Articles Canadian Politics

  • The Perils of Faith-Based Multiculturalism

    The controversies over decisions by the Ontario government to allow and then ban the use of Shari’a (and other religious laws) as the basis of arbitration are not over. Religious groups and their supporters continue to push for minority religious rights. In Canada, as in other parts of the world, religious sentiments are on the rise. Conservative religious leaders have become more vocal and demanding, and governments are giving in to their demands without much regard for the serious consequences for democracy and citizens’ rights.

  • The Politics of Money

    Since the U.S.-backed overthrow of progressive Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the severe level of political repression launched by the new government has left tens of thousands of Lavalas (Aristide’s political party) supporters the victims of rapes, incarcerations, firings and murders. One tragic aspect of this story is the extent to which Canadian federal government money has been able to buy the support of supposedly progressive organizations and individuals. Today they continue to align themselves with Canada’s brutal pro-coup policy.

  • Strategic Choices for the Quebec Left

    Is it in the interests of progressives to put their energies into the big neoliberal parties, trying to influence them? Or is it better to patiently build an alternative party? Quebec’s autumn political scene offers the occasion to see the fruits of both strategies. On the one hand, the PQ shores up its coalition with trade unionists and progressives for a Free Quebec (SPQLibre). On the otherhand, we have the emergence of a new autonomous party on the Left, as the Union des forces progressistes (UFP) and Option citoyenne (OC) pre-pare for their upcoming fusion.

  • Privatizing Canada’s Public Universities

    Perhaps the most obvious kind of privatization of the university is the growing reliance on individuals rather than the collective to finance university operations. As students are all too well aware, university tuition and other fees have been skyrocketing in recent years – as have student debts. Between 1990-91 and 2000-2001, tuition fees in Canada rose by 126 per cent, while average student debts rose from about $8,700 to $25,000. This is because students are paying a far larger share of the costs of postsecondary education, from an average of 17 per cent of operating costs in 1992 to 28 per cent of operating costs in 2002. As well, a growing number of university programs are slated to be, if they are not already, almost fully financed by students. Not long ago, for example, the University of Toronto announced its intention to increase its law school tuition to $25,000.

  • Academics in the Service of War

    In Canada, we have guidelines that strictly regulate the use of human stem cells and assisted human reproduction. Both Bill C-6 and the Guidelines on Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Research came about through public consultations with scientists, faith groups, the Canadian public and scholars in bioethics, sociology and law, among others. These instruments established guidelines for ethical research into and use of technologies with potentially profound life-saving medical benefits. Furthermore, the Guiding Principles include the notion that “Research undertaken should have potential health benefits for Canadians” and that the research should “Respect individual and community notions of human dignity and physical, spiritual and cultural integrity.”

  • Who’re Ya Gonna Call? Not the Corporate University

    You’re wondering about the safety of genetically modified food, or its harmful environmental impact; you’re confused about whether to continue taking Vioxx for severe arthritic pain; you’re mystified by the apparent scientific controversy concerning climate change; you’re apprehensive about the cloning of Dolly the sheep and wonder whether catastrophe beckons when this new technology is used to create a clonal human being.

  • Private Pretensions

    In our day, all that seems to remain of the historical struggle between the competing visions of socialism and capitalism, between the collective interest and the individual interest, is the euphemistic “public sector” versus the “private sector.” But while most of the vitality has been drained from this revolutionary residue, some meaning yet remains unspoken, suggesting rival conceptions of society. So, locating our institutions in one or the other of these categories, public or private, carries a larger significance and merits our close attention.

  • The Panhandler Law

    The writer Anatole France once observed, “the law, in its magnificent equality, forbids rich and poor alike from sleeping under bridges and begging for bread in the streets.” In rookie mayor Sam Katz’s new Winnipeg, we now have achieved the same magnificent equality. In a recent vote at Winnipeg City Council, a new by-law was adopted forbidding panhandling within the vicinity of “captive” audiences: bus stops, banks and ATMs, parking lots and parked cars, indoor public walkways, elevators and outdoor patios. This step effectively fulfills Mayor Katz’s entire anti-poverty program advanced in the course of his election campaign just over one year ago.

  • Electing a Constituent Assembly

    In the struggle for Quebec independence, the Constituent Assembly, proposed by the Patriots in 1837 and by the États-généraux of 1966-69, seems more pertinent today than ever.

    The PQ attempts to monopolize the struggle for sovereignty, despite the repeated failure of its strategy and the undeniable political plurality of the sovereignty movement. At last June’s PQ congress, numerous voices demanded a clear rupture from the “good provincial government” strategy that holds that once the “winning conditions” are attained, a referendum on sovereignty should be held. Instead, the congress more or less reiterated its referendum strategy. A sovereigntist coalition is envisaged, but only after the election of the PQ and with the purpose of supporting the referendum campaign that would ensue. Under this strategy, the government and, therefore, the PQ, reserve control of the overall process.

  • Canada Needs a Real Public Health Care System

    Many people like to think of Canada’s health care system as an example of “socialist” medicine. In reality, however, this label does not accurately reflect the true nature of the system.

    Of course, it is certainly true that aspects of Canada’s health care system are publicly owned and/or publicly regulated. The public or social character of the health care system is most clearly seen in the principles of universality and distribution according to need (rather than according to wealth or social status). Not surprisingly, the principles of universality and needs-based distribution enjoy the broadest support amongst the Canadian people. They are what Canadians have indicated they are determined to fight to preserve.

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