Frann Harris's book is called Martensville: Truth or Justice. The title signals her confusion; since when are truth and justice mutually exclusive? There is little understanding of either in Harris's book which contains embarrassing anecdotes from her own past intended to show just how empathetic and understanding she is but instead revealing a shallow, sheltered mind. Harris stays in the shallows and although she keeps promising to check out deeper water, she never even gets her ankles wet. Instead she contemplates horrors that never happened, flashes back to examples from her own past and reveals…… guess what! We live in a society where abuse of many kinds is as common as house dirt and some people, like Harris herself and Claudia Bryden whom she greatly admires, choose to make their livings by exploiting their own past victimisation.
Anyone who sat in that courtroom for T.S.'s trial could see that Steven and Curtis were lying. Everyone that is except Frann Harris and Judge Albert Lavoie.
Harris writes of her own mundane brushes with abuse in hush hush tones which suggest she is disclosing the tip of some iceberg too unspeakable to approach. She mirrors and panders to the justice community and the general population of Saskatchewan: her projected readership. Saskatchewan people lap up innuendo but rarely confront the facts regarding anything to do with sex. Coyness is one medium that runs deep in this province! With our mother's milk we learn the code. There are many other places where truly frank discussion is discouraged, but in Saskatchewan we quickly learn that the only way to speak about sex is to chastise and ostracise those who do.
Saskatchewan had one of the strictest censorboards in the world for many years. Pretty Baby was not shown when it was released and Last Tango was cut to shreds. Our censorboard became the laughing stock of the country when it refused to release the comedy, Exit to Eden. It chose to protect citizens from these films while the Porky's films, featuring adolescent boys ogling girls through peepholes passed without a blink. In this context, I [Sheila Steele] will grant that Harris's claimed courage is somewhat justified. At least she talks about approaching the subject. But it is still through a peephole.
That Maggie Siggins calls this book an "analysis" suggests to me her mind has gone soft. It is one thing to help a struggling sister writer but quite another to write a blurb presenting shoddy work as seriously researched or containing insights of any kind. Harris whines a lot about how hard it was to write this book. Fudging the truth is always difficult. If the bizarre testimony of the children did not raise some serious doubts in her mind, she has no business calling herself an investigative writer. Yes, this book is presented as an investigative work.
Harris put in her hours in the Courtroom, but apart from that she did no research. Her heartfelt plea to "Believe the children" doesn't lead anywhere. Where did the children hear about such things, she asks. They couldn't have made these stories up! Well, of course the child witnesses didn't make the stories up. Claudia Bryden and Rod Butler fed them the scripts. That was clear to others of us who also put in our hours in the courtroom.
As part of the marketing strategy, [for Martensville: Truth or Justice] Harris has dedicated her book to Martin Kruze and included an afterword by Sheldon Kennedy. This shamefully exploits two people who paid their dues by fighting back.
The subtext of Frann Harris's book is clear. By hitching her cart to some high profile cases of child victimisation, she seeks to beef up her own credentials as a victim of something-or-other and build a career as a professional victim watcher.
We [Sheila Steele] are among the people who actually paid $24.99 plus GST and PST for this book. We wasted money which might more wisely have been spent on lottery tickets. Martensville: Truth or Justice adds nothing to understanding what happened in Martensville, or in the Foster Parent case, which she also alludes to, with the same "nudge, nudge, know-what-I-mean" technique. It simply adds more pulp to prop up a provincial justice system which thrives on covering the truth.
[ -- Sheila Steele]
UPDATE: June 19 2012
Author Frann Harris strongly objects to Sheila Steele's review of her book: Martensville: Truth or Justice
In a spirit of openess and fairness, Frann Harris' objections to and opinion of the review of her book is being published along the the remedies. injusticebusters.org has amended this review, using editor's brackets, to clearly indicicate that the person speaking is indeed Sheila Steele. The following disclaimer which appears in numerous index pages on the site has been amended with the text in bold.
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