It’s hard to believe that Christie Blatchford is no longer with us.
Christie – or Blatch, as many were fond of calling her – was an omnipresent figure in Canadian journalism for 47 years. She often defied convention and marched to the beat of her own drum. She was a beacon of light who wrote straight from the heart on everything from free speech to the criminal justice system.
She was compassionate, cared deeply for her friends and colleagues, and seemed to love dogs (including her late, faithful four-legged companion, Obie) more than life itself.
When she was diagnosed with lung cancer last November, most of us thought she could beat this dreaded disease. Christie was incredibly strong and determined. She wanted to accomplish more in a profession where she had already accomplished so much. If anyone could lay claim to having an aura of invincibility, she seemed a likely candidate.
Alas, the cancer had already metastasized to bones in her spine and hip. The surgeries and radiation treatments at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre worked for a spell, but she ultimately took a turn for the worse. Christie passed away on Feb. 12 at age 68.
Tributes came pouring in immediately.
Lorrie Goldstein, her longtime friend and former editor at the Toronto Sun, described her as a “big story reporter, a once-in-a-generation journalist and one of the most talented and hard-working writers I’ve ever known.”
Former National Post editor Ken Whyte suggested “there is no one way to do journalism, no right or wrong way to write a story. But different approaches do have their virtues and Christie’s old-school values have withstood the test of time. She never failed them, they never failed her, and no one surpassed her in her style of journalism.”
Conrad Black, who hired Christie to write for the Post, called her “magnificent: unshakable integrity, generous-hearted, completely unpretentious, the perfect journalist.”
Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno, one of her closest friends, wrote that Christie “shone the brightest, laughed the hardest, loved the fiercest, cussed the saltiest.” Moreover, she “didn’t just take up journalism, she had to be the best damn journalist in the country. She was. None of us could touch her.”
I knew Christie, too. Not to the extent these four talented individuals (and others) did, but just enough to understand the essence of her intelligence, wit and creativity.
We had been introduced years ago through Goldstein. We used to appear together on Newstalk 1010’s political panels. She also infrequently picked my brain about an issue. “You know politics and Ottawa and I don’t,” she wrote in a 2018 email.
While it was kind of her to put it this way, it wasn’t completely accurate. Yes, I know politics and Ottawa quite well – but she knew a hell of a lot, too.
Christie, who was born in Rouyn-Noranda, Que., was one of the few journalists to work at all four major Toronto newspapers. She was always in high demand because of her intense passion for writing columns and feature pieces where every word, sentence and clause was crafted to perfection. Her fierce battles against an editor’s dreaded red pen, and the evil delete key, were legendary.
Although she was married and divorced twice, Christie’s one true love was journalism. It consumed her every waking moment and she poured her heart and soul into everything she created. She won a National Newspaper Award for column writing in 1999. And she publishing four books, including Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army, which won the 2008 Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction. She was inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame last November but wasn’t able to attend the ceremony.
Yes, Christie wrote and said some controversial things. She would have been the first to acknowledge this. But it was her ability to constantly challenge societal norms and form outside-the-box opinions that put her head and shoulders above everyone else in this industry.
She was fearless, forthright and feisty to the day she took her final breath.
Christie Blatchford was a giant in Canadian journalism. Now that she’s gone, the Lilliputians who remain must figure out how to walk in her enormous footsteps. That’s an excruciatingly difficult task, since there won’t be another one like her anytime soon – if ever again.
Rest in peace, Blatch.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.