Saturday, December 30, 2017

Toronto's Identity Politics

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.  Martin Luther King Jr.

Before Toronto expanded to its present boundaries, the city's motto, created by the city's first mayor, extolled the virtues of Industry, Integrity, Intelligence. These civic ideals stood us in good stead since our founding in 1834.

To appease every enclave of the enlarged city, every activist and political-correctness enforcer, every identity group or community, our motto was changed in 1998 to Diversity Our Strength.

Rather than celebrate mutually shared aspirations, such as the common good, our new motto invites us to observe what separates us racially, ethnically, sexually, politically, and financially. The city fell into the trap of identity politics with its hint of victimhood. Diversity is a condition, a fact, not a goal.

The old motto encouraged a citizen to say, "Here I am. How can I help?" The new motto, "Here, Toronto, are my rights and my demands. What can you for for me and  my particular cause?" Each minority group clamours for its own representation and share of the budget, its own agenda, all leading to fragmentation of civic purpose, quotas and negativity. This guarantees we will not have our best people in positions of influence and authority, just an average of mediocrity.

An example of this will soon play out when the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal finds the Peel District School Board guilty of "systemic racism" -- a new addition to the ever-expanding Utopian lexicon.

The Tribunal will base its foregone decision on the fact that, while close to thirty per cent of Peel Region residents are South Asian, only two per cent of region school principals are from that part of the world. This feel-good presumption of racism is based on the attitude that lack of evidence constitutes proof.

The Tribunal's finding of "systemic racism" will be based on the feeling that public services must be delivered by people who reflect the colour, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual condition and residency of the citizens served.

Is it "systemic racism" that white people are not proportionally represented on the Raptors basketball team? Or that Blacks, Asians and others are not proportionally represented on the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Inherent in this Utopian bias is the error that all are qualified to serve, to teach and to deliver government services. If the social and political views of my elected or appointed officials are more or less similar to mine, I do not care if he/she is a polka-dotted Brobdingnagian or a striped Luggnaggian.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A court explains minute differences

A man, reaching for a water bottle,  drove his car "some 20 metres" over a bike lane and onto a sidewalk killing a pedestrian in East Toronto.  He was charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death. The Ontario judge set him free explaining, "We cannot hold drivers to a standard of ideal decision-making when making split-second decisions." He found the defendant had made an "imprudent but reflexive decision."

Thus the court differentiates between a split-second decision and a reflexive decision.

Following the reasoning of the Supreme Court of Canada in 2008, the judge acknowledged that taking his eyes off the road was a "departure from what a reasonable prudent driver" would do in the situation, but it was not "a marked departure" from that standard.

Thus the court differentiates between a reasonable departure and a marked departure.

The learned judge went on to explain the difference. The provable period of inattention by the driver was between 0.74 and 1.18 seconds.  The court allowed that this "minuscule period of inattention" qualifies as a "momentary lapse of attention" and therefore not criminal.

Thus the court differentiates between "a minuscule period of inattention" and "a momentary lapse of attention."

How thin can our courts slice legal baloney?

In all this, the trial court accepted the uncorroborated statements of the defendant. He may have been doing something else besides, or in addition to, reaching for a water bottle.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Police That Couldn't Shoot Straight

[Seven updates follow]

On February 3, 2012, Michael Eligon, a mentally troubled man fled Toronto East General Hospital wielding scissors in each hand. On the street, eight to ten Toronto police officers surrounded him. The distance between Eligon and the police narrowed from nine to two or three metres, a witness said.

According to reports, one of the officers fired three shots in quick succession. The first shot hit a garbage can. The second bullet went through a porch window. The third shot  hit the victim's shoulder, that is, a near miss. He dropped to the ground. The police pounced on him. He died soon after.

A later report said he died of a shot in the chest. The officer in question claimed that the baton or pepper spray were not viable options. With about a dozen officers similarly armed surrounding the victim, we question why.

This incident gives rise to wondering what type of weapons training police receive. Police are trained to shoot straight at the centre of the chest, not at a nearby garbage can or house. Are front-line police required to up-date regularly their weapons skills? Should eight to ten physically fit, fully armed officers be able to disarm a lone man wielding non-projectile "weapons" without killing him?

One witness said that the officers kicked the downed man in order to clear away the scissors. Did that cause his death?

Toronto Police Chief Blair said that the police followed "sound, well-established practices and procedures." The Special Investigations Unit cleared the officer of wrongdoing. No mention of the officers who did the kicking. No mention of the stray bullets. Is Blair's "practices and procedures" the problem?

A November 2012 report tells of a Durham Region policeman facing a teenager wielding an imitation handgun. The officer shouted several warnings. The young man pointed his weapon at the officer who fired eight times. Two bullets hit the teen in the upper body. It is not reported where the other six bullets became lodged.

A few months later comes a report of the New York City police who shot and killed a man just after he had killed a former co-worker.  The disturbing part of the report, besides the two deaths, is that nine passers-by near the Empire State Building were also wounded.  Some or all were injured by police gunfire. This is not surprising the report concludes for in 2008 the accuracy rate for New York City officers firing in the line of duty was 34 per cent.

March 20, 2015
In a take-down of a knife-wielding man, Marc Ekamba-Boekwa, three Peel Regional Police fired 19 bullets in quick succession at the assailant standing eight feet away. Eleven struck the target killing him. Another hit one of the officers. Yet another bullet lodged in the back of a neighbour, Suzan Zreik (in 2016 suing for $21 million), preparing dinner in her kitchen.  No mention of the resting place of the other six bullets. As usual, reports of police mischief remain secret or noticeably incomplete.

One questions the quality of weapons training that resulted in six shots missing a target eight feet away. It's reasonable to presume most of the bullets that did hit the target were fired after the assailant was on the ground. Or are we to believe it required 11 shots to down him? The news release (but not the full report) of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) makes no mention of these concerns.

Yet again police training both in weapons and pacification, if any, are called into question.

June 3, 2017
Twelve Toronto police officers confronted on the street a man with a history of mental illness holding a pellet gun. Three officers discharged their weapons killing Devon LaFleur.  He was hit by eight bullets, no report on how many went astray. The SIU report make no mention why the police did not use Tasers or rubber bullets. Nor did the report make mention of the commendable restraint of the other nine officers who did not shoot. Or did they all shoot and missed?

May 14, 2016
A Toronto police constable stopped a car he deemed suspicious and ordered the driver out. According to conflicting evidence, he exited the car and brandished a knife. At a distance one can reasonably suppose of less than a car length, the constable fired seven shots, three killing the driver. To be questioned is why at that close range four shots missed. We await the results of the coroner's inquest and possible further investigation, this decade hopefully.

July 23, 2016
A North Miami policeman shot and wounded an unarmed man as he lay on the sidewalk, arms outstretched, shouting he did not have a weapon. The policeman fired three shots. One hit the victim in the leg. That's a thirty per cent accuracy rate.

August 11, 2016
Punta Gorda, Florida. In a demonstration, a police officer accidentally shot and killed a community volunteer. The event was a role-playing scenario illustrating the split-second decisions an officer must make about firing. What live ammunition was doing at a demonstration has not been explained. Zero per cent accuracy.

October 14, 2016
An inquest into the shooting of John Caleb Ross by York Regional Police in April 2014 disclosed that the two fatal shots were fired by one police officer after the victim refused to drop a toy gun made to look like a real weapon. A second officer fired his shotgun and missed the victim. The question again arises: A trained police officer armed with a shotgun, in sight of his target, fires and misses? Again police weapons training is in question.

October 31, 2017
The New York terror attack of this day ended with the shooting of a terrorist by a officer of the NYPD.  According to the NY Times, the officer fired nine shot at the perpetrator, one of which hit the target. A five-year police veteran misses eight time out of nine. Aside from concern about where the stray bullets may have lodged, the incident raises concern about the officer's training.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Not Enough Time to Cook?

 It is estimated that cave people worked less than 20 hours a week to produce life's essentials. In 1930, economist John Manyard Keynes believed that, due to increased productivity, his grandchildren would likely have to work only 15 hours a week. In 1968, Mechanix Illustrated predicted: "People will have more time for leisure activities in the year 2008. The average work week is about four hours."

Here we are in 2017, at hand the greatest time-savings devices ever known. For most the work week is longer and more stressful. Technology has not delivered the promised dividend of time. It has increased the burden of living. Its benefits have flowed to the already rich.

This perceived shortage of time has given rise to a previously unthinkable e-commerce business. For a fee, someone will buy, measure, cut, chill, box and ship every ingredient for a meal to your door. According to a purveyor of this service, "There's not enough time in modern lives to receipt-collect or grocery-shop." (New York Times, March 31, 2013)

With an array of push-button devices at our command, why is there "not enough time"? Why has technology not improved our lives to the point where we can stop after four hours of work? As Shakespeare has observed, the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Water, water, everywhere. So is hokum

Aren't we a sophisticated bunch?

About the time of the First World War, people purchased sealed bottles. Manufacturers convinced them that opening the bottles during the night would ensure of a supply of fresh air. Yes, people paid for bottles of air.

During the time when many African nations were on the verge of independence, a new product appeared -- The Independence Box. People were told that the boxes contained all the wonders of independence: freedom, security, success, comfort, but on condition it be not opened until independence was realized. For sure, by then the vendor was gone.

Today, many people pay for bottles of water they can acquire next to free from a faucet in their kitchens. Dansani, the top-selling bottled water in the U.S. is municipal tap water. Aquafine is sourced from the local water supply.

Need we be reminded of the words attributed to B.T. Barnum? "There's a sucker born every minute."

What may be next expect?  One of today's modern aggravations is noise. Given that some people willingly pay for air that is free, water that is next to free, soon they will pay for silence. Cartons of bottled silence will soon appear in supermarkets. Whenever people want quiet, they need only open the bottle and enjoy the emerging silence.

*  *  *
Evian, amid great fanfare, announced the opening of a carbon-neutral factory in France.  So now, they will charge more for a product that costs to produce.  The same report cites the Global Footprint Network, "It is environmentally absurd to sell bottled water when tap water is cheaper, better and far less energy intensive."  They might have added that tap water requires no plastic bottles many of which foul our waterways and add to recycling costs.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Animal rights and wrongs

No reasonable person condones gratuitous cruelty to animals. Surely the line is drawn when one attempts to equate animals and humans?  

A media report of February 9, 2016, told of placard-waving protesters demanding justice for an maltreated dog. This, based on the belief that "the mind of a dog is roughly equivalent to that of a child of two or three years of age."  

Such loathsome comparisons are the work of Peter Singer. The Princeton professor claims that highly aware animals, such as the chimp, are owed more respect and protection than mentally-challenged humans. 

One of Singer's followers proclaims, "We are seeking to break the species barrier." There is no barrier, just a measureless chasm between humans and animals, no matter what tricks the animal can perform or how debased the human behaviour. 

Animals are deserving of limited protection with no equivalence to humans at any age or in any condition.

Peter Singer's heart must be broken today. 

To the professor's chagrin, a New York appeals court recently ruled that chimpanzees do not have legal rights. The court rejected the contention that chimps are worthy of a writ of habeas corpus, as animal activists demanded.

There is no legal precedent for the animals to be considered people, the court ruled. They do not have the capacity to be held legally accountable for their actions.  

Sorry, Professor Singer, common sense occasionally holds sway.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Human Rights. How Much for Hurt Feelings?

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal have done it again. They have forced a landlord to pay compensation to a tenant for hurt feelings, real or imagined.

In showing a rental unit to prospective tenants, the landlord did not remove his shoes. According to the complainant, that violated his Muslim practice. The victim also claimed the landlord violated his prayer space. Pray tell, how else might a prospective tenant be shown the apartment without entering the prayer space, actually the bedroom? Neither of these complaints has a religious basis. They are cultural or traditional practices in certain parts of the Muslim world.

Too bad, Tribunal Vice-Chair Jo-Anne Pickel wrote in her 38-page (yes 38 pages) judgement. You hurt his feelings, pay the guy $12,000.

Which raises another question. How was the penalty arrived at? Was it related to what the Vice-Chair had for breakfast that morning? Would the award be even more ridiculous had a stranger parked in her reserved spot?

Human rights tribunals are feel-good outfits. So, if you can concoct a vaguely plausible complaint, go there. It cost nothing. They supply a lawyer. The taxpayer foots the bill. Complaints are accepted face value. The accused must prove innocence. In the end you get a bag of money. The place is a cash cow.

Death by Doctor

In "Politics and the English Language" by George Orwell takes merited jabs at the use (and abuse) of the English language. He wrote, "Pretentious diction [lends] an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgements."

We see an example of the "air of scientific impartiality" in the matter of euthanasia. Regardless of one's position in this issue, clear, honest language is called for. The terms "mercy killing" and "death with dignity" have been replaced by "assisted suicide." The language is abused.

The death is not suicide, nothing to assist. The medical person occasions the death by lethal injection. The process is more accurately described as "death by doctor" or more graphically, "killing by doctor." Some may wish to consider the process dignified.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Evolution, a logical view

A superior being cannot "descend" from an inferior being.  Humans could not have descended from monkeys or apes or any other form of lower species.
The popular diagram of evolution shows an object emerging from a primordial ooze. Succeeding stages in this process depict a series of species each "descending" from its predecessor.

A more logical model of evolution shows humanity present ab initio. The force that ultimately produced us as we are today carried us through our stages of growth, always there, always human.

There may be a common source of all life. Each of the lesser species developed to the maximum of its particular characteristic. That's where they remain today. The human species, on its unique journey, thrust up and beyond all other forms of life.

Monday, January 2, 2017


We are in an era of observable discontent. Former times, if not good, were tolerable, causing most of us to ignore the signs of protest. The power base of late mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, consisted of voters who felt left out of the good municipal life. He became mayor with almost half the votes cast, more than 383,000. The system was not working for them, the former suburbs.

In Great Britain, discontent moved 17 million to vote to leave the European Union. Few guessed 62 million Americans would cast ballots for Donald Trump, the ultimate candidate of discontent.

It may be argued these results were a good thing. They alerted us a revolution may be brewing, unless changes were made.

We like to believe we live in a society blessed with equality before the law, opportunity for all to achieve financial comfort, and freedom of expression. None of these is true.

Reasonable access to the legal system is a financial impossibility. Economic benefits go to a minority. Diversity of opinion is snuffed out when all political parties present the same policies. The media censors the whole truth, publishing only what suits their agendas. They no longer observe and report, but seek to direct public opinion.

We no longer vote for what we want, but for what we despise least.