The controversy over Halal chicken slaughtering by Olymel has ballooned into a series of debates on everything from animal cruelty to unfair pricing to unreasonable accommodation . Yet all these miss the central point. If a society wants to be called free, it cannot take upon itself the right to dictate to a private enterprise - that asks nothing from the state - how it should conduct its business. That is not freedom. That is statism. The arrogance that our public officials and commentators take upon themselves to intervene in private prerogative is not only unjust, it is dangerous. It leads to a society where demonization becomes the goal and disinformation the tool.
A biographer of U.S. Supreme Court Justice and champion of civil liberties Louis D. Brandeis, once described him as a man with a “mind of one piece.” He took the phrase from Brandeis’ own teaching. The great jurist had tried to instill in his students, colleagues and indeed in public officials, the understanding that for the people to feel that their governors are dispensing justice there must be equity in the law. And for there to be equity there must be consistency. And for there to be consistency there must be reason. A holistic approach not only to the law, but to society as a whole. Reason, consistency, equity, justice.
The Shafia verdict should have implications far beyond the deserved condemnations of the very concept of “honour” killings. Beyond even the condemnation of the terrible subjugation of women that is at the heart of that retrograde and oxymoronic phrase and the corpus of thought that gave it birth. And beyond any satisfaction people may have about the verdict. It should lead us straight to the heart of the matter: the absolute rejection of accomodation to any status for any religious law in Canada’s legal jurisdictions and the urgent need to reaffirm this nation’s dedication to the sovereignty of the individual over any collective.
Conservative MP Maxime Bernier’s weekend comments calling Bill 101 unnecessary are a clarion call of courage and candour. We should be rallying around those sentiments. Bernier spoke truth to myth and emerged as a new patron saint of reason. He should be lionized not vilified as he has been in much of the Quebec press. He has opened the door to a much needed debate on a heretofore taboo subject. It is a wake up call for this province and perhaps a last chance to turn Quebec toward the politics of respect, justice and equality.
Events in society are related. Sometimes not directly. Sometimes they just reflect the temper of the times. But it is for that very reason that those who affect that temper, those who hold high office, must be held to account when they have compromised the public discourse.
It did not take long for the chattering classes of the left to blame Canada’s failure to obtain a seat on the UN’s Security Council rotation on the Harper government’s principled support of Israel. The tsk-tsks could be heard from the editorial rooms of newspapers to the halls of academe.
One is struck by why the euthanasia and assisted suicide issues are so important as to be brought forward at this time in Quebec’s history in a roving commission. It is to be hoped that it is because of compassion to reach new definitions in light of pleas from suffering people who wish to terminate their lives. However, reasonable people can be forgiven if they suspect that this issue is being pushed to set new standards to allow a bloated health-care system the right to decide when to terminate life. If there is even one scintilla of truth in that possibility then the whole exercise is venal and obscene.
The current condemnations of Israel’s planned additions to the Ramat Shlomo neighbourhood demonstrate an appalling ignorance – feigned or real - regarding the accepted status of Jerusalem since Camp David through two American administrations; the context of American criticism in light of similar treatment recently meted out to democratic allies like Poland and the Czech Republic by the Obama administration; and the domestic political infighting in Israel that led to the unfortunate timing of the announcement and Netanyahu’s apology. Though I am by no means supportive of the entire settlement policy, too many politicians and commentators fail to point out the carnage Israel has suffered since its unilateral pullout from Gaza that put the lie to the “land as an obstacle to peace” argument. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan once wrote, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. No one is entitled to their own facts.”
Federal opposition calls for an inquiry into the Harper government’s supposedly negative influence on the Rights and Democracy organization are inappropriate, misguided and corrosive. Inappropriate because they smack of nothing more than a witch hunt seeking political profit off the death of R&D’s late President Rémy Beauregard who died recently of a heart attack. Misguided because they exhibit an appalling ignorance of the failings of R&D that this administration has tried to correct. Corrosive because they would demonize any attempt by any government to reform any media darling organization beloved of the salon liberal left that in fact too often supports groups around the world whose aims are inimical to free societies.
In 1918 a young Andre Malraux was approached by a joyous friend of his father’s who invited him to come and celebrate the Armistice that ended the First World War. Malraux, the man who would pen the immortal “Man’s Fate” and “The Human Condition”, went with the family friend to the celebration.
The Quebec government’s response to the Duguay challenge on its speeding laws is wholly unacceptable. When Charles Duguay, a consulting engineer in the Eastern Townships, received a speeding ticket under the new rates he found them unconscionable. So do many of us. The ticket he got was $718 and 10 points. Under the old system it would have been $250 and 5 points. He decided to do something about it.
Whenever freedom’s indivisibility is violated, we are obligated to register our protest. Particularly when that violation occurs in our own backyards. And precisely when what we are defending is the sovereignty of individual choice. For the freedom to choose is the heart of a free society. It is the object lesson in the difference between liberty and tyranny.
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