Thursday, October 19, 2006

Freedom of religion: veil threats

A story in today's Independent about the veil debate in Britain got my hackles up - what about piercings? They make people uncomfortable! - with the first few paragraphs - as was the point, I'm sure. However, as I read further, I realized that Blair's comments were closer to that fine line than the story initially implied. And, setting aside whether he should be commenting on a case before the courts - ah, no! - he's right to watch his words: integration and multiculturalism, and their fallout, have long been divisive subjects, despite the everything-is-new flavour they have in the wake of September 11, 2001.

And Canada is no different, as the arrests of eighteen men in Toronto over the summer have shown. We're still trying to get the right balance: even Bernard Ostry, the pen behind our country's multiculturalism initiative of the 70s, has questioned whether these policies can work. As opposed to getting sidetracked by how much of our population will be made up of visible minorities in the future, however, I prefer John Ralston Saul's focus on citizenship being tied to responsibilities and obligations - engaging the immigrant, in other words, to express themselves and contribute, and celebrate the freedoms laid out in our Charter.

Which leads to Blair's comments, and the freedom of religion (deemed fundamental in our Charter, incidentally). Veils, kippahs, turbans, etc. have been in the news for years. Britons have worried about integration long before the attacks in London on July 7, 2005. The article goes on to describe how many European countries have attempted to address this problem; while it presents the U.S. as enlightened in this area, I think at least part of the reasoning behind the argument is flawed:
"We want to show our minorities that they are protected by their own people," Sheriff Bacca emphasized.

This emphasizing our differences is counterproductive, as I see it; distracting from the root causes of all sorts of problems, when people of that combative cant decide to boil it down to the 'real' issue of ethnicity, religion, etc.

I don't like reading about early experiences in my country like Baltej Singh Dhillon's, but I do feel that Canada is getting it right, with his case, and with acknowledging our immigration mistakes of the past, as two examples.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Vote for the little guy!

Voting for the little guy just got a whole lot easier (in my books, anyway). As many of you know, I've been voting for the Green Party for years simply because I wanted to see more parties in Parliament, but didn't want to throw my vote away, as it were - that is, on a party that would never get 2% of the vote, and therefore wouldn't get my $1.75 for their next campaign.

Well, an Ontario Superior Court judge struck that law down today! And, in case you think we're talking about a pittance here, the seven parties that were affected by that law in 2004 now get to share approximately $500000! Better than a kick in the pants, as they say.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Campaigning and the 'net

Cheney likes what this Washington Post article called the "new media":
"Sometimes it's pretty trashy," he said of new media's rise. "But I guess I'd put the proposition that there's more time and opportunity for policy discussions and debate than there used to be."

As I read the article - which was worth reading, incidentally - I kept thinking that whether a candidate can use the 'net to their advantage or not is really beside the point; the entire process seems to be falling further away from what's really important: how will you run the country?

And then the article ends with that Cheney quote, voicing and marginalizing my thought simultaneously. I guess I don't see it that way. It seems that, maybe in an effort to get more done, or maybe for far more base reasons, policy sound bites - to say nothing of the trash - have taken the place of any discussion on the campaign trail. After all, the power of the 'net is such that lively and informed debate is probably going on in the shadow of this "new media".

To bring this back to my country, I am holding out some hope that Michael Ignatieff will prove an exception to this rule.