Monday, May 17, 2021, The Globe and Mail

There’s an elephant in the room we call Canada: our Charter’s notwithstanding clause.

Agreed to in 1981, the clause – which allows any Canadian government, federal or provincial, to override certain elements of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms – was a uniquely Canadian compromise. It was controversial from the start. We believe in civil and human rights for all, don’t we? On the other hand, in 1981, few of the nervous leaders who signed on thought it would be used often, if at all. They stressed the positive – in particular, the belief that it balanced the respective powers of Parliament and the judiciary. Furthermore, there were safeguards: It contained a five-year sunset clause, and a displeased electorate could throw out a government that sought to diminish basic freedoms. [more]

Monday, April 19, 2021, The Globe and Mail

In full democracies, which are characterized by independent judiciaries, the foundation of a criminal prosecution is that an individual – not the environment in which he or she lives – is on trial. Yet it has become common to suggest, as in the George Floyd case, that the United States is in the prisoner’s dock rather than Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on Mr. Floyd’s neck. “The trial of America,” it’s being called.

It’s understandable that many believe this, given the long history of racism in the United States. Anyone who has followed the recent maelstrom surrounding the killings of young Black men at the hands of police cannot help but be appalled. The reporting on the danger of “driving while Black,” for example, has shocked many. If you have visited the new Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, as I have, you may have come away disturbed and subdued by exhibits that cover subjects including enslavement, public lynchings and today’s mass incarceration of Black men. One fears what might happen if the jury finds Mr. Chauvin not guilty in the death of George Floyd; one wonders how much this knowledge weighs on that jury. [more]

Friday, February 19, 2021, The Globe and Mail

“He who controls the present controls the past. He who controls the past controls the future,” wrote George Orwell in his iconic work, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Or, put differently, as I asked in my book, Long Shadows: Truth, Lies and History, who gets to decide what happened yesterday?

Orwell’s statement, and my question, were written upon a subliminal screen that hovered over the U.S. Senate chamber last week. For what took place in that famed history-soaked room was a critical contest of competing narratives about how Americans, and the world at large, will understand the country whose myth making describes itself as “the city on the hill,” as an example to everyone of how they should live and govern. [more]

The healing of America must start with holding Donald Trump accountable for his actions

Wednesday January 27, 2021, The Globe and Mail “The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated.” – Robert H. Jackson, opening address at the Nuremberg trials in November 1945 Although the […]

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A rigid belief in freedom is driving France and the U.S. to tragedy

Monday November 16, 2020, The Globe and Mail When my children were young, derisive “Newfie” jokes were all the rage. I didn’t allow them in my house; I’d lived in France as a student and learned enough about pre-war history to know that plural societies can exist peacefully only within an ethos of mutual respect. […]

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