Friday January 05, 2018

January 4, 2017 episode transcript

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The AIH Transcript for January 4, 2018

Hosts: Carol Off and Jeff Douglas



CAROL OFF: Hello, I'm Carol Off.

JEFF DOUGLAS: Good evening. I'm Jeff Douglass. This is As It Happens.

[Music: Theme]

JD: Tonight:

CO: “Double-double” toil and trouble. A Tim Hortons in Ontario cuts breaks and benefits for workers, blaming the minimum wage hike — but since the owners are the children of the chain's founders, that seems a Timbit much.

JD: They've contained multitudes. Iranian officials are trying to stifle ongoing protests by restricting internet access. And our guest says the regime's tactics appear to be working.

CO: Burying the hatchet job. While the White House sees red over a new book detailing the incompetence of the Trump administration, the Washington Post's media critic points out its author has not always been totally competent.

JD: Doubling down… way down. Senator Lynn Beyak claims she has letters of support from lots of Canadians about her views on residential schools. But many of her colleagues don't support her at all.

CO: Soul custody. With an ear for music and an eye for talent, the late Rick Hall made the Alabama town of Muscle Shoals synonymous with R&B and Soul, and helped make up-and-comers like Aretha Franklin into stars.

JD: And… running on empty. Online media got a lot of mileage out of the story that Oregon residents are panicked about new self-serve gas stations. But the truth is Oregonians really have no problem getting the unleaded out.

JD: As It Happens, the Thursday edition. Radio doesn't suffer fuels gladly.

[Music: Theme]

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Part one: Tim Hortons minimum wage, Steve Bannon book, Lynn Beyak

Tim Hortons minimum wage

Guest: Douglas Hunter

JD: This new year, your cup of coffee at Tim Hortons costs you pretty much the same as it did last year. The trouble is depending where you get it, the people who serve it might be paying the price. As you may have heard on the news, a franchise of the coffee chain in Cobourg, Ontario is cutting paid breaks and other benefits for its staff. One of those employees spoke to CBC News. We have modified their voice because they fear they might lose their job for speaking out.


SPEAKER: I was shocked because I put 10-plus years in the company. I figured maybe we had some perks of senior staff there that we would be able to keep our benefits. So I was a little shocked to lose that. That's a hard hit for me financially. I have a mortgage, everything else to pay, and I thought I was in heaven when this legislation was put there to help the minimum-wage employees make a little more money, and we're losing more than what we’re gaining.

JD: That was an employee at the Tim Hortons franchise in Cobourg, Ontario. The owners — who are the children of the chain's co-founders — they blame the province's increase in the minimum-wage. Douglas Hunter is the author of a book about the Tim Hortons chain called, "Double Double." We reached him in Port McNicoll, Ontario.

CO: Douglas, this afternoon, the Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne called the owner of this franchise, Ron Joyce Jr., She called him a bully. Would you agree with that?

DOUGLAS HUNTER: Well, it's setting up the way I think the Premier would like it to go, which is the heir to a large restaurant fortune taking on the minimum-wage people. And I have great empathy for the minimum-wage people, but I think this is turning into kind of a binary fight. When really I think this is a two franchisees operation. Forget the fact that there’s anything to do with Ron Joyce and the Tim Hortons fortune. There's 3,500-plus Tim Hortons in Canada. There's 1,400 McDonald's in Canada. We have a very big low wage and minimum wage service sector, and this is the trickle down we're having.

CO: Okay, I just want to stop you there because while there are lots of Tim Hortons in Canada, obviously. But this particular one in Cobourg has an interesting relationship. This is the children of the founder of Tim Hortons, is that right?

DH: Yeah, Tim Hortons was founded by Ron Joyce, an ex-cop in Hamilton, and then Tim Horton of Toronto Maple Leafs fame. Tim Horton has been dead since 1974, but his daughter, Jeri-Lynn, is the spouse of Ron Joyce's son, so that couple actually has these particular restaurants.

CO: But now that there's a document that the workers at this Tim Hortons have been asked to sign. Those who have more than five years of service will have to pay 50 per cent of the cost of these benefits. Employees with between six months and five years will pay 75 per cent. So they've crunched the numbers, and they say they're going to end up being out of pocket for this.

DH: Well, and they will. And I'm not here to defend Tim Hortons by any way shape or form. I feel bad for these people. This is also why people at unions. You know it's an ugly day when a vulnerable worker ends up with less in their pocket than they started with because of a policy that I think was intended to make life better for people.

CO: Do you have the impression or are you concluding that what's happening here is that by making these very public as this document ends up being, that they Ron joyce Jr., the owner of this franchise, is saying OK Premier Wynne, OK Ontario government, you want to do this? This is what I'm going to do in return. Is it intended do you think to embarrass the Wynne government?

DH: Well, I mean we have to back it up and say well how did the document become public? Was it the workers that released the document? Or did the Ron Joyce call a press conference and say here's what I'm doing? I don't know that. You know what I'm interested in in this is the reality that Canadians have kind of gotten a bit addicted to a low-wage economy. We like our cheap coffee. We like our cheap doughnuts. We've allowed you know a sector of our economy to be run on this sort of precarious basis on the worker side, and I would like to see that change. I think most Canadians would like to see that change. Now, sort of the rubber is hitting the road. Where now we have that when we have this sort of one year swallow this change to the new normal, and we're seeing how both labour and both owners react to the change. I'm really intrigued to know what the other 3,500 restaurants are doing. If they're just quietly absorbing it, if they have other strategies, or if this is something that other workers are facing. Because the franchises all operate as independent companies, head office cannot be particularly prescriptive if at all in telling franchisees how to pay employees.

CO: But what you have pointed out in your writing in your book “Double Double” and in your tweets, you're saying that what they do control — what the head office does control — is all the products, all the coupons, all the specials, all the pricing comes out of head office. So is it not the case that Tim Hortons itself has to figure out well maybe we need to help these franchisees ease into this new, somewhat higher wage category?

DH: You would think so. You don't know what this relationship is. You could have the ultimate owners of Tim Hortons saying to the franchisees you guys bought into this triple-A value franchise system, your margins are… I don't know what their margins are, but let's say your return on equity is 20, you should be pretty happy with 19 or 18, and we're not interested in helping you. We really don't know what that conversation is. People have to understand how the franchise system works. The franchisee is really buying a system; you're paying a quarter million dollars or something to get in the door for 10 years. You're buying something that's sophisticated, we decide the product, we decide the prices effectively. You can't have a price war with another Tim Hortons. You have to buy the equipment from them; you have to buy all your food products. There's not very much a franchisee can really control in terms of cost. That's why you're not running an independent you know “mom and pop” coffee and bake shop. Because if you were, and you were looking at your minimum-wage employees and saying well I’ve got to pay them 14 bucks an hour, you could look at your business and say you know what this cup of coffee is now going to be another 12 cents. Or you know what I'm going to go to my coffee supplier and I'm going to say I need a different ground coffee. Or you're going to have to do me some kind of deal there. A franchisee is not in a position to do those things. They cannot just put the cup of coffee at Tim Hortons up 30 cents. That is within the capability of the franchise system absolutely. But what I'm saying is the independent franchisee cannot just go rogue and do whatever they want.

CO: Now, at some point, Tim Hortons could have an image problem because this is the company that says this is for the working person, this isn't the snooty place that’s selling five dollar lattes. Do they not at some point have a public relations problem if we find out that people are stiffing their workers?

DH: We have one absolutely right now. I mean if this had happened in a restaurant… I don't know Kamloops or Edmonston, New Brunswick, we probably wouldn't even be talking about it. Or maybe we would be. But because it has this hook with Ron Jr. Jeri-Lynn Horton, and they're in their house in Florida or something… I don't know what's going on, but it just looks bad for the entire system. And I have said in the book a couple of years ago that the moment the Canadian consumers stop identifying themselves with Tim Hortons you know as who they are, then the brand has a big problem. Because really you know McDonald's makes a pretty good cup of coffee; lots of places make pretty good cups of coffee, but you know these restaurants are habit forming. And when people say you know I don't like how I feel when I'm walking on the street with this brand in my hand. And it's important to understand too that Tim Hortons has never tried to be any one part of the market. Their success has always been they really are the 99 per cent or the 100 per cent. There's an anthropologist who once said that you know a CEO of a company can walk down the street you know holding a Tim Hortons cup at the same time as a dockworker, and they both feel an affiliation with the brand. And Tim Hortons can't damage that. That is dangerous for them.

CO: We’ll leave it there. Douglas, thank you.

DH: Thank you.

JD: Douglas Hunter is the author of "Double Double: How Tim Hortons Became a Canadian Way of Life, One Cup at a Time." He was in Port McNicoll, Ontario. And you can find that interview on our website: CBC has not been able to reach either of the owners for comment.

[Music: Indie rock]

Steve Bannon book

Guest: Paul Farhi

JD: "Cease and desist." That's the message from US President Donald Trump's lawyers to Michael Wolff, author of "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House." The explosive new book — which the White House has called "trash" — is due out tomorrow. Already though, as you’ve likely heard, excerpts are blowing up in the press. The book quotes former White House advisor Steve Bannon extensively — describing Donald Trump Jr.'s behaviour as "treasonous" and Ivanka Trump as "dumb as a brick." The President himself is presented as unserious, unqualified, and ill-informed. The book is pretty well guaranteed to be a hit. But when you're reading its stream of revelations, you may wonder about its author, and how much you should trust him. Paul Farhi is a media reporter with the Washington Post. We reached him in Washington, D.C.

CO: Paul, just first off, can you summarize some of the bigger revelations reported in this book?

PAUL FARHI: Well, the most controversial and the one thing getting the most attention is the idea that Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist and friend of Don Trump, is criticizing Donald Trump or at least his campaign. He has called the meeting between the Trump campaign officials and Russian representatives in 2016 treasonous, he's called it unpatriotic, and he says that Jared Kushner and Don Trump Jr. are possibly headed for legal trouble. That they could be in a lot of trouble with the Russia probe, so that gave a lot of support to the critics of President Trump and his campaign.

CO: Now on the line, he says that he believes — this is what Steve Bannon is quoted as saying — that said Trump Jr. would crack like an egg in the Russian investigation because it's going to focus on money laundering, and that's going to be a vulnerability for those who would be questioned by Mr. Muller. Is that your sense of that?

PF: That's right. And there are many people who have said this, but we've never heard this from someone so close and so inside the White House saying this. This is the worst nightmare for Donald Trump to have his allies, or at least now former ally, saying these things in public. And that's the thing that has made the White House's hair stand on end.

CO: Steve Bannon hasn't denied anything that he's been quoted as saying, though President Trump has fired back that he believes Steve Bannon has, quote, “lost his mind.” Other people though are denying that they said things that are quoted in the book. Can you give us a sense of that?

PF: Sure. There are a number of fringe players I guess in some ways that have disputed their quotes that are in the book. For instance, Tom Barrack a friend of President Trump’s — he headed the inauguration back in 2016 — is quoted as saying that he thought Trump was not only crazy, he's stupid. But Tom Barrack has said no, I never said that. Katie Walsh, who used to be a White House adviser now is with a Republican organization in Washington, is quoted as saying dealing with Trump was like trying to figure out what a child wants. And she's issued a statement saying she never said that. First lady Melania Trump has issued a statement saying the book belongs in the bargain fiction bin. So there's a lot of pushback on this book and on this author — as there has been for some time against him in various other projects.

CO: And that's something that you have pointed out. That Michael Wolff has been known to play fast and loose with facts. In fact, he has many facts that have been too good to check. So you think this book is in that category?

PF: Well, I think it goes back to the real headlines in this book, which is again the Bannon comments, which have not been disputed. There is no sense that Wolf made these comments up about Banon. So the heart and the essence of the book seem to be solid. The other part is the general characterization of the White House that's dysfunctional, that is riven by infighting, that has people who have criticism of Donald Trump, we've known that for a very long time — ever since this administration started. But you're always going to be nit-picked on the details of what you write. Again, Michael Wolff has had various controversies over the years in terms of his reporting, in terms of creating scenes or recreating scenes that he didn't actually witness, so there's some cause to believe that maybe not everything — not every detail — in the book is correct. Although, I have to say it seems to have the ring of truth to it.

CO: There are these little details though — these intimate, little moments — that he writes about that, I don't know if you've heard anyone who’s confirmed, this that apparently Mr. Trump told the secret service that he was going to lock his bedroom door. He didn't want them in there, and that he had told housekeeping that he was going to strip his own bed and that he didn't want even touching his toothbrush because he's afraid of being poisoned. What do you make of those details?

PF: Well, I mean it's hard to know who Michael Wolff did or did not talk to. But if you analyze something like that, who would be the potential sources for that? One would be obviously Donald Trump. The other would be a secret service agent. Secret service agents don't talk very much. That's why they're the secret service. And Donald Trump was not interviewed for this book. So you are now talking at best third-hand sourcing, which is very unreliable. And which is subject to the usual game of telephone in terms of distortion. So you know that is the kind of detail that I would look at with a certain distance and a certain kind of skepticism. And I do think that, first of all, this book will be a tremendous bestseller — The White House has guaranteed that by trying to stop its publication. But, at the same time, you do need to read all this with a grain of salt.

CO: Even with that great big grain of salt, do you think that we learned more? Do you think that we understand more about Donald Trump and his White House?

PF: Yes, I think in some ways we learn that all the things that we knew were not only true, they may actually be worse than we thought. So it intensifies I think a sense that we have of the president and the way he operates in the White House.

CO: Paul, it's good to have you on the show. Thank you.

PF: Thank you, Carol.

JD: Paul Farhi is a media reporter with the Washington Post. And we did reach him in Washington, D.C.

[Music: Ambient]

Lynn Beyak

Guest: Lillian Dyck

JD: When Conservative Senator Lynn Beyak first made her controversial comments about residential schools, she said many Canadians agreed with her views. Now, she claims to have proof of that. Last March, Senator Beyak said Canada's residential school system had done good things for Indigenous people. Those remarks got her expelled from all Senate committees, and caused some of her Conservative colleagues to distance themselves from her. But rather than reconsider her opinion on this, Senator Beyak has added a new tab on her official website. It's called "Letters of Support." And she has posted messages from Canadians who agree with her assessment of the legacy of residential schools. We requested interviews with Senator Beyak and a number of other Conservative Senators. We also requested an interview with party leader Andrew Scheer. None of them was available. Lillian Dyck is a Liberal-appointed Senator, and chair of the Aboriginal Peoples committee. We reached her in Ottawa.

CO: Senator Dyck, there are more than 100 of these letters of support for Senator Lynn Beyak on her website. Can you give us a sense of what they say?

LILLIAN DYCK: Well, I did a sort of random check. Some are relatively short and don't say much, but some are, frankly, racist, offensive, hurtful, and it was quite shocking to me that anyone would publish something like that on their website.

CO: Now, there were letters that were taken down after journalist with The Walrus magazine, Robert Jago, he contacted Senator Beyak to ask about some of them. And some of them were egregious removed. But there are still quite an extraordinary number of letters talking about how there's trouble with the chronic whining and unreasonable expectations of Indigenous people — or whatever they call themselves. They talk about exaggerated claims. These are the ones that actually made the cut. What do you know about how Senator Beyak chose — or who chose — the letters that got posted on her website?

LD: Well, she says she chose them herself I believe. And the fact that they're on her website, regardless of whether she chose them or her staff member chose them, she's responsible. So anything that's up there, apparently she endorses, otherwise, she wouldn't post it.

CO: But who pays for the website?

LD: The Senate who pays for it.

CO: The Canadian taxpayers pay for it.

LD: Yes, that's right.

CO: How then is it possible that something that could have racism and these kinds of remarks that are hurtful, how can they be on a website that's paid for by the Canadian taxpayers?

LD: Well, that's a good question. But the people that wrote into her with these offensive and outrageous comments, they would counter and say well, I'm a taxpayer. But what's really astounding to realize that this is the fact that it isn't just Senator Beyak, it's the Canadians that she represents. And it makes us realize that despite the mythology of what a great country we are, there still is a significant number of people who could be categorized as racist.

CO: Is it possible also that there’s been a failure to get the word out. To educate people about what happened in the residential schools? I mean whether Senator Beyak — and people have criticized her, including her own party — that she has failed to understand what happened at the residential schools and what the policy was about inherently. Is it possible that Canadians themselves don't know because there's been a failure to explain it to them?

LD: I find it hard to believe that any Canadian now could not have understood what came out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. There was incredible press coverage; it was in all the news articles, there's meetings going all over the country in every city talking about reconciliation. So it's really, to me, remarkable that people like Senator Beyak can still resist and deny the history of what happened in Indian residential schools.

CO: What do you think should happen?

LD: Well, that's a really good question. I myself have been thinking about that. Because she's had the opportunity to meet with Indigenous people from her own community and elders, she's been spoken to by her caucus colleagues, and clearly, she's not willing to accept anything other than what her original opinions were.

CO: Because she's put up a hundred letters — 103 letters — that are supporting her position that the schools were a good thing and that Indigenous people should just move on. Is it possible there are other letters that were against her that she could be compelled to release?

LD: That’s possible because she's the one who selected the letters. One of the things I thought that maybe people needed to do is maybe we need a massive public outcry from non-Indigenous people to say that they're disgusted with this. You know it can't just be people like myself who are Aboriginal that are railing against it. It needs to be from all Canadians saying you know what grow up and you know except that there were really bad things done.

CO: What have you heard from your Conservative colleagues in the Senate? How are they responding to Senator Beyak?

LD: I haven't heard anything from them. You know we're not sitting at the moment, and I haven't communicated with anyone.

CO: We asked Larry Smith, who's head of the Conservative Senate caucus, for an interview. He turned down our request to comment. What do you want to hear from him?

LD: Well, It’d be interesting to know what they consider is appropriate behavior for a senator? I know what they did last time was they removed her from the Aboriginal people's committee, and then later I think they removed her from all committees. Is that a sanction? Because really all that did was give her more time to do something like this, instead of doing the job that she should be doing as a senator, which is to sit on committees.

CO: Should she be asked to remove the racist letters from her website?

LD: Well, that would be the very least she could do. She should remove them or apologize or something like that. Last time she was asked to apologize, and she refused.

CO: We will be following this story. Senator Dyck, I appreciate you speaking with us. Thank you.

LD: OK, thank you for the call.

CO: Bye bye.

LD: Bye

JD: Lillian Dyck is a Liberal-appointed Senator. We reached her in Ottawa. You can find more on this story on our website:

[Music: Ambient]

Oregon gas

JD: The stench of gasoline hangs heavy over one U.S. state tonight. Fireballs roar skyward as gas pumps explode. People weep, and abandon their minivans by the side of the road. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. Or at least, the Oregon part of the world. That's what some news articles would have you believe. But you should know things haven't really gone "Mad Max" there yet. Nut just yet anyway. Until last year, every single gas station in the good state of Oregon was full-service. And then, on January 1st, a law went into effect permitting residents in some areas to pump their own gas. According to a Washington Post headline, that caused "some Oregonians to panic". And the Detroit Free Press said the new law is, quote, “Sending shockwaves across all 98,000-plus square miles, and all 4,000,000 residents as we speak.” Unquote. Well, that allegation of shockwaves sent shockwaves through all Oregonians not experiencing shockwaves, which is pretty much all Oregonians. Because the real story is that only counties with fewer than 40,000 people can now have self-service gas stations. That could affect less than ten per cent of the state's population. And the majority of that very small minority really couldn't care less. But investigative reporting revealed some residents are deeply concerned about filling their own tanks. And by "investigative reporting", I mean "a local TV station's Facebook page" — where a handful of people grumbled about having to possibly pump their own gas. And then some coverage turned those isolated concerns into statewide shockwaves. So maybe a few Oregonians are worried about self-serve, if only some media outlets were as worried about being self-serving.

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Part two: Iran: latest, Albert Schultz: latest

Iran: latest

Guest: Mohammad

JD: It has been difficult this week to get any reliable information out of Iran this week. The government has restricted access to the internet — along with messaging apps like Telegram, Whatsapp, and Instagram. And yet, protesters have managed to get images and messages out. Video recordings show thousands of people chanting in cities like Mashhad, Esfahan, and Tehran — and being met with tear gas by security forces. So far, at least 21 people have been killed, several hundred have been arrested. But with limited information about the apparently leaderless protests, it's hard to know what's next. We reached a 21-year-old university student in Tehran. His first name is Mohammad. We're withholding his last name because he fears for his safety. We reached Mohammad earlier today.

CO: Mohammed, I understand things are quiet in Tehran. Can you give us a sense of the mood on the streets of your city?

MOHAMMAD: These two days were calmer in Tehran. But you can also see the government guards in every important place of the city — there are too many. They prevent us from protests. But in other smaller cities, the protest is going as it went. Last night was in some big cities from the south of Iran.

CO: As far as what you have seen of the security police, these are uniformed people, right? What are you seeing as far as who is trying to suppress the protests?

M: You actually cannot see the guys without uniforms, but they are here. They are all over the place. You can also see motorbikes from the Revolutionary Guards and the police guards also there. And you can see some big steel buses with firefighters and water pumps.

CO: What are the steel buses and the water pumps? You think that’s to counter any protests that might start up?

M: Yes, they did it before in front of Tehran University. And they will use it against people if anything happens. We see some tear gases shooting through us, but no gunfire in Tehran. But other cities, there was some gunfire. Some people were killed in smaller cities.

CO: We've also heard as many as 500 people arrested, and I believe the Interior Ministry has said that the vast majority of those arrested are under the age of 25.

M: Yes, there were so many areas in Tehran as well. But it's what we’re used to. They arrested us back in 2009, and they are doing it today. And most of them are not in the protest scene. They will identify you in some quiet places, and they capture you. And that's the most dangerous thing that can happen to you in Tehran right now.

CO: You were out in a protest earlier this week. There were rallies that you took part in. Can you describe the crowds and the mood in those events?

M: It was in front of Azad University, and that was like a crime scene with people protesting and guards hammering them with tear gases and paintball bullets. I couldn't stay long there because it was so dangerous — too dangerous.

CO: I know you're in your early 20s, and you come from a well-to-do family. What we're hearing is that much of the protest outside of Tehran especially are people who are coming from smaller centers, where they're dealing with poverty, they're dealing with bad wages, high unemployment, especially for young people. What are you out protesting against? What are you fighting for?

M: You know I myself go out for so many common human rights that we don't have: our females that are sentenced to wear a scarf, women cannot go to a stadium and watch a football game, and that's ridiculous. That's the simplest human rights that women can have in Iran. And there are other things too: the filtering of the Internet, the media that is publishing wrong news, and other things like firing people from factories that were working for so many years and now it's shut down, and so many things like this.

CO: And you mentioned the 2009 — the last time there was a great movement of people — at that time, what we understood was that the people were wanting to see reform to the revolution. They wanted reform of the regime. What are people for the most part demanding now?

M: Back in 2009, there was an election that we had Mr. Rouhani, the president that we wanted, but there is nothing changed. We have the bankruptcy that we had ten years before, we have the poverty, we have the hunger issues, we have the air pollution issues that we had in years before. And nothing is going to be better. And I think it's the time for them to go and put a referendum for people to choose their regime.

CO: President Rouhani is somebody he was supposed to be the reformist president. He was the one that people supported. Has he been such a big disappointment to young people like yourself?

M: The way Iran works is not like other countries. The president cannot do much. Most of the country budget is going to the Revolutionary Guard. That money can change the bad things that are going on in our economy.

CO: Is it hard to organize — to coordinate? Do you think that given how quickly the regime has moved to suppress this this movement, do you think it will be difficult to coordinate and organize any kind of a general protest movement?

M: I think it's would be better that there was a leader who people know and trust to lead this protest. But now, with only people behind this protest, I think it's more powerful and more effective on the image that Iranians grow into the regime.

CO: Do you feel that you can't change what's going on? How encouraged are you that you can actually change things in Iran?

M: I really don't know. It would be optimistic, but the last days it's going down in most of the cities. But it is still there, and I hope tomorrow with the praying day of Iran that would be a good day to get power behind the protests and do it more.

CO: Tomorrow — Friday — the day of prayer, often a day when people take to the street. Mohammed, be careful. And I appreciate you speaking with us. Thank you, you've given us some good insight.

CO: Thank you. You're welcome. Goodnight.

M: Goodnight.

JD: Mohammed is a 21-year-old university student. We are withholding his last name for his safety. We reached him earlier today in Tehran.

[Music: Ambient]

Albert Schultz: latest

Guest: J. Kelly Nestruck

JD: There was one question that Hannah Miller wasn't going to leave unanswered. Ms. Miller is one of four actors suing Soulpepper Theatre Company founder Albert Schultz for sexual harassment. The women held a news conference in Toronto, she left most of the talking to the others. And then someone asked about the future of the theatre company — and Hannah Miller approached the microphone.


HANNAH MILLER: I just actually want to sort of answer your question about the possible impact this would have on Soulpepper. You said it has the potential of destroying it or tearing it apart. And I think this is the message that keeps me strong, and the message that I hope other people can hear is that Soulpepper, as it is, is not a safe environment. It's certainly not for an actor whose desire and training leads them to be open and vulnerable, and to delve into passion. And there’s a sanctity of the theatre that is that is being violated. So the implication that we are ruining something is maybe the reason why it's so hard. Do you understand what I mean? So for women out there who are young actresses, who are at the start of their career, have the strength to deserve what you deserve. And that is a safe work environment and a safe place for you to make art.

JD: That was Hannah Miller, speaking at a press conference in Toronto. Ms. Miller is one of four women suing the Soulpepper Theatre Company and its founder Albert Schultz. None of their allegations have been proven. But they have prompted some swift action. Yesterday, Soulpepper's board instructed Mr. Schultz to step down during an investigation. This morning, four of the company's actors and directors left, saying they wouldn't work there while Mr. Schultz still had a role. Now, he doesn't: late today, Albert Schultz resigned. J. Kelly Nestruck the Globe and Mail's theatre critic. He broke the story at the same time as our colleagues at the CBC. We reached him in Toronto, before Mr. Schultz's resignation.

CO: Kelly, you just heard that emotional clip from Hannah Miller. How does that compare to what you've heard from your sources in Toronto's theatre community today?

J. KELLY NESTRUCK: Well, I think everyone is upset about the stories that have been reported over the past few day and the allegations in the lawsuits. They’re very unsettling for a very close-knit community. So a lot of people are very emotional right now about what is being reported.

CO: Albert Schultz is perhaps not a household word in Canada, but he is certainly very well-known in theatre in Toronto and in Stratford. And he’s very successful; Soulpepper is a very successful company. And Albert Schultz has been a great champion fundraiser for it. What effect is this going to have on the company and the theatre?

JKN: I guess the first thing I would say to that is that you know what is the effect of the alleged behavior in the suits? So if the alleged behavior led to the suits, then that's sort of the root cause of whatever is to come, which I think is what Hannah Miller was getting at there. Obviously, Schultz is a major figure within Toronto theatre and Canadian theatre. And he you know really pulled that theatre up from an initial season of two shows in a summer to a year-round facility in the Distillery District. And a lot of that had to do with his ability to fundraise and to put a message out that made the theater seem exciting, certainly when I moved here in 2003, Soulpepper seemed like the most exciting thing that was happening. And he was a very, very good salesman for that theatre. So as an individual artist, I don't think the impact of him leaving will be that big. There's a lot of talented people who work there. However, it may affect the theatre's ability to raise money, and, obviously, the public relations of these lawsuits and the allegations contained in them is going to be a serious blow to the reputation of the theatre company.

CO: We heard Hannah Miller in that clip talking about the passion — the vulnerability — that is within when you're being directed by somebody. And it's very intimate, isn't it? I mean you know better than I as a theatre writer. These are allegations yet to be proven in court, but what line gets crossed? I mean you hear about directors trying to get actors to respond in a certain way to get the human condition performed on stage. We don't know if the allegations have been tested yet, but what lines are crossed when you hear stories like these?

JKN: Well, I don't spend a lot of time in rehearsal rooms. I spend a lot of time sitting in the dark watching the sort of quote/unquote “finished product”. But my understanding of rehearsal rooms is that, especially these days, there are conversations that are had by directors with their cast members and other artistic members of their team in order to set the scene, especially for scenes that involve sexuality. And to make sure that everyone is comfortable with what is going on. Having talked to three of these women in advance of them filing the lawsuit, they all told me that there were no such conversations that they remembered happening in rehearsal rooms that Mr. Schultz ran. I'd say one of the things that stood out to me as a theatre critic in the allegations is this description of Mr. Schultz stepping into scenes to demonstrate how an actor should say caress a female actor on stage — or to kiss an actress onstage. As you said, those allegations haven't been proven in court, however, that would be considered really inappropriate because it's actually considered really poor form to demonstrate for an actor how they should perform and in any circumstance. The director is supposed to use his words, not jump on stage and perform. And I've not previously heard of directors you know caressing or kissing their actors to show how other actors should do that.

CO: Had you heard anything was going on at Soulpepper Theatre Company before you interviewed these three women and published the story?

JKN: Well, prior to this fall, I'd heard there was a lot of great art going on at Soulpepper Theatre Company. But then in October, around the time of the Harvey Weinstein news, it came out in Hungary that Lazlow Martin, who is one of the mentors of Mr. Schultz and many of the founding members of Soulpepper, it came out that he had been accused of sexual harassment in Hungary by about ten different actresses I'm not sure of the total now over a number of years over, decades in fact. It was around that time I contacted Soulpepper. And the day that I contacted them, they were holding a meeting with some of the Soulpepper community to let them know that in 2015 they received a complaint of sexual harassment against Mr. Martin. And then they received another complaint, and they had launched an investigation at one point. And they fired him at some point. And the timeline was very unclear to me in the statement that they gave me. But they did tell me that he had been terminated by early 2016.

CO: We will leave it there. Kelly, thank you.

JKN: OK. Thank you so much.

JD: J. Kelly Nestruck is the Globe and Mail's theatre critic. We reached him in Toronto.

[Music: Ambient]

From Our Archives: Rick Hall obit

JD: In 2013, when a documentary called "Muscle Shoals" came out, Carol spoke with the central figure in that film — who was also the central figure in making the music that put a small Alabama town on the map. That character’s name was Rick Hall. And here's the first thing he said in that interview.


RICK HALL: Rick Hall.

JD: Now, Rick Hall was not introducing himself. He was actually answering Carroll's first question, which was this.


CO: Rick, what is it about Muscle Shoals that's inspired some of the world's best rhythm and blues?

JD: So in Rick Hall's opinion, the key to the explosion of classic music — iconic music — recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama was Rick Hall. And you could say he was biased. Yes you could. But you couldn't say he was wrong. Rick Hall — one of the greatest music producers of all time — died yesterday in Florence, Alabama. He was 85 years old. Now in photographs from the 'sixties, Rick Hall does not look like a cool guy. But he was. He owned FAME Studios. He was a gifted producer. His musical sensibility combined country, soul, and R & B. And he was also eager to work with black artists when that was not always accepted, especially in a small Alabama town. Still, Mr. Hall and the FAME Studios house band — known as The Swampers, all of them white dudes — recorded huge singles with Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Etta James, and Clarence Carter, among many others. In that 2013 interview, Carol asked him about how the in-studio integration went over outside the studio.


RH: You've got to understand this is the ‘60s in Alabama. And that's when George Wallace was in power. So while George Wallace was standing in the schoolhouse door at the University of Alabama, keeping black people from going to school there, we were cutting hit records on Wilson Pickett “Land of 1000 Dances”, “Funky Broadway”. And the night that Dr. Martin Luther King was killed, We were recording “Mustang Sally”, so it was a hotbed of anxiety. And people didn't get along. I mean the blacks and whites didn't get along, but we didn't have any problem with that. Wilson Pickett was my best friend, and one of my brothers, you know? Etta James was my one of my favorite chicks. And Aretha Franklin certainly was. Clarence Carter, who is black and blind. This is the phenomenal story about Muscle Shoals and it’s music. It was a small town of 5,000-6,000 people back then, and we didn't have much to pick from. So we had to pick white artists — white pickers — to play with The Wilson Pickett’s and Aretha Franklins. But you gotta understand we all had grew up with black music. We were music lovers. We absolutely love black music.

JD: But for all the success FAME Studios had, Rick Hall felt that the scene he anchored had gone under appreciated, until that 2013 documentary, “Muscle Shoals”, which finally gave Mr. Hall the credit he deserved.

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