Canada is Free and Freedom is Its Nationality

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

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?