Various Veins

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Having taught history to a lot of students during my 34-year career, I believed and still believe it is important for Canadians, including those who come here from cultures other than British and French, to be made aware of events that shaped this nation.

I don't believe we should try to stop the clocks in the manner some citizens in Quebec have attempted to do since Rene Levesque raised the slogan, "Maitres cchez nous." There are events in our past that make many of us ashamed, residential schools, eugenic-sponsored sterilization, head tax on Chinese, forcing Japanese Canadians out of their homes in the west, to name a few. Change is necessary, something jihadists have yet to understand.

We are prone to tut tut such actions. It gives a sense of moral superiority over those who acted on outmoded attitudes. This is not fair to them. In their day they believed they were doing the right thing, just as today we act the same way on present principles.

Having read many books, watched many documentaries, poured over magazine articles about the great wars, I am not driven to go through it all over again, but I was startled by a passage in a Maclean's article last week.

"Could we do it again?"

The author interviewed John Manley, one-time deputy prime minister and holder of impressive titles still. "Presented with a calamity of sufficient urgency, gravity and clarity, Manley believes Canadians would once again rise to the challenge and willingly bear whatever sacrifices were necessary."

No quarrel with that. A few lines further on Manley is quoted, listing natural disasters that have happened in Canada, "Everyone would want to help."

It's the word everyone that reveals a lack of awareness. While many helped in Calgary's flood, there were looters who who took advantage of the chaos.

The rioting and looting in Vancouver after a hockey game shows how thin the veneer of civilization really is. The same behaviour happened in Montreal some years ago during a strike by police officers.

The article just before this one reveals how lacking in concern for others some Canadians can be. These are not opportunistic looters. They are the holders of public purse strings who could, and should provide medication for people with hepatitis C. This disease, according to the article, kills around 500 Canadians every year, more than any other single virus. Newly discovered drugs can cure the disease in many people in 12 weeks. The United States has a screening plan to provide numbers of people with Hep C. Canada does not.

The cost of one drug is $39,000, for another $55,000. Without a screening plan health care in Canada will not pick up the tab. People are dying. The only way to get coverage is to be part of a study, but there are no studies! Why not?

Why, if Canadians would want to help as Manley believes, are we not going to war against Hep C? Doctors say the disease can be removed from the world just as polio has been. The prices are out of individual reach because pharmaceutical companies must see a return on investments. Collectively, through taxes we could handle the cost of the war.

During World War II we bought war saving stamps and war bonds to finance the war effort. Those certificates paid us a dividend once the war ended. Even if there were no dividends for paying for the treatment of infected Canadians, the social costs of the disease, children left without parents for example, would disappear once it was conquered.

Canadians deny reality in another attitude that has swept the country over the course of the war in Afghanistan. We have attached the tag hero to buildings, highways, to honour the men and women killed in the war. We have cheapened the word that once described people who threw themselves as human shields, led daring assaults against withering gunfire, fell on an unexploded hand grenade to save comrades, risked death in war planes made of canvas and wire. The deserter running from danger who gets shot in the back is brought home with the same honours as those who performed truly heroic deeds.

Propaganda was recognized as lies in the days of Joseph Goebbels. We seem to be oblivious to it among ourselves.


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