Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Resonable Descrimination

A number of weeks ago a Muslim security worker at Pearson airport was suspended for wearing an ankle length skirt instead of the regulation knee length skirt or pants. In another instance, 11 year old girls were kicked out of sporting competitions in Manitoba & Quebec for refusing to remove their hijab. Further clarifications determined the safety concern was the hijab could fall over a competitors eyes or used as a weapon. Most recently a teenage girl was the victim of an "honour" killing by her father for refusing to wear the hijab.

Also in recent events, a University of Toronto cafeteria began carrying halal food. The Muslim student body refused to give their endorsement fearing that it would undermine their desire to open a halal cafeteria that doesn't serve alcohol. This resulted in a tremendous backlash at the idea of a university cafeteria not having a liquor license.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, reelected in October, declared that non-Catholic religious schools posed a threat to society. The Parti Quebecois proposed a law requiring a Quebec citizenship seperate from their Canadian citizenship. Those who did not speak adequate French would be forbidden from petitioning the National Assembly for help or running for public office. In the aftermath NHL Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu came under fire for his language skills.

A few months ago it became public knowledge that Pearson airport had installed a foot washing station in one of the bathrooms on behalf of the Muslim community. A local radio station had multiple callers state they were against this accommodation because it would be vandalized. Does any city in the world take into consideration likelihood of vandalism when requiring or approving building permits for bathrooms?

In other years these incidents would have been seen as isolated events, but coming on the heels of each other I think we need to pay a bit more attention.

Both sets of events serve to separate "us" from "them". Many of them bring out sentiments that immigrants are demanding that the Canadian way of life be altered to make it more like the country they fled from. Everyone should adopt to the 'Canadian' (meaning Christian) way of life or go 'home'. This argument is made in the name of preserving the values Canada was built on. But what are those values and what happens when we stand up for them?

Earlier this year the Quebec town of Herouxville made headlines when they passed a code of conduct for immigrants. Making the headlines were their outlawing practises already protected by Canadian law such as public stoning and equality of women. The result was the Bouchard-Taylor commission designed to address the issue of reasonable accommodation for immigrants and religious minorities.

Representatives from the community testified to the commission. Their rules include:

*Christmas is celebrated in public, in schools, institutions private or public. Christmas is secular and no area will be reserved for prayer or religious manifestations. No one is allowed to be offended by these customs.

*In all public health care institutions, patients eat the traditional food that is served to them.

*In schools, no space is provided for prayer or other forms of religious manifestations.

*In business; no collective labour agreement should authorize employers to assure their employees of special space(s) reserved for praying, or leaves of absence for religious motives.
Working schedules stretch over a daily period of 24 hours; having to work after sundown is frequent.

*No food products may receive any certification after it passes the mandatory government inspection.

*Prisoners relinquish all of their religious liberties. There is to be no accommodation for religious dietary requirements and no areas allocated for prayer.

*"Generally, we believe that different Gods, out of respect for their own creatures and their nourishment, cannot impose nor proscribe certain foods."

*"Our recent history clearly demonstrates that it is possible to be accommodated by God in order to be able to subscribe to modern society. Fifty years ago, when employers asked us to work on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the Catholic God permitted that we break our obligations to assure the welfare of our families. This enabled us to avoid asking our employers to build churches on our working premises. Recently, the National Assembly allowed the opening of retail stores on Sunday. This same God accommodated us once again, sparing Hell to the faithful. After many years of observance of God’s order to fast during Lent, we had to give up this religious practise to have sufficient energy to work and study hard. Then again, by the grace of God and his sense of accommodations, we were able to avoid the promise of roasting in Hell after death."

So we all need to adopt the "Canadian way of life" and that life is secular Christian weather we like it or not.

When France abandoned Quebec the British were left with a tough decision. They took possession of a territory with different language, laws and territory allocation. How would they assimilate these people to become loyal British citizens without having a rebellion? They decided to respect the people of Quebec and allow them to preserve their own identity. While it didn't help reach the goals of assimilation, it established the true Canadian value that everyone can contribute to society in their own unique way. The results will benefit society as a whole.

Over a century later across the ocean in Russia citizens were looking for their own Utopia. They decided that if everyone was treated exactly the same they could live together in perfect harmony. In the Soviet Union under communism the opposite happened. People lived in fear as neighbour would spy upon neighbour for any sign of sinking outside of the accepted norms. Such a crime could result in a trip to Siberia or death. The eventual rejection of communism solidifies that one way of thinking for everyone is not the best foundation for a prosperous society.

Those who trumpet suspending minority rights to protect 'Canadian' identity are causing the erosion of one of the most core Canadian values. Everyone has the ability to contribute. By allowing everyone to contribute to society as they see fit, Canada will continue to set an example of prosperity with true harmony from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds from around the world. Attempts to destroy this harmony will result undermining all that is truly Canadian.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Hunting for witches

On Friday the government released a report investigating polling practises of the previous Liberal government. The purpose of the report was to determine if there was grounds for a judicial inquiry. The final results indicated no wrong doing by the Liberals. It also pointed out that spending has increased under the current Conservative government. The increase in spending could be tied directly to the PMO.

The pettiness and instability of the minority government is enticing all sides to conduct partisan witch hunts. Political games only serve to hurt the party throwing the mud. They need to stop. Unfortunately it will probably take a majority government to end these partisan witch hunts.

Mulroney reports to the circus

On Thursday, Brian Mulroney finally had an opportunity to respond to allegations surrounding money he received from Schreiber and connections to the airbus scandal. We now have he said vs he said story, which puts the burden of proof on the accuser.

Mulroney admits to taking a total of $225, 000 in cash vs $300,000 claimed by Schreiber. Mulroney eventually paid income tax on the payments but not the GST. Schreiber justified this by saying that it was for work performed over seas which is GST exempt. Mulroney confirmed that he would only lobby for Schreiber outside of Canada. Both men agree that the money being investigated has no connection to the airbus scandal.

Schreiber has alleged that he was instructed through a third party to send money to a Swiss bank account as a kick back for the air bus scandal. The alleged person died two years. Hard evidence will be required to back up this claim.

At this point, it appears that there will not be sufficient evidence to prove that Mulroney did anything illegal. Harper can easily justify his actions and keep his hands clean of this scandal. Within 2 years Schreiber should be on a plane to Germany to spend the rest of his life behind bars. As for the ethics question, people will need to decide if they believe a dishonest business man facing charges for bribery or a former unpopular Prime Minister. This may be seen as a tough decision but the lack of supporting evidence tips the scale in Mulroney's favour.

It looks like this scandal will not carry the political weight to be a factor in a spring election. There are far more important issues that have relevance to Canadians.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Smoking in cars

Previously, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has rejected the idea of banning smoking in cars with children due to the slippery slope argument. A private members bill calling for a fine between $200 - $1000 for those caught smoking in a care with children is gaining support. McGuinty has changed his position to 'neutral' and he is willing to listen to what Ontarians have to say.

The current stigma against smokers is well deserved for all of the negative side effects both social and medical. The government should be commended for most of the steps taken to protect the general public from second hand smoke. Most responsible smokers are aware of the dangers and take steps to avoid exposing their children to second hand smoke.

The problem with this proposed legislation is it expands the powers of the state to control parenting decisions. The Ontario Medical Association states that second hand smoke is 23 times more concentrated then in a small room. The Ontario Lung Association says that enforcing such a law is no different than mandatory seat belt or car seat laws.

There is one major difference. Seat belts only protect motorists while they are in their vehicle. Smoking can take place anywhere and poses a danger to children even if they are not in a car. If a parent is subjecting a child to second hand smoke in a car, they are probably doing the same in the home. A car ban will not protect these children unless the state enforces non-smoking around children in the home. The slippery slope begins.

Where does the government draw the line for protecting children? Due to the health risks trans fats have started being banned from public schools. Will there eventually be legislation banning parents from feeding their children food with trans fats? Could parents who smoke or consume trans fats be declared unfit parents and have their children taken away? Once the government starts establishing the standards of 'acceptable risk' for children the possibilities of how far things can get out of hand are endless.

As long as cigarettes sales remain legal the government must limit how far they are willing to act in the interests of public safety. Non-smokers need to be able to be free to avoid the dangers of second hand smoke. Public education needs to continue to reduce smoking. The government choosing to micro manage family dynamics and which risks are acceptable for children is the first step to creating a police state.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Circus moves to the legislature

On the eve of the massacre of 14 women at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique, the timing was right for parliament to debate women's issues. The Liberal National Women's Caucus presented their pink book. Their recommendations should play an important part in the Liberal election platform.

On theme NDP Irene Mathyssen launched accusations against Conservative James Moore was viewing 'scantily clad' women on his laptop in the legislature. Aside from discrediting Moore for acting inappropriately on the job, it was foundation for attacks against the Conservatives lack of respect for women and women's programs.

When the dust settled rookie MP Mathyssen (Vice Chair of the status of women committee) had to own up to an embarrassing mistake. The pictures were of Moore's girlfriend. An apology will be issued in the legislature tomorrow.

May this be a lesson to other MPs that are looking for opportunities to sling mud for short term gain. Make sure your facts are correct. Try to focus on the business of running the country instead of ineffective partisan jabs.

Ministry of Transportation to fix laughable mistake

The Ministry of Transportation rejected an application to have replacement plates for REV JO after 19 years. The original reason sighted was that the term 'REV' could encourage speed racing. An alternative REVRNJO was rejected because it represented religion. The silliness of the decision made big news and the 9 person committee was forced to reconsider the original decision. They once again rejected plates because REV could refer to an alcoholic drink and encourage drunk driving.

Premier Dalton McGuinty stepped to the plate to bring common sense to the issue. All plates that have already been issued will be allowed to be renewed. The government will set new guidelines for license plates next year.

The government thinks very highly of the impact of license plates. Does a license plate really have more impact on fellow drivers than (currently unregulated) bumper stickers? At least bumper stickers offer a clear message instead of plates that are open to various interpretations.

The new guidelines should be simple, easy to apply consistently while keeping in mind the fundamentals of freedom of speech. Plates should be banned if they use foul language or in appropriate sexual references. The system used to put in guidelines for media could be easily transferred. Plates that promote hatred or discrimination should also be banned. Anything more complicated will be difficult to define and apply. This will allow the free expression vanity plates were meant to provide to motorists.

Anyone making decisions on drunk driving, speeding or any other bad driving habits based on someones licence plate, do not deserve to have a drivers license.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Ottawa Circus

On Tuesday, Karl Heinz Schreiber had his second day of testimony before the parliamentary ethics committee. Once again while providing enough testimony to keep politicians interested he stated that the $300,000 being investigated had nothing to do with the Airbus scandal. If Schreiber as the key witness sticks to his story, the public inquiry will not throw any dirt on the Conservatives and could be opened to investigate his relationship with the Liberals in 1993/1994.

Liberal chair of the committee, Paul Szabo started Tuesday with a statement apologizing for an incident where Schreiber under police escort to his home to view documents had his pants fall down. Police did not provide him with a belt which is normally taken away in prison. Szabo then went on to chastise those who referred to the hearings as a circus by elaborating the political and legal importance of the committee.

The self righteous attitude of Szabo and co-chair Pat Martin (NDP) speak volumes for why this committee has turned into a circus. They had to apologize over an incident they had no control over. It would not come as a surprise if they launched an inquiry into the events surround Schreiber's pants. Was this an intentional attempt to discredit the star witness?

The committee may have the legal authority to conduct an investigation. There are better mechanisms to deal with this issue including the RCMP and a public inquiry. If Szabo and Martin are not careful they may end up being caught with their own pants down (figuratively of course)

Enviornmentalism and Realty

One of the challenges the environmental movement has faced is connecting to average people in a meaningful way. On Tuesday the Toronto Star published an article on the environmental damage caused by divorce. This is another example of finding blame for the state of the environment without any meaningful practical insight.

The study concludes that divorce hurts the environment because multiple households consume more resources that would otherwise be optimized in a single household unit. The conclusion should be classified in the no brainer department.

Jianguo Liu who co-authored the report offers a solution to the environment impact of divorce, "If people really can't get along and have to get divorced, maybe they could consider getting remarried with somebody else, or staying together with somebody they like – their relatives, or whatever..." "...Separation, prolonged singledom and empty nesters present the same environmental challenges, "

If improving the environment is going to have any hope for success, solutions that incorporate the realities people face are key. Ignoring sociological and economic factors are a recipe for failure.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Liberals finally election ready

As predicted here on October 23, it looks like we can expect a spring election. Stepane Dion has declared the Liberals will be ready in February, March or April.

Dion is suggesting that the Liberals may force an election before the spring budget. Triggering an election would offset support that is bound to come from a popular budget. It would also allow the maximum benefit of the Schreiber/Mulroney inquiry.

Toppoling the government will require support from the Bloc Quebecois. Harper learned under the Martin government that the BQ cannot always be counted on for support. The BQ are willing to vote against the government on confidence motions, while pulling back their own MPs to keep the government alive if it serves their own agenda. The Bourchard Taylor commision is due to submit their report on reasonable accomodation on March 31, 2008. Based on the testimoney that has come before the commision it is likely that the report is going to rekindle seperatist sentament in Quebec. The BQ are going to be willing to wait for this much needed breath of fresh air before going to the polls.

It looks like Dion is going to have to wait topple the government on the budget after all. At least there is a chance that the election will be decided on real issues instead of meaningless partisan rhetoric.