Canada isn’t the upstanding nation it used to be

Martha Muzychka
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This weekend, as I perused my various media feeds, I came across a story that finally brought a moment of incredible clarity for me regarding the status of women and research here at home and Canada’s reputation abroad.

Don’t get me wrong; there are many things I am grateful for about being Canadian and enjoying the quality of life that I do, especially after following the stories in Ukraine and Gaza.

No, what offered me this burst of clarity was reading yet another series of stories documenting, revealing or analyzing bad decisions made by the prime Minister.  

The first article revealed that in 2010, Prime Minister Stephen Harper decided that the Therese Casgrain Volunteer Award would be shelved and a new award, the Prime Minister’s Volunteer Award, would be offered instead.

For those who may not know, Casgrain was a Quebec feminist who successfully fought to get the vote for women in Quebec, an undeniable right that was finally achieved in 1970.

Even Casgrain’s family did not know of their scion’s demotion and dismissal as an icon of volunteerism. It was under review, but only recently did they learn it was gone.

To add further insult to injury, Casgrain was also removed from the $50 bill, along with the Famous Five, a total of six women who worked very hard to make a difference for women and to ensure social well-being in this country. Yes, adding someone’s face to a piece of currency is symbolic. But it speaks to so much more, leaving us with a nagging, horrible feeling that our very history and heritage are under siege.

The second story reported that the new census, which replaced the involuntary and purportedly super costly long form version, overspent its budget by more than $20 million and produced data so bad, it would be laughable if not for the fact that the interruption and loss of longitudinal data are so tragic.

The census debacle, and there really is no other word for it, continues to astonish and dismay.

Those of us who relied on reliable census data to develop meaningful public policy and programs were appalled when the government announced it was abandoning the compulsory long form census for a shorter, less onerous version. Since it wasn’t long nor required, went the Harper government rationale, more people would fill it out. I’m waiting to hear whether this example of poor reasoning will make it into the chapter on faulty logic in standard philosophy texts.

The data from the new census are so unreliable that Statistics Canada is not releasing much of it.  Statisticians reportedly describe the results as so inferior to the quality previously collected in a properly structured random sample that it will be next to impossible to use with any confidence. The thing that bites the most? The federal auditor general’s report says the new census cost the taxpayers $22 million more for data they can’t use.

The third article analyzed the meteoric fall of Canada’s stature in the international scene. We’ve gone from peacemaker to warmonger in less than 10 years, and the nadir of Canada’s poor standing appears to be our government’s failed bid to get a seat on the UN Security Council.

We are undergoing a sea change in our national identity, and I’m not sure if we are going to like the makeover when we wake up come election time.

What emerges from all these stories of late is a very specific pattern of behaviour that relies on stealth, misdirection and open disdain. The behaviour is clearly condoned, even initiated, by the Prime Minister’s Office.

It reminded me of a conversation I had a while ago. Though we normally eschew political chat, this particular day my friends and I turned to the federal Conservative leader’s agenda.

“It’s been too ugly for too long,” said one. That summed up the situation perfectly.

While we could argue that transparency, as evidenced in the media reports and commentary, will often lead to revelations that are unexpected and more than a little unpleasant, I think it’s better than ignoring best practices, dismissing solid, evidence-based research, and dismantling systematically a value base that has served Canada pretty well.

Martha Muzychka is a writer and researcher based in St. John’s. E-mail:

Organizations: Statistics Canada, UN Security Council.We

Geographic location: Canada, Quebec, Ukraine

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Recent comments

  • W Bagg
    July 29, 2014 - 22:57

    I'll put down as a Maybe supporter...

  • Claire Vermette
    July 29, 2014 - 22:52

    There is a pervasive peevishness that boarders on nastiness emanating from the PMO, not from the offices of hard working and sincere MPs. While daring to proclaim that the current government is a reflection of Canadian values the things that make Canada the nation it is are being stripped away. I share the despair of the author.

  • gerry
    July 29, 2014 - 10:15

    ' We’ve gone from peacemaker to warmonger in less than 10 years'....are you freakin' serious?!? Have you spent time imbedded with our troops in the former Yugo or A'Stan?!? Many of us who are/were in uniform seen some of the horror from those wars on its civilian populace; from murder & scarring of young children to actual genocide. After I returned from Bosnia I've actually had someone tell me that 'we (Canada) were only there for the oil''s the ignorant opinions from long haired armchair warriors that print their opinionated misleading half-truths the general public read that perpetuate erroneous myths & shocking falsehoods....

    • Russ
      July 29, 2014 - 11:43

      Let's see: Weve gone from being the number one contributer of peacekeepers in the mid-1990's, wth about 3,000 troops, to about 60. Fortunately we have Benin, Togo, and Ethopia, among 60 or 70 countries far out-ranking us. So, yeah, I guess she is freakin' serious.

    • KD
      July 29, 2014 - 11:58

      AFGHANISTAN?!! "Canada joined the US-led counter-insurgency in southern Afghanistan in 2005, eventually deploying more than 2500 troops to Kandahar Province. The mission was definitely not peacekeeping, since it lacked impartiality and went beyond the minimum use of force.25 Put forward by opponents of peacekeeping as a better fit for the Canadian Forces, the Afghan mission can hardly be described as a success. Indeed, in this author’s opinion, the security situation in Afghanistan is significantly worse today than it was in 2005." This is from the DND website.

  • J
    July 29, 2014 - 08:44

    Yawn. Nothing lasts forever. I don't hear us men bemoaning the fact that we don't have an award for the fellas who gave us the right to vote as Commoners less than a couple hundred years ago. As for the long form census, there are questions on that which are none of the Governments business and I should not be forced by threat of a crime for not filling it out. Warmonger? Really? Nothing to back up that comment with though. Not surprising. This is a letter for the uninformed masses.