As much as I value our in-depth conversations, my focus this time is on your philosophical colleague, Stephen (Steve) Harper. What this means Gord, is that in my humble opinion, Mr. Harper’s activities and decisions have eclipsed yours over the past few weeks. But, don’t feel bad. I’m sure you’ll do something that will register again on my radar. You’ve never let me down yet!
The thing that first snatched my attention from your activities (including your decision to support the softwood lumber deal with the American government – also known as the “we ripped you off for 5 billion and now we’re giving you back 4 billion and tell you how to run your forest industry” deal), was the President’s – er, sorry, Prime Minister’s decision to stay away from the AIDS Conference in Toronto a few weeks ago. Here we have a major, international conference focused on an exponentially growing medical problem, attended by over 20 thousand people from all over the planet, and Mr. Harper chooses not to attend. He did send the Governor General – who by the way did an exceptional job of representing this country. She expressed, with passion and understanding, her view of Canada’s role in addressing this disease. Mlle. Jean’s ability to speak above and over politics is a testament to her capacity to speak on behalf of the conscience and compassion of Canada. Maybe she should run for Prime Minister. She was able to speak from the heart – an organ not ordinarily utilized in politics.
Now, Gord, even you know that you can’t get AIDS from attending a conference. I’m not at all clear that Mr. Harper knows this. Why else would he not attend one of the most important medical events in this country? He could have potentially learned something in discussion with people like Stephen Lewis, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and a few other committed individuals who thought it important to attend and support the search for a cure for a terrible disease. Perhaps this was just the biggest homophobic decision he’s ever made. After all, he was about as far away as he could get – hanging around Alert in the Arctic supporting Canada’s sovereignty. If he actually got any further away, he would have been in Russia!!
The other thing that the Harper government is not doing at the moment, is not approving the extension for North America’s only safe injection site for the requested three years but rather having his Minister of Health, Tony Clement extend the approval for about 18 months so he has time to study the success or failure of the site. Perhaps Mr. Clements is a slow reader, but the medical evidence is already in and like major cities in Europe, it’s clear that safe injection sites save lives and stop help the spread of AIDS, so I’m not sure what Mr. Clement is studying. I’ll bet Mr. Harper’s shorts were in a knot trying to figure out how to satisfy the fundamentalist, neo-con, disgruntled right-winged proto-baptists who elected him, and not get skewered by the medical and scientific reality that safe injection sites save lives and slow the progression of many diseases. It can be a real challenge when facts interfere with ideologies!
Now, whether or not the Harper government decides to eventually support or not support the safe injection site in East Vancouver, the fact that his government played the “wait until the last minute” card means to me that they have their collective head buried in the sand of obfuscation – or somewhere else in their political anatomy. Stop playing games with people’s lives there Mr. Harper. Perhaps you could visit East Vancouver and chat with some of your subjects. They’d appreciate hearing your version of how you weren’t clear about how safe injections sites were a good thing. It would seem to me that the results are in, and addiction is a medical condition not a character weakness. The “four pillars” are not an architectural concept here Steve.
So now that the AIDS conference has vacated the TV air space and other items have rushed in to fill the void, maybe it’s time to consider Afghanistan and the commitment that the Harper government made to maintain our troops there for another few years. I don’t remember much debate about whether or not this was a good idea, but then again, ideology doesn’t tolerate much debate – regardless of political affiliation. The tragic and growing number of Canadian soldiers dying in Afghanistan, and the shift from working to build and keep the peace, to warring against the Taliban and other “insurgents,” is a significant move away from Lester B’s idea of Canada’s role in the world. It is a fundamental shift in Canada’s approach since the concept of peacekeeper was adopted, and deserves deep and thoughtful debate and consideration - not a one day power play in the House of Commons.
Now on top of all this, Mr. Harper’s government seems to have decided that they support whatever Mr. Bush’s government thinks is right regarding the invasion of Lebanon and other issues in the Middle East. This strategy of publicly stating that Israel’s response to Hezbollah is “understandable and measured” is in conflict with Canada’s traditional role of potential, nonaligned peace keeper. It’s a bit difficult to see the bombing of neighbourhoods and cities, women and children, as a “measured exercise of Israel’s right to defend itself” as described by Mr. Harper – especially when American-made “cluster bombs” were discovered dropped by Israeli forces into neighbourhoods with schools, homes and daycare centres. Amnesty International stated that: “On August 30th, a senior UN official revealed that 90 per cent of Israeli cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when a ceasefire was in sight. The UN Mine Action Coordination Center has so far identified more than 400 bomb strike areas that are contaminated with as many as 100,000 unexploded bomblets.” “An estimated 1,183 people died, about one third of whom were children, 4,054 people were injured and some 970,000 civilians were displaced from their homes. In the same period, Hezbollah forces in Lebanon fired more than 3,600 rockets into northern Israel, killing 40 civilians, injuring some 700 others and displacing hundreds of civilians from their homes.” You would think at this stage of our evolution as a species, we might have found a better way to solve our disagreements and our ideological differences.
Gord, we live on a planet that has the potential to be a paradise. I’m actually finding myself wondering lately whether we have the capacity to evolve to the place where we at least stop bombing children in our ongoing quest for “freedom”, or oil, or power, or the imposition of an ideology onto others, be it political, religious or philosophical. It is a mystery, and a sad reflection of our collective commitment to peace. Perhaps it is time for a Ministry of Peace with the same funding and resources as the Department of National Defence. Now there’s an idea whose time, I hope, may have come.
Talk to you next time.
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