Happy 30th Anniversary, Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms

According to Louise Arbour, Canada’s internationally renowned & universally lauded Charter of Rights & Freedoms (HBD, eh?) “has transformed a country obsessed with the federal-provincial division of powers and enabled it to address its diversity in a substantive, principled way.”

Gee.

No wonder Harpercon insurrectionists can’t stand the fucking thing.

Greatly Exaggerated Rumours, Jack Layton Edition

by matttbastard

Michael Valpy addresses the current conventional wisdom that without Jack Layton, the NDP — and Canada’s left — is now doomed, doomed, DOOMED!

Ahem. Sorry ’bout that. Now, where were we?

Oh! Right.

Valpy:

When polls from the past federal election are closely analyzed, what shows up is that Mr. Harper’s Conservatives were elected by a lot of old people — people over the age of 45 whose electoral participation rate is between 60 and 80 per cent, climbing higher as they climb to meet their Maker. People under the age of 45 were powerfully anti-Conservative but at best only about 40 per cent of them voted. Andif they had voted in the same proportion as the over-45s, there would not have been a Conservative majority; there probably wouldn’t have been a Conservative minority. What likely we might have got is an NDP-led coalition.

So then let’s suppose that half, at least half, of the electorate are powerfully opposed to Mr. Harper’s neo-liberalism, which is what the polls suggest. Let’s suppose they’re more in tune with Canada’s historic Red Toryism, the political culture that led to, in the words of philosopher George Grant (Michael Ignatieff’s uncle, although Mr. Ignatieff didn’t like his thinking) “a country which had a strong sense of the common good … that was possible under the individualism of the capitalist dream.” We certainly know this is the case in Quebec. We certainly know that younger Canadians, and even a significant chunk of older Canadians, have a strong sense of the common good and don’t like the contemporary conservative ideology of the individual.

Without Mr. Layton — without Jack, le bon Jack — it does not mean Canadians opposed to Mr. Harper’s neo-liberalism are simply going to go elsewhere or become less engaged with their democracy. It doesn’t mean Quebeckers are going to abandon their fling with the NDP.

First, there is a culture war in Canada; it’s not going to disappear with Mr. Layton’s death. Second, as some of the most astute commentators of Quebec politics have pointed out, Quebeckers don’t take frivolous bon-bon steps in their politics. Their engagement with the NDP is more than a celebrity fling with Jack; it’s a new, sophisticated engagement with Canada.

Thus Mr. Layton can accurately be seen as the catalyst, not the seducer, both of Quebec’s re-engagement with the country and of a debate within the whole country about its political values.

As they say, read the whole damn thing. Valpy goes on to tackle Blatch’s “talented gracelessness” — and the Canadian public’s instant, somewhat overwhelming mythologizing of Layton —  with keen insight.

h/t Stephen Wicary

How Dare Jack Layton Make Canadians Feel Hopeful Again!

by matttbastard

David J. Climenhaga, responding to National Post columnist Christie Blatchford’s now-infamous cranky, contrarian reaction to Canada’s outpouring of love and admiration for Socialist cur Taliban Jack Layton (HISSSSSSS!):

[T]he offending column is far from the worst piece Blatchford has written, and it makes a good point that many of us who loved and respected Layton can surely agree with, or at least concede contains some truth. Its other arguments would better be dismissed with a shrug than with obscenity and imprecation.

I bothered to read this piece only because I came across some of the angry reaction on social media sites. I turned to it with a sick feeling, because I expected from the lead-up to read something truly disgusting, like the odious efforts of Calgary Sun city editor Dave Naylor. I finished it and concluded we should all take a deep breath.

The chief knock against Blatchford’s effort seems to be that she called Layton a thoroughly political creature, and assailed his moving deathbed letter to Canadians with such uncharacteristically big words as “sophistry” and “vainglorious.”

Well, OK, the latter part of this opinion is graceless, even cheesy — exactly as we have come to expect of almost any Postmedia columnist. But really, so what? It does not seem appropriate to me to respond to this kind of drivel by calling its author a “heartless cow,” or worse, or wishing on her the same horrible fate that befell Layton.

Moreover, I think most of us can agree that Blatchford’s silly allegation of sophistry and vainglory is merely a typical response, and possibly a heartfelt one, by a Tory sympathizer who must have fretted deeply about the implications of Layton’s successful appeal to the better angels of our Canadian nature. Even our dour prime minister seems to have been improved by Layton’s sunny vision, which in some circles might be seen as evidence of miraculous powers!

While making some valid points regarding Tory anxiety over Layton’s significant posthumous power, Climenhaga misses the mark: it isn’t Blatch’s petty attack on Layton that most rankles, at least to me. Rather, it’s her arrogant, contemptuous attempt to police the natural reactions of ordinary Canadians to the passing of someone they loved and respected. As far as Blatch is concerned, the massive, spontaneous public display of emotion and affection from coast to coast (including QC — thanks Jack!) is unseemly and worthy of ridicule, another pop-cult spectacle of collective (HISSSSS!) hysteria a la Princess Di.

Now, people tend to get rather prickly when told they are grieving in an inappropriate fashion — hence the vast, vocal outcry. However, I highly doubt anyone at PostMedia is crying. One could argue that all the attention afforded to Blatch, overwhelmingly negative though it may be,  = mission accomplished.

Trolling is, after all, an art.

Regardless, I’m sure le bon Jack could not care less if his final words caused Canada’s fav crotchety wingnut Agony Aunt to throw a public shit-fit. As Climenhaga rightly notes, in this Layton too could claim the mission accomplished mantle with as much, if not more, legitimacy as she (and if the stale mother-son YYZ vaudeville act of Babs and Johnny Kay doesn’t provoke a hearty chortle of righteous satisfaction from beyond this mortal coil, well, I guess I just don’t know Jack).

Don’t get me wrong — yours truly frequently disagreed with Jack Layton over the years. A lot. But, like a vast multitude of my fellow Canuckistanians (including apostate NDP icon Judy Rebick, another longtime Layton foe on the left), I ultimately found myself overcome with a sense that we had lost a statesman, truly a Great Canadian (caps and all).

Ottawa must have been reading the same tea leaves, hence the state funeral offer.

Still, the next time a Champagne Socialist from Danforth dares to die an insanely popular, highly revered public figure, everyone first make sure to check in with Christie Blatchford and co. for instructions on proper grieving etiquette.

Oh, and none of that peace and love hippie-dippy sidewalk chalk bullshit — politics is for cynics and sociopaths goddammit.

Image: Jackman Chiu, Flickr

A (Slightly) Less Glib Swipe at The Nascent Opus Dei Wing of the Conservative Party

by matttbastard

Rob Boston of Church & State Magazine:

Long the scourge of progressive Catholics, Opus Dei, with an estimated 80,000 members worldwide, has enjoyed a close relationship with the church’s conservative hierarchy, serving, as one writer put it in the mid 1980s, as a “holy mafia” to promote far-right views on “culture war” issues.

[…]

Opus Dei does not publish a directory of members but is known for its interest in targeting the rich and powerful. Over the years, rumors have surfaced that certain high-profile Catholics might be members. Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito have been fingered as possibilities. There is no proof in either case, but Newsweek magazine reported in 2001 that Scalia’s wife has attended functions at the Catholic Information Center, and his son Paul, a Catholic priest, has spoken there.

[…]

[Opus Dei founder Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer]’s critics were less than pleased with his fast-track to sainthood, noting that in 1958, Escriva had written a fawning letter to Francisco Franco, the fascist dictator of Spain, congratulating him for extending official recognition to the Catholic Church.

The May 28, 1953, missive reads, “Although alien to any political activity, I cannot help but rejoice as a priest and Spaniard that the Chief of State’s authoritative voice should proclaim that, ‘The Spanish nation considers it a badge of honor to accept the law of God according to the one and true doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church, inseparable faith of the national conscience which will inspire its legislation.'”

The letter asks God to bestow on Franco “abundant grace to carry out the grave mission entrusted to you.”

Opus Dei members subsequently ingratiated themselves into important positions in the repressive Franco government. Alberto Moncada, a Spanish journalist who has researched the period, says Opus Dei operatives were entrusted with turning around Spain’s anemic post-war economy, but the effort collapsed after numerous scandals.

The group also flourished under dictatorships in Chile and Argentina during the 1950s and ’60s.

Now, I don’t want to erroneously drop the other ‘F’ bomb on former Opus Dei spokesperson (and current “active” OD member) turned Conservative Party candidate Nicole Charbonneau Barron. But even someone normally allergic to tinfoil (such as yours truly) can recognize how some might say this ideological marriage of convenience between far-right-and-even-further-right positively screams “hidden agenda” (in a number of different languages, including Latin). Oh, and re: historical parallels between Franco and Harper: draw your own conclusions, true believers.

I just hope the phrase “holy mafioso” enters the Canadian political lexicon sometime before October 14th.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

So Much For The ‘Mass-Market Paperback Conspiracy’ Vote (Although Maybe There’s an Opportunity To Make Inroads With the ‘Master and Servant’ Crowd…)

by matttbastard

CBC News:

A Conservative candidate running in a Montreal South Shore riding is a past spokeswoman and current member of Opus Dei, a secretive Catholic organization.

Nicole Charbonneau Barron, who is running for the Tories in Saint-Bruno-Saint-Hubert, is an active member of the ultra-orthodox society.

The Conservatives were not aware of her affiliation when she was chosen as a candidate, the party’s Quebec campaign spokesman Jean-Luc Benoît told newspaper La Presse.

[…]

Barron granted media interviews in 2006 as Opus Dei’s Montreal spokeswoman, at a time when a controversial film inspired by Dan Brown’s worldwide bestseller The Da Vinci Code was released in movie theatres.

The South Shore resident told francophone TV network LCN the movie was a caricature of the Catholic institution, and only a portion of Opus Dei members practised self-mortification, which features prominently in the film.

Risking eternal damnation for indulging the flesh, Gilles Duceppe nearly creams his chinos at the news:

Referring to the discovery that Nicole Charbonneau Barron, the Conservative candidate for St. Bruno-St. Hubert, a riding on Montreal’s south shore, was the former spokesperson for the group, Duceppe called Opus Dei a “secret society” with a “narrow ideology” that doesn’t fit with a modern Quebec.

“Those people are against a lot of things that are generally accepted in Quebec,” he told reporters in Quebec City. “That candidate said very openly that self-whipping is a sacrifice they have to make. I question such practices.”

Hmm. Not to defend everybody’s favourite shadowy ultra-orthodox papal sect, but, um, what’s wrong with a little self (or *ahem* mutual) whipping every now and then (between consenting adults, of course)? One hopes the Quebec BDSM community respectfully requests further clarification from M. Duceppe.

Related: A fairly balanced profile of Opus Dei from TIME Magazine; Opus Dei’s Canadian homepage.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

More On The NDP And Bill C-6

by matttbastard

[cobbled together from various comments/forum posts, edited substantially for coherency]

Ok, so we’ve heard from the NDP (sort of). And if the NDP kills the bill, great.

But upon reflection (thanks, skdadl) I think my last post was itself too mealy-mouthed in reaction to what amounts to awkward damage control by the Dippers. The NDP dropped the ball and still hasn’t picked it up–period. Some may be comforted by Dewar’s non-response, but, rather than clarifying the Dipper position on C-6, I find it further muddies the water.

Dewar’s letter, and the response from some hardcore NDP partisans, rubs me the wrong way. “Muslims see this as a non-issue” was initially the preferred talking point of some Dipper apologists (we’ll leave aside the crass notion of Muslims in Canada holding monolithic views). But this is a misrepresentation of what has been said by some (some) leaders in the Islamic community who have spoken out in regards to the (non) issue. Here’s an example courtesy the Halifax Daily News:

The veiled voting controversy is a tempest in search of a teapot, says Saleem Ahmad, president of the Islamic Association of Nova Scotia. Framed in the context of “reasonable accommodation,” a national firestorm has been raging over the issue of whether Muslim women can vote while covering their faces with veils.

“It’s just the hypocrisy of the government,” Ahmad says.

“There was no controversy. The Muslim community never complained. The women would gladly take off their veil for a woman official.”

He points out that no one is required to show photo ID to vote, and postal voting does not require photo ID. Further, he estimates that 300 women in all of Canada wear the veil.

Hamzah Mangera, the imam at the Dartmouth mosque, agrees it is a non-issue. His wife, who wears a veil, happily removes it in private for female officials when using her passport to cross borders.

Mangera says the row points to a deeper issue of fears over cultural integration, as illustrated by the “code of conduct” produced by Herouxvile, Que., which informed newcomers that stoning women was prohibited and that women should show their faces in public, apart from Halloween.

Ahmad blames an outburst of xenophobia against Muslims, led by “that idiot down south” (U.S. President George W. Bush) and a lack of nerve among Canadian politicians to say it is not an issue, “rather than courting an easy vote.”

What has stirred up the tempest is Bill C-6, not the outcry against it. Face saving or not, the fact that some members of a purported social democratic party feel there’s even room for discussion is highly disturbing. The last thing we need is New Labour North.

Sinister Greg asked some pertinent questions yesterday that still deserve an answer:

Was Godin freelancing or did he have reason to think the party was behind him? Why did they sit on this for over 24 hours? Where is Jack Layton? Usually he can’t run to the microphones fast enough, why is he silent now? Why does Dewar say the party has not taken a final position on Bill C-6? Why not? Do they think they can somehow spin shit into gold? I think it is a bit rich too, for Dewar to say this bill was introduced for political reasons, when the NDP, the Liberals and the Bloc egged the government on with their craven attacks on Mr. Maynard. Trying to slam the barn door now is just a laughable attempt at damage control.

pogge has some questions of his own:

There was no ambiguity at all in the Globe and Mail‘s headline: NDP supports show-your-face bill. And the story supported the headline. And there is, as of this writing, no correction attached to that story.

So what gives? Did Yvon Godin miscommunicate? Did someone else? Did the Globe reporter screw up?

Bill C-6 doesn’t exist in a vacuum. On its own, it may be a ‘non-issue’, but it takes on an entirely different meaning when taken in context with today’s increasingly xenophobic political culture where Muslims have been singled out for attention (especially in Quebec). As any person of colour can tell you (*waves*), it’s easy to shrug off blatant attempts at othering when one is privileged to be a member of the majority culture.

Now, to be fair, though ideologically I’m a social democrat and have only ever voted NDP (both federally and provincially), I hold no love for Jack Layton. I do try to restrain myself from reflexively ‘piling on’ out of spite when it appears he’s giving the Stephen Harper Party a pass (even though admittedly the temptation is ever present). But this issue in particular should transcend partisan loyalty (or lack thereof).

Should.

Over the past several years our neighbours next door have provided an all-too-visceral example of what happens when unapologetic nativism is allowed to be mainstreamed. I for one refuse to remain silent as this country continues its incremental-but-increasingly-apparent shift to the capital ‘R’ Right; the potential consequences threaten everything that makes (post ’67) Canada Canada. And when the party that best represents my ideals helps contribute to fascism’s creep (whether deliberately or unintentionally) I feel obligated to speak out, goddamn the optics–especially when those purportedly on ‘my side’ have reflexively defended the indefensible with privileged apologia like this.

To quote the ever-quotable skdadl:

The issue here isn’t ID by face. The issue is a neocon assault on voters’ rights, spun for the neocon base on sexist, racist, and paranoid-political grounds, and if Canadian leftists haven’t wised up enough yet to recognize this kind of Rovian shit and call it for what it is, then we are in trouble … srsly.”

Bottom line: why won’t the NDP take a definite position against legislation that is both (admittedly) unnecessary and (IMO) deliberately inflammatory?

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers