First, if you’re not familiar with one of the biggest book-related news stories in Saskatchewan since Guy Vanderhaeghe won the Governor General’s Award, let me tell you a story. As The Captain would say, “this is non-fiction, which means it is true.”
Once upon a time, there was a politician in Saskatchewan whose father had also been a politician. The younger politician’s name was Colin Thatcher. Colin did the same things that everyone else did: he went to school, he worked for his father, he got married, he had children, and then he got a different job, working for the people of Saskatchewan. But Colin Thatcher did one thing that most other people don’t do: Colin Thatcher killed his wife.
From the very start, Colin denied that he had had anything to do with his wife’s murder (technically, his EX-wife’s murder), but in a court of law, it was found that Colin, while he may not have been the man whose finger pulled the trigger that caused the striker to ignite the firing pin that proplled the bullet that killed JoAnn Wilson; while Colin Thatcher may not have tensed his muscles to plunge the knife again and again into the skull of JoAnn Wilson, what the jury decided was that whether or not Colin Thatcher’s muscles did that, Colin Thatcher’s brain put the whole thing into motion. The jury found him guilty of murder, because he caused his ex-wife’s death. He hired the man whose finger pulled the trigger, and whose muscles plunged the knife again and again into her skull. He PAID the man.
Immediately after being sentenced; probably before the vibrations from the judge’s gavel were heard in the Court of Queen’s Bench at Colin Thatcher’s trial, he was launching an appeal. Which was overturned. Shortly before he then launched an appeal with the Supreme Court of Canada, which upheld the findings from the original trial. So the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter how loudly Thatcher whines; it doesn’t matter that he continually lies about being innocent. The point of the matter is that nobody believes you, Colin Thatcher.
So Colin gets sent off to the world’s cushiest prison where he gets to ride horses and play golf all day. He essentially has to live in a TWO star resort (rather than a FOUR star resort) for twenty-some years. He applied for early parole a number of times, and was denied. Eventually, he was granted parole, and now he lives on his ranch in southern Saskatchewan. He wrote a book. He wrote a book in which he tells everyone he’s innocent (because that worked so well for him when he was arrested, when he testified in his own defense, during each of his appeals, and during his stay at the two-star resort). No publishers in Saskatchewan would touch the book.
But the publisher who *did* touch the book has a Saskatchewan connection (the managing editor of ECW Press grew up here). Interesting fact, but not germain to the conversation. ECW Press has done many fantastical books that garnered a bunch of attention, including a book on the motorcycle industry, a book about Grunge music, a book about professional wrestling, and a history of Black Sabbath, among many others. ECW Press is *very* good at marketing. And they’re *very* good at picking titles that are…or which can be…controversial to some.
So ECW Press decided to publish Colin Thatcher’s book. They knew it would sell, and it has. And, from all reports, Colin Thatcher is a far more accomplished murderer than he is a writer. Enter the point I am trying to make.
The Saskatchewan government passed a piece of legislation that makes it illegal for convicted felons to profit from the sales of their stories via books. Since I know you’re wondering what I think about that, I think it didn’t go far enough. I think the legislation should stipulate that any and all proceeds to the criminal from the sale of their story ought to go either directly to the victim’s family, or to some victims’ services organisation. Anyway.
This week, I heard someone say that this seizure of Colin Thatcher’s income is unconstitutional and that it amounts to censorship.
I don’t know what the Canadian constitution says about profiting from the proceeds of a crime, but I do know it sure as poop isn’t censorship. Not only did Colin Thatcher get to say whatever the crap he wanted about what he did, he wrote a book about it. And the book got published. And the book has been selling. If there had been censorship involved, Thatcher would have been prevented from telling his story *at all*.