Feeding Poor Children: Not a Tory Priority

This man doesn't care about your starving child.

This man doesn’t care about your starving child.

Straight from the horse ass’ mouth, Tory industry minister James Moore says it’s not his responsibility to feed his neighbour’s child, this in reference to the fact that child poverty is an area of provincial jurisdiction, not federal.

The minister, who represents Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam (a part of Metro Vancouver) in parliament, reminded us that the Tories are doing an excellent job keeping ‘kids’ bellies full’ by cutting taxes and apparently creating jobs, even though unemployment rose last month in British Columbia, and that province further has one of the higher rates of childhood poverty. One in seven Canadian children live in poverty, and despite a unanimous motion passed in the House of Commons in 1989 to eliminate childhood poverty in Canada by the year 2000, nothing was done (other than, somewhat absurdly, renewing the motion nine years after the initially-projected date of completion). Minister Moore argued that the Fed can’t be responsible for making sure kids get a breakfast, and that he wouldn’t support an ‘intrusion’ of the federal government into realms of provincial control.

Moore was emphatic: “We’ve never been wealthier as a country than we are right now. Never been wealthier.”

Bullshit.

1. Today the average Canadian is burdened with the highest individual and household debt rates in our nation’s recorded history.

2. Our real estate market is the most overvalued in the world and an entire generation of Canadians lack sufficient means to own their own home.

3. Our currency is projected to lose about a dime’s worth of value in the next year.

4. Wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of our local ‘top one percent’.

5. By some estimates we have one of the world’s most over-educated workforces with far too few jobs requiring that level of skill, which in turn results in stagnant salaries for people with increasingly expensive tertiary educations and an influx of highly-skilled workers into job categories normally filled by people with lesser skill levels. The cascading effect has arguably pushed about 2.5 million Canadians into a near-permanent underclass of unemployed people.

6. Our economy is less well-balanced than it once was, as manufacturing has declined significantly our wealth is now almost exclusively generated by environmentally and economically unsustainable primary resource extraction.

7. The middle class has had its economic foundation as well as the social safety net steadily dismantled over the course of the last thirty years, though the process has picked up of late. First went the industrial jobs, then many of the white collar jobs too. Jobs that brought pride to the worker and bought a home, a car, a retirement, vacations and educations were replaced by service-sector jobs that lack in both pay and benefits. Our economy isn’t driven by production anymore, but rather by consumption. Across the country a plethora of communities have lost the means of production and have seen big-box stores, casinos and call centres becomes the primary local economic drivers. Now, the middle class faces new challenges, namely in terms of retirement planning, since the Tories are insistent the Canada Pension Plan not be extended.

Wealthy?

No, we’re not wealthy.

Not when three-quarters of Canadians can’t make any RRSP contributions in a given year. We can’t possibly be a wealthy country if the Tories believe, as they insist is gospel, that 50,000 jobs will be lost if individual contributions to the Canada Pension Plan are increased.

Real wealth doesn’t work that way; wealth is derived from saving money, even if it is mandatory. Yet Canadians are making less than they were a generation ago. Costs keep rising and salaries haven’t kept pace with the value of what we produce. This is fully untenable.

And while I concur that minister Moore is correct in his assertion that combating child poverty is tactically the responsibility of the provincial governments, it is of strategic federal concern.

The federal government provides regulations and guidelines for food inspection, education standards and hospital operations, so why not extend this to guaranteeing no child goes hungry as well, and providing provinces with the means to address this particularly onerous and shameful problem?

The federal government has a responsibility to all Canadians, and childhood poverty is of concern to all. And yet all this government does is hack away at the social fabric, the safety net and the people’s ability to maintain a proud and powerful middle class.

Ending childhood poverty is exactly the kind of major problem only the federal government has the means to properly, and expeditiously, address. There’s nothing stopping the Fed from leading the provinces in a combined effort to eradicate this problem, aside from a complete and total lack of will.

And there you have it, the Tory MO.

It’s not in their interest to bring this country together. It’s not in their interest to make the state work for the people, because all this does is remove new realms of profit for the ruthlessly expedient among our business class. It’s not in the Tories’ interest to make Canada Post work, nor to keep the CPP well-funded, because their strength and their power comes from dismantling and privatizing as much of this as is possible.

If we continue down this path, what next? Will we privatize our prisons? Will we privatize healthcare? Will we privatize the army too?

In any event I’m off point. I read this article and felt sick to my stomach – this is the kind of sleaze we’ve allowed into government. He has been trained only to repeat the talking points about cutting taxes and the apparent link to the creation of jobs, even though time and time again it has proven such is almost never the case. Lowering taxes on the already wealthy only makes them wealthier, it never enriches the people nor the state.

So when this industry minister tells you just how wealthy we are, remember always that the we he is referring to isn’t you, or I for that matter. He is referring to those who are already wealthy, to the small clique of elites who’ve parked their support behind the most regressive and stubborn political elements in our country and far too many of our allies. This is a man who knows nothing of his people, has no vision for their collective future, and has no qualms whatsoever about his disinterest in dealing with childhood poverty.

In a normally functioning democracy, such callous disregard for the lives of Canadian children would require an enhanced RCMP personal security detail for the minister. It is a profoundly sad irony this is the same party that argues anyone supporting the legalization of marijuana is, in effect, looking to personally sell drugs to minors (and a more specious argument I’ve never heard in my entire life. What’s worse, it betrays the general lack of knowledge Tories have about how economy works – do they honestly think children have much money for drugs?)

How to Beat Bill 60

Excellent retro shot of the Jewish General Hospital before it began it's multi-phase expansion - I'm guessing 1984

Excellent retro shot of the Jewish General Hospital before it began it’s multi-phase expansion – I’m guessing 1984

Defy it.

With extreme prejudice…

A tip of the hat is owed to Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, head of the prestigious Montreal Jewish General Hospital, for firing the opening salvo in the people’s defiance of Bill 60, the proposed charter on state secularism in Québec.

Among other things the bill stipulates all public-sector employees would be banned from ‘ostentatious displays of religion’ including wearing a yarmulke, hijab or turban while on the job. The ubiquitous displays of Catholicism in every conceivable aspect of daily life in Québec gets to stay as these are deemed to be of ‘historical and cultural value’, though apparently, the historical and cultural value of our ethno-cultural minorities constitute some kind of threat to middle-class, mainstream Québécois society. This means the large glow-in-the-dark cross atop Mount Royal, inasmuch as the crucifix behind the speaker’s chair in the National Assembly, will not be removed, but some Sikh surgeon will have to remove his turban if he wants to keep his job.

I’m an atheist, a socialist and a progressive. But I’m also a libertarian, though not in any contemporary American sense. I believe an individual ought to be free from religious persecution, insofar as their religious practice neither harms themselves, their relations or their community, nor places an inconvenience on the society at large. This thought is not my own – from my understanding this is the law of the land. Freedom from religious persecution is in the Charter of Rights and Responsibilities.

The Canadian Charter of Values.

I’m with Tom Mulcair on this one, the proposed Bill-60 is nothing but politically-motivated, state-sponsored discrimination.

I believe an argument can be made in which it is in the state’s interest to propose a dress code in the public service, especially in the domains of health and education. Certain religious garments, such as the niqab or burqa, would present an inconvenience to the public interest – the face is covered, and it’s as simple as that. These kinds of face coverings present an unnecessary communication barrier; it’s completely impractical throughout the entirety of the public service.

But let’s put this aside for a moment and ask ourselves a question – is it even worth formalizing such an objection of these particular garments? How many Muslim Québécoises who wear these particular garments are actually applying to the provincial civil service each year? Do we have to make fundamental alterations to our province’s legal and political foundations or can this simply be an edit to some kind of internal HR manual?

It reminds me of Herouxville passing laws against women being stoned to death or burned with acid. It was an amazingly insane instance of unencumbered small-town ‘multi-culturalism panic’.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but is this not already covered by the Criminal Code? Do we not have laws against murder and assault? And do we not already have a secular judiciary, one that is blind to religious consideration so as to liberate the state from such an incumbrance?

pauline-marois

This kind of panicky, irrational fear was unfortunately poorly articulated by none other than Québec uber-vedette Celine Dion. As Jack Jedwab of the Association for Canadian Studies points out, her concerns that she thinks justifies the charter’s implementation are ludicrous – no one’s taking down any goddam Christmas trees. Ms. Dion’s comments are a perfect representation of the kind of misguided thinking that has become troublingly prevalent amongst an a swath of the Québécois middle-class (though it’s by no means a Québec phenomenon; you could make the argument that Québec is following France’s example too closely, and that both share similarities with a host of xenophobic laws passed throughout the United States in the past decade).

The bill is hypocritical to the core and is, in essence, a method by which the PQ can sew its values into the provincial political fabric at a moment when a referendum is out of the question and the grip on power tenuous at best. The PQ knows it has an election somewhere on the horizon and as long as its economic record remains what it is – which is shitty – the Québec Liberals have a real shot at regaining power at some point in the next six months. Since the Marois government can’t do much else it is going into a perpetual campaign mode, and Bill 60 is their attempt to shore up their political base. They’ve spun it every which way – it’s pro-women, it’s modernizing – but it’s also, fundamentally, unfair and its unnecessary, punitive implications are too large to ignore.

The grim reality is that if this bill goes into law, a great many people, almost all of whom live and work in the Greater Montreal region, are suddenly going to find themselves in a position in which they have to choose between their jobs and their faith; religious minorities will be officially persecuted in the province of Québec. And who will bare the brunt of this new legislation? Why women of course; thousands of working moms who live in Montreal. Here’s a fantastic argument by Anne-France Goldwater as to why this so-called charter of values is a blatant attack on working first-generation Québécoises, a state-sponsored attempt to deny recent-immigrants access to the lucrative pool of civil service and public sector jobs.

In Québec’s political context Montreal is a prize and power base for one party and a liability, an inconvenience for another. Multiculturalism works in Montreal, and I would argue it evolves into a special kind of interculturalism all on its own, without government interference. But this flies in the face of the PQ stands for, and their vision of Québec. The PQ views itself as Québec incarnate, in much the same way that Tea Party Republicans view themselves as ‘real Americans’, and both are using the same fundamental tactic to achieve diverse goals – they define terms and tone first. The PQ has been doing this for years; Bill 101 established that there was a threat to the French language and culture in Québec and the bill was the response to it. Today it’s a fundamental component of our laws and most accept that this is the case, regardless that current statistical and demographic information is telling us the complete opposite.

This is Bill 101 2.0

Much like its linguistic forebear, Bill 60 places economic and socio-political limitations on minority populations. It is a ghettoization measure, and may result, much like the ‘Anglo Exodus’ of a generation ago, in a minority exodus of a kind.

So how do we, the free-thinking, address such Draconian laws?

We must defy them.

Director General of the hospital, Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg put it best “Since the bill is inherently prejudicial, there is no point in taking advantage of any clause that would grant us temporary, short-term relief” when referring to five-year implementation delays specifically designed for institutions such as the Jewish.

He went on to say that if the bill ever becomes law, the hospital will simply ignore it outright.

Right on.

A few things since I’ve been gone…

Boxes - Taylor C. Noakes, Spring 2013

So I should start off by saying that yes, there has been a flu bug going around, and I caught it and have been bed-bound since Friday night. The most walking around I’ve done since then was to walk from my GP’s office to the Queen Elizabeth Health Centre, a walk which I’d normally thoroughly enjoy, though today it damn near almost killed me.

Turns out I caught some kind of a bronchial infection along with the flu, and thus have been coughing like a TB case. The unintended consequence was that I’ve stopped smoking, and can now smell much, much better than I have in many, many years.

As to the Queen E, it’s an excellent facility. Though it used to be a nearly full service community hospital, it got the ax (along with the Reddy Memorial – today’s YMCA hostel near Cabot Square – and another hospital that escapes me at the moment) back in the 1990s when the government was dealing with major budget cuts to health and education (sound familiar?) Today it’s rundown and in dire need of some reno work, but basically serves as an enhanced CLSC with a wide variety of diagnostic and community health services offered. I wish them luck. I can imagine Westmount-adjacent former hospitals named after an old Brit are in the crosshairs of some PQ gov’t hack.

That said, there was one lady in the radiology dept. who clearly did not like her job and wanted you to know it. The kind of person who doesn’t say hi or even make eye contact with people, but who sternly says ‘read the sign’ before you have a chance to say hello yourself. This same person is also the kind of individual who casually ignores a person standing in front of her for five minutes. Was it not obvious I had a simple question to ask?

Perhaps she was having a bad day, but I don’t really give a shit. There are days when we all hate our jobs – it doesn’t give anyone the right to be a grade-A prick.

And for the record, this woman was a WASP.

Every single other person I encountered, from the lady at the info desk to the guys in the canteen, the various radiologists and X-ray technicians – all were delightful, warm, open, sincerely nice, comforting people. Many of them would be described as ‘visible minorities’. The Indian guy in the lab coat brought me the funnies after I had jokingly enquired about the quality of magazines in the waiting room. By contrast, the other white person I encountered got nervous when he heard me coughing, strolled over and tossed me a face mask without saying a word. Rude. I’m not contagious; least he could have done is asked if I was okay.

Fucking white people – always bringing me down.

And on that note – the one group of blancs I despise the most, PQ sympathizers and separatists, are going above and beyond to make immigrants feel as unwelcome as possible these days.

I hate the PQ with every fibre of my being, and here’s why:

At the top it’s all philosophical, academic, serene discussions and musings about the complexities of cultural integration and Québec’s future in North America. But at the bottom, the foundation that props up the PQ elite is composed of some of the most backwards buck-toothed hillbilly scum this province has ever produced. They are the 49% of adult Québécois who lack basic literacy skills. These are the people who take it upon themselves to fight the PQ’s battles ‘on the front lines’.

Whether it’s STM employees: example 1, example 2, example 3

Or just your average schmuck riding the bus…

Or some schmuck at the mall…

Or the thousands of primary and secondary teachers in the CSDM system who teach in immigrant-heavy public schools on the island of Montreal, and who half-ass it because they know they can get away with it. Just about every single immigrant I’ve ever known or ever met who attended a French language public school has at least one story of a teacher who did nothing to hide their absolute disdain for the people he or she was teaching. This point was echoed rather masterfully by local comedic super star Sugar Sammy, who recounted how his high school history teacher was little more than a PQ propaganda machine, and promptly gave up on his students the day after the 95 Referendum.

It’s not just sad, it’s tragic this is what we’ve allowed our province to become.

The news today is that violence against Muslim women in this province has risen considerably since the institutionalized racism charter was first proposed.

The violence, as always, is being committed by the little people down at the bottom. The PQ can claim they only intend for reasonable discussion, and can appeal to the public for calm, but they know goddam well this happens every time. Their rhetoric primes people, stupid, stupid people, for hate, and they win elections because of it.

As an aside, the pharmacist who helped me out with my prescription wore a hijab. She spoke both English and French fluently and was friendly, helpful, warm – exactly the kind of person you want to deal with when you feel like you’re on death’s door. She didn’t try to convert me, we didn’t discuss religion and she seemed pretty damn well integrated into our society from my vantage point (and brief exchange of words).

As a pur-laine Québécois (which I am and have the documents to prove) I can tell you first hand I didn’t feel socio-culturally threatened in the least.

I felt cared for.

I have never felt cared for by the PQ.

The sooner we erase this clown college from our collective memory the better. The single greatest threat to Québec is the Parti Québécois. Whatever good that may have come from the premiership of René Lévesque (and I would argue strongly that he did good things for our province and our people), has now been completely undone by the ruthlessly regressive, fundamentally racist party that now idolizes him as patron saint.

Frankly, if mon oncle René were alive to see this, he’d disavow the party entirely.

End of rant…

Pensées sur la rentrée

Clouds over Saint Henri - Summer 2013

Clouds over Saint Henri – Summer 2013

It’s official, Montréal’s exceptionally large student population is now safely locked away in their classrooms and lecture halls, allowing old people to once again return to our city’s streets, public spaces and transit systems, confident in their knowledge they won’t be subjected to anything too shocking from the young folk for many dreary months.

Fall announced itself over the long weekend in an odd manner: Saturday was humid with low, thick clouds, breaking in the afternoon. Sunday was a reminder of some of the really beautiful (yet unfortunately few) sunny summer days where all manner of colour explode all around you. And Monday, well, by Monday the party was over – fall was back with a vengeance. It was an odd day of alternating mugginess and fresh river breezes, clouds rolling all day with small breaks to show the azure skies behind. By dinner time the rains that held off all day soaked the city through and through, and then the clouds broke again, before returning with thunderclaps and lightning dancing across the night sky. And today the smell of poplar leaves lingering in my nostrils… autumn; the dynamic flourish of life before death.

What a town to live in. Today I got giddy thinking about walking through the forest on the mountain five or six weeks from now on a sunny day when the leaves look like an artist’s impression of fire in stained glass. Orange, yellow, red and green on a blue background.

What a pallet!

In any event, no more chromatic deviations, on to the task at hand.

Our schools kinda suck.

Granted in absolute terms we’re doing just fine, but on a national and provincial level our public schools have a lot of problems we’re not addressing. The drop-out rate in the public French sector is embarrassingly high. Some schools sit half empty while other burst at the seams, and in some cases these schools are within a block of each another. Street gang infiltration is a surprising and serious problem inasmuch as the casual disrespect shown towards inner-city students by the local police force (who all too often assume any group of three or more non-white adolescents constitutes a street gang). And if all that wasn’t enough some of these schools are stuffed full of asbestos or have had water infiltration for so many years toxic mould is sprouting in the air ducts.

The people deserve better. The kids deserve better. We shouldn’t have to pay a fortune to send our kids to private schools, the public sector must provide. After all, it’s one of the things our taxes pay for, and we pay a lot in taxes. There’s absolutely no legitimate reason our schools and public schooling system should fail the way it does, causing social problems, furthering the class rift, costing what it does without producing the results we want. The denigration of the public education system further impoverishes the middle class and drives suburban flight. There’s no pride in having to pay for your child’s education – it’s a failure of the state we live in.

I’m astounded we don’t demand better.

Perhaps we inadvertently lost sight of things, but a cursory examination of the local public education system offers some glaring examples of how and why local public schooling seems to be on the decline.

The fundamental problem is the near total lack of efficiency. Multiple boards, multiple unions, unnecessary duplication, inefficient space usage, poor maintenance, no standardization, – the list goes on and on.

Segregation, in my opinion, is the source of what ails and may ultimately severely damage our local public education system. The PQ’s decision to eliminate religious school boards in the late 1990s was a move in the right direction and a move towards greater efficiency and a positive reinforcement of state secularism. Montréal should take this a step further and unite all the school boards operating on-island into a single city-administered department of education. Ending segregation may save us a lot of money.

Imagine an end to linguistic segregation in Montréal public schools – I can’t think of a better way to integrate immigrants into our society than by demonstrating our own ability to integrate the minorités-majoritaires. Think about it. We send the kids of the people we want to integrate into our society to the overcrowded and underfunded French public sector, which in this city is losing Franco-Québécois enrolment to the private sector, while Anglophone schools with French Immersion and International Baccalaureate programs sit half empty. It’s insane; if there was just one board student distribution would be more even – no empty schools, no over-crowding. Integrating the school boards cut could busing budgets since students would simply go to the school nearest their home, rather than being shipped halfway across the city. Everything would be streamlined – from text book selection to resource allocation to cafeteria services, providing the potential for major savings as new areas of efficiency are exploited.

One island, one school department, but ultimately two languages.

This is the fundamental compromise – this new arrangement would require the integration of English and French school boards, their teachers and respective staff. It would mean all Montreal children would be taught the same regardless of what language they speak at home, and thus, the language of instruction and internal communication for this new island-wide education department must be officially French.

But not absolutely French. A good compromise cuts both ways.

If the English boards were to accept a French education department for the whole island, the French boards would have to accept a degree of bilingualism in public education for all Montreal children. I’d argue 30% of class time ought to be in English and 70% in French from kindergarten all the way to grade 11. This mix will, in my opinion, would thoroughly guarantee the survival of the French language and culture in Montréal while simultaneously providing a foundation of English-language instruction necessary for life in Canada. I’m pretty sure the end result would be a greater appreciation of both languages by all Montrealers, regardless of mother tongue or cultural background.

There are many reasons we should head in this direction – we’ll save money, get more bang for our collective buck, better ensure social cohesion and create the winning conditions for a local public education renaissance. We have all the social and economic reasons to pursue this, and yet, we’re incredibly cynical.

I’ve been told this could/would/should never happen.

That disappoints me.

I think Montrealers ought to have a greater say in how our children are educated, and ending segregation in our public schools, regardless of whatever the current provincial government may say, is the right way forward for our city.

The World Cannot Afford to Subsidize Hate – The Case Against Sochi 2014

Russia athletes protesting 'anti-gay propaganda' laws - photo credit to Reuters

Russia athletes protesting ‘anti-gay propaganda’ laws – photo credit to Reuters

I guess I’m a bit late to the party, so to speak, but I’ve had a hell of a time wrapping my head around this one.

I guess I’ll start from square one.

I studied history voraciously in university. I was of the mind that the better you knew the past, the better you can anticipate the future. Humanity is an evolving species and change is certain, but we’re also highly predictable creatures of habit with a penchant to try and convince ourselves we aren’t evolving, that the past is irrelevant because it exists in a different time and context. I see things differently – ours is a history of error and success, and in my humble opinion, the scales are tipped heavily towards error. of course it would; biologically our species hasn’t advanced much past the ‘terrible twos’. Those who think we’re going through our adolescence are optimistic, and ultimately aren’t taking the long view. If we survive ourselves, we may be around for a very long time indeed.

But it’s extremely frustrating, having all this historical knowledge, as you begin to see just how frequently we repeat the errors of the past, and just how incapable so-called ‘leading nations’ are at actually preventing the massive man-made cataclysms that have so characterized the last few centuries of our collective experience. What we were supposed to have learned once and for all during the 20th century is that the policies of hate, the dehumanization of minority groups wherever they may be found, and the disenfranchisement of people based on their race, creed, gender, sexual-orientation, religion, class etc. is simply wrong, inexcusable.

The society I grew up in was one filled with survivors and the progeny of survivors. Survivors of the most terrifying conflagration humanity ever created and triumphed over, ours is a nation unfortunately forged in war. Whether a survivor of Dieppe or the concentration camps it didn’t matter much, the lessons learned were supposed to be universal.

Today it seems as though we’ve learned nothing at all.

Across Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia nations which, twenty years ago, were under the iron grip of a massive empire begging for freedom and democracy are today ‘choosing’ to head off down the road of dictatorship, petty nationalism and human rights abuses that would make any self-respecting Canadian’s – regardless of local political orientation – skin crawl. In Hungary the government and other far-right parties are openly discriminating against Jews and Gypsies, if not persecuting them outright. Nazi-inspired political groups terrorize immigrants in Greece while far right nationalists do the same in the United Kingdom. Ugly conservatism has reared its head in France, mobilizing hundreds of thousands to riot in the streets of Paris against marriage equality for homosexuals, while in Turkey it aims to set back the clock on what was once the leading light of secularism in the Muslim world. The most powerful militaries in the world sit out the carnage in Syria and Egypt as political instability in those countries lead to the creation and empowerment of various Islamofascist organizations vying for control in increasingly complicated asymmetrical civil wars.

And on top of all this mess a small group of Nordic countries, arguably among the wealthiest and most developed in the world, are supposed to go to a Black Sea resort early next year to participate in what is supposed to be a great human endeavour – the Winter Olympics. It is marketed and popularly understood to be an opportunity for people of diverse backgrounds to come together, look beyond their individual differences at the underlying bonds of the human condition and enjoy the peaceful competition of sport. And I suppose to enjoy each other as well – the Olympic Village in London ran out of condoms in two days last year…

Unfortunately, and following a discriminatory trend popping up all over the globe these days, the Russians have recently passed laws that criminalize ‘homosexual propaganda’, and these laws will (at least according to some senior Russian officials) be applied to the fullest extent. In effect that means athletes from the LGBTQ rainbow of sexual diversity will have to keep their orientation to themselves (hiding who they are) for fear of arrest, to say nothing of potentially getting beat up by the anti-gay gangs that have quite suddenly popped up. Russia is, at least at a government level, increasingly homophobic and Christian supremacist, and this is on top of their already notoriously poor human rights record, corruption, lack of transparency and democracy.

Now some might say ‘too bad, it’s their laws, their culture, and they’re inviting us, so follow their rules’. This is a position that has been made many times over by elements of the conservative fringe in this country, in addition to a number of people who really haven’t spent much time actually thinking about what’s going on.

And I said before, this is another instance of history repeating. In 1936 it was patently obvious Nazi Germany was becoming exceptionally problematic from a human-rights perspective. Their anti-Jewish laws had been on the books for some time by the time the games began, the Nazis themselves had tried to prevent Blacks and Jews from participating, and had cleared all of the Roma to a concentration camp prior to the opening ceremonies. Though they would ultimately make small concessions to the international community to avoid a total boycott, this amounted to little more than taking down anti-Semitic signs in Berlin and letting foreign Blacks and Jews participate. The policies that would lead directly to the Holocaust were still very much in effect, and the leading nations of that time opted to do nothing at all. And keep this in mind too – just a few months before the games began, Germany had violated the Versailles Treaty by occupying the Rhineland. A few months after the games ended, they’d violate it once more by sending the Luftwaffe to assist General Franco’s fascist coup against the elected Socialist government of Spain. Germany’s assistance allowed Franco to triumph over the Socialists by the time Germany invaded Poland in September of 1939.

Then, as now, many argued that there was no place for politics at the Olympics.

Suffice it to say I disagree, the Olympics are by their very nature intensely political, not to mention an ideal arena to push political agendas, particularly when their aimed at calling out renegade nations for their abusive practices.

Consider it this way – there’s a reason there have so far never been any Olympic Games in South America or the Middle East – there’s plenty of money to make them happen (and indeed Brazil will get its opportunity in three years), but politically these nations are either currently too abusive towards their own people or have been up until quite recently. This is supposed to be one of the key lessons from Berlin 1936 – don’t give the games to nations with piss poor human rights records run by authoritarian dictatorships. It seems like a pretty straightforward rule to follow too, no?

Is Russia a dictatorship with a piss poor human rights record?

Sorta.

On the dictatorship front I would argue it’s increasingly looking that way, though in a fashion that’s not too different from what we see in the United States. The Russians know this very well. Whereas the United States is managed by a somewhat populist plutocracy processing legislation through a thoroughly morally corrupt and totally ineffective legislative body to give the appearance of multi-party representative government, Putin systematically eliminates any and all opposition for ‘moral corruption’ to ensure he and his group of populist plutocrats are the only viable option left. Sometimes I’m not sure which system is worse.

As far as human rights are concerned, they’ve put themselves in an enviable position by supporting Edward Snowden’s asylum, part of what is doubtless an effort to portray itself as the global defender of individual privacy, though I think we’re all sophisticated enough to see this for what it is – more leftovers from the Cold War and a chance for Putin to relativize the discussion of individual rights vis-a-vis government interest. We’re dealing with an extremely intelligent, calculating and ruthless man. Quite frankly I think Putin is a problem the United States is intellectually incapable of handling, but that’s another issue.

My main concern is what Canada should do.

While I would argue strongly in favour of boycotting the Sochi Games, I recognize this certainly won’t do much to improve relations between us and the Russians, and that there is a strong case to be made for competing and protesting in various ways on their turf, though of course this too is problematic.

It would be best of all for Canada to lead a global boycott (i.e. try to convince other nations to follow our example) and also provide an alternative to the Sochi Games. As it stands our country is well suited to host a Winter Olympiad, as at least three of our largest cities have the infrastructure and facilities necessary to do so. Moreover, boycotts and alternative games are nothing new – Barcelona proposed a ‘Peoples Olympiad’ in protest of Berlin 1936 up until the Spanish Civil War broke out. Twenty-eight largely African nations boycotted the 1976 Montreal Games when the IOC failed to suspend New Zealand for participating in a South African rugby tournament. Later, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 the Western powers (under Jimmy Carter’s leadership) quickly boycotted the 1980 Moscow Summer Games. The Soviets in turn boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Games and as a result various other competitions occurred, such as the Liberty Bell Classic, the Goodwill Games, the Friendship Games etc. We’re not exactly through the looking glass here.

I believe we should register our disapproval as officially as possible – we should make it clear to the Russians we don’t approve.

But regardless of the Tory’s official position (they’re so far saying they won’t boycott), we the people can do our part to register our complaints – people can boycott Olympic sponsors and simply choose not to watch the games. There’s nothing unpatriotic about it, the athletes don’t really need your support – they, much like the soldiers, are well taken care of by government up to the point they’re deemed no longer useful. Feel free to support them then.

Making it clear to corporate sponsors the people won’t buy their products may be the quicker way to accomplish something – I doubt McDonald’s or Coke (and just how the fuck did they become Olympic sponsors anyways?) would want to face that kind of bad publicity. Perhaps it is wiser to target the sponsors…

I’ll close on this as I feel this post is going off in too many directions.

There are rumours John Baird, Canada’s foreign affairs minister, is gay. If this is true I would hope he comes out as quickly as possible – there’s no reason to stay closeted and I honestly don’t think he’d lose any support from his base – at least I’d hope not. Baird has been vocal about his disenchantment regarding Russia’s ‘anti-gay propaganda’ laws and has been vocally critical of other hate measures adopted by other nations. He has been especially critical of ‘kill-the-gays’ bills introduced (often with a lot of assistance from American conservative evangelical missions) in various African nations. A few weeks back, an organization that apparently represents the socially conservative base of women voters in Canada (aptly named, à la Fox News – REAL Women of Canada) came out and blasted Baird for using government resources, tax-payers money and his office to push ‘his personal values and views’ on a sovereign nation. Read this interview by rising-star journalist Justin Ling to get an idea of where this fringe hate group is coming from.

This sentiment was somewhat echoed by Montreal’s own Ted Bird a few weeks earlier when he wrote that Russia’s so-called anti-gay laws was in fact a moral and not political issue. Bird argues that a boycott would ultimately prove futile and that the measures enjoy broad support in Russia. Further, Bird said that Russia will evolve at its own speed, and that it always has, but that we shouldn’t push a boycott simply because the Russians won’t approve of personal displays of affection between athletes in the Olympic Village.

What an interesting idea – that Russia is evolving. From a socio-political and socio-cultural perspective they seem to be regressing. Their life expectancy has dropped, unemployment or chronic under-employment has increased, class distinctions are more apparent, far-right organizations have popped up like mushrooms on mouldy carpets and whatever progress they made becoming a democratic participant in the affairs of the First World seems to have been cast aside for a return to a new aristocracy and benevolent dictatorship. Putin is the new Czar. Russia legalized homosexuality in 1993; twenty years later they’re making moves to re-criminalize it. What the fuck happened?

I personally feel it is entirely within Canada’s right to tell other nations what to do – especially when it comes to human rights. Call it one of the advantages of having a nearly clean human rights record, a working democracy and an ultimately humanist society – we get to call the shots when it comes to human rights and it’s entirely within our right to tell others when they’re no longer meeting our minimum standards. It’s wholly within our responsibility as a nation to speak up and to push what we believe is right – it is in the interest of all the nations of the world to have Canada as their friend and support our efforts regarding improving the human rights situation worldwide.

And while I can’t imagine we’ll also start boycotting Saudi Arabia, Israel or China for similar human rights abuses, this doesn’t mean going after Russia now is hypocritical. What matters is what we do next, what happens now and after Sochi, and how we conduct ourselves moving forward.

Montreal Mayors: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Michael Applebaum & Laurent Blanchard - photo credit to The Gazette

Michael Applebaum & Laurent Blanchard – photo credit to The Gazette

Meet Laurent Blanchard, Montreal’s latest mayor.

By my count he’s number 43 in a list that stretches back to our city’s first mayor, Jacques Viger, in 1832, the year the city was incorporated.

Jacques Viger

Jacques Viger

To date Montreal’s mayors have been predominantly of the (at least publicly heterosexual) French Canadian male variety, though we once had a tradition of switching the lingua franca of our mayors with each election (i.e. from 1832 to 1908 mayors here alternated from Francophone to Anglophone).

Henry Archer Ekers

Henry Archer Ekers

The last ‘traditionally Anglophone’ mayor of Montreal, from 1906-1908, was Henry Archer Ekers, one of the founders of The National Brewery (also known as the Dow Brewery), which brewed Dawes, Dow, Ekers, Boswell and Fox Head ales, and whose siege sociale still stands at 990 Notre-Dame Ouest, a prime example of Northern Art Deco industrial architecture).

Jane Cowell-Poitras

Rounding out the necessary nod to diversity in the workplace, we’ve had several Irish and Scottish mayors, at least one born in Massachusetts (John Easton Mills) and more recently both our first woman mayor (Mairesse? Mayoratrix? Mayoress?) Jane Cowell-Poitras and our first ‘minority’ mayor, the effortlessly bilingual and arguably multi-cultural Michael Applebaum, culturally exotic only by the standards of the most militant variety of separatist Québécois supremacists.

Michael Applebaum

Michael Applebaum

Monsieur Blanchard is third in our year of four mayors, replacing the disgraced Michael Applebaum for a four month period until the next regularly scheduled election. I really hope he manages to somehow last that long without fucking up by getting named at the Charbonneau Commission, in which case it would be as a result of stuff he did several years ago but either way, yet another black eye for our fair city and further proof that the political establishment here is as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.

Gerald Tremblay

So there’s your défi Monsieur Blanchard – don’t fuck up. Keep your head down, kill people with kindness (but don’t lay it on too thick) and for the love of God – stay away from Italian restaurants.

***

Some assorted thoughts for our new mayor:

Point number one, unlike his predecessor, Mr. Blanchard should not propose to ‘clean up city hall’ or state, dramatically as had his predecessor, that a new leaf had been turned. Applebaum is up on 14 counts of fraud, conspiracy, accepting bribes etc. He’s retained former Tory MP Marcel Danis as legal counsel, and resigned the mayoralty ‘to focus on the case’.

Innocent people don’t typically tend to have a case to focus on. They’re innocent, after all. If the allegations against him are as spurious as he claims, why hire a top-shelf lawyer?

Put it this way – he might believe he’s innocent and that there’s a vast conspiracy against him. Word from the grapevine is that Applebaum was a jumpy character back when he was the borough mayor for Cote-des-Neiges/Notre-Dame-de-Grace, several times indicating he thought various concerned citizens trying to jump-start the Empress Theatre as a community cultural centre were his ‘political enemies’.

I must have forgotten about all the political intrigue and conspiracy coursing through the halls of power in Cote-des-Neiges.

Point two would be to resist the awesome temptation of being bribed or otherwise caught up in shady real estate transactions, something I think is genetically programmed into nearly all politicians – criminals in sheep’s clothing for the most part, and this city, province and rather obviously the federal government have provided so many fantastic examples of late its difficult to imagine any other reason to get into politics in the first place.

It’s good to know all these ‘pillars’ of various communities are so concerned about the message they send to the ‘most precious resource’ they all seem to work into their photo-ops. Children? they could give a damn – kids don’t vote after all.

So there’s point three – no photo ops with old people, minorities, children or the handicapped. In fact, try not to have any photo ops at all – we want you to sit at your desk and do your job, and we don’t need a photograph to prove this point. A small video camera with a live feed is what I want, so all citizens could tune in and watch the mayor working.

Because we’ll no doubt need to keep our eyes on him.

I don’t know much about Mayor Blanchard other than that he’s a career local politician, was formerly of the former Vision Montreal (Louise Harel stepped aside so that a coalition government could be formed, though it looks like that just means supporting Marcel Coté as leader of something called cityhallmtl but I’ll talk more about this later), had worked as a political attaché in the latter years of the Doré administration, and had previously worked in publishing. More recently he’s been the head of the city’s executive council, part of Applebaum’s ‘coalition government’ initiative.

Personally, he’s old guard, but I won’t judge him too harshly. If he makes it through four months and I enjoy living here while he’s in power, I guess I’ll have little to complain about.

Mr. Applebaum and his predecessor’s story are already well-known. Applebaum has been implicated by the SQ and CEIC in shady real-estate deals while he was borough mayor of Cote-des-Neiges/Notre-Dame-de-Grace. You’ll be delighted to know he’s allowed to vacation abroad despite the 14 charges hanging over his head.

Our last elected mayor is Gerald Tremblay (who received a whopping 159,000 votes in 2009, with less than 40% of citizens participating), who as you may remember stepped aside in November of last year after the heat from so much damning testimony from the Charbonneau Commission became unbearable. Keep in mind that Tremblay hasn’t been charged, just named. Perhaps he was truly not implicated, but just turned a blind eye. Maybe he had been threatened, or really naive. Who knows. The Commish has recessed for summer break.

Crime needs a holiday.

Since I started writing this the interim mayor of Laval resigned because of his apparent involvement with escorts. He started his day by saying he’d never resign and that it was a blackmail attempt. Four hours later he hung up his hat. That was six days ago.

I love the dedication and their ability to flat out do the opposite of what they earlier said they wouldn’t do, without any attempt to justify their switch. They don’t think they owe us an explanation. They never do.

Personally I don’t get it – an escort is just someone you pay to have sex with, hardly scandalous especially given it was the mayor’s money, and not that of the taxpayers of Laval.

Oh, wait… I think I see the problem now.

Back to the shit show in Montreal.

Pierre Bourque (at left)

Pierre Bourque (at left)

It seems that nearly all of our mayors in recent memory started with high hopes and ended their careers in one kind of scandal or another. Tremblay advocated an end to forced mergers and promised local small government and commonsense solutions. Prior to him, Pierre Bourque promised to actually deliver on civic improvement initiatives his predecessor didn’t deliver on and cut ‘big government’ waste. He committed political suicide by pushing through forced mergers with the help of the PQ, a measure which literally blew up in his face and sunk his political career. Bourque’s predecessor, Jean Doré, won in a landslide against Jean Drapeau in 1986 (along with the Montreal Citizen’s Movement) by promising to be a more people-focused and less dictatorial mayor than the former Grand Chief Drapeau.

Jean Doré

Jean Doré

He further promised not to get mixed up in the costly mega-projects characteristic of the Drapeau Era, instead preferring to cut waste at City Hall while developing grassroots initiatives to improve city living. He ended his two terms in office caught up in a failed real-estate mega-project (the Overdale Debacle) and was deemed an unfit leader because of an apparently lax attitude to running a tight ship. It didn’t help that he had a $300,000 window installed in his office, nor that he razed a low-rent but viable neighbourhood for condo projects that were never built and had a police force running wild beating up gays and viciously murdering minorities while turning a blind eye to the biker gangs.

Jean Drapeau

Prior to Doré we have Jean Drapeau, a comparatively ‘good’ mayor in that he presided over the city’s last prolonged period of sustained development and growth. Drapeau began his thirty year career as mayor first in the mid-1950s, when he was a crusading urban reformer who won on a platform of eliminating corruption and vice (sound familiar?), largely by tearing down slums. Drapeau greenlighted expropriations for mega projects throughout his tenure, leading to the elimination of the Quartier de Mélasses (where Radio-Canada is today), Griffintown, Goose Village, a sizeable chunk of what was once Chinatown’s northern extension (where Complexe Guy-Favreau and Complexe Desjardins stand today) and what would eventually be converted into an arguably still working 1950s social housiong project, the Habitations Jeanne-Mance. He’d be defeated by Sarto Fournier in 1957 (Fournier was very well connected to Union Nationale boss and Banana Republic dictator Maurice Duplessis, the super-villain who ruled Québec before the Quiet Revolution) but would be returned to power three years later as part of the well-tempered societal modernization of Quebec and Montreal in the 1960s. Drapeau changed his campaign tone too – from now on it would be about putting Montreal on the map. He’d be greatly assisted by Liberal premier Jean Lesage and later premiers Bourassa and Lévesque, in addition to Prime Ministers Pearson and Trudeau, all of whom were very, shall we say, Montreal-focused. It’s good to have friends in high places – makes me wonder what goodies might float our way with a Montrealer as Prime Minister in less than two years…

From 1960 to 1986 Jean Drapeau was mayor and not universally liked (though, somehow, he managed to cultivate over 80% of the popular vote and faced no serious opposition during his time in office). Under his tenure the city grew and changed dramatically. Drapeau was instrumental in delivering the Métro, the modern city centre we enjoy today, Expo 67, Place des Arts, the Olympics and even the Montreal Expos baseball club. No mayor has done as much for our city before or since his reign (and at thirty years, what a reign it was).

Camillien Houde

Camillien Houde

But for all the good he did it is weighed down by his own corrupt practices. Mafia involvement in the construction of Olympic facilities and corruption within the unions were primary factors contributing to the massive cost overruns associated with the games. There are a number of apartment towers throughout this city built with concrete originally intended and ‘delivered’ to the Olympic park construction site, yet re-directed by those in the know. Drapeau was responsible for the nearly-criminal act of destroying Corrid’Art and his slash and burn style of urban redevelopment was not only inelegant but often antagonistic to the people’s interest.

Drapeau may have even ‘cooked the books’ during an election in which his opposition was eliminated after being infiltrated and broken up by the Montreal Police, rendering votes for his opponents ineligible and giving Drapeau a victory with over 90% popular support. Those were the days…

As a city, we need to decide what we want in a mayor, so that we don’t get sucked up into a pointless popularity contest that delivers nothing but more of the same. We need to establish our own metrics for judging a mayoral candidate’s chances of winning, and not fall prey to sophisticated marketing techniques that sell us yet another hands-off mayor. Perhaps most importantly, we need a mayor who fundamentally understands this city, its people, and what makes it great. We need to decide what kind of mayor our city needs, now and for the next ten years. Do we want a builder? Do we want a reformer? Do we want an architect? Do we want someone who’s politically well-connected? Do we want a renovator, a renewer or a redeveloper?

I think we all should spend a moment a think about what we want in a mayor – not just the qualities of the person but most importantly their plan for this city, whether it be growth or renewal – before we head to the polls in November. Otherwise the best we can hope for is another Drapeau, and his breed are rare these days.

But if we ask ourselves first what we want in a mayoral candidate, and define the context of the election before the candidates or media has a chance, the people ultimately manage to wrestle a bit of control over the rhetoric and could maybe make this election about something, rather than simply being the inconvenient selection of our next underwhelming mayor.

Annual Fistfight with Police Ends in Multiple Arrests

Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay Condemns SPVM Police Brutality Parody 2

Once again Montréal was the scene of it’s much beloved annual fistfight between students/activists and the city’s police, leading to a record-breaking 250 tickets being handed out, an as yet undetermined number arrests and several officers taken to hospital for treatment.

Mayor Applebaum could not be reached for comment, but a pre-typed statement indicated he had absolutely nothing to do with unethical and preferential re-zoning legislation, resulting in a multi-million dollar residential development project he most assuredly did not personally benefit from. His press-attaché noted that he had recently become an admirer of MP Peter Penashue’s method of answering unscripted questions from the public.

I kid – no one asked him what he thought.

Who could possibly care – all this was expected anyways.

The Anti-Police Brutality Coalition’s seventeenth annual anti-police brutality march was over pretty much before it got started, which I can imagine any sensible person might suppose, given the heightened police presence in general as a consequence of long-running and utterly futile demonstrations against education-specific austerity measures employed by our most recent minority separatist youth-parliament.

In fact, it seems as though police from the GTA were called in to bolster SQ and SPVM ranks, something I’m sure didn’t sit all too well with a bunch of activists who are convinced of a broad state conspiracy in which all police forces are working together to clamp down on dissent etc. etc.

Yes, we live in more of a conservative state than we’re generally used to, but it is not a police state.

And though the Montréal police do not have the best of reputations when it comes to apparent ‘over-zealousness’ (to use a term recently batted about the local press) in dealing with demonstrators, to do have a very real problem killing people needlessly, be they poor, young, immigrants or orderlies walking to work on a sunny summer morning.

That said, the COBP should know better by now that they have no hope of holding any kind of peaceful demonstration if the people they attract have no actual interest in having a peaceful demonstration.

Among other things, they know full well that the law states the planned march/demo needs to be approved by the SPVM ahead of time. While I’m certain the opinion of the membership is that doing so would be a waste of time, I’m also willing to bet they didn’t bother just to cover their own ass.

In any event, apparently the cops were more than ready for it and employed what I would consider to be excessive force in quickly dispersing an already illegal demonstration. Considering the actions of some of the protestors (but by no means a small number) – including blocking irate drivers rather than simply letting them pass – police action doubtless had the tacit approval of the working classes too busy getting on with their jobs to participate.

I didn’t see much but considering how many local journalists covered the events, I feel like I was in the thick of it. Kudos to all the brothers and sisters out there reporting and recording for posterity the very minutiae of our lives. Once we sober up we might be able to make sense of it…

***

Is it me or this all a bit nuts?

For COBP, does it not discourage the general public from taking their issue seriously (and let’s face it, there aren’t too many organizations out there who are actively engaged in at least drawing attention to police brutality, save perhaps for Julius Grey (for those who can afford his rates) and the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations’ Fo Niemi, who is specifically focused on race-relations)?

Where are their lawyers?

Where’s their legal fund?

When do they hold their fund-raisers or issue their press releases?

What relationship do they have with the voting public? Which local politicians and elected officials also care about this problem of police brutality and have the interest of COBP in their hearts and minds when they’re developing legislation?

If these seem like ridiculous questions (as they might pertain to COBP) then I think you get my point – they exist but to use ‘direct action’ against the police as a single entity instead of using public appeal to push out the truly rotten apples in this bunch.

But of course, if the organization is opposed to very concept of policing in the first place (an easy position to take when one grows up in the nearly-no-crime suburbs, but I digress) then there’s simply no chance an event like this will go anywhere but South.

As for the police, the sheer number of police who are available (and seemingly enthusiastic about such operations) is disturbing – but maybe not for the reasons you think.

Montréal police make, on average, $19.50 an hour, and work about 65 hours over two weeks. They are close to the very bottom in terms of police salary nation-wide (ballpark $33,000 per annum for the young cops who handle the bulk of the work, especially the dangerous stuff). These are, predominantly, family-oriented people who live in the suburbs, and signing up for riot duty is a surefire way of making a little more green to help pay all the bills a typical nuclear family might incur. Toronto cops make three times as much as their Montréal counterparts.

What I find disturbing here is that we have an abundance of police officers who require more work, shitty work, and further still that there’s clearly a burn out in process if police need to be ‘imported’ from at least three different forces in the GTA.

This is bad news. On top of all of this is the anachronistically-named Policeman Brotherhood’s request that the ‘test-schedules’ implemented a year ago become the new normal (something beneficial to the load of new parents on the force, and a plan which has been rejected by the city leading to the possibility of more ‘fashion-protests’ wherein the police don’t wear their new all-black uniforms) and union boss Yves Francoeur’s on-going feud with the city’s director general Guy Hebert, asserting the latter wanted to sack SPVM police chief Marc Parent.

While I don’t think the SPVM will strike as they did back in 1969 (leading to an as-yet un-matched orgy of violence, chaos and destruction in our fair city), more student unrest could result in such drastic action. And why not? All we need is for the police to say they won’t work for a defined period of time and we can sit back and witness the city tear itself to pieces, seemingly for the sport of it.

It would be as silly and needlessly destructive as maintaining an annual anti-police brutality that habitually results in police brutality. It takes two to tango after all.

A thought: next year, what if COBP held a candlelight vigil on St-Jean or Canada Day, in front of City Hall, or in Place Jacques-Cartier (or any other high-tourism location), as opposed to what they currently do, which is in essence to bring a knife to a gun fight, giving the police every reason to use irregularly strong force and then decry the actions COBP instigated.

There are saner ways to achieve social change.

In any event, for your viewing pleasure, a CBC report from the 1969 Murray Hill Riot.

Those were the days… people used to get killed in Montréal riots. It occurs to me that there’s a part of the current student/activist mentality that yearns for the street battles of Paris, Chicago or Prague circa 1968.

That was a long time ago, and time’s have most definitely changed. Their issues are not our own, their methods useful for purposes we no longer have. But there’s nonetheless a palpable sentiment public demonstrations, marches and rioting is all part of the process on the road to social progress.

I doubt it – at least with what I’ve seen here, and I came up in my more formative years in precisely this environment.

Yes, there’s a lot to be royally pissed off about, far more today than eight years ago in my opinion. But we’ve known nothing but widespread and regular public demonstrations for a considerable time. Most have been peaceful, but there seems to be a troubling number that quickly turn south and further isolate the movement for social change from the general, and voting, public.

Such a situation is untenable. If violence is to be avoided, those organizing against state-sponsored violence must do all they can so as not to elicit it. Again, as I said before, we don’t live in a police state.

So why provide the justification for a such a state to exist? We, the youth, have no power but our ability to use modern communications technology to make our point heard, quickly and often with devastating effectiveness. In the last weeks, we saw how idiotic PQ policies quickly wound up making our province an international laughing stock and yesterday saw the birth and death of Amir Khadir’s equally idiotic notion we should commemorate the terrorist and murderer Paul Rose.

We can’t find a better way of getting our point across?

Are we even trying?

An Incomprehensible Display of Political Incompetence: Amir Khadir Must Resign

The slovenly and unkempt Paul Rose, attempting to demonstrate his solidarity with the world's oppressed.

The slovenly and unkempt Paul Rose, attempting to demonstrate his solidarity with the world’s oppressed.

Earlier today perennial last-place contestant Québec Solidaire issued a statement pertaining to the death of the convicted terrorist, felon and murderer Paul Rose.

Further still, MNA Amir Khadir insinuated that he will table a motion before the National Assembly that something be done to recognize Rose’s efforts – as an activist and militant separatist, Rose was also involved in several parties that would eventually become Québec Solidaire, a party I once honeslty thought I’d support. According to Khadir, it’s all about paying tribute to those who helped shape Québec’s identity and history.

Right – this sounds curiously similar to Southerners who parade around Klan memorabilia and Confederate flags as innocent tokens of ‘a spirit of independence’.

The FLQ, a terrorist organization that sought to secure Québec independence through armed insurrection, bombings, robberies, kidnappings and, eventually the murder of Pierre Laporte, has been given a similar treatment by modern day separatists, so fuelled by piss-poor revisionist history they refuse to put the issue plainly.

Too many times they have asserted that Laporte simply died, that his kidnapping and beatings at the hands of a gang of illiterate thugs had no impact on his demise, that he suffocated on his own crucifix, that he had tried to escape and got cut up so badly he bled out.

And now Québec Solidaire is going a step further in what can only be described as the worst kind of political opportunism, seeking to pick up a little more support at the expense of the vastly unpopular Parti Québécois.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that Québec Solidaire would call for tributes for a man convicted of murder, there’s the bigger issue in that QS is by extension advocating violence as a legitimate method of either forcing a political issue to the fore or of accomplishing a political goal of one kind or another.

Does it give anyone else the willies QS polled so high amongst student activists? The very same militant students, in fact, who refuse to negotiate and who are equally unwilling to even try and keep their ranks calm during their monthly protest marches.

What shall we do as a society when the next FLQ rears its ugly head? Will Amir Khadir be responsible for a kidnapped education minister?

***

I’m a combination of too tired and too mortified to make much sense here. I honestly cannot believe any self-respecting individual, a doctor and father no less, could possibly have anything positive to say about this horrible man. For the record, I believe in rehabilitation, and I’m more than willing to accept that people can change fort he better. But that requires remorse, something Paul Rose never showed.

We should remind ourselves that René Lévesque set the stage for peaceful political negotiations by coming out, during the height of the October Crisis, and joining his arch-rival Pierre Trudeau in savagely denouncing the FLQ for what it was – a group of uneducated schmucks, petty criminals, who killed and maimed janitors, maids, night watchmen and other working class types before finally killing Laporte. Lévesque made his point clear – he didn’t want to lead a new country if that country couldn’t come into existence without violence. He set a high moral standard most of Québec society agreed with.

After all, Laporte may not have been the most popular politician according to the fringe separatist/anarcho-syndicalist/Marxist-Leninist types who composed the FLQ back in 1970, but he didn’t deserve to die in such a way.

When they kidnapped him from outside his modest suburban home, he was playing football with his adopted son. Paul Rose organized the Chenier Cell’s kidnapping operation.

What a monster eh?

I wonder if Mr. Khadir has ever feared being kidnapped by political extremists while enjoying quality time with his children? I shouldn’t think so.

Politicians and activists get kidnapped and killed in his native Iran. He moved here the year after the October Crisis, so perhaps we should give him the benefit of the doubt – politicians aren’t typically terribly knowledgeable about e=historical events, even if they were alive while they happened. Fuzzy memories…

***

I’m calling on Mr. Khadir to renounce violence as a means to achieve political goals and resign, immediately. Obviously there’s little hope he’ll do the right thing, but what the hell – it needs to be said, he has no right to represent any Québécois.

It’s grossly hypocritical, inconsistent and so devoid of logic, rational thinking or even a basic understanding of Québec social and cultural norms you’d think these statements came from a recent Republican immigrant from the most inbred counties of West Virginia.

But no, Mr. Khadir is a self-styled progressive, doctor, and seems to be interested in running an independent country. This is what an apparently educated man thinks.

I’m at a total loss. People wonder why I have no interest in being a politician…

Québec Solidaire is dead to me as long as this clown retains his seat.