Archive for the ‘social justice’ Tag

Core Values – Canadian, eh?   Leave a comment

Saudi dust-up defines our core values

By Jim Taylor, August 12, 2018

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Take Responsibility

We Canadians live in such a comfortable cocoon. Because we have a government and social culture that is, for the most part, rational and compassionate, we look askance at the political infighting and partisan loyalties that afflict our neighbour to the south.

We find it hard to believe that 300-million presumably right-minded people – those who qualify to sit on a jury – allow themselves to be governed by a man who doesn’t seem to know the truth from one hour to the next, and who takes umbrage at the least of slights.

“Umbrage” –to take offence, to react strongly. It implies flying off the handle at minor slights. But recent events suggest we Canadians have tunnel vision. Obsessed with President Tweet, we have ignored an even more explosive personality on the international stage: Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.

The National Post’s Terry Glavin describes him as “a chubby 32-year-old war criminal with a taste for fine art, French mansions, and luxury yachts, [who] launched a barbaric bombing campaign in Yemen that has resulted in the deaths of at least 15,000 people and has left half the population of that desperately poor country at the brink of famine.”

Retaliation rampant

The furore started when Canada sent a tweet that said, “Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in #SaudiArabia…. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrightsactivists.

The vehemence of bin Salman’s response outdid even Trump’s tantrums.

 He immediately:

  • expelled Canada’s ambassador;

  • froze new trade with Canada;

  • ordered his global asset managers to dispose of their Canadian equities, bonds and cash holdings “no matter the cost”;

  • pulled 16,000 Riyadh-funded students out of Canadian universities and medical schools;

  • transferred Saudi patients receiving medical care out of Canadian hospitals;

  • suspended Saudi Arabian Airlines flights to Toronto;

  • and stopped buying barley and wheat from Canada.

He also accused Canada of meddling in his sovereign nation’s internal affairs. His anger ignores the fact that the Canadian tweet used a relatively diplomatic term, “urge.” It didn’t “demand,” it didn’t “insist.” It also specifically referred to “peaceful” activists.

Should Canada have made its view known through traditional diplomatic channels? Possibly. Although Trump has pretty much rendered conventional diplomacy obsolete with his own inflammatory tweets.

Like Trump, bin Salman takes any criticism of his policies personally.

Saudi Foreign Minister Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir ruled out mediation. He warned of further measures to further punish Canada. It was Canada’s fault, he said:  “There is nothing to mediate. A mistake has been made and a mistake should be corrected.”

Different sets of values

How can a simple – and relatively mild – tweet lead to such a conflagration? Basically,  think, we misread the core beliefs of the Saudi ruling family. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, the ultimate patriarchy. As such, it bans political activism. It deals harshly with dissidents. One of the activists for whom Canada pleaded has been sentenced to 100 lashes and ten years in prison.

Last month, it crucified – yes, crucified! – a man convicted of theft, murder, and attempted rape.

Earlier this  year, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did permit women to drive — the last country in the world to do so. But many of the those who campaigned for women’s right to drive have since been arrested and imprisoned.

In the same way, though, the Crown Prince failed to recognize Canadian core beliefs.

The new national religion

As reader Steve Roney, currently teaching in the United Arab Emirates, pointed out recently, we no longer expect to impose our religion, Christianity, on other nations. But we will not tolerate their rejection of our science, our technology (including medicine), and especially our human rights. These have become an unofficial religion in Canada.

We expect any nation, anywhere, to welcome our polio vaccines. Our mines. Our money. And whether it’s Indigenous peoples in Canada, victims of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, slaves in Sudan, or young girls facing genital mutilation in Somalia, human rights are sacred.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared, “Canadians have always expected our government to speak strongly, firmly, clearly and politely about the need to respect human rights at home and around the world… We will continue to stand up for Canadian values and indeed for universal values and human rights at any occasion.”

Trudeau is right not to back down. If human rights are indeed our new religion, they are not negotiable. Canada must speak up in their favour. Even if taking a stand has economic consequences.

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Copyright © 2018 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

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Conservatives Don’t Own Jesus   Leave a comment

On May 24, 2018 The Walrus published an article, with the title above,written by Michael Coren. In it Coren argues that the secular “left”, and “progressive” Christians ought to find common cause ( a “joint enterprise ) and work together.

We can add more beauty and life to this world through cooperation, no?

Some of what Coren writes is:

“There are those on the left who see religion as a distraction from the genuine challenges of poverty, echoing the Marxian notion of faith as the “opiate of the people.” Having watched Christian groups try to restrict the rights and freedoms of lgbtq people, they are angry at religious leaders who support and defend arch-conservative administrations. In return, I offer the vision of a joint enterprise based on the moral agenda we share: a dedication to the social values that liberate the very people to whom Jesus devoted his work and teachings. He came for everybody but certainly seemed to prefer the poor and needy. He came to provoke the complacent and empower the vulnerable. He was never a figure of the status quo.”

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For the full commentary from Coren, go to The Walrus at: https://thewalrus.ca/conservatives-dont-own-jesus/

 

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I’ve (finally) finished reading the book; Could It Happen Here? Canada in the Age of Trump and BREXIT by Michael Adams. I enjoyed it, and I learned about some of the differences between Canada and the U.S.A. from reading the statistics and the commentary within it.

The title raises an interesting question, that I heard Michael Adams address in an interview with Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star. “What do you mean by “It?”. In the book, Adams doesn’t directly answer the question, but there is plenty of evidence that he believes the answer is “NO!”.

I say that because Adams writes about Kellie Leitch at both the beginning and the conclusion to this book. In the concluding chapter he wrote:

“Throughout the Conservative leadership campaign, polls consistently showed support for Kelly Leitch’s notion of a Canadian values test, a signal that there are political dividends to harvest by appealing to the more fearful angels of our nature. That she was also ridiculed and ultimately unsuccessful revealed something about the location of the boundaries of acceptable political discourse in Canada and offers a precise answer to the question of whether “it” could happen here.”[1]

HOWEVER;

During the second of three leaders debates during the Ontario 2018 election campaign, the three political party leaders ( Liberal, NDP and Progressive Conservative ) were asked whether they would support a program to bring new immigrants to northern Ontario to fill job vacancies. Doug Ford, now Premier of Ontario, responded:

“I’d be more than happy to sit down and talk to the folks and look at a pilot project. But number one, I’m a pretty generous guy — I’m taking care of our own first. Once we take care of our own, once we exhaust every single avenue and don’t have anyone that can fill a job, then I’d be open to that.[2]”

Since his election, Premier Ford has withdrawn financial support for asylum seekers who come to Ontario.[3]

All through the book Adams compares and contrasts the U.S.A. and Canada as societies. His analysis of socio-economic data; polling, and academic papers provides plenty of detail on the similarities and differences of our two countries. One of the key differences between the neighbouring countries though lies in the responses to a simple question: “Must the father of the family be the master in his own house?[4]”

From 1992 to 2016 the “YES” responses in the U.S.A. have gone from 42 per cent of those polled to 50 per cent. The figure is 69 per cent in the “deep south”, and lowest in New England (42%). In Canada during the same time period the “YES” response has declined from 25 per cent to 23 per cent (reaching a low of 18% in the year 2000). In Canada the highest is 26 per cent in Alberta and the lowest is 19 per cent in Atlantic Canada.

Another important difference is in response to a question about the style of decision making that politicians have. 54 per cent of Americans like elected officials who “stick to their positions”, while only 38 per cent of Canadians do. Similarly, 58 per cent of Canadians like elected officials who “make compromises with people they disagree with”, versus 40 per cent of Americans.[5]

Could “it” happen here? I think that “it” already has.

The new government in Ontario seems to be dedicated to the kind of “shock and awe” program that Naomi Klein described in her book, The Shock Doctrine”.[6]Someof their decisions in the first few days of being “in power” are outlined below:

President Trump                                            Premier Ford

Environment

Withdrew from the Paris                          Withdrew from the “Cap

Paris Accord                                              and Trade” program with

                                                                      California and Quebec

                                                                      Cancelled 758 “green” energy

                                                                      Projects

Mandate

Drain the swamp                                     Clean up the “mess”

Immigration

Build the wall                                          Ceased support for asylum

Send migrants home                             seekers – “a federal matter”

Social conservativism

Withdrew from United Nations          Cancelled new sex ed curric.

progr. on breast feeding                        Not at 2018 Pride parade

Role of science[7]

Office of the President’s                         Fired Chief Scientist in ON

Science Advisor is still vacant

Of course, there’s populism and other topics that could be dealt with in this note, and both Ford and Trump have an ego that needs to be massaged.

Could it happen here?

I think that “It” has already happened here in Ontario.

[1]Could It Happen Here, page 152

[2]https://tvo.org/article/current-affairs/doug-fords-odd-take-on-immigration-in-the-north

[3]https://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2018/07/16/ottawa-says-it-will-support-toronto-with-asylum-seekers-notwithstanding-snub-by-doug-ford.html

[4]Could It Happen Here, page 146

[5]Could It Happen Here, page 151.

[6]Naomi Klein has continued her analysis in a new book, “The Battle for Paradise”; a story of what happened after Hurricanes Irma and Maria passed through Puerto Rico.

[7]Just like in the days of the “Harper Government” in Ottawa, who needs unbiased, scientific evidence when we have ideology, eh?

A Message for Doug Ford   Leave a comment

Over 250 clergy and United Church of Canada staff personnel have endorsed a letter to the new Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford. In the letter, the premier is requested to reconsider his stances on refugees, supervised drug injection sites, and the province’s sex-ed curriculum.

Ontario United Church ministers behind a letter to Premier Doug Ford are inviting people to share these graphics. (Credit: OntarioUCCMinisters.org)

The full text of the letter can be found at: https://ontariouccministers.org

Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum reversal denies LGBTQ children their rights and safety   Leave a comment

In Ontario there’s plenty of controversy over the unilateral decision of the Doug Ford government to revert to the 1998 educational curriculum.

A well-respected minister in the United Church of Canada, Rev. Dr. Cheri DeNovo has written a column in The Observer on this action. The column speaks of the rights of those who are marginalized, and of Christian love and respect for our neighbours.  Part of what Rev. DiNovo writes is as follows:

Soon, I will be hand-delivering a letter to Premier Doug Ford or Deputy Premier Christine Elliott, a woman I admire and consider a friend, signed by dozens of United Church clergy, asking the premier to exercise compassion and justice on a number of issues, one of them being to protect our children by informing and educating them so that they can protect themselves.

The whole column can be accessed at: https://ucobserver.org/columns/2018/07/ontario_sex_ed_curriculum_reversal/

 

Beware of politicians quoting Bible verses   Leave a comment

The following reflection by Jim Taylor is an excellent reflection on how the Bible, and scripture, has been used in the past, and not so recent past, to justify the actions taken by those who have political power. In fact, I too have been guilty of this offence. In the particular  case that Taylor is reflecting on, Romans 13:1 was used to justify how a government has incarcerated children.

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Beware of politicians quoting Bible verses

By Jim Taylor  – Sunday, June 24, 2018

For a hundred years, the Canadian government took children from their parents and incarcerated them in Indian Residential Schools. For their own good. The feds have since issued apologies. They’ve paid around $5 billion in compensation. And all governments have paid many billions more in welfare, prisons, and social assistance.

In the 1950s, the B.C. government took Doukhobor children away from their families, and locked them up in a prison camp in New Denver. For the children’s own good, of course.

In the 1960s, various governments did the Sixties Scoop. Once again Indigenous children were separated from their parents and placed with white foster families. For their own good, of course.

We’re now reaping a bitter harvest of alcoholism and drug dependency, of depression and suicide, of adults who don’t know how to be parents.

I know about the trauma of foster parenting and adoption personally. My grandson was adopted from Ethiopia. At 11, he’s still working through the after-effects of being torn from his natural family, shipped from orphanage to orphanage, and finally brought to Canada.

Adoption data suggests that if you can adopt during a child’s first year, separation anxiety will fade in two or three years. Separation at two will probably take five years. Separation at seven or eight may never be overcome.

And then the Trump administration set a policy of removing children from parents who enter the United States illegally, and locking the children up in detention centres.

 Can’t we ever learn from past mistakes?

A policy in search of justification

Last Sunday, Father’s Day, William Rivers Pitt wrote that there were already 1,469 children locked into in “an old Walmart outside of Brownsville, Texas… which was given the grimly Orwellian name Casa Padre, or ‘Father’s House’.”

To his credit, the president overruled his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. Children can now stay with their parents. In jail. Sessions had claimed earlier, to a gathering of law officers in Fort Wayne, Texas, that St. Paul himself endorsed strict enforcement of immigration laws — which, by Sessions interpretation, included ripping children from their mothers’ arms. He quoted Paul, in his letter to the Christians in Rome, saying, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities…”

Sessions didn’t get the quotation quite accurate, but that never matters when using the Bible as a back-up authority. Claiming that the Bible says so is usually sufficient.

Collection of mixed messages

 In reality, you can use the Bible to prove almost anything. I have yet to encounter a topic that can’t be defended by quoting some biblical verse.

If you know the right verses, the Bible commends incest, polygamy, betrayal, treason, adultery, civil disobedience, drunkenness, cold-blooded murder, slavery, genocide, and ecocide.

The Bible contradicts itself. The prophet Isaiah had a famous instruction: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks…  Another prophet, Joel, reverses it: “Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears.”

Which one y’ gonna choose?

Two days before Sessions quoted Paul in support of strict immigration enforcement, the Southern Baptist Convention cited Scripture six times for immigration reform.

Once again, which one y’ gonna choose?

Not anyone’s final word

The standard Protestant Bible contains 66 books, written by at least 50 different people –not counting the Psalms, known to have at least 57 more authors — over about 1500 years.

I’m an editor. I have worked with books where multiple authors contributed chapters. It was almost impossible to achieve consistency. Even though they were all writing about the same subject, to the same standards, in the same time period.

Expecting consistency in a text created over 15 centuries is like expecting pigs to do long division.

And don’t quote me the verse that says, “All scripture is inspired by God.” That verse was not written to be part of the Bible; it was a personal letter to a young man named Timothy. When it was written, the only scriptures it could refer to were the Jewish scriptures, which we now condescendingly call the “Old Testament.” The New Testament didn’t get finalized until 367 AD.

But that doesn’t matter to Jeff Sessions.

All that matters is finding a verse he can quote to support his policies, to people who think the Bible is the final word on everything. Even if that policy goes against everything we have learned from family studies, psychology, and post-trauma treatment, and against the message of the Bible as a whole.

Anytime politicians quote the Bible to prove their point, beware!

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Copyright © 2018 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

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Okay, Toronto. It’s up to you   Leave a comment

There are times in life when I need a bit of inspiration.

The recent provincial election in Ontario brought me to one such time. However, the antidote arrived unexpectedly in the form of a blog posting by Joy Connelly. Chicago in April 2011Joy Connelly began with the following words:

“As I watched last Thursday’s election results, I was reminded of the motto printed on housing hero Steve Pomeroy’s letterhead: focus on what you can do, not what you cannot.”

Joy then proceeds to illustrate the powers that are available to the City of Toronto to deal with our housing crisis. Yes, there are things that can be done! To read an inspirational posting about what we can focus on doing, read Joy Connelly’s blog at:

https://openingthewindow.com/2018/06/11/okay-toronto-its-up-to-you/?

 

Posted June 13, 2018 by allanbaker in Canadian society

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