The December 1997 Earth is Flat Award

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

Like Americans one month before, Canadians too proved that they can fall over themselves in an effort to kiss the behind of a dictator so they can sell their products to Chinese too poor to afford a telephone.

Jiang Zemin, president of China, took a little tour of Canada after the November 23-24 APEC meeting in Vancouver, and was treated more like an honored guest by his Canadian hosts then one of the men responsible for 6 million Chinese languishing in 1 100 prison camps, the Tiananmen Square massacre, and a dictatorial r�gime which enslaves a quarter of the world's population.

No, wherever Jiang went in Canada he was treated generously. In Calgary, Mayor Al Duerr, who gave Jiang and his wife some cowboy hats, stated "I would think that there would be very few mayors of any significant city in Canada that wouldn't be thrilled to have this kind of visit."

Except those, perhaps, who felt an aversion to communist dictators.

Asked about human rights, Duerr said he has spent time in both China and Russia, and thinks China fares better. Duerr didn't mention that Russia has, at least, moved towards a capitalist and democratic system of government.

So how about Ontario, home of freedom-loving conservative Mike Harris?

Harris presented Jiang with a provincial ambassador kit, a purple Ontario sweatshirt and a baseball cap. The Ontario premier said the Royal Canadian Mint will release a Bethune coin to commemorate Jiang's visit to Canada.

"Ontario has benefited from a strong and vibrant Chinese community, whose spirits of enterprise and hard work have helped our province assume a leadership role in growth and in opportunity within Canada," the premier said.

Harris did not mention why those Chinese had come to Canada.

How about Ottawa, the symbol of Canadian democracy?

Jiang was the recipient of an elegant state dinner hosted at Rideau Hall by Governor-General Rom�o LeBlanc and attended by Prime Minister Jean Chr�tien which featured crab-stuffed fillet of sole with lobster and medallion of venison with mango and ginger sauce.

LeBlanc reminded his guest that 27 years ago, Canada was the first western country to extend diplomatic relations to China.

"We were proud then to take that step and we are proud today that our linkages with China, whether in trade, education or ties between people, have grown even stronger."

LeBlanc didn't say whether Canada was also proud of continuing their support for a r�gime which has subjected its citizens to repression.

"Dialogue is good. Communication is also very good. But the state dinner, the red carpet for a communist slaughterer, is a shame to (any) democratic government," said American activist Henry Wu.

When pressed by reporters to square how Canada had continued to forge close ties with a government like China's, Liberal politicians brushed away concerns. Chr�tien said "there are some areas where we agree and some areas where we disagree and it's been like that for years."

Meanwhile, International Trade Minister Sergio Marchi announced 12 business deals worth $2.3 billion between Canada and China.

To Canada's politicians, both conservative and liberal so good at selling themselves and Canada, goes an Earth is Flat Award. I suspect there will be no cowboy hat, purple sweatshirt and crab-stuffed fillet of sole with lobster for Enter Stage Right though.

The December 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 Enter Stage Right considers to be positive.

In November Canada lost one of its few Supreme Court Justices more concerned with freedom then extending the scope of government. On November 24, Supreme Court Justice John Sopinka passed away suddenly.

Sopinka was named to the Supreme Court by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1988. While on Canada's highest court of the land, Sopinka was not perfect, but he did try and make sure that Canada's government and police did not have a free hand to infringe on the rights of its citizens. Among the rulings he wrote on behalf of the Supreme Court:

  • A decision requiring that police obtain a warrant before entering a home to arrest a suspect
  • A November, 1991, unanimous decision which many legal experts call one of the most significant Charter of Rights and Freedoms ever handed down. The judgment required the crown to disclose all of the evidence it had against an accused - even if it might be favorable to the defence.
  • A 4-3 decision in November, 1990, telling police that when they suspect - but cannot prove - someone is involved in drug trafficking they cannot snoop around outside that individual's house searching for evidence that could then be used to persuade a judge to approve a search warrant.
  • A 7-0 ruling in August, 1991, upholding the power of the federal government to cut billions of dollars in welfare payments to the provinces. The decision upheld a law imposing a 5 per cent cap on payments to the provinces.
  • A 5-4 ruling in February which said accused rapists can be set free if sexual assault centres deliberately destroy the confidential records of their alleged victims.

Despite his work towards freedom, Sopinka (and the rest of the Supreme Court) did falter on one important free speech issue. In February 1992, he wrote the 9-0 decision that upheld Canada's anti-pornography law. Sopinka wrote that even though the law infringed the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it was a necessary infringement to protect women and children from violence and sexual exploitation.

"Materials portraying women . . . as objects for sexual exploitation and abuse have a negative impact on the individual's sense of self-worth and acceptance," wrote Sopinka.

He wasn't perfect but he was one of the best Canadians have seen in a long time and he will be missed.

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