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Monday, February 16, 2009

Grievance industry

Does Vancouver's at-large voting system for council, school board and park board mean that the system is fundamentally racist? A failed Indo-Canadian candidate points to the fact that his ethnic brethern have a hard time winning under the at-large (as opposed to ward) system as evidence of systemic discrimination.

I think it's just sour grapes, but Mary Woo Sims, my debating partner in the weekly Face to Face feature at the Tri-City News, thinks the candidate might have a point--and might even have a case worth pursuing at the Human Rights Tribunal.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on February 16, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink


Say, if we're going to go after the system itself as being unfair in a human rights sense, lets start with Ottawa and property rights.... for "everybody" not just select ethnic groups.

Posted by: JC | 2009-02-16 9:55:03 AM

The ethnic content of the neighbourhoods changes from generation to generation. The second-most-common language in Shaughnessy now is Filipino, after English. Whole tracts of the city are populated by East Indians that didn't live there two generations ago. If immigration trends continue whites may be able to make the same argument.

Mary Woo Sims thinks anything that doesn't give some non-white-Christian the result they want is worth pursuing at the Human Rights Tribunal. Her rulings set new standards for loopiness. There's a reason El Gordo fired her, and it wasn't because she's ugly.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-16 3:36:09 PM

Vancouver has a slight majority of whites (54%). If non-white candidates aren't getting in, then something suspicious is likely going on. Even if we vote for candidates purely on individual merits, it's questionable whether council should be as white as it is (72%). It might be that whites vote for whites so mostly whites get in -- in which case district voting -- which also localizes political interests -- would be better. Vancouver's non-white communities are successful and engaged in activities favourable to liberty (e.g. small and medium sized businesses), so their election would be welcome.

Further, I'm all for using HR commissions against the state. Turn the state's dogs inward against it. Watch the machine implode (or at least taste its own medicine and back off).

Posted by: Robert Seymour | 2009-02-16 5:10:01 PM

You do not look far enough, Robert. Of those 46 percent of Vancouverites who are not white, how many are first-generation immigrants with imperfect English? Many; therefore not suitable for public office (and likely not inclined either). How many remain isolated by choice in their own little ethnic communities without much care for what happens in the city as a whole? Many, of which Chinatown is but the oldest and most visible example.

Or it could be something really simple, like the fact that the whites have been living here the longest and have the best (and most numerous) connections, and are more likely to run for office in the first place.

You say something fishy is going on, but can't say what. All you know is that council is not representative, and by that one fact you infer foul play, because it's a universal immutable unbreakable unalterable law that EVERY ethnic community MUST be represented by its members PRECISELY according to their numbers, even if it means sawing people in half.

Do yourself a favour: Look up "post hoc ergo promter hoc."

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-16 6:16:04 PM

People don't need to speak English in a free country to run for and win office. (As an aside, speaking whatever language you wish and associating with whomever you wish are fundamental freedoms in a free society.) They only have to get elected. Moreover, if so many aren't English speakers shouldn't they have representation by someone from their language community? Or this just another case of conservatives no liking what's not old and established and therefore different.

My argument above is that race is a possible explanation of voting patterns, not that A follows B therefore A implies B. How about using post hoc ergo promter hoc precisely instead of mindless throwing around latin to look smart.

Your arrogant posturing in place of argument is so insecure teenage boy. It's becoming trite.

Posted by: Robert Seymour | 2009-02-17 5:23:03 PM

Sorry Robert but speaking the language of any country, free or otherwise, is necessary. If you do not want to do so, then you should return home.

As for arrogant posturing, I note you are the only one with this problem. The fact that voters reject certain candidates does not make the system unfair or racist.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-02-17 6:48:46 PM


1. Wrong. Because even if the councillor's constituents speak the foreign language, it's a safe bet most of the other councillors won't, and a city council is supposed to be a team built on communication. It doesn't matter how many other languages they speak, so long as they also speak a language all the other councillors do. Instead of standing on your rights, turn on your brain.

2. You have no idea what's going on, nor do you care. You are a solution in search of a problem. The candidate who asks not "What's wrong with the people in this city?" but rather, "What can I do to make the people of this city elect me?" is the one more likely to win office. Moreover, A can imply B only if B follows A. Logic is not your strong suit it seems.

3. I'm secure enough not to hem, haw, or put out vague, feel-good, pseudo-progressive fluff designed to show the world what an evolved, sensitive creature I think I am. Actually, this is very typical. I never yet met a "progressive" who didn't have a healthy streak of self-loathing.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-17 7:53:17 PM

P.S. "Latin" is a proper noun and should be capitalized, and "post hoc ergo promter hoc" is a direct quote in a foreign language and should therefore be in quotes. Breathe deeply, boy. There isn't room in that little brain for all that outrage and the ability to read and write, too. Do yourself a favour and ditch the former.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-17 8:44:27 PM

People don't need to speak English in a free country to run for and win office.
Posted by: Robert Seymour | 2009-02-17 5:23:03 PM

You're right they don't...unless of course they happen to be living in an English speaking free country. I'm sure if they want to speak Swahili in a free country then they will first have the task of creating a free and Swahili speaking country do do it in. But in Canada we have two official languages and neither of them is an Asian language. This is NOT a human rights issue, its just common sense.

Posted by: JC | 2009-02-17 9:52:31 PM

Listen to you guys. You all complain about the state pushing you around and violating your freedoms. But as soon as it's something you find threatening -- other people speaking a different language than you -- you claim that it's okay for the state to erect barriers that you don't have to face. Hypocrisy!

Moreover, you sacrifice individualism for collectivism. You are in effect arguing that for an individual to enjoy rights he has to be a member of a language community. That is, language communities precede individual rights. To put it impolitely but bluntly, that's freedom-hating horseshit.

Alain, when I say the system is racist, I don't mean there is an awareness of whites to keep non-whites down. I just mean the way the system is structured might have the outcome of whites being favoured. My solution which you should like is adopting is creating municipal wards -- to make government respond to local interests instead of collective interests as it does now. In language favourable to you, I mean decentralizing power. And yes Madarin-only speakers could get elected. The city hires some translators, problem solved.

Shane, you're right that Latin should be capitalized but wrong that post hoc ergo promter hoc should have quotations. It should be italicized. You're not quoting from a foreign language -- foreign languages aren't people who can write and talk -- you're importing from a foreign language.

You can't do italicize in the comments section that I know of, so I didn't. Correcting my grammar like a school teacher adds noting to the strength of your arguments.

You wrote "Moreover, A can imply B only if B follows A. Logic is not your strong suit it seems". That is the post hoc ergo promter hoc fallacy. You just endorsed the fallacy by denying its truth. And then you accuse me of not being strong in logic. Whoops!

And I don't care about being progressive or not. I care about truth and liberty and applying ideas consistently.

Posted by: Robert Seymour | 2009-02-18 4:24:19 AM

And I don't care about being progressive or not. I care about truth and liberty and applying ideas consistently.

Posted by: Robert Seymour | 2009-02-18 4:24:19 AM

Ok, if someone who's first language is not English can get elected by mainly English speaking people, fine. But re arranging the system to ensure it, is hardly freedom, its manipulation for the self interest of self interested minority groups. There's nothing hypocritical about it...

Posted by: JC | 2009-02-18 4:50:36 AM


1. I don't find an elected official who doesn't speak my language threatening. I find it asinine and grotesquely inefficient, since that official's job is to serve me and the other citizens of the city, and his not speaking the city's official language makes it extremely difficult for him to do that effectively.

2. Yes, Robert, painful and disillusioning though this may be for you, jobs do have qualifications that must be met before employment is considered. Fluency in one of Canada's two official languages, preferably that which predominates in the city in question, is required, along with an ability to show up for work, produce results, and so on.

3. We are not interested in what you think "might" be the problem. Positively identity a problem (after taking the time to ensure it's a problem) before positing solutions. Use of translators is cumbersome and expensive and not an efficient solution. "Madarin," by the way, is not a language, and most of the Chinese spoken in Vancouver is Cantonese (70%).

4. I am well aware that a quotation should properly be capitalized, but in a limited-formatting system such as this, when different font styles are not available (or at least not reliably), quotation marks are the correct alternative. Which you knew, but just wanted to spout off anyway, with the result that now you look even more the fool.

5. You didn't even have the basic premise of the fallacy right. I knew it was a fallacy, which was why I quoted "post hoc ergo promter hoc" in the first place, as any simpleton could figure out if he could remember more than two minutes into the past. The underlying premise is that A suggests B. In order for A to suggest B (as opposed to B suggest A), A would have to normally come before B, or A would have no suggestive value. No whoops here. Just someone who isn't so overflowing with manufactured moral outrage that he doesn't trip over his own tongue.

6. You LIE.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-18 6:39:58 AM

Robert, speaking another language in itself is not threatening. Not seeking to brag I speak a few myself, but that is not the point. I stand by immigrants adapting and assimilating to their host country, regardless of the country. After all, they chose to come and were not forced. What you propose is the total opposite in that the host country must adapt to the immigrants, so we cannot agree.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-02-18 7:32:22 PM

Alain makes a good point, and has obviously made an effort to fit into the world a little better by learning to speak to more of it.
I take the same view. I think its very possible in my life time for me to want to leave Canada.
(Its just getting too weird.) So I'm brushing up my Spanish because I'm thinking...South America.
And I have my doubts everyone there will learn to speak English, just for me.

Posted by: JC | 2009-02-18 10:00:43 PM

Thanks JC. I could have added that although they cannot run for a political office, I have always found a certain Americans and Canadians living in Mexico in their gated communities, yet determined to live solely in English, ridiculous to say the least. I am not opposed to people changing countries, but they should learn the language and adapt.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-02-19 3:05:18 PM

Agreed Alain, you don't decide to go live in another country just to hide from it in a gated community. Funny how folks up north end up critcizing Asian and Black communities for being sub standard and crime ridden (A ghetto?) but all people behave the same way when there are enough of them on foreign soil....they group up.
And that's natural enough I suppose, but its just not an experience I want. I lived in Mexico and got more native than anything else.
Which is what people need to do if they want to run for office in their second country of choice.

Posted by: JC | 2009-02-19 4:01:51 PM

Losers in municipal elections may have a remedy if Dr. Lakhbir Singh gets his way. Dr. Singh, who ran for the centre-right NPA slate for a school board seat in Vancouver, and lost, has filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

The Georgia Straight reports that Dr. Singh plans to challenge the city's at-large electoral system on the grounds that it is racist. He was "one of six candidates of South Asian descent who came last on their respective slates", and believes that a system of wards would level the playing field by allowing candidates to concentrate on their neighborhoods.

Reporter Charlie Smith paraphrases Dr. Singh as saying that "results in recent Vancouver elections demonstate that people with South Asian names cannot get elected on a citywide basis because there are too many citizens who won't vote for them. He said this amounts to discrimination."

Oh? This appears not to have been a problem for the candidates running for the two left leaning slates, such as George Chow, Raymond Louie and Kerry Jang who were elected to city council. Not to mention Raj Hundal who was elected to parks board. I'd love to see Dr. Singh try to make this argument when Allan Wong and Alvin Singh (both of COPE) defeated him in his bid for a school board seat.

The simple answer is that it wasn't the right's year in this election. I doubt that even the Dalai Lama could have been elected as dogcatcher running for the NPA.

I'm not a fan of wards. I am definitely not a fan of the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal getting their mitts onto Vancouver's electoral system.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on December 4, 2008 in Municipal Politics | Permalink

Posted by: Rick Hiebert | 2009-02-21 8:24:24 AM

Hear, hear, Rick. Especially after what they did to B.C.'s education system by giving two bitter old men the power to bully schools into running Gays of Greatness 101. I'm not opposed to the course in principle but the way it was implemented was nothing short of bullying.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-21 8:45:56 AM

The easiest way that you could bring in this kind of system is to designmate council seats as "Person with Asian heritage Seat" and allow only a person with the correct racial background to run for that seat. You could designate each seat as "White" "Coloured" "Indian" and "Asian"...just as the old South African Parliament did.

Posted by: Rick Hiebert | 2009-02-21 3:07:09 PM

Whenever I hear this indignation about the host country being expected to bend to the needs of the immigrant, I wonder why the same indignation is not applied to the total disregard for the original inhabitants of our fair country on the part of all these foreigners who have been settling here since the 1600s. I don't notice too many people trying to accommodate themselves to the First Nations of Canada.

Posted by: Lawrence Boxall | 2009-03-24 2:32:46 AM

I see Shane Matthews is still up to the same sad stuff. He's not here to share information or any kind of meaningful exchange, he's here for one thing: to mess with people. Now there is even a new word for these arrogant and childish head games which he has been at for years, it's called Flaming: a hostile and insulting interaction between Internet users. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flaming_(Internet)
It's what some people resort to in order to feel better about themselves.

Posted by: TruthTeller | 2009-04-15 9:55:12 PM

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