Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/2/2010 (2663 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Winnipeg unveiling of a controversial book on Hutterite life is going ahead as scheduled, despite the spectre of legal action.
Rebecca Hofer and her daughter Helen will present their book, Removing the Hutterite Kerchief, at Aqua Books at 2 p.m. today.
Store owner Kelly Hughes said he received a phone call from Winnipeg lawyer David Kovnats telling him the Greenwald Hutterite colony had asked him to look over a copy of the book before the reading.
"I told him we didn't have it, that we wouldn't have it until (today)," Hughes said. "At that point, he went on about how the book is potentially libellous and suggested that this is not something that I want to be a part of."
Hughes said he's being put in the middle of a fight between the Hutterite colony and the publisher of the memoir.
"The book is already published," Hughes said. "I think what they are trying to do is stop the reading."
Kovnats takes issue with that claim. Though he would not confirm if the Greenwald colony enlisted him to protect members' interests, the lawyer said he only reached out to Aqua Books to see a copy of the book, not to stop the event.
"The description (of the book) on the Internet is such that we were going to question whether or not the content of the book is correct," Kovnats said. "My words to him were to the effect that I don't want to see people hurt. I would like to see the book before it is disseminated to ensure that there's nothing in it that's actionable."
Removing the Hutterite Kerchief is a biographical story of Rebecca Hofer's experiences moving from an overpopulated colony to start up Greenwald, and the events that led to half the Greenwald Colony deciding to leave in 1966.
The book is available through the Okanagan Institute, an organization that helps artists, including writers, get their work out to the world. Institute director Robert MacDonald was surprised to learn of the situation with Aqua Books and Kovnats, but said the threat of libel always comes up in the case of a biography.
"There always is (that risk) in things like this, but it's based on the memory of one person and the events that happened to her," MacDonald said. "The Hutterites are notorious for being nervous about people revealing the secrets of what goes on."
MacDonald said he has not had any contact with Kovnats or any representative of the Greenwald colony.
As for Hughes, he wasn't too concerned about what might happen if legal action is taken.
"Based on my understanding of the law, it doesn't fall to me," he said.