Thursday, 28 November 2013

It's official: Canada has abandoned diplomacy

Canada once had a proud foreign service.  Our diplomats could boast of defusing the Suez crisis, battling apartheid, inventing peacekeeping, creating the Ottawa Landmine Treaty, mediating between warring factions in places as diverse as the Middle East, Vietnam and Northern Ireland.  One of our diplomats won a Nobel Peace Prize.

Not any more.  Canada's government decided in 2006 to merge Foreign Affairs and International Trade into a single department.  And yesterday, the government announced that henceforth, the primary responsibility for Canadian diplomats is to act as salesmen for Canadian businesses.

I suppose it makes sense.  Canada campaigned against international restrictions on trade asbestos, so that our asbestos mines could continue to sell their products to India.  Canada campaigns against restrictions on greenhouse gases, in order to protect the interests of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.  Canada no longer has any time for the United Nations - where we were, once upon a time, proud of our level of engagement in working to resolve conflict, relieve suffering, and improve international relations.  Canada is quick to criticize Sri Lanka's human rights record, but mentions nothing of the record of our favoured trading partner China.  Our foreign minister is "skeptical" of any rapprochement with Iran - how much of his skepticism is related to the impact improved relations would have on the price of a barrel of Ft McMurray bitumen?

We've shown the world our priorities.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

I'm not a proper cyclist

We moved to Victoria in February, and left the car behind.  We managed to get around by foot and by bus, occasionally resorting to using the Car Share.  And finally in July, I started cycling.  My sister solved my bike purchasing dilemma by giving me a reconditioned mountain bike (hooray, free bike, and almost as important, hooray, no need to wade through all the confusing research about what type of bike I need!).

I've been cycling to and from work almost daily ever since, but I don't feel like a proper cyclist.  I have a helmet, reflective vest, flashing white light for the front and flashing red light for the rear.  Oh, and a bell!  But other than that, I'm not invested in the proper cycling look.  No skin-tight cycling shorts.  No wrap-around sunglasses.  And even the Canadian Tire cycling gear that I use would never pass muster with a proper cyclist.

On the road, and on the cycle path, I am definitely the slowest thing on wheels.  I don't think I've passed a single moving bicycle in the 5 months that I've been cycling.  I make a point of using my cute little bell when I pass pedestrians - I know that when I'm walking, it's nice to have a warning before the whoosh of a cyclist zipping past.  I'm not aware of proper cyclists using bells, however.  There's typically no warning of their approach, just the whoosh of their slipstream as they thread a path between pedestrians, slower cyclists (i.e., me) and other obstacles.  On rare occasions, you may hear a gruff, "on yer left".

I confuse pedestrians when I stop to let them cross the street in front of me, or otherwise follow the directions of traffic control devices.  If I'm on my bike, I go only when other wheeled traffic can go, and if using a pedestrian crossing I dismount and walk my bike across.  I try to avoid sneaking up beside motor vehicles, although if I'm in a bike lane I'll go as far as that allows without feeling guilty.

I suppose I should just lighten up and not worry about the proper cyclists.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Black police cars

Over the past few years, I've noticed a trend that police cars in many cities are transitioning from white or blue to primarily black colours.  This mirrors a trend from a decade or two ago from blue or tan uniforms to primarily black.  Black uniforms look cool, and tend to be intimidating (one of the reasons the SS chose black for their Hugo Boss uniforms).  Similarly, I've noticed a trend for cops to be presented less as the people one goes to when they need help to being presented as the representatives of government authority.

Is this change in presentation or perception all in my mind?  Or is there something more to it?  And if it was a deliberate change, who made the decision and why?  Do we want cops to be intimidating, to keep other citizens in their place? Do we want the police to be the people we go when we need help, or to be the people we avoid as much as possible?

Friday, 1 November 2013

so what's the Tory position on Rob Ford?

Recently, with regard to the ongoing chatter about three senators formerly of the Conservative caucus, PM Harper has indicated that pusenators should be held to a higher standard, and that they should be removed from office once accused of serious offences, and only restored once they clear their names. 

My own opinion on this is position is contrary to due process in Canada, which is generally based on the idea that the onus is on the accuser to prove their case, and not on the accused to prove their innocence.

Now after months of media attention, the Toronto Police have announced they have evidence linking Toronto mayor Rob Ford to some form of naughty behaviour.  So, will the PM suggest that Rob Ford also be held to this "higher standard", or does that only apply to senators?