Tuesday, 17 March 2009

"Justice", Alberta Style: The Inevitable Bush-Bashing Post

* With apologies to Ryan and Joël, proud Albertans, proud progressives, and braver men than I.

I guess being lucky enough to sit on an ocean's worth of the planet's second most expensive natural resource doesn't make Albertans different enough from the rest of us, for it seems they always feel the need to deepen, to sharpen and, finally, to revel in their difference.

Sure, this is often entertaining. Sometimes, though, it’s just embarrassing--for everyone involved. Like an aged uncle who ruins a wedding reception by stripping down to his briefs and attempting the macarena after too many rum and cokes, our Albertan brothers and sisters just don't seem to know when to stop.

Here's my case, in three exhibits.

Exhibit A:

George W. Bush chooses Calgary as the venue for his inaugural exercise in public rehabilitation, signalling to the world his belief that Alberta is the last planetary redoubt of support for an American ex-president loathed in his own country and thus chronically deprived of even the most meagre domestic media platform from which to dribble his preposterous apologetics.

Albertans happily confirm this belief by sending over a thousand of their business élite to the event. The crowd gives Bush a sympathetic hearing--with one of them opining that the plutocrat cum war criminal "came across as a pretty good human being". The anti-Bush protest, a pitifully small affair, is left up to people with names like "Splits the Sky"--moving me to the anguished conclusion that, in Alberta, even the sane people are cracked.

Exhibit B:

Most Canadians know Mayerthorpe as the scene of the most tragic catastrophe in our nation's policing history since the Battle of Duck Lake. Quite a few Albertans, though, seem to view Mayerthorpe as the scene of a terrible miscarriage of justice. According to these amateur clerks-at-the-law, two men who materially aided the cold-blooded slaughter of four young Royal Canadian Mounted Police constables are entirely innocent "scapegoats" whose indictment was an arbitrary act of official vindictiveness and who've had a "huge toll" taken from them since their arrest (more toll, we assume, than was taken from the murdered officers).

Exhibit C:

Most Canadians feel that Omar Khadr has a right to be tried by his peers (i.e. other Canadians). Many Albertans disagree, though: along with the always-interesting folks in British Columbia, Albertans are quite eager for Khadr to stay just where he is, facing a jester's assizes that even his U.S. Navy lawyer considers an absurd affront to international law and American values.

Presumably, Albertans' main objection is that Canada would provide Khadr with a fair trial--one operating according to post-Magna Carta norms--whereas the American process would provide a more gratifying fast-track to the noose, electric chair, gas chamber, firing squad or injection room regardless of pettifogging, pre-9/11 niceties like the distinction between "guilt" and "innocence".

So, let's review, shall we? When it comes to giving the benefit of the doubt to two of their own who committed the slight ethical lapse of shuttling a heavily armed known criminal to the scene of a multiple cop-killing, Albertans are all heart, begging the Crown to give the poor guys a break.

When the man personally responsible for triggering one of the century's worst bloodbaths arrives to prattle on about his ignominiously failed presidency, Albertans roll out the red carpet and wax sentimental about what a "decent" chap he is.

When a fifteen year old is captured, tortured and dragged into a kangaroo court for allegedly committing a murder for which the evidence is threadbare at best, Albertans gleefully watch him rot and cheer on his torment.

Thus, the norms underpinning Albertan "justice" can be divined through the following deeply held beliefs: accessories to a multiple cop killing are victims of a vengeful Crown and must be freed immediately; an American president who orchestrated the massacre of tens of thousands must have his ass kissed, and a Canadian kid (ethnically Arab, provocatively) must be punished, perhaps capitally, for most probably not killing a single soldier.

These are precisely the facts I shall have in mind next time a representative of God-fearin' Albertan righteousness lectures the rest of us about our bleeding-heart, soft-on-crime "decadence". I know decadence when I see it, and, right now, it is home, home on the range.


Ti-Guy said...

...signalling to the world his belief that Alberta is the last planetary redoubt of support for an American ex-president loathed in his own country...

That really does surprise me and it's something that started mystifying me just after the political right was reunited in this country. It just seems incomprehensible that this embrace of Bush Republicanism in Canada should become tighter at precisely the moment it revealed its complete moral bankruptcy; at the time of the Iraq invasion.

Constant Vigilance said...

Another great post.

Ti-guy - As to the swing to Reform in 2006, I expect it is a reaction to Gomery and a desire to punish a party that had been in to long. The draw of Reform isn't so strong in itself. It was largely fed by the collapse of the PCs after Mulroney.

Harper is sort of like The Cat In The Hat. Now that he is in, the steps you have to take to get him out leads to all sorts of other problems.

Sir Francis said...

...at the time of the Iraq invasion.

Indeed, that's when the ideological flirtation became a full-on, sweat-drenched-quickies-in-cheap-motels dalliance.

But has it not become quite clear that bankruptcy--in all its myriad moral and fiduciary incarnations--is an unconscious desideratum of North American neo-liberalism?

Ti-Guy said...

I expect it is a reaction to Gomery and a desire to punish a party that had been in to long. The draw of Reform isn't so strong in itself. It was largely fed by the collapse of the PCs after Mulroney.

I prefer something more conspiratorial.

Dr.Dawg said...

Damn, that was good. Another reason for checking in more often. Great last line, too.

Dirk Buchholz said...

Enjoy the blog but on this your comparing apples and oranges.And beside must Albertan's are from some where else,like Ontario.

Sir Francis said...

...your[sic] comparing apples and oranges.

Interesting thought. What are the apples, and what are the oranges?

Ti-Guy said...

.And beside must Albertan's are from some where else,like Ontario.

But the problem lies in what a place of easy prosperity like Alberta does to people. I believe it provides them with an over-inflated sense of their own intrinsic worth, which is normal, but it is a tendency that adults should try to moderate.

People who take the risk of picking up and moving out to Alberta, who then see their personal economic situations improve should congratulate themselves for making a move that suited them. What they shouldn't do is believe that that alone gives them the right to hector, lecture and badger everyone else.

The absolute nerve of Ralph Klein sending a message of support for the Iraq invasion to the American Ambassador was the height of such arrogance.

Aeneas the Younger said...

75,000 Americans live in Calgary. Go figure.

liberal supporter said...

75,000 Americans live in Calgary. Go figure.
The policy of "effective occupation" worked in Texas. It just seems to be taking a little longer in Alberta.

Tomm said...

Sir Francis,

Interesting post. Worth the read; as are the comments.

Being borne and bred in the province being skewered I guess I need to comment.

You're wrong.

If I may be allowed to expand on this...

Exhibit "A": Calgary has often been called (even by Albertan's) as Houston North. George W. would most certainly find 2000 people to pay the big money to show him respect. This has absolutely nothing to do with "Alberta" except as an easy slagging target.

Exhibit "B": The two Mayerthorpe homeboys are just that. They have roots, friends, and family in that area. For a journalist to skulk around and get positive comments about them and negative comments about their entrapment, would be pretty damn easy anywhere, including Mississauga, Moncton, or Chicoutimi.

Exhibit "C":
You start with... "Most Canadians feel that Omar Khadr has a right to be tried by his peers (i.e. other Canadians)."
I'm sorry but you are 100% absolutely, dead, incontrovertably wrong. Wrong about what "most" Canadians want, and wrong about Canadian's being his peers. Its funny but as a peer to Omar Khadr, neither me nor my childen have felt the need to go to Afghanistan and act as a soldier for the Taliban. No "peers" here. He need go to a medieval Sunni Islamic nation under strict Sharia Law to find "peers" in any number worthy of a jury.

Ti-Guy said...

Can we find a way to give Alberta back to the Hudson's Bay Company? It's just not working out as a province.

Tomm said...


I know. Alberta is the ugly duckling of confederation.

Remember the Canadian suffragette movement? I suppose not.

It was driven by the "Famous Five" who were ALL from Alberta. Nellie McClung, Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby, & Henrietta Edwards. They have parks, churches, schools, streets, and buildings named after them in Alberta.

It was quite the problem for "Lower Canada". Yes, this "Alberta" just isn't fitting into the Canadian mold at all.

Ryan said...

Ah, Tomm. Just another Albertan who prefers American corporate elites to Ontarian ones.

Sir Francis said...

Remember the Canadian suffragette movement? I suppose not...It was quite the problem for "Lower Canada".

Upper Canada wasn’t too thrilled about it either… ;)

If this is your way of honouring Alberta's progressive past, you're bang on the money--as I pointed out in an earlier comment thread.

The question then is, what the hell happened?

Ti-Guy said...

The question then is, what the hell happened?

The loss of agriculture as a way of life, coupled with what easy prosperity does to people would be my guess. Also, the presence of 100 000 Americans in Calgary can't be discounted.

My problems with Alberta have nothing to do with Alberta itself. It's how it communicates to the rest of the country. The arrogance, the conceit, the self-righteousness, the way it claims to speak for all of Western Canada...it's astonishing.

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