(This column was published in the North Shore News on April 21, 1999)

 

Leadership integrity eroding

By Leo Knight

WHATEVER happened to credibility, integrity and honour?  

 

Whatever happened to the respect and high regard we used to possess for our leaders?  

 

When I was a kid, my father told me about honour. He said it was the one thing a man should never give up. Inherent in that piece of advice, was the necessity to always tell the truth. In a long ago Crime & Punishment column, I described the "old fella" as the man Diogenes was looking for, so honest was he.  

 

But in addition to his honesty (I remember him once trying to put a dime, returned to him while using a pay phone, back into the phone and getting frustrated with his inability to convince the operator that he wasn't trying to call anyone) he held politicians such as former Prime Minister Lester Pearson in high esteem. Why? Because he felt they had honour.  

 

He respected the law and those who enacted, enforced and adjudicated it. Their integrity, in his eyes, was absolute.  

 

The "old fella" died a few years back and it is just as well I suppose. What might he have made from the shameful actions of the Glen Clark government?  

 

Unfortunately, as disgraceful as Clark is, he has not cornered the market on dishonour. There no longer seems to be a price paid for dishonesty. Truth has been replaced by spin. All for the greater good apparently. It seems to matter not what you do as long as you don't get caught.  

 

The premier told us he had balanced not one, but two budgets, to get elected in 1996. But two weeks ago, after the NDP tabled its eighth successive budget drowning in red ink, he remained in office.  

 

Ron Parks said the NDP lied about its involvement in the unsuccessful recall campaigns in Prince George and Skeena. But there Glen sits, still in power.  

 

Dimitrios Pilarinos? Just a guy from the neighbourhood whose kids play with his children. Well, not exactly, as it turns out.  

 

But Clark's still there, despite the spectre of being involved in an RCMP investigation. Despite the unprecedented search of his home and office by police with a search warrant, he still clings to the levers of power.  

 

Clearly, he has no shame.  

 

And, unfortunately, it's not just our political leaders who have lost their sense of honour. Apparently it now even affects Supreme Court Justices.  

 

When Madame Justice L'Heureux-Dube took the unprecedented step of criticizing Alberta Judge McLung in the top court's review of the Ewanchuk case, she showed her feminist colours.  

 

Not that being a feminist is a bad thing, it was the wearing of it on her sleeve that startled watchers of the normally conservative court.  

 

REAL Women of Canada complained to the Judicial Council about the position L'Heureux-Dube took and suggested this was because she was a former member of the feminist activist group, the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA).  

 

The Judicial Council was investigating the complaint and asked the jurist the question.  

 

L'Heureux-Dube wrote a letter to the council saying: "With respect to the International Federation of Women Lawyers, I am not now, nor have I ever been, to the best of my recollection, affiliated with this organization."  

 

Now, REAL Women have obtained a document under the federal Freedom of Information legislation which lists L'Heureux-Dube, who was a Superior Court Justice in Quebec at the time in 1981, as the Canadian vice-president of FIDA. Not just a member mind you, but the national vice-president of the organization. Evidently, the experience was so unfulfilling the position slipped her mind.  

 

With that, the integrity of no lesser a body than the Supreme Court of Canada has been compromised.  

 

It seems we've come to expect our leaders will lie to us and we accept it instead of screaming from the parapets.  

 

We no longer look up to those in positions of power and influence. Instead we give them tongue-in-cheek pet names like "Lyin' Brian" and "Glenocchio."  

 

A police chief takes part in a public campaign against drinking and driving then promptly gets hoisted by his own petard at a roadcheck. Instead of apologizing to the public for an appalling lack of judgment, he tries to minimize the transgression by saying he only had three glasses of wine over a several hour period and was "shocked" when he blew a warning on a roadside screening device.  

 

Only an idiot would believe that possible, but instead of calling him on it, the media report it as gospel and the public shrug at the spectre of another fallen icon.  

 

Judges, politicians, police chiefs, leaders are all apparently afflicted by the same shamelessness. The type of people my father used to point to as life examples for me to emulate. What now do we tell our children as we try to instill important values in them?  

 

We can't even use sports heroes as role models any longer. Most of today's athletes have rap sheets in the news to go along with their performance records.  

 

In a week that had the greatest hockey player to ever lace on a pair of skates retire with his integrity and dignity intact, we also saw the most recent arrest of baseball star Darryl Strawberry for cocaine possession and trying to solicit a prostitute. In L.A., court jester Dennis Rodman finally wore his welcome out.  

 

When I, like most people, watched Gretzky's farewell splash from New York, I couldn't help but think that we needed the type of qualities he demonstrated this past week in the people who aspire to assume the public trust. He handled the whole thing with ease, humility and soul-baring honesty.  

 

A class act who will be missed. Unlike the rest of them, who won't.

 

  -30-

 

 

 

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