January 19, 2001 Halifax Herald

National parental responsibility program needed

While perusing the November 17, 2000, issue of this paper, I happened upon an article by R. Brian Howe entitled, "Canada needs national school meals program." I'm firmly opposed to such an idea.

The prime reason for my opposition is that implementing such bandage-type programs will not, in the long-term, help neglected children because only the effects of the problem is dealt with, and not the root. Howe's proposal also would reinforce the growing perception among Canadians that parental responsibility for a child's welfare is secondary to State responsibility. Finally, such programs encourage neglect because they remove from the shoulders of the irresponsible the stigma of being irresponsible.

My choice for dealing with parental neglect of children is the implementation of a National Parental Responsibility Program. Society's position would be: if you have children, you better look after them or be prepared to suffer financial and penal consequences.

Under such a program, only genuine hardship would be accepted as a valid excuse for dereliction of parental responsibility; alcoholism and drug addiction would not meet the test. Children caught up in grossly abusive situations would be removed from their homes and placed in foster homes, and the abusive parents prosecuted. Further, children would not be returned to parents until it was well-established, by the passage of a lengthy period of time, that they could resume full responsibility. Reoccurring neglect would result in permanent removal. Such a hard line would reduce instances of child neglect substantially.

This solution is preferable to what State Big Brotherism has to offer. The accuracy of this assessment is witnessed by the dismal record of failure that Nations have amassed by assuming responsibilities that Mother Nature has bequeathed to parents. Children are left with a lack of authority in their lives because parental ability to discipline, lead, etc., is badly diminished. Those who push for the implementation of dependence addictive programs rarely see the harmful affects associated with them. And, very important, the State cannot afford such programs.

In fact, these continuing requests by socialist-bent special interest groups for the introduction of more such government programs leads me to wonder if they can ever accept that the State, as the demise of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European Empire well proved, cannot usurp and replace individual responsibility without dire consequences for both the individual and the State. The bottom line is that individuals, in order to conserve their human dignity, must retain to the highest degree possible responsibility for their own welfare and personal control of their destinies. Condescending paternalism kills the will to achieve excellence, creating more societal problems.

John Steinbeck's observation about the harm caused by condescending paternalism is, to me, the ultimate condemnation of it: "The Indians survived our open intentions of wiping them out, and since the tide turned they have weathered our good intentions towards them, which can be much more deadly."

That social problems are created by "Big Brotherism" is witnessed by the problems that Canada's First Nations are now experiencing because of it. Bureaucrats may try to deny it, but almost total responsibility for the nightmares being suffered by so many First Nation Peoples can be traced to the condescending and paternalistic, racist-based programs that they dreamed up on behalf of their federal and provincial government masters to "help" Natives. Their nefarious creations were derived from a white supremacist belief that First Nations Peoples are intellectually inferior, and consequently couldn't survive without whites thinking and doing for them. Such racist notions are baseless. This is certified by the fact that prior to European invasion, First Nations had economies that were very responsive to their needs.

One of the saddest recent examples of how deadly paternalism can be is the grievous harm that has been done to the Innu of Labrador by government interference in their culture. The extensiveness of the harm inflicted is showcased for the world by the sight of Innu children sniffing gasoline and committing suicide. The root of the Innu Nation's pain is a past decision made by government that they would be better off residing in permanent settlements and living on welfare than trying to earn a living from the land and sea. The end result is a welfare existence that has begot a low level of self-esteem and a high level of alcohol and substance abuse.

In accomplishing the incompetent, but probably unintentional, deed of impoverishing the Innu, the government had much help from several normally adversarial wildlife pressure groups. The assistance it received from them came about because they deemed, in their "wisdom," that the hides of wildlife were far more important than the way of life of a distinct group of people. The efforts of both stopped the hunt and destroyed the Innu economy.

State assumptions that citizens are incapable of managing personal and family affairs in a responsible manner are continuing to badly undermine the principles our society of responsible citizens is built on. To reverse this trend, the use of paternalism must be dropped and replaced with a program designed to enhance personal control, and to assist the needy to achieve an equitable existence.

Daniel N. Paul


Home   Column Index 2001   Web Site Map