Friday, July 18, 2008

We're All In This Together

The new television series on CTV and CBS

In his masterpiece, The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett needed to depict a culture vastly different from that of the late 20th century United Kingdom. He needed a scene to set the stage at the beginning of the book--a single dramatic scene--that told readers they were entering a barbaric world of cruelty and inhumanity.

He chose a hanging.

He described the tense anticipation of the gathering villagers, the boys eager for front-row position so they could see the noose go around the criminal's neck, hear his neck snap, and experience every twitch of the dying man's convulsing body. A hanging was first-rate entertainment in 12th century England. Back then, there were good guys, and there were bad guys. Bad guys got what was coming to them. Good guys got to enjoy seeing the bad guys suffer and die.

As it turns out, the entertainment choices in 21st century North America are not all that different from those of 12th century England. The last hanging in the UK occurred in 1964. The UK abolished the death penalty in 1969, and Canada followed suit in 1976. But south of the border, where most of our entertainment is manufactured, capital punishment is used frequently. After all, the criminals are bad guys. And it's a lot of fun to see the bad guys suffer and die. The American demand for retribution is a defining aspect of 21st century American culture. Crime dramas in the States must end with the criminal facing "justice."

Tonight, a movie director, David Frazee, needed to depict a culture very different from normal television fare. He had to create a cop show that did not appeal to our thirst for blood and our 12th century demands for "justice." He needed to depict a law enforcement culture that drew its very effectiveness and focus from the greater culture of its city and country.

He gave us Flashpoint.

The very last image of the show was not of an angry, unrepentant man being led in chains to the electric chair. We didn't even have the "satisfaction" of hearing a judge tell the bad guy he would be executed by lethal injection, or that he would spend the rest of his life in prison. The last image was of Sergeant Greg Parker gently placing his hand on a man's shoulder, one human being consoling another. The image was startling because the man Sergeant Parker was consoling, Jack Swanson, was the same person who hours earlier had almost killed a room full of doctors.

Every expectation we had going into the programme was shattered as the show progressed.

Sam Braddock, new to Toronto's Strategic Response Team and former special ops in JTF2, never misses a shot. But we learn police work is not about shooting. Sam, unfortunately, is from a very different culture, and he's a little slow to understand.

Sam Braddock: "Why don't we just take down the perp?"
Ed Lane: "He's a subject, not a perp."
Sam Braddock: "He's a guy with a gun."
Jules Callaghan: "He's a father in trouble."

The big guy from JTF2 who never misses a shot is not going to be much help on this first assignment, and Ed Lane knows what he has to do with the newbie. Picking up hospital blueprints, Ed tells Sam, "You need to walk down this hallway, through these double doors, down this set of stairs outside. Now this is dangerous, 'cause you have to cross a busy street to this Timmie's over here. I like two sugar, one cream."

This was not namby-pamby Caring Canucks versus Aggressive Americans (or American-influenced Sam). There were no group hugs at any time. In fact, I have a hard time imagining anyone hugging Ed Lane. The "man with a gun" was taken down in the usual way: disorienting explosive charges, lots of cops with guns converging, and lots of shouting while they put him in cuffs. He wasn't given counseling and sent home--he was sent to prison.

At one point, Sergeant Parker told the distraught man, Jack Swanson, "If I were in your situation I can't tell you I wouldn't do exactly what you're doing." This was not Toronto-speak for "There but for the grace of God go I." And Parker certainly was not saying that Jack Swanson's actions were in any way acceptable. But the Sergeant understood. And we did, too. If something bad enough happens to a "regular guy" he can "just snap" and make a bad decision. Any one of us could end up on the receiving end of a police sniper's rifle.

This series does not portray the superiority of Toronto police culture. Many police forces, even in the US, have specially trained negotiators. The United States military is training more of its soldiers in cultural sensitivity.

There is a long, long way to go. Only months ago, prisoners at Abu Ghraib were beaten, tortured, and forced by their American overlords to strip naked and perform sex acts. Capital punishment is widely performed and enthusiastically supported by the citizens of the US. Americans thirst for blood and humiliation in their entertainment, and in their justice.

Flashpoint is about a group of highly trained police officers trying to keep Toronto safe. It's not a show about American-style justice. Flashpoint is about a culture far removed from the cruelty and inhumanity of 12th century England and 21st century America.

Crime has not changed much over the millennia. Criminals' motivations have not evolved. But our response to crime can change. In the UK, in Europe, in Canada--in the civilised world--our response has indeed changed. We no longer execute our enemies. We act respectfully, even when leading a man in handcuffs to jail. We do not torture or degrade our prisoners, or make fun of their religious beliefs. Our response to crime is an indicator of who we are as a people and a culture.

Keeping our society safe at times may require that we use a rifle or a flash grenade. But the most effective means of keeping our society safe is to cultivate an awareness of and respect for those around us. We're all in this together. Flashpoint teaches us that. It's a lesson worth learning. And it's a lot of fun to watch!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

An Open Letter to Senator John McCain

Several weeks ago on LinkedIn, Senator John McCain, candidate for President in the US, asked this question:

What is the biggest issue facing America?

I am pleased to offer my response below.

Dear Senator McCain:

I think the biggest issue is the willingness to go beyond what many in our culture uphold as the "Virtue of Selfishness." As you... see more say on your website, you must be willing to give yourself to "a cause greater than your own self interest." I think in that simple phrase you have captured precisely the way in which all of us have to work to realign our personal, professional, and communal values.

I see many instances in your military and professional career that serve as excellent examples of serving a greater cause. Certainly your courage in North Vietnam for so many years is an example to all, and I have used your story many times in trying to instill an appreciation for the value of life, courage, and service in my son.

None of us is perfect, and I do not expect perfection. But there are two particulars in your record that I find troublesome. In 1998 you voted "guilty" on both articles of the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. While I think his affair with Monica Lewinsky was a terrible choice for himself and his family, I do not see how this affected the country to the degree that impeachment and removal from office was justified. I see the action to impeach as a desperate, politically despicable act that did much more harm to political climate and process than a small stain on a blue dress. I hold that a vote to impeach in this case may have been politically expedient, good in the short term for those in power in the Senate, but in the long run, damaging to your country.

Many will argue technicalities. Perjury was involved, and so on. The essential fact is that President Clinton had an illicit affair. While reprehensible, it did not warrant formal impeachment.

The second case involves your judgment on foreign policy issues. We now know that misleading information was submitted to the House and Senate to justify military action in Iraq. We were told for months that Iraq contained weapons of mass destruction. Information to the contrary was suppressed, even to the point that members of Mr. Cheney's office revealed the name of a CIA agent when her husband refuted the validity of evidence of nuclear weapons that had been fabricated by the Bush administration. Due to misleading and fabricated information, then, we have lost over 4000 of our friends and neighbours, and over 30,000 of our friends and neighbours are permanently disabled.

Your country has spent nearly 2 trillion dollars on a war that did not have to be, and that is not likely to bring any higher degree of stability to the middle east than existed before the military action you approved. Does the loss of 4000 lives and trillions of taxpayer dollars warrant at least an investigation into possible misleading and fabricated evidence? If these losses do not warrant investigation, what level of loss would you consider sufficient trigger for a formal investigation?

I will always admire you, Senator. But on the basis of your lack of good judgment in two areas that have brought disgrace to your country and pain to so many families, I cannot support your intentions for a leadership position in the Senate, and certainly not for the office of President.

Respectfully and With Best Regards,

Pearson Moore

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Negotiation, Not Revolution

The distinctive feature of Canada is simply this:
Canada is an idea forged in negotiation, not in revolution.

Fetons nos 400 ans!
Le quadricentenaire:
3 juillet 2008

It rained all morning today. Appropriate, since Samuel de Champlain’s records of the morning of July 3, 1608, indicate a hard rain. It was the day he founded his “Abitation.” It was the day he founded Québec. It was the day Canada was born.

A few seconds before eleven, the church bells began ringing all around us inside the walled city. No steady, monotonous rhythm, but bells of every tone, spanning octaves, running scales, hundreds of bells pealing without end. To this happy sound we added our cheers and shouts of “Felicitations!” The dignitaries around the statue—those whose hands were not gripping umbrellas—applauded. The enormous television monitor on the square showed us churches in Vancouver, Edmonton, and Toronto, all the churches across the country, ringing bells at this very moment.

As the bells pealed, I wondered about the significance of this event. How should it be remembered? Just what are we celebrating today?

The speeches began. The first, most appropriately, was by Grand Chief Max Gros-Louis, host of the festivities, and head of the Wendat (Huron) Nation, the nation that became Champlain’s closest ally. It was the tolerant culture of the Wendat Confederacy and that of their allies, the various Algonkin nations, that provided the foundation for Québec and Canada. South of the Great Lakes, the American Indians had significance only to the extent that they occupied land desired by the settlers; the indians were “savages” to be pushed off the land—by gunpoint if necessary. In Québec, Champlain and his men, it is true, referred to the Aboriginals as “sauvages.” But Champlain, in addition to desiring trade, was keen on understanding and adapting to First Nations culture and expectations. In the first years after his arrival, he dispatched men to live with and learn from the Wendat and the Algonkin. Within a year, he had established an alliance that positioned Canada as the most powerful nation in North America for the next 160 years.

As the speeches continued, I realised there were no official pronouncements about the subject of our celebration. “Fetons nos 400 ans!” was as official as it got. I found myself asking “Four hundred years of what?” Québec City? Québec? La culture québécoise? Canada?

The Prime Minister of France, François Fillon, had his say. He and Prime Minister Harper were the only two leaders of countries (en français: pays—pronounced “pay-EE” in English) present at the event. But M. Fillon addressed his remarks to “Monsieur le Premier ministre” Jean Charest, Premier of Québec. Now, to those outside Canada, the distinction between “nation” and “country” may not have any significance. In Canada a huge chasm exists between the meaning of the two words. Canada is one country composed of several nations (French, English, First Nations, Inuit, etc.). Foreign dignitaries, since 1967 anyway, have known that uttering the wrong word can get them ejected from the country.

Several times during M. Fillon’s speech, he referred to Québec as a pays. After he used the word the third time I half expected Stephen Harper to call the Mounties right then and there to haul the man away. At least the French leader didn’t shout “Vive le Québec libre!” as his predecessor, Charles de Gaulle, exclaimed in Montréal in the summer of 1967. De Gaulle might as well have said “People of Québec revolt!” Understandably, that very night, my namesake, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, appeared on nationwide television and basically declared de Gaulle persona non grata. De Gaulle left the country and was never invited back.

Fillon’s remarks were foolish and inappropriate, but they helped clarify my thoughts. My eyes are covered by the blinding scales of my upbringing in the land south of the 49th parallel, and I have great difficulty seeing what is clear and obvious to most anyone else not fettered in this way. But thanks to M. Fillon, I began to see more clearly.

In the 1600s an English lion laid an egg that in 1776 hatched as an American eagle. Everyone in the mid-1770s knew what was going to happen, and a third of the population of the thirteen colonies walked north, to what is now Ontario, because they wanted no part of illegal rebellion and treason. Another third of the population was loyal but couldn’t escape. The remaining third supported the rebellion, many half-heartedly, but not financially (“no taxation without representation” even from the first really meant in practice “no taxation, period.”), and a couple thousand underpaid, malnourished, poorly-equipped farmers under a Virginia plantation owner, with the help of several thousand disciplined French soliders, took on the entire British armed forces and somehow won their independence. All they wanted was freedom: freedom from taxation, freedom from government, freedom to “pursue happiness,” freedom from each other. In fact, they disliked each other so much, that for many years there was no unity among the thirteen nation-states, and only a very weak “Confederation” that ensured (or maybe “hoped”?) the state militias would come to each other’s aid in case of attack. A major source of state revenue was collected at border stations from visitors and tradespeople of the other states. It wasn’t until 1787—a full eleven years after the Declaration of Independence—that the thirteen nation-states, grudgingly consented to establish a federal government, and only because “the powers not delegated” to the federal government were “reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

In 1608 a French rooster came to the shores of the St. Lawrence River. A rooster, of course, does not lay eggs. Roosters are inquisitive creatures, though, and this particular rooster began to take up a conversation with a turtle and several other animals of the First Nations. Over the decades and the centuries, the animals in this conversation never lost their individual identities, but they decided to make the beaver their representative. The distinctive feature of this animal was her acceptance and encouragement of diversity, and her reliance on negotiation.

Thanks to Monsieur Fillon, I realised this today: Canada is an idea, ever changing and evolving. It is a healthy, radiant plant whose seeds were sown four hundred years ago in rich soil. While I am not in the habit of quoting Tory leaders, I think Prime Minister Harper summed it up best when he said, “Les graines semées ici il y a 400 ans aujourd’hui ont fleuri pour créer cette ville magnifique, une nation québécoise confiante et fière, et un grand pays canadien fort et libre.” [“The seeds planted here 400 years ago today have flowered to create a wonderful city, a confident and proud Nation of Québec, and a great Canadian country, strong and free”—the last words recalling the National Anthem’s invocation of the “True North, strong and free”]. And though it has changed over the centuries, it has maintained its essential identity and ideals, all the while growing stronger and more vibrant.

A few historians say Nouvelle France began on July 24, 1534, with Cartier’s claim. Many say Canada was born on July 3, 1608, the occasion we celebrate today. A few argue she was born on September 13, 1759, on the Plains of Abraham. Some American historians claim Canada went its own way on October 7, 1774, with the British Parliament’s Quebec Act, allowing the province to practice Roman Catholicism and French law—an “Intolerable Act” to the minds of the English-speaking WASPs of New England.

Perhaps most people would say Canada was founded on July 1, 1867, the date of Confederation, now celebrated as Canada Day. But a few hold out for April 9, 1917, at Vimy Ridge. Some historians say it occurred on December 11, 1931 (Statute of Westminster, granting equality to all Commonwealth parliaments), or January 1, 1947 (first granting of Canadian citizenship) or even April 17, 1982 (Patriation of the Constitution and establishment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms).

What I realized today, standing in the rain in the town square below the statue of Samuel de Champlain, is that the idea of Canada was not formulated and then implemented by force, as with the revolutionary ideas of 1776 or 1789. I was reminded of a well-known answer to the question regarding the nature of the two North American countries:

Q: “What is the difference between the United States and Canada?”

A: “The difference is that you fought for freedom; we requested it.”

The distinctive feature of Canada is simply this:
Canada is an idea forged in negotiation, not in revolution.

Any idea or invention must claim necessity—or nature—as its mother. Canada called her mother Aataentsic [“Ah-TEN-sick”]. But this invention also had a father—human kindness—which Canada called Iouskeha [“You-SKAY-ha”].

For a thousand years, the Iroquoian nations that became the Wendat Confederacy were the last northern outpost of agriculture. Nations to the north, on the Canadian Shield, could not sustain crops of any kind in the thin, rocky soil. They fished and hunted more than they needed, and brought the excess south, to the Wendat. The Wendat in turn planted and harvested more corn, beans, and squash than they needed, and kept generous reserves for the northern Algonkin nations. What occurred between these nations was more like an exchange of gifts than what we might think of as trade. The culture of all the nations involved in the exchange had an extreme bias toward generosity, to the point that selfish individuals were considered not only anti-social, but were berated for acting against the dictates of their religion and tradition. Extremely selfish individuals were considered to be acting illegally, and were officially branded and tried as witches. The exchange of gifts was carefully orchestrated so as to show greatest cultural sensitivity toward the other nations. Trust, cooperation, negotiation, and generosity were valued far above any other aspect of human interaction. Trade arrangements and military pacts were often sealed with the supreme demonstration of absolute trust: the exchange of children.


The rain seemed to intensify as the military parade passed by the statue of Champlain and down the steep avenue leading to the lower part of the walled city. Some of the individuals in the units—drawn from four hundred years of Canadian history—clearly did not like the rain pouring down on them. But drawing up the rear—the men and women in tan four-cornered Stetson hats, red serge jackets, black pants with yellow stripes, and brown riding boots—the Mounties—were uniformly expressionless or smiling. After all, there would be no such celebration again for at least another hundred years.


Into the midst of the tolerant and diplomatic Aboriginal cultures, Champlain arrived in 1608. Having worked for the Spanish Navy from 1598 to 1600, he spent months in the West Indies, several weeks in what is now Panama, and a full month in Mexico. He witnessed first-hand the way the Spaniards enslaved the Aboriginals, and vowed to have no part in this. He and his compagnie, more than even the other French, and much more than the British and Dutch traders, endeavoured to learn about and understand these new cultures. His closest lieutenants spent years living with and learning from their Wendat and Algonkin allies, and the Wendat began living with Champlain’s people.

I do not write through rosey-coloured glasses. The French—including Champlain—acted in many ways with an air of superiority and contempt. Champlain referred to his closest Aboriginal allies as “sauvages.” The Wendat and the Algonkin not only ritually tortured their captured enemies, but in many cases ritually consumed the dead bodies of enemy warriors. European law of the time specified punishments such as drawing and quartering, disembowelment, decapitation and mounting of heads, and torture of heretics, witches, and spies. In fact, within weeks of establishing Québec, Champlain believed one of his men, Jean Duval, to be plotting against him. He had the man killed and skewered his severed head on a tall pike for all to see. Theft, jealousy, murder, and all manner of vice occurred in both Aboriginal and French camps. The motivations of neither Wendat nor French were entirely pure, at any time.

Nevertheless, the dominant factors guiding the Huron-French Alliance were trust, tolerance, and negotiation. This alliance between vastly different cultures was something new to the world, and it resulted in a unique culture that has thrived and grown stronger over the last four hundred years.

The cooperation between Huron and French inevitably led to Governor General James Murray’s recognition of the tremendous value of québécoise culture, and his many years of vocal agitation in favour of French Canadian rights, resulting in the Quebec Act of 1774. Cooperation and mutual respect between French and British inevitably led to the shared government of anglophone legislator Robert Baldwin and francophone legislator Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine in 1842, with Baldwin at one point representing a riding in French-speaking Lower Canada (Québec) and LaFontaine representing an English-speaking Upper Canada (Ontario) riding.

A modern natural outcome of Canada’s emphasis on negotiation and diplomacy is Lester B. Pearson’s brilliant crafting of, tireless advocacy for, and careful implementation of a United Nations Peacekeeping Force, which successfully ended the Suez Canal Crisis of 1956. In return for giving the world this practical, non-violent means of ending armed conflict, Lester Pearson was awarded the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize.

Tonight, standing near the sparkling water of the St. Lawrence, we witnessed the most spectacular fireworks display since the Americans’ bicentennial in 1976. It seemed that at any given moment six or eight or fifteen radiant bursts illuminated the sky above us. Many times twenty or thirty rockets must have been exploding simultaneously, and during the finale the sky became a brilliant display of fifty or sixty shells all bursting at the same time.

Today, we celebrate four hundred years of rich culture and heritage. It is a proud heritage of nations in a great land, coalescing to form a radiant jewel of humanity.

Just what do we celebrate today?
We celebrate trust, cooperation, negotiation, and generosity.
We celebrate all that is best in the human tradition.
We celebrate Canada.

Pearson Moore
Québec City, QC
Le 3 juillet 2008

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

No Riding on the Grass

Culture comes in packages large and small. Sometimes it is the small package we most appreciate. And if the package is given and received without regard to cost, it is a gift to be savoured.

We arrived at the west lawn of Parliament Hill at 6:55 a.m. Our only neighbour at that early hour, a nurse from Ottawa, engaged us in discussions of her favourite city while Canadian Forces officers marked off precise lengths on the lawn in front of us. Others began arriving in small groups, one or two or three every few minutes, and by 7:30 a steady trickle of red and white-clad people began filling in the spaces on the rope line. By 8:30, we were at the front line of a sea of people extending back toward the gate and beyond, a solid mass of humanity, hundreds of thousands strong, six city blocks wide and two blocks deep.

On the pristine lawn in front of us, four police officers in black slacks with yellow stripes and green-gray shirts covered with black body armour rode their bicycles westward to prepare for the flag-raising ceremony. No riding on the grass! a man next to me shouted. The bicycle-mounted RCMP officer, a young woman, turned her head to look at the man, and flashed a beautiful smile. Everyone in the vicinity laughed, including the four RCMP officers, and they continued on their way across the grass.

In his introductory remarks on the 250th anniversary of parliamentary democracy in Nova Scotia, Dr. John Hamm, former Premier of Nova Scotia, spoke of the dangers facing Canada. To his mind, the greatest among these dangers was the possibility that hundreds of years of democratic tradition could be wiped out, not by enemies foreign or domestic, but by the apathy of this countrys own people. As Dr. Hamm noted, only twenty-five percent of young Canadians voted in the last election. If we do not exercise the privileges and traditions of our democratic heritage, he said, we are in danger of losing these most precious of the rights of man.

As we watched military units from four hundred years of Canadian history fill the lawn in front of us, another officer in black and gray-green walked by, greeted by a girl near the barricade. She rushed over to his side and he stopped just long enough for her father to snap a quick picture. The girl thanked him and they smiled as he continued on his way.

Canadians know well that their beloved RCMP last year tazered to death a defenceless man. Mounties have roughed up people who had committed no crime. RCMP officers, far from the Hollywood image, are human beings, no different from any of us.

This evening, as Diane Dufresne sang with spirit and energy, a young woman stopped an officer in black and gray-green. How do you salute? she asked. The officer raised his right arm, and palm out, drew his forearm back while simultaneously snapping his heels together. The woman tried, but her attempt was ragged. The RCMP officer demonstrated again, and the woman tried again. Though a big ragged, she mirrored the officer. You got it! he said for all around us to hear, and he moved on through the crowd.

They wear black and grey-green. And yet, even in this everyday attire, they carry themselves with the same dignity that they bear when dressed in formal riding boots, red serge jacket, and four-sided Stetson hat. The smile is the same. The bearing is the same. And the reaction of those they serve and protect is the same, too.

As Blue Rodeo and a dozen other artists on the huge stage led the million Canadians in front of them in a spirited rendition of the National Anthem, I did not even try to suppress my tears. Today, I realised, I was witness to gifts even greater than the gift of democracy. In this land of Peace Order and Good Government, a love affair continues. This love story began over 120 years ago. It is a love grounded in the founding principles of 1867 and the friendship of LaFontaine and Baldwin and four hundred years of Aboriginal-European cooperation. And just as the bond between francophone LaFontaine and anglophone Baldwin was the inevitable result of an identity as Siamese Twins, the affection Canadians show for their beloved Mounties is no aberration.

Tonight, watching the fireworks explode above the Peace Tower, I knew I was in Canada, where I belong. I knew this not because of the Governor Generals speech, nor the adrenalin rush of the Snowbirds thunderous flyover, nor the displays of pomp and pride. I knew I was in Canada because a woman on a bicycle had a sense of humour and a man with broad mustache had time for an adoring girl. I knew I was in Canada, because teaching a woman how to execute a perfect palm-out salute had the same importance as crowd control and security. I knew I was in Canada because this is the place where women and men, even in their imperfection, are granted respect and affection simply, even if they are on bicycles and not on horses. The affection and respect are not given because of the patch on their arm that says RCMP-GRC. The affection and respect are the result of a simple truth: These women and men, though drawn from every background and social sphere, have pledged to uphold not only the law, but the culture of a great land. And in this, the ordinary becomes extraordinary. The fleeting and insignificant acquires the durability of centuries and significance to subsume all thought and speech.

Today, the smiles of three Canadians meant more than fireworks, music, and ceremony. Today, I appreciated the small gift that is the greatest gift: spending time with people who have built a great and enduring culture. Today, I celebrated with Canada.

Pearson Moore
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada Day 2008