The Canadian government paid out a 10.5 million dollar settlement to Omar Khadr for the same reason they paid out for the Syrian engineer Arar: the security apparatus in Canada screwed up and they’ll do anything to cover that up. Canada’s relationship with the four other Sisters depends upon it.  That’s why they’ll sit still with the American military calling Khadr a murderer and an absurd lawsuit from a widow’s family.

You’ll never see a member of CSIS on trial for human rights abuses, and that certainly would have happened if the government had not paid out.

Justin Trudeau can spin this as the rule of law, but the rule of the Five Sisters takes precedence.


Wiley E. Conservative

July 20, 2017

Deja vu. All through the 2015 federal election campaign Stephen Harper’s Conservatives acted like Wiley E. Coyote, trying this gimmick and that to destroy the blasted Road Runner in the person of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. But the traps never quite worked. There were the four debates which pitted two veterans against the callow youngster.  JT won.  The Conservatives and NDP wore out the “Just Not Ready” ad. Then JT picked up the husk and with a deft judo flip, turned it into a pre sold, “I’m Ready” ad. Canadians, tired of the other ad’s overreach, agreed.

Newbie Andrew Scheer’s idea of leadership seems also to involve a lot of Acme Hardware purchases, and the 10.5 million dollar wedge is as hopeful a gadget as any Harper attempted. JT’s response today in the Globe and Mail simply involved driving the wedge back the other way. The Acme hammer of the talking points is the 71% disapproval figure from a single online survey by paid contributors. If even one new survey shows the opposite, Wiley E. Sheer will have black soot all over his face.

Andrew Scheer has squeaked into the post of Federal Conservative Leader with promises of a new world of conservatism-with-a-smile, but I have been put off repeatedly by his fondness for bumper-sticker logic and the use of reductivism in place of truth.

A single example of this deception by oversimplification is Sheer’s fondness for the phrase “confessed terrorist” in reference to Omar Khadr.  Khadr, a Canadian citizen captured at 15 in Afghanistan, signed a confession in an illegitimate military tribunal — not a legal courtroom — as the main condition for release from ten years of torture in an American internment camp in Cuba with no other prospect for release.  CSIS personnel went to the camp to interrogate the former child soldier, then turned over their intelligence to the Americans.

It bothers me that Stephen Harper and this grinning acolyte radiate false rage over the $10.5M payment to Omar Khadr because it riles up the Conservative base.  Slogans like:  Canadians need to let Mrs. Speer know how we feel about Khadr! appropriate an American family’s private sorrow and vulgarize it into a crude plywood sign on a roof in Calgary.  Time will tell if this extended anti-Trudeau tirade will generate income from Conservative donors for Scheer as well as the Long Gun Registry worked for Harper.

Scheer’s history of success in assorted votes indicates considerable political acumen.  He is likely smarter than he looks and sounds, but it grates that this “conservative” seeks to draw the level of political discourse in Canada so low.  I had had hopes that the new Conservative leader would keep politics north of the Canadian border, help put back in place a reverence for political discourse, and always take the high road without bastardizing his party’s position by conflating facts and ignoring nuance.  Instead, we see a man only too willing to ape the tactics creating electoral-success-at-all-cost in the United States today.

Michael Chong would have made a much better Conservative leader, but he may have to wait through another election cycle or two to get his chance.

Canada Day on CBC

July 1, 2017

I have just watched 3 1/2 hours of TV during which a crowd got wet.  It was pretty good.  Some Irishman named Bono gave the best speech of the day before he sang, according to retiring CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge.  Bono said he offered to do a song at the event because he likes Justin Trudeau’s stand on human rights.  Multiple Grammy winner Shania Twain introduced Canada’s two new astronauts, but didn’t sing.  The ageless Buffy St. Marie kicked the afternoon off with a rap during which she wandered off the stage to address Prince Charles and the P.M. directly.  She is a compelling performer.

Prince Charles spoke pretty good French for the first half of his speech, then segued without a trace of irony into English.  Royal.  What struck me was how much he seemed to enjoy himself in the rain, meeting everyone.  Justin Trudeau let go with a barn-burner of a speech, working the soggy crowd very well.  Then he forgot to mention Alberta when rhyming off the provinces and territories.  Mansbridge ruminated about that all afternoon.

The best act was the co-hosting job by Sandra O and Mitsu.  They timed their English/French comments so tightly that it appeared one was speaking over the other, but after a while I realized that they had to have rehearsed this difficult timing, for every syllable came out just right.  Mitsu’s radiant personality and O’s gravitas emphasized that this was a serious show about a serious, if joyous event.

The Trudeau family swept away any stuffiness in the performance with J.T. (and Sophie) popping out of their seats from time to time, most notably a drop-in on Peter Mansbridge during his broadcast.  Justin took the mike and interviewed Peter in a mildly amusing segment.  The two drew quite a crowd of friendly onlookers eager to wish Mansbridge well on his last show.  On their way out Peter offhandedly suggested they say hello to his wife and son.  The camera swung to frame a shocked Cynthia Dale and the younger Mansbridge, who looked rather like his father when shaking the P.M’s hand.

Comedian Mark Critch just did a funny standup routine in front of a crowd in Newfoundland, joking about Peter’s retirement and how he wants his job.

The interviews with people across Canada turned out to be more interesting than one might expect.  CBC Power and Politics host Rosie Barton interviewed one woman, her teenaged son and pre-teen daughter.  Rosie asked how long it had taken them to get to Parliament Hill from their home in Northern Ontario.  “A nine hour drive after a five hour train ride and a ten minute boat trip.  And then we waited four hours in line, and we arrived here just ten minutes ago.”

Rosie asked why they had come.  The woman identified her family as First Nations, “I wanted to bring my children here so that they can see what Canada is like.”  Nice lady, with great kids, to judge by their alertness and intelligence.

UPDATE 2 July, 2017

I quit watching t.v. at 12.15 a.m.  Still no fireworks.  Gordon Lightfoot was a treat, though.  He had performed on the same stage fifty years ago in 1967.  Most of the evening was shots of Rick Mercer on a roof tossing to indy rock bands performing in various locations around Canada.

Cirque de Soleil performed on a soggy Ottawa stage, though.  Courageous acrobats, those.  The poll dancer’s routine was flat-out amazing.  He could run up a 25′ stripper pole with less effort than it takes me to climb a flight of stairs.  The trampoline guys took some risks in the rain, but I saw only one slip in an otherwise flawless performance.

Today’s newspaper coverage has moved on from the Trudeau-forgot-Alberta bulletin ( a teleprompter misread) to chaos-at-the-gates stories of Canadians frustrated by overly tight and disorganized event security over the afternoon.  So the Canadian version of catastrophe at a public event involves standing in line for eight hours without food, only to find that this line doesn’t actually go anywhere.  The body count consisted of one man who fell off a three-story building while climbing it.  He’s in hospital with a head injury.

As a viewer I felt glad for those who made it onto the Hill, and sorry for those trapped in lineups, but that’s a lot better than reading grizzly details of a bomb blast.  I was especially glad that our granddaughter stayed at home with her parents and watched T.V. rather than facing that crowd.

I prefer bathos to tragedy.

I’ll miss you, Peter Mansbridge.

Yesterday while perusing one newspaper’s mandatory Father’s Day opinion article I saw a variation of the following clause:  “When a dad sees their kids.”  I gagged.

How far have we fallen, on Father’s Day, this most gender-specific of all roles of all days, when it’s too much work for that writer to use the third person, masculine, singular pronoun for the unique relationship between a father and his child?

I admit that language forms and reflects thought, but does it have to inhibit it and sew confusion?  How many of the transgendered are there out there to offend, anyway?  Before you dismiss me as a troglodyte of the old school, I should specify that, while I gulp in discomfort before every proclamation of “My pronouns are they, them, and their” on the TV show Billions, I quite like that character, and I wish the character well on future seasons.

My complaint stems from a career of marking the essays of rather bright teenagers as they struggled to distinguish between one and many.  To a certain extent I blame day care and rock videos for the underlying assumption of interchangeability:  should one’s companions meet a minimum standard of age, gender, and appearance, each will do as well as another.  This fuzzy focus from an excess of choices embodies itself in many students’ written work through the misuse of “their.”

Indeed, my frequent exhortation to the brightest writers was to exercise great care in distinguishing between one and many.  The use of a singular subject is a good way to initiate a sentence which informs as well as it can.  Let’s use the Father’s Day example again:  “My dad used to encourage me to use his basic woodworking tools to build things from boards I found in the scrap pile.”  Of course it’s acceptable to use a plural subject:  “Parents often support their children by sharing their personal toys with them as they grow up.”

Plural subjects such as “parents” don’t need a gender-specific pronoun.  Nonetheless, it is hard to feel confidence in a writer too lazy not to begin a sentence with a singular subject and then lose his way to “their” after the first verb.

It’s as though a writer’s understanding of basic grammar runs up against unbreakable rules of political correctness and his brain shorts out to “Whatever!” mode and his fingers type in “they.”

Is it any wonder that journalists today seem overwhelmed by specific details of complex stories?  They have lost their editors’ permission to use the necessary language to examine them.

Look at the rise of Eric Grenier, a blogger-turned-columnist at CBC.  Grenier has established a reputation as an analyst of polling data.  It was this blogger who had the temerity to write that Baby Boomers were the principal supporters of Justin Trudeau’s 2015 electoral majority, not Millenials, that marijuana legalization attracted these Millenials to the party but they voted on jobs and the environment, and that the much-touted Aboriginal vote actually went to the NDP, despite loud protestations of betrayal from First Nations leaders in British Columbia who claimed to have voted Liberal in the federal election.  He formed these conclusions from careful, poll-by-poll analyses of turnout and vote counts.

Grenier’s particular gift is his ability to distinguish between the one and the many, and it quietly puts the lie to some of the half-truths which slide conveniently into Canadian political writing.  On one occasion I corrected journalist Stephen Maher on one of these slips.  He quickly apologized that he had been in a hurry,  he should have checked his data, but hadn’t, and promptly rewrote the article to eliminate the slip.

As Canadians in a world increasingly afflicted with diseases of thought, we need to pay careful attention to the accuracy of what we write and read.

UPDATE:  20 June, 2017

As satisfying as the first half of the rant above might have been to compose, a reader suggested a more appropriate perspective on

It’s called ‘singular they’.  Intended for cases where the sex of any particular member of a group is irrelevant to the meaning of the message– it’s vaguely stupid when talking about members of a group whose sex can be assumed, like fathers.

I just read that Canada’s Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould,  plans to make the punishment for selling marijuana to children a 14 year maximum sentence, the same as for child molesters.

On July 20, 2013 I posted the following article to my blog.  I also sent it along to whatever contacts I could find in Ottawa.  Coincidence?  Probably.  But I think they’re right in their thinking:  drug dealers have no more place in the schools than child molesters, and both offences should receive equal social opprobrium.

July 20, 2013           The Walnut Diary

As a retired secondary school teacher and vice principal, while I detest marijuana for the damaging effect it has on the learning of young people, I support legalizing it with one important caveat: take strong steps to keep the stuff away from kids under the age of 18.

In particular I would suggest that the type of electronic surveillance which has proven effective at rounding up child pornography rings should be directed toward the use of cell phones in secondary schools.

The grade 12 drug dealer sitting in the back of an English class will be a lot less likely to take orders by text from grade nine kids if Signals Intelligence has made a copy of his morning text traffic available to the local police before his lunch-hour delivery time.

Kids, especially boys with ADHD, are badly damaged by early cannabis use. I have seen too many bright kids ruined by the drug to have any use for it in or around the school yard.

If we treat marijuana dealers who sell to kids as the child molesters they are (and not just as students misbehaving), let the rest of society pay their taxes and buy their grass at the LCBO.


I fell into a discussion online in which a guy challenged me to put up proof that grass is bad for kids with ADHD. So I’ll add a few links here as I find them.


These were the first three Google listed.

I searched online today for any news article dated after January 30th about the accused shooter in the murder of six men and the injury of nine others, all of whom were praying at their Quebec City mosque on January 29, 2017.

It’s been less than two months, but the killer seems to have vanished from the public record.  Only the BBC continues to cover the story.

Last August I posted a column on this blog suggesting that one way to discourage domestic terrorism would be to deny notoriety to the perpetrators.  Reporters seem to have done that in spades in this case.

I can’t help but wonder, however, if the news vacuum might have more to do with the pur lain surname of the perpetrator and the non-French surnames of the victims, rather than my suggestion.

The media silence, broken only by an Angus Reid push-poll today against 103, the Anti-Islamophobia motion, suggests that Canadians just want to forget that this massacre ever happened.  We’re good at that.

UPDATE:  31 March, 2017

In a brief news clip the reporter mentions a court date today for the accused killer.  She further explains that the previous defence attorney had requested and gained a publication blackout on the case.  That attorney has quit and a legal aid lawyer is now representing the accused.