J.J. McCullough

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Canada is edging toward creating a right to suicide

Shortly after Robin Williams died by suicide on Aug. 11, 2014, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tweeted an image of Aladdin tearfully hugging Williams’s character from the iconic Disney film. “Genie, you’re free”, read the caption. The tweet, as The Post’s Caitlin Dewey noted at the time, carried the “implication that suicide is somehow a liberating option” and was promptly blasted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, whose chief medical officer warned “suicide should never be presented as an option”.

In Canada, however, consensus seems to be consolidating around a different conclusion: Suicide is, in fact, a liberating, acceptable option for whoever wants it.…  Seguir leyendo »

I often hear elite-level American intellectual types — pundits and academics and futurists and so on — express great optimism about Canada’s potential. The country is framed as a glimmer of hope in a bleak world, a dynamic, modern, urbane, democratic, multicultural, open-minded success story, free of the toxic nationalism and populist authoritarianism steering the rest of the planet into a ditch.

The great blind spot of such optimistic analysis has always been Quebec — a province housing 8.7 million of Canada’s 38.7 million citizens, and a place preoccupied with pursuing policies at odds with every flattering Canadian stereotype. On virtually any metric one might correlate with a promising, modern society — a hospitable business climate, an up-to-date education system, open and inviting communities, robust protection of individual liberties, a moderate and rational political class — Canada’s second-largest province marches unapologetically in the opposite direction.…  Seguir leyendo »

Union Jack flags and commemorative souvenirs for the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II are displayed outside a shop on May 18 in Windsor, England. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

I live in Canada, one of 14 sovereign countries outside Britain Queen Elizabeth II nominally heads; she is “Queen of Canada”, as Canadian monarchists pedantically insist. Yet the Queen of Canada has not visited “her” country in over a decade, nor has she visited any of the other 14 since retiring from overseas travel in 2015. These days, she barely even travels the grounds of her home at Windsor Castle, having abstained from two back-to-back ceremonies last month at the palace chapel. Though she did make a 10-minute cameo at the opening of a new London subway line this week, she was a no-show at the state opening of the British Parliament a few days earlier — one of her most important duties and one she’s previously only skipped when pregnant.…  Seguir leyendo »

An oil drum at a grand opening event for the Suncor Energy Fort Hills oil-sands extraction site near Fort McKay, Alberta, in 2018. (Ben Nelms/Bloomberg News)

“The world needs more Canada”.

The phrase began life as a bookstore slogan, but has since evolved into the foreign policy mantra of a certain sort of Canadian.

“We’re Canadian, and we’re here to help”, was how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put it in his 2016 address to the United Nations.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the shake-up of the world order that it has provoked, Canadians inclined to view their country as the world’s answer to everything have emphasized one particular helping hand they’re eager to extend: oil and gas.

European nations import around a quarter of their oil and about 40 percent of their natural gas from Vladimir Putin’s Russia.…  Seguir leyendo »

Britain's Prince Charles meets Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley in Bridgetown, Barbados, on Tuesday. (Arthur Edwards/AP)

On Monday night, the government of Barbados hosted a grand party to celebrate what was, all things considered, a relatively mild bit of constitutional housekeeping: the country’s transition at midnight from constitutional monarchy to parliamentary republic.

Barbados’s figurehead governor general, Dame Sandra Mason, the symbolic representative of Queen Elizabeth II, was retitled “first president of Barbados”. Elizabeth II — who has been styled “Queen of Barbados” since 1966, when the country became an independent state within the British Commonwealth — was retitled to nothing, sending a congratulatory letter in her capacity as a now-foreign monarch.

Mason’s powers have not changed; as when she was governor general, she will continue to be a marginal, almost entirely symbolic presence in Barbadian public life.…  Seguir leyendo »

If Quebec Premier François Legault was head of a country rather than Canada’s second-largest province, he’d surely be regarded as one of the world’s nastiest right-wing populist leaders. Since his election in 2018, he has cut immigration by 20 percent in the span of a year, imposed prohibitions on Muslim headscarves and Sikh turbans, and presided over petty crackdowns on the public use of minority languages. And now, he wants to add text to the Canadian constitution declaring that Quebec, a diverse, multicultural democracy, should be primarily understood as housing the “nation” of the French Canadian Québécois people: “Les Québécoises et les Québécois forment une nation (form a nation)” as the French version of the bill puts it.…  Seguir leyendo »

An injection site coordinator with an overdose naloxone kit in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in 2018. (John Lehmann/for The Washington Post)

As expected, 2020 was recently revealed to have been British Columbia’s worst-ever year for fatal drug overdoses, with 1,716 deaths — the third time in four years that the death count has exceeded 1,000. Drug fatalities are now the highest cause of “unnatural deaths” in the province, killing more British Columbians than murders, suicides and car accidents combined. B.C. has the highest rate of opioid toxicity deaths in Canada, and while differences in U.S. and Canadian data prevent an apples-to-apples comparison, a rate of 33.4 overdose deaths per 100,000 people would appear to make B.C. one of the most drug-ravaged jurisdictions on the continent — with no sign of slowing down.…  Seguir leyendo »

A written message is seen attached to a pair of shoes as part of a memorial for drug overdose victims in Vancouver on Aug. 31. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press, via AP)

This week, the Canadian province of British Columbia announced it would be tightening its covid-19 restrictions in response to a modest increase in deaths and infections. B.C.’s covid-19 numbers are among the lowest on earth, but health officials say an abundance of caution is still justified. The province’s nightclubs and banquet halls will close, while bars must shut down by 10 p.m. and quiet their music to limit spittle.

Such bossy demands, while hardly North America’s most draconian, stand in sharp contrast to the province’s generally passive approach to what is numerically a far more serious health crisis. May, June and July have been the worst months in B.C.…  Seguir leyendo »

What was initially expected to be a diverse and dynamic race for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada is proving anything but. The number of interested candidates seems to be shrinking by the day.

As I’ve discussed previously, structural barriers play a significant role in keeping the Conservative bench so spare. The de facto rule that any person seeking the leadership of a Canadian political party — and thus the prime ministership — must be fluent in English and French is proving a particularly visible glass ceiling this time around. Some rare but useful public pushback on the role of bilingualism in Canadian politics has been the result.…  Seguir leyendo »

Canada’s long-awaited report on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) was released last week. Its central finding, that Canada is engaged in a “deliberate race, identity and gender-based genocide,” has received cool reception from press and politician alike.

Reporters were initially quick to credulously repeat the study’s accusation, but more skeptical coverage now dominates, and editorial pages are filled with dissent. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau initially sought to avoid stating whether he believed the genocide charge was true, only to finally concede, with lawyerly carefulness, that “we accept their findings, including that what happened amounts to genocide” — though the report was speaking in the present tense.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Toronto skyline is silhouetted in 2015. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

According to Canada’s most recent census, only 17.9 percent of Canadians claim to speak both French and English, which means 82.1 percent of Canadians are ineligible to occupy the multitude of government positions reserved by law or custom for those fluent in Canada’s “two official languages.” This includes not only flashy jobs such as prime minister or Supreme Court justice, but 43 percent of all positions in the Canadian federal bureaucracy, according to a 2017 report by the Clerk of the Privy Council.

Ottawa is aware that this imbalance is not warmly received by all. As the Clerk’s report delicately noted, “for some public servants, mostly employees who did not learn French prior to entering the labor market, they expressed concern that this makes it difficult to acquire the language skills needed to advance in their careers, and could limit access to bilingual positions to individuals who entered the Public Service bilingual.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Canada’s politicians seem determined to give their country more democracy — whether the people want it or not.

Getting rid of so-called first-past-the-post-style (FPTP) elections, in which parliamentarians are elected based on whoever gets the most votes, even if that’s not an absolute majority, has been one of the great failed crusades of modern Canadian politics. Since 2005, there have been at least four province-level referendums on adopting a European-style “proportional representation” electoral system, as well as numerous recommendations from advisory councils and a definitive campaign promise from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Yet despite it all, no change has occurred — the referendums were voted down, the committees ignored, Trudeau’s promise brazenly broken.…  Seguir leyendo »

During the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq War, back when invading that country was a more popular idea among Canadians than many care to remember, I recall observing an encounter at the bus stop near my house between a group of middle-aged white folks, perhaps three or four of them, and a hijab-wearing Muslim woman. I didn’t see how it began, but everyone was arguing about the war, with the Muslim woman against and everyone else for. No one was making particularly good points, but it was nevertheless obvious, through the white folks’ sneering, dismissive tone, that they regarded the logic of the Muslim woman with far more suspicion than was warranted simply because of who she was.…  Seguir leyendo »

Looking for a fresh Trump-basher to fill your Twitter feed? Why not try the former prime minister of Canada?

Kim Campbell ran Canada only briefly (specifically, four months in 1993) and has retained some credibility as a senior stateswoman despite it. Last summer, the current prime minister, Justin Trudeau, tapped her to oversee his Supreme Court appointment process, for instance.

Yet Campbell’s most active interest in politics has little to do with the country she once ruled. Browse Campbell’s Twitter timeline and you’ll find posts almost exclusively about the doings of the Trump administration, shared with all the incredulous horror of Rosie O’Donnell or Michael Moore.…  Seguir leyendo »

Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers assist a child from a family claming to be from Sudan as they walk across the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Canada, from Champlain, N.Y., last week. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

The great challenge of Canadian journalism in the age of Trump is resisting the temptation to cram all bilateral news into a flattering narrative that contrasts crazed, bigoted America with righteous, inclusive Canada.

Canadian papers have been brimming lately with sensationalistic stories of U.S. Muslim refugees “pouring” into Canada to escape President Trump and his “Muslim ban,” risking life and limb to cross unmanned portions of the border in weather icy enough to literally freeze off fingers. Things reached a social media peak when a maudlin photo of a jolly Mountie escorting a young family over the snowy 49th parallel went viral.…  Seguir leyendo »

As Canadian politicians and journalists scramble for tidy, ideologically pleasing narratives in the wake of this week’s senseless slaughter at a Quebec City mosque, one disturbing fact has gone conspicuously unmentioned: A disproportionate share of the country’s massacres occur in the province of Quebec.

I was born in 1984. Since then, Quebec has experienced at least six high-profile episodes of attempted public mass murder.

On the morning of May 8, 1984, Denis Lortie walked into the Quebec provincial legislature carrying multiple weapons and opened fire, shooting 16 people, three fatally. Only his ignorance of the parliamentary timetable (few politicians were sitting at that hour) and the heroism of René Marc Jalbert, the sergeant-at-arms, prevented greater slaughter.…  Seguir leyendo »

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

As populist conservatives the world over draw inspiration from the rise of Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders and others, Canada’s fresh-faced prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is offered as a progressive counterweight.

At a state visit to Ottawa last month, Vice President Biden called out Trudeau (and Germany’s Angela Merkel) as lonely defenders of the “liberal international order” on a planet increasingly hostile to it. Glowing tributes to Canada as an island of liberal sanity in a world gone mad, which have appeared everywhere from the Guardian to the Economist, invariably cast Trudeau in a starring role.

It’s an awkward fit, given Trudeau has never had much allegiance to anything resembling a coherent, transnational philosophy.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man with a Canadian flag runs in front of parade marshal William Shatner during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Alberta, in 2014. (Todd Korol/Reuters)

Canadians are privileged to live in a world where their overseas stereotypes are mostly flattering. A video went viral the other day showing shoppers calmly walking into a Halifax, Nova Scotia, Best Buy. “The most Canadian Black Friday ever,” they called it. Canadians eat this sort of thing up. It’s particularly delightful to the disproportionately center-left personalities who dominate the country’s media, political and academic establishments as it helps validate their rule.

Yet an endless cycle of foreign compliments and ballooning self-regard has also prevented Canada’s elite from offering an honest answer to a pressing question: Is Canada poised to experience a nationalist-populist movement of the sort sweeping the rest of the democratic world?…  Seguir leyendo »