Thursday, May 27, 2010

The hazards of lying in the age of YouTube

Jason Kenney. What a yutz.

I wonder what a real Canadian Conservative like John Diefenbaker would have to say about Jason Kenney's manifest dishonesty - not to mention his contempt for Parliament.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Help! - Library Voices

The Regina band Library Voices has had some troubles of late. Last year their instruments were stolen while they were on tour. Then, a few weeks ago, their new instruments and some other pieces of equipment were damaged and mostly destroyed by flooding in the basement of the Saskatchewan Cultural Exchange Society.

Apparently they have received many offers of donations to help defray the cost of new instruments and equipment. Since the band (which includes my dear one's cousin) "don't feel right taking anything without giving you something in return," they've recorded a cover of the Beatles classic Help! The download is free, but folk have the opportunity to make a donation to the band.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Should a pacifist be a soldier? Should a vegan be a butcher? ..................................... Should Orville Nichols be a Marriage Commissioner?

Several years ago, the Government of Saskatchewan created the office of Marriage Commissioner. The office was created to provide people with the choice of being civilly married without having to take part in a religious ceremony. Many clergy had been calling for some means for civil marriages because they had too many dealings with people who did not really want a church wedding but had no other option.

Now, not all people who choose to be married by a Marriage Commissioner are non-religious people. In some cases, people whose marriages violate the regulations of their own religious body (for example, a divorced Roman Catholic) may look to a Marriage Commissioner as a solution. But the majority of their clients either have no particular desire for a religious service or have a very deliberate desire for an entirely secular wedding.

In fact, there are restrictions which prevent a Marriage Commissioner from turning a civil ceremony into a quasi-religious event. You see, the office of Marriage Commissioner is not intended to be merely religiously neutral. It is intended to be not religious at all. No religious rules stand in the way of the happy couple so long as their intended marriage is valid by the civil laws of the Province of Saskatchewan and the Dominion of Canada.

This latest bit of neo-conservative asshattery dates back to 2004 when the Saskatchewan courts ruled that same sex marriages were legal. Shortly thereafter, Saskatchewan Justice informed all Marriage Commissioners that they would be obliged to solemnize gay marriages. At the time, the Government declined to offer a "grandfather clause" to exempt existing Marriage Commissioners from having to do their jobs due to their religious scruples.

In 2005, Marriage Commissioner Orville Nichols refused to solemnize a marriage between two men on the grounds that it violated his religious convictions. The matter ended up before the courts and, to date, every ruling has come down on the side of the couple.

Late last year, the new(ish) Saskatchewan Government asked the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal to consider the constitutionality of two potential pieces of legislation. One would provide an absolute right to any Marriage Commissioner to refuse to solemnize any marriage for religious reasons. The other would limit that exemption only to those who were already Marriage Commissioners prior to the Queen's Bench ruling in 2004.

Before I go on, let me be clear that I have always maintained that the Government could have "grandfathered" existing Marriage Commissioners at the time. I don't think that Marriage Commissioners had any right to be "grandfathered," but that it would have been within the Government's power to extend that consideration. It would have resulted in a legal irregularity, but it would have been a temporary irregularity.

That said, the time for such a "grandfathering" was in 2004 - 05, not five years on.

The idea that Marriage Commissioners should have a perpetual exemption from having to do their jobs is asinine from start to finish.

Let me go back to the essential point here.

The office of Marriage Commissioner was not designed to be merely religiously neutral. It was designed to be completely non-religious. No religious rules. No religious tests. No religious restrictions. No religion.

What we have here is a request that Orville Nichols should be allowed to keep a civil appointment even though he openly intends to use it to impose his religious views on citizens.

Would we be so understanding if a member of the Aryan Nations Church who happened to be a Marriage Commissioner refused to solemnize the marriage of a white man and a First Nations woman? I doubt it.

Would the Saskatchewan Party want to argue that the Canadian Forces should be required to accomodate the scruples of a pacifist? Or would they argue that perhaps a pacifist might consider a non-military career?

Would they want to force a meat processor to accomodate the scruples of a vegan who'd taken a job as a butcher? Or would they suggest that someone hired as a butcher should be prepared to cut meat or cut the strings?

Would we even be talking about this if it had been a Roman Catholic Marriage Commissioner who refused to solemnize the marriage of someone who was divorced? Not on your life.

The purpose of this entire legal circus is for the Saskatchewan Party to have a wedge issue that will play to a particularly rabid part of their base. There are a lot of people who don't care for equal marriage - and they mostly vote SaskParty.

This is the political equivalent of crying "fire" in a crowded theatre.

There is nothing which requires that Orville Nichols be a Marriage Commissioner. If he cannot fulfill the duties of the job due to religious scruples - a job which, I remind you, is not merely religiously neutral but statutorily non-religious - then he cannot be a Marriage Commissioner.

Shame on Brad Wall and Don Morgan and the whole lot of them for abusing our court system (and wasting the time of high priced Appeals Court justices) simply to play to the baser instincts of the crowd.

A hymn to "godless existentialism"

I've been meaning to post a brief essay about why the Wall government's plan to exempt marriage commissioners from having to do their jobs is pure ass-hattery. I promise I'll get to it.

In the meantime, I offer this to my fellow blogger Audrey at Enormous Thriving Plants.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

BRAVO ZULU Ruth Gledhill

Yesterday, the Diocese of Los Angleles welcomed Diane Jardine Bruce and Mary Glasspool as their new suffragan bishops. Normally suffragan bishops don't attract that much attention - especially internationally. Unless, of course, one of them has sleeping arrangements that fall prey to the particular obsessions of the Anglican Right.

Ruth Gledhill has written a brilliant article in The Times of London in which she challenges those who falsely inflate the sexuality issue and make it more important than real doctrines like the Incarnation or the Resurrection.

Some years ago, at the Greenbelt Christian rock festival that takes place every August Bank Holiday near Cheltenham, someone close to the Archbishop of Canterbury told me that a person’s view on homosexuality was now what defined them on the Christian spectrum. What this person of considerable authority and intellect was saying was that it was no longer possible to be both pro-gay and evangelical.

In other words, the infighting over homosexuality means that for the 77 million Anglicans worldwide, more important than the Resurrection, the Crucifixion, the Virgin Birth and the Trinity is what one person does in bed with another.


Sexuality figures nowhere in the creeds. It is not mentioned in the church’s liturgies. When godparents bear witness to a baby’s baptism they do not swear to help to raise the infant as straight.


Monday, May 10, 2010

A Naval Anniversary - or two

Last week saw ceremonies across Canada to honour the centennial of the establishment of the once-Royal Canadian Navy. The federal government announced the restoration of the executive curl on officers' rank insignia, a piece of tradition which had been lost when the RCN was subsumed into the generic Canadian Forces in 1968. Rumours now abound that HM the Queen (aka Mrs. Battenburg) may restore the royal designation to both the Navy and the Air Force when she drops by for a visit later this summer.

In Saskatchewan, where 40 percent of exports travel by sea and depend on maritime security, Premier Brad Wall signed a proclamation designating May 4, 2010 as "Navy Day in Saskatchewan." The first picture today shows the guard of honour from that ceremony.

Yesterday marked another naval anniversary of an entirely different sort. It was 125 years ago yesterday that saw the first naval engagement fought by a Canadian formation. Since this pre-dates the establishment of Canada's Navy by some 25 years, I should point out that the Canadian formation involved was the (not yet Royal) North West Mounted Police.

During the North West Resistance (or, as we called it when I was a lad, the Second Riel Rebellion), General Middleton devised a plan to have some number of his troops go down the South Saskatchewan River in the ferry Northcote and land behind the Métis fighters of Gabriel Dumont to enclose them in a pincer movement. On May 9, as Northcote sailed past their position, Dumont and the Métis strung a cable across the river and managed to take off the stack and wheelhouse. Northcote lost steerage way, drifted down the river past her designated landing point and eventually ran aground on the wrong side.

Canada's first naval engagement did not go so well for Canada.

But I'm not the only Saskatchewan sailor to have won the odd wager in the mess about the location of Canada's first naval battle.

(First photo from the Leader-Post. Second photo is of a contemporary hand-coloured lithograph taken from First Peoples of Canada.)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Saturday, May 1, 2010


May 1, in most of the industrialized world, celebrates workers and the Labour Movement.

We live in a time that many of the victories of Labour are under threat.

There really is only one solution.

Now, for your edification, here are two musical selections.

I actually prefer Billy Bragg's English rendition of The Internationale, but I find this one very appealing musically.

Besides, I'm offering Billy Bragg's musically appealing rendition of The Red Flag.