Martin Carnoy, The Many Lives of Michał K. Published in French as La vie mouvementée de Michał K. (trans. Sylvie Lefranc). Paris: Bouquins, 2023. 528 pages.

Martin Carnoy is no stranger to writing books. A professor in the education faculty at Stanford and consultant to governments and international organizations, he has a long list of books to his credit in his area of specialization, the economics of education, and social policy more generally. But this book is very much a departure for him. Now in his eighties, he has written his first novel.

Carnoy says it was only late in life that he learned how to structure stories and develop characters – clearly, he learned his lesson well. In Michał Klein he has created a vivid and complex character whose story unfolds against the dark backdrop of World War II in Nazi-occupied Poland. (In an early attempt to protect the family, Michał’s father obtains false identity cards with the Polish surname Klimko; the initial in the title reflects this ambiguity.) While this is not a conventional Holocaust story in that ghettos and concentration camps figure in it only indirectly, it is very much a story of the tragic destruction of Polish Jewry.

Unlike his protagonist, Carnoy and his immediate family escaped direct experience of that destruction; the family left Poland for the United States in 1940, when Martin was two years old. However, he grew up with the awareness that his family had fled a looming disaster and that he had relatives who had remained in Europe and been murdered. Without being autobiographical, the novel is firmly rooted in Carnoy’s family history.

Michał’s comfortable existence in a Jewish bourgeois family in the Polish town of Kalisz, near the German border, is violently disrupted by the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, when he is 14. The story takes him to Lublin farther east, where his family flees in the vain hope of evading the Nazis; to a barn where he is taken in by a Polish farmer; and then, for most of the war years, to the forests where, joining a band of partisans, he not only survives but resists. In the troubled postwar years, he runs afoul of the Communists who are emerging as Poland’s new masters and finds his way to Germany, Mexico and ultimately the United States, pursued by the long arm of the Polish secret police.

Michał is hardened by his experiences and becomes an accomplished and ruthless killer. Increasingly revenge becomes a central motivation for him. This too is rooted in Carnoy’s family history. In 1944, settled in the United States, Martin’s father had to be dissuaded from joining the Office of Strategic Services, parachuting into Germany and killing as many SS as he could.

In one scene in postwar Munich, Michał discovers four former SS officers in an apartment and, with a friend from his partisan days, kills them all. Whereas a number of his comrades get on with their lives – mostly in Palestine, soon to become Israel – for Michał “bygones are not bygones.” The chief object of his desire for revenge is his brother-in-law Leszek, the son of the Polish farmer who took him in. Michał’s beloved sister, taken in by the same farmer, marries Leszek, giving up her Jewish identity. But she is not aware that Leszek is a Nazi collaborator, which Michał discovers when he observes Leszek as part of a group of soldiers killing Jews in the nearby town of Łęczna. As survivors scatter after the war, he goes to great lengths to track down his sister and Leszek, whom he intends to kill, freeing his sister from the clutches of a Jew-hater. He eventually catches up with them several years later in the Hudson Valley town of Rhinebeck, New York, equipped with his Lugar and intending to carry out his plan. But what transpires is somewhat unexpected; I won’t divulge it here.

I had the unnerving experience of reading this book in October, in the early days of the Israel-Hamas war. Reading Carnoy’s pages and hearing the news blended together in my mind. The time of radical insecurity for Jews in which Carnoy’s story had immersed me seemed to have reemerged. The images of Jews slaughtered by Jew-hating mobs were eerily familiar. Michał Klein’s life was deformed by his need to exact revenge; would the Israeli response to October 7 be deformed in the same way? Was the attack on Gaza shaped by strategic considerations or by revenge? Certainly, revenge was on the minds of many Israelis, and was reflected in the statements of Israeli cabinet ministers. Were the military commanders more level-headed? I started reading The Many Lives of Michał K. as a story set in a pivotal period in history; it has become a commentary on current events.

The Many Lives of Michał K. has been translated into French and published in Paris. As I write in November, it has not yet found an English-language publisher. It well deserves one.

Image: Greta Hoffman via Pexels.

For the last three years or so, immigration has been a significant focus for Inroads. Anne Michèle Meggs, a retired senior official in Quebec’s immigration ministry, has written authoritatively about the improvisation and lack of planning that characterize Ottawa’s immigration policy, which has become dominated by the international student and temporary worker programs. It was largely because of temporary immigration that, for the first time, Canada’s population increased by more than a million in 2022.

Our Summer/Fall 2023 issue featured a conversation between Anne and economist Pierre Fortin on immigration policy in the context of the Century Initiative’s proposal that Canada should boost immigration so that its population reaches 100 million by 2100. The CEO of the Century Initiative, Lisa Lalande, found fault with their analysis and wrote to us to say so; Anne and Pierre responded. This exchange went out to subscribers as an Inroads special in September and is available on our website.

In this issue, we shift the focus from immigration to the related matter of Canada’s housing crisis – the widening gap between demand for housing and what is being built. While acknowledging that “growing demand, with immigration largely to blame, is exacerbating the shortfall,” Mario Polèse places the onus primarily on supply issues, in Who is to Blame for Canada’s Housing Crisis? Look in the Mirror. Economic theory suggests that supply should rise to meet increased demand, but in Canada supply is held back by “a combination of public underfunding; ill-conceived, though well-intentioned, urban planning policies; land restrictions; and, of course, NIMBYs” – local residents’ “Not In My Back Yard” opposition to new housing developments.

John Richards is more inclined to cast the spotlight on the demand side and advocates limiting demand by reducing immigration levels, in Immigration and the Spike in House Prices. He notes that, prior to the election of the Trudeau Liberals in 2015, the ratio each year of Canada’s population growth to housing units completed was fairly stable. That ratio nearly doubled in the first four years of Liberal rule. A housing price spike followed in 2021–22. “The provinces and Ottawa,” John writes, “have now implicitly acknowledged that recent immigration numbers are a major cause of the spike in house prices and rents.”

Mark Crawford provides another perspective with his account of Japan’s success in ensuring that housing remains available and affordable, in How Japan Keeps Housing Available and Affordable. “The first two decades of this century,” he writes, “were characterized by remarkably stable prices, the lowest rate of homelessness of any large country, and a very high level of satisfaction with housing.”

Events such as the Israel-Hamas war that dominate the world’s media present Inroads with a dilemma. On one hand, since Inroads is a public policy journal and current events are the object of its analysis and commentary, we could hardly ignore an event of the magnitude of the Israel-Hamas war. On the other hand, the saturation media coverage left us wondering what was left for Inroads to say.

Poet Philip Resnick was the first to come to our rescue with a series of poems with a historical and philosophical perspective that would be hard to find in the news coverage, in A Middle East in Flames. The Inroads listserv weighed in with a thoughtful discussion of the right to self-defence and proportionality in the context of Israel’s retaliation for the October 7 pogrom in Self-Defence, Proportionality and the Israel-Hamas War. We had already decided to feature work by the independent-minded Algerian writer Kamel Daoud, and we were drawn to his October 27 critique of Arab countries’ use of the Palestinian cause as an excuse for inadequate education, poor urban planning, religious extremes and authoritarian governments led by corrupt generals. Finally, I read Martin Carnoy’s novel The Many Lives of Michał K., whose protagonist is a young Jewish resistance fighter in the forests of Poland during World War II, in the early days of the Israel-Hamas war, and the themes of vengeance and Jewish experience that are central to the novel also underlay many of the news reports I was hearing. I hope this confluence comes through in The Thirst for Revenge, Then and Now.

Also in this issue:

Finally, congratulations are in order for longtime Inroads writer and editorial board member Gareth Morley, who was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia on August 28. Unfortunately for Inroads, Gareth’s new position means that he can no longer be an active participant in the journal. We will miss his wide knowledge, original insights and lively writing.

At the same time, we are pleased to welcome the newest member of the editorial board, Mark Crawford.

Image: Smoky orange sky over the Golden Gate Bridge as wildfires rage on in California.

Greenland’s frozen hinterlands are bleeding worse than we thought.
— ScienceNews, November 9, 2022

Gas flares are leaking five times as much methane as previously thought.
— ScienceNews, September 29, 2022

Worse than we thought.

What were we thinking?

We thought we had more time.
We thought technology would save us.
We thought governments would come to their senses
before it was too late.
We thought it was just the weather.
We thought global warming would be good
for a cold country like Canada.
We thought we should build the pipeline
because it’s safer than shipping oil by rail.
We thought everybody would be driving electric cars by now.

Worse than we thought.

We thought there were more immediate and pressing issues.
We thought a carbon tax was political kryptonite.
We thought natural gas was clean energy.
We thought ethanol was a good idea.
We thought Canada should supply the oil because if we didn’t,
Saudi Arabia would.
We thought setting emission targets was a meaningful act.
We thought. We thought. We thought.

Worse than we thought.

We didn’t think it would happen in our lifetime.
We didn’t think there was a scientific consensus
that climate change was real.
We didn’t think anything we did could make a difference.
We didn’t think politicians were in the pay of the fossil fuel industry.
We didn’t think our way of life had to change.
We didn’t think hurricanes, floods and wildfires
had anything to do with greenhouse gases.
We didn’t think the temperature could reach
forty-nine degrees Celsius in Canada.
We didn’t think.

It was worse than we thought.

Worse than we thought.

Worse.

In the very first issue of Inroads, in 1992, the editors wrote that “Canadian intellectual life needs a genuine meeting of minds, which begins from the clash of opinion. Too much writing in Canada is not genuinely interested in pursuing opposing ideas.” They defined the objective of Inroads as being “to promote active and lively debate.”

Now, 31 years and 52 issues later, the need expressed in that first issue is greater than ever. And Inroads is still trying to fulfil that need and meet the objective that it set for itself at the outset.

One forum through which Inroads promotes debate is the Inroads listserv.* Edited versions of noteworthy listserv discussions are often published in the magazine. In February, a listserv discussion of whether what happened in Canada’s residential schools constituted genocide evolved into a larger discussion of what the word genocide means. In particular, does “cultural genocide” – a deliberate effort to eradicate the culture and identity of a people – belong in the same conceptual basket as actual mass killing? The discussion was intense, but the participants remained respectful and focused on the questions at hand. Highlights are presented in this issue.

Also in this issue, William Rees, a pioneer in ecological footprint analysis, makes the case that climate change is only a symptom of a broader phenomenon he calls overshoot: “Too many people are consuming and polluting too much on a finite planet.” Only a major reduction in both the number of people on the planet and the ecological footprint of those of us in high-income countries will prevent civilizational collapse. At our invitation, prominent – and somewhat more optimistic – environmentalist Mark Jaccard responds to this stark warning.

Frances Widdowson was fired from her job as a tenured professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary after criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement and expressing the view that residential schools had some positive value in providing many First Nations children with a formal education. Here she exchanges views on “wokism” with Mark Crawford of Athabasca University and Inroads co-publisher John Richards.

Finally, Anne Michèle Meggs and Pierre Fortin go back and forth on the Century Initiative’s proposal that Canada should boost immigration so that its population reaches 100 million by 2100, and on immigration more generally. While not fundamentally disagreeing with each other, they do come at the question from different perspectives: Anne as a former senior official in Quebec’s immigration department and acknowledged authority on immigration policy, Pierre as an economist who has delved into the economic impact of immigration.

Taken together, do these features represent the “genuine meeting of minds” that Inroads aimed to provide? We hope they at least make a dent in the unfortunate tendency of people across the political spectrum to listen only to views that confirm what they already believe.

Meanwhile, the main theme section in this issue covers a part of the world that has been underrepresented in Inroads: Latin America. Focusing on Mexico but also ranging over Spanish America as a whole and looking back at the region’s history, Mario Polèse offers an account of why Latin America has not achieved a level of economic and social well-being comparable to that of North America and Europe. Maxwell Cameron examines last fall’s events in Peru, where a failed “self-coup” led to the ouster of the country’s president. Although the Pacific Alliance – an initiative to forge closer economic ties among four Latin American countries – has run into difficulties, Geoff White maintains that the effort still has some life in it and deserves Canada’s support. Henry Milner, whose special report on deeply troubled Haiti was distributed by Inroads in February, provides an update and a renewed plea for Canadian military involvement. Craig Jones offers another perspective on Haiti, arguing that there will be no solution to the problem of the country’s violent gangs as long as the United States persists in waging a “war on drugs.”

Also in this issue:

  • Herschel Hardin makes the link between high levels of immigration and the lack of affordable housing in Greater Vancouver, leading to a declining quality of life in what was once a great city.
  • André Binette sees the controversy over Quebec’s use of the notwithstanding clause as a reflection of the contrasting political cultures of Canada and Quebec.
  • Reg Whitaker endeavours to make sense of Artificial Intelligence, which evcryone says is the Coming Thing while most people don’t quite know what it is.
  • Arthur Milner looks at the crisis in Israel’s democracy and expresses concern for the safety of Palestinians trapped in the fight between liberal and ultraright Israelis.
  • John Richards reviews an economist’s harsh critque of India’s corruption and failure to provide universal quality services, and finds some of the same themes explored in a new novel and a Godfather-style Bollywood movie.
  • Henry Milner sees parallels to current events in Russia in a novel about Trotsky and his murderer by a popular Cuban writer.
  • Philip Resnick’s poems cover a variety of subjects, from the changing nature of truth to observations of his native Montreal.

* If you would like to subscribe to the listserv, write to Inroads at inroadsjournal@gmail.com and we will add your name to the list. If you are not a subscriber to Inroads journal, you can obtain a free subscription by writing to the same address. As a subscriber you will receive a PDF of each issue by email. And tell your friends.

I don’t think Inroads has ever before devoted its main theme section to the same subject for two consecutive issues. But then Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is one of the most consequential events of recent decades. In the last issue we focused on Ukraine, and especially on efforts by Ukrainians fleeing the war to reach Canada and Canada’s readiness to receive them. But while Ukraine is the theatre of this war, Russia is its protagonist. In this issue we turn our lens eastward to Russia, and to the role and motivations of its leader Vladimir Putin. Henry Milner pens an introductions to our Russia section in The Russia that Invaded Ukraine.

As a scholar, political activist and diplomat, Derek Shearer has been involved with Russia since he studied Russian and went on a study tour of the Soviet Union as an undergraduate at Yale in the 1960s. In Is There Hope for Russia?, he looks at the invasion of Ukraine and Putin’s mounting authoritarianism in the context of the Russia he has observed over those decades. And in Fascist International, Ronald Beiner relates Putin’s action to the thinking of far-right ideologue Aleksandr Dugin. Dugin, he notes, is influential not just within Russia but as part of an international far-right movement that notably includes Donald Trump’s ally Steve Bannon.

In Russia and the Rogue Intellectuals, Filip Kostelka, a native of the Czech Republic and expert on central and eastern Europe, challenges the contention by American “rogue intellectuals” that the West rather than Russia is primarily responsible for this war. In Filip’s view this position, expressed notably by University of Chicago political scientist John Mearsheimer, “has limited explanatory power and is not supported by empirical evidence,” while it “plays into the hands of Russian propaganda.” Meanwhile, in his column, Arthur Milner revisits the Holodomor, the catastrophic famine engineered by Stalin in Ukraine in the 1930s, and asks why it has received so little attention in Lessons from the Holodomor.

Four articles examine political developments in widely dispersed and disparate countries. In Brazil, Fernando Feitosa notes that while right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro has been defeated, Bolsonarism remains a powerful force. He suggests some measures incoming President Lula da Silva can take to mitigate its influence in Bolsonarism After Bolsonaro.

Moving to Europe, Richard Murray, Henry Milner and several Swedish colleagues debate the implications of the recent election that brought a conservative coalition to power, and especially the degree of influence the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats are likely to have in Sweden Opens the Door to the Right. In the United Kingdom, Eric Shaw traces the descent of the Conservative Party, previously known for economic competence and effective government, into “a state of unruliness, back-stabbing and mutual recrimination, a veritable shambles” in Brexit, the Fall of Liz Truss and the Tories in Disarray.

Turning to the United States, where the midterm elections have cast the spotlight on Congress and where the presidency is always front and centre, Gareth Morley takes a close look at the third branch of government, the Supreme Court, whose ruling on abortion may have been a decisive factor in the election outcome. In Crisis of Legitimacy, he asks whether what the Court does is really law – or is it politics?

Here in Canada, two articles probe complex issues involving Indigenous people. In Finding a Way Out of the Federal Lobster Trap, Ian Peach and David Perley analyze the dispute between the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which seeks to impose its rules on Indigenous fishers in the Maritime provinces, and Mi’qmaq and Wolastoqi fishers, who maintain that their right to fish outside of those rules is rooted in 18th-century treaties between their nations and the British Crown. Ian and David make the case that the treaties are constitutional documents and take precedence. The mass murder in the James Smith Cree Nation and a nearby village in northern Saskatchewan in early September prompted a discussion on the Inroads listserv about the high rate of “deaths of despair” (homicide, suicide, alcohol) in Indigenous communities in the Prairies and its relationship with the lack of employment and educational opportunities on reserves. Highlights of the discussion are presented here, in Tragedy in the James Smith Cree Nation.

Dale Eisler is the author of a recent book on Saskatchewan’s evolution from a social democratic stronghold to one of Canada’s most conservative provinces. Inroads co-publisher John Richards lived in Saskatchewan during that earlier period, serving a term in the Saskatchewan legislature. In an email exchange, they discuss the province’s political transformation – as well as environmental and other issues with a focus on Saskatchewan, in Saskatchewan and International Realities. John also reviews a book on international development by Oxford University economist Stefan Dercon. He is sympathetic to Dercon’s emphasis on the importance of local elites in promoting development, but finds that the author pays insufficient attention to education, in Why Some Countries Are Poor and Others Are Not.

Also in this issue:

  • Alex Berland looks back at his experience managing mental health reform in British Columbia in the late 1990s and draws lessons about why well-intentioned policy so often fails, in Evidence Matters, but Context Rules.
  • In Riding the Radical Conservative Tiger, Reg Whitaker examines the radicalization of once-mainstream conservative political parties and the danger this trend poses for democracy.
  • Philip Resnick’s poems reflect his summer sojourn by the seaside in Greece, but also the world’s wars and other horrors that forced themselves on his consciousness, in The Sea and the Distant Guns. Philip also reviews Francis Fukuyama’s recent book in A Temperate Liberal.
  • In Quebec’s Artificial Landslide, co-publisher Henry Milner points to the recent Quebec election results, which revealed the sharp electoral divide between Montreal and the rest of the province and how it is exacerbated by the first-past-the-post electoral system.

So far, the 2020s appear to be a decade of world-changing events, happening so quickly that they are hard to keep up with. First came the mushrooming of a local outbreak of disease into a global pandemic in March 2020. The attack on the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, called into question the future of what had been one of the world’s most stable democracies. One could add the transition of climate change from a frightening future prospect to a present reality, symbolized by the destruction of Lytton, B.C., in June 2021. And then on February 24 of this year, our eyes turned to Ukraine and its remarkable resistance to Russia’s brutal invasion.

A small publication like Inroads can’t match the war coverage of the major media, but we can bring to light aspects and implications of the conflict that might otherwise be ignored. One important implication for Canada concerns immigration: Canada has committed itself to welcoming an unspecified, but undoubtedly large, number of Ukrainians fleeing the war.

Anne Michèle Meggs casts her expert eye on Canada’s chaotic immigration system and asks whether it is up to the task of handling the coming influx, in Our Immigration Policy is Out of Control.

And in Crowdsourced Humanitarianism Julia Smith, who travelled to Poland after the war began to help Ukrainian refugees reach Canada, discusses the rise of “crowdsourced humanitarianism”: as she writes, “regular citizens funded by their friends and GoFundMe have been the backbone of the disaster response.” There are drawbacks, notably lack of training, but the citizen responders have the advantage of being able to bypass bureaucratic obstacles. In an accompanying article, Tatiana Kostenko describes how she woke up to the sound of explosions at her home in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on February 24 and how the events of that day were the beginning of a journey that eventually brought her to New Brunswick, in From Kharkiv to New Brunswick.

Geoff White, a former Canadian diplomat who served in our high commission in South Africa, examines why that country, often perceived as a moral leader, has not joined in the widespread condemnation of the Russian invasion, in Why Does South Africa Pluck its Russian String?

Reg Whitaker looks at the New Cold War that has emerged between the West on the one hand and Russia and China on the other, and sees both continuities and significant differences in relation to the Old Cold War that pitted the capitalist West against the Communist East, in All That is Old is New Again. And Philip Resnick’s muse focused on Ukraine even before the invasion began: his poetic journal guides us through the first couple of months of the conflict that he suggests “has now become our war” in Invasion Poems.

In the month before the invasion, Canadians’ attention was focused on Ottawa, where the “Freedom Convoy” of truckers and their allies opposed to COVID vaccination mandates took up noisy residence in downtown streets adjacent to Parliament Hill. On the Inroads website, you will find the highlights of a lively discussion on the Inroads listserv of the issues raised by the convoy and the government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act in response. In The End of Canada’s Holiday from History, an editorial looks at the longer-term implications of this episode and especially its impact on the Conservative leadership race.

The annual World Happiness Report was released in March, and for the fifth consecutive year Finland occupied top spot in the country rankings. Finnish economist Jan Otto Andersson describes the special characteristics of his homeland that make it the world’s happiest country in Why is Finland the Happiest Country in the World, while John Richards asks what is really being measured in international measures of happiness, in Happiness by the Numbers.

Also in this issue:

  • Analyzing the background and results of the French presidential election, Pierre Martin focuses on the virtual disappearance of France’s democratic left in What’s Left of France’s Left?
  • In light of ABBA’s return with a new album and – in virtual form – a new live show, Henry Milner takes a retrospective look at their body of work and finds it unequalled among the bands of their era, in Thank You for the Music.
  • Arthur Milner reflects on the negative influence of the Palestinians’ supporters abroad and suggests that the Palestinians need a new and more pragmatic strategy, in Advice to Palestine: Forget the Radicals.
  • John Richards profiles Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, who at the age of 87 has written a new and noteworthy novel in Nigeria’s Voltaire or maybe Dostoyevsky, and in Love Letter to Quebec looks at the Quebec “miracle” as seen by Mario Polèse, who came to Quebec as a young academic and stayed.
  • Gareth Morley asks whether Joseph Heath’s study of bureaucratic decision-making adequately takes account of the current populist context, in The Paradox of Technocracy.
  • Henry Milner finds much to admire in Robert Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett’s account of American history since the late 19th century, but is not persuaded by their optimistic view of the future in Is the United States Ripe for an Upswing?
  • In Ministry of Truth, co-publishers Henry Milner and John Richards examine the ways both Russians and Americans have been lied to and the impact these lies have had.

In 2007 Inroads published a retrospective issue, revisiting noteworthy articles from its first 15 years of publication. In his reflection on the 20 issues published during that period, co-publisher John Richards expressed scepticism that Inroads would be around for another 20 issues. Well, 15 years and 30 issues later, we’re still here. The one undeniable fact about Inroads is that we’ve survived.

That said, we’ve survived in a form that was only on the horizon in 2007. Inroads is now wholly a creature of the internet. John foresaw that “few people will be buying ‘hard copies,’” but he wondered how electronic publication would work economically. A viable business model for a small online publication like Inroads, not supported by advertising, is still a work in progress. For the moment, like Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, we depend on the kindness of strangers.

Cultural accommodation

We live in a different world from the one of 2007, with different concerns, and many of these concerns have been reflected in Inroads in the intervening years. One such concern was heralded in the issue (Winter/Spring 2008) that immediately followed the retrospective. On its cover, this issue featured a young soccer player wearing a hijab. Asmahan Mansour, from Ottawa, was told to take off her hijab during a tournament in Quebec and, when she would not, was required to leave the field. This was one of the incidents that provoked Quebec’s “reasonable accommodation” controversy and the appointment of two prominent intellectuals, Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor, to examine it and make recommendations. Analysis of the questions facing the Bouchard-Taylor Commission occupied a major section in the Winter/Spring 2008 issue.

From Jean Charest’s Liberals in 2010 to François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec in 2019, successive Quebec governments tried, with varying degrees of success, to legislate restrictions on the wearing of religious garb, primarily by government employees. All of these legislative proposals were controversial and most of them promoted extensive debate in Inroads, either in the journal itself or on the listserv.

Perhaps the most far-reaching of these proposals was the short-lived Parti Québécois government’s Charter of Quebec Values, which was not passed before the 2014 election sent the PQ back to the opposition benches.

With the PQ still in power and the Charter before the National Assembly, Inroads columnists Reg Whitaker and Arthur Milner took opposing views of the legislation (Winter/Spring 2014). Reg saw in the Charter a retreat by the PQ from liberal, territorial nationalism to the narrow ethnic variety. Arthur found seven reasons to support (something like) the Charter, including “If we want Canada to accept more immigrants, and especially refugees, we should be willing to make a tradeoff” and “We want to build a liberal, tolerant society, with a clear separation between religion and state.”

Though the Charter was interred with the PQ government, Inroads resumed the discussion in its next, postelection, issue, confident that the questions underlying the Charter debate would live on. And sure enough, a veiled Muslim woman again appeared on the cover of Inroads in Winter/Spring 2016, this time in the context of the recent federal election that brought Justin Trudeau’s Liberals to power. During the campaign, a court decision that upheld the right of Zunera Ishaq, an immigrant from Pakistan, to take the oath of Canadian citizenship while wearing her niqab generated a heated debate among the party leaders (Trudeau and NDP leader Tom Mulcair supported the court decision, while Stephen Harper of the Conservatives and Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Québécois opposed it). But did it affect the election outcome, and in particular did it lead to a loss in support for the NDP? There was no direct “niqab effect,” Inroads concluded, but perhaps an indirect one.

The Quebec Liberal government’s Bill 62 was the subject of a lively debate on the listserv in 2017, and there have been several rounds on its successor, the CAQ government’s Bill 21 – most recently in October 2021. In introducing a selection from one of those rounds in the Winter/Spring 2020 issue of the journal, I noted that “each side remains as convinced of the rightness of its position as it was at the beginning.” That is still true two years later. The ongoing debate has raised profound questions of cultural accommodation, majority-minority relations, religion and the state, women’s rights and more. To pronounce on these questions through legislation is one thing. To reach a consensus, in society as a whole or even in as small a segment of society as that represented by Inroads, is quite another.

Populism and the threat to democracy

Another topic that crept into Inroads soon after our last retrospective and grew in significance in subsequent years was populism. Ironically, its first appearance, in Winter/Spring 2011, came in an article that chronicled an instance of populism’s decline. The Conservative Party of Canada was born of a 2003 merger of two predecessor parties, the Progressive Conservatives and Reform / Canadian Alliance. Reform, by far the stronger of the two components, had been founded as a populist western-based party. In Inroads, Tom Flanagan, a former adviser to Stephen Harper, contrasted the populist elements in Reform’s party structure with the centralized control that characterized the Conservative Party.

Meanwhile, in British Columbia, the decision by Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government to follow the lead of several other provinces and merge the provincial sales tax and the federal Goods and Services Tax into a Harmonized Sales Tax provoked a populist revolt. The British Columbia HST went into effect in July 2010, and a coalition led by former Premier Bill Vander Zalm – described by John Richards in Inroads as “a populist in the American Tea Party tradition” – gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on the tax. Voting in August 2011, British Columbians defeated the HST by 54 to 46 per cent. In the Winter/Spring 2013 issue of Inroads, John reviewed the whole affair and questioned the wisdom of deciding tax policy by referendum. His article was followed by responses in the following issue from Doug McArthur, who maintained that the referendum was a valid democratic instrument and voters acted rationally in rejecting the HST, and Tom Syer, who took a more nuanced position.

Looking at referendums more broadly, Jason Lacharite argued in the Summer/Fall 2015 issue that they could damage minority rights and tended to produce simplistic answers to complex questions. But it was in 2016, the year of Trump and Brexit, that populism moved from the background to the forefront of political concerns.

The cover line on the Summer/Fall 2016 issue of Inroads was “THE POPULISTS,” over a composite image of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, then both candidates for the U.S. presidency, along with British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Marine Le Pen of France. In his lead article, Patrick Webber characterized the cover subjects as part of a new breed of “parochial populists” who tended to favour protectionism and isolationism in foreign policy and be deeply suspicious of immigration. Parochial populism, he wrote, “explicitly rejects the classical liberalism of the centre-right and centre-left and the basis of the post-1945, and especially post–Cold War, consensus. In the process it has become potentially very dangerous.” In a follow-up article in the next issue, Patrick elaborated on the threat to liberalism coming from the extremes of both left and right, and urged the centre-right and centre-left to cooperate in defence of such classical liberal values as free speech, open debate and open inquiry.

Then in Summer/Fall 2017, Marine Le Pen made a return appearance on an Inroads cover, this time shown in conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin and under a cover line that read “LIBERAL DEMOCRACY UNDER SIEGE.” While Inroads’ political columnists had varying assessments of how grave a danger the recently elected President Donald Trump posed to the American republic and Ronald Beiner provided a profile of Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief adviser in the early days of his administration, the main focus of the issue was on Europe. In addition to France, where Le Pen had just won more than a third of the vote in losing the second round of the presidential election to Emmanuel Macron, Inroads reported on the emergence of populist parties in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. The issue also highlighted efforts by Russia, operating largely through internet-based disinformation campaigns, to encourage populist insurgencies and destabilize existing regimes, especially in central and eastern Europe.

The focus on populism and the authoritarian threat to democracy, with particular attention to Europe, has continued. In Winter/Spring 2018, Filip Kostelka analyzed the rise of the Czech Republic’s superrich populist Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš. Sweden and Hungary were featured in Winter/Spring 2019. The tragicomedy of the Trump presidency and the twists and turns of the Brexit saga made frequent appearances as well. In Summer/Fall 2020, Henry Milner analyzed the role of “politically motivated ignorance” in promoting “the Trumpite cult.” The word Weimar, evoking the last days of democracy in Germany before the Nazis took over in 1933, has appeared in several Inroads headlines.

Immigration

Controversies over cultural accommodation and the rise of populism have both taken some of their steam from immigration, another ongoing focus of Inroads’ attention and the subject of two covers, in Winter/Spring 2014 and Winter/Spring 2021. In 2014, we featured contrasting articles from Canada and Sweden. In Canada, the priority in immigration policy was the needs of the Canadian economy. Herbert Grubel proposed in Inroads that policy should move further in that direction: instead of the points system under which economic immigrants are admitted, the requirement for admission should be a prearranged job with a Canadian employer. In Sweden, as Elin Naurin and Patrik Öhberg described, policy was based on the needs of the immigrants themselves, although that policy was coming under pressure from a populist, anti-immigration party, the Sweden Democrats.

Three years later, much had changed. Between 2013 and 2016 some 320,000 asylum seekers arrived in Sweden – a country with a population of under 10 million at the time – and overwhelmed the country’s welcoming refugee policy. In the 2014 election the Sweden Democrats became the third largest party in parliament, and in 2015 Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced restrictions on refugee intake. Returning to the subject in the Winter/Spring 2017 issue of Inroads, Elin Naurin and Patrik Öhberg wrote that “differences between the elite and the public are not rare in democracies. But in Sweden the political elite has largely ignored it, and the divergence persists.”

In more recent issues, Anne Michèle Meggs has analyzed the fine points of Canada’s immigration policy – or lack of it. In Winter/Spring 2020, she took apart the myth that Quebec has an adequate level of control over immigration within its borders. And in a series of two articles in Winter/Spring and Summer/Fall 2021 (the first of which was the occasion for Inroads’ second immigration cover), she described how, because of the back doors to immigration represented by the international student and temporary worker programs, Canada’s real immigration policy bears little resemblance to its stated one. Anne Michèle found that there was more improvisation than strategy in how Canada handled immigration, and warned that “Canada needs to be prepared” as increasing numbers of people see it as an attractive destination.

Indigenous issues

Indigenous and environmental issues had already come to Inroads’ attention at the time of our 2007 retrospective, but only to a point. The two were lumped together in a section that occupied just 15 per cent of the space devoted to the retrospective. Jean Allard’s landmark essay “Big Bear’s Treaty” accounted for half the section. But that relatively low-key presence was about to change.

Three Inroads covers in four and a half years dealt with Indigenous subjects. In Summer/Fall 2010, Gordon Gibson described the radical approach to treaty-making put forward by the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs in northern British Columbia, which “would totally end the sway of the Indian Act over the Gitxsan people, … making them ordinary Canadians in every way” while allowing them “to retain their culture and internal relationships.” In the same issue, John Richards reported on a major study of urban Indigenous people – fully half of Canada’s Indigenous population.

In Summer/Fall 2012, John Graham addressed the question of First Nation governance, which he found manifested “a degree of dysfunction … that is unmatched in any other jurisdiction in Canada.” He identified 11 specific areas of failure, involving the federal government as well as individual First Nations. Joseph Quesnel looked at the Nisga’a of northwestern B.C., who had achieved self-government a decade earlier. He found that “self-government alone is not a panacea,” but public services and the perception of good governance had improved.

The controversy over Indigenous education that led to Shawn Atleo’s resignation as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations was the occasion for Inroads’ third Indigenous cover, in Winter/Spring 2015. Proposed federal legislation to create structures that would lead to higher-quality on-reserve schools, drafted with the support of the AFN leadership, encountered strong opposition from many chiefs. John Richards brought Inroads readers up to date on what was at stake and how the controversy had played out. Meanwhile, Ken Coates and Gordon Gibson debated the implications of the Supreme Court’s 2014 Tsilhqot’in decision, an important affirmation of Indigenous land rights.

John Richards has continued to examine Indigenous issues in depth. In Winter/Spring 2021, drawing from the work of Anne Case and Angus Deaton on White working-class communities in the United States, he presented evidence on “deaths of despair” in First Nations (suicide, alcohol and homicide) and maintained that lack of employment opportunities was the primary cause of these deaths. In an accompanying article, Harold Johnson suggested another approach to the ills facing First Nation communities: land-based healing.

The environment and climate change

It took a little longer for environmental issues, and especially climate change, to come to the centre of Inroads’ consciousness, although there were some warning signals early on. In the wake of the 2008 federal election, in which the Liberals under Stéphane Dion proposed a carbon tax and lost badly to Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, several economists examined different approaches to carbon pricing in the Winter/Spring 2009 issue. In Winter/Spring 2010 Marvin Shaffer reviewed Lord Nicholas Stern’s “stern” warning of the coming effects of climate change. And in Winter/Spring 2013, Steven Lightfoot called for an “adult conversation” that acknowledged the difficulties of transitioning away from carbon-based fuels. He maintained that nuclear power would be an essential component of any realistic solution.

Starting in 2016, our attention was focused on climate change in a more sustained way. The words climate change appeared on the cover of Inroads four times between Winter/Spring 2016 and Winter/Spring 2020. In Winter/Spring 2016, it was one of the issues we looked at in the context of the 2015 federal election. In Winter/Spring 2017, Chris Green questioned whether the two most prominent approaches to mitigating climate change – pricing carbon and promoting renewable energy – were really doing the job. In his view, only the development of breakthrough technologies would make a low-carbon future possible.

Former NDP leader Tom Mulcair wrote in Summer/Fall 2019 that if the climate crisis is an emergency we need to start treating it like one, and governments have an obligation to produce results. The Winter/Spring 2020 cover showed the young climate prophet Greta Thunberg sitting down to talk with Justin Trudeau, and climate change was once again one of the subjects we examined in light of a recent federal elections. We noted that no party except the Greens had a plan that would effectively meet Canada’s 2030 emissions reduction target.

During the same period, Inroads also featured another environmental cover: British Columbia’s controversial Site C dam in Winter/Spring 2018. While the controversy centred on whether Site C was the best way of meeting B.C.’s energy needs, Marvin Shaffer suggested taking a broader view. If intertie capacity between the two westernmost provinces were strengthened, Site C could play a major role in helping Alberta phase out coal-fired electricity generation, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

… And more

The foregoing is, of course, only a small part of what has appeared in Inroads in the last 15 years, and an even smaller part of what has happened in the world. I haven’t mentioned our coverage of Asia, Africa and Latin America, or cancel culture, or even the COVID-19 pandemic and Philip Resnick’s invaluable poetic diary of this period.

And that’s only a start.

Technological developments have loomed large – sometimes to Inroads’ chagrin. At one point early on our designer, Nadene Rehnby, saved us from a major embarrassment when she pointed out that our use of the phrase the social media in a piece on how new political movements were organizing through Facebook and Twitter would signal that this was alien territory to us (which, to be honest, it was). The definite article was never used: it was always just social media. The change was made on page proofs. A few years later, one of the younger and more technologically savvy members of the Inroads editorial board admitted in an editorial meeting, “I have a handle on Facebook and Twitter, but I’m baffled by Instagram.”

As for myself, in compiling this look back at the last 15 years, I have especially enjoyed going to the Inroads shelf in my bookcase, pulling out old print issues and leafing through them. I don’t deny the advantages of online publishing. I know we are reaching many more readers on the Web than we ever could in print. There were times when I could have found what I was looking for more easily on the Inroads website than in the print issue.
Still, I kept being drawn to that Inroads shelf. It felt like a guilty pleasure. And yes, I freely acknowledge that, had I lived in Gutenberg’s time, I would no doubt have said, “This printing thing is all well and good, but it will never replace an elegant hand-copied book.”

Books revisited

In marking Inroads’ 50th issue and 30th anniversary, one of the initiatives we undertook was to ask writers who had reviewed books since our last retrospective in 2007 to have another look at their reviews. Was there more to say now about the book they reviewed? Was it still relevant? Would they change their assessment? As you will see in this issue, many reviewers were happy to respond.

Not all the articles here follow the exact pattern we envisioned. One writer decided to highlight a different book from the one he initially reviewed (an alternative we offered). Two of the articles refer to reviews that appeared before our last retrospective (2001 and 2005). One writer had not written a previous review (although he has written other articles) but wanted to highlight a book he felt was important.

From China to small-town America to Quebec, from Indigenous issues to immigration to climate change, these articles provide a sampling from the perspective of today of some of the most important topics Inroads has engaged in the recent past.

This is the 50th issue of Inroads, and 2022 is our 30th year of publication – noteworthy milestones for a small independent publication with no government funding or corporate support.

Elsewhere in this issue, I look back at the period since our last retrospective in 2007 and revisit some of the major developments and controversies that Inroads writers have engaged in that period, in Inroads 50: A Look Back at the Last 15 Years. We also asked writers who had reviewed books since 2007 to have another look at their reviews and reflect on whether there was more to say now about the book they reviewed and whether they would change their assessment. Many reviewers were happy to respond, and we received some interesting contributions.

While our anniversary has provided an occasion to revisit the recent past, Inroads 50 does not neglect the present. Canada’s federal election was widely decried as unnecessary when it was called and left the political landscape virtually unchanged when it was held. Nevertheless, there were some developments that may portend larger changes in the future. Reg Whitaker looks at the increase in support for Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada, and asks whether Canada can maintain its relative immunity to far-right populist politics in In Mad Max and the Election in Which Everyone Lost. Patrick Webber examines changes in the Atlantic region which, while modest, were nevertheless disproportionate to the region’s small size in The East is (Still Mostly) Red.

In contrast to Canada’s political inertia, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Japan all acquired new leaders this fall. In elections in both Germany and Norway, centre-right parties lost ground to their centre-left rivals, and new coalition governments headed by social democratic parties have taken office. The importance of environmental issues is noted in both elections, in Philipp Harfst’s An Unexpected Change in Germany and John Erik Fossum’s Norway’s Shift to the Left. While Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, as expected, was returned to power in that country’s October election, this took place after the LDP had chosen a new leader for the second time in a little over a year. Mark Crawford explains why the new Prime Minister is unlikely to introduce major policy changes, in Political Change, Japanese Style. Nor is Sweden’s new leader, Magdalena Andersson, expected to take her Social Democratic Party in a radical new direction. Nicholas Aylott examines the impact of the closed selection process that brought Andersson to power as Sweden’s first female Prime Minister, in Sweden Has a New Leader, but What Does She Stand for?

In early November, COP26 in Glasgow was billed as the most important international meeting on climate change since COP21 in Paris in 2015. However, the concrete results of the meeting are widely regarded as inadequate to hold global warming to the limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius recommended at Paris. Two articles propose initiatives that could contribute to achieving the Paris goal. Taking his cue from a 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, John Richards proposes building 100 small modular nuclear reactors to replace almost all fossil fuel–generated electricity in Canada, in Getting Serious About Climate Change. Marvin Shaffer suggests an accelerating schedule of carbon tax increases, with the revenue earmarked to offset the rising costs of extreme climate event damage, in A Carbon Tax that Pays the Cost of Climate Change. Not coincidentally, he is writing from Vancouver in the wake of damage created by monsoon-level rainfall in November.

Also in early November, the CEO of Air Canada – ironically named Rousseau – delivered a speech in English only to the Chamber of Commerce in Montreal, where his company is based, and proclaimed that he had more pressing things to do than learn French. The predictable reaction was a sign that the status of French is far from a settled question in Quebec. Of longer-term significance was the debate going on in Quebec’s National Assembly, which was considering Bill 96, the CAQ government’s language legislation. Anne Michèle Meggs brings us up to date on all these developments in Quebec’s Language Debate, 2021–22 Edition.

Afghanistan was a major focus of the world’s attention as the last U.S. troops withdrew, the Western-backed Afghan government quickly collapsed and Kabul fell to the Taliban. Reviewing the disastrous outcome of Western intervention in Afghanistan and other countries, Andy Hira maintains that the lesson to be drawn is not isolationism but more constructive involvement based on a deeper appreciation and study of local history and dynamics, in To Intervene or Not to Intervene, That is Not the Question. And in Can Afghanistan’s Neighbours Tame the Taliban, Sergei Plekhanov sets Afghanistan in its regional context and highlights the role of Afghanistan’s neighbours – which include such major powers as China, Russia, India and Pakistan – in building a viable political order in the country.

Also in this issue:

  • Henry Milner examines the role of “woke” politics on the left in helping to elect a Republican governor of Virginia and – possibly – returning Donald Trump to the presidency in 2024, in The Political Price of Cancel Culture.
  • Joyce Wayne draws on personal experience to make the case that Quebec’s restrictions on wearing religious clothing can propel positive changes in the lives of girls and women, in Quebec’s Bill 21 Brings Positive Change to the Lives of Girls and Women.
  • Arthur Milner reflects on the death of F. W. de Klerk, who helped bring apartheid to an end in South Africa, and wonders where an Israeli equivalent might be found, in Rest in Peace, Frederik Willem de Klerk
  • Philip Resnick, while not ignoring the pandemic, also turns to other subjects in his poems, in As the Earth Turns.

Image from the 2021 film Ghosts of Afghanistan, by Graeme Smith and Julian Sher.

Squeezed between the cascade of extreme weather events that signal a more active phase of climate change and the parade of new variants of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul on August 15 nevertheless stands as one of the landmark events of 2021. It brought to an end the 20-year war that began with the American invasion of Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack.

While the deficiencies and corruption of the Western-backed government that surrendered without resistance were widely acknowledged, the Taliban’s return to power also swept away what hope remained for something better, and especially for increased freedom for women – an ambivalence captured in Graeme Smith and Julian Sher’s documentary Ghosts of Afghanistan, filmed before the Taliban takeover but released afterward.¹

This issue of Inroads features two articles by knowledgeable observers on the ramifications of the Taliban takeover. While unsparing in his account of “two decades wasted on ineffective nation-building,” Andy Hira warns against concluding from this experience that the West should retreat from the world. Instead, in his article To Intervene or Not to Intervene, That is Not the Question, he recommends a Western role based on “a deeper appreciation and study of local history and dynamics” and on “build(ing) from what exists and deeply set patterns instead of attempting to impose new patterns from scratch.”

For Sergei Plekhanov, the involvement of Afghanistan’s neighbours in building a “viable political order” in the country will be crucial. In his article Can Afghanistan’s Neighbours Tame the Taliban, he especially highlights the position of Pakistan, with its close geographical, historical and ethnic ties to Afghanistan, but also points to the importance in the country’s future of major powers such as China, India and Russia, which either border on Afghanistan or are not far away.

Continue reading “Endgame in Afghanistan”

Photo: Martin Luther King Jr, who once wrote  “I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.” Photography by Marion S. Trikosko, 1964, via Library of Congress. Edited by Inroads Journal.

The idea of a basic income available to all who need it is a perennial subject of debate, which in the last year or so has taken on a new urgency. One of the federal government’s major programs dealing with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), later followed by the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB). Through both of these programs, the government provided direct payments to Canadians who met certain criteria. In some people’s minds, the CERB and CRB raised the question of whether these programs, conceived in an emergency, could lay the foundations for a permanent basic income.

Meanwhile, in British Columbia, a three-person Expert Panel commissioned by the provincial government extensively studied the question of a basic income and issued its report in December 2020. It concluded that a basic income was not the best way to tackle poverty and instead recommended a panoply of incremental reforms to the current system.

Elaine Power and Jamie Swift have been active participants in the debate on the pro–basic income side, as members of the Kingston Action Group for a Basic Income Guarantee and co-authors of the new book The Case for Basic Income: Freedom, Security, Justice. John Richards is co-publisher of Inroads, an economist at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and a close and sympathetic observer of the B.C. Expert Panel’s work. In what follows, Power and Swift argue in favour of basic income while Richards argues against, and each side then offers a short rebuttal of the other’s arguments.

Click to read Work, Idleness and Basic income by Elaine Power and Jamie Swift, and Basic Income Provides Dubious Benefit at a High Cost by John Richards. And for the rebuttal to these arguments, click to read Elaine Power and Jamie Swift Respond, and John Richards Responds.

Finally, Inroads editorial board member Dominic Cardy rounds out the section with a plea for more evidence in An Enormous Risk, a Fearsome Opportunity.

Reviewing The Case for Basic Income  for British Columbia’s online newsmagazine The Tyee, Paloma Pacheco wrote that the book “is about winning hearts and minds, not convincing sceptical economists.” In her view, in the matter of winning hearts and minds, the book is a success. At the same time, as the following pages demonstrate, there is at least one sceptical economist who is not convinced.