Serious reform of the RCMP (in its 150th year) should begin by dropping “Royal” from the name (or just restoring the original “North West Mounted Police”)?

Posted: January 30th, 2023 | No Comments »
“Trying to Think” by Michael Seward, January 2023.

SPECIAL FROM CITIZEN X, BUCKHORN, ON. 30 JANUARY 2023. Yesterday CTV News writer Natasha O’Neill posted a piece headlined “As Canada’s RCMP marks 150th anniversary, a look at what it says needs to change.”

The piece began with : “As the RCMP marks a major milestone, questions linger over the legacy of Canada’s paramilitary police force, and how it fits into modern-day policing … In its 150 years, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has grown from 300 employees to 30,000, and evolved from a northern policing agency into a country-wide organization.”

(1) “Questions swirling around the force” today are “dark and existential”

Some 27 days before Ms. O’Neill’s article Brent Patterson, from Peace Brigades International-Canada in Ottawa, had posted a piece headlined “As the RCMP prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary this year, Indigenous land defenders call for it to be abolished.”

“Beneath the Sea” by Michael Seward, January 2023.

Brent Patterson began with : “Toronto Star journalist Allan Woods reports: ‘Days into 2023 — the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s 150th year — the questions swirling around the force are dark and existential’ … Woods notes various controversies within the RCMP including that David Brown had said the RCMP is ‘horribly broken’ and questioned if ‘the fabled “paramilitary model” of leadership ingrained in RCMP culture was the best way to run a modern police force that was accountable to the federal government and to the public.’”

Allan Woods’s own piece in the Toronto Star, dated January 2, 2023, was headlined “Like her predecessors, Brenda Lucki hasn’t cleaned up the RCMP messes. Should she be blamed? … She’s the latest boss struggling to reform the troubled force. ‘This process essentially repeats about every five years, with little to show for it.’”

“Highly Unlikely” by Michael Seward, January 2023.

(Meanwhile, back on May 19, 2022, Travis Poland had posted some words on the Mounties’ own website, with the more or less official view. It was headlined “RCMP across the country preparing for 150th anniversary in 2023.” And it began with “The countdown is on for the RCMP’s 150th anniversary next year! … May 23, 2023 marks 150 years since a bill passed through Parliament … establishing the North-West Mounted Police, which would eventually become the RCMP … The occasion provides a chance to reflect on the RCMP’s past and its contribution to the story of Canada …”)

(2) The March West in the summer of 1874

All this prompted me to scan my bookshelves for a volume purchased many years ago now in a congenial Edmonton bookstore. It is simply called The Mounties. And it’s by Delbert A.Young (1907–1975) — an Alberta teacher, family farmer, carpenter, miner, and ultimately professional writer with a particular interest in heritage subjects and local history.

Young’s book was first published in 1968 and then again in a so-called mass-market paperback in 1973. It presents a somewhat rough and ready, upbeat and optimistic view of the Mounties’ first 100 years. A book of this sort from any but official sources is hard to imagine during the 150th anniversary year of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. But it is not without interest.

In a way the real-life story of the Mounties does not start until 1874. As the current official history online explains : “Parliament passed an act that allowed for the creation of the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) on May 23, 1873. Today, we consider this the official birthdate of the RCMP … But the Order-in-Council to establish the North-West Mounted Police wasn’t signed until August 30, 1873. This was in response to an attack on First Nations peoples in the Cypress Hills [in the old North-West Territories that is now Saskatchewan] by American whisky traders and wolf-hunters … The next summer, the North-West Mounted Police, now with 300 recruits, set out on the March West. Along the way it set up posts, now known as divisions, each with smaller outposts, now known as detachments. In these posts, the NWMP employed First Nations and Métis guides, scouts and interpreters.”

Delbert Young begins his book The Mounties with the July 8, 1874 departure of the (more or less) 300 recruits on the March West from Dufferin, Manitoba. Along with the policemen on horseback the March included “73 wagons and 114 Red River carts drawn by oxen” (and managed by Métis drivers).

(3) Dufferin, Manitoba in the first half of the 1870s

“Four Seasons” by Michael Seward, January 2023.

This drew my attention to Dufferin, Manitoba, somewhat south and west of Winnipeg, and I offer a few additional notes on this subject as at least a beginning of my personal homage to and critique of a legendary Canadian institution officially celebrating its 150th birthday this year. (And whose present-day quite serious reform I would like to see begin with dropping the “Royal” from its name. Or possibly with just restoring the original name of North West Mounted Police.” Canada is after all a country of the north and west globally!)

My excellent main source here is “Manitoba History: Dufferin: Then and Now” by the “Historic Resources Branch, Province of Manitoba” and published by the Manitoba Historical Society in the Spring of 1992. This begins with : “In 1874, when Northwest Mounted Police Inspector Francis Dickens arrived at Dufferin, an outpost along the west side of the Red River near the Manitoba-U.S. Border, he was angry and upset, first because he had arrived too late to take part in the original trek west, and second because he would have to remain at what he considered one of the most unpleasant places in the entire British Empire.”

“A group of North West Mounted Police in 1874 … Source: Archives of Manitoba.”

The Historic Resources Branch authors go on to explain how “George A. French, the first commissioner of the North West Mounted Police, described the site, where he would assemble nearly 300 people in preparation for a march into Canada’s far west, as a ‘small shanty town surrounded by a few brothels and grog shops.’” And then : “In his memoirs, a young NWMP recruit described Dufferin in similarly unflattering terms. ‘Dufferin … was [he wrote] of small account … a Government warehouse, a Hudson’s Bay Company Store, two whiskey saloons and a few log shanties, inhabited by half-breeds …’” (Today of course we would say Métis not half-breeds. And the use of the latter term by the “young NWMP recruit” may say things about what is still wrong with RCMP culture, even if such bad language habits were common among the anglophone settlers and their descendants until all too recently.)

“Imbroglio” by Michael Seward, January 2023.

The Historic Resources Branch authors go on further to explain how Dufferin got its start in 1872, as a kind of headquarters camp established by the chief commissioner of the British North America Boundary Commission Survey, for the “approximately three hundred surveyors” defining the 49th parallel between the western parts of Canada and the United States. The authors note that the chief commissioner (a Captain Donald Cameron) built his own house on land claimed by a Métis family named Gosselin. And : “Although this parcel of land had been occupied by the Gosselin family since 1847, Cameron successfully patented these lots in 1874.”

(4) Possibly with just restoring the original name of “North West Mounted Police”

Finally, I can’t resist adding that the HRB authors also point out : “One can assume that the local population came to the site and some set up saloons and other businesses to serve the residents. Both Dr. Thomas Millmen, the assistant surgeon with the Boundary Commission, and Dr. John Kittson, chief surgeon for the NWMP, complained about the widespread problems of venereal disease associated with the many brothels surrounding the camp.”

“Let the Guy Speak” by Michael Seward, January 2023.

Things of this sort also figure in the historic legacy of the RCMP that remains the source of so much controversy in the 2020 s. But the Mounties are just part of a wider and deeper legacy in Canada itself. For the RCMP to really change Canada has to really change as well.

And this seems to me worth remembering as I ponder the winter wonderland at the end of January 2023 up here in the rural Ontario that has the Ontario Provincial Police and not the RCMP as its regional version of (northern) North American policing culture. (As Danielle Smith’s Alberta is thinking it might do too, following Ontario’s and Quebec’s lead in spite of itself? And then there’s the unusual case of Newfoundland and Labrador, with both its own force and RCMP!)

Meanwhile, again, I think it would actually make sense for present-day quite serious reform of the RCMP to begin with dropping the “Royal” from its name. Or possibly with just restoring the original name of “North West Mounted Police” — Canada at large being a country of the north and west in the global village today.

Just how desperate is Toronto the desperate city? (with a footnote on “the truth is discoverable only through the clash of different opinions”)

Posted: January 20th, 2023 | No Comments »
“Under the Microscope” by Michael Seward, January 2023.

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. JANUARY 20, 2023. We’re still digesting a January 7, 2023 tweet from an admittedly very progressive voice : “Toronto is a desperate city. More police funds won’t fix it … Star https etc.”

The recommended link here leads to an equally arresting (and longer) Shawn Micallef piece in the Saturday Toronto Star for January 7, 2023 : “Toronto’s problems were years in the making. Throwing more money at the police won’t solve them … After years of starving city services, Toronto’s mayor now plays on people’s fears by increasing the budget for the police.”

Our current cw editors’ group includes old and new Toronto residents (and others as well). Our meeting this morning on “Just how desperate is Toronto the desperate city?” involved firsthand reports on public transit trips from the east to the west end of the old city, and from Kew Gardens in the east end north to the Thorncliffe Park COSTCO Wholesale store.

Toronto after December 11, 1944 snowstorm — the city’s worst on record!

Some at the meeting also tabled references to seven relevant and other recent (and other) online reports :

19 JANUARY 2023 — Capitalism In Crisis @CapInCrisis, “Can we create complementary goals? … Equality under the law … No racial discrimination … Financial security for the many not just the few … A clean and healthy environment” ;

18 JANUARY 2023 — Daily Hive, “A recession is coming and Ontario could be one of the hardest hit provinces, “ blogTO … “‘This is shaping up to be another rocky year for the Canadian economy… But we’re getting rather used to calling on our resilience and acting nimbly to position ourselves to weather the economic storm — the upcoming recession is simply the latest wave.’”

16 JANUARY 2023 — “Remembering the worst snowstorm in Toronto historyOn Dec. 11, 1944, the city received a single-day record snowfall of 48.3 cm,” TORONTOVERSE STAFF … TORONTO HISTORY ;

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Remembering Ian Tyson at Mariposa 1963

Posted: January 11th, 2023 | No Comments »
“Untold Tales” by Michael Seward (whose mother grew up in Pincher Creek, Alberta), January 2023.

ONTARIO TONITE. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO, WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 11, 2023. When Ian Tyson’s sad death at 89 was announced a few weeks ago, during the last days of 2022, my thoughts rushed back almost 60 years, to the summer of 1963.

I found an article online that caught the moment : “Where the boys and girls go, SEPTEMBER 21 1963 PETER GZOWSKI … on the swingingest young people’s party of the year: When 20,000 young songsters descended on the 15,000 citizens of Orillia, Ont., for the third annual Mariposa Festival of folk singing—if that’s what it was …”

(Just since I found this 1963 piece from Maclean’s magazine the link to it seems to have broken! For another much more recent report on the same event see : “MARIPOSA ’63 — Beats, Booze + Biz! … Published on August 5, 2021” by “Winnie Czulinski, Writer, Editor, Publishing-Promo Consultant, Musician.”)

Crowd gathered around the Champlain Monument at Couchiching Beach Park during 1963 Mariposa Folk Festival.

My own late-teen memories from 1963 are more specific. I can see Ian and Sylvia on stage at a site close to Orillia (“Silver Sleeve Park/Campground”?). Possibly they were singing “Four Strong Winds” (written by Ian Tyson) and/or “You Were on My Mind” (by Sylvia Fricker).

I remember that Ian looked cool. And Sylvia looked hot, in a short skirt. It was dark and the crowd was huge (and there was “no shortage of beer”).

Beyond Ian and Sylvia I have three other specific memories of the 3rd Annual Mariposa Folk Festival, August 8, 10, 11, Orillia, Ontario, Canada.

One is hanging out briefly at the Champlain Monument in Couchiching Beach Park. Another is strolling the main street of Orillia late at night. There were almost no cars but quite a few people. And you could hear a guy in an upstairs apartment, over a store, practising the saxophone.

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What Quebec National Assembly got right when it made traditional oath to British monarch optional

Posted: January 2nd, 2023 | 1 Comment »
Elected House Speaker Nathalie Roy is carried to her seat by Quebec Premier François Legault, right, and other party leaders in Quebec National Assembly, November 29, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot.

SPECIAL FROM ASHOK CHARLES, TORONTO/THUNDER BAY. JANUARY 2, 2023. In its November 7, 2022 article, “The empty fight over a symbolic oath in Quebec,” the Globe and Mail’s editorial board argued that the ultimately legislated proposal for Quebec’s National Assembly to dispense with the compulsory oath of allegiance to King Charles III for its members arises from a “misunderstanding.”

According to the Globe’s editors, the ruling of the Ontario Court of Appeal in the 2014 McAteer v. Canada case explains why it is justifiable to require elected representatives and new Canadians to swear an oath of fealty to a British monarch.

The Quebec National Assembly finally made the oath optional on the basis of a straightforward reading. To Quebec’s elected representatives, “I do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King Charles the Third” means just that.

And, as Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon said, requiring democratically-elected representatives of a provincial legislature to swear “allegiance to a foreign king” is an “absurdity.”

Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon.

The Ontario Court of Appeal disagreed with this principle.

In 2014, Justices Karen Weiler, Peter Lauwers, and Gladys Pardu denied McAteer v. Canada, which would have advanced a legal action to dispense with the oath of allegiance to the monarch as a prerequisite for Canadian citizenship, on the basis that the oath is not what it appears to be.

The justices argued that the appellants’ “plain-meaning” reading of the oath, essentially the same as that of the Quebec legislators, was “incorrect.”

They acknowledged that an interview the appellants included in their filing showed that even a senior manager with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, which oversees the administration of the oath in the naturalization process, took it at face value.

Weiler, Lauwers and Pardu, however, thought they knew better.

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Looking back at 4Q 2022 (+ energy storage, Paulette Steeves on “Indigenous Paleolithic”, and RIP Bruno Latour)

Posted: December 28th, 2022 | No Comments »

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. DECEMBER 28, 2022. We’re prefacing our final Top 4 counterweights stories in the fourth (and final) quarter of 2022 with three other issues in the news from these parts right now :

First, on energy storage : See Allison Jones’s December 26, 2022 Canadian Press piece on “Ontario plunging into energy storage as electricity supply crunch looms … Energy storage could change energy industry like ‘refrigeration changed the milk industry,’ says CEO” ;

Second, on “New World” archaeology : See Cory Nordstrom’s December 26, 2022 CTV News piece on “Northern Ont. researcher’s book reclaims Indigenous history in the Americas … Paulette Steeves’ recently published book, The Indigenous Paleolithic of the Western Hemisphere … strongly disagrees with the claim by many in her field that there was little to no human activity in the Americas more than 12,000 years ago” ;

Third, on the late great “prestigious French essayist” Bruno Latour : See Jeremy Harding’s review of two recent Latour books, On the Emergence of an Ecological Class: A Memo, and After Lockdown: A Metamorphosis, in his December 15, 2022 London Review of Books piece, “Where do we touch down?

Bruno Latour in his Paris apartment, March 2019.

We first became aware of Bruno Latour on this site just after the 2016 US presidential election, when we posted “The good, bad, and ugly in French philosopher Bruno Latour’s take on the tragedy of Donald Trump.” Much more recently we learned that he passed away, at 75, on October 9, 2022.

The Wikipedia, article on M. Latour tells us that “Bruno Latour … (22 June 1947 – 9 October 2022) was a French philosopher, anthropologist and sociologist. He was especially known for his work in the field of science and technology studies (STS). After teaching at the École des Mines de Paris (Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation) from 1982 to 2006, he became professor at Sciences Po Paris (2006–2017), where he was the scientific director of the Sciences Po Medialab. He retired from several university activities in 2017. He was also a Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics.”

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Looking back at 3Q 2022 (as Jeff Pelletier remembers GG Mary Simon’s Nunavik homecoming back in May)

Posted: December 26th, 2022 | No Comments »
Sonny Rollins, “Saxophone Colossus,” at 85 in 2015. Born September 7, 1930 and still among us as we look to New Year’s Day 2023.

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. DECEMBER 26, 2022. Before rushing into the Top 4 counterweights stories in the third quarter of 2022, we just want to note an intriguing piece posted today on the Nunatsiaq News site, called “Reflection: Mary Simon tour a rewarding reporting experience … Jeff Pelletier looks back on covering Governor General’s Nunavik homecoming.”

Canadian Governor General Simon’s Nunavik homecoming took place back in the first half of May 2022. And Jeff Pelletier (aka “Local Journalism Initiative Reporter”) ends his interesting late December 2022 memoir of the event in a way that suggests the particular intrigue of his memories :

“I can’t wait to make it back to Nunavik again in the new year. I really hope to visit other communities and to continue telling stories about people from across the region … The hospitality we experienced in every community was heartwarming, and I hope to experience it again sooner than later. Nakurmiik!”

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Looking back at 2Q 2022 (and 338Canada’s December 18 polling right now + new Ontario Chief Justice Michael Tulloch)

Posted: December 20th, 2022 | No Comments »
“Inspired by Photo by Michel Sima” by Michael Seward, November 2022.

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. DECEMBER 20, 2022. According to Philippe J. Fournier’s latest 338Canada polling update on December 18, the federal Conservatives are still somewhat ahead of the Liberals in cross-Canada popular vote — 34% to 32%. Yet the Conservative vote is still heavily concentrated in the two most westerly Prairie provinces. The Liberals would still wind up with somewhat more seats — in this case 147 to 133.

Moreover, the party arguably doing best in the 338Canada numbers at the moment is the federal New Democrats, currently at their recent high-end of 21% of the cross-country vote. And if you add their 29 projected seats to the Liberals’ 147 you get a working majority of 176 seats (where 170 is a bare majority of the current 338 total number of federal Members of Parliament) .

All this is also arguably good enough reason for Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats to just continue their current supply and confidence agreement with the Justin Trudeau Liberals. Right now the Liberals have 158 seats and the NDP has 25, based on the September 20, 2021 election. On the 338Canada December 18, 2022 projection the Liberals would have only 147 seats and the NDP 29. On these numbers the New Democratic strength in what some Alberta right-wingers misleadingly call the Liberal-NDP Coalition in Ottawa has gone up not down. (By four seats. Meanwhile the Liberals have lost 11 seats!)

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Looking back at 1Q 2022 (while Pierre Poilievre advises standing “on the side of the common people” right now .. and we are watching India and China)

Posted: December 16th, 2022 | No Comments »
“The Futurists” by Michael Seward, 2012.

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. DECEMBER 16, 2022. The main course here is just a list of what this morning’s cw editors meeting picked as the top four counterweights articles from the first quarter of 2022.

As a preliminary soup course, however (so to speak), here are some very quik introductory notes on : (1) the latest unbelievable political rhetoric from new Conservative Party of Canada leader Pierre Poilievre ; and (2) a video of a September 2021 “sticks and bricks” border clash between “Indian and Chinese troops” in the most populous new (and also very old) global heartland.

Right now : Pierre Poilievre’s latest unbelievable rhetoric

G.D.H. Cole (1889–1959).

As reported by CTV News (which these days sometimes seems almost more left-wing than CBC News … well, sort-of, sometimes!) : “‘Stand on the side of the common people,’ Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre tells caucus.”

It was widely agreed at our meeting this morning that this particular Canadian conservative appeal to the “common people” altogether lived up to Mr. Poilievre’s high standard of unusually unbelievable political rhetoric.

Someone among us, eg, pulled down from the shelves of the office library (in the basement) a seriously thumbed copy of an excellent old “University Paperbacks” book called The Common People 1746-1946, by G.D.H. Cole and Raymond W. Postgate.

And then someone else googled this short G.D.H. Cole bio on the Goodreads site : “George Douglas Howard Cole was an English political theorist, economist, writer and historian. As a libertarian socialist he was a long-time member of the Fabian Society and an advocate for the cooperative movement.”

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Farewell 2022 : Doug Ford, Jagmeet Singh, “ethnocultural diversity”, big muskie, lonely Vancouver, Vaughan theatre, no oath to King in Quebec Assembly

Posted: December 12th, 2022 | 1 Comment »
“The debate ?rages? on” by Michael Seward, November 2022.

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. DECEMBER 12, 2022. After this eclectic piece, the rest of this year’s contributions will just be notes on counterweights’ news and views of 2022.

Meanwhile, here are four concluding preliminary notes on : (1) Doug Ford’s increasingly inept assaults on the traditional culture of Canada’s most populous province ; (2) Jagmeet Singh’s latest assessment of federal NDP’s “deal with Liberals heading into new year” ; (3) Statistics Canada’s 2021 Census on immigration and “ethnocultural diversity” ; and (4) four very quick references to great articles elsewhere on : catching a very big muskie, “Why is Vancouver so lonely?”, the old Vaughan neighbourhood theatre in Toronto, and the Quebec National Assembly’s December 9 rejection of an oath to the new King Charles III.

(1) Is anyone paying attention surprised that “Ontario’s Doug Ford among lowest ranking premiers in Canada”? (Only the premiers of New Brunswick and Manitoba are lower than Ford at the moment. Even Danielle Smith in Alberta is more than slightly ahead of him!)

As explained by CTV News (re an Angus Reid survey published December 7) : “Ford’s approval rate sits around 34 per cent. This represents a seven point drop from September and an 11 point drop since the June election.”

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Looking at the old British dominion of Ireland and its new relevance for Canada after the death of Queen Elizabeth II

Posted: November 29th, 2022 | No Comments »
“Fresh Start” by Michael Seward, November 2022.

ONTARIO TONITE. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO, TUESDAY 29 NOVEMBER 2022. John Kerrigan, the Cambridge University literary scholar (and convener of the Cambridge Group for Irish Studies), has just published a more than 7000-word discussion of one movie (Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast”) and 15 recent books about Ireland today, in the October 20, 2022 issue of the London Review of Books.

The long title of Kerrigan’s piece is “Turning Wolfe Tone: A Third Way for Ireland.” (Where Wolfe Tone was the late 18th century Protestant Irish republican who played a leading role in the failed Irish Rebellion of 1798 — a “major uprising against British rule in Ireland.”)

Fate of the Six Counties of Northern Ireland

As best as I can make out, the underlying political thrust of Kerrigan’s piece turns around the fate of the six counties of Northern Ireland, that for the time being remain yet another part of the more complex world of the 2020s United Kingdom (along with England, Scotland, and Wales).

What many among us outside the UK see as its current tragic mistake of taking Brexit seriously has brought this fate into fresh limelight. And this light flows from the knotty question of the border between the Northern Ireland that is still part of the United Kingdom, and the more southerly 26 counties of the modern Republic of Ireland that is still part of the European Union.

The ultimate political bottom line of John Kerrigan’s discussion of more broadly cultural books such as Seamus Deane’s Small World : Ireland 1798–2018 or Malcolm Sen’s A History of Irish Literature and the Environment clearly enough seems to be that the six (once especially Protestant) counties of the north will ultimately (and stress that word) join (or rejoin) the 26 (once especially Catholic) counties of the south, in an ultimately united Irish republic that covers the entire emerald isle.

As Kerrigan writes : “It did no harm to the [Kenneth Branagh] film’s reception that the insecurities induced by Covid were compounded in Northern Ireland by Brexit … loyalists were becoming agitated about the Northern Ireland Protocol. Nationalists and republicans also had a concern … (or … a hope) that … a full-on Brexit would have the contrary effect of pushing the six counties back towards the border infrastructure … Loyalism is now adrift and frustrated … The success of Sinn Féin in the May elections added fuel to the fire, while the death of Elizabeth II and the recent census result, showing a Catholic majority in the North … increase unease.”

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