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KurDish HaCk3rS WaS Here
FUCK ISIS !
Earlier this year, the Vancouver School of Theology announced the sale of its Iona Building to UBC‘s Vancouver School of Economics.
While the Vancouver School of Theology (VST) $28 million sale of the iconic Iona Building ‘castle’ to the University of British Columbia is significant news, VST principal Richard Topping suggests there is more to the story.
The ‘more’ relates to the changing scene in Canadian theological education — particularly the increasing role of online learning and expanded educational services to present and future ministers and faith leaders.
Dr. Topping is a minister who pastored one of Canada’s largest Presbyterian churches, did most of his theological studies at Wycliffe College, Anglicanism’s evangelical seminary at University of Toronto, and earned his PhD from St. Michael’s College, a Catholic institution also at the UofT.
(The congregation he served as senior minister from 2000 to 2009 was the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul in Montreal. He moved to the west coast in 2009 to become professor of studies in the Reformed Tradition at St. Andrew’s Hall. He became principal of VST this past summer, while retaining the Reformed Studies role.)
We have the incredible opportunity to construct a purpose designed facility to advance thoughtful, engaged and generous Christian faith for the 21st century.
Amplifying on that statement, he notes that the student body, at present, is 115, but draws from a range of faith backgrounds, including the school’s participating bodies — the United, Presbyterian and Anglican traditions.
The landmark stone-faced 100,000 square foot building topped by an imposing tower and featuring stunning views to the north, was built shortly after the 1925 church union. That union brought together the Methodist, Congregational and a large section of the Presbyterian denominations in Canada.
That original Iona was known as Union College. Growing up around them in subsequent years were the Anglican Theological College (ATC), St. Andrew’s Hall (Presbyterian) St. Mark’s / Corpus Christi College (Catholic) and Carey Centre (Baptist). Regent College came into existence in 1968 but, before it moved into its own building across campus, it occupied one wing of Union College.
UBC plans to make the Vancouver School of Economics, which operates under its Faculty of Arts, the main occupant of the towered building. According to Gage Averill, UBC Dean of Arts: ”This will generate great excitement for the Faculty of Arts. The magnificent Iona building is ideally suited for the UBC Vancouver School of Economics. It is a treasure that will provide an inspiring setting for our faculty and students.”
VST was formed in 1971 from the merger of Union and ATC. Later, St. Andrew’s affiliated. “Interestingly,” Topping says, “space in St. Andrew’s will be used to accommodate some of the classroom and faculty to be moved from the Iona Building.”
He added that “[VST] was using about one-quarter of the Iona Building in recent years.” He said that while final plans are still in process, Somerville House, a smaller structure in the north part of the “neighbourhood” may be renovated to permanently accommodate VST activities.
Somerville House was built on the site of the structure which originally housed ATC, near the Chapel of the Epiphany, which remains a worship centre for the complex — and home to University Hill United Church.
Alternatively, a new structure may be built, equipped in a fashion that recognizes the breadth of theological interests that exist around the Pacific Rim. As a Pacific-facing institution, that emphasis is significant, says Topping.
All the theological facilities on and around Iona Drive form what is known at UBC as the Theological Neighbourhood. While each institution maintains its independence, the arrangements they have in common are governed by a covenant.
Amplifying on its plans, a VST release notes that the school leaders plan “to use the proceeds of the sale to continue its existing operations as a theological college at UBC,” by:
The Iona Building sits on UBC-owned land leased to the theological school for 999 years. UBC plans to take possession this coming July, with a view to beginning use for the economics school in the fall of 2015.
VST first approached UBC with the purchase idea in 2012, having concluded that the venerable structure was, in Topping’s words: “no longer suited to the school’s new programming, and that different facilities were needed.”
In effect, while differing in their general education purposes, the Vancouver School of Theology and the Vancouver School of Economics share a less than parochial outlook. As Topping indicates, VST’s west coast location lends to it a Pacific Rim perspective; many of its students and faculty come from outside of Canada.
For its part, UBC leadership sees the VSE as “a global centre for research and hands-on learning about pressing economic issues.” It claims VSE is one of the world’s best schools of economics, adding that in a recent ranking based on research publications, it placed “in the top 20 worldwide, and number one in Canada.”
Since 2007, Dwayne Buhler has been executive director of Missions Fest Vancouver, the large and popular event that takes place each year ‘under the sails’ at the harbour-side Vancouver Convention Centre. Shortly after the end of this year’s Missions Fest (January 24 – 26), he spoke with Canadian Christianity writer Lloyd Mackey about the last few years and his plans for the future. We wish Dwayne well, as he and his wife Rhonda consider the next step in their involvement as mission leaders in an increasingly complex global setting.
Lloyd Mackey: What have been some of your most memorable experiences with Missions Fest during your years there?
Dwayne Buhler: I would have to say that the main highlight of working with Missions Fest has been to rub shoulders with the men and women who lead our volunteer teams, board members, and church leaders and pastors who have supported and encouraged us.
But I have to add some other things: It’s been great to meet the speakers and work alongside the great people involved with the agencies. For me the interdenominational, intergenerational and intercultural nature of Missions Fest — giving a real sense of what I think the church is supposed to look like — is what fuels my tank.
I’m also thrilled to see how the Film Festival has developed, giving a voice and a venue to those who are telling the ‘God stories’ to this generation. We’ve seen people inspired and called — I never get tired of hearing about the people who made a connection or commitment at Missions Fest, and are now ‘out there,’ involved in local and global missions.
Lloyd Mackey: What are your interests as you look forward to the next step? Any particular plans you want to share?
Dwayne Buhler: About a year ago my wife, Rhonda, and I began to pray about our next steps.
We understand that our 15 years in Brazil and Mexico, knowledge of Portuguese and Spanish, and our love for Latin America, are part of who we are. Our hope is that wherever we end up, that we will use these in a ministry setting, which could be international, or serving from a North American base. Things right now for us are not well-defined, but I’ll keep people in the loop as they become clear.
With a sense of an upcoming change, I informed the board of Missions Fest Vancouver last March that they should begin working towards finding my replacement. They have worked on this through the last months and are in the process of interviewing potential candidates. They’ve asked me to see things through up to our AGM in May, giving some time for me to mentor my successor.
Lloyd Mackey: Any comments on the burgeoning missions festival/events field and what kind of global impact it is likely to have during the next decade or two?
DB: I tell people that only eternity will reveal the impact that an event like Missions Fest can make. It’s amazing to think about God’s faithfulness over 31 years.
I was called at that first Missions Fest, back at the MacPherson Centre in 1984, and God is still doing that today. [The first Missions Fests were held at McPherson Centre in Burnaby, then the home of Burnaby Christian Fellowship. Later in the decade, after the Vancouver Convention Centre was built, in connection with Expo ’86, the festival moved there.]
I think there is still a future for a large-scale event like Missions Fest because it meets a need in the body of Christ. All too often believers feel like they are alone; that their small church or group are like an Elijah (1 Kings 19) that doesn’t see the other 7,000 that haven’t bowed their knee to the pressures of the people and environment around them. But coming together at an event where there are other Christians worshipping is especially encouraging and impactful.
Lloyd Mackey: What kinds of developments do you anticipate for missions/missional activities in the light of postmodernity and changing relations with other world religions?
Dwayne Buhler: It goes without saying that the world of missions is changing. I see a number of important developments:
Posted by permission from ChurchForVancouver.ca
On Thursday, February 6, CanadianChristianity reporter Lloyd Mackey attended the annual Mel Smith Lecture at Trinity Western University. This year’s lecture was delivered by D. Martyn Brown, who was a long-time chief of staff and public policy advisor to former British Columbia premier Gordon Campbell. In that role, Brown helped to shape many of the Aboriginal policies that were being implemented during the Campbell years.
Much of Brown’s lecture centred around the Eyford Report, released late last year. Entitled ‘Forging Partnerships, Building Relationships: Aboriginal Canadians and Energy Development,’ the report was written by Vancouver lawyer Doug Eyford and emphasized some partnership-building policies and strategies for the federal government and First Nations leadership to consider going forward, particularly with respect to energy issues. Eyford had been appointed as a special envoy by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in early 2013. The text of Brown’s lecture will appear soon on Trinity Western’s Mel Smith Lectures page.
His lecture was given just hours before the joint announcement by Harper and Assembly of First Nations grand chief Shawn Atleo regarding a major funding initiative and shift to First Nations control of Aboriginal education. For that reason, Mackey elicited comment from Brown on the significance of the announcement, in the context of Aboriginal relations with both provincial and federal governments.
Given that many of our readers look at public policy through a faith-based filter, Brown notes that he is “not a member of, a proponent of, or affiliated with any specific church, organized religion, or religious institution.” As such, he adds, his remarks are “not intended as an endorsement or a comment upon any faith or religion”.
By D. Martyn Brown
The recent (February 7) announcement regarding the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act (FNEA) was fantastic. It certainly deserves much more media coverage and public attention, as it is a hugely important and historic initiative that is a tremendous credit to the Harper government and to the pragmatic, solutions-oriented leadership of Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn Atleo.
It will build on the vision that Atleo also helped to drive in British Columbia as the then-regional AFN chief on the First Nations Leadership Council. As such, he was a signatory to the 2005 Transformative Change Accord (TFA).
That agreement, aimed at closing the socioeconomic gaps, has profoundly improved Aboriginal education content, control, reporting and outcomes in BC. Since then, there have been substantial increases in Aboriginal graduation rates and significant improvements in FSA reading/writing/numeracy results and in Required Examinations results in virtually every indicator category. Six-year completion results are up from 46 to 60 percent over the last decade, for example. And according to provincial education ministry sources, the absolute numbers of Aboriginal students who graduated with a Dogwood last year is up 72 per cent over 2002/03.
We now know that it serves student achievement to ensure that Aboriginal education is more sensitive, responsive and tailored to Aboriginal young people’s unique cultures, needs and learning challenges. Giving Aboriginal communities more direct control over their education delivery systems is a key part of that, as it is for improved health and other social services delivery systems.
As I mentioned in my Mel Smith Lecture, much progress has been made in those areas since 2005, especially in BC – ongoing challenges and inadequacies notwithstanding – as the provincial Child and Youth Rep has so aptly related in respect of child protection issues.
Further to the TFA, for example, 53 BC schools districts now have Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreements (with four draft EAs and three more in planning). That means almost all of BC’s 60 school districts have successfully engaged their Aboriginal communities/stakeholders/partners in reshaping their K-12 education systems to better serve kids’ needs through partnership agreements that are jointly developed and supported by school districts as well as Aboriginal organizations and educators.
That same type of improvement in quality education delivery and outcomes should flow from this new FNEA in giving on-reserve First Nations the direct control over education that they have long sought.
It will provide laudable legislative requirements for better transparency and accountability; for a core curriculum that meets or exceeds provincial standards; for new language and culture content; for minimum attendance requirements; for teacher certification; and for recognized diplomas or certificates that should improve students’ off-reserve education recognition and transferability.
It will contribute to the broader imperative of ‘healing,’ which the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples said so much about and that is now being advanced by Truth and Reconciliation Commission. (That latter is another initiative that the Harper government deserves great credit for initiating and accommodating through its recent time and funding extensions to complete the Commission’s work.)
The new FNEA will get rid of the Indian Act provisions related to residential schools, which is a very important symbolic healing measure. And the new Act will be led by a Joint Council of Education Professionals that will provide advice and support on the implementation and oversight of the new Act, supported by a massive new funding commitment.
It should be noted that the $1.9 billion in additional funding for this overall initiative is more than the extra $1.8 billion education component that had been earmarked for Aboriginal education improvements in the 2005 so-called Kelowna Accord, which I mentioned in my lecture remarks. [Editor’s note: The Kelowna Accord was led by Liberal then-Prime Minister Paul Martin.]
It is too bad that the Harper government rejected that commitment in 2006 (as then-Premier Campbell so eloquently noted in the provincial legislature at the time) and that it took eight more years to get to this point; but better late than never.
The extra $1.2 billion in core funding for this initiative is over three years – whereas, as I recall, the Kelowna Accord funding was proposed to extend for five years. The 4.5 per cent annual funding escalator is almost triple the current inflation rate and should accommodate any increases in cost pressures from rising on-reserve student enrollment levels. As well, there is a $500 million, seven-year commitment for infrastructure enhancements, which is really good, and $160 million over four years for implementation, beginning next year.
In short, it’s a tonne of new money for on-reserve Aboriginal education that should dispel any notion that the Harper government is short-changing First Nations education.
All of those improvements should go a long way, also, to serving Aboriginal students in advancing their education beyond high school.This initiative will substantially improve Aboriginal students’ foundational education, skills and credentials, which will in turn support their post-secondary opportunities and outcomes via college/university and new employment training programs, including through those now being developed and supported by industries, governments and First Nations that are part of the broader resource development vision that Eyford addressed in his report.
No doubt, National Chief Atleo will get lots of blow back from some First Nations and Aboriginal politicos who might think that he’s too conciliatory, cooperative or ‘timid.’ And that’s a shame, for it is mostly through the good leadership and more constructive approaches of people like Shawn Atleo, Phil Fontaine and Ovide Mercredi that First Nations, Metis and Inuit have been so successful in advancing Aboriginal partnerships with governments across the country.
In the case of Prime Minister Harper, there’s no doubt that his meetings with Aboriginal leaders in the last two years have paid off in spades, at least on this component of government-to-government relationships. The ‘new relationship’ in education bodes well for fed-FN relations generally. But like I said during the lecture, the imminent decisions ahead for resource development will be critical in either helping to advance the broader goal of reconciliation, or in setting it back decades, if not irrevocably.
It is such a tough and challenging file. Yet these educational reforms suggest that the way to the future lies in thinking outside the box, in putting new ideas, concrete funding and shared decision-making on the table, and in developing new governance structures and permanent opportunities for meaningful and ongoing dialogue that anticipates a will by all parties to listen, learn and compromise.
Trinity Western University (TWU) received not one but two pieces of good news this week, in its quest to develop a School of Law at the Langley campus.
On Monday, December 16, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC) announced preliminary approval for the school, which the university hopes to bring on stream in the fall of 2016, with an opening enrolment of 60 students.
Then, two days later, British Columbia Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk announced his ministry’s consent for TWU to proceed with the program.
“I have now had an opportunity to consider the [ministry’s] Degree Quality Assessment Board recommendation and findings, as well as the [FLSC] reports,” Virk noted.
He said the board reviewed Trinity Western University’s proposed law degree and found that it met the degree program quality assessment criteria for private and out-of-province public institutions.
“Further, the review by the [FLSC] confirmed that graduates of the proposed law program could meet the national standards to practise law,” he added.
For its part, the FLSC explained that full approval comes only after the school has some graduates. The preliminary step was recommended by the federation’s Common Law Program Approval Committee and announced on Monday.
University president Bob Kuhn, himself a lawyer who successfully defended TWU before the Supreme Court of Canada in 2001 against attempts by the BC College of Teachers to block a teacher education program, said the FLSC action “allows us to move on.”
Trinity’s law school proposal has garnered some controversy since it was announced earlier this year, especially among critics of its community covenant, which speaks, among other things, to the value of traditional marriage. As Canada’s largest evangelical Christian university, the school has been at the forefront of developments in Christian-based liberal arts education
The FLSC release noted that the preliminary approval comes with some concerns to be monitored, including the charge by some critics that TWU’s covenant is “discriminatory” against gay, lesbian and transgendered people.
But it also noted that many of the issues raised by critics – including outspoken Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby, who has led the charge against the law school proposal – fall outside the approval committee’s mandate. That mandate is limited to seeing that the school meets the National Requirement developed by the federation and Canada’s provincial law societies.
The FLSC has struck a special advisory committee to deal with concerns outside of the society’s mandate. One task it may take on is the developing of a non-discriminatory clause in its requirements, similar to that applied for law schools – including institutions with a religious base – in the United States.
Indeed, in a July 25 editorial, the Globe and Mail, the prominent national newspaper, advocated for such a clause.
For his part, TWU president Kuhn allowed that “While the university does have strong religious roots, it is committed to fully and comprehensively teaching all aspects of law, including human rights, ethics and professionalism.”
“We recognize,” said Kuhn, “that there has been considerable debate with respect to the fact that TWU is a faith-based university. Now that the Federation has approved the program, we can move on from that debate and build an excellent law school to serve the Canadian public.
“We are thrilled to serve as leaders in Canadian context. We welcome the chance to prove that Christian universities improve society – they are not to be feared but followed.”
Kuhn suggested it is too early to tell whether a FLSC initiated non-discriminatory clause will make much difference to the process, but indicated that federal and provincial legislation already in place make such a clause virtually redundant.
The president also spoke of the significance of mediation law and alternate dispute resolution (ADR) tools in the curriculum of the proposed law school.
That aspect “has not been picked up” by critics and the media in the way that more controversial issues related to the law school have, he suggested. Some law schools in public universities “touch on it [ADR], but not to the same degree we hope to. It will form a large part of the program offerings.”
ADR is not particularly appreciated by some law practitioners, Kuhn suggested, adding, though, that experience shows 75 percent of cases going to mediation or ADR are settled at the time or soon after.
In explaining the preliminary approval decision, FLSC president Marie-Claude Belanger-Richard noted: “the Federation followed a fair, rigorous and thoughtful process,” adding that “adherence by lawyers to principles of non-discrimination in the exercise of their professional duties is an essential part of what defines a member of the profession.”
The FLSC advisory committee suggested that there is “no public interest reason to exclude future graduates of the [TWU] program from law society bar admission programs, as long as the program meets the National Requirement.”
Kuhn explained that Advanced Education’s input relates to course and program design, while the FLSC deals with ensuring that graduates are profession-ready.
And the FLSC will monitor what it describes as the “concerns” in future reviews. Those concerns include “TWU’s teaching of legal ethics and public law.”
The TWU statement with respect to this week’s two approvals noted: “By delivering a legal education within a framework of servant leadership, the TWU law program will encourage its graduates to be lawyers with a focus on community service. The school will incorporate leadership and character development into all aspects of its programming. Students will be encouraged to see the profession of law as a high calling of service, including volunteerism with local, national and global NGOs that serve under-developed nations, and the vulnerable whenever they are found.
And Earl Phillips, a Vancouver lawyer and co-chair of the TWU law school advisory council, said, “a school of law at TWU will help meet the growing need for practical and affordable legal services in Canada. I also am confident that its graduates will benefit from a culture of ethics, professionalism and service informed by the ideals of the Christian faith.”
Twenty-five years ago this summer, in Victoria, the United Church of Canada General Council wrestled with the issue of the ordination of openly gay and lesbian people to the Christian ministry.
The Council, the United Church’s highest court, which meets every three years, passed the initiative, with considerable, passionate and generally polite debate. I can remember: I was there, covering the event for Christianity Today magazine. I am trying to track down the piece as it appeared. Most of the clippings of stories that I wrote around that time are in a storage locker and not very accessible.
But for those readers who can access libraries that keep CT back copies, my piece was entitled Canadians barely united on homosexual issue. It was on page 50 of the October 7, 1988 issue.
One of the three was Tim Stevenson, who was at the centre of the debate as a young, gay, aspiring minister who was, in effect, testing the court. At the time, there was a substantial number of ministers in the denomination who were believed to be “in the closet”, but the church was not yet lowering the barrier to ordination of known practicing gay or lesbian persons.
Much of Stevenson’s story, both at time of the 1988 Council and subsequently, is in the Observer piece. The interviewer was Gary Stephen Ross, a Vancouver editor. His piece includes the fact that, for most of the years since 1988, Stevenson has been the partner and, latterly, the spouse of the current United Church moderator, Gary Paterson.
Someone not mentioned in Stevenson’s story, is the person who carried the other side of the debate at that General Council, William Wan, a lawyer and minister who was at, the time, pastor of the Ottawa Chinese United Church.
Wan courteously and in a non-accusatory manner, presented the position for heterosexuality and urged caution toward the idea of gay and lesbian ordination. He was a credit to both his professions. (Later, he became vice-president and dean of what is now Tyndale University College in Toronto. Today, he practices law in Singapore.)
All of which brings me to the core of today’s OttawaWatch. It relates to something which appeared toward the end of the Stevenson Observer interview.
After serving for some years at minister of St. Paul’s United Church in Burnaby, Stevenson went into politics, working on the left side of the political spectrum. He was an NDP member of the BC legislature and, after being defeated in the BC Liberal sweep of 2001, was elected to the Vancouver city council. There he became known as a caustic and, some would say “nasty” partisan critic – a much different sort of person than the one remembered by those who knew him in his student and pastoral days. I can’t say that I ever experienced his alleged vitriol, but I certainly heard about it from others.
There were a few paragraphs from the Observer piece that I want to reproduce here, for two reasons:
We pick up here on the Observer interview:
Is Tim Stevenson still the passionate idealist of 1988? Has the cut and thrust of politics hardened him? On Easter Sunday, at a Thai restaurant in Vancouver — just down the street from St. Andrew’s-Wesley United, where Paterson delivered the sermon as Stevenson sat proudly with their three daughters and four grandchildren — they both pondered that question.
“He’s the same Tim, but I’ve seen him develop the more confrontational style that our adversarial system demands,” says Paterson. “You always have to have an enemy, which troubles him. He’ll come home and say, ‘I don’t like what politics is turning me into. How do I reach out?'”
“It’s true,” says Stevenson. “It’s hard to be compassionate without seeming weak.” He also finds the suppression of his spirituality necessary but difficult. “You can’t sit at the cabinet table or in caucus and say, ‘Where do you think God is calling us to go?’ I sometimes find that difficult. In the church, that’s the question we’re always asking.”
“He has the same value system he’s always had,” offers Paterson. “The challenge is, how do you keep your faith from being limiting, or trivial, or used as a justification for whatever you’re doing — cloaking it with God’s blessing?”
I will leave the story there, to let it make its own point. I have my own views on what kinds of politicians try to be conciliatory, as opposed to vitriolic. And I would venture the gentle suggestion that, very often, it is a Christian politician’s attempt to live out suggestion that, very often, it is a Christian politician’s attempt to live out the gospel that gets him or her to try to be “as wise as a serpent and as gentle as a dove.”
Diane Scharf, longtime senior Parliament Hill support staffer, behaved Christianly, on May 29, when she told Ottawa Citizen investigative reporter Glen McGregor that she might be partly to blame for erroneous expenses that triggered the current Senate residency “scandal.”
The Scharf story is one of two Citizen pieces to which I will refer in taking a look at the residency allowance issue that has surrounded the Senate for the past month. The other is an May 15 opinion piece by Ian Lee entitled Residency requirements put senators in an impossible position. Lee is a Sprott School of Business professor at Carleton University in Ottawa and a former banker trained in fiduciary responsibilities.
Both pieces can be found by going to www.ottawacitizen.com, then doing a site search with, respectively, the words “McGregor Scharf” and “Lee residency”.
First, to Scharf: She generally keeps out of the public eye but I have written about her occasionally. The theme of that writing has been twofold – her long experience as a Liberal and, later, Conservative support staffer and her frequently mentoring of younger Christian staffers in the task of relating their faith to their Parliament Hill work.
This particular Citizen piece, in my modest view, was an excellent example of such Christian behavior. But, before quoting the Scharf references, I would note that in being Christian, she was being smart, as well. She didn’t hesitate to identify others who might want to take some responsibility, as well. (I should note that I have already written to McGregor, commending him for interviewing Scharf and writing the story.)
Scharf did a six-month stint as administrative assistant to Senator Mike Duffy from September, 2011 to March 2012, while his regular staffer was on maternity leave. She provided McGregor her perspective on that experience.
(Scharf) says she had trouble keeping track of Duffy’s whereabouts because he travelled often.
“Mike was so busy and so much in demand. ‘Go here, go there do this, do that’ — it was hard to know if he was in Ottawa or PEI.”
Later in the story, McGregor says:
Scharf contends that Duffy, who resigned from Conservative caucus, is being unfairly blamed for what could be clerical mistakes on her part or others in his office.
And he adds that Scharf said:
… Duffy was the hardest working politician she had served with on the Hill and was even working while he was in Florida in 2012 — a period for which Duffy has admitted he claimed $85 per diems [allegedly] in error.
For her part, Scharf, while behaving Christianly, was not prepared to shoulder all the blame. According to McGregor:
Scharf said the Senate finance officials seemed disorganized and would often reject claims they had filed.
“If we were claiming for a period that we shouldn’t have, according to them, why didn’t they say something? They are such a bunch of mixed up people over there … They hire a lot of young girls,” Scharf said. “I just think you have to have your head on your shoulders if you’re handling finances.”
While practicing what might be described as good servant hood, Scharf has been around long enough not to be blindly partisan. McGregor notes that she worked, early in her career, in Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s prime ministerial office. Until 2006, when the Conservatives formed government, she was a staffer in Liberal MP offices.
More recently, as she gradually wends her way toward retirement, she has been doing stints setting up the offices of newly appointed senators, including Denise Batters and Betty Unger. And, in her spare time, she volunteers administrative work to the new Ottawa Theological College being set up by the network Anglicans.
McGregor apparently did not question Scharf about the issue of Duffy’s claiming housing allowances in both Prince Edward Island – which he represents in the Senate – and Ottawa.
But Ian Lee’s opinion piece deals with the general issue pretty thoroughly.
There are currently two issues at play in this debate over housing allowances. First … who meets the criteria for a Senate appointment and secondly, how senators should be compensated for maintaining two residences. To address these issues, we must review the original foundational rules in the Constitution that govern the appointment of senators.
Lee offers substantive constitutional, legal and fiduciary details to bolster his arguments. He even gets in a light reference to “medieval theologians”, used as a means to maintain that the present residency rules are both arcane and confusing.
The Senate rules should be reformed to recognize the reality that senators must maintain two residences – one in Ottawa and one in the province from which they were appointed (excluding those appointed from Ontario or Quebec who were previously domiciled in the National Capital Region).
Of course, the Senate needs much more reform than just the residency rules. But, for now, those who set and enforce those rules should listen to another Lee observation:
Beyond the remarkable invasiveness that no pundit would support if applied to ordinary Canadians, this rule ignores the physical location of the House of Commons and Senate. Restated, neither the House of Commons nor Senate allow virtual voting or proxy voting. This means that an MP or senator must be in Ottawa to vote. And to be in Ottawa to vote, MPs and senators must live somewhere nearby. In the vernacular, the senator must have a residence.
Actually, the senator must have two residences due to the constitutional requirements.
If Ian Lee’s arguments hold water (and I would recommend that all parties involved read his full piece in the Citizen) I would gently suggest four things to ensure that justice prevails:
Understand: These are my own opinions, advanced without prejudice. I am prepared to suggest that I might not have all the facts. But those that I have, including what relates to a Christian way of doing things, encourage me to say that these relatively small injustices need righting before we get onto the question of real Senate reform.
Kofi Annan, best known for his 1997-2006 stint as secretary-general of the United Nations, was in Ottawa last Thursday, May 23, to talk about pluralism.
I was interested in hearing him because Canadian Brian Stiller, global ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance, (headed by another Canadian, Geoff Tunnicliffe) speaks well of the concept of pluralism. Stiller believes thoughtful and outreaching Christians should learn to understand and use pluralism to communicate respectfully and warmly with people and groups that are parts of non-Christian religions. While he does not think that we should back down on our Christian faith, he believes that serious Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists and others can live and work in close proximity without engaging in constant clashes.
Stiller talks more about this subject in his blog, at www.dispatchesfrombrian.com, under the topic of Reminding those who debunk pluralism, what it really is.
I will leave it to Stiller to stake out his position with OttawaWatch readers, and proceed to Kofi Annan… and the Aga Khan, under whose patronage Annan was in Ottawa.
The Aga Khan, the very wealthy leader of the Ismaili branch of Islam — generally regarded as that faith’s most liberal and outreaching manifestation, developed, in recent years, the Global Centre for Pluralism and headquartered it in Ottawa. It ultimately will be a $60 million project — one-half sponsored by the federal government, which made the commitment in 2007, shortly after the Conservatives took office. It is to be housed in the former War Museum on Sussex Drive, right behind the National Gallery on the banks of the Ottawa River. Environmental and renovation issues are holding up its redevelopment.
Annan is one of the directors of the Centre, along with 11 others, including Iain Benson, a Baptist-cum-Catholic lawyer best known for having founded the Centre for Cultural Renewal CCR). A couple of years ago, CCR folded in with Cardus to become a formidable Christian (with Reformed/Catholic emphasis) think tank. (You can find it at www.cardus.ca.)
You can get the full text of Annan’s speech on the GCFP, at www.pluralism.ca. And you can also see video of the Aga Khan’s remarks. As well, there is an a video interview with Annan, conducted by Globe and Mail editor John Stackhouse, an apparent distant relative of a man by the same name who teaches at Regent College.
I will limit my comments on Annan to note that he did an interesting comparison-and-contrast between Kenya after its violent 2007 elections and Syria today. He has been involved in both places, in trying to bring peace. It eventually came, in small measure at least, in Kenya. And he maintains that recognition of pluralism — a respect for religious and ideological diversity — helped pave the way to an eventual power-sharing arrangement. He holds out faint hope for the same thing in Syria, and suggests that collaborative action on the part of the United States and Russia is one of the keys to peace there. The United States needs to put pressure on the fragmented opposition to keep the more radical elements at bay and the Russians must force the regime itself to listen to reason from the outside world, he maintained.
* * *
I will wrap today with an Aga Khan story that ties in to the early 1980s, when I was editor-publisher of Burnaby Today and studying for my MBA at Simon Fraser University.
The Aga Khan was in Burnaby to lay the cornerstone for what ultimately became the Ismaili Jamatkhana on Canada Way. When completed, it was a commodious edifice, every bit as impressive, from the exterior, as Willingdon Church, the evangelical megachurch down the street and around the corner on Willingdon Avenue.
I mention this to make the point that members and leaders of Willingdon Church were accused wrongly and unfairly at the time, of trying to block construction of the the Jamatkhana. The fact was, as I recall, that Willingdon Church, whatever its differences with Islam, welcomed its new neighbours and wished them well, on the appropriate occasions.
At Burnaby Today, my advertising manager was Laila Graham, an Ismaili, who had worked at a Nairobi newspaper where she met her husband, Neil, a Brit ex-pat journalist.
The Aga Khan had spoken appreciatively of Christians during his Burnaby appearance. And Laila commented at the time, that her boss had replied just as diplomatically about Ismailis, in his BT column.
Those were the days. Last Thursday, the Aga Khan was showing his age, leaning heavily on his cane. But he still spoke strongly in voice that reflected a grace, that wherever it came from, made him easy to respect in other parts of the faith spectrum.
It was a late night in the Mackey household in Ottawa yesterday (May 14/15). Somehow, the folk in our home province couldn’t schedule the British Columbia election results to suit their eastern Canadian ex-pats.
But not to complain. The B. C. election results were arguably instructive to folk in other parts of Canada whose provincial and federal party system have an endemic split between the political centre and right.
You have read it before in this space. British Columbia has the second best kind of democracy available under the Westminster parliamentary system. For 70 years, the centre and right parts of the political spectrum have worked systemically to exercise governance in the province. First it was with the Liberal-Conservative coalition of the 40s. Then came W. A. C. Bennett’s Social Credit, which held power in 1952-72. Mostly under W. A. C.’s son, the centre-right stratagem worked even better from 1975 until the end of the following decade.
The centre-right forces regrouped under the BC Liberals and returned to power in the early 2000s. And, on Tuesday night, they were re-elected unexpectedly, according to the pollsters with an actual increase in seats. (Final results were Liberals, 50, NDP, 33, Independent, 1 and Green, 1. Premier Christy Clark lost her seat, so she and her party will be figuring out a place for her to run soon in a by-election.)
So, despite predictions, the centre-right coalition held and an earlier resurgent Conservative party’s vote virtually collapsed on election night. And the BC Liberals will extend their lease on government to a minimum of 17 years.
Before looking, as I am wont to do, at the faith-political tidbits connected with the B. C. situation, permit me to remind OttawaWatchers what, from this particular perch, would be ideal, if a centre-right coalition is second best. It, too, comes out of British Columbia. I mentioned it a few weeks ago, proposing the:
Convening of citizens’ assemblies to explore, in depth, parliamentary reforms that would diminish the destructive aspects of party discipline. Such an assembly occurred in British Columbia in the early 2000s. Its recommendations, tested in a referendum held in conjunction with the 2005 provincial election, fell just short of approval.
The assembly recommendations, in short, proposed creating fewer and larger multi-member ridings, allowing a fairer mix of party allegiances among the elected members. It was a complex proposal, which is probably why it was not quite ready for voters to try.
The influence of the Christian faith, from a range of perspectives, has prevailed in B. C. over most of the aforementioned 70 years. Its major influence came from across the mountains in Alberta, from then-premier Ernest Manning who, on the side, was the preacher on Canada’s National Bible Hour. It shaped the BC Social Credit movement under Bennett Senior. A lesser but nevertheless significant influence was on the NDP and its predecessor, the CCF. It came from Tommy Douglas, Saskatchewan CCF premier in the 40s and 50s, and an ordained Baptist minister with spellbinding oratorical abilities.
Fast-forwarding to this week: There are a number of people worth watching in the new BC Liberal lineup, not the least of them Premier Clark. In mentioning them, I would note that these are politicians who not only let their faith try to shape them, but do it carefully, so that they do not become known as religious fanatics or bible-thumpers. Although coming mainly from the evangelical and conservative end of the faith spectrum, they have learned to incorporate into their thinking some of the concerns of those who come from more leftward positions.
Another caveat: I have been watching these people for several years, mostly from afar. So my perspective is over the long haul, not necessarily in the more recent months. I make the assumption that they have come to their present positions as part of a political maturing process.
So here goes:
Christy Clark. Clark is known to be a regular Anglican churchgoer who draws strength from worship and fellowship in that setting. Less-known is the fact that she took a couple of years of religious studies earlier in life at the University of Edinburgh, a British equivalent, it is safe to say, to UBC’s Regent College. She gave witness to her faith a few weeks ago at a City in Focus breakfast in Vancouver. Douglas Todd, religion/ethics writer for the Vancouver Sun reported on her talk. His observations can be found by searching his blog, found on the Sun website.
Laurie Throness. Throness, with a Cambridge Phd and a thesis on the history of prison systems, is closely linked to the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination. He served several years in Stephen Harper’s research department and was, for a time, an elder in the Ottawa congregation which Harper considers to be his home church. Throness was elected a Liberal MLA in Chilliwack-Hope this past week.
Simon Gibson. Gibson has been a long time city councillor in Abbotsford. His thoughtful faith stances are well-known in the community. He was elected Liberal MLA in one of the Abbotsford ridings.
Peter Fassbender. Long time popular and effective Langley city mayor, Fassbender was elected a Liberal MLA in Surrey-Fleetwood. (Full disclosure: He was my “boss” in the 80s, when I was editor of what became BC Christian News and he was board chair of Christian Info Society, BCCN’s publisher.)
Mary Polak. Polak is a longtime BC Liberal cabinet minister with deep Catholic and moderate social conservative convictions. Her chief claim to faith in this election was that she defeated John Cummins, the BC Conservative leader and an equally-devout Catholic and equally-moderate social conservative.
Marvin Hunt. Hunt is a long city councillor in Surrey, BC’s second largest city. He will move onto the provincial scene, now, as one of the BC Liberal MLAs from Surrey. Before become a de facto full time municipal politician, he was a senior minister at one of Surrey’s largest evangelical churches. Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts relies on Hunt for counsel on matters relating to the faith-political interface.
Chuck Strahl, Stockwell Day, Reed Elley and John Cummins. These four men were supportive of either the BC Liberal or BC Conservative parties, following their longtime involvement as federal Conservative MPs. Strahl, Day and Elley are evangelical Christians and Cummins, as previously mentioned, is devoutly Catholic. Strahl and Day, former senior federal Conservative cabinet ministers, were supportive of the BC Liberals and played advisory roles. (Strahl, it should be noted, had to become more poltically neutral, after being appointed chair of the body that monitors the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS).) Elley, a Baptist minister of some note on Vancouver Island before and since his time in politics, was supportive of the Conservatives and of Cummins.
Adrian Dix. Yes, there is a faith influence there, too. Douglas Todd talked in one of his blogs relating to faith influence on leadership. Dix, the NDP leader, noted that much of his thinking about social justice and other faith-related values came from his late father-in-law, Vasant Saklikar, who was a United Church minister for many years in New Westminster.
This list is far from comprehensive. But the “tidbits” it contains help to provide a setting for some of the things that politics in British Columbia can model for other parts of the country.
Just to demonstrate that the west coast is not in splendid isolation in these matters, it should be noted that, for many years, the New Democrats reigned in Saskatchewan. The last NDP premier was Lorne Calvert, a United Church minister of the social justice vintage of Tommy Douglas. Brad Wall, a serious Mennonite Brethren Christian built up a centre-right coalition under the Saskatchewan Party label which displaced the NDP in that province in 2007. Wall completed the work started by a former Reform MP, Elwin Hermanson, also a serious evangelical, who had been the founding leader of the Sask Party.
George Beverly (Bev) Shea, who always prefaced Billy Grahams sermons with a simple gospel song, passed away last week at the age of 104.
Shea, more than anyone on the Billy Graham team, had strong and continuing links to Ottawa and its environs. He was born in 1909 in Winchester, a 30 minute drive south of the capital. His father, Adam Joseph Shea, was the minister of Winchester Wesleyan Church, at the time. There were eight children in the Shea family: Bev was the fourth.
Later, during Bevs teen years, the senior Shea and his wife, Maude Mary Theodora, moved into Ottawa itself, where he took over the pastorate of Sunnyside Wesleyan Church, still a strong congregation just a few steps away from Carleton University. Many students including numbers enrolled in the universitys landmark journalism program worship at Sunnyside.
But I digress.
Behind the podium, Shea was both simple and professional. In person, he was friendly, self-effacing, outgoing and a great story teller.
One of his favourite stories recounted how his mother left the words of a poem on the piano, where she knew her son would see it. Shea was at a point in his life where he needed to make some decisions.
The poem began with the words Id rather have Jesus… They had their impact on the young singer. He took them to heart and, later, set the words to music. And, after going to work for Graham, he sang those words thousands of times. They were used to prepare Grahams listeners for the gospel the evangelist wanted to communicate.
For a journalist, Sheas story-telling made him a good interview subject. But, more than that, he was humble and self-effacing. He had a way of making those he was talking with feel better about themselves, because he genuinely was interested in their lives and what they were doing.
The last time Edna and I saw Bev Shea was in the little Wesleyan Church in Winchester, where his father had been the pastor. He was 101 at the time, as I recall, and the town of Winchester had just honoured him by identifying itself as his birthplace. Signs pointing out that fact had been installed beside all roads leading into town.
The little church was packed and crowds poured out onto the lawn and sidewalk outside. A Skype link had been arranged with a Salvation Army band camp in Maine where gospel ‘booming baritone’ Wintley Phipps, a great admirer of Shea, was poised to exchange memories with him.
At the same event, representatives of the RCMP Pensioners Fund presented Shea with an honorary membership.
What was that all about?
When he was a teen, Shea wanted to be a Mountie. He recalled, with a sheepish grin, that he switched his vocational aspirations to gospel singing when he found out that being an RCMP officer might require him to take a first posting in the frigid Arctic.
Upon receiving the Mountie honour, he asked, with a good-natured growl: Where is my red coat?
Most summers, the Sheas would spend time in West Quebec, where they had a lakeside cottage.
His first wife, Erma Scharfe, was an Ottawa valley girl. She died when he was in his sixties and, a decade later, he married North Carolina native Karlene Aceto.
You dont have to be around Ottawa long to learn that hundreds of Scharfs dot the city and valley. A cousin of Ermas, Diane Scharf, (different spelling, still a relative) has been a leading legislative assistant to Liberal and, later, Conservative parliamentarians for decades. In her spare time, she mentors dozens of younger Hill staffers in the ways of Christian servant leadership.
It seems that a number of other passages took place around the same time as Sheas, among them Margaret Thatcher, Al Neuharth and Bob Wright. All three died in their 80s. Here are paragraphs about each: