By: Puneet Riar, Alumnus
In the last couple of months, British Columbia’s politics has been acting the way a grade seven class acts when the teacher hasn’t photocopied enough handouts and steps out to print off more – chaotic. Backstabbing, resignations and expulsions have dominated newspaper headlines across the country and it seems that this whole situation will carry on in the year 2011.
On October 7, Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson was expelled from the British Columbia New Democratic Party caucus (he now sits as an Independent) for criticizing a speech BCNDP Leader Carole James made to the Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention—and indirectly, criticized her leadership. A few days after that, on the 15th of October, the caucus (party) chair Norm Macdonald resigned from his position, the reason being that James failed to consult him on Simpson’s discipline. Following Macdonald’s resignation, on November 19th caucus whip Katrine Conroy also resigned, stating the same reason as Mr. Macdonald’s.
If this wasn’t bad enough, things really started to get worse as the days went on. Before the November 20th NDP Provincial Council (deliberative body to discuss issues within a party; includes reaffirming confidence in the party leader), the caucus revolt came to light when three MLAs (Jenny Kwan, Claire Trevena and Lana Popham) met with Carole James in Vancouver and quietly gave her a letter signed by 13 NDP MLAs—dubbed the “Baker’s Dozen”—stating that they had lost confidence in her as a leader. Ignoring this, James went into the provincial council in Victoria and managed the approval of 84% of the council, rejecting a motion for a leadership convention next year. Pro-Carole scarves were being handed out at the council, though the “Baker’s Dozen” refused to wear them to show solidarity in their dissent.
Fast forward to December 1st: leader of the “Baker’s Dozen” Jenny Kwan (Vancouver-Mount Pleasant MLA and one of the longest serving BCNDP MLAs) released a statement, saying that James was “dividing the party by staying on as leader” and that “under James’ leadership, debate has been stifled, decision making centralized and individual MLAs marginalized”. The statement also called for an immediate leadership convention. In response to the scathing statement, James scheduled an emergency caucus meeting for December 5th but was indefinitely postponed so private discussions could be held with the “Baker’s Dozen”. Coming out of these discussions was a statement of solidarity: if James tried to eject even one member of the dozen out of the NDP Party, she would have to remove all 13 of the members—that’s 40% of the party. Under law, these 13 could actually form their own party!
To add scandal to the situation, Kwan also condemned a “backroom deal” of former cabinet minister and party president, Moe Sihota, being paid a $76,000 salary by unions. Kwan alleged that James knew about this deal for a long time but had just revealed it to the party around the beginning of December. “There should be no place in today’s politics for such backroom deals,” said Kwan; irony in my opinion.
Taking the infighting no more, 7-year Leader Carole James surprisingly resigned on December 6th, stating that her decision had been made “in the best interests of British Columbians, who expect and deserve a functioning Opposition”. James will stay on as leader until a new leader is chosen. No date has been set yet for this.
While the NDP seems to be in the spotlight, within the British Columbia Liberals, Premier Campbell also made the headlines when he resigned on November 3rd amidst a 9% approval rating and the implementation of the HST. He will also stay on as premier until a new leader is chosen on February 26, 2011.
Barely two months ago, the NDP was revelling in a massive lead in the polls against the Liberals. In a mid-October Angus Reid poll, 49% of British Columbians would have voted NDP compared to the 24% for the Liberals. The Mustel poll out on December 17, however, gives the Liberals a five point lead over the NDP, 41 to 36. So far, candidates to replace Campbell are: former Education Minister George Abbot; former Health Minister Kevin Falcon; former Attorney General Mike de Jong; former Minister of Regional Economic and Skills Development Moira Stilwell; and the favourite Christy Clark, a former BC Liberal cabinet minister. On the flip side, no public statements have been made, but Fraser-Nicola MLA Harry Lali, Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth, and our own Vancouver-Kingsway MLA Adrian Dix are all suspected contenders of the NDP leadership.
Things like this don’t usually happen in BC. With party discipline so rigid, members of a party rarely vote on their own opinions, let alone try to boot their leader out of her position; it is really crazy for all this to happen. With both leaders soon to be gone, both parties will be able to start fresh and redefine themselves by the next election. Even so, the Liberals seem to have a slight advantage: with the BCNDP crisis, they could point out to the electorate that the party is not fit to run government if it can’t even run its own party. What the NDP party needs now is a leader that can bridge the gap between the James dissenters and supporters, whereas the Liberals simply need a leader, because at this point any one is better than “Gordo”. NDP strategist David Schreck accused the “Baker’s Dozen” and Jenny Kwan of “blowing up the party” and “destroying their chances of beating a reinvigorated Liberal party in 2013.” Within the NDP, some say that the firing of Bob Simpson was right, but I have to disagree. I believe that the opposing party to James should not be silenced. Within a democracy, questioning and disagreement with authority is allowed. It is not just the majority who matters, but the minority as well. As Edward R. Murrow’s once said, “we must not confuse dissent with disloyalty”.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/blackbird_hollow/2893862600/ Carole picture
http://www.flickr.com/photos/claytonperry/5145345354/ Gordon picture
By Jenn Lin, Alumnus
In July 2010, France ratified a bill titled, “the bill to forbid concealing one’s face in public.” This law is commonly referred to as “the anti-mask law,” or more controversially, “the burqa ban”.
The anti-mask law prohibits the wearing of any face covering that would conceal one’s identity in most public spaces; those who violate this law will be fined up to €150 and will be required to take a citizenship course. Despite the fact that it ultimately impinges upon the freedom of Muslim women to wear what they choose, the issue stands that implementing this law is a matter of security. In a post-9/11 world that has to deal with global terrorism, identity is taken very seriously; wearing anything that hides your identity and refusing to remove it in certain circumstances (e.g. when using a passport to verify your identity at border crossings and at airports) can be considered a threat to state security. Nowadays more countries like France are going ahead and making facial coverings illegal in certain public situations.
Anti-mask laws are not an entirely new phenomenon. In the state of New York, for instance, wearing identity-concealing masks during a public demonstration (a specific setting) has been illegal since 1965. This law mainly applies to members of the Ku Klux Clan who wear white pointy-shaped hats as well as anarchists who wear bandanas. Although there was an attempt to appeal this law in 2004 based on the idea that it violated Klan members’ free speech rights, the judges ruled that it did not.
It is important to note that, unlike the United States, France is a highly secular state. France has committed itself to creating laws without trying to accommodate religion (see: theory of evolution and high school textbook controversy in the US). For instance, in September 2004, the wearing of ‘conspicuous’ religious symbols in French state schools was banned. This includes religious symbols such as Jewish skullcaps, the Muslim headscarf, large Christian crucifixes, and Sikh turbans. In France they call the separation between church and state “la laïcité”, and it is based on a law that dates back to the early 1900s. This commitment to separation is why you are more likely to see a country like France implement legislation such as the anti-mask law and anti-religious symbol law.
An anti-mask law or a law banning religious symbols in schools would be more difficult to pass on a federal level in Canada, given that the right to religious freedom is entrenched within our Constitution – not to mention the right to education and freedom from discrimination. That is not to say that the anti-mask law has not been met with violent opposition in France or that similar legislation is not currently in the making in some Canadian provinces.
In response to the law regarding the banning of religious symbols in public schools, Iraqi militants threatened to kill two French journalists who were being held hostage in Iraq at the time if France did not revoke the law. France stood firm and the militants eventually released the journalists after 124 days.
In Quebec, controversial legislation regarding identity and government services was introduced in March 2010. If passed, it would mean that a person would not receive government services such as education and health care if they chose to conceal their faces. They also would not be able to work in the public sector or do business with government officials unless they removed their coverings. As well, two Muslim women in Quebec have already been expelled from school this year as a consequence of refusing to remove their veils.
To conclude, the issues of identity and security, church and state are complex. The state exists to protect its citizens; however, it cannot do that if citizens themselves refuse to show their faces. But if passing anti-mask laws means that some people lose an aspect of their liberty or their freedom to express their religion – does the state still have that right? Should governments make exceptions? Or should governments adopt France’s motto of la laïcité and maintain a complete separation between church and state? Do you personally agree with the anti-religious symbol law? And finally, will the implementation of these controversial identity laws create peace and safety between people and their governments? Or paradoxically, more conflict?
*** Feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions on the Word website and please remain respectful of other students’ opinions if you do choose to do so. ***
 Braasch, Sarah. “Lift the Veil, See the Light.” The Humanist Magazine. September/October Volume 70: 5. Print.
 Referring to the law as a ‘burqa’ ban is misleading; the law applies to all face coverings, but the media tends to sensationalize matters. Apparently, there is actually no mention of the word ‘burqa’ in the law itself.
 Knief, Amanda. “Liberté, Egalité—de Féministes! – Revealing the Burqa as a Pro-Choice Issue.” The Humanist Magazine. September/October Volume 70: 5. Print.
 “Appeals Court allows N.Y. anti-mask law.” CNN. 24 Jan. 2004. Web. 15 Oct. 2010. <http://www.cnn.com/2004/LAW/01/20/rights.klan.reut/>
 “French journalists freed in Iraq. BBC News. 13 Dec 2004. Web. 15 Oct. 2010 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4115975.stm>
 “Quebec niqab bill would make Muslim women unveil.” The Toronto Star. 25 Mar. 2010. Web. 15 Oct. 2010. <http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/785036–quebec-niqab-bill-would-make-muslim-women-unveil>
 “Niqab gets 2nd Quebec student expelled.” CBC News. 12 April 2010. Web. 15 Oct. 2010. <http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2010/04/12/montreal-niqab.html>
By: Jenn Lin, Alumnus
Despite all the political controversy the Olympics has brought to town over the last couple months, I think we can all agree that there was definitely an uplifting wave of comradery and patriotism that swept over a good portion of us Vancouverites. Whether you were taking a walk down a jam-packed Robson street or riding the Skytrain during any given day, you were guaranteed to see at least a dozen pairs of red mitts and hear at least one full-fledged attempt at the Canadian anthem. Witnessing thousands of people cheering in the streets because Canada won a gold medal was just something you didn’t see everyday – etc., etc. To be brief, it was as if the Olympics spontaneously brought out this whole other side to Vancouver that I had never seen before. When people get together with a goal in mind – in this case, to cheer Canada on – great things happen.
Capitalism: A Love Story (120 mins)
Directed & Produced by Michael Moore
Review written by Jenn Lin, Alumnus
It strikes me as obvious that most teenagers will not choose to see this movie on a Friday night. That much is incredibly evident when you realize that it is two hours long and that it does not have any vampires or Transformers in it. And even though the title mentions the words, “love story,” it is more of a tragedy than anything. Yet I feel compelled to write this review because what is said in this documentary affects us all.