Monthly Archives: March 2007

A Made In Canada Shame

There has been, of course, a lot of noise and criticism of the Harper government’s shameful betrayal of Canada’s commitment to the Kyoto accord, citing preference for a “made in Canada” solution. Less attention has been given, however, to another “K” accord that represents a possibly even more shameful made-in-Canada betrayal. From the day Stephen Harper’s government was elected with a mere 36.3% of the vote, despite some feeble public relations exercises to the contrary, the Kelowna Accord never had a chance.

Signed by Paul Martin in what he didn’t realize was the twilight of his government’s life, the Kelowna Accord represented a historic agreement between the Government of Canada and Aboriginal peoples that sought to “improve the education, employment, and living conditions” for Canada’s natives. Two Conservative budgets and a private member’s bill vote later, the agreement is effectively dead. Harper apparently didn’t consider it a priority, and we know how he feels about priorities.

Adding to the disgrace (regular readers will note that “disgrace” and “shameful” are not words I use often or take lightly) this week was Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice, who is refusing to apologize for native residential schools, again despite a written commitment from the previous government.

Some quick background. Starting in 1874, native children were forcibly removed from their homes by the RCMP and taken to these schools. They were not allowed to speak their own language, even amongst each other. They didn’t see their parents for months. Many were physically and sexually abused. A 1909 report found that the mortality rate at residential schools in Western Canada was 35%-60% within five years. The explicitly stated goal of these schools was the assimilation of native society into European culture. And the last school did not close until 1996.

I happened to visit the site of a former residential school this past weekend. Keeping the above in mind as we drove down the tree-lined driveway towards a grandly intimidating building at its termination was, shall we say, chilling. Keeping the above in mind while listening to Jim Prentice explain that Canada has nothing to apologize for because “the underlying objective [of residential schools] had been to try and provide an education to aboriginal children,” was, quite literally, infuriating.

Let’s not mince words. Either Prentice is shockingly ignorant of history or he is defending what were racist policies designed to eradicate Canada’s first nations through forced assimilation. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence pointing towards ignorance.

An apology would be only a modest first step in the right direction, and this government is walking the other way.

Nomination Crashers

Claire and I crashed the Toronto Centre Liberal nomination meeting tonight. (How amused was I to see at least four or five other people at the meeting who I know are supporting my campaign? We exchanged knowing glances and Sting-style nose-taps. I guess it was just the place to be.) As of right now neither the blogosphere nor Google News are reporting the results of the vote between Bob Rae and Meredith Cartwright.

In conversation with Rob Oliphant and Mathieu Chantelois (a former nomination contestant and once rumoured nomination contestant, respectively) I heard a funny story. First though, some background.

A few weeks back I was sitting outside of Starbucks on Church Street with some friends, people watching. One man walked by wearing a Michael Ignatieff scarf. “Hey look,” we said. “That guy’s wearing a Michael Ignatieff scarf.” Then, two minutes later, Bob Rae walked by. “Hey look,” we said. “There’s Bob Rae.” So I got up and introduced myself as the Green candidate, we chatted for a bit, and then he continued on his walk.

Now, back to the nomination meeting. When Rob introduced me to Mathieu as the nominated Green candidate, Mathieu said, “oh, so you work at Starbucks.” Not having the above story fresh in my mind, I thought he was making some strange joke. (“Because the Starbucks sign is green?,” I thought.) But yes, as it turns out there’s a story going around in the Rae campaign (Mathieu hadn’t heard this directly from Bob) that Bob met me when I sold him a coffee.

No? Ok, well, it was funny to me.

New Low

It’s no secret that I don’t have a lot of love for Stephen Harper, but yesterday he sunk to such a new low that even I was surprised.

For the past few days, opposition parties have been asking the government questions about the handling of Afgan detainees because, well, there’s mounting evidence that we may be implicated in their torture, and because when they asked defence minister Gordon O’Connor about it he — what’s the term again? — “mislead” the House. So, you can see why they’d be concerned.

Harper responded by saying that, just because they asked those questions, those MPs obviously cared more about Taliban prisoners than Canadian soldiers. He subsequently refused to apologize. In other words, not only has “you’re either with us or against us” migrated to Canada, somehow concern for human rights is now anti-Canadian.

Speaking of which, I will remind you today, on World Water Day, that under this government Canada still refuses to declare water a human right. (So, what is it then? A privilege?)

I used to think comparisons of Stephen Harper to George Bush were exaggerated and unfair. Not any more.