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Born in Poland, raised in Montreal, education in Boston and Birmingham, and residing in Charlottetown, Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island.

‘The Slut’: The woman’s drama

The federal government has proposed a new cyberbullying bill which would make it illegal to distribute “intimate images” without consent and to ensure that such images are removed from the Internet. The bill was motivated by a spate of tragic incidents, in which teenage girls, photographed while taking part in sexual activities at parties, found themselves “slut-shamed” when the images were posted online, some going so far as to commit suicide.  All Canadians are distressed by these stories, but this bill can only attack the symptoms of the slut-shaming phenomenon. It will not curb the impulse, amongst girls’ peers, to brand as a “slut” and to persecute a girl whose private or semi-private sexual activities have become an open topic for gossip. Slut-shaming is an old practice. Just the locution is an ironic, newly-minted locution for our times. Girls in western culture are well schooled from puberty in the theory that in our brave new feminist world, sluts no longer exist: that the concept is merely a vestigial reminder of a defunct patriarchy, where women were chattel and their sexual purity a measure of their moral and cultural worthiness. In theory, girls learn, they are now entitled to any and all sexual liberties, which, they are assured, will have no negative impact on them, emotionally or psychologically. The irony is that all the indoctrination in the world cannot compete with human nature. While the girls we read about were not considered sluts when they were engaging in sexual activity at the parties (teens do not judge their peers when what happens at teen parties stays at teen parties), the minute their activity became public knowledge, atavistic instinct took over, and the girls were called out for what their peers believed they were. Sluts. I have been using the word “peers,” as… Read More

Paul Rose: celebrating terrorism

Yesterday morning saw the death of Paul Rose, the FLQ cell leader who orchestrated the kidnapping and murder of Québec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte at the height of the 1970 October Crisis. One might have expected his passing to be greeted with stony silence by the political class and the kinds of media obituaries normally reserved for criminals and terrorists. Instead, union leaders and academics have fondly recalled his idealism and commitment to the cause of Québec separatism. Flowery tributes from FLQ comrades in arms, praising him as a “gentle warrior” and “comforting presence” blessed with superior organizational skills have been published by the major papers. Younger admirers have seen the death as an excuse to right historical wrongs by calling a new commission of inquiry into whether Laporte’s kidnapping was really part of a Trudeauist plot to increase support for federalism. Québec’s opposition socialist party, Québec Solidaire has gone so far as to offer condolences to Rose’s family and leading MNA Amir Khadir plans to propose a motion in the National Assembly in order to celebrate his legacy as a key figure in the movement for Québec independence. Outside observers shouldn’t be surprised by any of this; Rose and his fellow FLQ members have never really experienced the opprobrium ordinarily reserved for terrorists and murderers. Instead, Québec’s left wing, nationalist political class has irresponsibly refused to condemn them. In some cases, it has celebrated them as countercultural freedom fighters for an independent Québec.  It’s difficult to see why.Canada has had the good fortune of being exposed to very little political violence. Before the coming of the FLQ in the early 1960s, post-Confederation Canada had seen only one major political assassination. In April of 1868, Thomas D’Arcy McGee, an Irish Montreal politician and father of Confederation was shot while on his… Read More

Europe’s Fiscal Union Still Lacks a Blueprint

The improvement of eurozone market conditions in January can be attributed to several factors, including the progress made by Prime Minister Mario Monti in Italy, and some constructive if Delphic signals coming from Berlin. It also suggests that a lot of bad news was already priced in in December, including a “credit event” on Greek debt that would trigger payment of credit-default swaps, as now looks very likely. But the eurozone’s fundamental design problems remain unresolved. Even the main positive driver of investor sentiment, the European Central Bank’s long-term refinancing operations offering cheap 3-year liquidity to banks, creates risks of its own. The ECB must have decided to open that window with a heavy heart. A few hard realities have not changed, and if anything have become more inescapable.First, the core of the crisis is the gradual loss of reference status of the bonds issued by eurozone member states. Sovereign “risk-free” assets are the foundation on which complex financial systems are built. But as Eurozone sovereign bonds are perceived as carrying a risk of non-payment (or credit risk), the foundation becomes ever shakier and the rising tide of distrust engulfs ever more market segments and countries. As things currently stand, even Germany is unlikely to escape a credit downgrade for very long. Thus, the monetary union will become increasingly unsustainable unless a credible reference asset is created at the level of the eurozone, backed either by a joint and several guarantee of the member states (the various eurobond concepts) or a central tax-raising capacity as in most existing fiscal unions. The creation of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) is but a baby step in this direction.Second, the credit risk of sovereign debt creates problems in domestic banking systems that cannot be addressed by the toolkit for stand-alone banking crises. This… Read More

Enough is enough!

For the past several weeks, large numbers of college and university students have been boycotting their classes in order to protest the Charest government’s increase in tuition fees. In the eyes of the general public this debate may appear to be a new one, but as students we have been subjected to endless general assemblies on the question, going back as far as September 2010. In addition, the walls of our academic institutions have been plastered with signs and posters denouncing the tuition hike. Students have therefore been the victims of the hateful propaganda of the anti-hike movement for nearly 18 months already. The effective youth wings of Quebec’s biggest unions seem to have run out of things to make up to please their mentors, the Réjean Parent’s of this world. Recently, the arguments of the campus left have attained a new summit of irrationality and must absolutely be denounced in light of their truly unhinged level of radicalism.After 18 months of discussion and debate, we owe it to ourselves to draw attention to some of the absurdities preached in the general assemblies, paraded around in the protest marches and reported by the media. The first argument we must denounce is that which questions the basic integrity of Canadian and Quebec democracy. The student union movement, most notably the Coalition Large de l’Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante (CLASSE) has the gall to question the legitimate right of the Quebec government to implement the tuition increase. It unacceptably compares Quebec’s democratic government to those of African dictatorships. Among other things, it sees itself as the vanguard of a “Quebec Spring,” artfully comparing its own protests to those undertaken by the peoples of the Middle East, who went out onto the streets to reclaim their fundamental rights and liberties. We have been… Read More
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