Jul 072011

When the king of Rome established his Senate 2,700 years ago it was a triple E Senate…Elected, Effective and Equal, the very style of a Senate many would like to see here in Canada.  The first Senators of Rome may have been appointed by King Romulus but subsequent Senators were elected by the tribal Curia,   100 Senators from each of the three founding tribes of Rome so it was equal in makeup based on region, and of course it was to gradually become effective, to such an extent that it elected, as a body, the new King once the previous King died.

Over time the Roman Senate went from a triple E senate to an unelected, unequal, and ineffective institution.  It became a body of appointed nobles, some of whom passed on the membership in the Senate to their offspring, who had little power under the Divine Emperors and no longer were elected by the people based on region.  In many respects Canada’s present day Senate more closely resembles the Senate of Rome just before its fall.  However, we can learn from history and benefit from the mistakes of the Romans.

1) Elected.  Although constitutionally Senators must be appointed by the Prime Minister the Upper Chamber will become more of an elected body as individual provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan hold elections for their Senators.  A Prime Minister who refuses to appoint based on the provinces list of elected Senators risks unpopularity and accusations of favoritism.

2) Effective. The effectiveness of the Senate is constrained for a number of reasons, constitutionally of course it cannot propose money or appropriation Bills, but more importantly the Senate respects the fact that since the members are not elected they should not overturn any legislation brought to the Chamber from the elected Lower House.  Once elected this impediment to effectiveness will be removed and Senators will have as much electoral authority as members of the House of Commons.

2) Equal.  Currently our 105 Senators are chosen to represent the regions of the country.  The West, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes each have 24 Senators, Newfoundland and Labrador has 6 and the Territories each have one.  While this is obviously not perfectly equal, it is an attempt to fill the red chamber with a relatively equal number of Senators from the broader regions of the country.  An ideal makeup would obviously be an exact number of Senators representing each province rather than a greater region.  Representation by province would fit with an elected Senate as provinces, not regions, hold elections.  Also, Canada is a confederation of provinces, not regions and as such each province should be equally represented in the Senate exactly as is done in the United States.

Recently there have been calls, usually from the NDP and other socialists, to abolish the Senate.  This is because the House of Commons is a battle ground of competing ideologies.  Just the kind of place socialists could take control of.  Currently the primary incentive to follow party whips is the benefit derived from running in subsequent elections under a party banner with the resources only a party machine can offer.  This loyalty to party is diminished if the opportunity for re-election is removed.  To this end Senators could sit for longer terms, perhaps 10 years, and be restricted to serving only one term.

My colleague Bob Metz has come up with a tongue-in-cheek yet novel suggestion.  Why don’t we reform the Senate and abolish the House of Commons?  I think suggestion has some merit.

Before Confederation, as it is today, each of the Provinces, Colonies and the Dominion of Newfoundland had their own elected Parliaments, most even having an Upper Chamber called a Legislative Council.  In these houses laws are made reflecting most of what is also debated in our House of Commons.  Why should the Federal House of Commons be discussing, education, health care or even energy issues when these matters are constitutionally a provincial jurisdiction?  Why should the federal Lower House be entering into treaties with other nations when such decisions should be made in an Upper House which is more accurately representative of the confederated Colonies, Provinces and the Dominion of Newfoundland?

Most (or it could probably argued all) of the decision making that goes on in the House of Commons could either more appropriately be discussed in the individual Houses of each Province, or in an elected federal Senate.  When involving matters not of a national matter the debate could be decided in each province.  If the matter involves the nation as a whole, then the Senate would be the more appropriate chamber for discussion since the nation is more properly defined as a confederation of 10 provinces rather than a great amorphous mob of 35 million people.

(Originally broadcast on Just Right #207, July 7, 2011.)

Jun 302011

We the PeopleI do not normally use the word sacred but if there was any unholy thing on Earth worthy of veneration it would be The American Declaration of Independence. At once it is not simply a political document but a moral one. Its preamble, in so few words expresses more than any tome or volume preceding it. Its simplicity in purpose is almost sublime.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.

While it is true that the Americans had just cause to form their own nation and valid grievances with a despotic monarch it may be said that the same lust for individual freedom was felt by those in the other British colonies. As Jefferson said: “all men are created equal.” We all share a desire for individual freedom.

It is ironic then that the 13 colonies of the United States saw fit not just to declare themselves independent but to invade Canada when the inhabitants of Canada did not share the same grievences with King George III.

While these invasions were successfully repelled with the aid of the aboriginals, the remainder of British North America saw a different way. A way to advance the cause of independence and even freedom while maintaining a hold on the hundreds of years old institutions of Great Britain, including the monarchy. Our way was more conservative, more in the vein of Edmund Burke.

Burke was sympathetic to the American Revolution and used his position in the British Parliament to try and persuade the King to ease the duty levied on tea lest the American’s choose to rebel.

Again and again, revert to your old principles—seek peace and ensue it; leave America, if she has taxable matter in her, to tax herself. I am not here going into the distinctions of rights, nor attempting to mark their boundaries. I do not enter into these metaphysical distinctions; I hate the very sound of them. Leave the Americans as they anciently stood, and these distinctions, born of our unhappy contest, will die along with it….

The King did not relent and the Americans choose freedom over British sovereignty. But in doing so they did what Burke feared, they began to mark the boundaries of Rights, first with the Declaration of Independence then later with the Constitution of the United States. Burke correctly saw the danger of listing the rights of man, for even though in the Declaration of Independence Jefferson said “among these” and later in the Constitution the ninth amendment said “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” Burke seemed to know that once you begin to mark the boundaries of rights what is omitted is said not to exist at all. Rights not clearly included in Constitution would be trampled upon by government.

As I said, the Declaration of Independence was a remarkable document. If left to that alone the United States may have achieved so much more than it already has. And while the demarcation of rights and the Constitution of the United States may have seemed like a good idea at the time I suspect that it marked the beginning of the end for freedom in the United States.

The Constitution gave Congress the right to impose taxes on its citizens and to borrow money on the credit of the United States. Both flaws have been magnified over the years to the extent that today taxation is several fold what King George taxed them and their debt is, as we know, astronomical and quite impossible to repay. The writing is on the wall for the United States of America.

By contrast we here in Canada have nothing to compare to a Declaration of Independence. The British North America Act is a piece of dry compromises and dealings, the result of many years of negotiations with the four original colonies and PEI. Our nation was not born of blood in the way the United States was. It was an orderly, organic and a slow reformation of British colonies. But this was not such a bad thing; in fact, over the test of time I would dare say that ours may have been the better way.  That is until the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was folded into the BNA Act to become the Constitution Act. With the Charter of Rights we have endangered every right we had recognized before by their exclusion.

Consider Karen Selick’s column in National Post of June 28th where she notes that Justice Anotonio Lamer of the Supreme Court of Canada rejected any economic rights and raised doubts about whether economic liberty should be considered part of the “life, liberty and security of the person” which were guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Since economic rights were not mentioned therefore he apparently concluded we do not have them. This of course is how governments begin to fall, with the trampling of rights based on their exclusion from Charters and Constitutions.

In the same article Selick notes that as far back as 1909 the B.C. Supreme Court recognized that

Among the normal rights which are available to every British subject against all the world are…the unmolested pursuit of ones’ trade or occupation and…to one’s own property.

Before their enumeration in Constitutions rights were living things freely recognized by all and by the Courts. Canada fared relatively well without a demarcation of rights in a Constitution relying on 700 years of jurisprudence and common law. Burke said it best when he said,

…the people of the colonies are descendants of Englishmen…. They are therefore not only devoted to liberty, but to liberty according to English ideas and on English principles.

He was not only speaking of the American colonies but of all the British North American Colonies.

Tomorrow celebrate Canada Day. I suggest that just before we set off our fireworks we give a thought to the hundreds of years of legal tradition, thought and care which went into creating this nation and some thought as to how fragile our rights are and how, with the stroke of a Judge’s pen they can be violated.

On July 4th our neighbours celebrate their day of Independence from Britain and the forming of a country which although reveres the rights of man has endangered those very rights by enumerating them. They too should give pause as to how much longer than can celebrate living in a free country. They should read again the preamble to their own 235 year old Declaration of Independence especially the line…

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destrucetive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.

Happy Canada Day. To those over 40 a happy Dominion Day, and to our southerly neighbours a Happy July 4th.  May we all celebrate many more.

(Originally broadcast on Just Right #206, June 30, 2011.)
Mar 242011

With the declaration of war upon Libya by the United Nations the face of world conflict has changed forever.  War has now become a perpetual means to enforce a New World Order based on altruism.  We have entered a new age of despotism and we are at the center of it.

The proper question Stephen Harper, Barack Obama and the other world leaders who have responded militarily to the UN Security Council resolution of March 17th should have asked themselves was “under what conditions should I, as a leader of a Western Democracy declare war on another sovereign nation?  What could possibly provoke my nation to send troops to their deaths and spend hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars?”  With the experiences of Vietnam in their history the United States answered that question in the form of the Weinberger Doctrine.  US Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger listed the following conditions:

  1. The United States should not commit forces to combat unless the vital national interests of the United States or its allies are involved.
  2. U.S. troops should only be committed wholeheartedly and with the clear intention of winning. Otherwise, troops should not be committed.
  3. U.S. combat troops should be committed only with clearly defined political and military objectives and with the capacity to accomplish those objectives.
  4. The relationship between the objectives and the size and composition of the forces committed should be continually reassessed and adjusted if necessary.
  5. U.S. troops should not be committed to battle without a “reasonable assurance” of the support of U.S. public opinion and Congress.
  6. The commitment of U.S. troops should be considered only as a last resort

To this list I would add a seventh point; that no proper government should go to war unless the men and women who serve are volunteers.

The war in Libya does not satisfy at least five of these seven points neither for the US nor Canada:

  1. The governance of Libya, whether by Muammar Gaddafi or whatever government may arise from his overthrow, is not in our vital national interests.  While Gaddafi has been responsible for several assassinations and terrorist attacks and has been a brutal dictator in Libya responsible for many deaths he has been kept at bay since President Reagan bombed Tripoli during Operation El Dorado Canyon in 1986.
  2. There is no clear intention of winning this war.  The Security Council’s Resolution 1973 calls for a No-Fly Zone to be enforced.  This will most likely not be enough to stop Gaddafi from protecting his strangle-hold on the Libyan population.  The operation is called Odyssey Dawn.  Aptly named since Homer’s Odyssey took 10 years.  This could very well turn out to by the dawn of a very long odyssey for us.
  3. There are no clearly defined political and military objectives.  Italy, France the US and Britain have already been arguing over whether or not taking out Gaddafi with an air strike is part of this mission.
  4. There is no reasonable assurance of the support of public opinion and (in the US) Congress.  In fact Obama went to war without even seeking approval from Congress which he is bound to do by the US Constitution.  There has even been talk of impeachment by some Representatives because of this breach.  (This is not a precedent however, as President Reagan invaded Grenada without the prior approval of Congress).  In Canada Prime Minister Harper unilaterally sent our troops, jets and committed the HMCS Charlottetown to the war without consulting Parliament.  He filled in the leaders of the Opposition on March 18th by phone.
  5. War is a last resort when all other methods have been exhausted.  This is usually a situation which would apply to a situation where our vital national interests are involved.  However since this is not one of these situations there is no need to even consider the last resort of war.

This war was instigated by a call from the Arab League and to a lesser extent the African Union.  Both of these organizations contain many states openly opposed to our political interests and many of the member states could even be considered hostile to us and dangerous to global peace.  While the impetuous for the war has come from these states they are offering virtually no material support for the war.  In fact, now that the war has begun they have even criticized the methods by which it is being carried out.

The war is at the request of the United Nations Security Council.  The UN has a long track record of acting against our best interests and those of the United States.  Any suggestion from them to go to war should be carefully considered for its long-term consequences.

The rationale for this war is not to keep the international peace but to protect the civilian population of Libya.  This is unprecedented.  The civil war in Libya must be decided by the citizens of Libya and in any civil war there are going to be casualties.  For us to pick sides of the Rebels over Gaddafi may backfire if the Rebels turn out to be worse than Gaddafi.  If they become led by the Mullahs and the Muslim Brotherhood we could see many more civilians murdered by the Rebels than by the Libyan Army.  We could then be thought of as being complicit in their deaths.

The change in the mandate of the United Nations from keeping international peace to interfering in civil wars in order to protect civilians has come about largely due to a Canadian.  Former Jean Chrétien Cabinet Minister Lloyd Axworthy while President of the United Nations Security Council in 1999 and 2000 tried to pursued the UN to alter its mandate to include intervention into sovereign states on humanitarian grounds.  The UN found it too controversial so he convinced the Canadian government to fund a study on the consequences of such intervention.  A commission was established called the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty.  One of the panel members was none other than Michael Ignatieff now Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

The Commission attempted to answer the following question posed by UN-Secretary General Kofi Annan:

if humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica – to gross and systematic violations of human rights that affect every precept of our common humanity?

The Commission responded by saying that

military action can be legitimate as an anticipatory measure in response to clear evidence of likely large scale killing. Without this possibility of anticipatory action, the international community would be placed in the morally untenable position of being required to wait until genocide begins, before being able to take action to stop it. (emphasis mine)

The Commission refused to define what they meant by large scale.

The United Nations has accepted the findings of the Commission and in doing so has set itself up as a World Police Force, it can now act if it suspects that harm might come to a large number of people.  It has become omniscient by saying that it can now anticipate when genocide will occur as it has done with Libya but will not do for Yemen, Syria, Bahrain or any of the many countries around the world which routinely murder its citizens, China for example.

The United Nations with the aid of Lloyd Axworthy, the Jean Chrétien Government of the day, and Michael Ignatieff has given itself new authority to wage war on sovereign states in anticipation of large scale violations of human rights.  For Canada, forever the lackey of the UN this is not out of character as our governments have acted on the evil philosophy of altruism since Conservative Prime Minister RB Bennett.  But for the United States to fall into this trap spells the death of any hope for freedom in this world.

President Obama has appeared on the world stage at just the right time to both destroy the productive engine of the US through his trillion dollar deficits and relinquish the moral might of that world power by acquiescing to the dictates of an altruist driven United Nations agenda.  On March 18th, 2011 the United States ceased to exist as we used to know it.  A new power has arisen in its stead, the right hand of the United Nations clenched into a fist to intervene in civil disputes throughout the world.

The question we should be asking now is what country will be the next to be bombed by the United Nations for so-called humanitarian transgressions.  The answer may be Israel.

A Reuters article from Tuesday, March 22nd reads as follows:

Investigator says evictions akin to ethnic cleansing

GENEVA — Israel’s expansion of Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem and the eviction of Palestinians from their homes is a form of ethnic cleansing, a UN investigator said on Monday.

U.S. academic Richard Falk was speaking to the UN Human Rights Council as it prepared to pass resolutions condemning Israeli behaviour. The situation “can only be described in its cumulative impact as a form of ethnic cleansing,” Falk declared.

Falk would like the Human Rights Council to ask the International Court of Justice to look at Israeli behaviour in the occupied territories.

The future of the world looks bleak.  Armed with this new rationale for war – the “Responsibility to Protect”, and a weak minded, immoral leader of the United States, Barack Obama we can only expect more interventions in even more countries, causing more cries of imperialism from third world nations, inciting even more acts of terrorism.

The proper action for Canada, the US, Britain, France and Italy to have taken when asked by the Arab League to intervene in Libya should have been that they must settle their own affairs, even though it may mean the death of thousands.  The only way for nations to evolve into capitalistic and democratic nations is for them to get there on their own.  Most often that path is bloody.   We may try to lead by example when we can (although that is getting harder with each passing day) but we cannot impose freedom and democracy upon other nations if their culture is not yet ready for it.  Until they establish freedom themselves the best we can do, the best we can hope for, is to keep their current medieval ideas from polluting the rest of the world.  Unfortunately, with the likes of Obama at the helm of the United States I believe such hope may now be lost.

(Broadcast on Just Right March 24, 2011 show #192.  To listen to the show visit justrightmedia.org)