest a way as possible before pointing out why it’s wrong. In this case, however, there is no defence for this kind of comment. If you’re an adult, you don’t respond to a professional criticism with a personal attack. You certainly don’t do it by making an elementary-school barb about the person’s last name. You certainly don’t do that if that pun involves calling the other party an ugly bitch. And you absolutely, positively do not do that if you are a Canadian Senator.
Of course, if you’re not an adult, if you are in fact a puerile man-child who, despite being woefully unqualified and lacking even the basic maturity that one would expect from a sullen teenager, is appointed to one of the highest political positions in the country, then this kind of infantile reaction is par for the course.
Now, Senator Brazeau offered an apology, which Ms. Ditchburn accepted. If it was anything at all like the faux-pologies offered on Twitter (endless repetitions of “I don’t want to be responsible for the fact that I called you a bitch, so if you’re offended it’s your fault”), I’d imagine that Ms. Ditchburn accepted it with repeatedly rolled eyes. The problem is emphatically not simply that he said the words; the problem is that when his back is to a wall, a member of the Canadian Senate reaches into his bag of options and pulls out ‘call national reporter a bitch’. Senator Brazeau’s attack was not just on one reporter, but on any woman who has the temerity to report on his lacklustre performance – when a woman says something he doesn’t like, she qualifies as a bitch, and her personal appearance becomes relevant to the discussion.
I don’t often call for someone’s resignation, but Sentaor Brazeau’s completely thoughtless and inappropriate reaction suggests to me that he does not deserve the title of Senator. Further, his continued antics (this isn’t the first time he’s embarrassed himself on Twitter) brings disgrace to an institution that, because of its relative anonymity, doesn’t exactly enjoy robust public support. He should find a quiet moment when the spotlight is on something else stupid that the Republican North Party does and then resign quickly.
For the record, if you are interested in the perspective of a Senator who demonstrates her fitness for the position, I highly recommend Mobina Jaffer.
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