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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another









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5/07/2004

A Point of Law

Kevin Grace is beating the anti-immigration tom-tom as loudly as ever over at the Ambler. He singles out my cross post to the Shotgun for special attention,
For all Harper’s rage against Canada’s "refugee-determination boondoggle," he is talking through his hat. Harper knows very well, even if Jay Currie does not, that the implementation of Canada’s immigration policy—not merely its refugee policy—rests in the hands of our courts, not our Parliament. Immigration and refugee reform would require—at the very least—the use of the notwithstanding clause to void the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1985 decision in Singh. It would probably require nothing less than the repeal of the Charter of Rights. And the delegates to the same Canadian Alliance convention that revised its immigration policy were advised pretty forcefully to keep shtum about messing with the Charter.
the ambler
Legal bunnies can go and read the Supreme Court's full decision in Singh here.The shocking intrusion of the Court is to require procedural safeguards to be extended to refugee claimants. This is based on the wording of section 7 the Charter.

There is no reason at all to assume that the notwithstanding clause would have to be invoked to alter the process for dealing with refugee claimants. However, any alteration would have to meet the minimal standards of fundamental justice the Charter is designed to protect. To commit the solecism of quoting the headnote,
At a minimum, the procedural scheme set up by the Act should provide the refugee claimant with an adequate opportunity to state his case and to know the case he has to meet.
Singh
This is hardly judicial activism run wild.

The ghost of General Strikes Past

Norman Spector takes a look at the General Strike which wasn't in this piece which runs in the Vancouver Sun and Times-Colonist.
When I flew with IWA leader Jack Munro to Kelowna, everyone in Bennett's living room knew that the blustery union leader was suing for peace to escape the clutches of his public sector brethren. He had as much leverage as the fourth witness that evening-- the premier's Old English sheepdog. Its master, Bill Bennett, was one tough guy, and he understood both power and Munro's predicament. Frankly, I felt sorry for the labour leader as he tried to eke out some measly last-minute concessions.
spector
Spector seems to agree with my own analysis that the HEU strike and the use of retroactive legislation has underscored Gordon Campbell's personal unpopularity:
Looking back, I think Bennett over-reached because he had already decided not to run again, and was determined to pursue fundamental reform. Yet, unlike Campbell, he understood that you cannot simultaneously cut taxes and ask workers to tighten their belts. The Socreds' making way for a new leader who won the 1986 election is a precedent Liberals should consider carefully, as they contemplate Gordon Campbell's miserable personal standing in the polls.
spector
The HEU dispute and the possibility of a General Strike suggests that Campbell has lost any sense of the limits of his power. Once that happens to a politician he or she loses the ability to actually hear what the electorate wants and, more importantly, what it will accept. Within Campbell's Cabinet I suspect there are a number of people who are toting up his current dismal popularity against his current accomplishments. At some point, and it may be quite soon, one or two prominent Cabinet resignations will signal the begining of the end.

It is possible that Campbell will be able to tough it out; but the Liberal coalition exists for the single purpose of keeping the NDP out of power. If the leader of that coalition begins to run behind his party he will have reached his best before date.

5/05/2004

Up at Tech Central

Regular readers of this blog will have seen this take on sticking it out in Iraq in embryo here. And my friends from The Tyee are, of course, welcome to use it as more evidence that I really should be voted off the island.

Shi'ites to al Sadr: "Go Home"

The fat little Iranian stooge, al-Sadr, has been told in no uncertain terms to get out of town and take his militia with him,
Representatives of Iraq's most influential Shiite leaders met here on Tuesday and demanded that Moktada al-Sadr, a rebel Shiite cleric, withdraw militia units from the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, stop turning the mosques there into weapons arsenals and return power to Iraqi police and civil defense units that operate under American control.

The Shiite leaders also called, in speeches and in interviews after the meeting, for a rapid return to the American-led negotiations on Iraq's political future. The negotiations have been sidelined for weeks by the upsurge in violence associated with Mr. Sadr's uprising across central and southern Iraq and the simultaneous fighting in Falluja, the Sunni Muslim city west of Baghdad.
new york times
This was a fairly broad group of Shi'ite with a keen appreciation for the quality of the men al-Sadr has under arms,
But the strongest murmurings of the meeting came when Taqlif al-Faroun, a tribal leader from Najaf, said Shiites should give the American forces a green light to go after Mr. Sadr in the holy cities. "Najaf is not Mecca," he said. "The Americans don't want to go into the shrines. They want to get rid of criminals and thieves. So what if they enter the city?" Across the roof, dozens of men responded approvingly. "Yes, yes!", they said.

Harper's Choice

Kevin Grace is putting a bit of stick about landing blows on the Liberals and on the chickenheartedness of the Conservatives. As he points out, the Liberal attack ads with their overt suggestion that Harper is anti-immigrant are the hardball end of Canadian politics. And he quotes Harper from a few years ago:
National Citizens' Coalition president Stephen Harper responds,

I think Chretien just doesn't care. You've got to remember that west of Winnipeg the ridings the Liberals hold are dominated by people who are either recent Asian immigrants or recent migrants from eastern Canada: people who live in ghettoes and who are not integrated into Western Canadian society.
the ambler
When Harper made this remark it was, with a few minor exceptions true. And there is the rub; officially, as Grace points out, it is just not done for a leader of a major Canadian politcal party to question the immigration policies of the last twenty five years. Mention them and you are immediately labelled a redneck and a racist and consigned to outer darkness by Toronto media.

Grace's take is
Do the Liberals now want a referendum on Canada’s immigration and refugee policy? Not on your nelly, they don’t. If Stephen Harper were to take the position, the majority position, that Canada’s immigration policy has been a disaster imposed on this country against the will of its citizens, the Liberals would be routed.
the ambler
I am not so sure. First off, it is by no means clear that the policy has been a disaster. It has certainly strained the resources of the country and stretched the social fabric in often disruptive ways. But I suspect the distortion is different rather than worse than the distortion which would have been caused had there been no immigration or an immigration policy which was overtly racist.

Second, the white flight which has built the suburbs around Vancouver and Toronto, has allowed a fairly significant degree of adjustment to take place. What might have been a burning issue in the Legion fifteen years ago is now a work around. For people in the main centers of Asian immigration the ragged edges of culture clash are increasingly social rather than political.

Finally, whatever else one might want to say about the wisdom of the last twenty five years of Canadian immigration policy, the fact is that there are now several million people in Canada as a result of that policy and they are not going anywhere. So, for Harper to try and run against the fait accompli of that policy would suggest he was ill attached to reality. Not a good position to be in.

Grace quotes an unimpeachable, if unnamed, authority that
shortly after Harper won the Alliance leadership it was put to him there were two issues he could employ to destroy the Liberal hegemony. One was immigration; the other was Canada’s similarly disastrous Indian policy. His response? "Nah."
the ambler
Which suggests that Harper is a little savvier than the Liberals give him credit for.

Who are We at War With?

Obviously we are at war with Al Qaeda. They declared war on us in the mid-1990s, and they proved it once and for all on September 11. The trouble with limiting the war to Al Qaeda is that they are not the root of the problem. They are only a symptom. Modern Islamic totalitarianism is an enormous movement spanning decades and continents. Like Europe's totalitarians, sometimes they work together, other times they tear each other to pieces. Al Qaeda is only the newest bad actor, as Berman recently put it in the New York Times, "a kind of foam thrown up by the larger extremist wave."
michael totten
Over at Tech Central Station Michael Totten writes chapter and verse on who, exactly, the war on terror and the war in Iraq is targetting. It is a disturbing read, particularily as he is willing to actually call the murders in Sudan the genocide they actually are.

5/04/2004

Well thank God Canada isn't Involved

Two captured terrorists revealed under questioning that they had been instructed to capture the Canadian embassy and hold its inmates hostage against the release of all Iraqi prisoners in Iraqi jails including Saddam Hussein and all the Islamic extremists in custody in Canada. If their demands were not met, they would have killed the hostages and blown up the building, then killed themselves in order to massacre the Syrian security units surrounding the embassy compound.
debka
Yes, it is Debka. So the traditional pound of salt needs to be taken. However, assume for the moment that Debka has no reason to make up the fact that the terrorists in Syria were targetting the Canadian Embassy. You have to wonder what Our Lady Peace and Paul "No Decisions Just Yet" Martin would have done. And you have to reflect on the fact that implicit in the Chretien cringe on Iraq was that Canada was somehow buying immunity. Ha.

IT Pro

Great article on the glory days of the Internet bubble over at the American Spectator.
My big break came when I began to sit next to the senior e-mail administrator, who was getting ready to move across country to start a new job. Simply because we shared an office, people began to assume I was his replacement. "So you are going to be taking over for Mike?" someone asked me. I had no idea what Mike's job actually entailed, but I did know that it paid better than data entry, so it would behoove me to find out.

"Yes," I replied. A transition from lowly temp to full-fledged engineer was begun.
W. James Antle III

Second Best for Iraq

So it is time, perhaps, to stop thinking about the best imaginable outcome, and instead settle for the best possible one, considering the state of world politics and the moral limitations free societies like ours place upon their war-fighting in the age of instant communications. Arab society will not become free and tolerant and self-critical, and much of the Islamic world will remain mired in ignorance and posturing and paranoia for the foreseeable future.
techcentralstation
Jack Birnbaum has looked the Iraqi challenge in the face and blinked. So, according to Robert Kagan writing in the Washington Post, has the Bush Administration,
All but the most blindly devoted Bush supporters can see that Bush administration officials have no clue about what to do in Iraq tomorrow, much less a month from now. Consider Fallujah: One week they're setting deadlines and threatening offensives; the next week they're pulling back. The latest plan, naming one of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard generals to lead the pacification of the city, is the kind of bizarre idea that only desperate people can conjure. The Bush administration is evidently in a panic, and this panic is being conveyed to the American people.
washington post
The issue in Iraq has always been whether or not America had the will to stick out the process of building a democracy in Iraq. The problem with that process was it was never going to be easy. Thirty years of Saddam, the active hostility of Iran and Syria, the belligerence of much of the Arab world and the limits of the Americans when it came to civil administration all contributed to the difficulty of creating a genuine democratic alternative.

Worse, the relentless political correctness which has characterized the American handling of the Falluja and al-Sadr challenges, has tended to encourage a belief that the American power can be successfully challenged. If I were an Iraqi democrat I would be more than a little dismayed at the American reluctance to use main force to crush anti-democratic forces.

The implicit message which the Bush administration seems to be sending is one of limits. Limits to American power, limits to American resolve and, most of all, limits as to how far America is prepared to go to actually radically reorder the Middle East.

Steve den Beste takes a tour d'horizon of the implications of a sudden recognition of limits. From Pakistan to Saudi and all over the Arab Street, a retreat, however disguised, from a commitment to democracy in Iraq will suggest a return to business as usual in the Middle East. While Saddam will still be gone - a good in itself for the Iraqi people - the bigger issues the Iraqi action was meant to address will remain unresolved.

Birnbaum goes on,
From time to time we will have to again step forward and do whatever is necessary to protect ourselves and our children; perhaps it is now time to think about reserving our treasure and the lives of our youth for those future times. That will have to be enough, and there would be nothing even remotely immoral about it.

Someday, if and when there are Arab historians who can look back with an honest eye at the events of the first decade of this century, they will surely conclude that this was their chance, and they didn't take it.
techcentralstation
The point of the Iraq action was to begin to reduce the number of times America would have to step forward. It was to actually create and maintain the conditions in the Middle East in which an alternative to the al-Qaedas and the Wahhabis could begin to grow.

Having expended blood and treasure overthrowing Saddam and quelling the anti-democratic forces in Iraq, to settle for second best now would, in fact, be immoral as well as a strategic blunder of the first order. No one who is a tiny bit familiar with the process of creating a democracy will, for an instant, have thought that a year after the defeat of Saddam, there would be anything like a full on democratic state in place in Iraq. That there are the beginnings of one is remarkable. But those beginnings need to be protected from both the enemies within Iraq and the nations such as Syria and Iran which are threatening the Iraqi democracy for fear it might spread.

To go from a climate of terror to a civil society is about tens of thousands of small things adding up to a sense of security and freedom. But for those small things to begin to accumulate, the thugs of Falluja and the fat little trouble maker in Najaf need to be taken down hard. If the Bush administration is unwilling to use main force then it should indeed get out of Iraq with Spanish efficiency.

Fruits of Iraq

North Korea, probably the world's most secretive and isolated nation, has offered an olive branch to the US by promising never to sell nuclear materials to terrorists, calling for Washington's friendship and saying it does not want to suffer the fate of Iraq.
financial times
While there are lots of reasons not to believe a word the North Koreans say, the fact they are willing to speak of a lesson learned from Saddam's fate is encouraging. And there is no doubt Iran's hand has been stayed by seeing what America can do to a regime it really does not like.

The stakes in Iraq were never just about Iraq and it appears the payoffs are beginning to flow.

Go Grapes Go!



The Meatriarchy's meme expands. With two days left in the voting Don Cherry's race to greatness has a mention in the Toronto Sun. " By yesterday afternoon, 17,740 votes were cast, with 80% in favour of Cherry, and 20% wanting him to leave." You can push Don over the top, and the CBC into apoplexy by voting for Don here. (But it seems to be taking a while to load...hmmm). Thanks for the info Deb.


5/03/2004

Vote at 16?

Labour plans to lower the age at which people are allowed to vote from 18 to 16, even though the move has been rejected by the independent body which supervises elections in Britain.
the independent
Lowering the voting age seems to me to be a rather good idea. We do, after all, let 16 year olds drive cars which suggests, possibly wrongly, that they can be trusted with a good deal of responsibility.

The upside would be that teenagers would have a stake in the system from an earlier age. The downside would be that Hillary Duff might exercise political influence. In fact, setting sixteen as the voting age would make sense in that many teens have begun paying taxes and drawing benefits by then. Expanding the franchise to include people who are already contributing to the society would cost very little and might bring a bit more social cohesion. It will be interesting to see if the English do it and what the consequences are.

Blink

The potential General Strike in British Columbia set for today is off. Campbell and the Liberals backed off their legislation imposing a retroactive wage rollback for non-medical hospital workers. It was a late night deal and one in which the government gave up very little.
The deal includes a cap of 600 further job losses over the next two years, and a $25-million severance package for affected employees. The union's work week will increase to 37-1/2 hours from 36, which will contribute a four-per-cent saving for the province. The balance of the savings will be determined through negotiations on monetary and non-monetary benefits.
vancouver sun
Campbell looked like hell as he pounded the union for "illegal labour action" and announced that "Breaking the law is not an option, it is never right." Unfortunately for Campbell, retrospective legislation is pretty suspect in itself.

For the moment the crisis has been averted and I suspect the Liberals will attempt to govern "as usual". However, the level of hostility to the Campbell government the HEU dispute revealed is likely to have some of the Liberal backrooms buzzing. The focal point of the anger is, deservedly or not, Campbell himself and with an election less than a year away, Liberal pragmatists will be wondering if keeping Campbell will seal a Liberal defeat.

It would be surprising if there are not a few polls in the field matching up Carol James with other potential Liberal leaders. Of course, those are somewhat thin on the ground. But political parties faced with significant popular opposition and a leader who has never fully recovered from his DWI conviction in Hawaii tend to start looking hard.

BC's labour movement with what would appear to be a requirement for matching moustaches has come out of the crisis looking firm rather than frenzied. By focusing on the nastiness of the legislation, Allnutt and Sinclair managed to mobilize their troops but avoid the casualties which a full on General Strike would have inflicted. Smart negotiating and smart politics.

5/02/2004

Testing, Testing

Over at Shotgun the valuable Kevin Steel takes a run at the Canadian Teachers Federation. He objects to their objections to standardized testing.

Standardized testing is one of the items on the rights agenda which has never made much sense to me. As a child I liked any test which let me tick off a, b, c, or d instead of actually having to do any work. It was great fun and a chance to eliminate wrong answers in search of the right one. But it was a break in the school routine rather than the norm. Moreover, the idea that any of my teachers would "teach to the test" was absurd. Why would they? The tests didn't actually count.

Unfortunately, the general decline in education, the causes of which are many and varied, has lead politicians and their constituancies to demand accountability in the class room and to measure classroom effectiveness with standardized tests. the logic being that education is somehow a product and that tests will act as a measure of quality control.

Much is made of the fact that the tests can be statistically manipulated to normalize for issues like ESL, poverty and family education. The Fraser Institute in its school report cards does an excellent job of flattening the playing field.

The trouble is that the tests are measuring one dimension of a muliti dimensional phenomena known as learning. If, for example, the tests were only used to determine if children had reached a minimal competence this might be useful; but where the idea is to measure the full spectrum of achievement then standardized tests will tend to overwhelm the other, less cut and dried, aspects of learning.

Even more troubling, standardiized tests tend to freeze the teaching of a cirriculum on the day that the test is imposed. A school cirriculum exists and whould be understood to exist, in flux. It should adjust to the culture in which it is embedded.

For example: I commented at Shotgun that Harry Potter has done more to improve reading skills than any standardized test ever will. It has done so because it has driven young boys to read 700 page books because they want to. This is unheard of. And once those boys have started reading they will keep reading.

Smart teachers and schools rushed to incorporate all things Harry into their cirriculum. This was one long teachable moment for an entire generation of school children. But, if the district was driven by a testing agenda, Harry would have to be put aside so that the "product" could be trained up to the tests.

This is bootless.

Of course, the good news is that the fetish for testing will fade as schools themselves become increasingly less involved in how children are, in fact, learning. But that is another post.