Making the punishment fit the crime

Being craven he crept in just after midnight. It was Tuesday, 10 August 2021. As a trespasser he was clever enough to know you don’t show your face when you’re out committing a crime. He wore a mask.

What he did next has been called a hate crime. It was pre-meditated, targeted a specific minority and was intended to provoke a public outcry. It caused its victims fear.

Now, after more than a year-long investigation, Edmonton Police Services have identified Mr Duncan Kinney as their suspect. I don’t know him. He says he is innocent, even claims he’s a victim of police persecution. Certainly, he’s innocent until proven guilty. A judge will decide.

Mr Kinney is an “investigative reporter” for The Progress Report, “an independent and proudly left wing media project” which allegedly lives “up to the fundamental ideals of good journalism – honesty, transparency, and professionalism.” Let’s interrogate this declaration.

First – was it merely a coincidence that Mr Kinney was strolling by a Ukrainian Canadian community centre in Edmonton at 8:50 am on that particular Tuesday morning? Security cameras confirm his presence. Inquiring minds might wonder whether Duncan regularly takes a morning constitutional in this particular neighborhood? Since I don’t know where he lives I won’t guess. What is indisputable is that he penned a story in the summer of 2019 about a nearly-identical act of vandalism against this very same statue of General Roman Shukhevych, the leader of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. So it’s reasonable to assume he knew where he was. Did he glance toward the hall as he moseyed on by? If he did, and noticed anything untoward, he did not report it, at least not to the property owners. They only discovered the statue had again been defaced some two hours later. Yet, by the afternoon, Mr Kinney posted: “It’s unclear when this happened but pictures …were sent to the Progress Report on August10, 2021.” Who sent him photographs? Insofar as I know, this hasn’t been determined. Not yet. Nor did he speculate about who did the deed, apart from suggesting “an unknown person or persons.” The police say the evidence points to him.

On this occasion, and previous ones, the tone of Mr Kinney’s broadcasts about these wrongdoings has certainly seemed shrill, at least to some readers. Not to me. After all, Progress Report openly rejects “the prevailing assumption that journalism must be apolitical, neutral or objective.” Unsurprisingly, therefore, it’s neither neutral nor objective. Of course, Mr Kinney’s epistles can be vexing. But that’s probably just my learning kicking in, an instinctive reaction against those who prefer blinded faith over facts. Even so I affirm everyone’s right to free speech, as long as it does not incite hate or violence. Mr Kinney can believe whatever he wants about Ukrainian nationalists. The same goes for the others from whom he musters denunciations of General Shukhevych. Often as not those commentators studiously ignore how some of their people were the foot soldiers of settler-colonial regimes or enablers of the Soviet occupation of Ukraine. Regardless, what is really objectionable is when some oaf errant feels entitled to damage private property or manufactures “fake news” to sucker the gullible media – and that goes regardless of the cause, even if it’s a good one like saving whales.

This sordid story reminds me of kindred Soviet deceits. One recently-uncovered KGB document, from October1985, details how Moscow’s men stoked tensions between the Jewish and Ukrainian diasporas over the alleged presence of “thousands of Nazi war criminals” in North America. The theme of Operation Payback, as this chicanery was code-named, was revived by the KGB man in the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin, when he and his confederates launched Russia’s war against Ukraine. They blustered on about how they invaded Ukraine to cleanse it of “Nazis,” including Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky, a Ukrainian hero of Jewish heritage. Despite being patently ludicrous, this justification for genocide has ever-since been regurgitated by fellow travelers in the West, mostly a motley assortment of extremists from right-wing camarillas in the USA abetted by left wing comrades in Canada. Strange birds seem to be flocking together these days. Even in Alberta.

The few journalists who have, rather sheepishly, reported on the charges Mr Kinney faces seem determined to write about who the Second World War’s villains were or weren’t. That’s utterly off-point. The real issue here is how the exposure of this hoax will leave people skeptical about any future reporting of hate crimes, regardless of who the victims are. How will anyone be able to tell the difference between true outrages versus clever propaganda concocted to advance partisan communal interests?

Mr Kinney will have his day in court, soon enough. Whatever the outcome, law-abiding citizens agree this hooliganism must be atoned for. The penance should involve a public confession and reparations paid for the damages done, followed by a spell of meaningful community service – cleaning graffiti from public spaces around Edmonton suggests itself. Indeed that would be quite a progressive remedy, making the punishment fit the crime.

About the Author
Born in Kingston, Ontario, the son of Ukrainian political refugees, Lubomyr was educated at Queen's University, the University of Alberta and, since 1990, has been a professor of political geography at The Royal Military College of Canada. He is also a Fellow of the Chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Toronto and, in 2019, was distinguished by President Volodymyr Zelensky with Ukraine's Cross of Ivan Mazepa. In 2022 he was declared a persona non grata by the Russian Federation.
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