Author Tags: Local History

Born in 1966, Tom Zytaruk is a staff reporter at Now newspaper, which serves Surrey, White Rock and North Delta. He has received journalism awards, including one for Best Election Coverage.


Like a Rock: The Chuck Cadman Story (Harbour, 2008) $26.95 978-1-55017-427-4

Millennium Milestones : A History of Surrey, White Rock and North Delta (New Westminster, Now Community Newspaper, 2000). 0-9687504-0-0

[BCBW 2008] "Local History"

Like A Rock: The Chuck Cadman Story

Few B.C. books, if any, have ever generated such a national stir prior to publication as much as Tom Zytaruk’s Like A Rock: The Chuck Cadman Story (Harbour $26.95). The Prime Minister of Canada launched a lawsuit against the Leader of the Opposition—the first time any PM has ever done so in office—due to accusations arising from the book.

The legal ruckus over chuck Cadman’s story has arisen largely because the wife of the late Surrey MP, Dona Cadman—bizarrely, herself a candidate-to-be for the governing Conservatives—has verified biographer Tom Zytaruk’s reportage that a bribe was offered to her dying husband by two representatives of Stephen Harper’s Conservative party in May of 2005.

Tom Zytaruk writes on page 272: “Included in their proposal, she said, was a $1 million life insurance policy—no small carrot for a man with advanced cancer.” Dona Cadman reportedly told Zytaruk, “There was a few other things thrown in there, too, but it was the million-dollar policy that just pissed him right off.”

As the lone independent MP elected in the 2004 election, Cadman had the power to bring down the teetering Liberal administration of Prime Minister Paul Martin with his crucial swing vote. Allegedly repulsed by the blunt overtures made by the Conservatives, Cadman got off his death bed, having already lost 50 pounds, and dramatically voted with the Liberals on May 19, 2005, in a confidence vote on an amendment to the 2005 budget.

By saying “yea,” creating a 152 to 152 tie in the vote, Cadman enabled Speaker Peter Milliken, a Liberal MP, to rise and break the tie in the government’s favour. Never before had an independent MP ever wielded so much power in the House of Commons.

Only a few weeks later, at age 57, Cadman died of skin cancer in his Surrey home, revered as a local hero, and nationally admired for his unswerving dedication to revamp the Young Offenders Act and for his refusal to act outside the bounds of his conscience. More than 1,500 people attended his funeral at Johnston Heights Church on July 16, 2005.

Did Harper know about the offer of a financial incentive in 2005? Liberal leader Stéphane Dion has suggested he did—but Harper denies it. In tandem with the release of his thorough biography, Zytaruk, an award-winning reporter for the Now regional newspaper chain, has been circulating a tape recording of a somewhat ambiguous telephone conversation between himself and Harper that has fuelled the debate.

It all adds up to a story worthy of a movie, a movie that has already been made—twice.

In 1939, the Frank Capra drama Mr. Smith Goes to Washington starred James Stewart as an earnest political neophyte who turned the nation’s capital on its head. In 2007, the CTV movie Elijah recalled how the Cree MLA Elijah Harper rose in the Manitoba legislature, holding an eagle feather, and rejected the Meech Lake Accord, thereby scuttling Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s hopes for ratification. Victim rights campaigner Chuck Cadman was the British Columbia version of that unsullied Everyman who ventures reluctantly into politics— staunchly independent—a venerable tradition that dates back to Cincinnatus, the honest man who twice rejected his role as the appointed dictator of the Roman Empire in order to return to his family farm.
Born in Ontario in 1948, Chuck Cadman spent several years as an aspiring rock music guitarist before the realities of family life led him to Surrey, commuting to an ICBC job in North Vancouver.

Then one night in 1992 he and his wife received a phone call from their 16-year-old son Jesse, asking for a ride home. He was advised to take the bus. Not long after that, while walking along the Fraser Highway with some friends, Jesse was senselessly stabbed to death by a chronic young offender, 16-year-old Isaac Deas, during an unprovoked attack.

Deas and several other drunk and stoned youths had stolen a pick-up that night, and Deas was wielding an 18-centimetre Japanese Tanto fighting knife he had stolen during a break-in. “The blade ran between the seventh and eighth ribs,” Zytaruk writes, “cutting through Jesse’s left lung and into his heart.”

After the funeral service that opened with a video about Jesse’s life, set to the music of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven,—a song Chuck had been teaching Jesse on the guitar—Cadman grew his trademark ponytail in honour of his son.

Some family friends have speculated that Chuck Cadman’s resultant zeal to assert victims’ rights and bring changes to the Young Offenders Act was born of guilt as much as grief, but he publicly maintained otherwise.

Cadman, his wife and their friends formed CRY, a lobbying group dedicated to addressing problems arising from Crime, Responsibility and Youth. CRY and similiar groups called for amendments to the Young Offenders Act that was introduced by Prime Minister Trudeau’s Liberals in 1982 to replace the Juvenile Delinquents Act of 1908.

Also riled by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Cadman gathered thousands of signatures for petitions and spoke out in public. “The average Canadian,” he said, “is now afraid to challenge, criticize or voice his opinion about anything for fear of being accused of racism, sexism, elitism, red-neckism or any other number of isms.”

CRY sent 400,000 letters to Ottawa. “Like a BC salmon fighting upstream against unrelenting currents and confounded by obstacles along the way,” Zytaruk writes, “Chuck struggled to make distant Ottawa listen, only to be beaten back by disappointment.”

After Cadman’s rising public profile caught the attention of Reform House Leader Randy White, “the original victim rights guy in the House of Commons,” Cadman was elected as a Reform MP for Surrey North in 1997, then re-elected for the Canadian Alliance Party in 2000, becoming their Justice Critic.

Cadman lost the Conservative Party nomination in his riding to Jasbir Singh Cheema, a news anchor at Channel M in Vancouver, in 2004, but won the seat anyway, as an independent. His plainspoken appeal was hard-won, not a gimmick.

“I have been criticized for the length of my hair,” he once said, “but I believe that it is what is in one’s head that counts, not what is on it. As for my jeans, sneakers and sweatshirt, well, three-piece suits have governed this country for decades and I’m not overly impressed with the result.”


[BCBW 2008]

Prime Minister threatens to sue
News Story (July 2008)

By Tim Naumetz, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - A former FBI scientist hired by Stephen Harper's lawyer in the prime minister's $3.5-million lawsuit against the Liberal party has contradicted two other experts who said an audio tape at the centre of the legal action was doctored, court documents reveal.

The resume of the latest expert Harper's legal team consulted demonstrates the extent to which the prime minister is prepared to go in his claim the Liberals defamed him over allegations of bribery in offers the Tories made to late MP Chuck Cadman as a government confidence vote approached in 2005.

Former FBI special agent Bruce Koenig - who lists expert evidence about former U.S. president Richard Nixon's Watergate tapes and analysis of gun shots in the assassination of John F. Kennedy among his accomplishments - said more evidence is needed to judge the veracity and integrity of the disputed tape recording.

The Conservative party cited the opinions of the first two experts last month when Tory MP James Moore held a news conference to challenge B.C. author Tom Zytaruk's claim that Harper knew Tory operatives offered Cadman a financial incentive to help defeat the Liberal government in May 2005.

The initial two experts, one from the United States and the other from Stratford, Ont., categorically ruled that an audio tape recording of an interview Zytaruk conducted with Harper in September 2005 had been altered.

Harper's lawyer in the defamation suit, Richard Dearden, filed the expert evidence in early June in support of Harper's claim the Liberal party libeled him by suggesting he was aware of attempted bribery in the party talks with Cadman.

One of the initial two experts, the head of Owl Investigations Inc. in Colonia, N.J., said he concluded "with scientific certainty that this tape has been edited and doctored to misrepresent the event as it actually occurred."

That expert, audio authentication engineer Thomas Owen - who lists experience as a consultant to CSI and five U.S. networks on his credentials - claims to have verified the first recorded message from Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 terrorist attacks by al-Qaida was "probably authentic."

The other, Alan Gough, a former TV producer who provided video and audio forensic services to the Toronto police force before becoming a "truth verification" expert, said Zytaruk's interview "is not a continuous recording of one conversation."

Dearden filed both opinions, along with sworn affidavits, in the swelling Superior Court file of Harper's defamation claim, but added Koenig's analysis as he began attempts to get Zytaruk to provide his original version of the interview with Harper. The first two examinations done by Harper's experts were limited to copies of the tape recording Zytaruk had provided Dearden.

Koenig, who also performed an authenticity analysis of the Linda Tripp telephone recordings in the investigation of former U.S. president Bill Clinton, reported irregularities in the copy tape and portions where an earlier recording had been taped over, but concluded Zytaruk's original recording, his tape recorder and an external microphone if Zytaruk used one "are required to conduct a conclusive authenticity examination in a forensic audio laboratory."

That kind of examination is required to "scientifically" determine whether the original information is truly original, contains or has alterations, such as deletions or additions, Koenig said in the report he submitted with his own sworn affidavit.

In the fallout over the original Conservative release of expert evidence, Zytaruk conducted a series of television and other media interviews vigorously denying he had doctored the tape.

On the recording, Harper is heard saying he "understands" two of his top political operatives at the time, Doug Finley and Tom Flanagan, approached Cadman with an offer to replace "financial considerations" he might lose "due to an election."

Zytaruk says Cadman's widow, Dona, told him after Cadman died in 2005 that Cadman told her shortly before the May confidence vote that two Conservatives had offered him a $1-million life insurance policy if he voted against the Liberals to help force an election.

Dona Cadman has not directly denied that claim, although she has signed affidavits Dearden filed in the court case denying some other details of Zytaruk's version of the day he interviewed Harper in front of the Cadman home.

Harper has sworn to two affidavits denying Zytaruk's version of the events. Although the prime minister does not deny using the words "financial considerations," he insists in the court filings he was talking about helping Cadman out with campaign expenses if he were to run as a Conservative.

It later emerged that any discussion of life insurance could have centred on an MP's ability to extend the generous parliamentary plan with cash additions in place of premiums before leaving office.

Dearden has served notice to other lawyers involved in the case that he intends to file a motion in Ontario Superior Court seeking a summons for Zytaruk to personally testify when the first hearings in the case begin in Ottawa in September. Dearden also is planning a motion in a B.C. court seeking Zytaruk's testimony and court authentication of the tape recording in a hearing there.

The Liberal party has filed a statement of defence claiming Harper's lawsuit is an infringement of free political comment and violates the Charter of Rights as well as sections of the Canadian constitution.

The defence statement filed by the party's Toronto lawyer, Chris Paliare, calls the lawsuit an attempt to intimidate the opposition and describes it is a "SLAPP suit - a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participants."