There’s a trick with Sichuan peppers I know how to do. As in how to remove that gritty seed in Sichuan peppers

Sichuan peppercorns are neither peppers nor corns. They are tiny berries which grow on the Chinese Prickly Ash tree. They belong to the citrus family and is a crucial ingredient in Ma Po Tofu and a myriad other Chinese specialties. Its use is not limited to China.

The onyx black seed is removed as it is gritty. Only the dry husk of the berry is used. When it hits your tongue Sichuan pepper gives it a small electric shock type of sensation and equally importantly it’s fragrance in cooking is spectacular. It has become one of my favourite spices.

Imagine my horror recently when I sat down to a dish of Ma Po Tofu I had made to find it full of grit. I knew it had to be the new batch of Sichuan pepper. I had powdered some for the recipe. What did I do wrong? Where did this sand come from? Wracked by guilt after all the chopping and prepping that goes into the dish I still ate it while carefully avoiding the gritty bits. Otherwise the grit would have won. Fortunately there were no guests who would have been shocked and it would have been a disaster. I survived.

This was may be five or six months ago and I have been hesitant to make any more Ma Po Tofu until the grit issue got resolved. This week I had some silken tofu glaring at me in the fridge for a week and it was time. A quick search online and I find it is the seeds that make Sichuan peppers gritty. The peppers I purchased in Chinatown were more than the husk. It contained the seeds which are as tough as stones. I did not encounter this problem with the first batch of Sichuan peppers.

So the rule is: Only the husk, not the seed. The seed is jet black, hard and onyx shiny. It could well be a gem or a bead in jewellery. However it does not belong in your Ma Po Tofu. I searched and searched to eke out a solution and there were many which I will not get into. They involved washing, drying in the sun and myriad others. Nothing however seemed to state the obvious. Which was to physically remove the seed.

I am sure there are many ways to deseed a Sichuan berry but here is one of them. I wasn’t going to go looking for them late evening in Chinatown and probably I might well have ended up with the same product with seeds in tact.


Sichuan peppers – some with seeds in them. The seeds are gritty and should not be used.

How to: Using the tip of a small paring knife open the husk. The seed will fall out. Carefully pick out the husk and set aside the seed. Its the husk that you use. The seeds are beautiful and I hate to throw them away until I find out if they have any use. However someone from China told me that the most potent part of a Sichuan peppers is in the seed. I am not yet sure I would want to try it again. May be more research is called for on the gritty seeds. Until then use only the husk.


Seeds extracted. Some of the berries were too tight to open. They too were discarded. Yet I was stunned by their Onyx-like beauty. I wonder if they are used as beads.


The rule is: Only the husk, not the seed.


There are many uses for Sichuan pepper. Here it releases a unique citrus-like fragrance in oil over medium heat, to start off Ma Po Tofu which appears below. My absolutely favourite recipe for this is here:


Credits: Title is a nod to Michael Ondaatje’s poetry collection entitledThere’s a trick with a knife I’m learning to do.

Renuka Mendis, Toronto, October 17, 2016

Gazpacho Impromptu



Tomatoes are lush and ripe around now and those winter nightmares of plastic red orbs are a distant bad dream. And at ninety-nine cents a pound nothing to thumb your nose at.  And why sweat over a hot stove when a cold soup will do for lunch. Not quite the authentic version or process involving mortars and pestles, but still quick and easy and tastes divine. Makes sure your ingredients are good and fresh.




2 to 3 large ripe regular tomatoes (juicy) roughly cut up (with juice and skin and all)

Peeled large English cucumber cut in large pieces

1/4 to 1/2 a large green bell pepper, seeded, ribbed and rough chopped

Half a bunch of fresh Italian parsley thoroughly rinsed

Fresh mint to taste (entirely optional) thoroughly rinsed

Half a small red onion peeled and cut up

Two large cloves of fresh garlic or to taste

About 5-15 walnuts or whole almonds or cashew nuts

1 whole dried chili (arbol or similar type)

A few glugs of half decent olive oil (about 1/4 cup or less)

Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar to taste (two tablespoons more or less)

A dash of hot sauce (Grace Hot Pepper sauce works perfectly. Or Tabasco will do)

About 1/8th teaspoon of smoked paprika  (use a good brand like La Dalia)

Salt to taste


This is a raw dish. It is imperative your ingredients are well rinsed. Anyway it’s a rule around here even if things get cooked.


First make sure to always thoroughly rinse all vegetables and herbs before prepping (and in case of onions and garlic after peeling) them. Once prepped place all vegetables in a high speed high powered blender along with the rest of the ingredients.  Go easy on the salt, vinegar and hot sauce.  (If you don’t have a high wattage blender, then get one.)  Cover and blend on low and increase speed so everything is a rough smooth liquid. If you are using a high powered blender it will take a minute or less.

Check for seasoning and consistency. The vinegar should lend a slight tang, not a salad dressing tartness. You’ll barely taste the chili and hot sauce. They’re only meant to lift up the soup and not to make it hot. If it is too thick add more cucumber and/or tomato. I like it in a milk shake consistency so you can watch football while sipping it off a straw. Or you may add just cold water if too thick. Make it good and thick. Then it’s fun to plop some ice cubes in it too. Refreshing!

You may also add a slice of day old bread (good bread, and not wonderbread please) to the vegetables when blending. Idea is the vegetables give it body and taste while the olive oil blends with the tart tomato giving it a touch of emulsification. The nuts and the bread add a fleshy ceraminess and rounds it off.

Make it as liquid or thick as you like.  This is an entire lunch in a glass with ice in it. On a hot day it’s perfect.  Or chill the soup overnight and  you may serve it in a nice bowl with or without ice. If you want to look posh drizzle some olive oil on it and sprinkle some fresh chopped flat leaf parsley. Just a little.

From the first seconds in blender to the consistency of milkshake. You don’t need to completely blend it to oblivion either.


So there you have it.  How you get to lazily enjoy all those ninety nine cents a pound tomatoes that are at the greengrocers and markets this summer. And no hot stoves either.


Renuka Mendis

Toronto, June 26, 2016

Hanami at High Park

That hussy. The brash magnolia overdressed from head to toe. Flowers on steroids. Mocking the flowerless sakura at High Park’s sakura grove. A wasteland where by now we should be able to anticipate an ocean, an universe in constellations of sakura.  That demure poetic blessing from the sky which should be evident by now in the form of pink buds all over the approximately 2,000 trees that reside there.

Toronto’s annual Hanami at High Park where non-Japanese people turn up in kimonos with wine or sake in tea flasks to picnic under magic trees to be blessed,may or may not happen. Usually a certainty but this year only a dream riven with torment. The numerous false springs that were sprung on the trees this year seem to have left the sakura throwing up their hands to say — enough! We are not flowering but will give you leaves instead.

Thus delaying or possibly cutting back greatly the numbers of the large community of sakura devotees who congregate at High Park’s sakura grove making its annual pilgrimage.  Only those who attend know its joy, its sweet pleasure where all cares are left behind in a bundle somewhere between home and long before arriving near the grove at High Park. A place where everyone is happy. Smiling. Light of heart. A kind of paradise which seems unreal.

A recent Toronto publication sacrilegiously referred to High Park’s Hanami tradition as “a gong show” which is entirely out of line. It was an ignorant insult to the participants as well as to the blossoms and their history. Each year there are many who turn up for a few hours for a very special kind of happiness. It is there for the taking like free cake on a counter. Delighted little children, lovers, old women in saris, and yes as I said, a few in kimonos and parasols. But not this year unless there is a sweet surprise waiting for us.

When I went to check on Friday evening instead of blooms the trees had mostly sprouted leaves. There were only about ten flowers and that only on one tree. One of the older trees, a favourite. Except for that there were none to be found and the pink buds which are the harbingers of sakura were nowhere to be seen except for about three or four with the blossoms which I was fortunate to find.  There were white buds on a younger tree but likely they are fooling us, they will be popping out as leaves. Not sakura.



One of the two clusters of flowers that were spotted at High Park on May 6, 2016.


And the only buds that could be found on May 6, 2016.


The contrast of an empty sakura grove and the magnolia in full bloom was hard to bear. I turned my back to the imposing and obvious magnolia tree. The delicate and demure sakura, that sweet wind from heaven, that joy-giver was nowhere to be seen.  May be they still might bloom in a day or two. May be not. I will return in a few days in search of blooms. And those white buds will prove they are really blooms or spread more heartbreak sprouting greenery leaving sakura devotees distraught.

I made my way home with the few blooms I saw locked away in my heart. Not the usual millions of blossoms but a number that could be counted on my two hands. I wasn’t distraught indeed I was happy to have seen just those few in perfect bloom. It is quite possible that these were the first and the last for the year give or take a few more blossoms scattered here and there and over the last few days and the days to come.

I arrived home tired and in darkness feeling rather strange. And when I opened the door there I saw a roomful of an entire ocean of sakura. My heart and my mind compensating for something that might not be, reliving the Hanami of previous years.

I brought sakura home with me to stay here where they can never leave and where they will never fade. Until I forget them after a few days and move on to some other flower or some other sweetness or loss or horror. To remembering that in the end flowers tell you about the transience of life and living things. Why it is never wise to cling to things but to always be ready to let go. And then you just might get rewarded with an apartment full of sakrua that only you can see making your heart as light as a delicate flower petal.




Sakura in bloom at High Park last year. May 9, 2015 a few days after its prime. You will see that there are hardly any leaves.




On May 6, 2016 the trees had no flowers but leaves. And only about ten or so flowers were seen on one tree.


Renuka Mendis, Toronto, May 6, 2016.

what the moon made her do

she knotted her greying hair
way high
away, far away from the pool water
blue like oceans in travel brochures
safely dry
without the bother of muddled wet
after the swim

she comes home
a bag of milk in tow for tea in the morning
forgotten about the knot up top
held down by a plastic clip
gnawing at her skull
forgotten another headache of life

hidden under a song on the radio
the promise of summer in open windows
and people fearless to come outside in fewer clothes
what is that song?
what is that thing gnawing away at my skull
she remembers
this needs dealing with

no burying under the rug
where so many bodies lie unburied under dust
that gnawing clip – unclipped
and soft hair tumbles
soft moonlight
and a thousand kisses
down her neck

Renuka Mendis, Toronto, April 20, 2016

Zuze’s debut today at Cameron House


At 8.40p.m. we had given up hope of getting in. The room was full and we had to hope some would leave.


Raha Javanfar is a jinn with her fiddle, quietly setting the house on fire. Fast.



Us lucky ones. An entirely happy, spellbound and bedazzled audience.


Say after me. Raha Javanfar.

People had been arriving since from before 8:00p.m. was what the chap at the door said and that the room was filled to capacity when I arrived to line up at 8:30p.m. While there were many yet lined up outside on Cameron Street hoping to get in with only minutes to show time; Zuze was right on time. Nine p.m. as promised. Sharp.  The room was chock full with nary a space to stand. Warm. The music began like one coming upon a gushing beautiful river in the Iranian countryside of a Mohsen Makhmalbaf film but written in afrobeat and a good shot of funk.

According to the bill the songs were popular and folk melodies of Iran and Azerbaijan. Some set to a lovely waltz tempo and when Raha Javanfar with her violin reminding one of Esperanza Spalding opened her mouth to sing as the afrobeat grabbed the room she threw an invisible ball of flame, threw it into the crowd and lit the entire audience on fire. The expectations were real and in that first half second everyone knew instinctively that this was the real deal. Music that was poetry, the words of which many in the room did not understand but which touched each and everyone in it.

The first second most on their feet started to dance and Javanfar’s violin was straight out of a Tony Gatlif film. Gypsylike yet something more. Something urbane. Though warm and robust and insistent there was a depth of feeling to the music which was never overbearing. The crowd wanted more and Zuze went on giving. It was love at first sight on a two way street. All inhibitions put aside.  Halfway through the concert it was evident a few had some joints going to supplement the beer and cocktails.

Waltzes and lullabies and more in great big strands. Beautiful coloured strands amassed and woven together morphing into a river which we’d never seen or heard of but had always known. No one feared anyone and the whole room was love for about an hour.  No inhibitions. Just joy and the music as Zuze set the room on fire. Not a hot burning kind but a grand intimate familial human connection.  People were kissing with joy, dancing, bobbing up and down just being in the music. It was so pure. I’ve been in many rooms where live music is played but never felt this sense of freedom and absolute sense of oneness with everyone around me.

I used to come close to it sometimes with certain musicians at WOMAD when it used to come to Harbourfront many many ages ago. But this was different and more original. Not from somewhere else but made right here in Toronto with Iran, Azerbaijan and its poetry threads weaving a tapestry of humanity.  The whole front room of Cameron House was one last night. Freedom.

Renuka Mendis, Toronto, April 15, 2016




lilacs are the worst fuckers
just like little girls’ frocks
in organdy and mauve
so crisp so soft
robbing all intellect
the worst fuckers

weighing down branches
as you walk by
looking honest
they never lie say their eyes
easily grabbed at, easily robbed
for table tops
and old horlicks jars
where guppies died

they thrive
then die
why bother then to even arrive
taking over the corner
not unlike little jack horner
fooling keats and yeats types
lilacs are the worst fuckers
just frocks.

Renuka Mendis, Toronto, April 5, 2016

Professor Mathen brings some legal sense and sensibility on the Ghomeshi case and its outcome – Renuka Mendis


“A lack of veracity, by honest error or willful deceit, may never emerge in the court of public opinion. That arena is not subject to a rigorous testing of truth.”

– Vinay Menon, Toronto Star, March 25, 2016 


A new law was written in the land round about October 2014 when Jian Ghomeshi posted a statement about his sex life and CBC termination on Facebook  (, and the coming forward of witnesses who told media that Ghomeshi had punched, grabbed their hair, slapped or choked them. In case you are a modern-day Rip Van Winkle the new law was this:


Questioning the veracity of these witnesses or any sexual assault complainants, second guessing, speculating, expressing any opinion that contradicted with the new golden rule was taboo.

It immediately turned anyone, be it man, woman, father, mother, radical feminist, ordinary run of the mill feminist, man hating feminist, whoever into a woman-hater, an anti-woman monster to be forever banished from the sisterhood and from civil society.  The golden rule being: We believe all witnesses unquestioningly in sexual assault matters. No questions asked. Period.  Vinay Menon in his recent Toronto Star article on the Ghomeshi decision explains – “This was the tension throughout the trial.” ( Menon goes on to say “That’s why this cause célèbre was always such a shaky pedestal.” And continues “That’s why no one should be chanting for these complainants.”  This would possibly make Vinay Menon an awful woman-hating monster too according to the outraged colonies out there.But then he is not alone. There are and were many who questioned and still question the three complainants in the Ghomeshi trial. That does not turn you or Mr. Menon into a monster or a woman-hater.  That does not suddenly turn a feminist into a woman-hater.  The call for due process based on established legal practices does not mean you are defending perpetrators of sexual assault.  The call for due process rather than trial by gossip and media does not mean you are hell-bent on setting back the rights of women by a century or more.

Having followed this case closely and the media surrounding it, the general climate in the court room and the line up especially during the early stages of the trial, the general chit-chat was the same. No one dared to speak out loud and question the witnesses’ stories or a media hell-bent on a sure conviction. A media which had already conducted their trial and convicted Ghomeshi. The complainants accorded badges of heroism as if they were the new Marie Curies or Florence Nightingales seemingly with public affirmation. Yet after the first witness fell on her beach photo the tension loosened.  But only marginally.  Soft news magazine reports and opinion were considered the gospel truth and the only way of seeing this case. Suddenly non-academic soft news magazines/commentators became authorities on the law of sexual assault and the propagators and enforcers of the new law that said it was sacrilege punishable by eternal shame in the sisterhood to ever question these witnesses.  Not even in cross-examination.  Not even on the evidence the witnesses had tendered themselves.

But as Lucy DeCoutere’s evidence started to go South to a park on a trailer the mood and commentary in the line up changed drastically to reflect the evidence that was being decimated in the court room. A further loosening of the tension that Menon refers to.  A lot of the journos opened up and started to talk. Except for a tiny handful of journalists it was evident many had never been in a courtroom before or knew very little as to criminal procedure and were learning on the fly. An unnamed woman journalist I spoke with said if she were on the jury for this case if there were one; she would convict Ghomeshi based on what she had heard or read in the media. At least two women journalists did not know who Jesse Brown was. And incidentally Jesse Brown was nowhere to be seen in court throughout these proceedings. And the new rule of the land of never daring to question the truthfulness of the witnesses was being flouted mostly by those on the public side of the line up. The media’s stronghold on the truth had been shattered as the evidence was being shattered by Ms. Henein. And the public present were accounted to by the trial process.


However the public discourse remained true to the new law of the land.  Especially in social media.  Professors, feminists, and in feminist online groups, the same pattern prevailed.  Essentially do not dare question the truthfulness of these sacred witnesses. The same troubling pattern has continued post judgment. And the fights continue on social media. Name calling, supporters of the patriarchy, the list goes on. The serious journalism or hard news pieces we are desperate for are not out there or are rare. If a man wrote it; it was immediately attacked as patriarchal woman hating drivel without even considering the argument or facts in the piece.  Fortunately yesterday, an Ottawa academic saved the day.


Having read through countless articles, pre and post-judgment, I can say the only article that brings clarity and balance with calm authority on this case is that by Carissima Mathen, Associate Professor of law at University of Ottawa in her article “Ghomeshi trial wasn’t a judgment on sexual assault laws” in The Globe and Mail, Published Friday, Mar. 25, 2016 (  ) which wins for best and most succinct analysis of the Ghomeshi decision (  Despite the near universal treatment of this case in social media as if it were the seminal sermon from the mount on what was wrong with sexual assault law, Professor Mathen highlights it as the complete opposite and states —


The Ghomeshi trial did not proceed as many, myself included, expected it to. Even among sexual assault trials, with their laser-like focus on credibility, the nature and extent of the conflicting information presented in this case was unusual. It would be a mistake to view the trial as emblematic of everything that remains wrong with sexual assault and the criminal justice system. Instead, the interest in and the empathy demonstrated for the complainants must be harnessed into greater resources for those who are sexually violated, better legal education, and tools to wage the necessary fight against sexual assault as a social and cultural, not just legal, problem.


On another unconsidered aspect, while cases like this shine the spotlight on participants, the individuals, witnesses, accused, counsel, etc. we forget the importance of the public and their opinions.  The voices we hear are of media commentators and legal minds but little light is shed on what the people think or the importance of the people in the legal process as observers invested in the trial process and in society as a whole. Although sexual assault cases are generally subject to publication bans with respect to the accusers, these proceedings are in open court with small exceptions.

While a substantial number of seats in court were reserved for accredited media; it was heartening to learn that a slightly higher number of seats were made available for the ordinary public on a first come first served basis. The room seated roughly about seventy to eighty of which approximately thirty were for media.  Thus allowing approximately forty members of the public to be present on a first come first served basis to observe and make up their own minds.  The public gallery was a silent participant in the trial; a silent chorus bearing witness and quietly demanding accountability and veracity from the witnesses and demanding a just process from the court.  Silently assessing, and responding quietly in body language and other quiet expressions to the proceedings as they unfolded.  The judge clearly conscious of the public’s presence.  No video camera or TV live-feed could ever portray that aspect of the trial process or how the witnesses interacted with the public gallery.  They too were aware of the public’s presence.  That we too were watching.  About forty members of the public and about thirty from the media.

When I read Professor Mathen’s balanced analysis I feared she too would come under attack from this side or the other and that it might be reflected in the comments.  I was particularly concerned because of the huge army of pro-witness zealots, commentators and activists out there with a clear unwillingness to pay due regard to any due process.  I feared that same pattern might be repeated here. Could it be that the noise is only on-line and not on the streets. That this one-sidedness might not be present in the ordinary homes and workplaces.  Perhaps. Perhaps this is only a phenomenon on social media.

Having carefully reviewed all comments in the Mathen article I was encouraged to see that except for one comment which baldly attacked Professor Mathen everyone else was simply here with a curious mind and sometimes a strongly held view or position.  A healthy debate more or less.  I am not sure if this was because the really bad attacks were left out by the moderator or not. Only the publisher knows that.

Here for your information is what the public thought as they engaged with this balanced article on the Ghomeshi outcome and issues.  Informative, sometimes funny but mostly a healthy debate and expression of reasonably held opinions. It often shed light on how much the public does not know about the basic corner stones of criminal justice — the right not to give evidence in your own trial, the concept of the power of the entire machinery of the state vs an individual and why we have crown disclosure laws and how the crown is not the witnesses’ lawyer, etc.

Professor Mathen’s article is highly instructive and sensible and greatly needed in this polarizing battle; as are most of the comments I’ve selected and extracted below.  At time of writing there were about 228 comments all of which I’ve read and then picked about seventy-five of the best and most illustrative. These comments are taken straight from the comments section of the article linked above and belongs to The Globe and Mail.

 Photo of Marie Henein used in this collage is from The Globe and Mail, March 26, 2016


214Montreal 4 hours ago

It was the hubris of the women, who believed the law is what they say it is, that undid them. Nothing in the law was changed to cheat them, or to deny them their day in court. They thought they could say anything with impunity, based solely on the fact they are women with a grievance against a man. They were supported and protected by the police and legal system, who are today under strict command to never doubt the women.

Bart F. 4 hours ago

Am not a fan Ghomeshi for reasons that he himself has admitted.

However there a growing number of people who believe things are right or wrong or factual based on the ferocity of the internet pitchfork crowd, media editorializing, or whether “Twitter erupted”.

In democracies adjudication is supposed to based on objective facts. In this regard the outcome of the trial was reassuring.

crazy old cat lady 4 hours ago

Excellent summary and interesting the author is also a prof at U of O Law — at least one of her colleagues has considerably stronger views (disconcerting might be one interpretation) on the matter. No doubt in my mind he committed the acts of violence and the behavior of the victims afterward is consistent with all kinds of survivor research. Had they come clean, he likely would have been convicted — so who’s really to blame here? Who chose to turn this into a “shaming” spectacle?? As in the “Arabian Princess”. I’m afraid the 3 complainants have done damage to victim’s justice, not the courts.

DavidRCrowe 3 hours ago

If you are in a relationship, or you have a job, you are tied to the situation. One can understand a woman who makes breakfast for her husband or boyfriend the night after he rapes or beats her, because leaving is not easy. One can understand someone who stays in a job despite being physically, emotionally or sexually harassed, because leaving is not easy. But in the case of the Ghomeshi trial witnesses, there were no such ties. So your analogy does not apply.

youngbludd 5 hours ago

As per the trial:
fact 1. Gomeshi was assumed innocent by the court at the outset, the trial found him to be not guilty, ergo, he continued to be assumed to be innocent.
fact. 2. Each of the three accusers were found to be deceitful, manipulative, and conniving. Their accusations were not credible.
fact. 3. At the end of the day, there is one victim: the wrongfully accused.


Robert plourde 2 hours ago

And the public who had to pay ($$$$$) for a trial that, better investigated, should never have happened. All because it was the PC thing to do and the pressure from media who was screaming for blood.

RickinCalgary 5 hours ago

The presumption of innocence is the foundation of our legal system.

As with other crimes – including murder – there are atrocities that go unpunished, and guilty people that go free, rather than pay for their misdeeds.

The system isn’t perfect – it can’t be, because it is run by, serves, and is served by, imperfect human beings.

What I reject completely is the argument by some that these supposed miscarriages of justice are any worse than the hundreds of such incidents that happen every day.

cnpp 6 hours ago

There seem to be an awful lot of unsubstantiated allegations about how women behave after an assault. It seems like a definite stretch to me to assert that its quite normal for a woman to continue contacting, pursue a relationship with and carry on sexually with their attacker afterwards. Id like to see the stats on that. Don’t get me wrong, Iv no doubt that that is the case in some instances but it seems to me that anybody who doesn’t agree with this verdict can simply move the goal posts around to wherever they feel like it, call it normal and demand a conviction regardless of how ridiculous their assertions are. Married for ten years? Doesn’t matter, that means nothing if somebody decides that.

DenFMoral 6 hours ago

Every male should be frightened about this case and the media storm around it. Even after a Not Guilty verdict, all the press can come up with is “more must be done to help women!!”. We live in times where mere accusations can destroy a man’s reputation and finances, and even lying in court is considered acceptable as long as the verdict goes in her favour. The only sliver of light is that the courts still treated both genders equally in this case. We don’t need to dismantle the court system, we need to eliminate radical feminism from our society – it’s much more dangerous than muslim extremism.

JG72 7 hours ago

An authoritative, well stated summary of the proceedings. Although the writer stopped short of noting – perhaps to avoid being insensitive – that those who are outraged need to take a time out and study the workings of our court system – a system that will protect the innocent and convict the guilty as much as is humanly possible when it works as it should. Those who approve of the verdict – like myself – take no delight in the possibility that perhaps, just perhaps the accused deserved a different fate – but it was not through the fault of the court.

CanoeDave 7 hours ago

Marie Henein, Ghomeshi’s lawyer, is the only feminist that comes out of this case looking good.

azed 7 hours ago

I recently had the honor of serving on a jury involving a criminal case. I came away from this experience with a profound and deepened respect for the central principles of our justice system: the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. These two principles serve to ensure the rights of all those accused of wrongdoing (no matter how heinous the alleged offense) and no matter how heated the response from many of those in the general public. Mr. Ghomeshi, prior to his trial, had been pretty well tried and convicted in the court of public opinion:the torches and pitchforks were out. This case (no matter what one feels about the outcome) was a sterling example of the justice system functioning well. Those who feel that this case was a sterling example of a dysfunctional justice system are failing to see the centrality of the principles that guide and govern the administration of justice.

Richard Roskell 7 hours ago

Like those who made the allegations in this trial, few commentators seem capable of speaking the straightforward truth. They are so reluctant to “blame the victim,” that they absolve those who made the allegations of their clear responsibilities. Instead, they insist it was the fault of the justice system, or the judge in the case, or the defence lawyers, or the prosecutors and police.

The reluctance of so many to speak forthrightly on the matter is damaging the cause of justice in sexual assault cases. By continuing to blame the system-at-large for the a lack of conviction in this case, victims of sexual assault are discouraged from bringing their complaints forward. If the system can’t bring justice, what would be the point?

Honest commentators should be pointing out that the justice system worked very well in this case. The police were willing to investigate and bring charges on relatively minor allegations that were over ten years old. The complainants were given every opportunity to speak forthrightly to investigators, their lawyers, and to the prosecutors. Instead, they behaved like the quintessential stereotype of a dishonest sexual assault victim: lying, deceiving and concealing- atop a motive to profit personally by the allegations. The women in this case could not have done a better job of reinforcing the stereotype had they tried.

And that’s the tragedy. The cause of honest sexual assault victims has been set back. It wasn’t set back by the justice system, which bent over backward to deal with the complaints. It wasn’t set back by society, who vilified the accused in the court of public opinion. It was the complainants themselves who damaged the cause of justice for sexual assault victims. Advocates for justice in this area further hinder the cause by refusing to call a spade a spade.

Work At Home Guy 6 hours ago

The witnesses in this case did so many things that witnesses are not supposed to do:

1. Embellish the truth.

2. Omit pertinent information.

3. Lie.

4. Collude together when they weren’t supposed to even talk together.

5. Look for ways to convict the defendant.

The witnesses’ stories might have been more plausible if they were, well, plausible.

Several lawyers summed it up this way: Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. These three witnesses may have told some truths, but with that partial truth came the lies, the embellishments and the omissions.

The judge got it right.

Dogtrotter 8 hours ago

As a criminal barrister of 40 years, let me say the following: were our criminal justice system not so fundamentally distorted by 30 years of gender politics, each of these complainants would be facing active investigations for perjury and, in two cases the potential for conspiracy to pervert the course. The elements of each are clearly present. An honest system would have no difficulty in applying equitably. To hide from what is actually right is where the real disrepute in the system finds its haven.


Alceste 9 hours ago

A first-rate analysis.

I especially appreciated her commendation of defence lawyer Marie Henein and putting to rest any claims that she “whacked” the complainants. She’s a highly-skilled and determined lawyer, who did her best work on this case outside of the actual court-room – gathering evidence.

Guest_1527 10 hours ago

The complainants in this trial were their own worst enemies, opting for vengeance as a goal rather than seeking justice.

It’s rather sad when Canadian media continue to portray these complainants as innocent lambs dragged to the slaughter. At least two of them had their own personal lawyer with them when questioned by police and prosecutors and during the trial.

Why did those members of the bar not insist their clients tell investigators everything given that anyone even marginally aware of our legal culture knows if there is evidence available to counter the complainants’ allegations, the evidence will show up.

When there are some 5,000 pieces of such evidence in email format, how could anyone say I forgot?

But then, when caught in their own words, what do they do, claim oh, it was part of a plan to traps the accused.

As bad as it all appears, I think the media has to take much responsibility for the atmosphere of animosity that was created around the accused right up to and including the current situation where Canada’s public broadcaster -CBC-has opted to focus stories on how the three complainants feel about being found by a judge to be so severely lacking in credibility.

CBC’s credibility is in serious trouble if this is how it reports and especially so given the history between CBC and the then popular Ghomeshi prior to CBC firing him.


moster54 9 hours ago

I would argue that Ghomeshi’s behaviour was under heavy scrutiny in mainstream media and in social media at least prior to the trial. In which case he was found guilty in the court of public opinion. Thank god the law is more rigorous than that and requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. And that was clearly not established.

Loyalist1796 9 hours ago

The judgement in this trial confirmed that, whatever the case, it is unacceptable in our system of justice for any complainant to selectively try to mislead the judge.

It should be embarrassing to those protesting against the judgement to be supporting a position that it is acceptable to lie in court.

DC Toronto 9 hours ago

the women made it an issue in their many media interviews. It seemed that they used the fact that they had no contact to underline the seriousness of how his alleged actions affected them.
The witnesses made it an issue. Not the defence.

MP3 11 hours ago

In a case where there is no physical evidence, the verdict will always rest on the credibility of the witnesses against the accused. There was no other verdict possible in this case, and rightly so.

There probably could be more done at the policing and prosecutor level to better prepare witnesses. Police did tell the complainants here that their statements were part of the record and could be used in court – but it doesn’t seem like the witnesses really grasped that. The Crown prosecutors did tell the witnesses that they couldn’t communicate with each other but it doesn’t seem the witnesses really grasped the implications of exchanging thousands of texts and emails with each other would be considered communications — unusual for smart, older witnesses (you’d be far more likely to encounter this with younger people). These warnings, and requests for information didn’t stop the witnesses from withholding crucial evidence, lying, and communicating with each other. So what’s the legal system supposed to do?

I’m at a loss. I consider myself to be a strong feminist, but I also believe the burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt is a cornerstone of of our legal system and prevents innocent people from being jailed and their freedoms taken from them.

DC Toronto 11 hours ago

Well said. It is heartening to see the clear eyed, considered analysis of this issue. I knew it was out there, but it hasn’t been apparent in the media.
Thank you – to the author and to the G&M

Taraxacum 11 hours ago

The rigorous tests of our justice system must apply in the absence of corroborative evidence. Given the (extensive) scientific evidence around the malleability of human memory, convicting on accusation alone would invariably result in harm to the accused and the accuser.


DenFMoral 8 hours ago

And yet this is what Canada’s feminists want – a system where a man can have his life destroyed by a mere accusation. This is frightening that such an idea is taken so seriously in our leftist media, but surprising that our courts did their due diligence and let this man go free.

Lee666 11 hours ago

Once the email evidence was disclosed, the prosecution’s case was toast. When witnesses are caught lying, there is no case plain and simple.

WallyToronto 10 hours ago

Agreed. But why does the Judge state in his verdict that there was no tangible evidence (131) and that Ghomeshi, in choosing not to testify, did not introduce any evidence? In fact, he was the source of the emails, notes and pictures that proved to be so devastating to the complainants’ credibility. His defense lawyers introduce that evidence, as a surprise (the crowns obligation to disclose its evidence to the defense is not a reciprocal obligation) and yet Ghomeshi is not compelled to answer the crown’s questions about it because he elects not to testify. That seems to me to be wrong, though I do not doubt it was legal.


Alceste 10 hours ago

The emails that became evidence had been sent by the witnesses in question and were identified by them. It’s like the defence cross-examining the witness about something she said; there’s no reason to compel the accused to take the stand.

BlackAcre 11 hours ago

Perhaps the only good thing that has come out of the Ghomeshi trial is that it has engaged a broad range of people in a discussion about our criminal justice system, especially as it relates to sexual assault cases.

So, in that spirit, let’s remember that Ghomeshi wasn’t found “innocent”, as so many commentators have been saying. He was found “not guilty”. The distinction is more than technical and it relates to the burden of proof in a criminal trial – beyond a reasonable doubt – versus a civil trial – on a balance of probabilities. If society is going to take away a person’s freedom and impose upon him the long-lasting stigma of a criminal conviction, I think we all must agree that there ought to be no reasonable doubt about his guilt. Here, Mr. Justice Horkins concluded, quite rightly I think, that the burden of proof wasn’t met. It is the kind of judgment that is made hundreds of times a year in courts across Canada. But for the notoriety of the accused, no one would have given this case a second thought.

Meanwhile, of course, Ghomeshi has been found less than innocent in the court of public opinion. And that raises a host of issues about the presumption of innocence, another keystone of our criminal justice system. Let’s leave that lesson for another time.

BlackAcre 9 hours ago

I have practiced law for almost 35 years. Here is what Mr. Justice Horkins concluded, at para. 142 of his judgment: “I find Mr. Ghomeshi not guilty on all of these charges and they will be noted as dismissed.”

The presumption of innocence was not rebutted, I agree. My point is that the public did not extend to Mr Ghomeshi the same presumption.

QinchengPrison 11 hours ago

The fact that the complainants disclosed only the evidence (statements) that impacted Ghomeshi negatively and omitted evidence that may impact his case positively is why the judge did not believe these women. Had the three complainants been forthright with the prosecution and police regarding their ongoing relationship with Ghomeshi, the Judge may have believed them despite having an ongoing relationship (as many victims due with their aggressors). Instead, it casted doubt about their testimonies, and the two complainants correspondence casted a light of vindictiveness. In all likeliness, he likely assaulted at the very least one complainant, but their vindictiveness and omissions led to a non-guilty verdict. Lesson: Tell the whole truth to the police & let them do their job to construct a case.

Just observingGM 12 hours ago

Interesting to note that if you were a cop and committed the same “alleged” offence you would simply be put on PAID leave until the trial found you innocent or guilty. If you are an entertainer however the reverse is true. First you lose your job, then you are found innocent then you have no job !!

Guess Ghomeshi belonged to the wrong union.


WallyToronto 9 hours ago

The CBC stated that they fired Ghomeshi for workplace misconduct. That will be tested in the upcoming trial, where the most egregious workplace incident gave rise to the charge.

214Montreal 11 hours ago

During the French revolution somebody could be sent to the guillotine by merely pointing at them and shouting “J’ACCUSE” No trial needed. In the 1950s somebody could be sent to prison by simply saying he/she was a communist. In the USSR, a person could be executed by the simply accusation of being a capitalist. In Canada they want a man sent to prison for merely being accused of rape.

214Montreal 9 hours ago

The law allows for a person to not incriminate him/herself. If a person chooses to not speak in his /her own defense that is their right. Ghomeshi won without having to speak a word. You would be glad for that legal provision if it ever comes to you.

Just observingGM 13 hours ago

This trial was nothing but “Due Process”. In the end he was found innocent of assault and lost his job !! WOW,,,ain’t the system and trial by social media great !! Sure he liked “rough sex”. Big deal, I have known many females that were equally “kinky”.


214Montreal 13 hours ago

He had a very busy sex life because he was a “bad boy”. That whiff of sin was a female lure. I would like to hear from the many dozens of happy women who dared not speak up in his defence.


shoshanab 11 hours ago

Not only that it has cost him hundreds of thousands in legal fees that he can’t ask for in costs. That is what is wrong with out legal system. Accused found not guilty should be awarded costs.

shoshanab 11 hours ago

The crown did instruct the complainants to not communicate and to stop talking to the media and to stop talking about the case entirely. They continued, at least two of them did. The crown and police did repeatedly ask the complainants if there was nay other contact or anything else they should know. All three said NO over and over and over again. What else could the police and crown do?

214Montreal 13 hours ago

Judge Judy says so often to women with a grudge, “You slept with him even after you claim he cheated on you. You forgave him by having sex with him again, so you can’t now say he is a bum. You always knew that.”.

Duke Charles Martel 14 hours ago

Having followed this trial a bit – it was pretty clear from the beginning that the accuser’s had little credibility. If I as a non-lawyer can see that – you wonder why the prosecution didn’t.


Ezekiel Stone 10 hours ago

The prosecution probably did see that… but they were pressured to lay charges anyway mostly due to political/public outcry reasons.


Stephen Saines 5 hours ago

Yeah…the Prosecution were between a rock and a boulder on this one. Was it muffed? Questionable…the very PC necessary by ‘public perception’ in handling assault allegations means they can’t ask the hard questions necessary to gauge how solid the case is.

Questions and methods will be reviewed, not the least because this moved the cause of “believability” backwards, not forwards. Not just one witness, but *all three*!

The real losers are those victims with real bona-fide cases.

whataworld 13 hours ago

How do you know the assaults occurred? Does your proof come from believing 3 witnesses who have been shown to have lied? Are you in such a rush to convict someone because it fits your beliefs that you are willing to ignore facts? Thank goodness we have a justice system and lynch mobs aren’t running in the streets.

A_K 13 hours ago

“Its not uncommon for a victim of domestic or sexual violence to still have an attraction to the perpetrator.”

If you had read the ruling, you would know that any alleged attraction to the defendant was irrelevant.

What mattered was the contradictory statements and evidence.

Karen109 13 hours ago

you don’t seem to understand the basics of the judicial system. the defendant has to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. the complainants lied repeatedly under oath, so that they lost their credibility, and since their word was the only evidence in this case, the judge had no choice but to acquit the defendant, mr. ghomeshi. it’s pretty straightforward. you know nothing about what actually occurred, you are just guessing. if people were convicted on what others thought or felt occurred, it would be a sorry day indeed.

Guest_3947 14 hours ago

I appreciate Ms. Mathan’s sensitively written commentary on the core elements of the criminal justice system. As a feminist activist, specialist in post-trauma responses and sexual assault survivor, I find myself in agreement with every point she makes. In truth, I would have been horrified if anything less than an acquittal on all counts had been the verdicts. Justice, as defined by Canada’s Criminal Code, would not have been served in that case. However, the verdicts in no way have the power to undermine the veracity of the three women witnesses any more than they have the power to absolve Mr. Ghomeshi of his wrong-doings unless, as a society, we give them that power. I believe we are a society comprised of a majority of feminists–ie. women and men who believe in the equality of all, regardless of gender/gender identity. I implore that majority to refrain from conflating the outcome of a criminal justice process–a process, as so clearly explained by Ms. Mathan, set up to first and foremost protect the rights of the accused–with issues pertinent to the reality of women and men’s experience of sexual assault and its aftermath. If we, as feminists, continue to put excessive weight on the outcomes of sexual assault trials–that is, setting them up to be the climactic scene of societal judgment concerning victims’ veracity–victims will continue to experience the prospect of a sexual assault trial as a solely “win or lose” set-up. Instead, by upholding the core principles of the criminal justice system, we can better serve our brothers and sisters who have suffered sexual assault. Courageous acts of bearing witness, regardless of judicial outcome, impact most profoundly in the course of changing society. If we can get this message out, loud and clear, perhaps more women and men who have suffered sexual assault would be willing to bear witness in court and perhaps, once in court, they would feel somewhat more at ease, knowing that the most important element of what is going on, is the process itself, and not the outcome. With that kind of stress reduced, witnesses might feel more at ease about taking the risk of telling the entirety of their experience related to the case right from the start.

214Montreal 13 hours ago

“It was like no one gave a damn.”

Those female plaintiffs were handled with delicate kids glove. The police went above and beyond merely believing them them. They did not want to be accused of raping them twice. The police wanted to make sure they could not be accused of mishandling the fragile women in a time of crisis ( 10 years after the events). Yet for all their effort to believe the women the police are still accused of being misogynists, despite teh women’ abuses of the legal system.

Karen109 12 hours ago

the defendant in any criminal trial is not required to testify. you don’t “refuse” to testify, you simply are not required to. not testifying is not seen as an admission of guilt. best to learn more about the justice system in canada before spouting off.

Bill G 12 hours ago

Forcing the accused to testify by fiat would be akin to throwing a weighted down accused witch into a river as they did centuries ago. If she rises to the top she is innocent. If she drowns she is guilty.

Robert Lepage 8 hours ago

That’s not how our system works. A person is innocent until sufficient evidence can corroborate, without reasonable doubt, that the accused is guilty.

What you suggest is that the accused is guilty and must defend themselves to demonstrate innocence. Much as it is impossible to prove a negative, you cannot prove innocence, you can only prove guilt.

Stephen Saines 5 hours ago

Thank God! You have your work cut out for you though mollifying the lynch-mob. You allow me to claim to be a “Feminist” too, without identifying with that ‘lynch-mob’ we both recognize.

One of the horrors this trial unleashes, unwittingly to the ‘lynch-mob’ is that by stating “we believe you”…it actually *debases* the right of women to claim equality. Their testimony and values must carry equal weight, no matter the sex, no matter the gender. With equality comes the duty to uphold values that pertain equally to all of us.

Excellent post Guest.

ausca 10 hours ago

Good point – totally forgot about that.

Civil proceedings are often where those who failed to find satisfaction from criminal proceedings go next. If the prosecution is also unable to convince a court that this guy is guilty beyond reasonable doubt, are civil proceedings still able to do so?

In the meantime, his damnation on the court of public opinion continues with the complainants opining on his not guilty verdict on the CBC. He will never escape the hundreds of verdicts rendered over double-doubles by people who know more than the courts. Hard to see him salvaging his old career.

Whitetailer 14 hours ago

“can’t get their story straight”

And therein rests the problem, there is no “story” to be told, the true account of an
event is not a story it is a FACTUAL RECOLLECTION of the events not some script to  be learned and followed!

dustman1960 14 hours ago

Might want to read the decision – the lack of coherent explanation of inconsistency was a defining factor in the Judges decision.

scarboni88 14 hours ago

You’re kidding, right? After their abysmal conduct those women are lucky the judge doesn’t charge them with perjury!

Karen109 13 hours ago

i’m actually amazed that there have been no perjury charges laid.

my2cents6 15 hours ago

I don’t know whether Ghomeshi was guilty or not, but the police, and the crown did a disservice to sexual victims everywhere by not doing their homework. Maybe they should be given more powers and resources to do their job but this should have never gone to trial and is total injustice to the accused and other victims. These three complainants did a disservice by lying, exaggerating and colluding. Their behaviour was borderline criminal!

LloydG 15 hours ago

Well, you should know as anyone is innocent UNTIL proven guilty.

Okay for murder but not rape..?

oh yes, of course, it involves women.

Hugh McNeil 8 hours ago

An unfortunate reality is that people lie, or mis remember, or are simply crazy, and this fact has lead historically to false accusations. If you want proof, just tell a hundred people the exact same lie about the most decent human on Earth, and some of those people will fabricate a lie or will outright frame the fellow for something else. This is just the way people work.

As for how the justice system works, if accusations were evidence, then we would still be burning witches at the stake.

Big Glenn 15 hours ago

What an absolutely stupid comment. It was right on the video interview by the police the question was asked, “Is there anything else we should know.” Authorities cannot get warrants to look at victim’s, beside that is absurd. They go with what they got and the same with the prosecutors.

The Work Farce 14 hours ago

The lawyer expert on CBC Newsworld said it isn’t the job of the prosecutor to colllect evidence and make sure the victims get their facts straight before trial. He said the prosecutor’s job is to make sure the trial is fair.
How ridiculous is that.

Stephen Saines 6 hours ago

It’s the huge unspoken, isn’t it? For a number of good reasons, Justices often overlook the obvious in that regard to focus on the greater issue: Guilt or not.

The knee-jerk outrage is bad enough as it is. Could you imagine if he slapped them with charges? I think the Justice cannot be faulted in any respect on this. His language and demeanour are exemplary.

CanoeDave 13 hours ago

My two cents is that it is impossible for the prosecution to win when their witnesses are clearly dishonest. The police bent over backwards not to question the complainants statements for fear of being politically incorrect and what resulted is the women lied to them and the Court because they thought they could get revenge without scrutiny. You can’t blame the system when the accusers delusions.

Stephen Saines 6 hours ago

I agree…but there’s a massive point being overlooked: Disclosure. It was from documents that the Prosecution had to share that Henein pored over intently to find the evidence she needed of duplicity. The Prosecution was not faultless, but the point stands: The *System* worked very well, for all its faults and shortcomings.

Henein will be the first to tell you that Disclosure was the library she needed to conduct her defence. If a witness is determined to lie, the Prosecution can only do so much due diligence to assess that or not. Once they have a reasonable belief, the court must do the rest. That’s why we have them…

point missed 16 hours ago

It is obvious that he is no angel, but it appears to a degree they were in the beginning wiling participants. I also have doubts they were angels. My concern is he was tried in the public court. He has been acquitted, and should now sue the CBC. His personal life is not his professional life. Hopefully the press will now find something more interesting to write about, the papers have been clogged with far too many articles on this subject.

Tom Smarty Pants 14 hours ago

Just a question: if you touch women’s butts at work, or call them sexist names, or bring your video tapes of rough sex to brag about, do you think you would keep your job?


shoshanab 12 hours ago

Were HR complaints and grievances to the union filed? My understanding is they weren’t. I can tell you from working in a unionized environment if you sneeze too much a grievance will be filed. Again, it is just an allegation without proof and thorough examination. The kind of heinous offenders you are talking about rack up dozens of complaints to HR about them. I am unaware of any HR or union grievances against Mr. Ghomeshi.

Ezekiel Stone 11 hours ago

While what he did wasn’t a ‘crime’, I definitely think what he did was justification for getting fired. Doing that stuff with work colleagues and even some interviewees was incredibly risky and stupid.

abc567 16 hours ago

An awful lot of articles regarding this one topic. Some people must have really been interested in this fellow.


Joe cool 16 hours ago

Of course some people were interested, the hundreds of thousands that listened to him on BBC every week.


Concerned Reader 15 hours ago


Stephen Saines 15 hours ago

If the gravity of what has transpired eludes you, look no further than your own lack of awareness.

tamarind saruwath

When high acid melds with sweet it spells only one thing – naughty!

Ask me sweet, and I’ll tell you how.




Tamarind water* (just so tart not too tart).

Simple syrup to taste (to sweeten).

Few tablespoons of soaked kasa kasa or to taste (only for texture, like in bubble tea).


You may add a drop or three of Ceylon coconut Arrack to spike it up.  Naughty, sweet and refreshing.


*Soak about a walnut sized lump of moist tamarind in a glass of water. They come in rectangular packs wrapped in plastic. Not the hard type but the soft and pliable. Ideally just plop the tamarind in a jar of water, cover and leave in fridge. It mellows over a few days which removes its sharp edges.  This way in the summer it is an ideal drink to turn to, whenever you feel like one.

Shake jar. Let tamarind settle in bottom for about five to ten minutes.  Carefully strain liquid into a glass/glasses but don’t go down to the dregs. Taste so it is just singing Tamarind; not punch in your face sour tamarind.  It should be just pleasantly tart.  If it is too tart and strong dilute with fresh water.