Will Canadians learn anything of useful value from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada? Will they even be interested in doing so? These and other questions are on my mind as I prepare for the final closing events of the TRC, from May 31 to June 3.
Wayne K. Spear is a National Post and Huffington Post contributor, as well as an entrepreneur working from his home in Toronto. His recent books include Residential School, A Children's History (with Larry Loyie and Constance Brissenden) and Full Circle: a story of the Indian residential school legacy, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, and reflections on the work of hope, healing, reconciliation and change.
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The illness of a young girl is saddening, and the preceding topics are important and timely. But now, with this court case, we've gone off the rails into unhelpful territory. A growing number of people are turning away from, and against, science and modernity, and for a number of causes -- environmentalism, mistrust of corporations, dislike of secularism, traditionalism, and in extreme cases religious fundamentalism.
11/18/2014 07:49 EST
Earlier this week, on CTV news, I predicted that two political parties would be looking for new leaders if the Ontario Liberals prevailed. Election day had yet to expire when Tim Hudak announced he would be stepping down, fulfilling half of my proposition. What I didn't say, but had meant to, was that defeating the party of Dalton McGuinty should be effortless, and that any leader unable to pull the thing off must be regarded as unfit. Never in my recollection has Ontario suffered a regime so deserving of a rude dismissal, and yet here we are, and here they are too, nothing having been altered by an election that may as well never have happened.
06/13/2014 05:36 EDT
For reasons which are amply documented and well-known, as a Senator Romeo Dallaire committed himself to the most serious of issues: prevention of genocide, Post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD), child soldiers, conflict resolution and investigation into crimes against humanity. He is, in other words, a champion of causes that are for most politicians quagmires to be circumnavigated. The departure of Romeo Dallaire means that there will be one less serious, hard-working and principled member in the Upper Chamber.
05/29/2014 05:35 EDT
According to one theory, whose origins I've long forgotten, the business of voting has undergone an evolutionary transmogrification. In earlier times, citizens voted for the candidates they liked the most. Soon, a cynicism having seeped into the civic fabric, they began to vote for the candidates they disliked the least. And now? People vote against the crooks and liars that they hate the most. The problem with this theory is that it presumes a golden age, and no experienced person could reasonably indulge a notion like that.
05/20/2014 05:16 EDT
As I write this, the swell of a Western grassroots outcry against the Nigerian outfit, Boko Haram, appears to be forming across social media. There's a specific aspect of war crimes which it is necessary to emphasize, and that's the use of sexualized violence against women as a tool of war. Can we all agree to stop using the phrase "the forcible sale of women into marriage"? Church bells and nuptials this is not. It's profiteering from rape in a triple currency which is simultaneously economic, military and psychological in nature.
05/06/2014 12:27 EDT
What won't be resolved any time soon is the crucial question of who speaks for whom. Politics at the best of times is complicated, and in keeping with this principle, native communities are in many instances divided. On the surface there's grassroots consensus around honouring treaties, "respecting the relationship," and empowering communities
05/03/2014 11:35 EDT
Here I must trespass on the impolite, and I'll begin by restoring to the record the excised bits in which Jim Flaherty was a soldier of Mike Harris's "Common Sense Revolution." The idea that he was a non-ideological moderate would have been laughed out of the room, even by the man himself. Moderate was an insult he applied to his leadership rival, that pink and pale McGuinty imitation Ernie Eves. As Ontario's Attorney General and Finance Minister, Flaherty was one of Harris's most consistent and reliable true believers, mocked (like Harris himself) for applying his tough-on-crime universal restorative elixir to homelessness and poverty.
04/17/2014 11:59 EDT
Nirvana did what all great bands do: they made everyone else catch up. Mainstream radio accommodated alternative music's idiosyncracies, in the case of Nirvana the confrontation of Cobain's distorted guitar, vocal roughness, sonic dissonance, and deliberately nonsensical lyrics. Whatever one's view of Cobain, it is undeniable that he set pop music on a new course.
04/05/2014 02:17 EDT
According to a Facebook post of his estranged son, Nathan, Fred Phelps Sr, the founder of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church, is dying. In life, Phelps evaded prison on several occasions, and in my view at least he'll also escape the punishments of the non-existent hereafter. Westboro Baptist continues to picket funerals and to applaud every American misfortune, from earthquakes to school mass shootings, as the glorious work of an angry, hateful and vindictive God. But hate in all its forms is not the work of God, but instead of small and broken people.
03/18/2014 08:38 EDT
The Quebec election campaign became a bit more interesting this week with Pierre Karl Péladeau's decision to run for the Parti Québécois. Péladeau brings a unique and coveted background to the PQ, having for decades dined on the earnings of tabloid agitprop and rabble-rousing emotionalism. Just as Marois shrugs off recent and bad economic news, Péladeau thrusts his fist into the air and chants inspirational slogans. And somehow, in combination, these are intended to add up to the sum of economic credibility. His business acumen and his knack for rube exploitation are simply the latest assets to be nationalized by a now desperate campaign.
03/12/2014 01:01 EDT
In an xoJane article titled "I'm Finally Revealing My Name and Face As the Duke Porn Star," the 18-year-old college freshman Miriam Weeks details why she's comfortable with her line of work. She strikes me as thoughtful and deliberative while the campaign against her smells like old-fashioned Puritanism.
03/05/2014 05:13 EST
Human Rights Watch's LGBT Director Graeme Reid has characterized the bill as "an official incitement to commit violence" against those even suspected as being lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or trans-gendered. Amend these adjectives to "Tutsi" and you have a familiar precedent for the spirit of the present campaign, if on a smaller scale.
02/25/2014 05:42 EST
Tobacco is much more than money for Canada's Mohawk people -- it's a source of economic independence, a non-handout form of income that goes well with aspirations of independence and self-reliance. And these are good and necessary goals. Yes, it's also been deemed illegal and is likely going to draw the communities into a collision with the federal government, but in the meantime tobacco is a desperately-needed investment in the community. Until we discover oil or invent a better iPad (and I hope we do both), tobacco is the best we've got. We're beginning to make some real money through entrepreneurship, and if it takes cigarettes and gambling in the beginning, so be it.
02/20/2014 12:15 EST
Is sex work inherently and irredeemably wicked, as the abolitionsts would have us conclude? Or is it in fact possible to have a morally defensible prostitution? A testing of public values alone will not answer these questions, assuming they are even answerable. Values are an important and necessary starting point for a discussion of public policy, to be sure, but they are only one element of policy. Given that vulnerable lives are going to be affected, the feds are going to need to come up with a solid policy that has something more beneath it than our deeply-held touchy feelies.
02/18/2014 06:02 EST
On February 14, 1989, precisely 25 years ago, Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini called upon "all brave Muslims of the world" to murder the apostate Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses, a novel condemned as blasphemous. Twenty-five years ago, on February 14, 1989, war was declared by Islamic end-times fundamentalists upon freedom of thought, freedom of speech, literature, secularism, and human expression.
02/14/2014 05:20 EST
It has become more and more urgent to -- as the proposal for a First Nations Education Act was titled -- work together for First nations students. This agreement, and the federal budget framework into which it is embedded, is an opportunity to do just that -- whatever one's skepticism and mistrust may recommend to the contrary. On the First Nation's side, the time has arrived to take both the concept and practice of self-control and self-determination to their logical conclusions. Let's call it getting our collective Indian act together.
02/11/2014 08:26 EST
As the Serial Minister of Various Affairs, the man has blustered and blundered, alienating constituents and stakeholders and using the resources of his office to engage in partisan attack. His latest insult, this time against war veterans, is proof of his unsuitability -- one more instance in a long career of similar proofs. The time is overdue for him to reap the final reward he so richly deserves. Rehearsing the long career of this one-time Toronto shopping mall security guard, one can't but notice the unbroken and uniform trail of soot which seems always to have attended him. Indeed, a pattern emerges.
01/30/2014 12:26 EST
Canadians have learned a good deal about the Indian Residential School System, and much of what is not today known may never be known, precisely because the records are gone. What we do however have is the ample and rich experiences of living aboriginal people, and it is on these experiences and these voices that most of my own work has been based.
01/16/2014 12:18 EST
It is difficult to overstate Sharon's shaping of the state of Israel. He fought in every war of the quarter-century from 1948 onwards, and played leading roles in both the military and political spheres for over a half-century. Whether as a criminal or hero (and each assessment is amply represented), his every move reorganized the chessboard. Sharon's political ambitions and calculations contributed to the rise of Likud, and when his tactics had changed, another grand reorganization occurred culminating in Kadima and the eventual return of Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister.
01/11/2014 05:01 EST
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