What just happened here, Canada? Is this our nationâe(TM)s Bad Day at Black Rock? Because I donâe(TM)t recognize this country any more, and I donâe(TM)t like whatever tawdry cowering gathering has replaced it.

We had a Show & Tell this week, a cute thing for toddlers in kindergarten, but not so fetching on a national scale. First, the Supreme Court of Canadaâe(TM)s ruling on American war resisters told the world we are too frightened to stare down Washington. And second — courtesy of a private video camera at Vancouver Airport — we showed the planet how Canadian police use Tasers: casually, pointlessly, and sometimes fatally.

I donâe(TM)t like us right now, and judging by international reaction to the video, the world doesnâe(TM)t like us much either.


The Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal by American war resisters that they not be sent back to the U.S. for prosecution and has thrown the matter back to Parliament. The principle is “refugee asylum” and itâe(TM)s odd that the court suddenly wonâe(TM)t recognize the nature of the dispute.

Hereâe(TM)s what Pierre Elliott Trudeau said during the Vietnam War: “Those who make the conscientious judgment that they must not participate in this war âe¦ have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada. Canada should be a refuge from militarism.”

Look at us now.

In the 1960s, those fine young Americans brought energy, drive, and decency to Canada; they did good things here. But suddenly it isnâe(TM)t fashionable for justices to take a stand against the bullying of these boxed-in people.

True, the court has accurately taken Canadaâe(TM)s moral measure. The House of Commons is not going to tell the absurd Bush that weâe(TM)ll offer refuge to those who donâe(TM)t want to fight his wretched war, even if most American citizens would admire us for it.

Judging by these two events, Canada is becoming what the Americans call a ‘Red State,’ like Nebraska but without the charm, the intellect and the top ranking in Northern beans production. My gawd, Iâe(TM)m living in Omaha. Self, how did I get here?

‘Calmness’ condemns

The Supreme Court ruling is a dry sentence on a legal document sent out from dull, still-colonial Ottawa. But the opportunity to see the full cruelty of state power with lights! camera! action! is finally on offer. The Maher Arar incident told us that the RCMP were out of control. But we were never visually taken inside Ararâe(TM)s grave-like cell and shown a video of how he was beaten with metal rods.

Hereâe(TM)s the showing this time.

On CBC.ca, watch the video of a Polish visitor at the Vancouver airport die after being shot by officers of the storied Royal Canadian Mounted Police wielding Tasers. They got their man all right: He was Robert Dziekanski, who had just made the first plane flight of his life. Unable to speak a word of English, sleepless, dehydrated, stranded for 10 hours in the airport, unable to talk to his mother who — if he only knew — was 100 metres away on the other side of a door, had a massive panic attack.

He stood beneath a sign that read “WELCOME. Airport Greeting Centre.” When the RCMP arrived, they calmly — and it is their calmness that condemns them ” marched up to Dziekanski, who was pitifully relieved to see them. The video shows that they electrocuted him repeatedly from a distance and landed on him, crushing his neck, as he writhed and screamed in pain. And then he stopped, dead. On the video, the RCMP made no effort to revive him.

As you can see from the interactive map of Canada, 18 other people have died after being shot with Tasers in recent years. Itâe(TM)s not as if this is new. Thanks to the decency of Paul Pritchard, a young Canadian with a video camera, we can see how humans react to a high-tech cattle prod.

There is only one comfort in all this, and it is substantial. It is the human goodness shown by citizens.

Passengers patient

Canadian groups have been fighting for years on behalf of the American war resisters. And in Vancouver, as the video shows, the other passengers at the airport showed all the decency that officials didnâe(TM)t. A woman spoke to him gently and quietly, approaching him with outstretched hands. I feel immense gratitude to this unnamed woman.

Other passengers warned the RCMP, “He speaks Russian [note: it was Polish] and thatâe(TM)s it. No English.” They even tried to call for an interpreter. Pritchard continued filming the debacle; another person with less courage might easily have snuck away.

The passengers were sympathetic. Most of all, they were patient, which is what police are trained and paid to be, particularly when they have guns and Tasers and all the time in the world to cope with an unarmed man gasping for breath.

Show and tell

Jimmy Carter once promised Americans “a government as good as its people.” At times, they have had that. Currently, they have a government as fearful, confused and debt-laden as its people. Americans do not deserve this.

Here in Canada too, we are governed by our lessers. Canadians individually are stellar. They are decent and fair-minded. They far outclass the government they voted to represent them. The RCMP is only armed with our permission.

We expect our government not to bully the helpless, and nobody is more helpless than some American kid trying not to kill.

Canadians deserve a government as good as we are. This week was Show & Tell time for a court and a police force unworthy of us.

This Week

The American writers strike has cast a pall on my life. No Jon Stewart, no Stephen Colbert and the archived Daily Show doesnâe(TM)t seem to be functioning.

Ironically, Viacom sued Google for $1 billion in lost online profits over pirated video, but tells writers that their work is worth nothing online and they don’t deserve a royalty. I say “stay on strike, horny-handed typists of the entertainment proletariat!” The residuals that Sumner Redstone doesnâe(TM)t want you to have will buy your grandchildren a horse and buggy when the planet warms and the oceans rise. And they can trek inland to âe¦ Nebraska.

Everything and everyone washes up in Nebraska in the end.