Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
When David Suzuki visited a school in Quebec, why was he assigned attractive, female, student bodyguards?
David Suzuki turns 77 this March. On other occasions, I’ve explained that he is Canada’s version of Al Gore. I’ve characterized him as a drama queen who has been preaching the same doomsday gospel for decades.
A few days ago, SunTV’s Ezra Levant broke a big story about a visit Suzuki made last year to a school in the province of Quebec.
Highschool ends at grade 11 there, when students are 16-17 years old. Those who wish to continue their education must first attend a kind of junior college unique to that part of the country.
Referred to as a CEGEP, the programs at these colleges are usually two or three years in duration. Afterward, young people either join the workforce or proceed to university. Most students attending a CEGEP, therefore, are 17 to 19 years of age.
John Abbott College is an English-speaking facility less than an hour’s drive from downtown Montreal. Its website says it has 6,000 full time students and 2,000 part time ones. Last October, it invited Suzuki to help it celebrate the opening of a shiny new Science and Health Technologies building.
It appears that Suzuki arrived at the school at nine in the morning, met with students, delivered a speech, sold and signed books, and took part in a press conference that extended well past noon. It also appears that, in the evening, he attended a gala dinner in which he was the keynote speaker.
For a day’s worth of his time, Suzuki billed this publicly-funded, not-for-profit school $30,000 plus tax.
But here’s where things get creepy. Someone – either Suzuki or the school – thought he needed “bodyguards” to escort him from one location to another. But those bodyguards had to be students. Moreover, they had to be attractive, female students. Really.
Last September Mary Milburn, the Dean’s secretary, sent an e-mail to Jim Anderson, the co-chair of the college’s Police Technology department:
I am contacting you because we have learned, via Dr. Suzuki’s assistant, that although the Dr. does not like to have bodyguards per se, he does not mind having a couple of ladies (females) that would act as body guards in order that he may travel from one venue to another without being accosted too many times along the way.
Why females you ask? Well, he is a male. No seriously, I believe it is his way of being discrete and less intimidating.
What I would like to know is if you could suggest 2-3 female Police Tech students for the job.
It’s not clear why a national icon visiting a small college in a small town requires bodyguards. Nor is it clear why mature, experienced staff members wouldn’t be assigned that task if it were necessary. Staff members are, after all, authority figures in schools. Students are not.
Milburn’s e-mail was copied to three people:
The next day, Beaudin responded to Milburn:
Dr. Suzuki does not want the students in full gear really “undercover” look as opposed to their police tech uniforms. [sic] I hope that is ok…
A month later, Milburn sent Anderson another e-mail. The subject line read “Students for security detail,” the message was short:
Have you selected the female students To escort dr Suzuki? [sic]
Do you think I could set up a very brief meeting or see them at one of their classes?
Two hours later, Anderson wrote to Joe Sledge, an instructor in the college’s Correctional Intervention department. He
Please be certain that the women are “nicely dressed, we don’t want them in evening gowns, but definitely NOT Police Tech uniforms. [closing quote missing in the original]
The grownups at John Abbott College sincerely believed that David Suzuki required the company of attractive, 17 to 19-year-old women during his visit. The dean’s secretary appears to have personally inspected them beforehand. Moreover, Suzuki (as well as others) expressed an opinion about how these young women should be attired.
Ick. Let me say it again: ICK
It’s worth noting that no one thought this great science communicator was eager to spend as much time as possible with the school’s top science students.
This is an opportune moment to revisit a piece I wrote back in 2010, titled David Suzuki’s Five Kids. This environmental crusader believes “there are too many of us” on the planet and that our presence is burdensome to Mother Earth. Nevertheless, he himself has fathered five children.
While confirming that fact via his 2006 autobiography, I discovered something else. As I reported then:
On page 97, Suzuki tells us about a speech he delivered in December 1971 to Carleton university students. In the audience was “a sensationally beautiful woman” with “long, blonde hair, a full mouth, and high cheekbones”.
She was 22 at the time. He was 35. A year later, they married.
It would seem that the good doctor has long been attracted to women significantly younger than himself.
The question is why officials at a school, of all places, would indulge him.