Wednesday Night #1487

If you want to run fast, do it alone. If you want to run far, do it with other people – South African saying

The double-header of book launch for Robert Landori‘s “Havana Harvest” and the traditional Wednesday Night that followed proved to be a happy marriage of interests and interesting people, with considerable – and entertaining – overlap.
With the usual welcome to “Wednesday Night 1487”, it was noted that 13 weeks remain until the magic #1500, which falls on Wednesday December 1st. (12-01-2010 – there must be some symbolism there).
Karl Moore introduced his colleague Karel Stanz, Visiting Professor from the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences of the University of Pretoria, where he is Vice Dean. Prior to becoming an academic, Professor Stanz served in the bomb disposal unit of the South African Army – an interesting juxtaposition. He is working with Karl on identifying the characteristics of the African management style. Questions to our new guest ranged from issues of security, immigration, the impact of the World Cup, South African investment in other African nations and the pervasive influence of Chinese investment throughout Africa.

Electronic media
The Gazette under new management (Post Media) is already moving to more and more on-line content and this trend is expected to prevail except for the newspapers of record (e.g. New York Times). Within two to three years, almost all news will be delivered electronically. News is becoming more and more fragmented, and our reading habits are changing as we cherry pick the news we want to read, without the off-topic enticements offered by the print version. Commenting on the evolution of electronic media, one  Wednesday Nighter gave an impassioned endorsement of the iPad, stating that it enables the reader to browse in the same way as with print papers. Not all are convinced, but there is an inexorable trend towards reading online – with, no doubt, a negative effect on style (correct spelling and grammar would be nice).

With no apparent segue, the conversation turned to the long-gun registry  and the differing attitudes of western and eastern Canada. Unfortunately, arguments are based on views and feelings, rather than the opinions of the professionals whom we trust with our security/safety (e.g. police associations). Politically (and that’s what this issue is all about), the NDP has much to lose – 13 western seats to the conservatives. Meanwhile, urban-dwelling NDP voters will likely go Liberal. It was noted that the debate about the efficacy of the registry is largely misdirected as it is designed to address domestic violence and deaths which are far more frequent than criminal ones. It was also pointed out that gun registration was not an original policy of the Liberals, but  originally introduced by the Conservatives. [Editor’s note: In fact, all handguns have been subject to registration since 1934.]. Michael Ignatieff has announced that the Bill will be a “whipped bill”, as the Liberals believe it is not truly a private member’s bill, when votes are traditionally free. Jack Layton is being disingenuous – if not dishonest – in maintaining the free vote for his caucus.

Discussion of the market centered on individuals’ personal approaches to investing, with many alternative approaches and little agreement as to the best.

There are many sensitivities aroused by the proposal to build the “9/11 mosque” and people are reacting with high emotion rather than intellect. While the American Constitution protects freedom of religion and the right of the community to build a mosque on their property, is the chosen location in poor taste?  How many people realize that there is another mosque in the same area that has existed since before the World Trade Towers? Or, that Cordoba House is primarily a cultural center and amalgamation of a number of services and small mosques? The situation reflects both a lack of understanding by the Muslim community of the sensitivity – if not confrontational nature – of the proposed location, and the fact that much of the North American public makes little distinction between the teachings of Islam and the acts of Muslim terrorists. On the other hand, some individuals are extremely concerned about the financing of the project. There are “reports of money coming from Saudi charities or Gulf princes that also fund Wahabi madrassas around the world” (WSJ). In Canada, they remind us, the tax status of Jewish schools was revoked when it was revealed that they had accepted money from the Israeli government; the same principles should apply to foreign moneys given to finance mosques or madrassas in North America.

While the Tamil refugees pose a serious problem, it is a public one and they will go through evaluation by the experts. Human smuggling is reaching epic proportions in our country, including some 700 undocumented children – under the age of 15 – who arrive in Montreal as refugees without parents. Given that the Supreme Court extended to immigrants and refugees status under the Charter of Rights, the only obvious way to stem the tide would be to invoke the notwithstanding clause. Meanwhile, immigrants who have followed the process and are asking to bring family members to Canada are resentful that the Tamils are queue jumping while the legitimate immigrants are subjected to the prevailing quotas. South Africa’s experience of vast immigration from neighboring countries serves as a good example of the difficulties posed by uncontrolled immigration. One solution is the ‘adoption’ of family units by groups of Canadians – as was done at McGill by one faculty, however, the changing face of Canada. In 2031 there will only be a small fraction of Canadian cities that will not have 20% or more of their population represented by visible minorities from non-European backgrounds. Increasing numbers of Canadian citizens and immigrants have not realized the success achieved by European born immigrants during the same period of residence in Canada and may not either have the interest or the ability to socialize or build communities … and Canada may not either. In contrast to the Canadian government’s decision to open the doors to Hungarians after the revolution of 1956, it appears to be the Tamils who are forcing their way in amidst concerns expressed by CSIS and others that, having been defeated by the Sri Lankan government, they are looking to set up a political base to fund raise and foster continuing opposition. [Update: Former CSIS chief tasked with cracking down on migrant smuggling]

Canada & the Arctic
On his recent annual visit to the Arctic for photo-ops, Stephen Harper continued to talk about the Arctic as a Canadian priority and even announced a new research installation at Cambridge Bay.  Judith Patterson, on the other hand, spent two weeks working with the Natural Resources Canada 5-year program of geomapping for energy and minerals – an important multifaceted geological and geophysical project which supports the mining industry by allowing it to accurately target areas of mineral deposits. She noted that the presence of spiders for the first time just below the Arctic Circle was an indicator of the increasingly northward migration patterns resulting from climate change. She added that no Russians could be seen.

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Last week we gave you a heads-up to circle Wednesday, September 1 in your calendars for the one-and-only Westmount/Montreal/Canadian book launch for Robert Landori-Hoffman’s latest oeuvre “Havana Harvest” See  Book reviews and much more on Wednesday-night.com about the newest page-turner from our favorite WN spook.

Thus this Wednesday will be a double-header, as we will be hosting the book launch for Robert from 7:30 to 9:00, with a number of guests who are not Wednesday Nighters. The latter are expected to join in the fun at any time, however after 9:00, we will revert to the usual format, but with a special focus on Robert’s book and the story(ies) behind it.

Meanwhile, , there is much else to ponder as summer turns to fall, parliamentary follies resume – and with John Baird as House Leader (we will try to refrain from comment); mid-term elections loom in the U.S., as does the Seoul G20 Summit, November 11-12.

With the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, summer floods in China and the on-going natural disaster and political crises in Pakistan, it is appropriate to reflect on global response to natural disaster and how it can improve. Most critical is the impact on global food supplies and their efficient delivery. One bright note is the decoding of the wheat genome  – or is it?  What is good news for hungry people may not be good news for the planet

We would also draw your attention to an important piece published in the National Post: Immigrants and the Canadian labour force  This topic merits the most serious consideration, especially if we are to follow our own advice and the example of Singapore by planning for future generations. We will welcome your comments (verbal and preferably in writing), as we believe that this is closely allied to the mission of the New School of Athens.

A thoughtful Wednesday Nighter sends the following notes which should start everyone thinking:

“There are two aspects to this problem that intrigue me and I would welcome suggestions on where to find research that explores the trends that will emerge once non-European immigrants make up the majority of our population.  First, given that Canada will become a nation of immigrants from non-European countries how will they influence the direction of government in 40-50 years? What sort of policy initiatives will drive their interest, both domestic and international policy?    The second is as we move from a population that is predominantly of European origin how will the population shift to one that is non-European and predominantly visible minorities approach immigration, national security, international development, foreign policy, trade, domestic issues, aboriginals, the environment?  Do these immigrants who have been marginalised for generations in our urban centres, particularly Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, feel invested in the vision of Canada as it has been shaped by the European immigrants that have made up the majority of the population until now?  Can we foresee potential new influences and trends that will be driven by immigrants groups who feel that they have been denied full participation in the Canadian economy and society?
The other point that emerges from the statistics is the role of immigrant women who will not participate in the labour force and will follow cultural and social norms to remain secluded at home.  How will this affect community organisations that depend on volunteers for their day to day operations?   How will these women and their children fare without the ability to supplement their husband’s income should he lose he job?  What are the safety nets in place in ethnic enclaves to support and sustain skilled workers from non-European country of origin?”

And another adds: “If the majority of non-Euro immigrants all come from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka – Canada could have a very good cricket team.
I think ensuring everyone speaks either English or French and separating women from their traditional cultures when in public could allow some reasonable accommodation. Adopting a Rousseau notion of only allowing religions that allow other religions might stamp out extremism. Otherwise I find most immigrants are quite hardworking and embrace community and making money. The rest is down to our current generation to lay the foundations with today’s 20-year olds for a world in 2050.”

We look forward to having you with us for what will be the usual blend of fun and stimulating debate of serious issues.

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