Tag Archives: Canada

“Throw the bastards out”

By William Thorsell
October, 2015

Not in recent times have Canadian voters had an opportunity to “throw the bastards out” in the classic phrase. Elected officials generally leave office before such public urges get to them.

Brian Mulroney stepped down five months before an election was required in 1993. (Kim Campbell launched that campaign in September running high in the polls.) Voters rather gently rebuked Pierre Trudeau with his close defeat in 1979, but his resurrection in 1980 set the stage anew. Mr. Trudeau stepped down in 1984, nine months before an election was required. (John Turner called an election that July, also running well in the polls.)

This time however, Stephen Harper is sticking his head up above the parapets after nine years in office — nine years generally seen as the Best Before Due Date in politics, as it is for leadership in the private sector. Knowing when to leave is among the more elegant qualities of any CEO, but then Mr. Harper has never laid claim to elegance.

An accumulation of baggage eventually weighs the owner down to the point of stumbling and falling. Mr. Harper is quite overweight in that department. In recessionary times, he is running a primary budget surplus (revenues over program spending) of some 1.4 per cent of GDP — an elementary error in Economics 101, less a matter of ideology than incompetence. Governments should not pull money out of an economy facing strong economic headwinds: We might refer to Stephen “Hoover” in this context, after the hapless U.S. president in the 1930s.

You do not cut the national sales tax in favour of targeted tax goodies in your party’s political interest. Nor do you do so to reduce Ottawa’s capacity to fund grievously inadequate infrastructure, undermining productivity and aggravating social divides. You do not claim success in energy policy having seen no new significant pipelines approved or built on your watch, either domestically or in our interest in the United States. Nor do you sit out the global conversation on climate change in words and action.

You do not exacerbate income inequality by providing significant new tax breaks for the wealthy in tax-free savings and investment accounts.

You do not fan cultural conflict in Canada in the face of unprecedented cultural diversity and high rates of immigration. Canada’s generally successful experience in accommodating diversity needs nurturing attention, not a matador’s incendiary skills.

You do not acquiesce to deteriorating relations with Canada’s First Peoples. You do not evince contempt for science or, for that matter, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the courts mandated to interpret and uphold it. You do not tendentiously attack the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada as cover for your own incompetence in making laws and appointments.

You do not turn your backside to the federal nature of Canada, refusing to meet the premiers and other leaders in congress to explore and debate issues of common national concern.

On your watch, Canada’s relations with the United States appear as cool as they became in Pierre Trudeau’s latter years — a fundamental failure in a critical arena. And you have reduced Canada’s stature in the world at large through excessively partisan positions on matters of great complexity in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, for example.

Barely concealed hostility to China and the United Nations, ineffective diplomacy regarding the Arctic and a general downgrading of Canada’s foreign service personnel and facilities add yet more weight to the baggage. Only apparent enthusiasm in military matters indicates much appetite for engagement in foreign affairs.

New trade agreements may hold promise, though there has been no public consultation and we have seen no details on the large ones.

Prime ministers do not have to be eminently likeable if they are sufficiently competent and inspiring. But to demonstrate qualities of meanness with a scent of pouting in the air makes the wheels on the luggage squeak. Who but the deeply petulant would forbid his entire parliamentary caucus from speaking to the former Progressive Conservative prime minister of Canada on ethereal grounds?

Indeed, who is allowed to speak to Canadian voters themselves in Stephen Harper’s caucus — you know, the voters who hired them? Empty chairs at public forums, gag orders on ministers of the crown, refusals to respond to media enquiries evince deep contempt for the democratic process at its most intensive phase.

All this is consistent with unprecedented contempt for Parliament in the use of closure and reliance on Brodingnagian omnibus bills — not to mention a promise to un-man the Senate, which remains an essential player under the Canadian constitution.

Yes, an unusual opportunity to “throw the bastards out” lies just a few days away, and there are reasons and a chance it may well happen.

Copyright William Thorsell 2015

Editor’s note:  This is the editorial William Thorsell says he would have penned, were he still the editor of the Globe and Mail (which, controversially, endorsed the Harper Government.) It is reprinted here with his permission.

Click here for more works in F&O’s Focus on Canadian politics

ROM2009_11024_371-196x275William Thorsell served for 25 years in newspaper journalism in Canada, including more than 10 years as Editor in Chief of The Globe and Mail in Toronto.  He was Director and CEO of the Royal Ontario Museum from 2008 until his 2010 retirement, invested into the Order of Ontario in 2008, and invested as Chevalier, Order of Arts and Letters,France, in 2010. He is a Senior Fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.







Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Also tagged , |

Voting and Canadian values

By David Suzuki
October, 2015

When my grandparents arrived from Japan in the early 1900s, Canada was far less tolerant than it is today. Women and minorities couldn’t vote, nor could Indigenous people who had lived here from time immemorial. In 1942, the government took away my Canadian-born family’s property and rights and sent us to an internment camp in the B.C. Interior simply because of our ancestry.

David Suzuki

Photo by Kent Kallberg, Creative Commons via Suzuki Foundation

Canada has come a long way in my lifetime. Women can vote, as can Asians, other minorities and Indigenous people. Homosexuality is no longer a crime punishable by imprisonment, as it was until 1969. We’ve learned to take better care of each other through rational social programs like universal health care, welfare and unemployment insurance, and a culture of tolerance for the many people from diverse backgrounds who contribute so much to our peace and prosperity — many of whom came here as refugees or immigrants seeking better lives.

Because of my family background and all I’ve witnessed, I take democracy and voting seriously. That’s why I’m dismayed to see the current federal election descend into a divisive discourse that reminds me of all we’ve worked to overcome.

Canada is the envy of the world, thanks to our diverse population and the politicians from all parties who have steered us on a course of increasing tolerance and acceptance. Despite our differences, we’ve built a country that has avoided much of the insanity afflicting our neighbours to the south, such as mass shootings, rampant racism and politicians who reject science and, apparently, rational thought.

Canada isn’t perfect, but if we want to continue down a progressive path we must talk about the real challenges facing our country, including maintaining and strengthening our respect for diversity. This election should also be about our response to the greatest threat humanity faces, climate change, and the many ways we can confront it by moving to a clean-energy future that will benefit our health, well-being and economy.

We should be talking about the challenges faced by First Nations, Inuit and Metis people, many of whom don’t have access to clean drinking water and who are still overcoming the effects of the systemic racism perpetrated in residential schools. We should be talking about ethics, the Senate, corruption and the ways in which our political leaders communicate — or not — to us. We should be talking about trade deals, endangered species, protecting water resources, our responsibilities to the rest of the world and so much more.

Instead, this election has bogged down into “dead cat” distractions like niqabs, an issue that affects almost no one! Many people see the niqab as a symbol of women’s oppression, but this isn’t about protecting women’s rights. Whether or not we agree with the custom of wearing niqabs — or burkas or turbans or beards, or the Christian fundamentalist belief that women should submit to their husbands — our Constitution guarantees the right of people to practise their religions as long as doing so doesn’t impinge on the rights of others. Our courts have repeatedly reaffirmed these rights. Very few women have even asked to wear veils at the citizenship ceremony, and those who do must remove the face covering for identification beforehand.

For any party to stoop to or fall for this deflection is deplorable and un-Canadian. For voters to allow this small-minded bigotry to distract them from issues that really matter is a step backwards. History has shown where scapegoating minorities can lead.

Fortunately, most Canadians share the values of tolerance and acceptance. And most want a government that leads on issues that matter. A recent poll by the Environics Institute for Survey Research and the David Suzuki Foundation found a strong majority of Canadians want the government to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and confront climate change. It also showed Canadians have confidence in the renewable energy sector and support carbon pricing through carbon taxes or cap-and-trade.

In the final days of this long election, we must demand more from those who hope to govern us. We need to ensure that this election is decided on real issues that affect all Canadians, and not on pointless distractions. Most importantly, we all need to get out and vote! It’s about the future of our country.

Copyright David Suzuki 2015

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

Click here for more works in F&O’s Focus on Canadian politics

References and further reading:

  • Women can vote: http://www.chrc-ccdp.ca/en/browseSubjects/votingRights.asp
  • Homosexuality is no longer a crime: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/timeline-same-sex-rights-in-canada-1.1147516
  • Insanity that has afflicted our neighbours to the south: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/18/opinion/crazy-talk-at-the-republican-debate.html?_r=0
  • Climate change: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/climate-change/science/climate-change-basics/climate-change-101-1/
  • Clean energy future: http://davidsuzuki.org/publications/finding-solutions/2015/spring/the-time-to-invest-in-clear-energy-is-now/
  • Don’t have access to clean drinking water: http://davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2014/11/clean-drinking-water-should-be-a-human-right-in-canada/
  • Dead cat: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/who-is-lynton-crosby-the-evil-genius-behind-harpers-campaign/article26331033/
  • Courts have repeatedly reaffirmed these rights: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/zunera-ishaq-cleared-by-court-to-take-citizenship-oath-wearing-niqab-1.3257762
  • Recent poll by the Environics Institute for Survey Research and the David Suzuki Foundation: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/media/news/2015/09/national-survey-reveals-growing-majority-support-for-government-action-on-climat/


Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations.  Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Also tagged , , |

Facts, and Opinions, this week

In the first of two Frontlines posts this weekend, F&O offers our weekly lineup of eclectic reads and stunning images for your weekend pleasure. Watch for our Focus on Canadian politics, prior to the federal election Monday Oct. 19.

© Michael AW, courtesy of Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Natural History Museum, London.

A whale of a mouthful, by Michael Aw, Australia: a Bryde’s whale rips through a swirling ball of sardines, gulping a huge mouthful in a single pass. As it expels hundreds of litres of seawater from its mouth, the fish are retained by plates of baleen hanging down from its palate; they are then pushed into its stomach to be digested alive. © Click here for more information and our full Photo-essay of winners of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Natural History Museum, London.

© Don Gutoski

© Don Gutoski 2015

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015, Natural History Museum, London

Canadian photographer Don Gutoski won Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015 in the annual competition by London’s Natural History Museum.  His image, Tale of two foxes in subarctic Cape Churchill, Canada, portrays a red fox devouring a white Arctic fox, which it has just killed.

China faces crippling water shortages and pollution, by Jonathan Manthorpe, F&O International Affairs columnist

China’s drive for wealth and power is stumbling and could collapse over the country’s lack of water and its gross mismanagement of the resources it does have.

"Factory in China at Yangtze River" by High Contrast - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 de via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Factory_in_China_at_Yangtze_River.JPG#/media/File:Factory_in_China_at_Yangtze_River.JPG

Your Smart Home Knows a Lot About You. By Lauren Kirchner, Reports

As the trend toward networked “smart homes” and “connected cars” continues, security precautions are more important than ever. But customers may not always be aware of just how much information their devices are collecting about them in the first place.


Sister Rachel Denton views the sunset from a vantage point near St Cuthbert's Hermitage in Lincolnshire, north east Britain September 25, 2015. Denton, a Catholic hermit, rises early to tend to her vegetable garden, feed her cats and pray. But the former Carmelite nun, who in 2006 pledged to live the rest of her life in solitude, has another chore - to update her Twitter account and check Facebook. "The myth you often face as a hermit is that you should have a beard and live in a cave. None of which is me," says the ex-teacher. For the modern-day hermit, she says social media is vital: "tweets are rare, but precious," she writes on her Twitter profile. The internet also allows Denton to shop online and communicate with friends. "I am a hermit but I am also human." A diagnosis of cancer earlier this year reaffirmed Denton's wish to carry on a life of solitude, prayer and contemplation. REUTERS/Neil Hall


SISTER RACHEL DENTON: Out of the Cave and Onto Facebook. By Neil Hall and Angus Berwick

MARKET RASEN, England — Like any good hermit Rachel Denton rises early in the morning to tend to her vegetable garden, feed her chickens, and pray. But the former British nun, who has pledged to live the rest of her life in solitude, has another routine that sets her apart from her society-shunning brethren – she has to update her Twitter account and check Facebook.

Adios, Buena Vista Social Club. By Rod Mickleburgh, Arts

It was a magical night, mixed with a heavy dose of poignancy, as the vaunted Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club made its final appearance win Vancouver, Canada. There will be no more tours. Many of the aging Cuban music stars we got to know and love from Ry Cooder’s venture to Havana in the 1990’s are no longer with us.

Getting Back to his Country Roots: Kenny Rogers, a Brief Encounter column by Brian Brennan (*subscription required)

Kenny Rogers was having a musical-identity crisis at age 39 when I spoke with him in 1977 before a club gig in Calgary. At that point his beard was already turning salt-and-pepper and the wrinkles were starting to show around his eyes. He was still wearing the Beatles suit of his rock years, not the cowboy clothes that later defined his look as a country-pop superstar.

Last but not least, F&O is pleased to announce that author Brian Brennan, one of our regular contributors to Arts, has published his 11th book. An introduction:

Rogues and Rebels: Unforgettable Characters from Canada’s West, documents the life stories of 32 larger-than-life Westerners – some infamous, some obscure – who threw away the rulebook, thumbed their noses at convention and let their detractors howl. They include such political leaders as Ralph Klein and Tommy Douglas, the suffragette Nellie McClung, who fought successfully to have women recognized as “persons” for the purpose of Canadian Senate appointments, and the mysterious cult leader Brother XII, who convinced thousands of wealthy Britons and Americans to follow him to a small island off the West Coast of Canada to await the coming Age of Aquarius.
For more details, visit Brennan’s website at www.brianbrennan.ca

Published by University of Regina Press, Rogues and Rebels is now available in bookstores throughout Canada and the United States, and  online from international retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations.  Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope Also tagged , , |

Marg!, Princess Warrior joins the fray

Newfoundland writer, actress and comedian, Mary Walsh, finally chimed in on the Canadian election with her character, Marg! Princess Warrior, this week with her Marg Brings Change campaign. Made famous on This Hour has 22 Minutes, Marg has been smiting politicians with her foam sword for many years and her love for Stephen Harper is legendary.

“Don’t waste time turning in your neighbours on the barbaric Harper hotline; send some real ‘cents’ to Ottawa instead,” advises Princess Warrior Marg Delahunty.

“Prime Minister Harper didn’t want to save Syrian refugees, our right to privacy or democracy, but he did want to save the penny. Unfortunately, like the cent, Harper will take a while to get out of our system so let’s send a load of cents to Ottawa now — and on October 19.”

Joining the ever-increasing crowd of prominent Canadian musicians, writers, artists, scientists, social activists, unions, environmentalists and the millions of Canadians who want change this election, Marg urges Canadians to help her bring change to Harper.

“I’ll give Mr. Harper our two cents,” Marg promises Canadians. In a campaign launched today entitled, Marg Brings Change, the Princess Warrior has created a video calling for Canadians to click on the virtual cent on her website www.margbringschange.ca ; she vows to match every click and every share with a real cent. Later this month Marg will personally deliver everybody’s two cents to Mr. Harper.**

“And vote!” the Princess Warrior commands. “Vote anything but Conservative! Don’t make me come back and smite you!”

**All money will go to aiding Syrian refugees in Canada.

Watch the Video, Click the cent, Share widely and Help Marg bring your two cents to Ottawa!

Visit www.margbringschange.ca

or the Facebook page: Marg Brings Change

Posted in All, Canadian Journalist, Current Affairs, Gyroscope Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Earthprints: Toronto’s Leslie Street Spit

Leading up to the UN Climate Conference in Paris in December, Reuters has a series of photo-essays titled “Earthprints,” each installment aiming to “show the ability of humans to impact change on the landscape of the planet,” accompanied with NASA satellite images showing the scale of the change. Here, F&O presents an urban photo-essay from Canada, featuring the Leslie Street Spit in Toronto, Ontario.

Geese fly over Tommy Thompson Park located on a man-made peninsula known as the Leslie Street Spit, in Toronto May 24, 2015. It was created over 60 years ago by the dumping of dredged sand, concrete chunks and earth fill, expanding what was once just a thin strip of land in the city's busy harbor. An unexpected urban oasis, the development brings marshes, lagoons and forests to the centre of Canada's largest city. REUTERS/Mark Blinch TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY PICTURE 4 OF 29 FOR WIDER IMAGE STORY "EARTHPRINTS: LESLIE STREET SPIT"SEARCH "LESLIE SPIT" FOR ALL IMAGES

Geese fly over Tommy Thompson Park located on a man-made peninsula known as the Leslie Street Spit, in Toronto May 24, 2015. It was created over 60 years ago by the dumping of dredged sand, concrete chunks and earth fill, expanding what was once just a thin strip of land in the city’s busy harbor. An unexpected urban oasis, the development brings marshes, lagoons and forests to the centre of Canada’s largest city. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Story by Andrea Hopkins, original photos by Mark Blinch, Reuters
Fall, 2015

An eastern cottontail rabbit hides in the grass at Tommy Thompson Park located on a man-made peninsula known as the Leslie Street Spit, in Toronto June 24, 2015. It was created over 60 years ago by the dumping of dredged sand, concrete chunks and earth fill, expanding what was once just a thin strip of land in the city's busy harbor. An unexpected urban oasis, the development brings marshes, lagoons and forests to the centre of Canada's largest city. REUTERS/Mark Blinch TPX IMAGES OF THE DAYPICTURE 16 OF 29 FOR WIDER IMAGE STORY "EARTHPRINTS: LESLIE STREET SPIT"SEARCH "LESLIE SPIT" FOR ALL IMAGES

An eastern cottontail rabbit hides in the grass at Tommy Thompson Park located on a man-made peninsula known as the Leslie Street Spit, in Toronto June 24, 2015. It was created over 60 years ago by the dumping of dredged sand, concrete chunks and earth fill, expanding what was once just a thin strip of land in the city’s busy harbor. An unexpected urban oasis, the development brings marshes, lagoons and forests to the centre of Canada’s largest city. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Like a rooftop garden in an overcrowded financial district, Toronto’s Leslie Street Spit is an unexpected urban oasis whose narrow escape from development has brought marshes, lagoons and forests to the centre of Canada’s largest city.

Jutting into Lake Ontario just minutes from the worst of Toronto traffic, the more formally named Tommy Thompson Park was created over 60 years ago by the dumping of dredged sand, concrete chunks and earth fill, expanding what was once just a thin strip of land in the city’s busy harbour.

The dumping continues to this day. While development plans have threatened the spit from its early days, the passion of the cyclists, birders, hikers and naturalists who flock to the artificial peninsula every weekend has preserved the unlikely park and left nature to prevail.

For some, the spit offers the best views out to the Great Lake and towards the city’s soaring skyline. For others, the auto-free roads offer safe, serene cycling, running and roller-blading in a city whose streets are often clogged with cars.

A cyclist rides at sunrise through Tommy Thompson Park located on a man-made peninsula known as the Leslie Street Spit, in Toronto May 24, 2015. It was created over 60 years ago by the dumping of dredged sand, concrete chunks and earth fill, expanding what was once just a thin strip of land in the city's busy harbor. An unexpected urban oasis, the development brings marshes, lagoons and forests to the centre of Canada's largest city. While development plans have plagued the Spit from its beginning, the passion of the cyclists, birders, hikers and naturalists who flock to the artificial peninsula every weekend has preserved the unlikely park in its unnatural state. REUTERS/Mark BlinchPICTURE 25 OF 29 FOR WIDER IMAGE STORY "EARTHPRINTS: LESLIE STREET SPIT"SEARCH "LESLIE SPIT" FOR ALL IMAGES

A cyclist rides at sunrise through Tommy Thompson Park located on a man-made peninsula known as the Leslie Street Spit, in Toronto May 24, 2015. It was created over 60 years ago by the dumping of dredged sand, concrete chunks and earth fill, expanding what was once just a thin strip of land in the city’s busy harbor. An unexpected urban oasis, the development brings marshes, lagoons and forests to the centre of Canada’s largest city. While development plans have plagued the Spit from its beginning, the passion of the cyclists, birders, hikers and naturalists who flock to the artificial peninsula every weekend has preserved the unlikely park in its unnatural state. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

For most, it offers a 5-km stretch of nature untamed by development: home or visiting spot to 300 species of birds and site of 500 hectares of pioneer plant life, cottonwood and poplar groves, grassy marshes and gravel beaches.

While trucks hauling concrete and earth from the city’s construction sites ply the spit from Monday to Friday, the park is turned over to an eager public every weekend, when its main road and numerous winding paths beckon city residents. Admission is free.

More than 100,000 people visit annually, according to the Toronto and Regional Conservation Authority, which owns the land and bodies of water included in the park.

Hasan Mohammad fishes at Tommy Thompson Park located on a man-made peninsula known as the Leslie Street Spit, in Toronto May 26, 2015. It was created over 60 years ago by the dumping of dredged sand, concrete chunks and earth fill, expanding what was once just a thin strip of land in the city's busy harbor. An unexpected urban oasis, the development brings marshes, lagoons and forests to the centre of Canada's largest city. REUTERS/Mark BlinchPICTURE 2 OF 29 FOR WIDER IMAGE STORY "EARTHPRINTS: LESLIE STREET SPIT"SEARCH "LESLIE SPIT" FOR ALL IMAGES

Hasan Mohammad fishes at Tommy Thompson Park located on a man-made peninsula known as the Leslie Street Spit, in Toronto May 26, 2015. It was created over 60 years ago by the dumping of dredged sand, concrete chunks and earth fill, expanding what was once just a thin strip of land in the city’s busy harbor. An unexpected urban oasis, the development brings marshes, lagoons and forests to the centre of Canada’s largest city. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Initially eyed for port-related facilities in the 1950s, the spit was opened to the public in the 1970s after a decrease in lake shipping made those early plans obsolete.

The spit of land has a diverse ecosystem, with a rugged eastern shoreline giving way to wildflower meadows in the middle sections and marshy lagoons on the western shore, beneath the city skyline.

The gradual transformation from a lifeless pile of rubble to an urban wilderness means the Leslie Spit is never finished, an ever-changing and unmanicured parcel of water and land.

Cobble beaches are, upon closer examination, composed of red brick, concrete, and kitchen tile worn to colourful pebbles, with patches of rusting rebar and urban detritus piled nearby – unlovely to some, a gritty oasis to others.

People look out at the Toronto skyline from Tommy Thompson Park located on a man-made peninsula known as the Leslie Street Spit, in Toronto August 9, 2015. It was created over 60 years ago by the dumping of dredged sand, concrete chunks and earth fill, expanding what was once just a thin strip of land in the city's busy harbor. An unexpected urban oasis, the development brings marshes, lagoons and forests to the centre of Canada's largest city. REUTERS/Mark BlinchPICTURE 19 OF 29 FOR WIDER IMAGE STORY "EARTHPRINTS: LESLIE STREET SPIT"SEARCH "LESLIE SPIT" FOR ALL IMAGES

People look out at the Toronto skyline from Tommy Thompson Park located on a man-made peninsula known as the Leslie Street Spit, in Toronto August 9, 2015. It was created over 60 years ago by the dumping of dredged sand, concrete chunks and earth fill, expanding what was once just a thin strip of land in the city’s busy harbor. An unexpected urban oasis, the development brings marshes, lagoons and forests to the centre of Canada’s largest city. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Colonies of gulls, terns, herons and cormorants nest along the beaches or in the groves, attracting binocular-toting enthusiasts at dawn. Late summer brings butterfly enthusiasts to the spit, while anglers fish from the park’s shores and small bridges.

The place has been eyed for other uses in the bustling city – the population of greater Toronto is some 6 million. From early on, an activist group who call themselves the Friends of the Spit have fought off development, including plans for a hotel, amphitheatre, government dock, yacht clubs, parking lots, water skiing school and campground.

“As honey attracts bees, vacant land attracts plans,” the Friends say on their website, pledging persistent vigilance to protect the park for public use forever.

“No other piece of land has attracted such passionate defenders, nor has any other piece of land had such a lengthy battle waged, simply to maintain it and allow it to grow as nature intended.”

Copyright Reuters 2015

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from foundations or causes. If you appreciate our work please support us with a contribution, below, of at least .27 per story –or a site pass for $1 per day or $20 per year. And do spread the word.


Posted in Also tagged , , , |

Artists call for ban on fracking near national park


Gros Morne National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bonne Bay, Newfoundland, Canada. Photo by Greg Locke © 2014

Thirty two well known artists sent an open letter to Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper, and  Newfoundland & Labrador Premier Paul Davis, calling on them to establish a permanent buffer zone free of industrial activity around Gros Morn National Park  and UNESCO World Heritage Site on the west coast of the island of Newfoundland.

The area has been the target of many unsuccessful oil exploration attempt over the past two decades. In 2012 a number of companies proposed to conduct hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) drilling right up to the park’s boundaries. Last summer, UNESCO called on Canada to do more to protect the site. There was much public opposition, and in 2013 the proposals failed. There is currently a moratorium on fracking while the provincial government reviews a commissioned industry study.

The artists include musician Tim Baker of Hey Rosetta, authors Lawrence Hill, Lisa Moore, Michael Crummy and Joseph Boyden, astronaut Dr. Roberta Bondar, painter Mary Pratt, and actor Greg Malone, who said, “If we can’t protect the most brilliant places in our province and in our country, what are we doing?”

Posted in All, Canadian Journalist, Current Affairs Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |


Orenda, a Huron word, represents the power of human will to change the world around us. It is an opposing force to fate or destiny. If powerful forces beyond your control are trying to force you one way, orenda is a kind of voiced summoning of personal strength to change fate, says Tom Regan.

Regan, a journalist now based near Washington, D.C., has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canada’s National Film Board, the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the U.S. Online News Association, he is a former fellow and currently on the advisory board of the Nieman Foundation for journalism at Harvard.


The putz in America’s room

“The putz in the room” is a perfectly appropriate description of Donald Trump at this moment in time. Personally, I prefer the urban dictionary definition of this wonderful word: “a stupid, ignorant person; someone who doesn’t pay attention to anything going on; one who makes stupid remarks.”

Reflections of a Canadian abroad as Canada turns 150

I never thought I would end up in rural Virginia, 40 miles outside Washington, DC. Never. I never thought I would live anywhere but Canada, or anywhere other than Nova Scotia, for that matter. But there was this girl… The joke is that you can never get a Canadian to talk about Canada when he’s living in Canada, nor can you get him to shut up about it once he lives outside Canada.

American Civil Discourse in Serious Trouble

U.S. Capitol Police keep watch on Capitol Hill following a shooting in nearby Alexandria, in Washington, U.S., June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. BernsteinThe bi-partisan outpouring of unity that followed this week’s shooting at the GOP baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, was a welcome respite in the never-ending deluge of hate-filled rhetoric that overwhelms political discourse daily in the United States. But it was only a moment.

Comey Lands Punches, But No Knockout Blow

How Americans responded to testimony by former FBI director James Comey, before the Senate Intelligence Committee, had a great deal to do with their political persuasions.

America’s Confederate icons must go

It has always puzzled me why so many Southerners, and their sympathizers in other places around the country, are so intent on linking their “heritage” to a bunch of racist losers. Because that is what the Confederacy was.

Roger Ailes’ special place in hell

When Roger Ailes died this month, response was mixed.It was Ailes’ personal foibles that led to his downfall. But I want to concentrate on his legacy in journalism, where he left a very dark mark, called “thug journalism.”

Why Donald Trump won’t be impeached

For all the bad news that Trump faces, he will not be impeached: his fellow Republicans control both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Trying to listen in Trump’s America 

In the heart of America, there are long, flat stretches of emptiness in the spring. Fields, only recently plowed and sown with the fall’s harvest, still look barren and soggy. No majestic fields of wheat or corn greet the eye.  This is a trip to Trump country.

Why America’s health care is so bad

America is the only advanced nation in the world without a universal healthcare system. There are two reasons for this: 1) the companies that provide healthcare, and make billions and billions doing so, spend lots of money every year making sure politicians don’t mess with their golden goose; 2) the American notion of individuality.

When is free speech not “free” on campus?

Of all the things that I value the most about living in a democracy, freedom of speech is probably the most important. And so when I read about actions by students lately to limit the rights of conservative or far right speakers on several American campuses, my first reaction is one of rage. How dare they? But it’s not that simple.

Legalized weed in Canada an idea whose time has come

Canada, based on a campaign promise made by the Trudeau government, introduced legislation to make recreational marijuana use legal in Canada by July 2018. It’s about time. I’m glad to see that Canada has chosen to take the lead on this issue.

“War to End All Wars” fading from history

A copy of a Vancouver newspaper dated April 10, 1917, celebrating Canada’s role at Vimy Ridge. The battle of Vimy Ridge began 100 years ago, on Sunday, April 9, 1917. It’s often called the making of Canada. And it’s fading from history.

Trump and Russia: “There is a smell of treason in the air”

The story of Russia’s hacking of the 2016 election campaign and the role the Trump team may have played in that effort is the story that will not die, much to the consternation of President Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. Every day brings new revelations, which are coming so fast that it’s difficult to keep track of each one.

McGill University mangles academic freedom

I recently experienced a moment of cosmic irony.  I had just learned that Andrew Potter, a former editor of the Ottawa Citizen, had “resigned” as head of the Institute for the Study of Canada at McGill University in Montreal, when I received an email from McGill touting that another of their own, Karina Gould, as Canada’s new Minister of Democratic Institutions. How sad that Gould won’t be able to include her alma mater in her new area of expertise.

America’s coming civil war … in its GOP

There is a war looming on America’s horizon. Not with Iran or China or North Korea … for the moment. No, this war will take place entirely in America, and it will involve members of the Republican Party. It won’t be pretty.

From Russia with Love

The question of the Trump administration’s involvement with Russia, and Russia’s attempts to undermine the 2016 American election, are starting to smell like three-day-old fish left in the sun. The Trump administration had vehemently denied that any member of its team met with any Russian official of any kind. The evidence shows otherwise. Russia is the story that just will not go away.

Canada needs ranked, not proportional, voting

Like many Canadians who had hoped that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would follow through on his campaign promise to reform the voting system in Canada, I found myself deeply disappointed by his sudden announcement, that he had abandoned plans for reform and was sticking with the first-past-the-post system. He was not wrong, however, in saying that proportional representation was the wrong system for Canada.

Is Donald Trump a “Black Swan”?

Photo by Cindy Funk, 2009, Creative Commons

Cindy Funk

The definition of a black swan event —  impossible to predict yet with catastrophic ramifications — perfectly describes the rise of Donald Trump, from clown celebrity to the most powerful man in the world. And in that, there is hope.

America’s Fantasy World

In the fantasy world of America, globalization can be stopped dead in its tracks, and blue jeans will still sell for $20 a pair at Sam’s Club. Manufacturing jobs long vanished will be returned, despite the onslaught of automation …. Oh, it’s a wonderful world. Lollipops and unicorns and everybody wins the lottery under President Donald Trump. Too bad it doesn’t exist.

The Trumping of Rationality

For many years, economists, philosophers and pundits thought that people would always act rationally:  people would look at options and the information available to make rational choices. But in the mid-70s, two Israeli psychologists – Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky – turned that idea on its head.

Canada doesn’t need Trump-lite

Donald Trump-lite. It’s a scary idea. Anything that looks like a version of The Donald is bad news for any country. Yet this is what Canada faces with the upcoming candidacy of Kevin O’Leary for the leadership of the Conservative party in Canada. For, make no mistake, Kevin O’Leary is Donald Trump-lite.

The Russian government is not America’s friend

Let’s be perfectly clear about this: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government are not America’s friends. They are not friends of democracy, nor are they really interested in promoting any sense of peace in the world – at least a balanced peace. Russia is primarily interested in undermining Western democracy as much as it can without firing a shot … at the west.

Our Time to Rebel, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda   Column

It’s our turn, as American Democrats. This will be a ‘take no prisoners’ fight. Donald Trump and his minions have already shown that they will lie, obscure the truth, manipulate and deny facts, and threaten all who oppose them. And then there are the attacks and threats to be launched by his slavish, zombie-like, mainly-white-supremacist alt-Reich followers.  There are several ways to participate in this peaceful ‘rebellion.’

Fake News: Déjà vu all over again, by Tom Regan   Column

We’ve been here before. Overwhelmed by fake news. Making important political and social decisions based on lies, half-truths and deliberate manipulation of facts, shaping them into something quite hideous. Perhaps even ignoring them all together.

Disappearing the Middle East

An Afghan policeman patrols next to a burning vehicle in the city of Kunduz, Afghanistan October 1, 2015. REUTERS/StringerThe Middle East has disappeared from American media, despite the billions the US has spent and continues to spend in the region. Americans have moved on. But here’s the rub — it won’t just go away.

American Fascism: We’ve Been Here Before

America, for all its talk of the love of liberty and equality, has long had a fascination for fascism and the rule of the autocrat, especially at times of economic trouble and cultural upheaval. Fascism of the kind offered by Donald Trump appeals, as a bromide against the problems of the day.

Canada’s dark time might be closer than you think

After the election of 2015, Canadians probably thought they were safe from the kind of racism and bigotry that has gripped the United States after the election of Donald Trump. Well, I’m sorry to break your little “we’re so great” bubble. Vigilance is needed in Canada, too.

America’s Dark Hour

We were wrong. So very wrong.  We thought there was no way that Americans would elect a man so totally unfit to be president.

The images of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump painted on decorative pumpkins created by artist John Kettman in LaSalle, Illinois. REUTERS/Jim YoungThe real fight behind the US election

It’s like being stuck in a dryer, constantly going around and around, too hot, and claustrophobic. I’ve covered, or worked on, many, many elections. I’ve never seen one like this one. Both main candidates in the American presidential election are like wounded dinosaurs, out for one last battle. I’ll vote for Clinton, but not because I’m overly enamoured with her.

“Race” does not exist

Science proved long ago we are all one race, with differences based on the environments of our ancestors. Much racism is born of fear, and after Donald Trump loses on November 8th, America’s alt-right movement will not go away. The rest of us must remind people that biology is not destiny.

Why Putin Fears a President Clinton, by Tom Regan  Column

Why would Russian work so hard to elect Trump? There are several theories– but I believe the reason is Vladimir Putin is terrified of Clinton.

Most US Muslims comfortably integrated

Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah, co-producers of The Muslims are Coming!, hold up a "Hug a Muslim" sign in Salt Lake City, in a still from their 2012 film. Publicity photoThe raging Islamophobia of America’s presidential election present a very negative view of American Muslims. It is also completely false.

Trump’s tribe and an absence of poetry

When did the men in America – white men in particular – lose their sense of poetry? When did they stop being aware of the ebb and flow of life all around them, and lose that spark that separates those who are merely alive from those who are actually living? When did they settle on violence, brutality, and a nasty churlishness?

Rage over Racism: America Asked For It

Many years ago, I was waiting in Boston’s Park Street T-station on my way to Cambridge, when a group of African-American teenagers came down the stairs. They were a swarm of loud, boisterous kids. I had a white person’s reaction. I felt myself tense. I moved away from the group. I gripped my luggage bag tighter. Honestly, I was a bit afraid. Then suddenly I caught myself.

Not all things in journalism are equal

More journalists need to state the facts about Donald Trump’s lies. That he lies can be proven and is fact, not opinion.

Wynton Marsalis, with long time ensemble member, drummer Ali Jackson, in the background. Frank Stewart, publicity photoThe Urgency of Now

Wynton Marsalis made me realize that what is missing most from life around us at this particular moment in history is authenticity in the now.

Confirmation Bias: The Death of Truth

My first real exposure to people not wanting the truth, but only hearing what they want to hear, happened  25 years ago. My friend Deb Amos, NPR’s well-known and extremely talented Middle East reporter, had been invited to speak to an elderly Jewish group in Boston about her experiences in Israel and Palestine. Then an interesting thing happened.

Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant, Publicity photoJoy in doing something you love, badly, by Tom Regan  Column

Florence Foster Jenkins, the subject of a Meryl Streep/Hugh Grant film, had a very interesting career as a bad singer. But why was she a role model for my daughter?

Dump the Olympics

There comes a time in life when all good things must come to an end. This is certainly true of the “modern” Olympics with one small change – the Olympics are no longer a good thing.

Gage Skidmore/Creative CommonsBernie or Bust? – Smells Like White Privilege 

On the opening day of the U.S. Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, I invented a drinking game. Every time I saw a black or Hispanic (heck, any person of colour, period) shown by the cable news networks of Bernie Sanders supporters, I would take a swing of beer. I ended the night stone cold sober.

The American Dream is undermining America

It is perhaps the most famous myth about the creation of America:  the “American Dream.” The belief that no matter what your background, where you’re from, or who your parents were, that if you work hard enough added, you can achieve anything, any goal, any dream. But the American Dream has become a problem.

NRAWhy the NRA makes America so very dangerous, by Tom Regan

Recent events in the U.S. – the shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the subsequent shootings of five police officers in Dallas – show how the National Rifle Association’s toxic message of guns, guns, guns, and fear, fear, fear, affect the way people deal with daily problems, and the way police respond to all kinds of situations.

American media shares blame for Iraq fiasco

Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq Inquiry report, on Britain’s role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, provided damning evidence of how the British people were misled by their political leadership. But once again the journalism media, enormously important in providing the false justification for the war, which in turn led to much of the violence and terrorism in the Middle East today, was ignored.

Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) drives away from a Leave.eu party, as votes are counted for the EU referendum, in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Toby MelvilleAn American “Brexit” revolt? Not likely

Immediately after the Brexit vote, to take Britain out of the European Union, the hyperventilating United States  media found umpteen different ways to say “It could happen here.” This American media chorus is wrong.

O Canada … Oh, grow up 

A photo from Lester Pearson to Tom Regan's father: "To my constant conductor and guide, Jim Regan. Lester Pearson, Christmas 1963."

Canada’s debate over changing its anthem to make it gender neutral is immature. Seldom has so much ink and indignation been spilled over such a simple matter. Making Canada’s national anthem more open to all people is of course a good idea. It is the very essence of Canada itself.

Don’t fear Trump, fear his followers

It’s not Donald Trump but his followers, who defend him so ferociously, that really give one pause — particularly when one considers what they will do after their “Messiah” loses in the fall.

Polls: The good, the bad and the ugly

here are a few suggestions (based on my personal experience doing polls in Canada and the US, and the wise words of the master of polling Nate Silver) about what to watch out for in polls, how you can tell a good one from a bad one, and why you never, ever, ever bet your house on one poll only.

What I know now that I’m 60

Six decades gives you a lot of material to work with. I can’t list all of it, but here is a partial list of what I now know.

The triumph of fear in America

Photo by Ren Rebadomia, Creative Commons

There isn’t a fear that Americans won’t embrace. Fear controls almost every aspect of America society, seeps into every part of our lives. And that fear is used to manipulate us.

Commercial journalism can’t die fast enough

They say we get the government we deserve. The same is true of media. If so, then we are a stupid, shallow people, easily manipulated, poorly informed and a greater danger to democracy that any al-Qaeda or ISIS fighter. Commercial media – almost all cable TV news networks, most “news” websites and many, many papers – pay little more than lip service to quality journalism in the second decade of the 21 century.

Trump has made racism and violence “OK” in the US

Donald Trump is not the real problem in the rise of racism  in the US . He is merely the catalyst. It’s his ham-handed ridiculous racism masquerading as “policy” or “outreach” that’s the problem. He has let the racist and bigoted genie out of the bottle and it won’t go back in peacefully. America needs to prepare for scenes of violence and hatred it may not have seen since the 60s in the South.

ReganAmerica’s hate-on for women

It was a rough week to be a woman in the public eye in the United States. Not that normally it’s a piece of cake. This week, however, gave us a rather disturbing view of what happens when a woman angers the army of Internet and social media male trolls whose hatred for women cannot be understated.

Why Bernie Sanders need to fight on … and surrender

It looks like the end is nigh for the Sanders campaign. But it is absolutely necessary that Bernie not give up running. Yes, he should start to encourage his supporters to support Clinton. I am, however, totally in favor of him building up his delegate total and going into Philadelphia in late July demanding that the party’s platform reflect his point of view.

Why I fear Americans more than terrorists

A true story of living in a country overwhelmed with firearms, and how it constantly leads to you imagine the worst. About a month ago, I went to see the movie Zootopia with my family in Frederick, Maryland. We like to sit close to the screen, so we planted ourselves about six or seven rows back. I noticed a tall young man sitting in the very front row, but didn’t think much about it at first. As the pre-show features came to an end, that changed.
A large crowd, taken just after a Muse concert in Paris. Photo by James Cridland, Creative Commons

Attend to the Real Clash of Civilizations 

 “Am I my brother’s keeper?” How you answer this question tells a great deal about you as a person and about the kind of society in which you would like to live. And the great clash of civilization is between tolerance and intolerance.

The West’s racist response to terrorism

It was a horrible attack. The terrorist gunmen walked up and down the beach, slaughtering men, women and children with each step they took. In one case, a small child begged for his life only to be murdered by the gunmen. A deaf child in the water, who others tried to warn of the danger, was also gunned down.  In the end at least 20 people lay dead, including two soldiers from a group who had arrived to confront the al-Qaeda terrorists. But I’m guessing you don’t know about this attack. That’s because it happened in the Cote d’Ivoire.

14637661370_ed01aa8a15_k copyTrump or no Trump, the Democrats are going to win in the fall

I’m tired of all the handwringing about Donald Trump. Yes, he’s bringing out a lot of new white voters, particularly angry white men. Yes, more Republicans are showing up to vote in the primaries than Democrats are. Yes, Trump is the “unexpected factor” that no one saw coming. Yes, underestimating Trump in the coming fall, as Republicans did last fall, is the greatest danger the Democrats face. It doesn’t matter one bit.

The sound of white noise

Sometimes, when I’m driving late at night to pick up my wife at a train stop, or on my way to some event in Washington (about an hour from where I live) I turn on conservative talk radio. Just to listen to the other side. And the angry voices fill my car.

By David Shankbone - David Shankbone, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3321001The battle for Israel’s religious soul

One story going largely unnoticed amid the  circus-like atmosphere of the Republican presidential primary campaign has serious consequences for Canada and the United States, and for many of their Jewish citizens: the struggle over the the definition of what it means to be a Jew in Israel.

Dancing with the devil

The process that led to the creation of the Trump monster began on the day of US President Barack Obama’s inauguration, January 20, 2009. The story has grown of how on wthat night a group of senior Republicans gathered at a private dinner, and decided to be not “the loyal opposition,” but a destructive and malignant force that would use any means at its disposal to achieve its desired outcome.

U.S. President Reagan and then-nominee Antonin Scalia in 1986. Photo: Bill Fitz-Patrick, White House Photographer


The Supreme Court in Wonderland

Once upon a time, long ago and faraway, there was a magical kingdom … And then one day the most amazing thing happened. One of the great judges, Scalia of the Sarcastic Sanctimonious Sentences died quite unexpectedly. While in most cases the death of one of the great judges caused some hubbub, the death of the Scalia resulted in a total hissy fit among the wing nuts and the wing nuts who only liked to drink tea.

You say you want a revolution?

You say you want a revolution …  Well, I’m all in. I’m seized with joy at the thought of overthrowing the corrupt U.S. financial establishment. I’m gripped with enthusiasm at the thought of bringing justice and economic security for all Americans. But there might be a few problems …

Fox News Facebook page

The art of manipulating campaign coverage

Who is manipulating whom in media coverage of United States politics? American media manipulates the way they tell stories in order to increase eyeballs and produce a narrative that suits their tastes. But politicians then manipulate the media into creating those narratives and building on them, despite what is actually going on in the campaign.

Newspapers their own worst enemy in battle to survive

I worked for newspapers for almost 30 years and I loved every second of it. So you may find it odd when I tell you that I don’t miss newspapers. I haven’t had a weekly newspaper for years. I won’t go into the long details of it, but from the spring day in 1993, when I downloaded my first copy of the Mosaic browser, I knew that, to borrow a line from William Butler Yeats, “all was changed and changed utterly.”

SandersWhy Bernie Sanders won’t win the Democratic nomination

With the momentum favoring Bernie Sanders, why is it that I am predicting that ultimately Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016? It boils down to a simple factor: Bernie Sanders is too white. And so are Iowa and New Hampshire.

The Donald Trump meme: nostalgia for a fantasy

Remember when women and minorities knew their place? Illegal immigration was unheard of? Men all had good jobs? Everybody believed in the same God? (Or at least the same version.) Kids respected their parents? Terrorism was a word that kids learned about in college when studying European history? America was the most powerful nation in the world? No, you don’t remember? Then you’re likely not a Donald Trump supporter.

He’s there. Every day. Staring back at me. A white, late middle-aged man …  He is, of course, me. I am the very personification of white male privilege. I am a racist.

Stuart Anthony/Flickr/Creative Commons

Stuart Anthony

Perspective — and bogeymen

For many years I have had two particular pictures above my desk at work. One is from the mid-90s, of a Bosnian Serb executing a man in cold blood. The other is of a star, the same size as our own sun, going nova. I call them my perspective pictures. They are very helpful lately, because I currently live in the U.S., which has lost all sense of perspective.

Losing my religion

Why Christian religious extremists are just as dangerous as Islamic ones

No safe place left in America — NRA to blame

After yet another mass shooting, it’s clear there are no safe places left in the U.S. You can point the finger of blame for this at many individuals and organizations, but the reality is, it’s a toxic stew created by the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers, and promoted unthinkingly by right-wing media.

American climate change deniers’ last gasp

American conservative politicians, beholden to fossil fuel interests, pump out enough false propaganda and sometimes outright lies to keep scientists busy refuting them. They are aided in their subterfuge by a compliant U.S. media. The only solution is for the rest of the world to go ahead without the United States.

Why ISIS is winning, with America’s help

The attacks in Paris were as much a sign of ISIS’s weaknesses, as a demonstration of its ability to strike. If Western governments had grasped the opportunity to turn this horrible tragedy against ISIS, we might have pulled off a small but important victory against these murderers. Instead, we played the hand that ISIS dealt us like a bunch of hillbilly rubes at a blackjack table in Las Vegas.

Messages are seen placed outside the Le Carillon restaurant the morning after a series of deadly attacks in Paris , November 14, 2015. REUTERS/Christian Hartman - RTS6ZH4

REUTERS/Christian Hartman

Our selective grief: Paris, Beirut, Ankara, and Syria

ISIS is not going to go down easy. Even if we beat them back in Iraq and Syria, which is increasingly the case, we will be dealing with their disaffected and frustrated acolytes for years to come. We will not, however, be able to truly defeat them until the death of 100 people in Ankara, or 49 people in a market in Beirut, means the same to us as the death of 127 people in Paris. We have to move beyond the tribe.

Why people distrust news media

The reason the media consistently ranks so low on surveys of public trust (particularly among young people) is that we frequently don’t give the public reason to trust us.

Priest sex abuse: before Boston, there was Newfoundland

It was a bombshell: a local paper printed an exposé on sexual abuse by Catholic religious figures. No, I’m not talking about the Boston Globe, and its 2002 series on sexual abuse that won a Pulitzer Prize and is also the subject of the much praised film released November 6, “Spotlight.” That happened almost a decade after the story I’m referring to.


America’s Lying Season

It’s the lying season in American politics. Lies fall from politicians lips like leaves fall from the trees in autumn.  Politicians have been doing it forever. What’s different is our willingness to accept these lies.

The evil of Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu’s continued racist and potentially internationally criminal actions have made things so bad in Israel, one really has to question how long the country can survive with him as its leader.

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose

Canadians are committing an act of insanity. On October 19 millions of Canadians are marching to the polls to repeat a time honoured tradition: throw the rascals out! The rascals in this particular situation happened to be the Conservative party who without a doubt deserve to be thrown out. But the more things change the more they stay the same.

Waiting for America’s next mass murder

We won’t have to wait long. He’s out there right now. We don’t know his name, or where it will happen, but he will do it. We’ll know his name within the next week or so. It will be a he. Very few mass murders are committed by shes. It’s hard to even think of any. He’s likely early, maybe mid-20s.

A barbaric cultural practice: using racism to earn votes

There comes a moment when every country goes through a “dark night of the soul.”  Canada’s was evident this month, after some buffoon named Chris Alexander, apparently Canada’s immigration minister, said that if re-elected in the October 19 general election, the Conservative party would install a tip hotline, so people could inform on their neighbours practicing “barbaric cultural practices.”

Crisis just beginning of massive migrations

The current migrant crisis is only the tip of the iceberg. What will drive the next great wave of refugees will not be political violence, but climate change.

“Black Lives Matter” and “Cops Lives Matter” are not the same thing 

It’s hard to be a cop. Especially a cop in the United States. Many police forces around the world don’t require their officers to carry weapons, the British bobbie perhaps being the most vivid representation of this philosophy. When British cops go out on the beat, they may always face violence in some form, but the reality is that it probably will not come at the end of a gun. It’s different in the United States.

We’re on our own

To paraphrase Carl Sagan, no one is coming to rescue us.  We have to solve our problems on our own. The Syrian refugee crisis. The Iran nuclear issue. Palestinians and Israelis. Sunni and Shia. ISIL. The overwhelming preponderance of guns in America that are undermining our culture. Police violence. Poverty. Climate change. Hunger. Pick your problem.

Maybe this time America won’t run away from better gun laws

Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic (heaven knows I thought this would come before now), but I think we might be at a crucial tipping point moment in the long history of trying to enact stronger gun regulations in the United States, and finally putting the demon of the National Rifle Association behind us.

As religions grow, so will world’s problems

The recent report on future religious trends published by the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project, “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050.” is an amazing look at the future of the world’s religious and non-religious alike. It’s also worrisome.

Why it’s right not to vote in Canada 

There’s a brouhaha as Canada prepares for the upcoming federal election, over whether Canadians like me who live abroad should have the right to vote after being out of the country for a certain period of time. We should not. Even if I had the right to vote in election Canada I wouldn’t use it.

Trump is America’s conservative zeitgeist in a bad toupee

Enormous wealth is not the only reason for Donald Trump’s popularity, despite what Beltway pundits referred to as his “erroneous steps.” In fact it might be these “errors” that are behind his surge to the top of the Republican presidential sweepstakes. Trump has captured the zeitgeist of the time in a bottle, at least the zeitgeist of conservative Republicans tired of what they consider namby-pamby, middle-of-the-road, Republican presidential candidates.

A Whole New World

I had a lightning bolt after reading Paul Mason’s brilliant piece in the Guardian, arguing that we have quietly entered a new era of post capitalism. It was if (to get biblical for a moment) a veil had been lifted from my eyes and I suddenly saw the world in a completely different fashion. Because the truth is that sometimes when you live in the midst of change, when it is all around you, it can slip by largely unnoticed.

When religious liberty undermines freedom

It’s pretty hard to underestimate the role that religion has played in promoting progressive ideals over the years. But that’s only one side of the coin. Far more often, religion has also been used as one of the main curbs on freedom – of person, of thought and of gender.

Canada and the US: a foot in both worlds

Many years ago, standing outside the main entrance to Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, a street vendor was trying to sell me and my then-girlfriend (now wife) a rug. He made a remark praising Americans, trying to soften us up. I scrunched my eyebrows and said, “I’m not an American, I’m a Canadian.”

America’s Obamacare is here to stay

Back in the 60s, my dad was a press secretary/information officer for then-Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson, and intensely involved in Canada’s adoption of universal health care. The fight in Canada was every bit as noisy, brutal and political as is the current battle in the United States over Obamacare, and Pearson and his party also had to face doctors who were adamantly opposed. But i
n the end, universal health care became an enduring reality in Canada, and for one main reason: once people get it, they won’t want to give it up.

Blame massacres on America’s National Rifle Association

Why the NRA deserves a large part of the blame for Charleston…and Aurora…and Tucson…and Washington, DC…and Sandy Hill…and Virginia Tech…etc.,etc.

It’s time to start teaching “sexuality education” in kindergarten

The United States — and all jurisdictions — should teach “sexuality” education to children, starting in kindergarten. There’s a lot of great science and statistics to back up the benefits of this suggestion. In countries like the Netherlands or Switzerland, where comprehensive sexuality education begins in kindergarten, the teenage pregnancy, birth and abortion rates are the lowest in the world: about six per 1,000 women. Not only that, in these countries teenagers wait longer to have their first sexual experience than do teenagers in countries like the United States.

Divided we fall

The popular image that Americans like to have of themselves is of one nation, undivided, standing together with friends and against foes, that there is no problem that the American people cannot overcome, symbolized most vividly in the image of the melting pot – that no matter where you come from, no matter what your race or ethnic background, it will all disappear one day and you will become an American. Horse hockey.

Don’t cry for me, David Letterman!

I am culturally illiterate. You see, I don’t watch TV any more. It’s not that I don’t have a TV – I actually have two – but I just never use them. So when most of the American media has been abuzz over talk-show host and comedian David Letterman’s final show, and the final episode of the TV series “Mad Men,” I was unable to share in the collective viewer angst because, well, I just don’t care. I am not a man of my time.

Supporting BDS not “anti-Semitic”

t’s the question of the moment: Is the BDS movement a legitimate way to protest the actions of the Israeli government, or it is a slick anti-Semitic attempt to undermine, or even destroy, the state of Israel? The Boycott, Diversify, Sanction movement was created in 2005 by 171 non-governmental Palestinian organizations, to organize and promote “non-violent punitive measures” against Israel’s approach to Palestine.

Free speech in America: Not so absolute

The funny thing about absolutes is that sometimes they’re not. A recent competition that invited Americans to submit cartoons of the prophet Mohammed is illustrative. Organized by a woman whose attacks on the Muslim community have generated much publicity across the United States, the competition had two purposes, one explicit, one implicit. The stated purpose was to demonstrate that in the United States speech is free, and that Americans can do or say whatever they want. The unstated purpose was to provoke a violent response against the contest and to help the contest organizer, a New Yorker by the name of Pam Geller, promote her racism and bigotry.

How America’s white media failed Baltimore

After watching the media coverage of the events in Baltimore, Maryland, over the past week and a half I’ve come to two conclusions: down deep, America’s media is really shallow, and it’s very, very white. The city erupted in protests following the death of Freddie Gray, whose spine was fatally injured while in police custody; six police officers face charges in his death. I was utterly dismayed at the way the American media covered Baltimore. It showed me more than ever how little the American media, and its overwhelmingly white culture, fail to understand minorities in the United States.

The end is NOT nigh

It’s enough to give a person permanent hypertension.  Russian president Vladimir Putin likes to flex his military muscles more than a steroid pumped-up body builder. China wants to challenge the United States for dominance in Asia. North Korea’s top leadership is, well, crazy. Al-Qaeda and ISIS are messing up the Middle East and threatening citizens around the world. And what ISIS and Al-Qaeda aren’t doing to destabilize the region, Iran is. It looks like the world is more dangerous that it has ever been for Uncle Sam, and Canada.  Except that … it’s not.

The unbearable lightness of US presidential campaigns

A United States presidential campaign is a bit like that old joke about the definition of insanity: doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. Because oh my Lord, here we go again, 19 months before actual voting day. The only thing that lasts longer than the US presidential campaign is the Republican-led investigation into the events at Benghazi, which will apparently still be going on sometime in the 22nd century at its current pace. There are so many things wrong with the way Americans go about picking people to run for the presidency every four years, it’s hard to know where to start, so let’s just jump right in.

Deja glasnost all over again

It’s never easy making peace with an enemy. It takes great moral courage, and there will always be a cacophony of voices decrying your every step, as with the current international negotiations about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Some only see calamity and disaster: one only has to think back to the Ronald Reagan – Mikhail Gorbachev negotiations about nuclear weapons in the mid-to-late 80s to remember how loud these voices of doom and destruction can be.

The State of Indiana chooses hatred

Supporters of the US state of Indiana’s new law call it a religious freedom bill, but is actually nothing of the sort. It’s actually a bill that celebrates religious bigotry. The only freedom it really offers is the freedom to exercise hatred toward other individuals who are different than you or who believe something different than you do. It is fundamentally un-American, probably un-Constitutional, and certainly immoral. It’s a bill that gives official government blessing for right-wing conservative religious fundamentalists to practice official government sanctioned bigotry against homosexuals.

My country right or wrong? The real American patriotism

When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s in Canada, I often heard this saying coming from south of the border. Patriotism was the unquestioning allegiance of an individual to his or her country. No matter what your country was doing (in this case the Vietnam War), you supported it without hesitation. At least that’s what “patriots” did.  As I said, however, I was in Canada, a country that always had a very peculiar notion of patriotism – which was we barely had one at all. Oh, we cared passionately about beer, hockey, and fishing rights and about not being American, but that was about it. Then in 1994 I moved to the United States. And to borrow a phrase from Yeats, all was changed and changed utterly.

What about Israel?

If the United States adopts a “What’s best for the U.S.” policy in dealing with the Middle East, perhaps Israeli leaders will see the need to ameliorate and fix their policies towards the region and the world that are not providing Israeli citizens with the security they want, nor the admiration and support of other countries which Israel will need to survive in the long-term. Because the Israeli government cannot continue to make the same decisions in the same way again and again and again, and neither can the United States.

A new age of ignorance

Ordinarily, it would be laughable for a U.S. Republican senator to throw a snowball in the chamber, as did climate change denier James Inhofe, and say that recent cold temperatures in Washington, D.C., prove that climate change was a hoax. But Inhofe is the head of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works committee, which means he gets to highly influence American policy about climate change. It is like a member of the Ku Klux Klan being appointed the head of a anti-racism committee.

Freedom of the press ain’t so free anymore

A country often gets the press it deserves, particularly in the Western world. While we have no dictatorships in countries like the United States, Canada, Britain, France or Australia, we do have governments which will do everything in their power to reduce the importance of media and any unfavorable coverage of their actions. And most Americans have grown fat, lazy and complacent about freedom of the press because of the illusion that it is unlimited.

The first casualty of war…

We all lie. Telling a lie is probably one of the most human things that we do. But when you’re a major TV network news anchor, and you tell a lie, it’s a big deal. NBC-TV anchor Brian Williams is learning that right now. But when you come right down to it, the lie Williams probably told about what happened to him on that helicopter in Iraq is really only a minor one when compared to the BIG LIE of the entire second Gulf War and why we were there in the first place.

Vaccines: Don’t wanna be an American idiot

Anti-science bias runs through almost every important public issue in America: climate change, whether gay people are born that way or whether they choose to be gay, the usefulness of vaccinations, and even evolution itself. People claim Constitutional rights to believe what they want to believe.  If they succeed in undermining decades, maybe hundreds of years, of scientific advancement, we all lose.

Bread, circuses and deflated footballs

This is where we have come to.

We have, as a society, become obsessed with trivial pursuits. Not that this is necessarily a new development. As journalist H.L. Mencken said , you”ll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. We have always been rather easily baffled by bullshit. But the advent of the Internet and social media has kicked this cultural trait into hyper-drive.

Why the ‘American people do not exist

It’s wacky season in Washington once again. Wacky season comes in two flavors in the nation’s capitol: during the summer, when all the politicos would rather be jetting to a prime vacation spot on the private jet of a fat cat corporate sponsor, and when it’s time to start running for president. And one of the things that you will hear most often  are candidates who will say that they know what “the American people” want.

The hidden complexity of simplicity

I want there to be absolute freedom of speech. I believe that freedom of speech means the freedom to offend everyone. But I can’t ignore that millions of good religious people, and not just Muslims, find the works of publications like Charlie Hebdo offensive, though they’re not going to kill anyone. Is there a way to protect freedom of speech and yet work to find a way not to needlessly offend? I don’t know. It’s complex. It will take hard work solution to find a solution. But try we must.

My atheist fan letter to Pope Francis

As much as I or any other atheist might wish it, religion is not going away. And so we as atheists have a choice: we can stamp our feet and rage against religion, or we can support those figures within religious belief systems who are fighting to make those systems more caring, compassionate, open-minded, accountable and willing to work with those who do not subscribe to their creed. And Francis is one of those figures.

Why the United States is a perilous country for a young man, black or white

There’s a deadly virus in the United States. Much more deadly than Ebola. (Two people have died of Ebola in this country.) The virus I’m talking about kills thousands of people every year. It’s a poisonous concoction of racism, police departments unaccountable to anybody but themselves and a tsunami of guns, guns, guns.

‘Twas the Night Before Black Friday

Twas the night before Black Friday, and all through the house

Every creature was stirring, yes even the mouse;

The credit cards were ready for use here and there,

In the hopes that a bargain soon would be theirs …

On being a feminist

What’s in a word? A movement? A state of being? A political statement? A controversy? All the above? Feminism would seem to be one of those words that fits all of the above categories, for a variety of reasons. Try to define who or what a feminist is and you invite instant debate. Is Camille Paglia a feminist? Not like Gloria Steinem is, that’s for sure. Is someone like Laura Bush a feminist? She might not necessarily describe herself as one but many of her words and actions would certainly move her into that category.  Can a man call himself a feminist? Or is it a word that is gender specific?

Tide turning against climate change deniers

In his book The Believing Brain author Michael Shermer, the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, makes the following proposal: belief comes first, then the reasons for belief comes second. So to use an example, an individual might believe in ghosts, so she will then find the reasons to support that belief. That cold spot in the attic is not caused by a deficiency of heat from the furnace, but by the presence of a supernatural being.  This is also the way the world of climate change deniers work. First comes the belief that climate change does not exist, second comes the search for reasons to support that belief.

Time to end religious holidays in public schools

Recently the Board of Education in the Virginia suburb of Montgomery County (which is just outside DC) faced a dilemma. A group of Muslim parents were pressing the board to add religious holidays that would allow Muslim children to observe the important days to their faith without missing any school. On the surface, I have no problem with this. If we’re going to allow Christian students to observe Christmas, and Jewish students to observe holidays like Yom Kippur, then it only makes sense that we allow Muslim students to observe their religious days. But I do confess I wonder where will this end?

Why I prefer to remember Remembrance Day

We don’t have much of a tradition of military service in my family, but what we do have is meaningful. One of my uncles fought in the Second World War for Canada and saw some pretty serious action. My father-in-law, an American, was a lifetime aviator, and flew for the US Air Force in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. So I’ve always considered November 11th an important day to observe.  But when it comes to whether I celebrate Canada’s Remembrance Day, or America’s Veterans Day, I almost always prefer the former over the latter. The reason may be a semantic one but it’s an important one.

Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, Facts and Opinions performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from non-journalism foundations or causes. We appreciate and need your support: please click here to purchase a $1 day pass, or subscribe.   Sign up here to receive a free email subscription  to new blog posts and notices of new work. Contact us at Editor AT factsandopinions.com

Tom Regan is a columnist in the Washington, DC, region


Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not or solicit donations from partisan organizations. If you value our work please support us.  We suggest at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass; visit our Subscribe page for easy payment options. Please tell others about us.

Posted in Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Canada’s Climate: Last Chance Tourism


More or less as yesterday’s blog post (on Risky Business and Climate-Smart Development) was emerging from my keyboard, Canada’s federal government very quietly uploaded to the website of the Department of Natural Resources the closest thing Canadians have seen since 2008 to a comprehensive survey of Canada’s climate change vulnerabilities. In fact, Canada in a Changing Climate is avowedly an update on that earlier report — with little of significance added. 


Polar bears play-fighting. Creative Commons, via Wikimedia

The nearly 300-page report confirms that all the climate trends apparent in 2008 continue: Canada is getting warmer and wetter — although droughts can still occur; big storms are more common; ice and snow are melting pretty much everywhere. “Further changes in climate are inevitable.” Adaptation is necessary, and holds opportunities for some but, “there will also be cases where maintaining current activities is not feasible and/or cost-effective.”

The report examines three economic sectors likely to be the most immediately affected by climate change: farming, fishing and certain industries. Its findings are underwhelming. The report is heavy on contextual statistics — the value of mineral production by province in 2010 — and generalized forward-looking observations not much changed since 1989. It better connects some of the dots from climate change effects to impacts on specific sectors’ activities. But its evidence is anecdotal (Diavik Diamond Mine in the Northwest Territories spent an extra $11 million flying in fuel because its ice road melted early), and it makes no attempt to estimate aggregate future costs or opportunities across industries.

A clear take-away however, is that Canada is dragging its feet in preparing for a changed climate. The report admits it can find “relatively few examples of concrete, on-the-ground adaptation measures being implemented specifically to reduce vulnerability to projected changes in climate.”

The report offers case studies of adaptation efforts it has found. The federal government is notable by the near-absence of its initiatives. (Unless you get excited by its examining tax changes that might help farmers weather even wilder weather.)

Nonetheless there is evidence of the authors’ suppressed yearning for a more activist government role. It offers as a case study of successful historic adaptation the Depression-era Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act (passed under the Conservative government of Prime Minister R.B. Bennett, as it happened), which provided federal support to reclaim farmland devastated by drought and wind erosion.

“Several factors can help accelerate the transition between awareness [of climate threat] and action,” the authors note, “including leadership, targeted awareness-raising and supportive strategies or policies.” Here, they manage to imply, the federal government has “opportunities.”

On the other hand, the report does hold some gems of perspective revealed, surely, only when resource researchers are obliged to describe their world in terms they hope that leaders blinded to all but book-to-market variables might understand.

Among the potential negative impacts from climate change on Canada’s “destination image,” the authors report, is “the threat of a loss of 40 per cent of tourism if Churchill’s polar bears ‘appear unhealthy’ (very skinny), which is already beginning to occur.” On the upside, there is a growing opportunity for “‘last chance tourism’, where additional tourists are drawn to see either changing landscapes or certain features (e.g. glaciers or certain wildlife species) before they decline or disappear.”

There’s a silver lining to everything.

Copyright Chris Wood 2014

Further reading:
Canada in a Changing Climate is available here: http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/sites/www.nrcan.gc.ca/files/earthsciences/pdf/assess/2014/pdf/Full-Report_Eng.pdf
Natural Security, Chris Wood’s bimonthly Facts and Opinions column , is here. (Subscription)

Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. If you’d like to support our journalism, for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1.) 





Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

An Argument for Carbon Divestment: Desmond Tutu

April 12, 2014

Twenty-five years ago people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. It was an “environmental issue” of intense interest to environmentalists and leftists and conspiracy theorists, but not much use to us.

Today, we have no excuse. None. Knowledge of climate change is no longer limited to the scientific community and environmental activist fringes. No more can it be dismissed as science fiction; we are already feeling the effects.

And once more, it is the poor who are being asked to absorb the pain for the excesses of the rich. Africans, who emit far less carbon than the people of any other continent, will pay the steepest price.


Desmond Tutu. Creative Commons

This week, scientists and public representatives gathered in Berlin are weighing up radical options for  curbing carbon emissions contained in the third report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The bottom line, a draft of the report warns, is that we have 15 years to take the necessary steps to affordably reduce emissions to attain the targeted 2°C over pre-industrial times. The horse may not have already bolted, but it’s well on its way through the stable door.

Who can stop it? Well, we can, you and I. And it is not just that we can stop it, we have a responsibility to do so. We have a responsibility to persuade the powerful and the wealthy to stop the juggernaut of earthly destruction. It is a responsibility that begins with God commanding the first human inhabitants of the Garden of Eden, “to till it and keep it.” To “keep” it; not to abuse it, not to destroy it.

This is why, no matter where you live, the fact that the United States is even debating whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline is so appalling. It is a massive investment in what we all now know is an unsustainable and destructive fossil fuel based economy. The pipeline will transport 830 000 barrels of the world’s dirtiest oil across the U.S. to the Gulf of Mexico each day. It is estimated that producing and transporting this quantity of oil will increase Canada’s carbon emissions by more than 30 per cent.

If the negative impacts of the pipeline would affect only Canada and the United States we could say, well, good luck to them. But it will affect the whole world, our shared world, the only world we have.

Who can stop it? Well, we can, you and you and you, and I. And it is not just that we can stop it, we have a responsibility to do so. It is a responsibility that begins in the genesis of humanity, with God commanding the first human inhabitants of the Garden of Eden, “to till it and keep it”. To “keep” it; not to abuse it, not to make as much money as possible from it, not to destroy it.

Today, governments and corporations and peoples confront similar moral dilemmas, and often find the lure of the forbidden just as irresistible as Adam did. The taste of “success” in our world gone mad is measured in Dollars and Francs and Rupees and Yen. Our desire to take out and create markets to consume any and everything of perceivable value – to extract every precious stone, every ounce of metal, every drop of oil, every tuna in the ocean, every rhinoceros in the bush – knows no bounds.

We live in a world that is dominated by greed. We have allowed the interests of capital to outweigh the interests of human beings and our earth. We continue to allow the search for prosperity – not justice or equity – to dominate our interests. We are God carriers, made for one another, dependent on each other, but we subvert the innate goodness within us. We worship money instead of the living God.

So, practically, what can we do?

Throughout my life I have believed that the only just response to injustice is what Mahatma Gandhi termed “passive resistance” and others have called non-violent struggle. During the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa a passive resistance toolbox was developed containing levers such as boycotts, divestment and sanctions. Supported by our friends overseas, we were not only able to apply economic pressure on the unjust state, but also serious moral pressure.

These tools – boycotts, divestment and sanctions – work on a few different levels. They can be used by states in order to pressure other states. They can be used by corporations, such as those who stopped doing business in South Africa on moral grounds in the 1980s. And, they can be used by communities, by us so-called ordinary folk.

It is abundantly clear that those countries and companies primarily responsible for emitting carbon and accelerating climate change are not simply going to give up; they stand to make too much money. They need a whole lot of gentle persuasion from the likes of us. And it need not necessarily involve trading in our cars and buying bicycles!

Here is how we do it: There are many ways that all of us can fight against climate change: by not wasting energy, for instance. But these individual measures will not, the scientists assure us, make a big enough difference in the time that physics allows for change. In addition, they’re not appropriate for most of the world’s poorest people.

People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change.

We can, for instance, boycott events, sports teams and media programming that are sponsored by fossil fuel energy companies. We can demand that the advertisements of energy companies carry health warnings. We can encourage more of our universities and municipalities and cultural institutions to cut their ties to the fossil fuel industry. We can organise car-free days and other platforms to build broader societal awareness. We can ask our religious community to speak out on the issue from their various pulpits.

We can actively encourage energy companies to spend more of their resources on the development of sustainable energy products, and we can reward those companies that demonstrably do so by using their products to the exclusion of others.

We cannot necessarily bankrupt the fossil fuel industry. But we can take steps to reduce the industry’s political clout. And through the power of our collective action we can hold those who rake in the profits accountable for cleaning up the mess.

And the good news is that we don’t have to start from scratch. Young people across the world have identified climate change as the biggest challenge of our time, and already begun to do something about it.

I cannot describe how it warmed the cockles of my heart to learn that the fossil fuel divestment campaign is, according to Oxford University research, the fastest growing corporate campaign of its kind in history.

Last month, the General Synod of the Church of England voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion to review its investment policy in respect of fossil fuel companies, with one bishop referring to climate change as “the great demon of our day”.

Already Anglican dioceses in the antipodes and members of the United Church of Christ in the United States have urged divestment; already some colleges and pension funds have declared that they want their investments congruent with their beliefs.

It makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future. To serve as stewards of Creation is not an empty title; it requires that we act, and with all the urgency that this dire situation demands.

© Desmond Tutu 2014

Published on F&O with permission

Desmond Mpilo Tutu is Anglican Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town. He was a leading proponent of the boycott and sanction campaign against apartheid South Africa. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. Visit the Desmond and Leah Legacy Foundation site here.


Further reading:
UPDATED April 14: IPCC Working Group III Fifth Assessment report
F&O’s running series on Energy
F&O columnist Chris Wood on climate change effects in Canada’s North, The End of the Century is Now (subscription)
F&O’s Expert Witness series republishes Tzeporah Berman’s book excerpt, The Pointy End, on finding hope in the climate campaign (public access)
The March 31, 2014 IPCC press release is here: http://ipcc.ch/pdf/ar5/pr_wg2/140330_pr_wgII_spm_en.pdf
A draft copy of the IPCC report summary for policy makers is here: http://ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/images/uploads/IPCC_WG2AR5_SPM_Approved.pdf
F&O Dispatch: Report says 90 companies cause 2/3 of climate change, past and present, by Deborah Jones


Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O serves and is entirely funded by readers who buy a subscription or a $1 site day pass. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from non-journalism foundations or causes.

Posted in Also tagged , , , , , , |

Canada’s health care takes a hit

Canadians tend to smugness about the country’s health care, but new research suggests private insurers rake in billions more than they pay in benefits. And a study published today, which examined 20 years of records, revealed that Canadians pay far more for less benefits from private insurance than do Americans.

The Canadian public model stars often in battles over so-called “Obamacare” health care in America’s right-left culture war. Canada’s system is lauded at home and cited constantly in the United States as a better model — although World Health Organization research shows that neither system ranks among the world’s least-costly and most-effective.

But when it comes to private insurance — which covers 60 per cent of Canadians for prescription drugs and dental and eye care —  researchers say Canadians pay more than Americans, and Canadian regulations lag those of the United States. For example in 2011, states the analysis in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Canadians paid $6.8 billion more in premiums than they received in benefits.

The study contends:

  • Private insurance companies play a substantial role in financing particular health care services in Canada, such as prescription drugs.
  • The percentage of private health insurance premiums paid out as benefits has decreased markedly over the past 20 years, leading to a gap between premiums collected and benefits paid of $6.8 billion in 2011.
  • Governments across Canada should regulate the private health insurance industry more effectively to provide greater transparency and better value for Canadians.

“Although most health care in Canada is paid for by the public, private health insurance plays a major supporting role,” said researchers at the universities of British Columbia and Toronto. In 2010, for example, private insurance expenditures were 11.7 per cent of total health care spending, placing Canada second among nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in terms of per capita private health insurance expenditures.

“Small businesses and individual entrepreneurs are the hardest hit – they end up paying far more for private health coverage,” said study lead author Michael Law of the University of British Columbia, in a press release. “It’s essentially an extra health tax on one of our main economic drivers.”

Early reaction from the private health insurance industry protested that the study does not account for all factors, and one organization told CBC the study is “misleading.

The study is available online at the CMAJ site (for journal subscribers, or for a fee of $25 per article). A press release from the University of British Columbia provides a summary.

— Deborah Jones

Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O serves, and is funded by, readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Our original work in Dispatches, Think and Photo-Essays is available for a $1 site day pass or at a modest subscription price. Use the SUBSCRIBE  form, right, to receive our free Frontlines blog and notices of new work.

Posted in All, Current Affairs, Gyroscope Also tagged , , |