Toronto Star

Nov. 20, 02:01 EDT

Group's ravings disturbing, dangerous

Jim Coyle
Toronto Star

TWO STREAMS of anger course palpably through the coroner's inquest into the murder-suicide in June, 2000, of Gillian and Ralph Hadley.

The first is embodied by Geri Sanson, lawyer for the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, and expresses the understandable indignation of those who've watched the bodies of women murdered by partners pile up in recent years, watched as previous inquests into similar deaths were ignored and services for women who need them were cut.

The second emanates from a group known as FACT - Fathers Are Capable Too - which has standing at the inquest, is ably represented there by its lawyer, but which operates away from the proceedings in a way that would be merely pathetic if it weren't a little alarming.

During the inquest, FACT has sponsored a Web site that seems in need of both a spell-check and a cyber-Valium. In it, Sanson's client is derided as "an ultra-radical feminist voice." In it, almost any media coverage not wholly in line with FACT's view is belittled and attacked.

That FACT indulges in this latter pursuit is not an issue. That it does so in a way that suggests profound institutional self-pity and sense of victimhood, an inclination to blame, the careful nurturing of resentments, and the steady stoking of bitterness among its adherents is both disturbing and possibly dangerous.

The facts are these: Two Junes ago in Pickering, 34-year-old Ralph Hadley broke into his estranged wife's home, chased her naked into the street, hauled her back inside, shot her to death, then killed himself. An inquest is now in its fifth week of investigating how similar horrors can be avoided. FACT is one of the parties with standing. And it sounds very unhappy with the coverage.

On its Web site, almost every journalist assigned to the story has been found wanting. Excerpts are taken from news stories and columns and posted with comments ranging from inane to asinine. Even the headline above a column of mine from Nov. 10 about the testimony of a Durham police officer - "Constable Fights Lonely, Thankless Battle" - seems to have offended FACT.

"Hmmm ... do (sic) does bin Laden. This doesn't mean the cause is right."

Worse by far than this juvenilia is the fact that few opportunities for cattiness or woman-bashing are missed.

In advising men going through divorce to seek counselling or support, the site says: "Your dark side is powerful - one that can allow a parent to force a 5-year-old kicking and screaming under the water in a bathtub as did Andrea Yates."

To suggest, by citing this Texas case, that domestic violence is not fundamentally male, that men don't kill women far more often than the other way around, is to demonstrate an obtuseness almost sufficient to disqualify one from the debate.

I should also say that I take personally this organization's malign ravings and indiscriminate libels. The Web site repeatedly alleges that I've written about the inquest without having attended. "Jim Coynes (sic), who no-one saw at the inquest says ..."

The several hundred pages of notes I've taken while there, and any court officer FACT wishes to consult about my attendance, will attest otherwise.

Though I suppose all breath is wasted on nitwits who can't copy down a name correctly from the newspaper - when the paper is kind enough to publish it in 18-point, bold type.

There were many victims in the Hadley story: the children left behind; traumatized families forced - through no crime of their own - under the sort of scrutiny that no one could withstand without embarrassment; Gillian most obviously; and, on some levels, Ralph Hadley, too.

But make no mistake. On the morning of June 20, 2000, when two people lay dead on a floor, there was one victim. And one killer.

And that's a fact.

Jim Coyle's column usually appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

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