Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Activist works exclusively with one medium

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I was surprised to hear Evan Wiens on CBC this morning talking about the gay-straight alliance he’s started at Steinbach Regional Secondary School.

Surprised, because when I called Wiens to ask how the first meeting went last month, he declined to be interviwed, told me he was withdrawing from the public spotlight to concentrate on school, and asked the media to respect his privacy.

Wiens had courted and received a lot of media attention the previous few weeks, as he tried to persuade Hanover School Division to allow him to promote the GSA within the school.

So I contacted Wiens to find out what had happened, and pointed out to him that those of us who’d complied with his request to respect his privacy, would have difficulty explaining to our bosses and our readers why CBC had a story that we didn’t.

And here was his reply: "CBC has been kind to me as I’ve been working closely with them on a diary project. So I allowed them a small update on the GSA. I don’t believe that’s any of your business. I believe I’m allowed to use my freedom of speech in whichever way I choose."

Yes, Wiens can speak to whomever he chooses.

But, with respect, it is my business. When someone who has chosen to become a public figure asks to be left alone, and then re-emerges in a rival medium, it is my business to ask what’s happening.

This is a big story that won’t go away. The right to establish a GSA within a public school and within private schools that receive public funding is at the heart of Bill 18. Steinbach is quite obviously at the heart of opposition to the bill.

Wiens has been a part of that story. Going forward, he’ll be a part of that story on CBC, but his voice won’t be heard anywhere else — not in our paper, not in the Sun, not on CJOB or on Global or CTV or City, or anywhere else. People may talk about him along the way, people may talk about his GSA, but his voice won’t be heard. That’s his choice.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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