Saturday, December 20, 2008
By Rory Leishman
Frances Widdowson and Albert Howard are a pair of tough-minded socialist intellectuals. In a powerful new book, Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry: The Deception Behind Indigenous Cultural Preservation, they dare to point that Canada’s hugely expensive aboriginal programs have served to enrich an aboriginal elite and their white advisers, while doing little to assist the needy.
Widdowson and Howard trace the failure of aboriginal policy to the 1967 Hawthorn Report, a federally commissioned survey of Canadian Indians by Harry Hawthorn. In conformity with the trendy, but absurd, doctrine that all cultures are of equal value, Hawthorn urged the government to hand over more funding to aboriginal political organizations and stop trying to compel an aboriginal person to “acquire those values of the majority society he does not hold or wish to acquire.”
Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau rejected this advice. In a White Paper on Indian Policy in 1969, he recommended elimination of the Indian Act and the transfer of responsibility for aboriginal social policies to the provinces so that all natives would be entitled to the same rights and benefits as all other Canadians.
That was a sound idea, but alas, Trudeau backed down. Under pressure from aboriginal political leaders, his government retained the Indian Act, increased funding for aboriginal lobbyists and initiated what has proven to be a monumentally expensive and perpetual land-claims process.
Widdowson and Howard observe the sorry results: “Privileged leaders live in luxury and are paid huge salaries, while most aboriginal people rely on social assistance. And yet, despite the obvious policy failure, the aboriginal leadership, governments, and the general public continue to accept the argument that land claims and self-government are the answer to aboriginal problems.”
Currently, the federal government alone expends more than $8 billion a year on aboriginal programming. That’s close to $30,000 for an aboriginal family of four. Yet most aboriginals still live in communities beset with the oppressive levels of crime, poverty and addictions.
What can be done? Widdowson and Howard persuasively argue that the first requirement is to eliminate the primary cause of aboriginal deprivation, which they identify as the widespread persistence among aboriginals of the dysfunctional features of a stone-age culture.
All too many aboriginals lack the skills and discipline required for productive employment, because they are still wedded to the superstitions, undisciplined work habits and closure to new ideas typical of pre-literate cultures. The authors write: “It is the persistence of these obsolete cultural features that has maintained the development gap, preventing the integration of many aboriginal peoples into the Canadian social dynamic.”
And it’s this cultural deprivation, not any lack of intelligence, which accounts for the calamity that fewer than 40 per cent of adult Inuit and Indians living on reserves have completed secondary school. That’s 50 percentage points below the national average.
To make matters worse, many schools run by aboriginal elites focus on “traditional knowledge.” Widdowson and Howard insist that instead of clinging to the shibboleth of aboriginal self-government, competent governmental authorities should intervene wherever necessary to assure that aboriginal children have the same access as all other children to quality schooling that upholds universal educational standards for reading, writing and arithmetic.
Of course, Widdowson and Howard are not alone in recognizing that ever more massive government handouts to aboriginal governments have manifestly failed to improve the lot of most aboriginals. Tom Flanagan, the conservative former chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, made the same point eight years ago in his fine book First Nations, Second Thoughts only to have his ideas dismissed by progressive Canadians as “racist” and “right wing.”
Let us hope for the sake of Canada’s long-suffering aboriginal peoples that Widdowson and Howard get a more serious hearing. No open-minded reader of their treatise can fail to agree with their conclusion: “A real left-wing analysis of aboriginal policy requires a critical eye rather than a bleeding heart. Addressing the aboriginal question entails understanding its root causes, not glorifying the educational deficiencies, dependency, and dysfunction that currently plague the native population.”
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Over the past 15 years, there has been scant public concern over the disposition of
Much of the credit for this awakening goes to Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn. While most journalists have either condoned censorship or cowered in silence,
Steyn’s ordeal began last December, when the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal placed him under investigation for “The Future Belongs to Islam,” an excerpt from his best-selling book, America Alone, that was published in Maclean’s Magazine. The complainants in the case – all associates of the Canadian Islamic Congress -- insisted that Steyn and Maclean’s had no right in Canadian law to offend Muslims by publishing his honestly held convictions on the dangers posed by radical Islam.
The result was a national scandal. Many Canadians were shocked that such a flagrant attack on freedom of the press could happen in
In the face of this controversy, the Ontario Human Rights Commission was the first to back down. In a statement issued in April, the Commission denounced Steyn and Maclean’s for publishing an “explicit expression of Islamophobia,” but declined to proceed against them on the grounds that the Commission has no specific authority under the Ontario Human Rights Code to censor journalists and magazines.
Such a fine regard for the plain words and original understanding of the law is new to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. No such consideration inhibited the agency from prosecuting former London Mayor Dianne Haskett for refusing on principle to issue gay-pride proclamations.
In June, the Canadian Human Rights Commission followed the
These rulings must have bemused Chris Kempling, a
Last year, the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal likewise censured Stephen Boissoin, a part-time Baptist youth pastor, for publishing a letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate in which he denounced a new program of teaching on homosexuality in the Alberta public schools. For this offence to the sensitivities of homosexuals, the Tribunal ordered Boissoin to apologize, pay $7,000 in damages, and refrain from any more “disparaging” remarks about gays and homosexuals “in newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public speeches or on the Internet.”
In protest against this flagrant attack on freedom of expression,
Meanwhile, delegates to the recent Conservative policy convention in
One key question remains: When oh when will our supposedly conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally summon up the political courage to authorize the introduction of a government bill to strip the Canadian Human Rights Commission of its power to suppress the fundamental rights of Canadians to freedom of expression?
Saturday, November 08, 2008
By Rory Leishman
This year’s Remembrance Day marks the 90th anniversary of the conclusion of the First World War -- a fitting time to ponder anew the significance of the supreme sacrifices of all the members of the Canadian Armed Forces who fought to defend our freedoms in that horrific conflict.
No one exemplified the heroic qualities of those soldiers better than Lt. Colonel John McCrae, a surgeon attached to the Canadian Expeditionary Force. It was during a break in the second battle of Ypres on May 3, 1915, that he penned his immortal poem, In Flanders Field.
The Germans opened the battle with a surprise poison-gas attack. While thousands of Allied soldiers fled in terror, British and Canadian troops promptly filled in the gaps and held their ground. The cost was horrific. During the first 48 hours of this battle, the Canadians incurred 6,035 casualties, including more than 2,000 dead.
McCrae was appalled by the slaughter, but undaunted. As he pondered the poppies blowing between the crosses of hundreds of his hastily buried Canadian comrades, he imagined the dead heroes urging from the grave:
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.
Indeed, hundreds of thousands of other Canadians did take up the quarrel. Close to 418,000 Canadians served overseas in the First World War. Altogether, an appalling 56,638 died in action and another 141,000 were wounded -- more than twice the number of Canadians killed and wounded in action during the Second World War.
No one doubts the valour and prowess of the Canadian military. They rank among the best in the world. Andrew Roberts, the distinguished British historian, testifies in A History of the English-speaking Peoples Since 1900 that during the Second World War, the Canadian Armed Forces “more than earned [Gen. Dwight D.] Eisenhower’s (necessarily off-the-record) remark that man-for-man the Canadians were the best soldiers in his army.”
Most Canadians agree that the dreadful costs of the Second World War were well worth the benefit of defeating the Axis Powers. But what about the First World War?
Since the 1920s, most intellectuals have thought the First World War was pointless. Pierre Berton was no exception. In Vimy, his gripping account of the heroism of the Canadian soldiers who won the epic battle of Vimy Ridge, he concluded: “Was it worth the loss of thousands of limbs and eyes and the deaths of 5,000 young Canadians at Vimy to provide a young and growing nation with a proud and enduring myth?... The answer, of course, is no.”
That judgment was grievously wrong. Roberts persuasively argues that “far from being a futile, unnecessary conflict, Britain went to war in 1914 for the noblest possible ideal and best possible reason: her honour and self-defence.”
And the same was true of Canada. In an address to Canadians in December, 1914, Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden warned: “If the militarist and autocratic ideals of the Prussian oligarchy can assert themselves in worldwide dominance, the progress and development of democracy will either have been stayed forever or the work of centuries will have been undone and mankind must struggle anew for ideals of freedom and rights of self-government which have been established as the birthright of the British people.”
The Canadians who fought in the First World War did not just leave us with “a proud and enduring myth.” They made a vital contribution to the defence of freedom. And the same can be said for their worthy successors in the Canadian military who have distinguished themselves in every succeeding conflict, including the war in Afghanistan.
Let us not break faith with our heroic dead in Flanders fields. Let us forever revere them and all the other valiant members of the Canadian Armed Forces who have fought -- and continue to fight -- to defend our freedom.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
By Rory Leishman
Going into this year’s federal election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had good reason to believe he would emerge with a solid majority government. As it is, he and his fellow Conservatives can count themselves lucky that they have come out with 143 seats, 12 short of a majority, albeit 16 more than they had in the last Parliament.
Conversely, the Liberals were heading toward an electoral calamity at the outset of the election campaign. According to some early polls, the party seemed likely to end up in fourth place, behind both the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democrats as well as the Conservatives.
What, then, went wrong for the Conservatives during the election campaign? Part of the explanation has to be Harper’s uninspired performance in the leadership debates. However, a close study of the polling data will probably show that a far more important factor in the declining Conservative fortunes has been the sudden collapse in world-wide credit markets that threatens to plunge Canada and most other leading industrialized countries into the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
No one in the Parliament of Canada foresaw this impending economic turmoil. Certainly, if Harper had done so, he would not have triggered an early election, because he would have known that rightly or wrongly, many, if not most, voters would pin much of the blame on the government.
In reality, the Harper government was not at all responsible for the international credit crunch that has crippled the world economy over the past few weeks. And the same goes for the preceding Liberal governments of former Prime Ministers Paul Martin and Jean Chretien.
The same cannot be said for the Republicans and Democrats in the United States. While the Republican
Bush administration relaxed collateral requirements for investment banks, Democrats in the Congress pressured mortgage lenders to multiply “Ninja” loans to people with no income, no jobs and no assets. Together, these risky policies have fostered the ruination of all of the big investment banks and mortgage lenders in the United States.
Meanwhile, in Western Europe, a similar failure of regulatory oversight has led to the bankruptcy of some of the region’s top savings banks. In contrast, Canada stands out in having a fundamentally sound banking system. And for that blessing, both Conservative and Liberal governments as well as a succession of prudent and well-informed advisors in the federal finance department deserve enormous credit.
Regardless, egged on by the Liberals, New Democrats and the Bloc Quebecois, many voters have blamed the Conservative government for the prevailing economic uncertainty. And that’s not altogether a bad disposition. In the long run, the country is likely to be better governed to the extent that voters judge politicians mainly on the basis of their past achievements in office rather than their promises of pie in the sky for the future.
Of course, the biggest losers in Tuesday’s voting were the Liberals, having retained only 76 seats with barely 26 per cent of the popular vote – the lowest percentage ever achieve in a general election by the Liberal Party of Canada. For this electoral setback, party leader Stephane Dion bears much of the blame: He not only failed to inspire many voters, but also should have known it was an act of political suicide to propose a “Green Shift” policy for raising carbon taxes at a time of record gasoline prices.
As a general rule, Canadians support the proposition, “Make the polluter pay.” But they are not so keen on the slogan when they are asked to pay for their own pollution in the form of higher home-heating and gasoline bills.
Be that as it may, Harper has ended back pretty much where he was before the election with a minority government facing a hostile opposition. This time, though, he and the opposition leaders had better resolve to work together to achieve a functional Parliament, because most voters are bound to be hugely upset with any politician who is responsible for precipitating another early election.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
By Rory Leishman
Canadian physicians who uphold the natural family and the sanctity of all human life should beware: According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, they have no legal or constitutional right to go on practising medicine in accordance with their moral and religious beliefs.
In a submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) on Feb. 14, the Ontario Human Rights Commission specifically warned that under the Ontario Human Rights Code: "A physician's denial of services or refusal to provide a woman with information relating to contraception or abortion, for example, would be discriminatory based on sex, as only women can become pregnant." And that's not all: The Commission also served notice that "the Code protections relating to sex also include gender identity and expression."
In June, the CPSO passed along this warning to its membership. In a draft statement on "Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code," the agency stated: "Physicians should be aware that decisions to restrict medical services … based on moral or religious belief may contravene the Code, and/or constitute professional misconduct."
The Ontario Medical Association took strong issue with this warning, alleging that it "does not adequately inform physicians that their right to freedom of religion is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."
The CPSO disagrees. In the final version of the policy on the Ontario Human Rights Code issued on Sept. 19, the Council of the CPSO still warns: "A physician who refuses to provide a service … on the basis of a prohibited ground such as sex or sexual orientation may be acting contrary to the Code, even if the refusal is based on the physician's moral or religious belief."
To illustrate the all-encompassing scope of the suppression of the conscience rights of physicians in the Ontario Human Rights Code, the CPSO states: "A physician who is opposed to same sex procreation for religious reasons and therefore refuses to refer a homosexual couple for fertility treatment may be in breach of the Code."
The CPSO is right. It is naïve of the leaders of the OMA or anyone else to suppose that the rights of physicians to practise medicine in accordance with their moral and religious beliefs are protected by the Charter.
In a series of rulings, judicial activists on the Supreme Court of Canada have eviscerated the purported guarantees in Section 2 of the Charter of "a) freedom of conscience and religion" and "b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression." In the advisory submission to the CPSO, the Ontario Human Rights Commission pointed out: "The Supreme Court of Canada recognized in the Trinity Western decision that providers of public services are expected to essentially 'check their personal views at the door" when providing their services."
At issue in Trinity Western was a decision by the British Columbia College of Teachers not to certify a teaching course at Trinity Western University on the ground that the Evangelical Protestant institution requires students to affirm that same-sex sexual relations are sinful. In overturning this ruling, Canada's top court ordained: "The freedom to hold beliefs is broader than the freedom to act on them." The Court added: "Acting on those beliefs, however, is a very different matter…. Discriminatory conduct by a public school teacher when on duty should always be subject to disciplinary proceedings."
The Ontario Human Rights Commission takes the view that provincial human rights codes apply no less to physicians than to public school teachers. Thus, under the laws and the Constitution of Canada, an obstetrician has a right to believe that abortion is a sin that can never be justified, but he has no right to act on that belief by refusing to perform an abortion on demand.
That's simply outrageous. What more graphic illustration could we have of the urgent need for Parliament and the provincial legislatures to revive genuine freedom under law in Canada, by eliminating all the coercive powers they improvidently conferred upon the country's totalitarian human rights tribunals.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
By Rory Leishman
Just as most liberals like to think of themselves as more idealistic and compassionate than conservatives, so most Canadians fondly suppose that Canada is morally superior to the United States. Yet as recent political events on both sides of the border confirm, neither assumption is true.
Consider, first, the fate of Bill C-484, the Unborn Victims of Crime Act. This private-members’ bill introduced by Conservative MP Ken Epp would make it a criminal offence for any person to kill a child before birth during a criminal attack on the mother. Such laws are commonplace in the United States, but under existing Canadian law, a person who deliberately kills a child in the womb by kicking, punching, stabbing or shooting the mother can only be charged with murdering or assaulting the mother.
Epp’s Bill specifically states that his Unborn Victims of Crime Act would not apply to “conduct relating to the lawful termination of the pregnancy of the mother of the child to which the mother has consented.” Nonetheless, most liberal and socialist MPs have joined with the so-called Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada in opposing the bill. In the words of New Democrat MP Alexa McDonough, these critics fear that the legislation “could become a thin edge of the wedge in the direction of recriminalizing abortion.”
To make matters worse, Conservative Justice Minister Rob Nicholson has acceded to these concerns. Last week, he proceeded, in effect, to kill Epp’s bill, by announcing plans for an alternative government bill listing pregnancy as an aggravating factor in the commission of an assault on an expectant mother. In explaining this point of this initiative, Nicholson said: “Let me be clear, our government will not reopen the debate on abortion.”
Here we see the implacable resolve of the leading Conservatives as well the great majority of Liberals and New Democrats: That Canada shall retain the ignominious distinction among the world’s democracies of having no law to protect the right to life of children in the womb.
Barack Obama, the Democrat with the most liberal record in the United States Senate, is no less callous. While serving in the Illinois legislature, he voted against a bill passed by the majority that banned horrific partial-birth abortions. He even went so far as also to vote against a bill that mandated physicians to provide medical care for living, breathing babies who survive a botched abortion.
In contrast, Republican Senator John McCain supported the enactment of both kinds of legislation on the federal level. And he has solemnly pledged: “As President of the United States, I will be a pro-life president and this presidency will have pro-life policies.”
In a recent radio address, McCain insisted that Obama’s “extreme advocacy in favour of partial birth abortion and his refusal to provide medical care for babies surviving abortion should be of grave concern to reasonable people of goodwill on both sides of this issue. There is a growing consensus in America that we need to overcome narrow partisanship on this issue for both women in need and the unborn. We need more of the compassion and moral idealism that my opponent's own party, at its best, once stood for.”
Quite so. But what about Canada? Is there a growing consensus among Canadians about the urgent need to revive compassion and moral idealism for the protection of both women in need and the unborn in our country?
Evidently not. It seems that most Canadians, like most of our politicians, have no compunction about abandoning women struggling with a difficult pregnancy to the guilt and pain of abortion. And none of our major party leaders shows any disposition to safeguard the lives of even viable babies either shortly before or immediately after birth.
Our ancestors, both Liberals and Conservatives, would be appalled by such moral indifference. They understood the truth that we all have a moral obligation to help and defend even the last and the least and the most vulnerable of our fellow human beings -- including babies in the womb.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
By Rory Leishman
Over the past week, Russian forces have invaded, occupied and, in effect, annexed one-fifth of neighbouring Georgia, but is that of any real concern to the Western democracies? Why should we care about the fate of a tiny country with a population of 4.4 million bordering on the Black Sea?
And eerily similar situation arose in September 1938, when the German Chancellor Adolf Hitler threatened to invade and annex the Sudetenland, a predominantly German-speaking region of neighbouring Czechoslovakia. Conservative British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain played down the crisis. Intead of rallying to the defence of democratic Czechoslovakia, he said: "How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is, that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas masks here because of a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing."
Two days later, Chamberlain flew off to Munich; signed an agreement with Hitler to surrender the Sudetenland to Germany; and then returned in triumph to Britain, predicting "peace for our time."
Sir Winston Churchill knew better. To the dismay of most of his Conservative colleagues, he denounced the Munich agreement in the House of Commons as "a total and unmitigated defeat" for Britain and France.
Labour Party leader Clement Attlee, was no less outraged. He said: "We have seen today a gallant, civilised and democratic people betrayed and handed over to a ruthless despotism. We have seen something more. We have seen the cause of democracy, which is, in our view, the cause of civilisation and humanity, receive a terrible defeat."
This week, another brutal dictator, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, has personally directed the invasion and occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two secessionist regions of Georgia. But this time, instead of cravenly betraying Georgia, the Labour Prime Minister of Britain, George Brown, and the conservative President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy are both stoutly insisting that Russia must implement an immediate ceasefire and respect the territorial integrity of democratic Georgia.
David Cameron, head of the British Conservative Party, is also backing Georgia. He maintains: "This is not some quarrel in a far-away land. What happens in Georgia directly affects us. For a start, it's about energy security. One million barrels of oil a day are delivered by the Baku-"Ceyhan oil pipeline. This runs right through Georgia, close to the areas affected by the conflict."
In Europe, as in North America, many leftists insist that the Georgian conflict starts and ends with oil. But that's nonsense. It is also about global security.
In underlining this point, Cameron explained: "History has shown that if you leave aggression to go unchecked, greater crises will only emerge in the future. Today, Russia says it is defending its citizens in South Ossetia. Where tomorrow? In Ukraine? In Central Asia? In Latvia?"
The leaders of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland and Ukraine are alive to the danger. On Tuesday, they flew into Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, to express their solidarity with President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia.
At a huge public rally in Tbilisi, President Lech Kaczynski of Poland exclaimed to the Georgian people: "Our neighbor thinks it can fight us. We are telling it no." President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine likewise admonished the crowd that "freedom is worth fighting for."
On Wednesday, Yushchenko' government followed up, by serving notice that ships attached to the Russian Black Sea fleet, which is based in the Ukrainian Port of Sevastopol and has been taking part in the Georgian conflict, will no longer be allowed to enter or leave Ukrainian waters without the permission of Ukrainian authorities.
Meanwhile, United States President George Bush has not only demanded the immediate withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgia, but also ordered the United States navy and air force to land humanitarian supplies in Georgia and make sure they are distributed throughout the country.
Today, unlike 70 years ago, the leaders of most of the Western democracies seem resolved not to be weighed in the balance and found wanting in their determination to resist the aggression of a dictatorial European thug.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
By Rory Leishman
Academic freedom used to be a hallmark of the Canadian university system. Apart from a few fascists, communists and other cranks on campus, everyone recognized that the free and vigorous expression of controversial ideas is essential to the life of the mind and the pursuit of truth.
Today, academic freedom is under attack as never before. On all too many campuses, freedom of expression is trumped by the contemporary canons of political correctness.
Consider, for example, the suppression of debate on abortion and the sanctity of human life. Earlier this year, the Canadian Federation of Students, an organization that purports to represent over half a million students at more than 80 universities and colleges across Canada, expressed support for students’ unions that “refuse to allow anti-choice organizations access to their resources and space.”
In conformity with this resolution, a growing number of students’ unions from Memorial University in Newfoundland to the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, have barred pro-life student organizations from using student facilities. In defending the adoption of this policy at York University, Gilary Massa, vice-president for equity of the York Federation of Students, explained that students will still be allowed to discuss abortion in student space, provided they do so “within a pro-choice realm.”
Massa sees no room for the discussion of abortion from a pro-life perspective. “These pro-life, these anti-choice groups, they’re sexist in nature,” she insists. “The way that they speak about women who decide to have abortions is demoralizing….Is this an issue of free speech? No, this is an issue of women’s rights.”
That’s typical of campus censors: They are very sure that they have an infallible grasp of the truth.
But that’s no excuse for stifling opposing opinions. In On Liberty, John Stuart Mill pointed out: “We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still,” because it would rob both present and future generations “of the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”
Mr. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., of the United States Supreme Court agreed. In his celebrated dissent in the Abrams case, he wrote: “Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition.”
Holmes added: “But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas -- that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out.”
The thought police on campus, as in Canada’s so-called human rights tribunals, are bent on stifling the expression of all opinions that they deem liable to expose women, homosexuals, Palestinians or some other favoured group to hatred or contempt. Holmes decried such censorship. He warned: “I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.”
Of course, it’s evident that pro-choice zealots have reason to fear that they cannot win in an open and uninhibited public debate on abortion. Now that ultrasound images of babies in the womb are readily available, the more people contemplate the sanctity of nascent human life, the more they are apt to grasp the self-evident truth that all human beings are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; including the right to life.
Saturday, July 05, 2008
By Rory Leishman
While the Canadian Human Rights Commission has bowed to widespread public opposition to proceeding with a complaint against Maclean’s magazine brought by the Canadian Islamic Congress, less powerful and prominent Canadians should beware: For them, the threat of censorship remains.
Even Maclean’s remains under investigation by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal in a parallel case initiated by Mohamed Elmasry, National President of the Canadian Islamic Congress. He has charged the magazine with expressing hatred and contempt for Muslims with the publication of an article by Mark Steyn on the escalating threat posed by radical Islam to democracy and freedom under law in Canada and other Western countries.
Elmasry has a low tolerance for criticism. In a newsletter published by the Canadian Islamic Congress, he has charged me and three other commentators with bearing primary responsibility for “today’s wave of anti-Islam vitriol” in Canada. And he has tried, but failed, to pressure President Paul Davenport of the University of Western Ontario into censuring Professor Salim Mansur for allegedly publishing columns "filled with hate-literature expressions" that "consistently denigrate Islam and Muslims.”
Ironically, it is not I, Mansur, Steyn or the editors of Maclean’s who are ill-serving Canadian Muslims, but Muslim leaders like Elmasry. By using Canada’s human rights tribunals to intimidate and silence their critics, these authoritarian Muslims are undermining the fundamental freedoms of all Canadians, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.
Of course, more than a few non-Muslims also have scant regard for the historic rights of Canadians to freedom of expression. Recently, a gay rights activist threatened to denounce me to the Ontario Human Rights Commission for daring to suggest in a column published by The Free Press on Nov. 17, 2007, that same-sex couples do not have an equality right to adopt children. Specifically, I wrote: “Given that very few children raised by a homosexual couple have grown to adulthood, it is impossible to prove the competence of homosexuals as parents.”
In response to that statement, an array of intellectuals derided me as ignorant, malicious and ill-informed. But for all their bluster, no one could cite a single study to refute the experience of centuries which indicates that with rare exceptions, children thrive best under the care and guidance of their natural parents who are united in the traditional bonds of marriage between husband and wife.
However, truth is of no account in the censorship proceedings of a human rights tribunal. Typically, section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits the publication of even true statements that are likely to expose a protected person to hatred or contempt.
In general, the rules of evidence that have evolved over centuries to protect the innocent in a court of law do not apply in a human rights tribunal. Moreover, the federal and provincial human rights commissions pick up all the legal costs of complainants like Elmasry, but the accused can easily accumulate more than $100,000 in crippling legal bills.
Besides, the prospects for mounting a successful defence in a human rights tribunal are remote. With all the rules stacked against the defendant, the Canadian Human Rights Commission has never lost a case under section 13.
In the end, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, like its federal counterpart, will probably not dare to censure a powerful publication like Maclean’s for the publication of Steyn’s article. But let us suppose otherwise. If a human rights tribunal were to order Steyn to apologize for his article and to pay several thousand dollars in damages to Elmasry, would Steyn comply?
Not likely. And neither would any other self-respecting journalist obey such an oppressive edict. They would all prefer to end up in jail as a prisoner of conscience rather than obey a court order requiring them to apologize for upholding the truth as they are given to see the truth.
There is only one sure way to prevent such a travesty of justice in Canada. The censorship powers of our human rights tribunals must be abolished: The sooner, the better.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
By Rory Leishman
Thanks to a recent ruling of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, faithful Christians are free to publish their opposition to same-sex marriage in an Ontario newspaper or magazine. However, that is not the case in some other provinces where anyone who publishes anything opposed to the ideology of gay rights could be convicted by a human rights tribunal for expressing contempt for homosexuals.
And much the same goes for the publication of anything that might offend the members of any race, nationality or other class of persons favoured in human rights legislation. The editors of Maclean's magazine are aware of the danger: They are under investigation by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal for publishing a controversial article by Mark Steyn titled “Why the Future Belongs to Islam."
Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall of the Ontario Human Rights Commission would also like to punish Maclean's. In a bizarre statement on April 9, she derided Steyn's article as an “explicit expression of Islamophobia” that the Commission would have censored, except for the fact that the Ontario Human Rights Code “does not give the Commission the jurisdiction to deal with the content of magazine articles through the complaints process.”
Hall wistfully added: “Limits to freedom of expression under some other human rights legislation in Canada are broader.” Quite so.
For example, the British Columbia Human Rights Code prohibits the publication of any matter that “is likely to expose a person or class of persons to hatred or contempt because of the “race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation or age of that person or that group or class of persons.” The Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act includes a similar provision.
Canadians should be especially wary of stating anything in a newspaper or magazine published in Alberta or British Columbia that might offend some Muslim zealot, gay rights activist or a member of any other class of persons covered in the human rights laws of these provinces. Furthermore, Canadians in all provinces should beware of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which prohibits posting anything on the internet “that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt” by reason of that person or persons identification with 14 different prohibited grounds of discrimination, including race, religion and sexual orientation.
Note that one might lawfully publish an article in a newspaper or magazine in Ontario or some other province, yet run afoul of the Canadian Human Rights Commission if the newspaper or magazine republishes that same article on the internet. Thus, while Maclean's has been exempted from punishment by the Ontario Human Rights Commission for publishing the Steyn article, Muslim complaints against the magazine for posting the article on the internet are pending before the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Correspondingly, the Canadian Commission has placed Catholic Insight under investigation, because a reader in Edmonton took offence at the republication on the internet of articles upholding Catholic teaching on homosexuality that are exempt from censure under Ontario law.
If Commissioner Hall had her way, the Ontario Legislature would amend the Ontario Human Rights Act to expand the censorship powers of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. Let us hope that the majority of Liberals and Conservatives, if not New Democrats, in the province are not so besotted with political correctness that they would be willing to go along with such a freedom-stifling measure.
The powers of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal are already excessive. On April 25, it decreed that Christian Horizons, the largest provider of residential services for developmentally disabled adults in Ontario, must pay $23,000 plus two years' wages to a lesbian employee who had been dismissed for violating the Evangelical Christian agency's moral code which requires employees to uphold the basic tenets of Christian morality, including abstinence from sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman.
The outrageous attack on Christian Horizons underlines the freedom-stifling propensities of all of Canada's human rights tribunals. They should be deprived of all their coercive powers. Until then, Canadians cannot be secure in their inalienable rights to fundamental freedoms of expression, association and religion.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
By Rory Leishman
With a compelling dissent in Wednesday’s five-to-four ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. D.B., Mr. Justice Marshall Rothstein confirmed his distinction as one of the few appeal court judges in Canada who consistently respects the legislative authority of Parliament and the provincial legislatures under the Constitution of Canada.
At issue in this case was an appropriate sentence for D.B., a violent offender who had pummeled 18-year-old Jonathan Romero to death in a brawl outside a Hamilton shopping mall in 2003. Under a court order, D.B. cannot be named, because he was 17 years old at the time of the offence.
The altercation began when D.B. challenged Romero to a fight. Romero refused and looked away, whereupon D.B. knocked him to the ground with a devastating sucker punch.
Rothstein relates: “D.B. then continued the assault by jumping on top of Romero and punching him four more times on the face and neck. Romero was knocked unconscious and unable to defend himself.” By the time paramedics arrived, Romero was showing no vital signs. He was rushed to hospital and pronounced dead.
At trial, D.B. pleaded guilty to manslaughter, an offence punishable by a maximum youth sentence of just three years incarceration under the Youth Criminal Justice Act of 2002. However, in section 72, the Act authorizes the imposition of a stiffer adult sentence on a young offender aged 14 to 17 who has been found guilty of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault or for a third offence that resulted in serious bodily harm.
Prior to sentencing D.B., the court was informed that he had a history of frequent fights and repeated suspensions from high school for “disruptive behaviour.” At the time of his assault on Romero, he was bound by two separate probation orders arising out of convictions for possession of stolen property and robbery, both involving threats and intimidation. While in custody awaiting disposition and sentence for manslaughter, he had engaged in several assaults with other inmates and staff members.
On this basis, the Crown asked the court to impose a stiffer adult sentence on D.B. Under terms of section 72, the onus was then on D.B. to persuade the court that a youth sentence would be more appropriate.
Counsel for D.B. argued that the reverse onus of proof in section 72 violates the right of violent young offenders to “life, liberty and security of the person” in section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The trial judge accepted this argument and sentenced D.B. to the maximum three-year youth term. The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the ruling.
Now the majority of the Supreme Court of Canada has definitively struck down the reverse onus of proof in section 72. In so doing, the Court has overturned the considered judgment of the Chretien Liberal government and the majority in the Parliament of Canada who backed enactment of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
During hearings on his appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada, Rothstein promised to exercise due judicial restraint. He said: “The important thing is that judges, when applying the Charter, have to have recognition that the statute they're dealing with was passed by a democratically elected legislature; that it's unlikely the legislature intended to violate the Charter.”
Thus, in R. v. D.B., Rothstein held that in enacting section 72, “it was entirely appropriate for Parliament to consider the competing interests, on the one hand, of young persons to have their reduced moral blameworthiness taken into account and, on the other, of society to be protected from violent young offenders and to have confidence that the youth justice system ensures the accountability of violent young offenders. This balancing was a legitimate exercise of Parliament’s authority to determine how best to penalize particular criminal activity….”
While Abella, McLachlin and most other appellate judges have no compunction about rewriting duly enacted laws to suit their personal policy preferences, Rothstein respacts the separation of legislative and judicial powers. Would that we had more principled and democratic judges like him.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
By Rory Leishman
Under the traditional principles of the common law as affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada, journalists are no less subject than other citizens to the law of libel. Is that fair and reasonable? Or should the law of libel include a special exception for journalists to further vigorous debate on issues of public interest?
Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada served notice that it will consider this policy of the law in the context of an appeal by the Ottawa Citizen of a defamation conviction for publishing false and defamatory statements about the participation of OPP Constable Dennis Cusson in rescue operations at the World Trade Centre following the terrorist attacks of September 2001. Under the law of libel in Canada, the agents of the newspaper had only one line of defence: Like all other citizens in a similar libel action, they had to prove their defamatory statements were true.
As it turned out, the Citizen could persuade a jury in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that only some, but not all, of its defamatory allegations against the police officer were true. On this basis, the trial judge awarded Cusson $100,000 in damages against the newspaper.
Backed by lawyers for the Globe and Mail and the Canadian Newspaper Association, counsel for the Citizen maintained in arguments before the Ontario Court of Appeal that the existing law of libel as it applies to journalists is too strict. The media lawyers called upon the court to uphold the guarantee of freedom of the press in section 2 of the Charter, by following the unprecedented ruling of the British House of Lords in Reynolds v. Times Newspapers Ltd. (2001), which held that it is a sufficient defence for journalists in a libel action to show that although they had published a false and defamatory statement, they and their editors had taken reasonable steps to ensure that the story was fair and its contents were true and accurate.
In an unanimous ruling last year, a three-judge panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal accepted this argument. Instead of upholding the law of libel as defined in a long line of precedents of the Supreme Court of Canada, these three judges on the Ontario Court of Appeal presumed to impose responsible journalism in the public interest as a defence for journalists in an Ontario libel action.
On this basis, it might be supposed that the Citizen would get off scot free, but not so. The Court of Appeal did not so much as order a new trial for the newspaper. Instead, it upheld the conviction of the Citizen on the ground that the newspaper had violated the law of libel as that law stood, before the court changed it.
Here we have a clear example of judicial activism and its chaotic consequences: There can be no rule of law, or any certainty about the requirements of the law, in a country where judges take it upon themselves to make major changes in the law as seem most appropriate to them.
In reasons for the Court of Appeal in Cusson, Mr. Justice Robert Sharpe frankly admitted that the court was imposing a far-reaching change in the law. He said: “In my view, it is open to this court to modify Ontario’s common law of defamation by adopting this new and distinctive defence if that change would accomplish a more appropriate balance between the Charter values of protection of reputation and respect for freedom of expression.”
What comes next? Upon further appeal, will judicial activists on the Supreme Court of Canada also trespass upon the legislative powers, by presuming to impose yet another change in the law of libel as seems best to them?
That remains to be seen. In the meantime, regardless of what the elected representatives of the people in the Ontario Legislature might prefer, the Ontario Court of Appeal has decreed that there shall be one law of libel for journalists in Ontario, and another for everyone else.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
By Rory Leishman
On Feb. 13, the members of St. John’s Shaughnessy Church in Vancouver set a good example for all faithful Anglicans, by resolving to leave the Anglican Church of Canada rather than remain under the authority of a heretical bishop.
The vote was not even close. By the overwhelming margin of 475 to 11 (with 9 abstentions), the congregation formally renounced the authority of Michael Ingham, the Anglican Bishop of New Westminster. In his stead, they placed themselves under the oversight of Bishop Don Harvey, the theologically orthodox, former Anglican Bishop of Newfoundland who currently serves within the Province of the Southern Cone which includes the Anglican Churches in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Peru.
The theological differences between Harvey and Ingham are profound. While Harvey upholds the truth of Christ, Ingham subscribes to pluralism. In Ingham’s words, pluralism “does not deny God's self-revelation in Christ, nor in the Koran, nor in the Torah, nor in other sacred symbols. It asks us to hold them together, despite their obvious discrepancies, in the greater mystery of faith.”
Really? This doctrine can make no sense except, perhaps, to a theological practitioner of Orwellian double-think who is adept at simultaneously holding contradictory ideas in the mind and believing all to be true.
David Short, the rector of St. John’s Shaughnessy, is a theologically orthodox Anglican priest. Like Harvey, he upholds Sacred Scripture as the ultimate authority on all questions of faith and morality. Under Short’s inspiring ministry, St. John’s Shaughnessy is the largest and most flourishing Anglican congregation in all of Canada.
In sorry contrast, the Anglican Church of Canada and the diocese of New Westminster, in particular, are dying. Thanks to the uninspiring leadership of liberals like Ingham, this once thriving denomination has declined over the past 40 years by more than 50 per cent.
The United Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada and other liberal denominations are in a similar or worse state of decline. More and more members are leaving these churches, while their leaders ever more conform their minds to the current pattern of the world rather than uphold that good and acceptable and perfect word of God.
Regardless, church growth is not of primary concern to Short. “Even if preaching the Gospel meant we shrank,” he insists, “we would still have to be faithful.”
In 2002, Ingham broke faith with the Anglican church, by sanctioning the blessing of same sex unions within the diocese of New Westminster. In doing so, he also violated the plain teaching of Sacred Scripture and his solemn oath as a bishop to “banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s Word.”
As a result, Short, Packer and their ministerial colleagues at St. John’s Shaughnessy could no longer acknowledge the authority of Ingham as their bishop. And now, with the overwhelming support of their congregants, they have reluctantly quit the Anglican Church of Canada.
Meanwhile, the majority of bishops in the Anglican Church of Canada have sided with Ingham. For the past six years, they have failed to discipline him as repeatedly requested by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Moreover, while publicly professing to welcome a diversity of viewpoints within the church, some duplicitous bishops have been acting covertly to prevent Anglican parishes from recruiting and maintaining faithful priests who uphold the traditional doctrines and teachings of the Anglican church.
Under these circumstances, the duty of Anglican priests is clear: If their bishop formally repudiates the doctrines and teaching of the Anglican church on marriage or any other basic issue, they must follow the courageous example set by Short and other inspired Anglican priests who, at considerable risk to their financial security, have led their loyal congregants out of the Anglican Church of Canada and into communion with a church that is resolved to remain faithful to Christ and his commandments.
Correspondingly, the duty of Anglican congregants is also clear: They must do whatever they can to support a faithful Anglican priest; even, if need be, at the cost of giving up their comfortable pew and moving to another parish that is blessed with a prelate who can be counted upon to encourage the faithful in their devotion to Christ.
By Rory Leishman
Over the past 40 years, pro-lifers in Canada have endured one defeat and disappointment after another. Yet the best have never despaired: Despite every setback, they have retained complete confidence that the truth about the sanctity of all human life must ultimately prevail.
Consider, in this respect, some encouraging news from Italy. With an Italian general election pending on April 13, the conservative Italian Opposition Leader and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi announced on Feb. 11 that he supports a proposal to have the United Nations adopt a non-binding resolution calling for an international moratorium on abortion. He said: “I think that recognising the right to life from conception to natural death is a principle that the UN could make its own, just as it (recently) did with the moratorium on the death penalty.”
In taking this stance, Berlusconi was following the lead of one of his former cabinet ministers, Giuliano Ferrara. Among Italian politicians, Ferrara is a singular character: He is a self-confessed atheist and former communist, who has transformed himself in recent years into one of Italy’s most prominent conservative journalists.
Currently, Ferrara is seeking election to parliament as leader of the “List for Life” party. He has come to understand and insist on the basis of reason alone that abortion is “evil and should be eradicated.”
In Canada, no leading politician, let alone a serious candidate for the office of prime minister, would dare to support a global ban on abortion. To do so would be the kiss of political death.
But not so in Italy. Even after disclosing his support for a United Nations moratorium on abortion, Berlusconi continued to lead in the polls. Moreover, he has also made plain that his government would not just limit its action on abortion to promoting resolutions at the United Nations.
Senator Maria Burani Procaccini, the spokeswoman on family issues for Berlusconi’s party, has announced that she will introduce legislation to tighten Italy’s abortion regulations if Berlusconi wins the election and forms a new centre-right government. Under Italy’s existing abortion law, abortion on demand is permitted during the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy; from the 13th to the 24th week, an abortion is only allowed if necessary to save the life of the mother or if the baby is seriously malformed; and after the 24th week, all abortions are absolutely forbidden.
Burani Procaccini has promised: “The new law will allow abortion only in really justified cases and within the time-frame already envisaged. There will be tough sanctions for doctors who modify their diagnosis in order to certify non-existent problems with the fetus."
There are, of course, no “really justified cases” for abortion. At least, though, Berlusconi and Burani Procaccini have indicated that they not only personally oppose all abortion, but also plan to introduce legislation to safeguard the lives of at least some babies in the womb.
Consider, in contrast, the sorry state of the politics of abortion in Canada: Both Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Opposition Leader Stephane Dion oppose any government legislation to restrict abortion: This, despite the scandalous fact that Canada is the only democracy in the world where abortion is legally permissible at any time and for any reason during a pregnancy right up to the last second before birth.
What’s wrong with Canada? Why are the leading centre-right politicians in Italy far more sensitive than any of their Canadian counterparts to the urgent need to enhance safeguards for the life of babies in the womb?
Among many contributing factors, a difference in clerical leadership stands out. In Italy, Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco, President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, was quick to speak up and commend Berlusconi for endorsing a global abortion moratorium. And on Feb. 25, Pope Benedict XVI followed up with a public statement, reaffirming his oft-repeated conviction that life should be respected “from its dawn” and “in every moment of its earthly development.”
Catholic leaders and pro-life Evangelicals in Canada should take note: By also speaking out more often and more emphatically in defense of the sanctity of all human life, they, too, could play a key role in finally persuading Parliament to place at least some curbs on abortion.
Saturday, March 01, 2008
March 1, 2008
Beleaguered conservatives would do well to ponder the sage policy advice advanced by David Frum in his latest book, Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again.
While Frum hopes and believes that future generations will render a positive judgement on the mixed record of the presidency of George W. Bush, he has no illusions about the current plight of the Republican Party. “Conservatives were brought to power in the 1970s and 1980s by liberal failure,” writes Frum. “Now conservative failure threatens to inaugurate a new era of liberalism.”
Among the more conspicuous shortcomings of the Bush administration has been failure to improve the living standards of low- and middle-income earners. Frum notes that while labour costs for employers have risen by close to 25 per cent during the Bush years, the entire increase has been absorbed by the soaring costs of health insurance.
A large part of the problem is perverse government regulations that mandate universal coverage for nonessential services such as acupuncture, marriage counselling and hairpieces. As a result, health insurance can cost as much as five times more in a highly regulated state like New Jersey than in low-regulation Kentucky.
Frum urges Republicans to come up with a plausible plan for holding down health care costs, while assuring universal coverage within the framework of a competitive health-care system. In particular, he commends the reforms initiated by former Republican governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts that make comprehensive and affordable private health insurance compulsory for all state residents.
Canada’s ruling Conservatives should take note: They, too, cannot expect long to remain in power, if they fail to satisfy the demands of voters for an end to the intolerable delays that plague Canada’s state-run, medicare monopolies.
Frum is also concerned about the failure of the Bush administration to reverse the decline in the United States fertility rate to a bare replacement level of 2.1 children per woman of childbearing age. He counsels the Republicans to promote larger families by means of a refundable tax credit of $1,000 per child indexed to inflation.
Canada confronts a much worse demographic crisis, having a fertility rate of barely 1.5. The Harper Conservatives should give priority in the next round of tax cuts to increasing the Canada Child Tax Benefit and transforming it into a non-taxable entitlement for children in all families regardless of income.
Frum maintains that to win again in the United States, conservatives should seize the initiative on environmental issues. To this end, he calls upon the Republicans to endorse a hefty tax of $50 per ton on carbon emissions that would fall mainly on oil, natural gas and polluting coal.
This new levy would serve to cut carbon emissions and reduce United States reliance on oil imports from politically unstable countries, while appealing to voters who are caught up in the global-warming hysteria.
In British Columbia, the province’s nominally Liberal, but in many ways conservative government has recently imposed a more modest carbon tax of $10 per tonne. Conservatives in other oil-importing provinces should consider the introduction of a substantial carbon tax in conjunction with an offsetting increase in child benefits.
Just a few months ago, the Iraq war was the most conspicuous failure of the Bush Administration. The United States-led coalition was making so little headway in combating the Islamist terrorists who prey on the people of that sorely oppressed country that the Democrats looked all but unbeatable in this year’s presidential election.
Today, the outlook for the war is much different. The belated decision of the Bush administration to authorize a surge of military force in Iraq has had remarkable success in curbing terrorist attacks and clearing the way for another free and fair Iraqi election in October.
As an early exponent of increased military force in Iraq, John McCain is the presidential candidate who inspires the most confidence on issues of national security. But to retain the White House for the Republicans, he will have to broaden his appeal, by also embracing the kind of sound and innovative domestic policies proposed by Frum.
By Rory Leishman
Every federal and provincial human rights code in Canada prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, so why do not faithful Christians take advantage of these laws to protect themselves from anti-Christian discrimination?
To anyone who is at all familiar with human rights litigation, the answer is, or should be, obvious: Canada’s human rights codes are a two-edged sword that is much less likely to be wielded for than against Christians, especially those who affirm the plain teachings of Sacred Scripture on the sinfulness of sexual intercourse outside the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman.
Let us recall some of Canada’s more notorious human rights cases. In 1997, Dianne Haskett, a lawyer and devout Evangelical Protestant who was then serving as mayor of London, Ontario, was convicted and fined by an Ontario human rights board of inquiry for refusing on religious principle to issue a gay pride proclamation.
In 2002, a three-judge panel of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice unanimously upheld the ruling of a human rights board of inquiry which found that Scott Brockie, a Toronto print-shop owner and sincere Christian, had violated the Ontario Human Rights Code, by refusing on religious grounds to print letterheads and other materials for an organization that promotes gay, lesbian, and bisexual lifestyles. Having already run up close to $100,000 in legal bills and standing little chance of winning upon further appeal, Brockie gave up and complied with the order of the tribunal that he must pay $5,000 in damages to the homosexual complainant in the case and never again refuse to print such materials for a homosexual client.
Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan, Hugh Owens was ordered by a provincial human rights board of inquiry to pay $1,500 in damages to each of three homosexual complainants for having hurt their feelings by publishing an advertisement in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix that featured a list of Bible verses condemning homosexual acts. Owens lost on appeal to the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench, but won in 2006, in the provincial Court of Appeal, which found that his advertisement did not transgress the limits of freedom of expression permitted by the province’s human rights code.
In the aftermath of this court-of-appeal ruling in Owens, can faithful Christians rest assured that they have nothing to fear from Canada’s human-rights thought police? Most certainly not. In 2005, the British Columbia Court of Appeal held in the Chris Kempling case that a Christian teacher has no right to point out the risks of homosexual sexual behaviour in a letter to the editor of his hometown newspaper. How the Supreme Court of Canada might eventually settle these contradictory rulings is anyone’s guess.
In the meantime, while Christians have been losing case after case in human rights tribunals, the Canadian Jewish Congress has been going from victory in victory. The Congress is especially proud of having used the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the courts to expose Ernst Zundel as a holocaust denier and get him extradited to Germany, where he is serving a sentence of five-years imprisonment for incitement of hatred against Jews.
No one should have any sympathy for Zundel, but are his prosecution and incarceration really a victory for Canadian Jews? Ezra Levant, the former editor of The Western Standard and an Orthodox Jew, does not think so. He points out that prior to the prosecution for hate crimes, Zundel was only an inconsequential and obscure bigot. Levant charges: “The Canadian Jewish Congress, and its executive director, Bernie Farber, are the super-agents who turned Ernst Zundel into an international figure.”
Alan Borovoy, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, likewise opposed the prosecution of Zundel. In a recent interview with the Edmonton Journal, Borovoy said: "Nobody ever thought the commissions would have anything to do with expressions of opinion or the dissemination of news reports. I think it's awful that a law could be used to muzzle that kind of expression. That's the stuff of what democratic polemics are about."
Christians should heed Borovoy’s warning. And we should join with him and Levant in urgently calling upon Parliament and the provincial Legislatures to enact legislation to eliminate at least the censorship powers of Canada’s oppressive human rights commissions.
Saturday, February 09, 2008
February 9, 2008
The United States donates far less of its national income to official development assistance than any other industrialized country. At just 0.18 per cent of national income, the U.S. aid effort is less than half that of Britain, France and Germany, and more than five times less than Sweden, the world's most generous donor of official development assistance to needy countries.
Among the 30 relatively wealthy members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States also ranks last in the proportion of national income allocated to government spending on welfare and unemployment insurance. But does it follow that the people of the United States are singularly lacking in care and compassion for the less fortunate?
"After considering the evidence, it is clear that the stereotype of stingy Americans just doesn't hold up. The American government is not the only giver. When we look at the overall charity of Americans, we quickly see that we are an extraordinarily generous nation, by international standards."
Many critics think so. In 2001, Clare Short, the British International Development Secretary, went so far as to denounce the United States for allegedly "turning its back on the needy of the world."
There is no basis for such accusations. Like so many other left-wing critics, Short failed to appreciate that in the United States, government spending on the needy is supplemented by extraordinary private charity.
Arthur C. Brooks, a professor of public administration at the University of Syracuse, has examined this issue in his book, Who Really Cares?: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism. With regard to foreign aid, he points out that in 2002, the $10 billion which the United States contributed to official development assistance was augmented by $13 billion in other forms of government aid and an enormous $50 billion in private charity for less developed countries. Altogether in 2002, the people of the United States donated about $200 per person -- 0.5 per cent of their national income -- to international aid.
Americans are also remarkably generous in supporting worthy causes within their own country. Regardless, many people in Europe, Canada and other rich countries harbour the smug assumption that they are collectively far more generous than the people of the United States, although there is actually much better reason to believe that the converse is true - that the people of the United States are far more generous in volunteering their money, time and talents to help the needy both at home and overseas than are the people of any other industrialized country.
In a series of annual reports over the past several years on generosity in Canada and the United States, the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute has consistently found that Americans donate much more money to charity than do Canadians. Specifically, in the latest of these reports, the authors state: "In 2005, Americans gave 1.77 percent of their aggregate personal income to charity, resulting in a total of US$182 billion in donations. This rate of giving is more than double that of Canadians, who gave 0.75 percent of their aggregate income (Cdn$7.8 billion in total) to charity in 2005."
The people of the United States are also far more generous than Europeans. Citing the best available data, Brooks relates: "Even accounting for differences in standard of living, average Americans gave more than twice as high a percentage of their incomes to charity as the Dutch, almost three times as much as the French, more than five times as much as the Germans, and more than 10 times as much as the Italians."
An international survey on volunteering in 1998 likewise found that the people of the United States are more generous than Europeans in volunteering their time for both religious and non-religious causes. And here, too, the degree of American exceptionalism is striking. While the survey reported that 41 per cent of the people of the United States volunteered annually for nonreligious causes, only 29 per cent of the population did so in Sweden, 24 per cent in Britain and a paltry 13 per cent in Germany.
Brooks sums up: "After considering the evidence, it is clear that the stereotype of stingy Americans just doesn't hold up. The American government is not the only giver. When we look at the overall charity of Americans, we quickly see that we are an extraordinarily generous nation, by international standards."
What accounts for the exceptional generosity of the people of the United States? Part of the explanation is political ideology: On the basis of his extensive research, Brooks discovered, to his surprise, that liberals and socialists who think that government should equalize incomes give less of their money and time to charity than do conservatives who are not obsessed with equality.
Within Canada and Europe, liberals and socialists predominate. Most of these people seem to think that charity begins and ends with voting for governments that promise to give away other peoples' money to help the poor.
Within the United States, there is a substantially larger proportion of conservatives than in other industrialized countries. These people understand that the mark of true charity is not to rely on the government, but to volunteer one's own time and money for worthy causes.
Regardless, in determining levels of private charity, a much more important factor than political ideology is religious conviction. Brooks cites a survey of the population of the United States in 2000, which revealed that religious people - defined as those who attend church nearly every week - were 25 percentage points more likely to give to charity (91 per cent compared to 66 per cent) and 23 percentage points more likely to volunteer (67 per cent compared to 44 per cent). Furthermore, while these religious people enjoyed exactly the same average annual family income ($49,000) as secular people, they gave away "about three-and-a-half times more dollars per year, on average ($2,210 versus $642). They also volunteered more than twice as often (12 times per year, versus 5.8 times)."
It might be supposed that religious people only appear to be more generous, because they have been browbeaten into pouring money into the collection plates at church on Sunday. But that is not the case. Brooks found that in comparison to secular people, religious people are 10 percentage points more likely to give and 21 percentage points more likely to volunteer for completely secular, charities like the United Way or a home-and-school board.
Religious people are also more apt to engage in random acts of kindness. For example, survey data indicate that if you drop your wallet on the sidewalk, you are far more likely to get it back if it is found by an observant Christian or Jew rather than a secularist.
Also, the generosity of religious people transcends differences in political ideology. Religious liberals give significantly more time and money to charity than do secular liberals, although religious liberals are not so generous as religious conservatives.
Brooks sums up: "Religious people are far, far more charitable than secularists, no matter what their politics. But while religious conservatives are extremely common, religious liberals are a fairly exotic breed. Liberals are far more likely to fall in the 'secular' category than the 'religious' category, which is one big reason why liberals tend to look uncharitable."
It's no coincidence that the United States is exceptional for both religiosity and generosity. Among the 32 countries which took part in a survey of religious behaviour and attitudes by the International Social Survey Programme in 1998, the United States proved to be far and away the most religious as no less than 23.4 per cent of the population indicated that they attended church at least two or three times a month. The corresponding proportion of regular church goers was 18.7 per cent in Italy, 11.7 per cent in Australia, 11.4 per cent in Canada, 7.8 per cent in Britain, 6.6 per cent in Sweden and 5.6 per cent in France.
Christians, of course, are not perfect. All have sinned and fallen woefully short of the divine perfection.
Nonetheless, Brooks has advanced compelling evidence to establish that in the United States as elsewhere, observant Christians are far more likely than secularists to volunteer their money, time and talents for worthy causes. And the reason for the exceptional charitableness of these Christians is obvious: People in the pews hear and respond to the admonitions of Christ that there is no better way to express our love for God than to serve others without counting the cost or expecting anything in return.
February 9, 2008
Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino has undertaken to set the record straight in an illuminating autobiography entitled: Duty: The Life of a Cop, which he wrote with the editorial and research assistance of Toronto writer and consultant Jerry Amernic.
That Fantino felt the need for such a book is understandable: In recent years, few public figures have been more frequently and viciously maligned than he.
In his book, Fantino recounts how he emigrated to Canada as a youngster from Italy; learned English as a schoolboy in Toronto; earned a high school diploma by correspondence; joined the Metropolitan Toronto police force at age 27; and rose rapidly through the ranks.
His baptism in the fires of political controversy came as a staff inspector in 1988, when he was asked by the North York Committee on Community, Race and Ethnic relations to gather information on the socio-economic status and race of persons charged with criminal offences in the Jane-Finch area. As requested, Fantino duely prepared a report detailing the high proportion of crimes committed by blacks in the violence-prone district.
Inevitably, the media obtained the supposedly confidential report. The result was an intense political controversy featuring Fantino as the fall guy. Any fair-minded commentator would have lauded him for doing his duty. Instead, he was widely maligned as a racist. Ontario Premier David Peterson led a chorus of politicians in demanding that the police stop collecting statistics on crimes by race.
Fantino was so deeply hurt by the North York controversy that he resolved to resign from the Toronto police force. However, he was persuaded to carry on and three years later, he was appointed chief of police in London, only to be vilified again for doing his duty.
This time the controversy focussed on his initiation of Project Guardian, a major investigation of child pornography and pedophilia by the London Police that came up with 62 complainants and 61 suspects. “If that’s not a ‘ring,’ I don’t know what is,” says Fantino.
He reports: “The ages of the complainants ranged from seven to 17 years with 50 per cent of them being 13 years of age or younger, while the average age of the suspects was 40.” The investigation resulted in 535 criminal charges, 39 per cent involving anal intercourse and 49 per cent fellatio. Moreover, the conviction rate for Project Guardian was 86 per cent, a proportion described by Fantino as “almost unheard of in the criminal justice system.”
Nonetheless, many critics contend that Project Guardian unfairly targetted homosexuals. In a nationally televised report on the investigation, the CBC referred to Fantino’s “perceived homophobia” and alleged failure to “distinguish between consensual gay sex and abuse.”
Naturally, Fantino resents such charges. He is proud, and rightly so, of his leadership in combatting the sexual exploitation of children. “I am not anti-gay or homophobic and never have been,” he avows. “However, I am very much against anyone who abuses kids or young people, and as long as I’m in law enforcement, I will go after these characters with everything I’ve got. You can bet on it.”
As commissioner of the OPP, Fantino now bears heavy responsibility for domestic security. He maintains that Canadians are far too complacent about terrorism. Having gained access to national and international intelligence on terrorist activities, he insists it is urgent for Canada to emulate more security conscious European countries like Italy, where police officers are authorized by law to conduct random checks on people right on the street.
As it is, Fantino warns: “We are sitting back, but the day will come when we’ll have to change our attitude. When the bombs go off, you just watch how things will go the other way and the knee-jerk reaction that takes place.”
Altogether, Duty: The Life of a Cop is a fascinating and informative account of the life and thinking of one of Canada’s most accomplished police officers. While Fantino might not always be right, his well-informed views on key issues of public safety deserve careful consideration.
Friday, February 01, 2008
In subjecting Catholic Insight magazine to investigation on baseless charges of homophobia, the Canadian Human Rights Commission is once again trampling upon the very human rights and fundamental freedoms it is supposed to uphold. The sooner this oppressive Commission and its provincial counterparts are abolished, the better.
Catholic Insight is the latest in a long line of publications to run afoul of Canada’s human rights commissions. Among the other victims are Maclean’s magazine, The Western Standard, the Calgary Herald and the Saskatoon Star Phoenix. Some journalists have been so intimidated by Canada’s human rights thought police that they no longer dare to publish anything that might offend the sensibilities of Muslim zealots, homosexual activists or any other group that qualifies for special treatment in the freedom-stifling, federal and provincial, human rights codes that have sprung up over the past 50 years.
Yet it’s open season on the Catholic Church for anti-Catholic bigots. No Canadian human rights commission has ever reprimanded anyone for expressing hatred or contempt for Christianity. To the contrary, as the attack on Catholic Insight indicates, these commissions have specialized in attacking Canadians who uphold the traditional principles of Judeo-Christian morality.
In 2005, the Alberta Human Rights Commission placed Catholic Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary under investigation for opposing same-sex marriage in a pastoral letter and a column in the Calgary Herald. Following several months of harassment, the Commission dropped the case when the two complainants against him withdrew their charges.
Stephen Boissoin has not been so fortunate. After a five-year investigation, he was found on November, 30, 2007, by an Alberta Human Rights Panel to have expressed hatred and contempt for homosexuals in a letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate that he wrote in his capacity as a Baptist minister. Among the statements held against Boissoin was his warning: “From kindergarten class and on, our children, your grandchildren are being strategically targeted, psychologically abused and brainwashed by homosexual and pro-homosexual educators.”
Such rulings have sent a chill through faithful clerics throughout the country. In testimony before the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional affairs on July 13, 2005, Marc Cardinal Ouellet, the primate of Canada, said: “A kind of climate is developing in which people no longer dare say what they think. Even from the pulpit, we feel threatened if we recall the sexual morality of the Church. That is also part of religious freedom. Even in our churches, these words are troubling, and we feel accused of homophobia, hatred of or hurting homosexuals.”
Of course, not all clerics have reason to fear oppression by a human rights tribunal: Liberals who have embraced the gay rights ideology are quite safe. Indeed, some trendy clerics have abetted the human rights inquisitors in oppressing their faithful fellow Christians.
A notorious case in point is The Very Rev. Dr. Bruce McLeod, former moderator of the United Church of Canada. In 2001, he testified before the Ontario human rights tribunal against Scott Brockie, an Evangelical Protestant, who was subsequently found guilty of discriminating against homosexuals for having refused on religious grounds to print materials for the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives.
It will ever be thus, it seems. Down through the centuries, faithful Christians have been persecuted by heretics who conform their thinking to the current pattern of the world rather than uphold that good and acceptable and perfect word of God as revealed in Sacred Scripture.
Father Alphonse de Valk, the editor of Catholic Insight, is made of stern stuff. He can be counted upon not to capitulate under pressure by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, but to stand firm in upholding the truths of Christian faith and morality as authoritatively expounded by the sacred magisterium of the Catholic Church.
And in doing so, Father de Valk should have the solid support of all Canadians who affirm the inalienable rights of all people to freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression. Certainly, conscientious Christians should never fail in their duty to defend and affirm the faith in public after the manner urged by Abraham Lincoln: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right.”
For a striking illustration of the repression of freedom of religion and freedom of expression in Canada, consider the plight of Stephen Boissoin, an erstwhile Baptist minister in Alberta.
In a letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate published on June 17, 2002, Boissoin denounced the indoctrination of children in the public schools by proponents of the notion that homosexuality is a safe and legitimate alternative lifestyle. In response to Boissoin’s letter, Darren Lund, an associate professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Calgary, filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission, accusing Boissoin of exposing homosexuals to hatred and contempt in violation of section 3 of the Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act.
As evidence for the charge, Lund cited several passages from Boissoin’s bombastic letter, including the following: “From kindergarten class and on, our children, your grandchildren are being strategically targeted, psychologically abused and brainwashed by homosexual and pro-homosexual educators” with “repugnant and pre-mediated [sic] strategies, aimed at desensitizing and eventually recruiting our young children into their camps.”
The province’s chief human rights commissioner could have summarily rejected Lund’s complaint. Instead, in 2006, he referred the matter to a human rights panel.
Gerald Chipeur, one of Canada’s top constitutional lawyers, argued before this panel that by virtue of the guarantee of freedom of religion and freedom of expression in section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Boissoin has a constitutional right to publish the honestly held religious convictions on a matter of political debate expressed in his letter to the editor.
Barry Cooper, a distinguished professor of political science at the University of Calgary, likewise told the panel that “reasonable people can disagree about whether homosexual practices are immoral and they can further disagree about whether the Bible is authoritative … [I]f activists use taxpayer dollars to promote homosexuality in public schools, then Christians have a right to stand up and say they do not think it is okay.”
Counsel for the secular Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) repudiated Boissoin’s opinions on gay rights, while defending his constitutional right to express them. In addition, the CCLA argued that the provinces have no authority under the Constitution of Canada to censor the publication of political opinions in a newspaper.
In one of the most dismaying aspects of the Boissoin case, the Attorney General for Alberta flatly disagreed with the defence of freedom of religion and freedom of expression mounted by Cooper and the CCLA. In an intervention against Boissoin, the province’s top law officer insisted that under the Constitution of Canada and the laws of Alberta, the human rights panel had both the authority and the responsibility to censure Boissoin for expressing hatred and contempt for homosexuals in his letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate.
With the Attorney General of the most conservative province in the country intervening against Boissoin, the outcome was virtually a foregone conclusion. In a ruling on 27 November 2007, the Panel Chair, Lori G. Andreachuk, QC, a family-law lawyer from Lethbridge, duly found that Boissoin had violated the ban on expressing hatred or contempt for a protected group in section 3 of the Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act.
In support of her finding, Andreachuk argued: “Not taking jurisdiction would mean that inciting hatred would be acceptable up to the point that a crime occurs as a result of it. This cannot be the case, given the context of this being rural Alberta that is a matter of a local nature.” On the basis of such obtuse reasoning are the historic rights and freedoms of Canadians suppressed.
Meanwhile, under pressure from the Canadian Human Rights Commission, a Calgary man, Craig Chandler, has apologized for having posted Boissoin’s letter to the editor on the website of Concerned Christians Canada, and has promised never to do so again.
What, though, is the point of such censorship? Most of Boissoin’s letter can be read in Andreachuk’s ruling. And the full text remains freely available on websites in the United States, where the courts still uphold the inalienable rights of all peoples to freedom of religion and freedom of the press.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Saturday, January 19, 2008
What’s wrong with sub-Saharan Africa? Despite billions upon billions of dollars in foreign aid over the past four decades, most of the people who reside in this region are sinking into ever more abject and pitiable poverty.
Paul Collier has addressed this tragedy in an illuminating new book, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It. As a professor of economics at Oxford University, Director of the Center for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University, and a former director of research at the World Bank, Collier is exceptionally well qualified to discuss the intransigent problems of the world’s poorest countries.
Their plight is all the more poignant in that for the first time in history, the great majority of people no longer live in dire poverty. While close to one billion live in rich countries like Canada and Hong Kong, an additional four billion populate less-developed countries like China, India and Chile that have made the transition to rapid and, for the most part, sustained economic growth.
Meanwhile, one billion are stuck at the bottom. Most of them live in Africa and Central Asia. These people “coexist with the 21st century,” writes Collier, “but their reality is the 14th century: civil war, plague, ignorance.”
Many well-meaning liberals think rich countries could quickly and easily eradicate world poverty, by agreeing to a major increase in transfers of their wealth to poor countries through higher foreign aid and more generous debt relief. But if that is true, how can one account for a deeply impoverished, oil-exporting country like Nigeria that has garnered more than $350 billion in oil revenue over the past 40 years – a sum vastly greater than any conceivable amount of foreign aid and debt relief – yet still languishes within the bottom billion?
In some pathetic cases, foreign aid can do little or no good. Consider, for example, Chad. In 2004, a survey was conducted to track money dispensed by the Chadian ministry of finance for rural health clinics. Collier reports: “Amazingly, less than one per cent of it reached the clinics -- 99 per cent failed to reach its destination.”
Within all-too-many countries in the bottom billion, the evils of corruption are compounded by the catastrophes of war. Collier points out the obvious: There can be no hope of alleviating poverty in any country or region that is ravaged by virtually perpetual armed conflict.
In this respect, Afghanistan is a sorry example. For the past two years, Canadian troops have distinguished themselves in the front lines of the battle to defeat the Taliban and clear the way for poverty-alleviating economic growth in this profoundly impoverished country.
But do the purported champions of the poor among the Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois in the Parliament of Canada solidly back this humanitarian effort? Alas no: Most are clamouring for the early withdrawal of Canadian forces from any combat role in Afghanistan.
Collier is exasperated by economically ignorant citizens in the rich world who think they can help the poor in the bottom billion by opposing freer trade. In reality, these would-be do-gooders are playing into the hands of villains in the bottom billion who profit from import barriers to enrich themselves at the expense of the needy.
Likewise, fair trade is no panacea. To the extent that this policy increases prices for primary products like tea, coffee and cocoa, it encourages people in the bottom billion, says Collier, to go on “producing the crops that have locked them into poverty.”
What, then, can be done for the bottom billion? Collier makes a compelling case for a concerted military and political campaign led by the rich countries to help the countries of the bottom billion to terminate warfare, establish law and order and curtail corruption.
Until all of these goals are achieved, no amount of foreign aid can eliminate the dire poverty that afflicts the bottom billion. That’s the hard, but inescapable truth that no amount of wishful thinking can circumvent.