Censorship
32 min

Check your history books – err, websites

It’s not an uncommon thing for a government to quietly rewrite the history books to make the facts more pliant with their current goals or policy platforms. Hell, the Americans are masters of it – just ask them about the War of 1812. We’re not entirely immune to it, if you look at the history of black slavery in Canada – most people don’t know it existed, because we simply forgot to mention it for generations. Oops.

Well, the Harper government has taken yet another page out of the good old American playbook and have surreptitiously started doing that here – this time with war resisters.

We’ve had a bit of an issue in this country when it comes to taking in those American soldiers who deserted rather than going to Iraq, either for a first or second time, or for a tour right after they got back from Afghanistan, even though they were promised they wouldn’t be re-deployed immediately. Most had been lied to by army recruiters, and others ended up enlisting out of economic necessity – sometimes it’s the only way to get an education in the States, if you’re from a poor town in the middle of nowhere, and even then, there have been plenty of stories on how their education programmes have been “frozen” because of shortages, and those who enlisted to get an education weren’t getting it. And despite assurances that they wouldn’t be sent over to fight, when their marching orders came down, they fled up here – much to this government’s dismay.

Well, funnily enough, the whole part about Canada taking in all those American resisters from the Vietnam War – once describe as by the government as “the largest, best-educated group this country had ever received” – has vanished from the Citizenship and Immigration website. The department says that it’s because it didn’t meet the “accessibility criteria” for the new government website standards, but interestingly enough, the department wouldn’t say how it didn’t meet the aforementioned criteria. Huh. Funny that.

The thing is, they’re trying to make it harder for people to look up our history of taking in American deserters in order to maker their own current position that these present-day deserters were all volunteers, so therefore it’s different. And given that we’re entering into an age where people just look everything up on Wikipedia rather than checking actual sources when doing research, they’re hoping to actually get away with it.

And while I get that history was written by the victors, is a minority Parliament really enough of a victory to start rewriting the history books? Just checking.

Elsewhere, Liberal MP Keith Martin talks about his Private Members’ Bill – C-359 – which is all about decriminalising marijuana. I have to at least applaud the fact that he gets the fact that he’s half-way down the Order of Precedence, and that the bill is unlikely to ever see the light of day but despite that he wants to generate more public interest in the subject. Oh, and he has very coherent and worthwhile arguments for decriminalisation as well, so the interview is worth watching.

Also, remember that huge storm that the film Young People Fucking created up on Parliament Hill, when evangelicals like Charles McVety was trying to get its tax credits rescinded, and Canadian film stars like Sarah Polley came to the Senate to decry government censorship? Well, that film is now up for a number of awards – and deservedly so. (It was actually a pretty good movie, and if you really want to piss off Charles McVety, make it a double-header with Breakfast With Scot, a film McVety denounced as trying to proselytise young children in homosexuality. Seriously.)

Up today: Harper is off to the G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy. Hopefully he won’t miss any photo opportunities for trips to the loo this time around.