My letter to the Québec Liberal Party concerning tuition fees
Hello Mr. Gagnon,
As a resident of your riding, I would like to raise my voice to say the Liberal government’s position on the tuition fees is causing far more trouble that it is solving.
While the violence around the protests is unacceptable, so too is the government’s unbelievable inflexibility. The government seems to treat over 150 000 citizens in the streets as a small detail that should not affect its policies. Who else has ever brought that many Quebecers together?
From the start, the Liberal government should have spread the tuition hike over a longer period – perhaps 10 years. Making one generation of students pay for the entire hike was inevitably going to upset them.
I implore your party to resolve this situation which has become unacceptable. The current state of affairs is an embarrassment for Québec and the Liberal party. From Lafontaine and Baldwin in 1848 to today, Canada prides itself on a peaceful and responsible government – it’s high time the Liberal Party try and live up to that history.
Find your representative at Represent by Open North and send them a letter today.
Eating meat might be ethical, but is it moral?
The New York Times just ran an essay competition about why it is ethical to eat meat. The essays are short, go read them, ok, good.
I think the arguments are great. Personally, I am a failed vegetarian, or as I said in 2008: a quasi-vegetarian. I try to avoid eating meat whenever possible, but I do eat meat when I am invited to someone’s home or when the meat will be thrown out. That being said, my personal goal is to avoid harming sentient creatures as much as possible. For now, I am too addicted to butter and cheese, which do cause pain to animals, to give those up.
Each essay has a different argument, but with the exception of one, they all seem to say the same thing, “Eating meat can be ethical when the animal is raised in a holistic and sustainable manner”. That massive transformation should be our society’s first goal.
However, I do not think killing an animal raised in a sustainable manner is less morally wrong. Death is death, regardless of the purpose. There is no such thing as a painless death and to cut an animal’s life short for our pleasure, when there are easy alternative nutrient sources, seems selfish at best. There are exceptions – the far north where little vegetables can be grown and the arid deserts – but generally speaking, you can find easy alternatives to meat. One essay goes as far as to say that the only ethical meat is one grown in a lab, the essayist is probably right.Published on April 21, 2012
Quebec students must denounce violence
As I write this, the Quebec student protests seem to be getting more and more violent. First, let me say I am incredibly impressed by the organisation, length and structure of the protests so far. Generally speaking, I am for free higher education, if many European countries and Mexico can offer it, why can’t we?
However, the way the student protests are going right now, I am not optimistic. As the protests turn violent, the mainstream population is removing their support and the students’ cause will be lost. Students must unequivocally condemn all violence by all students and all participants, even if peripheral, in the protests. No amount of violence by police forces justifies violence by students. Beyond the moral reasoning, there is a simple pragmatic truth; if the students start using violence, they will lose. The police have many more tear gas cannisters than the students.
Recently on Facebook, I saw a number of people endorsing the J.F.K quote, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable” – that is a very big mistake, especially in the context of a democratic Québec and students’ modest demands for a tuition freeze.
Student union leaders should pay close attention to other non-violent mouvements. When protests for Indian independence turned violent in 1922, Gandhi did not hesitate to call the entire independence campaign off. And they were fighting for independance, not 1500$ a year in tuition fees!
“Non-cooperation” enjoyed widespread appeal and success, increasing excitement and participation from all strata of Indian society. Yet, just as the movement reached its apex, it ended abruptly as a result of a violent clash in the town of Chauri Chaura, Uttar Pradesh, in February 1922. Fearing that the movement was about to take a turn towards violence, and convinced that this would be the undoing of all his work, Gandhi called off the campaign of mass civil disobedience. This was the third time that Gandhi had called off a major campaign.
Gandhi also fasted in an attempt to stop the violence in 1948 during the Pakistani-India separation. Anyone trained in non-violent protests should understand that the moment you go violent, you’ve lost.
During the anti-apartheid mouvement in South Africa, Mandela confronted the Indian Congress claiming that their non-violent tactics had failed and the African National Congress should resort to a violent revolution. The Indian Congress responded, “Non-violence has not failed us, we have failed non-violence”.
All students wanting to change the system should read Gene Sharp’s book on non-violent tactics, “From Dictatorship to Democracy“. In the past week, I am afraid the students have lost the public’s support; the vandalism of storefronts and the bricks on the metro are too much for a lot of working people. Students should not underestimate the value many people and business put on ‘stability’, see Jonathan Haidt’s TED talk.
Closer to home, when the FLQ went violent during the October Crisis, the widespread popular support for their cause evaporated overnight. The same thing is happening to the student mouvement as we speak.Published on April 20, 2012
Katy Perry, Military Propaganda and Truth
Have you seen the latest Katy Perry music video “Part of Me”? Remarkable would be an understatement. It’s a poorly kept secret that mainstream pop stars, actors and news media promote the establishment’s vision of society and often glorify the military force, but Katy takes it to a whole new level. Many movies and videos use product placement as a way earn additional income, but this video clearly advocates changing your life and joining the marines – not just buying a new brand of Coke. I have never seen such a blatant advertisement for the military and I wonder how much they paid and what impact it might have.
With an all volunteer military, it is essential for the forces promote themselves as a life altering and epic mission to maintain democracy, freedom and our way of life. Even Canada, which has never boasted of its military power, has moved towards glorification of the armed forces. This started sometime ago, with a drawdown of our United Nations peacekeeping mission efforts over the past two decades and a lack of enthusiasm for risky intervention. Couple that with a Conservative government and celebrations for the war of 1812 and our national perception of the military’s role could be considered confused, at best. This fantastic Walrus article outlines how that happened and what it means for Canada.
The military is smaller in size than ever before and has been struggling to define itself in the post-communist era. Should Canada’s military be primarily peacekeeping (i.e. Bosnia), emergency low-risk interventions (i.e. Libya), hybrid missions (i.e. Afghanistan) or something else? Intervention in a time when a dozen lost soldiers causes national polemic is very challenging. The ever-excellent Munk Debates hosted a discussion on the pros, cons and risks of intervention and interestingly the audience remained pro-intervention despite General Rick Hillier and John Bolton’s objections. However, I would venture that if the audience members were asked to volunteer themselves or send their children for the proposed missions, they would baulk.
People say they want a better world, but far too often refuse to get their hands dirty or make real sacrifice. Running the military, policing the oceans and securing troubled countries is very expensive, challenging and dangerous. It’s clear that the Marines, which Katy is promoting, are not a peacekeeping force. I would hope Katy’s propagandizing of military life would provoke some discussion and debate amongst her youth based audience, I’m not sure it has.
The military is not guts, glory and bullets – as many people tend to believe. The Onion satirical newspaper got it right when they described a “true life” military video game as being 80% hauling equipment and 19% filling out paperwork, and 1% fighting. To better understand what the military really is and isn’t, I highly recommend the PBS mini-series, Carrier. It follows life aboard the USS Nimitz, a US nuclear aircraft carrier that’s home to over 2 700 military personnel. The series follows the lives of sailors at all levels of the ship, from the captain to the toilet cleaners. The show interviews smart sailors for and against the war in Iraq and clearly shows the importance of the military as an escape route from abuse and poverty.
So with all that in mind, what is Canada’s military’s role in the 21st century? Should pop stars promote the military and is anyone ready to truly sacrifice for their country?
Bonus point, guess how many aircraft carriers there are in the world and who has them.Published on April 8, 2012
Québec Ouvert – a new citizen initiative
My blog has been a bit quiet of late, due largely to the launch of a new citizen initiative for open data – Québec Ouvert. This effort follows a similar format and model to the successful effort in Montreal (Montreal Ouvert).
One notable difference will be the strategy and the data sets we target for release. By nature, provincial services are more removed from the citizen’s daily life than municipal services. Municipalities offer street cleaning, public transit, roads (some), and parks. Provinces most used services include healthcare, education and larger infrastructure. It could be said that you interact with municipal services on a daily basis, with provincial services on a monthly basis and with federal services on an annual basis. Consequently, we will be working with a different strategy and a wider perspective, while trying to bring our narrative to the individual level – hospital wait times, road construction and high quality education. Specifically, we will be encouraging the province to embrace open data as a tool to fight corruption.
I recently penned two articles on major issues in Quebec – how to use open data for a clean environment and the potential of open data to limit the increases in school tuition fees. The Québec Ouvert initiative is entirely in french and brings together people from Québec City, Montréal and Gatineau. We will keep you posted as we progress towards an accessible and open province!Published on April 2, 2012