Categories for Feature

Boy, nobody saw this coming

Said no one.

What does it say about Consevatives? It says that they never ever change: Tea Party vs. Establishment Republicans, Reform vs. PCs, and so on and so on. Conservatives are always at war with themselves.

This also proves my Justin Trudeau theory, yet again: he may not be as smart as his Dad, he may not be as politically skilled as Chretien, he may not be as principled as Dion. But, Jesus, is he ever lucky.

When your main adversaries are The Mango Mussolini, Blandy Scheer, Mad Max and the Guy Who Leads the NDP, you can’t help but win.


The Conservative Party’s new heroine

From next week’s Hill Times column:

The Storm Alliance are led by a former Soldiers of Odin leader, Dave Tregget. Like David Duke did for the Ku Klux Klan forty years ago, Tregget’s strategy is to project a kinder, gentler image for anti-migrant, anti-refugee agitation. It’s attracted the same sorts of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and bigots that Soldiers of Odin did and do. But it’s more media-savvy. ‎

‎Thus their presence at the Trudeau event, video cameras in tow. They were after uncritical media coverage, and they got lots of it.

‎The Storm Alliance’s previous media event hadn’t gone as well. In July, the Storm Alliance teamed up with another Quebec-based refugee-hating group, La Meute‎ (roughly, The Wolf Pack). The two groups gathered on Canada Day at Hemmingford, Quebec, to intimidate migrants and prevent them from crossing the border. ‎

‎White supremacist Faith Goldy, now a Toronto mayoral candidate, showed up to offer Storm Alliance her support. She whips up hate, and she’s good at it. ‎

‎Storm Alliance’s Blain was the right choice to whip up hate at the Justin Trudeau event, too. She is a member of another anti-immigrant group, the Front Patriotique du Quebec, and is a separatist. A few months ago, a Front Patriotique admin opined on Facebook the need for a “terrorist attack to wake up people.”‎

‎Blain seems to dislike Muslims, a lot. ‎A few months ago, she refused to be touched by a Muslim student at a dental clinic at the University of Montreal.

‎At the Trudeau rally, she started screaming about illegal immigrants, and she got the attention of both the media and the Prime Minister of Canada. The cameras followed her at the event, and Justin Trudeau even engaged with her – forcefully but not inappropriately. ‎

‎The Conservative Party of Canada, right up to and including Andrew Scheer, loudly denounced Trudeau for abridging Blain’s “freedom of speech.” On Twitter and elsewhere, Conservatives condemned Trudeau for the sin of opposing Diane Blain. They sounded like they tought Diane Blain was a hero. ‎

‎She isn’t. She’s a racist.


Column: Sir John A. was a racist

BOSTON – What never moves and never talks, but is too often racist?

Statues, of course. They’re lifeless. Down here in America, but also back home in Canada.

Statues paying tributes to notorious historical racists like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are still found across the Southern U.S. – and someone even erected one honouring Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first leader of the Ku Klux Klan, just outside Nashville.

Here in Boston, the famous Faneuil Hall is named after an infamous slave trader. And in the city’s North End, there’s a Christopher Columbus statue – which pays homage to a man who also traded in slaves.

In 1492, upon arriving in the Caribbean and on his way to North America, Columbus was greeted as a demi-god by the native Arawak people. By 1495, on a return trip, Columbus was energetically committing acts of genocide against the Arawaks. They no longer exist as a people.

Debates have been raging about such statues for years, but have intensified in the age of the Racist-in-Chief, Donald Trump. Advocates for the racist statues say that these men are part of our history, and we should not tamper with history.

Opponents of these racist statues state, correctly, that such monuments are painful reminders of slavery, violence and genocide. They, we, argue that we should not ever celebrate hatred. They, we, echo the words of former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, who said such monuments “rewrite history to hide the truth [and] purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.”

But the fans of racist statues are undeterred. Even up in Canada, where we regularly (and falsely) claim to be a kinder, gentler and less-racist nation than the United States, a controversy has grown around a certain statue of Sir John A. Macdonald.

The City of Victoria recently decided to remove a Macdonald statue on the steps at city hall. Ontario’s government then wrote them a letter, offering to take the statue Victoria that didn’t want. Ontario Tourism Minister Sylvia Jones told the Legislature that “people are complicated, but there is no doubt that 125 years after his death, our first prime minister stands as an important Canadian within the creation of our country.”

And that, certainly, is true. Macdonald is important, and he was “complicated.” But – knowing what we now know about him – he is not a man we should be celebrating like we once did. Statues and monuments should not be built in his honour.

If you disagree, a challenge. Imagine, for a moment, you are a First Nations person – or imagine that you are, like me, father to an indigenous girl. Just imagine that. Then read these words.

Here’s what he said in 1879: “When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with its parents, who are savages. He is simply a savage who can read and write. Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.”

And here’s what he said in 1885: “…we have been pampering and coaxing the Indians; [but] we must take a new course, we must vindicate the position of the white man, we must teach the Indians what law is.”

Also in 1885: “I have not hesitated to tell this House, again and again, that we could not always hope to maintain peace with the Indians; that the savage was still a savage, and that until he ceased to be savage, we were always in danger of a collision, in danger of war, in danger of an outbreak.”

A couple years later, in 1887: “The great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion as speedily as they are fit to change.”

And, finally, this in 1884, when describing potlaches, the joyful indigenous gatherings held to celebrate births, deaths, adoptions, weddings: “…celebrating the ‘potlatch’ is a misdemeanor. This Indian festival is debauchery of the worst kind, and the departmental officers and all clergymen unite in affirming that it is absolutely necessary to put this practice down.”

And “put them down” Sir John A. did. He gave Canada’s First Nations – the ones who were here first – assimilation, brutality and genocidal residential school. That’s what he gave them, and us.

There therefore should be no further statues in his honour. There should be no new schools bearing his name. There should be more of us doing what Victoria has done.

Instead, let’s build monuments to those historical figures who were not violent racists.

Because statues, as lifeless as they are, can still hurt the living.


Donald Trump isn’t the only one who wants to build a wall


Jennifer Keesmaat’s vision for Toronto, not exactly as pictured.

There are 67 days until Election Day, and Jennifer Keesmaat still has this up.  She slept on it, apparently, and she still wants to separate from Ontario, Canada.

It’s crazy, sure, but it at least explains her desire for a TST (Toronto Sales Tax): she’ll need to tax the living Hell out of everyone living in her city-state to pay for basic services.

Oh, and you want jobs in Toronto? There’ll be plenty of opportunities for bricklayers to build Keesmaat’s wall along Steeles Avenue!

 


On Sir John A., and Sir John A. statues

From next week’s Hill Times column, which I’m still trying to cobble together, like a monument of sorts:

If you disagree [that we should remove statues paying tribute to racists], a challenge. Imagine, for a moment, you are a First Nations person – or imagine that you are, like me, father to a beautiful and perfect indigenous girl.

Just imagine that. Then read these words.

Here’s what [Macdonald] said in 1879: “When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with its parents, who are savages. He is simply a savage who can read and write. Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.”

And here’s what he said in 1885: “…we have been pampering and coaxing the Indians; [but] we must take a new course, we must vindicate the position of the white man, we must teach the Indians what law is.”

Also in 1885: “I have not hesitated to tell this House, again and again, that we could not always hope to maintain peace with the Indians; that the savage was still a savage, and that until he ceased to be savage, we were always in danger of a collision, in danger of war, in danger of an outbreak.”

A couple years later, in 1887: “The great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion as speedily as they are fit to change.”

And, finally, this in 1884, when describing potlaches, the joyful indigenous gatherings held to celebrate births, deaths, adoptions, weddings: “…celebrating the ‘potlatch’ is a misdemeanor. This Indian festival is debauchery of the worst kind, and the departmental officers and all clergymen unite in affirming that it is absolutely necessary to put this practice down.”

And “put them down” Sir John A. did. He gave Canada’s First Nations – the ones who were here first – assimilation, brutality and genocidal residential schools.

That’s what he gave them, and us.


Column: when monsters oppose you

Canada is in a social media war with Saudi Arabia.

It’s not a real war – at least not yet.  Real wars involve bullets and bombs and bodies.  This one is presently confined to Twitter and press statements.  Conscription hasn’t happened just yet.

There has been one truly extraordinary statement made by Saudi Arabia, however, one that promised violence on a grand scale.  A week ago, the state-controlled Saudi media tweeted this at Canadians: “Sticking one’s nose where it doesn’t belong! As the Arabic saying goes: ‘He who interferes with what doesn’t concern him finds what doesn’t please him’.”

Those words were superimposed on a graphic of an Air Canada plane, about to collide with some tall buildings in downtown Toronto.  The message was unmistakable.

We are willing to murder you, Canadians.

It was not subtle.  Continue to criticize Saudi Arabia’s dictatorship, and its unchanging abuse of human rights – as the Department of Global Affairs did, with an innocuous and fairly routine tweet of its own, the week before – and a plane will be dispatched, as on 9/11, and piloted into the CN Tower.  We did it before, Saudi Arabia’s rulers were saying, and we will do it again.

To you.

Because, you know, they did.  They did. There were 19 men who carried out the mass murders at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and just outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Of the 19 killers, 15 were Saudis.  Their leader, Osama bin Laden, was a Saudi, too.

A U.S. 2016 congressional inquiry found that there had been substantial Saudi involvement in 9/11.  The bipartisan inquiry reviewed half a million documents, interviewed hundreds of witnesses, and released an 838-page report.  Bob Graham, the former Democratic Senator who co-chaired the inquiry, said the hijackers had an extensive support system while they were in the United States.  From the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The definitive probe into the attacks, The 9/11 Commission, concluded that there remained a “likelihood that charities with significant Saudi government sponsorship diverted funds to al-Qaida.”  Those funds were used to carry out the murders of 2,998 people – 24 Canadian citizens among them.

So: the Saudi government’s little tweet, and accompanying infographic, isn’t so far-fetched, is it?  The tyrants who run Saudi Arabia evidently did fund efforts to murder two dozen Canadians, and many more Americans.  They did it before, their tweet strongly suggested, and they are unafraid to do it again.

None of this should surprise us, unfortunately.  The human rights record of Saudi Arabia, according to the watchdog Freedom House, is among “the worst of the worst.”

Saudi Arabia uses corporal punishment against wrongdoers, dissidents and critics.  This includes amputations of hands and feet for petty theft – and fines, floggings, and torture for being gay.  You can also be sentenced to life in prison, or death, for being gay or a “witch” in Saudi Arabia.

Until recently, women were not permitted to drive in the “kingdom.”  Women who protested this were jailed.  Oh, and this: over there, women have been flogged for being the victims of rape, as well.

Amnesty International has reported that the Saudi government habitually uses torture to extract false confessions.  Human Rights Watch has said that the torture includes “beatings, electrocution, and pouring chemicals into the mouth.”

Unsurprisingly, capital punishment is also a regular occurrence in Saudi Arabia, and it is done with the utmost viciousness.  Human Rights Watch reported on one 2015 case in which Saudi security officials “filmed the beheading of a Burmese woman in Mecca in which the swordsman required three sword strikes to sever the victim’s head.”

Sometimes, the Saudis behead as many as a dozen people in a single day.  Afterwards, they will often crucify the headless body, so that it can be displayed publicly.  If one is convicted of adultery, the death penalty is carried out by stoning.  Saudi women are usually the ones stoned to death.

The Saudis execute children, as well. In 2016, the United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of the Child reported that the Saudis were stoning children to death in Yemen, with whom the Saudis are at war.  The UN has also documented that, out of the 47 people executed by the Saudis on Jan. 2, 2016 – their biggest mass execution day in decades – “at least” four were children.

We could recite many such figures, here, but banal statistics do not adequately capture the full extent of the brutality and savagery that is familiar in Saudi Arabia.  Suffice to say Saudi Arabia is one of the three countries who executes people the most – along with China and Iran.

In the past few days, Saudi Arabia’s “royal” goons have said they will be expelling our ambassador, pulling out of Canada thousands of Saudi students and hospital patients, barring Canadian grain exports, and making attempts to tank Canadian bonds in the marketplace.  And, as noted, they have now even hinted at a 9/11-style attack on Canadians.

Asked about all that, our Prime Minister has not blinked.  He has said: “We will continue to speak clearly and firmly on issues of human rights at home and abroad wherever we see the need.”

Canada is quite literally under attack.  As a nation, we need to rally behind the position taken by Prime Minister Trudeau – and all of us need to refuse to be intimidated by a vile mob of homicidal scum posing as Saudi Arabia’s leadership.

Because that’s what they are.

Scum.


Column: where was he?

Where was he?

The Prime Minister of Canada, I mean.  When Canada’s biggest city needed him – when the millions of people who live and work here were feeling anguished, and angry, and afraid – Justin Trudeau was AWOL.

He was gone.

A young girl, and a young woman, murdered in cold blood on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue.  A dozen more wounded and hurt, some critically, and in hospital.  Toronto has had a horrific Spring and Summer, with the van attack on Yonge Street, with children being shot in playgrounds, with an explosion in gun violence.

None of that, however, quite equalled the horror of the Danforth Avenue attack on hot Summer night.  Two children, out with family and friends, shot to death on a city street: it affected this place in a way that is hard to describe, and impossible to imagine.

Now, most Canadians don’t live in Toronto, of course.  So not every Canadian can be expected to completely comprehend the impact of the Danforth terror attack – because that’s what it was, really, because it terrorized so many.  It chilled the blood of this city.  It left people breathless, like the very air was running out.

A vigil was held.  Hundreds showed up.  Among them were Toronto’s mayor, John Tory, and Ontario’s Premier, Doug Ford.

Justin Trudeau?  He had sent out a couple tweets, one in English, one in French.  But he didn’t show.

He was on vacation.

People noticed.  People talked about it.  People – included Liberal and liberally-minded people – shook their heads.  People got mad.

Because here’s the thing:  if you think that Justin Trudeau isn’t good at anything at all – economics, policy, foreign affairs, trade, defence, whatever – there is one thing we all know that he is really, really good at.  There is one thing he excels at.  And that is the so-called retail part of politics.

You know: showing up.  Hugging people.  Shaking hands, smiling, looking in their eyes and making them feel like they are important.  Justin Trudeau is good at that stuff.  Really good.

After the Danforth attack, when this rollicking, noisy, diverse city was wounded – when it was laying in the dirt, gasping – we needed Justin Trudeau.  We needed him to show up, and listen, and put his arms around the city.  Because that is the one thing, above all things, at which he is without equal.  He’s the best at that.

On social media, the usual suspects attacked him for having too many vacations.  They attacked him for surfing out in Tofino.  They attacked him for being not there, even though they would still attack him if he was there.

His supporters, meanwhile, also took to social media.  He deserves a vacation with his family, some said, and they were right.  “Damned if he shows up, damned if he doesn’t,” they intoned, all King Solomon-like, and they were wrong.  Because that’s crap.  It’s bogus.

I worked for a Prime Minister.  The job description is vast.  The responsibilities are endless.  But right at the very top of the list is this: to give comfort to the afflicted.  To console the grieving.  To soothe the fearful.  To give hope and help a wounded city get through it all.

He didn’t.

When the full extent of his error became known to he and his advisors, of course, he eventually made his way here on a Challenger jet.  He went to the funeral of the 18-year-old, Reece Fallon, and spoke to people afterwards.  Some asshole heckled him, but Trudeau didn’t lose his cool.  He spoke well.  He was there, finally.

But too many days had gone by.  And, for too many Torontonians, showing up so late reminded them that he hadn’t been there when he was needed the most.  It reminded them that he was absent when a big, grieving city wanted to hear from him.

Will any of it be remembered in the way that the disastrous Indian trip will be remembered?  Maybe not.  Will it hurt him in the way the Aga Khan and the groping mess hurt him?  Probably not.

But down here in a city that matters – a city that should matter politically to him, too – his absenteeism is unlikely to be forgotten anytime soon.  This is now a mark on Justin Trudeau’s permanent file, right down here in Toronto.

Where was he?  We wanted him here.

And he just wasn’t.