Archive pour août 2007


août 31, 2007

Ten years ago today Diana Princess of Wales died in a Paris tunnel, a drunk driver at the wheel of her Mercedes. But on this anniversary imagine if Diana had survived the accident (as she might well have done had it not taken almost two hours to get her to a hospital) and that she’s still alive.

She would be a well-preserved 46, with a new boyfriend and an apartment in Manhattan. Is she popular? Maybe. A legend? No way. By dying young, Diana ensured her immortality. Better dead than over the hill.

There were signs before the fatal accident that Diana’s life was spirallying down. She had been rejected by perhaps the only man she really loved, the Muslim heart surgeon, Hasnat Khan (he could no longer cope with her emotional demands), she was putting on weight and she was cavorting around the Mediterranean with another Muslim hanger-on, Dodi el Fayed. It is difficult to see how she would have continued to live up to her earlier press notices on her stellar work with Aids patients and the elimination of land mines.

Had she lived, what do you think Diana would be like today?

Do you remember where you were when you heard of Diana’s death? (I was watching late night TV when I heard the first bulletins).

Why do you think there was such an uncharacheristic outpouring of British emotion when she died?



août 30, 2007

After intense pressure from veterans’ lobby groups, the Canadian War Museum has agreed to adjust the wording on an exhibit dealing with strategic bombing attacks during the Second World War. These are the 67 words that the veterans objected to:

« 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 of German war production until late in the war. »

These are the words the War Museum will adjust. And this despite the fact that a number of professional historians consulted by the Museum found the above words to be factually accurate. The distinguished Canadian historian, Margaret MacMillan (author of the acclaimed book, Paris 1919) says the Museum is not a war memorial. She warns that altering the text to satisfy veterans could mean that « whoever screams loudest can have their view made known. »

In other words, this is an extremely dangerous precedent. What pressure group will the Museum cave in to next? The Japanese? The Italians?

Not one word in this exhibition impugns the bravery, the patriotism or the chivalry of the young men who flew the bombers.

Isn’t it a pity that the decision-makers at the Canadian War Museum did not show half the courage and guts that those young flyers exhibited so long ago?

In my view, the Museum should stand firm in face of the veterans’ pressure.

If anyone wants to urge the War Museum to stand fast, you can say so in a short message. Send the message to


août 29, 2007

There is a new law in England that prohibits discrimination against homosexuals in the placing of children for adoption. As a result some Catholic adoption agencies may drop their Catholic status and others may withdraw from the state-subsidized program and remain just official church agencies.

No such option is available in Church-funded Catholic schools. In Liverpool the Church tried to discipline a gay Catholic head teacher because he was in a civil partnership. The courts ruled this was discrimination and the Church backed off.

Yet the Church has not threatened to withdraw the entire Catholic school system from state funding (as in the adoption scenario) presumably because the price would be too high. And there is the question of consistency. Catholic school head teachers are not asked if they use contraceptives in their married lives and refusing to inquire into their sexual orientation is only a step from that.

However, if a head teacher divorces and then remarrys outside the Church, they may lose their job. There is something inconsistent about having to allow a homosexual head teacher to remain on the job despite being in a civil partnership whereas a heterosexual head in an irregular relationship might well be fired.

But what is the point of trying to impose a traditonal sexual morality on reluctant Catholic teachers who in every other respect are highly qualified? Catholic parents and their children live in the real world where far more scandalous things go on — like clerical sexual abuse.

The Church continues to teach that homosexual men must live a life of enforced celibacy. Then the same Church turns around and assumes that two homosexual men who choose to live together must not be celibate.

The bottom line is this. What people do lawfully and consensually in the privacy of their bedrooms should be of no concern to anyone else.


août 28, 2007

Yesterday Michael Vick, probably the most talented and certainly the most highly paid (130 millions over five years) quarterback in the National Football League, pleaded guilty to charges of operating a dog-fighting kennel out of his Virginia home. Vick and his pals bought dogs, trained them to fight, bet on them and when the dogs failed to win, shot them or hanged them.

There is no question Vick’s behavior was barbaric and cannot be condoned. What is also remarkable, however, is the universal coverage this story received in the North American media. There were howls of outrage, demands that Vick be jailed (which he will be), that he be banned from ever playing professional football again. And all this for a crime against dogs.

Consider this reaction in the context of other crimes committed by professional athletes. Only seven years ago another footballer, Ray Lewis, was charged with double murder. After pleading guilty to a lesser charge, Lewis resumed his football career and commentators inexpicably lauded him for « overcoming adversity. »

Just this year, footballer « Pacman » Jones was charged in connection with a shootout in which one man was paralyzed. This case received little coverage. Jones accepted a one year suspension from football and an invitation to join pro wrestling.

Basketball star Kobe Bryant was welcomed back to the NBA and all his mutli-million dollar endorsement deals after reaching an out-of-court settlement in a case of alleged rape. In fact the list of professional athletes charged with domestic violence, spousal abuse and rape is a long one. So long that these cases receive little media coverage, certainly nothing like the coverage of the Vick case.

Which raises the question. Is the abuse of dogs a more serious crime than the abuse and rape of women? As Maclean’s said in an editorial comment: « Until we hold all athletes to a similar standard, Vick’s case will stand out as disproportionate at best and deeply hypocritical at worst. »


août 27, 2007

Thirty years ago today, after 40 days of debate, the Quebec National Assembly passed Bill 101 on the status of the French language.

At that time I was hosting a call-in program « Exchange » at CJAD. The passage of Bill 101 plunged the English community in Quebec into turmoil. There was enormous pressure from some elements in the community to protest the bill publicly. I refused to go along with this. Despite injustices in bill 101 (most of them subsequently corrected by the courts), it seemed to me the central thrust of the bill – respect for French Quebecers – was sound. Although subsequently I had many bitter arguments on air with the bill’s main proponent, Dr. Camil Laurin. about his harsh application of some provisions of the bill affecting the English community.

For my stance, I was harshly criticized in some community English newspapers as being a quasi-separatist, ex-Jesuit from Toronto who didn’t know what he was talking about.
Now, 30 years later, it would seem my judgement of the bill has been vindicated. The reason is two-fold: Bill 101 showed that a major piece of language legislation could be passed by a province within Canada; and by protecting and promoting the French language, the Bill gave French Quebecers the respect they craved. Before he died Dr. Laurin conceded that his language bill had cut the ground from under one of the separatists’ main arguments for getting out of Canada.

On this anniversary, I would strenuously argue that Bill 101 turned out to be a major bulwark keeping Quebec in Canada.

Thirty years a go a great deal of ink was spilled on those who fled on the 401 to Toronto; perhaps it would now be appropriate to salute those who stayed.


août 26, 2007

A book of letters written by Mother Teresa reveals for the first time that for more than half a century she was deeply tormented about her faith and suffered periods of doubt about God. At one point she refers to herself as a « hypocrite » for talking about her personal love of God when she felt none. In 1959 she wrote: « If there be no God – there can be no soul – if there is no soul then Jesus – You also are not true. »

Some commentators are now saying that Mother Teresa, because of her long-standings doubts and apparent loss of faith, should not be canonized a saint by the Catholic Church. But surely the real question is does she need to be canonized at all.

Many millions of people around the world revere Mother Teresa for her work with the poor in Calcutta. Would canonizing her make their reverence any more real? And isn’t the whole current process of canonization riddled with inconsistencies?

There is a full court press on in the Vatican to have Mother Teresa canonized perhaps as early as this year. (For her the five year waiting period was scrubbed). Yet the process for Archbishop Romero, who was murdered for his faith in South America, appears to be stalled.

Come to think of it, why does Rome canonize so many prelates, priests and religious and so few outstanding lay Catholics? Some years ago there was a rumour that former Governor-general Georges Vanier and his wife, Pauline, were up for canonization but nothing came of it.

Matter of fact, if you are a celibate you have the inside track to saintood, but if you are married, chances are you’re out of luck.

What sort of message does this send to the modern world? Does canonization in 2007 matter to anybody except an inside clique at the Vatican? And, if that’s so, would it make any difference if Mother Teresa were not canonized?


août 25, 2007

This week three French-Canadian soldiers from the Vandoos regiment were killed in Afghanistan. This brings to 69 the number of Canadians killed in that mission and it sent support for the war in Quebec, already low, plunging further.

Which begs the further question, Is what is happening in Afghanistan fair to Canada? The fact is that Canada’s killed-in-action rate is three times as high as the British rate and four times the American level. Furthermore other countries, notably Germany, Spain and Italy have sent troops to Afghanistan but keep them far from the fighting in the relatively quiet north of the country. As a result these countries have suffered very few casualties.

It is clear that Canada is carrying an unfair share of the load in terms of troops in harm’s way. At the very least it is time for other NATO countries to step up in terms of burden sharing.

These facts on the ground are reflected in the poll numbers. More than two-thirds of Quebecers are opposed to sending troops to Afghanistan. Now that our troops are there an equal number of Quebecers say the troops should come home before February, 2009.

Do you agree Canada is carrying an unfair burden in Afghanistan?

Do you think the troops should come home before February, 2009?


août 24, 2007

After initially denying it, the Quebec Provincial Police have acknowledged that three of their officers infilitrated a group of peaceful union demonstrators at the Montebello Summit. The police officers were black-clad, wearing bandanas to hide their faces and one of them was holding a rock. In a video, one of the police officers is seen shoving a union official and swearing at him.

The un ion official and his group contend the officers were there to stir up trouble so the police could move in. The RCMP were also working along side the QPP at Montebello.

The fact is this summit will be remembered for the police acting badly while the demonstrators remained peaceful. The Globe and Mail says there should be a full investigation into what these police officers were really doing at Montebello. Do you agree?

Do you think police should infiltrate demonstrators who are acting peacefully within the law as is their right?


août 23, 2007

By a narrow margin (50 to 48) the Canadian Medical Association has for now rejected medical user- fees.

Doctors against user-fees argued that fees collected from patients at the time they visit doctors and hospitals diminish access to the medical system. While such fees decrease unnecessary visits e.g. to hospital emergency wards, they disproportionately effect patients with fewer resources.

Those in favour of medical fees argued that patients should help fund their own care with « co-payments and health savings accounts. » These accounts would act like registered retirement savings plans, enabling people to stash savings in tax sheltered accounts, to be spent on medical items like home care, long-term care and prescription drugs. Also it was pointed out that budget restraints mean new medical technologies and the latest drugs are not covered by provincial governments.

Should Canadians be allowed to save for their retirement and for education in tax-sheltered plans, but not for health care?

Do you support some kind of medical user-fees?


août 22, 2007

In a recent op ed piece in the Globe and Mail, Margaret Somerville, the distinguished ethics professor from McGill University, argues that if same- sex marriage is legal, there is no reason not to legalize polygamy.

She writes: « Gay marriage advocates successfully argued that the primary function of marriage is to publicly recognize two adults’ mutual love and commitment. But why shouldn’t three or more adults, just as much as two, have their love and commitment publicly recognized…? » She goes on to argue that if same sex marriage is allowed because not to do so would be to allow discrimination on the basis of sex, why should polygamy not be allowed on the basis not to do so would be discrimination on the basis of religion?

Somerville is opposed to both same sex marriage and polygamy because she contends that both prevent marriage from fulfilling its primary objective which is the procreative relationship between one man and one woman. The bottom line with Somerville is that both same sex- marriage and polygamy destroy the biological bond between parents and their children. (The fact that some parents cannot or don’t want to have children does not vitiate her position).

Somerville goes on to say: « Same-sex marriage opens up the possibility of polygamy because it detaches marriage from the biological reality of the basic procreative relationship between one man and one woman and that means there is no longer any inherent reason to limit it to two people whether of the same or opposite sex. Once that biological reality is removed … marriage can become whatever we choose to define it as. »

Do you support same-sex marriage?

Do you agree that if same-sex marriage is legal (as it is in Canada), there is no reason not to legalize polygamy.

Would you be in favour of Canada’s legalizing polygamy?