Must-reads: James Travers, Don Martin and Margaret Wente on the residential schools apology; Lawrence Martin on the carbon tax; Rosie DiManno on following the money in Afghanistan; Terence Corcoran on the Great Tomato Crisis of 2008.
Yesterday’s apology for Canada’s aboriginal residential school system was much-needed and well-executed, all agree. How it translates into tangible improvements remains to be seen.
Considering how recently the Conservatives were “warning an official apology was five years off and dismiss[ing] talk of hefty compensation packages,” the Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin says the apology proves “just how motivated a minority government can be to deliver damage control ahead of what could become a fall election.” Nevertheless, he hastens to add, yesterday was a “goosebump-raising,” cynicism-dissolving affair. And while the apology “won’t fix a single aboriginal home, add one faucet’s worth of clean drinking water or prevent even one young native person’s suicide or incarceration,” he concludes, it’s reasonable to hope the past will now be “a little less difficult to bear” for forward-looking aboriginal communities.
If nothing else, the National Post‘s John Ivison believes “Harper may have addressed some of the concerns about his fitness to be Prime Minister. He showed leadership … in his willingness to confront a trauma that was never treated properly.” And that may help him regain some measure of support among Canadians who’ve grown tired with his and his ministers’ appalling (our word, not Ivison’s) attitude towards governance. More importantly, Phil Fontaine’s “impressive,” appreciative response suggests the apology may well help Canadian aboriginals move beyond victimhood.
The Globe and Mail‘s Margaret Wente isn’t so sure about that, given that the truth and reconciliation process thus far has seen “the ‘truth’ … increasingly … cast in the most extreme terms.” The residential schools were a disaster as “social policy,” “their objectives were overtly racist,” and they were “a magnet for sadists and child molesters”—for this, she says unequivocally, an abject apology is most certainly due. But much of the rhetoric suggests no good whatsoever came of them, she argues, which is simply not the case. And the backlash, fuelled in part by that rhetoric, has “led to a different dead end—the idealization of a pre-colonial past.”
“The welcome absence of partisanship yesterday doesn’t remove the danger that this moment will be intentionally mistaken for closure,” James Travers writes in the Toronto Star. “Instead it begs to be a catalyst for new openness in repairing systemic failures that limit aboriginal aspirations and should make the rest of us squirm.” Unfortunately, he notes, they don’t generally make us squirm. “The political cost of government lassitude is so low that Third World reserve conditions can be tolerated just as residential school abuses were ignored,” he quite correctly argues. And yesterday’s apology didn’t do a thing about that.
Stéphane Dion’s “carbon-tax plan … is being hurriedly prepared for a release next Wednesday,” the Globe‘s Lawrence Martin notes—not a month too late!—and it fairly reeks of simplicity, according to insiders: there’ll be “no additional levies on fuel that already has a carbon tax on it,” such as in B.C. and some (but not all) of the oil imported into the Maritimes, and there will be the requisite “allowances for farmers” (because their emissions don’t cause global warming, as far as we can tell) and for “low- and medium-income earners across the country.” Members of the Liberal caucus, led by Bob Rae, remian extremely unhappy about this carbon tax business, we learn, but “the chances of an election before the Liberal biennial convention are getting slimmer,” which might mean Dion’s leadership is safe for another two-and-a-half years.
The Globe‘s Christie Blatchford continues reporting from the trial of the 20-year-old alleged “peripheral player” in the so-called Toronto 18 terrorist plot. The testimony of RCMP mole Mubin Shaikh continues to mix healthy doses of idiocy and incompetence with clearly “ruinous” intentions of the accused and his brothers in paintball-arms.
“[Afghan] President Hamid Karzai will ask international donors today to give Afghanistan another $20 billion in aid,” the Star‘s Rosie DiManno reports. “Good luck with that.” The money situation in Afghanistan is a nightmare on just about every front, she contends. A significant percentage pledged by western governments never arrives, much of it that does gets “squandered due to poor co-ordination among aid agencies” and “some 40 per cent of donor funds, it’s estimated, have been returned to donor countries in profits and salaries” for NGOs—which are “widely loathed by ordinary Afghans.” Meanwhile, she notes, even some government ministries are only spending a fraction of their budgets.
The Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington lauds Cliff Chadderton and the War Amps for picking up the tab for the funeral of decorated Korean war hero Ken Barwise, whose situation was deemed ineligible for full compensation by Veterans Affairs.
The Star‘s Haroon Siddiqui speaks to Bangladeshi Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, whose micro-credit principles grew into Garmeen Bank, which “lends about $1 billion a year (average loan: $160), to 7.5 million borrowers (97 per cent women), without collateral, and boasts a 99 per cent repayment record.”
The Financial Post‘s Terence Corcoran dismisses the current panic over salmonella-laced tomatoes as “almost a parody of unlikely cause-and-effect. Man eats food in Mexican restaurant, gets food poisoning from tomato-based pico de gallo, shuts down continental tomato markets.” That would be absurd enough, he argues, given the astonishing volume of tomatoes consumed on this continent, but the original story as presented in the media was dead wrong to boot: 67-year-old Raul Rivera didn’t die of food poisoning, but of cancer. And while the other members of his party got sick, none of them even had to go to hospital.
“Of the [Bouchard-Taylor] commission’s 37 recommendations, the only one [Jean] Charest has indicated he would even consider is to provide guidance for policymakers facing accommodations questions,” says the Montreal Gazette‘s Don MacPherson. The rest of it is, for all intents and purposes, a dead letter. Yet the sovereigntist camp keeps trying to kill it, he notes, with Jacques Parizeau this week providing “mostly stale criticism … in an interview reported in Le Journal de Montréal, the minority-baiting tabloid whose alarmist and often inaccurate reporting” started the whole reasonable accommodations debacle in the first place.