The News Rundown
- Canada Day was this past Wednesday, and given the pandemic restrictions that have kept all but BLM protestors ensconced in their homes, cities around Canada had to shelve their usual Canada Day festivities and instead celebrate "virtually". The official Government of Canada website called watching fireworks on the phone or computer "a fun and innovative way" to experience Canada Day.
- While it's the one day of the year set aside for Canadians to be unashamedly patriotic and be proud about the country they live in, not everyone is happy with Canada Day. Even Prime Minister Trudeau offered muted words on Canada: "What makes Canada special is not that Canadians know that this is the best country in the world – it’s that we know it could be. We know our work together is not yet done." That specific unpatriotic phrase indicating that Trudeau does not believe Canada is the best country in the world makes you wonder: If not Canada, which country does Trudeau think is the best country in the world? Hopefully he no longer admires China's basic dictatorship, as he once said he did.
- But let's leave that aside for now. This is about Canada, and celebrating the country we live in, and the ability to wave the Canada flag and stand proud that it celebrates all the good things we have in our country.
- No, even that isn't possible without some 21 century virtue signalling changes. Yes, despite the flag not coming into existence until 1965, some have taken it upon themselves to change the Canadian flag to co-opt their cause. Despite the entire month of June set aside for Pride month, many have taken to defacing the Canadian flag with rainbow pride colours.
- Even on the other side of the political spectrum, the flag is not immune to disrespectful acts. Anti-lockdown protesters drew the ire of Ontario Premier Doug Ford in early May when they turned a Canadian flag upside down during their demonstration. Ford said when he looked outside and saw the flag being flown upside down, he got angry because it is disrespectful:
- "When I see our flag, our Canadian flag flown upside down, that's the utmost disrespect to the men and women that are overseas fighting for our freedoms, our Canadian military. And they have the nerve to fly our Canadian flag upside down and disrespect the men and women of our Canadian Armed Forces and the people of Canada that have all been united through this challenge? That's what really, really burns me up. If they want to fly our flag upside down, they don't respect our country, I'll be the first to help them pack their bags and they can find a country that they want."
- Ford is one of the few politicians in Canada to call for the flag to be treated with dignity. For example, David Shepherd, the NDP MLA for Edmonton-City Centre tweeted a picture in which the Canada flag was festooned with Pride colours.
- Others wanted Canada Day to be cancelled completely. The group Idle No More organized a rally in downtown Vancouver, joining a nationwide movement against celebrating what it calls the ongoing genocide in Canada against Indigenous people.
- Official government rules on flag etiquette state that the Canadian flag “should not be subjected to indignity,” but there are no laws against desecration, such as burning, shredding, stomping, or spitting on it. Keeping in mind that the flag was only put in place since 1965, it doesn't not have the same history that other flags do, good or bad. Those desecrating the flag even more so that most countries do not value Canadian values or the many great things about our country.
- The Canadian media even got in on the act. The Chronicle Herald out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, actually ran a trigger warning for printing the Canadian flag in its Saturday edition.
- They write: "To our readers: inside today's edition, on page A9, you'll find a Canadian flag to clip and post to help celebrate July 1. We understand the flag doesn't mean the same thing to everyone, however, we hope our readers recognize their ability to play a role in shaping Canada's future is a freedom worth acknowledging." The flag then appears on page A9. The shorter version of that? Here’s the flag. Sorry.
- In recent years, no individual or corporation would have batted an eyelash at the idea of a full-throated endorsement of Canada Day celebrations. Now, everyone pauses and self-censors, feeling the need to include remarks about how our nation has both an imperfect past and ongoing challenges. It seemed to start with Trudeau's controversial 2017 Canada Day message, when he said “As we mark Canada 150, we also recognize that for many, today is not an occasion for celebration. As a society, we must acknowledge and apologize for past wrongs.”
- I'm more inclined to agree with Tobi Lutke, CEO of Canada's darling company Shopify when he tweeted "Canada is awesome. Give it a try." That doesn’t mean this country is perfect. It doesn’t mean it’s without flaws. It doesn’t mean it isn’t capable of being better, in so many ways. Even Western Context highlights the many ways that Canada could improve, starting with our media and leaders at the top. But on the whole, all things considered, under the circumstances, relative to the alternatives, what this country has accomplished over a century and a half is kind of awesome. If you travel around the world, or travel through time by reading history, you’ll see it. Graded on the curve, this place goes to the front of the class.
- It’s sad that a national holiday that should be unifying is becoming as needlessly divisive as so much else in public life right now. It ought to be a time to focus on the positives, when Canadians of all walks of life gather together to smile, cheer and wave the flag. Instead, that flag now comes with a disclaimer and a trigger warning from our media.
- One of the persistent demands of the protests following the death of George Floyd in the United States has been that police departments be defunded.
- This week instead we could be talking about Alberta’s economic recovery plan that includes a hefty corporate tax cut and direct spending to infrastructure but this story is more important.
- In the United States we have seen cities fall into what could only be described as anarchy. Police stations burned in Minneapolis and a huge chunk of Seattle fell to the control of what became known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.
- This past Tuesday Edmonton city council agreed to an $11m cut to the police budget here in Edmonton. The budget will be passed this fall with the details yet to be ironed out.
- That’s the key point. City council is being run as though there is some model of policing that will emerge between now and the fall budget that will allow for this kind of cut.
- The City council is taking the same tone that the folks who started Twitter did, saying “a business model will emerge.”
- Except this time it’s a policing model will emerge with $11m less.
- Councillors Moe Banga, Jon Dziadyk, Tony Caterina, Tim Cartmell and Mike Nickel voted against the motion, making it pass 8 to 5.
- The mayor said he is “optimistic we can make structural and systemic and positive change in our community using this $11 million”
- Tim Cartmell the engineer called for an amendment that would’ve made it a $16m cut over two years. It didn’t pass. Cartmell as a civic engineer and small business owner knows how budgets work, knows what it takes to build things, and this is one step towards common sense that the City Council missed.
- For comparison sake the 2020 operating budget for the Edmonton Police service is around $373m.
- Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee said that these budget reductions would result in staffing cuts and ultimately the loss of community safety programs when they were first mentioned back on June 12th.
- This week McFee said that the police department was already looking for cost saving measures due to the pandemic and could work with the $11m cut.
- Earlier in June he said that if the police service was cut based on collective agreements then all the new hires and programs would be lost. He then said that the police service would become an “enforcement agency” which would make “zero sense.”
- This means that the police would effectively be left to enforce bylaws and things such as speed limits.
- He also pointed out that a whole of policing strategy is necessary from being above to have the officers to go on calls, run a homicide division, solve terrorism incidents, and solve organized crime problems on top of all violence and major property crimes. The police service needs to have the officers on hand.
- Last fall after the UCP tabled their first budget the City of Edmonton and Calgary were upset that the province adjusted the portion of money the city gets to keep from traffic tickets.
- City Council and Councillor Sarah Hamilton both said that they worried about “possible consequences to public safety if policing isn’t properly funded.”
- They were ‘worried’ last fall when it was a change made by the UCP but are pushing ahead with unproven, untested, and perhaps dangerous changes to police funding in Edmonton this fall in principle.
- What the net result will be and what policing will look like, no one knows but what we do know is that the hypocrisy of Edmonton City Council is disgusting and shows how many city councillors treat their role as if it was similar to that of student council in high school.
- Perhaps the one silver lining out of this is that we don’t have nightly protests or mobs crushing the mayor’s or police chief’s neighbourhood and ordinary residents don’t feel the need to take up arms to defend themselves as happened this week to a married couple who happened to be lawyers in St. Louis.
- For that the Mayor and Council should be extremely thankful.
- As pandemic restrictions start to lift around the country, we can see that BC has escaped relatively unscathed. Only a few dozen remain in hospitals around the province, with only a handful in ICU, less than 200 people have died in BC, and our active infections remain below 200. Lots of people in BC want to maintain those excellent numbers, and are wary or even hostile of anything that threatens that plan.
- Even now that Premier John Horgan and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry have said that British Columbians are able to conduct non-essential travel freely around the province again, and quarantine restrictions lifted between the Yukon and BC on July 1st, the court of public opinion online seems to want people to remain barricaded in their homes for some reason.
- The easing of restrictions isn't just happening in BC. On July 3, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I. eased inter-provincial travel restrictions within the region, creating an "Atlantic bubble."
- The freedom of movement within provinces will give tourist industry operators a small sigh of relief, as the tourist industry in BC makes up a large part of the economy, and tens of thousands of jobs around the province depend on visitors.
- With that in mind, the border with the US remains closed to non-essential traffic, with very few exceptions, until July 21st. One of those exceptions affects BC directly, and pretty much only BC as well as Albertan towns in the Rockies. A part of the agreement made between the US and Canada was a so-called "Alaska loophole", which allowed Americans to travel to and from the US, but over the past month, American tourists have been using the Alaska loophole to travel to Banff, Jasper, Vancouver, and even places on Vancouver Island.
- Horgan said he's heard stories from MLAs and community leaders from across B.C. about Americans who appear to be abusing the current border crossing exemption designed to let Alaska residents enter Canada if they're trying to get home. Horgan said he's heard similar reports from his own riding on the west coast of Vancouver Island as well: "I was speaking with the local chief of the Pacheedaht (First Nation), and he tells me there was a licence plate from Texas and a licence plate from California at the Port Renfrew general store. If you're heading to Alaska, you don't go through Port Renfrew."
- To some B.C. residents, the concerns are particularly pressing given the failure of U.S. officials in combating the pandemic. On Wednesday, months into the country's response, the U.S. set a new record for confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 50,203 infections in a single day. Millions of Americans have caught the virus since the start of the pandemic, and more than 128,000 of them have died.
- Dr. Henry, who has been a calming influence for many British Columbians throughout the past few months, has offered words that many should listen to. She says it's important to not panic and exhibit xenophobia to anyone who may be American, as we covered back in May on Western Context 171 when cars with American license plates were getting keyed, tires slashed, or nasty notes being left on the windshield.
- Henry said that after speaking with the Canada Border Services Agency, she feels confident that "the majority of people with U.S. licence plates who are in B.C. are Canadians" who were living in America and returned home to Canada during the pandemic: "We have seen individual reports of people who are using that 'Alaska loophole,' if you will, but I understand as well that they are very small in number. Have some compassion, and be calm …recognizing that we might not understand everybody's situation."
- But given how easily outbreaks can spread, and the situation right next door in Washington state – which has seen about 11 times more COVID-19 cases than BC, despite just 1.4 times the population – the apparent rule-breaking was a big enough issue for Horgan to raise it with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. The premier said he's hopeful Freeland will take B.C. residents' concerns up with U.S. State Department officials.
- Freeland's message for Americans: “Please do not come to Canada unless you are coming for an essential reason...I would just like to emphasize to all Canadians, to all Americans, that these restrictions are there for a reason. They are there to keep us all safe.”
- Either way, I think a lot of us Canadians are hoping that America is able to reduce their numbers so that we can get back to visiting each other’s countries as we used to. In the meantime, the media could do a lot better at not inciting panic among the populace, as fear has a huge impact on the economy. As Dr. Henry says, be calm and be compassionate. The media could do with learning that lesson as well.
- Canada Day has come and gone for another year and each year that passes by our confederation anniversary of July 1st 1867, Canadians should remember how fortunate we are.
- It is unfortunate that Canadians abroad, particularly in China are suffering. China’s new national security law for Hong Kong recently came into effect.
- A section of this law means that any infractions that occur anywhere outside of Hong Kong, by foreign citizens apply. This means that if a Canadian who is skeptical of Hong Kong or China, could be arrested upon entry to Hong Kong.
- What’s more, legal experts believe that if China wanted to, they could use extradition powers to reach into countries that have extradition treaties and go after foreign nationals for being critical of China.
- This has put a chill over Chinese freedom activists all over the world, including here in Canada. Canada has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and suspended the export of sensitive military hardware.
- Cherie Wong of Alliance Canada Hong Kong said that their activists are erasing online presences and starting to self-censor.
- What’s more, this week, a Canadian national, Qian Sun, renounced her Canadian citizenship and passport under-duress and torture while being held in China.
- Qian Sun is a Falun Gong practitioner which is a spiritual movement that the Chinese government calls a “cult”
- The dominos for Canadians in China are falling quickly, it has only been a few weeks since a BC court ruled against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. First it was the two Michael’s being charged and now Qian Sun.
- Her torture is said to have involved mental torture and pepper spray while restrained.
- In her case, the Canadian government won’t clarify if the citizenship has actually been revoked and won’t comment on whether or not she received a fair trial.
- It’s worth noting that two months after the torture she wrote a note pleading guilty and stopped seeing her lawyer.
- China is moving quickly and the parallels to 1930s Germany are striking in terms of the freedoms being eroded.
- It was also reported this week that China is slashing birth rates on Uighurs and other minorities in China’s far west.
- China is said to be using methods such as forced birth control, sterilization, and abortion.
- These population control measures are in by the Chinese communist party in an effort to curb the Muslim population in China.
- Those who resist are subject to mass detention both as a threat and punishment. Some families who have too many children have the parents sent to detention camps.
- Now let’s ask ourselves, in what world would these atrocities be allowed to continue on the world stage.
- What’s happening in China’s west is clearly genocide.
- What’s happening to the two Michael’s is admittedly political based on comment from the Chinese communist party.
- And what has happened to Qian Sun is deeply disturbing as a Canadian passport and citizenship is seen as one of the most prestigious in the world.
- As we celebrate Canada Day we must remember what Canadians new and old have gone through to become Canadian citizens both by emigrating from their former countries or fleeing as refugees.
- It is for that reason that as Canadians we must push for a government that has a principled foreign policy that will stand up for Canadians abroad and call out brutal regimes when we see them.
- We spoke last week about Chinese influence within the Canadian government and the need for an inquiry into what kind of influence the Chinese Communist Party has exerted.
- This week it’s time to renew calls for our friends and allies in the G7 and NATO to have a frank discussion on the trojan horse that is the Chinese Communist Party.
- This is what the media and opposition are not telling you here in Canada.
Word of the Week
Patriotism - a feeling of love, devotion and sense of attachment to a homeland and alliance with other citizens who share the same sentiment, including ethnic, cultural, political or historical aspects.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Proud to be Canadian
Teaser: The media issues a trigger warning for the Canadian flag, Edmonton City Council wants to defund the police, and Horgan raises a panic in BC over the Alaska border exemption. Also, a Canadian renounces her Canadian citizenship under torture in China.
Recorded Date: July 3, 2020
Release Date: July 5, 2020
Edit Notes: Phone buzz in middle
Podcast Summary Notes