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In Sweden, as in Canada, tolerance is an obsession

PEOPLE of a certain age will remember only too well the "60-year-old Swede" who was demonstrably more fit than the average 30-year-old Canadian. He could, for example, jog and he did so relentlessly on television commercials paid for by the Canadian government of the day, which must have been Liberal — Conservatives are usually only so piously preachy and hypocritical about matters of sexual morality and money.

Actually, the average 60-year-old Congolese, if there are any left, is probably more fit than the average 30-year-old Canadian — he would have to be — but hardly anyone wants to change places with him. But the Swedes are different and they always have been. Even back in the 10th century, when the rest of the Viking world, the Norwegians, the Danes, even the Icelanders, were profitably plundering and pillaging Western Europe, the Swedes went to loot Russia. Who loots Russia? Even the Asian hordes over the ages only used Russia as a route to Europe. "Attila porta est" never meant the Hun was knocking on Moscow’s door; he was sunning himself in Italy, filling his pockets with Roman gold.

It’s a long walk from Stockholm to Kiev, where the Swedes finally set up shop — the name Russia derives from the word "rus" which describes the fair complexion of the Scandinavians — and that may help explain the fitness of the average 60-year-old Swede and his complacency.

Aside from the fitness factor, Swedes and Canadians seem to be much alike, particularly in the liberality of their social consciousness. Senior editors at the Free Press are no longer allowed to keep bottles of Scotch whiskey on their desks, as they once did in the glory days of newspaperdom, but both nations are notoriously tolerant of other human foibles. Some years ago, a man in British Columbia who had been fired because he was always drunk appealed on the grounds that his alcoholism was a disease, and he couldn’t be fired for being sick. He won — this is Canada, after all — but his victory doesn’t seem to have set any major precedent, so you might want to watch your step.

Recently in Sweden, a man went to court and said he was unable to work full-time because he was addicted to heavy metal music and attended 300 concerts a year. One can see how that might cut into his available working hours.

The court agreed — this is Sweden, after all — and ordered his employer to continue to employ him and the government to supplement his pay for the hours of work he missed because of his "addiction."

Someone here clearly needs a lobotomy. His "heavy metal lifestyle" is now officially a disability in Sweden. Not only does the government supplement his pay, but he is allowed to play heavy metal music loudly at work — he is a dishwasher in a restaurant — which will probably soon have the rest of the employees off on more traditional disabilities.

In the 1950s, there was a book published called They All Discovered America, which listed the claims of a host of people from the Icelanders to the Chinese who, it is said, landed in America before Columbus. The Swedes are not in it, which is not really a surprise. Who would ever want to leave that social democratic paradise?


Atlanta Thrashers Evander Kane check's Edmonton Oilers' Kurtis Foster.

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Atlanta Thrashers Evander Kane check's Edmonton Oilers' Kurtis Foster. (JOHN ULAN / THE CANADIAN PRESS ARCHIVES)

Here’s hoping new No. 9 enjoys brisk weather

BOBBY Hull is a huge figure in the history of professional hockey. Arguably, there may have been better players than No. 9, but the key word there is "arguably." It probably comes down to a matter of opinion and personal predilection.

Unarguably, Hull is a huge figure, the biggest figure in the history of professional hockey in Winnipeg. His signing with the Winnipeg Jets not only established the sport in Winnipeg, it cemented the World Hockey Association as an international league that included Winnipeg as one of its premier teams, a league that sometimes rivalled the fabled NHL in the quality of hockey it presented.

This week, Bobby Hull proved that he is a big man as well, giving his permission and his blessing to a young member of the new Winnipeg Jets of the National Hockey League to wear the fabled No. 9 jersey. Evander Kane, who wore the number as a member a member of the Atlanta Thrashers and in his junior career, will wear it again on Oct. 9 in the new Winnipeg Jets home opener against the Montreal Canadiens (Can hockey in Winnipeg get any better than that?) with Hull’s happy approval.

That’s a heavy jersey for a young hockey player to wear, but Kane’s enthusiasm for his new hockey home seems encouraging. Whether we like it or not, Winnipeg has a bad reputation as a place to live — the fact I really like it is perhaps not much of a recommendation — but as Kane told the Free Press’s Ed Tait: "For me it’s all about hockey and going to the rink in November and December, January and February when it’s cold out and there’s snow on the ground... That’s hockey. That’s what I get excited about."

Let’s hope Evander Kane, who previously played pro hockey in Georgia, where they grow peaches, grows into his jersey and still feels the same way half way through a Winnipeg winter.


A police car burns during a riot in downtown Vancouver.

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A police car burns during a riot in downtown Vancouver. (GEOFF HOWE / THE CANADIAN PRESS ARCHIVES)

Britain prosecutes, Canada dithers

EVENTUALLY, say Vancouver police, "hundreds" of people may be charged for the rioting and looting that followed the Vancouver Canucks’ loss to the Boston Bruins in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup finals. And then, again, they may not. It is entirely possible no one will be charged.

Two months after that riot, Vancouver police have been able to "identify" 268 suspects. None has been charged, although Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu confidently assures us "hundreds" may eventually be hauled into court for the crimes committed in the name of hockey that night. Stealing a TV isn’t exactly the same thing as putting a puck in the net, but I suppose we could look on it as a kind of consolation prize.

Then again, hundreds of people may never be hauled into court. It is entirely possible no one will ever be charged in the Vancouver riot. It appears, two months after the riot, mountains of evidence still have to be sorted through, according to Chief Chu. Only then can charges be laid.

This becomes an issue because of the recent riots in Britain, which began in London on Aug. 6 and spread across the country. More than 1.000 suspects have already been charged in Britain and some of them have already been charged, convicted and sentenced only two weeks after the first riot by courts that are sitting 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to deal with the problem.

British police have the advantage of a wide circuit of video cameras in the streets of England, but video cameras are hardly unknown in the streets of Vancouver or even downtown Winnipeg, for that matter. But in the absence of a single charge being laid in Vancouver, the whining of police there that they don’t have enough video cameras to intrude on the lives of citizens seems rather plaintive, especially considering their other excuse is they have "mountains" of evidence to go through before they can bring anyone before an already overcrowded court system.

By farming out the mountains of evidence — including 1,600 hours of video (how much do they need?) — to an American private firm, British Columbia thinks it may be able to proceed in a matter of a couple more months instead of a couple more years. That’s your Canadian justice system at work. Perhaps Chief Chu should give London a call.




Here’s hoping
new No. 9

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