10.05.2013 08:01 PM

In Sunday’s Sun: they’ve got problems, we’ve got problems

NEW YORK — Does this happen in Canada?

Darin K. Williamson, who has been asking me a lot of questions on the train between Newark and New York, tells me not to worry.

“I’m on the job,” he says, lifting his plainclothes shirt a little to show me his detective’s badge, attached to his belt. Beside the belt is a gun.

Williamson had been asking me about the 40-odd Grade 7 and 8 kids I was helping to chaperone on a school trip. So I started asking him about the shutdown of the U.S. government by Tea Party lunatics.

Williamson is unimpressed. “All these millions of people going without pay this morning, because the Republicans hate one man,” he says, holding up a single finger. “Millions hurt, because they hate him.”

Williamson is right, of course. And, on the early morning flight that was ferrying the kids, their teachers and me to the United States, we therefore did not know what would await us when we arrived at Newark’s airport.

Tea Party fanatics wanted to kill the Affordable Care Act, taking effect that day. President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party objected, noting the act, called Obamacare, had been a central issue in the 2012 race.

The people had chosen to decisively re-elect the president, but the Republicans didn’t care.

And so, on Tuesday morning, nearly a million federal employees were “furloughed” — in effect, told to stay home because Congress had not approved the funds to pay them.

The airport had two or three border services agents on duty, however, and the kids got through.

But Darin K. Williamson sat on the New York-bound train, shaking his head. “Does this happen in Canada?” he asked again, sounding amazed.

No, he is told. Canadians may sometimes object to the leaders we get. But we generally do not experience very many bloodless coup attempts, in which the lives and livelihoods of millions are held for ideological ransom.

“You’re lucky,” he says.

For us, the government shutdown would be an inconvenience — the kids wouldn’t get to tour the Statue of Liberty because it (and other) federal sites had been shut down. But it was nothing compared to the misery and pain that an extremist GOP rump was inflicting on untold millions of seniors, veterans and average Americans.

If the shutdown lasted very long, some economists warned, the cost to the still-struggling U.S. economy would be as high as $55-billion.

Now, before we Canadians get too cocky about all of this, let me offer another encounter with an average American citizen, by way of comparison.

On the next day, we took the kids to the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Much of the museum (necessarily) chronicled the rise of National Socialism, and the implications of that for Jews and others.

As the kids watched a video about the tragic wartime journey of the S.S. St. Louis, our tour guide — a nice older lady known to us only as Jill — sidled up to me. “What are you looking for?” she asked me. I had been carefully examining displays about the early days of Naziism in Germany and the countries Germany came to occupy. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” I said. Try me, she said.

So I related the disturbing tale of how Canada’s second-largest province planned to pass a law outlawing the display of crosses, Stars of David, turbans and veils by public servants.

I wanted to see what historical precedents existed for such bigotry, I said. Jill was genuinely shocked.

“Is this actually happening in Canada?” she asked. “Canada?”

Yes, Jill was told. Canada. We may not have government shutdowns, but sometimes we experience things that are measurably worse.

“Don’t ever get too cocky,” I tell some of my charges later on. “They’ve got lots of problems. But so do we.”


  1. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    We both predicted this would not end well for Marois’ government.

    Parizeau, Bouchard and now Landry. Pauline can go this winter or wait until spring but either way, they are likely done.

  2. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    jen says:

    Speaking of the gov’t shutdown. What was our PM doing saying we won’t accept a No for an answer on the pipeline question? And whats with this billionaire in California indirectly implying the PM is colluding with forces to shut down the US government?

  3. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Eric Weiss says:

    I visited the Museum of Jewish Heritage last time I was in NYC. Magnificent museum.

    • Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
      Joseph says:

      Everybody weeps for 6 million Jews executed by the Nazis, but nobody mentions the 15-20 million in the USSR and mostly Poles and Russians who were slaughtered and starved out of existence. Not one memorial built for them. Wonder why.

  4. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    MgS says:

    Thank you for a pleasantly humanizing view of the goings-on in both Quebec and the US.

  5. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Mike Tevlin says:

    Nicely done!

  6. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Sean says:

    Bang on article Warren. This expresses the feelings I often have when I return from the U.S.. Canadians too easily point their finger. When a Canadian brings up Trayvon Martin, they should take a look at the racial profiling bubbling over in Toronto. When a Canadian says “Detroit”, reply “Pikangikum.” When the person says “Pik what?!”, reply “exactly”.

  7. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Ridiculosity says:

    The proposed Quebec Values Charter is a national embarrassment and all Canadians should be outraged by its mere suggestion. As John F. Kennedy once said, “The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”

  8. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Kelly says:

    Our biggest problem is our phony electoral system. The majority of our problems flow out of that, because we continually elect lousy governments with phony majorities that govern for the minority (usually the minority with all the money). It’s also a system based on conflict rather than consensus. Hence our lousy social outcomes combated to the Nordic countries and a few other northern European countries (but not Britain. Thanks to the non-Anglo influence here at least we’ve adopted a few progressive policies, at least until the social misfits in the PMO attack those, as well. (Eg., keep your eyes on your CPP and OAS).

  9. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    davidray says:

    What’s really going on here. Is Marois defining a convenient “other” or is she afraid of it. Crosses and stars may be included in this values charter but she is really framing Muslims and God help us all if some sufficiently radicalized “other” decides to act out violently in a public place. The loony right would jump all over this as justification to further take away our rights in the name of you know.. security. I don’t think we should ever think we are immune to the kind of violence that is taking place all around us at which point all bets are off.

  10. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Most people in Quebec, at least at first blush, support the Values Charter. Take Leger Marketing: 52% Yes, 59% among francophones. But further down, it really gets interesting — 56% want it reviewed by the courts. That suggests either reservations or at least hesitation about the wisdom of proceeding in this fashion. Where would that number be if the notwithstanding clause was baked into the cake? Perhaps, even higher in favour of a court test.

    • Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
      Joseph says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Marois’ Charter had traction in the rest of Canada. I’m sick of all those ethnic costumes all over the place.

      • Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
        davidray says:

        Unless you’re being facetious please take that sentiment and share it with our native brethren at a powwow next summer or sooner if possible. Nah,,, didn’t think so.

      • Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
        Ridiculosity says:

        Costumes? Really??? Like you actually formed that thought in your mind and then typed it?

        A lot of the traditional wear I’ve seen New Canadians dressed in looks a lot more comfortable than a suit and tie. Or a kilt, come to think of it.

  11. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Jason says:

    This is one of your best columns ever. It really speaks to the heart, and reminds us all that we constantly have to be aware that organized bigotry is always looking for a way to become mainstream.

  12. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    e.a.f. says:

    Good column. Yes, we do have the prospect of a “Quebec charter” becoming law in quebec. not a nice thought at all. Yes, this is how the nazi party started out, banning Jews from one thing and another. No one protest and we saw what happened.

    Read about the Tom Steyer letter to harper. Nice letter and it raises a few interesting questions? Isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. There is also the small issue of the federal and provincial/territorial governments re-negotiating our national health care in 2014. Life would be easier for the cons. if the Affordable Health Act was no more. Canadians wouldn’t be able to say, well the Americans are trying to become like Canada when it comes to health care. The teabaggers would prefer Americans did not refer to the Canadian system. Teabaggers and harper both win if there is a pipeline and no government funded health care. Who looses? The people in both countries, especially children.

    In B.C. we have a new roof on the B.C. Place, new convention centre. All over budget by a few hundred million $s, but we are still fund raising for a new Children’s Hospital.

  13. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Any party that dares to think about dismantling our national health care system would quickly find itself out of office.Harper knows that. The American health care exchanges are up and running while the federal government website crashes…

    Great step forward for millions of previously uninsured people. I prefer our single-payer system but we won’t see that in the U.S. Costs seen as prohibitive and too “socialist”.

  14. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Bill Templeman says:

    While the PQ Charter of Values is wrong, can we pause midst our admonitions to look in the mirror for a moment? Anglo Canada still enjoys an anti-Quebecois joke and still is stubbornly uni lingual. Franco phones in Quebec didn’t develop their attitudes in a vacuum. Anglo Canada helped….

    • Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
      Steve T says:

      Really, Bill? You are equating the Values Charter with the lack of fully-fluent French speakers in the rest of Canada? Do you not see the tremendous irony in that comment?

      The key difference is the intervention of the government. The Quebec Values Charter PROHIBITS diversity, under rule of law. By contrast, if French is not spoken in certain parts of the country, that is by personal choice. Are you suggesting that the federal government compel the use of French in households? That may fly in xenophobic Quebec, but it’s not going to get much traction elsewhere.

      I also would argue that the rest of Canada is, in fact, hardly uni-lingual. For example, the area of Winnipeg in which I live has a very high Asian population, and many of its residents are fluent in Mandarin as well as English. Just because French is the other non-English language, does not mean the community is uni-lingual.

      • Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
        Steve T says:

        Correction to the last sentence of my post above: Just because French is NOT the other non-English language, does not mean the community is uni-lingual.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.