Monday, June 05, 2006

Just the Facts

Treading where angels fear to go, conservative apologist Mark Milke leads Victoria Times Colonist readers into topics on race, religion, and politics. And, we expect that when wading into the crossfire of so many profound topics, he should be prepared to be criticized from all sides.

He wrongly claims that MP John Cummins challenge to aboriginal fishing is based on equality – not race. Mr. Milke wrongly believes that those without faith cannot make firm value judgments. And, he declares his positions without explanation on social issues – such as cross-cultural relationships, same-sex marriage, and abortion. Ok, Mr. Milke takes positions. However, as Pierre Trudeau - Canada’s most influential and often controversial Prime Minister – once said, all good politics must start with the facts. So, here are some facts.

Aboriginals have a treaty relationship with Canada. Some of these treaties are part of Canada's Constitution; aboriginals are mentioned in the constitution. However, treaties are generally not part of a country’s constitution. So, when Mr. Milke claims that the Canadian constitution does not require that aboriginal fishing rights be respected, he is telling a half-truth. Fishing rights exist in Treaties, aboriginal title claims, and negotiated settlements and are not absent as he claims.

More disturbingly, Mr. Milke argues agreements with aboriginals are raced based. However, in previous writings he did not express problems with treaties with Japan, the EU, or the US. However, those other jurisdictions are no more or less diverse than the many aboriginal communities with which Canada has many treaties. Why the double standard? Why are Canadian treaties with aboriginals any less valid than other treaties? And, why lump all aboriginals and their issues with Canada into one discounted race based claim? In law, various aboriginal groups have many treaty relationships with Canada.

In general, Mr. Milke’s editorials on social issues are profoundly problematic. Since the Renaissance-Reformation 500 years ago, the vast majority of Theologians and Philosophers have radically disagreed with his style of thinking. They concluded that everyone could derive appropriate judgments based on what we carefully see around us.

In the arena of ethics they coined the term Natural Law which accounts for moral judgments. For example, philosophers believe people can see the immorality of aggressive war regardless of faith, or lack of it. And, theologians also affirm that one can see how the world works regardless of creed; they termed that Science.

You don’t have to be a believer to either make sound moral decisions or understand how the universe works. However, one does have to recognize that Prime Minister Trudeau was right. Your politics must be founded in the facts. It must be based in experience, history, the law, and treaties. Making political statements while ignoring relevant facts about fisheries, for example, demonstrates mere preferences. In contrast, good politics will face the facts.

Humans struggled for 100,000 years to get to the Reformation-Renaissance and then to see, really see, that the facts of the world around us can profoundly inform us – all of us. My hope is that writers like Mr. Milke would allow the facts to inform him on social issues.

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