Canada is Free and Freedom is Its Nationality

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Same-sex adoption

Over at the Prince Arthur Herald, my new baby, we have had a lot of controversy about an article speaking against same-sex adoption. It caused a major uproar and the resignation of 15-20 of our staff members. I went on the Michael Coren show to talk about what happened.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Free Trade and the Developing World

 Originally published at

Last week I considered the effect of free trade on families in developed countries. This week I want to complete that analysis by analyzing the effect of free trade on families and children in developing countries.

Critics such as Greenpeace and other anti-free trade activists point, with great justice, to many abuses that are at best uncorrected, and at worst caused by free trade. It is hard, and indeed would be wrong and unnatural, to be unmoved by the arguments of these activists, who contend -- while holding up pictures of child slave laborers living through horrors no adult, much less a child, should experience -- that we cannot reduce morality to a simple equation of dollars and cents. Elizabeth Barrett Browning in a 19th century poem encapsulated the force of these arguments in her compelling but chilling warning about the child labor of the day: “But the child's sob in the silence curses deeper, Than the strong man in his wrath.” How can we celebrate “free trade” sustained by children labouring in chains? Freedom for whom?

And yet, is stopping free trade the answer? Will these children be any better off if the factories close their doors, the industry moves offshore, and their families are left to starve for lack of income, in a country which now lacks the tax base to assist them? Are their living conditions likely to be any better if trade is stopped, and ethically minded consumers and governments in developed countries are unable to lobby and boycott rogue businesses and nations into changing their ways?

In 1999 the World Trade Organization wrote a report entitled “Trade, Income Disparity, and Poverty”. In the report they found that, in general, poor countries and rich countries were not experiencing convergence; rich countries were getting richer and poor countries were getting poorer. The exception to this was the case of trading partners. When a rich country and a poor country trade with each other, both get richer, but the poorer country improves its situation more rapidly than the rich country, leading to a closing of the income inequity gap between the two countries.

More recently, a Brookings Institute study released the happy news that we have just experienced the “most dramatic” reduction in poverty ever seen in history. The authors estimated that the “United Nations Millennium Development Goal to halve the rate of global poverty between 1990 and 2015 was probably already achieved by 2008 - seven years ahead of schedule”. A reduction, the report confirms, that was largely caused by economic growth in developing countries, not Bono concerts or swanky summits on global poverty.

If, as is predicted, income poverty in China basically disappears by 2015, and the average Chinese income is $85,000 by 2040, child labor in China will almost certainly experience drastic reduction in a way more permanent and straight-forward than any charitable foundation could devise. Quite simply, parents who are making $170,000 a year send their child to university, not a factory. Naturally this is no reason to stop campaigning against child labor until the economy reaches that point of evolution where child labor is less “necessary”, but is an argument against destroying (rather than attempting to reform, for example by forcing countries who wish to trade with us to address the most outrageous of labor abuses) the very institution that is likely to eventually bring reform and prosperity to these disadvantaged families.

There is no doubt that every economic change will result in, especially short-term, winners and losers, but as the WTO rather dryly puts it, “While growth may not benefit everyone in an economy, the growth process must be strongly biased against poor people to produce perverse outcomes on poverty.” It also notes: “There is little reason to fear that growth associated with freer trade will fall systematically into this class, and the argument that openness stimulates long run growth has a good deal of empirical support.”

The best we can do is try to mitigate damage in the short-term. I am not convinced that the alternative, of forcing poverty stricken countries into economic isolation, will yield better results for families or the cause of human dignity around the world.

Free Trade and the Developed World

Originally published at

Last year I read a book with the curious title A Year Without ‘Made in China’. At least, the title might have sounded curious to an average reader some decades ago, when international trade was a much smaller part of our lives, and when objects made in China might have been a rarity, rather than filling Wal-Mart shelves across the country. In the book, Sara Bongiorni’s decision to boycott Chinese products resulted in sometimes major struggles to complete even the simplest of purchases. Children’s sneakers? The only alternative to Chinese shoes were Italian ones out of a catalogue - at almost $70 a pair.

Bongiorni’s struggles to find products manufactured anywhere but China, much less Made in America or Made in Canada, reflects the growing encroachment of international trade into our daily lives. But is this encroachment a good thing or a bad thing for families?

There can be little doubt that liberalizing trade has resulted in lower prices for consumers. And, while some contend that is hardly a clinching argument -- after all, what price another cheap t-shirt? -- lower prices have contributed to increased living standards for low-income families in developed countries. One study found that during the period of 1999 to 2005, inflation was seven percentage points lower for low-income people than for the wealthiest Americans.

While cheaper clothes and toothbrushes at the Walmart and Target checkouts are undoubtedly good for families, it hardly seems a great deal if the trade-off is higher unemployment, or, at best, lower paying jobs -- if you are lucky enough to get one. Globalization has certainly wreaked havoc in many North American industries. But will this always be the case? And is it reason enough to curtail freedom of trade?

In the United States, the decline of manufacturing jobs, which have traditionally paid a decent wage for workers without higher education, has almost certainly contributed to increased short-term hardship for many working families. On the other hand, so has almost every improvement in efficiency and technology, from steam power to automation. While these eventually led to incredible advances in the quality of life of all Americans, in the short term the buggy makers almost certainly resented the “job stealing” automobiles.

In the global economy America has a comparative advantage in many areas (economist-speak for “they still do some things better than their competitors”) and this is a principal reason why US industry still continues to produce many items and services it could theoretically import from overseas. As wages rise in developing countries (economist Robert Fogel from the University of Chicago predicts that the average per capita income in China in 2040 will be $85,000 -- more than double the income predicted for residents of the European Union, making Chinese labor twice as expensive as French labor) and the US dollar declines (as it is already doing), America will once again become an attractive destination for manufacturing and industry. There will be the added bonus that this time they have not only the North American and to a certain extent European markets to cater to; they will also have newly rich consumers across the globe eager to purchase their products. Even today, in an ironic reversal of the recent stereotype, Indian companies are taking advantage of low wage rates in certain American states to outsource call centres to America.

In short, we may reasonably conclude that free trade is good for consumers, and is at worst rather ambiguous in the long-run for workers in developed countries.

Monday, May 9, 2011

I agree with Heather Mallick

Let me sit down and catch my breath for a minute here, I'm not used to such stunning inversions of the known universe.

However, as I tend to criticize her quite freely on most occasions, I think it only fair to give Mrs. Mallick her just due when she writes something that exudes a rare streak of common sense. And I promise this is entirely sincere and non-satirical. (Although that's not going to stop me from calling her Mrs. instead of Ms.)

She has written a blistering article about William Melchert-Dinkel, the nurse who persuaded several people to commit suicide, including Nadia Kajouji, a young Ontario woman. Or to be more precise, she wrote a blistering article about the idiot, out-of-touch judge who had the nerve to sentence the man to a grand total of a year in prison. Melchert-Dinkel admits to conning seven people into their deaths, five of them shrouded in anonymity, apparently he isn't telling the authorities who they were.

The man is sick. He is twisted, broken and evil. He should be spending at least the 15 years in prison that the prosecuters asked for, if not more. Oh, to make it all better, he will be spending the birthdays of his two victims whose names we know in jail for the next ten years. Before he goes off and plays another round of golf or lectures in the nearest school on the dangers of the internet.

But Mallick says it better than I could:

"In fact, Melchert-Dinkel had found a fresh new way to murder, far beyond the ken of a 61-year-old rural judge. To understand this killer, the judge had to grasp the dark side of online anonymity, instant messaging and complete unfettered freedom, how words are like loaded guns appearing on a screen.

Depressed people live in a personal blackness soaked with anxiety and despair. They are limp. They don’t have the strength to be suspicious or even alert...

Depression isn’t new. Melchert-Dinkel’s murder weapon is.

He didn’t hold Nadia underwater with his hands, he did it with his typing fingers. One crime would easily earn a 15-year sentence, the other gives the killer a year in jail and a pointless probation where the killer can still use the Internet for work and may speak to groups about the dangers of the online world. The mind reels. Imagine Melchert-Dinkel coming to your child’s high school.

The judge still lives in a world where blood drips from the knife the accused threw in a dumpster and arsenic dregs still sit in the coffee cup. Online is different....

The sentence is a travesty and should be appealed. Far from sending a warning to Internet predators, it encourages them. Melchert-Dinkel has been killing from a distance since he first got his monstrous hands on a computer. He’s laughing now"
 Justice - Not Served

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Institute for Marriage and Family Canada Conference Blog

Welcome to the event blog for the Institute for Marriage and Family Canada Policy Conference 2011, "Transforming the Way Canadians Think About Family".

Held at the Lord Elgin Hotel in Ottawa, the event presents research on the state of marriage and the family, in Canada and around the world. The crowd was somewhat smaller this year than last, but the speakers remained excellent and the material fascinating. So without further ado, I bring you Dave Quist, Executive Director of the IMFC opening the event.

Please Note: This is a summary of the events and speeches in my own words for educational, information, and entertainment purposes only. It is not the speakers' exact words and should not be taken as such. It also may contain errors due to the nature of the medium. I am not responsible for any of them, use at your own risk.

Dave Quist took the opportunity to introduce the theme of the conference, "Transforming the Way Canadians Think About the Family" and the purpose of the conference, which was to consider the best way forward for Canadian families.

Following this there were various housekeeping announcements, and introductions to the speakers of the day, Jonas Himmelstand, Greg Fleming, Brad Wilcox, and Mark Regnerus (Bios here He also noted the various websites owned by the IMFC, and, their archives containing over 4000 research articles.

He noted the variety of people in the room, coming from many different backgrounds and professions, and that while we all have challenges before us, collectively we can address these issues.

IMFC Research by Peter Jon Mitchell

Please Note: This is a summary of the events and speeches in my own words for educational, information, and entertainment purposes only. It is not the speakers' exact words and should not be taken as such. It also may contain errors due to the nature of the medium. I am not responsible for any of them, use at your own risk.

Peter Jon Mitchell took the floor next to present a research report on adoption and foster care in Canada.

It is estimated that 30,000 children in Canada are awaiting adoption, however only 8% will be adopted this year. Canada can do better than this.

There are many roadblocks to adoption in Canada, Indeed the adoption system is much like a tangle of extension cords in your garage, messy and difficult to figure out. Part of what IMFC does is to try to untangle this mess.

He looked at the outcomes for kids in foster care and adoption. Do adopted children have better outcomes? Largely, yes. However there are difficulties in researching the issue as there are many variable and the systems are quite different.

There are few studies on long term foster care, however a few considerations may be put forward.

In terms of a child’s sense of belonging and attachment to caregivers, children who are adopted early, children who are adopted by their foster parents, and children who have contact with their biological parents have more healthy relationships. In contrast, those who do not have contact with their biological parents, and who were raised in institutions have worse outcomes. Foster children have an increased probability of poor results, for example poor educational outcomes, more homelessness, etc.

What are the predictors of adoption?
Age - The older the child, the harder it is to find adoptive parents.
Disabilities - this likely plays a role, but may be overstated as many adoptive parents are willing to adopt children with disabilities.
A Child’s Personal and Family History - the more troubled the child’s past and family the more difficult it may be to find adoptive parents.

He attended a Parliamentary Committee which was looking at adoption. One of the witnesses before the committee was a Mother who adopted her son. The adoption process was very arduous, and very invasive. Even after it was complete, it was a very long journey, as they struggled to love a very difficult boy who was causing many problems in the family. By the time she was done speaking, there was not a dry eye in the room. The experts in adoption are the families which are living through it, as researchers, we need to tap into that expertise.

IMFC "Marital Mindsets, Current Realities, and Possible Futures"

Please Note: This is a summary of the events and speeches in my own words for educational, information, and entertainment purposes only. It is not the speakers' exact words and should not be taken as such. It also may contain errors due to the nature of the medium. I am not responsible for any of them, use at your own risk.

The first keynote speech was by Mark Regnerus on the subject of Marital Mindsets, Current Realities, and Possible Futures. The primary topic was discussing how “emerging adults", in their late teens and early twenties think about marriage and intimate relationships.

Many people assume that what young people want is to “hook up”, however it seems that 90-95% of emerging adults actually want to get married.

Just… not now.

There has been a slow increase in the age of marriage to 26 for women and 28 for men in the United States. Inevitably, this has lead to a change in the purpose of dating. Most dating relationships do not end in cohabitation or marriage. However, many of these emerging adults do want to get married right now, 20-30% of single young people and 40-50% of young people who are cohabitating (percentage depends on gender. Women are more eager to get married than men, although men tend to appreciate marriage more once they are married).

Why don’t they get married then?

For one thing there is the attitude that if most of their peers are cohabiting, then it must be the right thing to do.

In Canada the median age of marriage is even older, 27 for women and 29 for men. Will this continue going up? Not indefinitely, the average age of first marriage probably has a ceiling.

What about those who have never married?

In 1970, 35.8% of men and 54.7% of women age 20-24 had never been married. In 2010 the numbers were 88.7% and 79.3%. For those 25-29, the percentage was 10.5% of men, and 19.1% of women. In 2010 it was 62.2% of men and 47.8% of women. In delaying marriage people are ignoring fertility, which peaks before 29. Indeed, many people, at least partly due to the pill, are very ignorant of and out of touch with issues of fertility.

There has been a dramatic drop in marriages per 1000 unmarried women from 2000-2004. People are not just getting married later however, as the rates are dropping at every age, not just younger ages. There is a flight from marriage.

Why are people getting married later? Some of the issues are economic and structural, others are cultural.

Economic and structural issues,

Children are no longer producers, they are consumers, they just cost money. (However this does not explain why marriage rate did not decline in the earlier part of the 20th century, as children have been consumers not producers for a long time now)

Increased educational and employment opportunities for women.

The low cost of sex. In many ways this is an exchange between men and women, and in the past men have had to “pay” much more in terms of demonstrating commitment and earning power to get it. These days, they do not have to pay much.

The high cost of living in metro areas, where young people prefer to live. Would affordable housing increase the marriage rates? Likely not, however.

Cultural issues.

Religious people are more likely to marry, but on the other hand they also want to go to college, etc.

Motivations for delaying marriage are couched in cultural narratives. Emerging adults hold marriage in high regard. However they see it as a trade, you will only give up the freedom of single-hood, if you get something better in return. In the past there were less perks to being single that they had to trade for marriage.

They receive little help in preparing them for marriage, home economics for example, has been largely dropped, so that they do not know how to do basic things like balance a chequebook that would prepare them for marriage. They have also no help in understanding their early relationships.

The cultural stories that encourage later marriage.

There is no rush. If you believe that you are likely to stay married to one person for the rest of your life, many people (especially men) feel that there is no rush to get into that.

Be your own person. Emerging adults want to experiment, to “find out who they are”. Marriage is like a full time job, it would interfere with their life. One young woman was quoted talking about how the main thing is to make sure you are your own person. You don’t know who you will be in 10 years if you get married young, you could be a different person.

Lots of young people think they don’t know who they are or what they want, so they use dating to find out what they like.

Another reason people give for delaying marriage is that they believe it is “too soon” to have children. For middle-class emerging adults marriage=children, indeed there is an almost pre-contraception mentality that the two are a package deal. Again, this doesn’t take peak fertility into account.

Many believe that the 20s are the time to travel. It is unclear why this would be prevented by marriage, indeed in his experience marriage, and the combining of resources, actually opens up the possibility of travel. But this is part of the freedom narrative.

Parental resistance is another issue. Parents warn their children that marriage is hard work. They discourage marriage by financially assisting their single, but not their married, children. If mothers want their daughters to delay marriage, this has a significant impact on the age at which their daughters marry.

Another reason is the belief that you must find sexual chemistry, and that this will be an instantaneous thing that cannot improve. In reality, such things take time and communication. That is why they believe that abstinence before marriage is foolish, and a risk factor for divorce. In reality, the more pre-marital partners a women has, the less chance they have of getting married.

These cultural narratives discourage early marriage, but are not in line with the data.

Emerging adults esteem marriage, but they have lost confidence and trust in it as an institution. For example, 60% of children born to mothers 24-29 are born to unmarried women. It also seems that those who need the benefits of marriage the most, those who are poor or less educated, are the least likely to get married.

Marriage is not disappearing. It is getting deinstitutionalized. People want the kind of things that destabilize marriage, but the unintended consequences are high.

Emerging adults believe that marriage is a “story” that belongs to the late 20s and 30s.

There are two ways of viewing marriage, there are those who are marriage naturalists - you become an adult when you get married, and marriage is a natural progression in life. Marriage planners believe that you get married when you have become an adult, marriage is something you plan into your life.

It seems that people love choices, but hate choosing.

A strong predictor of early marriage for men is their level of interest in religion. This does not seem to be the case for women.

In the past people were channeled into marriage by many institutions, now it seems that the only the church is channeling them towards marriage.

What will happen in the future?

Average age at first marriage will hit a ceiling. However marriage rates (and with them divorce rates) will decline. The price of sex seems to have stabilized at a a low rate. The number of stay-at-home dads will quickly hit a ceiling. As fertility declines inter-generational relationships will grow more difficult as the gap between grandparents and grandchildren widen.

Will cultural conservatives win out by having lots of children? Probably not, there are many cultural pressures that discourage this, and most people are eventually pragmatists.

There is a moral hazard, as independence from marriage is seen as a right, which the government must support.

Question 1: Do you think the wedding of Prince William and Kate, and the excellent sermon given at that marriage, is likely to have any influence?

Answer 1: Not optimistic that it will have any long run affect on marriage.

Question 2: On the comments that inter-generational relationships will suffer. Has four children, only one is married. Is worried that we have lost the sense of the sacrament of marriage. How can they encourage their cohabiting children to marry? Should they withdraw financial support?

Answer 2: Sounds like questioner is a marriage naturalists, yet somehow that generation has given birth to marriage planners. Talking about sacramental aspect of marriage is a foreign language for many. And with the low price of sex due to the pill, why marry? You can have all the benefits of marriage without actually getting married. Women like the idea of marriage. Men are already getting the benefits of marriage without the costs.  Withdrawing financial support may help to channel them towards marriage.

Question 3: Why do you think the number of stay-at-home dads will peak?

Answer 3: Doesn’t think that men on average feel like being stay at home dads. Stay-at-home dads are more likely to be between jobs or underemployed, it is not the plan, it is an interim situation.

Question 4: Is a pediatrician and mother of two young children. He doesn’t address issue of helicopter parent phenomena. But it would be related. Children are still attached to their parents at older ages, so they feel like they cannot marry because they are not their own person yet.

Answer 4: That makes a good deal of sense. It is also connected to the issue of fewer children, parents focus more on the few children and expect more from them.

Question 5: The percentage of men who remain unmarried has gone up much more than the percentage of women at the same age. Who are the women marrying?

Answer 5: Men are marriageable later, and there tends to be an age gap between men and their wives. So you can’t just look across the chart, as older men are marrying the younger women.

One last thing to note, is that emerging adults begin cohabiting today at the same age as they would have gotten married in earlier years.

IMFC Research by Andrea Mrozek

Please Note: This is a summary of the events and speeches in my own words for educational, information, and entertainment purposes only. It is not the speakers' exact words and should not be taken as such. It also may contain errors due to the nature of the medium. I am not responsible for any of them, use at your own risk.

Andrea Mrozek, presenting research on Canada’s Top Family Friendly Cities.

They studied 33 metropolitan areas in five categories.

Community Feel - kilometres of bike paths, charitable giving, crime, number of community centres, parks.

Educational Choice - Options and funding for private/public/charter schooling.

Economic Strength - unemployment rate, taxes, transfers (more means less healthy economy)

Cost of Living - Consumer Price Index, rent, gasoline, % home ownership, mortgage costs

Family Independence - % of each family type, two parent, single parent, etc., seniors living with family rather than in homes.

The top marks went to:

Calgary AB
Edmonton AB
Guelph ON
Kitchener ON
Vancouver B.C.

The bottom marks went to

Saguenay QC
Saint John NB
St. John’s Newfoundland
Trois Riviers QC
Thunder Bay ON

Ottawa received a B+.

However, all Canadian cities did quite well on an international comparison level, the lowest mark was a C.

IMFC "Busting the myths of Swedish Family Policy"

 Please Note: This is a summary of the events and speeches in my own words for educational, information, and entertainment purposes only. It is not the speakers' exact words and should not be taken as such. It also may contain errors due to the nature of the medium. I am not responsible for any of them, use at your own risk.

The second keynote speaker was Jonas Himmelstrand from Sweden, who spoke on the Swedish family model.

Swedish family policies were implemented in 1975. At that time 10% of children were in daycare, today it is over 90%.

Selective statistics can be chosen to paint a beautiful picture of the affects of this policy, but if you look at the reality of life in Sweden, the picture is more alarming. As a management consultant he began to see problems, but didn’t know why. He was on the political left, but then he grew up, had a family, and started a business. His conclusions are also not religiously motivated, Sweden is a very secular country.

In 2000 he went into a school to give some lectures, and was quite surprised by the comments he heard from the Head Master and teachers about the terrible decline in the mental health of children. Sick leave absences are also very high in Sweden, it raises the question, why are so many sick in such a wealthy country? Women would tell them how painful it was to leave their children in daycare. So he started to study and write about these issues.

Positives in Sweden

Low infant mortality
Very high life expectancy
Relatively high birth rate
Low child poverty
Universal daycare
High levels of education spending
High level of income and gender equality
16 month parental leave

There are no babies in daycare in Sweden due to parental leave. However by 18 mo 92% of children are in daycare. This daycare is heavily subsidized, you will never pay more than $300 a month regardless of number of children or income, most pay more like $150. This costs the government about $20,000 a child per year. There are no national benefits for those who would stay home and look after their children however, and what is available is only available some places and is hard to use.

Because putting children in daycare and being a dual-earner family is seen as a very good thing, the government actively tries to make it almost impossible to be a one-earner family with high taxation. Staying at home is discouraged, and marginalized.

Home education is in effect illegal (He is a homeschooler however), only about 100 children in Sweden are homeschooled. Dominic Johannesson is an example, he was seized from his parents because of homeschooling, and the court said that since he missed daycare and the first year of school he has been harmed. As of July 1st, homeschooling will be illegal, although it is almost illegal now.

What were the envisioned family outcomes?
More equality
Better child social and academic development
Better school preparation
More adult life satisfaction
They had a “work policy” everyone should work full time to give them freedom.

Actual Outcomes
Strong decrease in the psychological health of youth (compared to comparable European countries). 30% of 15 year old girls have mental health issues. High levels of unemployment are found in the young as young men exhibit mental health issues by under-performing. It is ironic that mothers are being forced to work while the youth, who really need jobs, suffer unemployment.
Sweden went from top in the world in school performance 30 years ago to average today.
Classroom order is amongst the worst in Europe.
High rates of sick leave and early retirement among women. They are forced to work while children are young, and get burned out early from working two jobs.
Day care staff top sick leave stats.
Deteriorating parental abilities, even in the middle-class. Parents believe that the daycare workers are the experts and they lose their confidence in their ability to parent. They become activity coordinators not parents.
The quality of daycare is deteriorating. Cannot be said to be high quality anymore. 1/5 of daycares have more than 21 kids. For children under 3 group size is 10-17, 3-5 yrs it can be as large as 30. Child:Staff ratios are 5:1, 7:1, even 10:1. There is no regulation of group sizes or child:staff ratios.
Fertility rates are high compared to the rest of Europe, but low compared to other Nordic countries (which have home care allowances).
A very gender segregated labor force, women work in daycares, schools, and healthcare. Men are in the business world.

What explains these outcomes?

A lack of adult attachment when a child is young leave them with a low threshold for stress throughout their lives.
Large peer groups where children are “raising each other” encourage late maturation. Too much peer orientation leads to disinterest in learning, bullying, gangs, promiscuity.
There is a lot of stress on parents which leads to worse outcomes for them.

Political/Social Outcomes
There is little debate on these issues as there is so much guilt about leaving children etc.
Daycare is seen as a good part of normal life, every child has a right to daycare.
Housewives are bullied.
The very word “family" is politically incorrect.
Civil society is dying as the government takes over.
Child rearing becomes a matter of politics rather than an individual decision.

What do Swedes want?

60-80% want the ability to stay home with small children, up to the age of three or so at least.

Sweden’s family policies have negative effects and are not emotionally sustainable. We need to protect the parent’s right to choose. The institution of family needs support.

Q1: What is the state of homeschooling in Europe in general, and is it getting better or worse?

A1: Europe is not united on the issue. In Sweden it is very bad.

Q2: Why is the quality of daycare deteriorating.

A2: It is getting too expensive to maintain, and there are no regulations.

Q3: Canada’s figures on mental health are very poor, yet we do not have universal daycare. What other factors may come into play?

A3: In Sweden they don’t have many of the indicators such as child poverty that may explain many of North America’s problems.

Q4: What impacts on these statistics does widespread Muslim immigration cause? Is there a difference in outcomes?

A4: There is some trauma to be certain, from arriving in the country, or from the country they came from. But this goes way beyond immigration.

Q5: Noted that said undiagnosable mental illness on rise, what about diagnosable ones?

A5: They have also risen.

Q6: What is the next closest control country for use in comparing Swedish stats.

A6: Probably Denmark or Norway. But it is a very complex issue, and it is hard to find control groups for this sort of study.

Q7: If people want change, in a democratic country, why can’t they bring political change?

A7: One party does advocate for these issues, and gets about 5% of the vote. People believe that women will become “trapped” if they try to stay at home, so the government must prevent this. Politicians will say they are concerned about these issues but do nothing.

Q8: How do you homeschool if it is illegal?

A8: You get ready to flee the country immediately, and at any time, What they do is apply for permission to homeschool at the beginning of each school year. When this is turned down they continue to appeal it to higher and higher courts. By the time they have exhausted their appeals the school year is over. Then they repeat it the next year. They are hoping that the case may go higher yet, and that the European Convention on Human Rights will support their right to homeschool.

Q9: Could this issue be addressed through the harm to businesses of increased sick leave, early retirement?

A9: Connection isn’t made by businesses, and the government is just responding to the issue by trying to push even sick people back to work.

Q10: To what extent is this problem caused by feminists trying to impose their views on other women?

A10: 100% Feminism is very protected and celebrated in Sweden.

Q11: They seem to advertise that they have equality but don’t respect women’s choices.

A11: Women are respected, when they act like men. It is a problem.

IMFC Update

 Please Note: This is a summary of the events and speeches in my own words for educational, information, and entertainment purposes only. It is not the speakers' exact words and should not be taken as such. It also may contain errors due to the nature of the medium. I am not responsible for any of them, use at your own risk.

Dave Quist gave an update on the Institute for Marriage and Family Conference.

This is their fifth family policy conference. Why do we do this, what effect does our work have?

Something that was different about this election was how much family policy was talked about. While we don’t take credit for all of that, we can say that we have helped to bring family policy issues to public attention.

Family policies that different parties were talking about in the election were:

Family income splitting
Child fitness tax credit
Money for childcare
Caregiver benefits for those taking care of the elderly
Maternity benefits
Help for Moms to give birth at home

IMFC staff did 80 different interviews over the past elections weeks, as the media has started talking about family policy issues too.

Why is there so much talk?

Family issues are very high profile (Just look at the number of advertisements aimed at families)

We understrand intrinsically that some types of families are better than others, our research investigates this and substantiates it.

Demographics are bringing in trends which cannot be ignored, as the population ages, costs go up, and the tax base shrinks.

For too long politicians have looked at social and fiscal matters as separate issues. However a family’s fiscal situation will affect the decisions they make, and through them the economy.

Fiscal policies tend to impact the short term, while social policies affect the long term.

Most people know that family is very important, they are the people who we depend on in a crisis, the people we first learn from as children.

The prominence of family issues in this election show that politicians are starting to get it. Now we can talk to them about the research results. We should be accountable for the research we do, but politicians should be accountable for what they do with that research.

IMFC goals for the next five years.

Put forward credible research on family and marriage in the following key areas:

Family and Education
Family and Demographics
Family and Finance
Family and Children
Family and Community
Family and Marriage

IMFC Research by Derek Miedema

 Please Note: This is a summary of the events and speeches in my own words for educational, information, and entertainment purposes only. It is not the speakers' exact words and should not be taken as such. It also may contain errors due to the nature of the medium. I am not responsible for any of them, use at your own risk.

Derek Miedema presents research on "Public Education and Parental Choice” and Government Gambling and Broken Families

He studied enrolment and funding trends in schools. He found that enrolment in public schools is declining, yet funding is going up. In private schools, enrolment is actually going up, but they get no funding in Ontario. Kids in private schools save the government 1.1 billion dollars, but that money does not follow the children, and their parents are being made to pay for education twice, once through taxes and once through tuition.

He also studied how problem gambling harms families. Children are not harmed just financially by problem gambling, as grocery money is spent in the casino, they are also harmed emotionally as they realize that they take second place to the gambling. About 3% of people in Ontario are problem gamblers, but it is estimated that 12-25% of people may be affected by problem gambling, as a spouse, child, etc. The government has no real incentive to deal with those who have serious gambling issues, in Alberta for example, 80% of their gambling revenue comes from 10% of the population.

IMFC Gender in Parenting

 Please Note: This is a summary of the events and speeches in my own words for educational, information, and entertainment purposes only. It is not the speakers' exact words and should not be taken as such. It also may contain errors due to the nature of the medium. I am not responsible for any of them, use at your own risk.

Brad Wilcox spoke on Gender in Parenting - Vive La Difference.

He opened by noting how he ends up traveling all over the world, and using elaborate social science to prove that Grandma was right.

In California, a court said in a decision that it was beyond a doubt that the gender of a child’s parents was irrelevant.

Jennifer Aniston spoke about how women don’t have to settle with a man to have a child anymore, they can use sperm donors.

However regardless of this “elite wisdom”, social science shows that being in a relationship with their biological parents is very important to children.

What do Mothers bring to Parenting?

- Lowers cancer rates for the Moms
- Is emotionally rewarding for the Mother
- Helps protect children from many maladies
- Helps cement biological foundations of Mother-Child bond

Understanding Children
- Are better at understanding physical language, emotions, infant cry types
- Reading non-verbal cues in infants and older children better than men

Communicating with Children
- Moms use more words
- They speak more precisely
- They are better at interpreting tones
- Remember conversations better

Biological reasons for this are; more cells in their left brain, a larger corpus callosum, and more dopamine in their language centre.

Nurturing Children
- Are better at interpreting children
- Are more emotionally attached to children

Biological reasons for this are; more estrogen and oxytocin. Young children tend to prefer Mom when they are in distress.

This all helps to explain why the role of motherhood is more strongly tied to childcare all over the world.

What do Fathers bring to Parenting?

Providing - Money matters for families
- After having children Dads work more and Moms work less.
- In the U.S. ⅔ of family income typically comes from the Father in married families.

- Fathers are better at discipline, as are more physically intimidating due to strength, size, toughness.
- More assertive, less willing to bend rules
- Especially good with teenage boys

Biological basis for this: Testosterone

- Fathers better at engaging their children in physical play
- Engage children in rough games
- Bring children excitement
- These promote social skills, self-control, teach children how to deal with aggressive impulses, how to regulate emotions.
- Kids who play with their Dad are more popular in school.

Challenge their Teens
- Encourage novel activities
- Encourage independence, fortitude, temperance, confidence
- Introduce children to the outside world

Loving their Mom
- Mothers who are happily married are better Mothers
- Boys are more likely to treat girls/women with respect if they see it modelled.
- Girls are more likely to expect to be treated respectfully if they see it modelled by their Father.

Negative effects when a Father is missing:

Teens in single mother homes are 2-3 times more likely to experience serious negative outcomes. That is not to say that single Mom’s can’t do a good job, he was raised by a single Mom, but generally speaking children do better in intact families.

Crime and Fatherless Boys

If boys never have a good relationship with male authority, to learn self discipline and self control, they can engage in self-compensatory masculinity, where they try to be extremely masculine and reject anything gentle or feminine.

Controlling for other variables, they are almost twice as likely to be in trouble.

Teenage Pregnancy and Dads

Dads protect daughters from teenage pregnancy by providing them with positive male attention, setting boundaries, etc. Fathers actually give off phonemes that delay puberty, sexual maturity in their daughters.

35% of girls who’s fathers left before they turned six will have a teenage pregnancy, 10% if the father left between the ages of 6-18, and 5% if Father stays with the family.

Sperm donor kids of single Moms are 2.46 times more likely to be in trouble with the law. 2.77 times more likely to engage in substance abuse.

The best evidence, biological, psychological, and sociological shows that men and women bring different talents to parenting. We should take advantage of these differences. Equity does not mean that both genders have to have the same duties.

We need to cast aside the “elite wisdom” for the wisdom of Grandma. This is not a religious claim, it is a human claim. Children do best in families with their married biological parents.

Q1: A bill is before Parliament to enshrine gender expression/identity in law. What is the best way to discuss this issue.

A1: We recognize that people don’t always conform to these patterns. At the same time, on average, these are the patterns for humans, for primates even. Science is on our side.

Q2: In courts the nurturing skills of Moms are used to argue that they are better parents, especially at early stages while Dads are more helpful later on. But should Dads be involved from early on?

A2: Moms have an advantage in the early years while Dads do play a bigger role later on. Unfortunately the breakdown of marriage means that we must often pick one parent, this is a great tragedy. Moms do more day to day nurturing, Dads are more distant, allow children more independence. These things need to be balanced. In a divorce, we need to make sure that Dad stays connected.

Q3: You did a study that the Family that Prays Together has positive outcomes for marriage. What is the impact of this on kids?

A3: Families that go to church, pray together, and share beliefs have more positive outcomes. However praying together was most connected to marital happiness. Haven’t done research on impact on children, but someone else did and reports that children do better when their parents go to church together.

Q4: Are there data differences between western and more traditional countries?

A4: There seems to be a trend that some countries have low fertility and strong marriages, while other countries have high fertility (at least near replacement) and weak marriages. No developed countries are strong in both categories.

Q5: Has the court decision that says a parent’s gender has no impact on children been challenged?

A5: It is being appealed

Q6: Are homosexual families similar to single parents in outcomes

A6: That is the $100,000 question. Many same gender households do a division, where one parent is more masculine and the other more feminine. However studies are not very rigorous so far.

Q7: Would assume that you were in favour of government support for one-income families, do you know of any movements that support this?

A7: Don’t really know of movements like that. Most Mothers want to either stay home with young children or work part-time when their children are young. One-income isn’t the only option.

Q8: Are there studies on the roles of others in raising kids, like relatives, heroes, etc.

A8: That is certainly something worth studying. There have been some on the role of Grandmothers in helping out single moms, which isn’t that great as it can confuse children. However it is quite possible that the best thing fro children is to have not just an intact parental unit but also an extended family.

IMFC "The Kids are all Right... or are They?"

Please Note: This is a summary of the events and speeches in my own words for educational, information, and entertainment purposes only. It is not the speakers' exact words and should not be taken as such. It also may contain errors due to the nature of the medium. I am not responsible for any of them, use at your own risk.

Kelly Dean Schwartz spoke on the subject, “The Kids are All Right… or are They? Children’s Mental Health in Canada”.

He works in a clinic where his job is to deal with kids in crisis, look for what is wrong, and try to fix it. However, he is a social developmentalist at heart, his interest is in how children develop.

Psychology has retrenched into the medical model of individual child = individual sickness. We are better at analyzing what works, rather than what doesn’t.

The big picture on children’s mental health in Canada doesn’t look that good. Among 29 OECD countries, Canada ranks 21st in terms of child well-being including mental health.

80% of our children are doing well, very well. However, about 20% suffer from some type of developmental, emotional, or behavioural problem. This number is expected to increase by 50% by 2020. 10% have problems with aggressive behaviour. There are 300 children/youth suicides a year, 90% preceded by mental health issues. Our numbers have not decreased while other countrys’ have.

Girls suffer more anxiety and depression that boys. However, that still means that 87%+ are doing alright, so it is not that bleak a picture.

A new way of thinking about these issues is Positive Youth Development (PYD), which encourages thinking about strengths, rather than about deficits or illnesses when considering youth.

53% of children aged 12-15 report high levels of engagement with parents and school, (74% report high levels with school). 80% of 12-17 year olds are highly connected to peers, and 73% volunteer.

We need to remember however that not all that is well now will end well. Only 56% of children show positive development consistently, while 13% show consistent vulnerability. The other 30% move back and forth, about 15% moving from not vulnerable to vulnerable and about 15% moving from vulnerable to not vulnerable. Therefore we also need to engage with children who are not currently at risk, as they may become at risk.

Where does that leave us?

We should focus on asset-based mental health services for all children, not just remedial intervention for at risk kids. Cuts in funding for school psychologists is very discouraging, as it shows a lack of value for mental health services.

We need to focus on development and prevention.

Q1: Is there a gender gap in suicides?

A1: Yes. There is not much of a gap in suicidal thoughts/attempts, however males are more likely to complete suicides. Females inflict more self-harm if suicide fails. There is about a 20-25% gender difference in completed suicides, although it is hard to pin down the number exactly as the methods men use to commit suicide, like car accidents, can be mistaken for accidents.

Q2: What impact do parenting styles have?

A2: Families which have high expectations but also high involvement with their children do the best. However there is no one size fits all parenting approach, as parenting styles can vary even within a family for different children with different needs.

Q3: Has attendance at church been looked at?

A3: The spiritual component of mental health issues is very important, and it is very helpful when families address spiritual needs.

IMFC "Free to Choose"

 Please Note: This is a summary of the events and speeches in my own words for educational, information, and entertainment purposes only. It is not the speakers' exact words and should not be taken as such. It also may contain errors due to the nature of the medium. I am not responsible for any of them, use at your own risk.

Greg Fleming spoke on “Free to Choose: The Consequences of the atomized individual in New Zealand”

New Zealand is often at the forefront of change. He is going to particularly address the decriminalization of prostitution in NZ and the criminalization of spanking.

The notion of the free and isolated individual as the foundation of society, rather than the family, is deeply imbedded in the NZ psyche. We see the image of a liberated unrestrained individual forming their own truth.

One way to measure the soul of society is to watch their advertisements. (Shows advertisement for university which emphasizes that our world now has no boundaries, no traditions, no one path. Everything is fluid. If we understand these things than the world is infinite. A second ad for telecommunications talks about all the choices we have today, we can have a virtual second life, men can stay at home while women work.)

He experienced the slant our system has towards divorce when his sister was going through a rough patch in her marriage. She had a great deal of support, but one day she took the advice of a friend and went to government social services, who told her that they would give her enough money to start a new life so that she could find happiness. There was no material, no resources in the office on how to keep a marriage together, only on how to get divorced. She found that their family could make more money if her husband moved out. He did, and at first he visited, but eventually the separation became permanent.

They view marriage merely as a product to be consumed. However social science shows that it is actually very important.

Our views of the world really shape the way we view evidence, he was on a show once and a professor in all seriousness said that the professor’s research showed that family form had no affect on children.

There is very little reliable information on legalized prostitution, it is really too soon to see the full affects. However there is some anecdotal evidence and polling.

Prior to the change in law prostitution was illegal but readily available. Police would use their discretion as to when to prosecute. Some people, who didn’t necessarily support prostitution, believed that things would be better if prostitution was legalized because it would be regulated and would be able to protect vulnerable participants. Others believed that prostitution is good and healthy, and that criminalizing it is what is responsible for any negatives in the trade.

The issue that really needs to addressed in the prostitution debate is one one of fundamental worldview. However it was not worldview or facts that decided the legalization of prostitution in NZ, but an emotional speech from a former prostitute.

In practice legalization has tied the hands of local authorities in containing or addressing issues with the trade. One big issue is the location of prostitution, many people object to its incursion into the suburbs.

Police report that there are now more under-age workers, more street workers, more gang activity than before.

Polls were done, and show that 66% of people want to ban it in residential areas, while 50% (64% of men) want to ban street prostitution.

There are two assumptions that were made in the legalization of the trade.

1. That women were freely choosing the trade.

2. That there were no negative external effects from the trade.

Both are wrong.

Legalization legitimizes something. We say that choice has the prime place in society, and yet the government has no trouble restricting choice when it comes to smoking.

Either way, laws are not the answer. The only real answer is community based help for these women, to get them off the street and off drugs.

The criminalization of spanking.

NZ had a bad history of child abuse. However the MP who sponsored the bill, did so because she saw no difference between children (mini-adults) and adults. And therefore if it would be assault to do something to an adult, it should be assault to do it to a child. Children are just another oppressed class to be liberated.

There were also calls for lowering the age of consent and the voting age.

In the past, children were seen as part of a family, innocents in need of protection. Now they are seen to have rights like adults, and need to be emancipated from parents and their support structure.

Assault is defined as the use of force, or the threat of the use of force. In this case, even punishments like timeout could become illegal if you need to restrain the child using force.

Formally minor correction (like a light smack) was legal. Currently it is not, but police have discretion in prosecution.

There was a referendum on the issue and 87% of voters supported the decriminalization of spanking. However the referendum was not binding and was ignored.

Parents now report feeling less confident, and 32% say their child has threatened to report the parents to the authorities if they are spanked.

However there is hope in NZ. There has been positive progress in devolving social services to the community level. The Maori have had a very positive influence, they have not been affected by the notion of the supremacy of the individual, but still hold family in very high regard. As their culture is greatly respected, some progress may be made there.

The story of individual supremacy is unraveling, and he has real hope that in 20 years New Zealand may be a model for Canada, rather than a warning.

Q1: What is some positive news?

A1: That there are ceilings on many of these statistics which NZ has probably hit.

Q2: How is the anti-spanking law working, are the police using discretion?

A2: About 300 people have been charged under the law, 30 have gone to court, and 6 have been sentenced. The biggest impact of the law has been on parental confidence and clarity on what their rights and duties as parents are.

Q3: How do parents, such as Christian parents in particular, deal with that?

A3: Isn’t sure that spanking is really necessary. But parents do need physically authority. Basically there aren’t enough police to prosecute everyone, so his advice to parents is just keep doing what you were doing.

Q4: Police are allowed to lay charges unless it is in the public interest not to. Shouldn’t Parliament be deciding on the public interest?

A4: Yes they should be. The court ultimately decides public interest in these cases. But it does leave too much discretion, too much decision making in the hands of the police. The problem is that it is harrowing to be investigated, whether or not you are finally convicted.

Q5: What forces do you think will change things?

A5: Strategic planning, it is a small country, things change fast.

Q6: Did they end up changing the age of consent?

A6: No.

And that mostly wraps up the IMFC conference. It was a great day and if you weren't there, you should have been. I believe I heard something about audio/video of the conference being available later on, you may want to check out the website in the coming weeks for that.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


And the Conservatives have swept to a...... Majority of 167! Cue fireworks.

The Bloc has been decimated, worse than decimated. They dropped from 49 seats to a humiliating 4, and lost official party status.

The NDP have swept into the Official Opposition position with 102 seats, more than triple their previous mediocre position of 29.

In a campaign that reminds me of the cartoons where someone runs off the side of a cliff, does a stationary bicycle routine in thin air for a minute, and then plummets to the depths, the Liberals went into something like free-fall from 103 seats to a third place 34. Only, unlike in the cartoons, the Liberals do not appear to have survived the fall without a scratch.

In some of the most dramatic news of the evening, Michael Ignatieff and Gilles Duceppe couldn't even win seats in their own ridings. Ignatieff lost to a Conservative, swept away in the flood that crumbled Fortress Toronto where the Conservatives picked up 32 out of 47 seats by one estimate. Up from their previous low number of absolutely none. Gilles Duceppe lost to an NDPer, by good fortune not the one who went holidaying in Los Vegas during the campaign.

Pundits learned that they didn't know as much about Canadian politics as they thought they did, and pollsters learned that they can be quite wrong, very few polls put the Conservatives as high or higher than they actually performed.

And Cheryl Gallant's "controversial comments" did not sink her victory in our riding, unless you consider a lead of around 17,851 votes over the next candidate (an independent) to be a close win. And for a certain relative of mine who shall remain nameless but knows who he is, the Blue Guy in your riding won by a margin of around, 25,251 votes.

In other news, I would like to uncharitably dig up an article Heather Mallick wrote on the subject of what if Harper get a majority.
Old-tyme religion will reign, and our spiritual leader will be Harper's favourite evangelical, Charles McVety... I used to decry the concept of tenure, suspecting it made professors coast in class, but now I see it as a fence standing between us and the intellectually primitive. In Harperland, your students would turn you in for Wrongspeak and you would lose your job...
Guns on the street, gated communities, rampant drug use, unlimited anonymous corporate political donations, no government safety standards for food and medicine, classrooms that resemble holding pens more than civilized safe rooms for the young to learn . . .Individuals would be in trouble.... The Conservative hate machine will swivel toward you like a Dalek and advance. You're doomed. A Harper majority government wouldn't just lash out generally. It would hunt down its enemies.
Fear these people. Don't get sick. Don't grow old. Don't have children. Make yourself invulnerable.

I suspect the Toronto Star columnists, if they were gathered together in a huddled enclave watching the election results coming in, may have had their keys collectively taken away as a result of their pain mitigation techniques.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Miss Marprelate's Favourite Party

Miss Marprelate's official "favourite party of the election", The Peoples' Political Power Party of Canada. They appear to have some costing issues, I am at present unsure of how they are planning to pay off the deficit and create a massive budget surplus while eliminating income tax, the GST, and returning all corporate profits to the workers. Oh yes and while eliminating poverty, war, terrorism (through compassionate listening), cleaning up the planet (through love for children), emptying the prisons, making it a criminal offence for agencies (undefined) to neglect people and make the sleep on the street. Cutting healthcare by 50% as people’s immune systems improve due to the elimination of fear under their policies should help.

Unfortunately as their “father” just died they aren’t fielding any candidates this election. But his Spirit (in italics) continues to guide them and "by this Spirit that the PPP will continue…by Love, Respect, Equality and Truth until everyone is happy.” so you may be able to vote for them next election.

I mean really, what is not to love? At least for the entertainment value.

They have a very nice flip book of all their policies you can read online. The link to their downloadable policy book appears to be broken.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ottawa Events for May

(Partially written for the Prince Arthur Herald)

There are essentially two kinds of people in the world, those who would prefer to hit themselves on the head with a hammer rather than go to a political conference, and those who plan their entire lives around making sure that they will always have the time and money to go to political conferences. 

While the primary purpose of these events may appear to be listening to lectures, something most students have had quite enough of by the time school ends for the summer, for dedicated conference goers political events are about much more than just listening to fabulous speakers lecturing on such entrancing subjects as socio-economic statistics, constitutional law, political philosophy, or dead politicians, they are about networking. 

Networking is one of the most important skills that any politically-interested student can acquire. Actually, if I may amend that, that any student can acquire. In a generation that is increasingly known for its tendency to slouch against the wall texting while listening to its iPod, simply taking the time to pocket the cell phone, volunteer, mingle with other attendees, ask questions, shake hands, and dress professionally, can stand out and get noticed. Potentially by the very person who will be reviewing your internship application the next time you apply. Even student conferences, although they may be devoid of future employers, are worthy networking events, as you build contacts that can last a lifetime. While networking may be difficult, especially at first (as I can testify from personal experience, not being naturally outgoing), it does become easier as you get to know other conference regulars, and become more comfortable with the social mores of political events. 

However, with all the best will in the world, sometimes it can be difficult to find out about every interesting event that is happening. Is the Free Thinking Film Society showing a movie this month? Or perhaps more relevantly, what is the Free Thinking Film Society anyway and why would I want to go to one of their events? 

In the interest therefore, of connecting students to the events they would care about, I have collected a small sampling of such events for the month of May. If there are more that I have missed, as I am sure there are, please feel free to send them to me at and I will do my best to make this column a monthly event tracker.

May 5th: IMFC Policy Conference 2011 - Transforming the way Canadians think about family, put on by The Institute of Marriage and Family Canada. Held at the Lord Elgin hotel in Ottawa,
confirmed speakers are sociologists Dr. Brad Wilcox and Dr. Mark Regnerus, Greg Fleming of New Zealand's Maxim Institute and Jonas Himmelstrand of Sweden's Mireja Institute. Conference lasts for a full day, and costs $125.

May 11-13th: The National March for Life. Beginning on the evening of the eleventh with services and a candlelight vigil at the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights monument, the event really gets going the next morning with the annual March for Life. With over 12,000 attendees last year, the March is an event to remember. That evening there are two separate banquets, the Rose Dinner banquet and the student banquet. On the 13th, is a youth conference, with various speakers and music. The cost for the youth banquet is $40, and the conference is $45.

May 17-19th: Canada Student Forums. Come out and experience this 3 day forum that will facilitate dialogue between young adults, aged 16-25, and Christian politicians. Network and gain valuable information about how you can achieve your career goals without compromising your faith. Tour Parliament, meet MPs, attend the National Prayer Breakfast, and more. Some of this year's speakers: Colin Mayes, MP for Okanagan-Shuswap; Hon. Jack Murta, former Member of Parliament, chaplain on Parliament Hill and President of The Ottawa Mission; Dr. Victor Ling, Vice President of Discovery BC Cancer Agency and BC Cancer Research Centre;
Pastor Lyle M. Notice, B.A. MDiv, and Special Assistant to David Anderson, MP. Cost for all events, $175.

I would like to give all of these events Miss Marprelate's personal seal of approval, as I have been to all of them in the past and found them absolutely wonderful.

The IMFC conference is undoubtedly aimed at a more mature crowd, in fact some of the material, at least in the past, may be unsuitable for younger audiences. Although their topics may appear to be slightly dry, I remember them as being very interesting, and highly recommend the event for social conservatives interested in the research behind their beliefs, and fiscal conservatives who are interested in the fiscal implications of social policies.

The National March for Life is, of course, an event for all ages, although in my personal opinion the youth conference the next day is aimed a little more towards high-school than university students. There are vendors, music, and speakers at the conference, and while as someone who is very politically interested I found some of the lectures a bit on the basic side (I really didn't need to be told that I should write to my MP), they are great for the audience, and some of them should be interesting for anyone.

The Canada Student Forums is a terrific event aimed primarily at university students. I enjoyed going to Question Period for the first time (and didn't find it half as bad as expected, although as a blogger I may just be hardened to political rhetoric. My biggest disappointment was that everything they were talking about was six week old news.), found the prayer breakfast and especially the sessions afterwords interesting, but most of all loved the speakers who specifically came to the student forum, and networking with other students who shared the same interests as me. We heard from human-trafficking activists, a panel of aboriginal youth, people from a variety of professions, had a chance to sit down and talk with Members of Parliament, and had plenty of opportunity to talk with each other in between (and even, I must admit, for a couple of us girls to sneak out and do some shopping while we were supposed to be eating lunch. For some reason none of the guys wanted to join us.).

So, if you can make it out to one or all of these events, please do so. I think a lot of political events planned for May are having some trouble with attendance etc due to the election, the Manning Centre Networking Conference for example was, sadly, canceled, so if you have been thinking about going to a conference "sometime", this would be a good year to try to make it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Budget: Part 1

So the budget is out and despite many concessions to the NDP they are not mollified that Harper hasn't fully metamorphosed from a blue caterpillar to an orange butterfly.

And Harper probably looks like the cat who stole the cream.

Why wouldn't the conservatives want an election right now? Their poll numbers are better than they have been almost ever, including a last minute poll which showed that Canadians trust the conservatives to lead an honest government more than anyone else, and by a margin of 13% over the Liberals. Ignatieff, who plans to run on an "ethics" platform, apparently still prefers mass telepathy to polls. In other news voters also believe that the conservatives would do the best job at handling the economic recovery, keeping taxes down, and spending taxpayer money wisely by margins of 17, 19, and 17%. Those are all, incidentally, bigger leads than the Liberals have over the back runner, the Bloc.

Ignatieff today, "I would love to fight an election over the economy."

Definitely still telepathy.

But, since the Conservatives obviously tried (or tried to appear to be trying) to placate the NDP in the budget, they get to come out looking like the good guys who tried to spare Canadians an unnecessary election, while the NDP, Liberals, and Bloc get to look like the petulant opportunists who wouldn't accept a reasonable compromise.

Why wouldn't they accept a compromise? Because they want an excuse to form a (drumroll please) COALITION after the next election.

At least that is what the Tory campaign ads will be saying for the next month.

Have a fun election season everyone.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bits and Bytes

Well, well, well... here I am, back again after my inexcusable leave of absence from the blogging field, I really have no idea why any of you keep reading me considering the shameless way I neglect you. I wouldn't tire you with my excuses, but they are relevant to a couple of points.

First, I am busy because I am working for the Prince Arthur Herald, that fledgeling conservative student newspaper you should all know and love. Gems coming from the editing desk of the Marprelate include Samantha Lui's analysis of Rebecca Black's supposedly (haven't actually watched it myself) horrible Youtube by the name of Friday, and the intensely negative reaction she is receiving. For my comments? The reaction to Rebecca Black's song, considering her age, is nothing short of a mass cyber-bullying campaign. These people need to think a little bit about the fact that they aren't just criticizing a song, they are potentially devastating a young girl who didn't know any better than to release the song, and doesn't know any better than to take the sarcastic comments at face value. If anyone's head should be on the chopping block it should be the idiots who helped her produce the monstrosity.

Japan and Libya are eating up the headlines these days. Our condolences to the people of Japan in their time of need, and in particular profound applause for the heroes who are still in the nuclear plant.

Libya, fewer condolences, especially to Gaddafi. Canada has finally declared war on him, just as we are trying to get out of Afghanistan. Question of the day, will liberals still be able to fault conservatives for meddling with the freedom and sovereignty of Libya after everyone gave the go-ahead and it was properly approved by all the relevant international authorities. A. Of course they will, stop asking stupid questions.

Things you thought were safe, that aren't. Your iTunes account. Unless someone in my very uni-lingual family bought those Chinese proverb apps (Chinese proverbs in Chinese that is) and isn't fessing up our account was unceremoniously hacked and our gift-card money pilfered by some unscrupulous proverb aficionado. One is forced to conclude that either they have not studied their proverbs with sufficient diligence despite their desperate measures to obtain them. On a more serious note, we were fortunate to have not had our credit card attached to the account, or the damage might have been more serious. iTunes did do a "one-time" refund and disabled the account, but you may want to think twice before letting them get their sticky little mittens on your credit info.

In one of the more irritating stories of the week (And no it doesn't even involve Heather Mallick, well actually now that I mention it there might be a toss-up for most irritating story) a landlord had his buildings seized because someone was running a grow-op in the house. Are they all mad? They have made it almost impossible to evict tenants and very difficult to properly screen them. Everyone knows not to give bad references, as they can come back to haunt your bedside with a libel suit in hand. You aren't allowed to discriminate on so many different grounds, that if you deny someone a least based on the fact that you just know they are probably a small time criminal you can be making yourself vulnerable to a Human Rights lawsuit with all the joy that involves. Now granted that in this case the landlord was accused of being willfully blind, if not actually in the know that his houses were being used for the production of illicit flora. But surely a $240,000 odd thousand dollar fine is extremely hefty for being live and let live about the less than above board activities of your tenants, especially considering how difficult it is to evict bad tenants should one wish to.

I don't know about the rest of you human, or non-human, critters, but I believe grading inspires me to work harder, learn more, and explore issues more deeply than projects which carry neither positive nor negative consequences. (Point in fact, I have been neglecting blogging to focus on my economics courses). Grading - good. No objective standard to judge personal achievement by - bad.

And no, that was not responsible neutrality.

Friday, March 4, 2011


I wanted to find a word that could accurately describe the kind of shameless cynicism that goes into such marketing, but was worried it'd break the thesaurus. The idea that there are commercial breeding operations creating "shelter dogs" as a product to be sold to well-meaning prospective pet owners is so repugnant the first reaction isn't horror -- it's often disbelief, even anger toward the messenger. In fact, this is a subject we are very careful about bringing up, because it is so hard for a decent person to wrap their head around. "Nobody could do something that despicable! How could you say such a horrible thing?" NAIA
 Well quite frankly that was NOT my first reaction. My first reaction was something along the lines of doubled up laughing, combined with a certain admiration for the enterprising souls with the imagination to cash in on such an obviously lucrative and gullible market.

And anyway, the dogs will probably have a great life with a Madeline Bassett as owner, and the owners will get a disease free (probably) animal. Or do these breeders deliberately infect the animals to increase their sympathy value? The questions, the questions.

(Not that I am unsympathetic to shelter animals or anything, but a little sense of proportion would hardly be amiss here)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The PAH Seeking Conservative Columnists

 Would you like to write for a national student newspaper?
Conservative students and groups often complain about being treated inequitably on campus, or feeling like they are all alone in their convictions. The Prince Arthur Herald, Canada's only center-right national student newspaper, aims to change that by giving conservative students a voice and community that will respect their opinions and stand up for their rights, along with the rights of all Canadians.

   Started by a group of predominately McGill students, The PAH in less than two months of operation has received tens of thousands of hits from across Canada. As a result, the editors have decided that a nationally-read newspaper deserves to be written by students from across the nation. As an Ontario Desk Editor, I am recruiting students who are interested in writing a regular 500 word column. Columns don't just have to be about politics (although they can be) as the Herald also addresses subjects ranging from campus life to culture, finance, sports, health, law, and more.

   Those who control the message, control the debate. Without a friendly media presence that values excellence in communications while addressing the hard issues of our day, conservative students will continue to struggle to be heard and respected on campus.

  This is a fantastic opportunity for conservative students to make their voices heard, while gaining valuable experience working for a national student newspaper. If you are interested in being part of this, please contact me at or through Facebook.

Rebekah Hebbert
Ontario Desk Editor,
The Prince Arthur Herald 

Please feel free to repost, forward, or link this message to anyone who might be interested.

What Harm Does it Do?

My latest article on MercatorNet.

Oh, I would sing and dance with rejoicing if celestial [polygamous] marriage was no longer considered criminal. I believe in my religion and way of life. Our family could all take the same last name. We would be able to have the benefits of Canada as other Canadians have. We would use the money we spend on fighting for our religion to build nice housing for the families… We would be able to live in peace.
That was Witness Four, speaking in the British Columbia (Canada) Supreme Court about the alleged religious rights of a breakaway Mormon sect to practice polygamy. 

According to the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) and others on the side of decriminalizing polygamy, Canada, the land of hope and freedom, is persecuting some of its most vulnerable citizens -- men and women who choose to peacefully express a minority religion, who ask nothing more than to be left alone and not live in the daily fear of being jailed and harassed for their faith. 

Is this possible? In a country that takes minority rights so seriously that entire institutions are dedicated to weeding out even the smallest hints of prejudice? What have we become? 

But wait a minute, this religious minority is also accused of involvement in the trafficking and abuse of young teenaged girls, subjecting children to dysfunctional and abusive families, exploiting young men, trapping women in a world of pain, the flagrant and public breech of laws that would protect the most vulnerable. Is it possible that Canada has turned a blind eye to all of this? 

And what will happen now that the judiciary has to decide which should prevail: freedom of religion, or some of the most basic values and norms of Canadian society? 

The question pits Canada’s anti-polygamy law, section 293 of the Criminal Code, against the Canadian Charter or Rights and Freedom guarantee to “freedom of conscience and religion” -- in this case the freedom of a FLDS/Mormon offshoot community in Bountiful B.C. This community believes that “plural marriages” are necessary in order to reach the Celestial Kingdom. Opposing that claim is a collection of organizations who contend that the abuses of polygamy are so grievous, and the harm to individuals and societies so great, that the law is a justifiable infringement on religious and individual rights. 

What kinds of harm? Allegations against FLDS members include the water torture of babies (holding children face up under a running tap if they cry when spanked), marriage of girls as young as 12 or 14 (statutory rape), sexual, mental, and physical abuse of children, immigration fraud, unfair treatment of young men (due to shortage of brides), forced/coerced marriage, and more. 

Perhaps some of the most affecting testimony came from Witness Four, quoted above. She learned the identity of her much older husband thirty minutes before she married him as a just turned 17 year old, crossed the Canadian boarder under false pretences, and came to live with him and her other three “sister-wives”. Six months later, with no prior notice or consultation with his other wives, her husband married a 15 year old girl, who enrolled in grade nine that year as a married woman. It never occurred to anyone involved that this might be in any way improper. No one called the authorities. The marriage must have been a revelation from God and, therefore, it was right. 

Another tragic story is told by a woman who refused, as a 13 year old, to marry the prophet Rulon Jeffs, then in his 80s. For this she was sent to work for a Bountiful lumber business. Laboring in sub zero conditions without proper protective clothing, she was reminded again and again by the “authorities” that if she would just submit to an arranged marriage it could all end. Trapped, terrified, and abandoned by her family she finally gave way and agreed to married, at the age of 17. 

But is this kind of harm, or any harm, inherent in polygamy? Surely monogamy has its own problems?

Dr. Margaret Somerville, Samuel Gale Professor of Law at McGill University, in an interview with MercatorNet suggests that while not all alleged harms are inherent in polygamy, some indeed are.
“My primary objection would be for the children... I believe that family units are primarily for the benefit of the children. Of course they are for the benefit of the adults involved as well, but if there is a clash between what adults want and what children need I give priority to the children.” 

“Children are best off with their mother and father, preferably their own biological parents unless an exception is justified as being in the best interests of a particular child... Polygamy is an alternative adult arrangement, which is also difficult for some of the children who become adults within that arrangement.” (Note the abuses chronicled above.) 

Others contend that the abuses chronicled in Bountiful, by both supporters and detractors are best fought by the legalization of polygamy. Some point to the idyllic picture of peace, love, and cooperation painted by many of the polygamous women, and suggest that the needs of the vulnerable would rather be served by bringing polygamy into the open, where abuse could be reported by women no longer afraid of prosecution for polygamy, and where justice and freedom of religion could coexist peacefully. 

But does society have a larger interest in banning polygamy? If some of these abuses are inherent to polygamy, can even legalizing it help? What could this do to the moral fabric of our society? 

Margaret Somerville again speaks of the danger of redefining marriage, particularly for children. She has contended for years that allowing same sex marriage (as has been done in Canada), would make it difficult to justify shutting the door on polygamy. 

“If you say that marriage is simply a social or cultural construct, which is what same-sex marriage says it is, and it has nothing to do with giving a child his own biological parents, then you could say that we could design marriage however we like. It could be four men and three women, or whatever you want to have. 

“What a monogamous relationship, one man and one woman, does is that it builds marriage around a biological reality. Actually, unlike same sex marriage, polygamy also builds marriage around a biological reality too but it doesn't do it equally between men and women. 

“I think it’s a matter of both biology and cultural values, and our western democratic societies’ cultural values are most definitely [in favour of] one man and one woman, and polygamy threatens that just as same sex marriage threatened that. Polygamy threatens it on the monogamous level, same sex marriage threatened it on the biological level.” 

“Once you move away from that fundamental monogamous procreational relationship... you start designing marriage however you like it, whether it is same sex marriage, whether it is polygamy either in the form of polygyny (one man with many wives) or polyandry (one woman with many husbands).” Or, indeed, what some of the sexual avant garde are calling polyamory”.
The children and women of Bountiful tell stories of wrenching abuse, and peaceful contentment. The Supreme Court is given a simple but difficult and critical choice. To choose to restrict the religious practice of some in the interests of preserving the traditional values of Canadian culture, or to accede to another redefinition of marriage and accept the collateral damage of broken lives in the name of freedom. 

Freedom, we may ask, for whom?