Canada is Free and Freedom is Its Nationality

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Thursday, May 5, 2011

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.

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