Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sex education in schools is necessary

The province of Ontario recently introduced a new sex education curriculum. This has not been updated since 1998. The new curriculum is actually only one component of the health and physical education curriculum (

An interim version of the new curriculum was introduced in 2010, but was quickly withdrawn after numerous protests, particularly by religious groups. This time the provincial government is going to go ahead in spite of any objections. No changes are allowed.

In the new curriculum, which is largely unchanged from the earlier version, Ontario students will learn the proper names for body parts in Grade 1, which in some provinces takes place even earlier. And they will begin discussing the changes associated with puberty in Grade 4, as is the case in many other provinces.

Students in Ontario will learn about sexually-transmitted infections in Grades 7-8, which is taught earlier than in most other provinces; while sexual orientation, identity, and gender stereotypes will be introduced in Grade 9, although some of this is later than in other provinces.

Quebec is the only Canadian province without a mandatory sex education program, although teachers are urged to integrate the topic into other courses, according to the guidelines of the Quebec Ministry of Education, which is similar to the regulations that exist in other provinces.

Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals presents the revised Health and Physical Education curriculum

Religious groups, predictably, are opposed to parts, such as masturbation and gender identity, of the new Ontario curriculum. But most people are prepared to accept it, with some notable exceptions such as Campaign Life, which objected strongly to the 2010 document because it views sex as a purely recreational activity whose purpose is pleasure, apart from love or marriage, which are not mentioned at all in the new curriculum.

Consent has become an important, but touchy, issue for this curriculum. An emphatic "yes" has now replaced the old mantra of "no means no." But in order for consent to work, everyone has to know what they are doing., and that requires sex education.

Now, in the digital age, sexting also needs to be discussed with students. That requires not only sex education but also education about the laws relating to the dissemination of child pornography. 

Sex education can be a deterrent to pornography. According to the British TV program The Sex Education Show (, which was intended for teens and discussed sex very frankly, British teens watch an average of 90 minutes of porn a week. Even that percentage may have been understated. 

This is an example of the frankness of the British program

Today even very young children have access to images that are a billion times more explicit than what was available a few generations ago. I remember when the only "girlie" magazines available had the genitals of women airbrushed out.

Many in my generation received little or no sex education at school. We were supposed to learn that from our parents, but before they could or dared to get around to it, we had already picked up a lot of (mis)information from our peers. The generations that followed have fared better, but even they did not get all the information (or the porn) that is available today on the Internet

Parents ought to teach sex education to their children, but they are sometimes incapable or unwilling to discuss these issues. In many countries of the world, sex is an embarrassing topic for a lot of parents. When I lived in Russia, there was a joke that in the Soviet Union there was no sex.

So who should do it? The schools. Parents should be involved as well, but they can impart values, such as love and marriage, that may be lacking in the new sex education curriculum, or reinforce those that are there. Schools cannot be limited only to facts. Values need to be integrated, and indeed are as a reading of the new curriculum will show. But they may need to be supplemented or corrected.

If parents are concerned about or offended by certain parts of the new curriculum, they have the option of opting out on behalf of their children. Although the curriculum itself is mandatory, not all parts require the attendance of all students. And, as in other parts of the curriculum, teachers will have to provide materials to meet the goals set by the curriculum. Parents can possibly help there.

While I do not agree with everything in the new curriculum, it has brought the subject of sex education into the digital age and it allows teachers, with the cooperation of parents, to deal with many matters in an open and frank way. 

That is why I support sex education being taught already in elementary schools. By the time students get to high school it is too late for many, since they are often already sexually active.

I am not an elementary school teacher. My teaching experience is limited to the university. But I have been a parent (and still am), and I now have grandchildren who need sex education. Even though the latter live in other countries, I hope that they will get the education they deserve. 

The frankness and openness about sex education that is revealed in the new Ontario curriculum and the British program are encouraging. I wish that such tools had been available when I went to school. 

But that was another age entirely, My grandchildren all have their own smart phones and tablets. They have tools and technology that were unavailable to earlier generations. But these tools carry with them enormous responsibilities for parents and schools. 

As a Christian, I am deeply concerned about what is happening in society. Like many people, I can sometimes feel a bit apprehensive about current developments, but technology can also be used for good, as indeed can nearly everything in creation. Few things are inherently evil. Pornography has perverted something that is good.

Sex can indeed be a great blessing. We must not let pornographers steal this rich gift and use it for their own profit. Sex, as the British program reminds us, is not only for reproduction but also for recreation. Thus it can and should be fun for everyone. 

Not everyone will agree with me on the role of schools, just as not everyone will agree with the new Ontario sex education curriculum, but everyone must agree that sex education is necessary. Let's discuss our disagreements openly and honestly.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Why Bill C-51 Should Be Defeated

Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.-- Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Here is the low down on Bill-51, a dangerous bill that ought to be defeated, but instead will be passed, and also the politics behind it. I am against it, and invite everyone to protest it before it become a criminal act to do so. Soon we can all be labelled terrorists if we disagree with government policies.

Q What is Bill C-51?
A.Bill C-51, also known as the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, is described officially as:"An Act to enact the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel Act, to amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts."

Bill C-51 is intended to create more security for Canadians by, among other things, granting almost unlimited powers to CSIS, the Canadian spy agency. It explicitly gives CSIS the right to contravene both the law and the Constitution’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It has also been called "secret police" act.

Whether this bill will achieve the objective of providing greater security, and at what cost are issues that need to be discussed, but will  largely be disregarded, especially in an election year.

Q Why is this bill being introduced now?
A After the attacks in Quebec and Ottawa, where two soldiers were killed, in the latter case by a supposed terrorist who also entered the Parliament building, the government argued that the security of Canadians is being threatened.

We are at war and face a massive terrorist threat, according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He is playing the fear card in the lead up to this year's election. Unfortunately, many voters are susceptible to this fear mongering as polls have shown.

The problem is that we are not at war, except in Iraq, where our current commitment to fighting ISIS is leading to mission gallop and the introduction of ground troops by Canada. But even that will not threaten Canadians at home.

Acts of terrorism can be a threat, but existing anti-terror laws already suffice. Bill C-51 is therefore unnecessary. Expanded powers for CSIS will only further erode the rights of Canadians under the Charter, making it very dangerous.

Q How will this bill further erode Charter rights?
A Bill C-51 will make it an offence to advocate or promote "the commission of terrorism offences in general." The Criminal Code definition of "terrorism" (Section 83.1) refers to acts that are already illegal, but are committed for "a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause."

The bill attacks the civil rights of all Canadians, and places the protections guaranteed by the Charter under the shadow of wider powers to interfere with lawful and legitimate conduct. It expands the definition of threats to national security and add to the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

This bill would allow a judge to impose up to a year of house arrest on someone who has neither been convicted nor charged with any crime. The judge could also require that the target wear an electronic bracelet. The only requirement in the bill is that police produce satisfactory evidence this person “may” commit a terrorist offence.

In Canada, it’s already a crime to plan or support terrorist activity. And the police already possess legal methods to disrupt planned terror attacks. But the new law will extend the powers of CSIS further than that.

In addition to these broad new powers, what does “terrorism in general” mean? It can mean anything the government wants it to mean. Under the new law people, can be detained for suspicion, even if they have not committed a crime. 

Will it criminalize speech by making it illegal to promote "terrorism."? According to Harper, promoting terrorism will become a criminal offence for anyone, regardless of age.

Look at France, where an eight-year-old schoolboy was arrested because he told his teacher that the terrorists were right. Will the same thing happen in Canada? 

Q.What should be done with Bill C-5?
A This bill should be rejected. But since the Conservatives have a majority in the House of Commons and the Liberals have already agreed to support it, it will easily pass.  

The only hope for those who are opposed to Bill C-5 is to amend it. Here are some amendments that have been suggested,, and that I have modifies and supplement:

--Include strong safeguards for Canadians, including a dedicated, high-level Parliamentary committee to oversee our spy agencies. The committee that is tasked with providing oversight over CSIS has not only experienced delays in getting any necessary information but has also been lied to by CSIS. This is not a good omen for the future.

--Strip out the attacks on civil liberties, including the sweeping expansion of spy powers, criminalization of speech, and preventative arrest for those who have committed no crime. Who gets to decide when a supposed crime has been committed?  And how can we trust these people to make such decisions without proper oversight?

--Clarify the vague parts of the bill, to be certain it will only be used to target people who pose a violent threat to the lives and physical security of people. Again, without proper oversight, who can protect those who have been arbitrarily arrested, or maybe picked on because of their ethnicity or other identifying characterization? 

--Add a sunset clause that would cause the laws it proposes to expire automatically unless they were resubmitted and passed again. Otherwise, Canada would have legislation similar to the infamous War Measures Act that was first enacted in 1914 and not repealed until 1988. This act suspended the civil rights and personal freedoms of both Canadians and non-Canadians, and was used during WWI and WWII, as well as the 1970 October Crisis. Never again!

Stephen Harper introduces the ant-terrorism bill


Bill C-51 is a dangerous bill that needs to be defeated, but will probably pass with only a few minor amendments.  However, amendments are not enough. This bill should either be withdrawn or defeated. Since neither are likely, all Canadians must seek to defeat the current government and thus assure that this bill is removed by the next government.

Harper has admitted that the proposed measures would probably not have prevented the killings of the two soldiers in October. If that is the case, why is he pressing for this bill if not to use it as wedge issue in the upcoming election? The Conservatives may win through the fear that it capitalizes on, while the opposition parties do not want to seem weak and unwilling to fight terrorism. Only the NDP will probably introduce any amendments.

The Conservatives will use Bill C-51 in order to win re-election. This may yet become the main plank of their election platform. And Harper will continue to play the "terrorist" card in order to frighten people, but Canadians must be determined to say, "Enough is enough!" and kick him and his party out of office.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Is Death a Right?

"Death: a basic right" was the headline in The Toronto Star after the Supreme Court of Canada made its historic and far-reaching decision to allow assisted suicide. The articles claims that "desperately suffering patients have a constitutional right to doctor assisted suicide."

Contrary to media reports, the court did not strike down the law against physician-assisted suicide. There is no such law. It simply rendered the criminal prohibition invalid. The existing criminal prohibition said that everyone who aids or abets a person to commit suicide is guilty of an indictable offence. 

The court has given Parliament exactly one year to find a way to exempt doctors at the very least from this prohibition. Aside from the question of why doctors should be exempted, the court did not declare assisted death to be a right. 

On the contrary,the court carefully hedged any new law. The ruling limits physician-assisted suicides to "a competent adult person who clearly consents to the termination of life and has a grievous and irremediable medical condition, including an illness, disease or disability, that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition"

The court also ruled that in such cases of assisted suicide not to allow doctors to help these people to die would deprive them of the rights to life, liberty and security of the person as spelled out in Sec. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The court did not create a new constitutional right to death, in spite of what The Star asserts. Nor should it. Parliament alone makes laws; the courts merely interpret them. Moreover, life is a right, but not death.

No doubt, some form of assisted suicide will take place after Parliament passes a new law permitting doctors to assist under the conditions set down by the Supreme Court. Parliament has to do something, even if the government would prefer not to discuss this contentious topic, especially in an election year.

The government does have the option of using the notwithstanding clause in the Charter, but that is unlikely. This clause allows Parliament to override sections of the Charter. For this reason, it is highly controversial and dangerous.

Contrary to the laws in some other countries, the court does not permit euthanasia, although the distinction between euthanasia and assisted suicide is not always clear. Euthanasia is generally voluntary, but sometimes not. The latter is the fear of some who are opposed to assisted suicide.

In the US, euthanasia -- where a physician or another third party administers a lethal medication -- is illegal in every state, while assisted suicide -- where the physician or third party gives the patient the means to end his/her own life -- is permitted in four states. The map should be revised to reflect this.

These states require that the patient be of sound mind when requesting assisted suicide, as confirmed by a doctor and other witnesses, and that the patient be diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Those who argue most vehemently for assisted suicide view the world from the perspective of the autonomous individual. The word autonomy first arose in the writings of Immanuel Kant.

Kant’s notion of autonomy of the will involves not only a capacity for choice that is independent of motivation but it also has a law-giving capacity that is independent of external influences; instead, it is guided by its own internal principle.

According to some philosophers, autonomy is normative, not merely descriptive. Autonomous individuals have the capacity to make their own laws. This includes the right to decide on their own deaths.

The same principle lies behind the right of women to have abortions, although a similar claim could be made on behalf of the unborn child. Abortion is a complex issue, as are euthanasia and suicide.

The claim of autonomy can be viewed as a valid reason for accepting voluntary euthanasia. The basic argument is end-of-life decisions made by competent, autonomous persons should be respected, although some have cast doubt on whether a decision to die can be an autonomous decision at all, given the likely presence of psychological factors such as fear, hopelessness, and despair. 

Even when reasons of mercy are not in play, as in cases of suicide, at least the agent must be sufficiently competent and rational. This is what the court argues when it attaches conditions to its decision.

Some philosophers have argued that autonomy-based defenses of voluntary euthanasia and suicide involve a contradiction insofar as they invoke the value of autonomy to justify an act that destroys autonomy. The claim of the autonomous individual to commit suicide is, therefore, equally complex.

Many people of faith, and even many of no faith at all, dispute the claim of normativity by the autonomous individual. Human rights cannot be based merely on a capacity for autonomy, pace some post-Kantian philosophers.

One alternative to the doctor-assisted suicide that the Supreme Court proposes to is provide better home and palliative care for those who are suffering a lot of pain or are debilitated because of old age or some other infirmity. Such care would go a long way to refute the claim of those whose who want the right to die because of their suffering and that assisted suicide is thus the preferred solution.

Health Canada describes palliative care as "an approach to care for people who are living with a life-threatening illness, no matter how old they are. The focus of care is on achieving comfort and ensuring respect for the person nearing death and maximizing quality of life for the patient, family and loved ones."

It continues: 

Palliative care addresses different aspects of end-of-life care by:
  • managing pain and other symptoms
  • providing social, psychological, cultural, emotional, spiritual and practical support
  • supporting caregivers
  • providing support for bereavement
If I may give the example of my own mother, who suffered greatly during the lastr years of her life. She wanted to die, but she might not have satisfied the conditions set by the court, especially if they are interpreted most strictly. I prayed with her that God would take her home, but I am not convinced that she would have asked for assisted suicide.

Only in the last week of her life did she receive the care and pain relief that she deserved. She should never have been allowed to suffer for such a long time and so severely. That is totally unacceptable. A possible addiction to morphine should not have been the issue.

Late last year, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family launched a national Campaign for Palliative and Home Care, and against Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. The campaign's theme is "Life-Giving Love." They did this with the blessing of the Catholic Bishops of Canada who have repeatedly called for positive steps to secure compassionate palliative care options for all Canadians.

Similarly, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has long supported the need for improved palliative care resources and availability in Canada. The EFC is convinced that we must not abandon those in need, and we must not deliberately bring about their death, even for seemingly compassionate reasons.

Other faiths have made similar pleas for more and better home and palliative care. Everyone wants to be merciful, but is assisted suicide the best or only solution?

We live in a pluralistic society and some form of assisted suicide is inevitable in the near future. However, there must be very strict guidelines provided in the enabling legislation to prevent misuse.

The debate on assisted suicide is not over because of the decision of the Supreme Court. On the contrary, it has been resurrected. It promises to become very heated and divisive. In an election year, politicians will want to avoid it, Thus do not expect any new legislation until after the election.

I hope that the discussion may remain civil and, very importantly, respectful not only of those doing the debating but especially of those who are the focus of the debate: the people who are suffering the most.

Everyone wants to be merciful and provide relief to them. The question is how to do so. Is assisted suicide the solution or are there alternatives? I suggest there are. And I insist that that death is not a right.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Response to my letter to Stephen Harper on climate change

In a blog in December I sent a letter to Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada. In my post I indicated at the time that I would also publish his response.

In January I received a letter from his office that it had been forwarded to the Minister of the Environment, Leona Aglukkaq. I received her reply yesterday. 

I am including my original letter and the response of the minister.

Read my letter and then the response. Except for the first paragraph, nowhere else in the response is there any indication that she is answering my letter. It is just boilerplate paragraphs pasted together praising the accomplishments of the Conservative government on climate change.

I have also included photos of the addressee, Stephen Harper, and the minister who responded.

First my letter addressed to the Prime Minister:

Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A2

December 2014

Dear Prime Minister:

Like many other Canadians, I am very concerned about climate change. We are therefore upset by your government's perceived inability and unwillingness to take the actions that are necessary to stop it. Climate change is one of the greatest problems of our age, since it threatens the earth that we share with people from many other nations.

The world's top diplomat, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, has publicly chastised Canada for our inaction on climate change and insisted that Canada should stop stalling and provide much needed leadership con this issue, "It's only natural that Canada as one of the G7 countries should take a leadership role," he said in an interview on The National. He noted that Canada and Australia placed last among the developed nations when it comes to dealing with climate change.

Ban Ki Moon did not mince words in his criticism of Canada. As a Canadian, it pains me very much to hear such negative comments made about my country from this otherwise mild-mannered diplomat. I hope that you do not simply dismiss his words, but take them seriously.

While Ban Ki  Moon praised Canada for pledging $300 million dollars to the UN's Green Climate Fund, which is intended to help developing countries fight climate change, he added that Canada as a rich nation could do much more both to help other nations as well as here at home. I have calculated that Canada's contribution amounts to only a little more than 3% of the $9.3 billion that has been donated to this fund thus far. That is shameful.

Your government can no longer use the excuse that the two biggest greenhouse gas emitters have refused to take any action, since China and the United States, recently signed a deal that will see the US alone cut its emissions by 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Your government has thus far matched US emission targets, but targets are not enough. But will you be able to meet other targets? As Environment Canada's own reports show your government has fallen short of the target it agreed to five years ago, after the climate meeting in Copenhagen. These new targets will be even more difficult to meet.

By promoting the Alberta oil sands and the pipelines needed to bring that oil to market you are ignoring the efforts of other provinces who are trying to introduce alternative sources of energy, especially renewable ones. Some provincial ministers went to Lima to discuss what they are doing in the absence of  concrete federal measures. I need not remind you that you are the Prime Minister of Canada, not just Alberta or the oil sector.

Please excuse the forthright nature of my comments, but my concern about climate change is longstanding. I have written about it in my blog many times. My first post on this topic was in 2011 ( and many more posts appeared afterward.

By the time you get this letter, UNFCCC COP20 in Lima, Peru, will be over. But this conference is largely a preparation for the the major climate change conference to be held  in Paris in 2015. I urge you to provide the leadership that Ban Ki Moon is calling for. Many Canadians support this call.

The drop in oil prices is a good time for your government to change its policies on climate change. If oil prices remain low for a long time, the oil sands will no longer be viable economically and then the pipelines do not need to be built. Many Canadians will thank you for changing the policies.

The costs of extracting and refining the oil sands are extremely high, but they extend beyond the financial. The environmental costs are horrendous, as has been documented repeatedly. These costs will ultimately be borne by taxpayers, not the oil sector.

If you asked for my opinion, I would suggest that the oil in Alberta be left in the ground until better methods of extracting it that are less harmful to the  environment can be found. As Stephen Lewis has observed already, no politician will dare make such a proposal, but that does not mean that it should not be done, I am no a politician, hence my boldness. I hope that you will be equally bold.

All of Canada's natural resources belong to the people of Canada. As such, they must be used wisely. We must treasure them so that not only we but also our children and grandchildren can benefit from them. Oil cannot be replaced. It can only be used once. Now is the opportune time to look for alternatives.

Your refusal to regulate oil and gas emissions because of the recent drop in oil prices, as you stated in the House of Commons the other day, contradicts your earlier promise to do so. Canadians are already bearing the cost due to climate change in terms of violent weather. More costs will become due in the future. Thus the time for action is now.

I appeal to you not only as a Canadian but also as a fellow Christian to change the policies of your government before it is too late and the damage done through climate change becomes irreversible. Stop denying the reality of climate change. I recently heard on the radio of a scientist who denied climate change until very recently, but now he has changed his mind. Perhaps you will change your mind as well. Although I am not holding my breath, this is still my prayer.

Therefore, I implore you, Mr. Prime Minister, to heed the many voices that are calling for change. Do not think only of immediate political gains but about your legacy when you leave office. Remember, a day of accounting is coming -- one will be measured not by the number of seats the Conservative party garners in the next federal election but by the judgment of future generations, including your own children and grandchildren for what your government has done to the environment.

Ultimately all of us will have to stand before the Creator and provide an account of what we have done to the creation. I hope that you can do so without a feeling of shame and remorse. Are you willing to sacrifice the future of our country for the sake of politics? Not only the fate of Canada but also that of the entire globe hangs in the balance.


Next I have included the response from the Minister of the Environment:

Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment

Minister of the Environment/Ministre de I'Environnement 
Ottawa, Canada K1 A OH3

FEB 0 9 2015 

Adrian A. Helleman, Ph.D. 

Dear Dr. Helleman: 

The Office of the Prime Minister has forwarded to me your email message of December 15, 2014, concerning climate change. I regret the delay in responding. 

While the United States and China account for 39 percent of global emissions, Canada accounts for less than 2 percent. Our government is encouraged that the United States and China-the world's two largest emitters-have made new commitments to address climate change. We will continue to work constructively with all of our international partners to establish a fair, effective international agreement that includes meaningful and transparent commitments from all major emitters. 

Our government takes the challenges of climate change seriously. That is why we are pursuing a comprehensive climate change agenda, both internationally and domestically. 

Internationally, Canada continues to work with its global partners to address climate change. Canada is playing an active and constructive role in the ongoing discussions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, including at the most recent climate change conference in Lima, Peru. For Canada, an effective new international agreement must include a commitment to action by all the world's major emitters of greenhouse gases. 

Canada's international efforts include providing support to other nations. Building on the $1.2 billion we have already delivered in fast-start financing, our government recently announced a $300-million funding pledge to the Green Climate Fund. This fund supports projects and programs to address climate change in developing countries. 

Canada is proud to be a founding partner and a major financial contributor to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition in order to align global efforts to tackle short-lived climate pollutants like black carbon and methane. Canada is also Canada advancing work to address these pollutants under its chairmanship of the Arctic Council. This work is especially important for Canada as short-lived climate pollutants significantly impact the North. 

Domestically, our government is implementing a sector-by-sector regulatory approach to reduce emissions. We have already taken action on two of this country's largest sources of emissions-the transportation and the electricity generation sectors. 

The transportation sector has been a key area of focus as it generates nearly one-quarter of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. With these regulations, 2025 model year passenger vehicles and light trucks will emit about half as many greenhouse gas emissions as 2008 models, and greenhouse gas emissions from 2018 model year heavy-duty vehicles will be reduced by up to 23 percent. 

Our government has also introduced stringent coal-fired electricity standards, making Canada the first major coal user to ban construction of traditional coal-fired electricity generation units. These regulations require the phase out of existing coal-fired electricity generation units without carbon capture. In the first 21 years, these regulations are expected to result in a cumulative reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing roughly 2.6 million personal vehicles from the road per year. This action further cements Canada's place as a global clean energy leader, with more than three-quarters of the electricity supply emitting no greenhouse gases. 

Building on our announcement at the New York Climate Summit regarding Canada's intent to regulate hydrofluorocarbons, on December 5, 2014, our government announced the next steps for the development of these regulations. Hydrofluorocarbons are the fastest growing greenhouse gases in the world and can be thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. 

Our government's regulatory approach is complemented by investments of more than $10 billion that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the longer term. These measures include support for green infrastructure, energy efficiency, clean energy technologies, and the production of cleaner energy and fossil fuels . Our government has also taken action to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies such as tax preferences for oil sands producers and eliminating certain tax preferences for mining sectors, including coal. 

Canada's approach is generating results. Our economy has grown substantially while greenhouse gas emissions have decreased. Canada's per capita emissions are now at their lowest level since tracking began in 1990.

Our government is working to ensure that we achieve results for Canadians and the environment. This approach will result in real emission reductions, while maintaining Canada's economic competitiveness and supporting job creation opportunities for Canadians. For more information on federal actions to address climate change, please visit



The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, P.C., M.P. 
Minister of the Environment

If you think her response addresses my concerns adequately, please let me know. I am very disappointed in the minister and the government she represents. The policy of the Canadian government on climate change is not only inadequate but also inappropriate and dangerous to Canada and the rest of the world.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How Should We Treat Autocrats?

The king is dead! Long live the king! The death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was followed immediately by the accession to the throne of his half-brother Prince Salman. Any struggles within the royal family had been resolved behind closed doors. King Abdullah was buried the next day in an unmarked grave, but he was honored by many world leaders in succeeding days. These leaders also came to meet the new king.

Even President Obama honored King Abdullah and the new king by stopping off in Saudi Arabia after a visit to India. In Britain the flag above Westminster flew at half mast in honor of the late king.

Many of the eulogies bordered on the absurd. UK Prime Minister David Cameron said the monarch that he "strengthened understanding between faiths."  Christine Lagarde, chief of the IMF, called him "a strong advocate of women," albeit a “discreet" one. And Tony Blair described him as "a skillful modernizer" who "led his country into the future." Were these remarks appropriate?

The White House issued a statement that bore an uncanny resemblance to that issued by the Islamic State, to the embarrassment of both.  They hailed the late monarch as a man who, "In a turbulent region, demonstrated his commitment to law, order and the principle of the pretty barbaric public execution."

In both statements, King Abdullah was also praised for his "vision and leadership," as someone who "had the courage of his convictions" and "constantly strived for unity across borders in the Middle East." How these two statements came to be so similar has not yet been explained.

Saudi King Abdullah (1924-2015)

I immediately asked myself: Is that how we should treat autocrats, especially if the autocrat and his country are responsible for many serious violations of human rights? And when he dies, does he deserve such honors?

It is said, "Of the dead say nothing but good," but is this true also of autocrats who ruled their countries with an iron fist and are responsible for terrorism in other parts of the world?

King Abdullah had a reputation as being a reformer. But reformer in the Saudi context is a relative term. The human rights record of Saudi Arabia is dismal.

For decades already, Saudi Arabia received the lowest possible marks for civil and political freedoms in the annual Freedom House rankings, and again in 2014. The countries placed alongside it were North Korea, Turkmenistan, and a smattering of the most brutal African dictatorships.

The regime’s disregard for any accountability to its people is brazen. There are no national elections, no parties, and no parliament, but only a symbolic advisory chamber, known as Majlis al-Shura.

Criticism is strictly forbidden. Just days before King Abdullah’s death, blogger Raif Badawi was given the first 50 of his 1,000 lashes for calling for free speech on his blog. Ahead of his arrival, Obama suggested that he would not be raising US concerns about the flogging of Badawi,

Eighty-seven people are thought to have been beheaded in 2014, which is in line with the national average over the past five years, despite ever-growing external pressure on Saudi Arabia.  It is clear, that this was not a priority for Abdullah.

Another issue is women drivers in Saudi Arabia. The Gulf monarchy is the last country in the world, where women are still not allowed to drive. But for the majority of Saudi women, driving is the least of their problems.

Many would prefer to be able to leave the house, make a purchase, sign any legal document, in fact perform almost any official action, from agreeing to surgery, to signing up to a class, without the consent of a guardian, either the husband or the father.

King Abdullah encouraged more women to go into education, and allocated them a fifth of the seats in his advisory chamber. He also allowed them to vote and run in municipal elections. As with other reform areas, these are top-down symbolic gestures that have done little to affect most Saudi women, who remain some of the most disadvantaged anywhere in the world.

Perhaps more ominously, according to the diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks in 2010, the US regards Saudi Arabia as the biggest source of Sunni terrorism funding in the world, and a "crucial" piggy-bank for Al-Qaeda and other radical groups. While much of its funding comes from private individuals, their identity is unlikely to have been a secret to King Abdullah, who did nothing to rein in his family members.

Although Riyadh did donate a $100 million to the UN’s counter-terrorism center last year, the House of Saud support terrorism all over the world. In fact, Saudi Arabia is the biggest financier of terrorism in the world. The 7,000 or so members of the House of Saud not only support terrorists groups with funds, but see them as a legitimate tool for spreading influence of Wahhabi ideology.

Obama defends the US government's willingness to cooperate closely with Saudi Arabia on national security despite deep concerns over human rights abuses. Saudi Arabia's status as one of the US's most important Arab allies has at times appeared to trump American concerns about the terrorist funding that flows from the kingdom and about human rights abuses. 

Obama said, in a CNN interview that aired in advance of  his arrival in Riyadh, he found it most effective to apply steady pressure over human rights "even as we are getting business done that needs to get done. Sometimes we need to balance our need to speak to them about human rights issues with immediate concerns we have in terms of counter-terrorism or dealing with regional stability."

In a future posting I want to write about Wahhabism and its pernicious influence not only in the Middle East but also in Africa and many other parts of the world. That is a separate but important story.

King Salman: the new Saudi monarch

My chief concern now is to raise the issue how we should treat autocrats such as the late King Abdullah as well as his successor, King Salman. The eulogies that were offered by some world leaders were not only over-the-top but were also examples of the realpolitik that is practiced by many countries. Obama's comment about combining pressure on human rights with business is yet another example of this.

Realpolitik derives from the German word for real, practical, or actual politics, and refers to politics or diplomacy that is based primarily on power and on practical and material factors and considerations, rather than ideological notions or moralistic or ethical premises.

Although in German it is not perceived as a negative term, it has acquired strong negative connotations. Nevertheless, it is widely practiced today. I use it here to describe the attitude by many western leaders to the disregard for human rights that prevails in Saudi Arabia.

I find it difficult to accept realpolitik. Perhaps I am too idealistic. The over-the-top eulogies are inappropriate and unnecessary. One can and should be able to issue a statement that is sincere and not dripping with false praise. Otherwise, it is not merely a lie but it perpetuates the illusion that the autocrat is a respected member of the world community, and encourages him in his self deception.

There are many more examples of realpolitik as it is practiced today. Franklin Delano Roosevelt is reputed to have said about the Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza: "He is a SOB, but he is our SOB." FDR probably never made this comment, yet it is an appropriate expression to describe any foreign dictator that the US has supported over the years: Saddam Hussein, for example.

Should the US or any other democracy support such tyrants? My heart says, no!, even if my head has to admit that there is logic to Obama's argument for having done business with King Abdullah, and now wanting to do it again with King Salman. 

Therefore, I do not agree, but I understand. This is the "real" world in which we live. It is a harsh world, where idealism is soon shattered. Thus I am glad that I am not the President of the USA. If I were, would I be able to treat autocrats differently? For that matter, how would you treat them?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Fear Mongering: the Battle Between Terrorists and Governments

There is a huge battle being waged today for the hearts and minds of ordinary people. On one side are terrorists, while on the other are governments. Both sides use fear mongering in order to win over public opinion and advance their cause.

Terrorists exaggerate their abilities to inflict damage. They use violence and intimidation in the pursuit of their political aims. By exaggerating their destructive abilities, they increase the fear and intimidation. The more damage people believe that a terrorist group has inflicted, the more funding they will receive from extremists and the more people they are able to attract to their cause.

Governments also exaggerate how much damage terrorists have inflicted or are capable of inflicting. Sources within the FBI and CIA, as well as news sources such as Time and the Washington Post, have all said that US government officials were trying to create an atmosphere of fear in which the American people would give them more power.

Tom Ridge, the former Secretary of Homeland Security, has admitted that he was pressured to raise terror alerts to help Bush win reelection. The threat from Islamic terrorists -- while real -- has been greatly exaggerated.  Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former US National Security Adviser, has described the war on terror is a "a mythical historical narrative."

The US government and many other governments justify many of their policies on the need for greater security by hyping the terror menace. Government wants you to be scared out of your pants by the risk of terrorism. But is this fear legitimate?  What are the real facts about terrorism?

The actual figures are astounding. Here is a small sample:

Daniel Benjamin, the Coordinator for Counter-terrorism at the US Department of State from 2009 to 2012, has studied these figures: "The total number of deaths from terrorism in recent years has been extremely small in the West. And the threat itself has been considerably reduced. Given all the headlines people don’t have that perception; but if you look at the statistics that is the case."

According to The Economist, despite the horror, there have actually been very few terror attacks in Europe. The recent attacks in Canada and Australia were can caused by organized terrorists. Other newspapers have noted that non-Muslims have carried out the vast majority of terrorist attacks on both.US soil and in Europe, while the overwhelming majority of victims of Muslim terror attacks are Muslims.

The “War on Terror” has been counter-productive, and only increased the terrorism problem
Governments have admitted that many terror attacks around the world have actually been carried out by government forces and blamed on their enemies, as a way to justify war or other objectives.

While terrorists and governments are trying to scare the pants off you, the truth is that, if we refuse to be terrorized, we win and the terrorists lose.

Are greater security measures warranted? And if they are, are they effective? What about the mass surveillance that is has been proposed in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack?

Bill Binney, the former head of the NSA’s global intelligence gathering operations, notes that the mass surveillance interferes with the government’s ability to catch bad guys, and that the government failed to stop the Boston bombing because it was overwhelmed with data from mass surveillance on Americans.

Binney explains that this also applies to the Paris attack as well:
A good deal of the failure is, in my opinion, due to bulk data. So, I am calling all these attacks a result of “Data bulk failure.” Too much data and too many people for the 10-20 thousand analysts to follow. Simple as that. Especially when they make word match pulls (like Google) and get dumps of data selected from close to 4 billion people.
This is the same problem NSA had before 9/11. They had data that could have prevented 9/11 but did not know they had it in their data bases. This back then when the bulk collection was not going on. Now the problem is orders of magnitude greater. Result, it’s harder to succeed.
Expect more of the same from our deluded government that thinks more data improves possibilities of success. All this bulk data collection and storage does give law enforcement a great capability to retroactively analyze anyone they want. But, of course,that data cannot be used in court since it was not acquired with a warrant.
NBC News reports in a similar vein on the problems created by mass surveillance:
A member of the White House review panel on NSA surveillance said he was “absolutely” surprised when he discovered the agency’s lack of evidence that the bulk collection of telephone call records had thwarted any terrorist attacks.“It was, ‘Huh, hello? What are we doing here?’” said Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor….
“That was stunning. That was the ballgame,” said one congressional intelligence official, who asked not to be publicly identified. “It flies in the face of everything that they have tossed at us.”
The conclusions of the panel’s reports were at direct odds with public statements by President Barack Obama and U.S. intelligence officials.

In an interview, Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, the NSA’s director, has said that the sheer volume and variety of today’s communications means "there’s simply too much out there, and it’s too hard to understand."

"What we got was a blast of digital bits, like a fire hydrant spraying you in the face," adds one former NSA technician with knowledge of the project. "It was the classic needle-in-the-haystack pursuit, except here the haystack starts out huge and grows by the second," the technician explained. NSA’s computers simply were not equipped to sort through so much data flying at them so fast.

Ray Corrigan, a senior lecturer in mathematics, computing and technology at the Open University in the UK, has noted that mass surveillance is not the answer in an article in the New Scientist. Some of his comments:
Brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, who murdered 17 people, were known to the French security services and considered a serious threat. France has blanket electronic surveillance. It didn’t avert what happened.

The French authorities lost track of these extremists long enough for them to carry out their murderous acts.

Surveillance of the entire population, the vast majority of whom are innocent, leads to the diversion of limited intelligence resources in pursuit of huge numbers of false leads. Terrorists are comparatively rare, so finding one is a needle in a haystack problem. You don’t make it easier by throwing more needleless hay on the stack.
It is statistically impossible for total population surveillance to be an effective tool for catching terrorists.

Mass surveillance makes the job of the security services more difficult and the rest of us less secure.
A terrorism expert has described the massive message interception by the US government this way: "In counterterrorist terms, it is a farce. Basically the NSA . . . is the digital equivalent of the TSA strip-searching an 80 year-old Minnesota grandmothers rather than profiling and focusing on the likely terrorists."

Such spying on ordinary citizens is not only against the American system it also reduces liberty. It is a misapplication of resources; money is being spent and liberty sacrificed for no real gain. The end result is that, since government decision making and policy about international terrorism is very bad, the threat is increasing.

What is worst of all, this fear mongering may result in a major war in the Middle East. Mission creep may lead to further ground troops being deployed in the battle against the Islamic State, in spite of protests to the contrary by Secretary of State John Kerry. Some ground troops are already operating as "advisers" to the Kurds.

A similar mission creep has been noted in Canada; some Canadian special forces have already engaged in fire fights with ISIS, and the Conservative government wants to demonstrate its power and its ability to protect Canadian citizens at home in the face of the federal later this year. New legislation is being introduced shortly by the government granting them these powers.

Thanks to this wall-to-wall fear mongering, a once war-weary public in the US is now terrified. More than 60% of the public in a recent CNN poll now supports the airstrikes against ISIS. Two more polls, one from the Washington Post and the other from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, have arrived at the same conclusion.

Most shocking, 71% think that ISIS has terrorist sleeper cells in the US, against all evidence to the contrary. It will only too easy for those who want to destroy ISIS militarily to further escalate the war.

Stand in endless lines at the airport accomplish nothing, at enormous cost. That’s the conclusion of Charles C. Mann, who put the T.S.A. to the test with the help of one of America’s top security experts. Since 9/11, the US has spent more than $1.1 trillion on homeland security.

To a large number of security analysts, this expenditure makes no sense. The vast cost is not worth the infinitesimal benefit. Not only has the actual threat from terror been exaggerated, they say, but the great bulk of the post-9/11 measures to contain it are little more than what some mock as “security theater” -- actions that accomplish nothing but are designed to make the government look like it is on the job. In fact, the continuing expenditure on security may actually have made the US less safe.

Fear-mongering is deadly for all concerned. For us as citizens, it obviously makes us susceptible to the manipulations of governments that want justify war. Unfortunately, in the nuclear age, there can no longer be any justification for war. The just war theory is dead, although I do not want to argue its demise in this post. I have done so most recently in

The war on terror is a specious war, since the war is undeclared. The enemy is hard to find; they are invisible until an act of terrorism elevates them onto the world stage, if only for a brief period of time. But it is a convenient war, since it justifies the massive surveillance that has already been shown to be useless, but does permit governments to demonstrate their efforts to protect their citizenry.

Unfortunately, civil rights are often the first victims of such massive surveillance. The legislation that would permit even more surveillance would come at the price of privacy and other freedoms. Are ypu willing to pay that price?

For governments, fear mongering contributes to the pitifully low evaluation of politicians on the trustworthiness scale. Politicians worldwide are perceived as interested only in gaining power. Once they do, they do not want to cede it. Yet by fear-mongering they are able to win power and form governments that hopefully will continue in power for a long time.

Even for the terrorists themselves, fear mongering ultimately destroys their cause. Fear may motivate people for a while, but eventually people no longer trust anyone. Then they lash out at everyone, especially those who have engineered that fear.

Fear mongering involves a battle between terrorists and governments for the hearts and minds of ordinary people like you and me. We must not allow ourselves to be misled by either side. Instead, we must renounce fear and proclaim the truth about surveillance and the false security measures that our governments are perpetrating.

Remember this: the truth shall set us free from fear!


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Curse of Islamophobia

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo shootings there has been a noticeable increase in Islamophobia in Europe as well as elsewhere in the world. In fact, one can speak about a tsunami of Islamophobia, just as at one time there was a tsunami of antisemitism that, unfortunately, has still not abated entirely. In the Middle East and indeed much of the Muslim world it continues to raise its ugly head.

Yet in parts of Europe today, it has become increasingly unacceptable to be an antisemite, although there is still a lot of antisemitism among some younger people. In contrast, Islamophobia has grown phenomenally in all age groups. Some political leaders in Europe and elsewhere have used it for their own political advantage through fostering the fear that lies at the roots of Islamophobia.

I want to restrict my discussion largely to Europe in the post 9/11 period. To do otherwise would be to make it too long. Even so, not everyone will agree with my observations.

The 1991 Runnymede Trust Report defined Islamophobia as an "unfounded hostility towards Muslims, and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims." The report points out that it is based on a number of beliefs about Islam:it is monolithic and cannot adapt to new realities; it does not share common values with other major faiths; it is an inferior, archaic, barbaric, and irrational religion that practices violence and supports terrorism; and it is a violent political ideology.

In some respects, Islamophobia shares much with antisemitism in which there are strong religious,
economic, social, racist, ideological, and cultural factors that are widely adduced to justify the fear and prejudicial behavior that characterize both.

Although the term is much disputed in the academic world, it overlaps with other terms such as xenophobia and racism, since so many Muslims in Europe compose the largest groups of immigrants. Many Muslims have not integrated well into European cultures and constitute a significant and highly visible community in many European countries. 

Muslims gather to condemn the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Chateauroux, France [AFP]

In France, Muslims are estimated to total more than 6 million or about 10% of the population, while in Germany there are more than 4 million or 5%. In Russia, Muslims total about 27 million or 20% of the population, with many other European countries coming in at somewhere between 1% to 6%.

Despite recent attempts by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to paint Islamophobic protesters in her country as intolerant bigots, the protests are getting louder and growing in size.

The rallies, which were organized by a new grassroots movement known as PEGIDA, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, have become an almost weekly event in the east German city of Dresden. Some 18,000 people, the biggest number so far, turned out recently in that city.

Similar rallies in Berlin and Cologne, however, were heavily outnumbered by counter-protesters who accuse PEGIDA of fanning racism and intolerance. The Cathedral in Cologne dimmed its lights to protest Islamophobia,

The PEGIDA protesters waved Germany’s black, red and gold flag and brandished posters bearing slogans such as "Against religious fanaticism and every kind of radicalism." It is ironic that PEGIDA is opposed as well to Nazism and Communism as well as radical Islam. 

In France, twenty-six mosques have been attacked by firebombs, gunfire, pig heads, and grenades as Muslims are targeted with violence in the wake of the Paris attacks. According to the most recent tally, a total of 60 Islamophobic incidents have been recorded, with countless minor encounters believed to have gone unreported. Islamophobic incidents are nothing new in France.

Armed guards have been placed outside some mosques across the country, including the Grande Mosquée de Paris, which was built in 1926 as a token of gratitude to Muslim soldiers in France's army during the First World War.

Senior French politicians have warned against linking the gunmen with peaceful Muslims, of which France has the biggest population in Europe. French foreign minister Laurent Fabius has said that the word “Islamist” should not be used to described the murderers, but rather “terrorist." He added,"The terrorists' religion is not Islam, which they are betraying. It's barbarity."

It is doubly ironic that the first victim of the Charlie Hebdo killers was Ahmed Merabet, a French Muslim policeman. Yet two of the killers were reportedly of Algerian descent, while the third hailed from Senegal. Thus they were all Frenchmen, not jihadists from the Middle East.

Ahmed Merabet

In addition, it should be noted that Merabet has largely dropped off the media radar. His Muslim identity was newsworthy only very briefly. Muslims typically make headlines only when they are carrying guns. The two Kouachi brothers are judged to represent all of France's 6 million Muslims, but not Merabet, the Muslim policeman. All Muslims are considered potential terrorists and should blamed for the Charlie Hebdo shootings. This is clearly Islamophobia.

Malek Merabet,  the brother of the police officer, said, "My brother was Muslim and he was killed by people who pretend to be Muslims. They are terrorists, that's it, Islam is a religion of peace and love. As far as my brother’s death is concerned it was a waste. He was very proud of the name Ahmed Merabet, proud to represent the police and of defending the values of the Republic – liberty, equality, fraternity.”

The number and growth of Muslims in France has spurred some of the most draconian policies against them in modern times. The headscarf ban in 2004, followed by that of the niqab or face covering, in 2010, has codified core Islamophobic ideas. This legislation also functioned as a firm and fervent declaration by the state that Muslim and French identities were at odds and irreconcilable.

But is it? Ahmed Merabet and countless other French Muslims prove otherwise. Which is not to say that they have no problems. The French laïcité model provided the structural underpinnings to carry forward this Islamophobic legislation. 

The state aim of compelling secularisation upon its Muslim citizenry was based upon a binary concept of civilizations. French Muslims were given an ultimatum:  choose between "Islam or the West," "Islamic countries or France." The same choice is not demanded of people from other nations.

Motto of the French republic on the tympanum of a church, in Aups (Var département), which was installed after the 1905 law on the Separation of the State and the Church. Such inscriptions on a church are very rare; this one was restored during the 1989 bicentenary of the French Revolution.

This enforced secularization is one of the reasons why some French have become radicalized. But there is more. There is also the often-stated factor of religion, although this has been overestimated.

Some scholars have shown there is no empirical evidence to support the claim that religion and ideology are the primary motivators of violent extremism. The revelation that the foreign fighters who joined ISIS had read copies of Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies, underscores this. They know practically nothing about their new-found faith. Some of the world’s most renowned scholars of terrorism agree that other factors play a much larger role.

They cite factors such as anger at injustice, moral superiority, a sense of identity and purpose, the promise of adventure, and becoming a hero have all been implicated in case studies of radicalization. Religion and ideology serve as vehicles for an "us versus them" mentality and as the justification for violence against those who represent "the enemy", but they are not the drivers of radicalization.

In the European context, there is yet one more factor that is often neglected: colonialism. France's 1830 invasion of Algeria, which is where the Kouchi brothers stem from, began a 130-year odyssey of murder, expropriation, racism, exploitation and misrule that only ended after a vicious anti-colonial struggle costing well over one million Algerian lives.

In Algeria, the petroleum-rich FLN state launched a brutal internal war, with the direct support of the West, in order to preserve its absolute grip on power. This story has been repeated countless times in the Muslim world, where -- with the exception of Turkey, Iran, and part of the Arabian peninsula -- most countires, from Morocco to Indonesia, came under European rule in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Colonialism had had a similar devastating effect in Africa. For example, Nigeria also received Western support for its ruinous war against Biafra in the late 1960s. The havoc that it caused, including at least one million dead, is one of the rarely discussed causes of the Boko Haram phenomenon.

Globalization is essentially colonialism in a new guise, The World Bank and the IMF force conditions on countries in the Two-Thirds World that are every bit as onerous as those the colonial masters at one time foisted on their colonies. Globalization will breed more terrorism in the future.

Islamophobia has been a curse both for the victims and the perpetrators. Muslims everywhere have been unfairly stigmatized for the misdeeds of a handful of extremists who claim to be Muslim but behave in un-Islamic ways. To contend that only Muslims are guilty of such behavior is yet another example of Islamophobia. All religions have extremists that do not properly represent their faith.

The perpetrators are cursed their fear of Muslims. They fear what they do not understand very well, and thus they are open to those who manipulate them by playing on these fears. PEGIDA is only one example of this. The French state has dome the same in the name of secularism. Politicians in many countries, including Canada, are playing the fear card as well in the name of fighting terrorism.

The fear of terrorism soon morphs into Islamophobia, which as the term indicates clearly, means a fear of Islam, which is seen as the most common purveyor of terrorism. A vicious circle quickly results, with Islamophobia breeding more terrorists, and so on and so on. 

The way to stop this is through education. Islamophobia can be cured, but it requires a willingness on the part of both the victims and the perpetrators to grasp what is happening and deal with it. Among those best able to so are politicians who must first end their manipulation of the electorate and realize that electoral victory can be achieved better through fostering unity, rather than their current divide-and-conquer policies. 

Then and only then will the curse finally end. Then Muslims will be able to live side-by-side with everyone else in their chosen country without fear of discrimination. That may take a while. As we all know only too well, antisemitism has not yet disappeared in Europe. 

France and Germany both have a bad track record when it comes to antisemitism, but Dreyfus and the Holocaust are both now history. May all forms of racism, including antisemitism and Islamophobia eventually become history as well. 

Europe can no longer afford a war that pits one religion against another, or religion itself against secularism. My dream is of a pluralistic world in which people of every faith live together in unity.