Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Foreign Issues Have No Place in Canadian Politics

On March 01, 2010, the Toronto Star quoted Harbans Jandali, president of the Ontario Sikh and Gurdwara Council: "Unless they make amends quickly, the Liberals will definitely lose this community's votes." He was reacting to Premier Dalton McGuinty's 30-minute meeting with Kamal Nath, a minister in the Indian government, in Toronto to speak to the Canada-India Business Council.

Sikhs allege that Nath abetted riots in which more than 3,000 Sikhs were killed -- riots in reaction to the 1984 assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. I sent a copy of this letter to the Sikh Council. No reply. The Star did not publish it:

Re Sikh leaders promise to make McGuinty pay, March 24, 2010

I hope the president of the Ontario Sikh and Gurdwara Council was misquoted when he threatened to make an event in India an issue in an Ontario election. Otherwise, it means that when I cast my ballot over such matters as education, health care, social welfare etc., my vote will be cancelled because of an incident in a distant land with no relevance to Ontario.

My parents came to Toronto in the 1920s. Not once did they talk of the politics of their native Austria. They did not force us to learn German, or wear the costumes of their homeland. They always voted for what they thought best for Toronto, for Ontario, for Canada, not for Austria. All they wanted was to blend into their chosen culture. It is to be hoped later waves of immigrants do likewise.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

View from the Sidelines

Rail Travel. Three engineers were killed when a Via train drove through a switching point at four times the mandated speed. Railroad safety advocates now urge that new safety measures be "fast-tracked". With seemingly indecent speed, fee-sniffing lawyers were on the scene signing up clients for class-action lawsuits, and eager for their 40+ per cent of the proceeds.

Political Correctness.
A school teacher in Quebec caused a stir when he censored from a school concert the last line of the classic Edith Piaf song Hymne à l'amour. The line -- God reunites those who love -- Piaff wrote as a tribute to her lover, boxing champion Marcel Cerdan who had just died in a plane crash. The teacher said he didn't want to have to answer students' questions about God. The culture minister decried censorship to a work of art. The education minister called it a lack of judgement. The local school board backed the offender on the grounds that teachers lack guidelines for "reasonable accommodation".

Lottery fraud. An Ontario woman was charged with fraud for writing bad cheques. She did so in order to purchase $80,000 worth of lottery tickets. Her total winnings were $3,600. The report makes no mention of fraud charges against the lottery commission.

Whales' rights.
A federal court in California was petitioned by five whales (listed as plaintiffs) claiming their treatment in a theme park amounted to slavery. The petition was signed by people from the Ethical Treatment of Animals who wanted the court to declare the owners violated whales' rights under the U.S. Constitution 13th amendment which abolished slavery. The judge ruled that orcas had no standing to seek the same constitutional rights as people.

Don't laugh. Princeton Professor Peter Singer believes that apes have greater rights than new-born babies and mentally-handicapped humans. This mischief blurs the meaning of human rights, a mischief Singer teaches to his young, likely unquestioning, students.

The rationale of it all. English language dictionaries describe usage, as distinct from their French counterparts which prescribe usage. The Concise Oxford Dictionary informs us that the pronunciation of rationale is ra-shun-al. Its bigger and older brother, The Oxford English Dictionary, describes the pronunciation as ra-shun-al-eh. It rhymes with finale. Is it that little Oxford brother hangs out in coffee houses, while Big Brother sips cocktails with the intellectual elite?

Book burning. There is no need to burn the great books of our civilization. Just leave them unread on the shelf. Our society is doing just that. Scientific knowledge is cumulative. The humanities, as expressed in great literature, great music and great culture must be read and learned anew each generation. Unfortunately, the our current money-oriented ethos rejects this approach to our heritage.
The staged book-burnings by the Nazis were fuelled by books of philosophy, history, religion, culture. I other words, the humanities.  Scientific books were saved.

Human Rights Tribunal Again Exposed as Unfair

Ontario Rights Tribunal found a law librarian guilty of racial profiling when she asked for identification from a prospective user of the library.

The Ontario Divisional Court found otherwise, stating that the evidence on which tribunal vice-chair EricWhist made his decision was inconsistent with other facts in the case.

The court found that Whist switched the onus of proof from the complainant to the respondent, and "placed [the librarian] in the difficult position of trying to prove a negative, namely, that her conduct in the performance of her routine duties was not motivated by race and colour."

The court also said the tribunal "misconceived" in comparing the librarian's conduct to racial profiling by the police.

Whist himself admitted his decision was based on inference not evidence. This again points up the inherent weakness of human rights tribunals -- lack of impartiality.

The court assessed the complainant with court costs ($20,000). His tribunal costs were borne by the taxpayer.

The question remains -- what if the librarian lacked the resources to launch an appeal? We can only speculate how often injustice is perpetrated by these tribunals when someone convicted by inference cannot afford an appeal to a real court.

The National Post, December 19, 2012.
The complainant appealed the Divisional Court decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal, claiming, "There's no mention of hairstyle discrimination, but it's real." In demanding a re-write of the Ontario Human Rights Code, he said, "I want you to think of a new law. If you have dreadlocks, you can be discriminated against."

Monday, February 6, 2012

Israel and Canada

It is to wonder who advises Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. A recent report in the New York Times and a column in the Toronto Star by Rabbi Dow Marmur dealt in painful detail with the looming conflict in Israel between ultra-Orthodox Chabad Jews and the rest of the nation. During my last visit to Israel, our guide spoke of civil war.

"The co-existence between the two is breaking down," said the president of the Israeli Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem research organization. "It is an extreme danger."

This week, like a blind elephant, Baird tromped into this simmering dispute, trumpeting Canada's friendship with Israel. According to reports, his visit was Chabad oriented.

The Star reported, "[M]any in the secular to mildly religious crowds who met with Mr. Baird were distinctly uncomfortable at the notion of a Chabad rabbi in their midst." Baird had actually brought the rabbi with him from Ottawa where, as Chabad public affairs director, he spends much time on Parliament Hill.

While maintaining friendship, Canada must remain aloof from internal Israeli matters. The aborted visit of Charles de Gaulle during our Centennial should have taught our politicians that lesson.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Dumbing Down

It once was that self-help books bore such positive titles as In Praise of Gentlemen or A Thinking Person's Guide to (whatever). No longer are we gentlemen or thinking people.

In a commercial enterprise, self-styled Klutz, offers our young people such books as The Encyclopedia of My Immaturity and Your Own Personal Stinking Diary. Why this undermining young people's search for self-confidence?

To capitalizing on the perceived contemporary loser mentality, we have an endless array of published efforts all titled (Whatever) for Dummies, and yet another The Complete Dummy's Guide to (whatever). Do people actually enjoy saying "I'm a dummy, sell me a book"? Or is it that some of us do not know when we are being insulted? How else to account for the popularity of such publications?

As a preliminary to Valentine's Day, the Toronto Star made a pitch to the turnip wagon crowd with a report on how to approach one's beloved. The subhead: The Idiot's Guide to Proposing.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Will no one rid us of these cash cows?

A Toronto Coffee Time shop owner, pestered by a customer who bad mouthed his product to other customers, called him a gypsy. The "offended" person complains. The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (OHRT) in April 2010 ordered the shop owner to pay $15,000 to this nuisance who was undermining his business.

In a burst of righteous hyperbole the Toronto Star described this incident as "rampant racism." The "victim" must know someone at the Toronto Star. The newspaper featured him with a photograph in front of the "offending" shop.

In a real court, the complainant would have to prove damage. What if the owner had called him a Somali pirate? How much would that be worth? Or a German? Or an Englishman? Does the commission have a sliding scale of nationalities for this "rampant racism"?

Within a year or so, Coffee Time was no longer there. It is reasonable to speculate that the "guilty party" lacked the funds to appeal this ham-fisted judgement to a real court, or lacked the funds to pay this outrageous award, and that the Tribunal put him out of business.

The presumption in human rights legislation is that the victim is poor and helpless while the accused is wealthy and mean. Reality has yet to make an appearance at the OHRT.

The Quebec version of this rogue gravy train ordered the Mayor of Saguenay to pay a man $30,000 who claimed his freedom of conscience was violated by the city council opening its meetings with a short prayer. He demanded $150,000. This abuse of all things rational would be laughed out of a real court.

Were it not for the prospect of a pot of gold at the end of the human rights rainbow, these commissions would be out of business.

As if all this were not bad enough, comes news that the OHRT has expanded its reach by creating the crime of  "assumed discrimination". This does not pass the empire-building sniff test.

The reported example is the complaint by a former employee of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal that she is a victim of "assumed discrimination" because the City of Toronto demanded that she apply through regular municipal channels for an exemption to a parking by-law. The complainant preferred to go directly to her old friends on the Tribunal.

It's a foregone conclusion the Tribunal will declare the city guilty of discrimination, and order the exemption to the by-law, and the payment of a bag of money to their old pal.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Human Rights and Wrongs

Email to the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, December 2009. In May 2011, the Museum of Human Rights replied with a request a donation. No reaction from the Royal Society.

To determine the nature of a corporation, commission, institution, or tribunal, one must look beyond its proclaimed mandate, and examine its core. What is the policy of those who created it? What is the essential behaviour of its operators today? Do all involved have a broad knowledge of matters at hand? Or do they represent special interests?

Wesley J. Smith, a Fellow at the U.S think tank Discovery Institute, observed: "Expert commissions to advise on contentious issues of public policy are usually political tools designed to come to a predetermined conclusion in order to pave the way for desired policy changes."

The Smith Principle has general application. Witness the Royal Society of Canada, a gathering dedicated "to encouraging education and the advancement of knowledge in the social sciences and the humanities." That is its proclaimed policy. Does its behaviour reveal its core?

This gathering of the learned appointed an expert panel to "assess the pros and cons of permitting physician-assisted death". Contradicting its mandate of neutrality, the panel's mission was to evaluate "arguments deployed against decriminalization by opponents of voluntary euthanasia and/or physician assisted suicide".  Does this represent the open mind one would expect of such a gathering?

What objectivity should we expect from the Society's panel when five of its six members are euthanasia advocates? What does this tell us of the Society's core? Objectivity or predetermination? Needless to say, the panel produced the desired pro-euthanasia manifesto in its November 2011 report.

Apply the Smith Principle to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The concept of human rights covers a diverse and ever-widening spectrum of interests. Will the Museum represent this diversity?

Examine the Museum's Content Advisory Committee -- a panel that will recommend what the public will see. Of the sixteen members of this committee, eleven are activists with feminist and homosexual agendas. Is that representative of broad Canadian opinion? Dare we fear the Museum will become a platform for special interests?

May we expect from the Museum a balanced and objective approach to highly contentious issues, such as the right to life for the unborn? The rights of family-oriented women who have been marginalized by activists with little or no family experience? Misandry as well as misogyny? The rights of women forced to abort healthy females because their ethnic communities prefer boys? Will there be tolerance for the diversity of views on other rights issues?

The Museum's core behavior so far indicates a special-interest mandate.