Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Is Don Morgan the new Dorothy Parker?

In some ways, Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan's crusade to seize alleged profits from the sales of wife-murderer Colin Thatcher's new book Final Appeal: Anatomy of a Frame is cute, quaint even. That Morgan, daydream believer that he is, believes there are riches to be had in Canadian publishing, well, it makes me glad he's not Finance Minister.

That said, Morgan's Profits of Criminal Notoriety Act is toothless policy and smacks of nothing more than a hollow attempt a snagging some cheap public approval points without actually, y'know, doing anything. If Morgan and his Sask Party bossman Brad Wall were really interested in righting the wrongs done in the murder of JoAnn Wilson they could have enacted stronger domestic violence legislation, allocated more money to women's shelters, or done any number of things that would actually prevent future spousal-homicide. But instead, the Sask Party is using public funds to pay legal fees to seize money from Thatcher and ECW Press. Morgan says any seized money might go to Thatcher's children, who have remained close to Thatcher and would likely benefit from any profits Thatcher received anyway. So, besides a public contribution to the bank accounts of a handful of Sask Party-friendly lawyers, what's the point?

More troubling is that the Profits of Criminal Notoriety Act threatens to suppress many voices that have already been marginalized. According to 2005/2006 numbers, nearly 80% of Saskatchewan's prison population is Aboriginal (compared with 15% of the at-large Saskatchewan population. We may never get to hear their stories, stories that could very well be essential to creating a more equal and just Saskatchewan for all of its citizens. Without at least the potential for profits, what publisher would bother? The Act promises to muffle, if not silence, voices of dissent, voices of that don't come from a background of privilege.
Authorial intention and artistic or social merit really aren't questions for government, are they? Certainly not this government.

Most troubling about the Profits of Criminal Notoriety Act, though, is that it reveals a contempt for the intelligence of the people of Saskatchewan. The Sask Party, otherwise champions of the free market, seemingly don't trust the people of SK to recognize Thatcher's book as the manifestation of an egomaniacal persecution-complex seemingly too vain to hire a ghostwriter (only John Gormley and his staff seem to have found much merit in the book). For all their fifth-grade understanding of capitalism, maybe they don't have faith in the system of supply and demand after all.