All posts filed under: Canada

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 …

The Campaign to Destroy Equal Voice

Even during Question Period, it’s unusual for every seat in the Canadian House of Commons to be occupied. But, over four days in April, a not-for-profit organization called Equal Voice Canada held its second annual conference there and filled the chamber with politically active young women from every region of Canada. The taxpayer-funded event, entitled Daughters of the Vote (DotV), was intended to encourage women’s participation in electoral politics. After the youthful delegates took their places in the handsome chamber-room, with its ornate wooden panelling and stained glass windows, they were welcomed by the Hon. Kim Campbell, Canada’s first and only female prime minister. (Campbell, a Conservative, served briefly in 1993 when she inherited a faltering administration from Brian Mulroney.) The National Observer reported that, of the 338 young attendees, 146 “identified as a visible minority” and 39 were Indigenous. “Many of you,” Campbell acknowledged, “are activists…for issues about which you feel passionately…who want to make changes…to fulfill your vision for the country.” But, she warned, anyone serving in Ottawa must remember that everyone else …

Trudeau’s Shameful Gambit: Smearing Conservative Opponents as Neo-Nazis

The term “neo-Nazi” is now thrown around by some progressives as a casual epithet to describe anyone whose views are seen as even marginally conservative. But Canadians of my (middle-aged) generation have memories of real neo-Nazis such as Ernst Zündel, who once published such tracts as The Hitler We Loved and Did Six Million Really Die? The neo-Nazi Heritage Front, established in 1989, unsuccessfully tried to infiltrate Canada’s Reform party, a mainstream entity that eventually would form the base of Stephen Harper’s Conservative Parliamentary majorities. The Heritage Front was disbanded in 2005, as modern Canadian conservatives properly and decisively rejected these bigoted voices. And while hatemongers have made news in recent years, they generally have been marginal, widely mocked figures operating on the local level—such as the duo of James Sears and LeRoy St. Germaine, who wrote a garbage Toronto newsletter called Your Ward News that promoted the legalization of rape and Holocaust denial. Other far-right groups in Canada include the Canadian Nationalist Front, the Aryan Strikeforce, the Wolves of Odin, the Soldiers of Odin …

Canada’s Treatment of Indigenous Peoples Was Cruel. But Calling It an Ongoing ‘Genocide’ Is Wrong

Two months after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed the public: “As his armies advance, whole districts are being exterminated. Scores of thousands, literally scores of thousands of executions in cold blood are being perpetrated by the German police troops…We are in the presence of a crime without a name.” By the end of World War II, we had at least two names for it, Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide. Now, almost 80 years later, a debate over the semantics of genocide has erupted in Canada, following a report from a National Inquiry investigating the problem of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG). The report claims not only that Indigenous communities were historically victimized by racist and murderous colonial policies, but also that a “genocide” is still going on in Canada to this very day. While many well-meaning activists are pressuring the Canadian government to act on the findings of the Inquiry, others have questioned the use of this term. The fact that the overall Canadian homicide rate …