Thursday, December 10, 2009

Misinformed Atheists

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

Is there still any reason to worship God at Christmas?

Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens think not. In their view, Darwinian science has done away with any rational basis for belief in God, let alone the divinity of Christ.

Dawkins and Hitchens are the authors, respectively, of The God Delusion and God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. They not only mock a caricature of the Christian faith, but also reject the traditional principles of Judeo-Christian morality.

This is not to suggest that Dawkins and Hitchens are amoral nihilists. Nothing, it seems, offends them more than the suggestion that there is no reason to be good without God.

A. J. Ayer, the celebrated British philosopher and atheist, once debated the scholarly Catholic Bishop Christopher Butler. Hitchens recalls: "The exchange proceeded politely enough until the bishop, hearing Ayer assert that he saw no evidence at all for the existence of any god, broke in to say, ‘Then I cannot see why you do not lead a life of unbridled immorality.’

"At this point," adds Hitchens, "‘Freddie,’ as his friends knew him, abandoned his normal suave urbanity and exclaimed, ‘I must say that I think that is a perfectly monstrous insinuation,’ Now, Freddie had certainly broken most commandments respecting the sexual code as adumbrated from Sinai. He was, in a way, justly famous for this. But he was an excellent teacher, a loving parent, and a man who spent much of his spare time pressing for human rights and free speech. To say that his life was an immoral one would be a travesty of the truth.”

Note that according to Hitchens' account, Butler did not accuse Ayer of immorality: The bishop only said he could not see why an atheist does not lead a life of unbridled immorality.

Hitchens' book is rife with such sloppy thinking and misinformation. And Dawkins' book is no better. In a devastating critique for the London Review of Books, Terry Eagleton wrote: “Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the British Book of Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.”

Granted, there are some excellent books that disparage Christianity from an atheistic perspective. One of the best is The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevski, a gripping murder mystery that has been much lauded as the greatest of all novels.

The late Susan Sontag, a prominent atheist intellectual, praised The Brothers Karamazov as "the novel I reread most often and love best." She must have appreciated the atheistic arguments of
Ivan, the most brilliant of the three Karamazov brothers.

However, like Bishop Butler, Ivan famously holds that if there is no God or immortality of the soul, there is no reason for virtue. Rakitin, an atheistic seminarian, dismisses this theory as a fraud. In his view: "Humanity will find in itself the power to live for virtue even without believing in immortality. It will find it in love for freedom, for equality, for fraternity."

Dimitri Karamazov agrees with his brother Ivan. Both maintain that even idealistic atheists end up employing utilitarianism as a "social justification for every nasty thing they do!"

The third and youngest Karamazov brother, Alyosha, stakes his life on the truth of Christianity. How, though, can he know that God and immortality exist? Father Zossima, Alyosha's saintly mentor at the local monastery, explains: "There's no proving it, though you can be convinced of it. By the experience of active love. Strive to love your neighbour actively and indefatigably. In as far as you advance in love you will grow surer of the reality of God and of the immortality of your soul."

Here, then, is an ideal Christmas present for any reader. However, atheists should beware: After reading and pondering The Brothers Karamazov, they, too, could end up with a reasonable and firm belief that the darkness shall never, ever overcome the true light that came into the world at Christmas.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Pro-life gains in the United States

The Interim
By Rory Leishman

In a headline story on November 8, The New York Times reported that by voting to ban federal funding for abortion from the major health-care reform bill under consideration in the United States Congress, the House of Representatives "has energized the opponents of abortion with their biggest victory in years."

Quite so. The $1.1 trillion House health-care reform bill proposes to extend insurance coverage to 36 million uninsured Americans, by subsidizing health-care premiums for everyone who earns less than the equivalent of $88,000 for a family of four. Under terms of an amendment sponsored by Congressman BartStupak , a pro-life Democrat from Michigan, no money authorized by this bill can be used to offset any of the costs of an insurance plan that covers abortion, except in the case of rape, incest or risk of death to the mother if the pregnancy continues.

The vote on the Stupak amendment was not even close: 240 Congressmen, including 64 Democrats, voted in favour, while 194, all of them Democrats, were opposed.

Meanwhile, the United States Senate is devising a health-care reform bill of its own that is also likely to ban federal funding for abortion. Even the courts will probably go along with the ban. In 1980, the United States Supreme Court held in Harris v. McRae that there is no constitutional right to federal funding for abortion.

Pro-abortion activists in the United States are alarmed. Diana DeGette of Colorado, co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, had decried the Stupak amendment, saying it "sets a terrible precedent and marks a significant step backwards." Laurie Rubiner, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood, has pointed out that private insurance companies are bound to cease coverage for abortion in order to qualify for the proposed federal subsidies and remain competitive.

Passage of the Stupak amendment in the House is just the latest in a series of legislative measures over the past 20 years to curtail abortion. The Hyde Amendment, an annually renewed provision introduced by pro-life Republican Congressman Henry Hyde, forbids federal funding for abortion under the Medicaid program for the poor, except in cases of rape, incest or some physical condition that would endanger the life of the mother if the pregnancy were to continue. A similar legislative ban on abortion funding applies to insurance plans for federal employees and the military.

President George W. Bush signed into law the Born Alive Infants Protection Act in 2002 and the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in 2003. Meanwhile, numerous state legislatures have also adopted funding restrictions and informed consent laws for abortion. For example, in 2006, the Michigan legislature enacted the Ultrasound Viewing Option, a law that requires an abortionist to give the mother an opportunity to view an active ultrasound image of her growing baby.

There can be no doubt that these laws have been effective in reducing abortion. In a comprehensive recent study of the consequences of enacting and quashing laws restricting abortion in various states, Michael J. New, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alabama and an associate of the Harvard-MIT data centre, concluded that public funding restrictions and informed consent laws have had "the largest and most statistically significant impact" in reducing abortion.

The Guttmacher Institute, which serves as the “research arm” of Planned Parenthood in the United States, has found that restrictions on funding in the Hyde Amendment alone have cut the abortion rate among Medicaid recipients by 25 per cent. If the expanded ban on federal funding for abortion in theStupak amendment is finally enacted into law, it's certain that many, many more babies will be saved from death by abortion.

In recent years, the abortion rate in the United States has steadily declined to 19.4 per 1,000 women of child-bearing age in 2005. While that's still appallingly high, it's down 34 per cent from the peak of 29.3 per 1,000 women in 1980.

Canadian pro-lifers should take note: There is reason to hope that a concerted effort to promote the enactment of informed consent laws and restrictions on public funding for abortion within Canada would likewise result in a substantial reduction in the death rate from abortion.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Courts have no role in foreign policy

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

The key issue before the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of Omar Ahmed Khadr versus The Prime Minister of Canada is straightforward: Who has ultimate responsibility for Canadian foreign policy -- unelected and unaccountable judges in the courts or elected representatives of the people in the Government and Parliament of Canada?

For the past seven years, Khadr, a 23-year-old Canadian, has been held without trial in Guantanamo Bay on suspicion of murder in the death of a United States soldier who was killed with a hand grenade during a firefight in Afghanistan. In 2003 and 2004, agents of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Department of Foreign Affairs interviewed Khadr in Guantanamo Bay and shared the resulting information with the United States, although they knew Khadr had been subjected to sleep deprivation.

On this basis, the majority on the Federal Court of Appeal held in a two-to-one ruling on August 14 that the government of Canada was complicit in the torturing of Khadr and had thereby violated his right to life, liberty and security of the person as guaranteed in section seven of the the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As a remedy for this violation of Khadr's Charter rights, the Court ordered the government of Canada to request the government of the United States to return Khadr to Canada as soon as practicable.

The Supreme Court of Canada should have no hesitation in overturning this ludicrous judgment on appeal. In a compelling dissent in Khadr, Mr. Justice Marc Nadon of the Federal Court of Appeal observed that there is no link between the allegedly inappropriate interviews and the remedy of repatriation.

Furthermore, Nadon maintained that the courts have no constitutional authority to issue such an order that directly interferes with the conduct of Canadian foreign policy. He explained: "How Canada should conduct its foreign affairs, including the management of its relationship with the U.S. and the determination of the means by which it should advance its position in regard to the protection of Canada’s national interest and its fight against terrorism, should be left to the judgment of those who have been entrusted by the democratic process to manage these matters on behalf of the Canadian people."

That's exactly right. Let us hope that the majority on the Supreme Court of Canada exhibits similar judicial restraint in upholding the fundamental separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers under the Constitution of Canada.

Meanwhile, United States Attorney-General Eric Holder announced last week that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and several other al Qaeda operatives will be put on trial in New York City federal court. Khadr is not part of this group: He and four other Guantanamo Bay detainees will be put on trial in a military tribunal.

Why this difference in treatment? Holder has explained that he decided upon a military tribunal for Khadr and others because the United States government does not have sufficient evidence to assure their conviction in a civilian court.

In Khadr's case, it seems that much of the evidence against him is based on statements he made to United States and CSIS officials after undergoing sleep deprivation. These statements cannot be used in a civilian court, but they might be admissible under the rules of the United States Military Commissions Act of 2006, provided “the totality of the circumstances renders the statements reliable and possessing sufficient probative value” and “the interests of justice would best be served by admission of the statements into evidence.”

The Obama administration has good reason to put Khadr on trial in a military commission. Correspondingly, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is right not to request Khadr's immediate return to Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada should not presume to interfere with this key foreign-policy decision.

It is in the interests of both Canada and the United States that Khadr is brought to trial before a United States military commission -- the kind of institution that is best equipped to deal with war crimes and suspected terrorists.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Economist rediscovers marriage

The Interim
By Rory Leishman

In an important new book, fearful symmetry: the fall and rise of Canada’s founding values, Brian Lee Crowley persuasively argues that the future prosperity of Canada depends on a revival of marriage and the family.

For Crowley, this is a new understanding. Until last year, he was living in a casual, common-law relationship. It was only during a recent stint as the Clifford Clark Visiting Economist at the federal Department of Finance that he finally came to realize that common-law relationships, single-parenthood and rampant marital breakdown are jeopardizing the economic and social well-being of Canadians.

In the preface to his book, Crowley relates that during his stint at the Finance Department: “I quickly began to realize that I couldn’t think about Marriage and Family on a grand scale without also thinking about marriage and family for myself, and the critical things I had to say about the decisions Canadians had made in this regard over the past few decades applied just as much to me as to anyone else. I asked Shelley to marry me in February, 2008, and we are about to celebrate our first anniversary as this book is being prepared for the printer…. My only regret is that it took me so long to get around to it; my great joy is that Shelley would have me in spite of everything.”

Good for Crowley. He can now testify first-hand about the incomparable joys of a good and solid marriage.

Crowley insists: “Marriage matters because husbands and wives matter to each other in ways that cannot be exhaustively enumerated and that are demonstrably different from the way that unmarried cohabiting partners, for example, matter to each other. On the whole, married people like and trust one another and are committed to each other. And because getting married involves an enactment of that commitment, a visible public exchange of promises and mutual commitment, it helps to increase the likelihood that those promises and that commitment will be honoured.”

Indeed, this is so. Despite the lamentable rise in divorce rates since the Trudeau Liberals reformed Canada’s divorce legislation in 1969, marital unions in Canada are still far more enduring and stable than common law relationships.

A good marriage is not only a blessing to husband and wives: It is also vital to the well being of children. Crowley summarizes in his book the wealth of social-science evidence that children thrive best under the care and guidance of their mothers and fathers united in the bond of marriage. He wryly notes that this evidence would have impressed our grandmothers “as perfectly self evident.”

Our grandparents also took for granted the traditional values of productive employment and self-reliance rather than subsistence on handouts from the state. Crowley laments that in our generation, “we had to abandon tradition for its value to become self evident.”

In recent years, Crowley has devoted much of his research to the impending crises posed by Canada’s rapidly aging population. He points out that if current trends persist, there will only be about two workers per retiree in Canada by 2030, down from 3.25 workers per retiree today. Moreover, this dwindling proportion of workers will be saddled with tens of billions of dollars in additional annual costs just to maintain existing medicare and pension benefits for the vast numbers of baby-boom retirees.

Crowley warns that no conceivable increases in worker productivity and immigration can solve this problem. He estimates that even if Canada were to admit one million immigrants per year for the next 50 years, the proportion of elderly people in the Canadian population could still surpass 22 per cent in 2059, up from 13.2 per cent today.

What, then, can be done? Crowley asserts: “The key fact … is that Canadians do not have nearly enough babies to replace the current population (a national birth rate of just over 1.5 per women of child-bearing age…, versus a replacement rate of 2.1).”

This is no just an economic problem. Crowley observes: “A self-confident Canada that believes life here is good, that our institutions are robust, and that we want to be force for good in the world must at least be ready to ask itself … whether our self-image as a great country with much to offer the world can be reconciled with the reality that Canadians are unwilling to replace themselves, to bring enough children into the world to ensure that Canada continues to grow, to thrive, and to be a beacon of tolerance and civility to the world.”

Our grandparents would have been mystified by the collapse in Canadian birth rates. They took it for granted that children and grandchildren are an immense blessing.

Crowley cites opinion poll data indicating that even today, many potential Canadian mothers would love to have more children and to care for them in the home, but are reluctant to do so. This problem has little to do with lack of economic incentives. Our ancestors got by on a much lower standard of living and without any child tax-benefits or day-care subsidies, yet they had plenty of children.

Experience in Quebec, France, Sweden and elsewhere indicates that generous tax benefits for children can foster only a small rise in birth rates that is not nearly sufficient to sustain the population.

Crowley concludes that far more than tax breaks and incentives for mothers to have children, “we need to learn to love and trust each other better and be more committed to each other and to put the needs of our most vulnerable, our children, ahead of the desires of adults.”

As it is, many Canadian women first attempt to establish themselves in a solid career before getting pregnant, because they fear that the father of their children might abandon them to a life of impoverished single-parenthood. Such concerns are well founded. Even among married mothers, the risks of abandonment to single-parenthood are far higher today than 40 years ago. Crowley concludes that the erosion of marriage stability is one of the principal reasons for the collapse in Canadian birth rates.

Crawley also draws the obvious conclusion: No-fault divorce is calamitous for mothers and children. To safeguard both, he urges Parliament to amend the divorce act so that no spouse can unilaterally dissolve a marriage with children before the youngest child reaches the age of, say, sixteen. He would allow exceptions only for an aggrieved spouse who can prove that the other marriage partner is guilty of some grievous fault such as mental cruelty or physical abuse.

Divorce reform would be a good start to strengthening marriage and encouraging child birth. It’s easy to imagine other similar initiatives, such as refocussing spousal benefits on married couples as an inducement for common-law couples to reconsider the advantages of marriage.

However, giving preference to marriage would run afoul of the provisions in Canada’s modern-day human rights codes that forbid discrimination on the basis of marital status. Those provisions should be rescinded. In view of the overwhelming evidence of the damaging impact of casual common-law unions upon spouses and children, Parliament and the provincial legislatures should have no compunction about specifically shoring up the institution of marriage.

The most glaring omission in Crowley’s otherwise fine book is any acknowledgment of the calamitous impact of legalized abortion. As a compassionate man, he should pity all the grieving mothers who have been duped into thinking of abortion as an easy way out of a difficult pregnancy. And as an expert on the perils of population aging, he should especially deplore the deaths by induced abortion of more than three million Canadian children since 1969.

Abortion is truly a national tragedy. Crowley has come a long way in recognizing the enduring importance of marriage and the family. Let us hope and pray that he and other intellectuals like him will soon also come to understand that of all the founding values of Canada, there is none more vital, none more fundamental, and none more urgently in need of revival than respect for the inalienable right to life of all innocent human beings, young and old.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Courageous Muslim Democrat

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

Among post-modern multiculturalists, it’s commonplace to suppose that all cultures are of equal moral worth. Salim Mansur, professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario, emphatically disagrees. In an illuminating collection of essays entitled Islam’s Predicament: Perspectives of a Dissident Muslim, he maintains that Islam is afflicted with “a terrible malady” which “reflects the irreparable breakdown of the civilization’s centre … which at one time in history was co-equal, if not briefly superior, to Christendom.”

Paraphrasing William Butler Yeats, Mansur contends that Islam is in the grips of a “rough beast” that has let loose anarchy upon the world. He traces the problem back to the earliest days of Islam, when perverse Muslim rulers renounced the peaceful teachings of the Quran, by slaughtering each other in a bloody struggle for political power following the death of the Prophet in 632.

“The Prophet’s immediate family members were the most conspicuous massacre victims,” writes Mansur. “Ever since those early blood-lettings, Muslims have been the primary victims of Muslim violence.”

That’s still all too evident in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Within the past week, Islamist suicide bombers have killed more than 240 Muslims in three massive blasts – the first two in Baghdad and the third in Peshawar.

Mansur charges that while Osama bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda network are “the modern faces of the beast” set loose in Islam, “Muslim intellectuals and religious leaders such as Tariq Ramadan and Sheikh al-Qaradawi serve the beast as apologists and propagandists.” That’s disturbing.

Qaradawi is no minor figure. Mansur explains that for Sunni Muslims, he is “the face of institutionalized Islam. He is the closest to what might pass for a titular head of Muslims akin to the Pope. Qaradawi’s words, now broadcast by television network al-Jazeerah, are taken as authoritative pronouncements of Islam.”

In a sermon broadcast earlier this year on the Arabic network of Al-Jazeerah, Qaradawi declaimed: “Oh Allah, take the Jews, the murderous aggressors. Oh Allah, take this profligate, cunning, arrogant band of people…. Oh Allah, do not spare one of them. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one.”

Ramadan is hardly less prominent than Qaradawi. A Swiss-born Arab Muslim academic, he has taught at the University of Fribourg, Oxford University and Erasmus University in Rotterdam. In 2004, he was offered a tenured position at Notre Dame University, but could not take up the post because he was barred entry to the United States.

On August 18, Ramadan was fired from his posts as a professor at Erasmus and an “integration advisor” for the city of Rotterdam, because he continued to host a show Islam and Life on Iran’s Press TV despite the shooting down of protestors in the streets of Tehran in June. In a joint statement, the city and university said Ramadan had "failed to sufficiently realize the feelings that participation in this television program, which is supported by the Iranian government, might provoke in Rotterdam and beyond."

In the face of Islamist terrorism, Mansur deplores the “appeasement mentality” of liberal-left multiculturalists in the West as well as the “deafening silence of Muslims, except for lonely voices of feeble opposition.” He likewise denounces the “double-speak” of Muslim intellectuals and religious leaders in mosques who say “contrary things in English or French and then in Arabic, or Farsi or Urdu.”

Mansur, of course, is a courageous exception: No Muslim has been more outspoken than he in unequivocally denouncing the Islamist terrorists who defame Islam.

As a Muslim, Mansur laments: “We keep assuring ourselves and others that Muslims who violate Islam are a minuscule minority, yet we fail to hold this minority accountable in public. We regularly quote from the Quran, but do not make repentance for our failings as the Quran instructs, by seeking forgiveness of those whom we have harmed.”

Mansur starkly concludes: “We Muslims are the source of our own misery, and we are not misunderstood by others who see in our conduct a threat to their peace.”

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Self-serving Canadian twaddle

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

Brian Lee Crowley is apprehensive about the future of Canada. In a remarkable new book, fearful symmetry: the fall and rise of canada’s traditional values, he decries those politicians and intellectuals have been telling us for the past 50 years that “Canada is one of the top countries in the world; that we are nicer, kinder, and gentler than Americans; that we have shed an up-tight colonial past and have entered a brave new world of equality and freedom guaranteed by big government.

“Too bad,” says Crowley, “this message is self-serving twaddle."

Really? Is it not true that over the past 50 years, Canada has maintained much more generous unemployment insurance and welfare benefits than the United States?

That, indeed, is correct. As a young socialist in the 1970s, Crowley applauded the decisions of the Trudeau Liberal government to liberalize unemployment insurance, increase welfare benefits and greatly expand the size and impact of government on the Canadian economy.

Looking back 40 years later, Crowley now realizes that no matter how generous and kindly meant, these Liberal initiatives have had a disastrous national impact, not least upon the poorest and most vulnerable Canadians.

Take the case of unemployment insurance. The reforms adopted by the Trudeau Liberals in 1971 radically reduced eligibility requirements and increased benefits. The result, notes Crowley, was overnight creation of the “UI ski team.” Under the cockeyed provisions of the new system, employable people in areas of high unemployment could work just two weeks and live off UI for the rest of the year.

While ski bums may have benefited from these UI reforms, many other Canadians were not so fortunate. Crowley observes that there is widespread agreement among economists that the Liberals’ misguided UI reforms fostered an increase of two percentage points in the difference between unemployment rates in Canada and the United States.

Increased welfare benefits have been no less pernicious. Crawley recalls that by the early 1990s, more than 10 per cent of the population of Ontario, then the richest province, was reduced to morale-destroying dependence on welfare handouts.

That was too much even for former Ontario NDP premier Bob Rae: His debt-ridden government could not afford the province’s soaring welfare costs, so he, a socialist, initiated the first rollbacks in welfare entitlements -- a policy that was continued and extended by the government of his Conservative successor, former premier Mike Harris.

The result, notes Crawley, “has not been impoverishment and misery.” Rather, the great bulk of people who were removed from welfare gained both employment and higher incomes.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Canadians languish in what Crawley calls “pseudo-work;” that is to say, unproductive jobs financed by government. Among several examples, he cites the featherbedding at CN. As a crown corporation, it ended up with a workforce of some 36,000, but a few years after privatization, “that number was down by half to 18,000, while profitability and efficiency were way up.”

Crawley warns that once the current economic recovery picks up pace, Canada will enter upon an era of ever more acute labour shortages. At the root of the problem is the collapse in Canadian birth rates.

Crowley projects that within 20 years, there could be only two workers for every retired person in Canada, down from a ratio of 3.25 to one. No conceivable influx of immigrants can prevent the inexorable aging of the Canadian population. Somehow, a proportionally diminished labour force will have to finance the huge costs of medicare and pension benefits for vast numbers of retired baby boomers.

Crowley concludes that Canadian taxpayers can simply no longer afford the costs of sustaining millions of Canadians in pseudo work or chronic dependence on welfare and employment insurance. He warns that if Canada is to remain “a force for good in the world,” we must resurrect Canada’s founding values including “personal responsibility and autonomy;” “a strong individual work ethic;” and “marriage and family,” that “vital traditional social institution” which is essential to sustaining the national population.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Judicial suppression of the rule of law

The Interim
By Rory Leishman

In a classic, 20th century, treatise entitled The Road to Serfdom, Friedrich Hayek observed that the hallmark of a free country is the subordination of ruling authority to the fundamental principles of the rule of law. He explained: “Stripped of all technicalities, this means that government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand -- rules which make it possible to foresee with fair certainty how the authority will use its coercive powers in given circumstances and to plan one’s individual affairs on the basis of this knowledge.”

By this standard, Canada is no longer a free country. The problem is due to Canada’s federal and provincial human rights commissars. In a spate of recent rulings, they have wilfully abandoned fixed legal rules in favour of completely arbitrary and contradictory rulings.

Consider, to begin with, the decision of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) in Warman v. Beaumont on October 26, 2007. The adjudicator, Athanasios Hadjis, found that Jessica Beaumont, a 21-year-old retail clerk in Calgary, had expressed hatred and contempt for blacks, Jews and homosexuals in violation of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. For these offences, he ordered her to pay a $1,500 fine as well as $3,000 in compensation to the complainant, Richard Warman.

Less than a year later on September 2, Hadjis, handed down a ruling for the CHRT in Warman v. Lemire. As in the case of Beaumont, Hadjis found that Marc Lemire had expressed hatred and contempt for homosexuals in violation of section 13 of the Human Rights Act. However, instead of censoring and fining Lemire as he had Beaumont, Hadjis let him off on the ground that section 13 violates the guarantee of freedom of expression in section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to an extent that cannot be justified in a free and democratic society.

What, then, is it? Are the censorship powers conferred upon the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in section 13 valid as Hadjis decided in Beaumont or invalid as he declared in Lemire? No one can no. There is no certainty that the unprecedented ruling by Hadjis in Lemire will be followed by any other human rights tribunal or upheld by the courts.

For Rev. Stephen Boissoin, this is a matter of more than academic interest. He is the author of a controversial letter to the editor “Homosexual Agenda Wicked” which was published in the Red Deer Advocate and on the website of Concerned Christians Canada, an organization headed by Craig Chandler. Acting on a complaint by Rob Wells, a homosexual activist in Edmonton, the Canadian Human Rights Commission held that in republishing Boissoin’s letter, Chandler had expressed hatred and contempt for homosexuals in violation of section 13.

Ezra Levant, Canada’s premier human-rights lawyer, was outraged by this attack on freedom of expression. He courageously defied the Commission by republishing Boissoin’s letter on his own website.

Wells then filed a complaint against Levant. But did the Commission follow the Chandler precedent? No. After subjecting Levant to an extensive investigation and tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs, the Commission concluded in a complete reversal on November 17 that he had a legal right to republish Boissoin’s letter.

Meanwhile, the Commission has also dropped vexatious and costly complaints filed by Wells against Fr. Alphonse de Valk of Catholic Insight Magazine and Ron Gray of the Christian Heritage Party for expressing their Christian convictions on the sinfulness of homosexual sexual relations. Boissoin is not so fortunate: He is currently appealing a ruling by the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal that he expressed hatred for homosexuals in his letter.

Parliament and the provincial legislatures are responsible for this oppression. Beginning in the 1980s, they enacted Canada’s perverse human-rights provisions. It’s up to them, not the courts, to quash these oppressive laws.

At a Conservative policy convention in Winnipeg last November, every Conservative MP, including Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, voted to repeal section 13. The Harper Conservatives should promptly follow through on this commitment in Parliament. In this way, Canadians could at least get to know prior to the next election who among our MPs supports the revival of freedom under law in Canada.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

The Quebec Liberal governments did well to allow a few thousand rabid separatists to mark the 250th anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham with a public reading of the hateful manifesto issued by the Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ) during the October Crisis of 1970.

This is not to suggest that the CBC was right to have broadcast the entire manifesto in English and French on October 8, 1970, at the demand of the FLQ kidnappers of British Trade Commissioner James Cross. As usual, appeasement failed: The criminal gang went on to kidnap and murder Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte.

Evidently, this tragedy is of small account to the Quebec separatists who gathered last weekend for a 24-hour marathon of readings in Quebec City’s Battlefields Park. They cheered two recitations of the FLQ manifesto.

Consider some extracts: “We will always be the diligent servants and bootlickers of the big shots, as long as there is a Westmount, a Town of Mount Royal, a Hampstead, an Outremont … We will be slaves until Quebeckers, all of us, have used every means, including dynamite and guns, to drive out these big bosses of the economy and of politics, who will stoop to any action however low it may be, the better to screw us.”

Quebec Justice Minister Kathleen Weil might have threatened to charge the narrator of this document under Section 319(2) of the Criminal Code of Canada, which prohibits the wilful promotion of hatred “against any identifiable group” upon pain of imprisonment for up to two years.

Instead, Weil prudently chose to allow recital of the FLQ manifesto to the gathering in Battlefields Park. In so doing, she alerted Quebecers to the persistence of a small number of separatist extremists. And she exposed the cynicism of Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe, Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois and former PQ premier Bernard Landry, who participated in the readings despite the FLQ recitations.

Even some federalists took part, including a Montreal playwright who read from an essay by former prime minister Pierre Trudeau. That was a mistake. All decent Quebecers should have boycotted the event. They should also applaud the Quebec government for having denounced the spectacle and withdrawn $20,000 in funding upon learning of the planned readings of the FLQ manifesto.

In dealing with the FLQ in October, 1970, Trudeau was faced with an entirely different situation; namely, an apprehended insurrection that could have resulted in the loss of many lives. While there was no provision on hate-propaganda in the Criminal Code at that time, there was also no need for such a law: Trudeau used the War Measures Act to suppress all FLQ propaganda.

Under the circumstances, use of the emergency powers in the law and Constitution of Canada was justifiable. Today, there is no national emergency. There is no risk that anyone will act on the incitements to violence in the FLQ manifesto. There is no reason to ban declamations of this or any other similar, hate-filled political diatribe.

In a landmark opinion for the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1936 Alberta Press Bills case, Chief Justice Sir Lymon Duff noted that parliamentary institutions derive their efficacy from “the freest and fullest analysis and examination from every point of view of political proposals.” He also acknowledged that freedom of political speech can be, and often is, “gravely abused.”

Nonetheless, Duff insisted that within legal limits regarding such matters as defamation, sedition and incitement to violence, abusive political speech should be tolerated. He explained: “It is axiomatic that the practice of this right of free public discussion of public affairs, notwithstanding its incidental mischiefs, is the breath of life for parliamentary institutions.”

In recent years, Parliament has enacted the hate-propaganda restrictions in the Criminal Code as well as parallel provisions in the Canadian Human Rights Act. As Lyman foresaw, these freedom-stifling laws have served to curb both legitimate and abusive speech. They repress the breath of life for our parliamentary institutions. They should all be abolished.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Godless immorality in the schools

The Interim
By Rory Leishman

At the beginning of another school year, the parents of children in the public schools of Canada might well earnestly reflect upon what their children are likely to be taught about the vital issues of faith and morality.

Fifty years ago, there was little reason for concern. Parents could have confidence that teachers in the publicly funded Catholic and non-denominational public schools would teach their students to respect the fundamental principles of Judeo-Christian morality that have underpinned the survival and flourishing of Western civilization.

Today, of course, parents can have no such confidence. Thanks to the 1988 ruling of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Zylberberg vs Sudbury Board of Education, God was banished from the public schools of Ontario.

Prior to Zylberberg, every school day in Ontario began with recitations of the Lord’s Prayer and readings from sacred Scripture. From time to time, students were also instructed to respect the rules of morality summarized in the Ten Commandments and ordained by God for our well-being.

At the request of parents, students were exempted from the classroom during these explicitly religious exercises, but that is not good enough for the judicial activists who have dominated public policy in Canada for the past 25 years. First in Ontario, but soon in all other provinces, these overweening judges decreed that the longstanding practice of offering optional religious exercises in the public schools violated the guarantee of freedom of religion in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Those rulings are entirely illegitimate. There is nothing in the language or the history of the Charter to suggest that it was intended to banish God from the classroom.

Nonetheless, our elected legislators have gone along with this judicial distortion of the Charter. As a result, instead of expounding the principles of Judeo-Christian morality, teachers in the public schools are now required to try to teach their students to be good without God.

That’s fine with atheists like Richard Dawkins. In his bestseller, The God Delusion, he asks: “Is it always wrong to put a terminally ill patient out of her misery at her own request? Is it always wrong to make love to a member of your own sex? Is it always wrong to kill an embryo?”

Dawkins thinks not. “Fortunately,” he writes, “morals do not have to be absolute.”

In the past, teachers in the public schools would have disagreed. They could have been counted upon to explain to students that it is always wrong to kill deliberately an innocent human being or to indulge in sexual intercourse outside the bonds of marriage between a man and a women.

Today, any teacher who insists on teaching such moral truths to students in the public schools would be fired.

Not even the publicly funded Catholic schools can still be relied upon to uphold the traditional principles of Judeo-Christian morality as expounded in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The problem is that all too many teachers and supervisors in the Catholic schools have been imbued at university with essentially the same value relativism as their counterparts in the secular public schools.

Moreover, it’s not just our publicly funded schools and universities that have been morally debased. Today’s young people are also steadily bombarded with immoral exhibitions on prime-time television and through the internet.

What, then, can be done? Tens of thousands of Catholic and Protestant parents have abandoned the publicly funded schools in favour of providing their children with a morally enlightened and comprehensive education at home.

Other parents have resorted to private Christian schools while many seem to hope that regular attendance at Sunday School will counteract the pervasive influence of value relativism. Neither of these approaches is sufficient.

Homeschooling in at least the fundamental tenets of Judeo-Christian morality is essential to providing today’s children with a solid grounding in moral truth. Instead of relying entirely on the church and the schools, parents must provide systematic instruction in the home on the basic tenets of both faith and morality if they are to have any reasonable hope that their children will grow up with the vital protection of a clear understanding of the difference between what is right and what is wrong.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

United States President Barack Obama has touched off a lively and informative debate over the best way to reform health care, but in Canada, no politician of any party is willing to do the same. Why is that? Why is there so little support for major medicare reforms in Canada.

After all, it’s plainly evident that the Canadian system is far from perfect. In a recent international survey, the Commonwealth Fund found that the proportion of adults with chronic health problems who had to wait four weeks or longer for elective surgery was 33 per cent in Canada, but only eight per cent in the United States.

Among the 30 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Canada ranks fifth in total health care expenditures per person, yet lags in advanced medical technology. For example, Canada has just 6.7 magnet resonance imaging (MRI) units per million population, far below the OECD average of 11.0 and the record 25.9 MRI units per million in the United States.

Given Canada’s shortcomings in medicare services and equipment, it’s hardly surprising that the five-year survival rates for cancer are significantly lower in Canada than the United States.

Granted, the U.S. health-care system is also beset with serious problems. Costs are out of control. Over the past 15 years, total U.S. health care spending has more than doubled to $7,290 per person. That’s almost twice the Canadian level and much the highest in the world.

Some 47 million Americans do not have even basic health insurance, while millions more fear they could also end up with no coverage if they lose their jobs or contract a serious illness. That’s scandalous.

To remedy these defects, Obama initially proposed a comprehensive public-sector medicare plan to compete with private medical insurance. However, he seems to be backing away from this “public option” under pressure from critics who apprehend that it would be ruinously costly and lead to the imposition of a Canadian-style medicare monopoly.

In a recent column in The New York Times, Paul Krugman, the left-wing, Nobel-prize winning economist, pointed out that a public option is not the only route to universal coverage. As an alternative, he speculated that Obama might endorse the Swiss medicare system, which relies entirely on private insurance companies to provide affordable medical care for everyone under strict government regulation.

The Swiss model requires every resident to purchase a basic medicare policy from one of several competing private insurance companies. To assure affordability, the government subsidizes premiums for the needy and requires the health insurers to offer basic coverage to all applicants at a uniform rate, regardless of age or medical history. The additional expense of insuring higher-cost clients is offset through a system of reinsurance.

Unlike Canadians, the Swiss are allowed to contract with private insurance companies for supplementary benefits beyond the basics required by the government. Yet on an age-adjusted basis, the total costs of medicare in Switzerland are no higher than in Canada.

This Swiss model works. It provides the Swiss people with superior medicare services without the long waiting times, shortages of medical technology and other chronic deficiencies that plague Canada’s grossly inefficient, public-sector, medicare monopoly.

Krugman is not alone in taking note of the Swiss success. After extensive study, the Dutch Parliament decided in 2006 to replace the Netherlands’ inefficient and unresponsive mixture of public and private medicare with an all-private system on the Swiss model. The Dutch health ministry boasts that the new system delivers “more choices for customers, more competition and guarantees of affordability.”

Let us hope the Obama administration likewise embraces the Swiss model of medicare that relies on competing private insurance companies to provide efficient and affordable coverage for everyone under strict government regulation. Perhaps eventually, even Canada might do the same.

The Dutch health ministry persuasively argues that there is no alternative to competing private insurance companies as a means of ensuring “better quality of care, greater cost consciousness, better affordability and more tailor-made care through greater influence by customers.”

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Effective compassion for the needy

The London Free Press,
By Rory Leishman

Anyone who dares to present a reasonable challenge to some received nostrum of conventional thinking should beware: They are liable to come under vicious personal attack.

Dambisa Moyo is well aware of the problem: Instead of rationally evaluating the thesis of her compelling book Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa, many critics have maligned her as a cruel, grasping and heartless conservative.

Among Moyo’s fiercest detractors is Jeffrey Sachs, professor of economics at Columbia University and consultant on economic development to the United Nations Secretary General. In the left-wing Huffington Post on May 24, he derided Moyo as “an African-born economist who reportedly received scholarships so that she could go to Harvard and Oxford but sees nothing wrong with denying $10 in aid to an African child for an anti-malaria bed net.”

That criticism must have stung. Moyo is a former student of Sachs’s at Harvard. In a polite and measured response to his personal attack, she explained that she has rejected an aid-based strategy that “hurts more than it helps” in favour of working towards “a sustainable solution where Africans can make their own anti-malaria bed-nets (thereby creating jobs for Africans and a real chance for the continent’s economic prospects) rather than encouraging all and sundry to dump malaria nets across the continent (which incidentally, puts Africans out of business).”

Sachs was unimpressed. In another rejoinder, he charged that Moyo is “unmoved by the massive suffering” of Africans afflicted with malaria.

Coming from a leading academic like Sachs, such vitriol is disgraceful. It’s also false and malicious.

In the course of a brilliant career, Moyo has served as a consultant for the World Bank and as a senior executive with Goldman Sachs. But in no way can she be dismissed as a cold-hearted conservative. To the contrary, she has demonstrated her compassion for suffering humanity, by generously volunteering her time and money to charities.

Currently, Moyo serves as a patron of ARK (Absolute Return for Kids), an agency founded by a group of hedge-fund managers in 2002 that employs over 1,200 staff to provide health and educational services to needy children in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and the United Kingdom. Moyo and her fellow patrons and directors of ARK contribute expert managerial advice to the agency and defray all of its administrative costs through their personal donations so that 100 per cent of all other donations go directly to ARK’s programming for children.

Moyo also serves as a director of Room to Read, another non-governmental and non-profit agency. Room to Read constructs schools, builds libraries, operates computer labs, provides scholarships and has donated literally millions of English-language and local-language books to some 10 million impoverished children in Asia and Africa.

Executive Director John Wood is a former Microsoft executive. He was moved to leave Microsoft and found Room to Read, after witnessing the pitiful resources of a Nepalese rural school while on a trekking vacation in 1998.

Room to Read has a savvy board of directors and an experienced management team that works in conjunction with 14 knowledgeable Asian and African nationals who are employed as regional and local managers. Together, the Room to Read staff have established an exceptional record for efficiency and effectiveness in helping impoverished students. According to the agency’s audited report for 2008, Room to Read devoted 85 per cent of total spending to programming, while allocating only 15 cents of every donated dollar to fund-raising and administration.

Moyo exemplifies the meaning of true generosity: Instead of clamouring for more government spending of other people’s money on failed foreign-aid programs, she donates her own time and money to non-governmental agencies with a proven ability to help the needy overcome their disadvantages.

By this standard, it’s evident that many of us – perhaps including Sachs – are a lot less generous, compassionate and effective in helping the needy than Moyo.

(Canadians can make tax-deductible donations to Room to Read Canada through the online charity

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The calamitious impact of foreign aid

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

In a candid address to the Parliament of Ghana last Saturday, United States President Barack Obama pointed out to the oppressed people of Africa: “Development depends on good government. This is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places for far too long.”
With reference to the corrupt rule of Robert Mugabe, the longstanding Marxist dictator of Zimbabwe, Obama observed: “The West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade.”
Dambisa Moyo disagrees. She is a former consultant to the World Bank who was born and raised in Lusaka, Zambia, and holds an earned doctorate in economics from Oxford University. In her book, Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa, she persuasively argues that African dictators like Mugabe would not have been able to maintain their prolonged grip on power, if their grossly incompetent governments had not been propped up with hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid.
Altogether, the United States, Canada and other donor countries have handed out close to $1 trillion in foreign aid to Africa. Most of this well-meant assistance has been wasted. Moyo points out: “Africa’s real per capita income today is lower than in the 1970s, leaving many African countries at least as poor as they were 40 years ago.”
Half of the 700 million people living in Sub-Saharan Africa get by on less than a dollar a day. Life expectancy in the region averages only around 50 years.
Meanwhile, many less-developed countries on other continents have achieved rapid and sustained economic growth. China is a case in point. Despite having had a lower standard of living than most African countries just 30 years ago, China now has an annual income per person of close to $6,000: That’s more than three times greater than Ghana, Kenya and almost all other African countries.
Moyo asks: “Why is it that Africa, alone among the continents of the world seems to be locked into a cycle of dysfunction? Why is it that out of all the continents in the world Africa seems unable to convincingly get its foot on the economic ladder? … What is it about Africa that holds it back, that seems to render it incapable of joining the rest of the globe in the 21st century?”
She explains: “The answer has its roots in aid.”
Granted, not all foreign aid is bad. Moyo acknowledges that the equivalent of $100 billion in today’s funds which the United States dispensed under the Marshall Plan to the war-ravaged countries of Western Europe was hugely successful. Why, though, has almost $1 trillion in aid to Africa so failed to benefit the people of Africa?
Moyo argues that among many social, cultural and economic factors, one key element was that recipients of assistance under the Marshall Plan realized the program was only temporary. They knew they had better make good use of the aid, because they would soon have to get along without it.
In contrast, leaders in Africa have learned to look upon foreign aid as a permanent handout. Instead of using the assistance to promote self-sustaining economic growth, most African rulers have diverted the proceeds to enrich themselves and prop up their corrupt governments.
Obama told the Ghanaian parliamentarians that his administration will increase assistance to African countries that have established democracies, uphold the rule of law and are determined to curtail corruption.
Moyo thinks this approach is inadequate. She calls upon the United States, Canada and other donor countries to liberate Africa from a stifling dependence on foreign aid, by announcing their intention to phase out virtually all aid to Africa over the next five to 10 years.
Will leaders of the donor countries pay heed to this advice? Let us hope so. Moyo pointedly notes: “one would expect Western moralizers to adopt policies which help those in need rather than hinder them in the long run and keep them in a perilous state of economic despair.”

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The sobering reality of immigration

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

As the baby-boom generation begins to retire, the ratio of Canadians over age 65 to those of working age (the old-age dependency ratio) is set to increase so rapidly that the costs of sustaining Canada’s retirees threaten to reduce the rate of growth in Canada’s national standard of living.
What can be done? Robin Banerjee and William Robson of the C. D. Howe Institute have addressed this issue in an illuminating report released on Thursday: “Faster, Younger, Richer? The Fond Hope and Sobering Reality of Immigration’s Impact on Canada’s Demographic and Economic Future.”
It might be supposed that immigration will offset the growing burden of Canada’s aging population. This year alone, Canada is expected to take in an additional 245,000 immigrants. With the exception of Australia, Canada maintains much the highest ratio of immigrants to population in the industrialized world.
Nonetheless, Banerjee and Robson estimate that even if the extraordinarily high current rate of net immigration into Canada is retained, the old-age dependency ratio will more than double to 46.3 per cent in 2057. That’s up from 21.5 per cent this year and less than 15 per cent in 1977.
Is even more immigration the answer? Definitely not. Banerjee and Robson project that if Parliament were to rely on an increase in the current pattern of immigration to stop population aging, Canada would have to take in such a colossal number of additional immigrants that the total national population would reach 210 million in 2058.
That’s out of the question. No conceivable amount of immigration can prevent a rapid and burdensome growth in the aging of Canada’s population.
An increase in the age of retirement would help. Most Canadians at age 70 are no less fit today than were most Canadian workers at age 65 a few decades ago.
Banerjee and Robson conclude that a gradual increase in the normal retirement to age 70 would significantly reduce the rise in the old-age dependency ratio; but only temporarily. It’s likely that within 15 years, the proportion of elderly dependants would resume a steadily upward trend.
There can be no lasting solution to the multiplying difficulties posed by Canada’s aging population short of dealing with the fundamental underlying problem – namely, the devastating collapse in the national fertility rate over the past 40 years. In 2005, the average number of children per woman in Canada was just 1.54 -- far below the ratio of 2.1 that is necessary to sustain the population.
Banerjee and Robson have considered the combined effects of a gradual increase in both the age of retirement to age 70 and the national fertility rate to 2.1. The results are encouraging: Other factors remaining the same, the old-age dependency ratio would remain well below 30 per cent.
Banerjee and Robson do not suggest how Parliament and the provincial legislatures might encourage a rise in the national fertility rate. However, at least one part of the solution is obvious: A major reduction in the catastrophic increase in abortions over the past 40 years.
According to Statistics Canada, there were 28.3 induced abortions for every 100 live births in Canada in 2005, down from a peak of 32.2 in 1998. While that slight downward trend is encouraging, it’s hardly sufficient.
Sooner or later, our politicians will have to take decisive action to curb abortion. Few reforms could do more to eliminate a huge amount of suffering and death.
Moreover, as Banerjee and Robson point out, boosting fertility rates could also play a key role in holding down the rate of increase in old-age dependency that threatens the economic prosperity of Canadians.

Correction: In “Ontario should continue to fight menace of marijuana” (Free Press, June 27), I attempted to summarize my findings from a review of the literature on the harm produced by the recreational use of cannabis with the assertion: “there is overwhelming scientific evidence that cannabis is no less dangerous to life and health than alcohol and tobacco.”
That statement is incorrect. I very much regret the error.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Curbing drug abuse

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

So far this year, London police and RCMP officers have conducted more than 80 raids on illegal marijuana growers within the city, and seized tens of millions of dollars worth of plants. Other municipalities across the province are in the throes of a similar law-enforcement struggle.
Is it time, then, to give up on the war on drugs? Should Parliament and the Ontario Legislature not frankly acknowledge that at least in the case of marijuana, prohibition for recreational use is plainly not working?
Most definitely not. Marijuana is not harmless. Despite the contrary claims of infatuated pot heads, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that cannabis is no less dangerous to life and health than alcohol and tobacco.
Perhaps so, some might argue, but alcohol and tobacco are legally produced and sold. Why not marijuana as well? Why should the Ontario government forgo the huge revenues it could gain by taxing and selling marijuana through government-controlled outlets like the LCBO?
The answer is, or should be, obvious: Addiction to alcohol and tobacco ruins the life and health of tens of thousands of Canadians every year. No legislator with a prudent regard for the health and wellbeing of Canadians would compound these problems by legalizing marijuana as well.
Granted, the suppression of marijuana production and consumption is a never-ending and expensive proposition. But the same is true of any major law-enforcement operation. The police expend vast resources in a perpetual effort to enforce the highway traffic act, yet no one would suggest that the Ontario Legislature should give up the struggle and legalize speeding, careless driving or any of the other all-too-frequent traffic infractions.
Besides, the aim of the police is not to eliminate crime altogether, but to curtail it at reasonable cost. By this standard, there is no reason for police, educational and health authorities to give up on the struggle to curtail marijuana trafficking, addiction and abuse.
Certainly, OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino is not about to surrender in the war on drugs. On a recent radio call-in show, he maintained that Ontario police are doing a good job of holding down the number of marijuana grow-ops. Last year, his force dismantled 499 of them, seized 211,919 marijuana plants, removed more than $264 million drugs from circulation and brought 4,700 charges against 2,400 people.
Moreover, there is evidence that the combined efforts of health, education and law-enforcement officials to combat drug abuse is paying off. According to the latest data on drug use among Ontario students compiled by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), the proportion of students in Grades 7, 9 and 11 who admitted to having used cannabis at least once in the past year was 22 per cent in 2007, down slightly from 23.9 per cent in 1997, but significantly below the peak of 29.1 per cent in 1979.
While the great majority of Ontario students use cannabis only occasionally or not at all, CAMH estimates that an alarming 10 per cent use the drug on a daily basis and may already have developed a problem with cannabis dependence.
Meanwhile, there has been a dramatic reduction in tobacco smoking among Ontario students. According to CAMH, the proportion who report that they have smoked tobacco in the past year was just 11 per cent in 2007, down from 27 per cent in 1997 and a peak of 35 per cent in 1979.
The McGuinty Liberal government deserves much of the credit. In 2005, it initiated a Smoke Free Ontario Campaign that featured tougher enforcement of the ban on tobacco sales to anyone under 19 as well as an unprecedented $50 million in funding for enhanced health and educational programs to combat tobacco smoking.
Clearly, this Ontario anti-smoking campaign has been a huge success. While continuing to discourage tobacco smoking, the Ontario government should now focus on a stepped-up campaign to combat the even greater menace posed by marijuana. At stake is the life and health of literally hundreds of thousands of people, young and old, in Ontario.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Misguided bailouts

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

So far this year, the governments of Canada and Ontario have handed over $9.6 billion to the failing General Motors and Chrysler corporations. For the people of Ontario, that works out to more than $2,500 for every family of four.
In defence of these whopping corporate bailouts, Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty insisted on Monday that he and his government colleagues had no choice: “The auto sector sustains thousands of current jobs for Ontario families and supports the pensions of many of our retirees,” he said. “That's why we're partnering with the federal and United States governments to put the industry on a more sustainable footing for the long term."
There can be little doubt that without government support, GM and Chrysler would have closed down all their operations in Canada. As a result, many related car dealerships, auto supply firms and other companies would also have gone out of business. Ontario government officials peg the total job loss in the province at 85,000.
But is that a compelling argument for the bailouts? In April, there were 5,283,200 full-time workers in Ontario, down 184,500 from a year earlier. Yet the governments of Canada and Ontario offered no corporate bailouts to prevent any of these job losses. Why should the workers whose jobs depend on GM and Chrysler qualify for special treatment?
Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe is at a loss for an answer. Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, he pointed out that over the past two years, 50,000 jobs have been lost in the forestry sector in Canada, with half of those job losses in Quebec. Yet in this year’s federal budget, the Harper government has provided only $270 million for corporate handouts to the forestry industry.
Regardless, the federal Liberals and New Democrats support the Conservative government’s record auto-sector bailouts. And the reason is clear: Unlike the Bloc Quebecois, the Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats are all vying to win or retain seats in Ontario that include hundreds of voters who are employed in the auto industry.
This overriding political consideration also explains the abandonment by Prime Minister Stephen Harper of his promise to do away with corporate bailouts during the 2004 election campaign. At that time, he pointed out: “It doesn't matter how many millions or hundreds of millions of dollars a Liberal-NDP coalition will be willing to give the auto industry to win an election … their reckless use of taxpayers' dollars will make us less competitive.”
Quite so. Who would have thought that within five years, a Harper Conservative government would squander billions of dollars in corporate welfare on GM and Chrysler, alone?
Note also that as a condition for receiving $10.5 billion in additional handouts from the governments of Ontario and Canada, GM Canada has agreed to make an immediate payment of $4 billion toward the $7-billion shortfall in the company’s insolvent, gold-plated pension plan. How can that be? Are not all companies in Ontario required by law to keep their defined-benefit pension plans solvent?
Not exactly. During the recession of 1992, the Ontario New Democratic Party government of former premier Bob Rae helped sustain GM Canada, by granting the company an exemption from the full-funding requirement for its pension plan. With the support of the Canadian Autoworkers Union (CAW), that exemption has remained in effect ever since.
Even when GM Canada was racking up profits over the past 15 years, both management and union agreed to improve promised pension benefits rather than return the plan to solvency. For the Harper and McGuinty governments now to shore up that insolvent plan at a cost to taxpayers of $4 billion is entirely unjustifiable, especially inasmuch as three-quarters of private-sector workers have no pension plan.
Clearly, while it’s politics, not considerations of economics, equity or justice, that has dictated the billions of dollars in auto-sector bailouts, will taxpayers get at least some of that money back?
Harper says he is not counting on it. Neither should anyone else.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Gairdner on natural and moral absolutes

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman
For the past 40 years, most intellectuals have embraced moral relativism -- the calamitous notion that the difference between right and wrong is merely a matter of arbitrary personal tastes and historical circumstances.
William Gairdner, the best-selling author of The War on the Family and The Trouble with Canada, has addressed this issue in his latest dissertation The Book of Absolutes: A Critique of Relativism and a Defence of Universals. In this extraordinarily wide-ranging and informative book, he presents a compelling argument for the truth that there are universal moral truths grounded in natural law that apply to all peoples, at all times, and in all cultures.
The contrary proposition -- that all moral values are relative -- is an ancient fallacy that was utterly discredited by Plato, Socrates and Aristotle. Yet it keeps recurring. Gairdner traces the reemergence of moral relativism in modern form to Franz Boas, a cultural anthropologist at Columbia University.
During the 1920s, Boas was horrified by the rise of Nazi antisemitism and the eugenics movement which was backed by intellectuals like Margaret Sanger, the "Godmother" of Planned Parenthood, who advocated birth control for "racial regeneration" as well as feminist freedom. To combat these racist ideologies, Boas propounded the theory that the key determinants of human behaviour and social diversity are cultural factors, not race or biology.
Correspondingly, Boas also insisted that no culture or civilization is any better than any other. Inspired by his teaching, Margaret Meade, Ruth Benedict and a host of other prominent cultural anthropologists set out to prove, as Gairdner observes, that "all cultures are equally good and already fully civilized; that none are morally better or worse than others."
Meade gained international renown in the 1930s with her best-selling book, Coming of Age in Samoa, in which she depicted an idyllic Polynesian community where young men and women enjoyed casual sex before marriage. The accuracy of this portrait is now a matter of hot academic debate.
Gairdner underlines a more fundamental objection: Meade might not have been so tolerant of the prevailing moral code and cultural diversity in Samoa if she had observed that society before Christian missionaries and colonial rulers had persuaded the Samoans to renounce the evils of slavery, human sacrifice and cannibalism.
In addition to cultural relativism, Gairdner describes existentialism, structuralism, post structuralism, deconstuctionism, post modernism, post-post modernism and legal positivism. Running through all these trendy intellectual fads is the perverse notion that there are no knowable and universal principles of morality.
This is a novel doctrine within Western Civilization. Prior to the 1960s, it used to be generally understood in the English-speaking countries that there is a natural law knowable by reason that is the moral basis for valid laws. Thus, Sir William Blackstone explained in his classic Commentaries on the Laws of England that "no human laws are of any validity if contrary" to the natural moral law.
Today, most lawyers and jurists subscribe to the theory of legal positivism -- the doctrine that the law is whatever the sovereign authority in a state says it is. By this reasoning, the Nuremberg jurists had no moral basis for condemning the Nazis who murdered millions of innocent people in conformity with the so-called laws of Nazi Germany.
That's preposterous. And so is the entire theory of moral relativism. Notwithstanding the pretensions of Boas and his followers, no society or culture has survived -- or could survive -- without moral constraints governing such matters as incest, adultery, lying, cheating, stealing and murder.
Typically, the transgressive proponents of moral relativism are inconsistent: While subscribing to moral relativism in theory, they would be quick to denounce in practice the immorality of a fraud artist who victimized them.
Such is the absurdity, but also the appeal, of moral relativism. As Gairdner explains, for all too many of us, moral relativism "is a very handy concept to keep in our knapsack because it helps us to dismiss all sorts of rules and absolutes for ourselves, without altogether denying the need to apply them to others."

Saturday, April 04, 2009

An authentic Canadian hero

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman
Ezra Levant, popularly known in some quarters as Ezra the Rant, has written an eloquent and powerful polemic Shakedown: How Our Government Is Undermining Democracy In The Name of Human Rights. The target of his righteous wrath is Canada's so-called Human Rights Commissions.
The very name of these commissions is misleading. They serve mainly to suppress and subvert the fundamental rights and freedoms they are supposed to safeguard and exhance.
Levant is one of the most famous victims. His troubles began in 2006, when Syed Soharwardy, the Islamist imam of a tiny mosque in Calgary, filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission (AHRCC), accusing him of inciting hatred for Muslims.
At issue was Levant's decision as publisher of The Western Standard to republish a controversial set of Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammad. In the letter of complaint to the Commission, Sohwardwari stated: "I am quite disturbed and mentally tortured by the cartoons." He also accused Levant of inciting "violence, hate and discrimination against me and my family."
Prior to enactment of Canada's so-called human rights codes, there would never have been any question about Levant's right in law to publish cartoons that might offend some readers. Likewise, there never would have been any legal dispute about the right of Maclean's newsmagazine to republish an extract from Mark Steyn's best-selling book America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It.
Today, anyone in Canada who says or writes anything that might offend some privileged group in human rights law could be prosecuted. Levant notes that he is "the first journalist in the free world to be grilled by a government inquisitor about the cartoons. Not even the Danish cartoonists themselves were called in to answer for what they'd done. Nor had any of the newspapers throughout Europe that had republished the cartoons.
"I had the dubious honour of being a pioneer in the burgeoning field of Western Islamo-censorship."
Canada is also the only democracy in which anyone has been prosecuted for publishing extracts of Steyn's book. That's disgraceful. Canada, formerly one of the freest nations on Earth, now has the worst record in the free world for transgressing freedom of the press.
Granted, both Levant and Maclean's have been exonerated by the HRC's and tribunals that placed them under investigation. But that's hardly reassuring. As Levant points out, "the process is the punishment." During three stressful years of battling the Canadian and Alberta HRCs, he ran up several hundred thousand dollars in legal bills.
That's typical. The defendant before a human rights tribunal gets stuck with a legal bill that would financially ruin most Canadians, while all costs of the accuser are picked up by the prosecuting HRC.
Moreover, even the best counsel can do little to protect anyone who has been wrongly accused by an HRC, because the kangaroo courts run by our human rights tribunals routinely flout the fundamental rules of evidence and judicial procedure that have evolved over centuries to protect the innocent in a regular court of law.
On the advice of counsel, most innocent victims of an HRC complaint dare not even attempt to defend themselves. Levant is different. Instead of capitulating, he has stoutly resisted the petty tyrants in the HRCs.
Early in the cartoons affair, the Alberta commission tried to shake him down, by offering to drop the case if he agreed to publish an apology in his magazine and pay several thousands dollars to Soharwardi.
Levant summarily refused. He relates: "I replied that I would fight the AHRCC and their hijackers all the way to the Supreme Court before I did that -- and even if I lost there, I'd contemplate doing jail time for contempt of court before apologizing."
Levant is a hero. All Canadians should honour him for defending their rights, and support the growing national movement that he and Steyn have ignited to persuade our federal and provincial legislators to curb, if not altogether abolish, Canada's rights-destroying HRCs.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Open season on the Pope

The National Post
By Rory Leishman

It seems to be open season on Pope Benedict XVI in the secular media. Last week, newspapers around the world mocked him for suggesting during a discussion of AIDS with reporters: "You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem."

Then, on Saturday, Agence France-Presse sensationally reported: "Pope Benedict used a nationally televised speech in Angola yesterday to reiterate the Roman Catholic Church's ban on abortion, even to save a mother's life."

According to the official Vatican text of the Pope's address, he made only one reference to abortion, stating: "How bitter the irony of those who promote abortion as a form of 'maternal' health care! How disconcerting the claim that the termination of life is a matter of reproductive health (cf. Maputo Protocol, art. 14)!"

On Sunday, Agence France-Presse reported that Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi "has clarified" the Pope's remarks on abortion, stating that the Church has always taught that "indirect" abortion is permissible if necessary to save the life of the mother. Lombardi added: "What the Pope said is that the concept of maternal health cannot be used to justify abortions as a means of limiting births."

Quite so. It is generally agreed among pro-lifers -- Catholic, Protestant and secular -- that induced abortion is a grievous wrong that can never be justified except if necessary to save the life of the mother.

Meanwhile, the controversy over the Pope's remark about condoms and AIDS continues. In an editorial, "The Pope on Condoms and Aids" (March 17), The New York Times contended: "Pope Benedict XVI has every right to express his opposition to the use of condoms on moral grounds, in accordance with the official stance of the Roman Catholic Church. But he deserves no credence when he distorts scientific findings about the value of condoms in slowing the spread of the AIDS virus."

In support of this argument, the Times editorial stated: "From an individual’s point of view, condoms work very well in preventing transmission of the AIDS virus from infected to uninfected people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites 'comprehensive and conclusive' evidence that latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are 'highly effective' in preventing heterosexual transmission of the virus that causes AIDS."

This statement is essentially misleading. Despite several decades of "safer-sex" propaganda, the great majority of sexually active persons do not use condoms "consistently and correctly." In an article published in The British Medical Journal (26 January 2008), Dr. Stephen Genuis, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Alberta, observed: "In theory, condoms offer some protection against sexually transmitted infection; practically, however, epidemiological research repeatedly shows that condom familiarity and risk awareness do not result in sustained safer sex choices in real life. Only a minority of people engaging in risky sexual behaviour use condoms consistently. A recent study found that ... [e]ven among stable, adult couples who were HIV discordant and received extensive ongoing counseling about HIV risk and condom use, only 48.4% used condoms consistently."

What about Africa, in particular? Have the millions of free condoms that Western countries have distributed on this continent over the past several decades not at least served to reduce the scourge of AIDS among Africans?

Alas, no. Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at Harvard University, is one of the leading authorities on AIDS. In an illuminating article "Aids and the Churches: Getting the Story Right," First Things (April 2008), he wrote: "Consider this fact: In every African country in which HIV infections have declined, this decline has been associated with a decrease in the proportion of men and women reporting more than one sex partner over the course of a year -— which is exactly what fidelity programs promote. The same association with HIV decline cannot be said for condom use, coverage of HIV testing, treatment for curable sexually transmitted infections, provision of antiretroviral drugs, or any other intervention or behavior."

Even The New York Times has grasped that condoms are not a cure-all for the AIDS epidemic. In its editorial chiding the Pope, the paper conceded: "The best way to avoid transmission of the virus is to abstain from sexual intercourse or have a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected person."

Pope Benedict could not have said it any better.

NB: Rory Leishman is a freelance columnist and member of St. George's Anglican Church in London, Ontario.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Speaking out against Islamist terrorists

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman
For the past week, events marking Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) have taken place at virtually every major university in Canada. Among the noteworthy exceptions are the University of Calgary and the University of Western Ontario. Students and faculty on these campuses have distinguished themselves, by unanimously refusing to take part in this festival of Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism.
Israel Apartheid Week was initiated five years ago by the Arab Students' Collective at the University of Toronto. Since then, the annual hate fest has spread to universities in more than 40 cities around the world.
According to the IAW website, this year's events focus on "Israel's barbaric assault on the people of Gaza. Lectures, films, and actions will make the point that these latest massacres further confirm the true nature of Israeli Apartheid. IAW 2009 will continue to build and strengthen the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement (against Israel) at a global level."
At the Muslim Al Quds University near Jerusalem, Israel Apartheid Week has been extended for a full month, during which the university's students' council is urging a boycott of Israeli goods on campus and seeking international support for the alleged right of Palestinian refugees to return in overwhelming numbers to Israel.
How ironical. Here we have students living in Israeli-occupied Palestine openly advocating a policy that would spell the end of Israel as an independent state. Imagine the fate of any Jew in Gaza who dared to speak out against Islamist terrorist attacks on innocent Israeli civilians.
Students, faculty and administrators at Al Quds are also clamoring for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. But, of course, they do not speak for all Arabs. Consider the contrasting views of Mohammad Al-Hadid, the distinguished president of the Jordanian Red Crescent Society and Chairman of the international Standing Commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
Al-Hadid is a champion of peace in the Middle East and a leading proponent of humanitarian co-operation between Israelis and Arabs. He is justifiably proud of the key role he played as an Arab Muslim in persuading The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to admit both the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the equivalent Israeli national society, Magen David Adom, in 2006.
On Monday, Al-Hadid participated in a panel discussion at a national conference of the Canadian Academic Friends of Israel that took place at the University of Toronto. In his address, he lauded Magen David Adom for coordinating with the Jordan Red Crescent Society in coping with local natural and man-made disasters. And he commended his friend and fellow panelist, Dr. Jimmy Weinblatt, Rector, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, for helping to foster a number of ongoing student and academic exchanges between Ben-Gurion University and the University of Jordan.
Incidentally, out of 15,000 students at Ben-Gurion, 1,000 are Arabs, including many low-income Bedouin on full scholarships. Is that the generosity one would expect of a government-funded institution in a real apartheid state?
Al-Hadid is outspoken in his denunciation of Islamist terrorists who deliberately target and kill innocent women and children. "These murderers do not belong to the human race and, above all, are the antithesis of Islam," he contends. "Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. And it is a sad fact of life today that in many people's minds Islam equates to terrorism, and Arabs and Muslims are stereotyped as potential terrorists."
Part of the problem is that so few other Muslims have excoriated Islamist terrorists in public. Prof. Salim Mansur of the University of Western Ontario and Tarek Fatah, a secular founder of the moderate Muslim Canadian Congress, are two courageous exceptions.
Widespread fear of Muslims is a serious problem in Canada. And it is bound to get worse, unless a lot more ordinary Canadian Muslims join with Mansur and Fatah in boldly speaking out in personal conversations, through letters to the editor and by all other available means against Islamist terrorists and their shameless apologists within the Canadian Muslim community.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Freedom of choice in education

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman
In preparation for an impending national election, British Conservative Party leader David Cameron has promised in a key policy paper that his government would extend full funding to secular and faith-based independent schools. Is this a sure formula for political suicide?
Many Canadian conservatives might think so. They recall how Ontario Progressive Conservative leader John Tory led his party to crushing defeat in the 2007 provincial election, by promising that his government would restore just partial funding to independent, faith-based schools.
The idea made eminently good sense. After all, Ontario is the only province in the country that provides full funding for Catholic separate schools, but no funding at all for any other independent schools, faith-based or secular.
Nonetheless, Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty succeeded in scaring most voters into believing that the Conservatives’ plan for extending funding for faith-based schools would lead to “strife in the streets.” He said: "If you want the kind of Ontario where we invite children of different faiths to leave the publicly funded system and become sequestered and segregated in their own private schools, then they should vote for Mr. Tory."
Coming from McGuinty, the argument was hypocritical, inasmuch as he and his wife “sequestered and segregated” all four of their children in Catholic separate schools. Moreover, McGuinty did not – and could not – cite any evidence that children educated in a faith-based school are any more likely to engage in violence and ethnic strife than children consigned to the secular public system.
What, though, about Britain? Is Labour Party Prime Minister Gordon Brown railing against the Conservatives’ promise to expand full funding for faith-based schools? Is he insisting that these schools will foster religious strife?
Not at all, and for good reason: It was the previous Labour Party government under the leadership of former prime minister Tony Blair that initiated full funding for independent secondary schools in 2000. To qualify for funding, the schools, known as academies, must be run by non-profit organizations that charge no tuition fees and abide by national curriculum guidelines.
The Labour Party continues to support and expand this program. Already, the fully funded independent schools have proven strikingly successful in raising scores on standardized tests of academic achievement, especially among deprived, inner-city students.
What, though, about Muslim students? Are they now segregated and sequestered in hate-filled madrassahs run by fanatical imams and financed by the taxpayers?
Definitely not. Of the 6,850 publicly funded, faith-based schools in England, the large majority are Church of England or Roman Catholic. Only seven are Muslim.
The Labour government is intent on expanding the number of Muslim and non-Muslim faith-based schools, confident that under strict regulation by the government’s Office for Standards in Education, none has, or ever can, come under the control of hate-mongering, religious fanatics.
As for Cameron, he is simply proposing to put “rocket boosters” under Labour’s program for independent schools and “bust up” the state monopoly on education. And he vows, if need be, to fight “big battles with the forces of resistance” within the “education establishment.”
What ranks among the biggest of those forces of resistance? The teachers’ unions, of course. Currently, in Plymouth, the National Union of Teachers is crying havoc over a proposal by the local education authority to transform two failing state schools into independent, non-unionized academies, one run by the University of Plymouth and the other by the Exeter Diocese of the Church of England.
Meanwhile, in Ontario, both the McGuinty Liberals and the Tory Conservatives are now content with a publicly funded education system that offers parents no choice but to send their children to a school operated by their local public- or separate-school monopoly. As for the New Democrats, they would abolish even the separate-school alternative.
Thus, in England, all of the major parties favour the expansion of parental choice in education. In Ontario, none do. When oh when will Ontario’s hidebound political leaders finally recognize that increased competition is the key to improving the quality of education for all children?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

A liberal Conservative budget

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman
With Tuesday’s budget, the Harper Conservatives have set quite a standard for fiscal extravagance by a supposedly conservative government.
As recently as 2006, the preceding Liberal government of former prime minister Paul Martin achieved a budget surplus of almost $14 billion. Who would have thought that within three years, a Conservative government would propose a budget deficit of almost $34 billion?
Granted, Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is not entirely to blame for this fiscal calamity. As he noted in the budget, the collapse in revenues and hike in expenditures caused by the recession would produce a $15.7-billion budget deficit next year, even if the Harper government were to retain all existing fiscal policies.
As it is, Flaherty has made matters much worse. By his own reckoning, the tax cuts and spending increases in his budget will produce an additional $18 billion in deficit spending next year and a cumulative $85 billion in total budget deficits over the next four years.
Like the Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois, the Harper Conservatives now maintain that a vast increase in deficit spending is necessary to revive job-creating economic growth. There is no evidence for this pretence.
Indeed, there is better reason to believe that most of the additional spending proposed by Flaherty will only prolong the recession and retard future economic growth. Consider, for example, the $4 billion in “repayable loans” for Canada’s troubled auto sector. Anyone who thinks that money is likely to be repaid is dreaming in technicolour.
While in opposition, Harper and Flaherty decried the billions upon billions of taxpayers’ dollars wasted on failed corporate handouts by the Liberals. Yet now that the Conservatives are in power, they are doing the same. Among the bizarre items in the budget is a proposal to lavish $1 billion on a so-called Southern Ontario development agency.
The international record on government handouts to failing corporations is clear: More often than not, the state-directed payments serve only to postpone bankruptcy and joblessness, while diverting scarce investment capital away from more efficient, job-creating production.
Of course, there are some special cases: No responsible government would allow a major financial institution to go bankrupt in a way that would undermine the financial stability of the entire economy.
That said, the general rule remains: Prudent governments leave investing in private companies up to private investors subject to competitive market forces.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper used to advocate both sound fiscal policies and a stricter separation of federal and provincial powers. Now, his government proposes to spend billions of taxpayers’ dollars on a host of provincial and local projects such as a Highway 39 truck bypass in Estevan, Saskatchewan, and the revitalization of the municipally owned Union Station in downtown Toronto.
On Jan. 22, the Bank of Canada projected that the Canadian economy will resume growth by the second half of this year, and continue to expand at a brisk annual rate of 3.8 per cent during 2010. Under these circumstances, there can be no economic rhyme or reason to the $85 billion in deficit spending planned by the Harper government.
What, then, is the real purpose of such fiscal improvidence? The answer is evident: By this means, the Harper Conservatives aim to bribe voters and win support for their minority government from the opposition Liberals.
And sure enough, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has indicated that his party will back the Conservatives on the budget -- a deficit-spending plan so extravagant that it could have been designed by the Liberals.
Meanwhile, Harper’s conservative base has good reason to be increasingly fed up. So far, his government has done little to curb the judicial usurpation of legislative power; has opposed every initiative to safeguard the lives of babies in the womb; and now has introduced the most reckless budget since the Progressive Conservative government of former prime minister Brian Mulroney presided over a record deficit of $39 billion in 1992-3.
Mulroney’s liberal Conservatives subsequently went down to a crushing electoral defeat. Harper should beware: History can be repeated.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hamas responsible for Gaza casualties

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman
On Tuesday, an Israeli missile reportedly killed more than 40 people, including children, who had sought shelter in a United Nations school in northern Gaza. Who bears primary responsibility for this tragedy?
The answer is clear: It’s Hamas. With reference to the tragic deaths at the school, Canada's junior foreign minister, Peter Kent perceptively noted: “We know that Hamas has made a habit of using civilians and civilian infrastructure as shields for their terrorist activities, and that would seem to be the case again today."
It’s also clear that Hamas has brought on the entire conflict in Gaza by unilaterally renouncing a ceasefire with Israel on December 29 and unleashing hundreds of rockets on the tens of thousands of civilians residing in southern Israel. While few Israelis have been killed, who can blame the government of Israel for taking all necessary measures to stop this terrorism by rocket fire?
During a visit last July to Sderot, an Israeli town that has come under frequent rocket attack, president-elect Barack Obama observed: “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."
Indeed, the Israeli Defence Forces are now battling Hamas forces in Gaza for the express purpose of quelling the rocket attacks. And in doing so, Israeli troops strive to avoid the kind of civilian casualties that occurred at the United Nations school. Otherwise, the civilian death toll in Gaza would certainly be vastly higher.
In contrast, Hamas forces have long boasted of their deliberate targeting and killing of Israeli civilians with rocket attacks and suicide bombings. And the Islamist militants in Hamas have likewise made no secret of their ultimate aim to wipe the state of Israel off the map.
As a result, Canada has joined the United States, the European Union and other countries in listing Hamas as “a radical Sunni terrorist organization.” Canadians who take to the streets in explicit support of Hamas during the current conflict would do well to note that it is an offence under Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act for anyone “to knowingly participate in or contribute to, directly or indirectly, any activity of a terrorist group.”
To justify rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, Hamas argues that it has no other means of opposing the economic blockade which Israel imposed on Gaza in June 2007, after Hamas forces crushed the secular Palestinian Security Force in Gaza which served the government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Like the Nazis, the Islamist extremists in Gaza had no sooner contrived to win power in a democratic election than they undertook to destroy all legitimate opposition to their dictatorial rule.
Regardless, it’s not just Israel that has placed an economic blockade on Gaza. Egypt has done the same, and for good reason: Like other secular Arab leaders, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak recognizes that the Islamist extremists who have seized power in Gaza are a menace to peace and stability throughout the Middle East.
What, then, can be done? Writing in the Washington Post on Monday, John R. Bolton, former United States ambassador to the United Nations, suggested that Israel abandon the idea of a two-state solution to the Palestinian dilemma and return control over the West Bank and Gaza to Jordan and Egypt. While there is much to be said for this proposal, there is little chance that it can succeed even with solid backing from the United States and the Arab League. The hard-pressed leaders of both Jordan and Egypt have made plain that they are no more eager than the Israelis to resume responsibility for governing the faction-ridden and violence-prone Palestinians.
The best conceivable outcome to the conflict is that Israel will drive Hamas from power and clear the way for restoration of the secular Palestine Authority in Gaza. Only in this way can the long suffering people of Gaza have any realistic hope of finally living in peace and freedom.