Wednesday Night #1749

Written by  //  September 9, 2015  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

The Syrian refugee crisis
It is hard to believe that it is only a week since the heartrending picture of the lifeless body of Alan Kurdi flashed around the world. Many have remarked on the similarity of its impact to those of The Afghan Girl, 1984 and the Vietnamese ‘Napalm Girl’ although, curiously, we have seen no mention of The Starving Child And The Vulture, 1994 which gave a ‘face’ to the dreadful famine in Sudan. But none of them had the instantaneous effect that the Alan Kurdi picture has had thanks to the Internet. Nowhere was the effect more evident than in Canada. Although the initial perception that the Kurdi family had been refused admission to Canada, the clarifications have left the government, and particularly Minister Chris Alexander, open to harsh criticism from all sides including such diverse individuals as former Senator Pat Carney and Mayor Naheed Nenshi of Calgary. As Terry Glavin points out in his pretty even-handed summary Glavin: Little Alan Kurdi, and the one photograph that mattered , not all the blame can be assigned to the Harper government for the initial problems, but over the past week, the response of the government – and particularly Chris Alexander- has been at best unconvincing and in the latter’s case, exceptionally confrontational.
While Mr. Harper sticks to his guns, maintaining that Canada will not airlift refugees without proper security screening (which, we sincerely hope does not involve adherence to the Dublin Regulation ), and has resisted suggestions that he meet with the other party leaders to formulate a nonpartisan plan, provinces and municipalities are offering assistance and helping to galvanize public support for private sponsorships and resettlement plans. Leading by example, Premier Philippe Couillard is a member of a group to sponsor a Syrian refugee family in the Lac-St-Jean area.
There is – and will be – much more written about Canada’s response to the crisis; we have attempted to capture the important elements on Canada 2014-15 — Immigration & citizenship

Canada’s policies and response may be less than crystal clear, but world-wide official reaction is confused, ranging from exemplary (Germany, Iceland) to somewhat grudging (Sweden recently) to pretty terrible (Hungary and surprisingly, Denmark), chaotic (Greece, Italy & Turkey) and non-existent (the Gulf States) . The situation is ‘fluid’ as Tuesday’s Yahoo! News round-up indicates; the UN says one million migrants should reach Europe by 2016; and the UNHCR is overwhelmed. While the Pope calls for parishes, Vatican to host migrants in act of solidarity, Viktor Orbán says the influx of Muslim refugees poses a threat to Europe’s Christian identity. For a particularly scathing review of Mr. Orban’s actions, don’t miss Robert Fisk’s Hungary must look to its own history for migrant guidanceOnce, the country was quite happy to send those it disliked to Germany…

On 9 September 2015 Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest-reigning monarch in British history, having reigned for 63 years and seven months – calculated at 23,226 days, 16 hours and approximately 30 minutes at about 17:30 BST, and passing the record set by her great-great-grandmother Victoria. To put this in context, here are just some of the world leaders she has seen come and go. … she began her reign on 6 February, 1952, when Stalin was still in power in Russia and Winston Churchill was her prime minister.She has worked with a dozen prime ministers (Harold Wilson, twice) during her time, including incumbent David Cameron, who was not even born when she came on the throne. During her reign there have been 12 US presidents, seven different popes and, incredibly, more than 40 prime ministerial terms in Italy. See the Queen Elizabeth II timeline

As the race for the U.S. Republican nomination continues on its twisting path, Stephen M. Walt, Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University, asks What Do Politicians Really Mean by “Global Leadership?”

Not that the Canadian prime ministerial contenders are talking about global leadership, but it would be illuminating to hear how they define leadership, rather than simply who can outdo whom in offering goodies to the electorate.In that respect, we have found the first two of CBC’s interviews with the party leaders pretty disappointing. As was expected, Stephen Harper looked and sounded quite self satisfied and, while continuing to throw Nigel Wright under the bus, certainly expressed neither regret nor contrition for any actions or omissions. However, he did admit “I am who I am. Canadians know me. I’m not perfect. But I’m dedicated to my country, I love my country. I think I’ve done as good a job as I can do.”  Justin Trudeau stuck to an attractive set of generalities and appeared incapable of giving concrete answers to the questions: what would be his first act on his first day as leader (why couldn’t he just call a premiers’ conference?) and what about him makes him the right person for the job of PM?  Also, unless we missed something, he never mentioned First Nations issues and his explanation of what he would do to modify C-51 was a symphony of platitudes.

On to a subject that is dear to our hearts: Education. The pendulum has swung quickly from the Tiger Mom theories to a far gentler, kinder approach to early childhood education. One glowing account of the benefits of learning through play that comes from Finland’s world-recognized education philosophy: Fewer tests, more play: Qatar asked Finland to open a progressive school in Doha — and it’s a huge success . Taking another angle, pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom argues in The decline of play in preschoolers — and the rise in sensory issues: “As parents and teachers strive to provide increasingly organized learning experiences for children, … the opportunities for free play – especially outdoors is becoming less of a priority. Ironically, it is through active free play outdoors where children start to build many of the foundational life skills they need in order to be successful for years to come.”
At the other end of the education spectrum, The Atlantic addresses The Coddling of the American MindIn the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health. Given the apparent need of college students to be protected from a range of ‘trigger’ words and images, we wonder why there is no apparent objection to the publication of ISIS videos of beheadings and other murderous activities, or the poignant image of Alan Kurdi on the beach.

Mark your calendars:
‘Goodbye, Mr Sykes! Adieu, M. Picot!’ How the ISIS ‘caliphate’ frightens the Middle East – and us
Robert Fisk
Montreal, Quebec, Saturday, September 26, 2015, 07:00 PM

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