Every country has its myths, based on its history, its character, or its perception of its place among the nations. Why should Canada be an exception?
It is not. Canada’s myths arise from our vast geography, our disinclination to join the United States in rebelling against a British heritage, and our retention of French and British cultures in a mix but not a mould that includes original peoples and later arrivals from around the world.
The myths that spring from a nation’s experiences are not necessarily entirely false. They usually contain a considerable degree of truth.
It is for this reason, on this Canada Day July 1st 2009, the 142nd since Confederation, that I quarrel with Doug Saunders of The Globe and Mail, over his article Lies Our Country Told Us. (I’d link you to it, but none seems available.)
Mr. Saunders says, “We are not the Canada we think we are. The country of our imagination — northern, colonial, rooted in a history of British settlement and only recently becoming pluralistic and multihued — is an illusion.”
He goes on to cite several of what he terms “lies” to buttress his argument.
I’m here to say I disagree with him on every one of them. Let’s take these so-called “lies” (or myths) one by one:
- “We are a northern nation.”
Not a lie.
Mr. Saunders argues that we lag way behind Norway and Russia in developing our north. And it’s never, he asserts, “been a major part of the Canadian identity.”
Tell that to Pierre Berton! He was born and raised in the Yukon and many of his 50 books provide telling narratives of how the North has figured prominently in Canadian life. Those like Klondike and The Mysterious North are as gripping and readable today as when they were written.
Or Ken McGoogan, author of romantic histories of the Arctic, such as Race to the Polar Sea and Ancient Mariner.
Of course, we’ve not used slave labor to built vast cities in the sub-Arctic, as the Soviet Union did.
But we’re pulling out oil and gas, gold, diamonds, furs and fish from the North. We’re asserting our Arctic sovereignty. And we’re trying to ensure a better future for the native Inuit and First Nations people of the region.
- “We are the People of 1867.”
Not a lie.
In suggesting this statement is a lie, Mr. Saunders tries to knock down the incontrovertible fact that Canada as a modern nation came into being in a Confederation designed expressly to accommodate the formerly warring communities of the English and the French.
He makes much of the fact that Canada had a heavy out-migration from 1867 to the early 1900s. That’s true, and many New England communities are today made up in the main of the descendants of French Canadians who moved to the mills of Boston and other towns for a better life. But countless hundreds of thousands of others stayed.
It is true, as Mr. Saunders says, that our population growth took off in the Laurier era when “stout men in sheepskin coats” — immigrants from eastern Europe — began to populate the prairies. A natural outgrowth of Canada having claimed for itself the relatively empty Northwest. The newcomers joined a country where being English dominated everything.
- “First we were colonial, then we became multicultural.”
Not a lie.
On this so-called “lie”, Mr. Saunders makes the weakest case of all. He cites research by Peter Henshaw, a University of Western Ontario historian, to argue that multiculturalism was promoted by English Canada as early as the 1930s. Henshaw names Governor General John Buchan as a chief architect. The motive, allegedly, was to weaken any true Canadian nationalism by mixing it up with a lot of competing loyalties.
My recollection of my school days in that era was that the Empire was everything, everything had to be British, and to be a Canada Firster was almost to be disloyal. There was no room for any other culture.
I don’t think a conspiratorial injection of multiculturalism ever figured into things.
Beginning in the 1960s, Canada changed from having been a mean and narrow country, drowned in the rigid strictures of Protestantism outside Quebec, and Catholicism inside, to a more generous, forward-looking, and liberated land of diversity, tolerance, and freedom of choice.
Our postwar immigration, our shedding of most of the vestiges of colonialism, and the entrenchment of multiculturalism as a core Canadian principle, made it all possible.
As we celebrate this Canada Day, there’s no need to tell lies about Canada. The truths we hold in common are the glue that will keep us together.
It’s been 15 years since Mike Harris launched his Common Sense Revolution that drove compassion, caring and cooperation out of Queen’s Park in Toronto — along with New Democrat Premier Bob Rae.
Haris won back-to-back majority governments for his hard-right brand of Progressive Conservative government. It took his retirement and the inept maneuverings of his successors who tried and failed to keep the Revoliution going, to open the door to Dalton McGuinty and the Liberals.
Now, with McGuinty into his second term, Ontario’s PCs have gone”back to the future” by picking Harris acolyte Tim Hudak, 41, as their new leader.
Hudak says “We must take Ontario down an entirely different path from the one it’s now on.”
Meaning, of course, ditching social welfare for individual self-reliance; get tough laws on crime (whether they make any difference or not) and cultivating the entreprenurial crowd with promises of lower taxes and less regulation.
This sound so familiar to the Harris credo and the economic side of Bushism that it makes one wonder whether it’ll sail in the current environment.
The next Ontario election will be in 2011. It’s likely there’ll be strong similarities between the political situation at that time and the one that prevailed in 1995 when Harris won power.
We’ll (hopefully) have recently come out of recession. We’ll be deeper in debt that ever. And eight years of Liberalism will have no more solved our problems that did five years of the NDP’s version of social democracy.
But there’ll be one big difference.
We’ll have tried it all before. Been there. Done that.
Consider also that the Liberals may have a new leader by then. Someone who could put a fresh face to a government that has gathered its share of blunders and bloopers — like the eHealth fiasco and an ever-mounting provincial deficit.
Voters who saw the original Harris show as refreshing and different are unlikely to view the sequel through the same innocent eyes.
As well, Hudak has set himself up for a polarizing fight over his pledge to dump the Ontario Human Rights tribunal. There are many things wrong with the way the OHRC – like similar outfits – has gone overboard in allowing frivolous complaints. Abolition is not the answer.
It’s ironic that at a time when true Conservatives are growing more and more disenchanted with the party at the federal level, a champion of true Toryism has been elevated to the top spot in Ontario.
Hudak seems to be following the formula set out in Rescuing Canada’s Right, a 2005 book (Wiley) by Tasha Keiriddin and Adam Daifallah. They argue that the federal Tories are not really conservative. “Overall, federal governments, including conservative ones, have been pretty dismal from a small-c conservative perspective.”
Hudak, if he ever gets into power, is not likely to disappoint the authors.
Mike Harris was in the front row of Hudak supporters at the PC convention in Markham on Saturday. Those who watched him say he gloated with pleasure at the success of his protege.
How often will he be on the phone to Hudak in coming months? Who will really be calling the shots? Stay tuned.
The July Reader’s Digest, Canadian edition, is out with my feature article, Canada’s Puppy Mill Scandal.
Other than to say it describes my own personal experience with a dog that I believe came from a puppy mill, I’ll not go into detail on the article. You can read in the RD how unscrupulous breeders exploit their animals, sell off the puppies that often end up in pet stores, and profit from dogs that frequently carry serious genetic and behavioural defects. Present laws are ineffective in stopping this, despite frequent raids.
We lost Rory, our beautiful Wheaten terrier, after six years of struggling with his aggressive and anti-social behaviour. We tried everything – dog counselling, medication, you name it. Among other disturbing traits, he had a serious anxiety complex and tried to bite any one of us when we headed for the door.
I was heartbroken when we reached the decision that we had to have him put down — to end his suffering, and ours. I’d awaken in the night, tears streaming down my cheeks.
My partner Deborah thought it would be healthy if, as a writer, I wrote about the experience.
I started doing research, and found out from a prominent vet that Rory exhibited all the traits of an animal from an abusive puppy mill.
I moved on to investigating the prevalence of puppy mills. I discovered that even the valiant efforts of SPCA animal rescue officers were unable to bring these establishments under control.
Except in Ontario, laws are weak and penalties for animal abuse minimal.
Then it happened. A major raid in Quebec turned up appalling conditions at one particular mill. I interviewed people involved in the raid. Then I queried the Reader’s Digest, offering an outline of the story. I mentioned my own personal experience.
After about a week, I got an email back. They wanted the piece. I was sent the Writer’s Guidelines for the RD, and told I should model the piece to fit.
It took a couple of months of back and forth to finalize the piece. The editor I worked with was positive and supportive all the way. The fact checkers who worked with my manuscript were impeccable in their treatment.
With a circulation of 1.2 million and eight million readers, the Reader’s Digest is the most widely read magazine in Canada.
This means my piece exposing the evils of the puppy mills will catch a lot of eyeballs. I hope this will add to pressure on politicians to modernize our out of date legislation. Maybe it’ll give a boost to Liberal MP Mark Holland’s efforts to get his private member’s bill on the issue up for a vote.
We now have a lovely little Wheaten terrier which we obtained from Jan Cunningham, a small breeder in Ontario’s Prince Edward County. She came to us from a loving and caring home. We’ll never forget Rory, but Moreg is a delight every hour of the day.
The July issue of RD is on the newsstands now. I hope you’ll pick up a copy.
It’s beginning to look like it. First there was the controversy over the disruption in the making of medical isotopes at the Atomic Energy of Canada Chalk River nuclear reactor. Then Prime Minister Harper’s announcement that Canada will get out of making these vital keys in diagnosing cancer, cardiac and other diseases.
Now comes the news that Canada’s one-time hi tech global flagship, Nortel Networks, is going to be sold off to Nokia-Siemens, the Finish-German telecommunications powerhouse.
As more than a few people have commented, it’s reminiscent of the 1959 shutdown of the Avro Arrow fight jet by Conserv ative prime minister John Diefenbaker. Or the earlier, less remembered, cancellation of Canadair’s commercial jet. The Liberal government cancelled that one in 1952, in order to divert funds to support UN operations in Korea.
What is it about Canada that once we get a leg up in some scientific field, our government bails out at the first sign of crisis?
Until a few months ago, Canada produced 31 per cent of the world’s supply of medical isotopes. Fifty thousand procedures a day have been carried out using these isotopes. They were supplied by MDS Nordion, a Toronto company which used technetium, a byproduct of molybdenum-99, from the aging nuclear reactor at Chalk River, Ont.
This sorry episode of research failure and technical blundering has been overshadowed by the cheap political games played out on Parliament Hill.
It started when the nuclear safety administrator tried to shut down the AECL facility for safety reasons in 2007. No way, shouted the PM. Just a Liberal appointee, he asserted. We won’t allow isotope production to be affected.
An apparently unstoppable heavy water leak earlier this year forced another shutdown. Nobody knows for how long. But the headlines went to Lisa Raitt, the energy minister, caught on tape saying it was a sexy issue that she’d solve in no time.
She can’t, of course. Now she’s appointed an “expert committee” to review the options. The preferred one, it seems, is to find other countries willing and able to take up the slack. So Canada once again becomes a consumer rather than a producer, a follower rather than a leader.
The alarms have been sounded all over the scientific community.
“It’s going to be a drain of brains outside Canada,” says Jean-Luc Urbain of the Canadian Association of Nuclear Medicine.
“If we don’t act now, maybe we should just put out the lights and go home,” says Domninic Ryan, prominent scientist.
Stephen DeFalco, head of MDS, disputes the government’s contention that the new Maple reactors, which were expected to replace the aging NRU facility, have fatal design flaws. Ottawa refuses to put any more money into that project.
According to Defalco:
The Maple reactors are complete, they are safe and they await final commissioning.
The tragedy in all of this is not only the health risks facing millions of people around the world due to Canada’s failure to maintain isotope production. As serious as that is, what may be even worse is the failure of successive Canadian governments to invest adequately in pure science and R&D.
We’ve got a Science Minister — Gerry Goodyear — who is an avowed religious creationist. An Opposition leader, Michael Ignatieff, who put isotopes on his list of concerns but has since been silent on the issue.
But there’s a glimmer of hope. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, supported by scientists at the University of Saskatchewan, has plans to build a reactor in Saskatoon. It would be a 10-year project. And McMaster University, in Hamilton, says it can use its cyclotron to make isotopes.
One way or another, alternative supplies will be found, in Canada or abroad. But what a sorry commentary it all makes.
The Harper government blinked today. It backed down completely on its refusal to give Abousfian Abdelrazik, Canadian citizen, the right to return home after years of close custody in our Embassy in Sudan:
Tories to allow Abdelrazik to return to Canada
Toronto Star Jun 18, 2009 04:04 PM
OTTAWA – Abousfian Abdelrazik could soon be coming back to Canada.
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced this afternoon in Parliament that the federal government will comply with a court order to return him to Canada after he has been stranded in Sudan for more than a year.
“The government will comply with the court order,” Nicholson said in response during question period, in response to a query from Liberal MP Irwin Cotler.
I wrote about this situation in April, commenting then that “if Mr. Abdelrazik has committed a crime, bring him home to Canada for trial. If not, he has the right to return unmolested.”
In an interview with Don Newman on CBC TV’s Politics, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Mr. Abdelrazik would be coming home “as a free Canadian” with the right to do whatever he wishes.
A full-scale public inquiry is required into this mish-mash of spy boondoggling, government obstinance, and general disregard of the Charter rights of a Canadian citizen.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Mr. Cannon described Mr. Abdelrazilk as a threat to national security. This, despite the fact he’d been cleared by both the spy agency CSIS, and the RCMP.
This case is worse than the Marer Arar case, according to the NDP’s Paul Dewar. He wants the Commons foreign affairs committee to hear Mr. Abdelrazik’s story first-hand.
In the Arar case, U.S. authorities sent him off to Syria to be tortured. In the Abdelrazik case, it appears it was Canadian authorities who had him put in jail in Sudan.
You can be sure that Mr. Abdelrazik will be suing the Government of Canada. You can’t have people sent into the torture cells of third world countries with no evidence of wrongful doing.
Through all the years of the Cold War, we witnessed the build-up of enormous spy regimes, at great cost to the public, all of which yielded no value whatever to the security or well-being of the population.
When Communism came down, it was because of the bank-busting pursuit of military might by the Kremlin. The U.S. was within a hair’s bredth of similar collapse when Moscow gave up the ghost.
Our spy agencies are good at nailing innocent people on marginal evidence. Not so good at defending the principles of democracy and justice.
The scandal over Ontario’s abortive efforts to move health records into the electronic age has taken another captive:
From the Globe and Mail Online
eHealth chairman resigns under a cloud
Hudson’s departure marks a fall from grace for McGuinty’s hand-picked choice to modernize Ontario’s health records
Karen Howlett and Lisa Priest
Toronto — The Globe and Mail, Wednesday, Jun. 17, 2009 05:45PM EDT
Alan Hudson resigned on Wednesday as chairman of eHealth Ontario amid a controversy over lucrative contracts awarded without competitive tenders and nickel-and-dime spending on snacks by consultants, some of whom charged thousands of dollars a day for their services.
Dr. Hudson’s departure marks a fall from grace in what many saw as a stellar record. Known as the man who could fix anything in health care, he was Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s hand-picked choice to modernize the province’s medical records.
“Today I want to acknowledge that our government came up short in the matter of eHealth,” Mr. McGuinty said at a news conference on Wednesday. “We should have done more to protect the public.”
Dr. Hudson is the second executive to leave eHealth Ontario in recent days. Sarah Kramer, his protégé and long-time business associate – whom he often described as brilliant – was forced to resign as chief executive officer on June 6.
All well and good, say I, but I think one more resignation is due — that of the Ontario Minister of Health, David Caplan.
This whole situation is tragic. Tragic for the individuals involved, as they were both dedicated, competent individuals. But more tragic for the people of Ontario, because it means yet more delays in building an electronic health records system that would improve health care and cut costs.
For all their competence, Dr. Hudson and Ms. Kramer were incredibly stupid in one respect. Giving out millions of dollars in untendered contracts to consulting firms hired to build the system. The fact that principals of those firms were former colleagues of the two eHealth officials is beside the point. And no one disputes the competence of the consultants, either.
But you can’t go around handing out millions of dollars of public business without a competitive tendering process.
Premier McGuinty says he’s fixed that, and there’ll be no more of it.
Dr. Hudson, in a speech just a week ago on receiving an honorary degree from the University of Toronto, observed that the idea of electronic health records has been around for 45 years but “unbelievably slow to penetrate clinical health care in a systematic fashion.” Promising better, he remarked that Ontario has set $2.3 billion aside for the job.
So far, all we know is that about $700 million has been spent on eHealth’s predecessor agency, with zero results.
Premier McGuinty needs to be more systematic about how he’s dealing with the crisis. During David Caplan’s watch at the Ministry of Health, the eHealth ship has gone on the rocks. It’s time to cast him up on the beach.
I’m not in the habit of putting profanities on this blog, but I couldn’t resist after reading what the Minister of Transport, John Baird, had to say about Toronto’s application for infrastructure stimulus funding.
What he had to say, apparently, of Toronto’s request for assistance in its proposed purchase of $1.2 billion of streetcars from Bombardier, was that the city is “bitching at us” and “should fuck off,” according to the Toronto Star.
It reminds me of the famous New York News headline from the 1970s when President Ford rejected the city’s request for financial aid:
FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD
Baird, after making his remark during an unguarded moment at the mayors’ conference in Whister, B.C., phoned Toronto Mayor David Miller to apologize. Miller said he accepted the apology.
I’m not a big fan of the idea of adding yet more streetcars that will further clog traffic on Toronto’s streets. I’d rather see this money put into developing a fleet of electric trolley buses.
Trolley buses would not stop in the middle of the street, blocking traffic, while they disgorge and take on passengers. Other cities make it work, why not Toronto?
But these kinds of arrogant comments are troubling. Coming the same day as Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt is defending her remarks (caught on an aide’s tape) about the isotope shortage, it’s not a confidence builder for the Harper government.
Ms. Raitt is being knocked for her insensitivity in referring to the crisis at Chalk River as a career builder that will win her credit for solving it. So far, she’s not done a thing to indicate she even understands the dimension of the problem, let alone has a strategy to solve it.
Her comment that she’s ready to “roll the dice” is disturbingly reminiscent of Brian Mulroney’s famous throw-away line about Meech Lake.
The 65th anniversarycommemoration of D Day this weekend is a reminder that for all the unity and common purpose that Europe exhibits today, the wounds and trauma of history’s greatest war run deep and permanent.
The moving ceremonies on the beach at Normandy on June 6, 2009, brought together the leaders of France, Britain, the United States and Canada, in a recreation (sans the Soviet Union) of the great wartime alliance.
Prime Minister Harper spoke of the sacrifices of the soldiers who went ashore in face of withering German fire. He reminded us of the principles for which Allied troops gave their lives — freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Today, a galaxy of independent European states is working together in the great experiment that is the European Union. Voters across that continent elect members to the European Parliament, creating a federal structure not unlike that of Canada. All EU members except Britain share the Euro. The UK will probably take up the Euro after the next election there.
While every European country has distinct problems and challenges, most Europeans share a desire that their continent pursue policies that will contribute to international peace and economic progress. They want no part of a renewed Cold War, or a “clash of civilizations” with the Islamic world.
Europeans have been able to accomplish the remarkable transformation from a clutch of warring states to a peaceable, collective bloc of equal states without forgetting the evils of the Nazi regime that held much of Europe in its grip from 1933 to 1945.
The leaders who spoke at the D Day ceremonies were blunt in their remembrance of the colossal tyranny of Nazism and Fascism.
While no one said as much, it is worth remembering that Hitler and his gang did not carry out their nefarious schemes, including the Holocaust, without the willing cooperation of large numbers of the German population of that time.
Dramatic evidence of the complicity of hundreds of thousands of Germans is to be found in Daniel Goildhagen’s 1996 book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (Reed).
Goldhagen’s book, now considered a classic, abolished the myth that only the Nazi party elite, or SS members, were involved in planning and executing Hitler’s “final solution.”
Goldhagen shows that vast numbers of Germans made themselves willing partners in the Holocaust. Hundreds of thousands participated in rounbding up, imprisoning and finally, executing millions of Jews and other victims. And millions of Germans knew — and supported — what was going on.
I bring this up not to castigate a generation that has long since gone to its reward. There is a more important point to make. It is that we can remember the evils of that time without visting the sins of the fathers on their Germans of today. The vigor of the European Union is testament to this noble fact.
And if reconciliation and remembrance can occur simultaneously, it should be possible for men and women of goodwill to settle other, newer problems that confront the world in the 21st century.
The lesson of Europe is the lesson of history — that people and nations can and do change, and that because of this, optimism for the future need never give way to pessimism.
I came across an interesting list of reasons why a one-time Christian no longer belives in God. Here they are, from a posting entitled “Losing my religion – Why I walked away from Christianity.” It’s at thebeattitude.com.
Last fall, I finally moved past guilt and admitted to myself that I no longer believe in Jesus or the god of the Bible. Surprisingly it was a relief. Not because I wanted to run wild and sin freely, but because I no longer felt the weight a Christian carries. The weight of guilt, unworthiness and fear of god’s judgement. I continue to spend my days striving to be a good husband, father and son. I help others in need around me as often as I can. The big difference is I do these things today because it brings me joy, not because I believe it brings an imaginary god joy.
For those wondering, here is a condensed “Top 20 List” of the things that led to my rejection of Christianity.
- God is wrathful, jealous, hateful, and kills nations of people like it is a bodily function. He is certainly not just or “holy” in nature.
- The act of throwing people into infinite torture and punishment for not believing a Jewish guy from 2,000 years ago was God’s son, or unknowingly worshiping the wrong god, is extremely cruel and sadistic.
- The statements, “God works in mysterious ways,” or “It will all make sense in heaven,” are little more than irrational cop outs. This God allows horrible atrocities to be committed against innocent men, women and children every day.
- Bloody animal and human sacrifices are illogical demands by a divine god as payment for petty wrong doings. These actions are no different than the rituals of archaic pagan religions. Not to mention the bizarre ritual of symbolically drinking human blood and eating human flesh.
- If God loves us and wants us to know and believe in him, why be so completely invisible? What is the purpose of being so illusive to those who believe and worship him?
- God never manifests himself or performs miracles as he regularly did for the Israelites in Old Testament stories.
- Prayers are never answered. Certainly not in the way Jesus described. Prayer has absolutely no affect on the world around us.
- Jesus did not fulfill major Old Testament prophesies or even fulfill his own promises and predictions.
- The authors of much of the Bible are unknown. And of these unknown authors, the men who wrote the gospels likely never even met Jesus considering they were written 40-70 years after his death. A far cry from reliable testimony.
- The Bible is repeatedly contradictory with itself, reality, and the laws of morality. Couldn’t God inspire a less poorly written book?
- The Bible is open to interpretation. Everyone interprets it in the way that suits them best or serves their purposes.
- Throughout history, Christians have justified horrific actions by the Bible and its teaching.
- The Bible promotes hate and persecution against womehomosexuals and those who worship other gods or no god at all.
- According to the Bible, nearly 70% percent of the people in the world will burn in hell because they don’t believe Jesus was the son of God.
- The only reason I was a Christian was because I was indoctrinated into the religion as a child as a result of the culture and region of the world in which I was born.
- Christianity has no more rational or factual foundation than any other religion on earth that I openly reject.
- The Christian church is disjointed and can’t even agree with one another.
- Christians are not at all ethically or morally different from non-Christians.
- Today, powerful church leaders steal, lie and molest young children. The church repeatedly attempts to cover up these atrocities, only to reluctantly apologize as a last resort.
- It is absolutely irrational to continue to believe archaic teaching with the amount of knowledge we’ve gained through science and technology. The Bible reads like a book of primitive folklore, not divinely inspired insight into our true reason for existence.