Friday, December 31, 2010

Publicly Funded CBC Censorship

Catholic Insight|
ost Canadian academics and journalists are so in thrall to a perverse system of value relativism that they can no longer tolerate even the expression of public support for the traditional principles of Judeo-Christian morality. And nowhere is this malign censorship more evident than in the mass media.

Take the CBC, for example.  In an article published on its website It Gets Better: Trevor Ritchie on coming out (November 1), the author, a third-year student and gay activist at the University of British Columbia, advises "queer teens" that they have little to fear from publicly affirming their homosexuality. Ritchie assures: "Positive portrayals in popular culture, as well as individuals in the community providing positive role models, have made the rest of society understand that we are not that different, save for who [sic] we are attracted to...."

That's typical of the CBC. Day in and day out, our national broadcaster serves up an unrelenting drumbeat of propaganda for homosexual acts, promiscuity, abortion and a range of other perversions. Of late, the corporation has even started slanting its news broadcasts in favour of legalized prostitution.

In response to the broadcasting of this corrupt propaganda on CBC television and radio, there is little that concerned viewers and listeners can do beyond firing off letters of complaint to CBC management and their local MP. However, in response to articles published on the CBC website, readers are invited to submit their comments for on-line publication. In a set of guidelines for these submissions, the CBC urges: "Tell us your story, be a part of the team. wants you to participate in online comments, video uploads and photo submissions."

The guidelines also stipulate that while comments must be "civil" and avoid "racist, sexist and offensive language," readers should not shy away from controversy: "We want your perspective. Probe, analyze, inform. Challenge, advocate, debate. Inspire, entertain, enjoy. Your contributions make our website and on-air programming richer, the conversations more lively and diverse."

Kevin G. McDonald, a CBC reader, listener and viewer in Halifax, has taken up this invitation. In response to Ritchie's article, he emailed a comment to the CBC, suggesting that: "Catholic youth struggling with same-sex attraction may want to consider the advice of the Catechism of the Catholic Church."

In a quotation from paragraph 2357 of the Catechism, McDonald wrote: "Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.' They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved."

McDonald also cited the provision in paragraph 2358 that people with deep-seated homosexual tendencies "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."

By any reasonable interpretation, McDonald's remarks clearly fall within the written guidelines of the CBC. Yet the corporation has refused to publish his comment. McDonald does not give up easily. He has submitted numerous other similar comments citing the moral objections to homosexual sexual behaviour by Protestants, Jews and Muslims. He has also attempted to draw the attention of CBC readers to the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), an organization backed by an array of distinguished psychiatrists that offers assistance to people struggling with an attraction to homosexuality.

McDonald reports that none of these comments or anything like them by other readers have been published by the CBC. He has filed complaints about this patent discrimination against Canadians with reasonable concerns for the health and well-being of vulnerable homosexuals to the CBC ombudsman, the executive director of CBC News, and CBC President Hubert Lacroix. All to no avail.

Coming from a public broadcaster that gets more than $1 billion a year in taxpayers' subsidies, such censorship is completely unacceptable. What will the Harper government do about this scandal? Evidently, nothing. In reaction to a query from McDonald, Heritage Minister James Moore, the cabinet member responsible for the CBC, conveyed no response except that he does not get involved in "day-to-day operations at the CBC."

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Media ignores Islamist extremism

The National Post
By Rory Leishman

The following column was scheduled for publication in The London Free Press on Sept. 11. The editor in chief declined to run it because the author refused to eliminate the sentence citing the participation by two prominent local imams in a lecture series at the London chapter of the Muslim Association of Canada -- a national organization dedicated to promoting the Islamist ideology of Hassan Al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. The editor insists that the imams should have been given space in the column to defend their collaboration with MACLondon.

Following the arrest of three more Canadian citizens on terrorism charges last month, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews warned: “We are not immune from international or home-grown radicalization. I have said this before: The threat is real and we cannot be complacent.”

Consider the evidence: The great majority of suspected terrorists arrested in Canada in recent years were either born and raised in Canada, or had spent most of their formative years in this country. And the same is true of all 11 of the Toronto 18 suspects who were convicted of conspiring to storm Parliament Hill and set off a series of devastating truck bombs in downtown Toronto.

That’s not all. An Environics poll conducted three years ago found that 10 per cent of a representative national sample of Canadian Muslims admitted to feeling that members of the Toronto 18 were completely or somewhat justified to plan their attacks. How can that be? How could tens of thousands of Muslims living in Canada sympathize with Islamist terrorists who were plotting the greatest mass slaughter of civilians in Canadian history?

Part of the answer can be found in some mainstream Muslim publications in Canada. For example, in July, Al Bilad, a monthly newspaper published in Arabic and English in London, Ontario, featured a poem that glorifies an Islamist homicide bomber who pleads to her mother:
“Yumma, tell my son that I did not abandon him, never!
I did it for his freedom and our peoples (sic) right to be able to live free, forever!
Yumma, tell my husband that he will always be my all,
I know he understands and he knows why I took that call.”

Following the publication of this ode to terrorism in Al Bilad, all Canadians alert to the peril of home-grown radicalization should surely boycott the newspaper. Yet the current issue includes advertisements for Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party; Irene Mathyssen, NDP MP for London–Fanshawe; Khalil Ramal, Liberal MPP for London-Fanshawe; Jim Chahbar, Conservative candidate for London–Fanshawe; and Ed Holder, Conservative MP for London-West.

Home-grown Islamist extremists are also liable to draw inspiration from groups like the Muslim Association of Canada, a fundamentalist organization with chapters in 11 Canadian cities. MAC leaders state on their national website: “MAC adopts and strives to implement Islam … as understood in its contemporary context by the late Imam, Hassan Al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Banna was one of the prime advocates of violent jihad in the 20th century. In Islam`s Predicament: Perspectives of a Muslim Dissident, Salim Mansur, professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario, notes: “Banna preached a dangerous mix of religion and violence.... He is not just the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, but he is also the source of modern fundamentalist politics in the Arab-Muslim world. His teachings evolved and mutated into the politics and terrorism of Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda.”

Banna has also helped to inspire the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), a terrorist organization banned in Canada. The Hamas Charter lauds Banna as “The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory” and commends his incendiary declamation: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”

One might suppose that moderate and peaceful Muslim leaders would repudiate the Muslim Association of Canada as well as all other organizations inspired by Banna. Yet among the speakers in a recent series of lectures presented by the London chapter of MAC were Sheikh Jamal Taleb, Imam of the London Muslim Mosque, and Dr. Munir El-Kassem, Muslim chaplain at the University of Western Ontario and Imam for the Islamic Centre of Southwestern Ontario.

Toews is right: Home-grown radicalization is a real threat. It is confined mainly, but not entirely, within the Muslim community. Surely, Parliament should shake off its complacency and conduct urgent national hearings into how all loyal and law-abiding Canadians can best combat this serious and growing menace to our national security.


Ruscitti advised me that he would publish this column, if I were to eliminate the sentence referring to Imams Taleb and El-Kassem. Ruscitti wrote:

Hello Rory,

As you might imagine for the time it has taken me to send this, I've put a good deal into reconsideration, as promised.

So as not to bury the lede, and but for one stumbling block that may yet scupper things (though I hope not), I'm prepared to run the thing.

It comes after much reflection over the content itself, your arguments and a small bit of consultation with colleagues.

While I'd like to think I do my best (and will continue to do so in this new role) to stand firmly behind free speech, the marketplace of ideas, and time-tested distinctions between opinion/columns and news reporting, there is another important distinction to be made, and that is the one that brings us to the stumbling block: the distinction between the roles of a local or community newspaper and a national or international one.

Let me get more directly to the point: Under the banner of free speech, I can comfortably defend (though I may not entirely agree with) your taking to task of Al Bilad and the politicians advertising in it as well as your drawing down of the Muslim Association of Canada when the inevitable calls come.

Where I will run into trouble is when Sheikh Jamal Taleb and Dr. Munir El-Kassem phone.

The rule, at least at The Free Press for as long as I can remember, is if you're taking someone to task whether by direct call-out or inference and that person is local (by that I really mean within arm's length of The Free Press circulation area), then that person has a right to a phone call to defend or otherwise their actions, column or not.

There are exceptions, of course -- I'm thinking in general of politicians who act for the public and etc -- but it's a reminder I've given many times, for example, to [Free Press columnists] Ian Gillespie and Morris Dalla Costa.

Maybe it's just my rule, I don't know, and I may not be able to mount a winning argument that such a rule does not round off the edges of the principles of free speech, but feels too much like ambush by pen and not so unlike gossiping behind someone's back, only in public, if that makes any sense.

In short, if you'll agree to leave out the second sentence of the penultimate paragraph ("Yet among the speakers . . . of Southwestern Ontario."), I'll agree to run the column this weekend.

I'm afraid that's the best I can do.

And, incidentally, I want you to know I generally agree with the main thrust of the column -- bit of a rarity, but there you go.



I responded as follows:

Hi Joe:

I regret to say that we have evidently arrived at an impasse: I cannot imagine any valid arguments that Taleb and El-Kassem could advance to justify their indisputable collaboration with the Muslim Association of Canada. Besides, given the limited space I have in a 700-word column, I could not do justice to whatever defence they might offer. For these reasons, I have concluded in consultation with others that you should publish the column as is and give Taleb and El-Kassem an opportunity to publish a rebuttal. Only in this way can Free Press readers weigh for themselves the opposing viewpoints on this vitally important and intensely controversial issue as presented by both sides.

Best wishes,


Ruscitti disagreed and refused to publish the column. That was disappointing. Even more disturbing is the failure of the Free Press newsroom to follow up on the information in my aborted column: The paper has not published any news report on the poem glorifying an Islamist homicide bomber in Al-Bilad or the collaboration of Imams Taleb and El-Kassem with the local chapter of a national Islamist organization.

What accounts for such complacency? The London chapter of MAC is well known to Free Press editors. On September 4, the newspaper published a letter to the editor stating:

Certainly the London imams and other Muslim leaders I know are concerned not only for the souls of their people, but also for their civic duty as citizens of London and of Canada.

While some young folk may be influenced by radicalism disseminated on the Internet from around the world, anyone who has had teenagers, or worked with them, knows their primary influence is usually their friends. That's why the Muslim Association of Canada has established a youth centre in London where young people can gather under reliable adult supervision.

I shared a Ramadan iftar (meal) at a wonderful, warm, friendly gathering in the youth centre last Sunday evening.

Surely, the Free Press should inform its readers that the Muslim Association of Canada is dedicated to propagating the ideas of a radical Islamist, Hassan Al-Banna.

The Free Press is not alone in neglecting this story. Neither the National Post nor The Globe and Mail has carried a single report on the Muslim Association of Canada. The Toronto Star, CBC and CTV have at least each published an occasional puff piece on MAC, but none has reported its alarming links to Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Macleans magazine stands out as a commendable exception in its coverage of the Muslim Association of Canada. Over the past two years, Macleans has published several stories citing the link between MAC and Banna. As recently as September 10, Macleans foreign correspondent Michael noted that Bloc Quebecois MP Meili Faille had gone off last year on a $6,000 junket to the United Arab Emirates that was paid for by the Muslim Association of Canada. Petrou wrote:

The MAC, according to its website, “adopts and strives to implement Islam, as embodied in the Qur’an, and the teachings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and as understood in its contemporary context by the late Imam, Hassan Albanna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. MAC regards this ideology as the best representation of Islam as delivered by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).”

The Muslim Brotherhood is one of the primary foundation movements of modern political Islamism. Hamas is a spin-off franchise. Although it has become more moderate in recent decades, the Muslim Brotherhood’s ultimate goal is not to promote the practice of Islam within parliamentary democracies, but to create Islamic states. It is a powerful and spreading movement, and I suppose one could make the argument that Canadian MPs should learn more about it. But I’m especially uncomfortable with a group that champions Hassan al-Banna’s illiberal and anti-democratic agenda footing the bill for one of our elected representatives’ flights and hotel rooms.

In a column "Canadian takes on Islamist movement" that was published on April 17 in the Toronto Sun and also, to its credit, in the London Free Press, Mansur reported:

Point de bascule, or the tipping point, is a Montreal-based French language webmagazine. It is dedicated to explore and expose Islamist activities in our midst, particularly in Quebec.

Point de bascule is the creation of Marc Lebuis, a remarkable French-Canadian with a passionate interest in global affairs and a deep concern about the dangers of Islamism to his country.

Last Thursday, Point de bascule held a press conference open to the mainstream media and public to discuss the latest lecture tour of Tariq Ramadan in Montreal and Ottawa sponsored by Islamist organizations, such as the various chapters of the Muslim Association of Canada, for fundraising purposes.

Mansur's conclusion is worth underlining:

Marc Lebuis and Point de bascule are truly the David in this mighty difficult contest with the Goliath — the MB [Muslim Brotherhood] and their petrodollar support — that would not be the case if the mainstream media and our political representatives were doing their job.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Scandalous neglect of the mentally ill

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

We Canadians like to think of ourselves as an especially compassionate people, but you would never know it from the way so many of our fellow Canadians with a severe mental illness have been shamefully neglected.
Following the development of anti-psychotic drugs in the 1950s, Canada followed the lead of the United States in the mass eviction of patients from psychiatric hospitals. The intent was both to save billions of dollars in hospital expenditures and improve the lifestyle of these patients, by empowering them to live productively in the community.
The first of these aims has been amply achieved, but not the second. To this day, tens of thousands of Canadians with a severe mental illness have been abandoned in the community without adequate psychiatric care. Many go off their medications and get in trouble with the law. Countless others languish in dingy and noxious flophouses.
Granted, mental patients who have been diagnosed as a danger to themselves or others can still be hospitalized. And Canada is blessed with many outstanding psychiatrists who have dedicated their lives and careers to helping these severely ill and often demanding psychiatric patients.
However, there simply are not enough of these committed psychiatrists to meet the need. To some extent, that is understandable. The marvel is that so many psychiatrists are willing to get up in the middle of the night to help deal with some deranged psychotic who has gone berserk on an acute-care mental ward when they could live a much quieter and easier life counselling the “worried well” from nine-to-five in a cozy office.
In 2004, the Ontario Ministry of Health undertook to improve acute psychiatric services, by providing the London Health Sciences Centre and other eligible hospitals with millions of dollars in additional annual funding “to enhance the remuneration of physicians providing psychiatric services in hospitals and to attract psychiatrists to work in hospitals.” In a contractual agreement with hospital administrators, the Ministry specified: “Please note that this funding is to be directed towards the payment for physician psychiatric services.”
Last October, 12 psychiatrists employed by the LHSC sent a letter to David Caplan, then Ontario Minister of Health, stating their belief that the extra money given to their hospital under this 2004 agreement to increase their stipends for psychiatric services had been misallocated. Copies of the letter were also sent to the Ontario Attorney General and Auditor General.
Having received no response, the 12 physicians sent a follow-up letter on February 26 to the current Ontario Minister of Health Deb Matthews, Liberal MPP for London North Centre. An official investigation is now underway. According to legal counsel for the Ontario Attorney General, the health ministry has commissioned PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP to conduct “an audit of the Psychiatric Stipend funding allotment provided to LHSC to ascertain compliance with the eligibility criteria and the other terms and conditions of the funding.”
Matthews should make the results of this audit public. And if the allegations of the 12 psychiatrists are substantiated, she should undertake to assure that the hospital administrators responsible for the misallocation of enhanced funding for the provision of acute-care psychiatric services are justly censured.
Alas, the allegations of administrative malfeasance in this instance are not unique. There have been numerous other complaints about maladministration within London Mental Health Hospital Services. In an ongoing law suit, another psychiatrist, Dr. Gamel Sadek, charges that agents of St. Joseph’s Health Care London wrongfully ended his employment at the hospital and engaged in a “malicious and vindictive attempt” to embarrass and discredit him “in the event he ‘blew the whistle” on their deliberate mismanagement of the psychiatric care program, and the mishandling of doctors, forcing a mass exodus.”
Sadek’s allegations have not been proven in court.
Matthews can be counted upon to monitor the Sadek case closely. She deserves strong public support in all her efforts to assure adequate administrative and financial support for all the dedicated psychiatrists who care for many of the sickest and neediest of our fellow Canadians.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

No amount of foreign aid can offset corruption

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

Over the past 30 years, Angola has developed into one of the world’s major oil producers, yet it still ranks among the world’s most impoverished countries. What has gone wrong?
Paul Collier has addressed this issue in Plundered Planet: Why We Must – And How We Can – Manage Nature for Global Prosperity. As Professor of Economics and Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University, he is widely regarded as one of the leading authorities on the intractable economic problems besetting the world’s least developed countries.
In Angola, most oil production is managed by four major players – ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Total. Some critics might suppose that these conglomerates have somehow contrived to siphon off most of the country’s oil-export revenues, while leaving little for the government and the people of Angola, but that is simply not the case.
Foreign multinationals could easily plunder the natural resources of less developed countries during the colonial era. Today, these same companies and their successors are usually confronted by independent governments with ready access to an array of international banks and law firms that are eager to help auction off natural resources on the most favourable terms.
In this respect, Angola is typical. In the 1970s, the Angolan government established a national oil-company monopoly, Sonangol, with a mandate to manage the country’s oil resources and acquire a 51 per cent interest in the subsidiaries of every foreign oil company operating in Angola. Since then, Sonangol has garnered huge revenues. Collier notes that in 2008, Angola took in more than twice as much in oil revenues than all the foreign aid dispersed to the world’s least developed countries.
Nonetheless, the United Nations Human Development Report for 2009 lists Angola at 143rd in the world, just three levels higher than Bangladesh. Correspondingly, the Institute for Democracy in Africa reports that while Angola has a GDP per capita of about $4,400(US), “some 70 per cent of the population lives on less than a dollar a day.”
Clearly, some people in Angola are getting hugely rich from oil revenues while the majority of the population subsists in dire poverty. And the main reason for this tragedy is also evident: crooked government.
Most of the billions of dollars paid to Sonangol by ExxonMobil, BP and other foreign companies for the right to produce and export oil from Angola has ended up in the bank accounts of the country’s dictatorial President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and his military and government cronies.
The oppressed people of Angola have no choice but to put up with this transparent plundering of the nation’s oil wealth by the country’s own corrupt politicians and bureaucrats? Dos Santos will not brook any effective opposition. He assures that elections are fixed, the media are censored and public protests are severely curtailed.
A few years ago, some intrepid members of Angola’s generally tame Parliament used to denounce government corruption. But even most of this parliamentary opposition to the regime fell silent after dos Santos started paying members $10(US) for every favourable vote,.
Angola is not uniquely bad. Most other least developed countries are also are ridden with corruption. To combat this evil, former British prime minister Tony Blair began the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, an international organization that promotes the voluntary disclosure of the payment, receipt and management of revenues from the oil, gas and mining industries.
While most of the major multinationals in the West have agreed to go along with this initiative, Chinese companies have not. And neither has the government of Angola. In 2004, China’s Eximbank extended a $2 billion loan to Angola for the ostensible purpose of rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, but so far, most of this money has disappeared without a trace.
The sad conclusion is inescapable: Judging from experience in Angola and elsewhere, no amount of foreign aid or natural-resource revenues can eradicate poverty among the hundreds of millions of people trapped in countries, where corrupt rulers enrich themselves at the expense of their deeply impoverished fellow citizens.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Progress in reducing poverty in Canada

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

The Conference Board of Canada ranks Canada’s record on poverty as “among the worst of developed countries – and slipping.” That’s appalling, if true. But is it true?
Citing the low-income measure (LIM) of poverty used by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Conference Board observes: “With more than 12 per cent of the working-age population living in poverty, Canada is in 15th place out of 17 countries, ahead of only Japan and the United States.”
Perhaps so, but these figures are misleading, inasmuch as they apply only to Canadians of working age. The OECD reports that for all age groups, Canada actually has a lower rate of overall poverty than Greece, Portugal, Spain, Poland, Korea, Ireland, Japan and the United States.
Besides, LIM is only a relative measure of poverty based on the supposition that a person is poor if he or she is living in a household with an income that is less than half of the average income for all households of similar size in the country. By the LIM measure of relative poverty, almost all impoverished people in Canada would rank among the wealthiest in most low-income countries.
Note also that by the LIM standard, many, if not most, medical students in Canada are impoverished, because they are living in households with below average incomes. Is it reasonable for the Conference Board to include these medical students and others like them with temporarily low incomes in an indictment of Canada’s poverty record?
Given the limitations of relative measures of poverty like the LIM or Low-Income Cutoffs (LICO) devised by Statistics Canada, Chris Sarlo, an economist at Nipissing University, has developed a poverty standard based on the number of people living in households with insufficient income to cover all basic needs including a nutritious diet, satisfactory housing, clothing, health care, public transportation, household insurance and telephone service.
Sarlo reports that by this basic-needs measure, 4.9 per cent of Canadians were living in poverty in the mid-2000s, down from 6.8 per cent 10 years earlier. Also, during this same period, Canada’s child poverty rate declined to 5.8 per cent, down from 9.1 per cent.
Clearly, Canada does not have an exceptionally bad and ever worsening poverty problem as contended by the Conference Board of Canada. Yet it is also evident that there are millions of impoverished people in Canada who struggle with not enough income to cover all basic needs.
What can be done to help these genuinely impoverished Canadians?
John Richards has addressed this issue in a report published last month by C. D. Howe Institute, “Reducing Lone-Parent Poverty: A Canadian Success Story.” He points out that provincial work incentives for employable welfare recipients initiated by the conservative governments of Alberta and Ontario in the 1990s have proven enormously successful in persuading and empowering millions of impoverished Canadians to move from chronic welfare dependency to productive employment.
As a result, even by Statistics Canada’s LICO measure of relative poverty, the proportion of impoverished Canadians living in lone-parent families was reduced to 20 per cent in 2007, down from 50 per cent in 1996.
Nonetheless, the poverty rate remains four time greater for lone-parent families than for two-parent families with children. This is one among many good reasons for the federal and provincial governments to encourage Canadian couples to get married and to stay married.
In the 1990s, the overwhelming majority of welfare dependants in Canada were employable adults. In Ontario and some other provinces, most are now classified as unemployable “persons with disabilities.”
Richard explains: “A high-profile category is the urban homeless, most of whom combine mental illness with abuse of drugs or alcohol.” Many of these poor are victims of the cruel policy adopted by the provinces in the 1970s of deinstitutionalizing psychiatric patients without providing them with adequate support in the community.
Alleviating the misery of these neediest of impoverished Canadians will not be easy or inexpensive, but should get top priority in Canada’s ongoing struggle against the evils of real poverty.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dutch show the way in immigration reform

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

In an epochal parliamentary election last week in The Netherlands, Geert Wilders led his recently formed, anti-Islamist Freedom Party (PVV) to a significant breakthrough that could have reverberations throughout Western Europe.
Wilders’ party came in third with 15.5 per cent of the national vote. That was 1.8 percentage points more than the centrist Christian Democratic Party (CDA) headed by former prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende. The conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) finished first with 20.4 per cent of the popular vote.
Wilders is a demagogue who plays upon widespread fears of Islamist extremism and elevated crime rates among Muslim youths in The Netherlands. Among his more bizarre policy proposals is an outright ban on the Koran and an annual excise tax on head scarves of 1,000 euros.
These are plainly frivolous suggestions intended to stir up public controversy. Given the proportional system of representation used in The Netherlands, Wilders stood no chance of winning a majority government. He also knows that there is no likelihood of any other parliamentary party supporting such radical, not to say absurd, policies.
However, there can be no doubt that there is considerable public support among the Dutch for Wilders’ proposals to close radical mosques, ban preaching in any language other than Dutch and impose a five year moratorium on immigration by non-Western foreigners as well as on the founding of new mosques and Islamic schools.
Many commentators outside The Netherlands have dismissed Wilders as a right-wing extremist akin to the neo-fascists in Austria, Italy and elsewhere. That is incorrect. There is better reason to believe that he is a sincere democrat, an exponent of gay rights and a stalwart champion of Israel who genuinely deplores racism and admires former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
On most social issues, Wilders has run well to the left of the CDA and VVD. For example, while both parties proposed to cut pension costs by increasing the retirement age to 67 from 65, he resolutely opposed the idea.
Nonetheless, on the day after last week’s election, Wilders announced that he had dropped his objections to increasing the retirement age. In a transparent bid to join a coalition government led by the VVD, he said: “We want to work together and make compromises.”
Meanwhile, Wilders is already having a considerable impact on public policy in The Netherlands, by persuading other parties to amend their immigration policies. During the election campaign, Mark Rutte, the leader of the VVD and most likely next prime minister, promised: “Everyone who comes to our country to contribute is welcome. But we need to put a stop to the influx of disadvantaged migrants who come here only to end up dependent on social security.”
To this end, the election platform of the VVD included a draconian pledge to bar immigrants from receiving social assistance during their first 10 years in The Netherlands. Any such policy would contravene the equality rights of immigrants as decreed by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, but that is of no account to Rutte: He says The Netherlands should circumvent the court, if need be, by opting out of “antiquated European conventions" that inhibit restrictions on unproductive immigrants.
Canada faces a similar dilemma. Thanks to the calamitous ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1985 Singh case, all foreigners who arrive in Canada, including phoney asylum seekers with false documents, are now entitled to the same health and welfare benefits as Canadian citizens.
Herbert Grubel, emeritus professor of economics at Simon Fraser University, estimates the annual net cost to Canadian taxpayers of government benefits for immigrants amounted in 2002 to a monumental $18.3 billion.
That’s absurd. Following Rutte’s example, Canadian parliamentarians should invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Constitution to enact laws that both bar welfare benefits to immigrants for at least a few years and curtail appellant rights against deportation orders so that foreigners who break the law or pose a serious security threat can be expedited out of the country.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Thatcher was right on the euro

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

As a strategic political leader, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was often right – never more so than in her prediction 20 years ago that adoption of the euro would lead to a political and economic disaster.
Thatcher, of course, was not alone in foreseeing this calamity. Paul Krugman, the Nobel-prize winning economist, took the same view. In a recent column for The New York Times, he wrote: “I remember quipping, back when the Maastricht Treaty setting Europe on the path to the euro was signed, that they chose the wrong Dutch city for the ceremony. It should have taken place in Arnhem, the site of World War II’s infamous ‘bridge too far,’ where an overly ambitious Allied battle plan ended in disaster.”
Ideologically, Thatcher and Krugman are poles apart: She is a consistent conservative, while he is a doctrinaire liberal. But on the euro, they independently arrived at the same conclusion: The euro could not be sustained without the creation of a strong, central European government that can impose fiscal discipline upon the member states.
At the summit of European leaders in 1990 that approved the euro, Thatcher was the lone dissident. She insisted that Britain would retain her sovereignty and the pound sterling. Upon returning to Britain, she declared to the House of Commons: “What is being proposed now --economic and monetary union -- is the back door to a federal Europe, which we totally and utterly reject.”
Thatcher paid a stiff price for this firm stance on principle. Geoffrey Howe, her deputy prime minister and a Europhile supporter of the euro, promptly quit the cabinet and helped provoke a backbench revolt among Conservative MPs that forced Thatcher to resign as prime minister.
Today, the euro is in a state of crisis brought on by years of profligate deficit spending by the Greek, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish governments. On April 27, Greek government bonds were finally reduced to junk status with the result that the socialist government of Greece could no longer borrow enough money to cover essential operational expenditures and interest payments on the national debt.
Speaking to the Commons in 1990, Thatcher foresaw that eventually, “there would have to be enormous transfers of money from one country to another” to sustain the euro. Again, she was right. To stave off default by Greece and to reassure bankers about the financial stability of Italy, Portugal and Spain, the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have come up with a $900-billion plan to defend the Euro at the expense mainly of taxpayers in France, Germany and the United States.
Furthermore, as Thatcher and Krugman also predicted, the German and French governments are now calling for much tougher centralized controls to prevent any more members of the euro-zone from running up unsustainable budget deficits. Meanwhile, the Greek government is struggling with savage spending cuts imposed by the EU and IMF as a condition for bail-out assistance.
In February, Greece already had an unemployment rate of 12.1 per cent. That proportion is bound to go much higher as the government’s spending cutbacks take effect.
This, too, is as Thatcher predicted: “If we have a single currency, the differences come out substantially in unemployment or vast movements of people from one country to another,” she said. “Many people who talk about a single currency have never considered its full implications.”
Quite so. Now Krugman predicts that for Greece, not even a $900-billion bail-out will suffice. To revive economic growth and curb unemployment, the Greek government will soon be compelled to abandon the euro and re-establish its own hugely devalued national currency.
Will Italy, Portugal and Spain be next? That remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, given the international economic and financial turmoil brought on by the euro crisis, it’s evident that every major industrialized and trading country in the world is paying a huge price for the failure of EU leaders to heed the timely warnings by Thatcher, Krugman and others about the disastrous consequences of the euro.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Progressive sex education

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

Under intense public pressure, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty may have withdrawn his government’s revised curriculum guidelines on sexual education for a “serious rethink,” but this battle is far from over.
Proponents of ever more explicit sexual education for young school children have been quick to mount a concerted counterattack. They commend the revised curriculum for proposing to normalize homosexuality in Grade 3, instruct youngsters on vaginal lubrication in Grade 6 and warn boys in Grade 7 to avoid “anal intercourse without a condom.”
Dr. David McKeown, Toronto’s medical officer of health, was one of the first to urge reinstatement of the new curriculum. “Kids need clear, unbiased, age-appropriate information,” he said. “Research shows that when young people have good sexual health knowledge, they postpone sex and have lower rates of teen pregnancy, and they practice safer sex when they become sexually active."
Is that right? For more than 20 years, youngsters in the secondary schools of Ontario have been bombarded with propaganda about how the consistent use of condoms can prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STIs). It has all been for naught. As even McKeown acknowledges, “Rates of sexually transmitted infections are increasing.”
In this respect, Canada is not alone. Dr. Stephen Genuis, Clinical Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Alberta, pointed out last year in a peer-reviewed article in Acta Paediatrica: “Despite more than two decades of relentless condomania, rates of HIV⁄ AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have skyrocketed. In the UK and Canada, for example, rates of some STIs have doubled or tripled over the last 20 years despite ubiquitous safe-sex education.”
Genuis emphasized: “Numerous large studies have demonstrated that concerted efforts to promote condom use have consistently failed to control rates of STIs, even in countries with advanced sex education programmes such as Switzerland and Sweden – nations sometimes considered paragons in progressive sexuality instruction.”
Regardless, reputed experts like McKeown insist that what we need is even more of the same failed safe-sex education starting with instruction of children in Grade 1 on the correct anatomical name for their sexual organs.
At least, the McGuinty Liberals and their expert advisers in the education ministry have stopped short of the approach taken by International Planned Parenthood Federation in a pamphlet entitled “Healthy, Happy and Hot: A young person’s guide to their Rights, Sexuality and Living with HIV.” According to the experts who put together this guide, “Young people living with HIV have the right to decide if, when, and how to disclose their HIV status.”
That goes even for sexual partners. The guide suggests that people in long-term relationships have a right not to disclose their HIV status to their sexual partner if they have reason to “fear that their partner will react violently or end the relationship.”
Pity the victims of this deadly advice.
Sex education on the post-secondary level in Canada is not much better. According to the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, 13 of Canada’s leading universities currently offer “Queer Programs.”
Last semester, for example, the Department of Anthropology at the University of Western Ontario featured an undergraduate course in “Sex, Sexuality and Desire; Cross Cultural Explorations of Queer Lives.” In an outline of the course requirements posted on the department’s website, Associate Professor Douglass St.Christian (dr.d.) [sic] indicated that students must submit a photo essay on “the living history of your sexual selves.”
“Hmm,” dr.d commented, “you’re thinking – he wants amateur porn? Not quite but then again, maybe a pornographic gaze is something you will want to explore.”
Having assured that acceptable photos might be “accidental, staged, public or private, funny or dangerous and so on,” dr.d concluded: “Have fun, use your imagination, take chances, learn. It won’t hurt, honestly. I know these things.”
Who would challenge this assertion? The expert, dr. d, has spoken: He knows that taking even dangerous photos of one’s personal sexual experiences won’t hurt.
One wonders: Are there any limits to the depravity that can pass for acceptable instruction at Western?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Overhauling Canada's failed refugee system

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has moved quickly and effectively to improve Canada’s grossly inept refugee system. However, there remain several other fundamental reforms to Canada’s lax immigration procedures that are urgently required to safeguard national security.
When Kenney took over as immigration minister in October, 2008, close to half of the refugee claimants pouring into Canada were coming from just two countries – Mexico and the Czech Republic. That was plainly ridiculous. The overwhelming majority of these asylum seekers were economic migrants with no valid claim to refugee status.
So why did they come to Canada under the pretence of seeking asylum? The answer is evident: Word got around in Mexico and the Czech Republic that Canada’s screening system is so slow and cumbersome that it takes years – up to 10 years in come cases – from the time a bogus asylum application is made until the culprit is deported.
Meanwhile, asylum seekers are entitled to free legal counsel to process their claims as well as full health and welfare benefits. The estimated average cost of failed asylum claims to Canadian taxpayers is close to $50,000.
In 2008 alone, Quebec received close to 6,000 asylum seekers from Mexico at a cost to Quebecers of $171 million. According to the independent Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), 90 per cent of these claims were bogus.
That did not sit well with the Quebec government which demanded that Kenney take action to stop this scandalous waste of taxpayers’ money. He responded last June, by imposing visa requirements on all visitors from both Mexico and the Czech Republic with the result that refugee claims from these countries have slowed to a trickle.
Most of Canada’s immigration lawyers protested. They benefited hugely from the old system that allowed more than 10 times the number of asylum seekers per capita into Canada than into the United States.
Some church groups and other non-governmental organizations that assist in the resettlement of refugees in Canada have also decried Kenney’s crackdown on bogus asylum seekers. The leaders of these organizations would do better to concentrate their efforts on helping genuine refugee claimants from oppressive countries like Iran and the war-torn regions of Africa who have suffered terribly and face a real threat of persecution, torture and/or death should they be forced to return to their home country.
Imposing visa requirements on the Czech Republic and Mexico was only a stop-gap measure. Now Kenney has followed up with a comprehensive plan for overhauling the refugee system that aims to give quick protection to genuine asylum seekers while discouraging bogus claimants from relatively safe countries and expediting the removal of migrants who worm their way into Canada under false pretences.
It remains to be seen how effective the new system will be. Of primary concern is the threat of terrorism. The vast majority of the thousands of immigrants and asylum seekers who enter Canada every year from terrorist-producing countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Algeria and Morocco are not screened for criminality or security.
In the current issue of C2C – Canada’s Journal of Ideas, James Bissett, former executive director of the Canadian Immigration Service, contends: “All prospective immigrants of the Muslim faith should be interviewed to determine if they hold extremist views and if so, they should be refused entry. The politically correct criticism that such a policy would be racist or religious profiling should be set aside in the interests of public safety.”
Currently, Canada annually takes in more than 250,000 immigrants and asylum seekers. Bissett points out that “the volume of immigration is so high, the practice of individual interviews and counselling of immigrants has been carelessly abandoned. This, in itself, is a confession that immigration in the past 25 years has become primarily a question of numbers at the expense of all else -– including the safety and security of Canadians.”
The conclusion is inescapable: To safeguard Canadians, the Harper government must either vastly increase the resources available to screen immigrants and asylum seekers; or substantially curtail the number of people migrating to Canada from terrorist-producing countries.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Benedict a leader in fighting sexual abuse

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

In a rare display of political courage, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown defied public opinion in Britain, by reiterating his firm opposition to the legalization of euthanasia.

In England, as in Canada, the law now clearly provides that anyone who aids, abets or counsels another person to commit suicide is guilty of a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment for up to 14 years. In Britain, a recent poll found that more than 80 per cent of the people believe this law should be amended "to allow some people such as doctors and/or close relatives to assist a suicide in particular circumstances."

Brown disagrees. In an article in The Daily Telegraph on Feb. 24, he noted that many people who support assisted suicide are misinformed. They do not understand that a patient already has a right in law to refuse any medical treatment and that the law as applied by the caring professions "supports good care, including palliative care for the most difficult of conditions."

Having worked with his wife as a volunteer in a hospice, Brown attested: "I know in my heart that there is such a thing as a good death. And I believe it is our duty as a society to provide the skilled and loving care that makes it possible; and to use the laws we have well, rather than rush to change them."

Granted, the quality of palliative care in Britain, as in Canada, is sometimes woefully inadequate. Brown warns that legalizing assisted suicide is not the answer: It would "fundamentally change the way we think about mortality.

"The risk of pressures – however subtle – on the frail and the vulnerable, who may feel their existences burdensome to others, cannot ever be entirely excluded. And the inevitable erosion of trust in the caring professions – if they were in a position to end life – would be to lose something very precious."

Over the past 80 years, the British Parliament has many times considered and, after thorough consideration, rejected proposals to legalize assisted suicide. That does not sit well with Debby Purdy, a woman afflicted with multiple sclerosis. In an attempt to do an end run around Parliament, she appealed to the courts for a ruling that she has a human right to know that her husband will not be prosecuted if he helps her to kill herself by traveling to a legal euthanasia clinic in Switzerland.

In the similar Rodriguez case in 1993, the Supreme Court of Canada came within one vote of striking down the Canadian law on assisted suicide on the grounds that handicapped Canadians have an equality right to assistance in killing themselves. The British courts are not so high handed: In a ruling last August for the Lords of Appeal in Purdy, Lord Hope of Craighead stated: "It must be emphasised at the outset that it is no part of our function to change the law in order to decriminalise assisted suicide. If changes are to be made, as to which I express no opinion, this must be a matter for Parliament."

Nonetheless, Lord Hope ordered Keith Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions in England and Wales, to clarify the guidelines governing the prosecution of persons who assist in a suicide. In compliance with this order, Starmer issued a new set of guidelines last week that were welcomed by Purdy but stopped well short of providing her with the assurance she was seeking.

That's as it should be. Crown prosecutors have no more right than the courts to fail to uphold the law as enacted and intended by Parliament in compliance with the Constitution.

Brown is heading into an inevitable general election within the next few weeks. Win or lose, he can at least have the satisfaction of knowing that in dealing with the vital issue of euthanasia, he exercised his best judgment about what is right and best for the British people rather than allow his conduct to be governed by the latest vagaries of misinformed public opinion.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

British PM repudiates euthanasia

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

In a rare display of political courage, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown defied public opinion in Britain, by reiterating his firm opposition to the legalization of euthanasia.

In England, as in Canada, the law now clearly provides that anyone who aids, abets or counsels another person to commit suicide is guilty of a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment for up to 14 years. In Britain, a recent poll found that more than 80 per cent of the people believe this law should be amended "to allow some people such as doctors and/or close relatives to assist a suicide in particular circumstances."

Brown disagrees. In an article in The Daily Telegraph on Feb. 24, he noted that many people who support assisted suicide are misinformed. They do not understand that a patient already has a right in law to refuse any medical treatment and that the law as applied by the caring professions "supports good care, including palliative care for the most difficult of conditions."

Having worked with his wife as a volunteer in a hospice, Brown attested: "I know in my heart that there is such a thing as a good death. And I believe it is our duty as a society to provide the skilled and loving care that makes it possible; and to use the laws we have well, rather than rush to change them."

Granted, the quality of palliative care in Britain, as in Canada, is sometimes woefully inadequate. Brown warns that legalizing assisted suicide is not the answer: It would "fundamentally change the way we think about mortality.

"The risk of pressures – however subtle – on the frail and the vulnerable, who may feel their existences burdensome to others, cannot ever be entirely excluded. And the inevitable erosion of trust in the caring professions – if they were in a position to end life – would be to lose something very precious."

Over the past 80 years, the British Parliament has many times considered and, after thorough consideration, rejected proposals to legalize assisted suicide. That does not sit well with Debby Purdy, a woman afflicted with multiple sclerosis. In an attempt to do an end run around Parliament, she appealed to the courts for a ruling that she has a human right to know that her husband will not be prosecuted if he helps her to kill herself by traveling to a legal euthanasia clinic in Switzerland.

In the similar Rodriguez case in 1993, the Supreme Court of Canada came within one vote of striking down the Canadian law on assisted suicide on the grounds that handicapped Canadians have an equality right to assistance in killing themselves. The British courts are not so high handed: In a ruling last August for the Lords of Appeal in Purdy, Lord Hope of Craighead stated: "It must be emphasised at the outset that it is no part of our function to change the law in order to decriminalise assisted suicide. If changes are to be made, as to which I express no opinion, this must be a matter for Parliament."

Nonetheless, Lord Hope ordered Keith Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions in England and Wales, to clarify the guidelines governing the prosecution of persons who assist in a suicide. In compliance with this order, Starmer issued a new set of guidelines last week that were welcomed by Purdy but stopped well short of providing her with the assurance she was seeking.

That's as it should be. Crown prosecutors have no more right than the courts to fail to uphold the law as enacted and intended by Parliament in compliance with the Constitution.

Brown is heading into an inevitable general election within the next few weeks. Win or lose, he can at least have the satisfaction of knowing that in dealing with the vital issue of euthanasia, he exercised his best judgment about what is right and best for the British people rather than allow his conduct to be governed by the latest vagaries of misinformed public opinion.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Mounting attacks on freedom of religion

Catholic Insight
By Rory Leishman

Faithful Catholics should brace themselves and their children for tougher times ahead as atheistic politicians become ever bolder in their attacks on freedom of conscience and religion.

In England, Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour government recently introduced a sweeping, new Equality Bill that subjects churches to a wide-ranging ban on discrimination in employment. Speaking on behalf of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff denounced the proposed law on the ground that it could be construed by the courts as requiring the Church to hire women, practising homosexuals and transsexuals as both priests and lay employees.

John Sentamu, the Anglican Archbishop of York, likewise objected to the legislation. During debate in the House of Lords, he observed: "Noble Lords may believe that Roman Catholics should allow priests to be married; they may think that the Church of England should hurry up and allow women to become bishops; they may feel that many churches and other religious organisations are wrong on matters of sexual ethics. But if religious freedom means anything, it must mean that those are matters for the churches and other religious organisations to determine in accordance with their own convictions."

On January 25th, the House of Lords amended the Equality Bill to exempt churches from the ban on discrimination in employment. Then, on February 1, Pope Benedict XVI weighed in on the controversy, urging the English and Welsh bishops to maintain their opposition to legislation that imposes "unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs."

That was enough for Brown. On February 2, his office disclosed that the government would not attempt to ram the original Equality Bill through the Commons over the objection of the House of Lords.

Meanwhile, freedom of religion is likewise under systematic attack in Canada. In 2008, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal held that Christian Horizons, an evangelical Christian organization that cares for handicapped persons, had no right to fire an employee for entering into a lesbian relationship in violation of her promise to uphold the agency’s morality code.

Now, Catholic schools are under pressure. In a memorandum on June 24, former Ontario education minister Katherine Wynne, a lesbian, advised all publicly funded school boards in the province, Catholic and secular, that each "board’s workforce should reflect the diversity within the community." She made no reference to the historic right of Catholic Boards to favour committed and practising Catholics in hiring teachers -- a policy that is currently the subject of a complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal by a non-Catholic teacher who was refused employment by the Wellington Catholic District School Board.

Wynne also summoned all Ontario schools to "discuss and address" homophobia, and to assure that "everyone in our publicly funded education system – regardless of background or personal circumstances – must be welcomed and accepted."

Faithful Catholics do not need any admonition from Wynne to oppose unfair discrimination against homosexuals. In a statement issued in 2004, the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops deplored the higher rates of suicide among homosexual students and underlined “the right of each student to be free of harassment, violence or malice in speech or action."

Of course, the Catholic schools are also supposed to affirm that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered." Does imparting this teaching of the Church conform with Wynne's decree that all students, including sexually active homosexuals, "must be welcomed and accepted" in all publicly funded schools?

That, to say the least, is open to doubt. Wynne made no reference in her memorandum to the provisions in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Constitution of Canada that are supposed to guarantee the right of Catholic schools to govern themselves in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

In a cabinet shuffle on January 25, Ontario's nominally Catholic Premier Dalton McGuinty removed Wynne from the education ministry and replaced her with Leona Dombrowsky, a Catholic with seven years of experience as chair of a Catholic school board. Let us hope and pray that Dombrowsky proves to be more supportive of the aims of Catholic education than her secular predecessor.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Canada's fiscal advantage

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

According to the latest governmental estimates, Canada is heading toward a record federal budget deficit of close to $56.9 billion. That's disturbing, yet Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has good reason to insist: "This country looks so great compared to most of the other western industrialized countries."

Consider, for example, the United States. President Barrack Obama is projecting a gargantuan budget deficit of $1.56 trillion deficit in 2010. That amounts to 10.6 per cent of the country's entire economic production, far higher than the corresponding Canadian ratio of just 3.8 per cent.

Flaherty projects that as the economy recovers and government revenues increase, the government of Canada will be able to eliminate the federal budget deficit over the next five years without having to resort to tax increases or any major spending cuts. While some experts consider that view unduly optimistic, no one thinks that Canada is in serious fiscal trouble.

The same cannot be said for the United States. The Economist magazine has warned: "Mr. Obama’s budget reveals a road-map to fiscal catastrophe." Correspondingly, in a news analysis headlined "Deficits May Alter U.S. Politics and Global Power," the New York Times reported: "By President Obama's own optimistic projections, American deficits will not return to what are widely considered sustainable levels over the next 10 years... His budget draws a picture of a nation that like many American homeowners simply cannot get above water."

Britain is in even worse shape as the Labour government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown is running up a government deficit of no less than 14.2 per cent of GDP. Meanwhile, after years of reckless deficit spending, the socialist government of Greece is hovering on the brink of outright bankruptcy.

What accounts for Canada's relatively good fortune? The Liberals deserve much of the credit. In 1998, former Liberal finance minster Paul Martin ended 27 consecutive years of deficit spending, by means of a series of major tax hikes and spending cuts. In doing so, he set the basis for 10 straight years of budget surpluses that lifted Canada out of the kind of serious debt crisis now confronting the United States and Britain.

However, it was those same Liberals that got Canada into fiscal trouble in the first place. When Pierre Trudeau took over as prime minister in 1968, he inherited a budget surplus. But when he left office in 1984, his government ran up a record peacetime budget deficit of close to nine per cent of GDP.

The Mulroney Conservatives made only a half-hearted attempt to rein in deficit spending. Even so, the opposition Liberals made matters worse, by strenuously objecting to any major spending cuts that the Conservative government might propose.

Martin was more fortunate. In his struggle to eliminate the deficit, he got considerable support from Reform Party leader Preston Manning, who kept urging the Liberals to slash spending.

The current Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has been less consistent. Just a few months ago, he was admonishing the Harper Conservatives to increase deficit spending even further as a means of stimulating the recession-bound economy. Yet now, he decries the size of this year's federal budget deficit.

Last week, Ignatieff announced that a Liberal government would introduce a national child-care system. "We will find the money, because it seems to me an excellent investment," he promised. "I am not going to allow the deficit discussion to shut down discussion in this country about social justice."

We have heard that line before from Trudeau as well as big spenders in the United States, Britain and Greece. In all cases, such folly has led to a debt crisis that compels major cutbacks, not increases, in government spending on social programs.

It will be interesting to see how Ignatieff reacts to the new federal budget due next month. Should he decide to bring down the Harper government on the ground that it is not proposing to spend enough on new social programs, he could lead the Liberals to a calamitous setback in the ensuing federal election.

Monday, February 01, 2010

The twisted morality of godless academics

The Interim
By Rory Leishman

Why are most pro-life activists Christians?

Udo Schuklenk, professor of philosophy and Ontario Research Chair in Bioethics at Queen’s University, thinks he knows the answer: The pro-life position is so irrational that it is only likely to be espoused by fanatics who look to the Bible as the ultimate authority on all questions of faith and morality.

Schuklenk is an atheist. He rejects God and dismisses the Bible as an irrational product of “the human imagination dating from pre-scientific and often barbaric eras.”

Like most atheists, Schuklenk bridles at the suggestion that there is no reason to be good without God. In the introduction to a recent collection of essays, 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists, he writes: “The absence of God does not mean that we are lost at sea as far as living a meaningful life – a life that is worth living – is concerned. Secular ethics has much to offer to those of us who have chosen to live an ethical life.”

Perhaps so, but Schuklenk begs the central question: Why should anyone chose to live an ethical life without God? No atheist has come up with a satisfactory and compelling answer.

Christians have always read the Bible in the light of reason. Guided by both reason and revelation, they have rationally and logically concluded down through the centuries that all human life is sacred from conception to natural death.

In support of the atheist position that reason alone is a sufficient guide for people who chose to live an ethical life, Schuklenk cites Practical Ethics by Peter Singer, the notorious atheist and professor of philosophy at Princeton University. Yet Singer commits numerous outrages in this book, including the suggestion that the mother of a handicapped baby should have no compunction about killing her baby before or after birth.

In defence of this proposition, Singer argues that “birth does not mark a morally significant dividing line.” He adds: “Neither the fetus nor the newborn infant is an individual capable of regarding itself as a distinct entity with a life of its own.”

On both of these points, Singer is right. But, alas, he fails to draw the only reasonable conclusion: that regardless of cognitive ability, all human life is sacred.

Instead, Singer advances the diabolical argument that there is nothing inherently wrong with either abortion or infanticide, because preborn and newborn babies lack “characteristics like rationality, autonomy and self-consciousness.”

Schuklenk likewise argues that the value of human life is a function of cognition. In 50 Voices of Disbelief, he chides Christians for opposing death-dealing embryonic stem-cell research on the ground that embryos “have no central nervous system, no brain, no capacity to suffer.”

Within a few weeks after conception, the developing human being has acquired all these characteristics, but that is of no account to Schuklenk. He supports abortion. In his opinion, not even pain-suffering babies in the womb have a right to life.

Schuklenk sometimes seems almost unhinged in his implacable hostility to Christianity. He charges: “To organized Catholic Christianity, fetuses are of greater value than real people. I never understood how organized Christianity justifies discarding adult women’s lives during birth, if there is a conflict.”

That, of course, is complete nonsense. The Catholic Church does not regard fetuses as of greater value than so-called real people. Moreover, in those vanishingly rare circumstances such as some cancers of the uterus where a physician can only save the life of a pregnant woman by a procedure that will kill her baby, the Catholic Church holds in accordance with the traditional principle of double effect that the physician who acts to save the life of the mother does not commit an abortion.

As the Ontario Chair in Bioethics at Queen’s University, Schuklenk should be aware of such basic moral distinctions. His woeful ignorance of the pro-life position is a disgrace.

Schuklenk rails against churches for allegedly supporting "special rights for religious health care professionals in law." He says: "A consequence of this view has been that the personal preferences of individual professionals are prioritized over the needs of individual patients to receive professional services.”

As it happens, Section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of conscience and religion to all Canadians, not just health care professionals. By clear implication, Schuklenk suggests that the laws and the Constitution of Canada should be amended to require all nurses and physicians, regardless of their religious and moral convictions, to assist a patient in perpetrating an abortion.

Schuklenk also denounces churches for opposing physician assisted suicide. “This is surprising,” he writes. “If at the end of a decently lived life we would go to heaven and enjoy eternal life, why are they fighting our earthly death so vigorously?”

Such a puerile argument would be unworthy of a high-school essayist. Yet Schuklenk is held in such high esteem by his academic peers that the Royal Society of Canada has chosen him to chair its “Expert Panel on End-of Life Decision Making.”

The panel is supposed to advise the public on the “various pros and cons of decriminalization of physician-assisted death from well-reasoned ethical and legal standpoints.” With the group headed by Schuklenk and stacked with other like-minded intellectuals, the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

Such is the twisted morality of godless academics who presume to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. To paraphrase William F. Buckley, Canadians would surely be better off governed by the first 1,800 people in the Ottawa phone book than by the 1,800 members of the Royal Society of Canada.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Changing the law from the bench

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

In a two-to-one ruling on January 15, the British Columbia Court of Appeal held that Parliament has no constitutional authority to prohibit drug addicts from injecting themselves with illegal drugs in a public health clinic. With this bizarre decision, the Court has undermined the entire bans on drug possession and drug trafficking in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The immediate focus of the case is Insite, a notorious health clinic in the drug-infested, east side of downtown Vancouver, where nurses and paramedical staff help drug addicts to inject themselves with heroin, cocaine and other illegal drugs. According to the trial judge, "No substances are provided by staff. It goes without saying that the substances brought to Insite by users have been obtained from a trafficker in an illegal transaction."

The British Columbia Ministry of Health established Insite in 2003 as an experiment in the supervised injection of illegal drugs, the first of its kind in North America. To enable the clinic to operate, the minister of health in the Liberal government of Canada at the time granted Insite a temporary exemption from the federal bans on illegal drug possession and trafficking.

Former Conservative health minister Tony Clement served notice in 2007 that he planned to terminate the exemption. "Allowing and/or encouraging people to inject heroin into their veins is not harm reduction," he said. "We believe it is a form of harm addition." He insisted that instead of fostering the injection of dangerous and illegal drugs, the medicare system should save the lives of addicts by concentrating on drug treatment and rehabilitation.

Backers of Insite fundamentally disagree with this policy. Having failed in their political efforts to maintain the exemption for Insite, they appealed Clement's decision to the courts, and won.

In a ruling on May 27, 2008, Mr. Justice Ian Pitfield of the British Columbia Supreme Court overturned Clement's policy. He continued the exemption for Insite on the ground that the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act violates the right to "life, liberty and security of the person" in section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to the extent that the bans on drug possession and drug trafficking prevent addicts from safely injecting illegal drugs in a public health clinic.

Now the British Columbia Court of Appeal has likewise upheld a continuing exemption for Insite. In reasons for the Court, Madam Justice Carol Huddart opined: "A supervised drug injection service does not undermine the federal goals of protecting health or eliminating the market that drives the more serious drug-related offences of import, production and trafficking." In a concurring opinion, Madam Justice Anne Rowles similarly argued that application of the provisions on drug possession and drug trafficking in the federal narcotics law to Insite "would have the effect of putting the larger society at risk on matters of public health with its attendant human and economic cost."

In dissent, Madam Justice Daphne Smith pointed out that if other provinces take advantage of the immunity granted to Insite in this case, "supervised injection sites could be opened in every city across Canada. The creation of 'enclaves' where illicit drugs may be brought for intravenous drug use, without the potential for prosecution, could eviscerate the efficacy of a criminal law validly enacted by Parliament that seeks to address the broader context and consequences of illicit drug use across the entire supply chain."

Note that instead of discussing the principles of the law and the Constitution, all of these judges are debating the wisdom of the policy adopted by the Harper government to uphold the comprehensive ban on the possession and trafficking of illegal drugs in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Upon further appeal, will the Supreme Court of Canada likewise maintain the exemption for Insite and amend the federal narcotics law? That remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, it’s clear that our appeal courts are still infested with arbitrary judicial activists who have no compunction about changing the law to suit their personal policy preferences.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The evil politics of envy

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

George Gilder persuasively argues in his latest book The Israel Test that the central issue of our time is not any clash of civilizations or dispute over environmentalism, but a more fundamental moral divide. He explains: "On one side, marshaled at the United Nations and in universities around the globe, are those who see capitalism as a zero-sum game in which success comes at the expense of the poor and the environment: Every gain for one party comes at the cost of another. On the other side are those who see the genius and the good fortune of some as a source of wealth and opportunity for all."

A primary focus of these clashing viewpoints is the state of Israel. Quoting Caroline Glick, an astute columnist for the Jerusalem Post, Gilder sums up: "Some people admire success; some people envy it. The enviers hate Israel"

The enviers also hate the Jews, and for much the same reason: Collectively, the Jews have been far more successful down through the centuries than any other people.

Gilder points out that Jews currently comprise fewer than one-third of one per cent of the world's population, yet over the past 60 years, they have won more than 30 per cent of the Nobel Prizes for literature, chemistry, physics and medicine.

Jews have also been outstandingly successful as entrepreneurs and financiers. Ludwig von Mises, the distinguished Austrian economist, estimated that at least two thirds of the top 1,000 entrepreneurs in Austria during the 1930s were Jews.

Hitler, alas, was not alone in his pathological envy and hatred of the Jews. A great many Austrians applauded his campaign to rid the country of Jews, despite the devastating economic consequences for Austria. Out of about 250,000 Jews who resided in Austria in 1938, only 216 survived the Second World War without fleeing abroad.

Von Mises was one of the lucky Jewish survivors. He escaped to the United States, where he concluded his brilliant career at New York University. In this case, as in so many others, the United States gained from Europe’s loss of outstanding Jewish talent.

Gilder describes General Leslie Groves, the officer in charge of the ultra-secret Manhattan Project during the Second World War, as a "stiff and conventional military man and a Christian of the sort most disdained by intellectuals." Like Hitler, Groves might have failed what Gilder calls "the Israel test:" That is to say, he could have envied the Jews and refused to employ them on the Manhattan Project.

Instead, Groves chose two Jews to head the organization, Robert Oppenheimer as director and John von Neumann as senior adviser. With the collaboration of Enrico Fermi, Ernest Lawrence and other brilliant gentiles, the talented Jews recruited by Groves enabled the United States to obtain nuclear weapons before Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

Here, then, is a singular triumph of success over envy. The Jews and gentiles who worked together on the Manhattan Project literally saved Western civilization.

For 20 years following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the Palestinians likewise tried peaceful cooperation with Israel. The result was an outburst of mutually beneficial economic growth. Gilder notes that despite a tripling of the Palestinian population, per capita income in the West Bank and Gaza rose to $1,706 in 1987, up from $80 in 1967.

Since 1987, Palestinian militants have periodically sent homicide bombers and Katyusha rockets into Israel. For the Palestinian people, the inevitable consequence has been ruin, especially in Gaza, which remains desperately impoverished despite having received more foreign aid per capita than any other territory on earth.

Of late, Israel and the Palestine Authority on the West Bank have reverted to peaceful cooperation for the mutual economic benefit of Jews and Arabs on both sides of the border. The same opportunity is open to the people of Gaza. But first they must get rid of a terrorist government consumed with a pathological hatred and envy of the Jews.

(PS: In case any reader is wondering, Gilder is a Christian of British ancestry.)

Friday, January 01, 2010

Ringing declaration of Christian principles

The Interim
By Rory Leishman

On November 20, Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical leaders in the United States set a splendid example for their counterparts in Canada, by issuing the Manhattan Declaration -- a ringing statement of resolve to resist the growing subversion of the moral order and the suppression of freedom of religion by secular zealots in legislatures, governments and the courts.

Included among the 178 dignitaries who have signed this historic document is virtually every major, theologically orthodox Catholic and Evangelical leader in the United States from Most Rev. Timothy Dolan, the Catholic Archbishop of New York, to Chuck Colson, the Evangelical founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries. While avowing that "the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention," the signatories jointly affirm: "We are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions."

These problems, of course, are no less acute in Canada. Thanks to the arbitrary ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada in Morgentaler, 1988, Canada, to its shame, is the only democracy in the world where an abortionist can legally kill a baby in the womb for any reason and at any time during a pregnancy right up to the last second before birth.

Currently, secular ideologues in the Parliament of Canada are pressing for the legalization of euthanasia. It's difficult to imagine any legislation that would pose a more severe threat to the lives of elderly and disabled Canadians.

In December, the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench overturned a ruling by the province's human rights tribunal that fined former pastor Stephen Boissoin $5,000 for expressing his views on homosexuality in a letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate. Nonetheless, faithful Christians should beware: The oppressive provision in the Alberta human rights code that was at issue in this case remains in effect and could still be used against anyone who dares to insist that all sexual intercourse outside of marriage between a man and a woman is sinful.
Besides, the freedom of Canadians to act on their Christian convictions is under even greater threat than their freedom to speak. In an outrageous submission to the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Ontario Human Rights Commission has warned: "A physician’s denial of services or refusal to provide a woman with information relating to contraception or abortion, for example, would be discriminatory based on sex."

With this statement, the Commission has served notice that pro-life physicians in Ontario who refuse on principle to participate in the commission of an abortion could be fined by the Commission and ultimately jailed by the courts for allegedly discriminating against women on the basis of sex.

With the praiseworthy exception of Calgary Bishop Fred Henry and a few other outspoken stalwarts, most Catholic and Evangelical leaders in Canada have had little to say in public about the mounting attacks on freedom of religion and the traditional moral order. In splendid contrast, their counterparts in the United States have have not only reaffirmed their commitment to religious liberty, the sanctity of human life, and marriage as the God-ordained conjugal union of man and woman, but have also solemnly stated in the Manhattan Declaration: "We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty."

J. I. Packer, the distinguished, theologically orthodox Anglican professor of theology at Vancouver's Regent University, has signed on to the Manhattan Declaration. Would that all of the faithful leaders among Canadian Catholics and Evangelicals would issue a similar declaration of Christian conviction for Canada.