Friday, March 30, 2007

6 teens arrested in the beating death of Omar Wellington

From the Toronto Star (Six arrested in teen's killing by Tracy Huffman, March 30, 2007):

After an intense eight-month investigation, six males - aged 14 to 17 - have been charged with first-degree murder in the beating and stabbing of Omar Wellington last summer.

"I'm very pleased," said Wellington's mother Joy shortly after the charges were announced.

All six youths live in Flemingdon Park, the same area where 17-year-old Wellington was stripped to his underwear and beaten in front of dozens of people on July 14. No one called 911 to report the early evening attack, just metres from a busy playground.

Wellington's body was found the following day in a nearby wooded area. He had suffered multiple stab wounds.

"This was a revenge killing," Det. Scott Spratt said at a press conference at police headquarters this morning, announcing the charges. Because the case is now before the courts, Spratt said he could not provide details about the motive of the slaying. He did say the case had "hallmarks of gang activity."

[. . .]

Read all of Tracy Huffman's article.

See also:

Omar Wellington beating death - Toronto police hope YouTube can help crack Flemingdon Park homicide case

Toronto Star: Residents watched as teen was stripped down, beaten and stabbed to death

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Another dumb thing I read in the Star

[Update: Everybody knows the song was named after the street, right?]

Royson James shocks Toronto Star readers with the revelation that the famous Penny Lane is not named after the Beatles' hit.

British politicians courageously condemn slavery 200 years after it was abolished

Mick Hume writes on Spiked ( Who's not sorry now?, March 26, 2007):

The anti-slavery jamboree is largely an exercise in moral self-flattery. At a time when there is no moral consensus in British society, slavery has been turned into one of the few issues which all can agree is a moral absolute. To be against it is to put oneself on the side of Good. In that context, it is no coincidence that the government is now discussing making slavery a compulsory part of the school curriculum. The only other historical subject granted that status is of course the Nazi Holocaust, which is largely taught as an ahistorical fable about Good and Evil.

The slave trade is being treated as our own British Holocaust, with a happy ending (we abolished it!) and no survivors today to hog the limelight. Everybody can feel good about feeling guilty about slavery with a clear conscience. The apologies and breast-beating are meaningless moral rituals. After all, nobody will be sent to jail for claiming responsibility for a crime they did not commit 200 years ago. It is a feelgood display of confession and contrition without consequences.

The row over slavery apologies has even descended into a sort of indignation auction, with people competing to show that they are even more sorry about the slave trade than the previous speaker, and more angry than everybody else at the lack of apologies expressed by some others. Thus London mayor Ken Livingstone has apologised on behalf of all Londoners (thanks Ken, but speak for yourself), and ranted against every other public figure who fails to do likewise as if they have blood on their hands.

[. . .]

Read all of Mick Hume's article.

See also:

Ethnic pandering alert - Conservatives set to recognize Komagata Maru incident

Immigration industry using head tax issue to promote further opening of Canada's borders

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hi. I'm a heroin addict.

Note to people outside Canada: a tooney is a two-dollar coin.

The other day I had trouble sleeping. Sometimes taking a walk helps, so after midnight I find myself on Bloor Street. A man comes up to me. He says: "Hi. I'm not here to hassle you. I'm a heroin addict. Do you know what it's like to be an addict who really needs a fix?" I reply: "Are you asking me for money?" He says: "I need six dollars to get my next fix. I need one really bad." I say: "It's late at night. I'm not carrying a wallet." He says: "Just give me a tooney then." I say: "I don't have a tooney. I told you I'm not carrying a wallet." He says: "I heard the coins jingling in your pocket. Just give me a tooney please." At this point, I get a little nervous, because I'm starting to wonder if he'll take no for an answer. I tell him: "Keys. I have keys in my pocket. That's what you heard jingling." The man is apologetic. He says "I'm sorry" and walks away.

See also:

A conversation with a drunk man in a west-end Toronto park

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No Quebec election campaign has focused so viscerally on identity - Globe and Mail

From the Globe and Mail (Dumont emerges as the big winner by Konrad Yakabuski, March 27, 2007):

This election has shattered the paradigm. But by breaking the federalist-sovereigntist dichotomy that has determined the outcome of every Quebec election since 1970, Mr. Dumont and his ADQ have not signed nationalism's death notice; they have given it new life. The rest of Canada should consider itself forewarned.

No Quebec election campaign has focused so viscerally on identity — on what it means to be Québécois — since the watershed 1976 vote that first brought René Lévesque and the sovereigntists to office. Like Mr. Lévesque, Mr. Dumont has shown he knows what Quebeckers are feeling in their guts. That is to a politician what the magic potion is to Astérix.

[. . .]

Enter Mario and the debate over reasonable accommodation.

Mr. Charest, the kind of risk-averse politician who would never resort to action when inaction would do, chose to ignore the issue. Men banned from prenatal classes to avoid offending Muslim women? The windows at the YMCA frosted over to shield the eyes of pubescent Hasidic Jewish boys from the girls in step class? An isolated village council bans burkas, except on Halloween? The Premier's silence was deafening.

[. . .]

Mr. Dumont's position: "We can't defend the Québécois identity with mushy words that no one understands. We can't defend the Québécois identity with one knee on the ground."

That was in November when the ADQ was at 12 per cent in the polls. The rest, as they say, is history. And history is what happened last night.

Mr. Dumont is no Jean-Marie Le Pen, despite being smeared as a xenophobe by his Liberal adversaries. Still, he told Quebeckers again and again during this campaign that they need not ask anyone's permission to show what it means to be Québécois. That they could assert their identity "without being afraid of passing for racists."

Read all of Konrad Yakabuski's analysis.

See also:

Liberals win minority in Quebec, ADQ finishes second

The Québecois Nation versus Multiculturalism

Canadian multiculturalism - cultural conflict in Quebec

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Liberals win minority in Quebec, ADQ finishes second

From CBC News (Liberals win minority in Quebec, premier wins riding seesaw< March 26, 2007):

Quebec has elected a Liberal minority government for the first time in nearly 130 years, and party leader Jean Charest personally prevailed after a seesaw race in his home riding of Sherbrooke.

The Liberals and the Action Démocratique du Québec ran neck and neck in several closely contested ridings, with the PQ trailing in third for most of the night.

[. . .]

The Liberals had 33 per cent of the popular vote, translating to 48 seats.

Mario Dumont's ADQ was narrowly behind with 31 per cent of the popular vote, collecting 41 seats. The win was a spectacular surge for the party, which had only five seats when the election was called.

The Parti Québécois, led by André Boisclair, tallied 28 per cent of the vote, translating to 36 seats, a drop of nine from the previous sessions.

[. . .]

Read all of the CBC article.

See also:

CBC article: Quebec votes 2007

Wikipedia article: Quebec general election, 2007

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Monday, March 26, 2007

CSIS changes terminology - 'Islamic' terrorists are now 'Islamists'

From the National Post (CSIS alters slightly description of terrorists by Stewart Bell, March 26, 2007):

Canada's intelligence service has changed the way it describes such terrorists as Osama bin Laden, dropping the word "Islamic" in favour of "Islamist."

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service had been calling al-Qaeda types Sunni Islamic extremists, but they are now to be labelled Islamist extremists.

"The service believes that the term Islamist is more appropriate given that it has ideological rather than religious connotations," CSIS spokeswoman Barbara Campion said.

The terminology was adopted last year but is only coming to light now as intelligence reports reflecting the new wording are released under the Access to Information Act.

Those aligned with bin Laden may also be described as "associated with the ideology of al- Qaeda." Reports published on the CSIS Web site will use the new terms.

The change comes as counterterrorism officials are trying to build bridges with Muslims in the wake of last summer's arrest of 17 suspects accused of belonging to a terror group that plotted truck bombings in Toronto.

[. . .]

Read all of Stewart Bell's article.

What's the difference between Islam and Islamism? Let's ask Daniel Pipes. He writes (Distinguishing between Islam and Islamism, June 30, 1998):

Islamism is, in other words, yet another twentieth-century radical utopian scheme. Like Marxism-Leninism or fascism, it offers a way to control the state, run society, and remake the human being. It is an Islamic-flavored version of totalitarianism. The details, of course, are very different from the preceding versions, but the ultimate purpose is very similar.

Islamism is also a total transformation of traditional Islam; it serves as a vehicle of modernization. The ideology deals with the problems of urban living, of working women and others at the cutting edge, and not the traditional concerns of farmers. As Olivier Roy, the French scholar, puts it, "Rather than a reaction against the modernization of Muslim societies, Islamism is a product of it." Islamism is not a medieval program but one that responds to the stress and strains of the twentieth century.

In this, Islamism is a huge change from traditional Islam. One illustration: Whereas traditional Islam's sacred law is a personal law, a law a Muslim must follow wherever he is, Islamism tries to apply a Western-style geographic law that depends on where one lives. Take the case of Sudan, where traditionally a Christian was perfectly entitled to drink alcohol, for he is a Christian, and Islamic law applies only to Muslims. But the current regime has banned alcohol for every Sudanese. It assumes Islamic law is territorial because that is the way a Western society is run.

Read all of Daniel Pipe's article.

Martin Kramer has also written about this subject. He writes (Coming to Terms: Fundamentalists or Islamists?):

No one who reads or writes about events in the Muslim world can avoid the question of how to label those Muslims who invoke Islam as the source of authority for all political and social action. Should they be labeled Islamic (or Muslim) fundamentalists? Or are they better described as Islamists?

The issue has been the subject of a heated debate for two decades. For a while, both general and scholarly usage in America accepted fundamentalism. Islamism emerged in the late 1980s in French academe and then crossed into English, where it eventually displaced Islamic fundamentalism in specialized contexts. More recently, the term Islamism has gained even wider currency, and since September 11, 2001, it may even have established itself as the preferred American usage. Still newer terminology may lie over the horizon.

Behind the battle over usage lies another struggle, over the nature of the phenomenon itself. In fact, the two contests, over English usage and analytical understanding, are inseparable. Nor are they free of associations left by past usages. Here follows a short history of changing usage—itself a history of changing Western perceptions of Muslim reality.

[. . .]

Read all of Martin Kramer's article.

See also:

A multicultural approach to national security. Surprise. It's not going too well

Toronto terror bomb plot case inches its way through the court system

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The Crusades were a late, limited, and unsuccessful imitation of the jihad - Bernard Lewis

Small Dead Animals posted some excerpts from recent lecture by Bernard Lewis. I found this passage interesting:

One also finds a rather startling modern version of it. We have seen in our own day the extraordinary spectacle of a pope apologizing to the Muslims for the Crusades. I would not wish to defend the behavior of the Crusaders, which was in many respects atrocious. But let us have a little sense of proportion. We are now expected to believe that the Crusades were an unwarranted act of aggression against a peaceful Muslim world. Hardly. The first papal call for a crusade occurred in 846 C.E., when an Arab expedition from Sicily sailed up the Tiber and sacked St. Peter's in Rome. A synod in France issued an appeal to Christian sovereigns to rally against "the enemies of Christ," and the Pope, Leo IV, offered a heavenly reward to those who died fighting the Muslims. A century and a half and many battles later, in 1096, the Crusaders actually arrived in the Middle East. The Crusades were a late, limited, and unsuccessful imitation of the jihad--an attempt to recover by holy war what had been lost by holy war. It failed, and it was not followed up.

Read the whole lecture.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Vito Rizzuto case - accused Canadian mafia boss asks for trial delay

From the National Post (Lawyers in Mafia case deny plea deal by Adrian Humphreys, March 24, 2007):

Vito Rizzuto, named as Canada's most powerful Mafia boss, has asked a New York City judge to delay his trial for three gangland slayings, fuelling speculation he is negotiating a plea deal.

David Schoen, defending Mr. Rizzuto against racketeering charges in the United States, declined to discuss any plea negotiations but said one thing is clear: Mr. Rizzuto is not considering co-operating with the authorities, as many of his American co-accused have done.

"The answer is absolutely unequivocally 'no,' " he told the National Post.

An earlier document from prosecutors said Mr. Rizzuto, 61, of Montreal, was negotiating a settlement as far back as October, 2006.

[. . .]

Mr. Rizzuto was arrested in January, 2004, inside his Montreal mansion at the request of the U.S. government.

He is accused of being a shooter in an ambush of three rival mobsters in Brooklyn in 1981 as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise.

He has been imprisoned since. The charge carries a maximum penalty of a 20 years.

Mr. Rizzuto's desire to return to Canada could factor into any deal; he would likely ask to serve his sentence in Canada.

If that were agreed to, it would see him released far sooner than if he served his prison term in America.

Under international agreements on the transfer of prisoners, once back in Canada, inmates benefit from our more lenient release rules, including release after serving just two thirds of a sentence.

Mr. Rizzuto was the only Canadian among dozens of men ensnared by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in its assault on the Bonanno Mafia organization, one of the notorious and influential Five Families of New York.

[. . .]

Read all of Adrian Humphreys' article.

See also:

Anti-Mafia sweep in Montreal

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Birchmount Park Collegiate suspensions - student says online comments were 'inside joke'

From the Toronto Star (Online comments were `inside joke' by Matthew Chung, March 25, 2007):

Brad Parsons says he never imagined he'd be bounced from his school and see friends arrested when he created a Facebook group for his friends to use to vent about a vice-principal. "We made the group as an inside joke," the 16-year-old student at Birchmount Park Collegiate said in a phone interview.

But the teen, who likes "hanging out and chilling" with his friends and says he's never caused any trouble, stepped into a grey area when he created the space on, a popular social website, that slagged his school's vice-principal Mary Burtch and other staff.

Internet experts say Parsons's case once more raises interesting questions that don't have clear answers.

"These issues are arising with increasing frequency and I think it's tough to identify how much of this is a legal issue, how much of this is a conduct issue within a school," said Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa. "I think it is hard to identify a right or wrong."

For instance, does a conversation intended to be privately shared among friends, as Parsons says, constitute cyber-bullying, as the school says, if it becomes publicly available?

[. . .]

Read all of Matthew Chung's article.

I don't see that the school had any justification for suspending the students, but that still doesn't justify the way the students apparently acted against the police.

See also:

Birchmount Park Collegiate: spoiled brats attack police at Toronto high school

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Quebecers vote tomorrow - will it be a minority government?

From CBC News (Minority government looms in Quebec, March 25, 2007):

Quebec faces the real possibility of a minority government for the first time in more than a century, as the province's main political parties remain locked in a virtual tie with voters heading to the polls on Monday.

[. . .]

Read all of the CBC article.

See also:

CBC article: Quebec votes: 2007

Wikipedia article: Quebec general election, 2007

Muslim women in Quebec must show their faces if they want to vote

Desire Munyaneza - Canada to try Rwandan for crimes against humanity

From CanWest News via the Vancouver Sun (War crimes trial first test of Canadian legislation by Sue Montgomery, March 25, 2007):

When Desire Munyaneza claimed refugee status in Montreal in 1997, little did he know that a decade later he’d be making Canadian history, albeit not in a desirable way.

The father of two young children, who comes from a wealthy business family in Rwanda, is the first person to be charged under Canada’s seven-year-old Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, having allegedly murdered civilians, raped several women and pillaged during his country’s 1994 genocide.

His trial gets underway this morning in Quebec Superior Court at the Montreal courthouse where all parties right up to the judge are dealing with an untested law.

[. . .]

The cost to taxpayers will be enormous, but Gerry Caplan, an expert on the Rwandan genocide, said that seems like a small price to pay for justice.

By using the new law, he said, Canada is sending a message to the world that perpetrators can’t hide out here, and at the same time is assuaging Western guilt about not having done enough to prevent or stop the genocide, in which close to a million of the country’s Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were systematically slaughtered in the span of 100 days.

[Hyphenated Canadian: Western guilt? I don't feel any guilt, do you? I don't like what happened in Rwanda, but how is it our fault? The world is full of horrors. Is it the West's responsibility to step in and stop all of them? I don't see anyone suggesting the West invade Zimbabwe despite the crimes going on there.]

Munyaneza, who turned 40 on New Year’s Eve, was arrested October 19, 2005, as he left his Toronto home. He was transported to Montreal, where he was arraigned the next day on seven counts, including two of genocide, two of crimes against humanity and three of war crimes — all of which carry a life sentence.

[. . .]

Munyaneza’s initial refugee claim was dismissed on Sept. 20, 2000, and twice again on appeal. He was never given notice of his pending deportation, and so continued living freely in Canada. And if he’s convicted, he’ll serve his entire sentence here.

[. . .]

Read all of Sue Montgomery's article.

Canada isn't responsible for what happened in Rwanda and I don't see why Canadian taxpayers should have to pay for this expensive court case. Especially when many Canadians are shut out of the justice system because of the expense involved. (See these Toronto Star stories by Tracy Tyler: The Dark Side of Justice, Legal aid rules shut out thousands and Cuts to legal aid hit families hard.)

Munyaneza is Rwanda's problem. I don't see why Canada didn't just deport him. According to the article, he appealed the rejection of his refugee claim twice. How much did those proceedings cost the public purse? Wouldn't that money have been better spent providing legal aid to low-income Canadians?

See also:

Another day, another Rwandan war criminal

National Post: Ottawa slow to deport Rwandan war criminal

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Does the Koran sanction wife-beating? Different interpretations of controversial verse

Scholarly debates are interesting, but what matters is how Muslims behave. Is violence against women more common among Muslims than among other religious groups? Certainly honour killings are a problem in some Muslim countries, but is there any evidence that domestic violence is a particular problem among Canadian Muslims? I don't know.

From the New York Times (may require free registration) (New Translation Prompts Debate on Islamic Verse by Neil MacFarquhar, March 25, 2007):

Laleh Bakhtiar had already spent two years working on an English translation of the Koran when she came upon Chapter 4, Verse 34.

She nearly dropped the project right then.

The hotly debated verse states that a rebellious woman should first be admonished, then abandoned in bed, and ultimately “beaten” — the most common translation for the Arabic word “daraba” — unless her behavior improves.

[. . .]

[In Germany last week, a judge citing the verse caused a public outcry after she rejected the request for a fast track divorce by a Moroccan-German woman because her husband beat her. The judge, removed from the case, had written that the Koran sanctioned physical abuse.]

[. . .]

When she reached the problematic verse, Ms. Bakhtiar spent the next three months on “daraba.” She does not speak Arabic, but she learned to read the holy texts in Arabic while studying and working as a translator in Iran in the 1970s and ’80s.

Her eureka moment came on roughly her 10th reading of the Arabic-English Lexicon by Edward William Lane, a 3,064-page volume from the 19th century, she said. Among the six pages of definitions for “daraba” was “to go away.”

“I said to myself, ‘Oh, God, that is what the prophet meant,’ ” said Ms. Bakhtiar, speaking in the offices of Kazi Publications in Chicago, a mail-order house for Islamic books that is publishing her translation. “When the prophet had difficulty with his wives, what did he do? He didn’t beat anybody, so why would any Muslim do what the prophet did not?”

[. . .]

Religious scholars outline several main threads in the translation of “daraba.”

Conservative scholars suggest the verse has to be taken at face value, with important reservations.

[. . .]

More liberal commentators, particularly women, say the usual interpretation reflects the patriarchal practices of the Arabian peninsula.

[. . .]

Read all of Neil MacFarquhar's article. (may require free registration)

Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch was interviewed by the Polish newspaper Dziennik about Laleh Bakhtiar's translation of the verse. He says:

in 1400 years of Qur'anic exegesis by Muslims, no one of any significance has ever disputed that Qur'an 4:34 sanctioned wife-beating..

Read all of Spencer's comments.

See also:

Multiculturalism in the real world - polygamy follows African immigrants to New York

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Multiculturalism in the real world - polygamy follows African immigrants to New York

James Fulford at Vdare links to an article about polygamy in New York City. From the New York Times (may require free registration) (In Secret, Polygamy Follows Africans to N.Y. by Nina Bernstein, March 23, 2007):

No one knows how prevalent polygamy is in New York. Those who practice it have cause to keep it secret: under immigration law, polygamy is grounds for exclusion from the United States.

Under state law, bigamy can be punished by up to four years in prison,

No agency is known to collect data on polygamous unions, which typically take shape over time and under the radar, often with religious ceremonies overseas and a visitor’s visa for the wife, arranged by other relatives. Some men have one wife in the United States and others abroad.

But the Magassas clearly are not an isolated case. Immigration to New York and other American cities has soared from places where polygamy is lawful and widespread, especially from West African countries like Mali, where demographic surveys show that 43 percent of women are in polygamous marriages.

And the picture that emerges from dozens of interviews with African immigrants, officials and scholars of polygamy is of a clandestine practice that probably involves thousands of New Yorkers.

“It’s difficult, but one accepts it because it’s our religion,” said Doussou Traoré, 52, president of an association of Malian women in New York, who married an older man with two other wives who remain in Mali. “Our mothers accepted it. Our grandmothers accepted it. Why not us?”

Other women spoke bitterly of polygamy. They said their participation was dictated by an African culture of female subjugation and linked polygamy to female genital cutting and domestic violence. That view is echoed by most research on plural marriages, including studies of West African immigrants in France, where the government estimates that 120,000 people live in 20,000 polygamous families.

“The woman is in effect the slave of the man,” said a stylish Guinean businesswoman in her 40s who, like many women interviewed in Harlem and the Bronx, spoke on the condition of anonymity. “If you protest, your husband will hit you, and if you call the police, he’s going to divorce you, and the whole community will scorn you.”

“Even me,” she added. “My husband went to find another wife in Africa, and he has the right to do that. They tell you nothing, until one afternoon he says, ‘O.K., your co-wife arrives this evening.’ ”

Men, in contrast, tended to play down the existence of polygamy, if they were willing to discuss it at all.

[. . .]

Read all of the Nina Bernstein's article. (may require free registation) Muslim immigrants have also brought polygamy to Europe.

See also:

Women's rights or multiculturalism: pick one.

Canadian immigration - Women from Punjab say they are pressured to abort female babies

Wife abuse "a cancer in the Indo-Canadian community."

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Some Muslim art students won't draw nudes

From the Globe and Mail (No nude drawings, no art credit by Michael Valpy, March 24, 2007):

Aruba Mahmud, 22, an honours visual arts student at London's University of Western Ontario, drew her friends clothed rather than remain in the classroom with her professor and fellow students who were sketching nude models.

Ms. Mahmud, a practising Muslim who wears a hijab, was allowed to draw her friends clothed as an alternative project to nude-model drawing -- she did stay once in the classroom with a nude model and found it very uncomfortable -- but only in early level courses.

At higher levels of instruction in painting and drawing, the university administration enunciated a clear policy: Draw nudes or don't take the course. Refuse to draw nudes once you're in the course and you fail.

Ms. Mahmud brought a letter from the university's Muslim chaplain stating that prolonged exposure to the nude body of a person who was not one's marital partner was contrary to Islamic teaching. She was willing to take a zero for the part of the course that involved nude drawing.

But the university stood firm.

[. . .]

A report on discrimination against Muslim students made public this week by the Canadian Federation of Students calls it "one of the most egregious stories" of a university refusing to accommodate diversity.

Kathleen Okruhlik, UWO's dean of arts and humanities, sees it differently, and takes issue with the accuracy of aspects of the student federation's report. In the past, she said, it has been conservative Christians asking for exemption from certain instruction. Now it is Muslims.

[. . .]

Read all of the Globe and Mail article.

See also:

Muslim women in Quebec must show their faces if they want to vote

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Muslim women in Quebec must show their faces if they want to vote

The other day I linked to an article by Patrick Grady about the inherent tension between Quebec nationalism and Canadian multiculturalism. Grady wrote:

Multiculturalism, which became the ideology promulgated by the CBC and the rest of the national media, promotes diversity for its own sake. It holds that all cultures are equal and have no special status in Canada. English Canadian culture is the exception to this rule. Because it was once dominant, it can no longer be tolerated because it might exclude others from participating fully in Canada.

Meanwhile, in Quebec where “survivance” still resonates in the collective psyche, “pure laine” Québécois have made nationalism their new religion. Its two commandments are: preserve the French language; and maintain Quebec's “distinct society.” Newcomers are expected to fit in. Those who try to change Quebec to be more like their homelands are not welcomed.

Here's more evidence that Grady is right when he says the Quebecois expect newcomers are expected to fit in. From the Globe and Mail (Lift face veils or don't vote, Quebec tells Muslims by Tu Thanh Ha and Ingrid Peritz and Bertrand Marotte, March 24, 2007):

With three days left in one of the most tightly contested elections in decades, Quebec's electoral officer yesterday reversed his decision to allow Muslim women to vote without having to lift their face veils to identify themselves.

Chief Electoral Officer Marcel Blanchet invoked emergency powers to change his mind on one of the controversial minority-rights issues that have roiled the campaign and led to death threats, public outrage and repeated criticism by Parti Québécois Leader André Boisclair.

Mr. Blanchet said his office had been inundated with calls and emails about his decision to allow women to wear the niqab when they voted. His staff was worried and he was assigned two bodyguards. He feared some angry voters would turn out "in the craziest disguises you can imagine" and disrupt Monday's election.

Mr. Blanchet said it was troubling that he had to reverse his position. "Personally, I would have preferred not to do it. But my concern is to ensure everything unfolds normally, and there won't be somebody crazy who will cause trouble on Monday."

The issue affects a small number of Muslim voters. However, it hit a raw nerve in a province that has been enmeshed for months in acrimonious talks over accommodating religious minorities.

[. . .]

Read all of the Globe and Mail article.

What I find interesting is the amount of anger there seems to be in Quebec. I say "seems to be" because I don't live there and can only judge by what I hear and see in the media. From the Montreal Gazette (Veiled Threats by Andy Riga, Irwin Block, Hubert Bauch, Kevin Dougherty and The Gazette, March 24, 2007):

On Thursday, reacting to a newspaper article about voting by niqab-wearing women, chief electoral officer Marcel Blanchet said they would not be required to remove their veils to confirm their identify.

Yesterday, after intense media coverage and threatening phone calls and emails to election workers, Blanchet reversed his stand. Some people on radio call-in shows were also urging Quebecers to turn up at polls in Halloween costumes.

"What's at stake here is the integrity and serenity of the electoral process," Blanchet said at a news conference. "It would be extremely damaging if incidents disrupt voting Monday. And it would be even more damaging if there is so much anxiety among some electors that they don't show up to vote."

To ensure his own protection, Blanchet said he now travels with two bodyguards.

He said he found it "troubling" that threats caused him to change the electoral law.

"I personally would have preferred not to have to do it, but my priority is to ensure that everything will run normally and that a few or many crazies won't show up to cause trouble Monday," Blanchet said.

The episode has some Muslims fearing for their lives, said Salam Elmenyawi, head of the Muslim Council of Quebec.

Read all of the Montreal Gazette article.

Criticizing state-sponsored multiculturalism is all well and good. (I would abolish it if I could.) That, however, isn't enough. Something needs to be done about immigration. Demography is destiny and if we don't reduce the number of non-European immigrants coming here, today's minorities will become the majority and they will be able to resist assimilation regardless of whether we have official multiculturalism or not.

See also:

Toronto bus drivers told not to challenge Muslim women whose faces are covered

Herouxville speaks for Canada's silent majority

Canadian multiculturalism - cultural conflict in Quebec

Sudden increase in demand for religious accomodations in Quebec schools

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Birchmount Park Collegiate: spoiled brats attack police at Toronto high school

From the Toronto Star (4 arrested at high-school protest by Daniel Girard, Linda Nguyen and Alwynne Gwilt, March 23, 2007 ):

Four teenagers were arrested and charged today after a protest over suspensions of fellow students at Birchmount Park Collegiate Institute turned violent.

Witnesses reported seeing students throwing objects, including a bottle and a skateboard, at police officers who were trying to clear about 300 students on Danforth Ave. near Birchmount Rd.

“Everyone was on the road and then things started flying and the cops started flipping out,” said Ryan Duffy, 16, a Grade 11 student who witnessed the melee late this morning.

Angry protesters yelled at police and chased officers as students were arrested, handcuffed and pinned on the ground before being thrown into cruisers.

The students were supporting Brad Parsons, 16, a Grade 11 student who was one of five suspended earlier this week after school administrators discovered derogatory comments about a Birchmount vice-principal that had been posted on the website

Parsons has been suspended from school for the rest of the year.

[. . .]

Police say one 16-year old student swung his skateboard at an officer who was attempting to escort him off of the roadway. The officer jumped out of the skateboard's way and another officer arrested the student, who has been charged with assaulting a peace officer. Meanwhile, as the 16-year-old was being arrested, another student, also 16, grabbed onto the arresting officer to stop the arrest. This boy is also charged with assaulting a peace officer.

A third student, aged 17, is charged with causing a disturbance after trying to incite the crowd to use violence against the police while a fourth student is charged with assault of a peace officer and assault with a weapon after throwing a bottle at a police officer.

A number of officers suffered minor injuries, he said.

[. . .]

Read all of the Star article.

As far as I can tell, the hooligans in this case are spoiled white kids. Look at the photo next to the article.

See also:

Toronto schools - "The escalation of guns and violence has made lockdown practices as necessary a routine as recess"

Are teachers losing control of some Toronto schools? Are gangs starting to take over?

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Vdare article about Kevin MacDonald and the American conservative establishment

Over at Vdare, Patrick Cleburne has written a very interesting article about Kevin MacDonald and the American conservative establishment: Derbyshire On The Senile Decay Of National Review.

I recommend it to anyone who is bothered by political correctness on the mainstream right. Although Cleburne's article is about the US, it also applies to the situation in Canada.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Harper wants Red Ensign to fly at Vimy - sources tell Globe and Mail

From the Globe and Mail (PM wants Red Ensign to fly at Vimy, sources say by Alex Dobrota, March 21, 2007):

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has requested the Red Ensign flag fly at Vimy Ridge ceremonies next month, The Globe and Mail has learned.

Mr. Harper told his cabinet ministers yesterday that he wanted both the Red Ensign and the Maple Leaf hoisted in Vimy, France, at the 90th anniversary of the First World War battle, sources close to the Prime Minister said.

"He said, 'The Red Ensign of 1917 will fly over Vimy,' " one source told The Globe.

The decision was hailed as a victory by veterans' groups and advocates, who have been lobbying Ottawa to have the historical ensign displayed over the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.

[. . .]

Mr. Harper will attend a ceremony at Vimy in April marking both the anniversary of the battle and the dedication of the newly restored Canadian National Vimy Memorial, built on land donated to Canada from France. The Veterans Affairs Department has said government protocol forbids any flag other than the Maple Leaf from flying on federal property.

[. . .]

Read all of the Globe and Mail article.

See also:

Canadian flag controversy - some veterans want Red Ensign to fly at Vimy Ridge

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"There is clearly a logical inconsistency between a special recognition of the Québécois nation and multiculturalism"

Patrick Grady of Global Economics Ltd has written a good article about the tension between Quebec nationalism and Canadian multiculturalism. Here's an excerpt from the article (The Québecois Nation versus Multiculturalism, December 9, 2006):

[Note: I added links I think are relevant to the subject, but those links don't necessarily reflect Mr. Grady's views.]

Multiculturalism, which became the ideology promulgated by the CBC and the rest of the national media, promotes diversity for its own sake. It holds that all cultures are equal and have no special status in Canada. English Canadian culture is the exception to this rule. Because it was once dominant, it can no longer be tolerated because it might exclude others from participating fully in Canada.

Meanwhile, in Quebec where “survivance” still resonates in the collective psyche, “pure laine” Québécois have made nationalism their new religion. Its two commandments are: preserve the French language; and maintain Quebec's “distinct society.” Newcomers are expected to fit in. Those who try to change Quebec to be more like their homelands are not welcomed.

Not surprisingly, the most outspoken opponents of the motion recognizing the Québécois nation are the greatest supporters of multiculturalism. Similarly, multiculturalism is probably the main sources of the serious misgivings about recognizing the Québécois nation expressed by Canadians in the Ipsos Reid poll.

There is clearly a logical inconsistency between a special recognition of the Québécois nation and multiculturalism that cannot be just swept under the rug. What exactly is the Québécois nation? If it is Québec, it might be an inclusive civic nation encompassing all ethnic groups living in Québec. If so, and regardless of it being in a united Canada, it is a step towards sovereignty. But if it only includes “francophones de vielle souche,” it is exclusionary as well as ignoring the significance of French Canadians living outside of Québec. And, of course, it also overlooks the special place of English Canadians and Aboriginal people in Canada.

[. . .]

Read all of Patrick Grady's article.

See also:

Wishful thinking won't make Quebec nationalism disappear

Is Quebec nationalism "civic" or "ethnic"?

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Canadian flag controversy - some veterans want Red Ensign to fly at Vimy Ridge

Last Thursday I posted a entry about respecting Canada's British heritage. I pointed out that over the course of the twentieth century, Canada redefined its relationship to Great Britain and that some historians consider the Canadian victory at Vimy Ridge in World War I as a turning point in the development of English-Canada's sense of itself. (Quebec, as always, is a separate story.) Not everyone agrees about the significance of Vimy Ridge, but the battle is often held up as a symbol of Canadian bravery. I also mentioned in last Thursday's post that I'm just barely old enough to remember when Canada adopted the Maple Leaf flag and that while I was too young to know this at the time, there had a been fierce controversy over the flag. Many English-Canadians, including former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, wanted Ottawa to adopt the Canadian Red Ensign, which had long been used as an unofficial national flag. Well, it looks like the flag debate isn't entirely over.

From the Globe and Mail (With what flag should we honour Vimy Ridge? by Alex Dobrota and Rick Cash, March 20, 2007):

Nearly a century ago, Canadian soldiers crossed a muddy ridge in Vimy, France, as they fought and died under a flag relegated since to history -- the Red Ensign.

Today, a group of campaigners and veterans groups are mired in a fight with the federal bureaucracy to hoist that standard once more over Vimy Ridge.

But Ottawa is yielding not an inch. Next month, on the battle's 90th anniversary, the Maple Leaf, Canada's official flag since 1965, will fly alone at the newly restored Canadian National Vimy Memorial, a spokeswoman said.

And the Red Ensign will only be displayed inside an interpretative centre nearby, she said.

[. . .]

Mr. Heyes and Bill Bishop, a B.C. maintenance worker, have led the brunt of the charge against Ottawa, sending hundreds of letters to government departments and MPs.

They want the Red Ensign to fly alongside the Maple Leaf at Vimy. And their campaign has garnered support from a dozen Ontario branches of the Royal Canadian Legion and from the RCMP Veterans' Association.

The proposal was also endorsed by Conservative MP Jason Kenney, the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian identity. In a letter penned this year, Mr. Kenney said he approved of the idea of both flags flying over Vimy commemoration ceremonies, Mr. Heyes said.

[. . .]

Read all of the Globe article.

See also:

Respecting Canada's British heritage

Continuing controversy over World War II bombing campaign - Legion calls for boycott of Canadian War Museum

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Monday, March 19, 2007

The growing problem of drug-resistant disease

In the long run disease may prove to be a bigger problem than terrorism. That's saying a lot because terrorist activity in Canada is a serious issue. This story about superbugs worries me. From CanWest News via the National Post (Superbugs 'just out there on the streets' by Sharon Kirkey, March 19, 2007):

Sometime in January, 2006, Ms. Weil contracted drug-resistant staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium that's a major cause of hospital-acquired infections. Except she hadn't been hospitalized.

The Ottawa-area teenager has been caught in a rapidly emerging public health threat in Canada, the spread of drug-resistant superbugs into the community.

No one knows exactly how the infection entered her body. A cut or puncture in the skin is the most common route.

[. . .]

As our antibiotic armoury disintegrates, drug-resistant superbugs entrenched in hospitals are moving out into the community and infecting otherwise healthy people.

Community-acquired methicillin-resistant s.aureus (CA-MRSA) is emerging in daycares, schools and cruise ships. Nearly 500 cases have spread across Alberta and outbreaks have occurred in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.

[. . .]

Drug-resistant staph isn't the only microbe of concern. C. difficile, the diarrhea-causing bacterium implicated in the deaths of 2,000 Quebecers since 2004, appears to be increasing in the community as well. So, too, does its severity.

[. . .]

And the superbug "hit list" keeps growing: E. coli, a major cause of wound, urinary and gastrointestinal tract infections are rapidly turning resistant to a growing number of drugs. One in 20 E. coli infections in intensive care units are currently virtually untreatable.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an organism that causes life-threatening pneumonia and post-surgery infections, is also becoming multi-drug resistant.

There are multi-resistant strains of tuberculosis, "the most deadly organism on the planet," said Dr. Robert Hancock, director of microbial diseases research at the University of British Columbia and a Canada Research Chair.

Soldiers are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with highly resistant acinetobacter baumannii, a growing cause of hospital-contracted pneumonia.

"Drug resistance is increasing in a massive fashion in our society right no w," Dr. Hancock said. The concern now is, what's next?

[. . .]

Read all of Sharon Kirkey's article.

There is, of course, an immigration dimension to this story. According to a September 30, 2006 story in the Toronto Star:

Between 1974 and 2004, the number of foreign-born patients with tuberculosis increased from 18 to 68 per cent, according to Long, who says that immigrants account for two-thirds of TB cases in Canada.

This is an especially difficult group to treat because immigrants may not be familiar with the health-care system, may not speak English, and may not want to see a doctor for fear of deportation.

Then there's SARS. Are we supposed to believe it's just a coincidence that Toronto, with its huge population of Chinese immigrants, was hit by SARS? Would the SARS outbreak have occurred if there had been fewer recent Chinese immigrants here? The keyword is recent. If Toronto's Chinese community had been here for generations and had little contact with the old country, you couldn't draw a connection with SARS. But because most Chinese-Canadians are relatively recent immigrants, ties to the old country are still strong and there is a lot of travelling back and forth between here and East Asia. You have to at least consider the possibility that the SARS outbreak is connected to immigration. Of course, even if there had been no immigration, SARS could still have been brought here by a Canadian tourist or business traveller, but the probability of that happening would have been lower. I realize I'm not an epidemiologist and there may be factors here I'm not taking into account, but I don't think it's a coincidence that the SARS outbreak happened in Toronto.

See also:

Immigrants account for two-thirds of tuberculosis cases in Canada

Immigrants bringing tuberculosis into Britain

Court order forces patient with XDR TB to remain in Toronto hospital

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Dutch neighbourhood explodes in violence after police shoot man. Local people complain about immigrant crime

Snouck Hurgronje reports ( Working class whites riot in Utrecht, March 14, 2007):

In the Utrecht neighbourhood of Ondiep saw riots in the past two days after the police shot a man, Rini Mulder. The man had been fighting with a group of immigrant youths who were intimidating the Ondiep residents on Sunday. They had attacked a pregnant Dutch woman. When police arrived Mr. Mulder raised his arm to indicate that he had called for them. A policeman shot and killed him.

[. . .]

The killing caused fury amongst the working class White population. Mr. Mulder had been popular amongst his peers and they blamed the police for being too cowardly to touch immigrant youth. Killing Mr. Mulder was the spark that ignited the riots. A former police station in the neighbourhood was burned down on Sunday evening. Football supporters joined the fray and confonted the police.

[. . .]

Read all of Snouck's blog post. Snouck has updates here and here. The Brussels Journal has reports here and here.

Snouck mentions that local people have accused the police of being afraid to touch immigrant youth and have set up their own protection group. According to the Brussels Journal, there are several immigrant neighbourhoods in Europe that the police consider no-go areas.

See also:

Brussels Journal: Dutch fear rising ethnic tensions

France is Europe's canary-down-the-mine on Muslim integration

Soccer violence. Is Toronto one out-of-control celebration away from a major riot?

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'Gypsy' refugee claimants given jail time for thefts in Calgary

From CBC News (Gypsies handed jail time for liquor store thefts, March 13, 2007):

A group of self-proclaimed Romanian Gypsies will be spending a few more months behind bars for two daring liquor store thefts in Calgary.

During sentencing Tuesday, Justice Sandy Park said the crime was an "inappropriate way" to repay the country in which the six sought refugee status.

Park handed two of the group sentences of four months, while the other four received three-month terms. That is on top of the two months they've already spent at Calgary's remand centre.

[. . .]

The two men and four women, one of whom is pregnant and close to giving birth, range in age from 19 to 38. They landed in Montreal as refugees and moved to Calgary earlier this year.

[Hyphenated Canadian: By the time their refugee claim is heard, the woman will have given birth to a baby who will automatically receive Canadian citizenship. If by some miracle, the mother's refugee claim is rejected she will appeal to stay on the grounds that deportation would be unfair to her 'Canadian' baby. The system is a joke.]

They had already pleaded guilty to three charges of theft at two Calgary liquor stores in January. In one instance, they walked out with $13,000 in goods, including a safe containing cash and jewelry.

[. . .]

Read all of the CBC article.

So will these criminals be sent home? Not likely. From another CBC article about this case (Gypsy refugees accused in liquor store robberies, January 18, 2007):

Melissa Anderson, a spokeswoman with the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, said that a refugee claim is not usually affected by a criminal proceeding.

"The refugee claim is not about the people in Canada it is about their home country and whether or not they have a well founded fear of persecution should they be returned to that country."

Romania is a democracy. It's a scandal that these people were even allowed to set foot on Canadian soil.

See also:

Another day, another refugee rapist. Today's knife-wielding advertisement for immigration reform hails from Somalia.

Failed refugee claimant raped 13-year-old girl seven times

Government-sponsored refugee accused of 4 murders (so far) - 1994 deportation order deferred

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Bad immigration policy is hurting our quality of life

Michael Valpy has an article in Saturday's Globe and Mail about the problems faced by people living in the suburbs of Canadian cities. Valpy writes (Cracks begin to show in Canada's suburban dream, March 17 2007):

This is life in the suburbs -- where the 2006 census data say population growth is exploding around Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa-Gatineau, Calgary and Edmonton. For the first time the city of Toronto comprises less than half the population of its metropolitan census area.

It's the contemporary manifestation of the Canadian dream: a house for the family, a backyard. But talk to the people who live on the suburban edges and the flaws in the dream instantly surface. Their commuting times by car grow longer and uglier. They find the communities they live in flat and soulless. They're there because they can't afford to live in city cores and their workplaces are increasingly scattered across huge urban areas.

The question is: Do the suburbs get it? In the face of sprawl and congestion, are the suburbs going green?

[. . .]

I have a better question. Does Ottawa get it? In the face of sprawl and congestion, will the federal government finally reduce immigration? Canada has a low birthrate. The urban population is exploding because of immigration. There's no economic justification for bringing in so many people. On the contrary, Canada is importing poverty, because as Martin Collacott has pointed out, we are bringing in skilled immigrants for whom there are no jobs.

As for going green, back in 2005 Ontario's environment commissioner wrote a report warning about the environmental consequences of rapid population growth. He was a treated like a heretic for daring to criticize immigration. Everybody is supposedly concerned about the environment; yet, for some reason immigration never enters the discussion.

See also:

Toronto is running out of space, but immigrants keep pouring in.

Urban sprawl: another problem that could be solved by a moratorium on immigration

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Should Nick Griffin be given op-ed space in the Guardian? Should I allow negative comments on this blog? Is interactivity all it's cracked up to be?

I stumbled across this article today and found it interesting because of what the writer says about interactivity in cyberspace. That's something that's been on my mind, because I can't seem to decide what to do about comments. Do I want them or don't I?

From Harry's Place (A Guardian Comment Piece for Nick Griffin?, March 14, 2007):

By way of introduction to the piece, try this thought experiment. What is the objection to Sunny's suggestion: give Nick Griffin a Guardian op ed piece?

There's a pat answer to that. The British National Party is a racist and fascist party: albeit one which poses as merely nationalist. It espouses a politics which I oppose on essentially every level. Its policies, if enacted, would actively discriminate against citizens on the basis of their ethnicity. Many of its officers are thugs and criminals: some with convictions for violence against ethnic minorities, and . A Comment piece for Nick Griffin amounts to handing him a megaphone. We need to do all we can to keep the likes of Nick Griffin out of the mainstream.

That argument may have had some validity in the days before the Internet. If you wanted to find out what the far right was saying, you needed to attend one of their meetings, or send off for one of their journals. That is no longer the case. You are presently a couple of mouse clicks away from access to all the neo-nazi material you could ever wish to see. Pretending that your enemies do not exist is simply no longer an option.

More to the point, media has now become interactive. The Guardian, in particular, has embraced a culture in which every opinion piece is immediately capable of being engaged with and critiqued. A Comment Piece is not a bully pulpit. Indeed, it is sometimes rather closer to a public pillory. Were the Guardian to publish an opinion piece by Nick Griffin tomorrow, his message would no more be left unchallenged than are the pieces that the Guardian presently runs by extreme right wingers, such as John Laughland.

Put it this way. Do we have so little confidence in our ability to take on the extreme right, that we need to engage in the futile exercise of hushing their voices?

Read the whole article.

I found the observation that the internet makes media interactive interesting, because I keep on going back and forth on whether to allow comments on this blog. Do I want to take advantage of the interactivity that the internet allows? Is it cowardly not to have comments? This is the paragraph that got me thinking:

Put it this way. Do we have so little confidence in our ability to take on the extreme right, that we need to engage in the futile exercise of hushing their voices?

Do I have so little confidence in my own ideas about immigration that I can't put up with some criticism from people who see things differently?

The interactive aspect of the internet is one of the things that first attracted me to cyberspace. I was itching for a chance to express my own point of view and after going online gravitated towards the political discussions I found there. I used to post regularly on the CBC and Sympatico bulletin boards as well as on various email discussion lists, but after a while I got tired of it.

I found I didn't enjoy arguing, partly because I'm not very good at it. I'm too ambivalent about too many subjects to be a good debater. I can't argue effectively when I don't have a good idea of what my own position is or when I have a strong feeling about an issue, but haven't really thought the problem through. I have a visceral reaction to a lot of things - take the hijab. take it away please. badump bump - but that's not the same as having well thought-out ideas.

I find arguing stressful especially when it consists of sarcasm and smart-ass remarks from internet know-it-alls, of which there are far too many. On the other hand, sometimes there's value in debate. A good argument with an intelligent opponent can force me to think more deeply about an issue.

Another reason I can't make up my mind about comments is my health. I have a physical problem that leaves me feeling tired a lot of the time. I can't always muster up the energy to answer a challenge to something I've posted. I find it frustrating when someone says something on my blog that I believe is wrong or unfair, but I can't respond because I'm exhausted.

I hate the idea of other people using my blog to promote immigration. That message can be heard elsewhere. Pro-immigration propaganda is ubiquitous and it is very hard to find thoughtful criticism of the current policy.

I worry that my own views will be drowned out by remarks that may be superficially persuasive but which wouldn't stand up to scrutiny. In other words, I don't like it when pro-immigration cliches go unchallenged on my blog because I'm too tired to write a response. If I can't respond, I'm allowing my blog to be used to promote ideas I don't like. That defeats the purpose of this whole endeavour. It would be nice if everyone recognized bad arguments for what they are, but unfortunately we don't live in a world where logic always wins the day. If bad ideas go unchallenged, the sheer force of repetition is enough to make them accepted. How else would so many people come to believe that Canada is a nation of immigrants that lacks its own culture?

On those days when I'm tired, I wish the critics would just go away and leave me in peace. When I'm not tired, I don't mind as much. That may be the main reason I'm so inconsistent about allowing comments. When I'm feeling strong and well-rested I don't mind a challenge to my opinions, but when I'm tired I just don't want to deal with it.

There are advantages and disadvantages to allowing comments. My favourite blogger, Kathy Shaidle doesn't have any. She writes:

Not sure what's behind this, but for the last month I've been getting emails from strangers, and getting slagged online. Here's the gist of it: "Sooooo, Kathy doesn't have coooooments on her blo-ogggggg! And she calls herself a blogger, huh? Blogs are s'posed to have comments. She's not playing right. How dare she?"

[. . .]

I don't have comments because: * Comments hadn't been invented when I started back in (ahem) July 2000. * Comments are hard to police/ allow lazy parasites to take over your blog (or at least try to)/ screw up my keyword density and therefore my search engine rankings, etc etc, and the most important reason of all: * I probably don't care what you have to say anyway.

[. . .]

UPDATE: Mark Shea makes essentially the same point, without swears.

Read all of Kathy's rant.

So where does that leave me with regard to comments? Ambivalent and undecided. They're up for now, but I haven't made a final decision. Don't be surprised if they disappear again.

See also:

Has the BNP really reformed?

Trevor Phillips tells churches to ban BNP members from communion

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Friday, March 16, 2007

What evidence is there that Maher Arar was tortured in Syria?

Writing in the Western Standard, Kevin Steel asks some tough questions about Maher Arar: What evidence is there that he was tortured? Did he spend time in Afghanistan in 1993 despite his denials to the contrary?

From the Western Standard (free registration required) (What really happened to Maher Arar?, February 26, 2007):

The problem is, Arar's claims of physical torture have gone largely unchallenged. The Canadian media has been eager to report every dramatic detail and columnists write as if the allegations are established fact. But even though the Arar commission wrote that he had been tortured, it did little to substantiate the 34-year-old wireless technology consultant's assertions. The commission, headed by Justice Dennis O'Connor, ran for two-and-a-half years and cost taxpayers $23 million. Yet in all that time and for all that money, no medical evidence was presented that demonstrated Arar had been physically tortured. No doctor testified. A psychiatrist did testify about the psychological effects of torture, but on physical torture, none.

[. . .]

John Thompson, president of the Mackenzie Institute and an expert on terrorism, has met people who have been tortured in exactly the same way that Arar alleges. To him, Arar's account sounds fabricated. "If you're being whipped, there are permanent marks. A cable like that would leave scars, it would split the skin. Also, if you were being beaten around the hands with it, it would break your fingers. That's what these things do," he says. Ten years ago, he met an Iraqi who had been beaten with a two-inch electrical cable. "He lifted up his shirt and showed me the welter of scars on his back, and then pulled his arm out of his sleeve and there were marks on the upper arm. Whipping leaves some horrific scars."

[. . .]

The credibility of Arar's allegations of physical torture is important because it was under these conditions that he made the confession that he travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan in 1993. (After this confession was relayed back to Canada, it was leaked to the press and the leak itself is now the subject of investigation.)

Arar and his wife, Monia Mazigh, an economics professor and one-time
candidate for the NDP, have said on several occasions that he has never been to Afghanistan and never had any desire to go there. Like the torture claims, this statement has gone unchallenged.

[. . .]

The Mackenzie Institute's Thompson sees this as a critical point. If Arar's whereabouts in 1993 would have been established, suspicion of him would have "cleared up like a snowbank in July," Thompson says. "So here's the critical proof, because if he had gone to Afghanistan, you're presuming he's training and linked up with the jihad movement," Thompson says. Instead, the issue just hangs out there unresolved and Thompson says that doesn't serve anyone's interests--not the Canadian public nor Maher Arar's.

[. . .]

Read all of Kevin Steel's article. (free registration required)

See also:

Maher Arar - report says Canadian Muslim tortured in Syria was wrongly suspected of links to terrorism

Maher Arar affair - Zaccardelli resigns

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Respecting Canada's British heritage

In my last post about Conservative proposals to acknowledge the Komagata Maru affair, I wrote:

Harper is insulting the memory of the people who built Canada. By embracing multiculturalism and pandering to ethnic special interests, the Prime Minister is betraying this country's British heritage.

I realize that nowadays it may seem strange to talk about Canada's British heritage. It's been close to forty years since Trudeau's government adopted multiculturalism and it's been even longer since Canadians stopped seeing themselves as part of a British Empire that no longer exists. When Canada entered World War I in 1914, it did so as a loyal part of the Empire, but according to some historians, the experience of war encouraged English-Canadians to see themselves as a nation distinct from Britain. The victory at Vimy Ridge is sometimes cited as an event that changed English Canada's sense of itself.

Throughout the twentieth century there has been an ongoing process of redefining English Canada's relationship to Britain. (Quebecois identity is another story.) One event that I'm barely old enough to remember is the adoption of the Maple Leaf flag. I was too young to know this, but that was a controversial decision. Many English Canadians wanted the Red Ensign to be recognized as the national flag. I'm betraying my old age here, but when I was a boy there was a Union Jack at the front of the classroom. This may seem like ancient history to people younger than myself but to me it was not that long ago. To the day I die, the Maple Leaf will be the new flag just as Canada Day will be Dominion Day.

Still, I don't want to live in the past. The British Empire is gone and that's fine by me. Canada is a sovereign nation. I wouldn't want people in London making decisions we can make for ourselves. I certainly wouldn't want Tony Blair running Canada. Also, Canada's demography has changed. Only a minority of Canadians can trace their ancestry to the British Isles and many of them are from families that have been here so long they've lost all ties to that part of the world. Canada is not a British colony anymore and I don't mean to suggest it should be, but we can recognize that the country has changed without trashing its past.

This brings me back to the Komagata Maru affair. Immigration Watch Canada has pointed out that Canada's decision to restrict Asian immigration was made largely out of concern for the effect of Asian workers on Canadian wages. It is simply not true to claim, as is usually done today, that this was all about race. That said, race was *part* of it. English-Canadians saw Canada as culturally British and British at the time meant among other things white and Protestant. Immigrants from other parts of Europe were reluctantly accepted but they were expected to assimilate.

In the 1960s under Diefenbaker and Pearson, Ottawa decided that to drop race as an immigration criterion. Since then Canada has become more racially diverse. It has become socially unacceptable in many quarters to consider Canada a white country even if whites remain, for the time being, the majority.

Conservative MP Jim Abbott is certainly right to suggest Canada has changed since the time of the Komagata Maru incident. We are a different country. Recent generations of Canadians have adopted immigration policies that would have horrified their ancestors, but each generation has to make its own decisions. Today's Canadians don't have to do things the way earlier generations did, but I think it's presumptuous for Harper and other contemporary politicians to insult the memory of the people who built Canada. That's what Harper did when he apologized for the Chinese head tax and that's what he would be doing if he apologizes for the Komagata Maru incident. Apologizing for past decisions to restrict Asian immigration means apologizing for earlier generations wanting Canada to be culturally British. In my books, that's nothing to apologize for.

I've mentioned on this blog that I'm of mixed German and Ukrainian origin. I myself have no ties to Britain and I wouldn't call myself an Anglophile, though I have been to Britain and liked the place. I'm Canadian not British and this seems to puzzle some people who find it strange that a Ukrainian-Canadian would care about Canada's British heritage. As I said, I wouldn't want Canada to go back to being a British colony, but my native language is English and I'm a citizen of a nation whose legal and political traditions originated in Britain. I am part of a country whose culture has been largely shaped by British Protestantism. That I myself am neither British nor Protestant doesn't mean I haven't been influenced by that culture. Canada's British heritage is my heritage because I am an English-Canadian, my German and Ukrainian ancestors notwithstanding.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Ethnic pandering alert - Conservatives set to recognize Komagata Maru incident

From Canadian Press via the Toronto Star (Ottawa set to recognize Komagata Maru incident by Jennifer Ditchburn, March 13, 2007):

A memorial in Vancouver's Stanley Park and a commemorative stamp are among the options the Conservative government is considering as part of an official recognition of the Komagata Maru incident.

Whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper will make a formal apology in Parliament for Canada's rejection of 354 migrants of Indian origin in 1914 is still a question mark for the Indo-Canadian community.

Conservative MP Jim Abbott, who spent the last four months consulting on the issue for the government, presented a report with his findings to members of the community over the weekend. The Department of Canadian Heritage helped Abbott put together a summary of what happened to the passengers aboard the Komagata Maru after a six-week study of historical documents.

"I think it's a celebration, I think it's where we were and where we are now," Abbott said in an interview.

"Where we were was excluding (354) people from Canada in a process that was completely legal at the time but that process wouldn't be reflective of where we are as a nation now."

[. . .]

Read all of Jennifer Ditchburn's article.

Harper is insulting the memory of the people who built Canada. By embracing multiculturalism and pandering to ethnic special interests, the Prime Minister is betraying this country's British heritage. What does Jim Abbot mean when he says the exclusion of cheap labour from India is not reflective of the nation we are now? He means that the British settlers who created Canada weren't multiculturalists. They were guilty of the crime of wanting to live in a country that reflected their own customs and traditions. Harper and Jim Abbot benefit from what those settlers built but instead of praising those earlier generations, they in effect condemn them.

Abbot says that recognizing the Komagata Maru incident is a celebration of what Canada has become since the advent of multiculturalism. I see nothing to celebrate. Multiculturalism and mass immigration are tearing apart Canada's social fabric. The so-called 'Conservatives' who support multiculturalism are as much a problem as the Liberals who invented this idiotic philosophy. Doesn't Harper have any sense of history? What kind of 'conservative' fails to appreciate the significance of real cultural diversity? There's more to cultural differences than ethnic restaurants and folk dancing. Cultural differences include things like misogyny, sharia law and a caste system that ranks people according to birth.

See also:

Immigration Watch Canada bulletin about the Komagata Maru affair

The Deity of Multiculturalism

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