For obvious reasons Canadians often compare themselves to Americans including on public policy, hoping to feel smug, fearing feeling insecure or, ideally, looking for useful lessons in comparative politics, policy and culture. But we should also direct a great deal of attention to Britain, from which our institutions and much of our culture are more directly derived and which therefore offers some useful if often discouraging lessons.
For instance, the BBC harboured a serial pedophile as a top children’s entertainer for years and, even once warned about it, ran tributes to him when he died last year and stifled their own investigative documentary shortly before airing a documentary falsely accusing a senior Conservative Party figure of pedophilia. And so, following a £2 million inquiry, no one was fired. Mistakes were made, but nobody identifiable seems to have made them. Some people have been reassigned and two have resigned, one over the false allegations, but no one was fired.
The horrifying details of the BBC’s Jimmy Savile debacle are unique and, mercifully, [here I correct my text in response to a post from a reader] nothing of that particular sort has happened recently in Canada although the residential school system was marked, among other things, by sexual abuse. Our recent public sector scandals tend to be dull affairs; as Jean Chrétien reportedly said of Shawinigate, “No violence, no sex, and I lost money. A great Canadian scandal!” But doesn’t the complacency about bungling in high places in the public sector sound familiar? As Chrétien also blithely said of Adscam, in 2004, “Perhaps there were a few million dollars that might have been stolen in the process, but how many millions of dollars have we saved because we have re-established the stability of Canada by keeping it a united country?”
Where did we get the idea that was an adequate response?