The Centre for Strategic Centrism

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The Bullshit Broadsheet

As someone born and raised in Winnipeg, it was commonplace to see friends and family move away – to Toronto, Montreal, Calgary or Vancouver, mostly – in the pursuit of professional success. I loved Winnipeg, but in the back of my mind, the sad reality ever present in the back of our minds was that in order to be a success; in order to really achieve something on a significant scale, we’d have to leave. Maybe we could come back some day, but the decision to stay in Winnipeg would have a very real cost associated with it. I was inevitably forced to confront that harsh reality and board a plane for the west coast in search of opportunities that eluded me in Winnipeg.

As a result of this reality, Winnipeggers have always taken a great deal of pride in those home-town success stories – those people that defied the odds and made a name for themselves on the world stage from Winnipeg. Izzy Asper was one such man and rightly earned the respect of the community in the process.

That is why I find it so disappointing to see what has become of the company he built. The financial management of the company aside – since I’m more than willing to volunteer that I have no business commenting on such issues – David Asper seems intent on cementing the role of the National Post as little more than a newsletter for the ignorant, the intolerant and the radical right.

That they found someone to make Preston Manning look like a communist – and describe him as such, no less – seemed miraculous to me. But such exercises are merely silly, not devious. More concerning is the deep wedge in society that the National Post has seemed so willing to drive – between Christians/Jews and Muslims; between religious Canadians and non; between the left and the right. Where Americans have finally come to realize the dangerous impact of a generation of wedge-politics, a significant element of the right in this country seems anxious to take Canada down the same dangerous road and have found a more than willing host for their hatred in the National Post.

Reading Jonathan Kay’s preposterous musings on the response to Gary Goodyear was disappointing but unsurprising. David Asper’s cogitations today are disingenuous and sincerely disappointing at best.

Firstly, the National Post has mimicked Goodyear in his depiction of the now famous question of Mr. Goodyear’s views on creationism vs. evolution as completely out of left field. Whether Goodyear intentionally parroted Sarah Palin’s defense of her flubbing of the Katie Couric interview is a mystery to me. The Globe and Mail, however, has made it clear that the question was not randomly delivered in the midst of a line of questions related to policy, but rather was part of an in-depth line of personal background questioning being done for a profile.

Secondly, both Kay and Asper seem intent on minimizing creationism as widely held views that are a significant element of most organized religions. At its most basic level this is true, but misleading. The Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches (representing half of Canadians according to the most recent census data) have both publicly come out in support of the theory of evolution. Saint Augustine and Jewish philosopher Yedidia both came out centuries ago in support of the notion that creationism was not a literal description of the origins of the universe, but were more likely allegorical.

Asper points to Kinsella’s renowned 2000 attacks on Stockwell Day’s rejection of evolution as the beginning of a liberal attack on religion. I, for one, am glad that Stockwell Day’s religious views have found a place in the midst of this preposterous argument, as I think Day’s views on the separation of church and state have been made very clear.

For those like Mr. Asper with short memories, Mr. Day was the school administrator who in 1984 defended Bentley Christian School’s fundamentalist teachings, which were deemed by the Alberta Legislature as intolerant to Jews, blacks and natives. He argued that “God’s law is clear… Standards of education are not set by government, but by God, the Bible, the home and the school.” He made this argument in defense of his school’s curriculum, which taught pure creationism and accused all evolutionists of depravity and sin. [It was also alleged by the Edmonton Journal that one of the end-of-chapter quizzes for junior high students posed a true or false question asking whether Jewish leaders were children of the devil, but I digress.]

Asper and Kay argue that many Canadians believe in a role for a Creator in the origins of the universe. The strict creationist view of the world is not nearly so benign. It insists that the world was created by God in six, 24-hour days and is based entirely on the literal translation of the first book of the Old Testament, Breishit (Genesis). They do not merely contend that the world is entirely of God’s making, but that it is only between 6,000 and 10,000 years old – a notion so fundamentally at odds with modern science that it would be laughable were it not taught to children as fact – which would suggest the coexistence of man and dinosaurs.

So let’s be clear about what we’re talking about – a radical fundamentalist view of the origins of the universe, not a mainstream and commonly-held ideology. This is not a witch-hunt. This is not a crusade against religion in Canada. It simply reflects the view of the majority of Canadians that there should be a strict division between church and state – something that many Conservatives including Day have argued against. You cannot advocate for a removal of the barriers between church and state and then feign indignation when people seek clarification on whether you act on those publicly-expressed opinions.

It’s impossible to know whether Asper believes this load of tripe he’s serving up; whether he’s simply prepared to whore his paper and his views out to the federal government in the hopes that it might be saved with government funds; or whether he’s simply prepared to adopt the views of his audience in order to play to his base. I don’t know which is worse, but regardless, Mr. Asper should be ashamed of the claptrap that bears his name.

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Filed under: Oh, Canada

4 Responses

  1. Cheeky says:

    hear, hear, agreed, etc. Just discovered your blog via Curtis’ Endless Spin, but one req: please use a black (rather than gray) font & lose the wide right-hand gray border: it’s hard for these middle-ages eyes to read

  2. SMcEwing says:

    I hate to tell you this, but from where I’m sitting, “It simply reflects the view of the majority of Canadians that there should be a strict division between church and state” isn’t as true as you’d like it to be. especially in Winnipeg. That “majority” part is seeming like it might not be as true these days. My kids in school in River Heights (we’re formerly of Toronto) are just shocked at the number of truly radical christian kids in their school. There are some Fundamentalist churches here that are HUGE, and I have a bad feeling that Anita Neville is really going to need a lot of help next time around to keep her seat.
    It used to seem rude to talk about someone’s religion, but the sleepy centrists of Canada had better wake up PDQ or they’ll find out that we’ve got capital punishment again, no access to abortion and a degree in science will be interchangable with a degree in mythology.

    • tcfsc says:

      I left Winnipeg only a couple of years ago, so I know you’ve got a very real point. I think as Liberals and liberals, we have to become more willing to discuss religion, something I’m glad to see Michael Ignatieff doing. We have to be prepared to engage on discussions of morality and religion and explain to Canadians of faith that Liberalism and liberalism are not the antithesis to religion.

      We have to be clear that Liberalism is about a clear separation between church and state, not an abrogation of religion. We have to be willing to discuss the moral underpinning of our ideas, rather than merely assuming people will understand them.

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