Archive for the ‘Canada’ Tag

Richard Wagamese (October 14, 1955 – March 10, 2017)   Leave a comment

Richard Wagamese first came into my life through a book club. They read his book, Indian Horse, which was then recommended to me. The story touched my heart in the summer of 2016, and I subsequently read his books, Medicine Walk and One Story: One Song. The latter book is full of wisdom for life.

IMG_2970

At Christmas 2016 I was blessed by receiving the gift of Richard’s profound wisdom, contained in the book, “Embers”. For example, “Embers” contains the following:

“LIFE is a series of passageways we choose largely on faith and a healthy dose of hope. We hope that the hallway of our choosing leads us to magic: the inexplicable, the sudden, the unconfined. Not so that we can capture it, hold it, make it our own – but just so that we can feel it, even for an instant. Feel it and know the truth that the universe itself is magic. Hope that by our believing, our blind trust, our inherent innocence, someday, sometime, somewhere, that magic will become us, even fleetingly, and we touch the face of God.”

Reading Richard Wagamese has helped me on this journey called life; he has helped me to know more about the tragedy of Canada’s residential school system and the harm that it did to First Nations people, and I am thankful for the wisdom that he has shared.

HOW WE TREAT NEW IMMIGRANTS DEFINES US   Leave a comment

By Jim Taylor – Sunday March 5, 2017

During the depth of winter, when snow lay deep on the ground and arctic winds sucked warmth from bare skin, small groups of people from countries where snow is as unknown as poutine struggled across the world’s longest undefended border into Canada.

Illegally, of course.
IMG_0315

Night after night, TV news showed video of these asylum seekers. Stumbling through snowdrifts, burdened by baby strollers or car seats. Dragging plastic suitcases. Huddled at a roadside, too numbed by bitter cold to go any farther.

They were greeted by police officers. Who led them gently to a warm car. Who helped carry their children. Who delivered them to a border immigration station, where kindly officials helped them fill out their applications to stay in Canada.

This is the Canada we imagine it to be. Compassionate. Decent. Hospitable.

NOT SO WELCOMING
But at the same time, there’s another side. A recent Angus Reid poll found that 25 per cent of Canadians want to impose travel restrictions; over 40 per cent feel we’re being overrun by too many refugees.

As Scott Gilmore wrote in Macleans magazine, “As of last month, Canada has accepted 40,081 Syrian refugees. That’s one refugee for every 857 Canadians.”

Let’s put that statistic another way. Kelowna’s largest arena holds around 6,800 people for a hockey game. Would eight Syrian refugees — yes, just eight — somehow subvert the local culture?

But political parties still foment fears of being overrun. Leadership hopefuls want to grill immigrants to make sure their “values” (whatever that means) won’t conflict with ours (whatever they are).

There are also legitimate concerns. Such as that it’s not fair for some refugees to get a free pass into Canada, while others wait for years in refugee camps.

LEGAL COMPLICATIONS
For the last 15 years, too, Canada and the U.S. have shared a legal agreement to treat each other as a “safe” countries. Essentially, that means we trust the other country’s justice systems to process asylum claims fairly. Refugee claimants must request protection in the first “safe” country they reach. So if they come to Canada through the U.S., we should return them to the U.S. for processing.

So far, the U.S. is the only country considered “safe.” But what happens when a new administration’s xenophobia makes the country no longer feel “safe”?

It’s not as if all of these border-crossers are helpless indigents. Some take taxis to the nearest border point. A few admit coming a long and expensive route: from the Middle East or Asia to South America, up through Central America and the U.S. to the Canadian border.

Legally, we should send them back. But turning away a family with shivering youngsters just doesn’t feel like us.

Gilmore again: “There is nothing we can do to stop asylum seekers from walking into Canada, Samsonite in hand. We aren’t building a wall, or even a fence. Our armed forces don’t even have enough drones to take a group selfie on the parade ground, let alone patrol over 8,000 kilometres of frontier.”

ESSENTIAL DISCONTINUITY
There are no simple answers. Because there is a discontinuity between micro and macro perspectives. You cannot always extrapolate from the small scale to the larger, and vice versa.

Physicists tell me that, at the ultimate micro level, my chair isn’t really there. Neither am I. We both consist of quarks and gluons, which are not things at all but packets of energy measurable only as probabilities.
But I still need a chair to sit on.

If a shopper at the grocery cashier’s lineup can’t find a few missing coins, I will gladly give her what she needs. But I won’t extend the same privilege to every other shopper.

Macro reasoning says that we can’t just throw our borders open, take anyone who shows up, anywhere. Micro says that we can’t callously turn people away.

So what should we do about this discontinuity? Again, Gilmore offers good advice: “We can help them settle into our communities, reducing tensions with those who are less welcoming. We can find ways to help the small towns along the border who are suddenly rattled by refugee families walking over the stubble. We can publicize that crime rates among refugees are lower than among native-born Canadians.

“And we can ignore the bigoted leeches on the fringes of our political system, people cynically turning reasonable concerns into wide-eyed panic….”

Most of all, I suggest, we can make the way we welcome asylum seekers a model for the kind of country that they — and we — want to belong to.

*******************************************************
Copyright © 2017 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write jimt@quixotic.ca
********************************************************

Beyond Voting: The Fetishization of the Ballot Box   Leave a comment

Efforts to get people to vote, complete with ballot-box selfies, loomed large on social media, but when casting a ballot is treated as the noblest thing you can do in a democracy, it accommodates a status quo of incredibly narrow choices.

Expand

An excellent reflection on this important issue, written by Matthew Behrens, is available at:

https://nowtoronto.com/news/the-now-guide-to-the-2015/beyond-%23elxn42/

Posted October 20, 2015 by allanbaker in Canadian society, Idle No More, Politics

Tagged with , , ,

Atoning for Alan Kurdi   Leave a comment

Atoning for Alan Kurdi

We could’ve been his haven. Instead, his family’s hopes ended in the sea off Bodrum.

By Crawford Kilian, 4 Sep 2015, TheTyee.ca

It might have been the shore at Spanish Banks, or the edge of a lake in Ontario’s cottage country. It was every parent’s nightmare. Alan Kurdi’s little body on a Turkish beach might have been our kid’s, in the moment when everything good in our life vanished.

Syrian emigrant Alan Kurdi

Alan Kurdi, with brother Ghalib. Photo: Twitter.

I just looked away for a second —

I was sure he was safe —

I should have —

If only — 

But no excuse will serve, no alibi will stand up. Alan is beyond all suffering, but he is also beyond forgiving us. “One” used to be pronounced “own,” and “atonement” means to become “at one” again with those we have wronged. But we can never become at one with Alan Kurdi.

Atonement is a faith-filled concept. Crawford Kilian has a wonderful reflection on what Canada is / was / can be. I suggest it is worthwhile reading at: http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2015/09/04/Atoning-for-Alan-Kurdi/?utm_source=nationalweekly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=040915

Oligarchs And The People   1 comment

The increased concentration of wealth in “western” societies invites us to think about the oligarchs around us, and ask whether we are living in a new feudal society. Chris Hedges writes that:

The seesaw of history has thrust the oligarchs once again into the sky. We sit humiliated and broken on the ground. It is an old battle. It has been fought over and over in human history. We never seem to learn. It is time to grab our pitchforks.

CCPA Monitor, December 2013 / January 2014, page 29

Take Responsibility

Take Responsibility

An Imaginary Climate of FEAR!   Leave a comment

i-remember-for-peaceIMAGINARY CLIMATE OF FEAR

By Jim Taylor – Wednesday March 18, 2015

A big black SUV with dark-tinted windows pulled up beside me. The driver’s window zipped down. A very big man with a shaved head and lots of tattoos leaned out.

“Hey, you!” he growled.
It felt like the opening scene of almost any TV crime show.
“What kinda dog is that?” the driver demanded.
“A Chesapeake Bay Retriever,” I replied, a little nervously.
His door popped open. He levered his bulk onto the ground. He bent over to rumple my dog’s ears.
“I’ve never seen a Chesapeake before,” he said. “She’s got a beautiful face.”
Nope, definitely not your stereotypical crime show.
Television, I’m convinced, gives us a hugely distorted view of reality. Unfortunately, most of us don’t realize how distorted that view is.
Every study, for example, says that the rate of violent crime in Canada has decreased by around 50 per cent over the last 25 years. Yet the federal government bases its run for re-election on fear, pushing a heightened “tough on crime” agenda.
Admittedly, the U.S. — source of most TV crime shows — has a much higher violent crime rate than Canada. You’re about three times more likely to be murdered in the U.S., according to Wikipedia. But the chances of being murdered at random are extremely low in both countries.

INACCURATE PORTRAYALS
Rather to my surprise — yes, I get influenced by television too! — the overall crime rate in the U.S. appears to have dipped even faster than in Canada. Even for gun crimes.
Yet no one would ever get that impression from the hail of bullets launched every night on the screen, where teams of crime fighters smash down doors, fan out through homes wearing flak jackets, fingers on triggers….
TV coverage made the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, look like an episode of Star Wars last summer, with Darth Vader’s troops massing to crush protesters .
The medical profession suffers from TV-induced distortion too. Doc Martin glimpses a rash on a woman’s exposed belly. “I must operate immediately!” he commands. “Get me some boiling water!”
“At a time like this, you want tea?” his befuddled assistant gasps.
“To sterilize my scalpel, you idiot!” the doctor snorts.
Marcus Welby might have spoken more diplomatically, but the aura of omnipotence stays the same.
Given the stereotypes of medical drama, it must be very difficult for ordinary doctors to say, “I don’t know.”

OVERLOOKED ELEMENTS
The great failing of television, it seems to me, is that it ignores the essential goodness of people. In the rush of telescoping a plot into an hour, or a news story into a minute, there isn’t time to acknowledge little acts of kindness, compassion, caring.
I can’t quantify this claim, but I suspect that 99% of my life is spent trusting other people. Trusting that the relationship I have with them will withstand any disagreements. Trusting that those I don’t have a personal relationship with will still act with honesty and justice.
Yet the TV culture encourages us to base our life decisions on fear. We act to protect ourselves, even when nothing needs defending. We withdraw. We hold back. We hesitate.
We let a few drops of imaginary fear taint the entire bucket of life experience.
*****************************************
Copyright © 2015 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.
To comment on this column, write jimt@quixotic.ca
*****************************************

Reflections on a violent day in Ottawa (7)   Leave a comment

Four Prime Questions about Harper’s Response to Ottawa Shooting

PM’s moves at home and abroad demand closer scrutiny.

By Murray Dobbin, November 3, 2014, TheTyee.ca

HarperFranken_600px.jpg

Cartoon by Greg Perry.

Two weeks after the senseless murder of a soldier on Parliament Hill (and another earlier in Montreal) there are several things we know and many we don’t. Obvious questions have been asked and inconvenient ones have been left aside.

We know — and indeed could predict one second after the shooting — that Stephen Harper would use it as an excuse to expand the security and surveillance state he has been constructing.

We know that the shooting was not a terrorist act, but a criminal one, regardless of what the RCMP and CSIS, eager to enhance their political role and resources, are saying. (Within an hour of the shooting an over-eager CSIS official was declaring hopefully, “this will change everything.”)

We know that the enhanced security measures and police powers will do nothing to help us understand, let alone deal with, the root causes of what the Harper government claims is an existential threat to Canada and the West (but is content to deal with symptoms).

We know that there will be no additional resources from governments to deal with mental illness as Mr. Harper plans to cut billions from medicare. There will be no revisiting of the issue of gun registration in spite of its obvious importance in dealing with such incidents. And there will be no effort on the part of our Christian fundamentalist PM to counter the anti-Muslim backlash he knows he is contributing to by hyping the terrorist threat.

The bigger questions remain to be asked and so they won’t likely be answered. They include:

1. What freedoms must we now erode and why? Mr. Harper, who eagerly adheres to the (simplistic) idea that jihadists “hate our freedoms,” might reasonably be asked to explain why he is so eager to destroy those freedoms in response to the jihadists’ “war” against the West. Isn’t that exactly what they want — or does Harper want to rid us of freedoms so the jihadists won’t hate us so much? Wouldn’t a genuine response be to celebrate and enhance our freedoms even more (perhaps by ending the auditing of groups critical of the government)?

2. What is producing Canada’s homegrown jihadists? This is another question the government seems decidedly uninterested in: what is it about our Western societies — supposedly the model for the entire world, morally, culturally and socially superior — that alienates some young people so much that they can suddenly decide it’s all right to kill innocents and it’s worth dying for a cause so remote and alien to their lived experience that it is scarcely possible to believe they can understand it let alone truly embrace it? Could it possibly have anything to do with 35 years of neoliberal assault on community and consumer capitalism’s failure to provide meaning to their lives beyond purchasing the next electronic gadget?

3. What is the most effective response to Islamists? Yet one more question not being asked is what would a rational, enlightened (we are enlightened, right?), effective response to so-called “radical” Islam look like? The “this changes everything” gang certainly don’t intend to change Canada’s foreign policy or recommend a change to its allies. Yet it is key to any long-term solution.

There are countless experts and historians who are eager to address the issue. And we know what they would say about Stephen Harper’s efforts to transform Canada from a moderate, middle power with a history of virtually inventing UN peacekeeping, into a shrill, warmongering nation ever ready to rattle its (insignificant) sabre at any opportunity.

The fact that these two unconnected killings were not terrorist acts doesn’t mean such acts cannot or will not happen. And while Mr. Harper puts on his warrior’s armour and militarizes the government’s response, he ignores the impact of his reckless Middle East foreign policy on escalating such threats. Canada’s ham-handed policies actually do put us at risk.

According to a report in the National Post, on Sept. 21, ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani “urged ISIS supporters to kill Canadians, Americans, Australians, French and other Europeans…. Rely upon Allah…. Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s verdict.”

This threat is clearly connected directly to Canada’s policies and its determination to join the war against ISIS. Harper, in what has become his standard adolescent response to events in the Middle East, bravely declared he would not be “cowed by threats while innocent children, women, men and religious minorities live in fear of these terrorists.” Yet Canada’s contribution is laughably minuscule — but just big enough, perhaps, to put us at risk of a future attack. And all, as usual, for domestic political consumption as evidenced by the total inability of the government to explain its mission.

To their credit the opposition parties in Parliament, the NDP and the Liberals, voted against the ISIS mission for most of the right reasons: what exactly was the mission, what were the government’s expectations, how was success being defined, what Canadian interests are being served and why six months? Not one of these questions was answered and instead the questioners were treated to the usual contempt from the prime minister.

4. Can we learn from how we got here? We are supposed to learn as children that actions have consequences so I suppose we are left to conclude that current leaders of the Anglo-industrialized countries (in particular) were badly neglected by their parents. A catastrophic failure of imagination on the part of the West has led us to this point. It’s worth tracing back to its origins. The first failure belonged to Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, and the key architect of the mujahedeen war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Before the U.S. began arming, financing and training the original handful of religious zealots opposed to the godless Soviets, they were a threat to no one.

In an interview that appeared in 1998, Brzezinski revealed his impoverished imagination when asked if he regretted creating Islamic terrorists: “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

ISIS would not exist had the U.S. not created its predecessors. And this failure of imagination is replicated year after year in the White House, in the Strangelovian world of NATO and now in Ottawa. Imperial hubris, wilful ignorance, political opportunism and sheer incompetence still determine Middle East policy. Harper enthusiastically bombed Libya, with the unintended but predictable consequence of handing over thousands of tonnes of sophisticated weapons to another branch of radical Islamists. He gives Israel absolute carte blanche in its savaging of Palestinians, alienating even moderate Arabs throughout the region, and now he pointlessly tweaks the tail of the ISIS tiger.

His every act in the name of Canada creates more jihadists. We are just lucky that an attack on Canada initiated by ISIS is extremely unlikely.  [Tyee]

Related