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Perfidy! The UN and the Goldstone Libel
[October 26 2009]
“Every day at the U.N., on every side,
we are assailed because we are a democracy. In the U.N. today there are in
the range of several dozen democracies left; totalitarian regimes and
assorted ancient and modern despotisms make up all the rest.”
Nothing so unites these nations as the conviction that their success
ultimately depends on our failure. Most of the new states have ended up as
enemies of freedom.” Those words were not expressed yesterday. They were
spoken over thirty years ago by Daniel Patrick Moynihan while serving as US
Ambassador to the UN. They are as true today as they were then.
It is in the context of “enemies of freedom” that we can best understand the
perfidy of UN actions. Particularly those of its Human Rights Council. If
there was ever an oxymoronic designation for anything, this is it. In recent
years the Council has been presided over and guided by such champions of
Human Rights as Libya, Cuba and China.
This past Friday the Council endorsed a report that accused Israel of war
crimes in Gaza, passing a resolution that singled it out for censure without
referring to wrongdoing by Palestinian hard-liners Hamas. A coalition of
Arab, Muslim and leftist-run Latin American countries in the 47-member
Council were responsible for its passage. No European democracies supported
the draft, and the United States, the Ukraine and four EU members opposed
it. The author of the report, South African lawyer Richard Goldstone,
criticized the Council’s resolution as being one-sided. “This draft
resolution saddens me as it includes only allegations against Israel,” he
told the Swiss newspaper Le Temps. “There is not a single phrase condemning
Hamas as we have done in the report. I hope that the Council can modify the
Poor Richard. He is saddened. My oh my. One wonders if anyone living in this
dangerous world has a right to such dangerous naïveté. It was inherent in
the process of his own Commission that the outcome would be predetermined.
His 574-page report itself largely focused on Israel, but in its conclusions
suggests both Israel and Hamas investigate war crimes allegations against
their respective sides. Even that small nod to equity was dispensed with by
the full Council in its Friday vote.
And what did Goldstone think when he undertook his mandate, that the Council
would suddenly change its anti-Israel bias? The Human Rights Council, which
replaced the discredited Human Rights Commission several years ago, is still
dominated by dictatorships and theocratic tyrannies.
It is obsessed with denouncing democratic Israel. It has targeted some 80%
of its resolutions at one member state, Israel, while the major human rights
violators enjoy, what Irwin Cotler has called, “ exculpatory immunity.” The
Council has had more emergency “Special Sessions” directed against Israel
than against all the other countries of the world combined. The Council
hearing last week was the sixth “Special Session” on Israel in the last
three years alone. And the Council excludes only one country – Israel – from
membership in any regional grouping, thereby denying it international due
But Richard Goldstone himself must also shoulder much of the blame for the
predictably biased outcome. The Commission was replete with anti-Israel
prejudice . First, it’s very terms of reference drew an equivalence between
the actions of Israel in self-defence and those of Hamas in blatant
aggression seeking to destroy it. Goldstone had the temerity to call the
12,000 Hamas rocket attacks “reprisals”. Second, the Commission was
imbalanced focusing as it did on Israel’s faults with no consideration for
its right under international customary and statutory law to self-defense
Third, the Commission failed to consider the intolerant and psychotic
pan-Islamic ideology that drives Hamas and chose to treat it like any other
state party. In so doing it legitimated, by inference, Hamas practices
including the use of civilians as human shields. Fourth, Goldstone failed to
act against London School of Economics professor Christine Chinkin’s
presence on the Commission after she declared Israel guilty of “aggression”
and “war crimes” in an interview with a London newspaper. Her statement was
made prior to seeing any evidence. Finally, the Report spent only two pages
on the thousands of Israeli victims of years of Hamas bombings.
The Goldstone Commission’s perfidious libel against Israel went even deeper
in its central foundational principle. It colored with moral relativism and
no distinction Israel’s thousands of cell phone calls warning Gaza
civilians; Israel’s thousands of texts warning civilians; Israel’s hundreds
of thousands of leaflets in Arabic dropped warning civilians; Israel’s
medical facilities set up on the edge of Gaza to treat civilians.; Israel’s
delivery of food to feed civilians with Hamas hiding in civilian areas;
firing from the cover of Gazan civilians against Israeli civilians in Sderot
and Ashkelon; Hamas use of ambulances for military purposes; Hamas’ use of
mosques as armament depots and rocket launching pads; Hamas shootings of the
legs of Gazan civilians refusing to help or aid in the targeting of Israel.
Richard Goldstone is at the bar of history. He has acknowledged that his
mandate was “a biased uneven-handed resolution of the UN Human Rights
Council” but believed that he had an expanded, even-handed mandate from the
Council President. He has acknowledged that the mandate was not supported by
the leading democratic members of the Human Rights Council – the European
Union, Japan, Canada, and Switzerland. He has acknowledged that the
Commission’s findings would “not stand up in a court.” Yet he still went on
with this evil work.
The Council was not moved by truth or objective witness. Col. Richard Kemp,
a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, told the council that
war crimes accusations against the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) were
misplaced. “The IDF faces a challenge that we British do not have to face to
the same extent. It is the automatic, Pavlovian presumption by many in the
international media, and international human rights groups, that the IDF are
in the wrong.” He argued Israeli forces took “extraordinary measures” to
give civilians in Gaza notice of targeted areas, including dropping two
million leaflets and making 100,000 phone calls. “Despite all of this, of
course innocent civilians were killed. War is chaos and full of mistakes.
There have been mistakes by the British, American and other forces in
Afghanistan and in Iraq, many of which can be put down to human error. But
mistakes are not war crimes,” Col. Kemp said.
No indictment could be as searing as the words written to Goldstone by his
old friend from South Africa Brenda Press Fix. She wrote to him in a letter
that, “I am bewildered by the direction you have taken as part of the United
Nations Human Rights Council. This rogue Council has been tainted by a
membership that does not condemn Iranian tyranny, Chinese oppression,
African despotism but spends their time condemning one country unjustly,
Israel. The Goldstone Commission bears your name. One would expect the
mandate of any report to be objective so that your name could be respected
and a legacy ensured. Instead your committee ignored the facts, embraced
bias and rendered the report bearing your name, illegitimate.” This report
did not arise from ignorance or naiveté. I am trying so hard to resist the
conclusion that your role and report might represent a self-serving desire
to ingratiate yourself for a more senior position in the kangaroo court
called the United Nations. But if true-and one hopes that this is not the
case-at what price? Association with the infamous U.N. garners no respect so
why would anyone seek to be head inmate at the U.N. Asylum?”
So egregious has been the Goldstone process, that it may have actually
achieved a new low in the decades long assault by the United Nationsl
against Israel, the frontline nation in the family of the free defying the
onslaught of Islamism. One can understand why the Inter-Parliamentary
Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA), co-founded by Mount-Royal MP
Irwin Cotler and British MP John Mann, expressed “shock at the absence of
any mention in the Goldstone Report of the anti Jewish incitement in the
Hamas Charter which the London Declaration obliges Parliamentarians to
expose and unmask.
The Founding Conference of ICCA adopted the London Declaration to Combat
Anti-Semitism which in Section 6 resolves that ‘never again will the
institutions of the international community and the dialogue of nation
states be abused to try to establish any legitimacy for anti-Semitism,
including the singling out of Israel for discriminatory treatment in the
international arena.’ The consideration of the Goldstone Report under a
Special Agenda Item of the UN Human Rights Council singling out Israeli
human rights violations – and now holding a ‘Special Session’ on such
violations – constitutes a flagrant double abuse of UN institutions. “
The issues raised by ICCA are troubling and dark. How much of a role
anti-Semitism plays at the UN is a subject for another column. But one
parallel may be drawn. Anti-Semitism denies equal rights to individual
Jewish expression within a particular society. Anti-Zionism denies equal
rights to collective Jewish expression within the broad community of
nations. The former denies Jews’ lawful particularity, the latter denies
Jews’ lawful sovereignty. Both are manifestations of exclusiveness and
intolerance. They represent the message and metaphor of contempt. The
imagery and iconography of hate.
Sadly today, Moynihan’s profile of the UN stands. The tyrannies continue to
monopolize the UN agenda with anti-western rampages and rants not for
anything the west does wrong, but precisely for what it does right. Live
free. These theocratic tyrants and dime-store despots cannot compete on the
battlefield of liberty. They dare not expose their peoples to the bright
light of freedom. And today, as a generation ago, their success ultimately
depends on crushing the west, for only thus will they be able to keep
plundering – morally and materially - their imprisoned peoples.
The private lives of public people
[October 14 2009]
"It is the function of vice to keep virtue
within reasonable bounds." - Samuel Butler
We take no position on the morality of David
Letterman's conduct. It is neither our place nor anyone else's for that
matter. The private lives of public people should be just that. Private.
Media feeding the salacious appetites of the lesser angels of our spirits
has truly become tiresome. But there is one aspect of the Letterman affair
that is worthy of comment. The refreshing candour that he has handled it
There is only one exception to our statement
that private lives of public people should be private. That is when a public
person reaches or maintains their position based on the propagation of false
pieties. If they are caught, then they are fair game. You can push "family
values" all you like, but you better not get hoisted on your own petard.
David Letterman certainly never painted
himself as a choirboy. That alone was refreshing. But what showed even more
character was his candour and directness in addressing the issue. Both in
making light of anyone thinking that affairs were so scandalous, and then
being open about the fact that he would have a lot of work to do making it
up to his wife.
He did it all without any crocodile tears. We
have seen so many public people get away with murder just by crying. It has
almost become de riguer in personal crisis management. It's enough already.
Letterman sets a better standard.
We as a society have to stop feeding our
appetite for gratuitous cannibalism and blue-haired morality. It is fake.
And lessens us as people. No one should have the right to impose standards
of personal morality as litmus tests for suitability for public life unless
the personal directly impacts the ability to perform public duties. This
kind of self-censoring nannyism opens the door to corrosive and nanny-statism.
And we don't need any more of that.
We could do worse than to look to Europe for
an example. Personal morality is not under the microscope as a precursor to
public efficiency. At the funeral of French President Mitterand, his wife
and their children sat on one side of the church while his mistress and
their child sat on the other. No hiding.
If today's blue-haired recidivism was in such
public vogue, North America might have lost some its greatest leaders. FDR,
Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ and Clinton all had mistresses. Our own Prime Minister
Trudeau certainly had an active social life.
When Trudeau said that government has no place
in the bedrooms of the nation he also meant that it had no role regulating
actions of consenting adults. We should follow that notion in our daily
judgments of public people. Not everything is going to be perfect in life.
No person will always behave above reproach. And our public philosophy
should stop forcing people into straitjacket morality that seeks to
micro-manage every aspect of our lives. We need to abandon this new
What the new prohibitionists share is an
anti-liberal sentiment. This mindset would have cost us Modigliani's
painting, Dylan Thomas' poetry, Hemingway's novels and even Tom Paine's
polemics. Political correctness and temperance does not produce greatness.
It makes our lives devoid of passion or purpose. It has been written that
great people have great appetite. And that is perhaps as it should be.
But there is one thing that even Letterman
could learn. People who live in glass houses really shouldn't throw stones.
Heed Neda's call! Tehran
[July 4, 2009]
The pictures flood us. They flood us with
pride, poignancy and pathos. A people struggling to be free. The images come
from around the world. From citizens of Tehran confronting the terror of
theocratic tyrants, to students marching in the streets of Paris to
Montrealers — some using walkers — standing up and being counted. The
palpable reality of mankind’s transcendent yearning for redemptive change.
They flood us too with memory and witness. Budapest 1956. Prague 1968.
Gdansk 1980. Wenceslas Square 1989. Tiananmen Square 1989. Berlin 1989. Kiev
2004. Tehran 2009. Everybody just wants to be free. Velvet revolutions and
Prague springs. Some succeed, some fail. But what is so inspiring —
particularly to a North America grown apathetic to the slow undoing of
personal liberty — is that there are people ready to die for freedom. To
spend one day as a lion — the symbol of pre-Mullah Iran — than a lifetime as
But there is a series of images that overwhelm
even the brutality of all the others. Of police batons cracking heads; of
Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ water cannons spouting boiling water searing
skin and eyes and lips. The image of a beautiful young Iranian woman
dropping to her knees, her face frozen in shock as she feels the impact of a
bullet. The next of her lying on the street being tended to by passersby,
one screaming “Don’t be afraid!” The third of her dying, eyes rolled back
and blood spouting from her mouth and nose. Neda Agha Soltan, dubbed the
“Angel of Freedom” as her image sped around the world through the efforts of
citizen journalists and their cameraphones, was not even a demonstrator.
That made her death even more tragic. Drove home the point even more of the
indiscriminate terror even against innocents of the Mullahs’ regime.
Ironically her name, Neda, means “the call”. Yes, we must all heed the call.
“Democracy is the best revenge,” Bilawal Bhutto Zardari quoted his mother
Benazir Bhutto as saying soon after her assassination in January 2008. That
could be the credo for those in the streets of Tehran. They fight for us
They fight for sanity. They represent hope. What happens in Iran over the
next while will determine much. A free Iran will radically change everything
from the borders of Pakistan to the Israeli seacoast. What is happening in
It matters because as members of the family of the free we are reminded
again that the survival and success of liberty comes at a high price and is
by no means assured. It matters because despite some fleeting happy
encounters with progress the history of mankind is riddled with spectacular
and frequent failures. It matters because if we do not resolve to turn back
the darkness those failures will haunt us forever. In the dead of night we
will feel those failures like thin, humid rivulets of sweat crawling over
us. Mankind’s failures to beat back tyranny has cost us dearly. Perhaps we
should be haunted.
Haunted by the mounds of ashes that once were one and a half million smiling
children playing in the streets of “civilized” Europe. Haunted by the
bloated bodies floating in the Yangtze of Mao’s China. Haunted by the
corpses frozen in the wastes of Stalin’s Gulag. Haunted by the betrayal of
the free people of Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Haunted by the killing fields
of Cambodia. Haunted by the bodies rotting in the jungles of Rwanda and in
the fetid fields of the Balkans. And haunted today by the memory of the
devastated of Darfur, victims of the 21st century’s first genocide.
The consequence of failure will be dire. We cannot afford to have the hope
in Tehran snuffed out. It is a beacon for enslaved millions living under the
oppressive regimes of the Islamist middle rim of this small planet. French
poet Paul Valéry once wrote that «La liberté est l'épreuve la plus dure que
nous pouvons infliger sur un gens. Savoir comment être libre n'est pas donné
à tous les hommes et toutes les nations également. » Committing ourselves,
and teaching others, how to be free is the greatest testament and witness we
can propound for the bold and the brave in the streets of Tehran.
A freer, fairer, richer
[July 4 2009]
transparency? Inform the people of your decisions and leave more than a few
hours a month for the public to ask questions. Montreal as an international
city attracting world business? Stop the culture wars and make a tax free
zone downtown for tourists. Transport? Build a highway and rail link
parallel to the 20 through Turcot. Economic development? Cut social
engineering and nanny state programs. Get rid of the boroughs. Reduce the
size of government like New York and Toronto. And give the savings back in
lowered taxes to Montrealers, particularly the small business people who
create 80% of our jobs. Urban planning? Develop air rights and stop the
empty talk of ‘sustainable development’ in a city with a third of our
households below the poverty line. Governance? Talk straight to the people.
They are not stupid. Just tired.”
Sadly, Montrealers today have little choice among the
leading contenders for city hall. Both sides, if still wedded to their
current opportunism, would leave us all in virtual straitjackets.
We must not be satisfied. We must not be satisfied because
not one of the candidates for the mayoralty of Montreal are discussing the
issues that matter most. None are proposing solutions to our most basic
challenges. None are examining the actions we need to take for Montreal.
They run to oppose each other for a job. None has proposed needed policies.
They run on the politics of demonization and deflection. They fail in their
duty. It is time for a fundamental, transformational change. It is time to
make Montreal freer, fairer and richer. Time to stop demonizing citizens
through rules and regulations that are nothing more than back-door tax
grabs. Time to stop deflecting from core responsibilities through projects
and programs that are questionable in their purpose and practicality. Time
to end the profligate pilferage of our pockets for ends that no need
demanded and no suffrage affirmed.
There comes a time in the affairs between governors and
governed that every action of the public administration excites the people’s
distrust and every failure to act excites their contempt. That is where we
are in Montreal. All social contracts between citizens and state inherently
demand some cession of liberty and treasure. But those cessions are made for
the provision of services. Nothing more. The contract does not demand
abdication of our individual prerogatives. It cannot — under any concept of
natural justice and equity — be allowed to dictate our personal passions and
poetries. Under no circumstances may it be construed to make citizens feel
culpable for the simple act of being human and bearing the heavy yoke of
nullification and interposition imposed by uncompassionate authority. And
finally, it does not allow for the imposition of additional
financial burdens on the public in the form of punitive penalties for
services they are
already taxed for and supposedly carried out by the groaning bureaucracy of
the civic administration.
Sadly, Montrealers today have little choice among the
leading contenders for city hall. We have an incumbent administration that
has broken much of the social contract through sins of omission. Its main
challenger is an unholy alliance of two of the fiercest statocratic social
engineers whose public lives have been characterized by sins of commission.
The former taxes first, explains never. The latter demonizes first,
discusses never. Both are manifestations of a revived prohibitionism, a
recurring virus when our public life turns feckless and fey. Both sides, if
still wedded to their current opportunism, would leave us all in virtual
Current policies leave us all victimized. We need to demand
our freedom back. Perhaps it is as a coalition of victims that we need to
rise up, come together and say “enough is enough”, “assez c’est assez”.
Enough of years of suffocating law and legislation. Enough of students being
fined $500 for sitting with their feet on the wrong side of a concrete
enclosure in Emilie-Gamelin Park. Enough of garbage inspectors in Old
Montreal and NDG opening our refuse bags to find our address in order to
send $1,000 fines because we put the bags out too early. Enough of merchants
on Park Ave. being fined hundreds of dollars for not cutting weeds on city
Enough of downtown landlords being fined because their
restaurant or bar tenants do not have “official” ashtrays screwed in next to
their entrances. Enough of fines that criminalize the homeless. Enough of
increases in parking meter rates while the city is hiding record profits.
Enough of merchants being responsible for cleaning public sidewalks in front
of their premises. Enough of boroughs like Ville-Marie instituting some of
the most egregious fines on innocent behaviour and advertising them in
pamphlets with bold type that state the “guilty will be punished”. And
guilty of what? Being human, dropping a candy-bar wrapper, smoking a
cigarette and not willing to have the responsibilities of city workers
offloaded on their backs. We need to be free again. Nous besoins un
Montrealers are already the highest taxed urban citizens in
North America. Some 20 months ago we were hit with the highest tax increases
Our taxes are supposed to cover the basics. Garbage
collection, snow removal, public security, public transit, and water and
sewage. It should not be up to the citizens to pay additional costs to
manage what they have already paid for. The job of elected officials is not
to engage in social engineering. To impose fines forcing citizens to do what
is the city’s work — street cleaning, garbage collection, maintenance of
public spaces — is stark malfeasance at worst and double taxation at best.
To impose fines on citizens for making personal choices about personal risk
borders on social fascism. For municipal politicians to offset their
responsibilities onto the backs of the public is an admission that they
can’t do their jobs.
This city’s administration has failed to address solutions
to improve any of its basic core service responsibilities. Eighty percent of
our water lines leak. Our world-famous potholes are now craters. The transit
system is in gridlock. The Agglomeration Council and the borough system have
degenerated into paralysis as we have become the most over-governed city on
the continent. The Mayor and the borough mayors can’t get our blue-collar
workers to pick up the garbage and clean our streets properly because they
are too frightened to engage. And who can forget the abysmal failure to deal
cemetery lockout leaving hundreds of bodies unburied. The city’s solution
was to deflect public attention from its nonfeasance by demonizing us all
through needless regulation. It’s time to be free again. It’s time to revoke
many recently enacted by-laws. Reduce the amount of fines in others. And we
need to restrict, and in some cases eliminate, the powers or positions of
smoking police, meter maids, the cleanliness corps, jaywalking cops and
garbage inspectors. Nobody elected anyone to impose a control state on
The daily connection of governors and governed is too
often realized through contact with security authority. Much of our efforts
at reform must be addressed at the way we police ourselves.
As much as restoring freedom must lead the reform of this
city, restoring fairness must parallel that effort. As Oliver Wendell
Holmes, Jr. wrote, “Justice must be seen to be done as well as done.”
The most visible face of justice, done or undone, is the
police. Whether we, or they, like it or not that is very much the reality.
The daily connection of governors and governed is too often realized through
contact with security authority. Much of our efforts at reform must be
addressed at the way we police ourselves. Though faulty, we have many
avenues of redress in civilian matters between citizen and city hall on
issues ranging from taxation to regulation. But new fairness doctrines in
policing are crucial because the authority the citizen faces is so great and
often so overwhelming.
The police are the public face of a civic administration.
Its tolerance, compassion and fidelity to the liberty of the people may be
measured by the guidelines it sets for the police. Our police need new
doctrines. It is time for an administration at city hall to stop police from
being involved in oversight on matters in our personal domains as much as it
must rein in the brutish civilian enforcers of the control state. The
foundational organizing principle of a free society is the freedom to
choose. Even if we choose unwisely. Even if our choices do harm to
A reform civic administration must restrict police
checkpoints enforcing the wearing of seatbelts. Particularly at the exits of
highways. They cause more harm than good and often come close to inciting
catastrophic accidents as drivers hit the brakes and start checking their
belts while navigating a turn.
We have to limit anti-jaywalking actions. Certainly abolish
the practice of four-cornered patrols that make an area feel like an armed
camp. No citizen should have to put up with cadets sticking their hands up
to their faces or chests. And worse, as I have witnessed, demanding
identification from citizens so they can write up tickets. This is neither
Tehran nor Havana. No citizen should be obligated to carry an identification
card. But there is more that is objectionable.
In a time of needed budgetary restraint, the hiring of 110
officers to enforce anti-jaywalking rules was unconscionable. Its only
purpose was to further pummel citizens into believing they are criminals and
meekly dole out more money to the city in fines. We have turned the law away
from being an instrument for justice — a shield of the innocent and a staff
of the honest — and made it into a revenue generating machine. As such we
also have to eliminate the use of police in enforcing anti-smoking laws. The
provincial government can pass whatever laws it wants. It can hire as many
as it wants. But how much of local police resources are used to enforce
invasive statutes is up to the civic administration. Our police should have
a human, and
most of all a fair, face.
But the overriding reform needed in restoring fairness in
policing is a new set of measures on how to deal with visible minorities. It
is time for new practices so that each week does not bring yet another story
of a black woman surrounded by police as she was moving boxes from her
garage to her house because someone called and thought she was a burglar; or
of the Arab taxi driver being ticketed for parking in a non-taxi zone while
feeding the meter because he had to run to a toilet; or a young black
student wrestled to the ground by police with a gun to his head in front of
his friends because some nightclub bouncer said he had a gun. The names of
Gemma Raeburn, Jamil Ibrahim and Courtney Bishop — along with dozens of
others — cry out for fairness. It is our responsibility to make fairness a
Montrealers must face hard truths. One such truth is that
in a city with almost a third of our households below the poverty line
social housing, mass transit, food banks, libraries and responsible
development must have priority over “loisirs”, “consultations”, “urbanisme”,
bike paths and sustainable development.
The primary reason for the slow undoing of our basic
liberties in this city is also the cause behind the steady impoverishment of
this city. Too much government! In reducing the size and manner of our
governance we will not only make this city freer and fairer, but we will
make it richer as well. Bill 9 that created the borough system was a devil’s
stew. But Bill 133, which devolved powers to the boroughs, was a legislative
abortion of unparalleled proportion. It created 19 little fiefdoms with 19
little feudal lords. It has been said that the only thing more dangerous in
politics than little people exercising a lot of power is little people
exercising little power but thinking it is a lot. That is what has happened
in Montreal the past six years. To perpetuate their own patronage and power,
borough administrations have been in the forefront of perpetuating not only
needless rules and regulations but also the bureaucracies that go with them.
Their mottos seem to be we enforce therefore we are. Meanwhile, we the
citizens pay the burden. It is unconscionable that some 2 million
Montrealers are governed by over 100 elected officials while 10 million New
Yorkers and 5 million Torontonians make do with under 30. The sheer cost of
19 governments, the duplication and statocratization, costs us, by some
estimates, almost $200 million
Ending the borough system would not only provide more direct
and accessible one-layer government, but the savings could be immediately
returned to the people through lower taxes. Even Mayor Tremblay has, I
believe, recognized the folly of the boroughs and worked successfully on
last year’s Bill 22 that gives the Mayor of Montreal direct control of the
borough of Ville Marie. One less level of government to pay for. Those
who argue for “local democracy” as the raison d’etre for the boroughs are
not only ill-advised as to modern governance, but should realize that the
logical extension of their thinking would have Stalinist-like block
representatives controlling us all. In this case small is not beautiful. It
is a prescription for bankruptcy.
Many of the needless rules and regulations that so burden us
are enacted and enforced by the boroughs. Their elimination will also mean
the elimination of the bureaucracies that perpetuate them. The functionaries
and inspectors. Eliminating boroughs would make it easier for Montreal’s
Mayor to clean up the system. Tens of millions of additional savings could
be passed on to Montrealers. As it stands now the Mayor’s most powerful
executive imperative is to veto funding to pay for the enforcement
establishment of needless oversight in the boroughs. The Mayor cannot
actually overturn borough by-laws.
We need efficient government, not a self-indulgent one.
Montrealers are desperate for the tax savings that could be generated. The
tax hikes over the past four years have meant that small businesses, that
account for eighty percent of new jobs, are paying the equivalent of three
months of their rent in taxes. They cannot survive. Relief has to
be quick and direct. It is the most catastrophic situation since the last
years of Mayor Jean Dore.
In public finance, we have witnessed the squandering of too
much of public funds on pork barrel vote grabbing schemes. Those inevitably
lead to statements from elected officials that they have to fine and tax
more just to keep up. Well, we did not need some $13 million spent on
skateboarding rinks in the west and east ends; $10 million more on bike
paths that destroyed commuter arteries and city streets; a Quartier de
spectacles that meets no needs whatever and now a potential $7 million on
new recycling containers. These and other projects and initiatives should be
shut down and the funds distributed back to the people in lowered taxes as
well. A city that cannot get the core basics of municipal services right –
public transit, roads, snow and garbage removal, water and sewage provision
and treatment and public security - , should not have a budgetary line
totaling some $450 million on “arts, loisiers and urbanisme”.
Our false piety on environmental issues must also be brought
to a halt. We all agree that the internal combustion engine does damage to
the environment. But that is not something municipal administrations can
affect. It will take federal government initiatives to make hybrid cars more
affordable. Municipal governments nationally control areas of jurisdiction
that affect only 2% of greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of speaking these
truths, Montreal has witnessed an anti-car mania among elected officials.
They use a convenient lie to pander for votes from environmentalists who
they think vote with greater frequency. But their measures perpetuate lies.
Anti-car measures will further assault an already battered center city. And
they will contribute nothing to the environment. As the Frontier Center for
Public Policy has demonstrated, no amount of parking increases or other
levies have reduced car use in major North American cities by more than 2%.
A Mercer International study demonstrated Montreal was cleaner than most
cities including Toronto . It is time for an administration at Montreal’s
city hall with the courage to end the pandering. With some eighteen percent
of storefronts vacant in the city center, and many bars and restaurants
suffering a 25-33% drop in revenues since the smoking ban, it is time to let
downtown breathe and build again. Finally, we need to get our development
policies kick-started. We all agree that development must be responsible.
But there is clearly a limit to horizontal growth. Land is limited. Green
spaces should be appropriately protected. But what we can do – and what has
been done by environmentally conscious cities like Toronto and Vancouver –
is encouraging air right development in the city’s core. Heritage buildings
can be preserved and respected and in many cases incorporated into new
buildings. As much as we cut unnecessary social engineering programs and
reduce government size, we will have to create new sources of tax revenues
if we are to keep pace with passing savings from the former on to citizens.
The best solution is air rights.
The problems outlined above are not limited to any party.
There has been a general mindset that is adverse to limited governance.
Mayor Tremblay seems to have realized many of the errors. Louise Harel
would, I fear, perpetuate a prohibitionist, controlling, tax-and fine
Montrealers deserve a civic administration with the courage
to face hard truths. And to speak of them with clarity and candour. The
truth that we live in a time of austerity. That city hall cannot, and should
not, be all things to all people. That we have to get the basics right and
then see what more we can do. That we should not be spending over $100
million a year on outside consultants when we have 10,000 white collar
bureaucrats. That we must make savings and pass them on in reduced taxes.
That Montreal’s Mayor must have the resolve to sit down with the leaders of
workers and hammer out a new deal.
The truth that we must concentrate on cleaning up our debt
and ending the debt-incurring tradition of bread and circus projects. That
in a city with almost a third of our households below the poverty line,
social housing and mass transit and food banks and libraries will have
priority over “legacy” projects and “loisirs”, “consultations” and “urbanisme”.
That we will create new sources of tax revenue by encouraging appropriate
development instead of fining and penalizing the public for so many
personal, human acts. That our social contract can be restored to produce a
freer, fairer and richer Montreal for all our citizens.
The State of the City: Montreal's
demonization of Bela Kosoian
[May 21 2009]
When we crawled out
of the mists of the jungles of history to create communities – villages,
the origin of cities - it was not out of what today’s politically
correct zeitgeist would consider a noble purpose. It was done out of
selfishness. As it happens, one of mankind’s more creative instincts if
We realized we could protect ourselves better
against the wolves of the forests if we acted together. Defense was the
primary motivation for the organization of the community. The word for
that organization in Greek is polis. The origin of our modern day
“politics” and “policing”. But it was not the sort of policing we have
come to suffer through today.
It was not the imposition of some collective will
over individual conscience. Nor the brute force that demonizes citizens
merely to collect money through the enforcement of prohibition and
nullification. It was organization – policing - so that through common
defense we could have more time for the fullest flowering of our
individual possibilities. The fullest flowering of our individual
passions and poetries.
Though those first social contracts demanded
cessions of some our treasure for the provision of the service of
defense, they did not demand abdication of our individual prerogatives.
The village – the city – did not dictate our passions and poetries. It
did not dictate our behavior insofar as it concerned our personal
domains. It did not seek to protect us from ourselves. City governance
was about the provision of services. As simple as that.
Indeed, the city-state, the precursor to the
nation-state, may have been the highest and best form of social
organization. Even today our personal identity is most closely tied to
the city we live in. We are Montrealers or New Yorkers or Torontonians.
From the time of the renaissance, it was the liberal cauldron of the
cities that produced our greatest art, music, philosophy and
literature. The spirit of man was forged in the crucible of the cities.
From ancient Athens and Rome, to the Florentine renaissance, to turn of
the century Vienna to modern day New York, London and Paris.
Sadly today, our city, the jewel of the St.
Lawrence, has lost sight of all this. The power of its officials is used
as much for the oppression and impoverishment of its citizens as for the
provision of any services. And as Edward R. Murrow once wrote, it’s
always the small story that tells us so much about the big picture.
This past week the story was about Bela Kosoian.
Bela is a 38 year old mother of two studying international law at UQAM.
In speaking with her she told me that she had come out of the former
Soviet Union to live free. That was in her thoughts all weekend. On
Thursday last Bela had entered the Montmorency metro station in Laval.
She was on the escalator when a transit guard told her to hold onto the
handrail. She replied that she didn’t have three hands as she was
searching for something in her handbag. The guard persisted. She asked
to be left alone. The guard called over a police officer. He asked her
for identification. She refused. He handcuffed her and took her to a
holding room where she was not allowed to call a lawyer. After twenty
minutes she was released with a $100 ticket for not holding the handrail
and a $320 fine for obstructing justice. Nothing I could add here would
be a more eloquent indictment of the state of our city than the bare
facts. As Bela said, “Stalin may be dead, but Stalinism lives on.”
Montrealers are tired of this. Tired of students
being fined $500 for sitting with their feet on the wrong side of a
concrete enclosure in Emilie-Gamelin Park. Tired of garbage inspectors
opening our refuse bags to find our address to send a fine because we
put them out too early. Tired of merchants on Park Ave. being fined for
not cutting weeds on city sidewalks as they are now obliged to do. Tired
of landlords being fined because their restaurant or bar tenants do not
have “official” ashtrays screwed in next to their entrances. Tired of
fines that criminalize the homeless. Tired of increases in parking rates
at the same time that the city is hiding record profits. Ca suffit!
Enough Alice in Wonderland!
Montrealers are already the highest taxed urban
citizens in North America.
Our taxes are supposed to go for the basics.
Garbage collection, snow removal, public security, public transit and
water. It should not be up to the citizens to pay additional costs to
manage what they have already paid for.
Too many politicians today squander public monies
on pork barrel vote grabbing schemes, then complain that they have to
fine and tax more just to deal with the basics. An example of that at
the municipal level is some $13 million spent on skateboarding rinks in
the west and east ends, and needless bike paths destroying commuter
arteries and city streets downtown.
The job of elected officials is not to engage in
social engineering. To impose fines for citizens doing what is the
city’s work, or making choices about personal risk is criminal. One of
the latest examples in nanny-statism are the fines levied at
storekeepers in town who don’t clean the public sidewalks in front of
their establishments. That should not be their responsibility. Their
taxes pay for the city to do that.
For municipal politicians to offset these
responsibilities on citizens is an admission that they can’t do their
Before the next municipal elections, perhaps we
should demand that those running for office outline specific plans for
rectifying the problems in the five core areas we mentioned above. If
they have no ideas, then maybe they should be disqualified from running.
Before we allow municipal leaders to engage in harebrained schemes of
bike paths and tramways in a city with six months of winter, we need to
know that they can handle the basics.
Montreal didn’t need the cleanliness fines; or the
garbage fines or the non-regulation ashtray fines. This city is about as
clean as an urban centre can get. The only reason that officials engage
in demonizing the public is that it deflects from their inability to get
things right. And that inability stems not only from a lack of
imagination but also from a lack of resolve in dealing with city
employees to get the kind of quality and quantity of work every big city
Perhaps it is time for all of us to demonstrate a
bit of civil, and civic, disobedience. Perhaps it is time for a tax
revolt. After all, it seems the more you pay the more fines and extra
rates are levied. So maybe we should all stop paying until the pols get
real. And for those who think that all laws, even unjust ones, need to
be obeyed. Reflect on what Gandhi once said. “We are a society of laws
and not of men. But when bad men make bad laws, and when unprincipled
officials compromise good ones, then citizens have a responsibility to
protect their rights and exercise responsible agitation to keep
governments from staggering drunkenly from wrong to wrong merely to
preserve their own immortality.”
Words to build on if we care about the state of the
The Israel ‘Apartheid’ lies
[Mar 11 2009]
”Israel is not South Africa”
~ Prof. Edward Said, author of “Orientalism”
"The false equation of Zionism with racism is
simply an Arab ploy to take the focus off of the real enemies of humanity.
Zionism is a healthy form of nationalism."
- Edward H. Brown, Jr., former chief United Nations
representative for the Congress of Racial Equality
Last week and into this, we have
witnessed the fifth Israel Apartheid Week manifestations. In cities from
Oxford to New York to Montreal we saw the usual collection of Islamist
apologists and their fellow-travelers in academic, political and diplomatic
circles. These events sought to portray Israel as an apartheid-era South
Africa in relation to its Arab citizens.
It would have been tempting to
ignore it. But silence would be a submission that cannot later be
overcome. These propaganda campaigns are the psychological and intellectual
germ warfare of the naked aggression of hate. And they debase our public
discourse. Witness Canadian Arab Federation president Khaled Mouammar
calling Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney a
“professional whore” for his support of Israel. These campaigns have already
wiped out much of the historical and institutional memories of many in one
generation of citizens in the free world, and are well on the way to
infecting another, younger, generation.
The Islamist propaganda blitz in this new World War creates an enormous
challenge for those still dedicated to the fate of freedom in the world. For
the propagandists are engaged in an effort to destroy the legitimacy of one
specific nation, a sister democracy, that is the free world’s frontline
guardian against the spread of theocratic tyranny. And for only one reason.
That reason was eloquently expressed by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff
when he recently wrote, "Israel Apartheid Week singles out one state, its
citizens and its supporters for condemnation and exclusion, and it targets
institutions and individuals because of what and who they are--Israeli and
Freedom of expression
of the most eloquent testaments to the fact that Israel may be many things
(and one can disagree with it on many policies) but an apartheid state it is
not, is that Jamal Zahalka, an Israeli Arab Muslim Member of the Knesset,
Israel’s Parliament, has travelled freely, and frequently, in the west
pronouncing on the “myth” of Israeli democracy. Zahalka is not just any
ordinary MK. He is a member of the Balad Party.
Balad was founded by Azmi Bishara,
also a member of Israel’s parliament, who started his political life as a
communist. On the 8 of February 2004 the High Court sitting in Nazareth
found that members of Balad were “…guilty of having put in place a Hezbollah
proxy terrorist cell inside Israel in order to carry out suicide bombings…”
Bishara himself declared in Beirut’s “L’Orient-le-jour” on the 13th of June
2001 that, “I do not consider Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization.”
Despite this, Balad has not been banned in Israel nor have its members, like
Zahalka, been stopped from traveling. Indeed, Israeli diplomats in the
various cities he has spoken in could not criticize him because Israeli
protocol demands respect for a Member of the Knesset. Meanwhile Jews still
cannot obtain visas to most Muslim countries. One more thing. Zahalka
obtained his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. in pharmacology at Hebrew University.
Hebrew University’s student body is some 25% Arab.
not a rare case. There are about a dozen Arab Muslim members of the Knesset.
They represent several Arab political parties including two who expressly
support terrorism. Those two had been disqualified by Israel’s election
authority but re-instated by order of the Israeli Supreme Court.
In fact Israeli Arabs,
overwhelmingly Muslim, turn out to vote in greater percentage numbers than
North Americans do. Arabs serve in the diplomatic corps with no glass
ceiling. Israel’s Ambassador to Finland is Arab. It was Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon who appointed the first Israeli Arab, Salah Tarif, to the Cabinet. In
May 2004 Salim Jubran was appointed to the Supreme Court of Israel.
Though making up some 18% of Israel’s population, 22% of the membership of
the Israeli Labour Party that ruled Israel for most of its existence was
Arab as of May 2005.
Arabic is an
official language in Israel, even posted on all road signs which is more
than we can say for English in Quebec. More than 300,000 Arab children
attend primary and secondary schools in Israel. In 1948 there was only one
Arab high school in Israel. Today there are hundreds. There is of course one
“discrimination” in relation to Arabs in Israel. They are not obligated to
perform military service though there are many, - particularly Bedouin,
Druze and Circassians - who volunteer.
Though discrimination in
employment and social services is outlawed, there are certainly many cases
of individual prejudice. But a 2000 study published in the Jerusalem Post
shows just how close the living standards are between Arabs and Jews in
Israel. Unemployment among Jews stood at 6.8%; among Arabs it was 10.4%. The
average Jewish household had 1.80 persons for every room; the average Arab
household 2.30 persons for every room. Life expectancy for Jews averaged 75;
for Arabs 73.
One of the big issues in every year’s Israel Apartheid Week is that the
Jewish National Fund and Israeli government agencies control most of the
land in Israel and won’t sell to Arabs. Well the fact is that those lands
aren’t sold to anyone. They are leased. And there are no religious or ethnic
restrictions whatever on who can lease it. A reality affirmed in an Israeli
Supreme Court judgment written by Chief Justice Aharon Barak.
The real story of
“apartheid” is on the flip side. The “Waqf”, the Muslim Religious Authority,
has the protection of Israeli law to possess land and the Waqf – with no
Israeli interference - has openly issued proclamations that its lands are
strictly reserved for sale or lease to Arab Muslims only. In fact the
Palestinian Authority has from its inception enforced the Jordanian law in
place since the Jordanian occupation of the West Bank that no land be sold
or leased to anyone other than Arab residents of the West Bank on pain of
“Apartheid” week has of course railed against the security wall calling it
an “apartheid” wall. Speakers at various events always point to the World
Court decision demanding that Israel change the route of the wall. What is
always neglected is that the Israeli Supreme Court demanded the same thing
months before the World Court and the Israeli government complied. And has
complied with several other route changes demanded by courts. I am not the
strongest advocate for a security wall as a permanent solution to anything,
but let’s keep in mind that most of it hugs the 1967 border. And Israel has
special cause for concern. When the Palestinian Authority was organized it
was Israel that supplied 150,000 arms for the PA’s militia only to see many
of those arms used against Israel’s citizens by both Fatah and Hamas
factions, in addition to the suicide terrorist attacks. And finally, one
last thing. Where in the Arab world would you ever see the Supreme Court
ruling against its government and the government complying?
Another big lie of
Israel Apartheid Weeks is that Israel has created in the West Bank a regime
of separation based on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law
in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality.
This is the classic half-truth. Residents of the West Bank can choose the
legal jurisdiction they want to have recourse to. Including religious courts
if they like. Part of the reason West Bank Arabs choose Israeli justice is
the abject failure of the Palestinian Authority in implementing not only a
constitution, but a functioning court system with legislation it can act on.
What legislation there is, is nothing but a remnant of the Jordanian
occupation from 1947-1967.
December 2002 study by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research
of residents of the West Bank and Gaza showed just how mistrustful they are
of Palestinian justice. To the question “How would you evaluate the state of
democracy and human rights in the Palestinian Authority?” 19.1% said good;
28.4% said satisfactory; and 50.5% said bad. When that question was asked of
these same residents about Israel 65.5% said good; 11.9% said satisfactory;
and only 17% said bad.
and international law
The fact is that
whatever one may think of the occupation, aside from the settlement policies
which are objectionable in far too many instances, Israel is exercising the
same rights in international law as France and the United States did after
the Second World War of holding onto territory acquired in its own defense
after surviving an aggressive attack until peace is achieved. And under
Israeli occupation, Palestinians have the highest percentage of university
students; the lowest infant mortality and the longest life expectancy of any
front-line Arab state. All that due to the assistance from the Israeli
social service infrastructure.
The intellectual godfather of Palestinian nationalism Edward Said once wrote
that “Israel is not South Africa.” As Irshad Manji has pointed out, he could
have stated nothing less since an Israeli publishing house translated his
seminal work “Orientalism” into Hebrew. Israel is not so much the Jewish
state as a state of Jews. The only preferential legislation that exists is
the “Law of Return” that gives a Jew automatic citizenship while other
prospective immigrants must wait three years. That law reflects the reality
of a world that butchered millions of Jews and no country would take any in.
Including Canada with its infamous “none is too many” policy. Israel was a
haven for many Vietnamese boatpeople when Saigon fell, but there was no
haven for the Jews of Europe.
real facts on the ground
Had the early
socialist Zionists had their way there would have been a secular bi-national
state. But even before Hitler, the Palestinian Muslim Arabs’ religious and
political leader Haj Amin al-Husseini of Jerusalem encouraged the wanton
slaughter of Jews in Palestine under the British mandate, particularly in
the years 1929-1940. He spent the years between 1941 and 1945 as Hitler’s
personal guest in Berlin broadcasting Nazi propaganda in Arabic and helping
raise two Muslim divisions for the SS. He was to be tried at Nuremberg as a
war criminal, but with the help of the French and British got back to his
home and continued his bloodlust even after Israel became the only nation to
recognize the Arab state of Palestine by accepting the UN’s partition plan.
Al-Husseini’s frontline Arab cousins’ response was to invade Palestine and
hold the West Bank and Gaza prisoner for twenty years. His nephew Feisal was
a member of Arafat’s inner circle.
These are the facts on the ground. Facts that the Palestinians must
reconcile with their history if they are ever to achieve maturity as a
people and as a nation.
Let's help real people, not
fund fake profits
[Feb 6 2009]
The current frenzy of economic
stimulus packages sweeping around us like so many forest fires will not —
and more importantly, should not — work. The reasons are threefold. First,
they are stimulating the perpetuation of a false economy that has caused
nightmares for tens of millions. Second, the packages are based on outdated
Depression-era models without taking into consideration today’s much
different realities. And third, they provide insufficient protection to get
people through the tough three to seven years that are to come.
Through the funny-money years of the eighties and the go-go years of the
nineties, the money hustle industry created a new vocabulary. The fictional
Gordon Gekko in the movie “Wall Street” set the tone. “Greed is good,” Gekko
proclaimed. “Greed built America!” The money hustlers put a twist on that.
“Debt is good,” they proclaimed. “Never ending growth will pay the bills.
Don’t worry. Be happy. Spend.” They lied. Too many bought into the lie.
Home ownership became a “right.” As did the second car, the third vacation,
the boat and the country cottage. Mortgages were an “asset.” Borrow as much
as you like. Shares were not debts owed to stockholders. They were trinkets
to dole out to the public to raise IPO capital just as Peter Minuet used
trinkets to buy Manhattan from the Indians. Everything became worthless
because everyone knew the price of everything, but none knew the value of
anything. The idea of living within one’s means was considered
“unfashionable.” Those who did, were considered as ignorant of the “new
Debt became a commodity. New games called derivatives were invented — with
the blessing of the Clinton and Bush administrations as well as Greenspan’s
Fed. Bet on anything. Any war, any event, even the weather. Well, a Ponzi
scheme is a Ponzi scheme whether in the twenties or today, and suddenly
everything old was new again. The new “economy” that is.
A bubble built on bad bets, bad debts, and a self-delusion that made
Sisyphus pushing the proverbial rock up the mountain look like an
iron-headed realist. Okay you might say, but didn’t we have the same scams
leading to the crash of 1929 and the Depression that followed? And didn’t
FDR’s stimulus packages — the national recovery programs — work? The answer
to both questions is no.
It is true that the scams and schemes of the twenties blew the lid off the
economy and sucked capital out of businesses much as today’s shenanigans
did. The critical difference is that in the thirties, though money was lost,
productive capacity remained. The factories and assembly lines were there.
The assets of what is called the “real” economy continued to exist. The
United States, Great Britain and even Canada to a point, were the productive
nerve centers of the western world. We made stuff! All that was needed was a
stimulus — an injection — of capital that had been lost in market
speculation to restart the engines. Today is different.
We don’t make most of the stuff anymore. The productive capacity is in
China, India and points east. Yes the United States is the largest economy
in the world. But again, vocabulary has been perverted. Its size is not
measured by what it produces — once called value — but by what it consumes —
today called price. In other words dear readers, unlike the thirties, there
are precious few economic engines to stimulate. As just one case in point,
people like Japanese cars more than American.
What we do have, and what these stimulus packages are trying to save, is an
economy that creates debt and hopes to keep it going with ever higher fees
and interest payments. The hope behind these packages — both infrastructure
spending and tax cuts — is that it will enable people to keep paying
interest on existing debts by having temporary project jobs and encouraging
them to spend their tax savings on more consumption acquiring more debt
still. The prayer the policy makers are chanting is that some new industry
will arise — like the Internet in the nineties — to save their collective
skins before the massive printing of money creates uncontrollable
hyper-inflation. Here’s why there is faint hope for that.
The model of FDR’s 1930s reconstruction that governments of the left and
right are using to achieve the above did not have within it three
malignancies that plague the west today. First, only some 20 percent of
North Americans owned their own homes. Second mortgages were almost unheard
of, and first mortgages were given under strict borrowing guidelines with
equal equity ratios. There was no such thing as five percent down to buy a
home. It wasn’t considered a right. Today’s mortgage debt is so huge that no
government can print enough money to cover it. When Fannie Mae and Freddie
Mac went under, the debt they had underwritten was conservatively estimated
at $5 trillion. That is $1 trillion more than the budget of the United
States of America.
Second, credit cards didn’t exist in the thirties. The amount of personal
consumer debt in North America is almost on a par with mortgage debt. In
Canada alone there is $30,000 of consumer debt for every man, woman and
child. Third, the thirties did not have broad-scale sector-wide union
agreements in place. Agreements that today leave little wiggle room as
workers are rightly furious at seeing the “masters of the universe” enrich
themselves beyond the dreams of Croesus. Just last week President Obama
rightly labeled as “shameful and outrageous” the news that Wall Street had
paid out $18 billion in executive bonuses. The sixth highest on record in
the worst year ever.
Did our current disaster come on suddenly? No. It was about to happen in the
1990s, but the Internet industry created a new centre of productivity. Did
governments learn and tell their citizens to “cool it”, start saving and get
out of the bubble? No. Most followed the lead of the United States that in
1999 abolished the Glass-Spiegel Act. That 1933 piece of legislation was
critical to FDR’s restoration of the financial system. The Act mandated the
separation of commercial banks from investment banks and set up firewalls
between banks, insurance companies and brokerages. Financial services
companies had to stick to their knitting. Other western nations followed
America’s lead and tore down the barriers that for more than 60 years had
Suddenly financial behemoths sprang up that combined banking, insurance and
stocks. All money was played and the big push for more equity capital sucked
from the public became a stampede. That led directly to the dot.com bubble
of the first years of this decade. Today’s crash should have happened then
for the second time. But American Federal Reserve policies of cheap money
kept the game going. One problem though. Since the west wasn’t producing
anything but puff, where to raise sovereign debt to finance the cheap money
policies? China of course. Since China was producing — and saving in its
centralized Stalinist manner — it ended up holding up to a third of western
debt. A situation that continues today and is pushing us toward a precipice
overlooking a chasm even more frightening than the current crisis.
So what is to be done? We do need a stimulus. But a stimulus for real people
not for fake profits. We need, as a friend of mine reminded me, a paradigm
shift. To accomplish that we need statesmanship. And we need our leaders to
look not to 1933 for solutions, but to 1973.
In 1973 two disasters happened. OPEC was created and America went off the
gold standard. The economy went into a spiral and worse was foreseen.
President Nixon, the man who it was said was the only American politician
who could go to China without being labeled a Communist, did another
surprising turnaround. He called in a Kennedy liberal policy specialist
named Daniel Patrick Moynihan - later UN Ambassador and New York Senator -
to come up with a plan to protect Americans from a coming economic disaster
that could last a full business cycle. Moynihan devised a plan for a
Guaranteed Annual Income. He famously quipped, “We subsidize planes, we
subsidize trains, why can’t we subsidize people?”
The plan, amongst other proposals, would have created a floor, 15-20 percent
above poverty lines, for people starting at entry level positions in new
jobs created at existing businesses through government stimulus. The GAI was
not a permanent plan. It would be in place until economic recovery was
achieved. It was a parallel track to government dollars going to create real
jobs at functioning companies. Not government dollars going to create stop
gap infrastructure positions, or bailing out failing businesses without
rewarding and encouraging successful companies to withstand the current hard
times. It is the model for today. Everyone in government should be forced to
read his “Politics of a Guaranteed Income.”
Why do we need it? Because the suffering is greater than we are told. The
current unemployment rates we read about are only those people still on the
rolls. The percentage of able-bodied Canadians who can’t find work, but are
off the EI rolls, is far higher. These numbers are climbing. And this in a
country where less than 10% of the population has a net worth of $5,000 or
more. Great Britain has poured out 23 percent of its GDP in stimulus dollars
with little to show for it. That’s far above the 13 and 11 percents Canada
and the US are considering. Stimulus dollars won’t save failing industries
and shouldn’t save the fast-buck artists. We need to let the economy adjust
to new realities. Let the bad industries die and make room for new ones.
But these dollars can save people. Especially our $40 billion plus EI
surplus that successive governments have refused to return to Canadians.
These dollars are the very dollars that should be pumped into successful
businesses, to create new jobs even at below entry level salaries,
buttressed by a GAI plan that could even be funneled through employers as
direct subsidies or long term loans. The plan would prevent these low
salaries from expanding even more our class of working poor.
Our dollars should be used to cushion people’s lives until there is a real
recovery, not a fake recovery doomed to quick collapse. But for even this
stimulus to work we need one more ingredient.
We need our leaders to morph from politicians to statesmen. They need to
find the courage to speak the hard truths of what brought us to this point
and tell their citizens that things must change. That, in the words of
Edward Abbey, “growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer
cell.” That consumption for the sake of consumption is quicksand. That
living within our means is “in”. That we can rebuild at lower levels, and
that’s okay. It may take three years, or five or seven. But that at the end
of the day we can finally defeat the threat that Bobby Kennedy warned of 40
years ago. The revolution of rising expectations.
Hate in the streets
The Montreal Hamas Rally
[Jan 7 2009]
“A totalitarian culture treats
mere opponents as subversives; a democratic culture treats subversives as
mere opponents. The reason is that the latter seeks never to betray its
principles, while the former has none to betray.”
~ Jean-Francois Revel
It was the images as much as the issues that got to you. You couldn’t
intellectualize in your own mind what you were seeing. You wanted to ask the
You wanted to ask why they are not protesting the Hamas murder of some
20,000 opponents in Gaza. You wanted to ask them why they had never
protested the murders of thousands, tens of thousands and even hundreds of
thousands of Muslims by fellow Muslims in Chechnya, in Iraq, in Somalia and
in Darfur. You wanted to ask why they were not protesting the holding
hostage of a million and a half Gazans by theocratic thugs who don’t have
the courage to come out from behind the protection of the civilian
population and fight in the open. You wanted to ask what they would have
free, democratic Israel do when faced with over 3,000 rocket attacks — many
landing in schools and hospitals — since leaving Gaza three years ago. You
wanted to ask if it would be “proportional” if Israel targeted Gazan schools
and hospitals with land launched rockets as Hamas does. You wanted to ask
why the lies on the signs about the deliberate targeting of Gaza civilians
when Israel has telegraphed each attack and given time for evacuation. You
wanted to ask why the lies about starving the population when only Israel is
sending food and medical supplies — by the UN’s own admission — and taking
Gazan wounded to Israeli hospitals while Egypt keeps its border closed. But
then you realize that they don’t want discussions. They simply need somebody
to hate. Hate to perpetuate a culture of death.
The Hezbollah and Hamas flags. The veils, masks and Korans held high. The
burning of Israel’s flag. The accusations of “Holocaust” and “genocide”
hurled at Israel at the very moment when the masters of Hamas, the mullahs
of Iran, are both denying the Jewish Holocaust and planning a second. The
chanting of “Khaybar Khaybar, Ya Yahoud, Jaysh Mohammad sawfa yaud”
harkening back to a 7th century massacre of Jews at Medina and calling for
the return of the armies of Mohammad. These were the sights and sounds that
flooded Montreal streets in the pro-Hamas demonstration this past Sunday
that started out at Cabot Square.
Over on Peel Street, at the same time, religious Shia Muslims were marching
to commemorate the Iman Hussein. It is an annual religious event. But this
year, in front of high, black banners, marchers carried a long white sign
with red letters shouting out “The tragedy of the Kabbala”, denouncing the
esoteric books of Jewish mysticism. What Kabbala has to do with Iman Hussein
even Madonna couldn’t answer. But the common denominator with the other
demonstration was the same. They needed somebody to hate. And it’s always
the Jews. The canaries in the mineshaft of history.
A police officer told me that here in Montreal everybody demonstrates for
everything. But there is a limit. I am not suggesting legislative
restriction. Freedom must remain indivisible. But I am suggesting that it is
time for Montrealers to think deeply and clearly as to what we are
witnessing. These are not ordinary demonstrators manifesting differing
points of view. These are purveyors of hate who, for the most part,
originate from totalitarian cultures. They do not even make a pretense of
They want all the freedoms of a liberal society — expression, religion,
association and assistance — but they reject any fidelity to the principles
of liberty, veracity or loyalty to sister democracies. They separate
themselves out by demanding — with stunning and revolting regularity —
submission to the most retrograde and revanchiste theocratic tyrannies. And
more, they seek to shove their reprehensible revisionist historical “truths”
down everybody’s throats. They take us for fools. They may well be surprised
that someday soon the “fools” will be on the march. If they seek a
separatism to celebrate deceit, duplicity and a culture of death, they may
well see themselves ostracized by a citizenry that has had enough of
reasonably accommodating what Jean-Paul Sartre once called “cultures of
exclusiveness and intolerance.” This time in Cabot Square there were no
leaders of Quebec civil society as there were in 2006 at the Hezbollah
rally. None except newly elected Quebec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir who is
very good at throwing shoes at the American consulate but has yet to condemn
the messages of hate and chants for the murder of the Jews.
Maybe we are finally ready to act on the challenge Daniel Patrick Moynihan
gave us some three decades ago. “Everybody has a right to their own
opinion,” Moynihan declared about the United Nations, “but nobody has a
right to their own facts.”
Quebec's hallmarks of
[Dec 13 2008]
This week Rouba Elmerhebi
Fahd, mother of the United Talmud Torah fire bomber, received a sentence of
only twelve months probation after having been found guilty in September of
being an accessory after the fact in the firebombing. The trial judge
qualified the attack on the Jewish school as a terrorist act.
I am by no means a believer in punitive punishment. Much evidence exists
that incarceration does little toward rehabilitation. Tough sentences may
not even be much in the way of deterrent. But the severity of sentences on
terrorist acts do go very much to the character and courage of a society in
how it confronts terror.
For Mrs. Fahd to not even receive a sentence of community service, and
received what amounts to a suspended sentence for complicity in a terrorist
act, is an abomination. Just two week ago convicted race crime perpetrator
Azim Ibragimov was given a sentence that amounted to several months for each
of his acts. Ibragimov committed three criminal acts motivated by hatred of
Jews, including a firebombing of another Jewish school. The sentence given
to Rouba Elmerhebi Fahd makes Ibragimov’s term look serious. The judge in
the Elmerhebi Fahd case stated that he could understand the actions of a
mother seeking to get her son out of the country and “protect” him. I would
submit that hers were not the actions of a mother. They were the actions of
The Ibragimov file
The Ibragimov sentence raises the same stark concerns. What is striking in
reading the judgment in the sentencing of 25 year old Azim Ibragimov are the
judge’s words. Judge Gilles Cadieux quite rightly characterized Ibragimov’s
actions as “racist” and “terrorist acts”. What leaves one disheartened is
the light sentence. Yes, we know that headlines have been declaring that the
sentence “sends a message” and that it is “exemplary”. But when you consider
the evidence, you have to ask yourself “what kind of a message?”
Azim Ibragimov pleaded guilty earlier this year to firebombing the
Skver-Toldos Orthodox Jewish Boys School in Outremont in 2006, and
attempting to attack the Snowdon YM-YWHA the following year. The actions
were not those of a schoolboy. Ibragimov, 25 now, was a grown man when he
committed these attempted murders.
His four-year sentence, with credit for time served, means that he will be
imprisoned for only 10 months. Ten months for race-motivated crimes that
could have resulted in dozens killed. We understand that sentencing
parameters involve issues of suasion and rehabilitation, but how will 10
months really demotivate anyone else and rehabilitate Ibragimov?
Ibragimov has shown almost no remorse for what he did. And if he had
demonstrated remorse reasonable minds could be forgiven for questioning it.
His actions were not isolated. They were part of a consistent pattern of
race hate. It wasn’t as if he committed one act and then atoned for it as if
it were a youthful indiscretion.
After the school firebombing, Ibragimov pre-meditatedly planned a yet bigger
one. The only reason that he failed to inflict carnage at the Y was that his
home-made explosive device failed to go off.
Ibragimov was also an all-purpose hater. He didn’t just attempt murder and
commit mayhem by physical violence, he also used the power of the pen.
Ibragimov also pleaded guilty to uttering threats in the form of letters
that claimed the crimes were committed in the name of Islamic Jihad, a
terrorist group (so named by the U.S. Congress and the Canadian Parliament)
that vows to destroy Israel and set up an Islamic Palestinian state. The
letters also hinted there were more incidents to come.
So three acts of race hate get an effective average of three months each.
“Racist” and “terrorist” acts get an average of three months each. Almost
the same as multiple drunk-driving convictions resulting in bodily harm. Is
that the equivalency our society is trying to demonstrate?
Even the staunchest opponent of incarceration as a means of punishment and
rehabilitation should blink twice at this one. A concerted, pre-meditated
series of race-motivated crimes perpetrated by an adult gets 10 months! Not
even close to what is required. The sentence trivializes the crimes and
sends nothing but the most feckless message.
The Raeburn question
But race crimes are not always perpetrated by civilians. Sometimes they are
done by the authorities. And visible minorities are perhaps more victimized
than “invisible” religious minorities. In November 2004 Dollard des Ormeaux
resident Gemma Raeburn and two friends, Peter Charles and Frederick Peters,
were moving items from her garage into her home. Following a call from a
neighbor, six armed Montreal police officers showed up accusing the three of
robbing the house. The only crime they had committed was that they were
The neighbor who had called the police was a 17 year old who said that
people with “black things” on their faces were committing a robbery. What
happened after the police arrived turned farce to tragedy. When Raeburn
asked one of the officers if they would have pulled their guns on white
people, the officer responded that “…bullets don’t see color…”.When Peters
told one of the other officers that police in his native Grenada did not
behave in a similar fashion the officer snapped back “If you don’t like it
here, why don’t you go back to your country?”
Raeburn and her friends brought complaints to the Police Ethics Committee.
The Committee suspended the two officers. The officers took their case to
Quebec Court and their appeal was successful. The Court ordered the
suspension of the first officer wiped off his record and the second had the
suspension converted into a reprimand. Gemma Raeburn’s reaction said it all.
“If we can’t even recognize racism, how are we ever going to cure it?”
The Bishop assault
The story of Courtney Bishop is also instructive in the problems with
authority reacting with prejudiced. Mr. Bishop, a citizen of colour, is a
Concordia student and a member of its rugby team. Recently he and some
twenty of his friends and teammates tried to enter the Sir Winston Churchill
Pub on Crescent Street. All were dressed casually. All except Mr. Bishop
All of Mr. Bishop’s friends were allowed entry. The doorman refused Mr.
Bishop on the basis that he was wearing baggy jeans. Mr. Bishop argued that
some of his friends had the same attire. The doorman would not be moved.
Heated words were exchanged and Mr. Bishop’s friends left the pub and
proceeded down Crescent street with their friend Courtney.
Mr. Bishop told the media he felt the doorman’s refusal of entry was
racially motivated. As abhorrent as that is if true, what happened next is
A few moments after they left the door of the pub, Courtney and his friends
were encircled by police who approached him with guns drawn and asked him to
lay on the ground. Apparently the police were responding to a call from the
pub because the doorman claimed that he heard Courtney say that he had a
gun. No gun was found of course and no charges laid. Courtney is not upset
at the police, but he is considering legal action against the pub for
What should troubles us in this incident in addition to the racial
undertones, is the explanation of the police for their actions. When asked
to explain why the unusual demonstration of force against Courtney, police
spokesman Laurent Gingras told reporters that “We will take no chances with
the public’s security.” Herein lies the problem.
Police officers are always concerned as to why their image is not better
with the public. Part of the answer lies in this incident. The “public’s
security” is not just a matter of protection against physical harm. It is
also a matter of the upholding of individual rights. The automatic
assumption on the part of the police at the scene should not have been that
just because a caller says something it must be true. Are our police going
to be used and manipulated by random callers to be hammers against someone
whom we find irritating? Of course not.
The officers should have approached Mr. Bishop, in force of numbers, and
confronted him with the accusation. But when they heard his story, they
should also have accompanied Mr. Bishop up the street to the pub and
confronted the doorman with both the falsity of his accusation and
questioned him on Courtney’s charge of racial bias. Not only would that have
restored Courtney’s dignity, but it would have sent a strong message – from
the police themselves – that they understood the broader community
responsibilities in their mandate to keep the peace.
The Quebec malaise
Some reactions from institutions dealing with these problems have been
puzzling. B’nai B’rith Canada stated that the Ibragimov sentence
“underscores the need for long-term sustained efforts to combat hatred.”
Well, perhaps one way to really start is to make punishment fit the crime.
We understand that sentencing guidelines are heavily governed by precedent.
But sometimes judges need the courage to make new precedent. Judge Cadieux
talked the talk. His sentencing did not walk the walk.
Gemma Raeburn’s challenging question was made to police authority. “If we
can’t even recognize racism, how are we ever going to cure it?” It certainly
should be asked of police after the Bishop assault. But her challenge may
also be put to judicial authority after the Ibragimov and Elmerhebi Fahd
sentences as well. After all the talk of Quebec “values” this past year,
reasonable people may ask whether those “values” apply to protecting all
citizens citizens equally from hate. Or has Quebec become too politically
cowardly and too ready to pander to the most retrograde elements in our
The answer is by no means clear. What is clear is that there is a malaise in
Quebec. From the judiciary to the streets. Ironically, the Elmerhebi Fahd
sentence came down on the same day that the provincial police arrested four
people in the investigation of several anti-Semitic attacks in the
Laurentians this past summer. If they are charged and convicted, it will be
instructive to see what their sentences will be. Is Quebec ready to stand
for something, or will it fall for anything? Will it draw a line in the sand
on what two judges have called “terror”? The answers to these questions are
also by no means clear. We should all be saddened by that.
I won’t go through a repetition of the litany of racial incidents and
attitudes in Quebec. From the firebombing of a Jewish school, to the
intolerance exhibited during the accommodation hearings, to the Police
Brotherhood’s move to stop a coroner-ordered inquiry into Mohammed Bennis’
death, they are all too fresh in our minds. The firebombings and the Raeburn
and Bishop cases are more than sufficient evidence. What I would like to
consider here is why it seems so easy to demonize and marginalize minorities
– “les autres” – in this Province. So easy that even courts can be caught up
in the sad, twisted mindset of trivialization.
An answer was provided by comments on the provincial campaign trail this
past week. Pauline Marois proposed toughening Bill 101 by applying it to
currently exempted small businesses and hiring more inspectors. Jean Charest
wants Ottawa to turn over all cultural and cummunications matters to Quebec
and proposed protecting “Quebec-made” cultural products through preferential
and discriminatory taxes.
I am not suggesting that Marois and Charest are in anyway racist. Yet
perhaps in some manner they have failed in an even greater responsibility of
trust. A racist sometimes simply does not know better. But our politicians
in Quebec know very well how to play the pandering card. The same old
fear-mongering that has been going on for forty years - and before that in
the Duplessis era – grabs votes. It grabs votes in the narrowest way
possible. By appealing to the lowest common denominator of our society.
Proposals such as these re-enforce the message – and a not too subliminal
message at that - that it is acceptable to marginalize the “other”. That
there are two classes of citizens and that there will be no level playing
field. This is a propagation of the teachings of contempt. And from the time
these teachings leave the mouths of politicians to the time they filter down
and are disseminated in the media and enter the minds of all – from judges
to juveniles – the damage is done. It is time for Quebec to do better.
It is time for leaders of Quebec civil society to appeal to the better
angels of our nature. We have examples from an unparalleled progressive
political patrimony to draw on. Lawyers and legislators, judges and jurists,
pundits and politicians should end the perpetuation of insecurity and
interposition. Let them draw lessons from Papineau who led the fight that
emancipated all minorities twenty years before England; from Lafontaine who
structured the first responsible government in the British Empire; from
Laurier who proclaimed that it was the proudest boast of his public life to
have been denounced by Roman priests and condemned by Protestant parsons and
from Trudeau who institutionalized the supremacy of the individual over the
whims of the state.
All leaders have a responsibility to make us better, more inclusive, more
tolerant. Let no one be fooled. The poison that led to officers drawing guns
on three middle-aged black citizens, and judges demonstrating benign neglect
in sentencing of hate crime perpetrators, was not produced in a vacuum. It
was concocted in the corridors of power where we so often search for justice
and not merely law. There is one sad lesson all honest Quebecers must
recognize. That lesson is that any society where public policy is proposed
and propogated on the basis of personal prejudices giving privilege and
preference to one group over another based on parochial particularities - be
they of race, color, creed, faith or tongue – will inevitably produce
hallmarks of intolerance.
It is time to acknowledge that “sang et langue” doesn’t cut it anymore. It
never really did. It was always the big lie. Civil society should recognize
that there are more votes to be gained from the heirs of Quebec’s patrimoine
politique progressiste nonpareil than from the heirs of la grande noirceur.
To Rouse The World From Fear
The Legacy of JFK
[Nov 22 2008]
“I hear it said that West Berlin is
militarily untenable - and so was Bastogne, and so, in fact, was
Stalingrad. Any danger spot is tenable if men - brave men - will make it
so.” ~President John F. Kennedy
is the forty-fifth anniversary of the assassination of President John
Fitzgerald Kennedy. That tragedy haunts us still. In many ways and at
all times. The writer Mary McGrory said on that day that we shall never
smile again. Daniel Patrick Moynihan answered no, we may smile again,
but we’ll never be young again. For many it was the day hope died.
But hope, like courage, rests not on the shoulders of any one man but
lives on from the testament of that man in the hearts of all. All we
need is the resolve to remember, and to carry on.
It is in that remembrance that we answer the question of many scholars
as to what JFK’s legacy really was. His Presidency too short to see the
fulfillment of many of his boldest initiatives, how is it that he
captures our imaginations still? The answer rests in his words as much
as his deeds. For those words, those ideas, still make us see
possibilities in ourselves that we thought unimaginable.
They held out the vision of a generosity of spirit that could realize
the ancient dream of the brotherhood of man. They challenged us to
vigorous service and sacrifice in our daily lives. And most of all, they
dared us to be brave. They lit the flame of courage within each of us
that made us all understand that the indomitable spirit of freedom
inevitably triumphs over the dark forces of tyranny.
Perhaps that is the greatest quality of leadership. To make people
bolder, braver, better than they ever thought possible. And to give them
hope…the greatest gift.
At no time since his murder has the world been in need of such hope and
such courage. It is for that reason that his words resonate with us
still. At no time since the Second World War have the free been so full
of fear. At no time since that era, has appeasement of terror and
villainy been so obsequious.
Kennedy understood these dangers well. In his 1940 best-selling book
“Why England Slept” he wrote "It is an unfortunate fact that we can
secure peace only by preparing for war." Today history repeats itself.
Today a continents rest, as Bruce Bawer has so eloquently phrased in
“While Europe Slept”. New cloaks for the old tyrannies.
The greatest tribute to John F. Kennedy is that his words and vision
during his “…one brief shining moment…” remain relevant as calls of
conscience for us today. And if we do not answer those calls; if we do
not respond to conscience; then years from now people will ask how it
came to be that the family of the free was so willingly complicit its
For today, on this sad anniversary, we witness too many leaders
demonstrating ignominious surrender to political correctness. We see too
much of voices of conscience hiding from threats or being intimidated in
their expression. We see too marked a submission to those who would
subvert individual liberty and subjugate liberal pluralism.
We seem to be surrounded with the message that if one wants to survive
one must sublimate one’s beliefs and one’s courage. That indeed there is
nothing worth believing in and certainly nothing worth fighting for. In
short, that our culture should not stand for something and be prepared
to fall for anything. The British writer Melanie Phillips, the author of
“Londonistan”, has called it "a dialogue of the demented." It is the
mindset of the victimized and the demonized.
Despite the optimism surrounding a newly elected President, there could
be no more poignant day to remind us all that submission to this
bodyguard of lies is not a strategy against the existential threat of
theocratic tyranny. A threat that has been driven as a stake into the
hearts of almost every western capital over the past seven years.
During Kennedy’s Presidency Europe faced a threat of similar magnitude
though of different origin. Kennedy went to Berlin to address that
threat and to send a message to the enemies of freedom. On a glorious
June day in 1963, some five months before his murder, he delivered his
famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” address in Rudolph Wilde Platz facing the
then recently constructed Berlin Wall. There could be no more fitting
tribute to Kennedy’s legacy, and few more important lessons for our own
national will, than reading his timeless words today. Among those words
on that brilliant day were the following. “Freedom is indivisible, and
when one man is enslaved, all are not free.” It is a message for the
ages, and particularly for our time.
Kennedy proclaimed, “I am proud to come to this city as the guest of
your distinguished Mayor, who has symbolized throughout the world the
fighting spirit of West Berlin. And I am proud to visit the Federal
Republic with your distinguished Chancellor who for so many years has
committed Germany to democracy and freedom and progress, and to come
here in the company of my fellow American, General Clay, who has been in
this city during its great moments of crisis and will come again if ever
“Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was ‘civis Romanus sum’.
Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein
Berliner.’ There are many people in the world who really don't
understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free
world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some
who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to
Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere that we can
work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a
few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it
permits us to make economic progress. Lass' sie nach Berlin kommen. Let
them come to Berlin.
“Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have
never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from
leaving us. I want to say, on behalf of my countrymen, who live many
miles away on the other side of the Atlantic, who are far distant from
you, that they take the greatest pride that they have been able to share
with you, even from a distance, the story of the last 18 years. I know
of no town, no city, that has been besieged for 18 years that still
lives with the vitality and the force, and the hope and the
determination of the city of West Berlin. While the wall is the most
obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system,
for all the world to see, we take no satisfaction in it, for it is, as
your Mayor has said, an offense not only against history but an offense
against humanity, separating families, dividing husbands and wives and
brothers and sisters, and dividing a people who wish to be joined
“What is true of this city is true of Germany--real, lasting peace in
Europe can never be assured as long as one German out of four is denied
the elementary right of free men, and that is to make a free choice. In
18 years of peace and good faith, this generation of Germans has earned
the right to be free, including the right to unite their families and
their nation in lasting peace, with good will to all people. You live in
a defended island of freedom, but your life is part of the main. So let
me ask you as I close, to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to
the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin,
or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond
the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and
ourselves to all mankind.
“Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free.
When all are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city
will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of
Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe. When that day finally comes, as
it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the
fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades.
“All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and,
therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein
Today, a different “ism” has replaced the Communist threat. It emanates
from many capitols. It too enslaves millions through different walls.
But its most noxious by-product on the free world has been fear. The
legacy of John Fitzgerald Kennedy is the antidote to that fear.
JFK marshaled the nobler angels of our spirit. He put himself on the
firing line of freedom. And through his words and deeds roused a
stagnant world from its lethargy of fear. Let us remember. And let us
Stars give of themselves for
'Cassandra's Lilacs' concert
[Sep 14 2008]
Jazz great Ranée Lee is the
latest performer to join the star-studded line-up for the 'Cassandra's
Lilacs' Gentle the Condition concert to be held Oct. 2 at 7.30 p.m. at
Théâtre St. Denis. The concert is being staged by the Garceau Foundation in
co-operation with the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal. It will
benefit three Montreal charities that are in the forefront on issues of
health, hunger and homelessness.
Lee, already well known to audiences throughout North America and Europe,
has just come off a brilliant portrayal of 'Lady Day' - Billie Holiday.
Ranée Lee is truly a virtuoso whose talent has captured - and captivated -
audiences in clubs, on stage, and on screen. She even shines in the
classroom, teaching music at McGill and Laval universities. Chantal Chamandy
burst onto the music scene with a multilingual first CD entitled Love Needs
You and followed that up with a stunning concert at the pyramids in Giza,
making her one of a handful of artists that includes Sting, who have staged
concerts there. Stephanie Biddle is the golden voice of the storied Biddle
musical family of Montreal. She has forged a stellar career in New York, and
is flying in for this special evening. Lorraine Klaasen, originally from
South Africa, has captivated jazz and African music lovers the world over.
She is a virtual embodiment of cultural diversity singing in English,
French, Greek, Hebrew, and more than 12 African languages and dialects.
Vancouver's Nazanin Afshin-Jam is the former Miss World Canada who has
devoted her life to international human rights. Her debut CD is entitled
Someday - whose title song is a condemnation of Iranian religious fanaticism
as well as a paean of hope for the future. The album is a captivating
combination of folk-rock and sensual ballads.
Ashley King will be launching her first CD in Los Angeles in October. 'The
multi-talented singer's pure sounds and relaxing rhythms have been called
Sandra Brandone has just released her first CD entitled 'Nothing Feels As
Good'. A single, Letting Go, has already gone 2008 Quebec platinum.
All the artists are performing free of charge for the benefit of the
remarkable organizations the concert will benefit. Dr. Nicholas Steinmetz'
and Dr. Gilles Julien's Fondation pour la promotion de la pédiatrie sociale
tackles the health needs of poor children. Helping thousands in Montreal's
poorest areas of Côte des Neiges and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, the Fondation
cares for the physical, psychological and educational needs of children who
are products of underprivileged homes. It not only provides immediate help,
but follows the children through years of schooling to ensure that the work
is having an effect. It is a totally holistic approach to childhood
development. The Maison du partage d'Youville is a community kitchen and
food bank that has served hundreds every week over the past 25 years in
Pointe St. Charles, Verdun and Little Burgundy. It is straining for space
and resources and is in desperate need of funds to move to larger, but
cheaper, premises so that it can continue its critical work.
De la Rue - à la Réussite, takes homeless men and women and provides them
with the necessary tools and employment opportunities to reintergrate into
the workforce. This remarkable organization, founded by the indefatigable
Sue McDougall and her late husband Jean-Pierre Chartrand, doesn't just get
people on their feet, it gets them back into life. It understands that it's
about more than just getting people a paycheque; it's about giving them back
Activist attorney Brigitte Garceau created The Garceau Foundation out of a
desire to provide the highest level of financial, professional and
organizational support to frontline community action and social service
groups tackling our most daunting social challenges. The need for the most
effective intervention on behalf of these groups, already operating with
strained resources, will become ever more acute. Brigitte believes none of
us can stay uninvolved. Building on the philosophy that to whom much is
given, much is expected, she is bringing years of experience in political
and community networking and fund-raising to bear on this mission.
Inspired by a real-life Cassandra - Garceau's ten year old daughter - who
wanted to do something to help the underprivileged, the symbolism of the
lilac is poignant and pithy. Like children, the most vulnerable and fragile
among us, each lilac flower alone is beautiful but fragile. But together in
a bough, lilacs are not only fragrant, but strong. Each child alone is
fragile. But if we look at them together, we are compelled by their needs
and find the strength to accomplish the unimaginable. Together, we can
gentle the condition.
This event will take place under the patronage of a very special Presidente
d?honneur - Andrée Ruffo. For decades Ruffo has been the outstanding voice
in Quebec, and perhaps unparalleled in the country, in defense of our most
vulnerable and disenfranchised. Her particular passion was young people. As
a youth court judge she not only showed compassion from the bench but
commitment in the public arena. Few were as brave as she in demonstrating
that when the system fails we as citizens must step in. That toeing the line
is like doing a crime. Her book, "Parce que je crois aux enfants" is not
only an indictment of apathy but an eloquent appeal for action.
The concert will not only be about entertainment. You will meet the people
behind these groups and you will meet the people they help. We hope you will
be touched as you meet the most humble among us who cannot secure the
preferences of the privileged for themselves. We hope you will be touched
enough to give of your time and talent as well as your treasure.
I assure you that the music, the words and the images of this concert will
pierce your heart. We want you to take away from it a greater ability to see
the world through the eyes of its victims. And to understand intuitively,
that the less educated are not less intelligent and that the less affluent
are not any less human. That is what Cassandra's Lilacs "Gentle the
Condition" concert is all about, and what the Garceau Foundation seeks to
achieve. Please help.
For tickets you can e-mail the Foundation at
the Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org. All
contributions are deductible and tax receipts will be sent out. The $250 VIP
ticket entitles you to attend the after party at LaMouche, just one block
south of the theatre on St. Denis and Ste. Catherine. General admission
tickets are $150 and can be purchased by calling Théâtre St-Denis at
514-849-4211. Direct credit card purchases can be made through Tel-Spec at
514-790-1111. The Suburban is making available a special package for
advertisers which will include four VIP tickets to the concert. For
information please call 514-484-1107.
responsibility, less demonization
[with permission from The Suburban]
[Aug 16 08]
Two words are at the root of the killing of
Fredy Villaneuva and the riots that followed in Montreal North on the
weekend. Demonization and responsibility.
As we reflect over the past several years, there is clearly a malaise in our
system. From Rohan Wilson dying in an NDG jail cell, to Mohammed Benis’
killing on a Côte des Neiges street, and even to Justin Saint-Aubin’s death
in psychiatric detention in Laval, the number of citizens of colour
suffering grievous harm at the hands of authorities is out of all
proportion. Part of the cause is that our society seems to thrive on
We have revived, particularly in the past 10 years, a lust for sacrificing
“les autres”. Making anyone who is different a scapegoat for our society’s
ills. That attitude of arrogance drips from everything. From the barrels of
police guns to the tips of journalists’ pens. It is an automatic response
that leads to the destruction of lives and reputations. It’s time for it to
After all the inquiries into this latest tragedy, and at the core it is a
human tragedy for the Villaneuva family, nothing will change if demonization
doesn’t stop. The automatic response mechanism that minorities in Quebec are
fair game for everything from fusillades of bullets to torrents of words
must be short-circuited. And no this does not require legislation.
It requires all of us, including minority community members themselves, to
do something much harder than merely following laws. It requires us all to
be more responsible.
To shoulder the responsibility of looking at every citizen as an individual.
Not as a member of a race, or a creed or a cultural community. To look at
them as a person. To judge each encounter and situation on its own merits
and from its own circumstances.
Our society is overwhelmed by bureaucratic pigeon-holing and stereotyping.
Every aspect of life seems to be governed by some book of regulations with
built in answers. The problem is most of life happens between all those
cookie-cutter examples. It may well be that we are not teaching our
citizens, including our police officers, how to deal with it all. Conformity
breeds contempt. Contempt for any different person or lifestyle or
situation. And since most situations that authority has to deal with are
non-conformist, we are poorly equipped to handle them.
Poorly equipped not only on the side of authority, but also on the side of
the citizenry. Responsibility cuts two ways. It is not enough merely to
point out the failings of “the system”. On a community level the failures
have been great as well.
There is terrible economic and social disparity around us. We know that. But
that does not permit anyone to automatically assume the mantle of
entitlement. Too many do so too often.
The parents who take no responsibility for their children. Life decisions
being made with no regard to practical circumstances. Lives governed by
lethargy and apathy. No responsibility to the community.The attitude? “The
system owes me.” Or, “The system will take care of it.” Or, “The system has
to understand me and respect my lifestyle,” even as I go and bash a car and
set fire to a store. Well, no the “system” owes nothing to those who trash
their own lives.
Responsibility means you stop whining and you do not resort to violence and
gangs. You pull yourself together as best you can and demonstrate that you
are worthy of the “system” helping you get the rest of the way. It’s not all
one sided. You don’t take to the streets and riot. You get involved and make
your community work!
In the end young Fredy Villaneuva became a casualty in the war of
demonization and entitlement. All sides failed him because they abdicated
their one common gift. Their humanity. We won’t avoid all tragedies in the
future. But one way to guard against them is for us all to get human again.
Morgentaler: It's about liberty, not
[with permission from The Suburban]
[Jul 27 08]
French social critic Hervé Juvin’s book
L’avènement du corps (The Elevation of the Body), argues that our ability to
live longer has seen the birth of a hedonism of self-preservation replacing
the hedonism of self-indulgence.
Some commentators have used Juvin’s work to argue that individual rights
advocates are on “the wrong side of history” because people today are
prepared to do anything and submit to anything for the sake of longevity.
Their arguments imply that this trend is irreversible and that societal
submission to state dictate on our behaviour is acceptable in order to
accommodate a new wave of “sanctimonious puritanism” as one writer phrased
They miss the point. The debate is not about libertines. The debate is about
These thoughts come to mind as one observes the furor over the Order of
Canada that will be bestowed on Dr. Henry Morgentaler. I will not touch on
the moral issues of abortion. Nor will I touch on the status of the Order of
Canada. What I will touch on is Henry Morgentaler’s singular contribution to
this country. The championing of personal liberty.
The “right side” of history has always been, and will continue to be, that
side that defends and expands individual freedoms. Among the most important
of which is the freedom to choose. That freedom is one of the most telling
barometers of any society’s progress. Former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler
argued that very point in his case for considering the de-criminalization of
If the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation, it certainly has
no business telling any of us what to do with our bodies. And it
particularly has no business imposing moral codes on its citizens. It’s not
the state’s job.
The reason why “blue laws", whether against alcohol, smoking or abortion, so
frequently raise their hydra-headed countenances is that too many people are
afraid of liberty. That’s why the nanny-state continues to grow. As Bernard
Shaw wrote, “liberty demands responsibility, that’s why so many dread it.”
Too many are ready to be complicit in ther own self-abnegation so they go
along just to get along. Too many are ready to sacrifice permanent liberty
for temporary security, in the end getting neither. Too many are ready to
buy into Elmer Gantry dogmas because they have lost the ability to reason
for themselves. And they would happily impose this tyranny of the mindless
on us all.
Laws have no legitimacy if they are used to curtail personal freedom. To
“protect” me from me. But they are important in protecting you from me. This
is another great service Morgentaler rendered to this country. As much as
people closed their eyes to it — whether they were legal or not — abortions
were a common practice. Sadly however, many had no access to doctors. Back
alley abortionists were doing permanent damage and killing many.
Morgentaler’s struggles not only re-affirmed the basic right of individual
control over our own bodies, but protected so many women from trauma and
death. Now there was a real public health issue.
Morgentaler walked the walk. He didn’t just talk the talk. He went to jail
for violating a law the Supreme Court later ruled unconstitutional. His
actions were a main catalyst behind the current reality in which Canada is a
country with no abortion law of any kind. And women are the better for it.
One of the common themes in the criticism of his appointment is that the
awards should be given to people who unify the country, not who bring
division. If that were true, you would have to question the giving of the
award to a lot of recipients whose mere name sparks divisions in many parts
of this country. Recipients that include a lot of politicians.
Based on the existing criteria, and on historical precedent, Morgentaler’s
award is entirely defensible. Any attempts to have it rescinded are
misguided, based on Order of Canada guidelines, or are simply attempts to
reopen the abortion debate.
We as a nation must commit to one over-riding principle. That neither the
state nor society has a right to impose an external collective morality on
personal, self-centred conduct. We have to become sophisticated enough to
accept that the full spectrum of human behaviour means that some people make
bad choices. And that no amount of opprobrium or even danger to self will
prevent people from doing that. We have to understand, as constitutional
attorney Julius Grey put it, that “legislating niceness is not very nice.”
Before Morgentaler it was common for Canadian hospitals to have dedicated
wards where women suffering sepsis or unstoppable hemorrhaging from botched
abortions were treated and, sometimes, died. Even today, the World Health
Organization estimates that 68,000 women die annually from illegal
abortions, while between two and seven million sustain long-term damage or
Morgentaler’s battles resulted in women being freed from submission to the
will of the state or clergy or just the whim of a man for that matter. On a
broader scale, he added building blocks to the edifice of individual liberty
Many object to the fact that Morgentaler has profited, through his clinics,
from his legal victories. What of it? We have to rid ourselves of childish
notions born of false pieties. Virgins do not make redemptive change in
society. The dubious can be champions of the good. And perhaps Morgentaler
himself did not even think about all these notions of personal freedom when
he began. Maybe he was just sick and tired of the sham and hypocrisy and
suffering he saw. That should be good enough for us. Too few talk truth to
No one has a right to force a woman to bear a child. Whether she has the
baby or not is a traumatic and life-altering decision that only she can
make. It may well be far more responsible to decide not to bring another
human being into the world than to do so when the pregnancy is not planned
and the circumstances are wrong. If a person feels that abortion is morally
wrong, that does not give him or her the right to impose that opinion on
women who are the ones affected. At the end of the day this is what
Morgentaler taught us.
The Order of Canada’s motto is “Desiderantes meliorem patriam. They desire a
better country.” By freeing so many women from fear, and making Canadians
accept personal liberty and responsibility, Morgentaler made it better.
[with permission from The Suburban]
[Jul 1 08]
Some one hundred years ago, Justice Oliver
Wendell Holmes, Jr. constructed the foundational maxim of legitimate legal
order: “Justice must be seen to be done as well as to be done.” These
thirteen simple words embodied the hopes and strivings of those of
compassionate conscience and noble purpose who recognized that a just
society is predicated on the recognition of the claim by every citizen on a
presumptive tolerance from the state.
Few statements could underlie better why the acquittal of Basil Parasiris
was right and just. Parasiris and his family were awakened before dawn by
police officers who battered down the door to his home. He said he acted in
self-defence in the shoot-out that followed which resulted in the death of
police constable Daniel Tessier. Parasiris claimed throughout that he did
not know they were police and thought it was a break-in. Some of the
officers had come right to his bedroom door. As tragic as Tessier’s death
was, the jury agreed and in a manner of speaking a break-in was just what it
The trial revealed that this tragedy should never have happened. The Laval
police force’s search warrant had been based on questionable evidence.
Further, the warrant did not give requisite special authorization for a
night-time raid. Most warrants are served after dawn. The trial also
revealed that the police had not properly checked whether Mr. Parasiris
owned guns. The officers hadn’t checked his name in the firearms registry,
only the address. Finally, some officers mistakenly fired into a child's
bedroom. Almost everything that could go wrong did.
Justice Guy Cournoyer of Quebec Superior Court, had invalidated the search
warrant the officers were using. Mr. Parasiris was targeted in a police
probe into cocaine trafficking. But Judge Cournoyer ruled that the police
failed to prove he had drugs in his home and weren't justified in using
force to enter. The force was a battering ram at 5.00 am.
It was a prescription for disaster. A “legal” break-in. Sadly, in a society
run rampant by state dictate and interference in our private domains this
was almost inevitable. The jurors seemed to be drawing a line in the sand
around the sanctity of the home. They agreed with Mr. Parasiris's defence
that he thought he was the victim of a home invasion.
The rush to judgment in the events leading up to the fateful morning ignored
due process and the presumption of innocence. We are a society of laws and
not of men. But, as Gandhi said, it is a principle of natural justice that
when bad men make bad laws, or when unprincipled authorities compromise good
ones, citizens are justified in protecting themselves from the very
authority that compromised law and order.
Justice Cournoyer directly, and the jurors indirectly, mirrored what US
Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas once wrote. “In a civilized
society,” he stated, “ the means are all important. It may seem unimportant
that one person’s guilt is established through questionable means, but a
society that accepts indiscriminate practices as normal has no claim to
moral leadership.” And where there is no foundational morality behind legal
actions, those actions and the very laws they represent have no legal
If we Canadians have one boast, one over-riding advantage, not just over
totalitarian regimes, but even over sister democracies, it is that our legal
traditions reflect our national consensus that our governance must have a
broad base in morality and decency and protect our individuality and
conscience against direct and indirect breach by the state. If we ever
forget that then we may, in the words of Toronto’s famed civil rights and
criminal defense attorney Clayton Ruby, “…lose sight of what our democracy
is all about.”
Let the detectives detect and the investigators investigate and the
collectors collect, but within the limits of due process. And with the
appropriate verbal restraint from our public officials so that the
reputations of our citizens are not compromised. Except in extreme matters
of National Security - and even then balanced against the primacy of
protecting individual liberties so as not to become the reflection of that
which we are trying to destroy - if state authorities cannot catch certain
people under rules that protect the majority of law-abiding citizens, then
so be it. Governments cannot continue to be given onerous extraordinary
powers which we have seen them apply not only irresponsibly, but
Few crimes are as heinous as that of unbridled government power. Few threats
to our public security are as grave as the ability of unseen forces to
intrude into our lives and thoughts. Few fears are more paralysing to the
commonweal than the possibility of violation of our most sacred trusts by
public servants who shield themselves behind screens of immunity. The
greatest danger to our free society lurks in the insidious encroachment by
agents of the state operating without understanding or guidance from
And this problem is broader than the power of police officers. We have
oversight and control by so many government statocrats into every aspect of
our private lives. So many laws aimed not at protecting victims but at
protecting us from ourselves. It is sheer madness. The reality is that if we
have to live our lives weighing every action, every communication, every
human contact, wondering what agents of the state might find out about, how
they would analyse it, judge it, tamper with it, and somehow use it to our
detriment, we are not truly free.
We can only have one standard. The state may do nothing that contravenes the
guarantees implicit in the concepts of ordered liberty and fundamental
justice. These principles are effective only when there is a strict
adherence to due process. The starting point is always the individual, not
the state. Only if due process is respected can the humblest of citizens
feel sheltered in the heart of our legal order by the guarantee that they
are protected from persecution and shielded from sanction.
This is our only surety of a government, and a society, that endures with
pride and purpose in a spirit of compassion and conscience, and not one that
merely exists--paralysed and petrified--in the icy frost of its own
indecision and indifference.
RFK: "A tiny ripple of hope..."
[with permission from The Suburban]
[June 4 08]
“In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls
drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
~ Aeschylus’ “Agamemnon”, one of RFK’s favorite quotes
This week we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Sen.
Robert F. Kennedy. He was shot on June 5, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in
Los Angeles as he was celebrating the California primary victory that would
have led him to the Democratic presidential nomination. He died the next
day. For many of us who were coming to political maturity in that turbulent
time, hope seemed to die with him.
It has been said that my generation was the first to realize a terrible
truth before any of us even turned 20. That truth was that the best people
we would ever see in public life had their heads blown off. Kennedy, King,
When Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in April of 1968, people
around the continent said “We still have Bobby.” After Bobby was killed,
those of us who remained engaged in public life comforted ourselves with
That hope was embodied in many of RFK’s words, but never more so than what
he said in the black township of Soweto in South Africa in 1966. “Each time
a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or
strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. And
crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring,
those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of
oppression and resistance.”
But we came to learn that hope, like courage, rests not on the shoulders of
any one man but lives in the hearts of all he inspired. All we need is the
resolve to remember, and to carry on.
To remember the RFK who dragged a Senate committee to the Mississippi Delta
and poignantly touched the stomach and cheek of a starving black child and
then glared into a television camera and icily declared “This is
unacceptable in America!” To remember another Senate panel he took to
California to help Cesar Chavez’ embattled grape workers’ union withstand
crackdowns from redneck sheriffs whom Kennedy ordered to “Re-read the
Constitution of the United States!” To remember how he brought big business
and big labour together to rejuvenate the slums of Bedford-Stuyvesant. To
remember the hope that he engendered from the hungry of South America to the
imprisoned of Africa.
When one reflects on the killing of Bobby one remembers a story that took
place in the White House the day John Kennedy was killed. The writer Mary
McGrory said on that day that “…we shall never smile again.” Then
presidential assistant Daniel Patrick Moynihan answered “No Mary, we will
smile again, but we’ll never be young again.” Many of us grew up real quick
that bloody spring.
So many today find it fashionable to question what RFK really did in his
short public life. Others, members of the salon liberal set Kennedy so
disdained, relish condemning him because of his supposed ruthlessness and
his alliances with old-time party bosses. But that was the point of Bobby.
As religious a man as he was, he hated false piety. And he didn’t endorse
litmus tests of purity in politics. His bottom line was who could help him
meet the needs of the people. That endeavour, and that endeavour alone, was
the redemptive crusade of public life. RFK made us see possibilities in
ourselves that we thought unimaginable. If the line he loved from Bernard
Shaw meant anything it meant that. “Some men see things as they are and say
why? I dream things that never were and say why not?”
Robert Kennedy held out an authentic vision of a generosity of spirit that
could realize the ancient dream of the brotherhood of man. He challenged us
to vigorous service and sacrifice in our daily lives. And most of all, he
dared us to be brave.
Perhaps that is the greatest quality of leadership. To make people bolder,
braver, better than they ever thought possible. And he did it by giving
people the audacity to hope. While some today talk of change but are in fact
merely the products of change, Robert Kennedy was a true agent of change. It
was his greatest legacy.
At no time since his murder has the world been in need of such hope and such
courage. It is for that reason as much as any perhaps, that his legacy
resonates with us still. For we live in a time when too many of our leaders
run between the raindrops. They don’t dare to care. And they can no longer
tell right from wrong. It is a time of the feckless and the fearful. It is a
time of obsequious appeasement of villainy.
Robert Kennedy brought not only courage but clarity to public life. He dared
to care. He sailed into the rainstorms. He knew right from wrong. And he
knew it because of the simplicity of his public testament that his brother
Sen. Edward Kennedy explained so well in his eulogy at St. Patrick’s
Cathedral. “My brother,” he said, “need not be idealized or enlarged in
death beyond what he was in life. [He should be remembered]... as a man who
saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war
and tried to stop it.”
On this sad week there could be no more fitting tribute to Robert Francis
Kennedy’s legacy than to remember those words of his brother. And few more
important lessons for our own national will.
No submission to intimidation
[with permission from The Suburban]
[May 30 08]
Response to our series on the Public Curator
and the Dietrich affair has been overwhelming. As satisfying as were our
efforts in bringing the Itzhayek saga to light — and Saul home; helping Ella
Marchildon get RAMQ approval for life-saving surgery; aiding the Maison du
partage d’Youville and shedding light on victims of slumlords and the plight
of the homeless, the investigation surrounding the Curator may have a
greater impact. For it is an example of systemic breakdown by government and
of the abnegation of individual consequence by its agents.
The Suburban, and its editor Beryl Wajsman as host of 940 Montreal’s The
Last Angry Man, have received a letter from the Public Curator to stop
writing or talking about this case; stop publishing pictures of Mrs.
Dietrich; and stop divulging personal information. In much of what the
letter stated it was wrong as to facts. As to its tone of “intimidation
amicable” neither we, nor our editor, will submit. For as noted
constitutional attorney Julius Grey said on Mr. Wajsman’s program, “The
operations of the Curator generally raise issues of broad public interest.
And the fact of the issuance of such a letter raises graver issues still.”
Maybe it is time to raise the temperature.
What we have sought since the beginning of this investigation, launched at
the written request of Mrs. Dietrich and her chosen representative Ura
Greenbaum, executive director of the Association for the Protection of
Persons under Curatorship, are answers to two simple questions. Questions
that arose from documents of public record delivered to us by Mr. Greenbaum
and Mrs. Dietrich. First, why did a representative of the Curator break a
written legal agreement that Mrs. Dietrich’s tutorship would be provisional
and limited to the administration of a certain immoveable property and
proceed to institute full and total tutorship over her life? Secondly, why
did another representative of the Curator make an agreement with Mrs.
Dietrich’s landlord to remove her from her apartment of 15 years, put her
belongings in storage and leave her homeless? Despite clear indications of
an abuse of process, answers to these questions have not been forthcoming.
Too much secrecy in the Public Curator is couched behind the excuse of
confidentiality. But confidentiality of what? As Mr. Greenbaum has asked so
often, “When the Public Curator invokes confidentiality, is it protecting
its wards or is it protecting itself?” In the Dietrich file, “Is it acting
in the best interest of Mrs. Dietrich or is it using confidentiality for its
own benefit to cover up its mistakes?”
The Curator is supposed to advance autonomy of its wards. By keeping Mrs.
Dietrich under public curatorship in spite of her ardent opposition and the
professional re-evaluations that state she is fully capable, is it
furthering her autonomy or is it avoiding having to admit its blunder? The
right of confidentiality of personal information belongs strictly to Mrs.
Dietrich — as it does for the benefit of every citizen — not for the benefit
of the Public Curator or agents of the state. This is an example of how the
Public Curator and indeed our governments, insidiously pervert a belonging
to the people and appropriate it for its own benefit.
We have been told by representatives of the Curator that they are trying to
get Mrs. Dietrich to go for yet a third series of evaluations because a
judge might not free her if she has two contradictory reports. We have
suggested to the Curator’s office that it simply admit to a judge in
chambers that several of their agents had abused the process and that the
original curatorship demand was wrong.
It is clear from the many calls we received that the problems with the
Public Curator, first brought to public attention some 10 years ago by
Quebec Auditor-General Guy Breton, have yet to be resolved. It is our hope
that media and public attention will move apathetic bureaucrats and a
lethargic system to release Mrs. Dietrich and reform their own house. One
thing is for certain. There will be no submission to subtle intimidation by
agents of a state whose actions so often excite the people’s contempt and
whose failures to act spark the people’s disgust.
In a time when power and privilege, particularly in government, manipulate
truth and use it against the innocent for purposes of political profit it is
right and proper to use the power of the Fourth Estate — the media — to
right a wrong and ease suffering. Maybe it will give all of us, including
many in the media, who take too much at face value; who rush to judgment;
who willingly sacrifice someone — anyone — to maintain their own semblance
of false piety, the courage to dare to care.
In this age of instant communication and instant destruction we cannot
afford to forget the disempowered, the disenfranchised and the disaffected.
The times are too dangerous for that. And, as in Mrs. Dietrich’s case, too
senior and the system
The nullification of Erna
Hagen Dietrich "All I want is justice!" pleads woman in curatorship
[with permission from The Suburban - first
published on Apr 9 08]
We hear much today about how the government
wants seniors to lead longer, healthier and more productive lives. These
signals have been heartening for many Suburban readers. This newspaper is
distributed in areas with some of the highest concentrations of seniors in
Quebec. In Côte St. Luc for example, the seniors rate is one of the highest
Sadly, however, our social service system seems set up only to treat seniors
as incapacitated children. Too many are needlessly made wards of the state
under control of the Public Curator. The Curator, independent of any
governmental agency, is one of the most secretive public institutions. The
reason always given is privacy concerns. Yet the Curator manages hundreds of
millions of dollars of assets with little reporting and almost no
transparency. It is no longer an option of last resort, it has too often
become the easiest way out for flawed frontline social service providers.
Here is one story. But it is not just any story. For it contains within it
all the elements of what can go wrong when a senior turns to the “system”
and meets the tyranny of the mindless.
Note to reader: I have purposely left out the names of the bureaucrats
involved in the Dietrich affair for the purposes of this first article. ~BW
In May of 2006 Mrs. Erna Hagen Dietrich, a single 68-year-old woman, was
living peacefully in her apartment on l’Acadie Blvd. and managing a
residential fiveplex owned by her ex-husband who had returned to Germany in
1965 and allowed her, by giving her power of attorney, the use of the
revenue from the fiveplex in lieu of alimony.
A few years earlier she had given her power of attorney to two people to
manage the property for her. She started to have trouble with them and felt
they were not turning over all the revenues to her. She tried some lawyers
to resolve the issue but to no avail. She looked around for more help and
someone suggested to her that she try her local CLSC in Park Extension.
Once there, a social worker told her that the most effective method of
resolving her situation would be to put herself into curatorship and let the
Public Curator deal with her property. That this was the best way the public
service could help her, the social worker said. Though she wrote in her
notes that Mrs. Dietrich did not seem to realize the seriousness of
curatorship, this social worker sent her for a psychiatric evaluation.
The psychiatric evaluation declared her mentally unfit. The reports were
forwarded on to the Public Curator. In the fall of 2006 legal proceedings
were begun by the Public Curator to take control of Mrs. Dietrich’s life.
She was mentally fit enough though to retain the services of a lawyer and
make sure that there was a written agreement signed with the Curator that
this would only be a provisional and partial regime of curatorship and
relate only to the administration of the fiveplex.
However, by February of 2007 the official representative of the Curator in
charge of her file decided to pursue final and full curatorship over Mrs.
Dietrich. Mrs. Dietrich objected and did not attend the first court hearing.
It was postponed to the spring. At the spring hearing in May, almost a year
after the fateful day she had entered the CLSC looking for legal help, the
Superior Court of Quebec awarded full curatorship though Mrs. Dietrich was
not in attendance and the judge never saw her. Instead of postponing the
proceedings and sending a bailiff to assure that Mrs. Dietrich be in
attendance, the court simply went with the recommendations of the Curator’s
office and legal counsel. Through all this Mrs. Dietrich had kept up an
unending stream of correspondence vigorously objecting to these procedures.
But justice was deaf, not just blind. And Erna Hagen Dietrich’s life was
about to go from bad to worse.
The landlord in the apartment she had lived in for 15 years was looking for
ways to evict her because he wanted higher rent than what the rental board
was awarding. He obtained a judgment from the rental board to do major
repairs in her apartment. She would have to vacate for 60 days. He was
ostensibly responsible for her housing costs during that period.
Mrs. Dietrich returned often to see her apartment during that period. But no
work was progressing. Unbeknownst to her, the Curator and her landlord were
in contact. On Oct. 1, 2007, Mrs. Dietrich was informed by the new Curator’s
representative on her file that in return for $2,000 paid by Mrs. Dietrich’s
landlord, the Public Curator had decided to terminate her lease. The
Curator’s office cut off her phone and electricity and put Mrs. Dietrich’s
possessions in storage where they remain until today. She was left homeless.
Literally. She has been relying on friends who have taken her in for various
periods of time.
Then the Curator went further. Since Mrs. Dietrich had been declared
incompetent and an incompetent person cannot act as a power of attorney, the
Public Curator located her ex-husband in Germany (still the registered owner
of the fiveplex) and told him to appoint someone else to manage the
property. After losing her home she was now deprived of her income.
To complete her Kafkaesque nullification, the Public Curator’s office began
receiving her mail so she could not even receive communications from the
very government authorities to whom she was complaining. Her bank accounts
were closed. The balances transferred to the Public Curator’s account and
her pension cheques were also re-directed to it.
Despite these trials and outrages, Mrs. Dietrich maintained the semblance of
mind to seek out community resources to help her. Côte des Neiges’ Project
Genesis suggested she see Ura Greenbaum, executive director of the
Association for the Defense of Persons under Public Curatorship. Earlier
this year Greenbaum made a complaint to the Protecteur du citoyen against
the CLSC that originally started this whole process.
That complaint resulted in the original social worker who had told Mrs.
Dietrich that curatorship was the best way to protect her property rights
being re-assigned. Greenbaum also had Dietrich re-evaluated by an
independent social worker and also by a new psychiatrist. Both assessments
agreed that the original social worker had been over-zealous at best and
that Mrs. Dietrich was not incapable and should not have been put into
public curatorship. Those reports were filed in Dietrich’s court record over
a month ago.
The filing of such reports in a curatorship file triggers an automatic
request for re-assessment. But when I spoke this week with the
representative of the Public Curator authorized to talk to me about this
case, she was unaware of their existence over one month after their filing.
She also stressed that she could not comment because of privacy and legal
issues. She did agree to accept faxed copies of them from me. Also unaware
was the Curator’s representative who took the full curatorship proceedings
in February of last year. He told me he was now off the file. The new
representative in charge of Mrs. Dietrich’s fate was now the woman who had
made the deal with the landlord last fall which resulted in Mrs. Dietrich
being left homeless.
Next week I hope to report on some progress after the new evaluations have
been studied by the Public Curator. But it has had over a month. And three
questions remain unanswered. Why would a social worker talk to a citizen
about curatorship when that person had come in, with a friend, simply to ask
for advice on legal remedies? How was the curator’s representative allowed
to ignore a written agreement with Mrs. Dietrich and extend the scope of the
curatorship? And finally, who authorized the Curator’s dislocation of Mrs.
Dietrich from her home in making the deal with her landlord when the Civil
Code’s own article 275 demands that “ the dwelling and possessions of a
protected person of full age be kept at their disposal”?
We can only hope that this is not another case, like Saul Itzhayek’s and
Ella Marchildon’s, where citizens suffered prejudice in the face of an
unmoving and uncaring bureaucracy until public advocacy rallied community
support. After all, Mrs. Dietrich is looking for something so simple. “All I
want is justice,” she told me in our first conversation. “All I want is
Dare to care, part 2
[with permission from The Suburban - first
published on Mar 19 08]
Ella Shepherd Marchildon’s struggle to get
life-saving surgery in the United States continues. As we reported in our
front-page story last week, Marchildon was operated on for a very rare form
of cancer. The surgeons at the Royal Victoria Hospital determined that her
best chance for survival was to go to the Sugarbaker clinic in Washington to
have the world-renowned Sugarbaker procedure. That procedure combines
surgery with a cutting edge chemotherapy procedure known as IPEC. The
success rate there is 75 percent with patients remaining cancer-free for 10
years on average.
The procedure is costly, with initial estimates running north of $60,000.
Ella, and her husband Joe, applied to RAMQ (Régie de l’assurance maladie du
Québec) to cover the costs. RAMQ refused, stating that this surgery was
available at four hospitals in Quebec.
Joe Marchildon collected letters from three of these hospitals stating that
they do not do this procedure. The fourth said that it did it on an
experimental basis but did not have the IPEC chemo follow-up. In any case
the wait time for the experimental surgery was four to six months. Too late
Ella’s files were sent to Dr. Paul Sugarbaker for personal assessment. He
was in touch with Ella’s doctors who had performed the initial surgeries
here. He sent a letter to RAMQ stating that though the procedure is lengthy
and difficult, Ella was an excellent candidate for a successful operation
and post-op treatment.
All this documentation was then sent to RAMQ with another request for aid.
Just last Thursday RAMQ again refused. This time the Regie’s reason was
Kafkaesque. RAMQ functionaries had contacted someone at the one hospital
that does this procedure experimentally but has no IPEC follow-up. They did
not speak to the chief surgeon for this type of operation as he was away.
According to RAMQ, that doctor determined that the Sugarbaker procedure
would not help Ella. This was the basis for RAMQ’s latest refusal.
Four doctors plus Dr. Sugarbaker believe this operation will save Ella’s
life. RAMQ chose to issue a death sentence.
Joe Marchildon has approached his MNA Geoff Kelley several times. Marchildon
was informed by the MNA’s office that Kelley had asked RAMQ to help on
“humanitarian grounds”. Until now these appeals have been to no avail. I had
occasion to speak to Mr. Kelley just yesterday. He told me that he is still
trying but that he has been told that the latest RAMQ decision had been
“peer-reviewed” and that the case has the personal attention of the
One has to question in astonishment how our system allows one group of
bureaucrats to choose between its group of peers and the suffering
citizen’s. The Marchildons have brought together letters from some of the
leading doctors in the field. Somehow these peers aren’t good enough for
I reminded Mr. Kelley that the Minister, and indeed the Premier, should
remember that no matter what policy or politics they practice on health
care, the imagination of the public will always be captured by the
individual stories and faces. Particularly those that are victimized by an
unfeeling and uncaring bureaucracy. I asked Mr. Kelley to pass this on and
to remind Mr. Charest and Health Minister Philippe Couillard that when there
is a doubt, the benefit of it should be given to the citizen.
The Marchildon affair has galvanized a community to action and captured
popular compassion and imagination. Joe Marchildon got a website up and
It is attracting attention and contributions. National and international
attention is picking up. CTV News featured the story this past Sunday. Joe
tells me that when Sugarbaker Oncology Clinic is Googled the first thing
that comes up is last week’s Suburban story.
Ella and Joe, so dedicated to and active in the West Island, have appealed
to their friends and neighbours for help. And their pleas are being
answered. All members of the Home and School Association at St. John Fisher
have been informed of this tragedy and the urgency of immediate help. Dozens
of people are involved.
Contributions are being collected not only from individuals but from
companies that are organizing drives among their employees. We received word
late yesterday that a major pharmaceutical company may be ready to help
I had Joe on my radio show on 940 Montreal this past Sunday with noted
constitutional lawyer Julius Grey. Joe will be meeting with Grey for help on
the appeal procedure. Grey has won several successful appeals against RAMQ
rejections. Kirkland council passed a motion calling on Premier Charest and
Minister Couillard to intervene and after a discussion I had with informed
sources this file may very well be the subject of a high level meeting in
the premier’s office very shortly.
All this energy is heartening. Ella Shepherd Marchildon’s life will be
saved. Her five children will have a mother. What is sad is that RAMQ has
not yet learned the organizing principle of health care: Do no harm.
Where's the outrage?
[with permission from The Suburban -
first published on Mar 19 08]
“The hottest places in hell are reserved for
those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”
It wasn’t that long ago when leaders of Quebec politics, labour and academia
addressed a large rally in Montreal. That rally excoriated a small
democratic nation that was defending itself in the face of naked aggression.
The speakers made hardly a mention of the fact that citizens of that country
had been killed in rains of rockets, as they still are today. Hardly a
mention of kidnapped citizen soldiers. No mention at all of the enemies of
that nation utilizing the vilest methods of murder and mayhem in pursuit of
purposes of genocide and national extinction.
The nation under attack never targeted civilians and non-combatants. Never
destroyed religious sites. Never sought to obliterate all semblance of their
aggressors’ culture and history. The enemies of that nation were intent on
just that and had for two generations practiced the crudest forms of
nullification and interposition including turning tombstones into toilet
The nation under attack that August day in Montreal was Israel. The gathered
thousands at the rally lionized and stood under flags of the murderous
Hezbollah, deemed an outlaw terrorist organization by the government of
Canada. Israel, the frontline state in the family of free nations, was that
day accused of “barbarism” and atrocities that it never committed.
We wrote then, and believe today, that what motivated those leaders who
spoke to that rally was political profiteering at its most cynical. The
calculus was simple. Appeal to the lowest common denominator of hate and
radicalism. Labour leaders sought more card carrying members. Politicians
sought votes. Left-wing academics sought validation of their most
reprehensible slanders. What strikes us today is what happened to the
Tibet is once again under the repressive heel of China. Death and
destruction abound in the streets of Lhasa and two other major cities. Why
are the voices of Quebec civil society now stilled?
The Dalai Lama, a man who “progressives” ache to have their picture taken
with, has called China’s actions “cultural genocide”. Yet the “progressives”
are strangely silent. Could it be that they are fit only for picture taking
and not for manning the barricades at times of moral crisis?
Israel encourages Arab culture. Funds Arab universities on the West Bank.
One-quarter of the student body at Hebrew University is Arab. Israel has
Arab judges, diplomats and parliamentarians. Funds Muslim cultural programs.
Yet Israel is condemned and China is given a pass. China has destroyed some
6,000 Tibetan temples. Israel has never touched a Muslim mosque. Yet Israel
is condemned and China is given a pass. China has killed over 1,000,000
Tibetans in a very real holocaust. Yet the Jihadists and their fellow
travellers accuse Israel of committing a holocaust against the Palestinians
that never happened while denying the Jewish Holocaust of the Second World
War that did, and preparing a second with their friends in Tehran. It is
enough of Israel being the moral resort area for the world’s most perverted
purveyors of prejudice.
Why aren’t we seeing labour unions and university academic groups attempt to
organize boycotts of China as some tried to do against Israel? Why are those
self-styled arbiters of morality appeasing the world’s largest tyranny? Why?
Because they are cowards and hypocrites.
It is fear that drives the public debate on China. Fear and greed. Business
profits on its slave markets. Academics on its exchange and research
programs. Journalists are co-opted by the politically correct notions of
every culture’s right to be wrong. And politicians don’t have the courage to
challenge a regime that holds up to one-third, in some cases, of western
China is a country whose leaders have killed some 40 million of its citizens
over the years. Half of those were slaughtered in the 1948-51 revolution.
Last year, some 20,000 political prisoners were murdered. Many tied back to
back so one bullet could be used for two. Falun Gong practitioners are
jailed and killed by the thousands. Organs harvested like so much wheat
being threshed. The Chinese dictators, together with Iran, are the main
facilitators of the Sudanese regime carrying out the first genocide of the
21st century in Darfur. Where is the outrage?
A generation ago the free world faced a similar, though less bloodthirsty,
enemy in the Soviet Union. Two resolute American statesmen, Sen. Henry
Jackson of Washington and Congressman Charles Vanik, obtained passage of the
Jackson-Vanik amendment that denied Most Favoured Nation status to the
Soviets until they respected the civil liberties of political and religious
dissidents. The next year, the Moscow Olympics were boycotted by 61
countries. In 1981 the Helsinki Final Act accord was signed, tightening the
noose around the Soviet Union by bringing Western European nations into the
Jackson-Vanik orbit. Through the ‘80s the policies of Ronald Reagan
continued to suffocate and ostracize the Soviets and by 1989 the Berlin Wall
fell and with it the Soviet empire.
The American message of that bold and brave decade should be our message and
metaphor today. No truck with tyrants! But sadly, if we had to answer
truthfully about where are our voices of outrage today we would have only
one answer. Sold to the highest bidder.
Photos by Martin Chamberland: The Suburban
Dare to care!
Ella Shepherd Marchildon's
life and death challenge to RAMQ
[with permission from The Suburban -
first published on Mar 13 08]
Christmas is usually a time of warmth and
celebration. Christmas 2002 was not such a time for West Islanders Ella and
Joe Marchildon. Active members of the community, particularly involved with
youth sports, their Pointe Claire home burned down just before Christmas
Day. They lost everything. They were also underinsured. But they were all
right. They had each other. They were tough. They had five great kids. And
they had their health. Five months later that comfort was shattered too.
In May of 2003 Ella Shepherd Marchildon was diagnosed with a very rare form
of cancer, Signet Ring Cell. Although the doctors were unable to determine
the primary source, they decided to treat it as if the primary source was a
In August of 2003, after surgery Ella began a treatment of chemotherapy that
lasted one full year. She remained cancer free for several years. Ella and
Joe thought the worst was behind them. Last summer they moved into what Ella
calls their “dream home” in Kirkland.
Then came Nov. 30, 2007. Ironically, Ella’s birthday. She had been feeling
some abdominal pressure and had it checked out. On her birthday pathology
reports confirmed that the Signet Ring Cell cancer had returned. The search
for the primary source began again, but to no avail.
This past February Ella went under the knife again. The surgeons planned to
remove her tumour. Unfortunately, they found multiple tumours stretching
from the vaginal wall, around her appendix and into the intestines. They
were only able to remove her appendix. The tumours there were considered to
be the primary source of her cancer. It had apparently been present there
since 2003 and had now spread.
Further surgery on the other multiple tumours was considered too risky to do
here. Not because there was a lack of fine surgeons. But because the best
procedure, and the broadest medical assets, were not available here. The
operation would require Ella to be on the table for some 15 hours with a
medical team of several dozen.
Ella was told that her best chance for a cure and prolonged life was to be
treated at the Sugarbaker Oncology Clinic in Washington D.C. and to undergo
what is known worldwide as the Sugarbaker procedure. A specialized surgeon,
and surgery, of this type was simply not available in Quebec. The Sugarbaker
Clinic has a 10-year survival rate of almost 75 percent for patients whom
they have performed this procedure on.
Dr. Paul Sugarbaker personally reviewed Ella’s medical dossier and agreed to
accept her for the treatment she so desperately needs. Hope realized, right?
Wrong! Ella’s application to RAMQ for financial support and authorization to
be treated by Dr. Sugarbaker was refused.
La régie d’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ) insisted that this procedure
could be performed at several hospitals in Quebec. Joe Marchildon contacted
each of the hospitals and none confirmed RAMQ’s position. Quite the
The Marchildons have passed on letters from doctors to RAMQ asking it to
reconsider. The statements of the medical professionals are unequivocal. Dr.
Lawrence Stein, radiologist-in-chief at the Royal Victoria where Ella had
her latest surgery, stated “the expertise to effectively manage this type of
tumour is not present in Quebec.” He went on to say that given Ella’s age
and physical strength she is an excellent candidate for the Sugarbaker
procedure. He concluded that “the Sugarbaker procedure and intraperitoneal
chemotherapy are the only chances for a cure and prolonged survival.”
Dr. Lucy Gilbert, chief of gynecological oncology at the Royal Victoria and
one of Ella’s surgeons, concurred stating, “this (the Sugarbaker procedure
and ipec) is her only chance of cure and prolonged survival.” One of Ella’s
original doctors at Lakeshore General, Dr. Horace Laryea, wrote that “the
medical expertise to assist this patient appears to be available, albeit
outside the province of Quebec” and also recommended Sugarbaker.
The Royal Victoria is one of the hospitals on RAMQ’s list. The position of
its medical professionals is clear. The Marchildons have passed on similar
statements from other doctors in other hospitals. So far they have heard
nothing on their appeal. They asked their MNA Geoff Kelley to intervene and
were told that his office had asked for a reversal of the RAMQ decision on
But the nagging questions we all have to ask is why did RAMQ get it so wrong
to begin with? This procedure is simply not available here. Why does a
family have to get an “appeal” on “humanitarian” grounds when that should be
RAMQ’s job. Being human!
This case highlights what we have seen too much of in Quebec. That behind
the policy and politicking of health-care, the overwhelming truth is that
health-care no longer dares to care. It is a system so heavily
bureaucratized that the frontline providers of help, the medical
professionals, are at the mercy of bureaucrats who outnumber them and know
nothing, and care less, of the vow of “do no harm”.
It is to be hoped that RAMQ comes to its senses in this, and other cases. It
has failed too spectacularly too often. It must be demanded that our elected
officials remember that the purpose of our much-vaunted universal health
system is to “see suffering and try to heal it”.
Ella is hopeful. She must be in Washington by the end of the month. In the
meantime she is reaching out to her family and friends and the community she
has been such a big part of for support. Her survival is dependent on her
undergoing the Sugarbaker procedure as quickly as possible. Although final
costs cannot be determined they appear to be north of $60,000.
If you would like to help you can send a contribution to the HELP ELLA FUND,
27 Eaton Street, Kirkland, Quebec H9H 3S2. You can contact the Marchildons
by e-mail at
These are the family’s requests.
I would like to add one of my own. That you
contact your MNA and Philippe Couillard, the Minister of Health, and Premier
Charest and make it abundantly clear that you are mad as hell and are not
going to take it anymore. Not for Ella Shepherd Marchildon and not for all
the Ellas you have known in your lives who have gone through the same hell.
Rx for Healthcare
[with permission from The Suburban -
first published on Feb 27 08]
What was missing from the Castonguay
report on health care is what is always missing from attempts to
come to terms with a system that is overburdened and dysfunctional.
A critical look at what was missing from our supposedly universal
plan from the beginning.
But before going into that it must be said that even proponents of
universal one-level health care have to recognize that people have a
right to spend their money on their health. We not only spend it on
everything else, but in Quebec, the highest taxed jurisdiction in
North America, we are fleeced by the government for programs and
policies that no voters demanded and no suffrage affirmed. We cannot
constrict the right of the people to use their money for their
lives. We cannot be dogmatic about this. We need to come to terms
We have two-tier medicine in any case and have had from the very
start. Doctors did, and properly so, have a right to leave medicare
and go private. But that was not the real story behind our two-tier
system. The real story was that universal coverage was a compromised
plan from the very beginning. We have never had politicians with the
courage to say it.
The idea of delivering quality health care to all without deference
to privilege or preference was noble, just and right. But it was
compromised and flawed from the beginning and made worse with the
years. What we have in Quebec is a system where the state pays for
the expenses of pre-existing private institutions, allowing those
institutions to keep their territorial imperatives and particularly,
control of their medical professionals. So if one hospital runs
short of certain doctors it can’t just call another and ask someone
to hop in a cab. The system is proprietary.
A true universal state health care model would have medical
professionals working directly for the government and hospital
infrastructure available within reasonable distance to all centres
of population. The health-care professionals would be accessible and
available to all hospitals so that if there are shortages of
personnel there could at least be an entire pool to call on. That
doesn’t happen here. Doctors are property of the specific hospitals
they are affiliated with.
Medical infrastructure and accessibility is also constricted. We
wouldn’t send children to be educated as far as we send the sick to
be healed. Some 80 percent of our medical institutions are
concentrated in a very small area in the centre of Montreal. Dr.
Paul Saba’s campaign to keep local hospitals alive is vitally
important. They not only serve important community needs but relieve
a great deal of pressure on the health-care system. The closing of
hospitals like the Reddy Memorial and the Queen Elizabeth were
Instead of super-hospitals, we could create tens of thousands of
jobs by using existing, empty infrastructure to build at least a
half-dozen local medical facilities across Montreal island.
Institutions of human scale that treat patients as whole individuals
and not just cogs in an overburdened machine are important for the
well-being of patients. The super-hospital ideas, predicated on
having the budgets to buy state of the art equipment that would
allow for one-third out-patient care, could have disastrous effects.
The system does not have the money to buy the necessary equipment
now, why should we think it will in the future? And the
super-hospitals would cut existing beds in the participating
institutions by one-third.
But it is not enough merely to identify what ails the system. The
most critical problem is satisfying medical professionals’ needs and
incentives. Successive Quebec governments have taken the system from
bad to worse. The PQ’s forced retirement of so many doctors some
dozen years ago was a blow from which we have still not recovered.
The requirement that medical graduates serve several years in rural
areas chases many out. And the salary caps are sending too many out
of the province.
This past year alone, some 40 percent of Montreal’s medical school
grads announced they would be leaving the province. The nation as a
whole needs 2,500 new medical graduates just to keep up with
existing demands. We’re only graduating 2,200. Yet one stark figure
stands out in relief. In Quebec there are more non-frontline
personnel in our healthcare system than doctors or nurses or other
specialist. It is a bureaucracy gone mad that does nothing more than
perpetuate bureaucratic power and does nothing to relieve suffering.
And we’re paying for it.
So what’s the prescription?
For a start we need to allow people to
buy private insurance and use private facilities. But that is not
the be-all and end-all, for no private facilities will be able to
provide what is necessary for complicated procedures and treatments.
So the next step is to give our
doctors incentives and make maximum use of them through an
understaffed system. Ontario has a central referral registry that
allows hospitals to share specialists when they are short. Quebec
needs to implement that system.
Thirdly, as much as we want to protect
the public healthcare system we must realize that we need satisfied
healthcare professionals to stay and make it happen. It is time to
consider the French system where some 20-30 percent of the time
doctors give to the state system they can use for private work in
clinics or home visits.
Fourth, we need to loosen requirements
for admission for healthcare professionals from western countries.
Fifth, we need to cut bureaucrats and put the money into raising the
salaries of healthcare professionals.
Surprisingly, when you look into the problems, the obvious solutions
jump out at you. It merely takes the political will to do it. And
the courage to admit past mistakes and talk straight to the people.
An interview with David Frum
A mind of one piece
[with permission from The Suburban -
first published on Jan 31 08]
It’s not every Canadian that gets to
become a presidential speechwriter. David Frum did. The son of famed
Canadian broadcaster Barbara Frum, David has lived in Washington for
10 years and served President Bush in his first term. Yet one of the
most impressive qualities about David is that he has avoided the
patina of partisanship. He is very much the public intellectual
elevating the public discourse. Through his books, writings and
advisory roles to politicians he has maintained the authenticity and
integrity of the young Daniel Patrick Moynihan. David was in town
this past week discussing ideas from his latest book Comeback:
Conservatism That Can Win Again at an event for the Fraser
Institute. Sometimes it is important to sit down, take an
intellectual step backward and see where we are going and why. I had
the opportunity to do that with David. He’s a pretty good guide.
Beryl Wajsman: David, I have to ask you right off, how did you
manage to avoid the partisan labels that seem to stick to everyone
who works in the political arena?
David Frum: I care about ideas, but you also have to care about
parties. Parties carry ideas. But you get nowhere by engaging in
spin. You have to address the problems on the public agenda and fix
BW: It strikes me that your book in describing conservatism is
almost a reflection of the origins of classic 18th and 19th century
DF: One of the things that’s bothered me about politics is that it
has degenerated into a game of labels. It should be about solving
problems and pursuing principle. People’s problems. I’m trying to
put the Republicans back on the path of pragmatism and problem
solving and not just partisanship and ideology.
BW: Because the party system in the U.S. doesn’t have an automatic
“follow-the-leader or else” structure is it easier to build
coalitions of principle because politicians can cross party lines.
You can be a liberal Republican and a conservative Democrat.
DF: The problem in the U.S. the past few years has been that Bush’s
politics are personal and dynastic. In 2005 the President nominated
White House counsel Harriet Myers to the Supreme Court. She wasn’t
very well known and her lack of qualifications for the court were
not well known. I knew she didn’t belong on the Supreme Court. And
it was one of those moments that you realize that you have knowledge
few have because she was so low key. You realize you have to go
public. I was the first who wrote about it and helped organize
opposition. When the nomination was withdrawn I was virtually cut
off, persona non grata, because for President Bush it is about
“family”. It’s all personal. It’s not about ideas.
BW: How is it different in Canada? There are no diffuse centres of
DF: That is true. That is a big problem. Power is generally much
more centralized in Canada. What you can do in the U.S. as to
setting out new ideas is much easier than in Canada. But much of
what I have written about American politics and the future of
conservative politics can be transported to Canada and other
BW: David, what are your broad themes that conservatives have to
address to “come back” as you put it?
DF: First, conservatives need to re-connect with the aspirations of
the broad middle class. In many ways these have been years of
strain. They are in danger of losing that large middle group that
has been such a bulwark of conservative strength. Secondly, they
have to reconnect with environmentalism without Al Gore’s extremism
and without making it a substitute for religion. It’s important to
young people, important to many and there are some real issues. The
third issue is national security. Not only are we living in a
dangerous world, but the traditional allies of the U.S. and Canada
are weakening. Twenty years ago the Anglo-American European world
produced 50 percent of the world goods. Twenty years from now, if
current trends hold it will be a third. That would be a huge
decline. That’s what’s behind this global power shift to China and
the Islamic terrorist threat. I don’t think any of us want to live
in a world where power shifts away from the free world. We have to
learn to react creatively.
BW: When you talk about reconnecting with the broad middle class, is
one of the problems where the tax cuts are goingGood for the rich,
not for the middle class.
DF: Well, I don’t think the tax cuts have necessarily served the
middle class well. It has helped to propel the economy forward.
Lower tax rates on investments and savings are important. But the
people in the middle are actually earning a bit less than they did
in the year 2000.
BW: I liked what you said on environmentalism not being a substitute
for religion. I’ve used the phrase eco-theocrats. In Canada, Kyoto
has become a buzzword and litmus test for faith. How do you react to
a concept like Kyoto that really doesn’t work and was a non-starter
from the beginning?
DF: This is a perfect opportunity. One of the things you rarely get
in politics is an opportunity to seize the centre because the other
parties have moved away from it. Usually this is hard fought for
ground. But Liberals in Canada and Democrats in America have ceded
the centre and bound themselves to a crazy set of propositions. What
Kyoto says is that we are going to have a treaty to reduce carbon
emissions; we are going to accept the most extreme versions of the
predictions of climate change and then we are going to put the
obligation of meeting targets on a relatively small group of
countries and exempting India and China completely, one third of
mankind. This is really a zap-North America treaty. Even Germany and
Britain are treated gently, which is why the Europeans back it. Dion
and Gore have made this an extreme litmus test. This allows
conservative parties to take reasoned positions. To say that we
accept that there, is a problem. But we are going to look at all the
data before moving in drastic directions.
BW: To come back to your third theme of new partnerships, John
O’Sullivan [of National Review] seems fond of Australia’s new Prime
Minister Kevin Rudd. But Britain’s Gordon Brown is weakening. Are we
witnessing the end of the traditional English-speaking alliances?
Who do we partner with? I asked Alexandre Adler of Le Figaro
recently whether we now look to Sarkozy as our key western ally.
DF: The new partnerships have to be outside of Europe or East Asia.
However sentimentally we feel about Nicolas Sarkozy, however Brown
or Rudd turn out, that group of nations is shrinking. When we think
of how to expand the alliance of democratic nations we have to
BW: Are you heartened by events like the U.S.-India nuclear
DF: I think its promising but I have to introduce a note of caution.
We are never going to find in India a traditionally congenial type
of ally like Western Europe. The tensions and resentments are very
real. Yes the agreement signed was very important, But we also have
to think of whether we are trying hard enough. India sent its
president after 9-11. We didn’t do that after terrorist attacks,
even the Bombay attacks. We tend to issue formal statements in the
name of the Secretary of State, and the President may make a phone
call. But the overt gestures and the public declarations of support
are missing and that’s noticed.
BW: There has been disappointment that President Bush may have
forgotten civil conservatism and abandoned the Bush doctrine. What’s
DF: The Bush doctrine was really deeply true. The Bush doctrine
emphasized the importance of democracy as a tool in resistance to
terror. It connected political authoritarianism to violent
extremism. We are going to have to rediscover it. It’s really deeply
BW: It is the question of the temper of our times. David Frum, many
Days that sear our souls
[with permission from The Suburban -
first published on Jan 23 2008]
This week and next, we would do well
to pause and reflect on the solemn and universal backdrop against
which this period of time unfolds every year.
It is a period that reminds us of those historical encounters
between governors and governed, when every act of the authorities
exasperates the people and every refusal to act excites their
contempt. A period of 12 days that should rend our souls asunder
with searing intensity and pierce our hearts with rape-like
violation. A period that begins with a date held sacred to all those
of conscience who engage in the struggle for mankind’s transcendent
yearning for redemptive change. A period that ends with a date that
challenges us to fulfill that struggle as we bear witness to
mankind’s debased desertion of any of its noble aspirations.
January 15 would have been the 78th birthday of the Reverend Martin
Luther King, Jr. January 17 was the 63rd anniversary of the
disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg. And January 27 will mark the 63rd
commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz. Astonishingly, the
United Nations, at whose entrance is carved the words of Isaiah that
“Swords shall be beaten into plowshares and nation shall not make
war against nation anymore,” officially commemorated the Holocaust
for the first time only two years ago.
The contrasts are telling, and their lessons are our last best hope
for our own humanity. Wallenberg and King personified the prophecy
that the day will come when “Justice shall roll down like waters and
righteousness as a mighty stream.” Without fidelity to that goal, we
will be left with little more than a future of Ezekiel’s vision of a
valley of dry bones, forever parched by the horrors of Auschwitz,
making this world brittle and arid and stench-filled.
During these days, the heavens themselves seem to challenge us to
All these sad dates stand as confirmation of the low limitations of
the era in which we still live. It is an era characterized by the
failure of faith, the retreat of reason and the humiliation of hope.
It is an era that, with rare exceptions, has been permeated with the
odious odors of justice compromised by timidity, honour cheapened
through expediency and promise mortgaged to avarice.
For the litmus test of mankind’s civility is not how we treat those
who are many, or agreeable, or privileged, or quiescent, but rather
how we treat those who are few, and different, and alienated, and
stubborn. The world is still failing that test.
The possibilities of greatness and generosity are constantly
compromised by an ungracious modernity and a suffocating
self-absorption filled with false pieties as excuses for inaction.
Little resolve abounds to remedy the malignancies of hate, jealousy
and greed with the compass of compassionate conscience and the
courage of character to protect right from wrong.
Frivolous squabblings that are nothing more than promotions of petty
self-interests overwhelm what King called the “fierce urgency of
now” — the fierce urgency to bring to an end the spectacular and
frequent failures of man. For in the dead of night we will forever
be haunted by those failures as the thin, humid rivulets of sweat
crawl over us like vermin.
Haunted by the mounds of ashes that once were 1.5 million smiling
children playing in the streets of “civilized” Europe. Haunted by
the bloated bodies floating in the Yangtze River of Mao’s China.
Haunted by the corpses frozen in the wastes of Stalin’s Gulag.
Haunted by the betrayals of the free peoples of Hungary and
Czechoslovakia. Haunted by the deaths of Freedom Riders in the
American South. Haunted by the killing fields of Vietnam and
Cambodia. Haunted by the bodies rotting in the jungles of Rwanda and
in the fetid fields of the Balkans.
As we face today’s dire challenges, we must all become Wallenbergs
and Kings — ready to assume individual responsibility, each drawing
strength from the sure knowledge that one person can make a
difference. We have a responsibility to follow Gandhi’s counsel and
act quickly to arrest “the evil that staggers drunkenly from wrong
to wrong in order to preserve its own immortality.”
For today, as before, the consequence of failure will be dire. Dire
to the billions living in grinding poverty in a world of abundance.
Dire to the devastated of Darfur, whose suffering many governments
still refuse to call genocide. Dire to the enslaved tens of millions
in Asia living under oppressive regimes providing cheap labor for
Faustian alliances of state and industrial interests. Dire to the
tens of millions dying of AIDS and famine in Africa watched by an
apathetic and avaricious world that still cares less about the
content of a man’s character than about the colour of his skin.
For all our demonstrations and petitions, we have been ambivalent
and apathetic toward the insolence and inaction of authority. We
have perpetuated sins of silence with voices too often mute when
confronted with the evils that men do. Wrapping ourselves in cloaks
of charity will not absolve us of our complicity in impotent
acquiescence to the daily torrent of state-sponsored deceptions and
We seem to react when it costs us nothing in terms of our personal
bottom lines. We readily accept whatever manipulated images and
opinions flood us from television and magazines as reality. We
eagerly digest political sound bites as quickly as any fast food.
Our surrender has demonstrated nothing less than an abandonment of
the possibilities of our own capacities.
Wallenberg, King and the generation of survivors refused to
surrender. Their testaments are living ones to this day. Testaments
to a world that sees wrongs and tries to right them; sees suffering
and tries to heal it, sees injustice and tries to stop it. A world
that rejects the cowardice of the fey and feckless that would have
us acquiesce in our own self-abnegation.
If we do not keep faith with the memory and witness of these 12
days, if we ever forget the imperative of redemptive rage, if we
stop daring to care, then we will have betrayed the visionary hope
embodied in the line of the Song of the Partisans that was shared at
the mountaintop by all the Wallenbergs and Kings, the Mandelas and
Kennedys and the Sharanskys and Walesas: “Kumen vet nokh undzer
oysgebenkte sho” — “Upon us yet will dawn the day we hold so dear.”
And when the false prophets cry “Peace! Peace!”, there will be none
left to shout back, “There is no peace!” And then we will have
nothing more to comfort us as we struggle with our own redemption
than a poignant plea from heaven to have mercy.
Ten years later: unanswered
[with permission from The Suburban -
first published on Jan 9 2008]
We are not running these pictures of
the ice storm as an exercise in nostalgia. Ten years ago this city
suffered through a failure in emergency preparedness.
Sun Youth’s Syd Stevens has pointed
out that the emergency brought all social service agencies together
in common cause in what may have been the first time. That is true.
But what is also true is that
questions are still unanswered as to the capacity of our civil
authority and governments.
Our water system was hours from
shutting down. Has that problem been addressed?
Are our emergency services
We will be examining those and other
questions in the weeks to come.
But perhaps the most troubling, and
still unanswered, question is one that was raised ten years ago in
the Hudson Gazette and recently brought to light again by Jim Duff
on 940 Montreal.
The authorities at Hydro and in the
provincial government at the time characterized the whole event as
an “act of God”. Yet as Duff has spotlighted, engineer Brian White
testified in court as an expert witness on behalf of U.S. utilities
and has publicly stated that one of the major contributing factors
to the degree of the devastation was the failure to replace
These plates, which Hydro knew could
not withstand 1 and ≤ inches of ice, pulled down wires as they were
destroyed and it was those wires that crushed the hydro towers
themselves. These insulators were held together by a combination of
Portland cement and ammonium oxide.
A combination used in some highway
overpasses as well.
There had been a program for their
replacement but that program was discontinued four years before the
ice storm. Those plates have now been replaced by glass insulators.
But this whole issue was not even
mentioned at the Nicolet Commission and there are no clear answers
as to whether the insulator problem has been solved.
The silence is still deafening.
Beryl Wajsman is the
President of The Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal and Editor of The Suburban newspaper He can be