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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

Canada’s elites suppress freedom of speech on indigenous matters

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Peter Best

Under section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canadians are guaranteed freedom of thought, belief, and expression. These freedoms are fundamental in our democratic society. In fact, an official government commentary on the Charter states: “In a democracy, people must be free to discuss matters of public policy, criticize governments and offer their own solutions to social problems.”

Given this claim, it is, indeed, a mystery why free speech is protected when people say  that Israel’s policies and practices towards the Palestinians are “racist,” but not when they say that Canada’s policies and practices towards Indigenous peoples are “racist.”

When it comes to Indigenous issues, our academic, media, and political elites have a Charter of Rights free speech blind spot. They refuse to allow contrary minded, but enlightened Nelson Mandela-like beliefs to be voiced unless those people want to be labeled as “racist.” Only a few brave souls have been willing to be pillarized by transgressing this “sacred” boundary.

This writer went over this line when he arranged a Chapters book-signing for There Is No Difference, a book that advocates for the greater integration of Indigenous people into Canadian society, only to have the event cancelled by the bookstore  who chose silence over free speech. Surprisingly, only one mainstream journalist, Barbara Kay in The National Post, defended my free speech rights.

But I am not alone.

A few years ago, Senator Lynn Beyak dared to say that some good came from residential schools, a view that is, in fact, reflected in the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Report, and was shared by eminent Indigenous author and residential school student Basil Johnston in his book, Indian School Days.

For making defensible assertions, Senator Beyak was excoriated by politicians from all parties, and mocked by editorial writers as an ignorant rube. In 2019, she was kicked out of the Conservative caucus, and shortly after she resigned from the Senate.

Associate Professor Frances Widdowson was exercising her “academic freedom,” but, nevertheless, was fired from Mount Royal University in 2021 for challenging the Indigenous status quo. In doing so, the university proved that its core mission was to protect the feelings of Indigenous people and not to challenge fallacies and uphold truth-seeking in a free and open debate.

The same year, an Abbotsford B.C. high school teacher, Jim McMurtry, was fired for saying that most Indigenous children who died in residential schools died because of diseases like influenza and tuberculosis. Even though this fact is reported in the TRC Report, it did not save Mr. McMurtry from unceremonially losing his teaching career.

In 2024, the mayor of Quesnel B.C., Ron Paull, was censured and the nearby First Nations bands boycoted him because his wife — a private citizen in her own right — handed out copies of Grave Error to friends and acquaintances. This book is a scholarly challenge to the “cultural genocide” claimed by the Kamloops Indigenous band.

Also, in 2024, a Manitoba school trustee, Paul Coffey, faced pressure to resign for publicly echoing what Senator Beyak had said a few years earlier.

These cases — and many others — clearly illustrate that no government official, no member of a provincial or territorial legislature, and few mainstream academics and journalists will defend contrary-minded “heretics” exercising their right to free speech, a right that is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In fact, few mainstream news media outlets reported on these stories in a dispassionate and professional way. The CBC, for example, consistently emphasizes the “hurt feelings of the aggrieved,” making their outrage the focus of their reporting. In no media reports has the CBC mentioned the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, implying that Charter protected freedom of speech is no longer relevant in their reporting on Indigenous matters.

Hurt feelings, of course, are irrelevant to academics and journalists because the search for truth always involves controversies that hurt the feelings of some people.

Even more outrageous, the federal government has actively demonized Canadians who challenge misinformation about Indigenous people by proposing to make it a crime for people to engage in what it calls “residential school denialism.” As a result, people who care about the best interests of Indigenous peoples but have contrary-minded views, are afraid to speak up for fear of being called “denialists,” as if they were denying the European Holocaust.

Nevertheless, many Canadians believe that the proper way to advance reconciliation with Indigenous people is to phase out the dependency relationship that has grown since the Indian Act was enacted in 1876. Many also think that Indigenous peoples should be equal with other Canadians—no better, and certainly no worse.

Some Canadians even believe that Canadian governments should not support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) that creates a strong “consult and accommodate” hammerlock on the development of Canadian resources. Similarly, many believe that the “nation to nation” relationship is polarizing citizens leading to ruinous economic and social policies for both Indigenous bands and Canadian society.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of Canadians realize that it is best to keep thoughts like these ones to themselves.

Our elites have breached their fiduciary responsibilities to Canadians. It is a tragedy that they do not encourage other viewpoints. In this respect, Peter Wehner correctly says: “The truths to be discovered are complex and many-sided, and the only way to get to them is by engaging with contrary ideas in a manner approaching dialogue.”

It would be in the best interest of Canadians, if our elites shed their hostility towards those who disagree with them. But to do this, they need to develop the confidence and open-mindedness that the French philosopher Montaigne implied when he wrote: “When I am contradicted it arouses my attention, not my wrath. I move towards the man who contradicts me; he is instructing me. The cause of truth ought to be common to both of us.”

But in discussing Canadian Indigenous issues, the Canadian elites are inexplicably unwilling to grant to others the same Charter of Rights-free speech presumptions that they keep for themselves when they support “anti-Zionists” shouting obnoxious statements and insults. When they do this, they are dividing Canadians, losing our trust, and increasing the grave harm to all Canadians but especially to Indigenous Canadians.

 Peter Best is a retired lawyer in Sudbury and the author of There is no Difference which argues that Canada’s laws should be changed to make all Canadians equal under the law, regardless of race.

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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

Where was Canada’s Governor General on D-Day?

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Colin Alexander

There really are non-partisan functions that need to be done by the representative of all Canadians, the Governor General, and not that of a self serving, partisan and narcissist politician in pursuit of photo-ops.

On D-Day June 6 Canada’s Governor General Mary Simon should have taken her rightful place. At ceremonies in France. But she wasn’t there. Instead, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed her aside. As usual.

The D-Day landings may seem like ancient history even as June 6, 1944 was a defining day for Canada. But it’s important to recall that over 14,000 Canadians stormed Juno Beach, as part of the largest amphibious landing in history. More than 5,000 Canadian troops were killed and thousands more injured in the Battle of Normandy. While we celebrate the eventual defeat of Germany, we may also recall Winston Churchill’s saying we need to remember that there was a Germany before Hitler.

The military historian Basil Liddell Hart had a view of history that’s largely gone missing in the western democracies. Essential reading is his book, Why don’t we learn from history? He quoted the Roman historian Polybius: “There are two roads to the reformation of mankind—one through the misfortunes of their own, the other through the misfortunes of others; the former is the most unmistakable, the latter the less painful…we should always look out for the latter, for thereby we can, without hurt to ourselves, gain a clearer view of the best course to pursue… the knowledge gained from the study of true history is the best of all education for practical life.”

Arguably, the conflicts in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine and Gaza could have been averted or could have evolved less disastrously by heeding the lessons of history—and, specifically, from history of the two World Wars. Undoubtedly, the mismanaged exit from Kabul emboldened President Putin. Disaster in Ukraine since the invasion of Crimea represents failure to heed the ancient principle, also from Roman times, If you want peace, prepare for war. There was no deterrent to the invasion of Ukraine. And the western democracies have consistently delivered far too little materiel and far too late.

There’s abject disrespect at the highest levels for truth and tradition, and the values that made of Canada a great country. I came across a phrase in news  reports that made me shudder. The Governor General was relieved of her duties when it was she who should have hosted a state dinner for President Joe Biden in 2023. Prime Minister Trudeau had no business relieving her of her duties. He usurped her constitutional role.

The Governor General was also relieved of her duty to attend the D-Day ceremonies in France. Arguably, it was her job to unveil unveiled a statue commemorating Canada’s participation. In her capacity as Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Regina Rifles, Princess Anne performed that ceremony. Fair enough. But as a minimum, the Governor General should have been there too. Instead, of course, Trudeau traveled to France after shunting the Governor General off to perform a token ceremony in New Brunswick.

My point is, there really are non-partisan functions that need to be done by the representative of all Canadians, the Governor General, and not that of a self serving, partisan and narcissist politician in pursuit of photo-ops.

Canadians don’t normally need to know that the British North America Act vests in the Governor General an ultimate duty to override political abuse. But that’s why King Charles’s representative signs legislation into law as well as other proclamations. That function, and the power to withhold it, is the last resort for maintaining the free and democratic society that Canada purports to be.

History tells of ultimate leaders who failed that duty to their people. In 1921, under pressure of riots, Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel III refused to declare a state of emergency and impose martial law. Instead he dissolved the parliament and asked Mussolini to take the power that evolved into his dictatorship. Similarly, in 1933 Germany’s ailing President Paul von Hindenburg signed into law the Enabling Act that empowered Hitler’s unbridled exercise of power.

D-Day reinforces this lesson from history, from two thousand years ago. The Roman political philosopher Cicero warned: “Though liberty is established by law, we must be vigilant, for liberty to enslave us is always present under that very liberty. Our constitution speaks of the people’s general welfare. Under that phrase all manner of excesses can be employed by lusting tyrants …”

In sum, it’s important to learn history and to maintain traditions. That includes having Governors General who insist on taking the lead role as Canada’s functional head of state—and, most importantly, not having politicians usurping the vice-regal role.

Colin Alexander’s degrees include Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Oxford. His latest book is Justice on Trial: Jordan Peterson’s case shows we need to fix the broken system.  

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Energy

Why we should be skeptical of the hydrogen economy

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Hügo Krüger and Ian Madsen

Hydrogen has a low energy density by volume, compared to well-established and practical fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and natural gas. It also has a low ignition point and is three times as explosive as natural gas, which could be either positive or negative.

At first glance, using highly variable, intermittent, inexpensive renewable energy to produce hydrogen for energy supply stabilization seems logical. However, renewable energy is not always readily available. The concept of hydrogen as a ‘buffer,’ akin to a battery, to ensure consistent renewable power is more complex than it appears.

Upon further examination, the idea is impractical and expensive for several reasons. Among them, hydrogen has a low energy density by volume, compared to well-established and practical fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and natural gas. It also has a low ignition point and is three times as explosive as natural gas, which could be either positive or negative, depending on its use.

Contrary to claims, renewable energy is neither inexpensive nor environmentally benign. Storing hydrogen in a natural gaseous state requires massive, costly storage vessels. Electrolyzing is expensive and will likely remain that way. Similarly, the cost of producing hydrogen is higher than that of deriving it from natural gas, which produces carbon dioxide, which is unwanted. There are some other techniques, such as pressure, heat, and radiolysis from radiation emitted from nuclear reactors, that are feasible, perhaps in combination. Small ‘micro nuclear reactors’ may drive down these costs. Atomic reactors are already used in U.S. Navy aircraft carriers to produce aviation and diesel synthetic fuel.

There are also a series of impractical issues. Existing pipeline infrastructure cannot transport pure hydrogen due to hydrogen embrittlement, and hydrogen cannot easily be used as a transportation fuel. A new Teflon-coated pipeline and distribution system parallel to the existing natural gas network would have to be built, costing hundreds of billions of dollars in North America alone.

While the idea of synthetic fuels using hydrogen may seem more feasible, it would likely be limited to a ‘niche role,’ potentially in natural gas-deficient nations. However, this would still necessitate significant investment. Ultimately, diverting funds to this ‘hydrogen economy’ could be a misallocation of capital from other, potentially more viable, areas.

Download the full report in PDF format here. (16 pages)

Hügo Krüger is a YouTube podcaster, writer, and civil nuclear engineer who has worked on a variety of energy related infrastructure projects ranging from Nuclear Power, LNG and Renewable Technologies. He holds a Master’s in Nuclear Civil Engineering from École Spéciale des Travaux Publics, du bâtiment et de l’industrie, Paris and a bachelor’s from the University of Pretoria.

Ian Madsen, BA (Economics, University of Alberta), MBA (Finance, University of Toronto), holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation. He was an investment portfolio manager; owned his own investment counselling firm; published an investment newsletter; founded the professional society now known as CFA Saskatchewan in 1986; and was a director of an investment research operation in India. Since 2016, he has been the Senior Policy Analyst at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, performing valuation analyses on federal and provincial Crown corporations in Canada, and also written numerous policy analyses. He lives in Surrey, British Columbia with his family.

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