Tuesday November 07, 2017

Tuesday November 7, 2017 Full Episode Transcript

Note: Transcripts may contain errors. If you wish to re-use all, or part of, a transcript, please contact CBC for permission. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print. Copyright © CBC 2017

The Current Transcript for November 7, 2017

Host: Anna Maria Tremonti


Listen to the full episode


[Music: Theme]


Investigators want to know why the former airman, there's his picture, his name is Devin Kelley, carried out this attack as they're digging into his troubled past.

ANNA MARIA TREMONTI: We do that collectively in the news media when the story is mass shooting, incessantly, relentlessly looking for another tidbit, another angle, the live coverage extending for hours. The questions can be insightful or insipid or intrusive, the tone respectful, too earnest, hysterical inappropriate. And more than one critic says we all need to take another look at how we cover everything from traumatized victims to the killer. In a moment: Is it time to moderate the message in mass shootings? Also today, in search of a better world.


We live in a world where the welfare of one part is inextricably tied to the welfare of the rest. So when we ignore justice, when we ignore human rights it ultimately comes back to haunt us.

AMT: Payam Akhavan was 26 when he was hired to prosecute war crimes for the U.N. its youngest prosecutor. All these years later he still believes in fighting human rights abuses in courts. But he also fears the consequences of indifference. Hear him in half an hour. And more threats to stop North Korea's nuclear ambitions.


The United States stands prepared to defend itself and its allies using the full range of our unmatched military capabilities if need be.

AMT: As the U.S. president mixes threats of sanctions and military actions, over in Halifax a Dalhousie university professor has been monitoring the steady movement of goods into North Korea through its seaports, identifying a loophole that seems to be ignored. In an hour we'll hear what he's discovered and how it might be used. And right after that David Ridgen, host of Someone Knows Something, on a third season where someone knows even more. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current.

Back To Top »

Focus on lives lost, not the killer, say critics on mass shooting news coverage

Guests: Jennifer Brett, Katherine Reed, Jennifer Johnston


ANCHOR 1: Paddock checked into the Mandalay Bay on September 28. But it wasn't until Sunday night that he broke through the windows of his hotel room to begin his murderous rampage. Police would find 10 or more guns in the hotel room.

ANCHOR 2: He called himself the biggest video poker player in the world, gambling up to a million dollars in a single night.

ANCHOR 3: Brand new details tonight about that cryptic note found inside the Las Vegas shooter's hotel room. You can see it here on a table it appears to be under a tape roll.

ANCHOR 4: Officials believe that these were calculations for the trajectory from the shooter's window down to the concert venue site.

AMT: Coverage from CNN of the last major mass shooting in the U.S., a mere five weeks to the day before the attack on Sunday that killed 26 people in Texas. Listening back to the coverage of the October massacre in Las Vegas that took 58 lives, we see it follows a similar pattern. After a breaking news alert of what is happening, people involved come into focus, innocent victims of course but largely the perpetrator. The name, the likeness are beamed around the world. Every available detail of life is pored over for clues and soon we try to make sense of a senseless tragedy and understanding what might have made him do it. But with each mass shooting in the U.S. it is increasingly common to hear concerns about this type of coverage and even fears that the media may be contributing to the frequency of such events. We are jumping into that conversation today as part of our series Eye on the Media and we have three guests standing by. Jennifer Brett is a reporter at The Atlanta Journal Constitution where she has covered many mass shootings. She joins us from Atlanta. Katherine Reed is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism. She's a long-time journalist who's written about and teaches trauma coverage. She's in Columbia, Missouri. And Jennifer Johnston is an assistant professor of psychology at Western New Mexico University. She joins us from Silver City, New Mexico. Hello everyone, welcome.

KATHERINE REED: Good morning.


JENNIFER BRETT: Good morning.

AMT: Jennifer Brett let's start with you. How many mass shootings have you covered?

JENNIFER BRETT: Well I just got back from Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago. Last year I was in Orlando, Florida when a gunman opened up and opened fire and killed 49 people. Two weeks after that I was in Dallas Texas when a gunman opened fire and shot by five police officers. Here in Atlanta, we had a massacre in 1999 were a day trader walked in and sprayed his former office with bullets killing 12 and a couple years ago I was in Chattanooga where a service person from our area was shot among five military personnel. So I don't want to say they're all running together but I've covered quite a few.

AMMT: What's it like to do that over and over, Jennifer?

JENNIFER BRETT: It is horrible. And each instance is uniquely horrible. And I feel a great responsibility and a great obligation to honor the victims’ memories, to always keep the focus on their stories while ferreting out the facts regarding what precipitated this horror. I think the media for sure needs to get to answers and help folks figure out what caused this, who was behind it, but certainly to honor the victims to treat their stories in a sensitive responsible way.

AMT: Katherine Reed Why is it important to re-examine how the media collectively covers a mass shooting?

KATHERINE REED: Well because there is some anecdotal evidence and a growing sort of perception that the way we're covering mass shootings and the wall to wall 24/7 coverage of minutia, of you know little details, that we think add up to a why, and you know I would argue the who and the why have been conflated. I don't think that we necessarily know why someone did something like this just because we know some details about their gambling losses or, in one case, they're funny walk. And so you know I think we have to look at how we might be contributing to giving a platform to people who want to take out a whole bunch of people in one grand gesture. And also usually take their own lives. And so I think we need to err on the side of caution. You know in the absence of any other sort of approach right now to trying to control this problem - this horrible problem - I think it makes sense for the news media to look at how our coverage might be contributing to this notoriety that we're giving these people that you know they become larger than life.

AMT: Well Jennifer Johnston What connection do you see then between how the media covers mass shootings and their frequency?

JENNIFER JOHNSTON: Sure. Well on the one hand it's actually not that much of a mystery for those of us who study mass shooters and their backgrounds and profiles about what's going on with them. We think they have three primary shared traits and they're not all that unusual. Their social isolation, they're usually very depressed - suicidally depressed - as Catherine mentioned and somewhat narcissistic. And so those three things combined make someone who really wants to die anyway. Decide though that they blame some group or others for their lot in life and they're going to take them out with them when they go. So we do know quite a bit about that. But the piece that when we look at what are the kind of typical causes that are thrown out there is that a gun issue, is it a mental illness issue which would be my area of expertise. Is it a media issue the kind of media that people consume or the news itself. When I looked at this I looked at the fact that those three issues are very differentially difficult to solve. But the easiest one is the immediate piece. So if there is a relationship between media coverage and focusing on the shooter and sending a would be shooter over the edge, who decides “yes I'm going to go that route too”, it's the easiest one to address. It's free. It needs just a collective agreement about what will be reported, or that the details that it will be reported with. And with our mathematical contagion models that we looked at and summarized in our paper, the ASU team found that media presentation of mass shootings is in fact contagious. Another study out of the University of Vermont found that social media about mass shootings is also contagious.

AMT: Okay. And just a quick definition of mass shooting.

JENNIFER JOHNSTON: Sure. The official FBI definition includes three fatalities but most of us are moving away from that definition when we look at profiling. So we more refer to these as active shooters some succeed in killing victims and some don't. Most succeed in injuring people. So if we look at active shooters as a group it can be anyone who attempts a mass shooting in a public space whether they succeed in fatalities or not.

AMT: Okay, and I'm going to pick up on something else you said you said “the easiest one to address.” Yes it's a hell of a lot easier than actually dealing with the fact that you can buy a gun around the corner. like is that really the issue?


AMT: Like is it the easiest one to address or is it a way to be in denial about what needs to be addressed?

JENNIFER JOHNSTON: I hear you. I'm certainly - it's not my area of expertise to determine the public policy of gun laws and what has really gone on in that policymaking area, as to whether it's increased the rates of mass shootings. But what I do know is that gun laws in the United States haven't changed a great deal in the last 15 years, nor have our mental health procedures and policies related to protecting people who might be dangerous to themselves or others. But what has changed in the last 15 years and that's where we see this increase. So you know homicide in the U.S. is overall down. However, mass shootings have a threefold increase since the year 2000. And the thing that has changed in that time is media coverage. So I - based on these models and based on the fact that that's the main factor that has changed - I believe that we would see a one third decrease in mass shootings if the media agreed to adopt the don't-name-them-don't-show-them type of campaign.

AMT: Okay well I want to get to the views of the other two guests. But first I want to play a clip. This is Tom Teves. He is the founder of the group no notoriety. It was founded after his son Alex was killed in a movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado in 2012. Alex was one of 12 people killed. This is what Tom Teves told NPR's On The Media.


When we talked to different journalists and they talk about “well we have to research their background to find out what motivated him”. I much applaud that. You do need to read search their background. What you don't need to do is use their names and their likenesses. Definitely if they're at large use their names in their likenesses to bring them to justice. But once they're apprehended, that's really no longer part of the story other than to create a call to action for another likeminded killer to take his plans and his thoughts and make them deeds. Well we asked you to do is be responsible and we're not asking you to do something you don't already do. You don't name rape victims you keep children's names out of the news. This is a very very small area that you would have to become responsible and you would save lives.

AMT: Jennifer Brett, what do you think of that call of no notoriety to stop naming the individuals responsible for mass shootings?

JENNIFER BRETT: Yes I can certainly understand it. It's just heartbreaking to hear the anguish in that gentleman's voice. I can tell you here in the Atlanta area, Skip Wells is the gentleman who was murdered along with a number of military personnel a couple of years ago. We have a park now named in his honor and his former high school has dedicated a memorial brick way, out in front of the school. And I would venture to say nobody remembers who the perpetrator was. I think it's a very valid point to keep the focus on the victim.

AMT: And Jennifer Brett some critics have also called for fewer eyewitness interviews because they can sensationalize the tone of the coverage. What do you think of that?

JENNIFER BRETT: Yes it's really important especially with eyewitnesses. You want to make sure that you're responsible and this case - I think this is probably an issue - more for you know a live broadcast. You might have someone come in for it who maybe thinks they saw something or heard. And if you sort of give no weight to their perhaps hearsay that can be dangerous, maybe someone identifies someone incorrectly and so on someone's you know life is turned upside down, while they're incorrectly being you know you know suggested as the possible perpetrator. So I think with eyewitness accounts you certainly want to be responsible. But on the other hand it's your job as journalists to get as much information as possible and to be as thorough as you can. But yes I do understand and very much agree with the call to be responsible.

AMT: Katherine Reed I'm wondering what you're thinking on both of those points?

KATHERINE REED: Well I'm thinking that it is our job to get as much information as possible but it doesn't mean we have to use it. It doesn't make us you know instant psychologists that we talk to friends and neighbors and we start to think that we've developed a picture that has some relevance to the question of why someone does commit a mass atrocity. You know we show restraint as Tom Teves points out in that statement you just played. We show restrain other kinds of stories and there's a really strong analogy here to suicide contagion. Jennifer Johnson brought up the word contagion in her remarks. I think that we could take a page out of that book and look at how news organizations have changed the way they cover suicide, because there is evidence that suicide contagion is a real thing. There's a lot of evidence. The news media have changed the way they cover that.

AMT: Even the language, we don't even - here at CBC - we don't say you commit suicide right. We say someone took their own life. We're very careful with the characterization around it.

KATHERINE REED: Well and another piece of that is not focusing on a single cause. There isn't a single cause. People sometimes think they can they can come up with the precipitating reason. And as Jennifer Johnson just pointed out in her research that there are these three qualities that they have found in the people who commit these crimes. Right. Social isolation, suicidally depressed, narcissistic. So I think that you know that's a body of research. And yet we go out as journalists we talk to a bunch of people. You know we have editors breathing down our necks for something that nobody else has. You know something uniquely persuasive to hang on to our audience. And then we come up with some profile. I think that's a little bit above our pay grade. You know it's not a thing that we should be doing in the immediate breaking news cycle. I really appreciate some of the long form work that's been done on people who became mass killers. But those are pieces of work that take a long time and a lot of consultation with actual researchers and experts that give us a feeling for a person, like the killer in Charleston, South Carolina. But I you know I think we delude ourselves that we're producing something meaningful in that breaking news cycle. And I think what we're doing is we're contributing to this, creating this you know just day luge of media coverage that isn't just potentially creating the next mass killer, but it's also incredibly hard on survivors of previous mass shootings. Anyone who's lived through a mass shooting relives it every single time there's another mass shooting, at some level. So we're also we're also contributing to that. And honestly I'm not sure it's good for us either. Yes. When I say that I mean good for us as an industry and the way we're perceived in journalism. But you know that's a topic for another time.

AMT: Jennifer Johnston I'm just wondering what you know when these things happen you also hear everyone, from the government leader to others; they talk about lunatics, sick people. They start to characterize who might have done this. That doesn't seem very helpful either.

JENNIFER JOHNSTON: Yes I think you know for the average person it's just impossible to imagine being this person’s shoes. You cannot see what world and what would be going on in your own mind to make you do something like this. And so we tend to assume that it must be something absolutely terrible, the worst kind of mental illness, you know someone who has a break from reality, a psychotic or something like that. But actually the levels of people who do this in that category mental illness are very low. Most people - like I say – literally you could say simply depression. There's a whole argument about looking at particularly white males aggrieved entitlement, that it's more of a social problem potentially than a mental illness or a personal psychological problem it's probably a combination of the two. But it's a simpler answer than we want to hear. It's a more disturbing answer. And we want to hear.

AMT: And it takes more time to work on it. Jennifer Brett. I'm wondering if your approach to covering mass shootings has changed over time and with experience.

JENNIFER BRETT: Well I mean like I said each age time it's uniquely horrible and I'm a person of faith. And when I get the call the first thing I do is ask for guidance and that I would be respectful and then I would honor the victims in an appropriate way. Yes. When I get on the ground I not only you want to you know gather as much color from the scene and whatnot, but I think it's important to also do the research and find - you know let's look into for a criminal history. Let's look and see if we've got a bankruptcy report. You know documents that you know sort of empirically paint a portrait rather than you know relying on what someone overheard or thinks they saw. So like I said, I wouldn't say it's changed I mean it's gotten more quick. Unfortunately they're coming more rapidly together. And as someone referenced there's editors breathing down your neck and not only are you feeding the paper tomorrow, you're feeding your social media accounts and you're posting video you're maybe doing a Facebook live. So there is just a voracious appetite back in the newsroom for you to be producing content as soon as you hit the ground. And so it's kind of a balance. You want to be aggressive and thorough and prolific but responsible and always very appropriate and sensitive at the same time.

AMT: Katherine Reed we're almost out of time but what would you like to see newsrooms do to change the way they cover shootings then?

KATHERINE REED: I think newsrooms should show a great deal of restraint. I think that once someone has been either apprehended or has and - as is often the case takes his own life - I think it's sufficient to name that person and run their photograph as infrequently as possible. Never run manifestos. There have been manifestos left by killers and those are a source of long term analysis perhaps something that takes some time to analyze and synthesized. But I think that we have to memorialize the victims. I think we need to try very hard to make sure that we are spending far more time focusing on what was lost, the lives that were lost in these incidents. And also focusing on gun laws in the United States, helping people understand the connection between the gun laws in their state and they differ from state to state, the killer's ability to obtain guns, what kinds of guns and weapons were obtained and how they were used in the incident.

AMT: We have to leave it there but that's a really important note to end on. Thank you very much. Thank you all of you.



AMT: Jennifer Johnston assistant professor of psychology at Western New Mexico University. Kathrine Reed associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism. Jennifer Brett reporter with The Atlanta a journal Constitution. Let us know what you think as we have this discussion. Find us at Twitter we are @TheCurrentCBC or at cbc.ca/thecurrent. Stay with us.

Back To Top »

How the death of an Iranian girl pushed former UN prosecutor Payam Akhavan to fight for human rights

Guest: Payam Akhavan

AMT: Hello I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and you're listening to the current.

[Music: THEME]

AMT: Still to come, revisiting a cold case.


I Think this is the spot. I think within this area here, the Ku Klux Klan brought my brother Henry Dave and tortured him.

AMT: Season three of the CBC podcast Someone Knows Something takes listeners to Mississippi and the civil rights era case of Charles Moore and Henry Dee. It is a story that has long obsessed host David Ridgen and he has hundreds of hours of interviews to prove it. He'll join me in our next half hour. But first in search of a better world.


[Song: Mona with the Children]

A 16 year old girl living in a land so cruel,

she said this where I've got to be.

Taken in the night, her heart full of light,

Mona With the Children send your love to me

AMT: You may remember that song from 1985. It is Mona with the Children, a protest song by Canadian musician Doug Cameron. Mona made the Canadian pop charts and its music video was in heavy rotation on much music in the 80s. It tells the story of Mona Mahmudnizhad, a Bahai teenager who was hanged by the government of Iran. And that same Mona figures prominently in a new book by Payam Akhavan. The U.N. rights prosecutor and human rights scholar is also this year's CBC Massey lecturer. You can catch that series all this week on ideas on CBC Radio 1. Payam Akhavan’s new book is based on the

Lectures, it's titled In Search of a Better World: A Human Rights Odyssey. Payam Akhavan is with me from London, England. Hello.

PAYAM AKHAVAN: Hello Anna Maria.

AMT: You're in that music video.

PAYAM AKHAVAN: Yes unfortunately as one of the bad guys. I was one of the Revolutionary Guards that was burying Mahmudnizhad. And you know we were all, none of us were professional actors. We all volunteered because we wanted to let the whole world know Mona's story.

AMT: And it's still a powerful story today. Who was Mona?

PAYAM AKHAVAN: Mona was my 16 year old contemporary from the persecuted Iranian Bahai community. She was a high school student. She wrote an essay about human rights violations in Iran demanding her human rights, her freedom of speech as a Bahai for which she was imprisoned, tortured and executed in 1983. And the only difference between Mona and I was that we had moved to Canada and she had stayed in Iran. So I think I asked this powerful question why her and not me? And I think that Mona's death, her courage changed the course of my life and that's what I detail in my Masssey lecture this year.

AMT: Legend has it that she smiled at the executioner before she died.

PAYAM AKHAVAN: Yes. She was a remarkably courageous girl. And when you really reflect on her story on how she was even comforting her mother, when they were saying their last farewell, perhaps you realized that we should have a different conception of power. Because no matter how much her tormentors tortured her, they couldn't break her will. So we talk about human rights. And it's only in intimate moments like this when we understand that the extraordinary astonishing power of the human spirit.

AMT: Why did her story figure so prominently with you then, when you were growing up in Canada?

PAYAM AKHAVAN: You know I was a typical immigrant adolescent in Toronto, trying to fit in, trying to be popular with his high school friends. And then I realize that someone my age in the same community has had to pay the supreme price for her beliefs. And this followed the execution of many other loved ones within the Bahai community. And I think it just shattered my complacency. It made me ask what is my freedom in Canada worth if it's wasted on mediocrity. So I decided then that if Mona was willing to pay for her beliefs with her life, that I should at least use my privilege of being alive to fight for justice and human rights so I think it fundamentally alter the course of my life.

AMT: How old were you when you came to Canada?

PAYAM AKHAVAN: Nine years old.

AMT: And why did your family leave Iran for Canada?

PAYAM AKHAVAN: I guess my family were like pre-emptive refugees. We left Iran before we were forced to. As members of the Bahai community, we were brought up with a heritage of violent persecution. The Bahais have historically been and continue to be the favorite scapegoats of the Islamic clerics that ruled Iran. So there was always a sense of vulnerability. So we came to Canada before the Islamic Revolution in 1979. And after that I think our decision to leave Iran was vindicated. But as a nine year old you don't understand all that. You simply missed your home, the only home that you've known. So I think that the experience of exile and then looking back at members of your own community being persecuted, the sense of helplessness that you feel, profoundly shaped my life.

AMT: And you were a kid trying to fit in here. It wasn't always easy was it?

PAYAM AKHAVAN: No it wasn't. And you talked about the Mona video, the only video I was interested in at that time was you know Michael Jackson's Thriller. I had appalling moonwalking skills. But you know I was just any other teenager. And I think that we underestimate the power of intimate felt experiences to teach us the true meaning of human dignity. And I think that's what Mona did in my life. That was the beginning of my human rights Odyssey, the beginning of my journey to explore why it is that we have evil in the world, why people are bystanders and how it is possible even against overwhelming odds to speak truth to power and fight for justice.

AMT: What are your biggest human rights and humanitarian concerns in the world today?

PAYAM AKHAVAN: Moral concerns aside, and human rights ideals aside, we live in a world where the welfare of one part is inextricably tied to the welfare of the rest. So when we ignore justice, when we ignore human rights, it ultimately comes back to haunt us. Let's look at the Middle East for example. The spread of terrorism, the massive refugee flows that have destabilized not only the Middle East but affected politics in Europe and North America, these are the result of incredibly cynical geopolitical calculations - or I should say miscalculations that are now coming back to haunt us. So when our decision makers pay lip service to human rights but failed to act, whether it was in Bosnia or Rwanda in the 1990s or in Darfur or today in Myanmar, in the long run there will be a cost attached to it. But at the level of our popular discourse and culture I also think we live in a consumerist society with tremendous apathy and we shouldn't be surprised. We live in a culture which celebrates greed and narcissism and the consequence of indifference is - to quote a famous expression - all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. When we don't have a public which is aware and engaged, and when we don't have a discourse which is centered around empathy, feeling the suffering of others, then we will ultimately witness the unraveling of our civilization, which is exactly what we see in the rise of the hateful populism and demagoguery surrounding us. And I don't think we should imagine that in Canada we are somehow exempt from those same centrifugal forces that are ripping societies apart elsewhere.

AMT: There seems to be a feeling that perpetrators around the world are acting with impunity. When you began your career there was a different signal. First you were fresh out of law school. You land a job at the U.N. What was that job?

PAYAM AKHAVAN: Well I inadvertently became the first legal adviser to the newly established U.N. War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at the Hague, which was established against the backdrop of ethnic cleansing and genocide in Bosnia. And when I joined that tribunal it was the first time ever in the history of the UN, since Nuremberg, that's an international criminal court was established to hold political leaders accountable for crimes against humanity. So it was a phenomenal development. It was to me though a kind of paper tiger because the U.N. had no means of arresting the perpetrators who were still in power. But over time the tribunal became a - what I would consider - a resounding success despite its shortcomings. In so far as it ended up prosecuting some 200 very significant leaders including the former president of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic. And I think that changed the culture of international politics by introducing an element of accountability. So I think that today there has been some kind of retreat from that position. In Syria for example, the UN Security Council couldn't achieve a consensus on referring the atrocities - especially that committed by the Assad regime - to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. But it's a situation of you know two steps forward one step back. Today we have an international criminal court and it took the U.N. 40 years to get there. So I had the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time or perhaps in the wrong place at the wrong time depending on how you look at what it means to spend a decade as a prosecutor dealing with these crimes.

AMT: You are the youngest prosecutor in human history, were you not? You were 26 years old.

PAYAM AKHAVAN: Yes. I was fresh out of law school and I was brimming with idealism. So I had my own ideas about international law and human rights. And of course it was a rude awakening to be you know parachuted into Bosnia in the middle of the war and to witness the grim reality of ethnic cleansing. So it was anything but glamorous but at the same time there was this sense that I was part of something historic.

AMT: And I can tell you, as someone who is covering that war, we thought if we reported on what was happening there would be consequences for the perpetrators of those atrocities. You felt that power at the time. You felt that sense that motion forward at the time, then.

PAYAM AKHAVAN: Yes. And I think the role of the media was instrumental. The beginning of every journey towards justice is bearing witness, speaking truth to power. And it wasn't because of all those horrible images of the emaciated prisoners in concentration camps and the stories about the systematic use of rape and the siege of Sarajevo, I don't think the UN would have established the tribunal. But we see today that in other parts of the world a retreat from that initial enthusiasm. So we need to continue to demand that perpetrators of crimes against humanity be held accountable. I think today about Myanmar. I think Canada should go to the UN Security Council and propose the referral of those crimes to the International Criminal Court. Even if it doesn't succeed, at the very least we will have adopted the position of principle and I don't see anyone doing that in regard to Myanmar.

AMT: Will you touch on a little bit of this? At one point you describe how some of the perpetrators of atrocities in Bosnia were being treated like dignitaries at the U.N. in Geneva. And you called that repugnant. What were you seeing?

PAYAM AKHAVAN: Well there I was again, as a 20 something year old human rights lawyer, walking the halls of the Palais de Nations - this impressive building in Geneva that used to be the seat of the League of Nations, filled with so much history, and in front of me is standing President Slobodan Milosevic with his two arch villains: Radovan Karadzic, who was the Bosnian Serb President, and Ratko Mladić, the Bosnian Serb general who was personally involved in mass murder. So it was shocking it was shocking to see all the you know the diplomatic protocol and the euphemisms. And I understand that the peace conference the UN Peace Conference had to negotiate a cease fire with these monsters. But I just was disgusted that that these people were not being held accountable.

AMT: Of course years later Radovan Karadzic which actually was picked up in hiding and general Mladić was also picked up, was he not? They all went to trial, eventually.

PAYAM AKHAVAN: Yes they were, after going into hiding for about 15 years. They were finally caught. And you know in international criminal justice, justice delayed is not justice denied, but justice delivered. Because if someone is in power and there's no means of arresting them right there and then, it's necessary to be to be patient and to buy time until it becomes possible to arrest them.

AMT: Bosnia is where the line between your professional and personal life began to break down. What happened?

PAYAM AKHAVAN: Well I think that as a young man, I didn't quite appreciate that the toll of spending a decade in and out of war zones in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda Guatemala and Cambodia. I don't think anyone was really talking about PTSD in those days. It wasn't fashionable yet. So you know there is there is a price to pay when you decide to embrace suffering and injustice. And one of the lessons we learned along the way is that to be effective we need to know our own limits and boundaries. And I learned about that the hard way.

AMT: And it is interesting only because you escaped persecution and came to Canada as a boy only to go back into places of danger where people were being persecuted. Your family had opinions on that.

PAYAM AKHAVAN: You know it's maybe a kind of redemption, redemption of one's own anguish and suffering through sharing the anguish and suffering of other people. But as I said once I, as a teenager, was confronted with the reality of Mona's death, I decided to throw myself into the waves and to commit my life to doing something meaningful. Because you realize how fickle life is and you wonder what is the meaning of being alive. And so I have no regrets. I think that each of us has to - when we draw our last breath - look back and say “I did something meaningful with my life or at least I tried to do something meaningful with my life”. So I paid a price for it. But I wouldn't do it any differently.

AMT: You're trying to stop these atrocities using the law. Can the law be effective or has the law been failing?

PAYAM AKHAVAN: I think the law is only part of the equation. And I say that as a professor of law, as an international lawyer, legal institutions are incredibly important not just because of the justice they deliver in this or that case, but because of what they signal in terms of the values that society should embrace. But much more important than the law is culture. Without a culture of human rights, without empathy and a sense of social solidarity, legal institutions can unravel. And we see this in the era of hateful populism and demagoguery. Every demagogue will undermine the rule of law. And if enough people are willing to go along with that, then our legal institutions aren't going to be able to protect us. And we have to realize that our own apathy feeds the audacity of the demagogues to undermine these institutions. And you know in Rwanda there was a major economic downturn in the 1980s because of the collapse in the price of coffee and World Bank and IMF structural adjustment. So the Rwandan economy all of a sudden collapsed and I wonder what would happen in our own societies in the United States, in Britain, in Canada if all of a sudden our economy collapsed. Could we not similarly witness the rise of hateful extremism and violence?

AMT: Well I'm glad you mentioned our own countries. You know there are parallel concerns, discussions in our own country about how we got to the place we are right now in Canada for example - relating to humanitarian treatment of indigenous people or non-humanitarian treatment. How did you first develop a connection with Canada's Indigenous communities?

PAYAM AKHAVAN: It's funny because it goes back to the Mona video again. When I met one very striking woman by the name of Buffy Sainte-Marie who was in that video. And as a 17 year old with a bunch of you know Iranian Bahai refugees, I was astonished that an indigenous woman took an interest in the death of Mona.And I began to understand the transcendence of suffering. That's you know people who wander in the path of redemption end up finding each other. So when I was 18 I ended up going to Baker Lake in the Canadian Arctic and I spent a month there - in December I would add.

AMT: In the real Arctic then yes.

PAYAM AKHAVAN: That was Minus 48 degrees and I think that's where I earned my Canadian citizenship by withstanding a month of bitter cold in the Arctic. And it was incredible to go to a culture that was totally different than anything I'd ever experienced. And you know among the Inuit I was you know a cub Luna a white person from the south like anyone else. I wasn't an immigrant child. So I felt that it was a different planet culturally. But at the same time I found this remarkable connection with the stories of suffering that I heard from fellow teenage friends that I made. And I think that's when I went recently to hearing of the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women Girls in Winnipeg. It was remarkable how in a sense I felt at home with how people process pain and suffering, the way in which they speak about the power of words to heal. So I my interest in the indigenous people, which goes back to that formative experience, isn't just one of the historical injustice and the healing and reconciliation process that needs to take place, but also about our need to listen and learn from their culture.

AMT: This is the empathy you're talking about. This is how empathy transcends the experiences of one to connect to the experiences of the other.

PAYAM AKHAVAN: Yes. And it's remarkable when I you know travel around the world for my work in countries where there's a lot of suffering, and then I come to North America with the exceptional privilege that we have and I see our society sinking into anxiety and depression and we have a pandemic of despair in our society. We have endemic mental health issues and drug use. And I wonder what is the connection between the emptiness that we feel in our world of plenty and our need to suffer and struggle and to help other people. I think that fighting for human rights, for justice, for human betterment is about retrieving our own authenticity. So I think there is a connection between this spiritual crisis that our civilization is suffering from and our lack of empathy and engagement.

AMT: And so where should - or would you like to see us as a society turn, here in Canada, to kind of address that interconnectedness and in a way to move forward that is positive?

PAYAM AKHAVAN: I think we're incredibly blessed and privilege in Canada. But with that position comes responsibility to exercise leadership. And leadership by example not by recycling liberal cliches and platitudes. We have to look at our own backyard, to look at the plight of indigenous peoples, to look at the rising tide of xenophobia, the persistence of sexism and misogyny in our own culture. But beyond looking at the cynical culture of politics and how it has become so corrupted by big money and greed. We need to look at ourselves. We need to understand that there is a power to our everyday decisions. The conversations we have across kitchen tables, the relationships we have with our colleagues at work, these are the building blocks of a just society. So I think we need to obviously keep our politicians honest by holding them accountable, but we also need to hold our own selves accountable. And if we persist in a materialistic culture which celebrates greed and narcissism and only pays lip service to human rights, guess what? It's not going to end well. And at this stage it's really a matter of survival because we have these hyper electronically connected technologically advanced but also fragile societies that are more dependent than ever in history on social cooperation and solidarity. So if we don't have those bonds of community and belonging among each other, I think we're going to witness the unraveling of our civilization. So we need to take this struggle very seriously.

AMT: Payam Akhavan, we have to leave it there but thank you so much for your thoughts and your perspective.

PAYAM AKHAVAN: Thank you Anna Maria.

AMT: Payam Akhavan is a professor of international law at McGill University. He's a former U.N. prosecutor and he is the author of In Search of a Better World: A Human Rights Odyssey. He's this year's CBC Massey lecturer. Tune in to hear his talks all this week, on Ideas on CBC Radio 1, 9 p.m. in every time zone and online of course. Let us know what you think of what he's saying tweet us @TheCurrentCBC. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. Stay with us. This is The Current.

[Music: Theme]

Back To Top »

North Korea circumvents sanctions through maritime trade, says professor

Guest: Robert Huish

AMT: I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. You're listening to The Current.



HEAD OF U.S. TREASURY: First of all I don't think other sanctions have failed but these sanctions are very significant. It allows us to freeze or block any transactions with any financial institution anywhere in the world.

SAMANTHA POWER: The members of the Security Council and all U.N. member states must do more to increase the pressure on North Korea. We must work together to fully implement the sanctions we imposed today. But we should not fool ourselves into thinking we have solved the problem.

DONALD TRUMP: The brutal North Korean regime does not respect its own citizens or the sovereignty of other nations. A new executive order will cut off our sources of revenue that funds North Korea's efforts to develop the deadliest weapons known to humankind. I really believe that it makes sense for. North Korea. To come to the table and to make a deal that's good for the people of North Korea and the people of the world.

AMT: Well you heard the head of the U.S. Treasury, the American ambassador to the U.N. and of course the US president Donald Trump touting several rounds of sanctions aimed at North Korea in the past few months. Plus Mr. Trump just hours ago, in South Korea today, as part of his Asia tour. The news out of Seoul today focuses on military might to face down North Korea with discussions around the potential for South Korea to acquire more advanced weapons systems. And also Mr. Trump's insistence in the news today that China and Russia lean more on North Korea but when it comes to sanctions. My next guest says there's something important we're all overlooking. Robert Huish is an associate professor in the Department of International Development Studies at Dalhousie University. For the past two years he has been monitoring shipping traffic at two North Korean ports. Robert Huish joins us from Halifax. Hello.

ROBERT HUISH: Good morning, Anna Maria.

AMT: What are you seeing in those North Korean ports that tells you Sanctions haven't achieved what has been hoped for?

ROBERT HUISH: Well we're seeing over the past two years, a significant amount of vessel traffic coming in and out of Nampo harbor and Sinpo Harbor. And by significant I don't mean in terms of the quantity that you would expect at a regular operating port like Vancouver, but enough vessel traffic coming into both Sinpo and Nampo to demonstrate that North Korea is getting access to resources through Maritime trade.

AMT: How have you been tracking that activity?

ROBERT HUISH: The International Maritime Organization has a system of automatic identification system that is available on any vessel that's over 300 gross tons. So that's not necessarily a large ship. It could be some of the smaller ones. But in Maritime affairs vessels need to broadcast their identities, so that's who owns them, who manages them, and who ensures them, other data is available such as the direction, the speed, the draft - and that's how deep the boat is in the water indicating if it's carrying a load or not. And so all of this data is available and there are opportunities and software for academics and journalists to track these ships. The challenge is actually finding which ship to track at the right time.

AMT: Can you track it in real time or are you looking at data after the fact?

ROBERT HUISH: Often there's a delay. So there's a delay of anywhere between four hours and 15 hours, depending on how cooperative the vessel is being. There are all sorts of methods that vessels can use to be deceptive with International Maritime Organization information so they can turn off the system. They can broadcast false destination points. They can usually try to find ways of being deceptive in the North Koreans are experts at this.

AMT: But still I mean four to 15 hours is still pretty quick. Within a day you can see who's going where.

ROBERT HUISH: That's exactly right.

AMT: So why is that shipping activity worrisome? Do you know what's on the ships?

ROBERT HUISH: Unfortunately that's the one thing that's very mysterious. With the maritime industry it's extremely murky. And this allows vessels to skirt authorities frequently. So boats can be flagged in countries of convenience. They can be managed and owned by shell companies. They can often falsify the cargo that they're carrying and that is extremely difficult to figure out what ship is carrying what. They can also even be deceptive in terms of where their crews are employed from. So taken that together, you've got this very difficult phenomenon to try to track. The one thing that we can track with maritime vessels, through the system, is who manages them, who owns them, where they're flagged and who insures them. And the last piece of insurance is I think something that is key and something that passed sanctions and current sanctions are overlooking.

AMT: Well and this is the key. So let's talk about this. There's something called protection and indemnity insurance clubs.

ROBERT HUISH: That's correct.

AMT: What are they and why are they important?

ROBERT HUISH: So there's two forms of insurance that Maritime vessels need. There is regular insurance for vessels and cargo and then there's unlimited liability and this is handled by the protection and indemnity clubs and by unlimited liability. We're looking at the catastrophic cases that can happen within the maritime industry if there is a cargo spill, if there's an oil spill, if there's a loss of life on the dock, something in this in this regard. So protection and indemnity is in any vessel with a gross tonnage over 300 tons requires us insurance for catastrophic events. P & I, however, does not operate like a regular insurer with corporate underwriters. This is essentially a non-profit club where many maritime companies will get together and they will pay an annually into a collective pot. So if a claim is made there is no corporate underwriter to challenge it. It's relatively self-governed. But if a club has a surplus at the end of the year then next year's fees are lower. If there are many claims is made on the club then it's higher. So this is to say that if any member of the club requires access to that money everybody pays for it. Respectively, if one member of the club was in violation of an international sanction there could be an opportunity to penalize the entire club altogether.

AMT: And if you penalize the entire club altogether it has to function because they need it. They can't you can't sell without it.

ROBERT HUISH: Exactly. And I think this is a strategy that we're overlooking with North Korea because just for the simple fact that sanctions - in the very basis of sanctions theory - we assume that the target nation is going to behave like a nation, that it wants to be a good global citizen. And this is where North Korea and the Kim regime depart. They really run their country like a mafia state. The Kims are quite content to be a hermit kingdom, to be isolated from the popular world and still have their shadowy networks of commerce and trade. So just like the mafia, to really end for some sort of pressure to create behavior change, rather than going at the target themselves they need to look at the environment in which they operate. And within the maritime community, P & I insurance is probably one of the most available and easy areas to put pressure on to curb trade to North Korea.

AMT: So what are you suggesting happens?

ROBERT HUISH: So what I would suggest here is that in the past there have been sanctions on P & nightclubs with fairly positive effect. So in 2005, P & I clubs were sanctioned from ensuring any vessel coming out of Iran. That actually stopped any energy transports from Iran to the European Union or to other clients because no one was going to insure an Iranian vessel coming into port. So a similar thing could happen with either by the U.S., the EU or the United Nations would be to actually take a closer look at some of the protection and indemnity clubs that have ensured North Korean vessels that had been flagged under the North Korean flag, or vessels that are running under flags of convenience that have been operating in and out of North Korea for some time. And we have evidence of this. The Korean nightclub, a South Korean insurance club based in Seoul, has provided insurance to North Korean vessels under flags of convenience. Sculled P & I as an insurance company out of Norway that has also flag ensured a vessel called the Tian Zhu which was a flagged North Korean vessel. And there's others as well such as West of England P & I and north of England P & I. To me, these are these clubs are in very powerful financial centers. They're in places where money can move easily and quickly and they're also quite exposed.

AMT: So what you would do is that you would identify a ship going into one of these two ports and you would then be able to track who insured it, and you would go back to the insurer and you'd say “we're going after you.”

ROBERT HUISH: Yes so the problem with that strategy is that the transaction has already done. And that's kind of where we are right now. We can we can get a sense of which vessel went where but the transaction is already over. I mean there was a very suspicious vessel that I tracked in August 30th of this year, called The Sea Gemini, that stopped in turn off its identification system and then carried on to Russia. What we could do now, because the U.S. and the United Nations are now looking at sanctions on third parties, they're talking about the financial institutions that gain profit with North Korea. There's only so many protection and indemnity clubs in the world. And by insisting that the P & I clubs do not insure North Korean vessels or vessels that are known to be under flags of convenience, that would essentially stop the trade into North Korea. There would be no ability for a North Korean ship to get into an international port to offload or unload cargo, without some very deceptive behavior.

AMT: And it would have to be a North Korean ship. What if you had a ship owned by somebody, like literally owned by somebody else, that was going in there bringing - I guess what you're worried about is - nuclear weaponry or some new material to make that, what would you do?

ROBERT HUISH: So this unfortunately does happen and happens in two ways. There are legitimate vessels that there's one that tracked last year on July 26, 2016. It was the Liberian flagship. It was owned in Germany and insured in England. It left Vancouver and said it was going on its way to Pakistan but stopped in Sinpo Harbor, according to the data here. Now the only way to enforce any sort of punitive action on that ship would be say we've got evidence that you were trading in North Korea and hence we need to you know take action on the vessel or on the insurance club itself. The other trick is that a lot of North Korean ships are not owned and operated at a Pyongyang. There are several by several I mean dozens that are owned and operated shell companies out of Hong Kong. And this is how usually North Korea interacts with the world is through vessels that sound very Korean by name, such as the Chung 168, which is flagged in Tanzania, owned and operated out of Hong Kong, and then insured in Korea. So on paper you're seeing a Tanzanian flagged ship, owned and operated Hong Kong. There seems to be nothing malicious about that. It's only by following the traffic in and out of those ports that one can identify that there's been a violation. But I think that if there is more pressure put on the P & I Clubs proactively to discourage any sort of deceptive behavior. Ships that are known to have run flags of convenience, ships that are known to have associations to North Korea, or even to have a North Korean crew, would disqualify them from the club.

AMT: We asked another North Korea watcher about this approach to maritime sanctions. He's a bit skeptical about the impact. I want you to listen to Andre Schmid, a professor of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto.


The big problem is most of the trade goes to China by rail, by truck not by sea. And the only people who have some say or control over that are the Chinese authorities and the local authorities in China, which don't always see eye to eye with the central authorities and who often do not see eye to eye with individual businesses that engage in trade. So that is partly a political problem. We're looking at this maritime trade, not just because of the type of goods, but because it's one of the only realm within our power to target when vast majority of trade goes to China.

AMT: Robert Huish. What do you say to that?

ROBERT HUISH: You know I would actually hope that there would be more trade on land between North Korea and China. That doesn't worry me a whole lot because the trade that comes in - on track or rail - would hopefully be scrutinized by the Chinese authorities and we can get into that. But that's likely where you have more food and medicine and humanitarian goods coming in. The real nasty stuff, the sort of materials that lead to weapons proliferation and nuclear material, just simply cannot be transported by truck or train. You know North Korea has a long history of putting very malicious things in the bottoms of their ships. There was a famous case in 2014 where a North Korean vessel was going through the Panama Canal, it alerted U.S. and Panamanian authorities there. And sure enough when they boarded the ship they found a missile buried under a bunch of sugar, having come out of Cuba now there's no way to get the sort of missiles, the nuclear components into North Korea by rail. And I think that by stopping the maritime traffic into North Korea it would put the only entry points into North Korea from the border with China, which is only over about a dozen or so bridges for road and rail, which can be very easily monitored. And you're likely to see less transportation of these rockets and rocket parts into North Korea.

AMT: So why hasn't this been tried? Why were you taking this idea?

ROBERT HUISH: So I think it hasn't been tried for two principal reasons. And the first is that there is international pressure to see that this is in China's backyard. This is something that we're kind of quietly hoping that China and Russia will ultimately deal with. But the second is, is that by going after P&I insurance, we're now taking sanctions away from the Kim regime themselves. We are putting pressure on a very vital component of the maritime industry. And that would maybe expose other faults and fractures within the P&I clubs. And I think that while it would be credibly effective at stopping maritime traffic into North Korea, it would be faced with a lot of political pressure from the maritime industry itself and from others who have maybe relied on the industry for deceptive and disingenuous means as well.

AMT: Those flags of convenience aren't just tiny North Korean [unintelligible] and goods then, essentially.


AMT: There is a lot of stuff we don't know about a lot of ships, in other words.

ROBERT HUISH: There is so much. And you know North Korea is very good at all the old tricks you. You have flags of convenience. You falsify your cargo. But the other trick is also to falsify your destination port. So some of the easiest giveaways for some of these ships coming into North Korea is when they say “well we're leaving Weifang in China and the destination is Borough. And Borough is a small passenger ferry terminal in the Western Hebrides of Scotland. Now there's no way that that leaky tub is getting all the way to Scotland. And other ships do the same thing. If they want to say that they're going into Port X, they will broadcast Port y. And if there's deception and poor behavior within the industry, there's going to be a lot of interest that will be will be exposed by bringing that to light.

AMT: The sanctions do keep expanding. Are they going in the right direction or people who say they're the wrong way to deal with North Korea?

ROBERT HUISH: You know sanctions are really difficult, in general, because we haven't had a good track record with them. Sanctions were very popular in the 1990s when Kofi Annan was head of the U.N., saying that this was a way to put smart pressure on places. The problem with any sort of ham fisted sanction, that just sort of blanket's out you'll trade in traffic with a regime, is that it can have serious humanitarian consequences for the people there. Even smart sanctions on leadership and on financial institutions tied to leadership have not proved to be very effective. You look at the way the sanctions were put on Saddam Hussein personally or Muammar Gadhafi. You know these were policies that didn't work well. And I believe that the Kim regime, through the sort of sanctions on banks and financial institutions and members of his top administration, will likely not have the desired effect. I think that we've got to expand it into a more strategic way of dealing with it like a mafia state where we've got to figure out where the pressure points are, on how you physically get nuclear proliferation material into North Korea, or how you physically get rocket fuel into North Korea. There's only so many ports and vessels that are willing to facilitate that trade. And to me, that's the weakest link in the chain and the insurance clubs are also the most universal standard in that maritime industry.

AMT: Okay, well Robert Huish thank you for sharing your ideas and your thoughts on this.

ROBERT HUISH: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

AMT: Robert Huish is an associate professor in the Department of International Development Studies at Dalhousie University. He joined us from Halifax. This is the current on CBC Radio 1. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti.

Back To Top »

CBC podcast host David Ridgen on Season 3 of Someone Knows Something

Guest: David Ridgen



It was the wrong body. The finding of a Negro male was noted then forgotten. The search was not for him. The search was for two white youths and their Negro friend.

AMT: Well that is a clip from a 1964 CBC documentary it's called Summer in Mississippi. And in that film two U.S. law enforcement officials have found the body of a black teenager in the Mississippi River. The second body of a black teen they'd found in two days. The young man named Henry Dee and Charles Moore they had been murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. But as you heard in that old film, the bodies were merely noted and forgotten. Those weren't the bodies they were looking for. That was a scene that the Canadian documentary maker David Ridgen could never forget after he saw it. And 40 years after it was filmed, Dave Ridgen set out to investigate. His work, together with Thomas Moore, the brother of one of the victims forced the FBI to reopen the case. It ultimately led to the arrest and conviction of one of the Klansman: James Ford Seale. It also cemented Dave Ridgen’s interest in investigating cold cases. He helped found the civil rights cold case project. He is also the host of the CBC podcast Someone Knows Something. Six episodes of season three of SKS are out today and they delved back into that Mississippi cold case. The issues it raises around white supremacists and the American justice system remain as relevant as ever. David Ridgen is with me in our Toronto studio. Hi.


AMT: Well first of all you made sure that Henry Dee and Charles Moore were not forgotten. Remind us who these two were.

DAVID RIDGEN: Well Charles Moore was a 19 year old college student at Alcorn College in 1964 in the spring. He had just been suspended for taking part in a protest so he was actually around Meadville Mississippi where he was picked up by the Klan. And Henry D was a 19 year old friend of his who lived in Roxie Mississippi and worked at a lumber mill and in Roxie. They were picked up by the Klan on May 2nd, 1964, beaten in the woods and then taken across the bridge to Louisiana and dumped into the Mississippi River, attached to some heavyweights while still alive.

AMT: It's a terrible story. It was known that the KKK was responsible for their brutal beating and drowning and yet the FBI didn't do much, until you and Thomas Moore pursued the case.

DAVID RIDGEN: Well the FBI did undertake an investigation largely within the context of the Mississippi burning case they first thought that Charles and Henry's remains were those of either Schwerner, Chaney or Goodman who were three civil rights workers who were murdered on June 21st, 1964. And they did an investigation that wasn't actually- that James Ford Seale and Charles Edwards, two of the Klansmen involved in the murders were arrested at the time in November of 1964. But nothing happened. You're right. And then the case kind of languished for many many years until other journalists tried to pick it up. ABC, Jerry Mitchell down in Mississippi looked at it and just nothing happened. They weren't able to make a connection between where the murders happened and federal jurisdiction. And then Thomas Moore and I connected in 2005 and just the right timing, right place, I guess some luck. We got together and worked for three years uncovering information, talking to the U.S. attorney down there whose name was done Lampton, and eventually James Seale was indicted and put in jail.

AMT: They actually used the evidence you gave them. They used your documentary; didn’t they play it for the jury?

DAVID RIDGEN: Yes the doc Mississippi Cold Case was played. Part of it was played for the jury. Actually, there's a part where Thomas Moore and I go to a church to visit one of the Klansmen involved in the murders. And Thomas confronts him there at the church, and the jury watched that part. And actually the part that we heard at the beginning of the program here, where John Draney says the wrong body was also played at the very beginning of the trial by the prosecution.

AMT: And what does that tell you about the American justice system?

DAVID RIDGEN: Well I mean these cases are tough. Old cases are tough to tackle Anyways. The Department of Justice I think has tried over the years very various initiatives to look into civil rights era cold cases. And you know works with the FBI to reinvestigate things, but I'm not sure that the funding is always in the right place and I'm not sure that the effort is actually put forward in the right way. So it's a huge system. There's very few reporters working on this beat and often family members give up. Family members are required in the American system to pressure - I would say - more so than in Canadian system and sometimes families just give up without facilitation of you know media or things like that.

AMT: So are you coming back to this case in SKS. Why did you want to do that?

DAVID RIDGEN: Well Jeez. I guess it's been 13 years since I met Thomas Moore and in those 13 years I've gathered, I would say, over 500 hours of material video and lots of documents and photographs so…

AMT: We got a big drawer somewhere with all this stuff.

DAVID RIDGEN: That is called my bedroom.


DAVID RIDGEN: So I'm surrounded by boxes of my previous cases and in most cases I've saved things sometimes I haven't but for sure in the Mississippi case, I record my process when do anything. And it was tailor made for a podcast. So we can't put everything into the podcast because we have to tell a story at the same time and it's not just an encyclopedia put on line or something, but it's six hours versus the 42 minutes that went out and video on television.

AMT: What kinds of things are we going to hear David?

DAVID RIDGEN: Oh we hear back room negotiations with the Department of Justice officials. We hear conversations with the FBI. We hear Thomas we're going through and Thelma Collins, Henry's sister, ruminating about how to go forward in the case and look at information that they've never dreamed that they would ever look at again, or in their futures. And there's actually some revelations some news that comes out of this from back at that time, which I don't want to spoil. And we have taken some things and put them on line as extras that are that are news, I would say, news making from the time.

AMT: So much ends up on the cutting room floor when you're doing a documentary film. So you've got all of this stuff that gives us more insights into how this stuff unfolded and what people were thinking.

DAVID RIDGEN: That's right. I mean there's a huge amount of depth to the characters and sort of I guess the plot as it were of the case. And as we said at the beginning of the show, there's a resonance today I would say with white supremacy. I mean latent white supremacy is everywhere. I think there's a lot of talk of white supremacy being enabled because of what's going on in the States right now, but really I mean it can only be enabled because it's already there. And I think you know we're fooling ourselves if we think suddenly white supremacy is a new thing or you know we have the Indian Act that needs to be destroyed in Canada. And I know of at least two places in Ontario where there's a prominent citizen in the town with a Confederate flag waving on their front lawn. So that's been going on for years. So we're not talking about something new.

AMT: No no. This is very relevant. What happened then and connecting the dots to what we see now. How is Thomas Moore, Charles’s brother, how's he doing?

DAVID RIDGEN: Thomas It's great. I talked to him quite frequently. I used to talk to him every day obviously back in the day. I spoke to him yesterday. Obviously he would be able to tell you how he's doing, but from what I can tell he's great. He you know went through life feeling guilty that he'd never been able to help his brother, was away from home at the time when his brother was murdered. And always struggled with that with that guilt and I kind of grew up pushing people away from him. He had a sort of a negative force around him, he would describe. But now Thomas is much lighter. I would describe him as kind of a transformed person. He's a religious person, very religious I'd say, since this has all happened. And I think that has helped him as well. He thinks I think that Moses sent me, or somebody sent me, one of those guys sent me to help him. But he's great. I love talking to him.

AMT: Well we'll hear more from him too. I really look forward to this. We'll hear more about the actual issues also get some insights into how you investigate this stuff. Thank you.

DAVID RIDGEN: Thank you.

AMT: David Ridgen host of Someone Knows Something. The third season of SKS is available today, Cbc.ca/sks. That is our program for today stay with Radio 1 for q. Rick Mercer joins Tom Power to talk about his 15th and final season of CBC's Rick Mercer Report and what he might be up to next. Remember you can take The Current with you to go on the CBC radio app. Browse through past episodes of our shows, start listening and just a few seconds, hear the day's top story, make your own playlist, get it free from the App Store or Google Play. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. Thank you for listening to The Current. Don't forget SKS today.

[Music: Theme]

Back To Top »

CBC would like to acknowledge the support of the Broadcasting Accessibility Fund.