Friday, December 23, 2005

Closing the Noose on Barbarism

At long last, an American legislature is preparing to acknowledge that the lynching of a 14-year-old Canadian boy is an event worthy of some public attention.

What Chronicles readers first learned here, and what I wrote about again last month here, finally found its way to the front page of the Globe and Mail yesterday. It’s in the Toronto Star and the Vancouver Sun today, and CBC Radio’s Mark Forsyth and Greg Dixon did a tremendous job making sense of it in an extended interview with historian Keith Carlson here.

However this case is resolved, it should be satisfaction enough that the name of a 14-year-old Sto:lo boy who was lynched by a mob of Americans 121 years ago will not be lost to memory. His name was Louie Sam. Americans lynched 4,742 of their countrymen between the early 19th century and the 1960s. Louie Sam’s hanging is the only documented case of a lynching in Canada.

I made plain some of my own views on the controversy earlier this week here, but there are two aspects of this whole story that should not go unnoticed.

The first is diplomatically and constitutionally delicate, and it involves the discreet and quietly effective engagement of the Honourable Iona Campagnolo, British Columbia’s lieutenant-governor, in first seeing to it that this matter be addressed. To the Tsimshian, Campagnolo is Notz-whe-Neah, and to the Haida she is Saan-naag-Kaawaass. In the Comox Valley she’s considered one of the locals, and Prince Rupert’s people recognize her as one of theirs. I consider her a fellow Gulf Islander, since she was born across Active Pass, on Galiano Island. But to all Canadians west of the Rockies, she is our beloved commander-in-chief.

The second is that while Canada-U.S. relations elsewhere have descended into the realm of schoolyard slanging matches, British Columbians and Washingtonians seem to be able to muddle through without losing limbs in the rhetorical minefield that lies along the Canada-U.S. border. With luck, we’ll all be able to resolve the Louie Sam case without anything blowing up.

So, at the risk of being seen to take sides in the strange cultural warfare underway among the Yanks these days - from up here it seems to be some sort of battle over what is emerging as National Jesus Day or something - I’m going to go say this, straight out, to all our comrades on the other side of the border:

Merry Christmas.

You’ve all had a tough year. Here’s to hoping next year’s better for all of ye.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Ghosts of Elections Past

With Canada's election news coverage so overwhelmingly occupied with the stenography of spins, it's no wonder the rattling of chains down the corridors of several British Columbia ridings is going unnoticed. But it's a sound that's becoming deafening among the aboriginal peoples west of the Rocky Mountains - where one third of Canada's Indian bands are situated.

The clanging sound is coming out of the crypt of the Reform Party, whose windbags told us that aboriginal rights are "rights based on race," that the Nisga'a treaty is "the worst type of Alabama racism in the history of this country," and that an "armed citizenry" is necessary to ensure against "big government" in Canada. Well, they're back, and they're running for the Conservatives.

Lately, Canada has made historic progress in reconciling the federal government with Canada's 13 provinces and territories and the country's First Nations leadership. The New Democratic Party has played its part, true enough, but not so much as to slow a growing trend among aboriginal leaders to openly and enthusiastically support the ruling Liberals.

The stakes are too high. What progress we have seen will disappear even with a minority Conservative government, says Doug Kelly, a member of the provincial executive of the First Nations Summit. “If we end up with a Conservative government," he says, "it will be a government of angry white men who long for the day when they were in the driver’s seat.”

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Canada's Cities, Ecological Decline, and War

There’s six weeks to go, so there’s lots of time for Canada’s federal election campaign to get interesting, but so far, the “election issues” that fill the dailies’ political pages seem disgracefully frivolous. Spend any time talking to Roy Woodbridge, author of The Next World War: Tribes, Cities, Nations and Ecological Decline, and you'll conclude that most of Canada’s politicians, most of the time, are talking trivial, marginal rubbish.

“What’s happening is just the same as what happened to New Orleans,” Woodbridge observed during a conversation the other day. “That was a disaster that was totally predictable and totally preventable,” he said. “We face the same kind of choices, right now, and the disaster, if we fail, will be a disaster that was totally predictable.”

The result of our chat can be found here, and the column has already provoked some umbrage, not unreasonably, among certain Liberal Party cadre. They argue that Canada’s “New Deal” for cities is directed almost exclusively at “environmentally sustainable infrastructure.”

Fair enough. But Canada still ranks 35th among 40 of the world’s leading industrial countries in its reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. Despite our Kyoto pledge to reduce emissions by six percent from 1990 levels, our emissions are actually 24 percent higher than they were before Kyoto. Canada is one of the industrialized world’s worst environmental performers, according to the David Suzuki Foundation. Of the 30 nation states within the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada ranks 28th.

To read more about what Woodbridge has to say about Canada's cities, see his latest in the journal Policy Options, here.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Well, Tom, that wasn't quite my plan. . .

In response to my recent Chronicles column about New Democratic Party hopeful Randall Garrison (see the web log entry for November 28, below), Thomas Baker of Vancouver wrote this letter, which was published in the Georgia Straight today:

"Thank you to Terry Glavin for highlighting the fact that almost two years after the Canadian government played a leading role in orchestrating the coup d’état against the democratically elected government of Haiti, the NDP, who have been keeping these Liberal coup plotters in power, have no “official stance” on the ongoing Canada/U.S./UN occupation of Haiti [“Unusual NDPer backs international missions”, Chronicles, Nov. 24–Dec. 1]. Incredibly, the so-called party of the working class in Canada can’t decide if it was right to…give military support to the overthrow of a government overwhelmingly supported by the Haitian working class. Who would have thought that the NDP would make the U.S. Democrats, who have several members of Congress advocating for the people of Haiti, look good?"

Not to be ungrateful, but I'm not going to take credit for something I didn't do, much less for something I certainly didn't intend to do.

Meanwhile, the original column sparked a firestorm of debate - much of it infused with the same strained analysis as the above, in Mr. Baker's letter - on the fabulously successful discussion forum known as "babble," specifically here.

After reviewing the content of that debate, I'm happy to know that Mr. Garrison is not alone among New Democrats in his view that the "left" in Canada needs to start thinking for itself in order to develop an independent, progressive policy on military and foreign affairs.

In the "babble" back-and-forth, someone helpfully reprinted a letter from Alexa McDonough, which sets out what I take to be the NDP's position on Haiti. McDonough is the former leader of the NDP, and its current foreign affairs critic. Among other things - such as the sensible proposition that the federal government should conduct a thorough re-evaluation of the effectiveness of the UN mission in Haiti, and Canada's role in it -McDonagh makes these points:

"Canada has professional expertise in police training and electoral infrastructure. When exercised effectively, our presence can help to create the conditions for the provision of basic needs, sustainable development, a legitimate justice system and fair elections. Haiti is currently headed for elections that are flawed. Canada can make a contribution to ensuring that a different path is followed, if there is genuine political will to do so.

". . . The NDP recognizes that it would be exceedingly difficult to advocate for genuine democratic change, in Haiti or elsewhere, by absenting ourselves from international efforts in Haiti. Canada is uniquely positioned to press for this work to be carried out in true solidarity with the Haitian people, resulting in a just and sustainable future.

"The solution, therefore, cannot be to do nothing, but rather to do better, and for the right reasons."

That's Garrison's position, too. Good for him, and good for McDonough, and if their position puts the NDP closer to Canada's Liberal Party on these questions than to, say, the George Galloway crowd, or to the "U.S. Democrats" Mr. Baker mentions, then all the better.