Wednesday, March 23, 2022


 Here is a link to a short column I wrote in the Anahim-Nimpo Lake Messenger for April 2022 on teh subject of the INVASION OF UKRAINE.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Worries about Ukraine

 Are we prepared to discipline China for helping Russia through the back door? How prepared are our leaders to inflict economic pain on ourselves?  

What will become of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, the university where I taught in 1994-95? Its bilingual status (classes in English and Ukrainian) and long history are pointedly non-Russian: it is implicitly against the Russian imperium. I urge my readers to read their plea.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

About the Trucker's Strike

 "In a free society the state does not administer the affairs of men. It administers justice among men who conduct their own affairs."

--Walter Lippmann
Well, I think that the government is administering justice between protestors who complain about the infringement of their liberty by public health regulation and the rights of those whose liberties they have infringed---the rights of residents to live in noise-free environment most of the time, the rights to cross the border, cross the bridge, and to live in a relatively safe reduced-COVID environment. Since most public health regulations have actually fallen short of what health experts have recommended, and three weeks is an indulgently long time to allow such a costly protest to continue, the truckers would be unlikely to survive the section 1 proportionality analysis in a Charter Challenge for the infringement of their section 2 Freedom of "thought, belief, opinion and expression". On the other hand, they might have a chance of arguing (thanks to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association) that the invocation of the Emergencies Act was unnecessary and disproportional. The court case and the commission of inquiry will shed some useful light on whether Justin Trudeau shares some of the blame for allowing this to get out of hand.
Heather Buzila

Friday, September 10, 2021

The 2021 English Leaders' Debate


And the Big Winner was: Francois Legault.  Having extracted a pricey child care subsidy and an endorsement of Quebec's constitutional "nationhood" by dangling the possibility of a majority in front of Trudeau, he then pivoted with a thinly-veiled endorsement of O'Toole for respecting provincial jurisdiction. Then Blanchet was able to fan some nationalist flame over Bill 21.  Even Annemie Paul's strong performance helps Legault & O'Toole, since she takes most of her votes from the NDP and the Libs.

Justin Trudeau got played by a Quebec nationalist premier. His father must surely be spinning in his grave.

Perhaps the debate will have little impact on the course of the election. But it prevented either Trudeau or Singh from punching through, which either of them could have done under a different format.

A possible small winner: Paul Manly, the Green MP in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, who had been given up for dead but can now try to run on Paul's strong debate performance.

But the big problem in a possible future minority government alliance between the Bloc and western -based Conservatives is that it will prove to be about as stable as the Quebec-West alliance was under Brian Mulroney. (Think: polar opposites on equalization and climate/energy.)  
And we all know how that turned out. 

Friday, July 02, 2021



Dakota Smith, a meteorologist at Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, said in a tweet that he observed “absolutely mind-blowing wildfire behavior in British Columbia.”
He included satellite images from above Lytton earlier this week and added: “incredible & massive storm-producing pyrocumulonimbus plumes.”Daniel Swain, a climatologist with the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA, wrote on Twitter: “I’ve watched a lot of wildfire-associated pyroconvective events during the satellite era, and I think this might be the singularly most extreme I’ve ever seen.”
He added: “This is a literal firestorm, producing *thousands* of lightning strikes and almost certainly countless new fires.”Chris Vagasky, a meteorologist with Vaisala, which tracks lightning strikes around the world, told that the North American Lightning Detection Network sensed 710,177 strikes across British Columbia and northwestern Alberta over the course of about 15 hours in recent days.

On the Legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald


The discovery of 215 bodies in Kamloops is a gruesome reminder that maybe “genocide” is an appropriate term to use for Canada’s assimilationist policies after all.  And this may just be the tip of the iceberg: what will the final death toll be, once the grounds and the paper trails of every residential school in Canada have been thoroughly examined? Native Residential Schools were Canada’s Crime of the Century.

And yet… many people still think that it is wrong to be tearing down statues of our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, and removing his face from our currency, and his name from every school and every airport and public building.  Why? Because, in the words of Macdonald’s most recent biographer, Richard Gwynn: “No Macdonald, no Canada.”  And if there is no Canada, there is no New Treaties, no Section 35 of the Canada Act, no aboriginal title, no Delgamuukw case, no Chilcotin case.  No official multiculturalism, no official bilingualism---and probably no universal medicare or gun control, for that matter.

Besides, according to Macdonald’s apologists, most of what befell the First Nations people was not really his fault.  For example, it is argued that he never actually intended the starvation of the Plains Indians, who were devastated by the spread of new diseases and the decimation of the buffalo herd long before he took charge. Moreover, it is worth noting that attendance of indigenous children in residential schools did not become compulsory until 1920, which was 29 years after Sir John A.’s death.

David Frum attempts to restore Macdonald’s reputation in a recent Atlantic Monthly article. He states:   "As attorney general of the pre-confederation province of Canada, [Macdonald] battled to protect escaped American slaves from extradition. His government persuaded the British government in 1862 to pass a new habeas corpus act that imposed new restrictions on cooperation with U.S. slave hunters. He welcomed Jewish immigration to Canada and for a long time strenuously but unsuccessfully resisted efforts to exclude Chinese immigrants … He headed a political coalition that bridged Canada’s great divide between French speakers and English speakers—and worked all his life for accommodation and respect between the two mutually suspicious cultures. … As the person who proposed the [residential] schools, Macdonald shares the blame for their grim human consequences. But … the worst wrongs in the schools happened after Macdonald had left this Earth, and could neither be aware of them, nor correct them.”

All of these things may be true, but Frum is still white-washing the past. It would be more accurate to say that Macdonald’s attitude to slavery mirrored that of the British Foreign Office: opposed to slavery in principle, but also willing to encourage the secession of the slave states if it meant that the USA was less of a threat to the British colonies.  And although his attitude toward escaped slaves and  immigrants may have been morally ambiguous, his attitude toward Canadian indigenous peoples was not. They stood in the way of his vision of continental expansion. So he was harder on them.  He may not have been the initial cause of their starvation or of the near-extinction of the buffalo, but he still rationed their food relief so as to induce them into fixed settlements. He starved them. His motive for doing so was plain: he felt that land had to be taken for white settlements and for the Railway, and the natives forced into becoming agricultural and industrial workers, whether they wanted to or not.

Americans seem to be able to accept that Washington and Jefferson owned slaves, but it is difficult for Canadians even to accept that Macdonald authorized residential schools. That is because the residential school system is so recent, within the living memory of so many Indigenous Canadians. Sure, Macdonald may have only intended to “assimilate” native people and not to literally kill them. But ultimately, that is not such an easy or excusable distinction to make, as the discoveries in Kamloops make all-too clear. 

Mark Crawford is an Associate Professor of political science at Athabasca University.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Tom Berger, R.I.P.


I was saddened last month to hear of the passing of Thomas R Berger, the pioneering lawyer, human rights advocate, politician and Royal Commissioner who was famous for three things (although by no means only three): first,  bringing the Calder case  to the Supreme Court, which established in 1973 that Aboriginal title can exist in Canadian law; second, leading the MacKenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry; and third, leading the protest in 1982 that got the section 35 Aboriginal rights clause  put back in the Constitution. 

 I knew Tom Berger.  I was a friend of his daughter, Erin Berger, who was a classmate of mine at UBC. We were both working in Ottawa the fall after graduation, she as an Assistant to Ian Waddell and I as a Parliamentary Intern (in that capacity I worked for the Liberal MP Pierre Deniger and the NDP MP Nelson Riis in addition to a host of other activities.)

 I had dinner with Tom and Erin one evening in Ottawa in November 1981, when he was in town (not, as it turned out, just to visit his daughter, but also to discuss what was happening with the constitutional negotiations.) I noticed that he seemed to be uncharacteristically anxious to finish eating and to hear what was on the news.

 I vividly remember being in his hotel room, sitting down to watch the National News with him and Erin and like a thunderbolt, the lead story was his condemnation of the initial constitutional deal (which had left out native rights at the request of certain premiers). Then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau was saying to reporters that Berger, as a sitting judge, was “out of line” to be “getting mixed up in politics”,  and then the proverbial s**t hit the fan.

The following day, Berger had an op-ed in the Globe and Mail, in which he took Canada’s elected leaders to task:  No words can deny what happened. The first Canadians — a million people and more — have had their answer from Canada’s statesmen. They cannot look to any of our governments to defend the idea that they are entitled to a distinct and contemporary place in Canadian life. Under the new constitution the first Canadians shall be the last. This is not the end of the story. The native peoples have not come this far to turn back now.” 

 As a result, a complaint against him was filed with the Canadian Judicial Council, and even the venerable Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Bora Laskin, criticized him for breaching the norms of judicial impartiality. But he could not remain silent in the face of what he saw as a fundamental injustice. As a result, Tom decided to resign from the Bench.  He had sacrificed his judicial career, but in his mind it was worth it.

And it probably was worth it. His op-ed had galvanized the federal NDP to insist on the inclusion of the aboriginal rights clause, which – along with the activism of Indigenous leaders– made it clear to Trudeau that unless section 35 was reinstated, he could not count on their support for the patriation deal.   The subsequent renegotiation brought native rights (and women’s rights) back into the Constitution. Among its progeny was the Tsilhqot’in  case, which represented the first declaration by the Supreme Court of Aboriginal title for a First Nation in Canada. Its significance ranks on par with the Supreme Court’s previous decisions in Calder and Delgamuukw. 

I recall a conversation I had with him about the life of David Lewis, the CCF-NDP firebrand who had just lost his battle with cancer, and whose autobiography, which I had been reading, was appropriately titled The Good Fight.  Notwithstanding Tom’s patient and pleasant demeanour, it might have made a fitting banner for him as well. As it was, he eventually settled on an equally suitable title for his own memoir: One Man’s Justice.

His was the very definition of a life well lived.