Thank you for your kind (and unkind) letters from around the world. Mark reads all mail, but especially enjoys the vicious ones. Each day Monday to Friday we pick six of the best for our Daily Delivery. So drop a line to Mark's Mailbox, and on Friday if you're chosen to be the one and only Letter of the Week you'll join our roll of winners from four Continents and receive a copy of Mark Steyn From Head To Toe. Congratulations to this week's winner:
Letter of the Week
MARRIED TO THE MOB
The case of Camille Cacnio, the UBC "conservation student" caught looting a department store during the Vancouver riots, exhibits many of the pathologies you have identified as being at the heart of western decline, Mark. In her online mea culpa, which all too predictably turned into a rather pathetic valediction, Miss Cacnio expresses remorse for her larceny, but tells the world that she is a profoundly good person because later on that evening she intervened to prevent a tree from being vandalised. So in the mind of this rather confused, vapid, self-absorbed, "Facebook generation" woman, a crime against a tree is far more heinous than a crime against property. Try telling that to the owners of the property that was subjected to such wanton theft or destruction during the course of that shameful evening, particularly those whose livelihoods are associated with the many businesses that were trashed.
What a perfect allegory for the corrosive red-green "groupthink" of our times, Mark. Traditional capitalist bashing, self-loathing, hair-shirt-wearing, economically illiterate, wrong-about-everything left-wing orthodoxy has noxiously and seamlessly fused with new age, guilt ameliorating, uninformed, fundamentalist environmentalism to produce pathetic and befuddled creatures like Camille Cacnio.
And given that Miss Cacnio is supposedly a product of one of Canada's finest universities, her manifest stupidity is arguably more threatening to public order than her act of petty criminality, providing as it does a disturbing insight into the wider prevailing attitudes within our deluded society these days.
HE SAID/HE SAID
Hey Mark, thanks for the attention. I'm surprised anyone, particularly you, would pay attention to my Yahoo column. Lilley also was a bit of a surprise.
"Vichy" was an honest typo. When I am in a hurry I sometimes see a word in my mind, like, say, "Bob Rae", and actually write in "John Rae". Weird but true, and it was my last piece before (as proven with that mistake) a much-required vacation.
All of the points you make are good, but I wasn't writing a thesis. There is no question the Harper Conservatives have (among other tactics) appealed to patriotism, war remembrances and the military to not only keep their base but, I think, widen it. That's just fact— some like that, some don't, and some don't care.
A stinging column from you, as always.
Dear Mr Steyn,
I see that you have very recently written a blog post in which you disagreed with a comment I wrote some time ago. As you may already know, I stopped blogging in 2008 and have no way to respond in kind. I hope you will choose to publish this response.
In short, my intention was to explain that in Canada governments had the theoretical right to do whatever they wanted within their jurisdiction before the Charter was passed into law. This reality is why we have had laws taking away the right to vote from "enemy nationals" during WWI and WWII. It is also why laws against obscenity and reporting untruths have existed in Canada in the past.
I never believed or intended to suggest that Pierre Trudeau created the right to free speech or gave it to us in a theoretical sense. I was just explaining the legal reality that section 2 of the Charter created a legal right that did not exist as a legal right before 1982. Surely it existed as a conceptual right to be cherished and fought for, but it was only respected by convention. Legally, Canadians simply had no ability to go to a court and demand enforcement of the right until the Charter became law.
Jason R Cherniak, Barrister and Solicitor
Richmond Hill, Ontario
MARK SAYS:"Barrister and Solicitor"? Does that come with long trousers? You really need to quit while you're behind. Your original statement on "freedom of expression" at least had the merit of only being two lines of stupid. Your attempt to justify it only makes you look ten times as stupid at five times the length. I don't use that term lightly. I'll charitably assume that you're aware that "enemy nationals" aren't allowed to vote because they're nationals of other countries (a Greek national can't vote in a Canadian election because he's Greek: case closed) and that you're referring instead to the denial of the franchise to those who were His Majesty's subjects but of particular racial origins (Japanese). But that doesn't make the point you're making. And the point you're making is remarkable because it demonstrates a total misunderstanding of the legal tradition to which you, O Barrister and Solicitor, are heir.
You claim that the legal right to free speech "did not exist as a legal right before 1982". This is bollocks de facto and de jure. When you say with all the blithe insouciance of a Dalhousie Law School alumnus that any right to free speech was "only respected by convention", my response is what do you think the entire Canadian legal inheritance is, genius? It's "convention". That's what the definition of Common Law is: a body of precedent, understandings of inherent authority - ie, "convention". When Julian Porter, QC filed a motion objecting to the Canadian "Human Rights" Tribunal's "secret trial", he cited CBC vs New Brunswick, Ambard vs Attorney-General of Trinidad and Tobago - in other words, the accumulation of precedent, or, in your words, a respect for convention.
England, the mother of Common Law, has no written consititution, and thus no "constitutional rights" at all, but only "conventions". Those "conventions" were the underpinning of the 1867 British North America Act and, more broadly, the third of a millennium of Canadian legal history before the Charter of Worthless Crap. As Blackstone put it, for lands "planted by English subjects", "all the English laws then in being, which are the birthright of every subject, are immediately there in force". In other words, long before 1982, free speech was a Canadian's "birthright" - through convention. It's all convention. In the English legal tradition, take away convention, and what's left?
That's why more countries have lived in liberty longer under Common Law than any other legal inheritance. Because what you dismiss as mere "convention" is, in fact, an understanding that "law" and laws are not the same thing. It's not about the government writing down on a piece of paper everything that it will permit you, Jason the Barrister, to do. "Rights" are not those things granted by the sovereign and enumerated in statute, but the precise opposite: They're restraints upon the sovereign. They're not about what the state allows you to do, but about what the state is not allowed to do to you. The English legal tradition is imperfect (as all systems are) but it has been a better protector of this principle than any other. What part of that don't you understand?
All of it, apparently. Because along comes that puffed up poseur Trudeau with all his modish contempt for the Canadian inheritance and he decides that, like you, he's not big on convention and precedent and he'd rather have everything written down, all nice and "codified". So now we have your 1982 Charter that, for the first time since Magna Carta, gives citizens what you call a "legal right" to free speech. And whaddaya know? Ever since we got a Trudeaupian "legal right" to it, there's been less and less free speech than back in the bad old days when (according to you) we had no "legal right" to it at all. Ask yourself this, "Barrister and Solicitor": Had Guy Earle delivered his lesbophobic putdowns at a Canadian comedy club in 1981, would he have had more or less "legal right" to free speech than he enjoys today?
I said in my post that, for you and yours, Trudeau is Year Zero. Your response confirms it. That a Canadian lawyer is willing to argue that a long, established, settled legal inheritance means nothing unless Father Pierre writes it down in his Napeoleonic Complex Code is bleak confirmation of how thoroughly he vacuumed Canada's past - and, in doing so, perverted the very idea of what "rights" are. If yours is a typical Canadian lawyer's view of the law, it certainly explains a lot. God help us all.
CANADIAN HISTORY? THERE'S A BOOK FOR THAT
Mark, thanks for the great article and for bringing my attention to such a terrible article. Below is a copy of the comment I left (I highly doubt it will be posted online) for the author. Note that in the article "Vichy" has now been changed back to "Vimy". This writer is an example of what happens when proper history is taken off the public school curriculum:
"The Harper government singlehandedly made Vimy a household name in Canada." I understand that when this article was originally posted it said "Vichy" (ie, Nazi France) instead of "Vimy". Now I see your article has been corrected to read "Vimy" with no mention of or apology for your original error. And you are accusing Stephen Harper of rewriting history?
Mr Naumetz, I am a 37-year-old Canadian who first heard about Vimy Ridge while reading the condensed version of Pierre Berton's book Vimy in my Mom's Reader's Digest during junior high in the mid-80s. (I read Berton's entire book in high school.) While backpacking across Europe at age 19, I broke away from my travel companions at Rome, forsaking the beaches of Southern Italy, and made what I considered to be a Canadian pilgrimage to Vimy Ridge to pay my respects to where Canada earned its own identity. I and many Canadians had heard of the history of Vimy Ridge long before we'd ever heard of Stephen Harper.
You accuse Mr Harper of changing Canada, but I believe it was the governments of Mr's Trudeau and Mulroney who ignored Canada's history and stealthily attempted to change the views of the nation. As a student of history, Prime Minister Harper is merely reminding the country of who they are, and where they came from.
Before you write anymore articles that make yourself look foolish, I'd recommend you catch up on some Canadian history. If the works of Pierre Berton are too much for you, then I'd recommend a good place to start would be through reading of a Grade 9 Social Studies textbook. At the very least, pick up a Reader's Digest from time to time.
HE AIN'T GOT TIME TO BLEED
Bravo, Mr Steyn. Your evisceration of Tim Naumetz brought to mind the near-flawless removal of the spines of the victims of the original Predator. Inasmuch as talk-show host Mark Levin describes the libs as "drones", I suppose you have now earned the title of Drone Predator.
EVERYBODY'S DOIN' IT
I'm not surprised that Trudeaupian lefties like Tim Naumetz and John McCallum (as Minister of Defence, no less) are totally denuded of Canadian military history, but it seems our ex-PM could use a brush up, too.
MUSTARD'S LAST STAND
Mark, you've written extensively about the Nanny State in NYC with Major Bloomberg, but they have nothing on California:
It may be obvious to most people, but California State legislators are ploughing ahead with a new food safety bill— to define what constitutes a hot dog.
That's right: in spite of all the deficit and debt issues in California, legislators feel it necessary to spend time on legally defining— as Anthony Weiner might say, "with certitude"— the hot dog.
I'd suggest the legislators simply look in the mirror if they need a definition for "wiener"— it will save us all time and money.