The Fractured Nation Interviews
The truth, they say, is stranger than fiction, and nowhere is this more evident than in the politically charged dialogue of The Interviews. The inspiration for these dialogues comes from a variety of sources not only from the imagination of the writer.
For inspiration on political, economic and sociological discussion of the post Trudeau era, I admit having read John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Culture of Contentment (Houghton Mifflin, 1992), his engaging portrayal of the comfortably well-off and their politics; Jeffrey Simpson on the perils of The Friendly Dictatorship (McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 2002) that is Canada; Mel Hurtig’s The Vanishing Country (McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 2002) to find out if it is too late to save Canada; and I also admit to having read just about everything that Linda McQuaig ever wrote, except for The Cult of Impotence which, for obvious reasons, men are not inclined to purchase.
Before writing the dialogue on immigration, refugee and security issues, I read Diane Francis’ Immigration. The Economic Case Key Porter Books, 2001) for her analysis of the economic impact of Canada’s immigration policy – and no, the Diane Frances Smith character is not based on her. For further insights into Canada’s immigration policy I read Daniel Stoffman Who Gets In. What’s Wrong With Canada’s Immigration System – and How to Fix It. (Macfarlane Walter & Ross, 2002).
I was a consultant to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) on non-development issues for more than a year but it was a prostitute called Mary (not her real name) from Cameroon, whom I befriended while doing consulting for Bell Enterprises in Montreal, that got me thinking seriously about Canada’s aid policy and the plight of women like Mary who come to Canada to seek a better life only to be forced into prostituting themselves on cold Canadian streets. When you read the interview with Maude and her condemnation of the world that Mary was forced to live in, it is Mary whom you are hearing.
The terrorist threat is real and for some of the inspiration for the dialogue on this threat I am grateful to Stewart Bell the author of Cold Terror. How Canada Nurtures and Exports Terrorism Around the World (Wiley, 2004) and The Martyr’s Oath, The Apprenticeship of a Homegrown Terrorist (Wiley, 2005).
For the discussions on the importance of a shared history, of shared values I am indebted – thought I will understand if they wish to distance themselves from some of the conclusions that I have reached – to John Ralston Saul and his presentation of Canadian history as a shared struggle between French, English and aboriginals in Reflections of a Siamese Twin (Penguin,1997) and J. L. Granatstein for his Who Killed Canadian History (HarperCollins, 1998); a plea in his publisher’s word “for the restoration of Canadian history to our schools and to our daily life as citizens.
The inspiration for some of the dialogue on Canada’s contribution to frying the planet is courtesy of Gordon Laird’s POWER, Journeys Across an Energy Nation (Penguin, 2002). If you are interested in the technology that will bring about this development and why the Americans like it you might want to read Technology Makes It Easier To Tap Canada's Oil Reserves by Marianne Lavelle in the October 13, 2003 issue of U.S. News & World Report on Money & Business.
And what about the references to our poor mismanaged fisheries. If you have the stomach for it, by all means, get a copy of Michael Harris’s gloomy tale of the collapse of the cod fisheries Lament for an Ocean. The Collapse of the Atlantic Cod Fishery: A True Crime Story (McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 1998).
I got close and personnel with the Canadian Foreign Service, spending five years as a financial system analyst with the then Department of External Affairs. We parted on less than amicable terms. The last complete review of the role of the Canadian Foreign Service was a one woman Royal Commission. As pointed out in The Interviews, Pamela McDougall made her findings known in a report called Royal Commission on Conditions of Foreign Service. (Supply and Services Canada, 1981).
From my experience, nothing much has changed. The interview, where the fate of William Sampson is discussed, attest to that fact.
For a more positive view of the Canadian Foreign Service you could spend some time with James Bartleman and his travel log like account of life in the Canadian Foreign Service On Six Continents. A Life in Canada’s Foreign Service (McClelland & Stewart Ltd, 2004). Is it a slip of the tongue when he gives us an example on how the Foreign Service gets around government restrictions on wasting money on luxuries?
My oldest brother, my adopted brother, was a paratrooper with the Royal 22nd Regiment, the "Vandoos”. His stories of life in the military and more contemporary accounts by officers whom I met during the course of writing The Interviews probably influenced the dialogues about the state of our military, but none more so than the accounts of sacrifice and courage of our soldiers (the Canadian General come diplomat at the United Nations General Maurice Baril being the exception) contained in Roméo Dallaire’s Shake Hands With the Devil, The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda (Random House, 2003).
I decided to remind Canadians, in one of the interviews, of the tainted blood scandal and the slowness of the Canadian justice system after reading the Report of the Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada (Krever Commission). Ottawa; 1997. I was living in Montreal when the former Canadian Minister of Health (1976-1984) appeared on television to assume some of the blame and to apologize for the contamination of the Canadian blood supply with the AIDS and Hepatitis C viruses. She was the only person, to my knowledge, to do so, in this sordid tale of incompetence and ambition that sent so many Canadians to an early grave. A sad, melancholic, compelling tragedy to which only a man of Judge Horace Krever’s stature and intellect could do justice.
For about ten years I was a consultant to the Department of Indian Affairs and First Nations but I did not realize how little I knew about native culture and history until I read Arthur J. Ray, I Have Lived Here Since The World Began. An Illustrated History Of Canada’s Native People. (Key Porter Books, 1996). The bleak future imagined for Canada’s native people – if the country fractures – is a product of that experience and from reading Ray’s history.
The inspiration for some of the discussions about the benefits of free trade in a global context can be credited to Naomi Klein’s Fences and Windows. Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (Random House, 2002) and to the author of Globalization and Its Discontents (W.W. Norton & Company, 2002) Nobel prize winner in economics, former Chief Economist and Senior Vice-President of the World Bank, Joseph E Stiglitz.
In high school I read Homer. I rediscovered him and the Greeks of antiquity, the debt we owe them, in Thomas Cahill’s Sailing the Wine Dark Sea, Why the Greeks Matter (Doubleday, 2003). It is also Cahill who allowed me to discover a Christ I never knew in Desire of the Everlasting Hills, The World Before and After Christ (Anchor Books, 1999). Cahill again, who put the Christian/Hebrew bible into context in The Gift of the Jews (Anchor Books, 1998).
I was again reminded of the qualities that make us human, ethics that come from within, by Ralston Saul in his book On Equilibrium (Penguin, 2001).
For a quick overview of Canada’s history Desmond Morton’s A Short History of Canada. (McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 2001) was more than adequate. For an appreciation of that history, the books of Pierre Burton were invaluable.
A special tip-of-the-hat to Timothy Findlay for daring to go where angels fear to tread and returning to tell the tale Not Wanted on the Voyage (Dell Publishing,1987).
For the short discussion of the coming of prime-time pornography to television and its contribution to the moral decline and increased sexual irresponsibility of young Canadians, which one guess claimed played a minor but significant role in The Fracture, I would like to acknowledge the contribution of Alliance Atlantis.
The Interviews were by necessity written in isolation, therefore the thoughts and ideas expressed, except where influence by some of the authors mentioned here, are my own. It’s not that I did not seek my neighbours and friends advice, but after experiencing some of their reactions to what I intended to talk about, I decided that discretion was called for.
It was only after The Interviews were written that I realized some of the ideas expressed may have been influenced by friends whom I had known for both a short and a long time. One was Tommy Chang (not his real name), a good friend for a large part of my adult life.
Boom-Boom’s views on multiculturalism were not unlike those expressed by Tommy. His parents had emigrated from China. He has one older brother. The contrast between the two is striking. The older brother has preserved his Chinese culture, married according to his parents wishes and maintained close ties with the Chinese community. Nowhere was this more evident then at Tommy’s mother’s funeral (his father had passed away many years before). While many of Tommy’s friends who came to pay their respects were Caucasian, his brother’s were almost exclusively oriental.
Tommy is your typical first generation Canadian, wanting to be the best he can be and confused as to which culture he belongs to. This confusion he blames, in part, on multiculturalism. Not only for the distance that developed between him and his brother but also with encouraging his parents – to whom he showed a remarkable and well deserved devotion and respect – to maintain traditions which were not what he considered Canadian, such as the exalted, privileged position occupied by the eldest son to marrying within the race.
Another was V. whom I got to know about a year before beginning work on The Interviews. After graduating from one of India’s most prestigious medical schools, he immigrated to Canada and married a French Canadian girl. He became one of Canada’s, most respected orthopedic surgeon. When I met him, he had retired from the active practice of medicine.
We sometime ran into each other at Chapters looking at the latest titles. Invariably, these chance meetings led to discussions on just about any subject under the sun. During one of our discussions, this one on religion, I expressed my ignorance about Hinduism. He was quick to point out that Hinduism was not so much a religion as a philosophy of life, a philosophy of life which Gandhi described as the search for truth by non-violent means knowing that the truth would always be seductively out of reach. It was the search that counted.
He presented me with the book The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru as an introduction to the cultural and spiritual history of his ancestral land.
He immigrated to Canada he said “against the wishes of his family”. While he never mentioned it, I sometime felt he wished he had returned or remained in India to help people who needed him more.
Was it during one of these conversations I had with this remarkable man that I came to the conclusion that there was something wrong with Canada’s policy of luring professionals from poorer countries and depriving these countries of their desperately needed talents. I don’t know.
Of course, these are not all the people whose contributions made The Interviews possible. Others whose contribution were equally if not more significant, are acknowledged in the postscript. The postscript also serves to justify the emphasis on one particular subject which has left some readers of The Interview’s manuscript both alarmed and puzzled.
To all of you who without your knowledge were a source of inspiration for Canada – The Fractured Nation Interviews, thank you and if I have offended you or misrepresented or misunderstood anything you might have said or written it was not intentional, please accept my apologies.