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Category: political correctness

Not enough French in Vancouver?

According to the CBC, Federal Heritage Minister James Moore had something to say about the Olympic opening ceremonies:

I thought the opening ceremonies were brilliant, beautiful, spectacular on television — but there should have been more French, period, full stop.

I was very surprised to read this. While I didn’t see the entire presentation, every part I did see had the announcements first in French and then in English. In fact, the only part that wasn’t in French were the brief speeches made by the aboriginal representatives, though they closed out their speeches by welcoming the visitors with a friendly “Bienvenue!”

I won’t speculate on why Moore ends his sentences with two periods.

Graham Fraser, commissioner of official languages, went further in his complaint about the lack of French:

What I saw at the opening ceremonies was a concert which had been conceived, developed, and presented in English, with a French song.

This leaves me wondering if we saw the same presentation. The announcements that went over the PA system at the event were in both French and English.

The Québec Premier, Jean Charest, was totally on board with this, according to the Vancouver Sun. He said:

everybody would have liked to have had more French in the opening ceremony

The amusing, and unsurprising part, is that when the Sun tried to contact Charest for further comment, they were told that the premier was not doing interviews.

It seems that people are complaining about the lack of French, yet I haven’t been able to find any specifics about what was so wrong. What I saw of the opening ceremony makes me wonder what they’re talking about, and they have nothing to offer that might clarify. I’ve asked around and no one I know remembers any lack of French.

I suppose being vague makes it far easier to complain.

Sex(y|ist) skier

Again with the complaints from the politically correct. This time it’s a Sports Illustrated cover.

Pictured is Lindsey Vonn. She’s an alpine skier competing in the Vancouver Olympic Games for the United States. All I’ve read seems to indicate that she’s wicked good. But that’s not what this is about.

The kerfuffle is about the cover photo itself. Some are outraged at the sexist nature of the photo. How is it sexist? You’re going to have to ask them, because I don’t see it.

The Hollywood Gossip says:

Vonn’s pose is creating a stir. It’s not difficult to see why.

The question at stake is a common refrain when female athletes are depicted in a sexual manner: Is this objectifying them, or celebrating them?

It’s not difficult to see why? She’s a downhill skier. Downhill skiers minimize their frontal area in an effort to reduce wind resistance so they go faster. The best way to do this is the skier’s tuck position. If the photo depicts Vonn, in her tuck, in a sexual manner, skiing itself depicts all its participants in a sexual manner and the ‘stir’ shouldn’t be limited to just this cover photo.

Down with skiing. It’s so objectifying! And the cello too. You have to hold it between your legs and that’s so dirty!

What caught me off guard is that when I see an attractive woman posed in a sexual manner, I notice. Boy do I notice! You don’t want to know the kinds of things that go through my mind. But when I saw this photo, anything sexual was far down the list of my thoughts. To complain about this image being overtly sexual, it seems to me, reveals far more about those who complain than anything about the image itself.

Goodness, if you see a skier in a tuck and the first think you think of is how you (or someone else) could bang her from behind, the cover photo should be the least of your worries. Remind me not to tie my shoes while I’m anywhere near you.

And as usual, the outraged don’t even read the magazine. Vonn appears in the swimsuit issue, and I’ve heard no outrage about that. If you’re hell-bent on being offended at people being objectified, you’d think that swimsuit photos would offer a path of less resistance.

Hat tip to Don, who told me about this story. The magazine cover is © 2010 Time Inc.

Helmet versus turban

Baljinder Badesha is an unhappy motorcyclist because he was fined $110 for not wearing a helmet. He’s a devout Sikh who wears a turban and therefore insists the helmet law violates his religious freedom.

There are two ways to look at this. Use of a motor vehicle is not a right. The law requires the operator of a motorcycle wear a helmet. Badesha refuses to wear a helmet so he therefore chooses to not use a motorcycle.

On the other hand, if the law allows a religious exception, he could indeed use a motorcycle. In my opinion, he should then to accept responsibility for the greater likelihood of injury. I’d suggest that he be responsible for paying at least some of his medical bills if he requires medical care for a head injury suffered during a motorcycle accident. I expect insurance companies would be very hesitant to provide such helmet-exempt riders with coverage. Still, this is a consequence of choosing to use a motorcycle without a helmet.

The second view doesn’t sit well with me because the reason for the exemption does nothing to address the problem addressed by the law. Therefore, the reason for the exemption is meaningless. Anyone should be able to enjoy the exemption if they’re willing to accept the consequences.

The religious aspect is a red herring. Do we wish to allow an exemption to the helmet law? If so, we need to determine the consequences for a rider injured while not wearing a helmet. Once the consequences are known, Badesha can weight the consequences and make his decision.

He sees unfairness in having to wear a helmet. I see unfairness in having to pay (through my taxes) for treatment of an injury that wouldn’t have happened, or wouldn’t have been as severe, if he had been wearing a helmet.

Badesha was fined in 2005. The Ontario Human Rights Commission thought Badesha’s religious beliefs should trump the law. Today, the CBC reported a Brampton judge rejected the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s legal challenge. Badesha has 30 days to pay the fine.

Accommodation by another name

The item I wrote the other day involving Muslim taxi drivers and assistance dogs interested me greatly because there are two sides to the story. In my opinion, the drivers’ rights fall short of the rights of the passengers, but the arguments come closer to carrying the same weight than in many other disagreements.

Do you want an example of a less balanced dispute? The Telegraph provides it:

Muslim medical students are refusing to obey hygiene rules brought in to stop the spread of deadly superbugs, because they say it is against their religion.

Women training in several hospitals in England have raised objections to removing their arm coverings in theatre and to rolling up their sleeves when washing their hands, because it is regarded as immodest in Islam.

Universities and NHS trusts fear many more will refuse to co-operate with new Department of Health guidance, introduced this month, which stipulates that all doctors must be “bare below the elbow”.

There is no wiggle-room here. We know infection is dangerous and extreme cleanliness saves lives. Letting this go for religious reasons will kill people who do not share the same religious beliefs. I’m all for accommodation, but there’s a line. This is over the line. Far over the line.

Dr Majid Katme, spokesman for the Islamic Medical Association, said:

Exposed arms can pick up germs and there is a lot of evidence to suggest skin is safer to the patient if covered. One idea might be to produce long, sterile, disposable gloves which go up to the elbows.

Are you kidding me? Exposed anything can pick up germs. The issue is the germs you bring with you, not those you pick up in the operating theatre. If you roll up your sleeves and wash almost to your elbow before putting on sterile gloves, you’re as clean and germ free as possible should a glove fail or be cut. Washing to your wrist is far less clean if a glove fails, even the sterile glove goes up to your shoulder.

The article also says, “Documents from Birmingham University reveal that some students would prefer to quit the course rather than expose their arms.” Rather than a problem, i think this is the ideal solution.

As I said, I’m all for accommodation, but it must not subvert the goal itself. Relaxing sanitary standards for surgeries is not negotiable. For goodness sakes, we don’t see the blind claiming discrimination because they can’t be surgeons. If you can’t properly do the job, whether because of a disability or a contrary belief, find something else to do.

Should such a ridiculous dispensation on religious grounds be allowed, I’d like to see this information made available to patients. If a patient will be exposed to more risk because of their doctor’s religious beliefs, the patient should be informed and have the opportunity to get another surgeon. Doesn’t the patient have the right to the best possible care?

That said, no such dispensation should even be considered. This isn’t accommodation, it’s surrender to political correctness and the wholesale disregard of repeatedly proven fact. Will we next see the Hippocratic Oath rewritten with a religious exemption?

Discrimination: Muslims versus the disabled

The vice-chair of the Muslim Canadian Federations, Aziz Khaki, isn’t happy with the new ‘taxi bill of rights’ introduced in Vancouver to clearly outline the rights of taxi passengers.

According to a CBC article, the bill states taxi passengers have the right to:

  • Be picked up and transported to their stated destination by any available on duty taxi driver
  • Pay the posted rate by cash, accepted credit card, or TaxiSaver voucher.
  • A courteous driver who provides assistance, if requested.
  • Travel with an assistance dog or portable mobility aid.
  • A taxi that is clean, smoke free and in good repair.
  • Direct the route, or expect the most economical route.
  • A quiet atmosphere, upon request.
  • A detailed receipt, when requested.

On the face of it, these all seem pretty straightforward. The problem is Islam sees dogs as unclean and many Muslims will avoid contact with dogs. While dogs aren’t typically taxi passengers, the blind and others requiring assistance dogs do take taxis.

Khaki goes further, “It’s a clear, clear case of discrimination and insensitivity on behalf of the authorities to try to punish the person without understanding the person’s own belief.” Replace ‘authorities’ with ‘drivers’ and the statement also rings true, if not more so. Taxis are in the business of providing transportation, so I don’t view an expectation to deliver this service as unreasonable.

The bill is very specific about the reasons a taxi drive may refuse a fare:

  • To avoid contravening a law or condition of licence.
  • To protect the driver’s, or any passenger’s, health or safety.
  • If the passenger is acting in an offensive manner.
  • If the passenger refuses to provide a deposit, if requested.

Nothing about dogs there, so should a Muslim driver refuse to carry a person with an assistance dog, he may receive a $288 fine.

Normally I’d think the dispatcher taking calls for taxis could ask if an assistance animal is involved and send a taxi that will take the fare. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. What if a person who has an assistance animal approaches a taxi stand or hails a cab in the street? If no one will take them, they’re stuck. Even if the Muslim driver agrees to call another taxi, why should the fare have to wait? There’s a perfectly good taxi right there. Should the driver have the option to refuse?

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association thinks so. Jason Gratl, president of the association, says, “It wouldn’t take much for the government to include an exception for religious or possibly medical issues associated with the passage of dogs.” Yea, and ‘slippery slope’ is written all over this.

If your beliefs forbid you to do a core aspect of a job, I certainly respect your feelings and beliefs. Don’t take the job. The profession is driving anyone who wants to pay for the service. Can’t do it? Then don’t. The job’s obviously not right for you. It would be just as silly to apply for work in a butchery, and then refuse to handle pork. It’s part of the job.

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