The celebrants on April 20 don't necessarily know the history of how cannabis came to be illegal, but they do know cannabis is less harmful to users than all other illicit drugs and considerably less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. They know that the greatest threat from cannabis lies in its continued illegality by policy makers who wish the evidence would just go away.
Activists in British Columbia have responded to the National Energy Board's approval of the Northern Gateway oil pipeline with threats of illegal activism reminiscent of the 1990s. Civil disobedience has an honourable history; the question is whether a particular group on a particular matter is justified in such actions. Where people's rights are systematically violated, where they are denied recourse to the courts, or to their elected representatives, the case for civil disobedience is clear. But the Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal does not represent such a violation.
Recently, I have learned about two teachers who, in different circumstances, have been restricted from teaching material they would like to teach. We ask teachers to be creative, informative, and to engage their students in thinking critically about the world around them. What message do we send when we limit what they teach? Where should we draw the line?
Recently, I heard a Grade 6 student explain that he and his friends had walked out of school to protest against a government measure that they believed had resulted in their teachers' rights being taken away. The principal was not impressed. I think we should be very impressed. What are our children in Canada seeing in the streets of our cities and towns? Idle No More, Occupy, protests in Ontario and Quebec by teachers and students -- and remember the G-20 protests in Toronto in 2010? While some of us looked the other way, the children are still watching.
David McCullough Jr. recently gave a commencement address, in which he told the students the cold, hard reality that "none of you is special." Who is to blame for this? Maybe those very same parents and teachers who are so quick to accuse us of it. The baby boomers, with the best intentions, have made us into what we are today: a generation of spoiled individuals. Why are they surprised?
How ironic that the most extensive demonstrations we have seen to date in North America have concerned not unemployment, global warming, or the notorious one per cent, but the tuition that Quebec students have to pay for the benefits of a college education. Now two professors at the University of Montreal have likened Quebec to Putin's Russia.
We've all heard the message time and time again: We need to send more people to colleges and universities, and ensure our country is well-educated. This is great in theory; after all, no one is against apple pie. But the reality is that we can't flip a switch and guarantee everyone has a university degree in 10 years. This isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Even those who are sick of the subject have difficulty escaping the regurgitations of last year's G20 demonstrations that went horribly wrong. Mistakes were made, force was over-used and misdirected, blah, blah, blah. Get over it. Everyone in authority has acknowledged error, and (one hopes) lessons have been learned; the same mistakes will not be repeated next time.
Bill C-309 states that anyone who commits an illegal act while wearing a mask at a protest can face 10 years in prison. While we are grateful for such a bill, it isn't good enough. If someone carries a loaded gun while committing a crime, it can be assumed he is willing to use it; I'd argue that any person wearing a mask or disguise at any controversial protest is up to no good, and can be assumed to be contemplating illegal behaviour.
Amid the attention given to the entertainment celebrities operating as outsiders, there is a need also to see how a different type of celebrity from the world of business -- Bill Gates -- is acting as an insider in the campaign of change with respect to financial institutions at the hub of global governance.