Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Donor Beware: Ottawa Senators' Fake Clinic Charity Re-Visited

'Tis the (ever earlier) season when you'll be hit up by various good causes. In light of the revelation that unbeknownst to Ontario gamblers they were helping to fund a religious anti-choice fake clinic, let's revisit the grandmother of anti-abortion trickery stories in Canada.

I was reminded of it by commenter Sub-Boreal, who reports a similar situation.
And it's not just lottery funds that end up funding the fake crisis centres. Example: I was horrified to discover a couple of years ago that my credit union gave a few thousand to a local centre after polling members on how to divvy up a fund among some charities. I hadn't been a very attentive member, so I'm not sure how the shortlist of charities had been compiled, but I'll be much more vigilant the next time any similar process gets announced.

For the holidays of 2007, the wives and girlfriends -- known as the Better Halves (awww) -- of the Ottawa Senators sponsored a charity dealie with three worthy charities the intended recipients of funds extorted exhorted from loyal Sens fans.

Planned Parenthood raised the alarm that one of the charities, First Place Pregnancy Centre, now rebranded (as they are wont to do) First Place Options, was a lying-liar outfit of the first order.

Before DJ!, deBeauxOs and I blogged at Birth Pangs. We were all over the story as were other bloggers, notably JJ at Unrepentant Old Hippie.

CBC got on it in the person of Heather Mallick. (Her original story has vaporized, as has the re-issue at rabble.)

I found a link to the meaty bit of the story -- her phone conversation with the Senators Foundation prez as they went through the links on First Place's website.
I had an initially cheerful phone interview with Sens Foundation president Dave Ready, who said the Better Halves, when asked to choose three charities, chose: First Place, Kids Help Phone [and] Harmony House (a women's shelter).

First Place was “in line with our mandate,” he said. “We did due diligence and checked that it's a charity.”

“You went to the website?” I asked.


“Did you check on the links?”


We went through the First Place site links together. There's a standard disclaimer but First Place hopes we'll find them “helpful.” I told Ready that some of the news headlines appeared to be libellous, particularly the ones linking corporations that make birth control drugs to the Jewish Holocaust and one drug itself to Nazi death camps. Others were grotesque: “One baby in 30 left alive after medical abortion” turns out to be an absurd, unsubstantiated anonymous “news story” in a British entertainment magazine.

You're also guided to a donation page for the American Life League, a hardline group based outside Washington. There's a shop, admittedly very funny, that sells “Abortion is mean” T-shirts for two-year-olds.

They offer booklets explaining that abortion is wrong even in the case of incest. They tell members to scare away raped children outside abortion clinics. They call RU-486 “the anti-human pesticide.” They offer sample letters to the editor to send to outlets that employ, I imagine, columnists like me. One begins: “Planned Parenthood is not 'a good guy.'”

Ready gets more and more quiet as we track this. Soon he is desperate to get off the phone. He will not let me talk to a Better Half, who might well explain that she hadn't known that First Place is financed by the Bethel Pentecostal Church (external - login to view) in Ottawa and its mission — declared on the Bethel website but nowhere on the First Place site — is not just anti-abortion but anti-birth control.
In short, the Sens' Better Halves had stepped in some deep doo-doo.

Sens fans were wondering WTF? Pro-choicers (especially of the Leaf Nation variety) were pointing and laughing.

And bloggers were having a ball.

But before things could get any poopier, the lying liars pulled out. (This was characterized as a "gracious" move by the Fetus Freak Media. Ha. Right.)

We never learned how the Better Halves chose that charity. Was it an inside job? Were they duped?

There was one more move. First Place sued Planned Parenthood for "defamation over comments that the Centre is 'anti-choice'." As that blogger points out, it was pretty odd for one charity to sue another, and likely to be very expensive for both.

We don't know what happened there either since some kind of settlement was reached.

For us, it was lots of fun, especially as we were dubbed by LifeShite Vicious Abortion Crusaders, a title we wear with pride to this day.

But there's another more important takeaway: When someone asks you for dough, ask for details.

(It also explains why fake clinic websites don't link to their more lunatic, racist fellow travellers anymore. In public at least. We know from undercover investigations that they still spew the most outrageous nonsense once they have a live vulnerable woman in their fake clinics.)

Happy giving season!

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