When professors around the country were busy figuring ways to deliver their classes online, two faculty members at the University of Alberta wrote a letter and enlisted the endorsement of some 200 of their leisured colleagues at 33 universities in Canada. A crisis must not be wasted.
From the privileged positions of publicly paid jobs, the Alberta authors urge Ottawa to stall the COVID-19 help to the oil industry with an old idea minted in bureaucratic hell: they want the prime minister to start a new cycle of consultations.All other aid should be expedited. Only aid to oil companies need be trapped in nightmare.
Their dream is to shut everything down that can be shut down in the oil patch, start an endless process of consultations while oil workers are sent to retrain. The recommendation does not include training camps for oil workers.
It’s hard to imagine such a rushed petition from level-headed people during a national emergency. In what seems a lack of awareness of the consequences, they advise to get on it right away because “we have no time to lose.” The classic let’s-hurry-up-and-wait!
It is radical ideology at work. Ideologies are grids of interpretation (and we all use them). In radical cases, however, ideology descends into zealotry and induces the adopter into a self-inflicted disconnect from reality. There is no greater evidence of a mind infected with a radical ideology than when ideologues subordinate all things to their awaited goal, including human lives and their welfare.
Radical ideologues are prepared to inflict pain and suffering for the sake of accelerating the advent of the future they expect to arrive soon. Some skilfully use crises to rush their goals. Typically, they see the misery they unleash in the process as the price to pay for the application of the ideas to create a new world, a new society, or a new natural equilibrium – in the case of eco-radicals.
The Twentieth Century is littered with examples of enlightened creatures who have unleashed unfathomable suffering upon more than 100 million people.
Some great works of literature have depicted the inner workings of ideological systems. They make excellent quarantine reading.
In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston and Julia fall victim to extraordinary indignities at the hand of the state apparatus, are subjected to constant surveillance, abuse and torture, to enforce a status quo of squalor and oppression that had long betrayed the society of equality and prosperity the enlightened revolutionaries once promised.
In Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler depicts the experiences of Nicholas Rubashov, a Communist party official charged with enforcing ideological purity, until the repressive machine he helped to build turns toward him. Slowly, he becomes aware that the compassion he now hopes from others has been replaced by the conviction of ideas, discernment has been replaced by the dreams of the future, and decency thoroughly eroded by ideology.
In both novels, people who belong to a group deemed politically or economically undesirable are sacrificed by the designs of a few enlightened figures, who claim to know and speak for the collective good of all. Only the final goal mattered.
In real life, radical environmentalists similarly eclipse humanity behind the dreams of a soon-to-be-realised eco-nirvana. Earth First!ers once relished the thought of millions of people dying of HIV, viewing people as parasites. Today, with similar impulses, Extinction Rebellion seeks to place environment ahead of all things and replace governments with eco-sensitive assemblies to rule over us.
It is not that concern for the environment is bad. It is no worse than the Communist concern for workers. But deep-ecology ideologues favour “Nature” to the detriment of human welfare (as though humans were not natural) in the same way that communists sacrifice workers to create a “New Man.”
To be clear, I am not suggesting UofA academics want oil patch workers exterminated. They only want oil workers’ job to disappear by incantation. But I am saying they want to use the COVD-19 crisis to push their agenda of ecological purity at the expense of human welfare in Alberta. Their position is radically ideological. It demonstrates three disconnects in certain corners of academe: an unusual disconnect with compassion, with the socio-economic realities of the present crisis, and with the sentiments of the common Albertan, who is wisely capable of simultaneously supporting environmental concerns and responsible energy extraction.
Marco Navarro-Génie is a columnist for the Western Standard, the President of the Haultain Research Institute and Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
WAGNER: Are Westerners really Canadians?
Many Westerners have a strong regional identity and therefore feel a closer bond with the West than with Canada as a whole.
What is a Canadian? One answer would be, any person with Canadian citizenship. That is probably a sufficient answer for most people. On that basis, almost every Western Canadian qualifies as a real Canadian.
But what if the question – “What is a Canadian?” – was asked, instead, about the country’s national identity? Do Westerners qualify as Canadians under the criteria of Canadian national identity? The answer to this question is more problematic.
A nation’s identity refers to the way in which its citizens see themselves as being distinct from citizens of other countries. In his book about America’s national identity entitled “Who Are We?”, the late Harvard political scientist Samuel P. Huntington wrote, “Identity is an individual’s or a group’s sense of self. It is a product of self-consciousness, that I or we possess distinct qualities as an entity that differentiates me from you and us from them.” He adds that, “Identities are imagined selves: they are what we think we are and what we want to be.”
Identity, in other words, is how we think of ourselves in relation to others.
It should not just be assumed that since Westerners live in a geographical part of Canada that they automatically embrace Canada’s national identity, or national myths. Instead, this matter requires careful analysis. The person who has done the most thinking on this question is political scientist Barry Cooper of the University of Calgary. As it turns out, he believes that the political identity of Westerners is different from that of Eastern Canadians. In his view, what is commonly referred to as “Canadian identity” is actually a concept that is primarily derived from – and relevant for – southern Ontario.
In 1984, Cooper wrote a groundbreaking academic article addressing this issue – “Western Political Consciousness” – that was published in the book “Political Thought in Canada” edited by Stephen Brooks. In my opinion, this article should be required reading for all serious students of Canadian politics.
To understand the question of national identity, it is essential to look at Canadian history. The first major wave of English-speaking settlement into Canada consisted of colonists who had supported British imperial authority in the American War of Independence. These colonials wanted to continue to live under British rule and therefore migrated to southern Ontario (formerly Upper Canada) and the Maritimes. They were known as “Loyalists.”
A generation later, these same people and their children had to defend themselves against American incursions during the War of 1812. Because of their conflicts with and hostility towards the United States, the Loyalists of southern Ontario developed what Cooper calls a “garrison mentality”, whereby they saw themselves as a beleaguered community, constantly on guard. This concept of the garrison became their “imaginative reality,” or how they understood their community in relation to the rest of the world.
The experience of these early residents of Ontario, first as refugees from hostile Americans, then as defenders of their land against American invasion, explains the origin and prevalence of anti-American sentiment in Canada.
Due to the demographic and political preeminence of southern Ontario within Canada, its own identity became the basis for Canadian national identity. As Cooper writes, “Canada, the imaginative reality centred in the Loyalist heartland, became Canada the political reality.” In other words, “there is indeed a Canadian identity, but it is restricted to the Loyalist heartland.”
However, the garrison mentality of southern Ontario did not take hold in the West. The people of the western provinces had different historical experiences than those of southern Ontario and therefore developed a different imaginative reality: “Western regional identity, to the extent that it is distinct from ‘Canadian’ identity, refers to distinct experiences expressed by way of distinct symbols and themes.”
The stories of the West are different from those of Ontario, and that is important according to Cooper: “Stories, including the systematic stories we call history, reveal meanings, local and particular ones first of all, and through them general and universal ones. History, too, is a source of identity; historical literature also shows who we are and where is here because it recounts what was done and said.”
Consequently, since the West does not see itself as a transplanted Ontario garrison, it is not imaginatively part of Canada. That is, because the historical experiences of Westerners were so different from those of southern Ontario, Westerners don’t share with Ontarians the same understanding of what it means to be Canadian.
This has implications for the idea of national unity. As Cooper puts it, “national unity is a symbol expressing ‘Canadian’ identity, the identity of the Loyalist heartland.” That is to say, it’s not truly “national” at all. Instead, it largely involves advancing the regional interest of a certain part of Canada (i.e. Ontario) under the guise of what’s best for all of Canada.
Many Westerners have a strong regional identity and therefore feel a closer bond with the West than with Canada as a whole. This is fundamental to Western imaginative reality. Cooper explains as follows: “Regional identity is at the heart of Western political consciousness. For many Westerners, as for many francophone Quebecers, the significant public realm is not Canada, but the region or province. Canada for them is, first and perhaps last, a legal structure that performs certain administrative functions. It is not first of all a collective political reality, nor an important source of meaning or pride, save under exceptional circumstances. In contrast, the region, the West, carries a constant and positive emotional valence: it is here and us.”
Of course, not all Westerners identify more closely with the West than with Canada as a whole – but many of us do. For us, Cooper’s analysis explains something that we have sensed but were previously unable to clearly understand and articulate. That is, the idea of Canadian identity presented to us expresses a different understanding of the country than the one we actually experience ourselves.
Westerners have long felt left out of important political and economic decisions in Canada. Historically, many federal policies were enacted at the expense of the West – with the National Energy Program being the quintessential example. But according to Cooper’s analysis, Westerners have also been left out of the common meaning of Canadian identity. Looked at from this perspective – that is, the perspective of national identity – it is not too much to ask, are Westerners really Canadians?
Michael Wagner is columnist for the Western Standard. He has a PhD in political science from the University of Alberta. His books include ‘Alberta: Separatism Then and Now’ and ‘True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada.’
FILDEBRANDT: Deplatforming is mob censorship
Any government that tries to censor them, is a tyranny. And individual that tries to de-platform them, is a tyrant in the making.
The following text is the opening statement by Western Standard Publisher Derek Fildebrandt in a debate on “deplatforming” as a means of fighting hate. Video of the debate is available HERE.
The question before us today is a relevant and important one: “Is deplatforming a useful tool to eradicate hate?”
Unsurprisingly to those of you who know me, my answer, is a “hard no.”
To start, let’s try to define “deplatforming.”
“Deplatforming”, is the private-sector counterpart to public-sector censorship. While “censorship” is the state inserting itself as the arbiter of what is permissible to say, and who is permissible to say it, “deplatforming” is by-and-large, private actors taking up the role of arbiter.
While Canada’s press is by-and-large free, it is still subject to censorship around certain sensitive subjects. One of the more notorious examples was the attempt by the Alberta and Canadian Human Rights Commissions to censor the Western Standard from publishing the Danish cartoons of the Islamic prophet Mohammad in 2006.
While these same self-professed “human rights commissions” never batted an eye at art, or writing critical of Christianity in displays like the famous “Piss Christ”, they were only too eager to make a series of cartoons illegal for print.
No doubt, the cartoons were offensive to some. But that was the point. These cartoons had triggered grown men around the planet to start rioting and killing people. Free men and free women had a right to know what all the fuss was about; and while most of the Canadian media cowered, the staff at the Western Standard did their duty as a part of a free press.
As the bad press around the issue was building a groundswell of support at the time to abolish the Human Rights Commissions themselves, the government capitulated its own case in court (rather than face a Charter challenge). Since that time, governments have been more careful about applying its ham-fisted censorship legislation on major press outlets.
But since 2006, the lead role of arbiter has passed from the public-sector, to the private-sector; which brings us to “deplatforming”.
However more prominent deplatforming is now, it is not new, and while it is primarily employed by the political left today, it has historically been used just as frequently by the old political right.
In 2003, the Dixie Chicks spoke out against the US invasion of Iraq. At that time, public support favoured war, and being a semi-country band, their fans were disproportionately in rural and southern areas of the US that tended to favour war.
Many pro-war Republicans set about deplatforming them. They were labelled unpatriotic, and therefore unworthy of listening to.
But rather than individuals decide not to buy their CDs or turn them off when they came on the air, many pro-war activists tried to get them off the air. It wasn’t good enough that they didn’t want to listen to what the Dixie Chicks had to say. They wanted to make sure that others didn’t listen to what this group had to say.
I raise the case of the Dixie Chicks, because today’s modern campus censorship crusaders must understand that whatever they may feel about a particular politician, speaker, or singer, this is a knife that can cut both ways.
Surely, there are many individuals that hold views repugnant to us as individuals. And to that, there is only one legitimate action that free peoples can undertake in a free society: change the channel.
Today’s campuses are riddled with students and professors that feel some – or many – messages and speakers are just too dangerous to be heard. That if people hear these people out, they will be transformed into goose-stepping storm troopers bent on wanton racial and homophobic murder.
Supporters of deplatforming say that shutting speech down only applies when someone “crosses the line.”
But where do they draw the line? Are any of them qualified – intellectually or morally – to draw that line?
The de-platformers draw little distinction between a genuinely hateful character like David Duke, and someone who merely happens to hold controversial opinions, like Jordan Peterson.
For my own part, deplatformmers attempted to pull a fire-alarm while I gave a speech on a campus about three years ago. The controversial, hate-filled message I was giving? That those on the right should not be afraid of the de-platformers, and should never stoop to using petty deplatforming against those we disagree with.
Our concept of deplatforming now extends to the online world. Controversial personalities are now routinely “deplatformed” or “demonetized” to stop them from perusing a meaningful career. In some cases, this can be justified, but not only any grounds that they are “hateful” or “offensive”. Privately owned, online platforms are private property, and just as you have the right to tell a trespasser to get off your lawn, owners of private online platforms have the right to tell people to “get off my server”.
This is complicated for major social media and monetary platforms however. When the CEOs of these tech giants are hauled before Congress, it is clear that legislators require them to bend to their political will, or else face direct regulation. In conflates the private with the public, and makes deplatforming by Facebook and Twitter an act of indirect censorship by government.
For example, YouTube has bent to the will of governments around the world and blocked nearly all Covid-19 related material that contradicts the statements of the World Health Organization. This is a case of deplatforming silencing not just voices deemed “hateful” or “offensive”, but just dissenting and contradictory.
This should serve as a present and dangerous example of what happens when states, major corporate entities, or individuals, decide to make themselves the ultimate arbiter of what constitutes legitimate speech.
Some things are offensive. Some things hurt our feelings. The grown-up reaction to this is to change the channel, or challenge those we disagree with.
This is doubly-so for those with genuinely hateful views. If a speaker is invited from the Westboro Baptist Church or the Iranian regime, shutting them down not only violates the right of people to hear them, but gives them and their hateful message credence. Potential listeners might rightfully ask themselves: “If this speaker is so wrong, why would anyone attempt to stop them from speaking?”
Most open forums – like the one we are having here today – have an opportunity for questions and answers. Those who disagree with the speaker, can challenge them, and shine a spotlight on the inconsistencies that make up most hateful views.
When then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia University in 2007, he was asked about his regime’s record of murdering gays and lesbians. His response that Iran “had no homosexuals”, elicited roars of laughter from the crowd.
Ahmadinejad – allowed to speak freely – made a fool of himself and the worldview which he represented. This was a textbook case of allowing the marketplace of ideas to determine which ideas should sink, and which ideas should swim.
All ideas: the thoughtful, the vapid – the liberal, the hateful – the innocuous, the provocative – all deserve to be heard if they can meet only two criterion: someone wants to speak, and someone wants to listen.
Any government that tries to censor them, is a tyranny. And individual that tries to de-platform them, is a tyrant in the making.
Free speech is not meant to protect the expression of the uncontroversial, bland, prevailing orthodox opinions of the majority, but to protect the expression of the controversial and offensive opinions of the minority, or more importantly, the individual.
Only weak ideas and weak men require censorship to defend them from challengers.
In a free society, you have only two recourses to speech you disagree with: don’t listen, or challenge it.
Let me conclude by quoting then Western Standard Publisher Ezra Levant in his interrogation with the Human Rights Commission in 2008:
“I reserve maximum freedom, to be maximally offensive, and hurt feelings as I want.”
LITTLEJOHN: A fall Stampede? Not under these rules.
The Calgary Stampede decided not to postpone but instead canceled because there was no guarantee that Alberta’s ban on large gatherings or international travel would be lifted by the fall.
On April 23rd, 2020 the Calgary Stampede was cancelled for the first time in nearly 100 years. The Stampede began in 1912, and from 1923 on it was an annual event. The Stampede has carried on through two world wars, the great depression, and the 2013 flood.
The Stampede even carried on in 1919 during the Spanish Flu, which killed nearly as many Canadians as died in the First World War. The Spanish Flu – a strain of H1N1 – arrived in Calgary in October 1918 with soldiers returning from the First World War. A second wave swept the city in January 1919 after schools and other public buildings reopened following the Christmas holiday, and it resurfaced again in 1920. Despite all this, the Stampede was held in the summer of 1919 in order to raise community spirit in a period of anguish and discontent.
Janice Dickin, professor emeritus at the University of Calgary explains why this pandemic is different.
“We are a very different society. We are unwilling to sacrifice lives and can actually do something about it. In 1918-19, 50 thousand to 70 thousand died, same as we lost in the war. There was little to be done if anyone got sick, no breathing machines. There was not even a microscope capable of seeing viruses, so any attempts at a vaccine were futile. We now can do something and are minded to look after everyone we can. You bet I’d have been at that victory [Stampede] parade. And you bet I’m relieved this year’s Stampede has been cancelled. “
The Stampede in 1919 was a relatively small, local affair. One hundred years later, the 2019 Stampede drew a crowd of nearly 1.3-million people. Many were tourists from outside of Canada. Given the restrictions on international travel – as well as concerns about large crowds – it was inevitable the Stampede would not go ahead in July. Alberta’s chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw stated, “Until we have a vaccine or some other means of ensuring widespread immunity, some of these gatherings are going to be the riskiest kinds of activities to engage in. Especially gatherings that bring together people from all over the country or all over the world.”
This is a large part of the reason the Stampede was cancelled instead of postponed. Other large, global events such as the Boston Marathon and the Kentucky Derby have been postponed until September. The Calgary Stampede decided not to postpone but instead canceled because there was no guarantee that Alberta’s ban on large gatherings or international travel would be lifted by the fall.
Calgary Stampede spokeswoman Kristina Barnes said, “With the safety of our community front of mind, and given the ongoing ban on large gatherings in our province, it simply wasn’t possible to plan for a postponement. The intrinsic ties with both the Western Fair circuit and North American Fair circuit, particularly with the midway [complicates matters and] is indicative of the extremely detailed coordination that is required to hold an event like the Stampede, and how our planning is intertwined with other fairs and festivals.”
This is a devastating blow to Calgary already reeling from years of recession and record low energy prices. On average over the past five years, the Stampede has generated $79.2 million in gross revenue. The 2019 Calgary Stampede contributed a $227.4-million boost to Calgary’s economy.
Many Stampede vendors worry about the financial effect. For some, such as Alberta Boot Company, the Stampede month represents half their annual sales.
President and Chairman of the Board of the Calgary Stampede, Dana Peers acknowledged that cancelling Stampede impacts many Calgary businesses including hotels, restaurants, vendors, ride-sharing services, and more.
It will also be challenging for athletes who invest significant amounts of money in their animals and have training, farrier and veterinarian expenses. Without sponsorships or winnings it will be a difficult time for cowboys.
Charities such as the Rotary Club of Calgary also face a challenge. The Rotary club raises two thirds of their budget through the sale of tickets for the Stampede Rotary Dream Home. Without the stampede it will be a challenge to replace this.
For Calgarians, summer without stampede will be difficult but when you get bucked off, you dust yourself off and get back in the saddle. Hopefully in 2021 Calgary Stampede will do just that.
Tessa Littlejohn is a Columnist for the Western Standard
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