The September 1997 Earth is Flat Award

A celebration of the inane, insipid and asinine...

It is a telling comment on the state of education in this country that the Earth is Flat Award would be given to someone or something that has something to do with universities two consecutive months. This month's award is particularly deserved.

In mid-August the University of Victoria senate, apparently with little else better to do with their time, decided to confer an honorary degree. The university did not choose a businessperson for the award because businesspeople are greedy leeches on the backs of the proletariat. The university did not choose a scientist for an award because scientists deal with the rational world, and the rational world is a threat to the collectivists who have taken over higher education. They didn't even choose a social activist, whose only redeeming feature could have been that they really believed they were right.

No, the University of Victoria senate decided to confer an honorary doctorate to Chinese president Jiang Zemin.

Don't know why Jiang Zemin doesn't deserve this honour from a Canadian academic institute?

Student groups and some faculty link Jiang to deaths, disappearances and jailings of students and journalists in China. They blame Jiang for the severe crackdown after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre of pro-democracy students.

Even the young skulls full of mush at Victoria realize that rewarding butchers is not a good thing to do, and so they protested the decision. It turns out they didn't have to because Jiang can't make it to the party. Foreign Affairs informed the university that Jiang has other commitments that will prevent him from attending the special convocation planned for November 26.

"I had real hope the president of China might have seized upon the opportunity to announce some fundamental changes in human rights in China," said a disappointed and moronic university president David Strong. But he admitted some "relief that the campus won't be disrupted" by those repelled by the senate's decision. Strong also stated that he still supported the decision to confer the honorary degree on Jiang.

To the University of Victoria senate and U of Vic president David Strong I confer an Earth is Flat Award. If they don't like it, they can send it to Jiang as well.

The September 1997 Vinegar in Freedom Award

There is an old Serbian proverb that says vinegar in freedom tastes better than honey in slavery. This award is meant for events and people I consider to be positive.

Justice Gérard La Forest, 71, announced his impending retirement from the Supreme Court at the end of August.

"It's been exciting, but the clock is running and I thought it was better to go now when I'm still in good shape than at 75 when I would have to retire," said La Forest. He will step down September 30.

A former Rhodes scholar, the bilingual La Forest was a lawyer, dean of law, constitutional adviser to prime minister Pierre Trudeau and member of the Law Reform Commission of Canada prior to being appointed to the New Brunswick Court of Appeal in 1981 and the Supreme Court four years later.

La Forest crafted judgments on a wide range of subjects, including landmark rulings guaranteeing the mentally handicapped protection from being sterilized against their will. Unfortunately, La Forest also crafted a judgment upholding mandatory retirement.

But it was in the area of privacy, where he was vigilant in striving to curb police abuses, that La Forest carved his reputation as a crusader. "I like the state off the citizen's back," states La Forest.

"The freedom not to be compelled to share our confidences with others is the very hallmark of a free society," he wrote in a unanimous 1990 decision that said police could no longer surreptitiously bug private conversations of suspected criminals without obtaining a warrant.

La Forest also penned a 1990 decision that forced police to obtain a warrant before they secretly videotaped suspected criminals.

"The notion that agencies of the state should be at liberty to train hidden cameras on members of society wherever and whenever they wish is fundamentally irreconcilable with what we perceive to be acceptable behavior on the part of government," he wrote.

Not perfect, but La Forest was a boon to privacy advocates. He will be missed.

So who will replace La Forest? The forces of the politically correct reign in Ottawa, and Chrétien is under pressure to name a female to the court, only because we need to meet some arbitrary quota. Perhaps we need a ruling on that as well.

For being one of the few who realized his powers were to be used to protect the citizens from the state, not the other way around, La Forest gets a Vinegar in Freedom Award.

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