Monday, January 12, 2009

Another Comment that Warrants a Posting of its Own

I can't remember whether I made this comment on this blog before, but in case I haven't I will repeat it.

I was in a Palliative Care workshop where we were learning about the worldwide epidemic of HIV/AIDS. We were shown a map of the world and the incidence of HIV/AIDS shown, per capita, in varying colours, darker colours meaning higher reported cases.

I was curious as to why certain countries had higher incidents, even though they shared similar cultures, religions, behavioral morals, etc. I asked the facilitator.

She advised that this question had been asked a lot. All variables were considered and one thing remained constant...

The countries with the larger gap between the rich and the poor had higher incidences of HIV/AIDS.

The US has more cases than Canada. Canada has more cases than most North European countries.

Gordon Campbell's policies of keeping education in the realm of the wealthier members of society is not just a matter of education .... extrapolated, it becomes of matter of public health.

The same argument applied to his short sighted, cruel minimum wage of $8.00 per hour.

These laws and policies continue to widen the gap between rich and poor. The poor will continue to become more vulnerable - even to the point of their health.

These are sick, sick policies.

Linda Yuill

The High Cost of Exercise

John Young is a Victoria school trustee.

He has successfully sued his own school board and the Ministry of Education over the charging of extra fees in the public-school system.

Now Young is plotting a Charter of Rights challenge that he hopes will lead to a country-wide ban on supplemental school fees, from kindergarten through Grade 12.

"I can prove that the requirement of a fee to take a course is discriminatory against children who don't have the money to pay," said the 87-year-old former high-school principal, who began his crusade to abolish school fees more than a decade ago.

Twice in the past year, I have praised him lavishly in these pages. I think he is a great role model for citizenship. (I cannot seem to find a "search" function on my blog, so I cannot quickly reference these posts for you.) NOTE: One of our commenters has magically figured out that my previous postings on Mr. Young can be found here and here. Many thanks!

Let me praise Mr. Young again.

What he is saying repeatedly and successfully in these law suits is that children should not have to pay for art supplies,banjos, and soccer balls at public schools. And he is right.

The only problem is that the provincial government's reaction to Young's successful rulings is to change the law!

The province amended its legislation to allow for surcharges on things such as band instruments, trades programs and specialty sports and arts "academies."

"The result is fees of more than $100 a month are being charged for soccer and hockey programs," said Mr. Young, now in his sixth term as a school trustee.

"It's true these academies are permitted under the act, but they violate the principle that all educational programs must be provided free of charge."

Frustrated by the province's "end-around" response to the first two decisions, Mr. Young has decided to launch a third challenge based on non-discrimination provisions contained in Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"If it proves to be discrimination, this could apply all across Canada," he said.

Let's look at this struggle from another angle.

The Premier of the Province of British Columbia is Gordon Campbell.

Mr. Campbell is investing billions in roads, condos, security, advertising (Don't get me started on using Donald Sutherland for 2010 ads! They couldn't choose any one of thousands of great voices for one tenth the price?) and lord knows what else to celebrate athleticism. Or so the official, teary-eyed, patriotic story goes.

But the same Campbell who will move mountains to provide a place for 10 days of skiing, will change the law so that he doesn't have to pay for kids' sports equipment in schools.

Question: Are all young boys and girls who are gifted at sports also rich? Do they all come from families for whom extra fees are no hardship?

We are prepared, or we are getting prepared, as a society to invest in high octane training schools for tennis players and swimmers and skiers (provided of course that they fall in the politically significant jurisdictions and we can be there for the ribbon cutting foto op).

But we not only will not provide the $30 or $180 dollars for school kids to be involved in sports (and the arts and cooking), but we are so loathe to do so, that when the courts order us to, we change the law!

Aside from fitting snugly in to the category of penny-wise, pound-foolish, this shows us once again the cheesy priorities of the Premier.

Insight in Gaza

FW: A Canadian's View PointSeveral friends sent this along and I thought it deserved posting.

General Lewis MacKenzie on Gaza

I first served in the Gaza Strip in 1963, seven years after Lester Pearson's diplomatic stick-handling led to the creation of the United Nations Emergency Force, the UN's first peacekeeping force. I served there for two years, living with more than 1,000 other Canadian soldiers in Camp Rafah, just inside Gaza. I returned to the region eight years later, this time to Cairo and Ismailia as part of Canadian support for UN ceasefire protocols after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. I have returned to the region many times during the past decade.

In my opinion, the Israeli-Hamas conflict is the only one in the world where there is no hope whatsoever of the participants resolving the key issues on their own, by any means. Hamas makes no secret that, aided and abetted by Iran, it is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Any idea of a ceasefire in the current fighting leading to a change in Hamas's dedication to Israel's elimination is naive to the extreme. Any cessation of hostilities, no matter how temporary, will be used by Hamas to enhance its weapons arsenal in preparation for the next round of terrorist attacks against its neighbour.

On their own, Israel and Hamas are doomed to a perpetual state of war no matter how much international diplomatic horsepower is applied to resolving the conflict. But there is a solution that the world has been adroitly avoiding for 40 years.

Israel deserves security. Its population is prepared to live in peace with its neighbours providing they aren't dedicated to its extermination. If Israel deals with the threat from Hamas on its own, the situation will not improve over the long term - Hamas will simply resuscitate itself and carry on with its terrorist actions against Israel. The UN Security Council needs to show some rare backbone and authorize a strong UN force under the UN Charter's Chapter 7, which authorizes the use of deadly force as necessary, and deploy it within the Gaza Strip, taking on the responsibility to provide the security to which Israel is entitled. The force would need to be strong enough to interdict weapons smuggling by sea, land (including by tunnel) and air from outside sources, to eliminate rocket attacks on Israel, to stop suicide bombers through use of border controls and, most important, to be strong enough militarily to take on Hamas if need be. The oft-expressed idea of putting international monitors into the Gaza Strip to control smuggling and the firing of rockets is ludicrous: Hamas would run rings around any unarmed outsiders whose only mandate was to "observe and report." Such monitors wouldn't even qualify as yet another Band-Aid solution.

Israel would not like this solution. It is extremely suspicious of the UN, which has all too often demonstrated anti-Semitic policies and statements thanks to the fact that most member states sympathize with such attitudes. Israel did not recognize the UNEF from 1956 to its withdrawal in 1967. In fact, when we had to drive through Israel to get some of our supplies in Lebanon, we were not allowed to get out of our vehicles while inside Israel.

The UN Relief and Works Agency, which provides aid to Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, has been accused by Israel - with some justification - of anti-Israel bias. Nevertheless, with a UN force deployed across the border from Israel and capable of providing the security desired by its citizens, the Israelis would soon see the benefits.

The UN has maintained a peacekeeping force in Cyprus since 1964. There has been no fighting between the Greek and Turk Cypriots for the past 34 years. The peacekeepers are now popular tourist attractions. When you arrive on the south coast of Cyprus, you can sign up for a bus tour of Nicosia, where you can observe the peacekeepers executing their boring duty in sentry boxes first manned by Canadian soldiers some 38 years ago. If you are polite, they will let you have your picture taken with them.

The UN Security Council and member states should be ashamed. While UN resources are providing peacekeepers in a country safer than most of our major cities, just across the Mediterranean, scores of innocent Palestinians are being killed because a terrorist organization with the stated aim of ridding the world of Jews is permitted to sacrifice its own people without protest or intervention by the international community.