It was certainly a Kodak moment. Heritage Minister James Moore with Ottawa Councillor Allan Hubley (who lost his 15-year old gay son Jamie, to suicide due in part to bullying) announcing a brand new federally-assisted peer-led program to combat bullying in our schools. Laureen Harper wipes a tear from her eye. After all, what parent, indeed what human being, could fail to sympathize with a parent whose child has taken his own life?

But quite frankly, this is not really the Heritage Minister's jurisdiction. Education at all levels is a provincial responsibility. Municipalities are responsible to the provinces too. And given that Heritage Canada apparently has too few resources as it is and is blithely cutting funding to programs that clearly DO fall under its jurisdiction - for example, the National Archival Development Program or the other programs and staff over at Library and Archives Canada - what's it doing brandishing money and meddling in the affairs of the provincial education systems, the Red Cross, and other community groups? When folks have the nerve to protest cutbacks to Library and Archives, or to federal museums, for example, Moore continually trots out the "arm's length" argument. But he's certainly quick to step into the spotlight when there's an opportunity to polish the Government's image and tug on the public's heartstrings!

I also question whether the much-vaunted peer-to-peer aspect of this anti-bullying initiative is going to be particularly effective. After all, most of the bullying that goes on in schools these days is by peers. Doesn't this amount to hiring the fox to guard the hen-house? Seems to me it would be better to have concerned adults running the program - current or retired teachers, parents, and members of the broader community, including some young adults - perhaps university students or recent graduates who have gone through the same thing recently and lived to tell the tale!
I sometimes think Canadians have no sense of time, or history, while Europeans have no sense of space, or distance.

In Canada, a particular building can be only a few decades old and already we're screaming "Heritage! We CAN'T get rid of THAT building - it's a superb example of 1970s neo-brutalist architecture!" Meanwhile the Brits, for example, with their castles dating back to the Norman Conquest, shake their heads in disbelief.

Here in Ottawa, there was something of a kerfuffle recently about getting rid of the last "temporary building" near the Supreme Courthouse. The temporary buildings were put up during World War II to provide office and other workspaces for the vast influx of workers required for war-related industries. Umm, doesn't "temporary" imply that they're supposed to be dispensed with once they no longer have a purpose? What's next? Will folks in the educational sector object to the elimination of portable classrooms because they are such iconic representations of school architecture of the baby boom and baby-boom-echo generations? Or perhaps we should protest the, er, elimination, of the last remaining urban outhouses? Of course, income tax was supposed to be a temporary measure too, but retaining it has enabled many of us to enjoy a standard of living beyond what we could otherwise have enjoyed - so maybe keeping what was supposed to be temporary is not always a bad thing. Perhaps in that respect, we do not have such a throwaway society as Alvin Toffler maintained in Future Shock. (Aside: We don't have overchoice either, as I pointed out in my previous entry about the rise of big box stores)

Now let's talk about space, or distance, and how we get from point A to point B. It's often said that we are extremely spoilt in Canada because gasoline (or petrol, or gaz or essence if you prefer) is only about half the price here that it is in Europe. There is some truth in that, of course. On the other hand, gasoline (at least until alternately-powered vehicles become more widespread and affordable) nudges closer to the "necessities" side of the balance sheet in Canada, but closer to the "luxuries" side in Europe. If you travel from the west coast to the east coast of Canada, then travel that same distance across Europe, how many European countries would you have travelled through? The fact is, in many parts of Canada you have to travel vast distances just to get to your destination. And vast swaths of Canada are virtually uninhabitable or at best, are beautiful places to visit but it would take a pretty hardy soul to live there full-time. Moreover, a harsh climate - hot humid summers and bitterly cold winters - make certain forms of transport that are widely used in Europe (cycling, for example) impractical or unpleasant for much of the year here.

Yes, we need to improve our public transit. We need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and non-renewable energy sources. We should strive in general to reduce our carbon footprint. I'll talk about these and other ideas in future blogs, but they are beyond the scope of the point I am making today.



October 2017



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