Tony Martin was 11 years old when he emigrated from Ireland to Canada with his mother and six siblings in January 1960. His father had arrived nine months earlier to find work. Martin recalls arriving in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario in the dead of winter then making an additional eight-hour train trip to Wawa, the family’s new home. “I began my Canadian journey in a community where people took care of one another,” Martin says. “That was the kind of Canada that we came to know but it is now slipping through our fingers.” Martin, who is a devout Roman Catholic, was a three-term member of Ontario’s provincial parliament and has now been the NDP Member of Parliament for Sault Ste. Marie since 2004. He spoke on a recent winter evening to about 75 people at Centretown United Church in Ottawa about his crusade to eradicate poverty in Canada. “I said eradicate poverty, not reduce it,” Martin said. “This is key to me. He says it can be done if there is enough popular support for it and the political will. “Government has no greater responsibility than to look after people who are marginalized.”Read More
Sociologist Reginald Bibby is probably Canada’s closest observer of religious trends. He has been polling on religious practices and attitudes since 1975 and has placed the numbers into context in several books beginning with Fragmented Gods in 1987. Bibby has just released another book called Beyond the Gods and Back, and he spoke about it recently at an Anglican cathedral in Ottawa.
Bibby says that for many years he accepted the secularization thesis commonly proposed by most sociologists and researchers. In its most simple terms, Bibby says, “secularization refers to the decline in the influence of organized religion.” There are a variety of ways to track this situation but the one most often used is the frequency of attendance at religious services. Using Gallup Poll results from 1957, and later his own survey data, Bibby found that weekly church attendance in Canada fell precipitously among the population from 53% in 1957 to 24% in 1990.Read More
On January 8th a young man Jared Lee Loughner opened fire with a Glock 19 handgun during a political event held in the parking lot of a Tucson, Arizona mall. He killed six people and wounded 14, including Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. He shot her in the head. She is being treated for a serious brain injury and is fortunate to be alive. The debate following this tragic event has focused on the “heroes” who attempted to disarm Loughner; on whether he is mentally ill; and whether the increasingly toxic language being used in American political debate might have prompted his actions. Hardly anyone, it seems, is having second thoughts about the fact that almost anyone in the U.S. can buy and carry a gun. President Barrack Obama studiously avoided that point in his otherwise eloquent speech at a memorial event in Tucson.
Far from having doubts about the disastrous effects of the nation’s gun laws, or lack of them, there were calls in the wake of the shootings to make it even easier for people to carry concealed firearms. Arizona state representative Jack Harper was quoted as saying, “When everyone is carrying a firearm, nobody is going to be a victim.” This implies that someone at the shooting scene who was armed would have shot Jared Lee Loughner before he killed and wounded others.Read More
Early on the morning of January 1 Coptic Christians were leaving Saints Church in the ancient Egyptian city of Alexandria after celebrating midnight mass. A suicide bomber waiting outside set off explosives that killed 21 people and injured almost 100 others. The attack also led to concern in Canada as Eastern Rite Christians prepared to celebrate their Christmas on January 7. More than 100 Canadian-Arab Coptic Christians had been named and threatened on an al-Qaeda affiliated website, allegedly for “defaming” Islam and attempting to convert Muslims. Despite the threats, most churches went ahead with services, although there was talk of added security by the RCMP and private firms. Back in Alexandria, Egyptian authorities were uncertain if foreign al-Qaeda operatives had slipped into the country or if the suicide bombing was the work of homegrown Islamic extremists.
Killing enemy combatants in wars is bad enough but killing unsuspecting civilians as they worship, ride buses or subways, travel on airplanes or eat restaurant meals is unspeakable. How can anyone or any ideology – religious or secular – justify these acts? The Quran does contain numerous exhortations to violence, and the same can be said of the Old Testament. But the general thrust of both books is that killing another human being is a great crime and that killing yourself (suicide) is also a crime. The Quran says that Muslims shall not kill anyone except as a punishment for murder.Read More
The parliamentary season in Ottawa ended on a singularly tawdry note in December 2010. The government abruptly cancelled a scheduled meeting of a House of Commons committee that would have discussed an auditor’s report clearing a deceased president of the embattled Rights and Democracy agency of alleged wrongdoings. The allegations against RÃ©my Beauregard were made during and following a particularly tense meeting back on January 7, 2010, where recently-appointed members of the agency’s board of directors made accusations about financial mismanagement, not to mention their opinion that the organization was funding “terrorist” groups in the Middle East. Mr. Beauregard died of a heart attack in the early hours of the following day. It has now been shown that the allegations against him were baseless. The Globe and Mail newspaper has provided a leaked copy of the forensic audit that was to be discussed by the parliamentary committee. It cleared Mr. Beauregard. The irregularities, so darkly hinted at, had not occurred.
The International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development was created in 1990 by the Conservative administration of Brian Mulroney as an organization at arms-length from the Canadian government, with a mandate to support democracy-enhancing projects internationally. Its first president was Ed Broadbent, the former leader of the New Democratic Party and the second was Warren Allmand, a former cabinet minister in various Liberal governments. Mr. Beauregard was appointed in June 2008 by the Conservatives as president for a five-year term. He was a former executive director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and had worked in the human rights field internationally as well.Read More
The school Christmas concert is on in the town hall tonight and Dale has a big part in it. When they pull back the curtain on the stage and fourteen kids stand there holding pieces of cardboard with block letters spelling the words â€œMerry Christmasâ€, he is going to be the letter M. He is also Joseph in the crib scene. His mother has made him a headpiece from an old orange dishtowel. He has a fake brown beard, and sandals borrowed especially for the concert from his cousin in Saskatoon
Miss Melanson, the principal, has overseen three weeks of happy rehearsals. She stands five feet eleven. The scent of her perfume sets fire to your nostrils and catches in your throat. Her hair is a shoe polish black but white at the roots, and she wears framed glasses with thick lenses that magnify her eyes in such a way that any student who catches her stern gaze freezes like rabbit in the headlights. The awe inspired by Miss Melansonâ€™s presence, however, does not prevent students from poking fun behind her back. Her Christian names are Mary and Theresa â€” Mary Theresa Melanson. She signs report cards and notes home with the initials M.T., letters that loop and flow on the page. M. T. Melanson. So the students call Empty. Empty Melanson.
Miss Melansonâ€™s Christmas program has a little bit of everything. There are carols sung by a thin-voiced childrenâ€™s choir; actually, itâ€™s mostly a girlsâ€™ choir because even fear of Miss Melanson doesnâ€™t move boys over ten years of age to sing. Then there are the dramas. Miss Melanson has produced a coup this year with Dickensâ€™s Christmas Carol because a girl who has a bone disease and actually wears a leg brace is playing Tiny Tim. Then thereâ€™s the crib scene which involves every child in the primary grades, with many of them being shepherds and others sheep.Read More
A year ago I wrote stories about the Conservative government’s ham-handed bullying of the Canadian ecumenical social justice group KAIROS. The story is now in the news again in a way that would be comic if it were not so nasty. It provides yet another glimpse into the ideologically driven spitefulness of the government, not to mention the lack of competence and truthfulness on the part of Bev Oda, the minister in charge of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Let’s begin with some background. KAIROS is an ecumenical human rights and justice organization that acts on behalf of 11 of Canada’s churches and church-based organizations. It includes under its umbrella the Anglican, Catholic, Christian Reformed, Lutheran, Presbyterian and United Churches, as well as the Mennonite Central Committee, the Quakers and others.Read More
The much-anticipated Munk Centre debate in Toronto between former Prime Minister Tony Blair and writer Christopher Hitchens has come and gone. A sell out crowd of about 2600 people paid up to $500 each to sit in plush seats at Roy Thomson Hall and …Read More