Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dalton's dictionary

"My Catholicism, my private faith, does not determine my position. My responsibility to the public interest does."
Dalton McGuinty, September 17, 2007
FACT: The only thing 'public' about Roman Catholic education is the funding.

In Dalton's world:
Public education and Roman Catholic education are synonyms

Roman Catholic education and 'faith-based' education are not
Lucky for Dalton that rather than putting the question directly to him, reporters have skirted around the issue. They've asked questions like 'what about your own kids?' 'what about your own education?' but they haven't come out and asked the one question that would pin down Dalton's real opinion on the issue. If they asked it, one would have to wonder would Dalton the politician or Dalton the Roman Catholic step up to the plate:
Dalton McGuinty-- since you are emphatically against 'faith-based' education funding, will you make it your mission to dismantle the Separate School boards across Ontario and redirect all of that money into a single public education system that is truly public and truly inclusive?
If not Dalton, then you are a fraud. I'm against Tory's plan, but at least his plan reflects the 21st century reality of Ontario. Your acceptance of the status quo, where one faith group is favoured over all others is regressive and bigoted. And if so, Roman Catholic parents will desert the Liberal Party en masse.

You can't have it both ways -- if you are against faith-based funding, you can't say 'except for my faith'. Public and Separate are NOT synonyms except in Dalton's dictionary, where his faith is more worthy than yours.

See also: Joanne's Journey and doggerel party


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Fee education

Anyone who has a kid in school knows that the first week is fee week.

Amongst other fees, it used to be for the primary school kids they'd 'suggest' you buy a $5 'agenda' for your kid to help him keep track of homework, tests etc. Then, it became mandatory for you to buy your kid a $5 agenda. Now it is both mandatory and $10. That's a $5 increase in a matter of about four or five years for something that has no educational benefit.

They say it's necessary. Fine. Your kid has to write down assignments, tests, trips etc. -- well what's wrong with one of those blank notebooks from the dollar store? Or one of those calendars with the big squares? (Also available at the dollar store.)

But n
o, the schools prefer the printed agenda -- that way it has a personal greeting from the child's very own Principal and from the school board. It has the individual school's code of conduct, lunch schedule, floor map, song, cheer, bullying policy, internet policy, etc. All of this information is available elsewhere and isn't used by your average K-8 student, but it sure makes the agenda seem invaluable.

Someone is making a lot of money from this. I don't know who got the idea to make these silly wastes of paper but they must be a millionaire by now. Selling an idea like this to multiple school boards and then supplying the product --wow. Clever. And there has to be a different one every year so the calendar will be correct and the Principal's message will be fresh.

There is nothing wrong with kids taking responsibility for their assignments and upcoming events, but surely it doesn't require a $10 coil bound, holographic covered, multi-coloured, over-paged, glorified datebook to do it.

And then there's high school fees. An agenda, student ID and yearbook are all compulsory at my older kids' school. $40 per kid. If you don't have the forty dollars on the first day, they don't give your schedule.

How's that for FREE PUBLIC EDUCATION -- Dalton? TDSB? Anyone?


Friday, August 31, 2007

Revised does not equal 'Revisionist'

In today's National Post, historian Randall Hansen takes issue with the War Museum's recent decision to replace the controversial plaque about Bomber Command. Yesterday the National Post quotes Randall as calling the decision 'craven' and 'appalling'. He went so far as to say that attempts to deny the plaque's accuracy are 'absolutely Stalinist' and 'Orwellian'.

I've already posted my opinion on the plaque, here and here.

The plaque in question is poorly worded because it purports to be a neutral commentary on Bomber Command but then goes on to draw a negative conclusion about the Canadian air campaign against Germany. The plaque draws a reader's attention to the 'enduring controversy' regarding 'the morality and value' of the air strikes and then wraps up by drawing the conclusion that the raids were ineffective except in their slaughter of innocent civilians. Hansen might believe the conclusion is factual, but then why does the plaque pretend the issue is controversial if this conclusion is unequivocally true?

Hansen is an historian who has written about this period in our history. He comes to the issue armed with research and an agenda -- to propagate ideas he set out in his book. He sneers at Cliff Chadderton who has taken offense at both the content and the tone of the plaque. Hansen accuses him of not having read, or having read his history poorly.

What Mr. Hansen fails to realize is that as clever and well-read as he is and with all that education and research under his belt, the War Museum is not meant for him. It wasn't built to satisfy his interpretation of the air war and, he's right, it wasn't meant to assuage the souls of Vets. It was meant to inform.

The plaque in question does not inform -- it leads. It wording of the plaque leads the reader to the one conclusion -- that despite their actions being militarily ineffective, Canadians continued to bomb the hell out of poor innocent German civilians, killing hundreds of thousands of them. It gives no indication of Bomber Command's losses or limitations -- it simply leaves the modern reader with the impression that it was unnecessary and wrong -- not controversial -- unnecessary and wrong.

A school kid reading the plaque -- which, let's be clear, is the defining statement of the display -- would have no grasp of the total war, no sense of the intractability of the enemy, little understanding of the limitations of the technology of the day, small idea of the risks of pinpoint bombing, and minimal awareness of the huge Bomber Command losses (51 out of every 100 airmen were killed in action). That school kid might move further along in the display and see some of these facts mentioned somewhere -- but not in relation to the destruction and death described in the centrepiece plaque. This kid is likely to conclude that Bomber Command was wantonly murderous. What else could someone who is not an expert think after reading that plaque?

Hansen uses words like 'craven', 'appalling', 'Stalinist' and 'Orwellian' to describe the veterans' attempts to have the plaque reworded. He uses hyperbole to defend something so small and insignificant as an opinion -- yet he doesn't understand why the veterans are compelled to defend their honour, their service and their sacrifices for this country. It's academic tunnel vision.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Jerusalem, where?

A Federal appeals court has determined that when the holder of a Canadian passport was born in the city of Jerusalem, that the omission of the country name 'Israel' is acceptable and not a violation of the charter rights of said holder.

The petitioner argued that recognizing Israel as the country of his birth is part of religious identity. The National Post says that the appeals court determined:
The decision upholds a 2006 court ruling that Canada's passport policy is neither discriminatory nor a violation of religious freedom, despite the fact that Israel is the sole exception to a practice of allowing passport applicants to list their birth country of choice when dealing with cities in disputed territories.

Not discriminatory when Israel is the lone exception? It isn't only a discriminatory policy, it's cowardly.

Disputed territory or not, even under 1948 rules, part of Jerusalem was part of Israel. Why does the Canadian government persist in this myth that Jerusalem in its totality is a city that belongs not to Israelis, but to no one or to everyone?

While I don't believe this young man's religious rights are being violated, reality is being evaded. Why make a document inaccurate in order to appease the sensibilities of Palestinians, who obviously cannot be appeased by greater concessions than even that?

My Israel includes Jerusalem.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Either you do, or you don't

Toronto's decision to remove the "Support Our Troops" ribbon from EMS vehicles actually clarifies something for me. Council is afraid that supporting our troops might be confused by the public with supporting the war in Afghanistan. Heaven forbid that someone get the idea that if you support the person performing a particular job, that you also support the job they're working at.

Often we'll hear people like Jack Layton and David Miller say that they support the troops, but not the war in Afghanistan as though the two ideas were not inconsistent. Maybe it's time we stop pretending to believe them. It's one thing to have questions about the mission and how it's progressing, its end date etc. but these are guys who are ALWAYS anti-war and have always been against any military action that was not exclusively a peace-keeping mission.

I'm sorry -- but I find it difficult to believe that you can 'support the troops' but not the war. It seems like one of those mantras people recite because they don't want to be seen as being as cruel as Americans were to their soldiers during Vietnam.

How can you support the troops if you don't support their work?

Can you support Wade Belak in a hockey fight if you are against hockey fights on principle?

Can you support the Pope if you are against Roman Catholicism and what it stands for?

Can you support abortionists if you are anti-abortion?

It doesn't mean to say that anyone wishes ill-will toward Belak, the Pope, abortionists, or the troops if they don't support their work, but it stands to reason you can't support the employee if you are morally opposed to his job. You might not want him to die, but that's not the same as 'supporting' him.

Say it Mr. Mayor, Mr. Layton and all of you who have pretended to support the troops -- you think war is wrong. And if this war is wrong, so are the people who are participating in it. Just own up.

As for me, I support our troops.


Thursday, May 31, 2007

President of the OPG: Don't believe anything you read

Harper has been warned.

Warren Kinsella writes today about the ongoing feud between the press and Stephen Harper, wherein Harper has limited access and put restrictions on questioning. Kinsella notes that it isn't just The Toronto Star sniping, but guys like Don Martin of the right-leaning National Post who are fed up with Harper's 'disdain' for the press. He quotes Richard Brennan, new president of the Ottawa Press Gallery, as saying:
"There's not a lot we can do, except push back, and that's what he is going to find," said Brennan. "We are pushing back."
Kinsella gives all rounds up to this point to Harper, saying that "the Prime Minister has beaten the national media at every turn. They have been forced to play the game by his rules." But goes on to say:

Sometime soon, the Prime Minister is going to find the news media "pushing back" at a time when he is most vulnerable. Namely, during the election campaign.

Already, it is arguable that this push-back campaign is producing dividends: However much Harper moves to the centre, offering up big-spending policies for latte-sipping urbanites and ruthlessly muzzling the red-necked crazies in his backbench--he gets no credit for it. He and his party remain ahead of the Liberals, marginally, but they are also far from their lusted-after majority. So they lick their wounds, and wonder why.

So, rather than reporting the news fairly and accurately, the president of the Ottawa Press Gallery seems to be advocating that the media selectively report, thereby attempting to shape the opinons of the nation, rather than do what they are supposed to do, inform the nation and allow us to form our own opinions.

This concept is coming from the guy the OPG chose to represent them -- Instead of just sucking it up and giving us the news, he'd rather the press gallery 'push back,' and it would seem as Kinsella notes, they'll use 'omission' as a tactic.

How is it that the head guy believes that OPG's petty grievances are more important than their responsibility to Canadians to tell things as they are? Do they think that they are somehow 'representing' us up there in that rarefied world of Ottawa bars and backrooms -- especially when they decide they're going to play kingmaker if the PMO won't play ball their way?

Is there any wonder why Harper doesn't trust them?


Canadian Idiot

I'm a fan of clever television ads. Sometimes I even get sucked into trying a product because their advertising is good or I'll find myself humming along with their catchy tunes.

Some ads I hate though -- like the Casino Rama ones where no one knows how to have fun until they've visited the casino "Thank you, Casino Rama, for showing us how to have fun." Because without Casino Rama and gambling in our lives, we'd be too stupid to realize that we should cheer if our team scores or if we win an amazing trip in a radio contest.

One new ad has really caught my ire. David Suzuki has managed to both offend and enlighten in his new television ad, aimed at having us plebs reduce our energy consumption. It could have been a cute idea and its premise is a good one -- regardless of whether we are 'deniers', 'skeptics' or 'true believers' in climate change, it makes sense to conserve energy and try to improve environmental conditions in every aspect of our lives, if only to make breathing easier.

In this new ad called "The Basement", Suzuki and his enviro-idiots use 'Bob', a guy so ignorant that he keeps a huge fridge running to cool four beers, then protests when Suzuki says it's a waste. 'But I'm using it' comes the doltish plea. But when Suzuki awakens Bob to the savings potential -- and the prospect of more beer money -- not only does Bob unplug the fridge -- he races through his house, pushes past his family members and proceeds to unplug every energy using device, even those in use. All for more and more and more beer. Just a regular guy, that Bob.

Thank you David Suzuki, for letting us into your head to see what you and your pals really think of us. Idiot.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A picture's worth . . . ?

Regardless of political affiliation, most people say they support our troops. Personal feelings about war in general and the war in Afghanistan in particular, don't seem to factor in.

Why is it then, that Liberals are still bent on portraying our military as ominous in an effort to malign the Conservatives?

A photograph of tanks at the ready, combined with the word 'Conservative' seems to be a favourite stunt of the Liberal Party's communications staff. This image of Light Armoured Vehicles from the Liberal website, is reminiscent of the Liberal television ad yanked during the election last year. Apparently they thought they'd dust off the idea and give it new life in a different format. With so many other aspects of the Afghan mission to choose from, they have chosen one that could be seen as the most menacing. No faces, just an overpowering machine. Subtlety is obviously not their forte.

The NDP doesn't like the Conservatives any more than the Liberals do, and they like the war in Afghanistan even less. Yet the NDP website doesn't misuse the military to make a point about Harper. Their criticism of Harper's Afghan vision and visit is linked to by a photo of soldiers on the ground, with Afghan children in the background. It appears unstaged and seems unthreatening -- no attempt to draw deleterious connections or conclusions.

Maybe I'm being fussy here, but photographs are used to evoke emotion. You'd think that the Liberals would have learned their lesson and if they want to assail Harper, they'd stop using our military as their weapon of choice.

*** I've edited this post because commenters corrected me (thanks) --The photo is not of tanks, but LAVs (Light Armoured Vehicles). The visual holds the same connotation IMO.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Conversion Tools

Who knew that kidnapping would become an instrument of religious conversion? Imagine if they could do this on a grand scale? Too bad they didn't discover this tactic before they got the taste for blood.

One wonders which side Ms Ridley is rooting for, and should the Taliban prevail, does she plan to move to Afghanistan don the burqua and shut up?

I don't ask this because I believe she should be quiet. The woman has the right to speak -- here. It's simply an observation about the 'courteous' society whose company she enjoyed well enough to keep.

Sometimes you just have to shake your head.

** Update -- Darcey's written on this today too.


Monday, May 21, 2007

A matter of conscience

Via Red Tory, I came across this article by Scott Taylor about the war in Afghanistan. It wasn't the article that interested me really, it was RT's assessment of it. He quotes heavily from the column which describes unspeakable methods of murder and violence used by a former Afghan warlord who is working against the Taliban and who in doing so, is on the same 'side' as Canada.

RT is shocked:
And those are the “good guys” on whose behalf we are fighting!
Is that what liberals really think? That we're fighting on 'behalf' of those monsters? Linear thinking, indeed. I rather doubt that's how our soldiers see it, but then they aren't limited by piety and an insular reality.

It would seem to me that we're tolerating those monsters in order to fight on behalf of a beleaguered and oppressed civilian population.

Red Tory goes on to say:
Quaint notions of “peacekeeping” in such an environment are clearly misplaced.
We were never in Afghanistan to 'peace keep'. This is a war. It was never sold as a peacekeeping mission, even by the Liberals. This 'quaint notion' is only held by those who don't keep up on current events. That any of this would come as a shock, is what's shocking.

The trouble with articles like this, and more so the interpretations of people like Red Tory, is the not-so-subtle suggestion that Canadian troops are complicit in torture. They make the black and white connection between our guys handing over detainees and allegations of torture by detainees -- as though the allegations are fact, and as though abuse of detainees captured by anyone other than Canadians is simply hunky-dory. The premature and selective outrage is mind-boggling.

The 'guilt by association' nonsense denigrates our soldiers, which is a concern I've written about before. But beyond that, it pointedly excuses and ignores Western indifference during the years when the Taliban perpetrated all manner of abuse on its own dissenting citizens and particularly its systemic victimization of women, all of which took place long before this war. It also ignores the potential for a return to this regime should we pull out before stability is firmly established.

In the minds of our liberal elites, maybe that torture was okay. It wasn't our people. We knew, yet did nothing to intervene, but because we weren't there -- our hands are clean. Despite news reports coming out of Afghanistan during that time period -- we could turn a blind eye, but have a clear conscience because it wasn't our country and it wasn't our women and it had nothing to do with us.

No, I know. Human rights abuses by the Taliban are not why we went there, but now that we are there, isn't it fortunate for all those women who would otherwise be assassinated in soccer stadiums for simple indiscretions? Isn't it fortunate for all those little girls getting an education for the first time?

The holocaust is not why we entered WWII. Had it remained an internal German problem -- had there been extermination of just Germany's Jews -- we would have allowed it. We would have said that it was not our place to intervene in the domestic affairs of an autonomous country. Had Germany never crossed its own borders, WWII wouldn't have happened. The Allies could stayed at home, witnessed the barbarity and had a clear conscience because we wouldn't have been complicit in the deaths of Jews.
That's obscene, but it's the logic of the Canadian left on this one.

Over at RT's they're questioning the financial cost of staying in Afghanistan, and yet they pretend that humanity is the exclusive domain of the left. Humanity is demanding that we stay and finish the job and that the preventing the suffering of civilians, and elevating their potential for a renewed society is our primary concern. It might not be why we went, but it's why we should stay.

We could leave Afghanistan now and watch from a safe distance, and we might even allow ourselves to believe that our hands remain pristine. We could smugly shrug as innocent people are tortured and murdered by their countrymen, while we stay safe in our liberal dreamworld where we'd be comforted by the 'quaint notion' that at least we aren't violating the human rights of captured Taliban fighters.

We can't solve all the world's ills or rescue all of its vulnerable people, but if we were to abandon Afghanistan now, there is no question that we would be complicit in the return to disorder which allowed the Taliban to victimize its most defenseless citizens.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Someone's choking

And I guess that would be us Leaf fans.

Nevertheless, there's no reason for us to lose faith in Ottawa's potential to blow it in the finals. After all, they came by this win on a cheat. If that rascal Comrie hadn't pulled that stunt and knocked the net off with about three minutes to go, the game wouldn't have gone to overtime. Buffalo would have won it right then and there.

I'm hoping for an Anaheim/Ottawa cup final and an Anaheim cup win.

For those of you who think I'm anti-Canadian for not cheering for the only Canadian team left in the playoffs:

Detroit has 8 Canadians
Ottawa has 14 Canadians
Anaheim has 19 Canadians
Should Detroit make it to the finals rather than Anaheim, I will justify cheering for Detroit because of my visceral hatred of the Senators.

At this time of year, it's less about being a Leaf fan and more about being an Ottawa hater. Yes, they have great players -- probably the best. But they also dive and cheat. Don't you be telling me that the Leafs do those things. I can't hear you.

I don't know what it is about Ottawa that makes my blood boil when they win. It isn't that I hate the city -- Ottawa. I've never even been there.

Maybe it's the red. Liberals are red. That must be it -- because there's just no way that it's sour grapes.


* Edited for correct spelling of that rascal Mike Comrie's name.

Friday, May 18, 2007

What we have here

is a failure to communicate.

The shocking news isn't that the Conservatives have strategies to get their way or to manipulate committees -- it's that they would write a playbook -- and then allow it to become public. That's careless and stupid.

The methods described by Don Martin in today's National Post are nothing new, nor or they exclusive to the Conservatives. They've been employed to great effect by other parties when the opportunity or need arose. The difference is this time is there is a blueprint, so it looks calculating and manipulative.

Ordinary citizens are led to believe that we can expect our politicians to be 'above partisan politics'. We are duped into thinking that they should be above partisanship -- but the fact is, politics is an adversarial business. Each party has priorities and plans, and much as we'd like to believe otherwise, consensus is not always possible.

The Shane Doan incident, the stalled committees and the Kyoto implementation plan are excellent examples. There should have been no concensus about calling on Hockey Canada, and there can be no consensus on the Afghan detainee issue, the Court Challenges Program or Kyoto. The other parties are fairly solid in their positions on these and so long as the Conservatives have a minority in the House and on committees, it stands to reason that government is going to try to block ideas and issues that potentially go against national security, against their principles and against all reason. While compromise is often necessary, conversion would be required to support the opposition ideas in these areas.

Of course you can't govern like a majority when you're in a minority parliament. The Conservatives had to expect the Opposition would oppose -- that's their job. At least some of the obstacles to success on committees have nothing to do with the opposition working against the government and everything to do with the government's lack of success selling its position to the public.

Take the Shane Doan/Official Languages Committee fiasco.

The Conservatives had a minority on the committee. The motion to call Hockey Canada in front of the committee would have passed without their support. Chong's lame explanation that they were 'giving Hockey Canada a chance to tell their side.' is just asinine. If Hockey Canada doesn't need to justify to parliament its choice of Captain-- why would the Conservatives vote for the motion, when a 'yes' vote gives credence to the notion that parliament has a right to challenge the decisions of Hockey Canada?

I have no doubt that the Conservatives were not in favour of recalling Shane Doan or of hauling Rob Nicholson in for grilling -- but rather than bravely voting against the motion, or even meekly abstaining, they voted in favour of the farce and allowed themselves to be painted with the same brush as the other committee members who were pushing for Doan's ouster and disparaging his character.

That is bad strategy.

As for the Afghan detainee thing --- why try to hide mistakes? When you own up, people respect you. When you obfuscate, they know. Where is the upside in lying? Canadians can understand that it takes time to rectify some problems, but they don't understand why it's so hard to admit to errors and to the lag-time in correcting your errors. If you're up front about your mistakes head on, the issue dies. If you try to deny, you'll be caught and that becomes the story.

Bad strategy.

With the Court Challenges Program --- there is reasonable justification for shutting this program down, but what about a grandfathering clause, allowing cases already in the system to proceed? Or actually explaining (without a sneer that says anyone who doesn't agree is an idiot) why the program isn't necessary.

And the Kyoto Implementation bill -- Given the circumstances around the time this was first presented, they could have fought an election on that issue and won. They missed a golden window of opportunity they won't get back.

That's bad strategy.

If the Conservatives are losing ground, it's because they are losing touch with the people. Not just their 'base', but the people.

We don't care about committee procedures or who's the Chair -- we just want to know that our government is doing the right thing and when they don't, that they've got the fortitude to admit it and take the heat.

You've still got time before the session ends. Show some character.


Arabic immersion?

Why don't we try to get all of our kids to learn to speak and read proper English first?

The Windsor Public School Board has decided to offer Arabic 'immersion' classes. From the tone of the article, this doesn't sound like the taxpayer funded 'Heritage Languages' program here in Toronto, where the TDSB pays for Cantonese, Farsi or other foreign language classes, usually on Saturdays. This sounds like the Board intends to offer regular school day education, in Arabic.

Nice precedent, don't you think?

Surely it makes more sense to fund more programs and include more participants in classes that would facilitate the learning of one of our two OFFICIAL languages.

Apparently the experts don't think so. They say that kids 'literate in their first language are more adept at acquiring English or French.' and that 'if children of immigrants do not feel alienated from their family's language and culture, they adapt most readily to Canadian culture and values.'

Really? I would have thought being immersed in English would help you to learn English, and that participating fully in Canadian culture would help establish and cultivate Canadian values. Silly me. Better to ghettoize and then when they're ready, let them mix.

Oh, I know. These kids will be inside public schools, ostensibly learning the same curriculum and participating fully in school life, but don't imagine for a moment that there won't be two solitudes within those schools. If you have kids in Special Ed., you'll know what I mean.

Rather than funding another expensive social experiment with our school systems, why don't we just admit that we haven't managed our English as a Second Language programs effectively. ESL in the public school system in Toronto is a joke, and I doubt it's much better in Windsor. Here in TO, kids whose first language is not English, but who were born in Canada, aren't allowed to participate. They speak their parents' mother-tongue at home and are expected to just 'pick up' English in the school yard I guess. The program ends around Grade 3 with limited support in the higher grades. And Windsor wants to spend money teaching kids in a foreign language? This is another stupid idea that will find its way to Toronto no doubt.

Many Ontarians are keen throw out our heritage and to stop public funding of Catholic schools because it's 'unfair' and 'too expensive' and here is the Windsor School Board trying to justify Arabic immersion. In some areas of Scarborough more than 60% of kids don't speak English as a first language -- what should we do for them? There are several different language groups here and English is the minority. Maybe we should create several learning solitudes. Or maybe we should only fund the language groups where numbers allow, regardless of the language. In some places, that would mean both English and French are out.

The answer to integrating people into Canadian life isn't to educate immigrant kids in their native language. Doing so can't possibly advance their participation in community life -- unless we plan for them to stay within an exclusively Arabic-speaking community.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

In case there was any doubt

Yesterday in the comment section here and at Dust my Broom, stageleft questioned the authenticity of the email I received from Garth Turner on Monday. He thought the actual email address sounded iffy because it's unlike any parliamentary email address he'd seen before.

I suggested he should send a message, which he said he did. He promised to get in touch if he heard back. I still haven't heard from stageleft again, but no matter. Soon after, one of my kids decided to send an email to TurneG9@parl.gc.ca and she received a reply almost immediately.

Here is the response. I have blocked out my daughter's email address, but other than that it's as it was received:

As for the forgiveness offered by "Garth Turner" in the comments section yesterday:
I forgive you. Now you need to take some lessons in sarcasm.

The profile links to nothing, but given that the comment ended with a slam, I figure it's legit. Phew!


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

An open letter to Garth Turner

This weekend, I committed a blogging sin and now I am compelled to repent.

While visiting The Prairie Wrangler I made an unsupported allegation about Garth Turner, without the obligatory qualifier "I believe". I am deeply ashamed for this omission and am publicly withdrawing my accusation.

Over this past fifteen months since Garth began making such an (alleged) ass of himself that I actually noticed his existence, I have written about him many times. In those posts, I suggested (among other things) that Garth is:
alienating, arrogant, a blabbermouth, a bore, disloyal, divisive, gossipy, idiotic, indiscreet, malicious, nasty, petulant, self-righteous, self-aggrandizing, smug, spiteful, whiny, vengeful . . . you get the picture.
But this time I went too far. I accused Garth of (prepare yourselves) . . . comment fraud.

The following email was sent to me by Garth, warning of the dire repercussions if I did not provide proof (or I suppose -- if I didn't take it back):

I swear I thought a bolt of lightning might shoot through the computer screen given the biblical proportions of his threat. What a dramatic and ominous articulation of intentions. It's like he's made a covenant. Garth Turner vows to make me -- 'suffer the eternally discrediting consequences' of not submitting to his will. 'Suffer' is such a harsh word to use and rather ill-advised by an MP in these circumstances. Shocking that someone in Garth's position would be so reckless in his use of language. And who's he going to discredit me with? My readers? His readers? The government? My boss? God? If Garth has the ear of the Almighty . . . I shudder to think.

Garth's 'or else' blustering was a bit easier for my children to grasp, spending so much time with other kids as they do. They still recall the simple art of verbal sparring at the 'Am not! Are too!' level, which I've long since forgotten. My youngest daughter suggested I use her favourite retort: "make me!" but I certainly don't want to
'suffer the eternally discrediting consequences' he promised. I've seen what Garth has done to his own credibility -- there's just no telling what he'd do with someone else's if he got a hold of it.

My offending comment was an off-handed remark, really. It's probably inaccurate anyway, because like my kids said after they finished laughing -- other pathetic publicity-hounds like Charlie Sheen, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears have groupies -- why not Garth Turner?

When I first read his menacing email,
I was so disturbed that I contemplated committing blogicide, but then I realized two things -- first, that I could feel better by going public, and second, that Garth had paid me a huge compliment by trying to intimidate me. By threatening to discredit me, The (allegedly) Honourable Garth Turner, was in fact saying that I am 'credible'. I blush! What flattery! And from such an unexpected source.

In the end, I make the following
I, canadianna, humbly repent and do earnestly beseech thee, most ridiculous MP, to forgive me my transgression against thee. Amen.
*** Note -- The above
petition is made on the off-chance that Garth comes by his (alleged) God complex, legitimately.

Oh, and Garth -- I'm just a blogger and not an iconic one at that. I have a relatively small readership, no fancy titles, no prestigious office, no groupies. The only people I care to have 'credibility' with are my kids. They respect me. They scoff at you. I'm fine with that, thanks.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Veteran's trust

Our soldiers have to know that even long after they've finished their duties abroad, they and their families will be well served by our government. They put their lives on the line, and they hope that the people back home will support them --- not just their missions, but them. They need to be certain that the government will not turn its back on them or their families should they be disabled or should they die. It's a matter of trust.

Due to a clerical error at the Department of Veteran's Affairs, Annie MacKenzie didn't receive her husband's disability pension after he died in 1968. The Department insisted Melvin MacKenzie was not disabled, despite having
in its possession, information that he was. Unfortunately, that information was ignored and then never transferred to computer. Mrs. MacKenzie was left to raise their six children on her own, without the financial assistance to which she was entitled.

The government doesn't dispute that they got it wrong for nearly 40 years, but Federal laws governing the Pension Act only allow for retroactive payments going back five years. The family is appealing to today's government to hand over the full amount to which Annie MacKenzie and her family were entitled.

It's shameful that governments can erase errors and ignore commitments, simply by legislating a time-limit clause. Mrs. MacKenzie and her family have been fighting for this pension since 1968. It isn't as though the family just discovered it was owing and are hoping for a windfall. These payments were due, and despite years of attempting to get Veteran's Affairs to rectify their error, nothing was done. No fault lies with the family, so why should they be penalized for a governmental failure?

How this case is handled will serve to show today's soldiers what they can expect from Veteran's Affairs in the future. If we want our troops serving in Afghanistan and elsewhere to have confidence that we support them, and will continue to support them when they come back home, showing respect for our WWII & Korea Vets and their widows would be a positive indicator.

Harper should step in and right this wrong, making the payout retroactive to when the mistake occurred.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Who's calling the shots at the RCMP

To hear Greg Weston tell it, it's Stephen Harper.

Weston apparently believes the RCMP takes its marching orders from the PMO, which is why they used a hammer to smash an ant when they hauled in Jeffrey Monaghan for questioning the other day. Likening this to a police state, Greggie supposes the Conservatives would love to do the same thing to more people, both bureaucrats and reporters. And yet here we read an insulting accusative story about the government -- Greg, you're so brave.

Of course, the absolutely non-political RCMP couldn't possibly have its own agenda for making the sitting government look stupid or high-handed. And never has any individual or group within the RCMP made errors in judgment, appeared overzealous or acted disproportionately. It must be all Harper's fault.

Environment Minister Baird's suggestion that the arrest was "
a signal to other government employees that leaks of information wouldn't be tolerated" and his conclusion that "obviously (the RCMP) feel it's serious enough to lay charges" which proved to be erroneous, seem to be the smoking gun for political commentators. Baird's first statement was in defense of having called in the RCMP to investigate in the first place, not an admission of political interference. His second was a reaction to an apparent arrest. And had the detainment been politically directed, Baird likely would have got that point right, and the episode -- so public and so over-the-top, would have likely resulted in more than a conversation. But let's overlook the obvious if it makes Harper look bad.

It's far juicier to imply government conspiracy than to assume that the RCMP acted rashly. It also fits in much better with Weston's personal antipathy for Harper. If it's the RCMP running amok, it fits in with the larger issues that pre-date Harper's governance. But if it's political direction, Harper and his nasty band of not-quite-conservatives can be castigated with impunity without ever having to prove any involvement on their part. This works much better with Weston's ongoing hypothesis that Harper is the puppet master to whom everyone demurs.

Weston's bizarre accusation is part of a pattern. He and pal Don Martin are a scrawling dynamic duo, who will stop at no cliche and leave no insinuation left hanging in order to ascribe blame to Harper personally in any awkward or unflattering situation, regardless of how unlikely his involvement. Whether it's the way Harper dresses or unfounded political innuendo, the two columnists share such bitter contempt for Harper, they never mind setting aside credibility in order to get in a good dig.

Just an observation, Mr. Weston: The RCMP does a pretty good job of screwing up all on its own.

That huge chunk of animus on your shoulder is probably impairing your vision.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Not racism, lack of imagination

I remember the Air India bombing. Never once did I consider it anything but a tragedy and never once did I consider it unimportant or just an 'Indian affair.'

Bob Rae and Ujjal Dosanjh say those are the attitudes of Canadians about the tragedy. They are implying that those kinds of attitudes -- racism and indifference -- allowed the tragedy to happen in the first place and have allowed the investigation to drag on this long.

I refuse to believe that civil servants were so racist that they could ignore a security threat because of the race of the passengers. I also don't believe that Canadians were indifferent to the mass-murder of hundreds of people who embarked from our soil, regardless of whether they were Indian, Canadian or both. That's insulting to all of us who have followed this case over the years and who have hoped for justice. The plodding pace of the government and its various investigations into this case is not testimony to the investment of ordinary Canadians in this tragedy. Our government represented its own interests, not our concerns.

Rae and Dosanjh are implying that Canadians would have cared more if this had been a British Airways or United jet. I don't think that's true.

And if our civil servants got it wrong before the fact, and didn't adequately assess the risk, it wasn't racism. It was ignorance. In those days it was almost unthinkable that radicals of any ilk would actually blow innocent people out of the sky. No political goal has ever been that important to most Canadians that they would bomb a plane or understand the psyche of someone who would. If there is any fault with the system of the time it was the Canadian habit of projecting our own world view onto others. We always assume that in any given situation, people will behave the way we would -- we could not imagine the malice that would allow someone to be so cruel. The complacency of the government on this was, at least in part, due to a tragic inability to view the world through the eyes of those who use terror to advance their goals.

Nearly thirty years on, in the post 9/11 world, no act of evil seems impossible. We are attempting to judge the 1980's Canadian security agencies based on our understanding of terror today. Their lack of imagination was understandable given their experience.

Imagine if Canadians had been indifferent? Twenty-seven years is far too long, but if the general public really viewed this is an 'Indian affair' or had we been indifferent to the deaths of hundreds of people because of their race, there would have been no demands for an inquiry beyond the families. Without public support, no amount of pushing from them would have forced politicians to review this tragedy.

Not every act of ignorance is grounded in racism. In 1985, we had rarely had to look at the world through the eyes of terrorists. What would seem like incompetence now,
might have been the simple inability to put ourselves in the other guy's shoes and to see that he really had no qualms about blowing up innocent people.


Why are we there in the first place?

The Canadian embassy in Saudi Arabia is protesting a decision to shut down a booth at an education fair in the Saudi city of Jeddah aimed at wooing Saudi students to Canada because it was staffed by women.
Why are we 'wooing Saudi students'?

Do we think that once they get on the plane they will open their minds and eighteen years of ingrained disdain for women will spill out and they will embrace women as their equals and teachers?

I know. It's wrong to ask.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

What now?

So the Official Languages committee has grilled Bob Nicholson. Now what?

Besides embarrassing themselves, and trying to disparage Shane Doan, the committee has even challenged the integrity of the NHL by suggesting the investigation into the alleged incident was inadequate. But now that they've aired their grievances, what did they accomplish? What did they hope to accomplish?

I have no link to confirm, but as I listened to Leafs Lunch this afternoon, twice they said that one of the questions posed to Hockey Canada reps was 'how many players on Team Canada speak French?'

If this was actually asked, one has to wonder if it is a harbinger of political interference yet to come.


MP Mike Lake -- an endangered species?

I have to hope that MPs are forced by some sort of protocol to bring all petitions before the House, no matter how bizarre -- because if this guy is standing by this one . . .

Protect Bigfoot as Species at Risk

He wants the sasquatch -- a.k.a. Bigfoot -- to be protected under Canada's Species at Risk Act. A petition to the House of Commons, signed by almost 500 of Lake's constituents in Edmonton and due for debate next week, asks the government "to establish immediate, comprehensive legislation to effect immediate protection of Bigfoot."

The petition was tabled in the House on March 28th. They're even reporting on it in the UK (scroll down to near the bottom).

Between the Shane Doan thing and this, you just have to wonder if something happens to people when they become elected officials -- like do they really have to check their brains at the door.

Oh well, at least he's acting on behalf of a constituent. All the MPs in a tizzy over Shane Doan haven't presented one bit of evidence that his captaincy bothers anyone but the most politically correct, small-minded people in Canada - namely those particular MPs.

UPDATE: Darcy shows Lake has a sense of humour about this.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Chasing Stanley -- sorta

My 14 year old son has entered CBC's "Bringing Home the Cup" contest.
This is the obligatory plug from mom. We don't have a video camera, so the kids used the digital. It wasn't until after it was filmed they realized there was no sound, hence the audio notice.

Anglican Church wimps out again

The Anglican Church of Canada is so afraid of making up its mind that it's become paralyzed.

Rather than just taking a stand and saying 'yes' or 'no' to the blessing of same-sex unions, the church is tossing some crumbs to its gay membership, while I suppose it's waiting for the stodgy old bigots in the Canadian communion to roll over and die.

While we disagree on what the final outcome should be, Chris Ambidge, a spokesperson for the gay Anglican group Integrity Canada, says situation is incredibly frustrating and reveals a lack of leadership among the bishops.

He's absolutely right. Three more years of study is not going to change scripture or reveal any undiscovered theological arguments one way or the other. The church is trying to play both sides of the issue and it's a nasty game.

I'm against same-sex marriage and same-sex blessings, which I view as fundamentally the same thing -- but I'd rather the Church come to a resolution and deal with the fallout. The endless 'study' around this issue is like a festering sore.

No one is served by this ongoing wishy-washy approach. While it might be a complex issue, it is one that needs a definitive answer. The Bishops are unwilling to take the risk of action and they have failed both sides.

If the Anglican Church of Canada is afraid of losing members from the 'losing' side when they finally make a decision, they should realize that with their faltering rhetoric and hesitant concessions they risk losing members on both sides.

Vacillating so as to appear thoughtful and reasoned is neither sensitive nor pragmatic. It simply creates deeper divisions. No one believes they don't know where they stand -- they just need to get on with it or many of us will not be members of the Anglican Church when this next three years of 'discussion' are up.


We'll cheer if we want to

Only in Canada would there be a Parliamentary Committee inquiry into an alleged 'racial insult' that supposedly occurred at a professional hockey game almost two years ago.

MPs say that because Hockey Canada receives federal funding, they have a right to haul in the officials who had the audacity to name Shane Doan the Captain of Team Canada.

Do you know what Shane Doan is alleged to have said? I've always figured it was something really rude and vile. Something that would cut a Frenchman to the quick. Here's what he's alleged to have said:
"F... French did a good job.'"
For this, he shouldn't be Captain? For this a Parliamentary Committee -- is this Afghan torture stuff even going to a Parliamentary Committee? Who's running the show up there in Ottawa?

Even if he did say it -- where's the hate? Where's the racism?

"Try imagining for two seconds that an NHL player would say something like that about an anglophone, or anyone else. I'm sure Hockey Canada and the Canadian government would demand an explanation. Why not for francophones?" says Marcel Proulx, Liberal MP.

Try as I might, I can't imagine the pain of someone saying something so terrible and insulting as: "F***ing (insert ethnic/gender group here) did a good job." How does that poor linesman get out of bed in the morning knowing someone has denigrated his race to this extent. How can we as Canadians live with ourselves knowing that this nasty mouth is going unchecked into international competition.

And the Conservatives on the committee voted along with these idiots. Shame.

Funny those Quebec MPs can't let go of this. Could it be because Shane Doan is from Alberta? Maybe it's Quebec MPs with anti-Alberta sentiments, unwilling to accept the NHL investigation which cleared Doan because Doan is from out west. Silly? No sillier than questioning the captaincy of our Team while the tournament is in progress. This was addressed at the 2006 Olympics when MPs were offended that Doan was allowed to play at all. They were wrong then. They are wrong now.

These MPs have stretched their authority under the pretext of 'accountability' because the Team receives federal funds. Do they insist on looking into who is hired at Bombardier because it receives so much public dough?

Jack Layton says 'it (the selection of Doan as Captain) is taking away from the enthusiasm everyone wants to have.'

No Jack. Most of us are don't need parliamentary approval to cheer for our team. You idiots on the Hill seem to think you've got to be the final arbiter of every single thing in our lives --- LEAVE HOCKEY ALONE!!!

Go Canada Go!

As a PS -- why are they allowed to hold a Parliamentary Committee on something that's before the courts (Doan sued Denis Coderre who counter sued)?


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Rules of war

Perhaps the Taliban detainees should sue Canada. They were captured by Canadians, taken to a Canadian base for interrogation and then transferred to their torturers by Canadians. Surely they should be compensated by Canadians for their suffering.

Not to minimize the egregious wrongs committed by the Afghan police/military against their own countrymen in their own country -- but why are we supposed to care?

I suppose I'm at the limits of my compassion here. These detainees are the same people responsible for the caskets draped with Canadian flags. It isn't a tea party; it's war. I don't want Canadian soldiers participating in torture, but neither do I expect them to lose sleep about it if the prisoners they hand over are subjected to it.

The Opposition parties and other bloggers are citing Article 12 of the 3rd Geneva Convention which states:
Prisoners of war may only be transferred by the Detaining Power to a Power which is a party to the Convention (. . . ) if that Power fails to carry out the provisions of the Convention in any important respect, the Power by whom the prisoners of war were transferred shall, upon being notified by the Protecting Power, take effective measures to correct the situation or shall request the return of the prisoners of war. Such requests must be complied with.
The upshot being that the Afghans haven't signed on to the Geneva Convention, so the detainees should never have been transferred in the first place, but since they were, Canada bears the responsibility for their alleged abuse and must request that the detainees be returned to Canadian custody if they can't assure 'humane' treatment.

Okay, so if Article 12 applies, then does Article 17?
Each Party to a conflict is required to furnish the persons under its jurisdiction who are liable to become prisoners of war, with an identity card showing the owner's surname, first names, rank, army, regimental, personal or serial number or equivalent information, and date of birth. The identity card may, furthermore, bear the signature or the fingerprints, or both, of the owner, and may bear, as well, any other information the Party to the conflict may wish to add concerning persons belonging to its armed forces. As far as possible the card shall measure 6.5 x 10 cm. and shall be issued in duplicate. The identity card shall be shown by the prisoner of war upon demand, but may in no case be taken away from him.
If these detainees are not card-carrying soldiers, should Canadian soldiers even be allowed to capture them? After all, they might be using the weapons of war, but they aren't soldiers if they haven't got those cards, right? They're just armed civilians. Prove they're not. They'll tell you -- they're just poor fellas . . . minding their own business . . . the guns and bombs are for protection.

How ridiculous it is to apply old fashioned ideas about rules of war -- y'all think old fashioned ideas about marriage and family can be pitched out the window because times have changed, perceptions have changed, the reality and understanding of right and wrong has changed. Why are you so wedded to the Geneva Conventions and their constraints, when as much as any social institutions have changed with time, so has war.

Does the Geneva Convention even apply here -- with Canada not being an invading belligerent force, but in effect an associate force in what is almost a civil war? Can Canada expect to dictate the terms on which it gives over captured insurgents to the host power? What does the Convention say about a country's treatment of its own.

As a nation, we ignored the former Taliban government when they beat and execute women in soccer stadiums. We continue to quietly watch the annihilation of entire ethnic groups in the Sudan and the rape and murder of the civilian refugees in Kenyan camps. But when it comes to they guys caught trying to blow up our troops or destroy Afghan villages -- those guys are worthy of our particular attention. G-d forbid a Taliban insurgent in a war zone might be mistreated by his own countrymen -- if he was first captured by a Canadian.

Such a principled stand. Don't you just feel so smug and superior?

Just wait until this new generation of Canadian warriors gets their write up in the Canadian War Museum. Our Veterans from Bomber Command haven't fared well with the keepers of our military history. Those who do the judging are unwilling to look at the big picture while they luxuriate in that soft, self-indulgent, peacetime, pedagogic castigation of conflict.

The Geneva Conventions were written during times of conventional warfare. They assumed all parties would play by the rules, and would accept the consequences if they didn't. There can be no assumptions about the enemy in Afghanistan, and yet our soldiers still live by the Conventions. The shrill, hypocritical cry of 'humanity' from the sidelines underscores the deep disaffect between our sensibilities and the real world.

In a perfect world, the Geneva Conventions would be a quaint remnant of history, but in our world they are antiquated handcuffs that no longer apply. But rather than face modern reality, we smear our soldiers. In an attempt to scandalize a sitting government, we are demoralizing our troops.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Paying our troops lip service

"Support our Troops"

It slides easily off the lips, even of those whose support is more show than substance. The lips keep moving, mouthing 'support' but when it's politically expedient and might damage the Conservative government, support turns to implied accusation. Of course we support our troops although we are standing up in the House demanding action on their complicity in the torture of Afghan detainees. Of course, it isn't our soldiers we blame -- it's the government.

The pleas across the House of Commons for relief for the detainees must burn the ears of our soldiers. They bind their wounds, send home their fallen friends in boxes, and then listen to the opposition parties preach about right and wrong in a part of the world where friend and enemy wear the same clothes and trust leads to death, but you trust anyway.

Our troops hear evangelizing about 'human rights' in a country where the detainees in question would ensure 'human rights' never exist. Still these soldiers treat the detainees -- murderers and maimers of friends and comrades -- they treat them with kindness and dignity.

Stephane Dion said it was "shameful" that the Canadian government is knowingly turning over Afghan detainees despite evidence of torture. "We cannot send human beings to torture even though they are the enemy. We cannot."

The laugh of it is that the people who play by no rules, are dictating them.

It's right to take stock of our mission. It's right to carry the values of our nation into warzones. But is it necessary to accept responsibility for the treatment of detainees, in their own country, at the hands of their own countrymen?

Opposition MPs, most of whom have never served, prattle on about the Geneva Conventions and warn of our troops participating in 'war crimes' because of treaties signed in the wake of wars fought by more modern nations than this one where our troops serve. Those nations attempted to give war the artifice of refinement by imposing 'rules'. These were grown up countries making an effort to police themselves in the dirty, but seemingly inevitable business of war.

Our soldiers must shake their heads. It isn't enough to do their own jobs well; they are being expected to impose the ideals of developed nations, like prisoners' rights, honour and justice, in a country that barely meets the definition of civilization.

Torture is wrong. But unlike the countries that signed on to the Geneva Conventions, Afghanistan is a fledgling nation with no history in recognizing human rights let alone prisoner rights. Though it might be difficult for our elites to stomach, imposing our value system on them from outside is not going to change their worldview. It won't stop the torture and it won't stop the insurgents. Afghanistan must develop a social conscience from within the way Western nations have. A forced social conscience is an illusion. It might make us feel better, but it won't allow for real change and real stability will never happen.

Canadian soldiers set an example in both strength and compassion every day. In time, hopefully, the Afghanis will choose to follow that example, or be forced to change by a population ready adopt more Western-friendly values. In the meantime, blame and accusations are unhelpful. It ignores the realities on the ground.

Is it wrong to condone torture or to turn a blind eye? The simple answer is yes, but there are no simple answers. Not when your friends are going home in boxes and the enemy doesn't abide by conventions.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Maybe you had to be there

While looking into our own War Museum's approach to the role of Bomber Command during WWII, I came across a site in Britain, detailing a recent exhibit in Manchester, England. The Imperial War Museum's air war display closed recently. It was called AGAINST ALL ODDS. When I read the piece I marvelled at their disparate ways in which this period in our common history have been portrayed.

The exhibit at the Imperial War Museum didn't omit facts -- it presented Germany's estimated death toll and examined German losses, but its focus was on the accomplishments of Bomber Command despite the risks, hardship, privations and fear faced by the airmen. It treated the fliers with respect and honour.

"Against The Odds is the first major exhibition to look at the role of Bomber Command. From the first day of the Second World War until the Allied invasion of Germany in 1944, the bombing of Germany and allied countries in the Second World War by British and American forces made a vital contribution to the defeat of the Nazis. Bomber Command was the only British force to strike directly at the enemy's homeland.

"They came from across the Commonwealth, and alongside the United States Air Force, their role was the destruction of Germany's industrial, economic and military strength.

"But the cost was great: 55, 888 Bomber Command personnel were killed in action or on active service. 51 out of every 100 flyers did not return."
Michael Simpson, Head of Exhibitions at Imperial War Museum North

Whether it's the length of time that's elapsed since WWII, or Canada's physical distance from the action in WWII, or simply that we have scarcely seen hostilities on our soil in nearly 200 years, the Canadian War Museum's plaque, AN ENDURING CONTROVERSY -- is a painful example of historical contrition without benefit of sufficiently balanced background information. The cries of neutrality are strained when presented against the entirety of the display. This sermonizing and genuflecting at the altar of anti-war zealotry seems an effort to distance ourselves from our true military past. It's like an act of penance to purge a national sin.

Canada's Veterans are a humble lot. They aren't inclined to glorify war or their own contributions. Most of them are anti-war because they've been there and they know war firsthand. The War Museum has been entrusted with the preservation of their stories inside the framework of the war itself. The Museum's unyielding attachment to this paragraph, and its unbalanced display, despite the offense and injury to our Veterans, is unfathomable. Our Veterans don't deserve to be treated as though their service is an asterisk in the war effort. They don't deserve to feel as though they are trying to keep skeletons in the closet.

Contrast this paragraph with the above text from the Imperial War Museum:

"The value and morality of the strategic bomber offensive against Germany remains bitterly contested. Bomber Command's aim was to crush civilian morale and force Germany to surrender by destroying its cities and industrial installations. Although Bomber Command and American attacks left 600,000 Germans dead, and more than five million homeless, the raids resulted in only small reductions in German war production until late in the war."
The author of this paragraph is unable to think outside post-1960s assumptions about war -- all war. He has failed as an historian, because he has been unable to see the world from the perspective of his subject. At the outset, he has told us of a debate, and we expect balance because he has indicated that there are two sides to the role and the outcome of Bomber Command's mission -- but then he presents only one. If this were fictional, I might call it author intrusion. The writer wants so badly for the reader to take a particular point of view, that despite claiming objectivity, he provides limited scope and gives speculation and conjecture in the form of 'fact'. It is irresponsible at best and it is unethical at worst.

In defense of the paragraph, Dean F. Oliver says:

The text panel, "An Enduring Controversy," has attracted more public attention than any other, but it reflects the museum's overall approach. (...) Nowhere in this approach -- and certainly not in any of our dialogues with veterans -- does the Canadian War Museum see fundamental contradictions between presenting history as accurately as possible and remembering respectfully those whose actions in peace and war have done so much to shape this country.
It has been suggested that the Museum can't ignore 'difficult subjects' and that it's 'dangerous' to 'rewrite history' which implies the Veterans want the facts expunged from the display. What the Veterans really want, is for 'facts' to be presented at all. This plaque stands as a summary of the exhibit. It is general idea that visitors will take from the display. The people who run the War Museum have taken an intractable stance against the Royal Canadian Legion about this paragraph and the photographs chosen to reveal the story.

Let's look at the 'facts'.

First, most historians put the German civilian losses in a range from 350,000 to 600,000. Both are huge numbers, but the War Museum has taken the high-end estimate and used it as a factual total, and yet there is no accepted 'factual' total -- only estimates. The decision to use the high estimate without explaining that totals are impossible to ascertain, renders the credibility of the whole display suspect. It suggests the authors intended to lead visitors in a particular direction.

Second, by belittling the mission, it implies there was no reasoning behind the bombing, when in fact the strategy was used only after others had failed. Daylight raids had resulted in huge losses for the Allies early on in the war, so Britain used the Lancaster and Halifax Bombers, which were heavy and meant to be flown at night -- night bombing means area bombing. Little chance of pinpoint accuracy, but a better chance of getting the load off at all, without being shot down. Bomber Command put the safety of their fliers above the civilians of an enemy population bent on total war against all non-Germanic peoples. It was the only rational way to fight the war. Any other decision would have meant the deaths of more crews. As it was, even using night-bombing 51 out of every 100 fliers were killed in action. The Americans tried daylight, pinpoint bombing. It lasted less than a year -- not much longer than Bomber Command's initial attempts early in the war. The losses were simply too great. Later in the war, there were finally Allied troops on the ground in Europe and technology was moving ahead. Precision bombing became doable without being suicide. Strategy changed.

Third, it is misleading to say that "the raids resulted in only small reductions in German war production until late in the war."

Germany's production continued throughout the war because Germany had invaded all its neighbours and used their factories and workers to build munitions.
How many more guns, planes, bullets, mines, tanks, and V-bombs could they have built without the continuous disruptions of manufacturing and shipping lines by Bomber Command?
How much longer might the war have lasted?
How many more Allied soldiers and civilians might have been killed had bombing raids never happened?
How many more innocent people could have been sent to the ovens?

The War Museum plaque doesn't even ask these questions, let alone attempt to answer them. This is the synopsis, yet it has ignored issues which are imperative to understanding the role of Bomber Command.

AN ENDURING CONTROVERSY, the paragraph, is more "bitterly contested" than the rest of the Bomber Command display in its totality. Despite Director Oliver's assurance to the contrary, it is at the very least incomplete and because of that, it is indeed, disrespectful. The Museum's unwavering attachment to it, despite the anguish it has caused many Veterans, is shameful and unreasonable.

This is not about free speech. This is about presenting history realistically. No one wants to purge the historical record of evidence and facts, but our Veterans don't deserve to be equated with their wartime enemy. This display might be the only information a visitor will ever see or hear on the air war. Questioning their morality and belittling the value of their mission gives the impression of parity between the actions of the Nazis and those of Bomber Command.

It doesn't serve history well to ignore the painful parts, but neither does it serve our understanding of the past to take a sliver of time and interpret it, without conveying a sense of the historic reality. At least a century's distance from acts of war on Canadian soil has allowed us the illusion of being 'peacemaker' and 'peacekeeper' of the world. In order to reconcile its vision of our nice country with reality, the War Museum has chosen to pull a chapter from a bloody, protracted war and unjustly use it as a Scarlet 'A'.

And yet the Museum still doesn't understand the fuss. The Brits and the Veterans lived it. Maybe some people would have had to be there to get it.