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Hazing thrives in organizations obsessed with conformity. The military is the acme of this

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Call it hazing. Call it initiation ritual. Call it tradition.

It could be a private school, or a sports team, or a military unit. St. Michael’s College School. Upper Canada College. The Ontario Hockey League. The Royal Winnipeg Rifles or the Canadian Airborne Regiment.

Psychologists have many theories about why brutal and sadistic power rituals of this nature still exist in our supposedly civilized society. But the glaringly obvious fact is that they almost always involve men, in all- or mostly-male organizations, whose members believe that they are superior due to an embroidered badge sewn on their blazer, their sweater or their uniform.

Take a number of young males and form them into a unit or team of some kind, put them through physical and mental stress via rigorous learning, sports and athletic or field training, all while constantly stressing to them that they are superior — that the rules don’t apply to them, that those who are not part of the group do not and cannot understand them, and sooner or later you’ll have misogyny, racism and atrocity. (Don’t forget to give them an embroidered badge.)

The military is the acme of this.

Obsession with conformity

It is perhaps notable that all these organizations, which are supposedly intended to create leaders and to enable individuals to rise to their full potential, are in fact obsessed with conformity. Any form of individuality is beaten down, and initiation rituals are an means to the end. Get with the program, or suffer the consequences. Of course the staff, administration, officers and other leaders routinely claim they knew nothing of what was going on after the fact, and profess shock and dismay. 

While I personally was never physically abused during my four decades of service as a reservist, there were many occasions on which my refusal to take part in traditional rituals caused me personal humiliation, intimidation and threat. Many of these stemmed from my refusal to drink alcohol; others were caused by my refusal, as an atheist, to take part in what were compulsory religious services.

To this day I vividly recall being pushed back against the mess bar by a choleric major who jabbed his finger into my chest and bellowed: “If you want to be an officer in this regiment you’d damn well better learn to drink like one!” I was rescued by the steward, a war veteran named Corky Ayers, who refused to pour a drink for me and told the major so. I endured many such incidents.

Admittedly, that is not anywhere near as bad as being allegedly buggered by a broom handle, or beaten with a hockey stick, but the mentality behind it is the same: either get with the program or be an outcast. It’s a guy thing, and until we find a way to deal with that, it will continue to occur.

Imagine a Canada in which we had never segregated education, sports or the military. No boys’ schools, no girls and boys teams, and women and men were equal in the Forces from the beginning. Would we have the same degree of problems with hazing, intimidation or sexual assault? 

We men have to own up to a very simple fact: it’s our fault. And therefore, only we can really do anything about it. We must look closely at how we raise our sons, and teach them that they are human beings first, and men second. We must show them that they prove their manhood by respecting, not abusing, other people, men or women.

Perhaps we need to take drastic measures: re-organizing sports, or private schools, with gender-equality in mind. We must demand that the Forces take meaningful steps to eradicate all these hazing “traditions” and fixation with conformity. The Charter and the Supreme Court have made it clear what “the program” should be. Let’s make them get with it. If Canada is indeed going to lead the world in this century, this would be a good place to start.


This column is part of CBC’s Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read our FAQ.

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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