The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Real Journalism?


Let us imagine that at some point in his youth Bartley Kives received a visit from the News Fairy who told him that someday, if he was very, very good, she would grant his wish and he would become a real journalist.   Kives, however, after high school went on to receive a degree in sociology from the University of Winnipeg.   It is very difficult to take a degree in sociology from anywhere without squashing your conscience like a chirping little annoying bug.   When the school is the University of Winnipeg it is virtually impossible.    While signing away your soul in a blood contract with Mephistopheles and Karl Marx may not actually be a formal requirement for the degree, it would seem to be de rigueur. 


For almost two decades Kives reported and wrote for the Winnipeg Free Press, covering pretty much everything from music to city politics to restaurants.   While occasionally the Winnipeg Free Press has employed a real journalist – Ted Byfield, believe it or not, worked for the paper back in the fifties and, of course, the late, great Tom Oleson graced its pages until shortly before his death almost ten years ago – for the most part Manitoba’s “paper of repute” has preferred hack writers that mindlessly toe its party line.    On issues that pertain to the Dominion of Canada as a whole, that party line is and always has been, Liberal, both big and small l.   In John Wesley Dafoe’s day the paper existed to promote the Grits’ agenda of Americanizing Canada and turning her into a vassal satellite of the United States.   When the federal Liberal Party was taken over by Communist operatives in the 1960s – Lester Pearson, who had been a Cambridge Five style Soviet spy when attached to our embassy in Washington D. C. in World War II, and Pierre Trudeau who had led the Canadian delegation to a Communist economic conference in Moscow in 1952 and who never met a Community tyrant he didn’t love and adore and fawn over – the paper dutifully followed its party into the fever swamps of the far left.   Radically opposite as those two positions seem, they were united in their contempt for the traditional constitution of Canada and for the Common Law freedoms of Canadians.  John Farthing showed in Freedom Wears a Crown, (1956) how the policies of the earlier, Mackenzie King Liberals, had undermined freedom and paved the way for Prime Ministerial dictatorship.   A decade earlier Eugene Forsey, after his doctoral dissertation was published, had debated the very same issues with Dafoe, making mincemeat out of the partisan publisher. On the provincial level, where the Grits have been mostly a non-entity for the larger part of a century, the paper has tended to support the NDP. 


In more recent years Kives has been reporting locally for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.   Abandoning the overt and heavy progressive bias of the Winnipeg Free Press is hardly a requirement for employment at the CBC.    Although the publicly funded Crown broadcaster is supposed to fairly represent the views of all Canadians it has long behaved like “anybody but the Conservatives” was its official policy, regardless of who happens to be in power at the moment in either Parliament or any of the provincial legislatures. 


The Progressive Conservatives have been in government in Manitoba since 2016 and the CBC, like the Winnipeg Free Press, has been striving to unseat them ever since.    Coincidentally or not 2016 was also the year that Kives was brought onboard CBC Manitoba.   In 2019, the efforts of the media failed and the Conservatives, led by Brian Pallister, were returned to power in an early provincial election.   The following year the bat flu pandemic struck, and the media in general, and Kives in particular found in it a stick with which to bludgeon the provincial government.


Now if, as has been thought to be case for centuries, it is the role and duty of the fourth estate to hold government accountable, to ask it the tough questions, to shine a light in every dark corner of the halls of authority, to expose all the secrets, to speak truth to power, does this not mean that the News Fairy has returned at long last and turned Kives into a real journalist after all?


Alas the answer is no.


It would be one thing if he really were asking Pallister and his chief health mandarin Brent Roussin the hard questions.   Questions like:


Do you recognize any constitutional limits to your powers that remain in effect even in an emergency?


In your opinion are the fundamental rights and freedoms of Manitobans their own property or something that is permitted to them by your government as you see fit?


How much mental, social, and economic damage would the lockdowns have to do before the cost of the lockdowns exceeds the cost of doing nothing at all?


How far would government restrictions have to go before you would admit they have gone too far and crossed a line that should never be crossed?


Kives does not seem to be interested in the answers to questions like these however.   He does not even seem to be interested in questions like those that Pallister groupie, Josh Aldrich of the Winnipeg Sun, is occasionally willing to interrupt his sycophantic boot-licking to ask about why the government has been consistently picking on small businesses and restaurants, which are not significant sources of transmission, with its public health orders.


No, the only questions Kives seems to be interested in are “why didn’t you lock us down again faster?” and “why didn’t you lock us down again harder?”


The theory that Kives appears to be operating on, based upon much of his recent commentary but especially “Lockdown 3, the one everyone could foresee” from the 8th of May, and last Sunday’s “In Manitoba’s darkest days, the premier casts shade”, is that the province’s slapping down a hard lockdown as fast as possible last spring was a success, that their gradually increasing the restrictions in stages in the fall as the case numbers rose only to see them continue to rise was a failure, and that therefore they should have locked down the entire province hard as soon as they saw case numbers start to rise again this spring.  


One problem with this theory is that while Manitoba’s initial hard lockdown did indeed, seem to work, last spring, other provinces and other jurisdictions in other countries that tried the same thing at the same time, met with failure instead, and had the sort of results that we saw in the fall.   What is the explanation for this difference?


The most obvious explanation is that the virus had only just arrived in the province and had been caught before it had begun to spread in the brief period in which it was capable of being contained in this manner.      If this is indeed the true explanation, then last spring’s success would not have been duplicable in the fall.   All an earlier and harder lockdown would have accomplished would have been to make the lockdown that much worse in its harmful and destructive effects.  


Anybody familiar with the history of infectious disease and the way quarantines work should be able to grasp this.   Quarantines control the spread of infectious disease by either a) keeping it out in the first place or b) containing it so that it doesn’t spread.    The former is what the traditional method of placing ships and their passengers and cargo under quarantine before letting them into a country was designed to accomplish.   The latter is what the kind of quarantine where a doctor locked you into your house for a couple of weeks and had your neighbours drop food off on your doorstep when you had the smallpox or measles or some such thing was designed to accomplish.    The strongest quarantine of the latter type was the kind the French called the cordon sanitaire, where an entire city or region was sealed off, in the hopes of preventing the disease from spreading outside the area.   This practice was depicted in a fictional example by Albert Camus in The Plague (1947).   In more recent real life it was used in several places to contain the original SARS virus and Ebola.   What governments around the world have attempted to do with the lockdown model since last spring is something radically different from these traditional quarantine methods.   Indeed, it could be called the inversion of a quarantine.    It is not designed to keep a disease out of a country or contain it locally because it is imposed on societies where the disease is already present and spreading.   It is not imposed merely upon the sick and those known to have been in contact with the sick while contagious but upon all healthy members of a society, thus causing a ton of collateral damage.   It is not remotely as effective as traditional quarantines – last year’s experiment demonstrated that countries and regions that rejected the lockdown model did not end up being the countries and regions most devastated by the disease or even being significantly worse off than countries and regions that locked down.  In some cases they fared slightly better with regards to the disease itself and in all cases avoided the tremendous harmful effects of the lockdown.


Kives’ commentary is padded with tear-jerking rhetoric about the “deaths of hundreds of grandfathers and grandmothers”.   How many of those grandfathers and grandmothers died, not because of the disease this overhyped virus causes, but because of the extreme loneliness and despair created by being forced into social isolation in the name of saving their lives?   This is the sort of question a real journalist would be asking.   A real journalist would also be interested in all the sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters lost to opioid and other narcotic overdoses and suicides brought about by social isolation and/or the loss of the business in which all of their life’s work and savings had been invested caused by lockdown experiment.   Anyone interested in such people would not be so quick to shoot his mouth off about how the government has not been doing enough by not locking down fast enough and hard enough.


Where Kives does get it right is in raising questions about Brian Pallister’s stock excuse for how bad the province has done in the fall and again this spring.   In his remarks on Sunday, for example, Kives said:


The premier and public health officials routinely state that Manitobans are simply not following the rules at a time when community spread makes it difficult for people to avoid the virus in the workplace and elsewhere.


He then quoted an ICU physician from Winnipeg to the effect that most of her patients had been trying to follow the rules.


It is, of course, disgusting for Pallister, Roussin, and their underlings to continuously scapegoat ordinary Manitobans in this way.     To scapegoat is to blame someone else for your own failure.   The provincial government has failed Manitobans and not the other way around.   The government’s failure, however, is not a matter of them not suspending our constitutional rights and freedoms severely and quickly enough.   It is rather their refusal or inability to consider the myriad of options other than preventing us from socializing with one another until everyone is vaccinated.   


On Tuesday, the 25th of May, a number of Manitoban physicians held a press conference in which they talked about “tens of thousands” of Manitobans who are suffering and dying, waiting for surgeries and cancer tests, because the hospitals are too busy dealing with bat flu patients.   They begged the province to issue a stay-at-home order and to order all “non-essential” businesses to shut down.   Sure enough, come the evening news, there is Bartley Kives on CBC, gushing all over these doctors and uncritically sympathizing with their plea, even though he was supposed to be reporting rather than editorializing.


“For nearly two months”, Kives said, “doctors have been pleading with the province to enact tougher restrictions to prevent the crush of COVID patients from getting out of hand.   Those pleas largely went unanswered.”


Who is he trying to kid?   For the nearly two months in question, I have watched as what little of Manitobans’ constitutional rights and freedoms as were left to us after the previous six months of Code Red have been whittled away as the government has given in to demand after demand from these doctors who are largely sheltered from the harmful effects of the fascism for which they are asking.


Doctors, as a rule, live in houses rather than apartments or single-rooms, and so, a stay-at-home order, restricting them to their homes outside of work hours and grocery shopping, would simply not be as confining to them as it would to the thousands of other Manitobans far more adversely affected by such an order.   Doctors are pretty much the hottest commodity in the marriage market and so, even though their notoriously insufferable egos keep the divorce rate high, a stay-at-home order would simply not leave them as completely isolated from human social contact as it would the thousands of people in the province who live alone.    Lockdowns do not threaten the livelihoods and savings of doctors – they will continue to rake in their highly overinflated salaries for the duration, with all the overtime they could dream of to boot.


Perhaps if a law were enacted requiring any doctor, journalist, or politician that calls for a lockdown to experience that lockdown in its harshest rather than its mildest form – confine them to a single room, not just their home in general, deny them contact with their immediate family, strip them of their salaries, for the duration of the orders they request – they would think twice before asking the government to place burdens on their neighbours that they are not willing to lift themselves.


Earlier, in his 8th of May commentary, Kives had quoted Brent Roussin as saying, when he announced the third lockdown:


“We need to have these restrictions be the least restrictive that we need for that time.”


The necessity to which Roussin was likely alluding is that created by the requirements of our constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1986 Oakes ruling.   It is indeed, required, the Supreme Court ruled, that when the government has a legitimate reason for limiting our basic rights and freedoms, that the limits it so imposes be as few as possible.   A real journalist who believed it to be the fourth estate’s duty to stand up for the rights and freedoms of the people by sounding the alarm and calling the government out whenever it overstepped the constitutional boundaries on its powers, would have grilled Roussin on his claim that the restrictions he has imposed have indeed been minimal.


Kives, however, took the opposite approach of insisting that the government could have and should have done more.


Is it just me or did I see his nose grow a little in his last news segment?


He’s got a long way to go, I am afraid, before the News Fairy makes him a real journalist.  

Friday, May 21, 2021

The Holy Land Returns to the Old Normal


It would appear that a part of the “old normal” has finally returned.   Unfortunately, it is not the part where we all go about living our lives, being real families and neighbourhoods and communities and societies again instead of a pack of pathetic cowards so terrified by relentless media propaganda about a viral bogeyman that we willingly surrender all of this, along with the basic rights and freedoms of our friends and neighbours, and meekly accept massive government overreach in the hopes that the state, by preventing us from living our lives, might save them.   No, instead it is the part where Jews and Arabs are killing each other in the Middle East and the newsmedia is obsessing about this again.


Even though Israel, the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and the Arab nations are a continent and an ocean removed from us, it has long seemed that we in North America are for some reason required to pick a side in this conflict.   This is most likely a result of our unhealthy dependence on the new communications technology that, as Marshall McLuhan could see as far back as 1962, have turned the world into one big “global village”.    It makes everybody’s business our own even when it ought not to be and it would be for the best of all involved if it were not.   Consequently, everybody you speak to seems to believe either that Israel has the right to do whatever she wants and therefore is and always has been perfectly justified in everything she has done in her conflict with the Palestinians and her Arab neighbours or that Palestinian terrorists are all warm and fuzzy, cuddly innocents whose sole desire is to live in peace except the Big Bad Israel keeps huffing and puffing and blowing their houses down.   Both positions are, of course, utterly ridiculous.


While some make the argument that the Israeli-Arab conflict goes back to Genesis, to the rivalries between Isaac and Ishmael and later between Jacob and Esau, there seems to be more of reading current events into the text of Scripture in this than sound exegesis.   The personal and bitter rivalry between Jacob and Esau, while resolved upon the former’s return from Padan-aram, foreshadowed the later conflict between the post-Exodus Israelites and the Edomites.  What was left of the Edomites were forcibly converted to Second Temple Judaism in the Maccabean period.   Anyone descended from Esau today is far more likely to be a Jew than an Arab.   The Arabs are traditionally regarded as having descended from Ishmael and there is simply no support in the Scriptures for the idea of a perpetual conflict between the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael that would outlast that between Jacob and Esau and extend to the present day.


In actuality, the roots of the Israeli-Arab conflict can be found in the so-called Enlightenment in the early period of the Modern Age.   Advocates of the “Enlightenment” characterize it as a revolt against superstition and embrace of reason but it was nothing of the sort.  In actuality, it was the birth of a new superstition – a superstitious confidence in human ability to understand and explain the world through his own rational powers and to use that understanding to re-fashion the world into a Paradise of his own making.   What was embraced in the “Enlightenment” was not reason but rationalism, which is itself fundamentally superstitious.   Closely related to rationalism as a child of the “Enlightenment” was its twin superstition of scientism.    


No, I have not forgotten my topic.   The reason the “Enlightenment” was the source of the Israeli-Arab conflict is because of the influence of its pernicious superstitions, especially scientism, on both Jews and the adherents of the dominant religions of the societies in which Jews lived. 


Between the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, Jews, adherents of the religion Judaism, lived entirely as a minority religious and ethnic group in the larger civilizations of other people and other religions.    For the vast majority of Jews, the civilizations in which they lived were the two that belonged to the other two religions that claim descent from the Abrahamic faith.   Christendom was the civilization that was the successor to the old Roman Empire and which has in recent centuries, due to the influence of the “Enlightenment” and modernity in general, degenerated into what we know call Western Civilization.   Its dominant religion, obviously, was Christianity.   In the civilization of the Turkish or Ottoman Empire, Islam was the dominant religion.    The relationship between the Jews and the adherents of the majority religions in these civilizations was marked by tension and often overt hostility that periodically erupted into violence.   While historically a large degree of mistrust has been the unfortunate norm between people living in this sort of diaspora and those of the larger societies hosting them, in the case of the Jews in Christendom the nature of the theological and religious disagreement between the two greatly exacerbated the situation.   The basic disagreement was one about which there could be no compromise.   Either Jesus of Narazeth is the Christ or He was not.   You cannot have it both ways.   If Christians are right, and we are, that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, then to reject Him as such is the ultimate rejection of God.   If Jews are right, and they are not, that Jesus of Nazareth was not the Christ, then we who accept Him as such commit blasphemy.   There is no middle ground here.


Those of a progressive bent, that is to say true believers in the “Enlightenment” superstitions of rationalism and scientism, who have all of the “Enlightenment”’s prejudices against orthodox religion, its authoritative texts and interpretive traditions of the same, would be inclined to seize upon everything I have just said as vindicating their cause.   The traditional religious beliefs of Jews and Christians, they would say, caused the historical enmity between the two groups, so if you get rid of these and replace them with reason and science, the enmity will vanish and the two will finally establish peace and get along.   History, however, tells a different story.


By the nineteenth century, while former Christendom remained churchgoing for the most part, faith in the teachings and beliefs of orthodox Christianity was in serious decline.  Similarly, the spread of “Enlightenment” superstition had broken the virtually absolute authority that the Talmud and its rabbinic interpreters had held over Jewish communities since the destruction of the Second Temple.   While many of the new non-believing “Christians” and secular “Jews” were willing to take a more liberal, in the better sense of open-minded and generous, attitude towards the other, many others sought new “rational” and “scientific” arguments to support their dislike of the other.   Inevitably, those seeking such arguments turned to a concept then prominent in the biological and anthropological sciences, that of race, that is to say, groups distinguishable within mankind by shared characteristics passed down from common ancestral stock.     When this concept is used to explain the hostility between Jews and Gentiles, however, it becomes an argument that they are natural enemies, biologically predetermined to hate each other, neither of which can ever trust the other, and who are incapable of peacefully co-existing within the same territory and under the same government.   Clearly this kind of argument carried with it the potential for generating a conflict between Jews and Gentiles that would be far greater and more destructive than the old conflict between Jews and Christians over religious doctrine ever had been.   Indeed, with the development of these arguments came a tide of publications purporting to document the undesirable and inferior racial traits of either Jews or Gentiles depending upon who was doing the writing and publishing.


Towards the end of the nineteenth century two new political movements arose, Zionism and anti-Semitism.   Counter-intuitive as this will no doubt seem to those only familiar with the post-World War II usage of these terms, these movements were often allies rather than enemies, sharing many of the same ideas and even in some cases the same members.   The goal of the Zionist movement was to establish a sovereign Jewish nation-state in a Jewish homeland.   The goal of the anti-Semitic movement was to free Gentile countries from Jewish influence.   It hardly takes a genius to see how these two ends coincide.   At their best, both movements wished to avoid the ugly outcome to which the racialization of Jewish-Gentile conflict was leading.   At their worst they were expressions of that very racialization.  While pre-Zionist discussions had taken place earlier in the century, the Dreyfus Affair of 1894 was the immediate motivation that turned the discussion into active organization.   Alfred Dreyfus, a Captain in the French artillery, had been accused of treason.   He was arrested, convicted, and sent to Devil’s Island.    The question of his guilt or innocence became a matter of hot dispute.   There was evidence pointing to another officer named Esterhazy as having committed the crime but those who had convicted Dreyfus were reluctant to reverse their decision.  Those who were convinced of his innocence long before it was generally acknowledged maintained that he had been railroaded because of his Jewish ancestry.   There is little to no evidence that this was the case, although prejudices of this nature were incorporated into some of the commentary of those who took the “Dreyfus is guilty” side in the dispute.   The advocates of Dreyfus’ innocence who made this accusation of anti-Jewish prejudice against the French military authorities and who would find their prophet in the novelist and playwright Émile Zola, themselves had the ulterior motive of driving from the Third Republic the last vestiges of the old, pre-Revolutionary, Catholic and royalist, regime, whose remaining base of strength was in French military.   Whether intended or not, the controversy shaped the next generation of French literature.   It is, for example, the single most important event in the historical background of Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (1913-1927), in which it emerges from time to time into the forefront of the main story.   It was very early in the controversy that Theodor Herzl and his colleagues seized the opportunity it had created to organize their movement.   For a good history of all of this see Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s The Controversy of Zion: Jewish Nationalism, the Jewish State, and the Unresolved Jewish Dilemma, Perseus Books, 1996.


The formation of the Zionist movement, obviously, eventually led to the creation of the modern state of Israel.   It would never have been formed apart from the intellectual history starting from the “Enlightenment” summarized above.   Apart from the dependence of Zionism upon post-“Enlightenment” thought for most of its ideas, the movement was primarily one among secular Jews and, indeed, was always opposed by the strictest of religious Jews on the grounds that it was an attempt to do what only the Messiah could rightly accomplish.   This was why the movement was originally open to other options for the location of the Jewish homeland than the Holy Land and, indeed, when the movement finally settled on Palestine it was more for practical than theological reasons.   The timing, however, while right for the ultimate success of the project, was completely off for establishing healthy, peaceful co-existence with their new neighbours.


When the Zionist movement began, Palestine had been part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries.   Jews had always been present as a religious minority in the Ottoman Empire.   Their relations with the Muslim majority of that Empire had historically been less marked by mutual animosity than their relations with Christians in Christendom.    There are obvious theological and historical reasons why this would be the case.   Islam and rabbinic Judaism had not started out together in first century Palestine, late in the Second Temple period, both claiming to be the true heirs of the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the Sinaitic religion of Moses, but dividing from each other over the crucial question of whether Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah promised by God through the prophets of ancient Israel or not, with the Christians rightly taking the affirmative and the Jews wrongly taking the negative, but neither being much inclined to a civil "lets agree to disagree" approach.  Prior to Zionism, the most tense moment between Jews and Muslims was when Islam was just getting started.  Muhammad, having been rejected and ridiculed in his own home town of Mecca, had fled to Yathrib which accepted him, and which he turned into his base of Medina.   At the time, he expected that Jews and Christians would be more accepting of his self-proclaimed status as Prophet than the pagans of his home town, which is why the earliest verses in the Koran are generally positive towards the "peoples of the book".   He was disillusioned when he discovered that the three most prominent Jewish clans in Yathrib rejected him.   He ordered them expelled, and in the case of one of them later chased them down and slaughtered all the males.   Apart from this nastiness, however, the relationship between the Jews and Muslims had been historically rather irenic.    Another important reason for this, and the one which is most relevant for our purposes, is that the Islamic world for a large part of this period had been under the rule of the Ottoman sultan who had the civil interest of maintaining domestic peace between the Muslim majority and the religious minorities of his empire.  When Zionism was born, Sultan Abdul Hamid II was still on the throne.   He refrained from giving his support for the Zionist cause on the reasonable grounds that it would divide his empire but the First Aliyah still took place in his reign.  In 1909, the revolutionary Young Turks who deposed him embraced the Zionist cause.   However, as is often the case with revolutionary movements that overturn long established dynasties, the Young Turks split into rival factions, one of which seized total power over the Empire and formed a one-party state that was short-lived due to its disastrous policies which brought the Empire into the First World War, which led to the Empire being defeated and broken up.


The fall of the Ottoman Empire removed the power that, belligerent as it often had been to its neighbours, especially Christendom, had maintained order, domestic peace, unity and civilization in the region of the Levant for centuries.   This created a vacuum.   The conquering Allied powers, while they wanted order, peace, and civilization for the region, were unable to fill that vacuum.  After the Armistice, the region was temporarily put under military government jointly administered by the British, the French, and the Arab armies that had rebelled against the Turks and fought alongside the Allies, and following the Paris Peace Conference and the formation of Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations, the region was divided, with Britain and France each holding mandates from the League to govern portions of it temporarily as they prepared the peoples of the region for self-government, while the old Arab dynasties that had long been regional powers such as the House of Saud and the House of Hashim consolidated their strength in preparation for independence.    This may be beside the point, but I will point out here that the House of Saud proved more successful at this over the long run than the older Hashemite dynasty, successfully bringing more regions, including the Hejaz that had been the original realm of the Hashemites into its kingdom, whereas the House of Hashim began the post-World War I period reigning over several Arab kingdoms, but has long since been reduced to that of Jordan, the others having been turned into strong-man dictatorships that call themselves republics through the pernicious meddling of both the Americans and the Communists.   Since the House of Saud began its rise to power centuries ago by forging an alliance with the Wahhabi movement within the Sunni sect of Islam, a movement that could be very roughly said to be the equivalent of the Puritan movement within Protestant Christianity and which is believed by many to be far more prone to waging jihad than other branches of Islam, and retained that alliance ever since, while the Kingdom of Jordan has long been one of the safest, most stable, and peaceful of the Arab countries, this is perhaps not that irrelevant  after all.   More importantly, however, the presence of the new Arab nationalism that had sparked the rebellion against the Ottomans in the absence of a single, long-established, power over the entire region, ensured that as the Zionist movement set about establishing an independent Jewish state it would meet a hostile reception from its would-be neighbours.   The basic idea of Arab nationalism was that Arab peoples in Arab lands should be governed by Arab rulers instead of by others.   Initially the target of Arab nationalism was Turkish rule, but free of this after centuries, nationalist Arabs were not about to accept the creation of a state in their own backyard in which Arabs would be governed by Jews.


All of this became Britain’s problem because it was to the United Kingdom that the League mandate to govern Palestine fell.   Complicating matters was the fact that the United Kingdom had formally expressed its support to both the Zionist movement and the Arab nationalists during the war and was now expected to try and live up to her commitments to both.   In the interwar period the Zionist movement kicked into high gear building the civil infrastructure of what would become the state of Israel.   The Haganah, for example, was formed in 1920 to defend the Jewish settlements of the Yishuv against Arab attacks and it became the Israeli Defence Force after 1948.   As the Zionists were preparing for statehood they naturally wanted and needed more people and asked the British authorities to open wide the door for massive Jewish immigration to Palestine.  Britain, however, recognizing that this would be like striking a flint within a warehouse of gunpowder, slammed the door shut instead.   The timing could hardly have been worse as far as ex post facto optics goes.   It was the spring of 1939, the eve of the Second World War, a time in which the Jews of Europe, in anticipation of the conquests of Adolf Hitler who preached the most extreme form of anti-Semitism conceivable, were seeking to flee for their lives in droves (although most preferred the United States as a destination over settling in Palestine).


The Zionists in Palestine were understandably perturbed about this.   The response of some of them, however, set an example that would come back to bite them decades later.   Zionism, it needs to be noted here, was not a monolithic movement.   While the goal of establishing a sovereign Jewish homeland was common to them all, Zionism consisted of several factions with radically different ideas as to what the Jewish state should look like, and, in some cases, the means acceptable to achieving it.   The mainstream of Zionism in the period of the British Mandate wanted a Western European style liberal democracy, with some wanting American style capitalism, others, who would have been the majority at the time, preferring social democracy or even outright socialism.   The revisionist Zionists, however, led by Vladamir or Ze’ev Jabotinksy, a Russian-born Zionist who in addition to being an activist was also a brilliant man of letters, being an accomplished journalist, translator, novelist and poet, wanted to establish Israel as an ethno-state, and to extend its boundaries well beyond what mainstream Zionists wanted, and even beyond the limits of the territory controlled by both kingdoms in the Old Testament.   Like the mainstream Zionists, Jabotinsky was furious when the British restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine in 1939, but he took it much further, calling for the Jews of Palestine to take up arms against Britain and seize their independence by force.   He even had a private army at his disposal with which he made serious plans to put this into practice.   His follower Avraham Tehomi, originally a member of the Jerusalem Hagenah, had grown disillusioned with what he saw as that organization’s half-measures to protect the Jewish settlers from Arab violence, and had formed an alternative, underground, paramilitary group that he originally called Hagenah Beta, but soon renamed Irgun Tzeva’i Le’umi (National Military Organzation), more commonly called just the Irgun or “Etzel” (from the acronym IZL) that had far fewer compunctions about the kind of violence to which it was willing to stoop.   To put it bluntly, it was a terrorist organization.


When World War II broke out, Jabotinksy, who had been named Supreme Commander of the Irgun in 1937 following a re-organization after half the group had defected back to the Haganah, set aside his plans for an insurgence against the British because he believed that the war against the Nazis took priority.   The more extreme among his followers thought differently.   Around the time that Jabotinksy died in 1940, Avraham Stern founded a splinter organization that he called the Lohamei Herut Israel (Fighters for Israeli Freedom), which like the parent organization was better known by the acronymic Lehi or simply “the Stern Gang”.   The two terrorist groups divided precisely over Jabotinsky’s policy, continued by the Irgun after his death, of prioritizing the war with the Third Reich over the war with independence.   Stern of the exact opposite opinion.   I mean that quite literally.   He insisted that the British were the only real enemy, and in early 1941 sent emissaries to Hitler offering the German dictator his friendship, alliance, and support in his war against the British Commonwealth if he, that is Hitler, would assist in repatriating the Jews to Palestine and support Israeli independence there.   In this alliance proposal from the most extreme of Zionists to the most extreme of anti-Semites, the original convergence of these two movements became the ultimate caricature of itself!   What, exactly, the German tyrant thought of this, we don’t know.   There is no record of any response.


When the war ended, of course, with the defeat of the Third Reich and the Axis and the Pyrrhic victory of the British (the real victor was what Evelyn Waugh dubbed “the Modern Age at arms”, which originally looked like the Nazi-Soviet alliance, but ended up being the American-Soviet alliance) the source of the disagreement between the two organizations was eliminated and the Irgun joined the Lehi in waging a war of terror against the British, consisting of high profile assassinations and bombings, that ultimately proved successful when the United Kingdom declared that its mandate had come to an end and handed the matter over to the United Nations, which portioned the land into Israel and Palestine, most of the latter of which ended up being absorbed into the former when the league of Arab nations, most of which had attained their own independence only a few years earlier, teamed up to invade Israel upon her day of independence, and had their arses dramatically handed to them.


The Arab countries were slow to learn the lesson of 1948, which was, of course, that they could not win in a direct war against Israel.   They fought against Israel again in the Six-Days War of 1967 – although in this case Israel had begun the hostilities with a pre-emptive airstrike that took out the Egyptian air force – and in 1973 when the Syrian-Egyptian alliance attacked Israel on Yom Kippur.   No such war was ever attempted again, probably because the Americans made it clear in the 1973 war that they would intervene on Israel’s behalf should anything of the sort happen again.   The Arabs should have been able to guess that things were heading in that direction as far back as 1967, for in the course of the Six-Days War Israel deliberately attacked an American naval research ship, the USS Liberty, and got away with it because the American government refused to conduct a proper inquiry into the incident.    See James M. Ennes Jr., Assault on the Liberty, Random House, 1979.   Anyone wishing to understand why need look no further than the remarks of Barry M. Goldwater, the long-serving Republican Senator for Arizona, in his second autobiography co-written with Jack Casserly.   He said that as an American Senator he “was never put under greater pressure than by the Israeli lobby” and that said lobby “is the most influential crowd in Congress and America by far.”  (Goldwater, 1988, p. 21)   As he described the pressure, the lobbyists would bring old Jewish friends of his from Arizona to Washington, whenever a vote that somehow affected Israel came up, in order to pressure him to vote in what they saw to be Israel's interest.   According to Goldwater, who despite his last name was not Jewish himself (his father was Jewish but he was raised in his mother’s Episcopalian faith), he always firmly told them that he would vote what he believed to be in the interest of America and her constitution, which were the things that he lay awake worrying about at night, rather than Israel’s.   Other American Congressmen and Senators have testified to having put under a lot more intense pressure than this by the same lobby, including tactics that most people would call bullying or intimidation.  Plenty of examples can be found in They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby, Lawrence Hill, 1985, by former Republican Congressman for Illinois, Paul Findley.  


Long before the Arab countries learned this lesson, they had learned a different lesson from the experience of the Irgun and Lehi.   When, therefore, the initial Arab-Israeli War of 1948 ended in their being routed, most of the territory allotted to the Palestinian Arabs being annexed by Israel, and thousands of Palestinian Arabs being driven into exile, rather than comfortably re-settle the refugees in their own countries, they kept them in miserable refugee camps in order to turn them into embittered radicals willing to wage a proxy war on behalf of the Arab powers conducted by means of terrorism against Israel.   In 1964, the Arab League formed the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which would wage just such a war against Israel for decades.   The tactic worked for them as it had for the Zionist terrorists in the 1940s.   In 1993, Israel signed the American-brokered Oslo Accords with this organization, in which they granted it official recognition and the foundation for establishing the Palestinian Authority was laid.


Before that happened, however, the Israeli government had committed the most boneheaded move in all of its history.   The PLO was a secular organization.  Its ideology was informed by the secular Arab nationalism discussed earlier.    Its commitment to the destruction of Israel, therefore, had no underlying basis in immutable religious dogma, and therefore was open to negotiation, as history bore out when the organization acknowledged Israel’s right to exist.  The Israeli government, however, latched on to the idea that the influence of the PLO among Palestinian Arabs could be countered by promoting an Islamic revival among the same.   So, after the Yom Kippur War it began supporting and funding the charity that Ahmed Yassin had founded on behalf of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood which had already begun a mosque-building campaign throughout the Occupied Territories, especially Gaza.   They realized their mistake in 1987, when Sheik Yassin organized the large following he had developed into Hamas, and declared the First Intifada.   Hamas’s war against Israel is built upon Islamic doctrine.   To weaken a foe that it would soon thereafter negotiate a sort of peace with, Israel had assisted in the creation of a much more enduring enemy. 


Had Israel been governed by people who took theology, their own and that of others, seriously they would have been less likely to make this mistake.   They would have informed themselves about Islamic theology and perhaps learned that to allow territory that had been part of Dar al-Islam, as all of Palestine including Israel had been under Ottoman rule, to fall under non-Muslim control and leave it that way is completely unacceptable to the orthodox of all Muslim sects.  The leadership of Israel, however, like that of the Zionist movement that created her has been hopelessly secular right from the beginning.   The only difference from the days of David Ben-Gurion to today, is that Israel has shifted from the left-secularism, committed to liberal democracy and socialism, that was dominant in the three decades that the Labour Party controlled the Knesset to a form of right-secularism in the decades since in which the Knesset has most often been controlled by the Likud.   While under almost any other circumstances I would call that an improvement the situation in Israel is far from normal.  


The Likud was founded by Menachem Begin who served as the party’s first Prime Minister in Israel.   Begin was the unrepentant former terrorist – he led the Irgun in the period in which it joined the Lehi in waging terrorist war against Britain – who as Prime Minister persecuted Christians in Israel, began to institute the “Greater Israel” expansionist policies of his mentor Jabotinsky, and ordered the brutal invasion of Lebanon in 1982.   Margaret Thatcher, whose premiership in the United Kingdom began shortly after Begin’s in Israel, told the French president of those days, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, that she “never had a more difficult man to deal with.”  When you consider that Captain Airhead’s father, Pierre Trudeau, was the Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada at the time, this was saying a lot.   Begin’s successor, both as leader of the Likud and Prime Minister of Israel was Yitzhak Shamir, another unrepentant former terrorist.   He was one of the triumvirate who had taken over the leadership of the Lehi after the death of Avraham Stern and who led it in the same period in which Begin led the Irgun and in which most of its crimes and atrocities were committed.


When Shamir was defeated by the Labour Party in 1992 and Yitzhak Rabin returned to the premiership, Shamir resigned the leadership of the Likud which was then taken up by Benjamin Netanyahu.   Since Netanyahu is the current leader and the current Prime Minister of Israel I shall postpone saying anything about him until I have discussed the fourth Likud leader and Israeli Prime Minister.   This was Ariel Sharon who took over the party leadership in 1999 and became Prime Minister in 2001, resigning the leadership in 2005 to form the Kadima party, shortly before a stroke ended his premiership in 2006.   Before entering politics, Sharon had been a career military man.   He had served in the Haganah in 1948, rather than the terrorist groups, and had fought with the IDF in all of Israel’s major wars.   In his controversial military career he early earned a reputation for slaughtering civilians.   The most notorious atrocities associated with his name, however, are from 1982 when he was Begin’s Defence Minister.    In that capacity, he had been the mastermind behind the bombing of Beirut and invasion of Lebanon, in which the IDF laid waste to civilian neighbourhoods in the name of taking out PLO based.   The biggest atrocity of that conflict was not directly perpetrated by the IDF but the Phalange, a milita of Lebanon’s Maronite Christians, who slaughtered the residents of the Sabra neighbourhood of West Beirut and the refugee camp of Shatila that was located nearby.    While the Phalange committed the massacre they had been trained and armed by the IDF, which had surrounded the neighbourhood, allowed the militia in, were fully aware of what they were doing, and prevented the victims from escaping.  The Israeli commission that investigated the incident, found Sharon responsible, and insisted that he be removed from office (in 1983 he was shifted to a different portfolio).   In his memoir, An American Life, Ronald Reagan, who had been president of the United States when all of this was occurring, gave his impression of Sharon as “a bellicose man who seemed to be chomping at the bit to start a war”.   It is very rare, by the way, that Reagan mentions anyone in his autobiography about whom he could not find anything positive to say.


It ought to be observed, at this point, that it took thirty years after Israel achieved independence, before they became so fed up with their neighbours’ refusal to accept their existence, periodic attacks, and constant funding of terrorist harassment against them, that they started electing a party led by terrorists and war criminals because it promised to be ruthless with their enemies.   By contrast, the moment the Palestinian Arabs were able to vote for their own government they elected Hamas.    If anybody really feels the necessity for picking a side in this ridiculous conflict, that is something to consider.


As leader and Prime Minister Sharon was initially embraced by the hard core support base of the Likud and they remained confident in his leadership as he ordered the IDF to crush the Second Intifida in 2002 and began erecting a spite fence around the West Bank, but by the end of his premiership they regarded him as a traitor for ordering the unilateral disengagement of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and voiced his support for a Palestinian state.    What they had apparently overlooked was that unlike Begin and Shamir, he had never been an ideological follower of Jabotinsky.   He was a military man, and military men, even ruthless and nasty types like Sharon, tend to be practical.


Which makes it very interesting that the Likud opted to return the leadership to Netanyahu after Sharon resigned.   Netanyahu, who had begun his first term as Israeli Prime Minister around the time that Bill Clinton was seeking refuge from the hen-pecking of his harpy and harridan wife Hilary in the mouth of White House intern Monika Lewinsky, was no more of a Revisionist Zionist ideologue than Sharon had been.   Too young to have served in either the Haganah or its terrorist rivals – he was born the year after Israel attained independence – Netanyahu had by the time he was thirty, established a reputation for himself as an intellectual expert on anti-terrorism.   It was around the same time that he first became involved in diplomacy and politics.   What he actually is, if truth be told, is the first real politician to lead the Likud party.   His vices are not those of ideological terrorists or hardened military war criminals but the old-fashioned vices of the ordinary politician.   Early in his fourth term as Prime Minister – he is now in his fifth – the Israeli police began to investigate charges of corruption against him and in 2019 he was formally indicted for the same.  


That he has managed to remain in power seems almost miraculous.   Shortly after he has formally charged with corruption, the World Health Organization handed him what must have seemed like a dying man’s reprieve.   They declared the Wuhan bat flu to be a pandemic and recommended that the countries of the world prevent its spread by putting into practice Red China’s experimental new universal quarantine, which has since been dubbed “lockdown”.   Netanyahu, seizing the opportunity, locked down Israel faster and harder than most if not all other countries.   Indeed, he earned himself the dubious distinction of being the world leader who has done the most to suppress Jewish observation, practice, and religious freedom since Adolf Hitler.   He imposed the second wave of extreme lockdown right before the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah and timed it to extend through Yom Kippur, the festival of Sukkot, and basically all the holiest days on the Jewish calendar.   In one bizarre incident that would almost seem to suggest a novel reinterpretation of the Greater Israel concept along the lines of Germany’s arrogant claim to the right to boss Germans around even in other countries, his top health official called up the president of the Ukraine and asked him to close his borders to Jews seeking to make their annual Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Nachman in Uman.  For what it is worth, when angrily confronted about this by non-Israeli Jews who were refused their pilgrimage, Netanyahu later denied being behind this strange act on the part of his health commissar.


If the idea had been to use the lockdown to escape from the bad publicity of the corruption charges it failed.    Netanyahu’s popularity began to tank and the anti-Netanyahu demonstrations over the corruption charges grew as their numbers were swelled by the addition of defiant Orthodox Jews who did not take kindly to having their synagogues shut down and their festivals cancelled and by an Israeli government no less.  Kudos to them.   The Orthodox Jews similarly stood up for their rights against the Governor of New York, holding a non-socially distanced street party where they embraced and burned their masks.   I was reminded of this the other week when I watched a news show in which members of the Muslim community here in Winnipeg were being interviewed about the end of Ramadan.   They expressed sadness that they could not have the usual big family gatherings but took a “what can you do” attitude towards it and talked about how they had adjusted the celebration to accommodate the fascist health restrictions.   I guess they just don’t make Muslims the way they used to.  Where were all the fatwas?   Sir Salman Rushdie had one pronounced over him for less than this.   Somebody owes him a big apology.


Had Israel been a religious Jewish country rather than a secular Jewish country Netanyahu would be long gone by now.   As it was, Operation Save My Arse With a Lockdown had proven to be a total failure.   As he was faced with the imminent collapse of his government, his fall from power, disgrace, and quite probably a long prison sentence, the fairy godmother of Likud Prime Ministers, Hamas, came to Bibis rescue.   From their base in Gaza they resumed their favourite pastime, hurtling primitive rockets at Israel.  It is a mostly harmless pastime as far as the Israelis are concerned.   On the rare occasion that a rocket makes it past the Iron Dome defence system it can do some damage, depending upon where it lands, but for the most part it is mainly a fireworks display.  For the Israelis, however, it is a casus belli, and a goldmine for Likud Prime Ministers because there is nothing more guaranteed to boost their popularity then when they hammer down hard on the Palestinians in retaliation.   The most ill-kept secret of the Middle East is that Likud Israeli governments and Hamas each rely upon the other to maintain their popular support among their own people.   The Palestinians expect Hamas to keep on harassing Israel.   The Israelis expect their government to brutally punish the Palestinians.  Each, therefore, provides the other with the excuse to do what they need to do to play to their own crowds.   So we come to May of this year.   On the sixth the Palestinians hold a protest in East Jerusalem, on the seventh the Israelis crack down and storm the al-Aqsa mosque, on the tenth Hamas issues an ultimatum which Israel naturally ignores and the rockets start flying, on the eleventh the Israeli Air Force begin several days of bombing the hell out of Gaza.   On the twentieth, having given their fans the show they were looking for, Netanyahu and Hamas agree to a ceasefire.   Bada bing, bada boom, it is all over in a fortnight, mission accomplished, everyone is happy, high fives all around.   Too bad about all the people who had to die, but didn’t someone somewhere at sometime say something about an omelet and eggs?


Remind me again why we are expected to pick one side or another in this deranged circus?


Friday, May 7, 2021

Freedom Under Siege

I have never thought very highly of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms which was added to our constitution in 1982.   Note the wording there.   The Charter is not itself our constitution but merely a part of it and a late addition at that.   Those who make the mistake of calling the Charter itself our constitution have bought in to the American superstition that a constitution is a piece of paper that keeps a government from going bad through its magical powers.    A constitution is a country’s system of law and government, the institutions that comprise it, and the traditions that inform their motions.   The largest part of it is unwritten and this is true even in the American republic.  Documents like our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the one the Americans call their Constitution are merely parts of the Canadian and American constitutions respectively.   They are the laws that define and set limits to the power of government institutions.   They have no power to keep government within those limits apart from the loyalty of those who hold public office in obeying them, the willingness of the courts to uphold them, and the faithful vigilance of the public.


My low estimation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is not because I don’t like the rights and freedoms that are listed in that document.   With a few exceptions, such as the “equality rights” written in Animal Farm style doublespeak in Section 15, these are rights and freedoms that I consider to be among the most valuable elements of our Common Law tradition.   It is rather because the Charter has made these rights and freedoms less secure rather than more.   In part this is due to flaws in the Charter itself such as the “notwithstanding clause” in Section 33 and the broad loophole in Section 1 which effectually nullify the Charter as far as the whole point of constitutionally protected rights and freedoms, that is to say that they are supposed to limit what the government can do so as to protect us from the abusive exercise of its powers, goes.   The Charter’s loopholes and exceptions protect the government instead of us and for this reason former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was right to say that it is not worth the paper it is written on.   It is also, however, because the Charter has encouraged a way of thinking about our rights and freedoms in a way that is the fundamental opposite of that which has historically belonged to our Common Law and traditional institutions of constitutional monarchy and parliament.   It encourages us to think of our rights and freedoms as privileges bestowed upon us by government to be limited or taken away by government freely as it sees fit, rather than our own property.


The consequences of this way of thinking having become pervasive have been most evident over the course of the last year.   Section 2 of the Charter identifies four freedoms as being fundamental.   The first of these is freedom of conscience and religion.   The third is the freedom of peaceful assembly.  The fourth is the freedom of association.    The whole point, remember, of having the Charter designate these freedoms as essential is to place limits on government power, to tell the government that it must keep its hands off of these things.   Yet ever since the World Health Organization declared the spread of the Wuhan bat flu to be a pandemic last March, our provincial governments have treated these freedoms as if they were completely non-existent, much less fundamental and protected by constitutional law and the Dominion government has constantly been urging the provincial governments to clamp down on us in violation of these freedoms in even more severe ways.


In 1986 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the case of R v Oakes.  David Oakes had been arrested with drugs in his possession and under what was then Section 8 of the Narcotics Control Act was presumed to be guilty of trafficking.   He challenged the constitutionality of Section 8 on the grounds that it violated the presumption of innocence, a civil right spelled out in Section 11 (d) of the Charter and which had been long established as part of the Common Law tradition.     That the provision of the NCA being challenged did indeed violate the civil right in question was easily demonstrated, but the Court then had to decide whether the violation was justifiable under the “reasonable limits” loophole in Section 1 of the Charter.   The Court’s ruling established what has ever since been the litmus test for this question.    The Court ruled that for a law which violates a Charter right or freedom to be justifiable under the “reasonable limits” clause, it first had to have a “pressing and substantial” goal.   Second, it had to meet the three qualifications of a) being “rationally connected” to the goal of the law, b) only impairing the rights and freedoms in question minimally, and c) not overwhelming the benefit hoped to be achieved with its negative effects.


It is quite obvious that the public health measures fail to meet the second of the three qualifications of the second part of the Supreme Court’s Oakes’ test.   When the public health officer tells you that you cannot have any visitors to your home, even if you meet outside, as is currently the case in Manitoba, he is clearly not trying to only “minimally impair” your freedom of association.   What he is doing is disregarding freedom of association entirely.   The provincial legislature is not allowed to do this constitutionally, nor can it delegate to the public health officer the authority to do so.   The legislature cannot delegate what it does not legitimately possess itself.   When the public health officer orders churches, synagogues, and mosques not to meet for the largest part of a year, cancels the most important festivals of these religions, and only permits re-opening at a severely reduced capacity that requires churches to betray the tenets of their own faith and turn worshippers away, he is similarly disregarding freedom of conscience and religion rather than making sure that his orders only “minimally impair” this freedom.    There is also plenty of evidence that the public health orders fail to meet the third qualification of the Oakes’ test as well.   The costs of lockdowns, measured in the destruction of lives due to the breakdown of mental health and the rise in substance abuse and suicides, the erosion of community and social capital, and the devastation of businesses and livelihoods, has been tremendous and far exceeds any questionable benefits of these insane, unjust, evil and oppressive restrictions.   Indeed, I believe the case could be made that the public health measures fail every single element of the Oakes’ test.


The provincial governments have gotten away with all this stercus tauri because they have until fairly recently met with only minimal resistance on the part of the Canadian public.   This can be attributed to a number of causes.   One of these, of course, is the hysterical and irrational fear generated by the mainstream corporate media that have been deceitfully and despicably portraying a virus that produces no to mild symptoms in most people who contract it, from which the vast majority of people who actually do get sick recover, and which in many if not most jurisdictions has an average age of fatality that is higher than the average expected lifespan of the general public, as if it were the second coming of the bubonic plague.   Another cause is the new attitude which has been encouraged among Canadians, especially by the Liberals, since 1982, of regarding our rights and freedoms as privileges bestowed upon us by the government in the Charter rather than what they are, our lawful property as free subjects of the Crown which it is the government’s duty to respect.  


The assault on our freedoms of religion, peaceful assembly, and association have come from the provincial governments.    At the same time the second of the four freedoms designated as fundamental in the Charter has come under attack from the Liberals who are in power in the Dominion government.    This is the freedom of “thought, belief, opinion and expression”.   Whereas our freedoms of religion, peaceful assembly, and association have never been this besieged before in Canadian history, our freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression has taken hits every time the Liberal Party led by a Trudeau has come to power in Ottawa.   It has been less than ten years since we finally got rid of one of the vilest elements of Pierre Trudeau’s legacy, the notorious Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.   While the entire Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977 is, in fact, an affront to freedom of thought because, despite its title, it has nothing to do with protecting our rights either as Canadians or human beings from government abuses, but is instead all about prohibiting the crimethink of discrimination on the part of individual Canadians, Section 13 was the Act’s worst provision by far.   By defining any electronic communication of information “likely to” expose someone protected against discrimination “to hatred or contempt” as an act of discrimination it in effect forbade all negative criticism of groups protected against discrimination or individuals belonging to such groups, regardless of the truthfulness or justice of the criticism in question.  


Section 13 was finally abolished during the premiership of Stephen Harper thanks to a private member’s bill repealing the foul section that received enough support from Conservative MPs and Liberal MPs of the pre-Trudeau variety – these had not yet been purged from the party – to pass Parliament.    Neither Stephen Harper nor his Minister of Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, who is currently overseeing the throwing of pastors in gaol and the barricading of churches in Alberta, had much to do with this for although they had spoken out against Human Rights Tribunals and their unjust infringement upon freedom of thought and speech on their road to power, in office they betrayed most of what they had once stood for, apparently having sold their souls to get there.  The demise of Section 13 has long been lamented by Pierre Trudeau’s son, Captain Airhead, and when he became Prime Minister in 2015 he dropped a number of hints that he would be seeking to revive it.   The appeal of Section 13 to Captain Airhead was based on more than just the fact that it had been originally introduced when his father was in power.   More than any previous Liberal leader, Captain Airhead has been of the mindset that once a progressive goal has been attained, all debate about it ought to cease.   This was evident even before he became Prime Minister when he purged the party of its pro-life members.   More than any previous Liberal leader, he has enthusiastically endorsed fringe progressive causes that could not possibly achieve widespread popular support on their own merits without measures that intimidate and suppress dissenters.   More than any previous Liberal leader he has been prone to tell Canadians who disagree with him that they are not welcome in their own country.   He has used the expression “there is no place for X in Canada” far more liberally than any previous leader and with a much wider range of Xs. (1)   In all of this he has demonstrated the sort of sick, censorious, mindset to which something like Section 13 appeals.    In December of 2019, after he won re-election in the sense that he managed to squeak out a plurality despite falling majorly in the polls from where he had been four years previously, he instructed his Cabinet that fighting online “hate speech” would be one of their priorities in the new session of Parliament.   Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault was specifically charged with finding a way to force social media platforms to remove what the Liberals consider to be “hate speech” within twenty-four hours of being told by the government to do so.   This would be Section 13 magnified to the nth degree.


In response to this directive, Guilbeault came up with a bill that pursued the same goal as Section 13 through a different avenue.   Last November he introduced Bill C-10, or “An Act to Amend the Broadcasting Act” into Parliament.   This bill if passed would place internet media under the same regulatory authority of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) as older electronic media such as radio and television broadcasters.   By going this route, Guilbeault could maintain that his goal was not to censor what individual Canadians post on the internet, but to ensure that the companies that make shows and movies available through online streaming follow the same Canadian content guidelines as other broadcasters, a goal consistent with his portfolio as Heritage Minister.   That having been said, the Bill as originally drafted would have given the CRTC regulatory authority over individual Canadians’ user-generated content on social media.   When objections to this were raised the Bill was amended to include an exception for individual user-generated content, but this exception was removed in committee late last month around the same time that the government moved to shut down debate on a motion that the Conservatives had introduced calling for a review of whether or not the bill violated the Charter.   None of this inspires much confidence in the Heritage Minister’s claim that the aim of this bill is cultural protectionism and not censorship of thought.   On Monday, faced with backlash over all of this, Guilbeault promised that they would make it “crystal clear” that the user-generated content will not be subjected to the same sort of regulatory control as television programming.   Needless to say, he ought not to be taken at his word on this.    Indeed, Michael Geist, the law professor at the University of Ottawa who has been one of the foremost critics of Bill C-10, has already said that the amendment the Heritage Committee proposed on Thursday evening fails to follow through on Guilbeault’s promises.


It is worth observing here that with Bill C-10, Captain Airhead and Steven Guilbeault have returned to the very first thing the original Trudeau Liberals did to control the minds of Canadians and limit their freedom of thought.   At the very beginning of the first Trudeau premiership the Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker pointed out how the Liberals were threatening freedom of thought through the powers of the CRTC.   In a speech entitled “The Twilight of Liberty”, the second included in the collection Those Things We Treasure (Macmillan, 1972), Diefenbaker said:


The Trudeau Government seems to be dedicated to controlling the thinking of Canadians.   Through the power being exerted by Pierre Juneau, as Chairman of the Canadian Radio and Television Commission, (2) private radio and T.V. station proprietors in Canada are frightened to speak, fearful of being subject to the cancellation of their licences.   One such station was CKPM in Ottawa, which dared to have an open line program critical of the Government.  Pierre Juneau did come before a Committee of the House and he uttered lachrymose words in reply to the criticism leveled at him that he wishes to determine what Canadians shall hear, and to deny them the right to listen to what they will.   His attitude was different when he spoke to the Association of Private Broadcasting Companies and in effect stated: “When I ope my lips, let no dog bark.” Under him the broadcasting network owned by the people of Canada is allowed to broadcast what he permits.


Diefenbaker’s warning of decades ago has gone largely unheeded, perhaps because the CRTC’s official raison d’être  is cultural protectionism which appeals to a much broader range of Canadians than its more covert purpose of limiting freedom of thought.   Certainly right-of-centre Canadians of the more traditional variety, such as Diefenbaker himself or this writer, would have no objections to the idea that Canadian culture ought to remain Canadian.   It needs to be pointed out, however, that the CRTC has been a total failure in this regards.    Fifty-three years later, the Canada of 2021 is far more Americanized culturally than the Canada of 1968 was.   Indeed, much of what Canadians regard as distinctly “Canadian” culture today, is merely Hollywood culture with a maple leaf stamped on it.   Read the novels of Mazo de la Roche and Robertson Davies if you want a taste of the more authentic pre-CRTC Canadian culture.    Since the CRTC failed in its official appointed task, probably because its real purpose was thought control all along, there is hardly grounds here for extending its reach over the new online media.    Indeed, the scarcely disguised agenda of censorship and thought control behind the move to so extend its reach, is sufficient reason why this bill, amended or otherwise, must never be allowed to pass.  It is also more than sufficient reason for voting the Trudeau Liberals who dreamed it up in the first place out of Parliament and never allowing them to resume power again.   For as Rex Murphy pointed out earlier this week, “What is more galling and more threatening that the bill itself, however, is the set of mind behind it”, and that won’t go away even if the bill itself does.


(1)       Disturbingly, the leaders of the other parties – including the present leader of the Conservatives – have taken to aping his example in this.

(2)       The full name of this agency was changed into the awkward and absurd redundancy that it is now in 1976, but the acronym remains the same.