December 8, 2013 | No Comments
Questions and comments are of course welcome.
November 12, 2013 | 3 Comments
Below, Jared has penned some lovely thoughts about Remebrance Day, and the lives and sacrifices of Canada’s veterans. In past years, I have presented some controversial viewpoints on the matter, and in the current socio-political context, I just can’t hold Remembrance Day in the same esteem as others. Perhaps if Canada abandons our creeping militaristic and war-happy ways, I’ll be able to jump back on the poppy express. Should that happen, I will be filled with joy, as a showing of true remembrance and understanding is warranted.
However, if we are ever to move to a state in which remembrance can live in proper focus, we must treat the matters of war and veterans with honesty. Jared refers to our veterans as “heroes”. The word “hero” is thrown around a lot these days, to the point that I’m not sure there’s an accurate definition anymore. I’m unwilling to give a blanket description of “hero” to all veterans. I think the glorification of veterans quickly bleeds into the glorification of war, but I understand where Jared is coming from.
Nonetheless, there is another matter in which Jared is certainly wrong; a matter in which he is perpetuating a great lie that is rooted in racism and is used to buoy warmongering. Jared writes:
Today is a day for remembering those Canadian soldiers who risked their lives for our freedom.
This is nonsense. Since confederation, Canada has entered numerous wars and military actions, but never once as a result of a direct threat to our nation. No Canadian soldier has risked their life for my freedom. Despite the fact that this notion is blatantly incorrect, we keep hearing it. There’s really only one reason that it lives on, xenophobia.
All of Canada’s military activity (FLQ crisis aside) has been to (supposedly) help non-Canadians. Jared, as I would expect, understands this:
In uniform, they fought to protect those who would come after them, not just in their homelands but all over the world.
But the myth persists.
The only reason that this lie is still thrown around as justification for our militarism is because protecting others isn’t considered sufficient justification for the death of Canadian soldiers. It’s okay, apparently, for our boys to spend a decade or more dying in Afghanistan for us, but not for those people.
The next time someone says that our soldiers died for our freedom, remember what you’re really hearing: that foreigners aren’t worth as much as us.
November 11, 2013 | No Comments
Today is a day for remembering those Canadian soldiers who risked their lives for our freedom. Their sacrifices must never be forgotten, and their courage and strength must always be recognized.
That is one reason our veterans can rightly be called heroes. However, I have come to realize the other ways in which our veterans can be recognized for their heroism. In uniform, they fought to protect those who would come after them, not just in their homelands but all over the world.
However, their heroism does not end there. When many of them muster out of military life, they often show great character in providing for their loved ones, contributing to their communities, and making the world a better place. Many of them do not and have not attained great fame, but when they pass on they leave the world a better place than it was when they found it.
As Canadians, we have made many significant contributions to the world that often go unnoticed as much by ourselves as by the world at large. Many of our veterans, by and large, continue to exemplify this spirit with the often overlooked but still extremely important ways in which they contribute to Canada and the world both in and out of uniform. Before they put that uniform on, and after they take it off, our veterans are Canadians who made an effort to step up and make a difference for their families, their communities and their country.
Today is a day to remember the service our soldiers and veterans make to Canada in uniform. But let us also remember their contributions out of uniform, and the lesson for us all-that anyone can be a hero, regardless of who they are.
November 5, 2013 | 1 Comment
I recently wrote a new two-part essay on Vive Le Canada about the persistence of Red Toryism in Canada, despite the often-claimed assertion that this particular strain of Canadian conservatism is dead.
Questions and comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated.
October 24, 2013 | No Comments
So the Senate scandal is all the rage. I don’t have the drive to explore this matter in depth, but here are a few quick thoughts:
1. This is bad for Stephen Harper. Whatever he has done (and I’m not quite prepared to believe Duffy, no questions asked – he’s hardly the pillar of impeachable ethics), Harper and has team have obviously done some slimy things. I don’t know if this will take him down; he’s a crafty politician; we’re a year or two away from an election (barring something unforeseen) and voters have short memories; and he’s survived other issues, which brings us to…
2. This is what might bring Harper down? Torture in Afghanistan? Contempt of Parliament? Martial law in Toronto? Reckless spending? Lying about crime statistics? None of that matters to voters, apparently, but mess with a rather useless and undemocratic part of Canadian politics, and now we care. C’mon.
3. We’re represented by houses now? On Monday, Duffy’s lawyer gave a long defense of the issue regarding Duffy’s residence (as if that’s really a big deal at this point). For those not in the loop, Duffy is a PEI Senator who basically never lives in PEI… but he designated a house in PEI as his “principal” residence. It is, of course, an outrage that a PEI Senator lives in Ottawa. I mean, what kind of representative government is that!?
Oh right, it’s not representative government; it’s the Senate. Having some Prime Ministerial overlord decide who will be your legislative representative isn’t democracy. I don’t particularly care about how many houses Duffy owns in PEI (1); I care about how many votes he won in the last election (0).
4. This isn’t that important. Okay, it is important. This could do serious damage to Harper. It could, conceivably, bring down a government. It might, even, create more popular and political support for Senate reform/abolishment. But, in the end, we’re arguing about how we should deal with this privileged class of unelected, unaccountable legislators. These people do not deserve this amount of consideration. The debate is dominating the news (granted, partially because Parliament isn’t doing anything else these days), and it really shouldn’t be, not to this extent.
5. I will be happy when Duffy, Brazeau and Wallin are out of the Senate. It’s fair to suggest that a suspension right now violates due process, but these three do not deserve to be a part of our democratic process, even as part of the inherently corrupt Senate. Whether they’re gone tomorrow or next year, it’ll be a good thing.
6. The Tories’ Senate reform bill is unconstitutional. That’s the finding of a Quebec court, and it’s pretty obvious. If the government had simply tried to set up a process allowing provinces to elect Senators, that’d probably be cool, but setting term limits is clearly too much. You can’t make such a significant change (as wise as that may be) without the input of the provinces. That’s pretty straightforward.
October 19, 2013 | 13 Comments
The EU and Canada have struck a monumental trade deal, in principle. It’s not official, the text isn’t finalized and neither legislative body has taken a look at the details, yet, but the way the leaders are talking this up, it would be quite a shock if it didn’t get implemented. It’s a deal that’s on a similar level as NAFTA in terms of scope and importance, and it is very likely to have deep, long-lasting effects on both parties.
And this is a very good thing.
NAFTA, and the FTA before it, set the basis of the economic stability and expansion that Canada has experienced since ratification in 1993 (or since 1988 for the FTA). These deals aren’t silver bullets – they don’t promise endless expansion and cushy well-paying jobs or all – but they are essential building blocks towards building a robust and sustainable economy. Read more
September 19, 2013 | No Comments
Getting it first versus getting it right. Wednesday’s media coverage of the horrific bus-train collision in Ottawa was for the most part responsible, but I have to shake my head at a few serious missteps that were made in the haste to be first.
The majority of people who tune into radio, watch TV or access their news online or via mobile device don’t care which organization gets the story first. Those in the media understand this and are aware that getting a story, or an element of a story, first will often not affect their readership or audience numbers in any meaningful way.
But, the media remains driven by the competition to land a scoop, sometimes to the point of recklessness. I understand part of this is human nature and part of this is the nature of a business driven by relentless competition.
But, when the media is confronted with a tragedy like this fatal collision, there needs to be some elements of restraint, if for no other reason than out of a sense of decency. That might seem naïve, but I know from my experience in the media that organizations that show restraint are often the ones that people tend to trust.
The most obvious example of Wednesday’s missteps was the CBC. In the immediate aftermath, CBC News Network host Suhana Meharchand spoke with some authority about the crash happening in Ottawa’s “Fallowfield” neighbourhood, when in fact the crash was nowhere near Fallowfield, but in Barrhaven. This may seem confusing since the nearby Via Rail station is named Fallowfield, but that is because it is located along Fallowfield Road, not the actual village of Fallowfield. An understandable error for a news anchor in Toronto, but it’s a big mistake to make, since people wondering about their loved ones need accurate information more than anything else.
Meharchand made it much worse when she went on to let her audience know she has a child studying in Ottawa and then tried to pass herself off as an expert on the city. I understand that she was ad-libbing on-air with no script, but I found her performance distasteful.
Later in the day, CBC Radio Ottawa told their listeners that they had confirmed the identity of the bus driver killed in the accident. They did not report his name until they were reasonably sure his family had been notified of his death. I was impressed by CBC Radio’s restraint. But their reporter then went to great lengths to let listeners know they had sat on this information for three hours even though they did not immediately share it, out of their sense of decency. I found this braggadocio ruined the goodwill they may have built up.
Finally, CFRA, Ottawa’s news-talk radio station, picked up a Canadian Press story about the Transportation Safety Board’s concerns with level rail crossing safety. I found the CP story incredibly premature since little is known about why the bus slammed into the train. But the CFRA afternoon radio host still went on to ask “Why do we even have these crossings?” and went on to state with authority that an underpass should have been built years ago. I was flustered by his speculative tone since he had already made the connection that the accident was obviously a result of the level crossing being inherently unsafe. Amazingly, he made this pronouncement right after he had reminded listeners that it was not wise to engage in idle speculation. In this case, the CP story, which quickly went away as the day went on, had done an incredible amount of damage.
All of these examples point to a larger trend in the media. With so many media choices available to the public, many media outlets are forgoing the fundamental five Ws of journalism (who, what, where, when, why) in favour of getting it first. This, despite the fact that the only people who seem to care who gets a story first are those in the media. I think the victims and those affected by this tragedy deserve better.
August 22, 2013 | No Comments
I’ve been struggling in the past week to describe just what it is that sums up the reaction to the Quebec government’s proposal to prevent public employees from donning any and all hints of religious symbols in the workplace.
Then I saw a word in an article that summed up the reaction perfectly. In fact, I saw this word in several articles.
The word that best describes what many think about this government and its plan? Irrelevant.
The Quebec government, in trying to instil some vague notion of Quebec values, is only ensuring that the province further distances itself from any relevance in national and international discourse.
Imagine an independent Quebec telling prospective immigrants that they are welcome as long as they conform to what I’m guessing ‘real’ Quebecers deem to be acceptable cultural norms, whatever they may be. I can’t understand why a government with sovereigntist intentions can expect this proposal to draw anything but international scorn.
It would be easy to point out the numerous flaws with this proposal and even easier to predict its fate in the face of a Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge. But I think the lack of attention this story is receiving nationally is much more telling.
As much as this proposal makes you shake your head, the fact that it’s coming from a paranoid PQ government makes it all too predictable and almost laughable. Almost.
The more that péquistes push ridiculous solutions to non-existent cultural problems, the more irrelevant their cause becomes. Quebec’s biggest problem isn’t cultural minorities; its biggest problem is its relevance. If I was a sovereigntist, that would be my biggest fear.
August 11, 2013 | 6 Comments
Almost a year ago, Jonathan wrote an article entitled “Szechuan Taco Poutine”, wherein he discussed Quebec’s language laws and the concerns many francophone Quebecers have about assimilation and the loss of their culture and language. He further wrote about how, if demographics and free choice lead to the abandonment of French in favour of English and another language, that signifies that French is not that important to Quebecers. On that basis, he criticizes Quebec’s language laws, and the separatist parties that support them, as bigoted. This charge is frequently repeated in other parts of Canada, and even to a certain extent in Quebec itself.
I’m curious, then, as to what critics of Quebec’s language laws feel about the aggravation some English-speakers feel about multiculturalism and what they see as immigrants who refuse to integrate into society. In the United States, polls have said that it’s essential for immigrants to learn to speak English, and there is a debate over whether the U.S. should require immigrants to speak good English before they’re allowed into the country. In the United Kingdom Home Secretary David Blunkett says that immigrants ought to speak English in their homes, and other critics now decry multiculturalism as having divided Britons and kept many immigrants segregated from a common culture. Here in Canada, Ezra Levant has made some of the same critiques, even as people in Richmond, British Columbia, express frustration over commercial signs that are written in Chinese only.
Free choice and demographics are frequently used as arguments against the language laws of Quebec. But what happens, then, if free choice and demographics end up displacing English, or if immigrants decide not to speak English when they come here? What should be done if times change so that the pull of Spanish becomes stronger? Should long-settled residents just accept it as a sign of changing times, or would they be justified in imposing regulations specifically enshrining English similar to what Quebec has already done?
From everything I’ve seen, every society ends up favouring certain languages as the regular ones it conducts its social business in. In Mexico, for instance, it is Spanish. In the U.K., it’s English. Here in Canada, it’s English and French. Where do countries draw the line when it determines which languages it accords specific status to in its courts, its schools, its government services, and so on? Obviously, no society has the resources to provide services in every language all the time. Inevitably, there’s going to be one or a few that people need to speak if they expect to get on in the country as residents. If I were to move to Mexico, for instance, and begin raising a family there, would I have a right to demand all my kids’ schooling, and all my government services, in English?
Chantal Hebert, in a rebuttal to Bill 101 critic Maxime Bernier, pointed out that the attraction of English is so much stronger than that of French in North America, with up to 80% of newcomers to Quebec did their schooling in English, without being able to French. In an insightful video describing how they came to support separatism, a number of Quebec immigrants talked about how many immigrants are federalists because they don’t know much about Quebec’s history, although that started to change once they actually learned more about the province they’d chosen as their new home. They readily admitted that some separatists were racists, but that there were also racist federalists, too. Certainly the likes of Mordecai Richler, who was so lauded in the rest of the country, rarely bothered to take a careful look at the Quebecers he spent so much time criticizing, or trying to understand things from their point of view, as Pierre Joncas points out in this e-mail exchange.
The point I’m going for here is that the Quebec language situation isn’t necessarily as different from what’s going on in the rest of Canada or other English-speaking countries as many people seem to think. The main difference with Quebec is that the situation is more pronounced, given French’s lesser status in North America. Certainly they are wrestling with the same questions we are. Is demanding that English be the main language in our society that much different than Quebec mandating French as its majority language? And how will we react if demographics change and Mandarin or Spanish end up increasingly displacing English? Should we just accept it?
Don’t get me wrong in all this. I think Quebec would be much better served with putting more positive emphasis on French, the advantages that come with it and its historical role, rather than spending time on idiocy like Pastagate and trying to keep people from wearing head coverings on soccer fields. I also recognize that most immigrants do an admirable job of integrating into Canadian society and learning our national languages. Indeed, while we have established societies and identities, multiculturalism has a valuable role to play in showing how our established societies and values continue to grow and evolve, and how immigrants have made their own historic contributions to Canada, whether it be the Asian communities in B.C., the African communities in the Maritimes, or wherever else. They have just as much right to call themselves Anglophone or Francophone Canadians as anyone of British or French ethnicity.
My main goal here, as I mentioned before, is that the concerns Quebec has over changing demographics and the implications for its society are not unique to la belle province. We should also consider how these implications are playing out in places with English-speaking majorities, and how we would react if free choice and demographics were to affect English.
July 31, 2013 | No Comments
Tomorrow is by-election day in Ontario, as five ridings, including the former Premier’s, are up for grabs. Without talking about any specific races, I will just suggest that the Liberals deserve to take a beating.
The Liberals deserved to lose the last time around, and were only saved by an imploding Tim Hudak. The Liberals have been damaging the province’s finances since they took office. They’ve rolled out costly and poorly thought-out plans (all-day kindergarten, ORNGE, eHealth), and have proven intransigent when presented with evidence of the wastefulness of their pet projects.
The arrogance has transcended fiscal policy, as they have consistently shown contempt for citizens and our ability to make choices for ourselves. Dalton McGuinty wasn’t dubbed “Premier Dad” without reason.
Worse, it was under the Liberals that was the G20 fiasco, as cops were given unchecked power, citizens were jailed and abused, and parts of Toronto were essentially under martial law. And to add to the atrocities, the government never did anything address the police abuse.
The Liberals mainly cared about one thing, power. They wanted to get elected, and they wanted to get re-elected. This has become crystal clear with the gas plant scandal. As noted at the Progressive Conservative Party’s website:
“It’s now clear that the same Liberals who spent at least $585 million cancelling gas plants conspired to influence the Speaker of the Legislature,” MacLeod said. “Liberal operatives were obviously ordered to apply pressure to the Speaker as he considered serious charges against Liberals. This is appalling.”
According to emails uncovered by the Ontario PC’s (Please see links below to read the emails), senior Liberals secretly lobbied Speaker Dave Levac, as he considered whether to rule the Liberal government in contempt of parliament. Senior Liberals wrote that they would “chat with [Speaker] Levac” about the need to “change his mind”.
But don’t take their word for it. They also provide links to the emails in which Liberal operatives discuss putting pressure on the Speaker to let the Liberals off the hook.
This is a situation where just about any candidate in these by-elections will be better choices than the Liberal candidates. By Friday morning, let’s hope the best decisions have been made and all five Liberals have lost.