All posts filed under: Canada

In Canada’s Version of Portland, Cancel Culture Comes for ‘Steve-O-Reno’s’

Last year, writer Nancy Rommelmann wrote a widely shared Quillette article entitled “The Internet Locusts Descend on Ristretto Roasters,” in which she described the mob-fueled social panic that had enveloped her husband’s Portland, Oregon café. The mobbing had been set off by a single former employee who’d resigned after seeking to implement a “Reparations Happy Hour,” an event that “would involve stationing white people at the front door to buy patrons of color a coffee.” The resulting ordeal lasted for months, damaged the company’s brand, and ultimately contributed to Rommelmann’s decision to move to a less politically radicalized locale: New York City. It may seem odd to think that New York would offer the author a respite from progressive sentiment, as opposed to an overdose. But as Rommelmann told Quillette podcast listeners during our conversation, it actually makes sense: In many New York neighbourhoods, there is an organic, longstanding atmosphere of multiculturalism that allows for candor and viewpoint pluralism. In Portland, on the other hand, progressive political culture is dominated by small cliques of largely …

To Be Useful, Health Data Must Go Deeper Than ‘Black’ and ‘White’

All over the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected patients based on a variety of identifiable factors, from age to sex to occupation. Data such as these are crucial to public-health officials and researchers tasked with improving care for all citizens. But in some cases, the quest for data seems driven as much by political factors as by the need to protect public health. In Canada, where I work as a resident physician in the field of head and neck surgery, the federal government has proposed that racial data be tracked as part of our national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as is already the case in the United States. On the surface, there would seem to be an obvious parallel with the need to collect race-based policing data, especially in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the worldwide protests that followed. Collecting such data makes sense in the context of policing, since race corresponds to a visible marker that can prompt radically different responses from police officers. But the situation is different when …

From South American Anthropology to Gender-Crit Cancel Culture: My Strange Feminist Journey

I’m one of the many academics who’ve been “canceled” for having the wrong sort of opinion—or quasi-canceled, at least. As of this writing, I remain an associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Alberta. Since July 2019, I had also served as the department’s undergraduate programs chair. It was supposed to be a three-year appointment. But in late March, I was dismissed from that position due to informal student complaints to the effect that I had made them feel “unsafe” by articulating feminist critiques of current theories of gender. Earlier this month, my colleague Carolyn Sale wrote up an account of my case for the Centre for Free Expression blog at Ryerson University. As tends to be the case with these controversies, this in turn caused students and colleagues to scour my social media accounts in search of yet more “gender-critical” commentary. When they found it, they demanded that I be fired from my tenured position and charged with hate speech. Articles of the type you are now reading typically channel great anger, resentment, …

I Run a Family-Owned Construction Firm. Here’s What COVID-19 Did to My World

When a crisis hits, sometimes just a day or two can feel like a lifetime for a small business owner. That’s how it felt for me when much of the Canadian economy went on lockdown in mid-March. My business is construction. It’s not something you can do over a Zoom videoconference or text chat. And the challenges I’m now facing are similar to those faced by other small, family-owned and -operated businesses everywhere. Even prior to the pandemic, my life was a hectic one. It wasn’t unusual for workdays to start at 6.30am, with me in the office laying out the work plan for the day with our foremen, and walking the tightrope we call cash flow. On any given day, I have at least two or three job estimates on my desk that need to be completed—plus accounting, payroll, project-management issues, client meetings, calls, and trips to jobsites to sort out the inevitable building and design issues. I also have to spend time chasing down the receivables. All of this was before COVID-19 hit. …

Canada’s Epic Rail Crisis Offers the World a Cautionary Tale on Indigenous Mantras

Speaking at the Oscars earlier this month, Māori director and writer Taika Waititi told his audience they were “gathered on the ancestral lands of the Tongva, Tataviam and the Chumash”—Native American groups who lived in and around modern Los Angeles. “We acknowledge them as the first people of this land on which our motion picture community lives and works.” This may have struck many American viewers as unusual. But such “land acknowledgments” have been common for years in Australia, New Zealand and my own country, Canada. Originally intended as a tribute to the legacy and rights of Indigenous peoples, they quickly became assimilated into the rote protocols of public life, from school assemblies to town-council meetings. Some university professors now post them on their office doors, much like a secular mezuzah. The practice is rooted in good intentions, and originally had real educational value. Indigenous lands in what is now Canada often were seized through a mixture of brutality and theft. In many cases, the reserves on which Indigenous peoples now live don’t even correspond …

By Seeking ‘Safer Spaces’ for Actors, We’re Creating a Hostile Environment for Art

It was a difficult time with a difficult actor. I was directing one of my own plays, and the lead actor wasn’t acting. Yet I knew he was more than capable of executing the part. Finally, I confronted him. “Why aren’t you giving anything in the scene?” I asked. The actor was exasperated: “You know, when you gave me this play to read, I was hoping for once I wouldn’t have to play a screwed-up character. Why are all the characters you write so screwed up?” That was the last time I hired him. What kind of play do you want me to write? Drama emerges from conflict. And I honestly have no idea why any actor would want to appear in a serious play featuring protagonists who are not, in some way, “screwed up.” I mean, aren’t we all just a little bit screwed up? And isn’t that what we need to see on the stage: reflections of our deeply conflicted, neurotic selves? What I didn’t know was that this actor was ahead of …

Toronto’s Meghan Murphy Meltdown: A Case Study in Media-Driven Social Panic

Speaking on the Quillette podcast last week, David Frum described how his hometown of Toronto sometimes feels unrecognizable to him, having been utterly transformed by waves of successful immigrants. It’s something you hear from many older Torontonians, who remain awestruck by their city’s rapid metamorphosis from a sleepy provincial capital ruled by a clique of moralizing WASP conformists, to a glittering, cosmopolitan hub of entertainment and finance. But every once in a while, one still can catch a glimpse of the city’s old, preachy cold-roast-beef identity. In fact, that is exactly what happened this week, when Meghan Murphy came to town. And who is Meghan Murphy? According to CBC radio host Carol Off, Murphy is someone whose extremism summons to mind comparisons with “a Holocaust denier or a white supremacist.” A Globe & Mail writer dedicated a column to branding Murphy an agent of “fear and meanness.” Toronto Mayor John Tory was so concerned by Murphy’s apparently horrifying message that he publicly called out his city’s chief librarian for permitting Murphy to deliver a speech …

Are Canadians Becoming More Racist? This Week’s Election Proved the Opposite

“Citizens ‘don’t feel safe’ as hate fills Edmonton’s streets,” proclaimed the Toronto Star on April 20, in reference to a gathering of Albertan white supremacists—one of at least two that occurred that month. In the lead paragraph, Star reporter Omar Mosleh grimly noted the ironic nature of a venue, Edmonton’s Churchill Square, “a place named after a world leader instrumental in defeating the Nazis.” The article was widely shared on progressive social media, where tales of Canada’s supposed slide into neo-Nazi extremism are now common currency. But for anyone who looked past the headline, a mere glance at the accompanying photo showed the underwhelming totality of Edmonton’s allegedly epic hate-fest: about a dozen random locals, surrounded by a larger number of counter-protestors and curious onlookers, plus a sizeable detachment of police officers keeping order. Even if one accepts the Star’s generous tally of right-wing protestors at the pictured event—“about 15 people”—the conceit that “hate fills Edmonton’s streets” is ludicrous. There aren’t enough haters here to fill a parking spot. The fact that such an article …

Trudeau’s Government Tried to Block My Election Reporting. (Thankfully, It Failed)

On Monday, I was in a federal courthouse in Toronto, fighting for a free press in Canada. It marks the third straight week that my digital media organization, True North, has been fighting against Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and his proxies for the right to report on the current federal election campaign. In one notorious case, Liberals even ordered police to pull my journalist—an experienced broadcaster named Andrew Lawton—out of an entry lineup at a Trudeau rally, even after Lawton had been officially registered, given a wristband by organizers, photographed, and placed on the admission list. This took place on the grounds of a public college. True North has a business model that I believe will be followed by other digital-media enterprises—and which stands in stark contrast to the legacy media that the Canadian government has pledged to subsidize with a $600-million bailout fund. We are a registered federal charity with two major programs—one focused on traditional, non-partisan think-tank work, the other focused on investigative journalism, straight daily news and political analysis. Like other news outlets, …

The Political Excommunication of Erin Weir Betrays the Face of Modern Political Cowardice

Erin Weir is not well-known outside of Canada. Even many Canadian readers won’t recognize the politician’s name. But the story of how he was smeared and excommunicated by his own political party presents a stunning indictment of political cowardice in the age of #MeToo. And what happened to him could happen to virtually anyone who runs for office. Weir is a federal Member of Parliament (MP), having been elected in 2015 to represent the Saskatchewan riding of Regina-Lewvan. He ran in that election as a candidate for the New Democratic Party (NDP), which sits to the political left of Justin Trudeau’s governing Liberals, and constitutes the third-largest party in the Canadian parliament. His downfall began on January 30, 2018, the day he announced his candidacy for NDP caucus chair by sending an email to other NDP MPs, and to the leader of the federal NDP, Jagmeet Singh (who, at the time, had not yet become a Member of Parliament). The email set off a chain of events that eventually led to his expulsion from the …