Don’t mess with the Jebs


In a decision that sets back Quebec’s efforts to strip religion from the province’s institutions, a judge has ruled that the government showed Inquisition-like intolerance in the way it imposed a secular ethics course on a private Roman Catholic school.

The ironic reference to religious zealotry in the pursuit of secularism came in a ruling that handed a victory to Montreal’s Loyola High School. The Jesuit boy’s school went to court for the right to keep teaching its ethics course from a Roman Catholic perspective.

In a decision handed down Friday, Superior Court Judge Gérard Dugré said that not only did Quebec violate Loyola’s religious freedoms by insisting it teach the secular course, but also it went about it in a “totalitarian” manner.

“In this age of the respect of fundamental rights, of tolerance, reasonable accommodation and multiculturalism, the attitude adopted by the [education] minister is surprising,” Judge Dugré wrote.

“The obligation imposed on Loyola to teach the ethics and religious culture course in a lay fashion assumes a totalitarian character essentially equivalent to Galileo’s being ordered by the Inquisition to deny the Copernican universe.”

I have a personal interest in this important decision. My father graduated from Loyola High School, and supported it for his entire adult life. I went there, too, for two wonderful years, with boys who came from all faiths. A Jesuitical education – as brief as it was in my case – deeply shaped my later views on politics, trade unionism, social justice and plenty of other subjects. For us, the Jesuits were the greatest teachers one could have.

Here, I suspect the unpopular Charest government’s target wasn’t actually the Jesuits, it was something else – a grubby, cynical manoeuvre to capture some xenophobic/Islamophobic votes. (The manoeuvre is not without its enthusiasts, unfortunately.)

In taking on the Jesuits in a “totalitarian” manner, however, the Quebec Premier has made a big mistake. The order has been around for centuries, and has seen many governments come and go. It won’t simply abide a ruling that requires it to denude itself, and its teachings, of any meaning.

I fundamentally believe in the separation of church and state, as regular readers will know. Most of the time, the threat to civil society involves religious figures attempting to impose the tenets of their faith on government. But, sometimes, it also involves government bureaucrats attempting to impose their misanthropy on religion. Neither should be allowed to stand.

What’s your view? Comments are open, as always. Keep it civil, please.

Fake lake, billion-dollar boondoggle: Canadians don’t care

…or so says this Harris-Decima poll, below.

What would account for these results?  Are they wrong?  Is the Fake Lake Clambake truly, as some in the Opposition believe, a way to finally defeat the Harper government?  Or has it all been wildly overblown by the media and the Opposition?  Your views are welcome, because – I have to say – this one surprises me.

G8/G20 ok with Canadians despite fake lake and $1B price tag: poll (G8-G20-Poll)

OTTAWA, Ont. – A new poll suggests most Canadians are not unduly troubled by the fake lake or $1-billion price tag of the coming G8 and G20 summits.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll found 76 per cent of respondents said the back-to-back weekend summits in Muskoka, Ont., and Toronto were either very or somewhat important versus 20 per cent that were opposed.

The Harper government has been under fire in recent weeks for the bloated cost of the summits, the vast majority of which is for security, including the $1.9-million Canada Corridor designed to sell Canada to visiting journalists.

At the G20, where the global economy is the focus, 66 per cent of those surveyed said they expected “a little” progress would be made, while 21 per cent expected none at all.

At the G8, where the Harper government has made improving the maternal health of Third World women a priority, 63 per cent expected “a little” progress versus 22 per cent that expect none at all.

The June 10-13 telephone survey of 1,000 Canadians has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times in 20.

(The Canadian Press)

Father’s Day, six years ago

I found this in the Web Archive “Wayback” machine, and thought I would post it.  This Father’s Day hasn’t started off particularly well, either, but that’s the way it goes, I guess.  Have a good one, all you dads out there.


June 20, 2004 – Ever since I can remember, today has been the day when (like you, perhaps) I would call my Dad to wish him happy father’s day. Or, if he was nearby, I would give him something – usually a book about philosophy, or the origins of religions, or something like that. He loved those.

This year, Father’s Day isn’t going to be all that great, for reasons that most of you already know about. But I’m also determined to make the best of it, because I’m a Dad now, too, and I have four little people who need me.

I’m also determined to say thank you to a lot of people. Since my Dad got sick, about a month ago, a lot of folks have been calling, or sending emails. Quite a few of the emails were from people I have never met. Some were from people who went to school with my Dad, or were taught by him, or practiced medicine with him. And there were many, many notes and calls from people who had been friends, or co-workers, or even adversaries during political campaigns and the like. For me and my family, these expressions of kindness and concern were remarkable. And they helped us get through a very difficult time.

Two notes deserve special mention. I received both prior to my father’s death, in the early morning hours of Tuesday. They influenced me in a way I will remember for the rest of my life.

One was from a friend who is the son of a former Prime Minister. In it, he told me to spend every moment I could with my father – to stay with him, and worry about other things later on. So I did that.

The other note was from a former Toronto Star writer who I knew from my Ottawa days, but with whom I had lost touch. But his advice, too, helped me a great deal. He told me he had spent time at a sibling’s bedside, as cancer claimed her life. In their time together, he told her everything he had never said before – the things he had held back. He told me to try and do similarly. And I did.

That advice – from Justin, and from Bill – I will remember for the rest of my life. And I thank them for it.

Now, I have many friends from my involvements in politics over the years, so I knew I would hear from some of them. But I never expected what happened.

At the funeral, my Mom and my brothers – and me – were so happy to see friends like Jean Chrétien, Martin Cauchon, Jean Pelletier, John Rae, Jean Carle, Charlie Angelakos, Jaime Watt, Greg Lyle, James Villeneuve, Bob Richardson, Graham Scott, Tim Powers, Tara Shields, Dave Gene, Sean O’Connor, Doug Wotherspoon, Krista Nicholds, Sean Malone, Sharon Smith, Jim Watson, my in-laws, friends from Queen’s Park, colleagues from Navigator PPG – along with my Dad’s family, and his friends and co-workers at Canadian Blood Services, or McGill, or Queen’s, or the University of Calgary. Before the funeral, there had been quite a few special phone calls – people who took time (a lot of time) to speak with my mom: our family’s friend Jean Chrétien, Dalton McGuinty, and Stephen Harper. Stephen’s call – and what he had to say – I will remember for a long, long time.

To everyone who passed along their thoughts and wishes – and to all of my fellow bloggers, who were extraordinarily kind – I, we, cannot thank you enough. I read many of your messages to my Dad before he died, and they were appreciated more than words can express.

My Dad wanted me to get back I into the game before this election was over (and we both had a good, long laugh about one journalist’s suggestion that the Martin regime should reach out to me). So I will do that. But before I do so, I wanted to thank all of you for your kindness and support.

And, to my Dad: happy father’s day. Fortis in arduis, forever.

Iggy Pop Is God

James Jewel Osterberg – Iggy Pop, Iggy Stooge, the Risen Rock’n’Roll Messiah, age 60+ – played with his Stooges in front of TWENTY THOUSAND PEOPLE in Dundas Square in Toronto tonight. It was extraordinary.

Even more extraordinary, something that made it a rock’n’roll event for the ages: hearing 20,000 sing ‘Now I Wanna Be Your Dog.’ And knowing all the words.

Lord, take me home now. It won’t ever get better than this.

Harper-related bits and pieces, with bonus alliterations!

  • The Summit Scandal: The fake lake, the roads to nowhere, the airport no one will use: where these revelations hurt the Harper government the most, I think, is with their own base.  I’ve received quite a few emails and comments from card-carrying Conservatives who are perfectly livid about the summitry excess.  I mean, even Pierre Bourque – whose race car bears the CPC logo – has been alleging 80 per cent of the G20 supplier contracts have been issued without competition (is that true?).  The Reformatories have become, fully, what they said they were coming to Ottawa to eliminate.
  • The Secret Circle: Laureen Harper was very kind to my daughter, a few years back, and I’ve been a fan ever since.  I may disagree with many of the policies of her husband’s government – but the Canadian First Lady is one of the nicest folks you’d ever care to meet, hands down.  A great Diebel read, comme toujours.
  • The Sinister Stories Syndicate:  My God Almighty, why have so many knickers gotten in a knot over the plans of former Harper spokesman Kory Teneycke and Quebecor to (i) invest in Canadian journalism and (ii) provide more choice for news consumers? I mean, why is Don Newman – who is a nice man, but who has never exactly been the most exciting thing ever seen on television – so apoplectic about Kory’s plans?  Why is Official Ottawa so aghast and atwitter?  Christ, you’d think someone had forgotten to remove the crusts from the cucumber canapés at a Kingsmere garden party! Read Wells for an account that doesn’t hyperventilate.