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FIRST READING: Canadian schools ban a Nobel Laureate to avoid looking 'Islamophobic'

David Suzuki Foundation urges Canadians not to listen to David Suzuki

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First Reading is a daily newsletter keeping you posted on the travails of Canadian politicos, all curated by the National Post’s own Tristin Hopper. To get an early version sent direct to your inbox every Monday to Thursday at 6 p.m. ET (and 9 a.m. on Sundays), sign up here.

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TOP STORIES

Governor General Mary Simon got through her first Speech from the Throne today. There are no surprises (as would be expected after an election that changed nothing), and according to Sabrina Maddeaux , it was essentially a more monotone rehash of the Liberals’ campaign promises. More worrying to her, however, was how blasé it was about any number of economic crises currently striking Canada , from inflation to affordability to that whole problem where nobody can buy a home anymore.

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The David Suzuki Foundation has been placed into the uncomfortable situation of trying to distance itself from its founder and namesake after he said something nutty. “When David speaks publicly, he speaks on his own behalf – not for the David Suzuki Foundation,” the foundation said in an official statement issued after Suzuki said “pipelines will be blown up” unless governments halted their construction. Meanwhile, here’s a photo of Suzuki (and his substantial luggage) flying home from Victoria International Airport shortly after making the aforementioned “pipelines will be blown up” comments.

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Some good news from B.C. for a change! Just eight days out from its flood Armageddon, the province is doing an unexpectedly good job of restoring its washed-out links over the Rocky Mountains. To wit …

  • There are now two open highway routes connecting the Lower Mainland to the rest of Canada: Vancouverites can now drive to Calgary either by taking the Sea-to-Sky Highway via Kelowna, or by taking the Crowsnest Pass via Osoyoos.
  • The Canadian Pacific Railroad is set to begin running trains over the Rockies by tonight.
  • The Trans-Mountain Pipeline is set to restart operations by week’s end – just in time to rescue West Coast refineries that are beginning to exhaust their crude stockpiles.

The massive profile of a CC-177 Globemaster pictured after delivering search and rescue helicopters to B.C. for use in recovery efforts from last week’s floods.
The massive profile of a CC-177 Globemaster pictured after delivering search and rescue helicopters to B.C. for use in recovery efforts from last week’s floods. Photo by Abbotsford Police Department

The CRTC has officially begun hearings this week into Rogers’ planned $26 billion takeover of Shaw. In a country where telecommunications are already largely in the hands of just three companies (Bell, Rogers and Telus), the merger will eliminate one of the only competitors of note – and the only one headquartered in Western Canada (Shaw is based in Calgary).

Indian in the Cabinet, Jody Wilson-Raybould’s account of her eventful months as Minister of Justice under Justin Trudeau, is up for a Balsillie Prize for nonfiction. So, the National Post published an excerpt . In it, Wilson-Raybould relates how her ancestors defied Canada’s 66-year ban on potlatches, one of the core cultural traditions of Coastal First Nations . “Our people would disguise the Potlatch from the Indian agents that would travel to Kingcome by boat. They had lookouts along the way, on the shore. And when the signal came that the Indian agent was close by, those assembled would start singing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ to trick the agent into thinking they were just being ‘good little Indians.’”

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CULTURE WARS

The Parisian media have mentioned Canada! Unfortunately, it’s because the Toronto District School Board cancelled a book event with former Islamic State prisoner (and Nobel Peace Prize winner ) Nadia Murad on the grounds that it might promote Islamophobia. Or, as Le Figaro, one of France’s largest dailies, put it : “ Fearful of looking Islamophobic, Canadian schools cancelled an event with Nadia Murad .” Rex Murphy also had some thoughts on this whole affair.

Nadia Murad pictured at a 2018 event in Paris hugging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Nadia Murad pictured at a 2018 event in Paris hugging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo by Yoan VALAT / POOL / AFP

People keep attacking theatres in Toronto showing movies in the South Indian languages of Malayalam or Tamil . With the incidents mostly occurring in mainstream cinemas such as Cineplex, attackers are slashing screens or, in select cases, they’re bear-spraying the audience. As to motive, the going theory is that it’s a particularly vicious attempt by independent theatres to preserve their market share of South Indian film screenings.

DATA NERD

In a potentially unsurprising development, the number of Canadian job-seekers noticeably surged after the government stopped giving them free money . Following the end of the Canadian Recovery Benefit, the share of Canadians actively looking for work jumped to 30 per cent , up from 25 per cent the month before.

As Canadians prepare to celebrate the second Christmas under COVID-19, nearly half of them are fully prepared to ignore social distancing and other public health strictures . A Leger poll found that 45 per cent of Canadians plan to “greet others with a handshake, hug or kiss.”

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SOLID TAKE

The last week has seen many of the usual suspects (such as actor Leonardo DiCaprio ) endorse a series of illegal blockades that trapped up to 500 Coastal GasLink workers in remote camps (in the midst of catastrophic flooding, no less). Melissa Mbarki objects strenuously to the notion that these blockades are some noble act of Indigenous solidarity, writing that they’re largely the act of outsiders acting in direct opposition to the wishes of all but a small faction of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. Writes Mbarki, “My advice is to do a bit of research before obstructing a road or a train.”

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Writing for the Washington Post , J.J. McCullough came out in support of Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe’s recent declaration that his province should be recognized as a “nation within a nation” just like Quebec . McCullough’s gist is that if one of Canada’s 10 provinces is going to enjoy distinct status from the others, it shouldn’t be surprising when the other nine try the same thing. Meanwhile, one of the key Quebec counterarguments to Saskatchewan’s bid for nationhood is simply that they’ve been here longer: New France was founded in 1534 while Saskatchewan was founded in 1905.

This infographic from the Quebec subreddit explains the argument succinctly.
This infographic from the Quebec subreddit explains the argument succinctly. Photo by Reddit.com

As Canada ramps up plans to vaccinate its children against COVID-19, Anthony Furey writes that we should probably take a second look at the National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s extremely lukewarm assessment of the need to give kids the jab . The committee wrote that the “overall safety and effectiveness data are limited for children,” and repeatedly stressed the need to “respect” the wishes of any parents who wanted their kids to sit out the shot.

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