Friday, July 30, 2010

NEWSFLASH! U.N. Approves Human Right to Water and Sanitation

(From the Council of Canadians website, July 30, 2010)
Win! UN General Assembly passes historic Human Right to Water and Sanitation resolution
Council of Canadians celebrates meaningful victory with global water justice movement
On July 28, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly agreed to a resolution declaring the human right to “safe and clean drinking water and sanitation.” The resolution, presented by the Bolivian government, had 122 countries vote in its favour, while 41 countries – including Canada – abstained.
For more than a decade the water justice movement, including the Council of Canadians' Blue Planet Project, has been calling for UN leadership on this critical issue. Right now nearly 2 billion people live in water-stressed areas of the world and 3 billion have no running water within a kilometre of their homes. Every eight seconds, a child dies of water-borne disease – deaths that would be easily preventable with access to clean, safe water.
Maude Barlow, the Council of Canadians National Chairperson and former Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the United Nations General Assembly, said she was thrilled with the outcome of the historic vote, which came with the help and strong support of Council of Canadians members.
“It was a great honour to be present as the UN General Assembly took this historic step forward in the struggle for a just world,” she said.
The result, she added, does not mean Canada will have to share its water with other countries. "Canada, whether it voted for or against it, is not on the hook for sharing its actual water," explained Barlow. "The resolution is very clear in that it doesn't (…) touch the sovereign right of Canada or any other country over its water.
While the resolution is a solid victory for water justice for people around the world, the battle is not entirely won. “This resolution has the overwhelming support of a strong majority of countries, despite a handful of powerful opponents. It must now be followed-up with a renewed push for water justice,” said Anil Naidoo, Blue Planet Project organizer. “We are calling for actions on the ground in communities around the world to ensure that the rights to water and sanitation are implemented. Governments, aid agencies and the UN must take their responsibilities seriously.”
While Canada abstained from the critical vote, Meera Karunananthan, National Water Campaigner for the Council of Canadians, said it does not mean our country can sit idly by. “It is crucial now that communities in Canada use this opportunity to hold our government accountable to the international commitment to recognize water and sanitation as human rights. We must demand legislation at home to ensure that these rights are enjoyed by all peoples of Canada without discrimination. It is time for Canada to do something about the deplorable condition on First Nations reserves that have lacked access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation for generations.”

Canadian Gifts to the World

By Campbell Clark,from The Globe and Mail, July 29,2010
Canadian Carman Lapointe is walking into the world’s toughest auditing job: cleaning up the sprawling United Nations after massive fraud scandals and allegations that her new boss, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, obstructed her predecessor’s watchdog efforts.

Ms. Lapointe has clashed with tough bosses like past World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz and former Canada Post president André Ouellet when she was their auditing chief.
Some country, this Canada, eh? Just think for a moment about the calibre of individuals this country produces...and sends onto the world stage.
Pierre Trudeau, for starters...and we all remember his pirouette after sliding down the bannister behind the Queen, his 'mangez de la merde, his 'Just watch me!,' his finger to the protesters in the west, AND his national energy policy, his repatriation act, his notwithstanding clause, and his Charter of Rights and Freedoms. At least one former cabinet minister has commented, "Attending one of Trudeaus' cabinet meetings was akin to attending a lecture in graduate school, so prepared, and so complete was his grasp of the file at hand." And he was a disciplined "free spirit" which seems, at first glance to be an oxymoron. Yet, how else can one truly be a free spirit, unless one is also extremely disciplined, skilled, trained and still in training. An undisciplined "free spirit," like Icarus, will fly too close to the sun's fire and crash.
Margaret Atwood launched her writing career after a stint studying in the U.S. and after a youth spent at least in part, "in the bush." Another disciplined yet creative icon of our literature and our culture, Atwood has inspired readers, writers, thinkers, movie producers and directors, and, as the now-dated (E.F. Hutton)commercial used to say, "when she speaks, everyone listens." Insight, linked with knowledge, discipine and with courage can and often does generate a verdant imagination.
Northrop Frye, the literary critic and scholar whose reputation is global as is his Centre for the Study of Comparative Literature, currently under the accountant's axe at the University of Toronto, is another Canadian gift to the world of arts and letters. His The Educated Imagination has tutored many neophyte scholars about the sources, and language of literature, as compared with the language of social discourse. His critique of William Blake stands as a beacon for literature students for at least the next century.
Maurice Richard, the tornado on skates, whose skill and ballet around the net "rocketed" him to the peak of the scoring list in the NHL of the 1950's. Another disciplined, and intense and supremely dedicated man, he demonstrated a kind of heroism that captivated his generation of hockey fans, turning many into lifelong afficionadoes of Les Habitants, while at the same time, generating passions for his intense resistance to unfair judgements. The list of hockey greats is nothing short of legendary, coming from the ponds, lakes, rivers and arenas of the small towns across the land.
Christopher Plummer, an actor on the world's stage, currently playing at Stratford, has done nothing to besmirch his country's reputation as a generator of creative, courageous and durable actors, in both classic theatre and the modern film. And the list of world class actors, including Lorne Green's Ben Cartwright, and John Candy's comedic antics, and Don Harron's "puny" histries and jografies of Canada, along with his "Parry Sound farmer" Charlie Farquarson delighted audiences for decades. And Glenn Gould, and Maureen Forrester and Leona Boyd are just a few of the world class musicians from Canada's concert stages.
And that just begins to introduce the long cast of characters the Canadian comedy writers have conceived and delivered.
And let's not forget the Nobel Prize winning chemist, Polanyi, Banting and Best of insulin fame, and the many architects, and composers and designers that were hatched, many of them in small towns and villages with little or no fanfare, both in their early lives, and even later when they were successful.
And now, Carmine Lapointe, following in the footsteps of Louise Arbour, Canada's gift to the U.N. initiatives on human rights, takes her place attempting what many would consider the impossible task of restoring the reputation of the U.S., from the internal auditor's office. But that is the kind of challenge that sometimes only a Canadian would accept. We are not, and the world will come to know this eventually, or not at its peril, shrinking violets. Just remember Ted Lindsy's fight to form the Players Union in the NHL and the cost to him personally, when many of the other stars refused to "go against the establishment" in support of his efforts on their behalf.
It is truly dangerous for us, and for the rest of the world to reduce Canada's character to the "I'm sorry," too polite and too modest for our own good traits of our Canadian stereotype. It is not for nothing that the hard-hitting, sometimes pugilistic game of hockey is our national passtime. Don't ever put us in a corner, unless you really want to see us at our best/worst! You may be surprised at the result, and you may need some help to get off the ice! We are a hard-boiled, no nonsense, justice seeking and compassion revering, creative, courageous, even at times demanding and obstreporous and even intransigent people of many historic and cultural DNA's that have come together to create one of the more impossible of national arrangements on the planet, with two indigenous and national languages, with a harsh and varied climate and, in places, just as harsh and unforgiving land for growing food, and  a sparse population spread out in a line spanning thousands of miles and still needing to communicate (witness CNR, CPR, CBC, Canada Post, Trans-Canada Highway, Air Canada etc.). Yet, we have remained connected and continue with a viewpoint that ranks as one of the more "global" and "interconnected" given our moderate size, our modest population size and our proximity to the "giant" to the south.
As Irving Layton put it so unglamourously, "Living between the cold Arctic and the 'cold' calculating southern giant of a neighbour, little wonder we have produced so much passionate poetry."
In fact, it is our passion, often unnoticed by others, because it lies in semi-slumber, that is our most profound, most enduring and most worthy trait.
As former Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson's autobiography's title says, Heart Matters.
And just perhaps, Earle Birney would come back to visit and comment, in his no nonsense way, that we are beginning to "grow up before it's too late," as he lamented we had not yet done, in 1942, in Canada: Case History.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ho-Hum! ..Dog-Day News "Sips".. Summer, 2010

In one of the more hot and humid "dog days" of summer, Ignatieff drinks "light" from a can, rides a bus to backyard barbecues, and lets his members like Marc Garneau carry the ball in those committee hearings on the census fiasco. Harper remains silent, digging in his heels, and digging the hole for his political casket.
Meanwhile, Wikileaks dumps 92,000 classified documents on the Afghan war, casting doubt about the loyalty of "ally" Pakistan and the U.S. and South Korea conduct military manoeuvres in the South China Sea to the military delight of the North Koreans, always looking for ways to bait the U.S.
Iran quietly agrees to "talk" about its nuclear ambitions, perhaps scaling them a little, (don't hold your breath)while austerity budgets capture headlines in Britain, Greece and who knows which other countries as the dominoes continue to fall.
Arizona's brutal immigration law is so flawed, a District Court Judge rules much of it "out of bounds" while Sarah Palin and the Tea Party/Republicans (hopefully) use this "dull news cycle" to continue to self-destruct.
Tony Hayward is going to Russia, to BP Venture, on a well-deserved adventure in oilpolitik where he can do less damage to the company's reputation, because no news organization even covers BP in Russia, at least not yet. Enbridge, the Canadian energy company, dumps hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, where the (Canadian-born) governor, Janet Granholm, asks the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency to take charge of the clean-up because Enbridge is moving without adequate urgency and haste.
Oh, and by the way, Wall Street stocks are continuing to climb back into a respectable trading zone, while millions of workers wander into new, and often suspect, "entrepreneurial ventures," as is the case in Windsor where the General Motors plant closed, after ninety years of operation, yesterday.
But there is really not much going on in world affairs, this long hot and stormy summer in eastern Ontario and Canada, to keep our attention from wandering into the waters of the nearest pool.
Kindle's price has dropped from $259 to $189 amid rumours of a new and updated version from Amazon; and Hydro bills are going up a staggering 16% in the next few weeks, with increased costs of production, added taxes and a summer of guzzling by air conditioners and fans, not to mention a string of thunder-and-lightning storms that make the lights flicker on those audio systems, announcing power-failures.
Fareed Zakaria's GPS on CNN has become "appointment television" while media pundits ponder the adviseability of having "all white" anchors and hosts on primetime news. Meanwhile, former Nixon advisor, Diane Sawyer,puts her own platinum stamp on the nightly news at ABC, following a long tradition established by Canadian Peter Jennings, and ABC's Sunday talk show gets a new host from CNN, Christiane Amanpour, adding another "international" dimension to U.S. news coverage. Too bad, CBC does not penetrate the U.S. market, the population needs a stiff shot of international "caffeine" by way of realpolitik, globally, to bring them down a peg or two.
Don Cherry, on the other hand, dumps on "gutless" politicians for not doing something about cormorants, thereby reducing the "bass" population, at the annual Bass Derby for fishers. How important is that, when radioactive, redundant generators ply their way through Great Lakes waters and the St. Lawrence on their way to Sweden for retrofits? And when Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, announces the Climate Change Bill is dead, because of Republican opposition?
Oh, yeh, have another Coors Light, drink up a few rays and then grab your Harley/Honda/Yamaha/Kawasaki/Suzuki/BMW...and head off into another Tim's for a coffee...there's really nothing going on "to worry about." Eh?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Right to Play...a good way to volunteer, donate, fundraise!

To improve the lives of children in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world by using the power of sport and play for development, health and peace.
To create a healthier and safer world through the power of sport and play.
Right To Play’s values reflect the best practices of sport and play.
(From Right to Play website)
Johann Olav Koss is/was a successful Olympic speed skater who donated the prize money from his winning to start an organization now known as Right To Play, whose mission and vision and values are noted above.
While it is true that this organization and Koss' initiative, courage and vision have developed the concept from its small beginning, and that demonstrates effective leadership, it is more than a leadership story.
It is a story of hope and of challenge and of finding new direction when the former association with the Olympics itself was denied at the Vancouver games earlier this year.
Right to Play is a beacon of hope lifting the spirits, and thereby the potential for life, for new relationships, for new levels of school achievment with improved self-image of the children whose lives intersect with the workers, both paid and volunteer, who make the organization run.
And any "first world" politician who thinks or believes that sport is not useful to a child's development has never had the joy of scoring a goal in any game, or better yet, of scoring more than one goal. It is something that is remembered for a lifetime. And so are the experiences of comraderie that evolve from the games themselves.
There are rules and expectations when people play games. But there is also the notion, perhaps experienced for the first time, that each player matters to the effectiveness of the team's play. From the best player to the last player on the 'bench' or the player who looks after the equipment, everyone is part of something larger than him/herself. And that sheds light through a crack in the poverty, disease, AIDS, and even violence and loneliness that are the larger part of the life of each child in third world countries.
Methodology (From Right to Play website)
Right To Play’s ultimate programming goal is this: Encouraging behavior change. This complex process involves more than simple knowledge and awareness building. It involves adopting and maintaining behaviors and attitudes such as self-esteem, resisting peer pressure, problem-solving and building a capacity for communication.
Right To Play improves health, teaches basic life skills and helps children and youth to develop skills to resolve conflict peacefully in some of the most disadvantaged areas in the world. Role models, family, Coaches, teachers, peers and our Athlete Ambassadors all play an important role in helping people adopt new behaviors. Through sport and play, they learn about team work, co-operation and respect – the best values of sport.

Here is what Stephen Lewis has to say about Right To Play:
Kids love to play, particularly orphaned children,” he adds. “It helps compensate for loss. It’s a way of sublimating grief. They do it through play. If, in the course of all that, we’re preventing them from getting the disease that killed their parents, then there’s a lovely symmetry to that.” - Stephen Lewis (from the Right to Play website)
To view website:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

U.N. to Vote: Water as a Human Right!

By Linda Diebel
National Affairs Writer, from The Toronto Star, July 26, 2010
 A United Nations vote to recognize water as a basic human right is a “historic” chance for the global community to ease human suffering, according to a Canadian activist in the thick of a last-ditch lobbying effort.
“We’re running out of water and the crisis is getting worse,” Maude Barlow said Monday from New York, on the eve of a vote expected as early as Wednesday at the UN General Assembly.
“If we don’t make a statement that we don’t want entire populations left behind, what does it say about us? About our humanity?”

Toronto Star Graphic

We have no choice in this matter. Every human on the planet needs water to survive.
And every human organization, including every country on the planet needs to step up to the plate in orderto create a political climate of co-operation, and collegiality and fairness by refusing to allow the corporate interests to commodify this essential sustainer of life.
It is really what the young people call a "no-brainer" if those in positions of responsibility.
Water and air are the two most essential components of sustenance for the balance of nature. We have and continue to contaminate both, through our attitude that takes them both for granted. And, belatedly, we are growing conscious of what we have done to both of them.
Water, can begin to take a priority among those whose responsibility includes protecting their people from unnecessary death, disease and poverty.
Even though many have doubts about the capacity of the United Nations to take a concerted action on matters as important as declaring water a "human right," it is the hope of those same sceptics that is needed now more than ever if this enlightened step is to be taken by the world community.
The notion that the Canadian government is not willing to sign on to the treaty declaring water a "human right" is not only shameful; it is inexcusable and demonstrates an ideological addiction to corporate power and profit that renders their capacity to govern questionable.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"Walk the Line" for all those imprisoned in their minds, and in Fulsome Prison!

Johnny Cash
Watching the Johnnie Cash movie, "Walk the Line," on CBC for the last three hours was a heart-breaking experience, not only for Johnny and his family, but for all those in the audience who know, from first-hand experience what it is like to be brought up with a dominant parent who never said one single word of praise, tenderness or support from the time of birth to the day s/he left home "for good." Johnny Cash's father, a cotton farmer in Tennessee was poor, hard-working and unforgiving in his contempt for his son, John who was never good enough to suit his father, from childhood until adulthood.
And the silence of the "recessive" parent is complicit in the abuse heaped on the child by the dominant parent.
There is no lightening of the "you're no good" theme from the retiring and withdrawn and frightened parent because s/he is afraid of offending the abusive parent, who might just turn his/her venom on "me."
Johnny's mother would attempt, by quiet inobtrusive interjections, to neutralize the contempt of her husband, but, as the movie's narrative portrayed, it was June Carter, "his angel," who fought her own fears of this tempestuous and yet talented song-writer/co-performer, who finally had to listen to her mother's words, when she struggled with going down to where Johnny was fighting with both his demons and his stuck tractor, in a fit of rage against the relentless put-downs from his father, at a joint Thanksgiving dinner with the Carter family.
Whn June commented, "I'm not going down there with him!" her mother, full of the wisdom of intimate knowledge of the heart of her daughter, replied, "You are already there!"
Through the tragic contests with drugs and alcohol, and his on-again-off-again singing tours, June Carter continued to accompany him on-stage, while continuing to reject his bid for marriage, until the final time, on stage, in Ontario, when she finally said, "Yes!"
And for thirty-five years they sang together, raised their family and then died a bare four months apart in 2003.
When the self-loathing of a parent becomes the emotional diet for the child, there can only be tragic consequences, so traumatic that no one, least of all the abusive parent, could ever have contemplated.
And when that self-loathing is counterpoint to a spouse whose larynx and courage are both obstructed by the fear of unknown consequences, the outcome for the child is an even heightened case of self-contempt, even though it started as a unconcsious projection of the neurotic parent.

Language: Important to begin relationship skills

Emperor Frederick, who ruled the Holy Roman Empire during the thirteenth century, was a curious man. Some of the stories of his ranging quests for knowledge...are known as "The follies of the Emperor."
Here is one of those stories.
Frederick wondered what language had been spoken in the garden of Eden (and) reasoned that since Adam and Eve had been left to their own devices, he need only recreate the circumstances in which they had begun to speak, and he would have his answer. He determined to isolate infants from the moment of their birth, so that they would never hear human speech until they heard their own. To accomplish this, he arranged for several children to be reared by wet nurses; the nurses he instructed to maintain absolute silence.
It is tremendously difficult for a woman to be silent with a child. Nonetheless, the nurses succeeded. According to the account not one of them uttered a single word to any of the children. In other words, the experimental conditions were a success. But the children all died. (The Self In Pilgrimage, Earl A. Loomis,* Jr. M.D., 1947, p.54)
Dr. Loomis concluded that we all need others in order to live and without them we perish.
"We know that when children separated from their parents, particularly from their mothers, from the fourth to the eighth months of life, die, the cause of death is not usually conventional disease but lack of relationship. (Also) we know that children reared in foundling hospitals...have a higher mortality rate than other children.They also develop a series of physical, intellectual and emotional disorders having direct relationship to their age at the time of adoption--to the length of time, in other words, that they have been treated impersonally."
(Loomis, p. 55)
So the continuous develop of language facility is important long after the first few months of life. And that is one of the reasons why language and literature are especially important to the development of male students, both preadolescent and adolecent. And that is also why it is extremely important for educators to pay special attention to the readiness and willingness of male children to learn language, in all its nuances.
(*Note: Dr. Loomis was a Professor of Psychiatry and Religion at Union Theological Seminary in New York.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

AGO "retires" scholar, not his "choice"

By Wendy Gillis, Toronto Star, July 23, 2010
A highly respected curator and the second-highest paid employee of the Art Gallery of Ontario has been forced into early retirement, causing an uproar in the Canadian art community and leaving many speculating about the reason.

“I am retiring, and I can confirm that the timing is not of my choice,” said Dennis Reid, when reached at his home Thursday. He refused to comment on why he was told to leave his position as chief curator of research...
According to the province’s so-called sunshine list, Reid was paid $233,841.70 in 2009 — the second-highest salary at the AGO, after (Matthew) Teitelbaum, whose total compensation was $1,070,000 after a bonus.
There seems, to the untrained "eye," to be something of a discrepancy in the distrubution of resources in these figures. With 23 others already having been eliminated from the payroll at the AGO, how is it that Mr. Teitelbaum still receives over a million dollars in compensation? Where are the people on the AGO board of directors? Why are questions not being asked about the distribution of what perhaps meagre financial resources are being deployed in this organization?
As one who has marvelled at both the collections and the architectural setting of, especially the new addition to the AGO, perhaps it is time for the gallery, and the province to rethink the fiscal foundations of the AGO going forward. This institution is a showcase in Ontario, for the people of Canada and for visitors from around the world, housing and displaying collections of the work of artists from across the country. That would not have happened without people of the calibre of Mr. Reid, who also teaches at the University of Toronto, and is considered an outstanding scholar in the field of Canadian Art History.
While "age" has not been mentioned, yet, in the story, one also has to hope that that is not a factor. That would provide critics of the move with another legitimate target for their opposition.
In Canada, we must guard against reducing everything, and especially one of our national collections of art, to money, we have done to pretty much every other aspect of our national life. When that happens, as Lionel Tiger argues in The Manufacture of Evil, all emotions are removed from consideration, and that leaves all of us bereft of the life that art continues to give to all who cast their eye, ear and heart upon the canvas, or the musical score, or the stage of dance and theatre. And when that happens, we are all made more "poor" in the process.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thank You, Mr. Sheikh! Your courage, integrity and scholarship are appreciated

By Bruce Campion-Smith and Richard J. Brennan, Toronto Star, July 22, 2010
The head of Statistics Canada has quit in protest over the Conservative government’s decision to axe the long-form census questionnaire, warning that Ottawa’s proposal for a voluntary survey won’t work.
This is the only viable, ethical and authentic decision the StatsCan head could do under the circumstances. A voluntary survey simply will not substitute for a mandatory long form, which no one really found that objectionable in the first place. Munir Sheikh, who has a Master's degree from McMaster and a doctorate in Economics from University of Western Ontario, had previously been the Deputy Minister of Labour and was appointed Head of StatsCan in 2006.
Mr. Sheikh, who holds a Master's degree from McMaster and a doctorate in Eonomics from University of Western Ontario is to be commended for his courage, for his integrity and for his schoolarship. The Canadian people are in his debt.
Ironically, his resignation came on the same day as the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsak, in the Obama administration came clean on his hasty and unwarranted decision to fire one of his senior staffers, in what has to be one of the most manipulated dramas in American politics.
Whereas, in Canada, the Minister responsible for StatsCan, Tony Clement, has been making simply dumb and embarrassing moves, both in the run-up the G8/G20 conferences, by paving the streets in his riding in something resembling gold with taxpayer money, he now merely replaces the Head of StatsCan with another functionary.
Wouldn't it be stunning if a Canadian cabinet minister, perhaps, say, of Mr.Clement's stature, could find the courage, integrity and authenticity to submit his resignation, over what has to be one of the more glaring of decisions, to drop the long-form mandatory census form, on which so many policy and program decisions are based, not only by government but also by many professional organizations across the country. Or is the really the Prime Minister himself, who is behind the government's decision in the census matter.
Not really caring about the information which is available from the census form |(long) is another sign of the attitude of the government to the people. In their minds, they know best, and the real data is irrelevant....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Atleo: Abolish Indian Act

By Steve Lambert, Canadian Press, in the Toronto Star, July 21, 2010
Aboriginals should get out “from under” the Indian Act within five years and build a new, more-independent relationship with the federal government, the head of the Assembly of First Nations said Tuesday.

“Is it time to boldly suggest that within two to five years, the Indian Act will no longer be part of our lives?” Shawn Atleo asked the AFN’s annual assembly.
“Imagine a time ... when we give up all that the current system provides — the highest suicide rates, the highest rates of incarceration in the country, the lowest education rates, the lowest income rates.”
Instead of having legislation or an entire department governing aboriginal lives, Atleo said the federal government should set up agencies to ensure that land, health care and other items promised in century-old treaties are delivered.
“We will once and for all work to dismantle the unnecessary machinery of the Department of Indian Affairs, which only perpetuates our poverty. The department then will give way to efficient entities like a ministry of First Nations-Crown relations ... and a treaty rights tribunal.”
Atleo, a 43-year-old businessman from British Columbia, has pushed the idea of greater independence from the federal government since he was elected a year ago. He wants the AFN itself to get more funding from non-government sources, such as corporate sponsorship. That way, he says, the national body would not be seen to be in a conflict of interest when it criticizes the government.
Scrapping the Indian Act, with the unfulfilled promises made centuries ago to Canada's First Nations would be a beginning of repatriation of our people into the Canadian community.
For too long, their segregation, and their alienation and the accompanying social and cultural and linguistic and historic losses have plagued not only their communities (reserves) but also our country's conscience, reputation and capacity to say what we mean and mean what we say.
The White Man Solution to the aboriginal community is simply not the solution. It is the problem!
The White Man presumption of arrogance, of superiority, of patronizing the "lesser" native peoples must finally give way to a negotiation of equals, from which the White Man might possibly learn much!
But only if the White Man is prepared to listen, to walk a century in the aboriginals' mocassins, and to learn the wisdom of the aboriginal culture, history, social customs and even governance.
May the long walk to "enlightenment" begin!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fighting Back against the Religious Right

The Armageddon Factor is Marci McDonald's in-depth look at how the Christian right is building its political power in Canada under the approving eye of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
While Ms McDonald's research and arguments are provocative, and worthy of our fullest attention, it is the Christian right's agenda that all Canadians must confront, with almost the same vigour as we confront the fundamentalist Islamic jihadists.
And the scary thing is that the Christian right has the veneer of respectability. They read the same Bible as the rest of the Christian community. They attend church services on Sunday mornings, conduct their Christian Education programs and their pot-luck suppers, and make their hospital visits like the mainline Christian churches. And yet...
Their's is a dangerous, imperialistic and militaristic form of religious practice that is equally as frightening as the Islamic thrust to "conquer" the world and make everyone a Muslim.
Their reading of scripture is a literal and judgemental reading; it uses passages from that scripture as bullets against those who might have a different view. Their interpretation of the passages of scripture is the only one tolerable, acceptable and worthy of propagation. Their opposition to gays, gay marriages, abortion, and to those whose religious views make them more open to all three is intransigent. And, at their core, they know they are RIGHT!
Their religion is worn as a form of fighting armour, not only defensive armour but also offensive armour. They are going to take the world back from the "brink of destruction" as they see it. The secular world, for them, verges on Sodom and Gomorrah, those biblical towns that threw God on the trash heap, and went their prodigal ways.
Their religion is a form of absolutism, a form of abolition, similar to the abolition of alcohol that was practiced by the Women's Christian Temperance Union. "Onward Christian Soldiers, marching as to war" is a kind of mantra for these people and they sit in the pews of all Christian faiths.
And there is another heinous aspect of their religion: they are the ultimate capitalists, in that practice, because whatever methods are necessary to bring their numbers of new members up and new dollars into the coffers are acceptable. And they take it as a sign of God's "blessing" on their efforts to see large numbers of people in their growing churches, just like the corporate giants whose efforts to produce gigantic profits are "doing something right" according to their own estimate of their worth.
They preach, as does James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, a brand of salvation that is instant, and known only to those whose testimony attests to their "acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord of their life," and they take as their meaning of that aphorism that they have been granted the "keys to an afterlife in heaven."
Their certainty about their own righteousness, and therefore their agenda, both in evangelism and in political action, are the directions of God, through his Son Jesus Christ. Their faith knows no doubt, no scepticism, no scholarship, no acceptance of any of these qualities and approaches, and no tolerance of those whose faith includes doubt, scepticism and scholarship.
And, as a political movement, both within their own churches and in the body politic, they are virtually unstoppable, like a cancer metastasizing into every corner of our lives. And they will not negotiate, nor will they stop in their efforts to practice a religion of the "saved" and the "unsaved"...with them being the former, and the rest of the world, the latter.
There is a sanctimoniousness about their practice of their religion that makes me vomit.
There is a form of bigotry about their practice of their religion that verges on hate crimes.
There is a form of self-righteousness that permits no humility, and no gray areas of belief, or of practice.
There is also a kind of plastic cookie-cutter sameness to their reduction of faith to a single core of beliefs and practices that leaves them repressed, frightened and frightening.
And when we think that, like George W. Bush, Harper is one of their number, for that reason alone, there must be a political opponent that confronts, and eventually supplants this form of tyranny.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Spirituality 101

Just caught a Canadian panel of editors on CPAC, discussing the future of  their industry. Editor of The Tyee magazine in Vancouver, David Beers, when answering a question about "new beats" for newspapers, offered this idea: a beat including early child development, nutrition, environment, parenting, and what is going on in school with that same child. A remarkable stew of useful insight, especially important to relieve the anxieties of young parents.
Another idea came the editor of the Vancouver Sun, and it focuses on "work-life balance and spirituality" issues, concerns and solutions.
The discussion got me thinking specifically about "male spirituality."
The word spirituality is used so frequently, and so glibly that one has to wonder what precisely the users want it to mean. Of course, it is used as a direct comparision, and opposition to the institutional church, as in, "I don't go to church because I find no meaning there, but I have a deep spirituality."
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church says this about spirituality:
It is used to refer to people's subjective practice and experience of their religion, or to the spiritual exercises and beliefs which individuals or groups have with regard to their personal relationship with God. It is used to regard prayer, meditation, contemplation, and mysticism as major factors in spirituality.
The word "spiritualitas" is first attested in the 5th century, referring to the quality of life which should result from the spiritual gifts imparted to all who believe in Christ....from the 12th century on, a 'spiritual life' came to be regarded as more or less identical with interior religion and the explicitly  devotional practices used to foster it.
Karen Armstrong, in "The Case for God," writes: "In archaic spirituality, a symbolic return to the formless "nothingness" of the beginning was indispensable to any new creation. It was possible to move forward only if you had the courage to let go of the present, unsatisfactory state of affairs, sink back into the potent confusion of the beginning and begin again." (p. 19)
Of course, the Christian church has groups that formed around certain specific rules (of the monastery/convent) to which all members of the order would submit, commit and follow obediently.
So, in the Christian tradition, Franciscans, Jesuits, Benedictines etc. became known as followers of specific "rules of life" designed to lead one into a deeper relationship with God.
And here is the great overused word, especially in contemporary culture, "relationship".
Building relationships with clients, customers, parishioners, and with God has become a growth industry.
What does it mean to each individual, and to the larger group (the family, the church, the choir, the community) to build relationships? Of course, it is personal, subjective and highly emotional in its pursuit  of specific activities, the evaluation of those activities on individual relationship's with God and with others, and in the communication of those evaluations with others in and out of the group.
Most people, especially most men, do not speak much about their relationship with God, because to do so is very difficult. This relationship is often clouded in competitive comparisons with others, who, too, are following a "spiritual discipline" in their discipleship.
Are you closer to God, than I am?
Is that family closer to God, that our family?
Is that church closer to God in its practice of its faith and its religion than the one down the street?
Is a ritual of prayer, at meals, at morning and evening, before or after business meetings a part of the spiritual discipline of those participating?
Is attendance at church a part of one's spiritual discipline? (Similarly, teaching Sunday School, or serving as a trustee, or treasurer, or even as clergy?)
Is reading the Bible/Torah/Koran an integral part of one's spiritual discipline? Is discussing the passages being read part of the same discipline?
I once said to a corporate executive, "Where do you want to be in your spiritual development and growth in three years?"
He looked blank, changed the subject and ended the conversation. Oh, but he was a "friend of the bishop" and proud of that relationship.
He expressed pride in having "driven the last priest from our church, because he was not spiritual enough!" So, while refusing to deal with his own spiritual growth and development, even by asking what I might have meant by my question, he was clearly confident in his initiative to dismiss a clergy "because was not spiritual enough." My take on his explanation: He thought the dismissed clergy was not charismatic enough, not evangelical enough, not proficient at recruitment and growing the numbers in the church quickly enough, and not excited enough about his faith and the growth of the parish.
And that is not "spirituality;" it is salesmanship. And there is a huge difference!
And most men don't get the difference. Even some women don't get the difference. I once had a woman announce to me, "Jesus was the world's greatest salesman!" And that's not spirituality either.
Billy Graham excelled at bringing people to Christ, as in having some kind of conversion experience. Yet his theology was quite judgemental, quite black and white and quite exclusionary. Evangelism and spirituality are not the same thing; neither is the decalogue (Ten Commandments) equateable with spirituality.
Being Irish, I am often found giving directions about how "not" to get to Dublin, when asked for directions on how "to" get to Dublin. Similarly, with the question, "What is spirituality?"
One of the real concerns I have about any discussion of spirituality is its interface with the subject of "power" within the religious community, and the "power" of my relationship with God being used against the "lack of power" of your relationship with God.
If my commitment to God seems bigger, somehow, than your's, who is counting? Not me. Who wants to know? Why does s/he want to know?
If my spiritual discipline is more freeing than your's, once again, who is comparing and why?
If my spiritual life includes church membership, does that make me a better disciple of God than someone who has not joined a church? Who says?
If my donations are bigger than your's, am I a better Christian than you? How do you know?
If we are going to begin to examine 'spirituality' we have to establish that we are not, none of us, in a competition for the love of God. And that is a starting place for me.
Emptying my mind, heart and spirit of my fears, ambitions, drives (including the drive to power) and  busyness is the only place I can begin to enter any spiritual exercise. And that is no mean feat! This speaks to the return to the nothingness of all beginnings that Karen Armstrong writes about above.
And then remaining silent is next, so that I might possibly, just might, hear a still small voice that I had never heard before about something I was struggling with evoking a new feeling, or a potential action, or a new direction about my struggles within.
And then repeating both the emptying, and the silence in a deliberate and regular manner...that's next and that is no mean feat, either.
Occasionally, I like to include a passage from scripture before I become quiet and silent, so that I meditate on those words.
Occasionally, I like to include a passage from a piece of religious music that moves me, and I meditate on my experience of that music...its melody, its poetry, its rhythm, its themes, and its impact on me.
Occasionally, I like to find a poem from another "seeker" or pilgrim on which to meditate.
Sometimes, in the silence, I might choose to write a few words of my own...not knowing where they are coming from, and certainly not knowing where they are going.
And that's enough for today, boys and girls. Time to play!

Memo to Ignatieff: Here's some "beef"

By Angelo Persichilli, Toronto Star, July 18, 2010
In four years in Canadian politics and almost two years as a leader, Ignatieff has not been able to provide a narrative for his leadership or a vision for this country. We believed, or he led us to believe, that the “beef” would be provided during the highly publicized Liberal policy conference in Montreal but, aside from showing the party’s capacity to use new technology, not much came out of it. At the end of the conference, Ignatieff said, “I think we’ve renewed our democracy this weekend” and that his party had changed the way to do politics.

That was probably true, but he forgot that he was not at a Research in Motion conference. It was a political gathering that was supposed produce ideas and a vision for Canada. After four years, he just can’t keep touring the country to talk with and learn from Canadians. He needs to tell us where he wants to take this country and how he plans to accomplish it.
Politics, that inscrutable mix of policy and personality that gets stirred (screwed) by the media into a stew of non-descript proportions, unless and until the specific politician really puts his foot in his/her mouth, or has illicit sex with an intern or...requires clear articulation of goals, along with a commitment to deliver on those goals.
Ignatieff's failure to provide a "vision" is, in part, his determination not to be "pinned down" thereby keeping his options completely open. Give them burgers instead of policy "beef" because "Harper would not do politics this way...he has a rope between himself and the Canadian people," as Ignatieff himself says.
But "doing politics differently from Harper" is no substitute for the real "beef" of policy. And "keeping your options open" is an excuse for clear-headed thinking with a commitment to that thinking that goes far beyond "how to use technology" as a signature for a potential future Prime Minister. Loyalty and team-building demand a vision and a demonstrable commitment to deliver, on the part of the leader...they do not rely exclusively, or even primarily on loyalty to the person of the leader.
Ignatieff has a field of options from which to choose:
* he can reverse the Harper government's decision to purchase $16 billion worth(?) of stealth fighter jets
* he can begin the process of a cap-and-trade approach to greenhouse gases, and commit to fighting global warming
*he can commit his party, and future government to the real elimination of child poverty, and to homelessness across the country
*he can commit to a significant increase in achieving full adult literacy, and specific learning goals for all Canadians, including technological literacy, film and news literacy, and math and science literacy, not to mention new job skills
* he can commit to the goal of 0.07% of GDP for foreign aid, set by his predecessor Lester Pearson
* he can commit to the inclusion of both prescription drugs and dental care in the National Health Act, plus he can commit to the maintenance of a single Health Act, and reject and refute a two-tier approach to Health care
* he can commit to a significant increase in research money for arts and cultural experiments, as well as academic research in these areas
* he can commit to a policy and a practice of "reduced recidivism" among criminals, through an aggressive, imaginative and cost-effective training and rehabilitation program, and reject the "build more prisons to warehouse criminals" approach of Harper and the neo-cons
* he can commit to a national regulatory approach for financial institutions, without provincial opt-out
* he can commit to a long-term nation-building involvment in Afghanistan (e.g. from 2011 to 2020), without military combat operations for Canadian personel
* he can commit to setting straight the long-standing open wound of Canada's relationship with aboriginal peoples
* he can commit to an enhanced, aggressive and collegial policy to renew the approach, methods and resources of the United Nations, NATO and all other foreign affairs commitments of Canada, including a commitment to a high profile, international scholar as Minister of Foreign Affairs
* he can commit to support the "educate/orient/welcome-the immigrants" initiative of the former Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson and her spouse, John Ralston Saul by extending it across the country
* he can commit to both study and report on the feasibility of a guaranteed income for all Canadians, before the end of his first four-year term
..... It is time to bring some beef to those back-yard barbecues, Mr. Ignatieff. You might be surprised at the change in party coffers, in party memberships and in election readiness that would result...and those basics will never precede your "vision." They will only follow your articulation of that vision. And "process" will never replace "content" (beef) in the Canadian political landscape.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Former G-G brings insight and responsibility to new immigrants

By Gary Mason, Toronto Globe and Mail, July 16, 2010)
Today, Ms. (Adrienne) Clarkson is committed to helping new immigrants learn as much as possible about the indigenous foundation upon which their new country is built. And she is promoting a project in Vancouver she believes will help develop a deeper and healthier link between Canada’s past and its future.

Much of the Aboriginal-New Immigrant Initiative is carried out through “dialogue circles” in which native leaders sit with new Canadians and tell stories about their families’ past and their tribes’ history. The tales are fascinating, sometimes funny, often sad. Afterwards, Canada’s newest citizens can ask questions, or talk about a shared experience.
While it seems like a modest endeavour that wouldn’t lead to a seismic difference in society, Ms. Clarkson would disagree. She thinks it’s vital that immigrants, the fastest growing segment of the population, understand the aboriginal experience. Only then will they appreciate and begin to comprehend the debate that continues to swirl around so many aspects of native life in Canada. But she also thinks the dialogues will help create a bond between those coming to Canada and those who have lived here for hundreds of years.
“And that makes for a richer, more complete nation,” said Ms. Clarkson, who was in Vancouver this week to attend a dialogue circle. “While so many countries have spent the last hundred years eradicating their aboriginal past, it’s important that new Canadians understand that we don’t believe in that here.”
Along with her husband, John Ralston Saul, Ms Clarkson has also established a centre for new immigrants, believing as they both do, that a full integration of this large group of some 250,000 each year into the Canadian 'mosaic' is better for them and for the rest of the country.
Her husband, a cultural historian, has also written, "A Fair Country," in which his thesis is that Canada does not and should not replicate a European, hierarchical culture, but rather one with three legs to the stool, English, French and First Nations, the latter being the originators of the "circle" archetype which merely opens more and more widely to welcome newcomers.
Saul has also stated publicly many times that he believes that the best and brightest young leaders in Canada today come from the aboriginal groups across the country. They have earned university degrees, are taking their rightful place as leaders in their own community, and he speculates, will come to take a lead rightfully in their native land of Canada.
Integration into the Canadian culture is a subject about which Ms. Clarkson is more intimately familiar than most, given her own history of being herself a Chinese immigrant, living and learning in a foreign land called Canada, and wondering out loud why there was no thought by her teachers to have her grade six class visit a native community only forty miles outside Ottawa, rather than prepare projects depicting their culture and history for her classmates. Also in her addresses to the many new immigrants, she informs them that now that they are part of Canada, our history, both good and bad and that includes the awful residential school history "that makes you want to vomit," is their history too. So she rejects the notion that "I wasn't here when that happened so I am not responsible for it" as a way of escaping its influence on their lives.
Still leading, still thinking and acting positively on behalf of the present and future country, in helpful, insightful, creative and compassionate ways, Ms Clarkson and Mr. Saul are role models for many.
When meeting a relatively young 40-ish man on the weekend, I was reminded of how deeply words still seep into the consciousness of individuals when my new acquaintance quoted from Saul's Unconscious Civilization as part of his conversation. And both his and Ms Clarkson's vision for our country are gifts for which we will never be able to fully thank them.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Illusions to facilitate illusions, to facilitate illusions...

There is an assumption current among the western democracies that the economic braintrusts know best about how to manage the affairs of the body politic. Since economics trumps everything else, unless and until a sacred cow, like national security/military materiel rears its head, we do cost benefit analyses on everything, with assumptions that beg more questions than they answer. And those whose speciality is not economics, like ethicists, and historians, and "generalists" have no business or authenticity in commenting, because we lack "expertise." Even voices whose opinions differ from the "mainstream" or conventional viewpoint (subscribed to, sycophantically by the media) are marginalized by their own lack of specialized competence, according to the prevailing illusion.
We have a health care system that pays doctors for more patient visits, but only for brief ones and for writing prescriptions, not for "preventing" further illness, like helping individuals re-shape their lifestyles into healthy diet, exercise, stopping smoking and excessive alcohol and non-prescription drug consumption. That process would take more time than the current billing system permits. It could be said to be a system designed more to "pay" doctors than to help people get and stay well. In short, the system's design and structure is counter-intuitive to the higher purpose of a healthy, and therefore less costly society. But the doctors are the kings/queens of the health care system, are they not; certainly not the patients! That would turn the conventional "wisdom" upside-down.
We have a national, perhaps even an international fixation on "economic growth" established through such numbers as Gross National Product (GNP) or Gross Domestic Product (GDP). And we watch these numbers "crawl" across the bottom of our tv screens in relentless military precision, as if they were the holy grail of needed information.
However, it is, once again, the assumptions that must be questioned and even changed.
      For example, growth, as we currently understand it, classifies education as a cost, thus a liability. A golf ball, on the other hand, is an asset and the sale of it a measureable factor of growth. A face lift is an element fo economic activity while a heart bypass is a liability which the economy must finance. Holidays are among the pearls of the service industry, while child care is a cost.
      In other words, our concept of assets and liabilities, of goods versus expenses, has a negative effect on the realities of growth. We are unable to take into account the needs of a sophisticated society. Investment in training and in the care of citizens cannot be treated as an asset. Yet the illusion of growth, through the sale of golf balls remains firmly in place. (The Unconscious Civilization, John Ralston Saul, CBC/Anansi, 1995, p.152.)
As David Suzuki put it so succinctly, "We must not serve the economy; the economy is there to serve us!"
And, as in all things, it is the powerful, those who 'have' who set the definitions of issues, in accordance with their own best interests. And for all the other voices, unheard from in the corridors of "power," education and training must be seeen as "assets" not as liabilities, and health care must become an asset, not a liability, especially focussed on the prevention of major illnesses.
And spending $16 billion on stealth aircraft, when even the military are divided about the need for such American-defined needs, (to suit their budget, income and "asset" calculation needs) at a time of severe financial crisis, (caused by those very ones the government "power-brokers" trusted to "govern" themselves, the Wall-Street bullies), is another non-sequitor, another upside-down perception of "public or national security."
And the powerful interests are not concerned about global warming, because to really care means an added cost for "doing business;" and the powerful interests are not interested in eliminating poverty because to really care means spending public dollars for low-rental housing; and the powerful interests are not interested in "people" because to really care about people, as opposed to "profits" and "power" means giving up the kind of absolute control to ordinary people, who don't deserve it, on the merits of their social "capital". We have none.
And the powerful will work to preserve that illusion, while the public "eats" the cake of another illusion...
Now the death of God combined with the perfection of the image has brought us to a whole new state of expectation. We are the image. We are the viewer and the viewed. There is no other distracting presence. And that image has all the Godly powers. It kills at will. Kills effortlessly. Kills beautifully. It dispenses morality. Judges endlessly. The electronic image is man as God and the ritual involved leads us not to a mysterious Holy Trinity but back to ourselves. In the absence of a clear understanding that we are now the only source, these images cannot help but return to the expression of magic and fear proper to idolatrous societies. This in turn facilitates the use of the electronic image as propaganda by whoever can control some part of it.

–John Ralston Saul, Voltaire’s Bastards

Friday, July 16, 2010

$16 billion for military jets! in 2010! Is the government completely anaesthetized?

From The Globe and Mail, July 16, 2010
The (Canadian) government committed $9-billion to buy (the) 65 planes from Lockheed Martin, and the first aircraft is to be delivered by 2016, said a statement from the Defence Department.

But the overall cost is expected to soar to $16 billion when a 20-year maintenance contract is factored in.
The 65 new jets would replace the Air Force's aging fleet of CF-18s that recently underwent a $2.6-billion upgrade.
Mr. MacKay said those airframes will be 40 years old by the time they need another upgrade in 2020 and it made more sense to invest in new aircraft.
“We need to ensure our fighter-aircraft fleet remains the best in the world to meet the threats of the 21st century,” Mr. MacKay told a splashy news conference featuring a mock-up of the jet as a backdrop.
No, Mr, MacKay, we do not need to ensure our fighter aircraft remains the best in the world to meet the threats of the 21st century! In fact, if you read the intelligence on the success of the Chinese government at raiding the pentagon computers, hundreds of times each day, and you realized that the military "hardware" is not "the future" but a holdover from the past, catering to the ego's of people like you who serve as Minister of Defence, and all the military brass that love hardware and hard power, you would not only not tender this purchase, you would abandon it altogether.
Canada does not need, nor will it need $16 billion invested in new fighter jets. Have you not heard that the Cold War is over, that the next war will be of a cyber variety, and fighter jets will not play a significant part. This is not the Canada the world needs more of...that Canada is the one that takes the lead in slowing the purchase and development of military materiel.
You and the Canadian government have just made the U.S. government very happy, and all Lockheed-Martin employees very rich with this announcement; but it is a backward step, not only in terms of the speed of the new technology, but also in terms of the options this money could be used for, like fighting child poverty in this country and around the world, like improving literacy across our country, like enhancing the arts initiatives across the land, and like enhancing our foreign aid contribution, to at least the 0.7% target that Lester Pearson set some five decades ago. We have still not lived up to that! It is time, and with the money not spent on this ego trip, Canada could enhance our international reputation significantly... a goal a little more important that massaging the ego's of you and your compatriots.
Is there hope that opposition parties will force either the cancellation of this contract, or an election on this issue? Surely the largest military purchase in Canadian history is worth a public debate.
Shame on the Harper government once again!

Memo to PMO: Full Census: full stop!

By Haroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star, July 15, 2010
The quinquennial census (every five years) consists of a short form sent to 80 per cent of households and a longer one that the remaining fifth must answer.

The first provides the population estimates Ottawa uses to allocate $60 billion in transfer payments to the provinces and territories.
The second helps build a national portrait, down to the neighbourhood level. The only data of its kind, it’s widely used by businesses, governments, hospitals and such agencies as the United Way to provide products and services — from daycare, schools and public transit to retail outlets and seniors care.
However, starting with the next census, due in May 2011, the Tories have decided that the longer form would no longer be compulsory.
This has upset a whole lot of people, with good reason. A voluntary survey is not a census. Its data would be skewed, some groups having responded and others not, like the super-rich at one end and the very poor on the other.
While Mr Siddiqui points out that Harper does not like the analysis being done by StatsCan, because it is fodder for government criticism, (as it no doubt is), the real problem for Harper is that his government is one of abstract ideology without a human component, and the government's approach to the census is just another example of that approach.
Reductionism by government of the human component, the human perspective, the actual need to provide better options for Canadians, based on some accounting, or some political/accounting (cover) is an approach that all neo-con governments have been using, and getting a "pass" from the media, itself owned and operated on the simple principle of "profit" as the only motive for its existence, for at least the last decade-plus. Short-term, self-serving thinking drives the stock-market "crawl" that has no business on our television screens, as it does the pursuit of profit over everything else in business; and it follows, that many people have come to conflate "government must be run like a business" into a political mantra.
Government must never be run "like a business". It must be run like a government! (duh!)
And the differences are large and many.
Governments are supposed to be creating opportunities in science, the arts, technology and in social services as well as in business. (Certainly their purpose is not restricted to the last item!) And that means gathering significant data so that those many, important goals (not mere functions) can be better achieved, by a complex network of groups, associations, and the public generally. And that does not mean that "special interest groups" have taken over, as has been and will be argued by the "right".
So it is not only a change of this decision on the census that Canadians want and expect from Harper; it is a fundamental change in thinking, even in "feeling" that word so hated by the 'right' because it smacks of the "feminine".
And that reduction of "compassion" to a function of the feminine is another aspect of the kind of reductionism that Conservatives (also conservatives) foist on their attempts at governing no matter the geographic jurisdiction. Balancing the books while also paying attention to the authentic needs of the people of the country is not rocket science, but it cannot be accomplished through fear of the facts that a full and complete census will unveil.
Reducing the driving impulses of the government to "holding onto power" at all costs, is another self-sabotaging, short-term drive that compromises the effectiveness of government as well as the enrichment of the lives of its governed.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Stop the Dumping...start looking afresh at Ignatieff's potential

By Angelo Persichilli from The Toronto Star, July 15, 2010
Political Columnist Last year at this time, the Liberals were trying to get rid of Stéphane Dion and put themselves in the hands of their saviour, Michael Ignatieff. After 12 months, they believe that Bob Rae, the former NDP premier of Ontario now turned Liberal, is the new saviour.
Last year the opportunity to reboot the party's fortunes came after Dion forced the Liberals to embrace the Bloc-supported coalition with the NDP. This year the spark might be Ignatieff's support for the HST. The question many ask is whether Ignatieff's leadership will last until the end of the year.
Since Pierre Trudeau, no Liberal leader has left on his own terms. John Turner was shown the door by the Chrétienites; Jean Chrétien was forced out by Martinites; we know what happened to Dion and now we see Ignatieff is on the same path.
Columns like the one quoted here are nothing but poison in the Liberal leader's morning joe. Neither Dion nor Chretien deserved the kind of treatment that this column seems to be portraying. If Paul Martin has made the "coup" an indellible tradition of the Loberal Party by working feveriously to oust Jean Chretien, so he could have his turn "at the helm," it is time for the Liberal Party to bid farewell to the tradition.
No one alive during the Trudeau era can imagine his tolerating this "behind-the-scenes carping".
Every political party is filled with the chemistry of political ambition, at a personal level. That's what drives the bus of political life; it shows in every conversation over ever coffee, night-cap, breakfast, lunch and dinner. It shows in every committee meeting, in every ad, and in every policy statement.
However, dumping leaders from the inside because the polls are down, and have been for several months is a self-fulfilling will happen, whether prematurely or not, and the country will not be well served by the process.
Even George Steinbrunner, who hired and fired some fourteen managers has a better record than the Liberal Party is developing.
If party/leader/policy and culture/tradition LOYALTY are not sought and imposed by every member of the party, then there is no hope for political change, through the ascendancy of the Liberals.
Today, Jim Travers, columnist writes about the search for a head of the Munk School of International Studies at the University of Toronto, and the possibility of Ignatieff's landing his parachute in that post, if politics doesn't work out. On the same day, this Persichilli column also appears in the Toronto Star, while Ignatieff fends off the Harper T-shirts with the "friendly" message, "Just Visiting" in reference to Ignatieff's living away from Canada for a couple of decades.
I am not one of Ignatieff's political disciples, but the man deserves more of a chance to see if he can connect with the people of this country. I also believe that his last two or three decades of international living, writing and teaching merit a different perspective than the parochial, provincial, narrow-minded Conservative view of his "estrangement" from the country...He has much to contribute to a country, a party and a people whose willingness to grant international affairs a place on their radar is minimal, at best, especially since international relations are at the heart of every political decision for the coming decades.
Wake up, Canada, and stop buying the Conservative "pablum" that the international scene is mere theatre! It is an extremely interconnected world, and one who understands and seeks to make that understanding an integral part of the new Canadian perspective is worthy of a chance to govern.
The grubbiness of politics, which former House Speaker Tip O'Neill once said, was "all local" must give way to a new vision of the political process...the world is now in need of new governance and new ideas and new leaders are needed for that process, albeit a little vague at first, to take shape. It is a reasonable view that the new "local" is now "global."
Foreign affairs are Canadian affairs and Ignatieff could shoulder the mantle of bringing that lesson to the classroom that we call our home! And what better platform from which to accomplish that monumental cultural shift than the Liberal Party of Canada, much better than the Munk School, although that is not chop liver either.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Say "NO!" to Sharia Law

There are Muslim clerics in every country propagating the proposition that Sharia Law be implemented in every country around the world. Even a brief reading of some of its many tenets (see Sharia Law, Thanks to on indicates that there is no country, save perhaps a fully |Islamic state, in which such laws may be implemented.
And these are not merely words on a screen. They are deeply held convictions that seek to instill a sense of shared responsibility to block all efforts, in all countries, from the imposition of this law on their citizens. It will take every human being, in every country, for the next century or more, to thwart the efforts of the radical Islamists from their openly avowed goal of Sharia Law around the world.
That starts with education of the content of the provisions of Sharia Law. And it follows with a full discussion at all dinner, breakfast and lunch tables everywhere to bring our colleagues up to date with both the content and the goal of universal implementation.
One woman is currently being held in an Iranian prison, threatened with death by stoning for her conviction of adultery. Heather Reisman, owner of Chapters and Indigo Books in Canada has personally taken on the cause of bringing to the world the heinous implications, and facts of this threatened "judicial" act of stoning, in 2010! Good on you, Heather!
The suicide bombings in Uganda during the FIFA World Cup of Soccer, resulting in 74 deaths, is one more act of terrorism, this time perpetrated by a radical terrorist group from Somalia, linked to Al Quaeda. The Islamic cleric, Chadoury, interviewed in London, on Sunday by Farheed Sakaria on GPS/CNN depicted a level of both hatred and venom in his insistence that "wherever I live, I will work to have Sharia Law become the law of the land."
There have already been pressures on the Ontario government seeking to have Premier McGuinty's government agree to permit Sharia Law to be used in Muslim communities in Ontario. Fortunately, the government resisted, THIS TIME!
However, the pressure will not stop. The determination of Islam adherents is relentless; the power of their convictions is like steel, unbendable and unable to be destroyed by any means.
There are no technological preventions to this social, political, cultural, religious and historical determinism that is coming from the Islamic community, especially from the fundamentalist radicals.
It is not merely to stop the erosion of the social and political status of women that this law needs to be forestalled. It is to prevent all countries from becoming theocracies, of any religion.
The battle against Sharia Law is not one to be left to the Jewish community. It is a fight that all peoples of all countries and all languages and faith traditions must oppose and the opposition cannot wait many more years to wake up to the seriousness of the threat.
And, to leave this "fight" to our grandchildren is to abandon them to, by then, forces so entrenched that they will be unable to free the political, economic, intellectual and cultural garden of this "weed" no matter how determined their efforts.

Sharia Law, thanks to


The custom-based body of law based on the Koran and the religion of Islam. Because, by definition, Muslim states are theocracies, religious texts are law, the latter distinguished by Islam and Muslims in their application, as Sharia or Sharia law.The sacred law of Islam; Islamic law and also referred to as Muslim law. So thorough is the integration of the justice system and Church under Sharia law that Sharia courts are essentially religious courts; judges are usually local church (Mosque) officials. Also spelled Shariah or Shari’ah and, in the USA, Shari’a. Because of the religious origin of the word, some prefer to capitalize it and others not.

The word “sharia” means “the path” or “the path to water”.

Sharia as a source of law, is, by definition, arbitrary and discretionary - some would prefer to describe it as flexible.The Oxford Dictionary of Islam proposes a distinction between sharia and fiqh as follows:
"Whereas shariah is immutable and infallible, fiqhis fallible and changeable."
Opportunistic jurists will defer to the distinction only when convenient; to propose that an unfavourable tenet of Islamic law is mere fiqh and must cede to a more favourable tenet issue from shariah. But that distinction - which limits sharia to the divinely provided law, and fiqh to the interpretation of sharia - is not universally followed. Many sources refer to fiqh as synonymous to shariah. As an example of the scope of confusion, note that the English language Oxford Dictionary of Islam is of no assistance, defining shariah using a deep Muslim tone:
"Shariah: God's eternal and immutable will for humanity as expressed in the Quran and Muhammad's example. " Sharia law - Islamic law involves not only tortuous and mostly literal interpretations of ancient Muslim traditions and Arab tribal customs, and of a religious book written in about 632 (theKoran) which took - but also modified - many of those customs. To that mix, there have been several subsequent religious texts and schools of thought (such as the Sunna), which is itself an interpretation of the Koran. Even more: to this is added a plethora of alleged sayings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad (530-632) and his successors.
Each of the approximately 50 Islamic states and countries that have, to varying degrees, Sharia law, has applied layers of doctrine upon the original religious texts resulting in a multitude of different interpretations and different legal results.
In The Legal Companion (2005), author V. Powell writes:“Muslim countries enforce the Sharia to different extents. "Iran and Saudi Arabia apply it to all areas of life....
"The Sharia is also interpreted differently within different branches of Islam.” Further, in the context of Sharia law practitioners or courts which operate outside of Muslim or Islamic states but within other jurisdictions, the practice of Sharia law is consistently represented as flexible and reconciliatory in nature; a far cry from the protestations of Muslim jurists in states which are primarily Muslim. Some countries, such as Tunisia, have hybrid systems, rejecting Sharia law in most instances yet relying it in others, such as in the area of divorce and family law, inheritance, contracts and banking. To some Sharia jurists, the Sharia applies only to Muslims and does not technically apply to non-Muslims such as Christians (eg. Malaysia and Indonesia as of 2008). In other jurisdictions, such as Sudan (as of 2008), the application of the Shari law to non-Muslims – with all the attendant punishments - is considered unfair and unjust. Thus, it is difficult to speak of Sharia as a distinct or cohesive body of law. One consistent feature is that, by design of the Islam prophet Muhammad, and his Koran, Islamic or Sharia law reaches far deeper into the control of the personal and moral life of the people who are bound to it than, for example, those jurisdictions governed by civil law or common law systems.
For example, in Sharia law, it is forbidden for post-pubescent women to expose their faces in public. The use of alcohol and the consumption of pork are prohibited. Because the governments are often theocratic, any criticism of the government is taken as blasphemy, for which the Sharia prescribes prison or death.
Sharia law is often taken to task by common law or civil law jurisdictions for the perceived cruelty and gender-bias of its content. For example, this extract from a 2006 article published in the international law review Loyola of Law School at Los Angeles:
“In 2002, a Nigerian Sharia court sentenced Amina Lawal to be stoned to death for having a child out of wedlock; in contrast, the man named as the father denied responsibility, and as a result, the court dropped charges against him.
“In another case, teenager Bariya Magazu asserted that she was raped by three men and became pregnant as a result. Because she had sex outside of marriage, a Sharia court sentenced her to one hundred lashes, even though seven people corroborated her story. The men accused of the rape received no punishment.
“The extreme bias against women is apparent in sentences of adultery or fornication under Sharia. A woman is convicted simply by becoming pregnant, but a man is not condemned unless four people can testify that they witnessed the normally private acts of adultery or fornication.
“Countries such as Nigeria impose flogging, stoning, or severing off a hand ... all of which are deterrent punishments for serious crimes mentioned in the (Koran).”

Some other common features of Sharia law, some taken from the Koran, some from subsequent legal texts:

• While in public, women must cover their faces with a Hijab.

• Men can have up to four wives and can divorce (called talaq) at their option. If they do not divorce their first wife but just abandon her, she is obliged to carry on as a married woman and cannot seek out another spouse without risking the traditional punishment for adultery: stoning. Stoning is done in public by first wrapping a person in a blanket and burying them in a deep hole exposing their head and the population gathered around is invited to throw large stones at the adulterer, the size of which Sharia law prescribes, and a sentence always fatal.

• The penalty after a fourth conviction of a homosexual act is death.

• Adoption is not allowed. Adults can become guardians of the children of others but not the legal parents through adoption.

• Sharia law prohibits dating and marriage between a Muslim and a non-Muslim and it is practically impossible for a Muslim (even a recent convert) to renounce the Muslim faith.

• Any abandonment of the Muslim faith is itself a serious crime (apostasy) with severe punishment

• Sharia law has a stringent evidentiary requirement for eye witnesses, preferably from men. Convictions for crimes cannot be based on circumstantial evidence alone.

• Vagrancy can carry tough penalties such as jail and caning.

• Generally, a person alleged to have violated Sharia laws in the states governed by them would not be pursued, or apprehended, in states not governed by Sharia laws.

• Many states which implement Sharia law have blasphemy statutes which punishes by prison or death any person who such as preaching Christianity or the distribution of Christian items.
Adherents of Sharia law believe it to be divinely inspired; as the word of God (Allah). Muslims or adherents of the Muslim faith, often resent the portrayal of Sharia as medieval. If a statement of law is set out their great book, the Koran, that, to them, is a full response. Muslims point to “social problems” they say are endemic to countries with other systems of law (such as tolerance of non-traditional sexual orientation, personal crime and divorce rates) and add that the invasive and deterrent features of Sharia law are merited as this arrests those "problems" and thus frees the people and society to attain their true potential, as God aspires.
As with most theocracies, Sharia law is difficult if not impossible to reconcile with the fundamental principles of democracy. One of the features of Sharia is that, in theory, it is invariable and stable. Democratic principles such as political pluralism and the constant tug towards expanding individual freedoms are incompatible with Sharia.

In Refash Party v Turkey, the European Court of Human Rights adopted these words:
“It is difficult to declare one’s respect for democracy and human rights while at the same time supporting a regime based on sharia, which clearly diverges from values (of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms), particularly with regard to its criminal law and criminal procedure, its rules on the legal status of women and the way it intervenes in all spheres of private and public life in accordance with religious precepts....
"In the Court’s view, a political party whose actions seem to be aimed at introducing Sharia in a State party to the Convention can hardly be regarded as an association complying with the democratic ideal that underlies the whole of the Convention.”


• BBC News, October 27, 2008, Somali Woman Executed by Stoning, published at and Nigerian Man Jailed for Idleness, October 17, 2008, published at
• Duhaime, Lloyd, Legal Definition of Theocracy and Legal Definition of Jihad
• Esposito, John, Editor, The Oxford Dictionary of Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).
• Powell, V., The Legal Companion (London: Think Publishing, 2005), pages 126-127.
• Provins, Marie, Constructing an Islamic Institute of Civil Justice that Encourages Women’s Rights, published in Loyola Los Angeles Law School International & Comparative Law Review, Volume 27, 2006, page 515, published at
• Re ABM 2002 Revue Juridique du Québec 1161

"No!" to Closing of Centre for Comparative Literature at UT

From The Globe and Mail, Tuesday, July 13, 2010
By Elizabeth Church, Education Reporter
What began as a groundbreaking initiative more than four decades ago by Northrop Frye, one of the greatest literary theorists of the 20th century, is set to become the latest casualty of campus cost-cutting.

The Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto, which the world-renowned scholar and author of The Great Code led as its founding director, will welcome its final class this fall under a plan now being considered by the university.
The centre, which began as a unique place in North America for the study of critical theory and literature across cultures, helped put U of T and Canada on the academic map for critical theory. Now it is slated to become part of a new School of Languages and Literatures along with five other departments, a move that all but guarantees the end of Prof. Frye’s vision, say opponents of the plan.
“It is Frye’s heritage,” said Linda Hutcheon, a professor at the centre for 20 years and its first graduate in 1975. “He very much believed in literature being of the world and that got translated into the centre.”
Merging The Centre for Comparative Literature into a new School of Languages and Literature will not only end Frye's 'creation' in the literal sense, it will also change the direction of the study of literature. Critical literary theory, based on the examination of the world's literature, through the prism of Canadian and North American Literature, is and will always be different from the study of Literature and Languages. It is a macro approach to the way literature is shaped, and the way literature shapes the culture and replacing it with a micro approach is nothing if not an abandonment of the intellectual trajectory on which Frye established the Centre.
It is another of many signs, not only of cost-cutting and budget trumping needed perspectives, but also of the reductionism that attends much current 'intellectual' as well as political and economic and ethical thinking. Isolating a subject into its own silo was the very thing Frye was pushing against.
Frye's genius, without presuming to psycho-analyse the great mind, was in bringing the world and literature into focus. He developed his thought through the lens of (for example) both literature and scripture, and widened and deepened the perspectives of all who approached literature, and critical literary theory was at the core of his thinking. He understood through critical examination, the writer's cultural inheritance and the writer's unique contribution to the culture in which s/he lived.
No intellectual nor fiscal trimming of his vision is appropriate, or even conscionable. Arguing for the fact that "no jobs will be lost" is hardly the point of the debate. It is the reduction of this intellectual "cornerstone" of what students from all over the world came to U of T to experience that is the looming tragedy, or as Frye would put it, "an avoidance dream".
Re-think the proposal, before something integral to this university is submerged into a kind of intellectual pablum!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Re-evaluate Approval Process for Nuclear Waste Shipment thru' Great Lakes

From the Toronto Star, Monday, July 12, 2010.
Brett Popplewell
Staff Reporter
The Bruce Nuclear Generating Station plans to ship 1,760 tonnes of radiation-laced steel through Lake Ontario — a precedent-setting project that has officials worried on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.
On April 1, Bruce Power asked the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Canada’s nuclear regulator, for a licence to ship low-level radioactive generators from its power plant on Lake Huron to Sweden, where 90 per cent of the metals inside the generators are to be cleansed and resold. The remaining materials that are too radioactive to be recycled will then return to the Bruce plant to be contained for the rest of their radioactive lives.
But the planned journey, which would have 16 decommissioned steam generators travel through the Great Lakes, down the St. Lawrence River and then to Sweden this fall, has municipal officials concerned because they haven’t been given the chance to vet the proposal. If approved, this would be the first time a licence has been issued by the commission to ship nuclear waste through the Great Lakes.
“My frustration for years has been the lack of respect for the Great Lakes. We treat it like a toilet bowl,” said Mike Bradley, mayor of Sarnia. “We don’t give it respect and don’t treat it like there needs to be public engagement.
“The impression that I have is that this is a rubber stamp process. I think it’s unfolding in a manner that is disrespectful to the public process.”
While there is no indication that this shipment is more dangerous than those shipments of hazadarous chemicals that have already travelled through the Great Lakes, and up the St. Lawrence, and across the Atlantic, given that this is "low-grade" nuclear waste, the mayor of Sarnia's signature on a petition calling for a different process than a mere "rubber stamp" with a single individual making the ruling, would do much to change the political climate about this issue.
No one can, today, say an absolute "No" to nuclear power, given our dependency on energy to fire our industrial, commerial and residential operations, yet, the Great Lakes cannot be taken for granted.
Their vulnerability cannot be denied; and their protection has to start somewhere.
If Mayor Bradley could get all mayors from Sarnia to Quebec City to attach their signatures to the same petition, there is little doubt that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission would have to pay attention to the civic leaders, re-assess their approval process for this shipment and for those to follow.
And in the same ounce of ink, Mayor Bradley and the other mayors would have cast a vote for an open, transparent and more thoughtful process for such shipments.
Saving the Great Lakes, and the St. Lawrence, is not a one-step process; it will take hundreds, if not thousands of little steps to generate the kind of public consciousness that is needed to preserve their water levels and to restore the purity of their waters. Mayor Bradley's signature is a very good first step.