Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sun columnist ignores Harper's Canada-bashing

The following is a letter to the editors of the Ottawa Sun and Toronto Sun, as submitted.


Anthony Furey thinks it's a “hazing ritual” for left-leaning columnists to speak ill of Canada in foreign publications (Stop smack-talking my country, Sept. 20), but he conveniently ignores Prime Minister Stephen Harper's own history of bashing this nation, whether for foreign or domestic audiences.

As Harper himself said in a June 1997 speech to the U.S.-based Council for National Policy at a gathering in Montreal: “Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it.” While these remarks may have been in jest, they betray the same contempt for this country that led him to co-author a letter calling for a firewall to separate Alberta from the rest of Canada.

Given that no such firewall separates Sun Media from the Conservative Party of Canada, it is undertandable that Furey would rather shortchange his readers by employing a selective memory than cross his partisan puppet masters.

James Deagle
Ottawa, Ontario

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Niqab opposition: so much manufactured outrage

The following is an letter to the editor of the Ottawa Citizen, as submitted on September 19, 2015.


The fervor to keep Muslim women from wearing niqabs during public ceremonies, as echoed by columnist Mark Milke (Government right to challenge niqab ruling), is just so much manufactured outrage, and is but the latest front in a longstanding battle to force darker-skinned people to surrender their cultural identity by increments. The first increment, of course, is the attire most identified with one's religious or cultural background.

In the late 1980s, the battle centered on the right of a Sikh Mountie to wear a turban in lieu of the traditional Stetson while in uniform. If the anti-turban contingent had won the day, it likely would have opened another avenue of debate over what a Sikh Mountie should do with his long hair if not put it up in a turban. Pony tail? Perm? Cut it off? (Like I said: increments.)

In some quarters the demand for assimilation extended to other realms. As I recall of heated conversations at the time, some "old-stock Canadians" fumed that Sikh war veterans should "take the damn thing off" before entering a Legion. I also heard others say that they would refuse to get on an OC Transpo bus if the driver was wearing a turban.

More recently, the anti-turban sentiment has included unsuccessful efforts to have it banned from soccer fields.

And then earlier this year, Rania El-Alloul was banned by a Quebec judge from wearing her hijab in court because he simply didn't think it was "appropriate".

Niqab opponents such as Milke claim that the issue is of one of openness as well as opposition to a perceived "anti-woman" cultural practice. The way I see it, given the litany of attempts to get minorities such as Muslims and Sikhs to remove their distinctive head-coverings for a series of continuously shifting rationales, the current 'openness' craze is simply a faux concern pulled out of a hat for the sake of a general dislike of those cultures.

It would be nice if there was a little more 'openness' about the real motivation behind the petty yet persistent drive to force our brown-skinned neighbors head-first through the meat grinder of assimilation.

James Deagle
Ottawa, Ontario

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Niqab ban is unreasonable non-accommodation

The following is a letter to the editor of the Ottawa Citizen, as submitted on September 16, 2015.


The central assumption of the government's case against Zunera Ishaq is that by wearing the niqab during her citizenship oath, she is concealing her identity, which somehow compromises the integrity of the exercise. The underlying message here is not that the niqab may actually comprise part of a Muslim woman's identity as much as any facial feature, but that the Islamic faith, by its very nature, cannot be trusted if it involves hiding one's identity. From there it would follow that Islam is incompatible with Canadian citizenship.

Nowhere in this logic is there room for the possibility that Ishaq is being open about who she is as a woman of faith by wearing the niqab during her ceremony. In a world where people have been persecuted or even killed for their religious identity, and for the sake of a demographic that is often demonized for the sins of its most extreme brethren, I'd like to think Canadians (including our Prime Minister) have enough emotional intelligence not to mistake the niqab for disloyalty or dishonor by way of supposed identity concealment.

This situation is disturbing, as it seems our government is asking women of a particular faith to choose between their religion and their country where by default others are asked no such thing. This is a case of unreasonable non-accommodation, and to me reveals a very small vision of Canada.

But with the news that the government plans to fight the recent Appeals Court decision at the Supreme Court, it would appear that this boorish exercise in anti-Muslim social engineering will continue for the foreseeable future.

I miss my country.

James Deagle
Ottawa, Ontario

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Senate reform made easy

The following is a letter to the editor of the Ottawa Citizen in response to its editorial,  Mulcair's Senate 'strategy' lacking, as submitted.


Under the Harper government, many pieces of Federal legislation have been struck down by the Supreme Court, having been deemed unconstitutional. If our Conservative-dominated Senate had been doing its job, then these errant bills wouldn't have been allowed out the door without drastic changes, if at all.

But as the Mike Duffy affair has shown, the current Senate intelligentsia views itself as the Prime Ministerial sock puppet, as evidenced by Senator Carolyn Olsen-Stewart's cringeworthy email to Nigel Wright as the scandal was still unfolding, in which she assured him that she's “always ready to do exactly what is asked.”

Under no circumstances should a sitting senator ever feel obliged to swear an oath of fealty to a sitting Prime Minister's Chief of Staff.

Given Harper's well-known penchant for keeping cabinet members of his own House leashed and muzzled at all times, and also given that our first-past-the-post electoral system is democracy of the 'kinda/sorta' variety, it is critical that we have an Upper House with a fiery streak of independence and an unbending commitment to 'getting it right' on behalf of Canadians. The Senate should be guarding the constitutionality of our government like a rabid pit bull, and not be falling into dereliction of duty by allowing itself to be the Lower House's frisky little lap dog.

And so if we're looking to pick the low-hanging fruit first, perhaps an initial round of Senate reform should consist of Upper House members simply doing their job adequately and professionally, rather than Supreme Court justices having to do it for them.

James Deagle
Ottawa, Ontario

Friday, September 11, 2015


What always comes to mind when I think about September 11, 2001 is the overpowering sense of disorientation I felt. Like many other office denizen, I experienced the events of that day via the Internet, particularly through the low- to medium-resolution video streams offered by the CNN and Washington Post websites at the time. (I seem to remember the Post stream being smoother, perhaps due to lower bandwidth congestion.)

What started out as a minor (but manageable) startle at the initial footage of what at first looked like a much smaller aircraft hitting one of the twin towers gave way to genuine shock when the other tower was hit. What originally seemed (to me) like an unfortunate and small-scale accident was now undeniably a coordinated effort, particularly as we learned about the Pentagon being hit and what was originally reported as a commercial airliner being shot down in Pennsylvania by fighter jets.

The peak of my anxiety came while I was on the phone with a friend who had the day off. On my end, the whole office was abuzz with the unbelievable tragedy unfolding on multiple fronts, which meant the company's business was effectively ground to a halt. From somewhere in the commotion all around me in the cubicle village, I heard a voice say that one of the towers had collapsed. (Say what?) Before I had a chance to fully process that information, I heard my friend's wife in the room at the other end of the phone conversation say that it was just announced on TV that the other tower had now collapsed, too.

At this precise moment I had the feeling of falling down a bottomless well as the historical enormity of the day's events settled in. I couldn't give words to what was happening inside of me at the time, other than to say I was 'freaked out', but with the luxury of hindsight I can now say it was as if the glue holding my sense of the world together was suddenly dissolving, allowing that mental structure to break apart and fall away.

I can't remember how the phone conversation ended, but not long after some local news came over someone's desktop radio that a suspicious package had been found behind Parliament Hill here in Ottawa, and that a bomb squad was already on the scene. At that point the employer told us all to take the rest of the day off.

I drove home in a haze of anger and fear, as well as a frustrating sense of not knowing which way was up in a world I thought I knew.


All these years later, the uncertainty about the world I came to feel on 9/11 has long been shunted aside by a very cynical uncertainty about what actually transpired on that day. While I'm loathe to buy into conspiracy theories, the fact that the official story has always seemed like one of the less likely explanations only bolsters the 9/11 Was an Inside Job school of thought. And for all the dubious rhetoric at the time about the attacks having been provoked by Western rights and freedoms, it is now painfully obvious that the establishment powers never held those same rights and freedoms in high regard either.

Was it really terrorists with a hatred for America (and all it represents) who were responsible for the 9/11 attacks? For the sake of argument, let's say “yes” unconditionally. That understanding is, in and of itself, a tragedy beyond measure, if that's how it really went down. Just as troubling, however, is how the events of that day served to break the seal, as it were, on darker, more fascistic instincts in a part of the world that had long prided itself on being the official representative of humanity's best behavior.

We're now in a world where torture and undue mass surveillance are not only up for debate but largely accepted as a given by many as the price we pay for living in an Age of Terror. Forget that far fewer people per year are killed by terrorism than, say, automobiles. Or spoiled cheese. It's not that we're really that much more threatened by terrorism than we ever were, but that we live in a time where fear of terror (however remote) is the de rigeur state of mind.

On the other hand, the countless mass shootings that occur with sickening frequency in the U.S. pose much more of a “clear and present danger” to public safety, and yet the establishment mindset is that these admittedly unfortunate events should not serve to curtail gun ownership rights one iota. But then these shooters are never called “terrorists” by the authorities – unless they happen to be Muslims. (In this New McCarthyism, “terrorism” and “Islam” have replaced “communism” as the kneejerk scare words for the unthinking.)

Taking all of the above into consideration, I'm just not sure how I'm supposed to feel whenever another 9/11 anniversary rolls around. What I do know, however, is that the anger, fear and disorientation I felt that day as I drove home has never been the kind of emotional nor intellectual foundation upon which our society should rest, either in general or in how we respond to unexpected attacks.

I'd like to think we're better than that, but I'm often left with the feeling that for too many of my fellow citizens, anger, fear and disorientation constitute a preferred societal frame of reference, rather than a passing malaise.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Black-on-black violence is even more reason to say #BlackLivesMatter

I've been following the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag on Twitter, and any time I've entered the fray I've taken my share of licks from those who mistakenly see that movement as anti-white and anti-police. As I've said many times (on Twitter as well as the Craigslist forums), when black lives matter, so do the rest.

While the civil rights movement of the 1960's was in response to the institutional oppression of blacks, any good that resulted from those struggles applied to all races. The upshot of the movement was that you, whoever you happen to be, are a human being, not a skin color. The civil rights movement was only ostensibly about blacks because they happened to  be bearing the brunt of establishment intolerance to racial minorities - I don't believe any black at the time would have wanted resulting civil rights laws to exclude anybody. They, along with the whites and other non-blacks who locked arms with them, were paving the way for all races.

This was a time of necessary political disruption, and it appears that time has come back around.

One of the common online responses to #BlackLivesMatter is for non-sympathizers to say "all lives matter, not just black ones". While such a sentiment is true in one sense, it is cited only in response to "black lives matter", as if the intent of the former is to neutralize the latter. And in trying to neutralize the latter, the #AllLivesMatter crowd is denying the pain and anger that comes with being from a demographic with a history of oppression on this continent, and who feel at least some of their racial brethren are being targeted for state violence here and now.

And so in trying to squelch black voices crying out for equality (not to mention equal protection under the law), the "all lives matter" crowd is practicing racism, albeit a racism cloaked in a pleasant- and uplifting-sounding meme.

Yes, *all* lives matter, but some lives are characterized by far greater inequality than others. To just chirp "all lives matter" as a way to ignore social injustice is to aid and abet that injustice in a very Orwellian way: saying one thing (black lives don't really matter) by couching it in contradicting terminology (all lives matter).

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On a smaller scale, there are those who will cherry-pick individual cases of black-on-black violence, and add a comment like "I guess black lives don't matter to them". They are implying that the existence of black-on-black violence should somehow invalidate (and therefore erase) the reality of white-on-black state violence.

Not only does black-on-black violence not invalidate the mission of the BlackLivesMatter movement, it merits even greater urgency for the cause. While conservatives bristle at such a concept, there is a direct relationship between violent crime and social and economic inequality. This has never been a secret, and yet our political establishment carries on as if this weren't the case.

By ignoring the effects of inequality on violent crime rates, and to compound centuries of black inequality by further reducing access to the quality education and healthcare that would reduce violent crime among blacks, is to say unequivocably: "Black lives don't matter."

While the BlackLivesMatter movement is officially in direct response to excessive police violence against black youth, it is simply disingenuous and absurd for whites to use incidents of black-on-black violence as an all-purpose 'Get Out of Jail Free' card, either in instances of inappropriate police violence or in political disregard for socioeconomic inequality.

Taking all of the above into consideration, let's call the reactionary #AllLivesMatter meme for what it is: class warfare from above.