A few brickbats.
Henry Srebrnik, [
Many years ago, I used to read a newspaper that handed out bouquets and brickbats on its editorial page – the flowers for positive items, the criticisms for negative ones.
It doesn’t take much to come up with the latter, unfortunately. All you need to do is read a few days’ worth of news items in The Guardian or elsewhere. Here are my “three picks” this week:
First item: One of the founders of Canadian Parents for French, Patterson Webster, told the graduating class at the University of Prince Edward Island convocation last week that French immersion programs in Canada have been an amazing success story.
But it turns out that of the candidates vying for the leadership of the federal Liberal Party, fewer than half can function adequately in French. A recent news story declared that only five of the 11 hopefuls are truly bilingual.
Remember – these are Liberals, not redneck Reformers! They’re almost all from
Clearly, despite French immersion programs, something is amiss with our language policies. This is something the Bloc Québécois will no doubt make certain Quebecers won’t fail to notice.
My next brickbat: When the Canadian dollar languished below 65 cents a few years ago, then prime minister Jean Chrétien insisted that a cheap currency was actually of benefit to Canada – it helped exporters, he claimed, even if it did mean that the rest of us were left with reduced purchasing power, or less money with which to travel in the United States or Europe.
Now, however, it turns out that trade-off wasn’t even necessary.
According to economist Stephen Poloz of Export Development Canada, the belief that a strong dollar hurts exporters is a myth. He told the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce recently that Canadian exports actually declined during that period.
So much for Chrétien’s words of wisdom; I guess he missed the Economics 101 lecture on currencies while at university. Let’s hope that the next time he visits the
Finally, we have the case of our Governor General, the representative of our head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, lecturing Haitians on democracy while representing this country at the inauguration of Haitian president René Préval last week. Michaëlle Jean returned to her country of birth for the first time since being appointed in September 2005.
Préval won a disputed election last February, replacing a U.S.-backed interim administration appointed after the radical Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled the country in February 2004 in the face of a bloody armed rebellion. He had been elected president of
Aristide’s opponents charged him with corruption and of having created a climate of murder and terror. He claimed he was forced out because he had been trying to alleviate the condition of
Aristide, currently living in exile in
Though independent since 1804, when a successful slave rebellion ended French rule,
Indeed, 4,500 UN troops and Haitian police in armoured personnel carriers and on foot cordoned off the areas where the ceremony was held.
There is little doubt that political violence and lawlessness will remain a feature of the country’s landscape. The struggle between Aristide’s followers and the Haitian elite is total, a reflection of the chasm between radically opposed sectors of Haitian society.
One side is Black, Creole-speaking, illiterate, disenfranchised; the other a privileged French-speaking Mulatto elite, often educated abroad. They don’t speak the same language and don’t have the same shared culture or history.
For poorer Haitians, Jean is representative of this latter group and they will not be as favourably impressed by her comments as we in
In any case, hers is a ceremonial, not elective, position, and therefore not a pulpit from which to dispense advice to the rulers and citizens of foreign countries. Aren’t many Canadians angry when George W. Bush does the same? Jean is not Peter MacKay, our foreign minister. And she should in any case not sound like like a colonial official.
Brickbats, brickbats, everywhere.