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Reflections on 2 Winnipeg synagogues: While one is being radically transformed, one is just trying to stave off closure

Shaarey Zedek (top)/ House of Ashkenazie (bottom)

By BERNIE BELLAN My reports on this website about wo different Winnipeg synagogues and how they’re both attempting to change with the times might serve as a reminder to readers how much of a vital role synagogues used to play in the lives of Winnipeg Jews.
In December 2021 I wrote about a proposal to repurpose the Ashkenazie synagogue into a synagogue/museum. Writing that story got me to thinking about the history of Winnipeg synagogues in general, so I also wrote an article in which I listed all the synagogues that ever existed north of the CPR tracks.
There were 34 of them! (You can read both stories in our Dec. 8, 2021 issue. Simply enter the words Dec. 8, 2021 in our “search archive” searchbox.)

Now, while various synagogues either completely folded or merged with other synagogues over the years, there can be no doubt that it was the synagogue that played the central role in the lives of most Jewish Winnipeggers for years in this city.
I don’t think I have to tell you that the situation is completely different these days. There are very few synagogues left in Winnipeg and what few synagogues we do have are clamouring for members.
There’s nothing particularly surprising about that, given that churches, as well, have seen a huge decrease in popularity in recent years. (Mosques, on the other hand, are showing robust growth – in Winnipeg, as well as other areas in Canada.)

We’ve recently seen the relocation of the Etz Chayim congregation to new south end quarters and, while the assessment of most members with whom I’ve talked is that it’s a very nice building, it doesn’t quite have the feel of a synagogue.
As for the Shaarey Zedek, it’s a huge unknown whether the renovation project that is slated to be completed in August (according to congregation president Neil Duboff, but perhaps a little bit later, as there are always unforeseen delays in an undertaking as massive as the complete overhaul of Winnipeg’s largest synagogue entails), will lead to a rush of new members joining the Shaarey Zedek congregation. Or, to be more realistic: Will it lead to many of those who have abandoned the Shaarey Zedek, especially since Covid, rejoining?

The demographics of Winnipeg’s Jewish community don’t portend a large increase in synagogue membership going forward. Our community isn’t growing and, by and large, new arrivals to Winnipeg’s Jewish community haven’t shown much interest in becoming synagogue members. (I do note that the Etz Chayim has been somewhat successful in attracting new immigrant families, but the numbers are relatively small as a proportion of our overall Jewish community.)
As I note in my article about the Shaarey Zedek, one would expect that there will be an initial flurry of interest in seeing what the renovated synagogue is like – and with a gorgeous new event centre it is likely to become the go-to venue once again for life cycle events, such as weddings and bar or bat mitzvahs, at least for the first year. Many of those celebrations have been occurring outside of a synagogue setting, however, and it’s hard to see how, other than the Shaarey Zedek becoming the “in” venue for a period of time, that initial rush of event bookings that are likely to occur there will continue in the long run. There is just too much interest in trying to make a life cycle event unique that will work against any one venue becoming the favoured destination for more than a short period of time, especially as people compete with one another for inventiveness.

But, what of the rather interesting proposal I’ve also written about in my article on the home page here, about the proposal to turn the Ashkenazie synagogue into a combination synagogue/museum?
In theory, it’s a great idea – but realistically, how many people are going to be willing to head down to a part of town that is, to put it euphemistically, not as safe as one might like? I’ve generally shied away from dwelling on how scary whole parts of Winnipeg are now in which to venture forth. I’ll leave it for the Winnipeg Free Press to scare the bejesus out of most of us with its daily reports of break-ins, stabbings, assaults – and all too frequent murders, in this lovely city. I don’t need to add to your fear – unless you’re like many readers who have informed me they simply stopped taking the Free Press – and shy away completely from established media sources. (I’m always curious which news sources those readers now rely upon? I hope that it’s not simply the internet because, for all its faults, the Free Press is still by far the best news source in this town.)

I recall going on a Jane’s Walk a few years back, led by Zach Fleisher, that was made up of visits to some north end hallmarks that once played – and in some cases, still do play vital roles within our Jewish community.
It began at the site of the old CPR train station, which is where so many of our ancestors first arrived when they came to Winnipeg. We then proceeded to Joe Zuken Park in Point Douglas (which has no particular significance for the Jewish community other than it is located in an area that was once teeming with new Jewish arrivals), then on to the Chesed Shel Emes, Gunn’s Bakery, the Ashkenazie synagogue, and finally the former Talmud Torah on Charles Street.

Ashkenazie interior

Ever since then I’ve wanted to revisit that particular walk. At each point along the way we learned so much about our community’s history. And, as someone who hadn’t often been back to the Ashkenazie since my childhood, I marvelled at how beautiful it still was. It was because of that visit to the Ashkenzie, where the late Saul Spitz gave us such an interesting description of the synagogue’s history, that I would love to see Dr. Yosel Minuk’s imaginative proposal for redeveloping that grand old building at least be given the opportunity to move beyond total dismissal by the powers that be. All that it would take is a few former members of the Ashkenazie who may have moved elsewhere (or perhaps their children or grandchildren), and who might have the means to help in the synagogue’s redevelopment brought to life for that proposal to have a chance of succeeding.

And isn’t that how so many projects within our Jewish community have attained their goals? Perhaps the most vivid example in recent memory was BB Camp’s capital campaign, which succeeded in raising over $6 million five and a half years ago – largely as a result of BB Camp alumni from all over North America contributing to the cause.
While the Ashkenazie might have relatively very few former members left around the world, I know that when former Winnipeggers return to Winnipeg for a visit, very often they check out their former haunts in the North End. There is still a huge sentimental attachment to the North End on the part of so many ex-Winnipeggers (which they have often passed on to their children and grandchildren). Perhaps if they were to realize how perilous the situation is for the Ashkenazie they might step up to help preserve that grand old edifice. After all – they’ve lost Kelekis Restaurant and the North End Sals. What other shrines do they have left to visit on the way to check out the homes where they (or their parents) grew up?

One final note – and this has to do with Israel’s war in Gaza – a recent article in Haaretz delves into Netanyahu’s long, complicated, and “symbiotic” relationship with Hamas, according to the author of a new book about that relationship. (In one of the most surprising aspects of that article, it says that Yahya Sinwar, Israel’s arch enemy and the one man almost every Israeli would like to see dead, sent a note to Netanyahu in 2022 “that read ‘calculated risk’ – in Hebrew.” By the way, the author of the book doesn’t pretend to understand what exactly Sinwar meant by that cryptic note.)
One other part of that article, however, does more to explain how so many Israelis who might have considered themselves leftists or centrists prior to October 7 have now swung so far in the opposite direction to the point perhaps that we in the diaspora might now fully appreciate how hell bent so many Israelis are on wiping out Hamas.
The author of the book referred to in the Haaretz article is someone by the name of Adam Raz. According to information given about him at the beginning of the article, Raz is determinedly leftist in his political viewpoint – and so, apparently, was his mother – until October 7.
Here’s how Raz describes an encounter he had with his mother the day of October 7: “The day of the horrific events of October 7,Israeli political historian and author Adam Raz had a big fight with his mother. A longtime leftist and devoted Meretz voter, she surprised him with her harsh reaction. ‘She said: “They should pour gasoline all over Gaza and blow it up,” ‘ recounts Raz, whose work deals with political theory, the Israeli-Arab conflict and the nuclear arms race. ‘I realized that I needed to delve into the psyche that made even left-wing Israelis think this way.’
I wonder, more than seven months after the October 7 massacre, how many Israelis still hold that attitude? I ask that, not because I think I know the answer, but because I honestly don’t – yet it’s never really explored in all the analyses of what’s happening in Israel, is it? And it is crucial to understanding why so many Israelis say “to hell with the rest of the world. If we have to, we’ll go it alone.”


A beginner’s guide to using Paysafecard

Paysafecard (stylized as paysafecard) is becoming one of the top online payment methods. It is one that not many people are familiar with, outside of seeing a few hints to accepting Paysafecard online, mostly around online casinos that accept Paysafecard. So, we figured that we would give you a quick run-through of what to expect from a Paysafecard. We’ll tell you how to use it, including topping up and spending the cash on your account. We’ll also let you know about the monthly maintenance fee.

What is a Paysafecard?

A Paysafecard is a unique way to pay online, although a platform does need to accept Paysafecard.

It is a secure payment method, since you don’t need to share your payment details with anybody. You can even pay for a Paysafecard in cash (more on that soon).

With a Paysafecard, you get a unique, 16-digit code to pay for things online, although you may also use a Paysafecard account to make your payments.

Because you’re sharing nothing but your 16-digit Paysafecard code, this is one of the safest payment methods online, so it is no surprise that you want to learn more about it.

Topping up your Paysafecard

There are two ways to top up your Paysafecard. One method is more ‘secure’ than the other, although, to be honest, both methods are incredibly secure. One method will require you logging into a website, while the other lets you use a 16-digit code that is more secure but requires a little more effort.

Topping up a Paysafecard with cash

One of the major benefits of using a Paysafecard is that it is one of only a few online payment methods that you can fund with cash. You can head to a variety of retailers that sell Paysafecard (normally smaller shops) and ask to buy a Paysafecard. You can buy the card in a variety of denominations, and the amount will vary depending on your country.

You’ll then be given a 16-digit payment code for your Paysafecard. Protect this. This code is how you’ll access your funds online, as well as check how much cash is in your account. If you lose that card, then you’ve lost access to your funds. However, most people will likely use their Paysafecard right away.

With a Paysafecard account

If you create a Paysafecard account, then you’ve got a bit more control over your money. There are also fewer fees.

A Paysafecard account will give you login details that you can use. Once you’ve got an account, you can top up your Paysafecard account using your debit/credit cards, or even via bank transfer. Don’t worry if you still like to do things with cash, though. You can also buy Paysafecard codes with cash at your favorite Paysafecard vendor and add those cards to your account.

One of the major benefits of having an account is that you can also ‘buy’ debit card details from them (they use Mastercard), which makes it easier to use your Paysafecard funds when a platform doesn’t accept Paysafecard, and not all of them do.

You can top up your account whenever you want. It takes only a few minutes (unless you’re using bank transfer, when it could take a few working days).

Spending cash on your Paysafecard

Now your Paysafecard is topped up, let’s get to spending it, shall we? This part is simple!

It is quite easy to spot online casinos that accept Paysafecard. If a site has a Paysafecard logo, you can make a payment using your Paysafecard 16-digit code, or your account details.

So, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Select Paysafecard as your payment method.
  2. Enter the amount you wish to pay.
  3. Select whether to pay by code or login.
  4. If you’re paying by code, enter your 16-digit code now. You’ll need enough on that card to cover the full amount needed for the transaction.
  5. If you are paying using your Paysafecard account, log in using your details. If you don’t have enough funds to cover the transaction, you can top your account up.
  6. The money should be sent instantly.

Yes! Using your Paysafecard online really is that simple. Now you are free to bet at online casinos, place bets on sports like athletics or simply do some shopping online.

The monthly maintenance fee

There is a monthly maintenance fee for having a Paysafecard. The fee will be determined by your location and how long you’ve had the card for, so make sure that you check the details on the website. Maintenance fees will start at different times:

  • If you have a 16-digit code, you’ll start paying fees in the second month.
  • If you have an online account for Paysafecard, those fees won’t start until the 13th month.

So, if you want to save money, it is best to get an online account for your Paysafecard.

Use a Paysafecard today

So, now you know how to use Paysafecard online (which isn’t that hard), you can go out and find top online stores that accept it. More stores than ever let you use Paysafecard online, so this part shouldn’t be too tricky.

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New website for Israelis interested in moving to Canada

By BERNIE BELLAN (May 21, 2024) A new website, titled “Orvrim to Canada” ( has been receiving hundreds of thousands of visits, according to Michal Harel, operator of the website.
In an email sent to Michal explained the reasons for her having started the website:
“In response to the October 7th events, a group of friends and I, all Israeli-Canadian immigrants, came together to launch a new website supporting Israelis relocating to Canada. “Our website,, offers a comprehensive platform featuring:

  • Step-by-step guides for starting the immigration process
  • Settlement support and guidance
  • Community connections and networking opportunities
  • Business relocation assistance and expert advice
  • Personal blog sharing immigrants’ experiences and insights

“With over 200,000 visitors and media coverage from prominent Israeli TV channels and newspapers, our website has already made a significant impact in many lives.”
A quick look at the website shows that it contains a wealth of information, almost all in Hebrew, but with an English version that gives an overview of what the website is all about.
The English version also contains a link to a Jerusalem Post story, published this past February, titled “Tired of war? Canada grants multi-year visas to Israelis” ( That story not only explains the requirements involved for anyone interested in moving to Canada from Israel, it gives a detailed breakdown of the costs one should expect to encounter.

(Updated May 28)

We contacted Ms. Harel to ask whether she’s aware whether there has been an increase in the number of Israelis deciding to emigrate from Israel since October 7. (We want to make clear that we’re not advocating for Israelis to emigrate; we’re simply wanting to learn more about emigration figures – and whether there has been a change in the number of Israelis wanting to leave the country.)
Ms. Harel referred us to a website titled “Globes”:
The website is in Hebrew, but we were able to translate it into English. There is a graph on the website showing both numbers of immigrants to Israel and emigrants.
The graph shows a fairly steady rate of emigration from 2015-2022, hovering in the 40,000 range, then in 2023 there’s a sudden increase in the number of emigrants to 60,000.
According to the website, the increase in emigrants is due more to a change in the methodology that Israel has been using to count immigrants and emigrants than it is to any sudden upsurge in emigration. (Apparently individuals who had formerly been living in Israel but who may have returned to Israel just once a year were being counted as having immigrated back to Israel. Now that they are no longer being counted as immigrants and instead are being treated as emigrants, the numbers have shifted radically.)
Yet, the website adds this warning: “The figures do not take into account the effects of the war, since it is still not possible to identify those who chose to emigrate following it. It is also difficult to estimate what Yalad Yom will produce – on the one hand, anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews and Israelis around the world reminds everyone where the Jewish home is. On the other hand, the bitter truth we discovered in October is that it was precisely in Israel, the safe fortress of the Jewish people, that a massacre took place reminding us of the horrors of the Holocaust. And if that’s not enough, the explosive social atmosphere and the difference in the state budget deficit, which will inevitably lead to a heavy burden of taxes and a reduction in public services, may convince Zionist Israelis that they don’t belong here.”
Thus, as much as many of us would be disappointed to learn that there is now an upsurge in Israelis wanting to move out of the country, once reliable figures begin to be produced for 2024, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that is the case – which helps to explain the tremendous popularity of Ms. Harel’s website.

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First, Do No Harm: How Dr. Newman’s Valedictorian Speech to U of M Graduates Got History So Wrong

Dougald Lamont

By DOUGALD LAMONT I am compelled to respond Dr. Gem Newman in his delivery of a valedictorian address to the medical graduates of the University of Manitoba medical school, which was shockingly ignorant of history.

Dr. Newman’s understanding is challenged by the facts of history, on every topic he touched on: Canada, Settler-Colonialism, the relationship with Indigenous people, and Israel’s founding.
It was a disservice to his peers, and to informed decision-making around the current crisis.

If we want a more just and peaceful world, we need to press for political solutions. I personally favour an immediate cessation of hostilities and release of Israeli hostages, and humanitarian aid to Gaza with oversight from the International Community. That is why we need a political process to peacefully negotiate a new political arrangement. If it is a two-state solution, I believe it must emerge from this process. It should be self-evident, just from the point of view of practical politics, that a single state that consists of two populations who are in the midst of a horrific war, will likely face insurmountable obstacles in trying to work and govern together.

Reasonable people should be able to agree that Israel should continue to exist, that the Palestinian people should be free, that the fighting should end, and those who have violated the rules of war should be held to account. To be blunt, neither side has a monopoly on virtue.

International Human Rights Law “prohibits attacks directed against civilians, as well as indiscriminate attacks, namely those that strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction.”

I also believe it’s reasonable to assert that the current leadership of Israel and Gaza should have no place at that table, given that they are responsible for the current crisis. The intelligence failures alone around October 7 should disqualify the current senior Israeli leadership, just as the attack of October 7 should disqualify Hamas.

Declaring recognition of a Palestinian state, with no defined or agreed-upon leadership or borders, short-circuits any such political process.

That is because while some support a two-state solution, others quite clearly favour a “one-state” solution that would essentially spell the end of the State of Israel. I have never seen the term “Zionist” tossed around as such a slur, as a kind of shorthand for holding an unacceptable view.

A Zionist is basically someone who thinks the State of Israel should exist – and the state of Israel does exist. Before Israel’s founding, debating whether or not it should exist was hypothetical. Now that it does exist, debating whether it should or not can be credibly interpreted as an existential threat.

For Israelis, and for many Jews, that clearly amounts to the destruction of their nation, including by violence. This, too, is exactly what many states and state-supported terror groups have committed to.

That is why the lack of clarity around some slogans seems to be calling for more conflict, not for a peaceful resolution.

When asked about the slogan “From the River to the Sea,” some have shrugged and said that it was Israelis who first came up with the slogan. This is true, but that is because the State of Israel does stretch from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. Palestinian territories do not. It would require Israeli territory for Palestine to reach from the river to the sea, which again, can suggest that Israel will just become Palestine.

Dr Newman should know that for Israelis, and for many Jews, that clearly amounts to the destruction of their nation, including by violence. That is exactly what many states and state-supported terror groups have committed to, and have been promising for decades.
If we want a more peaceful and just world, we should strive to achieve those ends in ways that are peaceful and just, and that requires a political path.

It is not that the history is better than you might expect – it is worse.

The Nazi Holocaust was Modelled on the U.S. Killing of Indigenous People and Seizure of their Lands
There is an important link between the treatment of Indigenous North Americans and the Nazi Holocaust. Hitler believed that he could turn Germany into the a world dominating empire by emulating the way the United States had killed indigenous people and taken their property, except Hitler’s goal was to exterminate every Jew in the world.

“In the Nazi state, Lebensraum became not just a romantic yearning for a return to the East but a vital strategic component of its imperial and racist visions. For the Germans, eastern Europe represented their “Manifest Destiny.” Hitler and other Nazi thinkers drew direct comparisons to American expansion in the West. During one of his famous “table talks,” Hitler decreed that “there’s only one duty: to Germanize this country [Russia] by the immigration of Germans and to look upon the natives as Redskins.”
As Nazi troops moved across Europe and the Soviet Union, Jews were rounded up, their homes, properties and businesses stolen. Some were murdered on the spot, lined up and shot.
Some were stuffed into the backs of trucks with the exhaust piped in, and driven back and forth until everyone inside was dead. Others still were gathered up, put on trains and sent to death camps where they were killed in factories purpose-built for killing human beings. Their stolen belongings were used to finance their own deaths, and the gold was retrieved from their teeth.
Jews were targeted by the Germans for complete extermination wherever the lived in the world, based both on pseudoscientific race theory about the supposed supremacy of the imagined “Aryan” race, and antisemitic conspiracy theories about Jewish global influence.
Jews were being rounded up and slaughtered in the millions, and as refugees, had no place to go. They were refused entry to country after country, including Canada.

That is one of the very major reasons the creation of the State of Israel cannot be compared to settler colonialism by European or Asian empires colonizing Africa, Oceania, the Americas. The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 occurred with the support of the United Nations, as well as the global left. The historical reason for that is relevant.

Clearly, after the Second World War, it created pressure for Jews to have their homeland, so that they would not always face being a minority in a country when, because of their stateless existence, they had faced pogroms, slaughter and discrimination for millennia.

The Palestinian Cause was Undermined Because its Leader was a Nazi Collaborator

There is no question that the at the time of the creation of Israel, the credibility of the Palestinian cause was undermined because Mufti Amin al-Husseini, the leader of Palestine, was a Nazi Collaborator. Al-Husseini received personal financial aid from the Nazi government, participated in Nazi propaganda broadcasts, and worked to find recruits for the Nazi SS.
In 1941, Al-Husseini travelled to Berlin and on November 28, met with Hitler.
“Al-Husseini began the conversation by declaring that the Germans and the Arabs had the same enemies: “the English, the Jews, and the Communists.” He proposed an Arab revolt all across the Middle East to fight the Jews; the English, who still ruled Palestine and controlled Iraq and Egypt; and even the French, who controlled Syria and Lebanon. 

(The British had secured a mandate for Palestine at the Paris peace conference in 1919, and made halting attempts to create a “Jewish national home” there without prejudicing the rights of the Arab population.) He also wanted to form an Arab legion, using Arab prisoners from the French Empire who were then POWs inside Germany. 

He also asked Hitler to declare publicly, as the German government had privately, that it favored “the elimination of the Jewish national home” in Palestine.
The Fuhrer then made the following statement to the Mufti, enjoining him to “lock it in the uttermost depths of his heart”:

  1. He (the Fuhrer) would carry on the battle to the total destruction of the Judeo-Communist empire in Europe.
    1. At some moment which was impossible to set exactly today but which in any event was not distant, the German armies would in the course of this struggle reach the southern exit from Caucasia.
      1. As soon as this had happened, the Fuhrer would on his own give the Arab world the assurance that its hour of liberation had arrived. Germany’s objective would then be solely the destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab sphere under the protection of British power. 
In that hour the Mufti would be the most authoritative spokesman for the Arab world. It would then be his task to set off the Arab operations, which he had secretly prepared. When that time had come, Germany could also be indifferent to French reaction to such a declaration.”
        Al Husseini’s work was actively financed by the Nazi government.
        “From spring 1943 to spring 1944, Husseini personally received 50,000 marks monthly and Gailani 65,000 for operational expenses.” [Rashid Ali al-Gaylani was the Prime Minister of Iraq]. 

”In addition, they each received living expenses averaging 80,000 marks per month, an absolute fortune. A German field marshal received a base salary of 26,500 marks per year.”
        Along with other Arab broadcasters, al-Husayni disseminated pro-Axis, anti-British, and anti-Jewish propaganda from Berlin to the Middle East. In radio broadcasts, he called for an Arab revolt against Great Britain and the destruction of the Jewish settlements in Palestine.

        Al-Husayni spoke often of a “worldwide Jewish conspiracy” that controlled the British and US governments and sponsored Soviet Communism. He argued that “world Jewry” aimed to infiltrate and subjugate Palestine, a sacred religious and cultural center of the Arab and Muslim world, as a staging ground for the seizure of all Arab lands. In his vision of the world, the Jews intended to enslave and exploit Arabs, to seize their land, to expropriate their wealth, undermine their Muslim faith and corrupt the moral fabric of their society. He labeled the Jews as the enemy of Islam, and used crude racist terminology to depict Jews and Jewish behavior, particularly as he forged a closer relationship with the SS in 1943 and 1944. He described Jews as having immutable characteristics and behaviors. On occasion, he would compare Jewishness to infectious disease and Jews to microbes or bacilli. In at least one speech attributed to him, he advocated killing Jews wherever Arabs found them. He consistently advocated “removing” the Jewish homeland from Palestine and, on occasion, driving every Jew out of Palestine and other Arab lands.
        Al Husseini was directly involved in recruiting for the SS.
        “When the SS decided in February 1943 to recruit among Bosnian Muslims for a new division of the Waffen-SS, SS Main Office Chief Berger enlisted al-Husayni in a recruiting drive in Bosnia from March 30 and April 11. On April 29, Berger reported that 24,000–27,000 recruits had signed up and noted that the “visit of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem had had an extraordinarily successful impact.” Both al-Husayni and the SS repeatedly referred to the success of the 13th Waffen-SS Mountain Division (also known as “Handschar”).”
        After the Second World War, the 13th Waffen-SS Mountain Division was charged with war crimes and the killing of over 5,000 Jewish and Serbian civilians. In the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli war, hundreds of its members fought against Israel.
        All of this is critical historical context for Zionism of the time, and for the creation of the State of Israel. There can be no question that Al Husseini’s collaboration with the Nazis meant that his cause was treated with considerably less sympathy.  
        None of this negates the present-day mistreatment and injustice towards present-day Palestinians, but it does mean that their experience does not mirror that of Indigenous people, nor is the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 comparable to other “settler colonial” states, like South Africa, or Canada.

Tommy Douglas, Eugenics and Provinces’ Role in the Canadian Colonial State
This brings me to my second point about Dr. Newman’s valedictorian speech, which was his citing Tommy Douglas as a moral beacon in a speech where he also mentioned Indigenous health outcomes.

While Douglas enjoys a reputation as a paragon of political virtue, he and his party are responsible for one of the most horrifically damaging colonial systems for Indigenous people in Canada in the last 70 years: provincial child welfare systems. This is in addition to his promotion of eugenics-based sterilization, another aspect of his political career that is minimized and ignored

For all of the claims that the left in Canada is “woke,” the role of progressive politicians and parties in our country’s profoundest tragedies is not just forgotten and unknown, it is buried.
The New Democratic Party was created as a successor to the CCF party. While the NDP is today seen as a party of labour, and the “working man,” the CCF, as social gospelers, were evangelical Christians, often British, who promoted eugenics and forced sterilization as a low-cost solution to poverty, mental illness, and disability, and they did so for years.

In 1933, Tommy Douglas published his Master’s thesis from McMaster University, “The Problems of the Subnormal Family,” based on his time working at the Weyburn Mental Hospital. Weyburn Mental Hospital was not a small-town facility – at the time of its construction, it was the largest building ever built in the British Empire.

In the Making of a Socialist, Douglas passed off his thesis in a later interview as being on the subject of “Christian sociology,” when it endorsed the segregation and forced sterilization of people he deemed to be inferior.

Douglas’s thesis topic, in his own words was that:
“The subnormal family is an ever-increasing menace physically, mentally and morally, to say nothing of a constantly rising expense. Surely the continued policy of allowing the subnormal family to bring in to the world large numbers of individuals to fill our jails and mental institutions and to live upon charity is one of consummate folly.”
Douglas starts his thesis this way:
“The problem of the subnormal family is chiefly one for the State. Since the state has the problem of legislating in the best interests of Society, and since we have seen that the subnormal family is an ever-increasing menace physically, mentally and morally, to say nothing of a constantly rising expense, it is, surely the duty of the State to meet this problem.
The suggested remedies which the state might effect are three in number:
1)    The Improvement of Existing Marriage Laws;
2)    Segregation;
3)    Sterilization of Unfit, and Increased Knowledge of Birth Control.
He elaborates:
“Sterilization of the mentally and physically defective has long been advocated, but only recently has it seeped into the public consciousness. From the day when Plato wrote his Republic to the present, eugenicists have advanced various solutions to the problem of the defective, but sterilization seems to meet the requirements of the situation most aptly.
For while it gives protection to society, yet it deprives the defective of nothing except the privilege of bringing into the world children who would only be a care to themselves and a charge to society.
4.) Another effect of the abnormal family is the cost of maintenance: It may be a mercenary view to take of the problem, yet in view of mounting taxation, it is of importance to the average citizen to know the effect of the subnormal family on his tax bill.”
Douglas did not drop the subject. In 1934, Douglas proposed it with the youth wing of the CCF, and the next year, 1935, Douglas was elected MP for the first time.

The power of Douglas’ carefully cultivated political reputation is so great that for many, it creates a cognitive dissonance so profound that it is dismissed. They puzzle as to how a person they so greatly admire could have advocated for forced sterilization.

The question as to how Douglas and other eugenicists could express such concern and apparent love while also calling for sterilization is because they see people who are poor, mentally ill or who break the law as defective, and subhuman, because of their particular brand of radical Christian ideology. Treating people as subhuman means treating them as animals, where the usual rules of human morality no longer apply. It is a kind of cruel pity – and instead of alleviating suffering, they opt for ending it. 

Douglas was not a young man – He was an adult, in his 30s, calling for forced sterilization and segregation, just as his political mentor and family pastor, J. S. Woodsworth had done.

J. S. Woodsworth, Sterilization and the Bureau of Social Research
In 1909, Woodsworth published “Strangers Within Our Gates,” which was blatantly racist, ranking various groups according to their capacity to integrate into Canadian society.

Woodsworth’s treatment of Blacks is subhuman. He favorably cited U.S. progressive John R Common, who Woodsworth quotes saying, “The very qualities of intelligence and manliness which are essential for citizenship in a democracy were systematically expunged from the negro race through two hundred years of slavery.”
Woodsworth also endorsed Residential Schools as the solution for dealing with First Nations, favourably citing the Methodist Principal of the Brandon Residential School, where dozens of children had died, who said that “Both Church and State should have, as a final goal, the destruction and end of treaty and reservation life.”
Throughout the 1910s, Woodsworth ran the “Bureau of Social Research,” which publicly promoted eugenics and forced sterilization across Canada’s Western Provinces. Woodsworth’s editorials calling for eugenic sterilization were printed on the front page of the Winnipeg Free Press, and were considered as official recommendations to provincial governments.

According to a 2004 article in the Journal of Historical Sociology, Sterilizing the ‘Feeble-Minded’: Eugenics in Alberta, Canada 1929-1972, Woodsworth’s work directly informed the adoption of sterilization policies in Alberta.

“The eugenics platform was championed in western Canada by a number of influential social reformers including J. S. Woodsworth, a Winnipeg-based proponent of the “social gospel.” Woodsworth was concerned with the declining quality of immigrants arriving in the west. He translated his personal fear into a public crisis, spreading the idea that no segment of Canadian society would be left untouched by the influx of thousands of immigrants of inferior stock from central and eastern Europe. In time, his policy recommendations turned to eugenics and sterilization programs” (Chapman 1977: 13).
In 1928, Alberta and BC both passed forced sterilization laws. Researchers have directly attributed Alberta’s decision to adopt forced sterilization to Woodsworth’s advocacy. One of the Alberta MNA’s at the time who supported the bill, William Irvine, was a close friend and colleague of Woodsworth’s. When Irvine was later elected as an MP, it was in his office that the CCF was founded. 
From 1929 to 1972, when the Alberta eugenics board was finally disbanded, the Board saw 4,800 cases of proposed sterilization and approved virtually all (4,739) of these; 2,834 sterilization procedures were eventually performed, the majority on females.

That was not the only questionable judgment that Douglas made in his political career. In 1935, when Douglas won a seat as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons for the first time, he did so with an endorsement from the radical right Social Credit Premier of Alberta, which was considered by some to be fascist. The creator of the “Social Credit” economic philosophy, Major Douglas, was explicitly anti-semitic.  
The endorsement was arranged for Douglas’ by a key member of his campaign team, Daniel C. Grant, who had been the chief organizer for all of Western Canada for the Canadian Ku Klux Klan.
Grant had been a driver for J J Maloney, the head of the Ku Klux Klan, and had worked in Manitoba as a recruiter and organizer. In 1928 in Winnipeg, Grant had delivered a speech saying that
“The Klan strove for ‘racial purity. We fight against intermarrying of Negroes and whites, Japs and White, Chinese and Whites. This intermarriage is a menace to the world. If I am walking down the street and a Negro doesn’t give me half the sidewalk, I know what to do.” He then lashed out at the Jews and said that “The Jews are too powerful … they are the slave masters who are throttling the throats of white persons to enrich themselves.”
A 1974 biography by Doris Shackleton, a former CBC reporter and NDP staffer, entitled “Tommy Douglas” openly acknowledged Grant’s work organizing for the KKK.
In 1929, Grant and the KKK had helped elect the Conservative-Progressive coalition government in Saskatchewan, which had earned him a patronage post in charge of the labour office in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, where Douglas met him. Grant was fired when a new government was elected, because they didn’t want KKK organizers working in the labour office.
There have been various attempts to minimize Douglas’ promotion of eugenics, saying that his views were changed by a trip to Germany in 1936. In fact, Douglas went to Germany because he wanted to see one of Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies.
In a 1956 interview, published in the book “The Making of a Socialist,” Douglas explained – when asked about his 1936 trip to Germany the year after he was elected a Member of Parliament:
“[Interviewer] You were in Europe for how long?
[Douglas] About three months. We went from Switzerland to Nuremberg, because I wanted to see the great annual festivity Hitler put on each year there. It was frightful. I came back and warned my friends about the great German bombers roaring over the parade of self-propelled guns and tanks, Hitler standing there giving his salute, with Göring and the rest of the Nazi bigwigs by his side.
There was no doubt then that Hitler was simply using Spain as a dress rehearsal for an attack on other nations.
[Interviewer] It was with very great difficulty that people were able to appreciate the anti-Semitism that was going on in Germany. Did you yourself see any examples of it?
[Douglas] I didn’t see any. Most of it was over by the time I got there.”
To suggest that in 1936, most of the anti-semitism in Germany was over defies reason and evidence.
“The New Residential Schools” Tommy Douglas and the creation of provincial child welfare

These are just some of the reasons that holding up Tommy Douglas as exemplar of political purity, is “problematic”. It is far from the only example of Douglas’ historic association with damaging policies that has been whitewashed.
The reality of Canada as a colonial state is that provincial governments have played a direct role in the mistreatment of Indigenous people, in areas of jurisdiction that the provinces themselves asked for, and Tommy Douglas is one of the people responsible.
Again, in Shackleton’s biography, Douglas describes how, in 1951, the Federal Government began to shut down residential schools, “after a series of negative reports,” that at the urging of the CCF and Premier Tommy Douglas, the federal government transferred responsibility for First Nations child welfare to provinces.
The result has been 70 years of provincial governments seizing Indigenous children from their families and never returning them, in numbers greater than the total yearly attendance of Residential Schools.

The “60s scoop” meant thousands of children across Canada were taken from their homes and adopted out across North America and around the world.
“The department of Indigenous Affairs indicates that the number of Indigenous children adopted between 1960 and 1990 was 11,132,” though some research suggests it was over 20,000.”
CFS has been described by Cindy Blackstock as “the New Residential Schools” and the scale of it across Canada is colossal.
In the last decade, the number of Indigenous children apprehended and in custody of CFS in Manitoba alone exceeded the total population of every single residential school across Canada. By 2013, the province of Manitoba had 11,000 children in the custody of CFS.

According to the Lancet, it was the highest apprehension rate in the world. That is more, in a single province, than the entire “60s scoop” across Canada over 30 years. If that weren’t bad enough, governments in Manitoba and British Columbia also seized federal child allowances intended for those children.
This horrific policy is the direct cause of Indigenous misery, and shorter life expectancy. Over half of the homeless population in Winnipeg were at one point wards of CFS. Canadian provinces took Indigenous children from their families, took their money, and left them on the street at the age of 18 with no supports. Our jails, our runaways, our gangs, and tragedy after tragedy have the common thread of CFS involvement. Because CFS is not just about looking after the safety children, it has always also been about controlling and threatening parents.
That’s why the top five of 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are all concerned with children in provincial child welfare systems.
This absolute catastrophe of a social policy was conceived of, created and sustained, by provincial governments for decades, and directly contributed to the relentless trauma that provincial governments have inflicted on Indigenous people, and about which there is a deafening silence.
Why are children being seized? Largely because of First Nations and Indigenous poverty and neglect. Why is there Indigenous poverty? Because, for decades, provincial governments across Western Canada have approved megaprojects – dams, mines, oil and gas – much of it on First Nations land.
In Manitoba, there are dams that have destroyed Indigenous communities’ self-sufficiency by destroying the environment. Entire communities flooded out of existence, dammed rivers destroying lakes that were the source of successful commercial fisheries, wiped out by Hydro and the Government of Manitoba, without compensation.
What’s more, provincial governments are funded on a per capita basis – for every person who lives within their borders, including on reserve, yet provincial governments like Manitoba exclude First Nations from receiving that funding.
Indigenous people in Canada consistently face the most discrimination in provincial systems, and when a catastrophe or a tragedy inevitably happens, the response has always been to defend the system. Indigenous deaths in ERs, in jail, in CFS or as victims of crime are blamed on the victims. 
Together, provincial governments’ combined budgets are larger than the federal government, and Indigenous Canadians face terrible discrimination from provincial governments in economic supports, education, health, justice, child and family services and natural development.
Because the federal policies are the same everywhere: it’s the provincial policies that are different, which is why child and family poverty, and Indigenous incarceration in Manitoba are so much worse than any other province.
So, when Dr. Gem Newman lectures his fellow classmates on the injustices of Canada’s treatment of First Nations, he should know that one of the direct causes of homelessness, mental health, and forced poverty in Manitoba and across Canada is the direct result of decades of seizures of Indigenous children, which are a direct consequence of a policy brought in by Tommy Douglas to replace Residential Schools.

Tommy Douglas and provincial governments created some of the most damaging modern policies Indigenous people in Canada have experienced – and are still experiencing, every day.
As a valedictorian and as a doctor, Dr Newman is an authority, and he says a doctor’s advocacy is in a doctor’s job description. Advocates and authorities have a responsibility to work from evidence. That is why it is paramount for an authority, whether they are practicing medicine or politics, to ensure they know what they are talking about. Slogans are not solutions, and Dr. Newman’s facile understanding of history is a disservice to his audience.
It has to be said Dr. Newman’s ignorance about this should not be a surprise, because there is an effective conspiracy of silence which makes it a forbidden topic in Canada, because it is politically inconvenient.
Notably, it highlights the hypocrisy and moral double standards at work among high-profile Canadian progressives, Naomi Klein being the most prominent.

On Freedom of Speech, Civil Disobedience on Campus on Beyond
I write all of this as a strong supporter of freedom of expression, on and off campus including protest, investigative journalism, whistleblowing, satire, parody, speaking truth to power, and calling out corruption. I have personally done all of them. Rights have never been about doing and saying whatever you want, wherever and whenever.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms sets out the circumstances where you are guaranteed rights to free expression. The Charter generally only applies to Government, not universities, except in Alberta, where courts ruled otherwise.

The reason for this is university autonomy. Universities are workplace and a place of research and education, where the goal is to work to an ever greater understanding of the world, and that has always required discernment. It is not a public square or an unmoderated internet forum, and if you don’t abide by the rules, you do not have a right to stay.

A simple example of speech that can get you removed from campus is plagiarism. The university sets out rules around free inquiry and academic freedom, but you can’t plagiarize.

This is important in the context of campus protests and civil disobedience. Protestors are not being silenced because of the content of their speech, nor are they choosing to break unjust laws to show how unjust they are. 

The distinction here is one that was drawn by Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King. He was in favour of direct action and civil disobedience by having people be willing to be arrested and jailed, and face the consequences and punishment, because the unjust law they broke was asking for service at a segregated coffee shop, or sitting at the front of the bus. They actively discouraged and called out anyone who broke other laws as undermining the cause.

The laws that are being broken in this instance are ones that apply to everyone. It is not about the cause or the message, at all. It is about trespassing, or blocking a highway, or ignoring a court order.

There is a basic mistake that many commentators and protestors are making. When protestors say they mean “peaceful,” they think that if it is non-violent, that it must ,by legal definition be peaceful, and legal. You do not have to be violent to be “disturbing the peace.” Blocking highways and spamming 911 lines are not violent, but both are against the law, for obvious reasons, because someone could die. Canadian Supreme Court Precedent makes it clear, there are limits to protest, because other people have the right to be free from disruption.

If protestors are arguing that the injustice is so great, that they must break the law for justice to be done, then this is exactly the motivation behind what is known as “noble cause corruption” in policing. It’s just as unacceptable.

Freedom of expression is protected because it is powerful, and it is powerful for good and for harm. That’s why accuracy – especially at a university – matters. It means weeding out the lies, manipulation, dishonesty and deception. It means recognizing that human beings are contradictory, and flawed. It means working hard not to deceive others, or yourself, while we live in a world where armies of people are paid to deceive us, and recognizing that there may be more than two sides to every story. Two bitter opponents on either side of an issue can both be wrong.

“Resistance” that takes the form of attacks on civilians is just as unacceptable as reckless military actions that result in civilian deaths. Neither are morally or strategically defensible: to the contrary, they only further radicalize and inflame the situation.

 Dougald Lamont (B.A., M.A) is a graduate of the University of Manitoba and a former member of the Board of Governors. He is the past MLA for St. Boniface and the former Leader of the provincial Manitoba Liberal Party from 2017-2023.

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