Canadian immigration, Hungary and thin ice

Parliament in Budapest

I spent four weeks recently in Central Europe and while in Hungary I spoke to a university audience about how Canadians view immigrants, refugees and multiculturalism. One is always on thin ice, to use a Canadian metaphor, when speaking in a country where you are a tourist and may offend sensibilities. But I believe that Canada’s experience with managing ethnic diversity might be of use to other countries.  I took as my point of departure the 1950s in rural Saskatchewan. I grew up in a farming community that had been created as part of a great human migration late in the 19th and early in the 20th century when the Canadian government settled the West with farmers. My small village was diverse for its time. There were Germans, Ukrainians, French, Hungarians and others. In fact, I discovered upon rereading our local community history book that when it was created one of the names being considered for my village was Budapest. The village was eventually called St. Benedict, to recognize a religious community of Benedictine monks that had been established nearby – but Hungarians were significant in our population.

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Jason Kenney at CCCB plenary

Joe Gunn on Jason Kenney and CCCB

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is scheduled to speak to the annual plenary meeting of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) in October. Joe Gunn, a former director of the CCCB’s Social Affairs Commission, says the appearance of a cabinet minister at a  plenary is unprecedented in recent memory. Gunn is now the Ottawa-based executive director of Citizens for Public Justice,  an ecumenical organization that promotes justice, peace and the integrity of creation. His article appeared in the August 29 edition of the Prairie Messenger and is reproduced here with Gun’s and the paper’s permission.

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Ernesto Cardenal, priest, poet, politician

Ernesto Cardenal, priest, poet, politiciancirca 1979

I took the photo that you see here of Nicaragua’s Father Ernesto Cardenal in the Mexican city of Puebla in February, 1979. Catholic bishops from all over Latin America were meeting there and the new pope, John Paul II, was on hand to inaugurate the gathering. I was there as a freelance reporter for Maclean’s magazine. The Vatican had already begun the process of reeling in its priests, theologians and some bishops from pronouncements that had been made at a similar meeting in Medellin, Columbia in 1968. There the bishops had promulgated a “preferential option for the poor” — not a popular thing to do in a continent where the division of wealth was scandalous and dictators sat in many of the palaces.

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Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish falsely criticized

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish has some critics

I was interested to read a recent Toronto Star column by Haroon Siddiqui about the Palestinian medical doctor and peace activist Izzeldin Abuelaish. Dr. Abuelaish was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in promoting peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Siddiqui says that in spite of those credentials (or perhaps because of them) some Palestinians in Canada think that Abuelaish is being used by Israelis and the West in a propaganda war against Muslims, and that he is selling out.

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Mar Musa cleric Paolo Dall’Oglio tours Canada

Frescoes at Mar Musa monastery, Syria

Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio, an Italian Jesuit priest who spent decades restoring the ancient Mar Musa monastery in Syria, has taken the unusual step of touring Canada to call for action that would …

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Bill McKibben on global warming catastrophe

Bill McKibben in Rolling Stone magazineon global catastrophe

The American teacher and environmentalist Bill McKibben is one of the most convincing writers around on the topic of global warming. He has just published an article in Rolling Stone magazine in which he talks about “three numbers that add up to global catastrophe.” Let’s follow him through those numbers but a couple of preliminary points before we do.

Global warming occurs when carbon dioxide and other gases pumped into the atmosphere heat up the planet as a by-product of our burning fossil fuels. There is by now a growing and near overwhelming scientific consensus about this reality. There are to be sure those who continue to deny the science, much as some people still deny that the handling of asbestos causes cancer.  Some of them are sincere but frequently the claims are made by or on behalf of industries that profit from business as usual.

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Preston Manning's controversial Riddell Program

Preston Manning promotes Clayton H. Riddell Program at Carleton University

Carleton University in Ottawa has received a metaphorical black eye in its attempt to keep secret the details of an agreement that created its one-year Master’s degree in Political Management. The program was brokered by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning and funded by Calgary oil magnate Clayton H. Riddell. After a year of stonewalling, Carleton was ordered by the information and privacy commissioner of Ontario to adhere to a request by Canadian Press to make the agreement public.

It turns out that the Riddell Foundation gets to appoint two of five people to the program’s steering committee. The university also appoints two members and Manning acts as the chair. That committee has what Canadian Press describes as “sweeping power” over the program’s budget, academic hiring, its executive director and curriculum. In publicity surrounding its launch in 2010, the program was described as “cross-partisan” in nature, but people with political connections to Manning are prominent on both the steering committee and the academic staff.

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U.S. Catholic bishops fight Obama’s Affordable Care Act

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that President Obama’s Affordable Care Act for health reform is constitutional but the country’s Catholic bishops remain staunchly opposed. When the president signed the ACA into law in 2010, the bishops claimed that it would force insurers to pay clients who received abortions and birth control services and advice. The president moved to assure the bishops that public money would not be used to provide for abortions, but that still left contraception. The president also made an exception there which, he says would exempt the employees of churches. The bishops say that doesn’t go far enough, and they want the exemption to apply to employees in all Catholic institutions, including hospitals and schools. In short, the bishops are prepared to scuttle health care reform for 300 million Americans because of its limited provision for contraception as an insured service.

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