Thursday, August 28, 2014

Inquiring Into An Inquiry

Recently, I had the opportunity to enjoy some time with a very good friend of mine. We had dinner at The Manor; my chef, Henri, made an excellent Coquilles St Jacques, accompanied with -- but I begin to digress. Suffice it to say that dinner was a wonderful thing, as was the Chablis that accompanied it.

My friend, who I do not name for reasons that will soon become obvious, was a senior officer in the RCMP, and she used our get- together to do some necessary venting.

What irritated her was the strident call for an inquiry into the tragedy of the missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.

 Now a public Inquiry, while an expensive use of taxpayer dollars, can be a useful thing, particularly in getting at issues that were to this point hidden, and unearthing who precisely was responsible. The point is to remedy the situation so that it does not occur again, and mete out justice to the perpetrators.


We know, for instance, all too well what the issues and perpetrators are are, and hence the call for an Inquiry falls, not into determining the facts, but into political theatre.* As to what we do know, here my RCMP friend provided the following information, all of which has been made public, and duly ignored by those pressing for an Inquiry.

As of  June, 2013, there are 6,420 missing persons on Canada, of whom 1455 are women. Of those, 164 are aboriginal. And out of those, 105 are missing in unknown or suspicious circumstances. Further, 88% of the murders of aboriginal women have been solved by police. -- almost identical to the 89% of murders of non-aboriginal women.

Moreover my RCMP informant indicated that of these aboriginal victims, 30% were murdered by their husbands, 23% by another family member, and 30% were murdered by an acquaintance. Only 8% were murdered by strangers.

It gets worse. Of the aboriginal family members and acquaintances who kill aboriginal women, 44% are drunk, compares to 15% of murderers of non-aboriginal women. Also, 74% of the murderers of aboriginal women are unemployed and 71% of the murderers of aboriginal women had a criminal record, 53% had been convicted before of a violent crime, and 62% had a history of violence with the murder victim herself.

If you are going to have an Inquiry, try focussing on those statistics. I for one, would look forward to hearing whatever response will come from a number of very well paid band chiefs.

I'm done with this.


* Justin Trudeau may not know these statistics -- he tends to wander lonely as a cloud -- but Mulcair certainly does, and keeps silent. For shame. I am also appalled to see the Premiers being roped into an issue best addressed by the professional "carers" such as Neil Young, David Suzuki and (this just in) Leonardo DiCaprio.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Vicious Little Sandwich

It may be apocryphal, but I believe it was Dr. William Osler who once said, "To hell with modern medicine. Half of the pills developed today should be thrown out the window, except it would be bad for the birds." Maybe so, but I got the right half, and my irritating bronchial cough is fast disappearing.

Which brings me to another statement, and the issue I want to address in this post. Dr. Norman Davies, in his magnificent historical account entitled Europe, writes the following: "The first recorded strike was organized by the weavers of Douai in 1245"* Professor Davies does not give the result, but this doesn't detract from the point I want to make -- unions have been with us for some time, and so has their right to strike.

I have no quarrel with that. A union wants better wages and living conditions, management balks, a strike ensues, and one of the parties concedes the position of the other. In most instances, there is compromise on both sides. The process is not called 'collective bargaining' for nothing.

And in earlier times, a strike was often the only weapon workers had to enable them to achieve a reasonable standard of life. A quick read of Orwell's Down The Mine, or a look at Galsworthy's play Strife will bring the point home brutally but effectively.

For most of its history, collective bargaining involved only two entities -- management and the union. Recently, however, a third party has entered the process, and here things go very wrong indeed. This is the 'vicious sandwich' referred to in the title.

The third element, the 'meat' in the sandwich if you will, is the public, and this aspect of the bargaining process only occurs where a public service union is concerned. The public is truly an innocent party in the process, caught between management (the government) and the union.

It is true that certain public services have been denied the right to strike, and use a binding arbitration process instead. Police officers, firefighters, and EMT personnel come to mind. This is done for reasons of public safety. 

What I am arguing for is a moral rationale that would bring an arbitration process for ALL public service unions. The public is not the reason for the strike, that would be government policy that is viewed by the union as strike worthy. But it is the public that suffers, and that in the final analysis is immoral.

This vicious sandwich becomes a moral horror story when a teachers' union decides to strike, thereby harming the students that they, acting in loco parentis as the Education Act puts it, have agreed to care for, nurture and teach.

The late and highly respected Dr R.W. Jackson, former head of the Ontario Institute of Education, would be appalled. After all, it was he who once wrote, "Never lose sight of the fact that the child as learner is not only the centre of the education system, but the very reason for its existence."**

The child.

Not a teachers' union.


* N. Davies, Europe, O.U.P. (Oxford,1996) p. 370

** Ontario Ministry of Education, Issues and Directions, June, 1980, p. 1

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Wee Lacuna

As Lady Simone's editor, I regret to inform readers that there will be no post this week. She unfortunately fell into the clutches of a minor bronchial cough, and wanted to rest to stop it turning into something more major.

This was a pity, for I noticed the following scribble on her notepad, that might have been the subject to be explored in the post. It was short, but to the point: 'Sheep cloned in a laboratory. The answer to Blake's question, "Little lamb, who made thee?"'

Well, maybe next week.

-- The Editor.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A (Somewhat) Brighter Future For Television

"Television? No good will come of it. The word is half Greek and half Latin."

So wrote C.P. Snow, former editor of the Manchester Guardian. He has a point, given the nonsense that tends to be put out over the airways these days. What with reality shows, endless clusters of celebrities discussing issues with an ignorance that often astonishes, or news broadcasts that tend to sum up all that one needs to know concerning a knotty geopolitical issue in about ten seconds -- perhaps Snow had it right.

Or perhaps not.

I should like to put forward that things are not necessarily as bleak as they appear. The Public Broadcast system continues to soldier on, with its fine documentaries, excellent concerts, and that favourite of many -- The Antique Road Show.*

Moreover, in terms of broadcast television, live sports broadcasts can often be exciting to watch. To be sure, the days that advertisers would underwrite and support a show such as All In The Family are long gone. Some "Interest Group" would be offended by the antics of Archie Bunker, scream to the high heavens, and at that point the advertisers would beat a hasty retreat and cancel the show. Just ask comedian Bill Maher -- he knows all about that sort of behaviour.

Yet certain players in the television world, combining with technological invention, discovered a way around the stifling atmosphere that was choking any ounce of dramatic (and yes, sexual) creativity to death.

Enter, stage right, cable and pay for view, along with the glories of HBO with its Boardwalk Empire, Deadwood and the magnificent Game of Thrones. Advertisers, terrified that someone would be upset (bet on it) would flee these shows in a heartbeat. Yet even they, watching, must be filled with remorse as they realize just how many eyeballs they have forsaken.

Now I well realize that I have barely scraped the surface of this topic. Where, you might well ask, are my comments on such popular TV offerings as Downton Abbey, The Big Bang Theory, or Grey's Anatomy. A fair question, but I believe I have gone far enough to rest my case. Television, once thought dead, has arisen rather effectively.

That, is, as well, the theme behind HBO's True Blood, a coincidence that sums things up rather nicely.


* The Roadshow can be a delight. Not only does it showcase the average person's interest in the past, it also allows a forum for those who actually know what they are talking about, always a Good Thing.