Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I couldn't tell why the throne speech was on prime time either

The speech from the throne is concluded. The rhetoric we already knew was coming has been uttered, and now to the business of pulling and tweaking at the assumptions and meanings of it all. There was something for everyone in the speech tonight; Northern Sovereignty, the human rights of the First Nations people, the mystic economy, the endangered environment. Crime and it's punishment were huge players in the speech. There wasn't much on the act of prevention, only the brutal retribution wished for by anxious and grief stricken victims and their families. There was mention of child-care, mention of tax cuts. Something for everyone.

Well, almost.

I heard our Governor General outline a strategy that works for candidates who campaign to particular voters. I heard a strategy that will in fact prove difficult to react to for an opposition neither ready for an election nor willing to support it's contents. I heard a speech fit for a total failure as a party leader and prime minister. What I didn't hear any mention of is women.

In the Canadian North, the people who already live there are only now gaining any type of notice or credibility because the earth is heating up so rapidly that new trade routes are apparent in it. The women of our North face extreme difficulties in negotiating subsistence and any possible higher education or empowerment due not only to the remoteness of the landscape and the lack of infrastructure, but the legislation in place that deals a double blow to First Nations women. The proposal of militarizing the region also poses a problem for women in Canada's forces, who are routinely disenfranchised by the methods of promotion and the unwillingness of the institution itself to change for our benefit. Women who live with their spouses on military bases are brutalized and humiliated in far more frightening numbers than other women in this country. In my quite biased view I must ask, if women aren't safe in their own homes, who needs national security?

We heard discussion of a topic that frightened me in the last election. During the campaigns, an abhorrent, unimaginable shooting took place in Toronto on boxing day. I'm sorry to say that all four candidates, the left and the right to both extremes jumped on the same bandwagon and instead of waiting calmly for us to regain our footing and get our heads around it, we were told that what we need are mandatory minimums. I had no choices in this matter last time, both Duceppe and Layton described agreement with such a policy. Shall I outline again why mandatory minimums don't work? The bullet points then:

they are too costly; we already have an overloaded prison system

they are inherently racist and favour heavy penalties for crimes committed by those poorest among us, mostly black and of Indian descent.

they are insulting. There is no point in having a judge and bothering to pretend value to judicial reasoning when a hand-book is adequate for tens of millions of people.

they do not protect women from abusive partners or family members

The elusive environment was mentioned as well. We're out of Kyoto, we've known that for a while. But the focus was interestingly on the market of carbon trade. Why not mention the innovation possible in investing in green companies across the country? Because too much investment from "interested parties" is going into oil in Alberta and now the Maritime Provinces. It would be completely irrational on the part of a free-market leader to suggest competition with oil companies on the part of young, upstart tidal hydro companies, wind production companies and solar initiative companies. Especially when there's money to be made in mending fences with Danny Williams. Better to leave Exxon to regulate itself, and relegate the Environment Minister to Minister of Natural Cleanup.

We heard nothing today that will make us safer, richer, or freer. We heard another desperate plea to send unwilling soldiers into harms way with no plan of action or consequence. We heard no mention of our historic blue-helmets or the successes we have had in calming, disarming, and peacefully settling disputes. The bold rhetoric used to describe the pursuit of self-determination in the face of oppression extends as far as Burma. Laudable, but we're not going to help, and dunes of bodies in Darfur still swell like pox on the Sudan's countryside.

What will happen? I just don't want to vote again. Nothing good has happened since the last election and I simply shudder at the thought of 5 years with Harper at our helm. I want to be vitriolic, I want to be passionate. But as I should have expected, the words uttered by Her Excellency, Canada's Governor General, on behalf of our sovereign, were dry, weak sentences from a rich white man, for rich white men, to a room of mostly rich, white men.


Craig Sauvé said...

May i add another reason why minimums don't work? They don't attack the roots of criminal behaviour -and there are many: lack of social cohesion, poor public education, decline of moral values in society, etc.

I too was a bit disappointed with Layton's backing minimum sentences last campaign as well. A minor blip on an otherwise great program, I reckon. There are so many other facets of the NDP's program which seek to eliminate the above stated roots of criminal behaviour. I try to focus on those.

Freshwater Mermaid said...

I couldn't agree more Suave. Prison time tends to educate people in how to be better criminals, and when youth are involved, there is no doubt that the completion of their education behind bars will only solidify learned criminal behaviours.

I'm all about poverty relief and accessible education for everyone.

And women. He didn't f*&ing mention women at all!

Craig Sauvé said...

You're right! It's grievous, but thanks what one gets from a conservative party. These people do not naturally think upon such lines.

By the way, you should join the women's commission of the Québec NDP.