Wednesday, September 23, 2009

For once, an admirable action from Harper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Wednesday that Canadian officials will be boycotting Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's address to the UN General Assembly because of his remarks concerning the Holocaust.

Speaking from Oakville, ON, Harper said that "there are times when things are being said in this world that it is important that countries that have a moral compass speak up, make their views known... Our absence there will speak volumes about how Canada feels about the declarations of President Ahmadinejad."

Ahmadinejad has repeatedly denied the Holocaust, and said that was a pretext for occupying Palestinian lands. He was quoted by Irna, the official Iranian news agency, as saying that "God willing, in the near future we will witness the destruction of the corrupt occupier [Israel] regime."

His comments were given to students at a conference in Iran called 'The World without Zionism,' which drew about 3 000 people.

This is the first and probably only time I will ever say this, but Harper has done exactly what needs to be done in this situation. His refusal to attend the address will speak volumes about Canada, and also displays a level of dignity that I really did not think this Conservative leader was capable of. If he is willing to risk angering Middle Eastern leaders by openly opposing their views on Israel, then he's got some guts. Hopefully, Canada's absence will show that not only can we legitimately claim credit to our reputation as a peacemaker, we are also willing to take a stand on important moral issues.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

How considerate of the Tories...

First Nations communities across the country have received more than 200 body bags from the government in preparation for the coming H1N1 epidemic said Jim Wolfe, director of First Nations and Inuit Health of Manitoba on Thursday.

Public condemnation was quick to follow the shipment, with federal health minister Leona Aglukkaq promising to launch a probe into the decision, which she called "insensitive and offensive."

"As minister of health and as an aboriginal, I am offended. To all who took offense at what occurred, I want to say that I share your concern, and I pledge to get to the bottom of it," she said.

The shipment has sent shock waves of fear through First Nations communities, for whom 'swine flu' is a particularly sensitive topic. Jim Wolfe was quick to describe the process by which medical supplies are shipped to First Nations, noting the difficulty of shipping supplies to isolated reserves during the winter months. According to him, the body bag shipment was nothing more than a regular delivery that came at a bad time.

But if the shipment was nothing more than a regular delivery, why on earth would health officials risk igniting public fear and outrage by delivering it with H1N1 preparation kits? Surely there must have been someone who saw this decision and thought to themselves, now this might not turn out too well. Rather than arguing whether this shipment was right or wrong, I think people should be thinking about whether it was STUPID or smart.

It could be the most regular shipment in the world, but when it comes at a time like this when society is in the grips of fear of an epidemic, a delivery of body bags is sure to incite anger, fear, hurt, and public condemnation. If a person in a position of power failed to recognize this, then clearly there needs to be a reviewal of whether that person is sensible and sensitive enough to be working in such a position of prominence in Canadian society.