Some Facts About Canada

My previous post about Bowling for Columbine appears to have generated a lot of interest, judging from the length and the depth of the comments made. I'm pleased by the quality of the responses, all of them, and I feel we've had a good and healthy debate.

I would like to respond to a couple of points. First of all, I don't think that the lack of a heavy urban fabric in Canada can explain the difference in murder rates between Canada and the United States. For one thing, Canada is too urban a country.

At the time of this writing, 79.4% of Canadians live in urban centres of 10,000 or more. Five million Canadians live in the Golden Horseshoe, a massive urban area encompassing the Greater Toronto Area and the City of Hamilton. Over a million Canadians live in the Greater Vancouver Area. Over two million Canadians live in the Greater Montreal Area. Canada's total population is 31 million.

These are all real cities with real crime. Vancouver has the Downtown Eastside, a notorious drug area that has mobilized an entire city population into electing successive reform-politician wave to try to help the population and clean it up. Toronto has its share of depressed areas and there is a strain between the police and the black community. Montreal has a red light district. But all three cities don't have the per capita murder population of the United States, despite the fact that many Canadian cities are little different from cities within the United States (Omaha reminds me very much of Kitchener-Waterloo and Minneapolis and Chicago both remind me of Toronto).

And while it is an urban myth to say that the United Nations has, at some point, labelled Toronto the most multicultural city in the world (one of these days New York is going to split itself in half so that it can turn to Toronto and say that there are TWO cities larger and more multicultural than Toronto), Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal all boast diversity comparable to what the most diverse cities in the United States have to offer. The suggestion that Canada hasn't had to deal with densely packed, large and diverse urban centres isn't accurate. Neither is the suggestion that violence is an urban problem, considering that four rural states in the United States (Louisiana, Mississippi, Kansas, South Carolina) have more murders per capita than New York City (8 per 100,000).

I don't have the answers; I don't think anybody truly does, even Michael Moore (despite my praise of his theory). I agree that Moore's editorial tricks end up muddying the question, but I still respect Bowling For Columbine for having the guts to shake up our preconceived notions (my own included) of why violence occurs.

Returning to the comments, an item I have to correct is the statement that Canada never had a slave trade. Despite the fact that Canada was the destination of the Underground Railroad to freedom in the 1850s and the 1860s, the sad truth remains that at one point, Canadians owned slaves. Slavery was in place under the French, and was not abolished by the British once they took over in 1763. One of the great ironies is that, despite the fact that black loyalists, fighting for the British in the American Revolution, were promised freedom, farmland and supplies in Canada in 1783. That same year, Colonel Matthew Elliott, a white United Empire Loyalist, was allowed to import no less than sixty slaves to Amherstburg, Upper Canada (now Ontario). He was followed by others. While John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada passed a law in 1793 banning slavery in his territory, it only applied to his territory, and not to Lower Canada (Quebec) or New Brunswick or Nova Scotia. The British government enacted a law in 1807 which banned the slave trade, but it wasn't until 1833 that slavery was abolished outright in the British Empire.

Though the temptation is there, Canada cannot claim the moral high ground on race relations. Our history is littered with embarrassments, from the Asian Exclusion Act, to "One is Too Many", to the unfortunate tragedy of Africville.

Just a Touch of Modern Triumphalism

No, I cannot say that I especially like the fact that we have the ability, or even the desire to report on the fact that a slew of senior Eves campaign staffers have updated their resumes on (Links courtesy Jordan Cooper [again] and Warren Kinsella)

We never saw this sort of news article in the dying days of the Rae Government, or even the Kim Campbell Tories. I realize that one reason for this is the fact that, back in 1993 and 1995, didn't even exist. Heck, I wasn't even online until late 1994 and didn't see my first web browser until 1995. But whatever the year, I question the worthiness of this news story.

Reporting it smacks of a sort of vindictive triumphalism that's unbecoming to a leader of this province. It's this sort of in-your-face, us versus them politics that is ruining the democratic discourse on this continent. And, pragmatically speaking, it has the whiff of that same sort of Liberal arrogance that cost them no less than the last three elections.

I had sort of wished that whoever leaked this story would be above this sort of thing. I sort of wished that we were in for some better politics. Well, mark me up as Mr. Naive.

Word on the Street

I had a long but happy day manning the Alternatives Journal booth at Kitchener's Word on the Street. I moved a lot of flyers, sold five subscriptions, and got 24 back issues off of our shelves. On the whole, a good day.

We especially lucked out with the weather. Earlier forecasts had called for rain, and while rain fell early in the morning, the sun came out and dried everything off by the time I showed up to set up. Clouds rolled in during the afternoon, but didn't get ominous until about a half hour before the end, but we still had enough time to get the magazines under cover before the rains hit, and we'd already had a good day anyway.

There were huge crowds, and there was a great buzz about the whole event. Erin read Ghost Maps at 1 pm; I couldn't attend, but I know from my parents, from Dan and from Lori (who all turned out to show their support) that she did a great job and had a good audience. She spent the day selling copies of Ghost Maps and helping out at the New Quarterly table.

My legs are sore, but I think my first major promotional project as circulation manager for Alternatives Journal has been a success, and I'm looking forward to promoting the issue in other ways in the near future.

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