Life

Thank You BC Mary, Railgate Watchdog

Mary Mackie's blog on the Legislature Raids was essential reading. She'll be missed.

By Bill Tieleman 7 Mar 2012 | TheTyee.ca

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. E-mail him here. or visit his blog.

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BC Mary, 2011: 'Defender of democracy, she feared no power.' Photo provided by Mary's daughter Nadina Mackie Jackson.

BC Mary was one of Canada's most tireless, prolific, dedicated and dogged bloggers, with an absolute commitment to finding out the truth about the B.C. Legislature Raids -- the Basi-Virk case -- the BC Railgate story. In fact, she named her blog The Legislature Raids.

And now my friend is gone.

Sadly BC Mary -- Mary Mackie to those that knew her more -- passed away unexpectedly but peacefully on Saturday, March 3 in Toronto General Hospital.

Mary's daughter Nadina Mackie Jackson let me know on the weekend and several others -- Laila Yuile and Robin Mathews in particular -- have paid tribute to Mary's fighting spirit and citizen journalism.

Nadina wrote this to me Sunday about her mother, which I'm sure she would allow me to share: "She was a wonderful person, vivid and passionate, yet also surprisingly shy and retiring." 

Nadina sent me the photo (for this story), the first I and likely most Legislature Raids readers have ever seen. I thank her for sharing it.

Nanaimo NDP MLA Leonard Krog rose in the B.C. legislature -- how totally appropriate -- to mark Mary's passing on Monday, March 5:

"I rise today to ask the House to pay its respects to the passing of one of British Columbia's most courageous citizen journalists, a woman who was a harsh critic of the B.C. government, particularly around the sale of B.C. Rail, and also critical of yours truly, in the role that I played in criticizing the government. She was a well-known blogger. A defender of democracy, she feared no power. I'd ask the House to pay its respect to the passing of BC Mary -- Mary Mackie."

Strong, fierce, committed

I too want to pay tribute to BC Mary, with some of her own words to me over the roughly seven years we corresponded about the raid, the arrest, pre-trial and surprise guilty pleas of ex-BC Liberal ministerial aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk, and many other issues as well.

But -- and Mary might have scolded me for this -- I want to share a bit more of the personal side, because Mary certainly spoke for herself and her political views on her own blog.

BC Mary was one of my strongest, fiercest and most committed supporters, and almost every column, article or post I published was referenced and linked in her blog.  

The Legislature Raids was the one website that referred more readers to my blog than any other -- quite an accomplishment. I suspect many had no idea the enormous readership it had.

I never met Mary in person, nor did I ever -- surprisingly -- speak to her by phone. It was a true Internet friendship in every way. (It actually reminds me of the wonderful relationship by mail in the book 84 Charing Cross Road. Unfortunately, as in that true story, the two correspondents never meet in person.)

But despite never meeting, Mary did early on trust me with some of her secrets. She did not want it known that she actually lived in Ontario -- felt some might try to undercut her deep passion for British Columbia, where she had spent a large part of her life, and attempt to discredit her blog.  

Actually, that simply wasn't possible. Mary was truly BC Mary.

Mary also contacted me privately in May 2010 when I disclosed in my column and blog that my mom Pat had been diagnosed with lung cancer to offer her support and sympathy.

I share that very personal message publicly today, to show the measure of Mary:

"Dear Bill, 

My heart is with you -- and your beloved Mom -- as I write. She is indeed blessed, to have you as her son. 

These will be precious hours for you, her, and your family members. 

It is incredibly ironic that you, of all people, won't be in the courtroom for the trial. But you're so right, in saying that "our most important role in this case is likely behind us"... no, wait a minute... 

Bill, "they" will still be trying to prevent the news when they ought to be reporting... and for evidence of that, have a look at my blog postings for recent days. 

NOT that I'd try to draw you away from family matters... I'm just saying: there will be times when only your voice may be heard clearly. If I can facilitate that, I'd be honoured to do so... anything from a signed statement to an anonymous comment or even a private comment. Let me do that, if I can. 

Thank you for letting me know the momentous journey you and your Mom are embarking on. It's a beautiful thing you are doing. Peace be in your hearts. 

Much love, 

Mary."

I truly, deeply appreciated her message at a difficult time. My mom passed away 12 days later.  

And despite her diagnosis in April, my mom insisted that I be at the opening day of the Basi-Virk trial -- like Mary, she totally understood the importance of this trial. And like Mary, she would have been appalled at its sudden ending in October 2010.

Mary's cancer diagnosis

It was a heartfelt message because in March 2010, Mary had been told she had developed breast cancer and the prognosis was not good. Again, I share this private message she sent me now, to show Mary's courage in the worst kind of circumstances any of us can face:

"Bill: There's no easy way to say this. There's cancer in the left breast, and under the arm, with two suspect lumps on shoulder and neck. These will be subject to new biopsies for analysis. There's some abnormality in the right breast but no cancer there, chino. 

They will also do further tests (CT Scan, Bone Scan) to see if there's further involvement. 

Preferred treatment (by them) is Estrogen Treatment. 

First, the new tests. Then the correct pill prescription. Then wait two or three months to see if the pills are effective. 

They feel that surgery even as things appear right now, would be too invasive for me to withstand; I agree. 

As it appears to be an aggressive form of cancer, this will be a critical two- or three-month period. 

Allan manfully stood by me right through the whole procedure. He saw it all, heard it all. 

Only once did I feel like crying, when I thanked him for being there and I heard myself say: 'I wouldn't want to have faced this alone.'

I want to say 'Don't worry!' and that sort of stuff but it tends to ring hollow just now. Of course you will worry.

But one thing I would like you to know is that I feel at peace, knowing that my time has come. In the great span of human history, very few humans have had lives as good for as long as the one I've enjoyed. It is enough.

Also: I believe in Canada's Health Care System. If our system hadn't been there to correct various health issues over the years, I wouldn't have had this full, happy life.

I'm grateful for that... but if I try to use medical intervention right now on the three major problems which have befallen me, I'm sure it would cost the system puh-lenty. And for what? It has already given me more than enough.

So my time has come and I hope to sail away into the sunset perhaps to find out just exactly what it is that we do with drunken sailors... er-li in the mornin'....

And yes, I really am OK with this news. There's an old saying, about 'to everything there's a season' or some such thing. Well, mine is about completed and that's the way it should be.

Mary."

I can only hope that should I unfortunately face such terrible news, I will also write my friends about it with the same grace, strength and understanding.

Fortunately for all of us, Mary's health held until this past weekend, and she continued to post blog items until her final entry on Feb. 23, 2012.

Mary was also fiercely proud and protective of her beloved ex-husband Allan. When one of my blog posters took an unfair cheap shot at Allan and Mary -- which I didn't understand when I published it -- Mary sent me what I could only call a love letter about Allan and how wonderful a man he was.

She concluded this way:

"It's difficult to stop writing about Allan, once started. He is, without a doubt, one of the smartest, strongest, most level-headed, most amusing and consistently annoying persons I've ever met (no mercy for those who 'produce nothing')."

I quickly rectified the slight. I am sure Allan knows how much Mary loved him, as do her daughter and son. That was Mary's personal struggle.

Her public struggle was with the B.C. Legislature Raids and she doggedly followed it to her final days.

Essential reading

Mary's blog became THE clearing house for all information on the Basi-Virk case -- my writing, that of Robin Mathews of Vive le Canada, Mark Hume of the Globe and Mail, Neal Hall of the Vancouver Sun, Keith Fraser of the Province -- the B.C. Supreme Court regulars -- and anyone else who came to Courtroom 54 and wrote about it or who covered the story. You can still find links to almost everything written on this case at Mary's blog. Long may it remain online.

Mary was also always extremely respectful of my work and the right of 24 Hours newspaper and The Tyee to publish it first and in full, as well as my blog.

So Mary would always on her blog post excerpts and encourage readers to go to the whole version at one of those sources.

In an age when there is some shameless theft of online material without compensation or even credit or acknowledgement of the author's work, Mary was exemplary in her approach.

Here's just one example:

"Bill,

I write to apologize for knowingly copying too much of your Tyee column today... and to ask your permission for that.

It's one of your absolute best columns... and I just hated to lop anything off... much less to interrupt the delicious flow of inevitability that comes with a well-reasoned diatribe.

I must admit that it gave me some fresh courage. It's been a grind, since that damn trial (awful as it was) was dumped. Having some of the participants answer some of the hard "premier" questions will be doing a great service to the public.

Let me know if you'd rather I trimmed my posting today and I'll remove some more of it.

Mary."

If only everyone in our online world were so considerate and thoughtful about others' work!

Tenacious to the end

Lastly, Mary was tenacious about getting to the bottom of the Basi-Virk case.

And we didn't always get along. Mary had her own views about how to cover the BC Legislature Raid -- and sometimes I was on the wrong end of some stern advice!

But we never let those differences affect our ongoing friendship and mutual interest in getting to the truth.

I do not know if there is an afterlife, a heaven for those who have passed on. But I truly hope that Mary Mackie now knows the full, unadulterated, unspun, gospel truth about what happened with the BC Legislature Raids.

That would only be fair for someone who dedicated so much of their life to finding out.

For those of us still here -- we need to push for a full public inquiry -- the truth will come out.

I know Mary would urge me to ask you to join my Facebook group Basi-Virk Public Inquiry to add to pressure for such an investigation. Please do so if you haven't already, because we need to know what happened.

BC Mary, it was not just a pleasure to know you, it was truly an honour.

You were one of a kind. Rest in peace, for a job well done.

[Tags: Politics.]  [Tyee]

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