By Beryl Wajsman on May 15, 2015
Well, prohibition season is upon us and in full swing.
What seems to be an at least yearly event, perhaps corresponding to the weather, is in full throttle at provincial and municipal governments. Politicians find it easier to prohibit first, question later, than concentrating on getting the basics right. It is an appeal to the base politics of fear and a perpetuation of the lie that life can be legislated into what David Taylor Jones has called the “zero-risk” state.
This kind of politics is wrong. It infringes on Charter rights and natural justice. And worst of all it treats us all like children. The essence of a free society is just that – freedom - to speak as we like, to choose as we like…even if they are bad choices.
By Julius Grey on May 14, 2015
The death of Allan Borovoy deprives Canada of a unique voice speaking in favour of liberty, but without the constraints of political correctness.
The human rights industry in Canada has often shown undue deference to fashionable causes, whatever they might be for the moment. Allan Borovoy, long-time president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, never let himself be swayed by fashion. As a lawyer, writer and activist, he put individual liberty first and in particular defended freedom of expression, which is always under attack. Unfortunately, Canadian human rights activists are all in favour of freedom of expression, but not when their favourite cause is at issue.
By David T. Jones on May 14, 2015
I didn’t know that I could have two mothers.
Nor did I know that my little sister could have two fathers.
Indeed, I didn’t know (at age four) that my mother was pregnant, and when my sister appeared in our apartment and I viewed her diaper being changed, I asked with naïve ignorance, “Where’s her little ‘gigger’?
Yes, I also assumed until about age 10 that “the stork brought me” or that “you were found under a cabbage leaf”—both then-prevalent circumlocutions for the messy reality of sex and birth. To be sure by that age such nonexplanations were wearing a bit thin.
By Robert Presser on May 14, 2015
So much has been written in the past several weeks on the terms of the P5+1 deal to curtail Iran’s nuclear program. To summarize, proponents of the agreement believe that this was the best deal possible under the circumstances and that the West retains the ability to reinstate sanctions or undertake military action if Iran abrogates its commitments; opponents of the deal doubt that the verification process is adequate and lament that Iran’s nuclear research program and facilities remain intact. Both sides arecorrect in their assertions; it is unlikely that Iran would sign a more restrictive deal and the provisions of the current agreement will indeed allow Iran to continue essential efforts to develop its nuclear program with a view to building a bomb after the deal expires some 13 years from its ratification.
By Beryl Wajsman on May 4, 2015
"The pounding those heroes took on the anvil of history produced the steel that is the stuff of legend. We have an obligation to honor that legend and live up to that legacy every day and in every way. There remain obstacles to storm today that will hold us loyal to that purpose. The beaches of injustice. The cliffs of oppression. The marshes of apathy. We must be standard bearers of compassion and conscience. That would be the living proof that the sacrifices of 70 years ago were not wasted."
By Father John Walsh on May 2, 2015
Every once in a while someone delivers a commencement address to graduates that makes you sit up and notice. A recent address by Fareed Zakaria, at Sarah Lawrence College, the quintessential liberal arts college, admitted that to speak about the liberal arts is not very cool. What you’re not supposed to do is get a liberal arts education … A liberal education - as best defined by Cardinal Newman in 1854—is a “broad exposure to the outlines of knowledge” for its own sake, rather than to acquire skills to practice a trade or do a job. However, the President of Yale, the late Bart Giamatti, asked in one of his beautiful lectures, “what is the earthly use of a liberal education?” Zakaria says it teaches you how to write.
By Alan Hustak on May 2, 2015
Okill Stuart was with the 14th Canadian Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, at a command post a few miles into Germany 70 years ago, when the war ended. The regiment had just swept through Holland and was on its way to Berlin when it was told to cease fire. ‘We were expecting the end, then we got the news the war was over,” recalls Stuart, “The Americans were the army of occupation, we weren’t. They pulled the Canadians out the next day and hauled us to Utrecht. There was no way we could all get back to Canada at once, so while we were waiting in Utrecht, we found a yacht club where the Germans had been relaxing a few weeks earlier, picked up cigarettes and bully beef, and we went sailing to celebrate war’s end. With a bit of bribery, we never ate better in our lives.”
By David T. Jones on May 2, 2015
Washington, DC - Currently, in the United States, a widening number of states have laws and regulations addressing “child neglect” that require intensive monitoring of children for a significant part of their lives.
The proximate example is Maryland where police seized a 10-year-old and a six-year-old walking home from a local park approximately a mile from their home. Maryland law says a child must be eight years old to stay home alone, and a child must be 13 years old to baby sit a younger child.
The result has been a new level of confrontation between “helicopter” parents (most recently epitomized by a man that had a drone to monitor his child’s progress to school) and “free range” parents who believe that children early on should be taught independence and given an opportunity to exercise such.
By Robert Presser on May 2, 2015
Joe Oliver probably never imagined that his first budget would be delivered late and under the dual pressures of an election campaign on the horizon and falling revenues from oil royalties as a serious constraint on spending promises. Without the sudden passing of Minister Flaherty in 2014, Oliver would have been an unlikely candidate for the job of finance minister at all.. He came to electoral politics late in life after a long career in business and finance, arguably well equipped to handle the job – it’s just that the government’s front bench is mostly under 55 and it is rare that a 70 year-old gets the most critical economic portfolio at the cabinet table.
By P.A. Sévigny on April 27, 2015
At 79 years old, Kathleen Brown keeps a neat and orderly apartment with all the usual details that includes lots of pictures of both her children and her grandchildren on the refrigerator along with the local grocery-store’s Christmas holiday calendar on the kitchen wall.
“I don’t get anything done for free like other people do,” she said. “I’ve been paying bills for all of my life and I expect to keep on paying them till I’m dead and gone.”
By Harry Dikranian on April 26, 2015
Last Friday marked the centennial of the Armenian Genocide. Those two words, “Armenian Genocide,” are usually not capitalized, except in the minds and hearts of its survivors. Very few are alive today. But for their descendants around the world, the Armenian Genocide is a rallying cry for more than remembrance.
What happened on April 24, 1915? Ottoman Turkish soldiers carried out a centrally planned executive order to gather the Armenian minority’s elite. Over 250 political, professional, religious and business leaders were brutally marched into exile to the Syrian desert or simply killed.
By Alan Hustak on April 26, 2015
A wonderful confection of cock-eyed characters are at the heart of Marianne Ackerman’s dark hearted comedy, Triplex Nervosa that’s playing at the Centaur until May 17. Written on her kitchen table on a weekend, Ackerman’s play involves the trials and tribulations of a Mile End landlord, Tass Nazor (Holly Gauthier Frankel) who owns a heavily mortgaged triplex in Montreal’s trendy crunchy granola neighbourhood. She is in dire straights and needs to rid herself of a rather forlorn tenant, Max Fishbone (Howard Rosenstein), who has moved into his son’s apartment and won’t move out. The action begins with Tass suggesting to her rather sinister Slavic handyman Rakie Ur, (Karl Graboshas), that he take care of her problem by subjecting Max to some sort of “invisible damage.”
By Alan Hustak on April 23, 2015
Travesties, Tom Stoppard’s intellectual exercise about the literary and political co-ordinates of art and Oscar Wilde playing at the Segal Centre until May 3 Is a polished, but exhausting three hour excursion into the surreal.. Unless you are familiar with the origins of Dadaism and the cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, know something of the precious personality of James Joyce and have studied Vladimir Lenin’s revolutionary ideas, this scholarly, highbrow drawing room comedy isn’t always easily accessible.
There is much, much more going on in on in this chaotic production as well. It is overloaded with talk, much of it too clever by half, and demands a familiarity not only with Wilde’s play, The Importance of Being Earnest, but with Shakespeare, Gilbert and Sullivan and early 20th century European history.
By Beryl Wajsman on April 20, 2015
Thursday at 11 in the morning, over 10,000 Montrealers of all faiths and backgrounds will march from Phillips Square to Place du Canada to celebrate Israel’s independence. It is important to all of us – as members of the family of free people – that we be there. Here’s why.
If the Jewish people – in its national as well as religious manifestation - is the “canary in the mineshaft of history,” a phrase regularly employed by historians, then Israel is the litmus test of the ability of western civilization to survive. It is the frontline member of the family of free nations facing the existential challenge of Islamist fundamentalism. It may very well be that as Israel goes, so goes the west.
By Taylor C. Noakes on April 19, 2015
On Thursday April 2nd 2015 there was a large anti-austerity protest in Montreal. Several hundred kilometres to the northeast of the city, at the Bombardier plant in the small Kamouraskan town of La Pocatiere, Quebec’s economy minister, Jacques Daoust, declared that if the province were truly in a state of austerity it could not issue a $31.5 million advance payment for new Metro trains.
Perhaps the students, teachers, nurses and diverse other public sector workers didn’t get the message, as apparently austerity had been overcome since the release of the budget on March 26th. Reported total budget cuts amounted to more than $700 million, with healthcare and education taking the hardest hit as anticipated.
By Charles Bybelezer on April 19, 2015
In some ways, Israel is indeed what many have been conditioned to see: A conflict zone.
Directly to the north is Syria, whose civil war has left more than 200,000 people dead and terrorist groups manning the Golan Heights along Israel’s border. Next door, Lebanon is run by the Iranian proxy Hezbollah, the leader of which has encouraged world Jewry to immigrate en masse to Israel, as the concentration of Jews there would make it easier to dispose of them in one fell-swoop.
By Beryl Wajsman on April 16, 2015
The latest student displays of arrogant self-indulgence, culminating in the UQAM riot, have been nothing other than thuggery. The same kind of criminal activity we witnessed in the “Red Square” period. Destruction of private and public property, intimidation of others trying to exercise their own rights, criminal trespass and a resort to the appropriation of the facades of terror when rioters broke up classes with faces covered.
What is beyond comprehension is why there is yet again a debate as to how these thugs should be treated? If they can be identified, charge them. If they can’t, then UQAM should use the student association fees to make up the damage. Including the destroying soft drink dispensing machine which some of the riot’s leaders would justify as an attack on global capitalism.
By David T. Jones on April 16, 2015
Washington, DC - I am now certifiably an “old man”—well past social security age with a gray beard.
And, the sexual mores of today are so different than those prevailing when I was young that one wonders how a young man (often with his “brain” between his legs) is able to negotiate the minefields laying between his desire for sexual intercourse and acceptable female acquiescence in his desire.
Recently, an Internet Headline News article, ostensibly directed at Canadian athletes but applicable to all young men, displayed as part of its story a wall-mounted poster listing a dozen examples illustrating how and when “NO MEANS NO.”
By Robert Presser on April 16, 2015
Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas, announced that he is seeking the Republican nomination for President of the United States. You may not like Ted Cruz. Well, get in line, there are lots of progressive Americans ahead of you with that sentiment, never mind Canadian Liberals and NDPers, some Red Tories, and the list goes on. Don’t dismiss him with a slight of hand, however. Instead, pay very close attention to what he stands for and how he presents himself before the media. He is the best semantic communicator in a generation, knows his political and economic history backwards and forwards and is wicked smart.
By Beryl Wajsman on April 7, 2015
There are core belies of personal civil conservatism that drive my social activism and journalistic advocacy. Foremost amongst them is my concern that many of the approaches of today’s inappropriately named liberalism have supported the proposition that the state has an undisputed authority to impose a framework of imperatives that not only delineate and define how we should live but who we should be. Social engineering as statist faith has become too ingrained and is increasingly seen as central to “progressive” government doctrine. In today’s “liberalism,” Individual expression is to be moderated and sublimated to the supposed greatest good for the greatest number.
By Beryl Wajsman on April 7, 2015
Out of a $15 billion infrastructure envelope in the new budget we are seeing some ridiculous things. Worst among them is $220 million for the Olympic roof. Again.
It's nice to know that all our other problems have been solved. This useless expenditure comes on top of $400 million to the Beaudoin family for a needless cement plant in the Gaspé. And some $300 million for a phosphate strip mine in Sept Isles. Cement and phosphate prices have been plunging.
By Beryl Wajsman on March 30, 2015
Although Mayor Copeman has already received a longer and far more detailed letter from Ms. Ronald, the following is an abridged and edited version, with Ms. Ronald’s permission, for the purpose of publication. It is a story of her trials and tribulations with the city's social housing bureaucracy. It raises critical issues of the tragedy of what our seniors on fixed incomes have to go through. They, who built our society, suffer needlessly because our governments have not met their fiduciary responsibility to assure that pensions are sustainable. By 2020, some 30% of Montreal's non-francophone population will be seniors. Close to 40% will have no other source of income than government pensions which are below poverty levels of $19,000 for a single individual. There is no more vital issue on the agenda of social justice than to right the wrongs to the most vulnerable among us. Former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty wanted to start increasing pensions two years ago. It is time to begin.
By Alan Hustak on March 28, 2015
Not only do you have to care, but you have to care passionately about the way movies in English-speaking Canada are made to appreciate The Envelope, Vittorio Rossi’s “gibber about the Canadian film industry,” playing at the Centaur Theatre until April 19.
It’s a fascinating glimpse into the world of moviemaking but one which may leave many outside the theatre community a little bewildered. The Envelope is essentially a play about idealism, greed and artistic integrity - in Rossi’s rant, it is about “an industry that kills talent.”
By Beryl Wajsman on March 23, 2015
Thursday, Quebec unveils its new budget. It should have one critical, straightforward direction. Cut taxes. Cut bureaucrats. Restart our resource base. Other than these priorities, there is nowhere left to go and nothing left to take. Taxation is not a way to raise revenues. It is time for Quebec to stop pushing people and companies away.
I don’t say this just because the Godbout report last week recommended sweeping changes in Quebec’s tax structure. It was gratifying to read the Godbout Report state clearly and candidly that radical tax cuts are the critical necessary step to economic revival. But frankly, it is just common sense. And M. Couillard recognized that, in an interview with me in Feb. 2013 when he said, “We need a deep reform so that taking a job does not leave one in a worse net position than if they just remained unemployed.”
By Robert Frank on March 23, 2015
Rural/urban imbalance continues as Montreal stands to lose seat and Laval will not gain.
Although the Liberal government has embarked on an ambitious effort to fix the provinces finances, Quebec City has not yet moved to address the province’s democratic deficit.
According to the Quebec Electoral Commission, Montreal stands to lose a seat in the National Assembly and fast-growing Laval won’t gain any.
That’s because Quebec crams two-thirds more citizens into its urban ridings than the ones in the hinterland. Last week, the Quebec Electoral Commission said in a statement that urban ridings can contain 60,484 voters, while rural ridings need just 36,290 eligible souls to get the same representation in the provincial legislature.
By Beryl Wajsman on March 16, 2015
This past Sunday McGill students rejected a motion by their student society - the SSMU - that would have urged the university to boycott Israel and divest investments in companies with Israeli ties. Their action is to their credit and should be applauded. Particularly in light of the fact that last December, Concordia students voted in favour of such a motion.
It is astonishing that students - heavily subsidized students at that - would even be allowed a say in determining academic and investment relations of the institution they attend supported by our tax dollars. Last week we used this space to say "Ça suffit!" to Hydro's gouging. This week we say "enough is enough" of the BDS - boycott, divestment, sanction - crowd.
By Beryl Wajsman on March 9, 2015
Justin Trudeau has compared Conservative immigration policies and rhetoric as creating an atmosphere akin to the Liberal government of Mackenzie King's "none is too many" policy against European Jews in World War II. This kind of outrageous demagoguery would disqualify Trudeau from being taken seriously for any office in most western countries.
Aside from the fact that the Harper government just yesterday made clear again it's outreach to Muslims in Jason Kenney's address, there have been no restrictions on Muslim immigration into Canada as there were against Jews. No one is killing Muslims just for being Muslims, as Hitler did to Jews, except for other Muslims like ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al-Qaeda.
By Jordan Turner on March 9, 2015
Two weeks ago, a story that received limited press should have sent shockwaves throughout the legal establishment and to anyone who has prepared a last will and testament. Ontario, Judge C.A Gilmore rejected the will of the late Rector Emanuel Spence who bequeathed his entire estate to only one of his two daughters as the judge believed his motivations were racist. As such, the Judge set a controversial precedent where the thoughts and views of the deceased, and not the recipient of the inheritance, was determined to be detrimental to public policy and warranted the complete nullification of his will.
By Beryl Wajsman on March 9, 2015
It is undignified, insulting and misleading for the Quebec Régie de l'énergie to put a positive spin on it's decision to allow Hydro a 2.9% rate increase instead of the asked for 3.9%. The implication that the Board was somehow protecting the public is nonsense. This Board has allowed almost 13% increases over the last three years. Neither inflation, nor the cost of production, nor our incomes have gone up anywhere near that mark. This is simply a hidden tax with one pocket of the government refilling the other pocket of the government. It is time to paraphrase René Levesque when he finished the nationalization of Hydro, as a member of the Lesage government, and say to the utility monopoly, "Ça suffit!"
By Alan Hustak on March 8, 2015
The publishing industry being what it is these days you won’t find a copy of Dave Flavell’s oral history of Griffintown, Point St. Charles and Goose Village in any Montreal bookstore. Newspapers in town have taken no notice of it. But for anyone interested in the social history of Montreal’s storied English-speaking tenement neighbourhoods, his book, Community and the Human Spirit is well worth ordering on line. Like Patricia Burns’ Shamrock and The Shield Which was published ten years ago, Flavell captures a chorus of voices to chronicle a time and place that no longer exists – not just the Irish.
By Alan Hustak on February 28, 2015
There are home invasions and then there are home invasions.
The Good Night Bird, at The Centaur until March 22 is a preposterous, heterosexual twist on James Kirkwood’s gay comedy, P.S. Your Cat Is Dead. (Yes, there is a role for a dead cat in this show too.) In Colleen Murphy’s screwball version of the Kirkwood tale a mentally unstable, filthy vagrant bent on killing himself hits the balcony of a high rise and winds up, instead, in the bedroom of an emotionally alienated married couple where he breathes new life into their sedentary relationship.
By Beryl Wajsman on February 18, 2015
Justin Trudeau said yesterday that Prime Minister Harper's insistence that niqabs - female face coverings - should not be allowed in courts and citizenship ceremonies demonstrates an insensitivity to minority rights. I would say that Mr. Trudeau's continuing failure to comprehend that cultural particularities should never be raised to secular right is an overt threat to the health of a liberal pluralistic democracy and is cause for concern in someone who seeks to become the head of government.
By Joel Ceausu on February 16, 2015
Few things unite the right and left in Canada, Tim Hortons and hockey notwithstanding, but a not-so-radical idea might be one of them.
Mention “guaranteed income” and most people think “handout.” But there’s a lot more to it, says Jonathan Brun, spokesperson for the Basic Income Canada Network and co-founder of Revenue de base Quebec, working to get Canada to adopt a basic income scheme.
“It appeals to everyone because it addresses the burgeoning government bureaucracy and maintains a solid social safety net while changing the way government transfers wealth between taxpayers.”
By P.A. Sévigny on February 16, 2015
During last week’s hour-long lecture in Westmount’s Atwater Library, Matthew Pearce once again reminded his audience why charity must be more than “...just a soup kitchen and a bed.”
“Shelters were originally conceived as an emergency option and not as permanent housing for the destitute,” said Pearce. “So our goal is not to warehouse people but to help as many as we can to re-integrate back into society. Our ultimate mission is to end homelessness as we know it.”
By Beryl Wajsman on February 16, 2015
The Couillard administration is taking a look at revising welfare. It is in the context of the general austerity plan. It has been made clear that there will be some nominal cuts. This is the wrong policy. It punishes the vulnerable, perpetuates a system that does not work and cannot achieve any economic or social benefits. It is time for compassion and coherence in our welfare policies.
Our social security system – pensions and welfare – have been compromised for generations by governments taking in what were in fact trust monies – deducted from all of us at source - and using them for general purposes.
By P.A. Sévigny on February 16, 2015
As the Senior Deputy Director of MIGS - Montreal’s Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies - Kyle Matthews believes that we’re already beginning to fight the Third World War and that its front lines can be easily found on the internet.
Let’s face it,” he said. “…we’re at war, and as of now, the bad guys are winning.”
According to Matthews, western governments should recognize and understand that ISIS – the Islamic State – is already using the social media as an effective medium for all of its propaganda and recruitment efforts and research indicates that they are already getting excellent results.
By Alan Hustak on February 7, 2015
Forever Plaid at the Segal Centre until February 22 is a happy-go-lucky musical museum piece, mounted with obvious affection and encased in clean-cut nostalgia. If the Four Aces, the Four Lads, Johnny Ray, (“The Cry Guy”), Topo Gigo, Senor Wences and Caribbean calypso rhythms mean anything to you, this local production is a faithful, full-fledged hi-fidelty hit.
Stuart Ross’ Forever Plaid made its debut off Broadway 25 years ago, and it remains a crowd pleasure with a certain generation. especially the baby boomers who grew up in an era of 45 r.p.m juke box tunes.
By Beryl Wajsman on February 3, 2015
Justice Salvatore Mascia's judgment in the latest challenge to Bill 101 continued the tradition of avoiding the hard truths that would have necessitated condemning the ugly compromise of justice that has been the hallmark of Quebec law since the passage of this notorious legislation. In so doing he failed a generation and blunted hope. Worse still, he denied natural justice.
I do not use the term "natural justice" pejoratively. It is a term of legal art. It refers to those rights inherent to every human being simply by right of birth. And one of those primordial rights is that all people are to be treated - and seen to be treated - equally before the law. The dignity of the individual has been the litmus test of all civilized systems of law. It is a test Quebec fails time and again.
By Stephanie Azran on February 3, 2015
One of the latest petitions to hit activist website change.org is one that could affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of Quebecois and Quebecoises trying to keep warm.
Solene Tanguay, a self-described single mother from the Quebec City area, mounted a petition demanding that Hydro Quebec freeze residential electricity rates.
Since launching, the petition has attracted over 16,000 supporters and Tanguay is looking for almost 10,000 more.
To sign the petition, please visit change.org and search for Hydro-Quebec.
By Joel Ceausu on February 3, 2015
“There’s still time,” says Clement Citeya of the Comité des Personnes Assistées Sociales de Pointe-Saint-Charles (CPAS). Still time that is, for the province to reconsider its welfare reforms that the groups calls counter-productive and shows “shocking contempt for welfare recipients and are based on a false understanding of the welfare system.” Quebec is applying its austerity belt cinching to welfare rolls as well, affecting many of the nearly half-million Quebecers receiving social assistance.
CPAS along with Côte-des-Neiges based Project Genesis and other groups held a press conference last week to denounce the changes and Employment Minister François Blais’ “spreading false ideas rather than dealing with real social assistance issues.”