New minorities shouldn't mean new oppression
September 29, 1991

World politics has begun to lull us like summer's biggest movie: more plot twists than a soap opera, more violence than a Schwarzenegger double bill, and yet performed in the Frank Capra spirit - democracy and self-determination winning out over the bully boys. Most of the time Canadians react to it like a summer movie, too: passively. We chip in a bit of money, cheer on the heroes, wait for the happy ending. It's easy to think we have no greater role to play.

But think again. In the new world taking shape, democracy could still be outshone by its strange new companion, ethnicity. Tomorrow's globe will contain more and smaller states, but only because large, multiethnic conglomerations are breaking apart: the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, maybe Czechoslovakia too. (Only in Germany and the Koreas are old states coming together.) It isn't the democratic spirit that's redrawing these borders. Soviet republics aren't declaring independence because the union's too big to be democratic - they're doing it because they are tired of overbearing Russians. The Grand Truth of 1991 is that no one likes being in an ethnic minority.

Trouble is, the new world will have just as many minorities as the old one. If Croatia becomes independent, it will liberate Yugoslavia's 20-per-cent Croat minority only to produce a 12-per-cent Serb minority in Croatia. Latvians made up one half of one per cent of the Soviet population; now Russians make up a 40-per-cent minority in Latvia. All the gerrymandering only mixes up which groups have the ability to oppress which others.

The people involved see all this and they're choosing their remedies quickly. Serb enclaves in Croatia struggle to break free and join Serbia (which would just leave behind smaller minorities in both regions). Some countries write minority rights into their new constitutions, others don't - but even the best constitutions don't take away the second-class stigma of minority status. Perhaps no words on paper can.

The telling example is that old ethnic state Israel. There, Jewish idealism built an exciting culture with democratic laws. Arabs within Israel can vote, hold office, demand protection in the courts. But they can't expect equality. Zionism was never racism - but it is a passion for ethnicity like those of Ukrainians and Slovenes. And so, a Jewish-Arab country becomes a "Jewish state."

The union of ethnicity and state is the way most of the world thinks. But it isn't the way Canada, the United States and a few other countries think. Here we aspire to treat the newest Sikh immigrant and the oldest Macdonald as equally Canadian; full membership comes not from bloodlines but from living within the country's borders.

There is no magical alternative: This is the only way all citizens of a state can be equal. It is an insight we ought to be proud of. And one we ought to shout about more loudly from our housetops. We owe that to the new minorities, all over the world.

The Eurofuture is Canada's, too
December 8, 1991

We already have the Eurobeat, the Eurobond market and, in living rooms from Copenhagen to Palermo, Eurodesign chairs and tables. The Eurotunnel is under construction, and ink is drying on a draft Eurocurrency accord. If things go well at a summit meeting in Holland this week, people in a generation or two may list fish-and-chips cordon bleu as an example of Eurofood, and lump Goya with Albrecht Durer as precursors of Europaint.

Watch this process carefully, for the homogenization of Europe is like an architect's model of our own future world. When Canadian trade ministers talk about "globalization" and "competitiveness," they are really talking about doing to Canada what Europeans have done to themselves: that is, throw whole chunks of national sovereignty willingly into a blender for the economic benefits that will accrue from it.

Canadians have tended to debate the effects of freer trade in narrow terms - jobs, wages, social programs. But experience has taught the European Community nations that each step down the free trade path leads to unforeseen kinds of integration.

Back in 1957, they just wanted to form a simple common trading zone, but they soon discovered that, to keep the competition fair, they would need agreements on social, agricultural, tax and labor market policies. Eurocrats in Brussels began to harmonize Europe's standards with zeal, so that today it's a real issue whether French people should be required to place the ashes of dead relatives in urns, because that's the way it's done in Belgium.

At the same time, U.S. and Japanese competition prompted EC countries to form multinational businesses, like Airbus, and multinational cultural events, like the Eurovision song contest. The upshot is that today Germans and Spaniards, Greeks and Danes live more of their lives under European logos and standards, absorbing Europe-wide ideas and engaged in Europe-wide debates, than anyone ever expected.

When the 12 EC leaders meet tomorrow in the Dutch city of Maastricht, they will hammer out the pragmatic details of complete economic union, a common security policy and a larger role for the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Countries like Germany openly say these are just steps on the way to a federal government of Europe.

The goal's drawbacks are obvious. Government is growing bigger and farther away. Already powerful lobbyists have flooded Brussels to influence the Eurocrats; ordinary Dubliners and Athenians will have a harder and harder time protecting their interests. Small cultures are getting squeezed: The Dutch fear that their language and customs will vanish as Eurobusiness does its work in English, French and German.

And yet the EC (with the exception of Britain) continues to head gladly down the path. Strange in Canadian eyes, such a surrender of sovereignty is old hat in Europe.

When the next round of GATT world-trade talksk begins (if the current one ever ends), several countries are poised to push for worldwide environmental standards, a trade issue that few people thought of as a trade issue just a few years ago. Close your eyes and you can almost foresee a future in which Montrealers and Calgarians study Canadianism in schools, and tune in to Question Period in a Parliament of the World.

Northern Ireland: Will Mayhew hit right key?
April 23, 1992

Politics wastes human talent as if there were an inexhaustible supply. Take the case of Peter Brooke, Britain's most promising Northern Ireland secretary ever - a man who, through even-handedness, discretion and a sort of phlegmatic charm managed to gain unprecedented trust among Catholics and Protestants alike.

In two years, Brooke patiently put together the first all-party peace process in Ulster since 1973. But now, just as another round of talks is coming, Prime Minister John Major has replaced him. The probable reason? In January, Brooke allowed an Irish talk-show host to prod him into singing a song, only hours after the IRA had killed seven Protestant workmen.

Brooke's faux pas, of course, was an accident; it did not make him any less sincere, fair or qualified as a negotiator. Still, negotiators are supposed to be accident-free. Protestant Unionist MP William Ross announced that Brooke's "very, very foolish mistake" had done him "irretrievable damage" and numbered his days as secretary. Such a ringing vote of no-confidence made the prophecy self-fulfilling.

Last week, Brooke's job went to Sir Patrick Mayhew - a less obliging man, who may not sing on inappropriate occasions, but who as British attorney general antagonized Ireland over extradition of IRA suspects, and refused to prosecute Ulster police for an alleged "shoot to kill" policy.

His record stuck out immediately, like a sore orange thumb. Ross rushed to praise him as just the man to find "a reasonable solution, and one which is not loaded against the Unionists"; Catholic Nationalists reacted as constructively as they could, but without much warmth. The outspoken priest Denis Faul asked what many others were probably wondering: "How is he going to win the trust of the minority community with that sort of reputation?"

It's a very good question. Mayhew - the only man ever to request this thankless job - is enthusiastic, and who knows, he may be as fair and talented as Peter Brooke, too. he says he'll put his past baggage behind him. But if he can't, or the Irish won't let him, it will be a terrible pity.

All the social trends in Northern Ireland - things that don't depend on one man's history or his mistakes - point toward great progress. Electoral support for moderates has grown; support for Sinn Fein, which won't renounce violence and join the talks, has fallen. People want a solution; all they need is a fair man or woman to smooth the way.

They had one, but they let him go - for a song.

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