Letters Letters by Readers Published May. 12, 2006 Share this page Share this page on Facebook Share this page on Twitter Email a link to this page More sharing options Adjust text size Illsutration by Till Thomas Canada at War I have given up trying to forecast how many years it will be before the majority of the Canadian public realizes that we are not a “peacekeeping nation” and, quite frankly, never were (protestations from the likes of Lloyd Axworthy notwithstanding). Sean Maloney and Tom Fennell’s article (“Soldiers, Not Peacekeepers,” March) contributes to a long-overdue and badly needed education process regarding our overseas military roles. During the Cold War, starting with the Suez crisis of 1956, successive governments perpetuated the myth that Canadians were peacekeepers. At the height of our United Nations deployments during the Cold War, our country never had more than 2,000 lightly armed soldiers wearing the blue beret in places like Cyprus, Egypt, and the Golan Heights. During this same period, Canada had up to 12,000 troops stationed on nato’s Central Front in Germany, armed with nuclear weapons (I’m not making this up). Peacekeeping was a sideline activity. But for a few special cases, Canadian peacekeeping has been relegated to the history books since the end of the Cold War. In order to qualify as a peacekeeping mission, an international force and the soldiers from each of the participating nations have to be invited by the belligerents. The force must be impartial and use deadly force only in cases of self-defence. In Afghanistan, Canada’s role is certainly not impartial, and we use deadly force against the enemy. The mission fails all the qualifying criteria for peacekeeping, yet this past week I was asked to do numerous media interviews regarding our “peacekeeping” role in Afghanistan. It would be nice to solve the world’s security problems with insightful thoughts provided by Canada while others do the heavy lifting. Nice, but also humiliating, and insulting to the generations who went before us. Canadian soldiers are rightly offended when they are portrayed as social workers with guns. Canada has a proud tradition of peacekeeping, but the demand for that kind of mission has dried up. Today’s bad guys don’t recognize the authority of the blue beret, so we have replaced it with a camouflaged Kevlar helmet. Still, the Canadian public has yet to acknowledge our new role. Maloney and Fennell’s article certainly helps to dispel the peacekeeping myth. For that, I’m confident our soldiers will thank the magazine. Lewis MacKenzie, O.Ont., M.S.C., C.D. Major-General (ret’d) Bracebridge, Ontario Soldiering is peacekeeping and peacekeeping is soldiering. Canadians who lament the passing of what they thought peacekeeping was probably never understood it in the first place. To understand peacekeeping, one should first know the difference between the soldier and the warrior. Peacekeeping is about using soldiers to keep warriors under control. Both the soldier and the warrior are ready to inflict violence, something that is easy to do once one has some basic weapons-skills and the will to kill. The critical difference is threefold: The soldier is prepared to receive violence if he must, while the warrior will always avoid it. The soldier must always be responsible to an accountable political authority, while the warrior only sometimes is. Finally, the soldier is much more likely to be a professional who fights when he is directed to. The issue isn’t one of courage—some warriors are very brave. However, they are not the sort of men who will climb out of a trench into concentrated machine-gun fire or fly straight and level for thirty seconds in a torrent of flak or stand impassively on the quarterdeck in a barrage of artillery. The issue isn’t about hardihood either. But a soldier is much more likely than a warrior to stand in a trench flooded by freezing rain. The issue is not necessarily about discipline. Apache and Zulu warriors were quite disciplined, in some ways to a higher standard than the blue-coated Buffalo Soldiers or the British redcoats. All four understood the discipline of arms and the discipline that a fighting man imposes on himself. But a soldier also faces the external discipline of the state. Warriors almost invariably fight as individuals, and in various guises: as guerrillas, terrorists, or members of a tribal militia. A soldier fights as a member of a team on behalf of a state. The warrior often fights for personal gain, while the soldier seldom does. Why the lecture Our soldiers in Afghanistan are after the warriors of the Taliban and al Qaeda. Our state sent them there to do this for a number of reasons. Unchecked warriors raid and rob, attack the helpless, disrupt trade, destroy communities, and generate misery. Is this not what the Taliban and al Qaeda do to the people of Afghanistan Is this not what they would do to us In ancient Egypt, the Pharaohs sent their chariots above the Nile forts to protect their people from the Nubians. Chinese crossbowmen soldiered on the Great Wall to keep the steppe warriors from pillaging their kingdom. Roman legionnaires kept the Germanic warriors in check for centuries. Red-coated Tommy Atkins did the same thing in a number of places that seem startlingly familiar today. These nations used a strong presence to dissuade truculent warriors from acting up, and used force when this failed. This was peacekeeping. Peacekeeping has gone back to its roots, and our soldiers are doing what soldiers have always done. John Thompson Mackenzie Institute Toronto, Ontario Canada’s role has evolved since our troops first entered Afghanistan, and our new mandate needs to be debated in Parliament and brought to the public’s attention. According to Maloney and Fennell, our troops are “killing insurgents in Afghanistan.” How does murdering Afghan citizens promote Canadian values and advance foreign policy In the article, when an Afghan village elder was asked what assistance the troops could provide, he answered “better irrigation control.” Canada could accomplish much more by using the $1 billion earmarked for the military adventure in Afghanistan to build roads and schools and hospitals in places where we’re actually wanted, rather than hunting down Afghan citizens in support of the American “War on Terror.” Canadian troops could be allowed to continue their work in Afghanistan by providing humanitarian aid, subject to Parliament’s approval. Their mandate must include abiding by the rule of law, promoting Canadian values, and protecting human rights. Since the Americans are ignoring all of these, we must be careful not to violate our Canadian principles by becoming puppets of the US. Paul Sheehy Kanata, Ontario Tom Fennell responds: The fires burning in the rubble of the World Trade Center had barely been extinguished when the first Canadian troops arrived in Afghanistan. Since then, their role has grown, and more than 2,000 soldiers are now in the troubled country. But at home there is little support, judging from a Strategic Counsel poll in February, which found that 62 percent of Canadians are opposed to the deployment. To counter his critics, Chief of the Defence Staff Rick Hillier has gone on the offensive, claiming that domestic security requires Canada to take a front-line role in the international war on terrorism. So why aren’t people buying into his argument Perhaps it is because, mistaken or not, Canadians still cling to the image of themselves as peacekeepers. And while the military disparages the term, it still holds currency with many policy-makers, who believe that terrorism might be defeated over the long haul if our money were spent improving the lives of individual Afghans by building schools and improving agriculture (see “Might Is Wrong,” April). Which side is right Only time will tell, but perhaps ndp leader Jack Layton was correct when he called on Parliament to debate the issue—something it has never done. Multifarious Multiculturalism Allan Gregg has mixed feelings about multiculturalism (“Identity Crisis,” March). I want to say “and rightly so” but can’t, at least not for the reasons Gregg provides. Multiculturalism is not perfect, but what Canadian multiculturalism requires is a debate that advances our democratic ideals while addressing our weaknesses. Unfortunately, Gregg does neither. First, we need to discuss multiculturalism in the proper context. Reading “Identity Crisis,” one might think that Canada has always been a happy, pluralist country but this is simply not true. Multiculturalism did not continue a tradition of pluralism but was part of a process in which an older, overtly racist series of public policies (internments, segregation at the municipal level, head taxes, etc.) was replaced by the ideal of equality. Next, we need to avoid extreme extrapolations and focus on reality. Gregg predicts that it is only a matter of time before the violence that rocked Paris and London makes its way here. At the very least, he believes ethnic diversity will fracture national identity. But we’ve heard all of this before. Critics have prophesied doom since official multiculturalism was first introduced in 1971, and yet doomsday hasn’t come to pass. As Will Kymlicka, whom Gregg cites favourably, notes in Finding Our Way, Canada does well by international standards on virtually every scale of ethnocultural integration. Our naturalization rates are high, official-language learning is astronomical, and even ethnic intermarriage (not a policy but surely a sign of tolerance) is very high in Canada. We also need to understand multiculturalism’s objectives. Gregg seems to be hunting a paper tiger. If we are going to get rid of multiculturalism or modify it in some fundamental way, what will replace it Our past can’t provide a model, so we need to think concretely about the future. I would bet that integration, individual rights, and support for official languages will be part of whatever model we create. All three are parts of multiculturalism as it now stands. I suspect the new Conservative government will re-examine multiculturalism as public policy. A number of Conservative supporters appear to have qualms about it. I hope that those qualms are grounded in reality, because working with an imagined past, problematic reasoning, and a failure to engage with what multiculturalism actually is will not get Canada very far. Dr. Andrew Nurse Director, Centre for Canadian Studies Mount Allison University Sackville, New Brunswick Gregg’s analysis of the politics of identity suggests there is little that is special about Canada’s brand of multiculturalism. Gregg predicts that Canada will shortly experience the type of sectarian violence recently witnessed in England and France. He also claims that Australia’s flirtation with racial unrest is a sign that Europe’s affliction can hit the New World. I disagree. Let’s not discuss Australia’s problems in the same breath as those of France and England. While the latter witnessed minority groups rebelling as a reaction to illegitimate class differences, the former’s problems were a product of unadulterated, old-fashioned prejudice, similar to the anti-Semitic Christie Pits riots that rocked Toronto in 1933. To grasp why Canada is unique, we must dig deeper and figure out what produces collective protest. Social psychological theories suggest that disadvantaged minority groups rebel when they sense that their societal status is illegitimate and that there is little permeability in the layers of the social hierarchy. In other words, groups revolt when they feel that they are incapable of achieving their goals. England and France are societies with long histories of “us and them,” rich versus poor, etc. Class differences in these older societies have become ossified, and when immigrants arrive they fall into a pre-existing class structure. Canada, in contrast, is part of the New World, where nearly everyone is an immigrant. Unlike its European cousins, Canada does not have an ossified class structure or aristocratic traditions. This is not to say there are no class differences in Canada. However, social class here is relatively permeable and continues to shift. It is this sense of permeability that allows hard-working and ambitious immigrants to live our version of the American dream. Without this sense of permeability, Algerian French have no choice but to kick, scream, and rebel in order to provoke a change in French society. Gregg’s message is loud and clear: we need to make sure our multicultural practices and symbols allow for real permeability lest they become self-congratulatory bedtime stories. Gregg notes that the second generation of immigrants represents a turning point when it becomes apparent whether or not immigrants can achieve their goals in their new society. Given Canada’s unique cultural history, sense of identity, and founding ideology, I believe that integrating our second-generation immigrants represents a collective opportunity, not an inevitable trigger for sectarian violence. Michael Inzlicht Assistant Professor of Psychology University of Toronto Toronto, Ontario A possible solution to the problems Gregg articulates may be compulsory military service. Military service has never held broad appeal for Canadians, though it has had its proponents. I have lived in three countries where service is or was required: Britain, Italy, and Switzerland. Gregg specifies the need to lift Canadian immigrants out of their self-imposed ghettos and into the mainstream of Canadian life. In Italy, the military took boys and girls from underprivileged surroundings, outfitted them, taught them life skills apart from their military training, and sent them to parts of the country they would never otherwise have seen. In Britain, the army sent young men to postings in various parts of the Empire. And several of my friends in Switzerland had careers shaped by their military service. Gregg stresses the need for a common purpose whose achievement includes all participants, regardless of background and culture. The creation of a body of young Canadians capable of serving the many needs of the country at home and abroad might be exactly such a project. Military service recognizes competence, bravery, and selflessness. It is blind to colour, culture, and gender. Kim Krenz Lakefield, Ontario Gregg neglects to explore Canada’s long history of explicitly rejecting monoculturalism and ethnic definitions of national identity and citizenship. When Canada’s democracy was being created in the 1840s, its earliest proponents rejected the monocultural argument, put forth by Lord Durham, that a single culture and language should prevail over and assimilate all others. Instead, leaders like LaFontaine, Baldwin, Brown, Macdonald, and Cartier recognized that if they were to build a viable political entity on the northern half of the continent, it could not be done if one race (to use the terminology of the day) dominated all others. They saw clearly that a multicultural partnership was required instead. Even so, this ethos of deliberately refusing to have one single culture in Canada has been severely tested over the years. Wilfrid Laurier was jeered by anglophone MPs when he spoke French in the House of Commons. Japanese-Canadians were interned in World War II, despite the strenuous objections of rookie Saskatchewan MP John Diefenbaker. South Asian Canadians were the victims of racial attacks on the Toronto subway in the 1970s. Perhaps no country can ever live up to its own mythology, but the mythology itself says a great deal about the country. Since before Confederation, our Canadian mythology has been one of multiculturalism, profoundly different from the monoculturalist traditions of Britain, France, and Australia. This does not mean that we do not have problems. Studies indicate that second-generation visible-minority Canadians are not as economically secure as their parents, for example. But we have tools developed over more than 150 years of multicultural history, and the political and social will to address this problem. David Morley Executive Director Institute for Canadian Citizenship Toronto, Ontario Allan Gregg responds: I would hate to think that some readers have missed the heart of my argument—namely that immigration to Canada has changed dramatically. History and old ways of managing our country’s diversity should therefore serve as little more than context—and certainly not as guideposts—for understanding how different the current challenges are. New Canadians are arriving at a rate two-and-a-half times as fast as in the 1980s. Whereas fully 80 percent of new arrivals came from Europe in 1970, now fewer than 20 percent do. In fact, the vast majority now come from Asia, the Caribbean, and “Other,” the catch-all category composed largely of developing countries. Just as the influx of women into the labour force has been changing patriarchal workplace practices, this new wave of immigration requires adjustments to policies designed for white European Christians. Unfortunately, self-congratulation for our supposed cultural tolerance has inhibited the very debate professors Nurse and Inzlicht seem to be calling for. The current policy is not working. Foreign-born and especially visible-minority Canadians are falling behind economically. Rather than integrating and playing larger roles in the mainstream, they are hiving off into ever-growing ethnic enclaves in our three major metropolitan centres. Measures of social integration, including voter turnout, sense of belonging, and even happiness with life, are also moving in the wrong direction. Far from calling immigration “an inevitable trigger for sectarian violence” (as Inzlicht suggests) or claiming that “it is only a matter of time before the violence that rocked Paris and London makes its way here” (as alleged by Nurse), I am merely cautioning that our relative immunity to these problems owes more to timing than to good management. European countries such as Britain and France began to accept visible-minority immigrants immediately after World War II, while Canada began doing so almost thirty years later. As a result, Britain and France now have mature second-generation immigrant populations; two-thirds of visible-minority Canadians born to immigrant parents have yet to reach adulthood. I compare Canada to Britain, France, and Australia not to create hysteria but because they are all historically white Christian societies that are using strikingly different policies to integrate a very different kind of citizen in their midst. Their examples show that blindly applying old practices will not address this challenge. Canada would be well advised to take note. AIDS Party A notably absent dimension from Brent Preston’s health column (“The hiv Resurgence,” March) is the complacency of public health officials and government institutions. hiv has not been addressed sufficiently by the federal or provincial governments for the past twenty years. British Columbia, for example, regionalized responsibility for health service delivery, but hiv is not a priority and rarely receives the financial resources necessary to effectively care for people living with the virus. Also, as long as hiv is approached exclusively through the lens of health, important partnerships that could contribute significantly to aids prevention will not be developed. Two-thirds of grade seven students in Canada believe there is a cure for aids. This is not complacency on the part of youth. This is complacency at the highest levels of power. And this complacency is killing us. Phillip Banks Director of hiv Prevention & Awareness Programs aids Vancouver Vancouver, British Columbia Three cheers for The Walrus and the activists quoted in Preston’s article. In Canada, hiv/aids has become a silent epidemic. Each year in Alberta, approximately 150 to 170 people test positive for hiv. The populations most affected by this disease have substantially shifted, leading to an increasingly complicated epidemic. Most Canadians do not think hiv affects them, but Preston demonstrates just how wrong they are. Canadians urgently need to recognize that there is no cure or vaccine for this deadly virus. hiv is everyone’s concern. Today, the poor and marginalized are overrepresented in this epidemic, and rates among women are increasing. The stigma and discrimination of being hiv-positive is unparalleled, causing people to avoid getting tested and seeking adequate support. Our government, and every Canadian, will be held accountable at the International aids Conference in Toronto in August 2006. Deborah Jakubec, Executive Director, hiv Edmonton Edmonton, Alberta Preston does an admirable job of reminding us that hiv is a reality for all Canadians. While combination drug therapies have led to sustained, healthier lives for Canadians living with hiv who have access to the drugs, the number of new infections continues to increase annually. Still, efforts to combat the hiv epidemic have been hampered by stigma and discrimination. Unfortunately, Preston reinforces a number of stigmatizing beliefs that have hindered our efforts to curb the spread of hiv. In his column, Preston refers to “hiv carriers” and “aids victims,” two terms we have banned from our lexicon for the past fifteen years. Today, we talk about people who are living with hiv/aids. Any other label portrays them as people to be feared or to be pitied. Preston’s discussion of the impact of immigration policies on the hiv statistics in Canada contains further stigmatizing language. To refer to new Canadians, who face other forms of discrimination, as “spreading the disease” is irresponsible journalism. hiv doesn’t care about age, race, culture, orientation, religion, or sex. Only those who don’t live with hiv make such distinctions. It is because of cultural prejudice and discrimination that Canada’s aboriginal peoples have borne the burden of the hiv epidemic so heavily. Furthermore, Canada’s aboriginal peoples constitute only 3.3 percent of the population, not 6 percent as Preston reports, according to the 2001 census. Finally, I was saddened by the choice of artwork that accompanied Preston’s article, proclaiming an “aids Party” with “Everyone Welcome.” It is unclear what message the illustrator was trying to convey, but aids is not a party and no one is welcome to it. hiv is a debilitating virus. It is 100 percent preventable, but in spite of advances made in treatments, still 100 percent deadly. Ian Culbert Director, Canadian hiv/aids Information Centre Canadian Public Health Association Ottawa, Ontario Editor’s note: Aboriginals make up 6 percent of the population of the provinces and territories that report ethnicity in hiv/aids figures. When non-reporters (Ontario and Quebec) are included, the figure is lower, as Mr. Culbert points out. The Walrus regrets stating the statistic ambiguously. Pornography vs. Empathy As someone who has recently separated from an Internet pornography addict, I feel I must attest to what Charles Foran (“It’s a Porn World After All,” March) describes as the harm that “is being done to all our fragile sexual selves.” After I confronted my husband for the tenth time about what I suspected was the habit he indulged while I was at work, he finally admitted that yes, he spent most of his time consuming Internet pornography, saying—and I quote—” It is exciting, more exciting than being with you, and sex with you is a disappointment, a letdown.” His reaction confirmed what I had intuited, felt, and experienced in so many psychological and physical ways. Over a period of about eight years, I felt increasingly sexually acted upon and not sexually interacted with. While his admission was hurtful, it was also the biggest gift he could have given me. I was finally able to walk away from a situation that was causing me spiritual harm. I am still working on finding the words to express the loss of personhood that I experienced from being in a long-term, intimate, and sexual relationship with someone who had become desensitized to his own humanity and mine. I am not sure how to recover, or what to do next. Sometimes I even doubt that the emptiness, the feeling of having been emotionally raped, is real. My counsellor assures me that my experience is real. I have to ask myself: how did I, a well-educated woman, get to this place But I do not think I am alone here, which is why I have to write this letter. My counsellor has told me that she often sees the devastating results of Internet pornography addiction on both the addicted and the wives and family of the addicted. I agree with Foran when he says that pornography, and the amount of it we allow into our communities, is not a moral issue. He talks about pornography as being “humanly disastrous” and “dangerous.” But I think he does not go far enough. I would suggest that the effect of pornography addiction is the erosion of much human spirituality, including sexuality and sexual communication—what Foran might mean by our “fragile sexual selves.” Name withheld by request British Columbia Forget About It I was intrigued by Marni Jackson’s new products for the old (“Designs for Dementia,” March). I myself am planning an Assisted Suicide Tour to Holland in the year 2031 if Canada doesn’t change its laws on this matter. By that time I will be in my eighties. Already, there are three of us going—my friend Jan, an Englishman I met at a party in Amsterdam last year, and me. My husband has declined because he thinks he will already be dead. If any others out there are interested they should contact me in 2030—any sooner and I will have forgotten their names. Patricia Paul-Carson Ottawa, Ontario Marni Jackson responds: Please sign me up. I would like the adult tricycle option. And does the Englishman have a friend Even More Solitudes Ken Alexander rightly warns Torontonians (“Two More Solitudes,” February) that they must resist the temptation to see the gang violence in their midst as a problem the “black community” must tend to on its own. But Alexander’s argument seems predicated on the segregationist logic he is criticizing, especially when he imagines a monolithic “black community” situated apart from the implicitly non-black “wider society.” This becomes more evident when he evokes a kind of multiculturalist approach to the social problem that seems more evasive than practical, if it does not in fact contribute to the problem. While Alexander wants to distinguish genuine multiculturalism from racial parochialism, in practice multiculturalism, with its fetishization of difference, continues to foster its evil twin. The idea that peoples are marked by fundamental racial/cultural differences makes it possible to entertain the idea that “blacks suffer from particular cultural pathologies that cannot be explained by history or sociology.” It also makes it possible to imagine that a union between “black consciousness” and “the white mind” might create the harmonious pre-conditions for solving a problem that is economic, sociological, and cultural in the broadest sense of common beliefs and practices. The multiculturalism Alexander evokes, whereby white readers read and consort with “black” writers and intellectuals, has been thriving for years, and dominates the pedagogical and scholarly agenda of university literature departments both in Canada and the United States. But ghettos have also continued to flourish, if you’ll pardon the term. The grotesque poverty in which so many residents of New Orleans lived remained for most an invisible fact, one that seems to unconsciously allude to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. It should only take invitations and acceptances to get black and white peers into one another’s homes. But how they are to effect positive changes for people with little perceived stake in a society without compellingly manifested civic ideals remains a much more formidable challenge. Michael Nowlin Department of English University of Victoria Victoria, British Columbia Alexander writes well on a serious problem but might have chosen the more realistic title “Two More of a Number of Solitudes,” as Toronto is surely comprised of a bundle of solitudes. Cities and countries alike thrive on mythologies about themselves. As Alexander writes, one of our “cherished” mythologies is our multiculturalism. Shortage of space, no doubt, prevented him from discussing the modern debasement of the word cultural. It seems to me that what Toronto has is multi-ethnicity. David Keenleyside Toronto, Ontario Ken Alexander responds: I have read The Bell Curve and numerous other attempts to establish race as a meaningful scientific category; all such efforts fail, in most cases miserably. However, when asked if race is a sociological fact, my answer is, “Unfortunately, yes.” Last year, as black-on-black violence beset Toronto, the local papers devoted one front page after another to the horror. This kind of treatment has a significant impact on public opinion, and I fear that the contributions blacks have made to Toronto’s and Canada’s evolving democracy is being erased by anxiety that our streets have been overtaken by black youth who simply could not fit in. As philosopher and political theorist Charles Taylor has observed, multiculturalism involves recognizing the Other in his or her full humanity, including the twists and turns of community histories. On the subject of erasure, I wonder if Professor Nowlin is aware of the extraordinary history of blacks on Vancouver and Saltspring islands. In the late 1850s, as part of the growth of black settlements across Canada, approximately 800 blacks arrived by ship from California and settled on those two islands. They farmed, built businesses, and raised families. In a display of loyalty to their adopted homeland, the new residents formed a black regiment, the Victoria Pioneer Rifle Company, to defend the region against American incursions. Canada has always been multicultural. Recent trends, however, suggest that David Keenleyside is correct: Our urban societies are atomizing along racial lines, and the policy goal of creating and fostering a mosaic of positive interaction is failing to quell fear of the (especially visible-minority) Other. Tusk, Tusk The correct title of Mark A. Cheetham’s new book is Abstract Art Against Autonomy: Infection, Resistance, and Cure Since the 60s. Incorrect information appeared in the April issue. In the editing of Barbara Nichol’s “The Anchors of CNN” (February) a line—not written by the writer—was mistakenly inserted. The line in question is “Nobodies! That’s who.” The Walrus regrets the errors.