The Christmas Spirit is a Mysterious Thing

Sometime soon, chances are someone will ask you if you’re in the Christmas spirit. The first I felt it this year was a couple weeks ago, as I attended Elf Jr. The Musical, at Alexander Galt Regional High School. While I’ve experienced the sentiment to various degrees throughout my life, it remains a somewhat mysterious thing.

A common explanation for this phenomenon points to the magical veil that has been built into the holiday over time. On a yearly basis, adults have the challenge of maintaining the veil for children, and in the process of doing so they are likely to relive their own magical childhood experiences. This — so the theory goes — would be how and why Christmas cheer is so widely experienced, and not only by religious people. While this has merit as an explanation, I can’t help but sense that there may be more to it than that.

According to Buddy the Elf, the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear, and since this was a musical, there was plenty of singing going on, and cheer was certainly being spread. Before the play even began, Christmas songs were playing over the sound system, setting the mood.

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Facing Tragedy and the Forces of Evil

The tragic events that can befall someone and the terrible things a person can do to another can be so awful that just hearing about them can permanently scar the soul.

You’d think that such incidents would be rare, but they are not. There is no shortage of them in fact. And while we are often exposed to negative news reports, most of the suffering around us goes unreported. There’s indeed a lot of pain and despair in this world, and there are indeed some who come to experience a certain type of personal hell here on earth. Throughout my career in law enforcement; I’ve seen it; I’ve contended with it; and I’ve felt its burning heat.

Often, when I meet someone, and they learn that I am a police officer, I am greeted with some comment or story about a traffic citation of some kind. It’s often a complaint about how they felt they should have benefited from the officer’s discretion, but didn’t. Traffic code enforcement is indeed the context in which there is the most contact between citizens and officers, so I can understand how this may be the default subject of conversation, but I’m nonetheless struck by the absence of appreciation for the many other duties taken on by police officers on a day to day basis.

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The Free World Must Take Heed

What is the Canadian government to do in response to China’s recent aggressive moves against it?  In retaliation for the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, the Chinese government has arbitrarily detained two Canadian citizens since last December, and more recently, a Chinese court suddenly changed a Canadian man’s drug smuggling sentence from 15 years imprisonment to execution. 

The Canadian justice system, after all, appears to have done everything by the book, respecting its extradition process with the US while acting independently from government influence.  In spite of this, it appears as though little can be done except backchannel and wait, a solution that is void of any satisfaction and that has yet to yield fruit in this ongoing conflict.

The rule of law and the independence of the judiciary are fundamental features of a free society, and since Meng’s arrest many politicians have been trying to explain this fact to the Chinese government, as though it simply doesn’t understand, and as though it may suddenly realise its error and free Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.  It’s rather doubtful, however, that the Chinese government needs a lesson on the basic structures of free societies.  While China has experienced massive transformations over the last few decades, it has actively resisted the emergence of such structures, so it well knows the Canadian government’s limitations in this matter. What, then, is it trying to accomplish, and does it not realise that its overreaction merely strengthens suspicions that Huawei is facilitating foreign intelligence gathering on its behalf?

Much has been said and written about the emergence of China as a major player on the world stage.  While it pragmatically turned its back on the centrally-planned economy, one of the fundamental elements of communism, and while it successfully lifted millions of people out of poverty in the process, it has regretfully retained the other fundamental element of communism, the totalitarian style of government.  The free world once hoped that by increasing relations with China, alterations would eventually be made in its political structures in addition to its economic ones.  The idea was that China would eventually come to look a little more like the free world, perhaps with limits on state power, a system of checks and balances, and an independent judiciary with due process. 

China’s latest actions against Canada, however, suggest that such a hope is but an evaporating dream, and that the very opposite is threatening to take place.  In the immediate aftermath of Meng’s arrest, Vice Foreign Minister, Le Yucheng, warned of “severe consequences” if Canada didn’t release her immediately.  Armed with the largest economy in the world, this totalitarian government is pressuring Canada to do away with its judicial independence.  China wants Canada, and the entire free world by extension, to look more like it, and it is not afraid to use its clout in an attempt to make that happen. 

While back-channelling may be the only card Canada has to play in the short-term, there is certainly something more to be done in the long-term.  As Canada continues to bring this matter to the attention of its allies, it should point out that this is much more than an isolated diplomatic incident; this is a confrontation with a rising political force that has no regard for the foundational values of the free world and the domestic institutions that protect them, and that any nation that chooses to do business with China is at risk of having to play by its rules, whatever the cost may be.

The free world shouldn’t permit this form of aggression, and it must be bold in protecting and asserting its way of life.  Given China’s increasing clout, and given its increasing predisposition to use it, the free nations of the world would do well to formally unite in the face of it, and Canada can certainly play a leading role in making that happen.  It must be clear that while friendly relationships are indeed desirable, free nations will not compromise their institutions to appease the bullies of the world, and that any attempt to impose such a thing will have consequences of its own. 

Social solidarity must be voluntary!

It is often said that Manon Massé performed better than expected in the recent Quebec provincial election debates, and that this has resulted in a newfound curiosity with Quebec Solidaire, as demonstrated by a hike in support according to recent polls. Beyond good debate performances, support for sovereignty, and promises of free services, what exactly are the principles by which this party is guided?

The answer, in part, is found in its title. QS claims to be a movement of social solidarity, and its main objective, according to its website, is for all action to be based on the real needs of the population. So there it is, QS wants to use the legislature and the machinery of the state to address and satisfy our real needs.

At first glance such principles can seem noble. But once the nature of the state is properly understood, one can only conclude that QS’s program is not only destined for failure, but also for the impoverishment of the province, and that behind its veil of nobility lies a patronizing and ideological autocracy.

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Diversity is Not Off-Limits For Discussion

It’s rather troubling to know that at this very moment, after merely reading the headline of this article, there are some who have already condemned me as a racist bigot and an intolerant xenophobe, regardless of what follows in the text, and regardless of what I embody and live. At least, this is what I am led to believe by the overreactions to Maxime Bernier’s most recent tweets.

Mr. Bernier dared question the sanctity of Trudeau’s adoration and mystical use of the D-word, as though it’s mere utterance carries transcendent power. In boringly predictable fashion, and in a fine display of the cultish element Bernier was referring to, backlash from diversity’s religious community was harsh and swift. The ideologically possessed broke out into their usual broken-record songs of “ists”, “isms”, and “phobes”, not realising that their overuse of such terms have eroded much of their meaning over time.

For those who actually want to take the time to discuss and think things through, however, the role of diversity in our national identity is not off-limits for discussion. Diversity, on its own, is a rather vague term. In relation to our national identity, it seems to be only partial in description. We are a nation of people that can trace their ethnic and cultural origins from a great many places, but what is it about this fact that binds us together under a banner of national unity?

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Trudeau Underestimates the Power of Ideas

The New York Times recently posted a 2016 podcast interview of a returning Canadian ISIS fighter, known as Abu Huzaifa, who confessed to committing an execution-style murder while in Syria, which he now unconvincingly denies. He is believed to be living in Toronto and he is apparently known to the authorities. The Conservative opposition is in an uproar over these revelations, as they would have preferred that re-entry be denied to such individuals in the first place, as is the case in the UK.

One may reasonably conclude that in spite of the permitted re-entry of ISIS fighters, our national security forces are on top of it, and that Huzaifa, and those like him, will simply have to face justice here at home. The trouble, however, is that such an outcome is highly unlikely. Building a case on events that occurred a few years ago in a foreign war-torn country is extremely difficult, something the Trudeau government undoubtedly realizes.

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Killing Christ: An Easter Reflection

Christ was regarded as an agitator by many of the religious and political leaders of his time. The religious order, in particular, was threatened by him due to his growing influence. Consequently, its leaders conspired to have him killed.

With the help of Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed him, they successfully manoeuvered to have Jesus arrested, tortured, and then executed by crucifixion. It was a brutally violent and bloody affair, complete with betrayal and abandonment. And as I reflect on this horrible scene of the Easter story, I repeatedly arrive at the same conclusion. I did it; I killed Christ.

According to the gospels, this carpenter from Nazareth claimed to be the long awaited messiah, Son of the living God. The gospels claim that he was the perfect man, the only one untainted by sin, and that as a result, death could not hold him. They claim that his perfection is what made him the only suitable substitute for sinners, those who have transgressed against divine law, and that he voluntarily took the punishment they deserve for their iniquity.

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Fake News is Real; and it’s Dangerous!

Regardless of what one may think about President Trump, the fact remains that he’s right about one thing: Fake news is a real phenomenon. No doubt he plays this to his advantage in an effort to discredit what may very well be credible allegations against him, but sensationalist journalists keep proving him right. In the process of reporting fake news, not only do they unjustly discredit their many responsible counterparts, and not only do they undermine the value of their profession, but they also sow the seeds of dangerous social unrest.

Last Tuesday, TVA reported that representatives from two mosques in the Côte-des-Neiges district of Montreal, made a formal request to the construction company conducting roadwork on their street, asking them to bar women workers from the site during Friday prayers. The report portrays this as being more of an insistence than a request, claiming that women were chased away (chassées) from the site, and claiming that they had already been penalized by missing work.

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A Governor General Must be Carefully Chosen

For a great many Canadians the office of Governor General is thought to be little more than a useless and wasteful ceremonial position. The long series of stable governments that Canada has enjoyed has certainly contributed to this belief, much like an expensive insurance policy from which we never make a claim. As a result, Prime Ministers have become somewhat careless in their task of nominating one. Instead of giving it the careful consideration it deserves, PM’s appear to have used it as a means to reward accomplishment and to curry favour from voters by choosing someone with general appeal.

In 2008, this approach proved to be a mistake. In December, a mere two months after a federal election, the Conservative minority government was facing a vote of confidence which would have likely done them in. A proposed coalition between the Liberals and the NDP, with the backing of the Bloc, was in the works. In an attempt to suspend the vote and save his government, Prime Minister Harper asked the Governor General of the time, Michaëlle Jean, to prorogue parliament until January.

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The Purpose of the State

You know summer is indeed over when Parliament goes back to work. For some, this signals little more than the return of bickering background noise, while for others, this signals a passionate call for a return to arms. Regardless of the extent to which we pay attention to what goes on, and regardless of the extent to which we engage, as it begins to unfold we would do well, I believe, to reflect on what the role of the state is and what it should be. What is its task and in what areas should it intervene?

There are many disagreements over this most important question, with answers varying from “as much intervention as possible” to “as little intervention as possible”. I suspect, however, that a great many parliamentarians go about their business on an issue to issue basis, mostly out of good will no doubt, but also without being able to provide a principled and robust explanation as to why the intervention to which they hold dear, be it an action, policy, or program, should even finds itself within the jurisdiction of the state in the first place.

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