Universal medicare aint so universal

Posted November 8th, 2012 in Canada by Adrian MacNair

Nothing bothers me more than Canadians spouting off about how great our health care system is and how lucky we are not to be Americans. This is usually followed by some horror story about some Flint, Michigan worker who got laid off, lost his extended health benefits, became grievously ill, and kicked off in some decrepit public health care hospital corridor of the Bubonic plague.

Yeah, but reality is slightly less exaggerated. According to OECD data, the United States pays about twice than Canada as a portion of GDP for health care, which means that the dollars invested do not necessarily translate to better care. Even if we only look at the public medicare of Americans, they still spend more than Canada as a percent of GDP and also as an expenditure per capita.

Despite the high spending of medicare in Canada, there are fewer physicians per capita than in most other OECD countries, with just 2.4 physicians per 1,000 population in 2010, well below the OECD average of 3.1. The number of hospital beds for curative care in Canada was 1.7 per 1,000 population in 2009, half of the  OECD average.

Comparative rankings with other countries could go on and on, but it all adds up to the same result. Canada doesn’t have the best health care in the world, not by a long shot, and it’s certainly not free and “universal.”

Despite the Canada Health Act, residents in British Columbia pay a progressively rated health care premium, essentially an extra health tax, which amounts to $1,600 at the highest end for a family of three or more. British Columbians who make more than $30,000 a year, which is a gross income pay cheque of only $625 a week or $235 below the provincial average, will pay a monthly health premium of $133 come January, 2013.

About half of Canadian provincial expenditures are related to health care spending, with projections of $17.3 billion in B.C. by 2014-15. With a population of 4.6 million, the math means the province is spending $3,760 on every man, woman and child. The question is, are you getting your $3,760 worth?

I’d argue I’m not. I’ve seen a doctor a handful of times in the past 20 years, and I’ve gone over half a decade at a time without seeking medical treatment or care. Where does the money all go? Presumably to somebody else.

I suppose the argument goes that you don’t care about health care until you need it, but you’re grateful when you do. Again, not in my experience. The rare times I’ve needed health care have been due to tendon injuries from sports activity. For whatever reason, the government doesn’t see fit to spend money on physiotherapy.

I injured my tendon two months ago and saw a doctor today for a referral to a clinic that offers physiotherapy. It isn’t covered by all those health care taxes I give each and every day to the federal and provincial governments. So, the question is, why am I paying for something I can never take advantage of?

Think of universal medicare as a kind of gym membership for which you pay a monthly fee. Sure, it’s great if you take advantage of that membership frequently. But if you don’t ever go, then the membership is utterly useless to you. You can’t opt out of the gym membership since the government forces you to pay, and yet when you actually try and use the membership, they tell you to go and workout at another gym that costs you more money.

But what about extended health benefits through work? Don’t you, like every civilized person in Canada, have that? Yeah, and like everyone else, my extended health benefits pays a whopping 80 percent per treatment up to $300 a year for physiotherapy. Which means at $55 a session I can go to physio six times before I’m paying for the whole thing myself.

The B.C. government is spending $3,760 on my behalf every year. Where’s my friggin’ $3,760 worth of physiotherapy?

Canada’s favourite poster child for terrorism comes home

Posted October 1st, 2012 in Canada by Adrian MacNair

Papa Khadr knew this day would come. The young terror apprentice, Omar, son of Ahmed Said, is back in Canada, the country of his birth. And just like his immigrant father planned, Canadians are tripping over themselves to absolve him of his crimes.

Ahmed Said was nothing if not perceptive in his examination of our country’s rights and freedoms. The Egyptian-born terrorist picked Canada as a base of operations knowing it afforded not only excellent consular services, but it came with all the attendant privileges of the sort of society radical Islam wishes to destroy.

Ironic, aint it?

Critics of Guantanamo Bay have long cited Omar Khadr as the last western prisoner holed up in Cuba. This fact was pointed out ceaselessly and tirelessly by those critics, perhaps as some sort of shaming attempt. It’s consistent with the moral relativism of the left, in that they lobbied for his release because as a westerner he is born into a privilege that exceeds the lowborn scum of the non-western world.

Ironic, aint it?

Ahmed Said Khadr was fully cognizant of our western moral relativism and disinterest in the Muslim world. There are injustices in Canada when a Muslim isn’t allowed to wear her burka to a soccer game, but whether or not a 9-year-old girl is married to a senior citizen in Pakistan is really none of our business. So, getting Omar Khadr released from Guantanamo Bay is a matter of imperative. The Yemeni-born radical… not so much.

Much has been written about Ahmed Said’s progeny, most of it lamenting his status as Canada’s little “child soldier.” The first of his kind, really. Never before in the history of Canadian civilization (and I’ll admit, we don’t have a very long history) has a person under the age of 18 imprisoned by a foreign military in a foreign country ever been referred to as a child soldier.

The main reason it’s a first is because such a designation is, technically speaking, idiotic. Little Omar, as daddy dearest desired, was raised in the western cradle of decadence, with colour televisions, co-ed classrooms, and Black History Month. The kid was likely literally taught what a real child soldier is in school.

The reason children in Africa are referred to as child soldiers is because most of them were born, raised, and died in civil war. Militias in wartorn regions of the continent would wander into villages, rape the women, slaughter the men, take sex slaves from the little girls, and recruits from the little boys.

These new recruits, some no older than six or seven, would be given assault rifles and told to shoot their friends in the head. Maybe their parents. They were physically and sexually tortured. They were psychologically brainwashed every second of every day. Failure to comply with any demand would result in a bullet to the skull. Unmarked grave if they were lucky.

Does Omar Khadr sound like a child soldier? This western-born and raised, western-educated boy who can be seen smiling in photographs in Canada with his siblings? Am I expected to believe growing up in Scarborough is like growing up in South Sudan?

We’ve established Omar Khadr isn’t a child soldier. So, what is he? Well, technically speaking he was an enemy combatant, fighting alongside an Islamic militia force known to be allied to a global terrorist organization. I think the most accurate description would be that he was a terrorist apprentice.

But more importantly, is he responsible for his crimes? Did he possess the moral maturity to distinguish that what he was doing was morally wrong? I would argue that, taking into account his age, upbringing, and family associations, it’s likely he was aware that what he was doing was wrong, but only according to the laws of the infidels.

In his mind he likely believed he was doing good. Despite his exposure to western philosophy, morals, and culture, Omar’s father brainwashed his children to believe that their aims served a higher religious and political purpose that justified their actions.

In the same way that a young person raised in Nazi Germany was brainwashed to believe the Jews were a degenerate race deserving extinction, Omar Khadr was raised to believe the western world was a blight on the earth. And although some part of him probably sensed that what he was doing was wrong on some level, his filial obligations led him to believe his path was righteous. Because there is no greater role model for a son than his father.

Ahmed Said, bloodthirsty lunatic that he was, raised a family in Canada, knowing full well that his children would be able to carry out his dangerous work with the safety net of a Canadian passport. And he was right. Omar Khadr wasn’t some Pakistani or Afghan who will rot in Gitmo, unnamed and unknown, for the rest of his days.

So, now that Omar Khadr is home, now what? Well, it’s time to have the now-grown man psychologically assessed. Does he realize what he was doing was wrong? Does he have any remorse? Regrets? Does he renounce radical Islam? Is he a danger to Canadian society?

The fact some people, like the Toronto Star editorial board, want him immediately released without those questions asked, is frankly appalling. Let me state that again. It’s appalling.

Do I think Omar Khadr is a threat to Canada anymore? Actually, I sincerely doubt it. His father is dead. He’s been isolated and alienated from al Qaeda for more than a decade now. His brothers, who were also involved with al Qaeda in some capacity while their father was still alive, have disappeared into quiet obscurity. Were Omar released into Canadian society, I believe he’d also slip into the same obscurity, not unlike Karla Homolka.

But there’s one reason he wouldn’t disappear altogether. The Canadian left view Omar as some kind of martyr, a victim of western neoimperialist aggression against the Muslim world. Their deranged desire to elevate Omar to that of a Maher Arar, or worse, a Nelson Mandela, is a real danger.

Look, we can debate endlessly on how long a sentence a 15-year-old deserves for participation in war crimes, or what responsibility he bears for that participation. But what’s really important here isn’t what’s good for Omar. It’s what’s good for Canada. We need to establish that he’s not a threat now, or in any foreseeable future.

The best way to smooth that road would be for him to come out publicly and tell Canadians he’s not a danger and that he’s changed. But he won’t. For the same reason he’s never really expressed any remorse or culpability, I don’t think Omar Khadr really believes he did anything wrong. Who knows? Maybe he still believes his father did the right thing raising him the way he did. His notorious family certainly hasn’t apologized.

The sordid Khadr saga is an object lesson in the worst case scenario of failed multiculturalism and divided nationalities. It’s also an object lesson in our vulnerability to those who use our generous rights and freedoms with the manipulative intent to do great evil.

I pray we’ve learned something from all this.

Last word on Just Visiting

Posted September 9th, 2012 in Canada by Adrian MacNair

The news that former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is headed back to a part-time teaching gig at Harvard University has been received in some circles as conclusive proof the Conservative attack campaign was deadly accurate. In the lead up to the 2011 federal election, the Conservative war machine ran a series of clever advertisements featuring the same recurring slogan titled “Just Visiting.”

Today, the whole “he didn’t come back for you” slogan seems accurate in hindsight, since Ignatieff barely waited a year before he vacated the country again. Turning a potential strength into a weakness, the Conservatives convinced Canadians that rather than being a worldly intellectual bringing a wealth of experience to the table, he was an aloof and out-of-touch academic, whose interests were different from ordinary Canadians.

Like all things in life, the truth isn’t so black and white. Ignatieff was neither fit nor unfit to be prime minister, nor was he strictly “Just Visiting.” I don’t think the man ever really pretended to be anything other than what he is, and so in that sense I don’t think the Conservative campaign was strictly accurate by insinuating his underlying motives were completely selfish.

Indeed, I think the man wore his ambitions plainly, and his reasons for returning to Canada were self-evident. He was recruited from the ranks of academia by the Liberal party with a bold promise: that he would soon become the next prime minister of Canada. It’s only sensible that a man trades up in life, and Ignatieff traded the world he knew and loved at Harvard for a chance at greatness.

His naked ambitions were part of why the Just Visiting campaign worked so well. Certainly, he didn’t come back to Canada for us alone, since no man is motivated solely by altruism. Nor was Ignatieff ever likely to change his nature, whether he’d been elected to the office of the prime minister or not. He will always be a scholar and a teacher at heart, a world traveller, and yes, a Canadian.

We’re not all born to grow up, live in, and die in the same city, in the same country, doing the same job our entire lives. Part of the reason the Just Visiting campaign was so nasty was that it suggested Ignatieff was somehow less Canadian for not being like the rest of us.

“I want to take my responsibility as a leader and as a politician,” he said on his resignation night. “If I was unable to connect with people, then that is my responsibility.”

But the truth is that running for the top job in Canada requires a man to connect with the average Canadian voter, as Ignatieff freely admits he was unable to do, just as his predecessor in Quebec. And while I don’t think it makes Ignatieff any less Canadian to live largely abroad for 35 years, it may not make him the right candidate to represent the voice of Canadians. And that, in the end, was the most truthful aspect of Just Visiting.

Some suggest it was a missed opportunity for the Liberals. A man who seemed to understand the need for a strong military, intervention against terror regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and one who argued in favour of the importance of the oil sands to the federal treasury, even against his own “Green Shift” base.

I went to listen to an Ignatieff speech at the University of British Columbia back in January, 2010. He had this to say to a group of protesters who interrupted him:

“One of the key things about politics, one of the key things about Canada, is that we can’t pick and choose which facts we like. The Tar Sands are a fact of our national lives. We have one of the largest proven carbon oil reserves in the world. The question is, what do we do to make it sustainable?”

The problem is that Ignatieff never really seemed to excel outside of his comfort zone in academia. While he participated in tours of universities and high schools, he was reticent to join the lunch box crowds at Tim Hortons. And when he tried, that was when he came across as being insincere.

Now that he’s returning to Harvard, does that mean he was Just Visiting all along? I don’t think he came here solely for his own self-aggrandizement, no. Nor do I think he wanted to become a career politician, slipping back into obscurity like Stephane Dion (who is, by the way, still collecting a pay cheque for representing the people of Saint-Laurent—Cartierville).

And a part of me can’t begrudge a man for going back to doing what he loves. After all, isn’t that the truly great thing about being Canadian?

The derangements of the left

Posted July 21st, 2012 in Afghanistan by Adrian MacNair

The longer I work as a journalist, the less patience I have for the derangements of partisans. They irritate me to no end. Whether its people who only rail against abortion or pro-life or hate Obama or Romney, it becomes an endless stream of gross exaggerations, misrepresentations and outright lies.

I follow a wide variety of people on twitter who have beliefs ranging from far left to far right. I’m tolerant of most views, so long as these people dont take propaganda and publish it as fact.

One such person today said we, assuming the collective countries of Canada, NATO members and the U.S. went into Afghanistan to steal their minerals. Which is just about as deranged and stupid a theory about why we went there that exists today.

Never mind the fact the minerals thing is largely based on theoretical unproven resource estimates. Never mind the fact harvesting these minerals would be a logistical nightmare in a country with the political instability of Afghanistan. Never mind the fact Canada has millions of kilometers of unexplored minerals in the Arctic, where one is unlikely to get attacked by Taliban.

The fact is that the minerals discovery came long after the 2001 war with the Taliban. Which leaves one wondering, just what do these half-wit anti-war left believe happened here? That the U.S. discovered these minerals prior to 9/11, staged a false flag attack with Al-Qaeda, spent billions and billions to fight insurgents, all for some future possibility of extracting minerals that may or may not even exist?

Stupid. Dumb. Crazy. Insane.

There are numerous geopolitical reasons to be in Afghanistan, none of which pertain to minerals. No serious Afghan observer or scholar would argue minerals has anything to do with the Afghan war.

And yet there are people in Canada who think they do. And scarier than that, these imbeciles are allowed to vote.

Adventures in Journalism

Posted April 28th, 2012 in Personal by Adrian MacNair

I enjoy being a municipal reporter. That’s because on a local level I think it’s probably the easiest way to practice unbiased journalism, particularly if you don’t even live in the community in which you report. That happens to be the case for me, so it certainly allows me to report on subjects that would nearly be impossible to become invested in or inappropriately attached.

I suspect the heat grows as you report for larger municipalities, like a Toronto or a Vancouver newspaper. And once you begin reporting provincially or federally, it’s got to be difficult to please all of the people all of the time. Eventually someone, somewhere is going to think your newspaper articles are written favouring one side.

Reporting in a community where you don’t live is pretty much the heart of journalism. You don’t really know the place as well as somebody who lives there. And that’s partly a good thing, since it allows you to stand back and look at things objectively. You don’t necessarily care if some gigantic event is going to change things for better or worse since it doesn’t affect you.

Similarly, journalism is about reporting on events and things that you only have a superficial understanding about. Today I might have to write about municipal taxes and tomorrow I might have to write about a musician touring through town.

I don’t own a house so I don’t really know much about municipal taxes, and there’s a high probability I’ve never listened to the music of the band, but with a little research and some interviews I can become an expert for a day. It’s enough to help people understand the basics and then leave them the prerogative to dig deeper.

This whole process works for me. Something is happening, I find out what it is, I ask experts what they think, I print the story. Nowhere in that process do I really need to worry about what I think, other than trying to evaluate where the balance of sides might exist in a dispute. For instance, a new commercial development will have supporters and opponents and it’s important to get both sides.

But if there’s one thing that I believe has affected me after one year in journalism, it is the attitude some people have with regards to what other people are allowed to do with their own property. It’s not that I’m “pro-development” so much as I feel the whole “NIMBY” attitude is frustrating to deal with. And what’s worse is that if you don’t share sympathy with the NIMBYists, then you get the sense that they feel you’re against them. When the truth is I don’t care.

For example, the municipality I report in receives a large number of development applications. Some of them are big developments that affect the whole community and I can understand why people have reservations and want to voice their opposition.

But many of them involve modest changes where the owner of some land wants to subdivide his property and build new homes. Other applications just ask for variances to their property to build another structure, like a secondary dwelling or a coach house in the back.

It irritates me when people actually believe they have the right to get upset about what somebody else does to their own house or property. I think it’s bad enough you need to get permits and pass environmental inspections to make changes to your own property, but when other people decide to butt in I just don’t get it.

What business is it of theirs? Why do homeowners have to worry about what other people think? Why do people care how many trees get cut down on a piece of land that doesn’t belong to them?

I think the concept of property rights and land ownership is now so weakened in Canada that we all honestly believe we have the right to block other people from doing whatever they want to do. And to make things worse, I often hear complaints about how a proposal will ruin the neighbourhood, when it sounds exactly like the one I’m living in.

It’s almost a denial of reality and acceptance of how the rest of the world lives. If people don’t want things to ever change maybe they should move to the great barrens of northern Canada. Then they’d have nobody to worry about, and nothing bad will ever happen to the surrounding landscape.

Online voting is the path to inclusive democracy

Posted March 25th, 2012 in Canada by Adrian MacNair


You know your electoral system isn’t very high tech when Afghanistan uses the same process.

In the wake of the federal NDP leadership vote the choice of former Liberal Thomas Mulcair was overshadowed by the fact that the online voting system was plagued by delays due to cyber attacks by hackers. News of the delays generated poor reviews of the voting system on social media, as it was roundly mocked and derided.

Some of that was the obligatory partisanship delighting in the futility of a vote that was so delayed the CBC decided to broadcast footage of a pigeon stuck in the convention centre. But even NDP voters seemed frustrated and embarrassed by the result, leading many people to suggest online voting has no future in politics.

But why not? Clearly, online voting should be viewed as the most urgent and dire need to address the huge democratic deficiencies in our electoral system. At present, we have federal elections that generate a turnout of half the eligible voting population, provincial elections that produce a third, and municipal elections that have elected leaders with a tiny minority of the voting public. The wherefores have been discussed and debated at great length, but it seems to me that the best way to fight against increasing voter apathy is to modernize our electoral system.

I don’t see why it can’t be done. We’re already able to file our personal, confidential tax information online without fear and paranoia it will be intercepted by hackers. And even if you do use a tax accountant, the chances are that he or she also files electronically on your behalf.

Then there’s Employment Insurance. No longer do you have to go and stand in a lineup at some suburban government building to fill out forms. You simply log in to your computer and apply for eligibility, mail in your employer work sheets, and then fill out electronic statements every week stating whether you’ve found employment or not.

Electronic banking is now an afterthought by most people. The TD-Canada Trust advertisements with the old men sitting on the park bench arguing about how banking is too convenient could be perfectly applied to voting. Is it really necessary to walk to your bank, wait in a lineup, present identification, all on the hours of the bank?

No, of course not. Online banking now allows people to make purchases with their cell phones immediately, transfer funds, pay bills, all by transferring personal information electronically. This is done by millions of people millions of times a day, every single day.

But more than the logistics of online voting, it’s important to address the disenfranchised people of our society who, for various reasons, can’t make it out to a voting booth. Yes, there are special allowances to mail in votes and advance polling stations, but I think we can go farther.

Making it simple for the elderly, infirm, or the otherwise indisposed to vote in the comfort of their own homes should increase voter turnout and more accurately represent the true political makeup of the country (or as close as is possible under the flawed First Past The Post electoral system).

Speaking anecdotally, my wife doesn’t vote. It’s not because she doesn’t want to, but as a mother of two children she really doesn’t have that much time in the day to get out and cast her ballot. It’s not an excuse or a copout. It’s not as though she really wanted to vote very badly and literally couldn’t find her way to the ballot box.

But I think that she is like many Canadians who feel a desire to vote, but when voting day comes it just doesn’t work out for one reason or another. When I asked her if she would vote in every election if all she had to do was log onto an online voting system, she said definitely, yes.

We live in a wired world now, where even socializing is more commonly thought of in terms of Twitter and Facebook than getting together with friends for beers. Technology has allowed for the modernization of our economy so that almost anything can be purchased by anyone at any time anywhere in the world.

Why would we possibly reject the same possibility for our democracy? Why would we not allow our citizens, no matter where they are in the world, to log on to the internet, enter in some personal information to verify their identity, and cast their vote? It makes sense.

It would also be much cheaper to let people vote electronically. Not only would the robocalls controversy be rendered utterly meaningless because nobody would have stories to tell about going to voting stations that don’t exist, but Elections Canada wouldn’t need to spend millions on acquiring space and hiring workers.

The NDP leadership vote might have demonstrated some of the flaws, but that doesn’t mean you throw the baby out with the bath water.

Counterpoints

To be fair, here are some arguments against electronic voting:

The hard lesson of the NDP’s Internet voting failure
If I can shop and bank online, why can’t I vote online?

Are we still whining about robocalls?

Posted March 7th, 2012 in Canada by Adrian MacNair

Honestly, I’m not even paying attention. Most of this stuff is just created by the media hype. We basically started with about 1,000 complaints to Elections Canada, which is pretty standard for a country of our size, and when the media trumped up this non-story we wound up with roughly 36 times that number. I’m actually surprised it isn’t larger based on the sheer media attention.

No, I don’t care about robocalls. Do you expect me to? First of all, if you’re impressionable enough to have your opinion changed by a recorded message, perhaps you really shouldn’t be voting at all. Secondly, to quote Brian Griffin from Family Guy, “undecided voters are the biggest idiots on the planet.” If you haven’t figured out who you’re going to vote for by the time an election has been called you probably don’t really care about what’s going on in your country in the first place.

And why should you? Politics in Canada is woefully damaged, and mainly useless to participate. I mean, what’s the greater injustice here: some disenfranchised voter who listened to a robocall and wound up going to the wrong election centre? Or the millions of votes that count for nothing every single election, regardless of whether they get put into the proper ballot box or not?

I’ll tell you which one it is. It’s the uselessness of the First Past The Post electoral system that people seem to want to hold on to like a winning ticket at a pony track. It’s great if you win the money, but if you lose… well, you get nothing. Nice try, better luck next time. Your opinion? Doesn’t matter for the next four years. Tell someone who gives a damn.

The thing that sucks about that is it’s amplified for those voters who live in ridings that never change incumbents. Imagine being the Liberal voter in Ruraltown, Alberta? Buddy can vote Liberal every four years for 80 years and he’s basically contributing nothing to the democracy. His vote, his time, his opinions, are all completely and utterly worthless and meaningless. He may as well just stay home and save the planet the 4×8 sheet of ballot paper.

Same goes for the conservative voter in Hippietown, British Columbia. You may as well just buy granola, put on the flip flops and grab a front seat to the gay pride parade. You aren’t going to see a conservative MP now, or in your life time. You might as well be a Leafs fan. It aint happening, buddy, so just forget about it.

Why would either of these individuals vote? And yet, the moment something sensible is suggested that would encourage greater democratic participation and better reflect the actual political makeup of Canada, everybody votes it down in the referendum. Thanks a lot for that, by the way. Because of that, I haven’t voted since 2008 and I don’t plan to vote again any time soon.

You see, the funny thing about the last election is that the Conservative Party, which owns 53.9 per cent of the power in the House of Commons, only had approval from 39.62 per cent of the country. Which means a two-thirds majority wanted nothing to do with the party that holds a totality of power in the country. Does that make any sense at all?

But proportional representation is only a part of my rant. Imagine if my vote did count, even though it doesn’t, and my guy actually got elected. Then what? Well, the funny thing about the way our political system works is that although we don’t give a damn about proportional representation in elections, the House of Commons has seats based on population distribution throughout Canada. Which means, of course, that the Centre of the Multiverse, Ontario, has almost all the power it could ever want.

Problem in Port Moody, British Columbia? Yeah, we’ll get to you eventually. Don’t hold your breath. Problem in Ottawa, Ontario? Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full, sir. So, really, when you elect a local politician in British Columbia, you’re really only adding a block-voting partisan to follow in lock-step with what Ottawa, the Centre of the Multiverse, wants.

Don’t think so? Hm, what happened when Bill Casey decided to act for constituents instead of his party masters? Well, my memory isn’t perfect but I seem to recall something about a bus and somebody being thrown under it. Which I’m sure really inspires other politicians to represent their local constituents.

So, to recap: Our votes are wasted, and even when they’re not, our elected representatives don’t represent what is best for us. Do you think robocalls even matters? We’re talking about a number of people who were so statistically irrelevant that they wouldn’t even show up in a margin of error poll. Compare that to the millions of votes that are tossed in the garbage every single election because their guy didn’t come in first place.

Yeah, no thanks.

What sort of Canadians murder for honour?

Posted January 29th, 2012 in Canada by Adrian MacNair


Mohammad Shafia, front left, Tooba Yahya, front right, and their son Hamed Shafia, back left, are escorted at the Frontenac County courthouse in Kingston, Ontario on Saturday, January 28, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The Shafia murder trial has returned a verdict, and to no great surprise the jury has found Mohammad Shafia, 58, his second wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 42, and their son Hamed, 21, guilty of four counts of first-degree murder. They now begin a long, and we hope a horrible, next part of their life behind bars.

Much has already been written about the Shafia honour killings, but the ugly argument about culture clash has barely been allowed to surface. Though media publish the facts of the case and invite commentary, they are quick to delete and close commenting when Canadians begin to express their feelings. In that way the truth remains largely hidden, and that’s not a good thing for Canada because we desperately need to discuss it.

What sort of people are we letting into Canada that would consider doing such a thing? Is this the sort of Canada we want in the future? And if not, why are we not doing more to stop these kinds of people from bringing their warped, twisted sense of morality with them?

A few people have said that these sorts of immigrants should leave their barbaric views at home where it belongs. But even that opinion is a relativist one. Why should the third world be subjected to this kind of misogynistic tyranny? Is it ok to murder your family members for honour provided you’re beyond the borders of Canada?

There’s an even more unsettling thought to this case. In the rare instances in which a Shafia-type family actually acts on their barbaric ideals, how many find more non-violent means to coerce their family members in complying with their dishonourable notions of honour? How many women are abused behind the smiling, glossy-coloured magazine faces depicting Canada’s multicultural mosaic?

What’s more disturbing than the fact that there are people who would do this to their own daughters, is that such people who harbour such views even want to live in Canada. One is reminded of our most infamous Canadian family of convenience, the Khadrs, who immigrated here in order to exploit our own freedoms and generosity and use it against us. The Shafias are little different than the Khadrs.

For unless you despise Canada, why would you act so contrary to its nature? Why would you even want to come to Canada, where women are free to choose their own mates and make their own decisions in life, unless you intend to somehow change it?

Nobody wants to stop and think about immigration and the shifting demographics for fear the discussion is inherently racist. We are rapidly shifting from a Christian nation of European descendants, to one that is populated by South Asians, North Africans and people from the Middle East. That is a fact that is objectively neither good nor bad. The question one should ask next is whether there are negative consequences to these changes, and if so, what are they?

Well, the most obvious one is staring us in the face. If there are Islamic zealots in our midst, is it likely that the sort of incidents like the Shafia murders would become more common as we invite immigrants from Islamic countries? Or is this merely an aberration in a statistical average in which most Muslims follow the spirit and the letter of the law?

Who knows? But what is clear is that these new cultures have, in certain parts of Canada, decided to make their customs welcome. There are examples of Muslim women creating women-only swimming classes and salons and classrooms. This segregation may have a superficially friendly explanation, but it demonstrates a disinclination to conform to Canadian customs and modern attitudes.

Some people don’t seem to care about how Canada changes, since our nation relies on immigration for population growth, and hence can only become the face of those we allow in. And if that means a new majority decides to make certain customs and traditions a Canadian staple, so be it. This would be not unlike the sort of attitude that led to entire streets in France becoming impromptu prayer mats five times a day. And if that’s the sort of Canada you want, then by all means let’s not have a discussion about any of this.

If, however, you prefer that the country retain the sorts of values inherited by our founding European, Christian forebears, it would behove us to have a frank talk about who’s arriving at Pearson International Airport every single day, and what they’re bringing with them.

The hyphenated Canadian debate again

Posted January 18th, 2012 in Canada by Adrian MacNair

By now many people are likely aware of the comments made by NDP leadership hopeful Thomas Mulcair about his pride in being a dual French and Canadian citizen, mainly because of the ensuing comments from Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In his most classically irreverent “just visiting” manner possible, Harper indiscreetly took a shot at Mulcair by stating his Canadianness greatly exceeds that of Mulcair’s.

“Just to be clear, these cases have come up in the past, and obviously it’s for Mr. Mulcair to use his political judgment in this case. In my case, as I say, I’m very clear. I’m a Canadian and only a Canadian.”

On the surface it might seem innocent enough. He was asked a question by the media, who are wont to stir the pot whenever the opportunity arises, and the Conservative leader obliged to take the spoon and furiously stir. But as we’ve learned over the years that the highly intelligent Harper has been a politician in this country, nothing he says or does can really be described as innocent.

This is a man for whom the word “relax” has no meaning. Scarcely a year since winning a majority government in Ottawa, the Conservatives have been busy running attack ads on enemies who are largely powerless, frustrating them in the House of the Commons at every opportunity, and continuing to the fundraise, presumably in the hopes that when the next election comes along they can destroy all traces of political opposition in Canada.

Harper is a shrewd and remarkable man, for he’s able to play on divisive issues with unparalleled talent. He deftly turned aside support for Michael Ignatieff by preying on issues largely irrelevant to his competence. He suggested Ignatieff was too aloof, an erudite intellectual taken to long absences from Canada, a country he could hardly understand or have any love for.

And it worked, in part because it did bother Canadians to think that Ignatieff had spent so many years outside of Canada. There was a genuine agreement that he had returned to Canada not for public service, but to lead the country. While some would rightly say that’s a laudable thing, others would say it was presumptuous and elitist.

But let’s not lose sight of the issue here. Harper criticizes a great deal of things in Canada that he makes no real attempt to change. The best example of this might be the Senate. But he does this purely for political gain. So when he was asked for his opinion on Mulcair, realizing the man could become the next NDP leader presented the irresistible chance to plant a seed of doubt in the minds of Canadians, and the groundwork for a smear campaign at a later date.

Having said that, Harper doesn’t say or do something unless he’s relatively convinced it’s going to resonate with Canadians. And to tell truth, the fact Canada has dual citizenship allowances is something that bothers a lot of people. Note that Harper would never seek to challenge the law itself, removing the right to hold two citizenships, since that doesn’t serve his political aims.

At the heart of every citizen of a country is a patriot, and we like to believe we love our country. Those Canadians who immigrated here from other countries were never forced to give up their old loyalties and swear allegiance to one land. Some believe that’s a strength, but I think many people, the people who might vote for Stephen Harper, find it a little bothersome. Not so much for the ordinary citizen, since our country is made up of many naturalized citizens, but for those who would lead us and speak for us.

There’s a reason that a rule exists that the President of the United States must be born on American soil to serve in office. It’s because people believe that loyalties can be divided, particularly if a person was born and grew up in another country. The idea that the leader serves only one people is a comforting one.

But even that isn’t the point of the Harper-Mulcair milieu. Stephen Harper isn’t Canadian by choice as he suggests. He was born here, just as I was, and so naturally he’s a Canadian and only a Canadian. What else could he possibly be? It’s meaningless for Harper to state an obvious fact. It would be more impressive if he had been born in Kenya and then renounced his Kenyan citizenship and stated his one true loyalty is Canada.

For Mulcair, there’s no genuine fear that his loyalties are divided. The term “Canadian of convenience” doesn’t apply to him. It applies to those citizens who might live abroad, but still return to Canada once in a while to keep their affairs in order, perhaps take advantage of health care or some other universal service. Or the ones who become Canadian suddenly when their country is besieged by war or natural disaster. Then they become Canadians in a hurry.

If anything, Mulcair is a Frenchman of convenience, becoming a dual citizen for the same reason many Canadians do. They keep some of the perks and benefits of membership. Hey, if you could get a free passport to the United Kingdom, wouldn’t you take one?

In the end, both politicians were just playing politics. Mulcair was appealing to his multicultural NDP base, while Harper was appealing to his. And citizens, dual citizens or otherwise shouldn’t really care one way or another.

Gendercide abortion is an ethnic issue

Posted January 16th, 2012 in Canada by Adrian MacNair

An article in the National Post today highlights an issue in North America that grows larger by the day. It’s called sex-selective abortion, or otherwise known as gendercide, one of the reasons that large portions of Asia are imbalancing the natural male to female ratio by killing female fetuses. And the immigrants from countries that practice this atrocity constitute the two largest ethnic groups coming here: Chinese and Indians.

We’ve known about gendercide for a while now, but largely ignored it because the practice was being done outside of Canada. Things that happen beyond our borders bother us less than when they happen in our own backyard. But the idea that Asians are coming here to perform sex-specific abortions isn’t just something that can be ignored. Particularly when it begins to affect us because of our need and craven desire to treat all cultures equally.

Canadians, as much as we are changing each and every year, have traditionally had no history of sex-selective abortion. When technology came along that enabled us to determine the sex of a fetus, we accepted the technology as a boon to society, not as a tool to end the life of girls. And while it can be said that abortion has a solid history of practice in Canada, it has never been due to cultural hangups about the relative value of women in our society.

The concept of murdering women is morally repugnant in Canada, and so should be the concept of aborting female fetuses. It should make us feel the same revulsion we have for the Taliban murdering girls or enslaving them behind shrouds. Gendercide could very well be the 2010′s version of the outcry of gender apartheid a decade ago in Afghanistan and other parts of the world that do not accept the concept of egalitarianism.

But what I cannot accept is a notion that all Canadians should be treated with the same sort of inherent mistrust when it comes to ultrasounds. We’ve already been through this with terrorism. Where one specific demographic has had a prolific history of terrorism, we have taken to suspecting the 99.99 per cent of Canadians who are not terrorists. The lengths to which we have been inconvenienced in order to provide a preposterous appearance of not racially profiling has resulted in the most inefficient, intrusive and invasive way of travelling possible.

Similarly, a large percentage of Canadians have no chance of being sex-selective abortionists. However, it’s fair to say that this percentage changes on a daily basis as thousands of new Asian immigrants come to North America every single day, some of them harbouring backwards cultural hangups that are incompatible with our own culture. It is within the identified demographics from the article of people from India, China, Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines that we should be looking to target this problem.

There’s nothing racist or discriminatory about this. There is no rational reason for refusing to tell Canadians who are not of Asian descent the sex of the fetus since it’s reasonable to expect the fetus isn’t in danger. A blanket ban on all Canadian women is the same useless and failed approach used against terrorism, and all it’s going to do is piss everybody off.

There may be another way. Perhaps when a parent is apprised of the sex of a fetus, that doctor is legally obliged to inform abortion clinics of the decision with the name of the mother. Or perhaps a mother could sign a legal document swearing they will not abort the child after learning the sex. Although based on Canada’s nebulous abortion laws, or lack thereof, I could foresee the clinic going ahead with the abortion anyway. After all, these places are designed to put the woman’s choice ahead of all other issues, even if that choice is culturally reinforced by a patriarchal society that dominates and subjugates women.

Regardless of how it’s achieved, the idea that “policy would require the understanding and willingness of women of all ethnicities” is insulting to the vast majority of ethnicities that don’t practice this barbarism. In the same way that the politically correct are careful not to offend anybody by painting too broadly with the same broad brush, it’s extremely offensive to be equally suspected of wanting to abort your child for cultural issues that aren’t your own.

Ironically, although this issue is less about abortion itself and more about cultural gendercide, social conservatives might find themselves tempted to support a politically correct blanket ban until seven months, knowing that the greater goal of preventing as many abortions as possible is more important than the inconvenience it might serve to non-Asians.

But that sort of thinking has to be rejected. No matter where you stand on the abortion issue, the more morally repugnant act is surely the selection of an entire gender for eradication. This is a disgusting, offensive extermination of girls in the womb based on the belief that boys are more valuable in a society than girls. It must be stopped, and that cannot happen by simply closing our eyes and treating the problem as a generic one like the common cold.