Good news, bad news

More opposition to Quebec’s secular charter, and troubles for the Olympic torch
Montreal boxer Adonis Stevenson retains his world championship title. (Jacques Boissinot/CP)

Good News

Valued input

The chorus opposed to the Parti Québécois’s secular charter gained key voices this week, as two of Quebec’s largest French-language universities weighed in for the nays. The PQ might have thought it would find support among sovereignist-leaning officials at the Université de Montréal and Université de Sherbrooke. But senior administrators at both suggested the plan to ban staff from wearing religious symbols such as hijabs and kirpans is pointlessly divisive and unlikely to advance the cause of preserving secularism in public institutions. “It is precisely the role of universities to confront these ideas,” added Sherbrooke’s rector, Luce Samoisette. Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Field trip

As Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has become one of Israel’s staunchest allies, breaking with decades of Canadian foreign policy that sought more balance with Palestinian concerns. So it’s welcome news that he’s now finally going to visit, in person, a place he has such strong opinions about. Maybe he’ll learn something more about the realities on the ground, and temper some of the tough talk in favour of renewed diplomacy.

A place to lay his head

A sculpture called Jesus the Homeless deemed too political by cathedrals in Toronto and New York has found a home—at the Vatican. Artist Timothy Schmalz of St. Jacobs, Ont., brought his life-sized wooden model of Jesus sleeping on a park bench to Rome, and Pope Francis approved, commissioning a full-sized bronze version to be placed near St. Peter’s Square. It’s a clear message to clergy from a Pope known to walk the streets of Rome ministering to the needy: Caring for the poor is not a political cause, it’s one of the Church’s holiest missions.

Help from above

The UN is deploying drones for the first time to help with its peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The unmanned aircraft will be used to monitor rebel activity in the mountainous region near the Rwandan border. It’s a constructive use of an often sinister technology. Although we’re not so sure about Amazon’s new plan to eventually use drones to deliver Christmas presents. Are Santa’s reindeer eligible for EI?

Bad News

Sir, yessir

It’s one thing to be caught spying on your allies. It’s quite another to let a foreign power do so on domestic soil. But that’s precisely what Ottawa allowed during the 2010 G8 and G20 meetings in Ontario, inviting the U.S. National Security Agency to listen in on unnamed targets, according to documents released by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. Our government can complain about the release of classified information. But its cozy deal with Uncle Sam reinforces perceptions of Canada as a giant 51st state. For that, Ottawa alone is responsible.

Pay what?

The Ontario NDP proposed capping the salaries of executives at public sector agencies at $418,000. While no one doubts Ontario has a spending problem, the plan’s real effect would be to guarantee public agencies wouldn’t be able to attract the talent they so clearly need. The NDP may want to take note of recent events in Switzerland. An initiative there proposed limiting a CEO’s salary to 12 times that of the firm’s lowest wage. The Swiss voted overwhelmingly against the plan, which critics noted would have badly hurt the nation’s competitiveness.

Foul horseplay

Animals were harmed in the making of some movies, it turns out. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the American Humane Association, which monitors the use of animals on sets and grants the familiar “No animals were harmed” trademark, downplayed the deaths and injuries of animals on some productions. In one email obtained by The Reporter, an AHA monitor said the tiger in the Life of Pi nearly drowned on set: “We almost f–king killed King in the water tank.” The film was granted AHA’s stamp of approval.

Olympic omens

The Russians are trying hard to make the Sochi torch relay stand out. They’ve taken the Olympic flame up on a spacewalk, down to the bottom of the world’s deepest freshwater lake in a submarine, and sent it on a jetpack flight. But the torch’s own technology has been less impressive. It’s sputtered out dozens of times and has a propensity to leak flaming fuel, setting a former bobsledder ablaze last week. How can a society get rocket science, but fail at fire?