Friday, March 27, 2015

This Just In

This week, three items startled, along with one truly tragic, the Alpine crash. I restrict my comments to the three that startled, rather than the fourth, an item that is beyond comprehension. At least mine -- I have been depressed as well, but felt no need to fly an airplane into a mountain.

1) This Just In --- Yemen. What startles here is not more violence in the Middle East, something all too common as various sects and tribes battle it out to promote their version of an imaginary entity, but rather doing so without really involving The Great Satan, the United States of America. Saudi Arabia (Sunni) is now openly confronting Iran (Shia) in Yemen, and neither country, aside from the odd Iranian snarl, is blaming the U.S.A. 

Food for thought.

2) This Just In --- The Wynne Government in Ontario continues to act like a deer caught in the headlights. In the Auditor General\'s 2014 Report it notes that more than 21,000 patients were supposedly given the same flu shot vaccination by both a physician and a pharmacist, with the Ministry of Health billed twice.

Then the problem was compounded by the establishment of a registry to  address the overbilling problem, but the registry itself went $85 million over budget, and the mismanagement continues to this day. (Ms Wynne is preoccupied with sexual education in schools). Ain't life under the Liberals grand?

3) This Just In --- I note that the English King, Richard III (a man in my opinion more sinned against than sinning) has finally received a proper burial. Thus his battlefield wish has now been fulfilled: "A hearse! A hearse! My kingdom for a hearse!"*

And on that note, I depart. See you next week.


* That one slipped by me. The item should never have seen daylight, but I was distracted at the time, being involved in a Twitter exchange with Amal Clooney regarding Value At Risk as it applies to international law and arms trafficking. My apologies. --Ed.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Aboriginal Advance: A Two-Act Play

What follows is not my usual somewhat satirical approach to life in the 21st century, but rather an issue that has bothered me for some time.

I have written before on the sorry state of First Nations peoples in Canada, with the leitmotif in such annals being that most of the tragedies seen on reserves are self-inflicted. I am now prepared to alter that opinion.


I say somewhat in that the legislation governing the reserves where most treaty Aboriginals live, The Indian Act, sets out the parameters that tend to force certain aspects of Aboriginal life. These parameters govern the location of the reserve, the federal monies sent to the chiefs  to allow for food and clothing purchases for the members of the band and the dispersal of funds for education, housing and infrastructure purposes.

It is immediately apparent, or should be, that under the leadership of a wise and accomplished chief, this system works rather well. Unfortunately, that is all too often not the case. Of late, the well-publicized behaviour of certain chiefs illustrate case after case of aggrandizement, well-looked after cronies, and in some instances, outright theft. Such behaviour, of course, violates the intent and spirit of The Indian Act, BUT NOT ITS LEGALITY.

Hence the need for change, and I am glad to report that it is coming in the form of two legislative Acts, to wit:

Bill C-428, The Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act, legislation that received royal assent on December 17, 2014. This law does not repeal The Indian Act (unfortunate) but it does call for its eventual replacement. Moreover, it removes provisions regarding residential schools and necessitates the publication of all band bylaws, a major advance in terms of transparency.

A second step was the passage of the First Nations Financial Transparency Act. It received royal assent in March, 2013, and requires band governments to post audited financial statements and salaries of chief and councillors on a public website. This, needless to say, caused howls of outrage from a few chiefs, happily ignored by the Canadian taxpayer.

I am first to admit these are but initial steps in which will be a long journey, but in terms of the terrible conditions on some reserves, these are steps worth taking.

I close with the latest example of why repealing The Indian Act must continue to be a priority. Dean Martin of the Shuswap First Nations BC averaged $536.000 per year over the last four years, all of it tax free, to conduct band business affairs for members, all 87 of them. When questioned about this, Martin replied that he was the leader of a nation of 87 people, and therefore the salary was justified. In comparison, Stephen Harper, who leads a nation of 35 million people, earned $327,000.

So Cicero: O tempora! O mores!*


* The times! The customs! -- Ed.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Different Strokes For Different Folks --- NOT!

It is usually a Good Thing to honour and support differences. Such behaviour allows for experiencing something beyond one's usual routine, and as is well known, new experiences broaden the mind. Or so it was made clear to me at last Thursday's get-together at our pub, The Three Q's.*

Not so fast, I claimed, and went on to make a slightly different case, as follows.

I first admitted that Canada was perhaps ranked up near the top (if not at the very top) where our policy of multiculturalism allows for honouring a variety of differences in terms of religion, clothing and cultural practices. Indeed, there is wide acceptance of Sikh turbans, Jewish kippahs or Muslim hijabs. Such a policy, however was not a carte blanche to EXCEED Canada's constitution, particularly when that constitution affirms that everyone is equal before the law.

This last statement appears from time to time to be ignored by some, or possibly not understood. How else can you comprehend the actions of those who refuse to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen as Canada's Head of State, or demand to cover their face under a niquab or even a burka while making a court appearance?

These are actions that can only be termed egregious, in that they flout the principle of being equal before the law. I say egregious, in that in all other instances such as attending a cultural event or participating in religious observance in church, mosque, synagogue or temple, such actions are not only acceptable, but actually encouraged.

Not the behaviour of too many other countries, I might add.

My answer to this issue? Indicate to the person or persons objecting to Canada's expectations in this regard that if they cannot accept Canada's law in this respect, then perhaps it would be best to seek residence in a country that does not have the Queen as the Head of State or would welcome the wearing of a niquab or a burka whenever one is in a public place.

In the former instance, North Korea is one country that lacks a constitutional monarch; in the latter instance, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan come to mind.

In both cases, bye bye.


* There were a number of requests on the Q's. These have been used in prior missives: Quips, Quibbles and Quaffs. My advice --- FOCUS! -- Ed.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Gotta Use Words When I Talk To You

Until we master telepathy, we are stuck with words as the main means of communication. Yes, a fist in the face says one thing, a pat on the back another, but such actions lack nuance, in that these actions restrict themselves to a limited meaning -- I really don't care for your behaviour in the first case, and (unless dealing with cystic fibrosis) a commendation in the second case.

Words can have a variety of meanings, and can operate in a variety of situations. In the examples that follow, I should like to illustrate just how multi-faceted words are.

First, words can be dangerous. In the case of the 'fist in the face' scenario quoted above, this action was almost certainly preceded by words that got out of hand. Thus the Irish adage, "Many a man's tongue broke his nose" although I prefer a similar insight provided by Dennis Thatcher: "Whales get killed only when they spout." Then there is Neal Stephenson's observation somewhere in his Baroque Trilogy that no man is precisely safe when talking to a woman. That particular observation, however, leads to a discussion that would stray a good distance from our purpose today. Another time, perhaps.....

Secondly, precision in the use of words is a necessity. Diplomats excepted, why use them at all if your meaning is not clear and helpful to your listener or reader? Otherwise, you land up with things such as the following:

"My mother always made it clear to my sister and me that women and men were equal --- if not more so."  This from Al Gore.

"It has never been like this and now is exactly the same again." The speaker? One Viktor Chernomyrdin, former ambassador to Ukraine. (Make of that what you will.) I could also cite numerous examples from George Bush the Younger, but have not. I don't shoot fish in a barrel.

Thirdly, it is unwise to mix metaphors. All this does is confuse the reader or listener, and unless that is your intent, don't do it. As examples, I turn to the master, the eighteenth century parliamentarian Sir Boyle Roche: "While I write this letter, I have a pistol in one hand and a sword in another." And then Sir Boyle outdoes himself: "Along the untrodden paths of the future, I can see the footprints of an unseen hand."

I am in awe.

Of course, there is a need for vocabulary to help things along. Or not, as we see in this example taken from a court record:

Q. "Were you present at the inception of the altercation?"

A. "No. But I was there when the fight started."

Finally, as I leave this field and missive, I leave you with this shining example of what government can do with words. Or, in this case, a word. Thus in Germany comes the name of a law to speed up approval for building roads. A noble aim. to be sure, and we get

Auf wiedersehen, alles!