2016 Walter Gordon Symposium — Indigenous reconciliation

The 2016 Walter Gordon Symposium (Word document) was about indigenous reconciliation in Canada, following the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

I attended every panel, and I am working on processing and uploading my photos.

A complex confluence of factors seem to have combined to make indigenous issues critically important politically all around the world. In particular, the resurgence of aboriginal peoples is deeply bound up with our best hopes for avoiding destroying human flourishing and life as we know it through climate change.

The responsibility to protect versus humanitarian intervention

In Massey College’s Upper Library today, Ramesh Thakur gave an interesting presentation on changing international ideas about the use of military force in response to human rights violations, emphasizing the distinction between the concept of humanitarian intervention and the idea of the responsibility to protect (R2P).

I got photos of the event.

During the question and answer period Jeffrey Goldberg’s article on Obama’s foreign policy came up – specifically, the comment to Samantha Power: “Samantha, enough, I’ve already read your book”.

Divestment and “The Toronto Principle”

An article in The Harvard Crimson focused on the recent report of the president’s divestment committee at U of T:

Last December, a committee at the University of Toronto released a report on the issue of divestment, drawing a clear line by aligning itself with the needs of the Paris agreement. It recommended that the university not finance companies whose “actions blatantly disregard the international effort to limit the rise in average global temperatures to not more than one and a half degrees Celsius above pre-industrial averages by 2050…These are fossil fuels companies whose actions are irreconcilable with achieving internationally agreed goals.”

Hopefully, this principle will be re-affirmed when President Gertler makes the final decision. We expect that at the end of March.

Free speech at universities

The Economist recently printed an article about free speech on university campuses in the U.S..

In particular, they contrast thedemands.org which they say “lists speech-curbing demands from students at 72 institutions” and the Chicago Statement which argues that “[c]oncerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable”.

Generally speaking, I am extremely skeptical about curbs on the freedom of speech, even when they have plausible justifications. People don’t have a right not to be offended, and universities must provoke thinking in order to serve their purpose.

Suzy Favor Hamilton on her life with bipolar disorder

A key part of what makes CBC’s The Current so worthwhile to listen to is the interviewing ability of Anna Maria Tremonti, who manages to be appropriately skeptical and demanding with public figures but who can also demonstrate remarkable insight and compassion when interviewing people with difficult stories to tell.

Her recent segment with bipolar ex-Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton is an excellent example of what I mean: Olympian-turned-Vegas escort Suzy Favor Hamilton shares her story.

The segment also made me want to order Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness.