Volume 12 Week 5

Thursday, April 16


 

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Ottawa-Orléans
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Country's priorities
in need of
serious review


When I read this morning's headlines I didn't know whether to laugh cry or curl up in a fetal positioin.

The first story was about the family members of children with autism who demonstrated on Parliament Hill to bring attention to a lack of funding and education in Canada.

The second story was about the job cuts at the Royal Ottawa Hospital needed to eliminate a $4.2 million deficit and the fact that their budget has been frozen for the past four years.

The third story was about the estimated $528 million price tag for Canada's war against ISIS in the coming year.

WTF!?#??$

At the risk of sounding over dramtic, our society is at an important crossroads. We seriously need to examine our priorities before the current paradigm gets so skewed there's no turning back.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on giving Canadians a false sense of security while children with autism and their families are being paid lip service; more money is spent on campaigns lifting the stigma of mental illness than treating the mentally ill; and access, or the lack thereof, to long-term care facilities is a national disgrace.

Now don't get me wrong, I agree that something needs to be done to stop ISIS or at least curtail their activities, but does it require spending half a billion dollars?

Couldn't we give the Iraqis $300 million to deal with ISIS themselves and use the other $300 million to provide enhanced services to individuals with autism and their families, or people stuggling to deal with mental illness?

Governments at all levels are constantly telling us they only have so much money and that our expectations need to be based on our ability to pay. Well, if we can afford to spend half a billion on waging a war with ISIS, or tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars beefing up or anti-terror establishment, surely we can afford to build more long term care facilities that won't burn up our grandparents' life savings before they die.

The tragedy is that more words will be exchanged and press releases written debating safety and security in the next election than senior care, mental health services and autism combined. I know this because none of those issues even registered a blip in last year's provincial election.

It's also much easier to peddle fear than hope, especially when the media are willing accomplices. Case in point, the tragic death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and the storming of Parliament Hill by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau.

The news agencies and 24-hour news channels were tripping over themselves trying to one up each other. The result was borderline hysteria, if not on the streets than at least in the newsrooms.

As it turned out Zehaf-Bibeau was little more than a petty criminal with a serious drug habit and an even more serious mental disorder. To discribe him as a terrorist is an insult to even the lowliest masked ISIS fighter.

And don't talk to me about the video message he left behind. He probably memerized the entire thing after watching countless other extremist manifestos on the Internet.

There is still no evidence that he had any communication with any known terrorist organization before his attack. He was just an individual who used religion as a misguided motive to commit his last desparate act.

Unfortunately, this isolated incident plays into the hands of the fear peddlars who would rather spend $100 million on CSIS than $100 million on enhanced services for families dealing with autism; mental health services; or seniors.

I do think we need to be vigilent in defending ourselves against legitiate terror threats, but not at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society and not at the expense of the freedoms that separate us from them.

What's required is balance. What's required is a government that is willing to establish priorites that address issues like autism, mental illness and senior care on the same level as safety and security.

I can only hope that discussion will take place during the next federal election. I just don't plan on holding my breath waiting for it to happen.

(If you wish to comment on this or any other View Point column please write to Fred Sherwin at fsherwin@magma.ca)

 

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