Journalist and best-selling author Linda McQuaig has developed a reputation for challenging the establishment. As a Globe and Mail reporter, she won a National Newspaper Award in 1989 for a series of articles that sparked a public inquiry and led to the imprisonment of Ontario political lobbyist Patti Starr. As a senior writer for Maclean’s magazine, McQuaig (and Ian Austen) probed the early business dealings of Conrad Black. An angry Black suggested on CBC Radio that McQuaig should be “horsewhipped.” McQuaig has been a rare voice in the mainstream media challenging the prevailing dogma—as a columnist for the National Post in the late 1990s, and since 2002, as a columnist in the Toronto Star. She is author of seven controversial national best sellers. Her most recent book (co-written with Neil Brooks) is The Trouble with Billionaires: How the Super-Rich Hijacked the World, and How We Can Take It Back.
Hart House 1970s
- Member of the Debates Committee
- President of the University of Toronto Debating Union, which met at Hart House and staged regular debates there
“Like many other students, I thoroughly enjoyed the comfortable settings and collegial atmosphere of Hart House, spending time in the reading and meeting rooms and eating meals in the Great Hall. For years, I used to play basketball every Friday evening in the Hart House gym with a co-ed group of U of T students and graduates.
“I was one of four debaters in a major Hart House debate in which the guest speaker was the famed US lawyer William Kunstler, who had defended the Chicago Seven. More recently, I was the guest speaker at a Hart House debate in October 2010 on the topic of whether rising inequality poses a threat to Canada—I argued that it does. And, in the fall of 2011, I had the honour of introducing Noam Chomsky at a major lecture he gave in the Hart House Great Hall.”
“By the time I was a U of T student, Hart House was no longer a men-only domain, as it had been at one time. I was a reporter for The Varsity, and we were interested in drawing attention to the lack of proper locker room facilities for women, which seemed to be the last bastion of exclusion for women at Hart House.
“As I recall, I wanted to write a story about the situation, and I decided to dramatize it by sneaking inside the men’s locker room and taking a photo of a man (from the back) walking with just a towel wrapped around him. The story and photo ran on the front page of The Varsity and helped draw attention to the issue on campus.
“By way of explanation, I might add that we used to do a lot of this sort of first-person journalism at The Varsity in order to draw attention to something that we thought needed to be exposed. I recall for instance applying, along with a couple of other female students, for a topless dancing job at a tavern near campus because the tavern was advertising in The Varsity for student applicants. (And yes, we danced topless and then came back and wrote a story about what it felt like.) On another occasion, I remember posing as a pregnant woman and secretly taping the anti-abortion tirade that was delivered to me by the campus Birthright organization. Also, I once spent the night, along with a photographer, in the stacks of the old library as a way to protest the closing of the stacks to undergraduates. So getting an inside view of the Hart House men’s locker room as part of The Varsity’s attempt to ‘liberate’ the place was in this spirit.”