Wednesday Night #1001 – Tales, No Veils

Written by  //  May 9, 2001  //  Herb Bercovitz, Reports  //  1 Comment

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The first Wednesday of the new Millennium brought a sparkling – and highly eclectic, international – mix of old friends of Wednesday Night and new faces. Hans and Janet Black, benefactors of the Millennium Wednesday, returned from Switzerland bearing a magnificent bottle of Chateau Latour and accompanied by Malcolm Thomas of Interinvest who now lives in London . David’s boyhood friend, A.W. (Ron) Robertson, from the ’40s at Sedberg School – their mothers were drinking companions. Ron, who is a career diplomat and former Ambassador with Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, made his first appearance on a Wednesday Night. Among Ron’s many fields of expertise is disarmament – on another note, according to Diana, he once had a promising career in theatre as off-stage battle noises. Pamela Stuart-Mills Hoch, was back for the first time in many years. She was in Montreal, from Washington, to celebrate her brilliant son’s graduation from CEGEP. He is off to Cambridge in the Fall, with a full scholarship. Pamela, meanwhile, continues her crusade on behalf of Alienated Parents and heads up her own National Foundation.
Sabra Ledent’s surprise guest was Carol Cahoon, a former associate of Sabra’s and Diana’s on the Board of WCFE. Carol is a documentary film producer who now lives in Saskatchewan with her husband, an executive in the potash industry.
Susan Eyton-Jones introduced her good friend and good agent, Mary Ingraham from Vancouver. Brian Morel presented Michael Cantwell of McGill. Stratton Stevens introduced Fan Fan Wu, Vice President and Director of Design of Lady Sandra, designers, manufacturers and importers of home furnishings, and Helen Forbes came with guest Bob White, President of Telequity Inc.


The spirit of the thousandth consecutive Wednesday Night Salon at the Nicholsons’ flowed over to the thousand and first, with Scheherazade– like recollections of past such evenings and explanations of some of the possible reasons that have maintained the loyalty of guests over a near twenty-year period, followed by a well-received musical presentation. A small sampling of the comments of some of the guests follows:

  • … quality of people around the table and the differences between people around the table
  • It is an amazing place where I can as a twenty-one year old get up and [express my differences with] people fifteen years older than I
  • I work in an ivory tower (a university faculty). It is nice to come here in the real world and to see concern for real issues
  • had very little idea of how the policies of his government affected people until he met a welfare mother here
  • You can bring a Commission to Wednesday Night but you can’t make them think.

Many of those among us who may have considered Mayor Peter Trent’s lonely battle against forced municipal amalgamation as quixotic, now stand in admiration of his foresight, determination and integrity which were always evident but have withstood the test of that integrity, whatever the final outcome. Fifteen suburban mayors have abandoned their support of the Transition committee to join him in his fight against amalgamation.
A gigantic popular rally is planned for Friday May 11, to indicate to the government that the citizens of the suburban municipalities have not changed in their desire to exercise their democratic rights through the councils and bureaucracy of smaller municipalities.
Trent said they may go from stopping the merger to a delay. Parkinson said that delay is the deadly form of denial. The Mayor is hopeful and said that 66% of Island people are still against, even 46% of Montréalers are against the deal. He also said “We won’t work with the Transition Committee” and that 15 Mayors agree to boycott the committee even including St-Laurent.
I am told that Bernard Landry believes that ‘the whole Municipal merger thing is a cadeau enpoisoné’ .. a poisoned gift from Bouchard “. He cited two examples of many of Toronto’s problems, “they cut the grass four times a year compared to eight times before..” and “take 5.5 min. vs 4 min to answer fire calls!” They have spent $275,000,000 plus & climbing!
John Ciaccia congratulated Peter saying The Courts, on issues that affect rights and freedoms, are influenced by public opinion! Public shows of support can make a difference …the “law is the law!” citing the James Bay Treaty when the Cree obtained an injunction against the JB project and forced 2000 people to be sent back home from the JB project … public opinion and a judge who looked at the question from an equity point of view …Judges cannot neglect public opinion.
Others agree provided that two essential elements are present : “the right issue and the right judge” – the issue must embody a principle (i.e. aboriginal rights) and the judge must be one who feels strongly about the principle.
Trent: in Westmount, because we were created from The Letters Patent from Queen Victoria in 1874, we have a common law status unlike other cities we have a unique argument in that it requires that the approval must come from the founders of the city, i.e., their successors – the present elected Municipal officials.
The most powerful argument came from Tony Lamer when he invoked the unwritten principles [this came out after Toronto] including 1) Respect for democracy 2) Respect for minorities and in Québec, English is a minority.
Josh Freed: ……the silver lining is that if they go through with the plan, the city will be suburbified and the suburbs won’t be citified.
At this juncture, as the participants became particularly vocal, our host reminded the guests that this is not the House of Commons to which one retorted “but it is an uncommon house!”

The question remains as to the effectiveness of such peaceful popular demonstrations. The Summit of the Americas in Quebec City provides little if any answer to, but some clarification of that question. The peaceful meetings of the People’s Summit co-existed with the violent anarchist-inspired demonstrations that triggered what may very well have been an overly violent police reaction. The declaration emanating from the FTAA summit following the three simultaneous events proved to be a welcome document taking into account the concerns of many of the protestors here and in other countries of the Americas.
Two questions remain, namely, will the countries of the free-trade zone follow through on that declaration and did the violent or peaceful demonstrations or either or both, influence the Summit leaders? If the latter, was it the violence in Quebec, or having lived through the violence in Seattle and Vancouver that influenced the government officials? We will probably never know, but we do know that both Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi succeeded in changing the course of history without violence.

A draft bill has been presented in Commons that would regulate human genetic and reproductive technology. Presenting the legislation as a draft bill rather than going to first reading, will enhance the possibility of building a consensus. Mid-road between totally liberal and totally conservative, but leaning to the conservative, the proposed law would differ from both the U.S. and U.K. Legislation, favouring the interests of the child over the interests of people wanting a child. Human cloning, the creation of embryos for the purpose of the manufacture of therapeutic products including organs for transplantation, and all aspects of commercial human reproductive technology including the selling of sperm, And renting of wombs would be outlawed.
Some say the nation should keep out of the bedroom and at the other end, ‘life is sacred’. However, it must be remembered that the draft legislation is not one law but many, with people agreeing with some parts and not others.
Sunday, May 20, 2001 at 17:56 JST 1st surrogate birth in Japan stirs debate More than 10 Japanese babies have reportedly been born since 1991 to surrogate mothers in the United States, where the practice is legal. While surrogate mothers and biological parents in the US have gone to court over custody rights, surrogate births are banned in Germany, France and China.

If the ministry insists on banning the practice, it should take away my medical license


One Comment on "Wednesday Night #1001 – Tales, No Veils"

  1. Margaret Lefebvre May 8, 2001 at 8:26 am ·

    Tales of Wednesday Nights of Yore

    ‘Twas the time of the Commissions, of Agreements, of serious yearnings stirring in the land; Belanger-Campeau, Meech Lake, Beaudoin-Edwards, The Charlottetown Accord….a time when a feather raised in Manitoba changed forever the political landscape of our time.

    Into this time of questioning and reappraisal rode Keith Spicer. With a Borsalino on his head and regulation in his soul, he brought the Spicer Commission experiment in unity polity to Wednesday Night. Marc Nicholson was host that night, and as we sat around the table, herded into order by an officious pollster, we were asked to answer the questions on the stipulated questionnaire.

    First off, the burning question…What will be the most important issue for Canada in the 21st Century? And from the back of the room, came the single word….water. “Water?” she said, scanning her notes and flipping over pages of questions and answers. …. “Yes”, said the voice, .. “Water”.

    And then, the moment of truth was upon us, for this after all was a major commission sent across the land to hear the views of all the people…”You can’t say water”, she said, “it’ isn’t on the list”.

    And there you have it, you can bring a Commission to Wednesday Night, but you cannot make it think.

    Happy 1001

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