Category Archives: Law and Legislation

I am a Canadian. — John Diefenbaker

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“I am a Candian,” is the opening phrase in a notable quotation from the Right Honourable John Diefenbaker (1895-1979) 13th Prime Minister of Canada serving from June 21, 1957, to April 22, 1963. The entire quote reads as follows:

“I am Canadian, a free Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship God in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, free to choose those who govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” (John Diefenbaker, House of Commons Debates, 1 July 1960)

Yes, John Diefenbaker was a proud Canadian–not only that he was a proud Canadian nationalist. As Prime Minister, Diefenbaker advanced the cause of Canadian nationalism. He envisioned:

One Canada, one Canada, where Canadians will have preserved to them the control of their own economic and political destiny. Sir John A. Macdonald gave his life to this party [Conservative]. He opened the West. He saw Canada from east to west. I see a new Canada – a Canada of the North! (John Diefenbaker, Winnipeg Manitoba, 12 February 1958)

Diefenbaker lived during the first century of Canada’s existence. He witnessed the development by which Canada gained independence from Britain. Until 1931, with the passage of the Statute of Westminster, the British government managed Canada’s international affairs. Diefenbaker saw Canada fight in two world wars and Canadians suffer through the Great Depression. He proudly saw the passage of the Canadian Citizenship Act in 1947. Canadians have much to be proud of in their history.

While Diefenbaker saw all that is good in Canada and being Canadian, he did not overlook the problematic moments in Canadian history. Canadian society was not without issues of unjust discrimination and prejudice. Diefenbaker observed:

From my earliest days, I knew the meaning of discrimination. Many Canadians were virtually second-hand citizens because of their names and racial origin. Indeed, it seemed until the end of World War II that the only first-class Canadians were either of English or French descent. As a youth, l determined to devote myself to assuring that all Canadians, whatever their racial origin, were equal and declared myself to be a sworn enemy of discrimination. (John Diefenbaker, Nowlan Lecture, 6)

Diefenbaker knew of the head tax charged on Chinese immigrants. The head tax, enacted in 1885, remained in effect until 1923. Chinese immigrants to Canada were charged (at its worst) $500 for admission to Canada as landed immigrants. From 1923 to 1947 Chinese immigration to Canada was banned. He knew of the internment of Japanese-Canadians in World War II. He was well aware of the Catholic-Protestant divide in Christendom that existed well into the 20th-century in Canada. I remember my mother telling me that my father had to convert to Roman Catholicism to marry her in 1960. My father’s family is Anglican. It is hard to believe such tribal divisions existed in Canada historically, but it is the reality.

Diefenbaker envisioned Canada as a nation organized according to the values of liberalism and pluralism. In shaping his vision of Canadian society, Diefenbaker was inspired, in part, by the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a Canadian-led effort. John Humphrey, a professor of law at McGill University, became director of the United Nations Division on Human Rights in 1946. Humphrey produced the first draft of the declaration. When Diefenbaker became Prime Minister in 1957, he set out to enact a piece of legislation–following up the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human rights–called the Canadian Bill of Rights. In addressing the historical issues of unjust discrimination and prejudice in Canada’s history, the Canadian Bill of Rights asserts in part:

 It is hereby recognized and declared that in Canada there have existed and shall continue to exist without discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion or sex, the following human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely,

  • (a) the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law;

  • (b) the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law;

  • (c) freedom of religion;

  • (d) freedom of speech;

  • (e) freedom of assembly and association; and

  • (f) freedom of the press.

The Canadian Bill of Rights was superseded by the passage of the Constitution Act in 1982 with the entrenched Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

To his credit, John Diefenbaker laid the groundwork for our national identity as Canadians. Despite what so many people think currently, nationalism is not a dirty word. As I grew up the values of liberalism and pluralism–the proposition on which Canadian identity is built–that John Diefenbaker advocated were instilled in me. I remember the Centennial celebrations in 1967 fondly; the swell of national pride Canadians felt in celebrating Canada’s first 100 years as a nation. I am proudly Canadian. I am not ashamed of my European heritage–my ancestry goes back to the British Isles. In keeping with Diefenbaker’s vision, I view the people with whom I interact as individuals and judge them according to the content of their character. I reject the notion that expressing Canadian nationalism is racist, that it is a declaration of white supremacy. No, Canada is not a “post-national state.” Canadians are well within their rights to stand up for their national interest, and Canadian law guarantees them their right to speak up and do so.

I hope Canadians will not lose sight of the fact that Canada is a great place to live and Canadian citizenship is worth fighting for. Yes, John Diefenbaker got it right when he advanced the cause of Canadian nationalism and Canadians would do well to remember as they face the challenges of life in the 21st-century.

Posted by Geoffrey

 

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Sentence first, verdict afterwards. — Lewis Carroll

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Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, poses with Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada and Sadiq Khan, Lord Mayor of London.

“Sentence first, verdict afterwards,” is the unreasonable demand issued by the Queen at the trial in the novel Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. What brings this quotation to mind is the absurdity of the emotional and knee jerk response to the terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Her mawkish virtue signalling and condescension towards Muslims is truly cringe-worthy. I can only surmise this is a desperate effort to appease Islamists. It is a despairing ploy on her part to ward off a retaliatory attack on New Zealand by Islamists. If Jacinda Ardern thinks putting on a Muslim veil, encouraging New Zealanders to do the same, broadcasting the Islamic call to prayer over the airwaves, and having an Islamic prayer recited in parliament is going to impress Islamists, she is delusional. New Zealand had better brace itself for retribution from Islamists for the 50 Muslim citizens killed in Christchurch.

If this situation were not bad enough, Jacinda Ardern, moved ahead with a hastily crafted plan to prohibit specific makes and models of semi-automatic guns currently owned by New Zealanders. She justifies this decision in pointing to the dead and wounded in the Christchurch terror attack. This decision is emotionally driven, poorly thought out–there is zero public consultation. Sure, it is very popular with supporters of gun prohibition, both in New Zealand and across the world, but what does she expect to accomplish with this course of action? The people gunned down in the mosques in Christchurch were helpless against the attacker. It took New Zealand police 36 minutes to arrive on the scene. The fact that the attacker used semi-automatic rifles in the attack is incidental. The attacker in the shooting spree at the École Polytechnique at the Université de Montréal in 1989–in which 14 women were murdered–used a semi-automatic rifle. As the Report of the Coroner’s Investigation into the shooting at the École Polytechnique concluded: “with the unlimited ammunition and time that [the shooter–name redacted by the author] had available to him, he would probably have been able to achieve similar results even with a conventional hunting weapon, which itself is readily accessible.” (Report of Coroner’s Investigation)

There has not been an investigation into the attack on the mosques in Christchurch and the background of the perpetrator. Therefore, there is no rational basis on which to proceed with the prohibition of specified makes and models of semi-automatic guns as a response to this atrocity. Just as in Alice in Wonderland, Jacinta Ardern demands “sentence first, verdict afterwards.” Her maudlin virtue signalling and knee jerk jump to implement gun prohibition shows how weak and emotionally driven she is as Prime Minister. It does not inspire confidence. I hope the police and intelligence services in New Zealand are actively preparing for the likelihood of Islamist retaliation. It is sure to come. Beyond that, New Zealand’s gun owners are preparing for a fight with their government over the hasty decision to advance the prohibition of specific makes and models of semi-automatic guns. The dispute between New Zealand’s gun owners and their government only diverts attention from the threat of terrorism and ensures that New Zealanders are as helpless as the men, women and children gunned down in the mosques in Christchurch given the risk of future terror attacks.

I hope New Zealanders pull together and calmly and rationally take stock of their situation and work toward developing practical measures to ensure the peace and security of every individual and community in their society.

Posted by Geoffrey

The counterculture is always repackaged and made into a product. It’s part of America. — Jim Jarmusch

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The history of the gay rights movement in the United States is fascinating. Is it a civil rights movement or is it a social justice movement? Is gay a demographic or is gay a community? Are gay rights the drive for civil rights, that gay people be at liberty, as individuals, to participate in society, openly, and free from persecution? Is it a social justice movement, the gay community driven by a countercultural constituency, intent on separating itself from mainstream culture? The answer to these questions is the gay rights movement in the United States is a combination of the two perspectives. To date, the successes of the gay rights movement in the United States are laudable. The repeal of laws that criminalized homosexual sex is a significant gain. Gay people live openly and are free to marry. True, elements of anti-gay prejudice linger, mainly from the ranks of the religious and socially conservative; moreover, there is only a patchwork of laws in place across the 50 states that prohibit discrimination in employment on the grounds of sexual orientation. However, I think these are the least of the worries for the gay rights movement in the United States. While both perspectives, civil rights and social justice, contributed to the success of the gay rights movement; what most concerns me about the current state of the gay rights movement in the United States is the influence of a decidedly countercultural constituency of U.S. society on the gay rights movement. In my opinion, this only undermines the successes of the gay rights movement in the United States and hinders its progress as a civil rights movement. Continue reading

Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible. — Maya Angelou

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Prejudice is defined as “an unfair and unreasonable opinion or feeling, especially when formed without enough thought or knowledge.” (Cambridge Dictionary) I experience prejudice as both a gay man and gun owner. You may be familiar with the crude caricature of a gay man: that of a limp-wristed, effeminate man who speaks with a lisp and has an incessant compulsion for sex. You may also be acquainted with the cartoonish stereotype of gun owners as lower class white men who are uncouth and certain to tell you the only way you will take his gun from him is “from my cold, dead hands.” Certainly, these are the extreme ends of these particular prejudices. There are occasions in my life when people directed anti-gay slurs at me and to a lesser extent snide remarks about my supposed lack of virility and questionable mental health for being a gun owner. Still, the prejudice I face as a gay man and gun owner that really concerns me is far more indistinct than loutish people who call me “queer” or “gun nut” because they just do not know any better. Continue reading

Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony. — Heraclitus

maxresdefaulteris__goddess_of_strife__discord_and_chaos__smite__by_mitchumhody-d8ky9dqGrowing up I really enjoyed reading books of fairy tales, folklore, legends and myths. I especially enjoyed the books of ancient Greek myths I found at school. These were adaptations of the stories suitable for children, not the original texts in translation, of course. Of these stories, the one featuring Eris, the goddess of strife and discord, and the apple of discord was a favourite. In short, in the story the apple of discord is a golden apple with the inscription “for the fairest” the goddess Eris threw among the gods. Just who among the gods was fairest was open to question and led to disagreement between the goddesses Athena, Hera and Aphrodite over who among them was the fairest. What started as petty bickering between the three goddesses over this question ultimately brought about the Trojan War. The moral of the story as Timothy and Susan B. Gall note in The Lincoln library of Greek & Roman mythology refers to “the core, kernel, or crux of an argument, or a small matter that could lead to a bigger dispute.” (as cited in Wikipedia) What made me think of this story in the present is the discord generated by Motion 103 Systemic racism and religious discrimination, introduced in parliament on December 5, 2016 by the backbench Liberal MP from Mississauga Iqra Khalid and passed on March 23, 2017. Continue reading

If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things? — Antonin Scalia

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Disturbing reports are cropping up on various news sites concerning a pogrom against gay men in Chechnya carried out under the auspices of the Chechen government. Initial reports from Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta claimed scores of men under suspicion of being gay were detained by Chechen authorities and three reported killed. Details are sketchy, and the Chechen government denied these reports calling them “absolute lies and disinformation.” (as cited in the Guardian) As yet it is hard to know what is going on, but as Ekaterina Sokirianskaia, Russia project director for the International Crisis Group, noted:

I have heard about it happening in Grozny [the Chechen capital], outside Grozny, and among people of very different ages and professions. […] The extreme taboo nature of the subject meant that much of the information was arriving second or third hand, and as yet there are no fully verifiable cases. […] It’s next to impossible to get information from the victims or their families, but the number of signals I’m receiving from different people makes it hard not to believe detentions and violence are indeed happening. (as cited in the Guardian)

For me, these reports coming from Chechnya come as a troubling reminder that despite the gains of gay rights movements in the Western World, notably the decriminalization and destigmatization of male homosexuality, gay men remain a population reviled by various cultural and religious elements in societies across the world. Continue reading

We can always call them Bulgarians. — Samuel Goldwyn (Attributed)

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Dining with my friend Plamen at a restaurant in Sofia.

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“We can always call them Bulgarians,” is a quotation attributed by Wilella Waldorf to “Samuel Goldwyn or somebody” in the New York Post, September 17, 1937. (as cited in The origin of “Bulgarian” as a euphemism for sexual minorities.) The euphemism was used in American cinema and theatre when referring to gay and lesbian characters on screen and on stage starting in the first half of the 20th century. What made me think of this is my recent trip to Bulgaria. I left Ottawa, bound for Bulgaria, on July 14th and returned on July 25th. I met up with my friend Plamen in Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria, and embarked on a whirlwind tour with him as my guide and interpreter. We had a great time. Bulgaria has a rich history and culture going back to antiquity and today Bulgaria is a peaceful and prosperous society. During the tour, we did not visit any gay bars or clubs in Bulgaria. This was not on the itinerary, still, in the back of my mind I wondered what life is like for gay people in Bulgaria. Do gay people live openly in Bulgarian society or do they remain closeted and if so, why? Continue reading