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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

The tale of two teachers

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Jim McMurtry

Some have criticized me for stating that the good, as well as the bad, of residential schools should be recognized. I stand by that statement…. Others have criticized me for stating that the Truth and Reconciliation Report was not as balanced as it should be. I stand by that statement as well.

At L.A. Matheson, a high school in Surrey, B.C., a poster in Annie Ohana’s classroom suggests society is too moralistic about sex work, the quote coming from an avowed Satanist. National Post writer Jamie Sarkonak described her classroom in this way: “The walls are covered with Social Justice posters. Some of them sloganeer about ‘decolonization,’ others ‘inflame racial politics.’” Ohana drapes herself in a Pride flag and speaks openly of her pansexuality as well as her subscription to wokeism, identity politics, Social Justice, and DEI.

In March Ohana appeared on CTV after being roundly criticized on X by an Ottawa teacher, Chanel Pfahl, the latter chased out of the profession a few years ago for questioning Critical Race Theory. Ohana said that Pfahl “seems to be making a lot of assumptions that were simply based on misinformation, lies, and in fact, puts myself and other teachers and students and my community in danger.” She also argued she was teaching about “critical thinking” and creating “empowered citizens that can speak up for themselves.” A Canadian flag hangs forlornly in her classroom, atop it is scrawled, “No pride in genocide.”

So far, she has faced no direct consequences for her political position or trying to indoctrinate her students. Indeed, she has won three teaching awards.

I, on the other hand, was walked out of my classroom and career for suggesting the only thing buried in Kamloops was the truth. In the eyes of my employer, I had put students and the community in danger by saying students who died while enrolled at a residential school did so from disease and not murder.

Northrop Frye wrote in The Great Code that the aim is “to see what the subject means, not to accept or reject it.” There is nothing wrong with the teaching of either me or Ohana as long as we are not steering students toward belief. In a 100-page investigation report on my teaching, an assistant superintendent of the Abbotsford School District wrote:

It in my view cannot be overemphasized that Mr. McMurtry having no knowledge of his students and more particularly whether any of these students had Indigenous descent in making his comments that provoked a strong student response and which was contrary to the school’s message of condolences and reconciliation. Regardless of his intent he left students with the impression some or all the deaths could be contributed to ‘natural causes’ and that the deaths could not be called murder or cultural genocide.

My fault was that I didn’t promote a “message of condolences and reconciliation.” Not only was this message never communicated to teachers, the message runs counter to the educational aim of seeing what a subject means. The message is also that the deaths of at least some Indian residential school children were attributable to murder, for which there is still no evidence.

Senator Lynn Beyak was the first prominent Canadian to wade into the increasingly turbulent waters of Indian residential schools. Labelled a racist and facing the prospect of ejection from the Senate, she retired in 2021 from her senate position but not from her convictions.

Some have criticized me for stating that the good, as well as the bad, of residential schools should be recognized. I stand by that statement…. Others have criticized me for stating that the Truth and Reconciliation Report was not as balanced as it should be. I stand by that statement as well.

George Orwell wrote in 1945 in an introduction to Animal Farm, “At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas of which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it.” Queen’s law professor Bruce Pardy wrote last year: “A new standard of practice is emerging for Canadian professionals: be woke, be quiet, or be accused of professional misconduct.”

Annie Ohana is a better approximation of that mythically average teacher than I. Most teachers appear woke or know enough to be quiet and go along, standing for land acknowledgments, using individualized pronouns with students, speaking of gender identity and sexual orientation, distinguishing students based on race, reading Social Justice books over literary classics, and accepting revisionist history. They go to school wearing the right colour for the occasion: rainbow, pink, orange, red, or black. At staff meetings they are woke and quiet.

I am an avatar of Lynn Beyak, standing outside the orthodoxy and condemned by “all right-thinking people.” Our issue is also the same. Indian residential schools were not the genocidal project that federal members of parliament voted as a genocide on October 27, 2022.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, headed by two Indigenous men and a woman married to an Indigenous man, travelled for six years across Canada, and heard from 6000 former students. The Commission’s bias was evident in its final report:

Physical genocide is the mass killing of the members of a targeted group, and biological genocide is the destruction of the group’s reproductive capacity. Cultural genocide is the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group. States that engage in cultural genocide set out to destroy the political and social institutions of the targeted group. Land is seized, and populations are forcibly transferred and their movement is restricted. Languages are banned. Spiritual leaders are persecuted, spiritual practices are forbidden, and objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed. And, most significantly to the issue at hand, families are disrupted to prevent the transmission of cultural values and identity from one generation to the next. In its dealing with Aboriginal people, Canada did all these things.

What the final report does not mention is:

o   the educational value of the schools;

o   the alternative was no education at all in remote areas where a day school was not feasible;

o   that both Indigenous chiefs and parents saw them as a treaty right and petitioned to keep them open into the sixties;

o   that parents had to apply to send their children to residential schools;

o   that the mandatory attendance which began in 1920 was to go to school (one-third going to day school, one-third to residential school, and one-third never going to any school);

o   that the schools took in orphans and served as a refuge for children and in some cases adults who were abused on the reserve or without the necessities of life; and

o  that many former students testified their time there was the happiest in their lives.

My natural allegiance is to fellow teachers, and I don’t doubt that Annie Ohana and others within the Critical Social Justice educational movement teach their students about critical thinking and create empowered citizens that can speak up for themselves. However, such critical thinking should also be directed against the orthodoxy these teachers are imposing on captive groups of students. As well, if their students are indeed empowered citizens, they should come to their own conclusions, no matter the ideological perspective of their teacher.

 Jim McMurtry, PhD, was formerly a principal of Neuchâtel Junior College in Switzerland and a college lecturer, but mostly he was a teacher. He lives in Surrey, B.C.

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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

The PM as Leaf’s coach

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Lee Harding

The budget had a $7.5 billion surplus when the Trudeau Liberals were sworn into power on November 4, 2016 and they turned it into a $5.4 billion deficit by the end of March.

The meme where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau becomes the new coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who lost in the NHL playoffs to Boston May 4th, has far more depth than people realize.

Previous head coach Sheldon Keefe was fired, leaving a prime job open.

“With my unique coaching style, the cup will win itself,” was Trudeau’s quote in the meme, his fictional words matched by a fake picture of him in a Leafs jacket.

The woes of both Canada and the Maple Leafs involve leadership and economics.

In the Leafs’ case, the players salary cap is $83.5 million. Last year, the team paid four players $11 million each, leaving fiscal scraps for the other 16 players.

Prior to becoming prime minister, Trudeau was asked how committed he would be to a balanced budget.

“The commitment needs to be a commitment to grow the economy, and the budget will balance itself,” Trudeau said, on February 11, 2014, as he criticized the Harper government approach.

“They’re artificially fixing a target of a balanced budget in an election year,” Trudeau explained.

“And that’s irresponsible. What you need to do is create an economy that works for Canadians, works for middle class Canadians, allows young people to find a job, allows seniors to feel secure in their retirement.”

Trudeau pledged to run modest deficits and a return to balance in the final year of his majority term, which, ironically, was what he condemned Conservatives of doing in the interview. We are still waiting for that balanced budget, of course.

The budget had a $7.5 billion surplus when the Trudeau Liberals were sworn into power on November 4, 2016 and they turned it into a $5.4 billion deficit by the end of March.

Prior to taking power, Trudeau argued that historically low interest rates were a good reason to borrow and spend on nation-building infrastructure. If the debt-to-GDP ratio kept dropping, good enough.

That excuse of low interest rates is gone, yet the deficits remain. When this fiscal year ends next March, the federal debt will be double what it was when the Trudeau Liberals took power. Deep deficits and higher lending rates have made debt servicing costs nearly double in the past two years alone.

Among the 38 nations in the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, Canada’s growth in real GDP per capita was the fifth-weakest over 2019-22. Last November, Canada was named as one of only eight advanced countries where real incomes were lower than before the pandemic, as inflation outpaces growth.

Worse, the OECD projects Canada will be the worst performing economy among the 38 advanced economies over both 2020-30 and 2030-60.

Even before capital gains taxes were hiked in the recent budget, investors knew Canada wasn’t a good place to grow wealth. The country lost $225 billion in capital investment from 2016 through 2022.

Whether it’s a winning team or a winning economy, ignoring financial realities steals success.

Trudeau’s economic plan has relied on a burgeoning, high-paid public sector, almost limitless immigration, carbon taxes, and green spending. He has put all the money on the wrong players.

Canada was altogether different in 1967, the last time the Leafs won a cup. Since then, the first and second prime ministers Trudeau have eroded this country’s social and fiscal moorings, leaving us conflicted and financially burdened instead of celebrating our success.

So, when will Canada get a new coach?

Lee Harding is a Research Fellow for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

The Toppling of the woke authoritarians

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Tom Slater, editor of Spiked.

If you – like me – loathe authoritarian, faux-progressive scolds, it’s actually been a good few years. I know it might not seem like it, with the ‘Queers for Palestine’ contingent currently running riot on American university campuses, but hear me out. Across the Anglosphere, one politician after another, beloved by the media but increasingly disliked by the public, have exited the stage, often jumping before they were pushed.

This week, we bid farewell to the SNP’s Humza Yousaf, whose year-and-a-bit-long premiership in Scotland produced more scandals and disparaging nicknames – Humza Useless, Humza the Hapless, etc – than it did any positive legacy. In the end, he proved himself to be as illiberal as he was inept. His Flagship policy, the Orwellian, broad-sweeping Hate Crime Act, alarmed voters and sparked a tsunami of spurious complaints, many of them about Yousaf himself. We can only hope it will now collapse under the weight of its own absurdity. (One thing’s for sure, voters are furious about it: only one in five Scots wants the Hate Crime Act to stay.)

Then, Humza managed to accidentally collapse his own government. He was apparently surprised to learn that his decision last week to suddenly terminate his party’s coalition agreement with the Scottish Greens –following some internal friction over trans and environmental issues – left the Greens angry and unwilling to prop up his minority government. As his short reign ends, Yousaf has at least managed the incredible feat of being even more unpopular than the leaders of the widely disliked Tories and the crackpot Greens, with an approval rating of -47. Yousaf – who was crowned first minister by SNP members and never gained a mandate from the people – was in negative numbers for all of this tenure.

Only in March, democrats were also toasting the demise of another despised, virtue-signalling leader who owed his position to elite politicking rather than democracy. Namely, Leo Varadkar. He became Irish taoiseach in 2017, after Fine Gael made him party leader. Even then, he had to rely on his support within the parliamentary party – in Fine Gael’s leadership-election process, the politicians are given much more weight than the members – given the membership voted two-to-one for his opponent. When Varadkar led his party to the polls in 2020, Fine Gael actually lost seats. Only by getting into bed with Fianna Fáil, his party’s supposed bitter rival, was Varadkar able to cling on to power.

Like Yousaf, Varadkar was a visionless leader who came to see superficial ‘social justice’ as his route to a legacy. While nominally on the centre-right economically, he was credited by international media with ‘Ireland’s transformation into a secular progressive state’. He clearly warmed to this image of himself, even if the Irish people did not. ‘We have made the country a more equal and more modern place’, he said in his resignation speech (my emphasis), ‘when it comes to the rights of children, the LGBT community, equality for women and their bodily autonomy’. This notion that Varadkar’s Ireland – like Yousaf’s Scotland – needed to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, that voters and their values desperately needed a politically correct makeover, gave the semblance of substance to his otherwise hollow premiership.

Ireland’s historic 2018 referendum, in which 66 per cent voted to overturn one of the Western world’s strictest abortion bans, was indeed a seismic blow for freedom. But Varadkar can hardly take credit for the decades of grassroots campaigning that got it over the line. His fingerprints were, however, all over the ‘family’ and ‘care’ referendums earlier this year, which produced two historic, humiliating defeats. Varadkar utterly failed to convince the people that this campaign to change the wording of the Irish constitution – to update the meaning of ‘family’ and to remove references to women’s role in the home – was anything other than an exercise in elite moral preening. He even insisted on holding the vote on International Women’s Day, just to heighten the sense of moral blackmail, even though doing so meant radically shortening the time the pro-amendments campaign had to prepare. The ‘family’ and ‘care’ amendments were rejected by 67 and 74 per cent of voters respectively. Varadkar tried to limp on, noting all major parties had backed the amendments. But this ballot-box revolt left his authority in tatters. He resigned two weeks later.

When Varadkar wasn’t talking down to voters, he was trying to censor them. Before he resigned, he had been toiling to pass Ireland’s own insanely draconian hate-speech bill, aimed at expanding restrictions on ‘incitement to hatred’ and adding gender to the list of ‘protected characteristics’, opening the door to criminalizing people for refusing to bow to the trans cult. To Scots, this may sound familiar. Indeed, it was as if Varadkar and Yousaf were competing to be the most censorious. Where Scotland’s Hate Crime Act criminalizes even private conversations in your own home (removing the so-called dwelling defence), Ireland’s proposed legislation would criminalize mere ‘possession’ of offensive material, including memes. From your phone’s camera roll to the family dinner table, no area of life is now safe, it seems, from the state censors. Having sailed through the Dáil in April 2023, the bill is now stuck in the upper house, after an almighty backlash from voters and civil libertarians. (Varadkar’s successor, Simon Harris, says he intends to table amendments to assuage voters’ concerns.)

Say what you will about Leo and Humza, at least they were occasionally – unintentionally – entertaining. Both were famously gaffe-prone. (Who could forget Yousaf’s tumble from his knee scooter, or Varadkar’s Monica Lewinsky joke in DC?) The same cannot be said for Nicola Sturgeon, the former Scottish first minister, Yousaf’s mentor and the walking embodiment of the prickly puritanism and mad identitarianism of our age. She looked upon the masses as reactionary filth – she once smeared her opponents as ‘transphobic… deeply misogynist, often homophobic, possibly some of them racist as well’ – all while ushering in the most reactionary agenda Scotland has seen for decades. Her already hated ‘gender self-ID’ reforms collapsed in 2023, when the public realized they would mean putting rapists in women’s prisons – which, by a grotesque quirk of fate, had become the ‘progressive’ position.

You could be forgiven for forgetting that the SNP was founded to achieve the ‘liberation’ of Scotland from the UK, rather than the ‘liberation’ of perfectly healthy genitals from the bodies of confused young people. It speaks to the grip of woke identity politics over the technocratic, centre-left imagination that Sturgeon was not only sidetracked but, in part, brought down by her dogged, fanatical pursuit of ‘trans rights’.  Then again, social engineering has characterized much of the SNP agenda since it first came to power. Ending the Union has often taken a back seat to reforming Scots, from the SNP’s crackdown on offensive football chants to its profoundly creepy ‘named person’ scheme, which would have assigned a state guardian to every child had it not been held up in the courts on human-rights grounds.

One of the hallmarks of our woke, technocratic ruling class is that they increasingly define themselves against their own citizenry. Leaders today draw their moral authority not from the democratic endorsement of their electorates but from their ability to rise above the throng, to oppose our supposedly backward values. Skim-read the resignation speeches of Sturgeon, Yousaf and Varadkar and you’ll find them all peppered with rueful references to ‘populism’, ‘polarization’ and the supposed ‘toxicity’ of contemporary discourse. Voters are forever the implied villains of the piece, for refusing to just shut up and let the adults get on with governing.

All this speaks to why elites have become so insanely authoritarian in recent years. What we used to call illiberal liberalism, along with greenism and multicultural identity politics, has held a malign sway over our rulers for decades. But all these tendencies have been sent into overdrive over the past eight years. In the wake of Brexit and the rise of a more populist, democratic politics, our leaders have been confronted with the chasm that exists between their values and ours. And having failed to convince, they can only compel, coerce, punish. This self-righteousness has also bred an obnoxious, unabashed narcissism. In her resignation speech, Sturgeon used the words ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘my’ 153 times. ‘Scotland’ appeared 11 times.

Covid added further fuel to this fear and loathing of the populace.

Politicians, already gripped by the panic about supposedly dim, irresponsible voters being manipulated by disinformation, gave full vent to their most authoritarian tendencies – locking us down and raging against any dissent. Arguably, no one did so as enthusiastically as New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, who was showered with praise by the globalist great and good for subjecting her own citizens to an unhinged ‘Zero Covid’ experiment. Naturally, she also became a campaigner for global censorship during this time, telling the United Nations in 2022 that ‘misinformation’ constituted a modern ‘weapon of war’, and calling on global leaders to confront climate-change deniers and peddlers of ‘hate’. She announced her resignation as prime minister and Labour leader in January 2023, just as she was enjoying her lowest-ever poll ratings while in office, all to the swoons of international media. Labour was wiped out later that year, in the worst election defeat of a sitting NZ government for decades.

Politicians seem to be going out of their way to alienate and infuriate voters, pursuing unpopular policies at the very same time as they demonize and clamp down on debate. On climate, they have embraced a programme of national immiseration, to be borne on the backs of the working classes, who are expected to just accept being colder, poorer and less mobile. On immigration, they have thrown open the doors to migrants and refugees on an unprecedented scale, without seeking public consent and without ensuring proper provision for – or vetting of – those arriving. On culture, they have embraced a new form of racism under the banner of anti-racism, and a misogyny and homophobia posing as ‘trans inclusion’. Meanwhile, voters are beginning to realise that all those calls to censor ‘hate’ and ‘misinformation’ are calls to censor them.

Even in Justin Trudeau’s Canada, a land long held up as ‘immune’ to populism, a backlash is stirring. The Canadian premier embodies woke authoritarianism in its most cartoonish form. When, in 2018, a woman confronted him at a corn roast about Canada’s enormous influx of refugees, he accused her of ‘racism’ to her face. Hell, he once corrected a woman who said ‘mankind’ instead of ‘peoplekind’. Worse still, his outrageous clampdowns on dissent make his contemporaries look subtle by comparison. When truckers rebelled against Covid mandates, he invoked emergency powers to freeze their bank accounts, break up their rallies and forcibly clear the streets. Of course, he’s also now trying to pass his own piece of censorship legislation, Bill C-63 – which, among other alarming provisions, would allow for people to be placed under house arrest if they are deemed likely to commit a hate crime. You know, like ‘precrime’ in Philip K Dick’s The Minority Report. Incidentally, Trudeau’s Liberal Party is currently trailing the Conservatives by a steady 19 points in the polls.

Wokeism. Climate extremism. Kindly authoritarianism. This is now the operating system of Western, ‘centrist’ politics. Take Joe Biden, America’s somnambulant president. At the 2020 election, even anti-woke liberals insisted this scion of the old Democratic establishment – a man so old he can’t even be slurred as a Boomer (he’s actually Silent Generation) – was the man to return America to normality, before the BLM riots and MAGA mania. ‘If you hate wokeness, you should vote for Joe Biden’, declared a piece in the Atlantic, arguing that Trump is to the culture war what kerosene is to a dumpster re, fueling the woke extremes. That take has aged like milk. On his first day in office, Biden signed sweeping Executive Orders on ‘racial equity’ and gender ideology. He later tried to apportion Covid relief on the basis of race. He’s a Net Zero zealot. He has allowed the justice system to be weaponised against his opponents. He invited Dylan Mulvaney to the White House, FFS. Biden’s return to ‘normalcy’ has been so successful millions of Americans are starting to wonder if Donald Trump might actually be the saner choice.

Everywhere, political leaders are pursuing the same batshit, authoritarian policies and everywhere they are colliding with reality – and the electorate.

Yousaf, Varadkar, Sturgeon and Ardern may have stepped down, but they did so in the face of growing public fury. Biden and Trudeau may not get the same privilege. Plus, while technocratic centrists remain in power or the ascendancy in various nations, they are at least being forced to adapt, albeit insincerely, to the new political reality – one in which voters are increasingly unwilling to put up with the punishing green policies, out-of-control transgenderism and woke censorship that have been rammed down their throats for years. And so, Labour’s Keir Starmer has suddenly worked out what a woman is. The SNP is watering down some of its ludicrous. Net Zero targets. Welsh Labour is paring back its more insane anti-car policies. The Irish government is finally, tacitly, admitting that it has let migration and asylum get out of control (albeit by just blaming it on the British).

The new authoritarianism is far from defeated. It is a feature, not a bug, of our technocratic ruling class. Worse than that, it is what gives our leaders meaning. The conviction that they are saving the world from a climate armageddon, that they are the protectors of all those supposedly easily offended minorities, that they must censor and re-educate the masses for our own good, has provided moral purpose to an otherwise simpleminded and disorientated elite. It won’t be easy to dislodge this stuff. But as one political leader after another exits the stage, having shredded their authority with voters, we see that the common sense of the demos remains our greatest defence against the insanity of the elites – if only we can find better ways to channel it. If there is hope, it lies in the masses. Always.

Tom Slater is editor of Spiked.

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