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To me, all murder is hate crime. Several aspects must be considered in evaluating Out of the Blue, the one-and-only or is that the first? Which, as might be expected of a best-selling career journalist, is eminently readable and engaging. Where does the responsibility lie? And finally, what to think of the way The Globe and Mail treated what happened next? In the book, and in the clips and interviews where she discusses it, Wong treats the uproar to her article as though it was provoked by an innocuous single sentence in some 3, words.
And not just because it would be politically incorrect to do so. But three out of three in Quebec means something. Three out of three was statistically meaningless, but not in a business where we grasp for any pattern. To be sure, the shootings in all three cases were carried out by mentally disturbed individuals. Not in Quebec.
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But okay, so in , according to Jan Wong, Montreal is no longer cosmopolitan, Quebec is racist, and Wong has no real understanding of mental illness. Wong committed a cardinal sin of journalism: in the absence of any tangible evidence, she confused correlation and causation. Her article was marred by a breakdown in the professional integrity journalists must be governed by. That neither of them works at The Globe and Mail any longer may not be a coincidence.
What about the rest of the book? Does she ever. Wong commands our sympathy by launching her tale with a poignant scene: the author cowering in her car outside her home, convinced that a pickup truck parked nearby shelters a homicidal maniac—a Quebecer bent on revenge for her Dawson article. This is a delusion, of course. But as a literary device, it works.
On the other hand, she could manage, contemporaneously, to polish off a 90, word manuscript while on a couple of months of unpaid leave. And mount a successful tour in support of the finished book. Apr 20, Johanna Zanten rated it it was amazing.
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Mental illness is a rather common prevalence: 1 in 5 people will have it. Jan first went off work ill after a complete mental breakdown in , when she was completely exhausted and obsessed with work. She had been receiving an endless stream of hate mail addressed to her and her family after her article about the shooting in Montreal at Dawson College was published in the paper The Globe and Mail. She had been assigned the job on the day of the shooting and went there immediately.
She had a special connection, as her sister worked there, only not that day. A year old man had shot 20 people on the Dawson campus. Because there had been a third shooting in Montreal by a Russian, Valery Fabrikant, Jan Wong had concluded in her article that an issue of racial discrimination in Quebec society might be the cause of such unrestrained revenge attacks by individuals who felt alienated from the Quebec society at large.
Jan researched the suicide rate in the nation and found that Quebec had the highest rate.
A motion was past in the national parliament that the newspaper and Jan Wong must apologize to the people of Quebec for her offensive remarks. Her employer, The Globe and Mail, did not back her up and left her hanging, advised her to keep her head down, and not to talk about it.
Jan complied with the gag order to the best of her abilities and refused all interviews. The newspaper published a convoluted sort of apology. When Jan received a package at work with her two published books, cut in pieces, with a letter with a death threat and the ominous words: I know where you live, she ran home and had a complete emotional breakdown.
That was the start of it all. Jan being whom she is, a fighter and whistleblower, did not give up the fight to get acknowledgement for her illness and for the payment of her benefits that were due. Jan had completed the appropriate medical exams and had received the recommendation from her doctor that she was ill and could not work. A long battle ensued described in the book, with many grievances filed, arbitration, medical reports not accepted or not forwarded to the people who should have it, and union lawyers involved with mediation meetings.
During her illness, her trips out of the country away from the situation to visit with friends and relatives, approved and recommended by her doctors as therapeutic, were not approved by the union and the employer--reason for another grievance and mediation.
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After six months of illness, she went back to work, still believing she would be OK at work and that she should not really be ill and off work. She had not accepted her own illness yet. When she started to receive another stream of hate mail at her work address including a death threat, she had a relapse of crying and irrational responses and went off again. Somebody impersonating Jan had started a website with nonsense on it generating the hate mail. This is only so far about the battle with her employer and the insurance company.
It took a long time before she herself accepted that she, as a very strong person--seemingly invincible--could become this weak and collapse. You want her to accept and be quiet at times and just focus on getting well, but Jan would not become herself again by giving in and keeling over, although suicidal ideation was her companion for a time.
Jan Wong was ordered by her employer to return to work after a trip to France, and she did not do so.
She was fired, after having worked for 21 years at the newspaper. Her doctors GP and psychiatrist did not assess her healthy and would not sign her off for return for work. Even the independent medical examiner assigned by her employer would not declare her healthy. Jan and her legal advisor from the union filed a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal. In the meantime, Jan tried to write and publish her book about China that she had taken time off from work for, at the start of her illness.
She was at times rather functional and never lost her will to fight—a reason why it was for others hard to see that she was still ill. She and her editor took years to rewrite and finish the book. Jan at first refused medication, until she could not deny anymore that she would not recover without treatments, medical as well as psychiatric. Jan Wong exposed the way a workplace and its insurance company treated a mentally ill person: bulling her back to work and denying benefits.
Just because one is not visibly ill, does not mean that person is able to work.
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Depression is a devastating illness, not in the least for the person herself. It is a fallacy to think a strong person cannot get mental illness. A strong person takes on generally more and is given more difficult assignments than an employee with less stamina, but even the strongest person has a breaking point. A mental illness changes an individual forever, even after recovery. When I told my therapist about having bought the book, she advised me to wait with reading it, until I was fully recovered myself, as its contents might not be helpful at this time for me.
Indeed, now a year after my own recovery reading the book, I must admit it was good to take that distance, so I could observe the process Jan went through more objectively and would not be triggered into my own vulnerabilities. When an employer is not having your back, mental illness can escalate and cause the continuation of the illness.
She is a whistle blower and a courageous one, taking on the national newspaper, and Manulife. I would like to say Thank You for Jan for her book. May 10, Paula Dembeck rated it it was amazing. Wong was a hard nosed investigative journalist who worked for the Globe and Mail for decades until she spiraled into a clinical depression in This is the story of her difficult struggle with her illness and her long road to recovery. In that article she noted how the shooter as well as the shooters at the Ecole Polytechnique and Concordia in previous years, were all immigrants.
Her narrative sugge Wong was a hard nosed investigative journalist who worked for the Globe and Mail for decades until she spiraled into a clinical depression in The article, vetted by her editors before it was published, produced a firestorm of criticism and a horrific backlash began. Wong received threatening e mails, racist comments, a rash of hate mail and even death threats.
Outraged politicians in Quebec heaped abuse on the Globe and Wong was denounced in Parliament. Without The Globe standing behind her, Wong felt humiliated, betrayed and abandoned. She began to feel ostracized at work and as her anxiety mounted, she became so depressed she was unable to work. She took medical leave from her job, but despite the care provided by her physician and trying a host of various antidepressant medications, her illness continued unabated for two years. During that period, The Globe questioned the legitimacy of her illness and continually pressured her to return to work.
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She describes the effect her illness on her supportive husband, her two sons and her home life. She details the long drawn out legal battle with the newspaper to acknowledge her illness, which involved a never ending flow of medical forms and examinations by different physicians. Eventually mediation and arbitration brought Wong some, but not complete closure. The Globe terminated her employment in and she received a settlement that she had to fight hard to receive.