Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Yes, no, no

Some quick thoughts this morning, prompted by a quick glance or two at The Globe and Mail...

Maher Arar has endorsed the report on the events leading to his deportation to Syria for torture, and recommending more oversight for the RCMP who, to the nation's shame, were instrumental in getting him there. "We live in a great country," said Arar. Truly, can there be any finer words, or a greater reward, than to know that your country hasn't just swept an inconvenient truth under the rug, but has acted on it, admitted its error, and put changes in the works? Can anything make you feel better about home than to know that human beings really do matter, and that the country has stood by its principles and stood by the people?


The Ontario Muncipal Board has approved the expansion of a private school in the Annex. Some of the local residents are upset. Apparently, the school caters to some 400 boys and they don't like the buses and traffic in "their" neighbourhood. This, despite the fact that Royal St. George's College has existed there for over 40 years (how many of the residents of the Annex bitching about it can say that, I wonder?).

This is kind of thing that really gets on my nerves about these people. We're not talking about a rendering plant or a missile factory or something here. We're talking about a school. It seems the the late, sainted Jane Jacobs, no less, opposed the expansion and suggested that sometimes institutions grow too large for their neighbourhoods and should move out. Who gets to decide this? What if the same people decide an institution's gotten too ethnic for their liking? After all, why stop at unsightly buses? Maybe you don't like seeing people in veils or yarmukles either.

The school and the people it serves have the same right to enjoyment of property and use of the neighbourhood as anyone else. The people and the Province of Ontario — to whom the neighbourhood really belongs — have made that clear. And if you don't like it, hey, it's a free country. Move. And take your speed bumps with you.


Murray Mollard of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association complains that new laws on voter ID go too far. It seems that having to produce a government photo ID or two pieces of approved ID that establish name and residency is asking too much of a voter. Canadians move around a lot, he says. Some people don't have drivers licences. Students and the homeless might be disenfranchised.

Clearly his heart's in the right place, but my God, is this some thin gruel. Producing a driver's licence in this day and age does not exactly qualify as a hardship or a disenfranchisement; virtually anyone can get one. And for those who can't, every province (as far as I know) offers a government ID card for just such eventualities.

If you move around, you better believe you'd better get your driver's licence in order... not to mention getting right with your bank, employer, creditors, and so on. Obviously, people manage this on a daily basis. If you happen to move during the one week (out of an average of 200-250 or so) in which a federal election falls and can't manage it, you probably have more on your mind than voting anyway. Showing up with your photo ID portion of your licence and your new temporary slip would probably suffice anyway. As for the homeless, how would they wind up on the voter's roll in the first place? Where would enumerators go to find them?

I agree that some people are bound to slip between the cracks. But voting is a right, not an obligation. And allow me to be blunt: it's possible to disenfranchise yourself. Given the electoral shenanegans we've seen going on just south of the border, I'm all for tightening the bolts a little. You need more ID just to open a savings account for your nine-year-old than this legislation asks for to decide the governance of an entire nation. If that means showing up with nothing more than just about everyone always have in his or her wallet anywhere, anytime, I'm fine with that.

P.S. Notice that neither a driver's licence nor proof of residency actually establishes the elector is even a citizen, though; anyone who's been in the country six weeks could produce this "proof". Amazing that citizenship is regarded that cheaply on such a practical matter in a land currently having bowel cramps over the fact that a prospective prime minister happens to have a second citizenship, isn't it?

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