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September 12, 2005

The skipper brave and sure

Ted Byfield is an ass:

Before, during and after his [Pierre Trudeau's] marriage in 1971 to the socialite Margaret Sinclair, 29 years his junior, he enjoyed a robust chain of love affairs. They numbered, in the estimation of Hollywood actress Margot Kidder, about 40, she herself being one of them. Another was with Kim Cattrall of "Sex in the City" fame, he 59 and she 22 at the time, and another with Newfoundland lawyer Deborah Coyne, mother of his 15-year-old illegitimate daughter.

Illegitimate! I say, you there — boy! What year is this?

What a sad, pathetic thing to say. I'm sure to him the Trudeaus seem like a guilt-free target — they're all the way over there in the East, and their pater familias is his ideological arch-nemesis after all. Perhaps he is unaware that the concept of bastardy is just a teensy bit outdated. Well, it's none of my business. I'm sure he'll clarify his opinion of young Sarah Coyne's status to her cousin when they set sail together on the SS Grumpy.

(Kathy Shaidle has bolded some text in lieu of actual commentary here.)

Posted by Chris Selley at September 12, 2005 06:22 PM

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The SS Grumpy - that made me laugh out loud.

I desperately hope that:
A) that cruise sells enough tickets to go off,
B) there is at least one attendee who is something less than a true believer of all things Shotgunny, and
C) said attendee has a weblog, and uses it - during, after, I don't care

"What happens on the Grumpy stays on the Grumpy" would disappoint me greatly.

Posted by: Matt at September 12, 2005 06:07 PM

Sorry Chris - what term should he have used? "...his 15-year old daughter, who was born out of wedlock?" or maybe, "...mother of his 15-year old daughter, although the two were never married?" Referring to Sarah Coyne as "illegitimate" is simply stating the facts - if the concept of bastardy is indeed so outdated, then where is the harm? On the other hand, if there is harm in the comment, then it is due to Trudeau and Deborah Coyne's conduct - and it seems to me that you resent Byfield for drawing attention to it.

I'm sure Andrew Coyne is well aware of his niece's (not cousin, I think) family history, including Deborah's public declaration that she harboured an ambition to have Trudeau's child, irrespective of their matrimonial status, and her pursuit of that ambition. Nothing Byfield said will change the facts, nor will it, I suspect change Andrew Coyne's feelings for his niece and sister, or indeed for (or against) Byfield.

I think PET's willingness to go along with Deborah's plan speaks to his character (particularly his self-regard) and is therefore fair game for anyone commenting on the man. It may be disquieting for Sarah, or for her step-brothers; if so, who do you think they have to thank for this situation?



Posted by: DCardno at September 12, 2005 06:16 PM

Sorry - got my Coyne family geneology mixed up. You're right - cousin and second-cousin, not sister and niece as I had thought.


Posted by: DCardno at September 12, 2005 06:19 PM

Dean, Byfield could have used either of the two options you offered or, alternatively, he could have not mentioned it at all. He also could have used "bastard" — would that have been okay with you? They mean basically the same thing. Both come from a time when children born of unwed parents actually had fewer rights. As this idea is outdated (not to say abhorrent), so should the terms be. Children are children. It was a cheap shot.

I don't know where you get this stuff about Deborah Coyne's "plan" to have a child by Pierre Trudeau. I'll withhold comment on it pending evidence that it existed. Nevertheless, to argue that there was "harm" in what Trudeau and Coyne did seems to me quite a hurtful idea, since the alternative involves a human being not getting a chance to be alive.

Posted by: Chris Selley at September 12, 2005 08:16 PM

Curious to examine the context of this Byfieldian "cheap shot", I click on the link to the column--and discover that the whole thing is about Trudeau's Catholicism and its relation, if any, to his conduct.

You can complain, I suppose, that this might not be a proper subject for a column. But it would take a whole different set of arguments (instead of contemptous sniffling) to show that it isn't. And if you concede that it is, you cannot sensibly argue that Trudeau's horizontal jogging is irrelevant to the subject. Nor is the marital legitimacy of his children.

Also, that "human being not getting a chance to be alive" line is just dopey. I suggest you pursue that idea the necessary three feet or so to its logical conclusion and have another look.

Posted by: Colby Cosh at September 12, 2005 11:24 PM


It's a perfectly fine topic for a column, and it's perfectly acceptable to point out that Catholic gentlemen shouldn't be having children out of wedlock. My only complaint is that Byfield calls Trudeau's daughter "illegitimate". It's pejorative, archaic and unfair, since it's no fault of hers, and it's used simply to make her father look bad (which, in a Catholic context, he deserves). I'm not saying it's earth-shatteringly offensive.

And yeah, I'll concede the dopey line, but it ties in with what I was saying. Even Catholics don't believe that illegitimate children should be denied their full schedule of rights. The sin, if there was one, was Pierre and Deborah's, not their daughter's. I know I wouldn't appreciate someone telling me that my parents shouldn't have had kids. Byfield's point could just as easily have been made without bringing her "status" into it.

Posted by: Chris Selley at September 13, 2005 12:17 AM

Chris - I think your dislike for Byfield leads you to see (his) cheap shots where none exist. First - I remember clearly that Deborah Coyne was quite public about her desire to have a child by Trudeau; I couldn't say if that was when they were already involved or not, but my impression was that she simply wanted to be impregnated by him, on a 'no obligations' basis. Careful, crafty bastard that he was, he probably got it in writing, witnessed and notarized - but of course, that is beyond our scope.

If you are arguing that the concept of legitimacy is no longer important (which I took from the comment "Perhaps he [Byfield] is unaware that the concept of bastardy is just a teensy bit outdated.") then mentioning it cannot be "hurtful" whether it is Byfield or some other observer.

My comment relating to the harm in the Byfield's observation was a counterfactural to your claim that the concept of bastardy is outdated - if there is harm, because the concept is not outdated and deliberately exposing a child as illegitimate is indeed harmfull - well then, who are the authors of that harm? Certainly not Ted Byfield, or anyone else who simply identifies the truth of the matter. I presume that Coyne thought that having Trudeau as the biological father (whether he acknowledged it or not), would provide such an advantage to her child that it would make up for any minor deprivations or that her own superior parenting skills would likewise overcome any disadvantage that accrued to being the child of a single (at the time) mother. I'm not sure where the alternative of a human being not getting a chance to be alive comes from (unless you are simply trying to paint an unsavoury picture of your interlocutor to support your other comments, and I think you are above that); once set on her course I don't think there was any chance of Ms Coyne terminating her pregnancy other than for medical necessity.

As Colby noted, the reference was made in a longer comment about Trudeau himself - as I said, I think his participation in this undertaking is relevent for any assessment of him as a person. I didn't look at Byfield's column until after I posted my first message, so I didn't know that the context was Trudeau's Catholicism - obviously extra-marital conduct has an even greater bearing in that milieu.



Posted by: Anonymous at September 13, 2005 12:22 AM

The reason that using the term "illegitimate" confirms you as a prehistoric asshole is that it's an adjective for the child, who has committed no immoral act.

Secondly, it's interesting to note Ted Byfield using a Hollywood actress, last seen stumbling around a woodpile in an Ottawa valley backyard, as a column source; I suspect if I had access to the largest fastest database in the world, I wouldn't find another instance of that.

And for Dean and Colby both, since the point of Byfield's piece is that PET was an immoral man, surely the point could have been made better without using a centuries-old slur on the child. Something about the worse-than-casual-sex morality of consciously attempting to create a child in the absence of any intent to parent her, or even in the absence of the intent to get married. In short, something that referred to him, not a 15-year-old girl.

Posted by: Matt at September 13, 2005 12:26 AM

That's just the kind of thing I'd expect to hear from a low-born bastard whelpling like Fenwick.

In all seriousness, the word "illegitimate" used in this way is little more than a homonym of other uses of the word at this point in history; it is still conceptually convenient for us to have an adjective for "born out of wedlock," this one has served the purpose since (at a guess) Roman times, and any pain resulting from its use disappeared along with the stigma of the thing itself.

Of course, you haven't really suggested a convenient alternative--only that Byfield should engage in euphemism. I take the point, but I had grown unused to such overt political correctness, and I suppose you realize that an earlier well-meant spasm of it gave us the term "love child", which--like all such efforts--induced universal snickers from the first time it was taken for a spin.

It also bears noting, on the off-chance it matters, that the archaic "slur" in question is being used by a man in his ninth decade of life.

Posted by: Colby Cosh at September 13, 2005 12:45 AM

Chris: since the first sentence of the entry is "Ted Byfield is an ass", I'm wondering what tone you reserve for people who do say undeserved or "earth-shatteringly unfair" things.

(N.B.: the point of none of this is to defend Byfield. I know of more reasons one might like to describe him as an ass than you can possibly imagine.)

Posted by: Colby Cosh at September 13, 2005 12:49 AM


Do you get called a "control freak"? A lot? Usually ust before yet another woman slams the front door behind her for the last time?

Just asking.

Posted by: Kathy Shaidle at September 13, 2005 09:14 AM

"Kathy Shaidle has bolded some text in lieu of actual commentary..."

No, she hasn't.

Posted by: Russell Wardlow at September 13, 2005 09:26 AM

Won't someone please think of the bimbos?

Posted by: Kathy Shaidle at September 13, 2005 12:07 PM

He shagged Kim Catrall?

Posted by: deepfriedgold at September 13, 2005 12:22 PM

Dudes, dudes, dudes.

"Illegitimate" is clearly a stupid word to use in this context.

It derives its slur status from its root components (and their use in other contexts--legitimate government, and its opposite) and not just from historical usage.

Imaginary cookie for someone who comes up with the really good alternative.

Posted by: Eric Grant at September 13, 2005 01:16 PM

Name the door and the time, Kathy, and you can be next. Watching you disappear would be a delight.

Posted by: Chris Selley at September 13, 2005 05:17 PM

How about "lusty f***-larvae?"

Posted by: deepfriedgold at September 13, 2005 05:59 PM

OOOH! I struck a noive!! Tee hee!

Posted by: Kathy Shaidle at September 13, 2005 06:56 PM

Eric, Roget's Thesaurus offers up these unwieldy alternatives: "bar sinister, bastard, bastard child, bend sinister, by-blow, child born without benefit of clergy, love child, nullius filius, out-of-wedlock child, whoreson".

Looks like we'll just have to wait several decades before the concept of illegitimacy completely disappears. I doubt if any of those synonyms would, or should, enjoy a revival. Excepting maybe "by-blow", which has me giggling like a schoolgirl.

Posted by: Sean Jordan at September 13, 2005 07:49 PM

Did he really have an affair with Kim Cattrall? When did they ever have occasion to meet?

Posted by: James Kabala at September 13, 2005 08:05 PM

Since Deborah Coyne is a Newfie (at least according to Byfield), why not call the child a merrybegot?

Posted by: Michael Tait at September 13, 2005 08:09 PM

I'll take "bend sinister"--which I think has pretty innocuous heraldic roots--or "without benefit of clergy", although perhaps "without assistance of clergy" would be less judgemental.

Posted by: Eric Grant at September 13, 2005 08:38 PM

In the light of this truly amazing amount of commentary, I think I can accept as a possibility Cosh's argument that Byfield was just using "illegitimate" as a descriptor to mean "born out of wedlock" (or "whoreson", which is definitely my choice, fascinated as I once was with the salty dialogue of Stephen King's characters). That would make it archaic, not necessarily mean-spirited, and as such not worth all this hullabaloo.

As for Dean's contention that I let my dislike of Byfield influence my opinion of his word usage — well, yeah. Clearly I have it in for the guy. Hell, I wouldn't have read the article if he hadn't written it. I thought he was an ass before I read it — I've said as much in the past — and I still think he's an ass.

But most importantly: whoreson is the new PC term for "illegitimate".

Posted by: Chris Selley at September 13, 2005 09:56 PM

Christ see Matthew: 18

"But if anyone causes one of these little ones who trusts in me to lose faith, it would be better for that person to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around the neck."

Don't mind Kathy and Teddy Byfield Chris. The noose around their necks in the afterlife just got a little tighter for them.

Posted by: Bible Reader at September 15, 2005 07:09 AM

When the mayor of Toronto, Mel Lastman, had an extra marital affair made public, the MSM (on TV, anyway) regularly referred to the grown up sons of the affair as Mel Lastman's illegitimate children. Was Mr. Tart Cider equally offended?

Posted by: maggie menzies at September 15, 2005 08:00 PM

maggie menzies,

Mr Tart Cider was not offended so much by that, since the brothers Louie were freely using the term to describe themselves (pejoratively, that is — i.e., "illegitimacy is an outdated concept, and we should be entitled to some of our father's wealth"). Before one appeal, for instance, Todd Louie said the original ruling had "taken us back about 50 years, to a time that stigmatizes kept women and illegitimate children" (Vancouver Province, May 15, 2002).

Also, they were like 40.

Posted by: Chris Selley at September 15, 2005 11:15 PM

"How about "lusty f***-larvae?""

I have just ordered myself a new t-shirt from CafePress. Guess what it says? :-)

Posted by: Sean at September 16, 2005 07:56 PM

On August 22, Kathy posted this at her site:

"I am never posting anything in another site's comments section again. Or maybe I should say: just for today. Which I'll say again tomorrow, God willing."

She lasted a little over three weeks. Perhaps just as well she's not a novice nun taking a vow of chastity. :)

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