Tag Archives: Canadian Society

Destroying the Evidence

Let me be perfectly blunt, I believe that the Conservative Party of Canada is engaged in a project to dismantle our academic national identity.

It started with the 2011 Census, continued with the sudden desire to recast our image as a vibrant extension of the British Empire and then manifested itself in the development of the ‘Warrior Society’ branding initiative that came on the heels of the bicentennial ‘celebrations’ of the War of 1812. If the Tories can manage to do anything right, it’s market their vision of the country as if it were legitimately a consensus understanding of who we are. It is anything but.

We once praised our collective intellect – our great universities and public education system, the immense arm of the federal government dedicated to recording and promoting Canadian culture and social values. Today we call that ‘big government’ and pronounce the efforts of Prime Ministers St-Laurent, Pearson, Trudeau, Chretien and to a lesser extent Martin and even Mulroney to have been in vain. Today’s Conservative-Corporate national identity is composed of Royal Canadian Air Force fly-overs of Grey Cup games while Nickleback churns out over amplified power-pop to reinforce an overly simplistic concept of national pride. This is not what I signed up for. The efforts of our politicians over the better part of nation’s history, to build a Canadian society and shared Canadian liberal social values, has not been in vain. The Tories will tell you a federal plan for national identity is doomed to failure – we’re too diverse, too accidental, and better as a loose federation with no real sense of where we come from nor where we’re going. Inasmuch as we lose our identity we lose any hope of deciding where we go, where we’ll grow.

You can imagine my disgust when I discovered that as part of massive government cuts to just about everything that isn’t the military or their salaries, Library and Archives Canada is facing major budget cuts, despite the fact that it has been chronically underfunded for close to a decade. This is the federal agency tasked with preserving Canada’s social and cultural identity, and it’s being sold off piece by piece to private interests, many of whom aren’t even Canadian. We have billions available for unproven and under-equipped knock-off fighter jets but can’t seem to find ten or twenty million to support the institutional and societal memory of the entire nation. This nation’s government is corrupt to the core.

It’s no secret that the Tories have a particular vision of Canada they wish to promote. It’s militaristic, a loving member of the British Empire, pseudo-Aboriginal (though only to reinforce the notion of warrior traits being somehow absorbed via a non-existant proximity to nature, itself a heavily romanticized vision of our people as being a collection of rugged outdoorsmen), and increasingly Christian supremacist. In my opinion and experience, this reflects but a minority of the people who actually live here.

And yet so it goes, and far more significant and non-violent celebrations – such as the thirtieth anniversary of the Charter and Constitution – go completely unmentioned by ‘Canada’s Conservative Government.’ The single most important document of reference which has inspired the design of constitutions and bills of basic human rights the world over, more important than the American Constitution and Bill of Rights, and our ‘benevolent dictator’ of a Prime Minister decides to stick it to a dead man by denying the moment its due.

But the real damage isn’t created by the lack of celebration, it’s coming from simple budget cuts such as these that are quickly and methodically destroying evidence of Canada’s own culture, our own history and all the evidence of heritage. Folk art and manuscripts and clay pots and correspondence may not be as exciting as battle recreations and military parades, but when they point to the development of a unique society and culture, and establish a history and heritage quite unlike what we see in Europe or the Americas, we’d be wise to preserve and promote it.

Take a look in any illustrated Canadian history textbook and you’ll see what I mean. Chances are the document or object in the photograph will be part of a foreign museum’s collection or else be in private hands.

And all this at a time in which the country desperately needs to be pulled together. All the positive and universally accessible elements of our common culture – those that relate most to the simple matter of living in our country – cast aside as irrelevant. How shamelessly reckless.

The Tories view Canada as an accident, and thus what we’ve created and the study of who we are as a people, is apparently of no significance. If anything, the evidence that suggests Canada is deliberate and purposely complex impedes their efforts to rebrand Canada in their image and according to their minority viewpoint. As far as they’re concerned our culture and history are merely marketing tools to be employed sparingly for manipulative political purposes. And there’s a helluvalot of danger in having your identity dictated to you by a federal government which has been very busy destroying or selling off the evidence that your individual socio-political heritage is anathema to everything the Tories stand for.

I am a sovereign Canadian, and I don’t want this care-taker government to destroy the historical record of my sovereignty.

There’s a petition – check this link to Boing Boing for more details.

And always you, can write the dishonourable Minister Moore.

Remember, any Canadian can send a letter to any Parliamentarian without postage.

Think about what full access to the collective consciousness and history of Canada and all its peoples could teach us. Consider what fully funded government agencies could do with such knowledge and how it could be used to find academic solutions to our contemporary societal problems. One day we will awake and recognize that which truly bonds us together, and try to undo the damage caused by this most cavalier and corrupt federal government.

What is a Nation Without Goals?

Maybe it’s me, but he’s always struck me as a somewhat lethargic individual…

This article was originally posted to the blog of the Association for Canadian Studies, and can be accessed back there where you see the hyperlink.


When will Canada build a bullet-train network?

Will the first sesquicentenarian be Canadian?

Will Canada solve global warming?

Will Canada prevent the next genocide?

Isn’t Canada a more suitable nation to host the UN General Assembly than the United States?

When will Canada develop its own independent space launch capability?

When will we finally fully ratify the Constitution?

And when will we finally get down to business and enter into negotiations for the acquisition (or voluntary integration) of the Turks & Caicos?

None of these have to be national goals, there just examples of things we’ve pondered, issues we’re concerned about and various initiatives that we’re once considered but in which there’s been no follow through. We’re remarkably good at dreaming, but of late haven’t been great at creating. One without the other is rather pointless isn’t it? But really, would it kill us to start thinking, sincerely, about who we’re going to be and we’ll be doing twenty, forty, sixty years from now?

We have no goals, and I sincerely feel this may be our ultimate undoing. A nation without any definable goals is a listless one, and this is inherently unstable.

To say we have no goals doesn’t mean we haven’t been working – all of us, as individuals, have certainly been diligently performing our duties. Our economy is strong, our resource sector is booming, as is the value of our dollar. Canadian banks and corporations are doing well despite myriad potential threats to their stability. All in all, though there is a high level of popular discontent amongst certain key demographics (namely youth, creative & intellectual capitalists and primary cultural minorities), the vast majority of Canadians are still relatively content and appropriately compensated. None of us are overwhelmingly rich, and, for the moment, too few of us are sufficiently poor so as to effect broad societal change.

That being the case, why not utilize the general social stability to further stabilize the economy of the future? Why not secure a booming resource-based economy with a new foundation of major infrastructure projects to further unite the nation? Why not capitalize on security by thinking big and implementing long-term nation-building projects?

It’s what we’ve done historically, and we know that it works.

From the construction of the Canadian Pacific in 1885 to the construction of the Saint Lawrence Seaway in the 1950s, Canada has always been a nation of great national projects. The Canadarm, the Arrow, Alouette I, Medicare, Peacekeeping, the Charter – we have done so many great things it’s ridiculous to try and list them in a single blog post – the point is ultimately that national aspirations are a worthwhile endeavour, as it gives all of us, in no uncertain terms, something which we know we all can work towards, regardless of whatever function we happen to have. It’s the dream which pulls you out from your specific task and insists that you are actively contributing to a project greater than every individual, simply by going above and beyond every day. in order to produce a hyper effective, efficient workforce, we need dreams with just this much reach.

Without a driving force, we’ll invariably wind up circling the drain. Nothing exists uniquely in stasis – we must have social propulsion, drive, movement.

Today there is discontent in Canada – it’s palpable. Yet we also have security and, perhaps for the first time, real immediate wealth. We can’t afford to squander it. Let us find balance between these poles and seek to define what we want for the future and how we can better utilize our relative current riches into multi-generational, self-perpetuating wealth. We need to craft a wish-list to determine exactly what kind of future nation we want, now. And if we can go a step further, and identify key investments we wish to characterize as having a particular Canadian accent, then we can position ourselves to be, conceptually, the nation at the state of its respective arts. Whether it’s the best transportation network, the highest quality of life, the finest schools or global leadership in terms of eradicating poverty, disease, war or exploring outer space, whatever we choose as our national dreams, let it ultimately reflect who we wish to become.

The single greatest tool for economic stability and real growth is a society committed to achieving national goals for the greater good. As long as there’s a national dream that is driven by the wants and needs of the people themselves, and the people understand that these goals go to benefit the whole inasmuch as the individual, they’ll work harder, work better and save to live peacefully in the future ideal they wish to create.

And the best thing about living in the 21st century? Not only is this doable, but we have the communications technologies and media techniques to keep everyone focused on whatever goals we come up with. Heck, we could turn it into a very real, very addictive, game. Hard work can be infectiously enjoyable.

Resurrect the Arrow: A made-in Canada solution to the F-35 problem.

The photo above is of two examples of the CF-105 Arrow, also known as the Avro Arrow, a supersonic jet fighter designed, built and tested here in Canada in the mid-late 1950s. It was a milestone in Canadian aviation and a great success for our high-technology industrial sector. The project was abruptly terminated in the late-1950s by the Progressive Conservative government of John Diefenbaker, who saw the project as emblematic of Liberal ‘big-government’ spending. Moreover, with the advent of long-range ballistic missiles and the launching of Sputnik (and subsequent Space Race) at the end of the 1950s, there was a widespread belief that ground and space based missiles would determine the strategic balance of the future. Thus the Arrow, the Iroquois engine and Velvet Glove missile system programs were all scrapped (literally, the aircraft were cut to pieces, engines smashed, blueprints burned in bonfires).

Avro Canada Ltd would go belly-up by 1962 as they had thrown almost all their efforts behind the project. Efforts to sell the Arrow or elements of the design to foreign nations were in fact prevented by Diefenbaker’s government (a Tory gov’t preventing free-market capitalism and over-regulating our high-tech and defence sector industries, funny) and many of the chief engineers would find work throughout the United States and Europe working for other major defence consortiums. Among others, former Avro employees would help design fighter aircraft in the UK, France and the United States, in addition to designing the Apollo Command and Service module. Indeed, as you can see from this Wikipedia entry Avro was involved in myriad state of the art technologies and were global aviation leaders.

A long time has passed since the Arrow program was cancelled. In its wake Avro would be sold to Hawker Siddeley (a British corporation), Canada acquired inferior American-built interceptors two years later (which employed nuclear weapons, not a popular move in Canada) and later, Canadair would take over construction and testing of Canadian-built versions of American-designed fighter models, including the Hornets we use today. It has been more than fifty years since we were so bold to dare develop our high-technologies sector by direct government investment and support as we once tried with the Arrow program.

And today, an opportunity has presented itself, one we seem to be very interested in squandering outright.

I don’t need to tell you about the multiple inter-related controversies surrounding the Harper government’s intention to procure 65 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (check this out for all you need to know), but I will mention this; the plan currently involves leasing engines and weapons, providing service and maintenance contracts to non-military (perhaps non-Canadian) contractors and is already significantly over-budget given how few aircraft we’re to receive. Trudeau’s defence department ordered 138 Hornets between 1982 and 1988, and most of these aircraft subsequently underwent a total overhaul, update and modernization program about five years ago, leaving us with approximately one-hundred serviceable and still lethal aircraft. Furthermore, Canada has always used twin-engine, long-range fighters to defend our territorial sovereignty. The F-18 provided additional benefits, given that it was aircraft-carrier capable (meaning Canadian pilots could deploy from American carriers in time of war) and could fulfill multiple roles, such as interception, strike, close-support, reconnaissance etc.

The F-35 is an inferior aircraft to the F-18 in many ways, and what’s most maddening is that the F-35, at best, could only be a tactical alternative to F-18 (ergo, we deploy F-35s to bomb Libya and leave the F-18s to defend our airspace). Back during the Cold War this is typically how we operated, using two-types of multi-role aircraft, one for tactical missions and the other being used for more strategic defence roles. While the F-18s will need to be replaced by the end of the decade, replacing them with an unproven, still largely experimental and expensive fighter is obscenely irresponsible. Now while Canada has been involved in the F-35 project for some time, we have no legal responsibility to procure them, and it just so happens a more modern version of our current aircraft (The Super Hornet) is available, proven and could even be built here (given Canadair/Bombardier’s previous involvement in aircraft construction). That, or we could be bold and build precisely what we need in large enough numbers we can then re-coup production and R&D costs by selling surplus aircraft to friendly foreign nations.

What I don’t understand, however, is why a Conservative and apparent patriot like Stephen Harper isn’t chomping at the bit to realize a new Arrow. Frankly, you’d think this is stuff his wet dreams are made of.

What a hero he’d be for Canadian industry! What a great Canadian, correcting a terrible mistake from his party’s past. If only his head was in the game. What’s generally accepted is that the Arrow was the ideal fighter for Canada, and Canada is still just as involved protecting its airspace and conducting, and so we still require an aircraft with similar capabilities.

The recent discovery of a set of two Arrow ejection seats in the UK has re-ignited the persistent rumour that an intact Arrow may have been smuggled out of Canada and flown to the UK, possibly with Hawker Siddeley’s acquisition of Avro Ltd. In the years since the project’s cancellation, bits and pieces of Avro’s projects have turned up across Canada, including the Avro Car, the Avro jet-powered truck and many pieces belonging to the Arrow and Orenda Iroqouis engine projects. Enthusiasts have been trying to generate enough funds to re-assemble a working Arrow with the engines for years now, but without significant capital it is unlikely said enthusiasts will go much further than scaled-down wooden mock-ups. Stage props really.

Even if we don’t build new versions of the Arrow, at least give us the chance to build something for ourselves, to demonstrate our expertise and innovation. Our nation needs to be given goals, and the citizens must feel a tangible pride for what their nation accomplishes. Failure to involve yourself in the affairs of the People in this manner is negligent. So again I ask is it wise to allow our nation to procure the F-35? And would we rather deal with the consequences of that purchase, or create our own solution?

At the end of the day, you can’t assume you’ll get much vision from free-market enterprise. Someone must instigate a nation’s dreams.

Grabbing the Bull by the Horns

Remember, Steve Harper is an evangelical Christian, just like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Mel Gibson

We are becoming the bad guys, and this individual has a lot to do with it.

We have turned our backs on the non-aligned, or Third World, nations we once lead. We have secured unpopular and aggressive allies, some of them threats to world peace and global economic stability, while turning away from the peacekeeping initiatives we were once internationally lauded for. Because of a mass inferiority complex, we’ve decided to support killing as opposed to making lives better, worth living. And we call the poor who die for our national vanity heroes, or worse, warriors. Stephen Harper and the Tories want you to be proud of your warriors, your heroes – proud of what is all I can ask.

We have a federal government that claims a majority and ‘mandate to govern’ though it was elected by scarcely 24% of the eligible voters. We have a government that rejects facts and empirical research for its ‘gut’ instincts and faith in faith alone operating procedure. We elect ‘conservatives’ who conserve nothing, and waste as though it was their right to do so by birth. Our elected ‘leaders’ lack vision, lack leadership, lack competence. We prioritize engine-less fighters designed to fight someone else’s wars over preventing hunger, disease and unemployment. We call ourselves a developed nation, yet refuse to take an active role in development. We reward criminals for screwing the People, and give them life-long Senate appointments. Worse still, because we are lazy, because we refuse to be responsible for ourselves, we live lives of peace and tranquility at the cost of other people’s happiness. We deny others what we take for granted, and for the most part, we have the gall to ask them why they don’t get their shit together? Our pride is a dangerous self-delusion.

And perhaps the less said about human rights, civil liberties and the right to exercise one’s freedom of speech and assembly, the better. The Harper Administration’s brutal repression of dissent since 2006 is shameful for a nation founded on social-democratic principles, such as our own lest Mr. Harper forgot about that. Never before have our fundamental human rights been so consistently violated as they’ve been for the past few years. Police and security forces have been given carte-blanche to abuse while the appointed care-taker federal government introduces bill after bill designed to repress Canadian progressivism and sew greater divisions between the diverse elements of Canadian society. They must be stopped at all costs. How much longer can we afford to be governed by such myopic and self-indulgent swine as this?

I thought the title was apt given its multiple uses. For one, we need to get a grip on the bullshit machine in Ottawa, Toronto and Montréal which has been pumping out regressive, repressive propaganda on behalf of the Tories (and in the name of media balance, which is a whole other steaming pile of BS anyways), inasmuch as we need to grab our economy by the horns and reign it in. We’re far too dependent on foreign investment and non-renewable resource extraction because its a quick buck, but it leaves nothing for ourselves, nor for future generations. Where is our industry? Where are the infrastructure mega projects? These tend not to happen under Tory governments, because they don’t want the responsibility of actually creating and developing a strong, planned economy. No, no – they’d prefer it was dictated by greed, apathy and foreign resource speculation. Well excuse me if I’m not convinced this is the best way to go. No nation has evolved with this as their economic foundation, not at all. Instead, nations like this inevitably fail, with kleptocrats flying high on the taxpayer’s buck before a popular revolution throws them out of power. Is this the path we’d like to go down? I fear we may have gone too far down this road already, as cabinet ministers were rewarded with lucrative government contracts (see Tony Clement’s cash-grab during the 2010 G8/G20 Summit in his Muskoka riding), and defence ministers use search-and-rescue helicopters to pick them up from their vacations.

We’ve dropped the ball and allowed the bottom-feeders into the halls of power. They must be removed, we must take control of our nation, to ensure our future prosperity, to eliminate corruption and graft and to ensure our nation is renown internationally for the good deeds it does. Accepting anything less is frankly unpatriotic, I dare say perhaps even treasonous.

Perhaps it will be the grand moment of self-realization and awakening we are looking for, but Canada’s youth have a responsibility, to themselves and for posterity, to ensure an autocrat like Stephen Harper never has a chance to mis-manage our nation’s affairs again. We deserve better and must demand more from ourselves. Let this be our clarion call.

An Ironic Coup: Rejecting the Omnibus Crime Bill is your Civic Responsibility

This article was originally published by the Forget the Box news collective a few days ago.

If there’s one thing I love, its getting caught off-guard and surprised, especially when it comes to Canadian politics, which I generally find infuriating, pedantic and riddled with pseudo-scandals. The events of the past couple weeks, instigated by the Québec justice minister and subsequently supported by the Premiers of Ontario and British Columbia with regards to the Tory ‘omnibus crime bill’ have restored my faith and hope in Canada, if for no other reason than it presents real leverage against Stephen Harper and once again places Québec in the driver’s seat with regards to social policy.

Suffice to say, I’m not a fan of provincialism in general, and I feel that part of the source cause of societal imbalances within Canada has to do with the fact that key elements of our social-state are devolved to provincial administration. Thus, there are inequities within Canadian provinces concerning the quality of healthcare and education. That said the provinces are not independent in any real sense, unless they choose to act in solidarity with one another; at that point, the provinces can wield a veto power even an autocrat like Stephen Harper cannot deny. This particular federalism, which allowed for our Charter and Constitution inasmuch as it prevented its final ratification, is as Canadian as beavers (or polar bears if Senator Nicole “has-too-much-time-on-her-hands” Eaton has her way). And whether you like it or not, Québec’s liberal government has just handed the ‘minority-majority’ Harper Government its first major setback. The provinces will not foot the bill of new prison construction nor prosecutions under an amended criminal code. Without the support of the provincial governments, the Tory Crime Bill may amount to little more than a lot of noise. We should be so fortunate.

What I find particularly interesting with this development is just how quickly an ‘unholy alliance’ was formed between Québec, B.C. and Ontario. Three provinces that hold the bulk of the population, the major cities, the key industries not to mention the overwhelming bulk of ‘multicultural Canada’, modern and internationalist in outlook and disposition. Inasmuch as Québec proclaimed its conciliatory federalism via the Orange Crush, so too have these key provinces demonstrated that they would rather not sell their souls and turn their backs on progressivism, nor on Canada.

Is it me or does it seem some important decisions in this nation have been made ‘for the common good’ from some of our great pillars of individualism? By hook or by crook we will find the bonds that unite us, and if it requires an autocrat to unite Canadians in opposition, so be it. Eventually my hope is that Canadians recognize culture should not be confused with nationalism, that society requires socialism, and that a pan-nationalist social-democratic state is stronger because precise legal concepts are used to define the values, rights and responsibilities of the citizen. Our system is deficient, and I’ve often ridiculed it because it seems designed to be inefficient. The funny thing is that people like Stephen Harper, inasmuch as the Bloc Québecois and Reform Party, came to prominence because of the perception of too much federal power. And today, it comes full-circle, and Canadians can stand proud knowing that when it comes to efforts to undermine our progressivism and the rule of demonstrable, factual evidence, no autocrat can resist the combined power of the provincial governments. What is brilliant is that it unites three embattled and only moderately popular premiers on a key social policy issue – there isn’t much Harper nor the CPC can do at this point aside from engaging in election styled propaganda and smear campaigns. It would be futile.

Today I feel slightly re-energized. The doomsday scenario of an unbridled and potentially mentally unstable Prime Minister running amok tearing out the guts of our society in an attempt to redress a mass inferiority complex seems mitigated by the collaborative strength that I feel best describes Canada. It’s an affirmation of some core beliefs in a time of malaise, uncertainty and instability. And so now the people must rally behind the progressive provincial governments and secure the change we desire. There are five provinces with Liberal or NDP governments and two with ‘Red Tory’ Progressive Conservative leaders – something tells me they may be able to define a better social agenda through consensus than a ‘majority’ government elected by a scant 24% of the eligible voters.

It’s time the power was shifted back to the people – the current situation is no longer tenable. If this means the people rally behind their provincial governments to cooperate with one another to create a more perfect state, then let it be. It is entirely appropriate for Québec to lead this effort against the Harper dictatorship, and this is only further demonstrated by the immediate support of Ontario and BC. In a land ripe in paradox, contrasts and societal and political absurdities, it was very refreshing indeed to see the eccentricities of our system providing the people with direct and effective means to redirect our nation back onto the road towards peace, prosperity and progressivism.


This map represents the majority ethnic group per census division in Canada as of 2006

I love maps, demographics and am a huge fan of the long-form census.

Why yes, I am a geek!

Take a good long look at this map – I recommend following this link. for additional details and to get the best possible look. Study it carefully and you will see there are only ten different ethnicities which can claim majority status in a given census division. The overwhelming majority of respondents on the 2006 long-form census self-identified as ‘Canadian’ (roughly 32% of the total population, and 66% of the population of Quebec identified as such, either uniquely or with additional ancestries), and are represented in red on the map above. Notice who identifies primarily as ‘Canadian’. And there was space on the census to write in your own nationality, such as Québecois, which was reported by some respondents in Québec, though only by a comparatively small number.

I found it interesting that there are two districts where the majority population is East Indian, though neither of these districts are in the Greater Vancouver Area, despite what some people may tell you. Curiously, there is no census division where Chinese or East Asians made up the majority, which again might floor the people who were embittered by the presence of so-called Yacht People. That said, there are about 1.3 million Chinese-Canadians, more than 25% of whom were born here, and East Asians as a whole represented more than 6% of the total population.

The majority of self-described Canadian reside in Québec, Eastern Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. There are two census divisions that identify primarily as French – part of Cape Breton near the Fortress of Louisbourg and the former Port-Royal, and the area near Cold Lake, Alberta! You’ll notice as well that people living in extreme Southwestern Ontario (i.e., Windsor and Chatham area, near Detroit) also primarily identify as Canadian (as opposed to English, Scottish, German etc). This in turn made me realize that all of Canada’s principally, historically Black communities (such as those you will find in Southwestern Ontario or Nova Scotia) also seem to overwhelmingly prefer identifying as Canadian first. And who said multiculturalists can’t find a unifying cultural banner? Welcome to Canada, where nationalism is pan-national.

Also, despite having the largest concentration of Icelanders outside Iceland (located primarily around Gimli Manitoba), they aren’t numerous enough to form an ethnic majority in that division. There are no primarily Irish, Jewish, Dutch, Polish, Russian, Norwegian or Arab districts in Canada, despite the large size of these communities across the country. There is however one principally Italian district in the 905 region of Toronto. Neat eh?

But when looking at this map ask yourself a question: why do so many apparently patriotic, Conservative-voting Western Canadians fail to identify as such? Where does this personal, cultural insecurity come from? Are we an English country, a British country? Or are a nation partially born of Great Britain, partially of France, but ultimately evolving into its own, unique, entity?

Telling though it is, it leaves many unanswered questions…