Has Canada changed?

How would we react to some of today’s news a decade ago?

As predicted several months ago in this column, former premier Alison Redford has been officially absolved of any misuse of taxpayers’ money as a result of an investigation by the RCMP. The case is closed and all the time and money spent for the investigation alongside the effort by the opposition to hold the former premier accountable for her excessive spending were wasted.

As mentioned earlier, Alberta being a province where money is easy to come by and spend (at least it has been until very recently), it is not something very surprising that a high flying politician gets away with wasting taxpayers’ money. After all, the same thing has been happening at the federal level, too (remember Senator Mike Duffy receiving $90,000 from Stephen Harper’s chief of staff and other senators also claiming money from the Senate coffers that they were not entitled to); but at least in that case RCMP have laid charges against Senator Duffy and trial is soon to begin.

But last week’s news from the CBC about RCMP practices aimed at helping the Harper government at the expense of potential victims of pedophilia is really disturbing, not to say disgusting: According to the public broadcaster, over the last five years, RCMP have withheld spending some $10m. allocated to fight online child pornography and they did this to help the Harper government to patch up their budget deficits. (http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/child-porn-policingprogram-suffers-from-rcmp-underspending-1.2963885) And this comes apparently, according to the story, at a time of increased tips being received by the police regarding online pedophilia.

So, for the national police organization with which we entrust our safety and security, helping the prime minister to cover his mismanagement of the budget was more important than helping the children not to fall into the net of the online child abusers.

But this was not last week’s only revolting news: In Saskatchewan, a two-year-old boy and an 18-monthold girl died after fire broke out at their home on the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation last Tuesday. The volunteer fire chief and mayor of the neighbouring Loon Lake settlement, who refused to respond to the fire call, was quoted in the media as saying ”How do I protect the rest of the community if I burn everything, my resources, and not get paid for it?” Allegedly, the First Nation has outstanding bills to be paid to Loon Lake Fire Department.

Personally, I sense a lot of unjustified exaggeration in that pretext not to save people’s lives in a burning home: Is that fire department so poor not to be able to attend a fire, was it inconceivable for the fire chief to save lives first and ask for money later? Another question that comes to mind is whether the chief could have refused to respond to a fire call from a non-First Nation community?

But what is interesting is the series of comments put on a Facebook page regarding the incident: majority of people who commented said the fire chief was right to refuse to attend to the fire and the deaths of the toddlers were, according to one comment, “a necessary lesson” for the First Nations band.

So one can’t help thinking if this is the humane, gentle and caring Canada we are a part of. Growing almost indifferent to news of police transferring its own money to government to plug budget holes but leaving potential criminals targeting children off the hook and two toddlers dying in a fire because of alleged unpaid bills, how much have we lost touch?

What would the reaction be to similar news five years ago or 15 years ago?

Drinking, as it were, a concoction of easy oil money and Stephen Harper-style leadership year after year for almost a decade, has the Canadian society stopped being the exemplary nation known for its devotion to humanitarian values?

– Mustafa Eric