Let’s make this complicated
While the government apologized for what the aboriginal residential schools were, some pundits seem determined to focus on what they weren’t.
“Had government agents come to round up your kids and mine, I doubt we would have kept quiet about it for 80 years or more,” Lorne Gunter writes in the Edmonton Journal in praise of yesterday’s apology. But it’s important to recognize, he argues, that the system was “well-intentioned” and not harmful or destructive in every single case. Which is a fair point—a sense of proportion is important. But comparing modern “native skills training” programs to the “early form of such training” offered at residential schools, and asking how the program could have been “evil” then but “magnanimous” now is ridiculous. Surely no educational system that’s predicated on abducting its students from their parents has any claim to magnanimousness, no matter what good it accomplishes.
John Robson, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, welcomes the apology but rejects the notion that the residential schools were “responsible for the catastrophic collision between traditional aboriginal culture and European modernity.” This is a notion we’d not come across until Robson introduced it, but we’re happy to join him in declaring it bunk. He also “utterly reject[s] any suggestion that Canadian aboriginals were dwelling in Eden until the Europeans came and expelled them”—again, never heard that one before, but it sounds perfectly reasonable to us.
The Citizen‘s Susan Riley lauds Harper’s “gracious apology,” which was delivered with “what appear[ed] to be genuine empathy,” and says it’s damn good thing for the Liberals that “no one in Harper’s entourage has the wit, or insight, to realize that a less aggressive prime minister”—such as we saw on Wednesday—”might significantly help Conservative prospects.” If Harper was really “intent on broadening his base,” she argues, he’d “relegate childish provocateurs like [Pierre] Poilievre, [John] Baird and [Jason] Kenney to the margins.” Instead, it seems we just got a one-day holiday—except for Poilievre, of course—from Harper’s “Sesame Street political ops squad.”
The Globe and Mail‘s Jeffrey Simpson urges all Canadians to read and consider the OECD’s “suffocating prose” on the subject of all the things we’re doing wrong, and what we should do to fix them: drop agriculture subsidies, particularly in the dairy sector; allow banks to merge and become “global players”; harmonize unemployment insurance programs across the country; and, in Alberta, “sock away much more [oil] royalty money in the Alberta Heritage Fund.” These tall foreheads have “done the country an important favour,” Simpson believes, by “gor[ing] so many Canadian sacred cows” at once.
“As recently as 2001, Canadian farmers were the least dependent [on government], outside Australia and New Zealand,” Lorne Gunter writes in the National Post, looking at the same OECD report. But now “the OECD now pegs direct support at nearly $17,000 per farm per year, or almost $4-billion overall”—not including “supply managed” sectors like dairy, which are even worse. It’s no coincidence, says Gunter, that the Australian and New Zealand agriculture industries are both the “healthiest” and the “freest and least dependent on government handouts.” Canada should take heed.
“It is rare and usually counter-intuitive for an opposition party to force the spotlight of an election campaign away from an incumbent government’s record and onto a complex policy of its own,” the Toronto Star‘s Chantal Hébert warns Stéphane Dion—especially when, as is now the case, “public confidence in the government’s economic management [is] slipping.” But in forging ahead with his carbon tax proposal, and by “star[ing] down calls from his shadow cabinet for a snap election” last week, it’s clear Dion has dug in his heels. “For the Liberals,” Hébert concludes, “a make-or-break pre-election summer could … turn into a season of leadership discontent.”
“It’s 1980 all over again,” says the Citizen‘s Dan Gardner: oil production “struggles to keep up with soaring demand,” gas prices are skyrocketing, a recession looms, and there are “warnings of worse to come as experts agree that the era of cheap oil is gone forever.” And as ever, he warns, such experts might be wrong—new supply may emerge, leading again to overconsumption and prolonging the vicious glut-shortage-glut-shortage cycle. The solution, he says, is “to establish a floor on oil now”—a minimum price, in other words, to nip the cycle in the bud. “Conservation gains wouldn’t be lost,” he argues, “alternative energy would remain a realistic possibility…and the West would be much better able to withstanding future shortages.”
Colby Cosh, writing in the Post, profiles British Columbia’s little-known Therapeutics Initiative, which “provide[s] independent, skeptical analyses of clinical data about new health therapies” to the provincial government, thereby saving significant quantities of money—and in the case of Vioxx, which was less prescribed in BC than elsewhere on TI’s advice, lives. The initiative is now under fire from a government task force, he notes—one “stacked with members who had past and present connections to the drug business”—on grounds of “resistance to meaningful stakeholder engagement.” “Note,” Cosh writes, “how that buzzword ‘stakeholder’ puts the B.C. taxpayer and the vulnerable patient on an equal footing with drug vendors.”
Terence Corcoran, writing in the Financial Post, says even if Bill C-61 dies on the order paper, it will have been worth it to claw back some common sense from “the Telecom Trotskyites who believe the Internet is a giant open cosmos, a massive free public space into which everybody can scoop up whatever floats by with little or no regard to ownership.” Regular folks have no trouble recognizing proper ownership of creative material and accepting limits on its free distribution, says Corcoran, and those who don’t share “a surprisingly consistent grudge against corporations and the business world in general.”
The Globe‘s John Ibbitson looks at the life and times of Michelle Obama, and debates whether her outspokenness might threaten her husband’s campaign for president just as much as her compelling life story will help it.
Estimates of the number of victims of human traffickers currently “working in Canada in sexual servitude, [or] forced or bonded labour” range from 800 to 15,000, the Vancouver Sun‘s Daphne Bramham notes, and we have “good laws” in place to combat the problem. “Enforcement,” however, “is lacking”—from Vancouver’s “kiddie stroll” to the community of Bountiful, whose polygamists are well known to shuttle children back and forth across the 49th parallel. Vancouver Olympic organizers are “incorporat[ing] anti-trafficking measures into the over-all security plan for the Games,” she notes, but “without a fully funded, national strategy … it may be too little, too late.”