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Has #MeToo sparked an era of women falsely accusing men? No, and that’s why we still take elevators

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What is the future of #MeToo?

If you want to stop reading right there, I won’t blame you. It is hard to find another recent story that has garnered so many words, such debate, angst and politicking. I apologize for adding more.

But when asked by the Toronto Star to write a companion #MeToo column, the temptation was too great. Full disclosure: the Star’s Vinay Menon, who wrote the other column, is a good friend of mine. We once had a lively debate about Jordan Peterson. We agreed to disagree.

Thing is, this just doesn’t seem, as Vinay opines, #MoreComplicated.

There is a familiar pattern to how both men and women warn about the dangerous fallout of #MeToo. The columns usually start with a couple caveats: Of course this movement was needed to give voice to sexual abuse victims; Harvey Weinstein was obviously a predator, and, thank heavens, he has been stopped.

Good. Now, let’s move on to the “buts.”

But … what about men who say they now have to worry about being on elevators with women?

Read more:

Opinion | Vinay Menon: #MeToo won’t last if it isn’t fair

That was the breaking news this summer in a flurry of gender-Armageddon articles. These men are “genuinely worried,” according to a National Post story, that a woman could “ride the elevator with you for 20 seconds or so, then accuse you on Twitter the next day of groping them.”

Gentlemen, the fear is real. Just yesterday, one of my editors gave me a Tim Hortons with cream and sugar. I asked for milk. What a rapist. I took to social media to denounce that caffeine pervert, saying he grabbed my breast. #DoubleDoubleDick.

I’m kidding, obviously. I don’t drink Tim Hortons.

But the idea that #MeToo has ushered in a terrifying new era of women falsely accusing men of sexual abuse, is based on the underlying principle that women belong to a hysterical, vindictive tribe, hell bent on destroying lives, while a chorus of sisters belt out “You go, girl!” That just hasn’t happened.

Which brings us to Aziz Ansari, who was skewered in a controversial 3,000-word online column penned by an unidentified 23-year-old who characterized their date as “the worst night of my life.” As Vinay writes, the piece “did not dovetail with the spirit and exhaustive reportage of so many 2017 investigations.” Exactly. This is why it was published on babe.net, not the New York Times or the New Yorker, whose brilliant journalism was the kindle for the #MeToo fire.

Was Aziz Ansari ruined? I’m sure he is happy to see 2018 behind him, but he recently announced a 28-show North American theatre run. In February, he will headline Vancouver’s Just For Laughs.

Closer to home, Vinay raises the case of TVO’s Steve Paikin, accused by former Toronto mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson of sexually propositioning her over a lunch meeting. I know Steve through journalism circles. The allegations were hard to believe and when I saw him at an event, I gave him a hug. It was evident just how difficult the experience had been.

But Steve was cleared by an independent investigation, is back hosting the show he loves, and it is Thomson’s reputation that took a hit.

In defending himself, Steve wrote: “the #MeToo movement is too important to be undermined by spurious allegations.” He’s right and that is exactly why a handful of false allegations should not derail the movement, throwing us back into the dark after we’ve seen the light.

#MeToo didn’t invent false accusations, and it certainly is not the first time that the court of public opinion has acted as judge, jury and executioner. For women, especially those with public careers, ignoring spurious attacks on their character has just become part of the job. Take a swim in the cesspool of social media and risk being pulled under by the riptides of ignorance.

When I was reporting at the Toronto Star, readers who disagreed with my articles (which were about terrorism, not feminism) would regularly denounce me with sexual or demeaning comments, allege conspiracies on my “fake news” reporting, and a precious few even said they hoped I would get raped or killed on my next foreign assignment.

This wasn’t abuse by men, but by dangerous misogynists, who are hopefully among those now most bothered by #MeToo.

But looking back over this year, it was the Supreme Court hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, and the ensuing #HimToo “movement,” which really embodied where we are today and why it is so important to not “exhale and poke holes” into #MeToo, as Vinay suggests, but to push forward.

Like many women I know, I surprised myself by crying while listening to Christine Blasey Ford testify. It wasn’t so much her allegations — as devastating as they were — but the way she comported herself, her obvious discomfort, her deep respect for the proceedings, and most heart-breaking, her seeming need to please those gathered in that Capitol Hill room.

Contrast that with Kavanaugh’s disrespectful, feverish and bullying demeanour. Forget the allegations, his performance should have disqualified him to sit in the highest court of the land. If he were a woman, it may have.

Those hearings made all of us look inward and re-examine our past and present relationships. No one likes to be cornered, and, perhaps even subconsciously, to feel defensive about what we once believed was an acceptable norm.

Comedian Louis CK may not have said sorry in his apology letter, but he did say something that resonates for women: “When you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them.”

Thankfully, just as there is not a vengeful tribe of women armed with false accusations, men are not rampantly whipping out their willies for show-and-don’t-tell. But he’s right, in the sense that women are often left to second-guess their actions: rebuff a boss’s advance, and wonder how it may affect your job or reputation; have a relationship, and face accusations of sleeping your way to the top.

But we haven’t stopped riding elevators.

For those anxious men, it is not the #MeToo movement that they need to question, but their own relationships with women.

If you’re still afraid guys, take the stairs please.

Michelle Shephard is a journalist, author and filmmaker and the Toronto Star’s former National Security Reporter. Follow her @shephardm.

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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