Archive for the ‘current events’ Category


juillet 1, 2008

On February 15 this year, I posted this question: « Should Henry Morgentaler be awarded the Order of Canada? » It was a short post and, I thought, relatively innocent. To my utter astonishment the post received more comment – 67- than any other post since my blog began in the fall of 2006.

On Canada Day, Governor-General Michaelle Jean announced 75 new members of the Order of Canada including Henry Morgentaler. He was awarded the Order, the Governor-General wrote, because of « his commitment to increased health care options for women, his determined effort to influence Canadian public policy, and his leadership in humanist and civil liberties organizations. »

Now 85, Morganteler, a Polish Holocaust survivor who immigrated to Montreal after the war, opened his first abortion clinic in 1969 and performed thousands of procedures, which were illegal at the time. Partly because of his efforts , the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s abortion law in 1988. Morganteler still runs six abortion clinics in Canada.

Not surpisingly, Dr. Morgentaler’s appointment has unleashsed a storm of controversey in the blogosphere, the editorial pages and most of all on both sides of the abortion issue.

The Campaign Life Coalition says it is dreadful that a man who spent his life performing abortions should honoured. Their spokesperson, Mary Ellen Douglas, says « If Morganteler had any integrity he would refuse the medal. This presentation should be given to people who have made Canada a better place to live and the elimination of thousands of human beings who would have contributed to the future of Canada is a disgrace, not an honour. »

On the other hand, feminist and author Judy Rebick, says « Dr. Morganteler is a hero to millions of women in this country. He risked his life to struggle for women’s rights …. He’as a huge figure in Canadian history and the fact hs hasn’t got [the Order of Canada] till now is a scandal. »

Campaign Life is urging Order of Canada recipents to return their medals in protest?

Should they return their medals?

Or does Dr. Morganteler deserve this honour? Some Conservative MPs say he is too divisive. But should only noncontroversial « safe » Canadians be awarded this honour. It would seem to me such an honours list would be pretty anemic.

Why do you think there was such a large response when we first raised this issue last February?



juillet 1, 2008

A new poll from Ipsos Reid – the largest poll of its kind ever taken – reveals the Top 101 things Canadians say best define our country. Here are the top 10:

Maple Leaf


Canadian flag



Canada Day


Pierre Trudeau

Universal Health Care

Niagara Falls

David Suzuki came in at 33, Tim Horton at 58 and Rene Levesque at 64.

Were you surprised Pierre Trudeau made it in the first 10?

However, on this Canada DayI am proposing an event that did not make the cut: the Iraq War and the fact our country (thanks to Jean Chretien) stayed out of it.

Opposition to the war is huge in Canada, where 82 per cent of respondents said the invasion was the wrong decision. In the United States 54 per cent of Americans say their country should never hav e become involved militarily in Iraq. Even more remarkable, 59 per cent of Americans surveyed applaud Canada’s decision to stay out of the conflict.

Peter Donolo of the Strategic Counsel says: « Among Americans, more people think it was a good decision for Canada not to participate than think the Iraq war was a mistake. It certainly hasn’t had the negative impact on attitudes toward us that some had expected. »

In your opinion was staying out of the Iraq war a signature Canadian decision?

What do you think best defines Canada?

Happy Canada Day.


juin 30, 2008

By a vote of five to four the United States Supreme Court has barred Louisiana and five other states from executing child rapists.

Between 1930 and 1964, 455 people in the United States were put to death by the states for rapes of adults or children. Apparently none of the executed was a white man who raped a black woman or child.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing in dissent in favour of the death penalty for child-rape, wrote: « The harm that is caused to the victims and to society at large by the worst child rapists is grave…. With respect to the question of moral depravity, is it really true that every person who is convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death is more morally depraved than a child rapist? »

But it seems to me there are several problems to a policy of executing criminals for the rape of children. First, there is the potential for wrongful executions, given unreliable or induced testimony from children. Second, the child victims would often have been obliged to testify, in effect to bring about the death of a criminal who might also be a close relative. Third the death penalty would remove the rapist’s incentive not to kill his victim. And fourth, rape within families would be even less likely to be reported than it is now.

What is most disturbing here is the U.S. Supreme Court came within one vote of joining the brutality of state-sanctioned murder to the brutality of child rape?

Do you agree?


juin 29, 2008

Did you know that in scores of countries around the world–including Thailand, where food markets are stocked with commercially raised water beetles and bamboo worms — bugs and insects have long been part of a well balanced meal?

Furthermore eating insects could be a far greener way to get protein than eating chicken, cows or pigs. With the global livestock sector responsible for 18 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and grain prices reaching record highs, cheap, envirornmentally low-impact insects could be the food of the future – provided people can stomach them.

Insects require little room and few resources to grow. For instance, it takes far less water to raise a third of a pound of grasshoppers (150 g.) than the staggering 869 gal. needed to produce th same amount of beef.

Incredibly efficient to raise, insects are also crawling packets of nutrition.

Some people are revolted by the alien appearance of insects, but then again lobster could hardly be described as cute andcuddly.

Consider the Waxworm spring salad. Cook waxworms as well as Queen Atta ants. If cooked correctly, what you get is crispy, meaty and flavourful.

Would you ever consider eating well-cooked insects?


juin 23, 2008

Many parents across the country are shocked and angered by a judge siding with a 12-year-old girl from the Gatineau against her father.

According to court proceedings, the father had banned his daughter from going on line after she posted photographs of herself on an Internet dating site. Then, after she allegedly fought with her stepmother, he told her she could not go on an end-of-year school trip.  At that point the girl acquired a lawyer and took her father to court.

It should be noted that the girl’s parents have been divorced for 10 years. While the father prohibited his daughter from going on the graduation trip, his divorced wife approved it. So it might be argued that Judge Suzanne Tessier was simply trying to protect the child’s interests from being submerged beneath a stalemate between divorced parents.

But that’s not how many Canadians saw it. The Montreal Gazette thundered: « By ruling that the father of a 12-year-old girl had abused his authority by forbidding his daughter to go on a class outing because she had disobeyed his order to spend less time on the Internet, Judge Tessier diminished not only the authority of all parents, but also the majesty of the law she serves. »

The Gazette continues: « De minimis non curat lex » – the law does not concern itself with trifles – and what could be more trivial than a pre-adolescent’s whining about missing a school trip? »

This personal example may have some relevance here. We travelled to high school by bus. The bus was occasionally late getting home because we stayed in the high school town for a movie. But during Lent my father would not permit me to stay for a movie. The problem was that if one student objected to staying for the movie, the bus could not stay, and all the other bus students were forced to miss the movie. Not a happy scenario for me.

In the case of the Gatineau girl her father has announced he will repeal the ruling.

What do you think?

Should the girl have been able to go on her graduation trip as the judge ruled?

Or should she have been prohibited from going as her father demanded?


juin 22, 2008

Recently, a « high doggie tea » was held in Toronto to raise money for a new cancer centre for dogs. One woman paid several thousand dollars for her dog to have cancer therapy to make her elderly dog comfortable for a few more months. Come to think of it, was this woman trying to preserve her pet’s lifestyle or her own?

There are approximately 3.5 million dogs in Canada. It’s estimated that one in four will develop some form of cancer. Researchers say it is hoped that these animal cancer centres can develop new ways to fight the disease in both animals and people.

There’s no question people are spending two or three times more money than they used to, say 20 years ago, on the health of their pets. One veterinarian says if people can spend even more money on lottery tickets or smoking, why shouldn’t they spend it on animals who at least give them unconditional love.

One dog owner says: « Will people think I don’t love my dog and cat enough if I am not prepared to spend thousands on tests or treatments to prolong their lives? I think I’d be a better person to let my animal die naturally and then give $1,000 to combat child poverty, or even animal abuse. »

Do you own a pet?

Should owners pay thousands for their pets’ health?

What do you think?


juin 20, 2008

Late this afternoon the Supreme Court of Canada delivered its most important business decision since the court was established in 1875.

The decision related to BCE and its friendly takeover by a consortium of companies headed by the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund for $52 billion dollars – the largest takeover in world history.

More specifically the question the Court dealt with was whether the directors of BCE adequately took into consideration the interests of the bondholders viz.a viz. the shareholders.

Shareholders use their money to buy stock in the company. So if the company’s shares go up the shareholder makes money. If the stock goes down the shareholder loses money. There are no guarantees. Buying stock means taking a risk.

The bondholders do not buy stock; they lend the company their own money. There is a contractual obligation to pay the bondholder interest on his or her money and to pay back the whole amount when the bond becomes due. There is little risk.

In the case before the Supreme Court the company argued that it owed the bondholders only their contractual obligations. The bondholders argued that the company failed to properly consider their interests in a debt-heavy takover that is gutting the value of their investment.

Today the Supreme Court came down unanimously on the side of the shareholders. Presumably now the deal, which must be wrapped up by June 30, will go ahead.

Do you agree with the Supreme Court’s decision?

Do you think it will now be more difficult for companies to raise financing because potential bond buyers will feel their interests are being subordinated to the interests of shareholders?


juin 19, 2008

I am working under the assumption that in Canada all milk for human consumption must be pasteurized. (Am I correct in this assumption?)

So the milk must first be heated to kill off most of the bacteria that might be lurking in the barn or flourishing in the cow.

But a growing number of natural food fans are demanding the right to bring milk from teat to table, convinced that pasteurization strips away the very stuff that makes milk so nutritious to begin with. In the United States, perhaps in Canada too, there is a growing black market in unpasteurized milk.

Fans of raw milk are convinced that heating destroys the good bacteria as well as enzymes that can be beneficial to health. They claim that drinking raw milk can relieve asthma and eczema as well as giving flagging immune systems a boost.

So is raw milk safe to drink? Not entirely, according to health officials, who say bacterial contamination in milk has caused twice as many disease outbreaks as pasteurized milk.

In your view does drinking raw milk put too much trust in the farmer and the health of the cow?

Would you drink raw milk?

Do you think it should be available for purchase?

By the way, is mother’s milk pasteurized?


juin 16, 2008

Senator Ted Kennedy’s diagnosis of a malignant brain tumor is once again stirring debate ove the safety of cell phones. (Kennedy is an habitual user).

Doctors point to research that indicates a link between cell phones and three types of tumors: cancer of a salivary gland near the ear called the parotid; glioma (the kind Senator Kennedy has); and acoustic neuroma, which is a tumor found near the ear.

An Israeli study published last year found a 58 per cent increase in risk for parotid tumors among people people who relied heavily on their cell phones. And a Swedish study found the risk of glioma and acoustic neuroma doubled after 10 years of heavy cell phone use.

Prominent neurosurgeons have stated they do not use cell phones next to their ears: « I use it on the speaker-phone mode, » said Dr. Vini Khurana, a prominent professor of neurosurgery at the Australian National University. « I do not hold it to my ear », explained Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent and a neurosurgeon at Emory University Hospital. He also uses an earpiece.

Dr. Khurana says « it is anticipated that this danger { from cell phones] has far broader public health ramifications than asbestos and smoking. »

Would these warnings modify in any way your use of a cell phone?


juin 14, 2008

The up-scale London-based Monocle magazine has just issued their latest list of the world’s 25 most livable cities.

Vancouver placed eighth – higher than any other North American city – while Montreal finished 16th on the list. Toronto didn’t make the cut.

Monocle lauded Vancouver for its role in fighting climate change, increasing building density and cracking down on drug use in preparation for 2010 Olympics. Vancouver lost marks for its high crime rate, but jumped seven spots after placing 15th in 2007.

The magazine called Montreal « Canada’s cultural capital » (to which I say Amen) . The city was also credited for its strong arts community, booming gaming and aerospace industries and its extensive network of free wireless Internet. It lost marks for its strained health care system, poor recycling facilities and growing income disparity.

Having lived in Montreal since 1972, I would add the snap, crackle and pop produced by one of the largest French cities in the world, the network of bicyle paths and the glorious Mount Royal caparisoned in greenery and towering over the city. And let’s not forget the summer with wall to wall festivals headed by the jazz festival which attracts so many American tourists.

Monocle named Copenhagen the most livable city, on the strength of its green space and « sense of humour. » Munich, Tokyo, Zurich and Helsinki rounded out the top five.

Only three U.S. cities, Honolulu, Minneapolis and Portland made the list. I have been in the first two but not Portland (unless they are talking about Portland, Maine, which I very much doubt.?

Rome, London and New York were not mentioned by the magazine, which looked at smaller, user-friendly cities with vibrant arts scenes, plenty of parks and a friendly face.

Which has been your favourite place to live?

Where would you move to if you could?

I was a big fan of « Meet the Press » and Tim Russert, a man of faith, of family and of politics. RIP.

Am off Kingston this morning by train for a family birthday. Back on Monday. Have a great weekend.