Archive for the ‘Current events’ Category

If the Queen can’t eat raw seal heart the Governor General will do

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Many years ago a colleague of mine attended a conference in Alaska, and upon her return, in appreciation for my help on a project, she presented me with a ulu knife.

My ulu (pizza cutter).

My ulu makes a great pizza cutter.

However, unlike Canada’s Governor General, the lovely Michaelle Jean, I have never used my ulu to skin or gut an animal, nor have I used it to  slice off part of an animal’s heart to eat raw.

This simple act of cultural sensitivity has raised a firestorm of controversy, with PETA and similar groups declaring the Governor General a barbarian, and the EU Environment Commissioner declaring her actions “bizarre”.

Ideally it would have been wonderful to see Queen Elizabeth II participating in the ceremony by chowing down on some raw seal heart, but I’m satisfied with having her representative , our Governor General, do the honours (apparently she thinks it tastes like sushi).

Here’s a video clip of the ceremony.

A case for coercive interrogation

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Over the last few weeks I have been reading only as much as my stomach can handle about the Oliphant inquiry investigating the dealings of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney with German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber.

Not a lot of honest answers about the envelopes stuffed with cash.

If polite questions patiently asked by lawyers can’t get at the truth, perhaps waterboarding should be considered for both Mulroney and Schreiber.

(Just kidding – I’ve read Michael Ignatieff)

The Pope says AB and his critics say C but I think ABC

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

“I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome with advertising slogans. If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem. The solution can only come through a twofold commitment: firstly, the humanisation of sexuality, in other words a spiritual and human renewal bringing a new way of behaving towards one another; and secondly, true friendship, above all with those who are suffering, a readiness – even through personal sacrifice – to be present with those who suffer. And these are the factors that help and bring visible progress.

“Therefore, I would say that our double effort is to renew the human person internally, to give spiritual and human strength to a way of behaving that is just towards our own body and the other person’s body; and this capacity of suffering with those who suffer, to remain present in trying situations.

“I believe that this is the first response [to AIDS] and that this is what the Church does, and thus, she offers a great and important contribution. And we are grateful to those that do this.”

So spoke Pope Benedict several days ago.

And boy did it set off a media firestorm.

In the news and opinion articles that I’ve read, I haven’t seen much mention of the so-called ABC strategy.  That is the strategy that Uganda used to dramatically reduce that nation’s HIV/AIDS infection rate, where A stands for Abstinence, B stands for Be faithful to a single committed partner, and C stands for Condom use if you can’t commit to the first two points.

To me this just seems like a no-brainer.  Abstinence is indeed the surest way to prevent infection (recognizing the slight chance of infection from intravenous sources etc.).  Faithfulness is also excellent, if indeed both partners remain true to their vows (recognizing that many faithful spouses have been infected by unfaithful partners).  Condoms have a fairly high success ratio … I’ve heard as high as 99% protection and as low as 80% (would you encourage your child to play Russian Roulette on condition that he/she only places a single cartidge in the cylinder?), so it makes sense to use them if engaging in risky behaviour.

The Pope’s opposition to condom distribution is consistent with Roman Catholic teachings forbidding contraceptives.

While I think the media has distorted his message, I do think he is wrong on this issue.  Whether a sex trade worker or the faithful spouse of an unfaithful partner, a lot of people are dying who might have lived if a condom had been used.

However I also think that his critics who discount abstinence and faithfulness are equally wrong.  I don’t see the same media indignation over the way that abstinence and faithfulness are dismissed as unrealistic.

For what I consider a fair analysis of HIV/AIDS prevention, check out the April 2008 article by Green and Ruark in First Things – “AIDS and the Churchs: Getting the Story Right“.

Seals and senators

Friday, March 13th, 2009

This news article on the CBC website is encouraging.

An effort by a Liberal senator to effectively ban the East Coast seal hunt was dealt a fatal blow Tuesday when not a single colleague could be found to second his motion.

Senator Mac Harb, a former MP from Ottawa named to the upper chamber in 2003, tried to put forward a bill to cancel the traditional hunt for everyone except aboriginal hunters with treaty rights.

But his effort was met with silence.

Some of Harb’s colleagues who have spent over two decades in the Senate said they couldn’t recall the last time a bill failed to find a seconder.

Gerry Byrne, a Liberal MP from Newfoundland, said the lack of support for cancelling the seal hunt should send a clear message to the European Union, which appears likely to support a ban on importing most seal products.

Byrne said even if parliamentarians disagree with a bill, they’ll often rise to second it out of respect for a colleague. But he said opposition to banning the hunt is so complete that nobody even wanted to discuss Harb’s bill.

(full story here).

Kudos to the senate for refusing to consider this bill.

What I found especially encouraging is the number of reader comments following the story in support of the seal hunt, and the number of “Agree” (thumbs up) votes for those comments.  Most Canadians live in urban environments, but apparently they aren’t as out of touch with natural resource management issues as I feared.

So many paths up the mountain?

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Can those who believe that every faith system is an equally valid path to God explain their logic to the albinos of Tanzania and Burundi?

Northwest Passage – a robust Canadian response

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Yesterday the White House issued its new policy on the Arctic, a test of Canadian sovereignty in our northern regions.

In his final days in power, President George W. Bush asserted U. S. military “sea power” over the oil-rich Arctic on Monday, in another forceful rebuttal of Canada’s claims of sovereignty over the Northwest Passage.

The White House formally released the text of a sweeping new directive on the Arctic, two years in the making, just eight days before Barack Obama is to be sworn in as the 44th U. S. president and on the same day as Bush held his final White House news conference as president.

Key elements of Bush’s policy challenge the ambitious Arctic sovereignty agenda put forth by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that includes bolstering Canada’s military presence and fostering economic and social development. The Bush directive reiterates the Northwest Passage is an international waterway–a rebuttal of Canada’s claim of sovereignty over what is emerging as a major global shipping route because of the shrinking polar ice cap –and it highlights the boundary dispute in the resource-rich Beaufort Sea.


In a related article, Premier Floyd Roland of the Northwest Territories is calling for a robust Canadian response. (source)

I concur.

As a very important part of a robust Canadian response I urge you to get over to the CBC Radio 2 website and vote for “Northwest Passage” by Stan Rogers, as one of the 49 songs to be presented to President-Elect Barack Obama.  The song has made the shortlist of 100 nominees, but it belongs in the top 49.  In fact it should become our new national anthem.

To vote, click here.  Voting ends Friday, January 16 at 11 p.m. ET so don’t delay.

UPDATE 2009-01-20:  According to the CBC Radio 2 blog, the top 5 vote-getters in the “English Pop Folk etc.” category were:

Closer to the Heart – Rush
Canadian Railroad Trilogy – Gordon Lightfoot
Hallelujah – k.d. lang
Democracy – Leonard Cohen
Northwest Passage – Stan Rogers

(now does anyone actually expect President Obama to spend time listening to these 49 songs?)

Is this really necessary?

Monday, December 1st, 2008

I’m not going to call it a coup, or even illegitimate or undemocratic, because apparently Canada’s democratic tradition allows for coalition governments.

However I have a hard time buying the argument that a change of government is necessary at this time.

I learned a new word yesterday

Thursday, October 30th, 2008


I don’t recall ever hearing the word until it came up yesterday in a conversation with Gerard about the renewed fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  I mentioned a news story I’d seen, and Gerard matter-of-factly stated that the fighting was in an area where he has family.

He then stated that a lot of the fighting is about coltan.

I managed to get from him that coltan is a mineral that is highly valued for use in electronics including cell phones.

I thumbed through my Canadian Oxford Dictionary but it didn’t have an entry for coltan.  Likewise I struck out with Webster Online.

So of course I tried Googling it, and I hit the jackpot.  Try it for yourself here.  Read some of the stories about why so many people are dying for the mineral wealth of the Congo including columbite-tantalite (coltan), and try to figure out why the people of that hurting nation are receiving so little benefit from their country’s abundant natural resources.

Even if like me you don’t fully understand the complexities of that country’s political situation, please take time to say a prayer for the Congolese people.  May they soon come to a place where coltan and the other natural resources of their country will contribute to building a prosperous and healthy democracy, not to funding more wars.

And may we in the rest of the world figure out a way to ensure that the coltan in our cellphones and Playstations doesn’t have blood on it.

Mining coltan

(Photo credit – Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting)

CBC news to provide more balance

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

CBC ombudsman Vince Carlin …

But there is another significant aspect to our policy. As mentioned, it calls on CBC outlets to touch on the widest range of views possible. On, there does not appear to be a wide range of “pointy” views. For instance, many of those who complained claimed that there is no one of an opposite ideological viewpoint readily apparent on the service. Unfortunately, this appears to be true. As I observed in an earlier review concerning CBC Newsworld programming, the CBC should not necessarily avoid having people of strong views on the air, but we must ensure that people of differing views are given a fair opportunity.


CBC publisher John Cruickshank…

More than 300 people have taken the trouble this month to complain to the CBC ombudsman about a column we ran on about Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Sept. 5. The column, by award-winning freelance writer Heather Mallick, was also pilloried by the National Post in Canada and by Fox News in the U.S. … Vince Carlin, the CBC Ombudsman, has now issued his assessment of the Mallick column. He doesn’t fault her for riling readers by either the caustic nature of her tone or the polarizing nature of her opinion. But he objects that many of her most savage assertions lack a basis in fact. And he is certainly correct. Mallick’s column is a classic piece of political invective. It is viciously personal, grossly hyperbolic and intensely partisan. And because it is all those things, this column should not have appeared on the site … We failed you in this case. And as a result we have put new editing procedures in place to insure that in the future, work that is not appropriate for our platforms, will not appear. We are open to contentious reasoned argument but not to partisan attack. It’s a fine line. Ombudsman Carlin makes another significant observation in his response to complainants: when it does choose to print opinion, displays a very narrow range on its pages. In this, Carlin is also correct. This, too, is being immediately addressed. will soon expand the diversity of voices and opinions and be home to a diverse group of writers with many perspectives. In this, we will better reflect the depth and texture of this country. We erred in our editorial judgment. You told us in no uncertain terms. And we have learned from it.


Wow.  I never thought I’d see the CBC admitting its bias.  Now to see whether they actually follow through with their promises.

They’ll know we are Christians by our hate?

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Last Sunday the worship service at Gateway Covenant Church was led by our youth, and they did a song that I remember friom the 1970s but don’t remember singing in many years, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” It’s a simple anthem, but I believe it is biblically sound.

By contrast, today I read this news story about a group that calls themselves Christian but spreads hatred, who plan to come into Canada specifically to picket at the funeral of the Greyhound murder victim. This is the same group that protests at funerals of gays in the U.S. holding placards reading “God Hates Fags.”

Apparently they plan to inform Canadians that the murder victim was singled out by God as judgement for Canada’s sins as a nation.

What kind of twisted logic can connect the senseless murder of a passenger sleeping on a Greyhound bus with the judgement of God on our country? Are they saying that the murderer was doing God’s bidding?

Kudos to Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day for taking swift action to stop these people at the border before they do more harm to the reputation of followers of Jesus.