Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Eugenics and the Firewall Canada's Nasty Little Secret featured in Prairie Books Now

Paula Kirman interviewed me recently for her article: "A not so proud history." The interview appears in the Fall Winter 2010 issue of Prairie Books Now! As I told Paula, "History isn't about the past at all. It's about charting a future in which our children are not unwitting victims of our mistakes.``

The Province of Alberta`s Eugenics Board existed in the context of a populist political culture that viewed political dissent as something nearing treachery (eg: William Aberhart`s Accurate News and Information Act and the Manning government`s lawsuit against the IODE over its publication of criticisms of Alberta Social Services). That culture helped political `leaders` to create a dual sense of self-righteousness and victimization among the electorate.

As I tell Prairie Books Now!:

``The political culture Aberhart created, and Ernest Manning perfected, is one of extreme passivity and a pack mentality. It is still largely with us....It`s a culture that lets politicians get away from the hard questions by invoking `Western Alienation` or Aberhart`s dream of oil riches and wealth on earth for the righteous. Of course we are not the only province in Canada where this happens, but the historical context is unique here. It`s based on the warping of that progressive vision that birthed the province.``

Unfortunately, the latest issue of Prairie Books Now! is not on-line. (You can pick up a copies at bookstores throughout western Canada.

A few more quotes from Paula`s article:

"The topic of eugenics in Alberta proved to be very sobering for Harris-Zsovan, who describes her main emotion while working on the book as dismay."

"Harris-Zsovan finds that there are connections between past policies and the current Alberta political landscape."

"While Eugenics and the Firewall is often shocking in what it reveals, there is also an underlying feeling of hope that we can learn from history"

"History is not just shabby stories. Scandals are not best left buried. If we don't come to terms with our ancestors' mistakes, we will make the same ones," Harris-Zsovan says.

Friday, 17 December 2010

The Real King's Speech

Christmas Day Messages by the Sovereign to the peoples of the Commonwealth are a tradition. This year is no exception: Elizabeth II will address to the subjects of her realms and the wider Commonwealth, just as her father did in his reign.

But no Royal Christmas address was more poignant than the one Canada's wartime king, George VI, made in 1939 -- as Canadians joined the the Empire the fight against all aspects NAZI tyranny (including Eugenic sterilization and murder.) Colin Firth's movie, The King's Speech tells how an Australian therapist helped him, while still Duke of York, overcome his stutter in order to speak to his subjects.

The King's subjects across the world sat frozen in the dark winter of uncertain victory when he quoted these words by Minnie Louise Harkins:

"I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.' And he replied, 'Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way."

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Distaste for Opposition: Part of Alberta's Eugenics Past?

27th November, 2010, Greg Weadick, MLA for Lethbridge West, told the Lethbridge Herald that he favours more local imput from the local health advisory councils. (Apparently, the one in Lethbridge doesn't hold many public meetings.) He added that he'll also be scheduling meetings to get citizen input.

A good start, maybe.

But Weadick and the rest of the Tory caucus know, the Alberta Health Services Superboard is not bound to take the advice of local advisory committees. And Weadick stopped short of advocating a return to the our province's political tradition of electing local hospital board trustees.

Why? The tradition of electing local hospital trustees (and education trustees, too) goes back to the roots of the province.

Is the Tory Caucus opposed to any citizen input they cannot control? And why do Albertans put up with the erosion of our democratic traditions?

Surely, the province's dark past, as home to the worst eugenics sterilization scandal in the British Empire (carried out at the bidding of an non-elected, out of control, band of government appointees, who did not even bother to follow the flawed dictates of the Sexual Sterilization Act), suggests that we need more accountability to the electorate in our health system, not less.

If we aren't careful, the province's politicians will shut out the electorate when it comes to education, too. I predict that our local school boards will soon become the play thing of mandarins in Edmonton, too -- unless we stand up and say 'no'.

Let's reverse the trend.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Why the Crown of Maples is not a Colonial Relic

I've noticed that quite of few non-Canadians read this blog. I suspect my foreign readers, unless they are from a Commonwealth country, don't quite understand how Canada can be an independent nation and yet share a monarch with 15 countries (including the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Bahamas, Jamaica and several other Caribbean countries, and even tiny Tuvalu). Here's the full list of countries Canada shares a Head of State with: The Commowealth Realms.

The various incarnations of the British (English/Scottish) Crowns have always included more than one kingdom: France, Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany, and Norway all have histories of sharing what was later called the British Monarch.

The term British itself is an admission that the Queen rules multiple kingdoms and has several parliaments.

Bet you didn't realize that Scottish Kings once considered Norway one of their kingdoms. Henry VIII of England, considered himself to be King of France, too. And many French Kings considered England part of their territory. Several 19th Century British Monarchs were also Electors of Hanover, in what is now Germany, and many of the King`s German subjects were counted among the loyalists who fled the American Revolution to British North America. (Canada)

This illustrates another important point: Citizenship in a Commonwealth country is not based on ethnicity. It`s based on adherence to parliamentary democracy and loyality to the Crown, including Parliament. (If only we could remember that!)

For a more modern understanding of Canada's constitutional monarchy, read, The Crown of Maples published by the Government of Canada. Just click on the headings and the text will appear.


Wednesday, 8 December 2010

my comment on death threats & freedom of speech

Sadly, some so called 'libertarians' in Alberta, have apparently suggested that Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, be killed by the United States secret service. One of these individuals also, apparently, sent a threatening email to a Canadian woman who called him on his own words. (I am leaving the names of the individuals who made these comments out because the police are investigating these matters and these allegations must be proven in court. I believe people are innocent until proven guilty.)

What's wrong with these alleged calls for execution without trial? If they indeed occurred, they smack of fascism. And are akin to the thinking of the Aberhart era in which the rights of the vulnerable and the freedom of the press were savagely attacked as the work of the 'sons of Satan.' Such acts are unconstitutional.

Our constitutional monarchy in Canada upholds the rights of citizens to have their day in court. It is illegal to make death threats in Canada. It is illegal to counsel someone to commit a crime.

Premeditated murder is a crime in Canada and so is capital punishment. We do not send out 'hit men' on our political opponents. We do not allow our allies to violate the basic tenants of the Magna Carta, The British North America Act, The Human Rights Acts, The Canadian and Alberta Bills of Rights, or the Canada Act. Not even in the name of friendship.

To suggest that some people are not entitled to their day in court and that the right of the state, any state including the United States, is more important than the rights of an individual, any individual, to have his or her human and civil rights respected, smacks of the kind of thinking that made Alberta home to the worst forced sterilization scandal in the British Empire. (Actually Alberta and British Columbia were the only places in the British Empire to allow eugenics boards to operate. (Such boards were common in the U.S. where the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, a kind of warped Calvinism, sometimes trumped Enlightenment ideals.)

If proven in court, these death threats and calls for contract killings on political opponents from so-called libertarians will reveal two things: libertarianism in Canada is code for 'Social Darwinism.' And most so-called libertarians haven't figured out that, as a Commonwealth realm, Canada is not part of the American Empire and never can be.

We paid for that right not to be part of the American Empire, with the blood of farmers, tradesmen, and other volunteer soldiers, during the American Revolution, The War of 1812, the Boer War, World War 1, World War II, Korea and we still are paying for that right in Afghanistan.

We cannot depend on other countries to stand up for us. We must stand up for what is right ourselves. That is our birthright. And our duty.