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Glass Houses and Lack of Civility

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Glass Houses and Lack of Civility

Post by VVice on Wed 09 Apr 2014, 17:46

There is an old saying that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.  And yet, there are plenty of examples of people doing exactly the opposite on a regular basis.  This hypocrisy is evident among our politicians, who often criticise each other and then get offended when they are the target of such criticism.  

I do not usually comment about the inappropriate behaviour of politicians and bureaucrats unless it pertains directly to the operations of VAC.  When the integrity of Veteran Voice is attacked, then I am willing to make an exception.  The purpose of VVi is to share information and ideas.  Anyone has the opportunity to agree or disagree with what is posted on the website, and the staff encourage people to express themselves.  There are few limitations imposed and everyone can be as “mouthy” as they want to be.  Those that break the rules can expect to be informed and may be banned if they refuse to comply.  Most people are respectful, which is something that Canadians consider to be a national characteristic and we are proud of it.

On 25 March, Ron Cundell was the target of criticism by two members of the Conservative Party, while testifying before the House of Commons Committee for Veterans Affairs.  In my opinion, this is a good example of what their fellow Conservative MP and member of the committee Laurie Hawn has called a general decline in civility in Parliament during his eight years as a sitting MP.

"Parliament's always combative and it should be that way. But it should be measured, it should be respectful, it should be rational. I think we've gotten away from that, to a greater extent than I would like."

"I think it does come down to individuals thinking about what they're doing and saying every day and just the simple things. People fire a shot, a nasty shot, instead of just saying, 'Well you know what, maybe they've got some good ideas',"

Bryan Hayes criticised Ron for publishing a negative comment about MVA Julian Fantino as well as our policy of anonymity for the CSAT forum.   Mr Hayes suggested that it was inappropriate to permit such privacy and asked for information about how the forum is moderated.  Ron responded by stating that it was our policy that people can post comments as long as they respect the three rules:

1. No threats to a veteran
2. Watch your language
3. Never attack an individual (anything that could be considered defamation of character or libel, and use of private information that is offensive).

Mr Hayes disregarded what is included in Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the section of the Constitution of Canada that lists what the Charter calls "fundamental freedoms" theoretically applying to everyone in Canada, regardless of whether they are a Canadian citizen, or an individual or corporation.  These freedoms can be held against actions of all levels of government and are enforceable by the courts. The fundamental freedoms are freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of belief, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association. Mr Hayes should also think about the sacrifices made by Canadian veterans to protect these fundamental freedoms.  Ironically, CF and RCMP veterans must give up these things while serving Canada.

Mr Hayes chose one negative comment out of many and also used it out of context, which seems to be a common ploy by many commentators when criticising others. The so-called offending statement is “The closest thing this idiot ever came to trenches is maybe in the form of a coat. He probably wore a Fedora as well and pretended he was Inspector Clousseau. You know that any review they conduct will only be influenced by partisan politics and go out of its way to dispute the OVO's findings, so that they can keep saving money on the backs of real Veterans”.  It is true that comment was disrespectful; however, it is also true that Julian Fantino is not a veteran of the CF or the RCMP.  To date, there have not been many significant changes made to the NVC despite the nearly 500 recommendations submitted by various advisers employed by VAC and the declaration that the NVC would be reviewed every six months.  The minister was probably called pig, cop, fuzz, narc and other slang terms for policeman during his previous career.  Comparing wearing a trench coat to living in a trench is a fairly mild criticism, and in my opinion not worthy of public scolding by Mr Hayes.

Wladyslaw Lison used much of his allotted time, which is to be used to ask questions of any witnesses, to continue the haranguing started by Mr Hayes.  He only stopped when the committee chair, Greg Kerr, reminded him to ask questions.

No witness should be the target of bullying.  Their role is to provide information to help the committee in its study of issues.

Of note, neither politician thanked Ron for his testimony, although all the other members of the committee did.  

After the meeting was adjourned, Ron and I spoke with Greg Kerr, who very graciously delayed his departure to another activity to continue informal discussions.  I mentioned to him that there is another very good reason to respect the privacy of our commentators.  There have been several very public reports by veterans about the abuse of private and personal information by unscrupulous bureaucrats working in VAC.  This activity includes defaming veterans in briefing notes to previous ministers and other parliamentarians,  and unlawfully sharing information in contravention of the Privacy Act.  

Most politicians realise that they have to develop thick skins in order to thrive in public office.  Their words and actions are monitored by the public, their opponents and the media.  Anyone who dislikes or disagrees with politicians will delight in twisting their words or altering the context.  Julian Fantino has had several negative experiences since he became Minister of Veterans Affairs, and it is very likely that he will experience others.  If you fire a shot, a nasty shot as Laurie Hawn said, then you could expect others to respond in kind.  If you do not like such activities, then either stop throwing rocks or move out of the glass house.  

Chief Editor

Note: It seems that other committee members were also guilty of uncivil behaviour. It was interesting that none of the past offenders behaved badly during the meeting of 8 April, which I attended. Hopefully this resumption of polite and respectful behaviour will continue.

CSAT Member

Number of posts : 12
Location : Ottawa
Registration date : 2014-04-09

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