Thursday, December 30, 2004

Top 5 Flag flaps

The mind boggles at the childishness that characterizes Canadian political disputes. For some reason, it often comes down to disputes over flags. For a nation that supposedly doesn't revere its flag the way the United States does, it still seems to figure prominently in our political discourse. Herewith, my top 5 flag-related flaps of the past forty years (feel free to add ones I have missed):

5) Flagscam (1990s) - Sheila Copps' initiative to promote Flag Day by distributing 1 million Canadian flags (one of which is in my possession). Later linked to the Chretien era national unity debacle in Quebec, it was hotly criticized at the time as a waste of taxpayer dollars.

4) You can change it, but I won't salute! (mid-1960s) - Nobody was more opposed to replacing the Red Ensign with the current maple leaf design than former PM John Diefenbaker. At the official flag raising ceremony, he refused to watch the hoisting of the new flag.

3) Trampling on the fleur-de-lys (late-1980s) - Quebec's language laws became front page news again in the late-1980s when portions of Bill 101 were struck down by the Supreme Court. Quebec responded by invoking the notwithstanding clause to pass Bill 178, and Premier Bourasssa famously commented that after Meech Lake passed, such a use of the clause would no longer be needed. Angered at what they saw as trampling on the rights of Quebec anglophones, a disgruntled pair of Brockvillians trampled on the fleur-de-lys, ensuring nationwide press coverage, and bumping up support for sovereignty by a few points.

2) Mine is bigger than yours, aka waving our dirty flags in public (late-1960s) - As Quebec began to feel its oats after the Quiet Revolution, a succession of Premiers, aided by French President de Gaulle, decided to go international, and attend conferences where sectors of provincial jurisdiction were involved. This led to a series of embarassing incidents in Gabon, Zaire and Niger, where warring Canadian and Quebec delegations (eventually joined by Ontario and New Brunswick) attended conferences of la Francophonie, and played childish games involving the size of their table flags.

1) I'm taking my toys and going home (this month) - One would think that the Premier of Newfoundland could think of a more appropriate response to frustration with the federal government over offshore oil revenues (soon to be the subject of its own post), than to order the removal of Canadian flags from provincial government buildings. But apparently not. It would seem that he doesn't, in fact, have better things to do than play the "blame Ottawa for all our woes" game. Because as we all know, Newfoundland had a thriving economy before it joined Canada in 1949. It wasn't bankrupt, heck no!

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

1 in 5 Canadians? Pshaw...

According to this Canadian Press story, which ran over the holiday season, recent polling indicated that about 20% of Canadians said that their vote could be swayed by the position that their MP took on same-sex marriage.

Only 20% - that's diddley-squat! Frankly, when you add together the estimated queer and evangelical populations of the country you come out with more than 20%. If I were a political advisor, I'd be telling the PM to hurry this legislation along, as it's not going to do him any significant harm in the next election, whenever that might be.

Frankly, I'm getting rather impatient on this front. And indeed, same-sex marriage was one of the issues that affected my vote in June, and my opinion of Paul Martin. I thought (as did the Supremes), that tacking on a fourth question to the Supreme Court reference was supreme political cowardice. I'm glad to see that Irwin Cotler is finally starting to issue some more positive rhetoric about this legislation - a vigourous defence that has been sadly missing since my former MP, Martin Cauchon, was pushed aside to make room for the walking disaster that is ex-Bloquiste MP Jean Lapierre. Hopefully other cabinet ministers (and maybe even Martin) will take up the positive charge in January. How are Canadians supposed to come around to support gay marriage when the Prime Minister seems so wishy-washy on the issue - and could not even bring himself to use the word "gay" in the leader's debates last election?

It's time for some strong leadership, PM the PM!

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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Pardon the bilingual pun

For a while now, I have been contemplating the creation of a new blog devoted to more thoughtful postings which do not have to do with the activities of my cat, the petty details of my personal life and my daily teaching. It's fun to write about these things, but they are not the sort of ramblings suited for a wide audience.

And so herewith, my new forum for the thoughts of a twentysomething Canadian history/Canadian studies post-doc. My aim is to update this blog at least once a week with commentary on contemporary events and societal trends.

To give you a sense of what to expect here, the title of my blog will give you your first indicator. I do a lot of research on issues of language policy, and am amused by language jokes, particularly the type that seem to emerge in Canada from our less-than-perfect teaching of French-as-a-second-language. Ergo, the grapefruit joke. I think that as a blog title, it's got a nice northern flair to it as well. I am a student of English-French relations in Canada, so you can expect that these issues will figure in my posts.

Politically and culturally, I consider myself to be a child of Trudeau in many senses. Not only was I born during his administration, but most of my values were shaped by the policies he created - the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, bilingualism and multiculturalism among them. My research as a historian focusses heavilly on the years of his political career, particularly the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s. Politically, I am a left-leaning Liberal, who finds himself without a political party he is firmly attached to at the moment. I have supported both the NDP and the Liberals in the past, depending on their policies and leadership. The ascension of Paul Martin to the PM's chair has left me perched with the NDP for the time being, despite my vehement disagreement with some of their policies.

I am also a married gay man. My husband and I have been together for 5 1/2 years, had our (first) wedding ceremony in May 2003 (a month before the Ontario courts came down with their landmark judgment), and got legally married on St-Jean-Baptiste Day 2004. I am keenly interested in gay and lesbian issues, and these will also pop up from time to time, as they enter the news. Other ponderings may pop up from time to time, depending on the issues of the day.

So welcome to my new blog. Comments are always appreciated, and I hope to provide you with some food for thought in the coming months.

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