Four In The Afternoon: Back To School, Cheap Flights And A Flash Mob

4 in the Afternoon1 BACK TO SCHOOL Newtown, Connecticut students headed back to the classroom today. It seems sort of ridiculous. I get the idea that the children and staff should be able to mourn together, but three days after the tragedy seems a little soon. At least the Sandy Hook students don’t have to go back to the building where it all went down.

2 ROUGE-Y ROUGE Air Canada announced today that its new low-budget airline, Rouge, would start flying in July. It means you can now fly to Edinburgh, Scotland and Venice, Italy (if it’s still worth flying there after all the flooding) for under $1,000 round trip for the first time with Air Canada. I am all for cheap flights; however, it means Rouge staff will receive lower wages and less benefits than Air Canada staff. An arbitration settlement back in July, which sent pilots back to work, is partly to blame for creating the wage divide.

3 INSTA-BOYCOTT!! Facebook, which recently bought photo-sharing site Instagram, is pissing a lot of users off. Instagram’s terms of service was updated yesterday and now demands users agree that their photos could be used “in connection with paid or sponsored content.” This means that even though the photographer “owns” the photo, Facebook can use your photos to market to your friends on its site. The changes go into effect on January 16, 2013. Many Instagram users have posted on Twitter that they will boycott the photo-sharing site and now “#Instagram” is trending on Twitter.

4 MERRY X-MAS Saskatoon Transit will continue to display a “Merry Christmas” message on busses. City councilors debated the issue yesterday, but ultimately settled on keeping the holiday greeting. They also decided to explore the possibility of adding greetings that reflect spiritual celebrations of other world religions. Yay for inclusivity!

BONUS: Last night, a group of Idle No More protestors rocked a flash mob Round Dance at the Cornwall Centre. Have a look-see.

19 thoughts on “Four In The Afternoon: Back To School, Cheap Flights And A Flash Mob”

  1. #3: Two thoughts come to mind in re: this report. First, if people are genuinely concerned about privacy, perhaps they should rethink their engagement with social media; and second, honestly, are there still people alive in the world today who believe that any service comes without a price of one kind or another?

  2. Seriously, to me “Merry Christmas” is about as much about Jesus as “Happy Thursday” is about a certain Norse thunder god. I think it’s more than a bit silly for atheists and other secularists to choose this battle.

  3. Rouge: Further erosion of middle class salaries. Like a media person or retail salesperson, you’ll never buy a house without a partner who earns more.

  4. To all the staff at the Prairie Dog I extend my wishes for Happy Holidays.
    To Mr.Solo;
    MERRY CHRISTMAS DUDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Now, now, must we poke at Mr. Solo like some caged circus bear? He does have a point. Happy Holidays is perfectly sufficient for all society. Hannukah, Christmas, Quanzaa, Boxing Day, New Year’s… It’s the holiday season.

  6. With all due respect to Mr. Solo and his beliefs, he appears, according to the interview he gave the media, to be labouring under the misapprehension that Canada has constitutional separation of church and state. Wrong country; the US has it, but we don’t.

  7. Barb, while you are correct that a separation of church and state is not explicitly enumerated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that in no way means that separation of church and state is not constitutionally protected here. For starters, the Supreme Court of Canada has held that the Constitution of Canada consists of more than the Charter and the various other acts listed in the Constitution Act, 1982; Instead, our Constitution consists of both codified acts and uncodified traditions and conventions. Secondly, the principle of constitutional literalism has been soundly rejected in Canada: the living tree doctrine is firmly established as the basis for Canadian constitutional interpretation. As such, determining whether a constitutional protection exists requires actually looking at the decisions made by courts in Canada.

    Section 1 of the Charter means that all Charter rights are subject to limitations. Between section 1 and the notwithstanding clause, it would be silly of me to try to argue that we have an unalienable right to freedom of religion or a strict separation of church and state; however, I do intend to demonstrate that Canada does indeed have a constitutional separation of church and state. To do this, I am required to show three things: a) freedom of religion includes freedom from religion; b) freedom of (and from) religion extends to the actions of government institutions and agents (not just to the laws passed by legislative bodies); and c) the separation granted by things (a) and (b) is constitutional in nature.

    Regarding thing (a), R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd. (which struck down laws prohibiting store openings on Sundays), Zylberberg v. Sudbury Board of Education (outlawing the use of the Lord’s Prayer in public schools) and Russow v. British Columbia (also regarding the Lord’s Prayer) all establish freedom from religion. Regarding thing (b), the Zylberberg and Russow dealt with the activity of government institutions. Regarding thing (c), all of the decisions mentioned were based upon section 2(a) of the Charter.

    I hope it is clear that in Canada, government institutions are constitutionally required to respect freedom of and from religion (i.e. separation of church and state). This separation is not absolute, but then no freedoms or rights are absolute in Canada. We have separation of church and state in Canada in the same sense that we have freedom of speech, yet rarely do we see people claim unequivocally that we don’t have the latter (as you have about the former).

  8. Thank you for this, Brad: you’ve presented a well-thought-out and referenced explanation of the issue. The phrase “separation of church and state”, however, is American-generated and refers to the very explicit First Amendment to the American constitution. Because Canada’s legal situation is different, being, as you have pointed out, more subtle and less explicit (following the British legal tradition of implicitness and comprehensiveness), the phrase can result in confusion. Granted, it takes less effort to say “separation of church and state” than it does to say “constitutionally protected rights to freedom of and from religion”, but the former phrase still references America and its model of government. No doubt Mr. Solo, whose interview may have been edited for length, will have a better opportunity to present his case in his appeal to the SK Human Rights Tribunal.
    It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

  9. It might be worth pointing out some of the limits to separation of church and state. First and foremost, government funding of religious schools is explicitly exempted from Charter challenges by section 29 of the Charter. The rights regarding these schools were defined in section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867. It’s an artificial and silly exemption, based on historical compromise and cannot be extended to any other area of government service; therefore, I consider it a limit on the separation, not a disproof of it. Secondly, freedom of (and from) religion does not currently extend to freedom from the concept of God. In Allen v. the County of Renfrew, it was decided that mention of a non-sectarian God in a broadly-inclusive prayer, anthem, etc. does not make that prayer, anthem, etc. a religious observance and is allowed under the Charter. So, in a sense, there is no separation of theism and state in Canada.

    I don’t expect this to last however. The bulk of Hackland’s decision in Allen v. Renfrew was an argument that belief in God is universal enough. His support for this argument was based largely on the preamble to the Charter itself containing reference to God. That argument may have held weight in 1982, when a mere 7.4% of Canadians self-identified as non-religious. Now that it’s up to 22% (according to StatsCan’s 2009 General Social Survey) it is harder and harder to make that argument stick.

  10. Since we are in the business of nitpicking, the Bill of Rights does not explicitly contain the phrase “separation of church and state”. The phrase originated in an 1802 letter from Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association, and was first referenced by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1878. While the phrase’s origins are American, it is widely used to describe the principle in many countries (even those, like Canada, without an explicit establishment clause). Now we’re debating usage, however. Since the linked article does not contain the phrase “separation of church and state”, I can still only assume that your original comment referred to the principle of separation which does exist in Canada (even though we may disagree on the language used to describe it).

    That said, the word Christmas is commonly used to refer to December 25th in many, many secular situations. Despite the holiday’s origins, the phrase “(Have a) Merry Christmas” is no more a religious utterance than “Happy Canada Day”, “Boxing Day Sale”, or “Get Drunk on St. Patrick’s Day”. Secondly, one of the tests used in all section 2 cases is whether a coercive nature exists. While this has been broadly interpreted (providing an opportunity to not participate is insufficient), I can’t begin to imagine what activity Solo could claim he was coerced to do. If he doesn’t start choosing his fights better, Solo could easily get a reputation as “Saskatoon’s Chad Novak”.

  11. Note to self, do not use angle brackets in comments. That last comment should read (if I’ve guessed the escape sequence correctly:

    <insert insincere apology to Chad Novak here>

  12. @14 Now, now, must we poke at Mr. Novak like some caged circus bear?

    Church & State…heh heh, you said “church” and “state” in the same breath. The only thing Church and State means to most young Canadians is possible where the karaoke bar with the $2 Draft-till-midnight is located.


  13. @9, 11, and 12: See, now this is the kind of content that really contributes to rational discussion on this blog.

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