Sunday Poem: “The Storm”

 

Winds of 100 km/h
batter Quebec.

Nearly a million customers
without power.

Hydro crews
wear orange protective gear,
gloves,
and hard hats.

In compliance with Bill 21
there are no crosses,
Stars of David,
turbans.

Reinforcement teams
from Michigan
Ottawa
and New Brunswick
must have passed
Quebec’s value test
before touching
those live wires.

 

By Shai Ben-Shalom

Book Review: The Shipboard Debate

In 1874 a Scottish immigrant ship the Moravian glided past the pretty farms and hamlets of the St. Lawrence River valley. Passengers gathered on deck after a long transatlantic journey.

“A discussion broke out among a number of the ship’s passengers,” writes author Peter Price. “‘Who are Canadians?’ asked one person. For the gathered passengers, most of whom were laying eyes on the shores of Canada for the first time, it was a question with no obvious answer. A ‘person born in Canada is always considered a Canadian,’ one person insisted. This answer made little sense to another, who retorted that ‘a fellow can’t be a horse because he was born in a stable.’”

Yet Canada survived. Most nations indexed in the 19th century atlas did not. The Austro-Hungarian Empire, Czarist Russia, Kingdoms of Bavaria, Serbia and Hawaii, Republic of Cuba, Qing Empire, Orange Free State, all gone. The list of industrialized nations to survive intact for 156 years without civil war is a short list, yet Canada did it.

Ask, “Who are Canadians?” today and tens of millions will answer. Not so in the Confederation era, writes Price. As late as 1889 Nova Scotians used the term “Canadian” to refer to people from Ontario.

The word “citizenship” was “the political antonym of ‘colonist,’” he writes. Empire Day was an annual observance from 1898. The original British North America Act was scarcely a celebration of nationhood; it did not even contain the word “people.”

If the U.S. Declaration of Independence had famous signers, “in the case of Canada there was no signature, no moment at which the inhabitants of what became Canada convened and assented to their new appellation,” says Questions Of Order.

“‘Founding’ moments rarely have the conscious cohesion and clarity of purpose with which they are later remembered,” writes Price, of Queen’s University. “The truth is that founding moments exist most vividly in the imagination of posterity, and their retrieval in historical records tends to recover instead only fragments of later possibilities.”

Questions Of Order is a 19th century scrapbook of the land we left behind. Price is an enthusiastic chronicler. He guides readers through a time capsule of an era so different from ours Canada Day would be unrecognizable to the Fathers of Confederation.

Their flag was an English flag, their anthem God Save The Queen, their loyalty to the Old Country. The whole point of Canada was to save a big, rich land from the clutches of Americans.

“The emphasis on Canada’s British character as a contrast to the republicanism of the United States was a frequent feature of Canadian political and social life,” says Price. “It carried with it the idea of devotion not only to English political ideals, but likewise to all the cherished traditions of the English race, and to all its treasured legacies of mind and heart.”

“Over a century and a half after Confederation, it has become widely popular to mark that date as the emergence of Canadian independence,” he explains. “In all the discussions of the Canadian question, however, the suggestion that Canada ought to establish itself as a fully ‘independent’ state was the rarest one.”

Of course we were more than Little Englanders, even then. The country in its beauty, vastness and wealth inspires a deep pride and affection in most people who spend more than a winter here. It did then, too. As The New Dominion Monthly wrote in 1875, “Consider the name ‘Canadian’ as one to be proud of, and Canada as a country to be loved and gloried in.’”

By Holly Doan

Questions of Order: Confederation and the Making of Modern Canada, by Peter Price; University of Toronto Press; 226 pages; ISBN 9781-4875-22186; $20.96

Queen Was Racist: Appointee

A Toronto Star writer who advocated deposing the Queen as racist and opposed Canada Day as a celebration of “European, Judeo-Christian storytelling” yesterday was named Special Representative on Combating Islamophobia. Cabinet aides would not comment on the writings of activist Amira Elghawaby: “Time to wake up.”

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Cannot Count Wasted Billions

There is no current estimate of how many billions were wasted on the costliest pandemic subsidy program, the Canada Revenue Agency yesterday told the Commons public accounts committee. “It really was a first-time thing for everybody so there’s lots of lessons to be learned,” testified Revenue Commissioner Bob Hamilton: “It’s hard to say.”

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Pay $310,000 For Lies, Gossip

The federal prison system has been ordered to pay an employee $310,000 in damages for malicious mistreatment. Management peddled gossip and slander in falsely accusing a British Columbia guard of smuggling drugs, wrote a labour board arbitrator: “The employer’s conduct through the unfortunately lengthy saga from 2016 to 2020 was malicious, reprehensible, deliberate and shameful.”

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VIA Rail Versus Freight Cars

Better passenger service would require VIA Rail to gain priority over freight traffic on main lines, the CEO of the Crown agency yesterday told the Commons transport committee. “Railways dictate the priority,” testified Martin Landry: “Give, for example, greater priority for passenger train services.”

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Hear Rogers To Cut 4,000 Jobs

Rogers Communications will cut 4,000 to 5,000 jobs if cabinet approves its buyout of rival Shaw Communications, a Conservative MP yesterday told the Commons industry committee. MP Rick Perkins (South Shore-St. Margarets, N.S.) said he was told of massive layoffs by company insiders: “I’m told Rogers will actually cut 4,000 to 5,000 jobs.”

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Anti-Trust Fears Over Merger

The $26 billion buyout of two of Canada’s four largest telecom companies will impact consumers, federal anti-trust lawyers yesterday told the Commons industry committee. Rogers Communications’  proposed purchase of Shaw Communications of Calgary has passed all regulatory hurdles to date: “Just say no.”

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Not Two Sides To Every Story

A national scientific panel yesterday blamed media misinformation in part on the “journalistic norm” of presenting two sides to every story. Publicizing alternative viewpoints on issues like carbon taxes creates a “false balance of perspectives,” said the Council of Canadian Academies: “People perceive lower levels of consensus.”

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Vax Policy Was ‘Devastating’

Workplace vaccine mandates may have been “personally devastating” for some employees but remained lawful, a New Brunswick labour arbitrator has ruled. The decision came in the case of six utility workers suspended five months without pay after declining to show proof they were immunized: “They were faced with a difficult choice.”

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Dep’t Admits Misinformation

The Department of Infrastructure admits it misinformed Parliament and taxpayers under then-Minister Catherine McKenna. Budget reports tabled in the Commons and published online misrepresented hundreds of millions in spending: “How many times did the government put out misinformation?”

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Layoffs Overwhelm Subsidies

Newspapers have cut so many jobs that subsidies contingent on numbers of newsroom employees are 43 percent under budget. Taxpayers’ payroll rebates of $13,750 per staffer could not avert layoffs, data show: “The loss of even just one job is a tragedy.”

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$24,000 For Carney’s Group

Federal departments and agencies paid thousands to a Liberal-affiliated think tank chaired by Mark Carney, records show. The former central bank governor last May 26 was appointed chair of Canada 2020 to promote “ambitious progressive public policy solutions.”

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