In a mesmerizing letter to newly appointed President of York University Rhonda Lenton, Mike Young a 17 time EMMY & BAFTA winner outlines his shock and dismay at the academic institutions appalling treatment of former employee Paul James who is currently embarked on his seventh hunger strike in protest of the social injustice which has been delivered to him.
In the correspondence Mike Young urges the President to “do the right thing” immediately in resolving the ongoing dispute. Young outlined the significant appeal of the Paul James Story to be told on film as it relates to the global epidemic and crisis with Opioid overdoses - an ongoing tragedy with no end in sight. Young concludes that with interest from HBO, Netflix, and Michael Moore the investigation will become a reality.
November 21, 2017
Dear President Lenton,
Further to my correspondence dated November 3, 2017, on behalf of Paul James, and the millions of other substance dependent sufferers around the world illuminated each day on our screens through the tragic Opioid crisis, I wanted you to be aware that we have had enormous interest from the film industry to produce a documentary with Paul as a central character based on his extraordinary life, which reflects the underlying stigma and social injustice that continues to negatively affect your country’s population, highlighting the desperate need for mental health reform. I have a meeting set with Michael Moore on my return from Shanghai on the 3rd December. I hope Paul survives this long as he is on another hunger strike and in catastrophically failing health.
Over the past several months, as this story spread its wings, we have discovered an overwhelming response to the potential of this project.
The facts of the story are poignant, breathtaking in their simplicity, compelling, well documented, without contention, and surround a protagonist who has had his sporting and public status, reputation and life unfairly and disrespectfully eliminated with no chance of repair without truth and justice.
And why has this happened?
Succinctly because one person came forward without fear to expose his mental health disability and then instead of receiving the assistance and help he was anticipating and guaranteed by his employer, he was denied any opportunity for assistance and then taken advantage of at every conceivable turn since 2008.
As a long term resident and citizen, multi-Emmy and British Academy Award winning producer with my own studio based in LA and along with my research on what has happened to Paul James, and the countless others who find themselves in the same set of similar circumstances, it is my assessment that a truthful narrative of this epidemic will be engrossing, profoundly educational and stunning in its ultimate revelations and conclusions. One man’s willingness to take on and singlehandedly confront the oppression, prejudice and discrimination he and millions of others like him have to endure is worthy of global attention and reward. It is remarkable in fact that he has completed six painful hunger strike demonstrations (soon to be seven) under such dreadful life conditions and opposition with such courage, poise and dignity with focused intent on receiving social justice.
As alluded earlier, at this time we have enthusiastic interest from top filming outlets…HBO, Netflix and film maker Michael Moore, among them. This specific interest as communicated to us is a consequence of the public curiosity on the unique nexus of diverse threads in “the bigger picture” to this story, including mental health in the form of social anxiety, isolation, depression, substance use, abuse and addiction, discrimination, prejudice, stigma, self-stigma, stigma of mental health, stigma of drug addiction, non-viable access to social justice, controlled media, politics, bad politics, decriminalization, false published narratives, deceptive reporting, injustice, “corruption”, collusion, conflict of interests, power, power elite, abuse of power, manipulation, smoke and mirrors, poverty, homelessness, hope, humour, humanity, and profound sadness amongst other strands of public interest. And all in an age of cumbersome transparent social disparities and oppression which can threaten any nation’s wellbeing because mental health, whether directly or indirectly, affects all citizens. Of course Paul being a high achieving individual with an incomparable background, even on a global level, is of significant appeal, not only as the driving force, but as the proof that “one single voice” can make a difference.
From a production and marketing viability perspective the compilation of the chronological documentation will encompass variable segments of Canada’s social fabric including its judiciary, mental health industry, media, soccer industry including its governing body, government and academic institution(s) which will expose an extraordinary dichotomy of a nation’s people to display such limited humanity against such inhumanity.
For your consideration and introspection: This story cannot get any more compelling than when the audience is presented with the words of former international and English professional soccer star Paul Peschisolido who described Paul as a “Canadian soccer legend” only for the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and York University to reveal their incontestable intent that they were/are prepared to let a "Canadian soccer legend" die of starvation rather than accept and own the truth of the errors and injustice which has been delivered to him.
After a life time involvement in the filming industry, Kelly Kidwell (who worked for HBO for nearly 20 years, negotiating deals with the most powerful lawyers and representatives for the movie industry’s top talent, and an assessor to be feared), and I have seen and experienced our fair share of political undermining, competitive jealousies, selfishness, and greed along with some extraordinary injustices. Yet nothing compares to what we have both observed with the past and current circumstances that surround Paul James. The obvious injustice seems to get worse each passing day. A recurring, never ending bad dream.
After reading the e-book Cracked Open, the blogs, the submissions to the Canadian courts, we became besotted by the story and the character which makes up the protagonist. I concluded at the beginning some eight months ago that Paul was just a bit strange and quirky because of his uncanny ability to be so unashamedly open and honest about just about everything. I have since come to recognize that it is not a quirkiness trait which drives him. Rather, it is, more precisely, a quirky genius which makes him so very original on a myriad of levels. He has the ability to see and observe things quicker and more accurately than others. What is visible to him is most often invisible to us. And so logically when it comes to his life path and the health issues he has experienced he is particularly adept. He has connected all the dots in a fabulously compelling way.
It is why Kelly and I, as outsiders to Canada and persons who have yet to meet Paul face to face, are so totally shocked and dismayed beyond belief at the way York University, the Canadian Soccer Association and your Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have treated Paul's circumstances surrounding the justice he has been denied for nine years. The June 26 letter Paul sent to the Prime Minister was brilliant in every aspect and nuance. How he did not receive a reply until 77 days later when he went 26 days on a gruesome hunger strike during this very period is beyond any moral comprehension. The optics to outsiders that you as an institution and Canada as a nation have turned your backs and subjected a Canadian soccer legend to such humiliation and abuse has left Kelly and I gob smacked and breathless. We cannot see anything in what we have read that justifies such poor treatment of any citizen and this, without even considering Paul’s legendary contributions to the Canadian sporting history.
While much suffering and sacrifice accumulates before any social phenomenon can change for the better, I suggest to you President Lenton and York University that millions of persons around the world have now suffered enough. As the saying goes with our younger generations, “enough already”. How much longer must one man be forced to pay a huge, unnecessary price for being open, honest, dedicated, resolute and thorough in his pursuit of social justice in an environment that surely needs reform and national discourse. At the very least, to make sure a similar circumstance is never repeated.
Shouldn’t this caliber of man be admired and respected as a hero by his adopted nation, rather than continually defamed, ridiculed, manipulated, abused and taken advantage of in the way he has been.
There is simply no counter argument.
With these thoughts in mind we were cautiously encouraged early in November 2017 when we read the communications from JP Savage and Paul himself to a segment of supporters, the media, the Supreme Court of Canada and York University which suggested the university were at last ready to resolve past issues and move forward with positive initiatives to correct the great harm which has been done to Paul and to give him a new purpose in life after poignantly being denied a continuation of his fabulous soccer coaching and playing career.
When we learned of the delay of the proposed meeting and subsequent communication from your general counsel, that Paul’s circumstance and actions over the past year had created such turbulence that there was only modest interest from York University, it confirmed yet another dishonorable approach from the institution. Any turbulence created for the university by Paul should have been welcomed not least because of the subject matters it intersects including mental health and institutional ethics, morals and values. And if he created turbulence to your culture then your institution have delivered damage to this man consistent to an earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, typhoon and tornado all wrapped into one.
Paul’s reaction and subsequent actions are understood by his supporters albeit once again absurd and poignant in that they are his only leverage in trying to be treated fairly and equally and with any semblance of respect. As he has eloquently presented before, living his circumstances are like living as a “bruised dog”.
Paul contacted Kelly Kidwell and I a few days ago worried about his latest hunger strike protest being his last and he requested that we approach Netflix as an outlet to document the end to his story which could lead to his ultimate demise. The option of Netflix is only the tip of the iceberg…there are so many more with interest.
For your information on this area.
Documentary films are realistically the most viable catalyst in the film industry to launch careers, win awards, educate the audience, and bring rapid social change when and where social injustices have taken place. They are also the more viable to get to the truth on any matter.
Please note that many have suggested that this documentary can’t be told in a one or two hour film. It has been suggested that we think more “outside the box” and consider a series of episodes spanning perhaps 10 hours of footage and documentation that would comprehensively educate what occurred, not only in Paul’s life, but the entire epidemic that has spanned nearly a decade for Paul.
Our intent however, in bringing this project to fulfillment is not only to support Paul James in his fight for social justice, dignity and respect, it is also to bring an awareness on the need for mental health reform as it relates in particular to substance addictions.
It will be incumbent on the production team to research and narrate comparisons to other mental health issues such as Parkinson’s disease and Eating Disorders as illustrated in the courageous public revelations of Michael J. Fox and the Honorable Sophie Trudeau in battling the stigma of and devastating physical conditions associated with their respective afflictions. A comparison with substance addictions will reveal at the very least an unacceptable gap in literacy, understanding, and compassion towards persons who seek help and support for addiction which, as we are seeing with the global opioid crisis, it can lead to national catastrophes.
As a final attempt to bring some common sense and humane, appropriate order to the Paul James matter I appeal to you President Lenton, would it not be a more appealing legacy for your institution to pass along to York University students and faculty past and present and to Canadians as a whole that you played an important role in changing the global perspective on the substance addiction phenomenon. On how we treat the phenomenon, talk about it, and in particular how we treat those persons who are subjected to it and the consequential stigma, discrimination and prejudice they face without any human right to redress or change it.
Or, would you prefer to have to deceitfully justify your untenable position on what the truth of the Paul James story is for the rest of time?
This story will speak for itself and will live on, if not with Paul with us on this earth, then through the many thousands of persons he has impacted through this process and the millions of others he will touch through the documented telling of his story.
While we would be open and enthusiastic to have you as a positive force in the outcome of this story, the decision is with you. As Paul prophetically quoted recently, from the great Lou Holt, “there is never a right time to do the wrong thing and there is never a wrong time to do the right thing.” We submit to you it is now time for you to do the right thing. I would travel to Toronto to meet with you if I thought it would assist in your discussions.
Regardless of how your institution proceed, (at this juncture it is largely out of the lawyers’ hands), and while shrewd on our part to keep Paul alive by communicating with you at this delicate time, it is also fair and respectful to permit York University the opportunity to affect a positive outcome in this matter which globally can impact tens of millions of other people.
Make no mistake with your judgment here, the story will be told. It is the ending you will affect. And so, for the record, if Paul were to die before his time, we, like many others at this time, will be heartbroken.