CRTC says “Take off, eh” to the extra 2 minutes

Its more than a little ironic that the CRTC picked this week to announce changes to the advertising rules in Canadian television broadcasting. As of September 2007, Canadian broadcasters will no longer be restricted to 12 minutes of commercial programming per hour, with as much as 14 minutes at their disposal. By September 2008, 15 minutes of commercial time (25% if you’re counting) per hour will be allowed and in 2009, the limits on commercial minutes will be lifted completely by the CRTC.

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A life well lived

Last night’s edition of The Hour on CBC contained the final TV interview for one of Canada’s most remarkable people. Dying of cancer, “Canada’s Conscience” June Callwood invited George into her home for a final chat with Canadian television media. It was a wonderful interview that was perhaps a bit more personal than I expected, given her wealth of life experience in social reform in Canada and globally, but regardless of that (maybe even because of it) its well worth a few minutes of your time whether you’ve heard of June Callwood or not.

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I was hungry, did you feed me?

I haven’t raved much about The Hour this year … I like their new format, and I continue to enjoy George’s direct style (I do wish he’d get a bit more in-depth in some cases, but in others, he does fine), but he’s fallen into the curse of excellence … the expectations are so high, it takes something even more spectacular to provoke comment. This past week, he had an especially wonderful interview with Tony Campolo, Bill Clinton’s spiritual adviser. He said something so profound, I’ve rarely heard it from another “Christian” since the main Man himself …

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And now for something completely different …

With apologies to the Monty Python crew, I thought I’d switch gears a bit today and instead of writing a post as I normally do, I’d post a video I made recently as a submission to a contest for The Hour on CBC … a contest for the “Best Story Ever.” I haven’t heard back from them … its been several weeks since I sent in the video, so I figure they’ve decided they aren’t interested and I am free to run it here. I’m not much of a public speaker, so I didn’t really expect much of a response from them, and considering some of my ‘competition’ is Lewis Black talking about directing traffic on LSD at ‘an large outdoor concert in a field in the early 70s’ and Sex with Sue star Sue Johansen talking about whether a foot fetish will transfer athlete’s foot to … well, you know … my chances of getting it on the show are even less I suppose, lol (that IS a good story by Black, incidentally … you’ll love the ending, and it might explain the Lewis we know and love today, in some small way, lol).

So, without further ado, here’s my rather boring attempt at an entry … I’ve been toying with doing more of these video posts, but don’t know really what the response will be. I am very curious to hear your comments … if people like this one, I may try some more … otherwise, I’ll probably stick to writing, lol. The link below should go to a player … and I’ll also post the text below the fold as well.

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Season 3 of The Hour

The first week of the 3rd season of The Hour finished up last night, and it looks to largely be the show it was last season.  There were some changes in format over the summer, not least of which is a live studio audience (a bit strange for a new broadcast, and I’ll admit that some of the laughs to George’s jokes sounded a bit strange in the background of a news broadcast, but at the same time, the connection to the crowd gave the show a much more ‘real’ feel to it, IMO.

Added to the live audience, they’ve made some changes to the graphics and sound.  George is using a New Pornographers tune as his opening music this year, and the general look and feel of the graphic work on the show has a much starker feel this year.  Black and white is definitely the theme … no surprise given George’s penchant for black clothes … and all the graphics have a crisp, refreshing look to them.  The only real criticism I have, style-wise, of the new set is that when it all comes together, its sometimes a bit busy … fast moving graphics on screens behind George can be distracting while he is talking or making a point, and in general, from my perspective, the background graphics tend to distract from the show this year, rather than add to it.  I may warm to them as the season progresses, but for now anyway, I think they’ve overdone the ‘active graphics’ in the background.

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Canadian Muslim Leaders call for Summit …

Just listening to a press conference on CBC Newsworld with leaders from CAIR-CAN … the Canadian Council on American Islamic Affairs, and they are calling on provincial and Federal governments to hold a summit on extremism in their community, and to help address those extremists in their midst's.  This attitude highlights what I see as a fundamental difference in the environment of Canada, as opposed to places like the UK, or Holland, or France, or even the US.

All week, as news coverage of the arrests has unfolded in Canada, I've been watching members of the Canadian Islamic community come onto Newsworld and talk about what happened.  Unlike after other arrests in other parts of world, the voices coming to speak are without exception voices of calm reason who are clearly opposed to any extremism in their midst's.  There is a call here for quick action, for collaboration between government and community to ensure that peaceful, law-abiding Muslims in Canada are not controlled by a small minority of extremists.

The CAIR-CAN spokesman today spoke eloquently about the actual community, and about the danger of rushing to judgement.  He spoke eloquently about the need to work together with non-Muslim Canadians, and the government, to further relations.

But I think one of the key differences was highlighted by Mark Kelley in his report on the National the other night.  In places like France, Muslim's who immigrate, even those who become citizens, face serious social impediments to advancement.  In France, or Holland, "French" or "Dutch" people represent those cultures in public at all times.  Its vital to their 'history' and their national character in some ways.

But Canada is different.  Look at our advertising as an example.  Its true that 20 years ago Canada was a very white-bread place in public, even though the real Canada was a true rainbow.  But today, an Indian family discusses hime loans on one CIBC ad, while the average coffee house ad is full of Asian or Middle Eastern actors.  Canada really IS a multi-cultural place today, and while there are Canadians who resent that, its become very much a fact in 2006.  The coloours and hues we see when we look around both he real world AND the 'public space' in Canada today are many and varied.

And while Canada does have poverty, and we do have slums and ghettos in a manner of speaking, one key difference that I can see between Canada and elsewhere is that those slums are RARELY racially related.  Immigrants coming to Canada don't have a huge issue with fitting in, we don't have huge suburbs of disaffected youth who are refused entry into normal society.  We don't have these things because it doesn't matter what religion you are, what colour your skin is in Canada … it matters if you are a part of the community or not.

After other arrests and attacks, I haven't seen the locla Muslim cimmunity react in the same way.  Elsewhere, there's always been hostility, resentment, a seething undercurrent of hatred that I simply don't see here in Canada.  I can't explain why or how Canada has come to the point where everyone involved can look at these arrests simply as justice being done, and why it hasn't brought out bad blood.  The only answer I have is that there is no bad blood to bring out here, that Canada is an example of a place where the Muslim community IS integrated into the rest of society, and that there's no seething undercurrent of Canadian mistreatment of our Muslim population.

And therein lies my perspective for how we ensure it stays that way.  We can't let these arrests change the way we deal with anyone.  The point is, the were a SUCCESS … its ridiculous to use them as a reason to crack down on a community that has responded with passion both for their own community and for Canada as a whole.  I say we go ahead with the summit … its good PR at a time when the world over, Islam and the rest of the world are at odds.  But whenever I hear people talk about radicalism being at the core of Islam, I have to question their motives.

As Muslims have been pointing out all week in Canada, it is a tiny minority of their population that choose violence.  The CAIR-CAN spokesman today likened it to the Italian community being expected to answer for the Mafia continually.  And I can't help but think back to a decade ago, as I wandered up a street in Lagos amongst several different BBQ pits celebrating the wedding of the brother of a friend.  My friend herself was 'unusual' by most people's assumptions, a well educated, intelligent Muslim woman I played tennis with twice a week for 3 years named Omodele.  When her brother's wedding came around, and she didn't have a 'date' to take, she asked me to be her escort.

There were two different ceremonies … one for the Muslim groom, and one for the Christian bride, and at both ceremonies, the two families came together in fellowship and friendship.  It was a remarkable experience, but its also the 'poster' for why I KNOW Islam isn't an extremist religion bent on world conquest and the subjugation of all others … because I know there are millions of Muslims the world over who are just like you and me.  My friend Dele is a lawyer, educated by her Muslim family.  She was still umarried in her late 20's when I knew her, though she married a few years after I knew her to a Muslim man.  She continues to practice law by all accounts, though its been some years since I have spoken with her.

I KNOW from Dele and others that Muslims are no different than you or me.  The extremists in their community have managed to hijack their politics in MANY places, but its not representative of the general community of Islam in the world, at least not the ones I have met, both here in Canada and elsewhere. 

Canada’s homegrown terrorists …

I've been holding off writing about this, waiting for more information to come out.  About the only thing I am certain of at the moment is that we don't know a lot of details, and that more details will emerge in the weeks and months to come.  For now, 12 adults and 5 youths are under arrest on a variety of security and terrorism related offences, though current indications are that there may very well be more arrests.

There are obviously a few larger questions swirling around this story.  While it's heartening to know the cell was uncovered and broken up before anything happened, and the police, apparently, were in full control of the attempts to acquire amonium nitrate by the group, the fact the group was an apparent 'Canadian' entity, involving not recent immigrants, but established Canadians, so to speak, is somewhat disturbing.

We've already seen some of the knee-jerk reactions.  PM Harper, over the weekend, said it was because they hate "our way of life."  In his closer on The Hour tonight, George called that assertion ridiculous, and he's bang on the money.  Its way too simplistic, and it in fact plays into the hands of extremists.  Osama bin Laden made specific reference to that attitude in a recent tape as being part of the problem with leaders of the west, and that we now have a leader speaking in the same rhetoric as Bush is a bit disturbing.

One of the dangers is that we'll see a backlash.  There was some vandalism of Islamic buildings in Toronto over the weekend, but more worrisome to me is the idea that this will provoke some sort of change in our immigration policy, or laws, directed specifically at Muslims.  The final segment from The Hour tonight was a teaser for a documentary on the National tomorrow, examining the reaction in Europe to rising Muslim fundamentalism.  I'll be fascinated to see the report, but whenever people talk about Muslim extremism as a seperate thing, I wonder why our normal body of laws don't apply any more.

Its not religious freedom to plot the murder of your neighbours, and CBC Newsworld over the weekend was FULL of Canadian Islamic leaders saying just that.  We already have laws that address murder, and criminal conspiracy, and all manner of organized evil … I wonder why this incident might point to laws that would specifically apply to Muslim extremists.  The fact is, it seems to me that, so far anyway, the incident shows that our existing laws work just fine in identifying and stopping these groups before they strike.

There is responsibility on all sides.  The general public needs to refrain from operating under a mob mentality, and the Islamic population needs to be vigilant against perversions of the message.  Ultimately, its extremism we are fighting here, and not anything to do with Islam inherently, and any laws we make that address Islam directly will be morally weak.

There is a difference between the public space in Canada, and in European locales now considering laws specifically targetted at Muslims.  In places like Holland and the UK, they've let the notion of tolerance and freedom go to extremes.  For years now, firebrand Imams have been preaching violent revolt to people across Europe, with impunity.  But in Canada, things are somewhat different, or so we are led to believe.  Canada has hate speech laws, and laws against incitement to violence.  Certainly, criminal conspiracies involving the destruction of public buildings are easily prosecutable, and despite the penchant for Canadian tolerance, any suggestion that such plots constitute religious freedom will be identified as just what it is, hate speech and incitement to violence.

Ultimately, Canada's public space is supposed to be different.  What I've seen so far since these arrests has bolstered my feelings that things can be different here.  There are very few other place sin the world where tolerance has legal limits, as it does in Canada, and because of those limits, I think its far more robust than it might be elsewhere.  Part of the reason Canada MAY be able to get out of all this is that we've ALWAYS said its unacceptable to yell fire in crowded theatre, to threaten your neighbours out of hate, or to incite them to violence against others.  We are a tolerant people … its one of our hallmarks, but the the limit of that tolerance is your intolerance.  Canada has ALWAYS striven to be intolerant of intolerance, no matter where it comes from, and thats why we shouldn't need laws aimed at Muslims.  It doesn't matter who you are, telling others to go out and kill people is GOING to get you arrested, and no one is going to buy the religious freedom argument.  Thats WHY we have laws against hate speech and incitement to violence … so we can deal with those people when necessary.