by Denis G. Rancourt
Former physics professor, University of Ottawa
By quoting me out of context and inappropriately (using my off-the-record critique of a leading question) the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has insinuated in at least two of its reports that the Ottawa RBC firebombing was seeded in a “political activism” course that I gave and opened to free community participation in 2006 at the University of Ottawa. LINK.
This theme was then picked up by hundreds of web bloggers who draw a link between terrorism and my Science in Society (aka “the activism course”) class of 2006.
To question the University of Ottawa as a possible origin of terrorism is a legitimate enterprise but I would not look to social justice and responsible use of science courses as the most likely culprits.
For example, by far the most significant recent high-profile act of terrorism in Ottawa was the organized and systemic stealing of Nortel pensions and benefits from tens of thousands of faithful employees. LINK.
Property damage at a neighbourhood multinational bank office pales in comparison, by any standard, not to mention the scams of user fees and of government (taxpayer) corporate bail outs of all kinds.
How many of the lawyers, judges, law makers, professional negotiators, and government officials involved in the Nortel hijacking - in the service of financiers and at the expense of employees - were educated at the University of Ottawa, in business, law, accounting, management, and professional ethics courses? Good question. Good research topic.
In many or most developed nations the Nortel violation of workers’ natural rights would have been immediately overturned by general or widespread strikes. Imagine this sort of organized finance robbery being attempted in France or any European country or even in Quebec.
What role did the University of Ottawa play in pacifying Nortel employees, in its engineering, communications, software development, and management courses?
At a time when the role of the educational system in promoting societal fascism - in which political apathy is the norm and criticism is vilified - is being reported, it is essential to ask what role the University of Ottawa is playing in society. LINK.
Instead, at exactly the time when in the national media Canadian conscience icon Ursula Franklin has called on Canadians to heed the clear signs of widespread emergent fascism, the media are echoing the police-state mantra that activists are terrorists.
Activists have a constitutional right to protest and should be celebrated for keeping anti-establishment and pro-democracy critique alive, not vilified as agents of chaos. Discourse, critique, protest, and protest actions including strikes and impediments to business-as-usual are essential elements of a free modern state.
Such activism has given us workers’ rights (e.g., 40-hour week, vacations), civil rights, students’ rights, and a (far from functional) structure of representative democracy. It is a historic truism that these rights were won by popular activism, not granted by benevolent governments. It is the threat and practice of popular activism that keeps governments in check, not majority voter opinions or corporate-financed elections. Any other view is a dream and if you share it wake up. LINK.
I am just back from Germany where the police are simply not allowed on university campuses and where there are NO campus police, as is the case in much of the non-USA world, and I compare this with the University of Ottawa with its over 900 surveillance cameras, where students are routinely prosecuted with criminal charges that would be laughable elsewhere, and where students are regularly accosted for ID in broad daylight by campus thugs with a mission to “protect.”
We do need to look at the role of universities, including the “professional” training of corporate media workers and lobbyists and communicators, in stifling and criminalizing democratic expression in its truest forms – protest, critique, resistance, non-compliance, civil disobedience, and workplace self-defence – but also in helping to create the conditions for finance-corporate fascism.
In the words of Ursula Franklin, we “must” compare Canadian society today with the conditions that led to Nazi fascism and other recent totalitarian state expressions.
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