Future of Legal Gateways, and New Article on Hiring Temporary Foreign Workers

Hi everyone,

You may have noticed that Legal Gateways has not been updated in a little while, and I am pleased to finally be able to announce why that is. I have been asked to become the editor of Norton Rose Fulbright’s employment and labour law blog, Global Workplace Insider, for articles from Canada outside of Quebec. Employment and labour law articles by lawyers from our Toronto, Ottawa and Calgary offices, edited by me, will be posted approximately every two weeks … alongside blog posts from employment lawyers across the globe.

I am excited to have posted earlier today the first article under my new tenure, by my colleague Caylee Rieger. It is about recent changes to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program, and you can read it here.

What does this mean for Legal Gateways? Since I will be focusing my legal blogging efforts on Global Workplace Insider, I will no longer be updating this blog on legal topics (I will still keep this blog active for a few weeks and link to our new articles).

In light of that, I’ve decided that the other side of Legal Gateways — creative writing — is deserving of a separate blog or website, which I will work on establishing over the next little while. Gateways, the novel, has now been through a second round of edits with my professional editor, and within weeks it will be in a final format. I will then need to decide what to do with it: whether to self-publish it, as had been the plan all along, or whether instead to submit it for publication through more traditional routes. In either case, a new website will probably be a key piece of the promotional puzzle, but the timing may be different depending which option I choose. I’ve also started working on a second creative writing project, which is still in very early stages.

Thanks everyone for reading, and please visit the Global Workplace Insider blog!

On Remembrance and Sacrifice

In the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day (Veterans Day in the United States), the traditional debates have begun cropping up online. They tend to centre on whether we should wear the red poppy in remembrance, but beneath fashion choices lies the deeper question: can we commemorate veterans, without venerating war?

To me, perhaps because of my upbringing or my leanings as a historian, Remembrance Day has never carried with it the celebration of war that so many attribute to it, for a simple (and probably too simplistic) reason. Remembrance Day originated to mark the anniversary of the armistice agreement which ended the most horrific war in human history, World War I. The armistice came into effect at 11:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918.  To me, Remembrance Day — and its indelible symbol, the red poppy — have always been about exploring the vantage point of a war just ending, when we finally have the opportunity to pause and take stock of all that has happened. If there is any celebration at all in the day, it is in the bloodshed having ended, in the hope for peace for future generations. Those hopes are tempered, of course, by the horror of war that can only truly hit us once it is over — by mourning all those who sacrificed, military and civilian alike.

I realize that is not what the red poppy means to everybody, and that some find it difficult to see the poppy, or Remembrance Day itself, as a symbol of peace. To be fair, both the symbol and the day have elements of praise and honour for the soldier, which implicitly include honour for what the soldier does. But even that, for me, is far from sufficient to make us turn our backs on the day, or on the poppy. War is terrible, but I have never been able to deny the crucial role that a soldier can play. Perhaps it is the classically overused example, but remembering my grandparents’ experience in the Holocaust is all the proof I need that war, though horrific, can be necessary.

Not, of course, that any of the Allied powers fought World War II to save Jews, just like the Vietnamese didn’t really invade Pol Pot’s Cambodia to save the Cambodians, and the North didn’t really fight the American Civil War to free slaves. But I find it hard to deny that war can have just results, in the right circumstances.

Against those examples are wars like Vietnam and Iraq, but it’s easy for us as Canadians to feel self-righteous about those, since our elected leaders were wise enough to keep us out of them. How might we feel if our fathers or our friends had fought there? The better example is the one that started Remembrance Day in the first place, World War I. It was, without a doubt, the most senseless waste of human life in history, 10 million military and 7 million civilian dead for no reason beyond nationalism and colonial ambition. It’s staggering, mind-numbing, to believe that humans ever descended to it. What’s more, it’s not even like the collective horror of the bloodshed shocked Europe into ensuring that it wouldn’t be repeated. Indeed, the French Marshall Ferdinand Foch was disturbingly prophetic when he derided the treaty that ended the Great War as nothing more than a 20-year armistice. The Treaty of Versailles, of course, was signed in 1919, exactly 20 years before Nazi Germany invaded Poland to launch World War II.

That senseless horror has always fascinated me about World War I, that question of how human beings were able to kill so many for so little reason. It’s why, as I sat down to write an alternate-world novel, I decided to set it during a World War I-style conflict. My book is told from the point of view of a pacifist politician trying to end the war, and neither Deugan nor Brealand, the fictional countries who are the main combatants, can be said to be the “bad guys” in the story. The true antagonist is the war itself, and all of the forces on both sides that conspire to keep people fighting. It’s a different perspective from most war stories, and to me, World War I is the quintessential war in which to tell it.

Yet I still don’t find the answers easy. Despite the enormous costs of war, peace too has a price, and that is what my novel explores. As early as the third chapter, the hero asks one of her country’s most respected generals whether peace is one of his values. He replies that it is not: while he certainly wants peace, “some things are worth fighting for.” Thus begins one of the conflicts that drives the story. As it continues, our hero’s idealism is tested, and we see just how much she is prepared to sacrifice for the cause of peace.

That, ultimately, is what Remembrance Day and the poppy are about: the sacrifices that have been made, for better or for worse, in the hopes that peace will follow. It is a commemoration of peace, not war. It is a day we should not celebrate, but we should commemorate. We should remember it, mourn it, and, if at all possible, learn from it.

A New Way to Introduce Gateways

Exciting news on the novel front: I received the first round of feedback from my editor on Monday, and overall it was extremely positive. I’m now starting to work on some revisions, then it will be back to him for a more detailed and technical copy edit.

I don’t want to say too much about what is already in Gateways and what is being changed. One thing I will say, though, is that I’m considering starting a few chapters with some fake “excerpts” from fake historical sources, like this one, as a way of introducing parts of the world. I just wrote this one last night, so I may still do further edits or even scrap it entirely — but at least as of now, this is the new beginning I’m thinking of using for my novel:

In the popular imagination, the Great War lives on as a spectacle. Each year, as autumn is threatening to give way to winter, hundreds converge on the Maxalo Pass in Wassia, in the south-west of the Continent, to re-enact the battle that was once fought there. The mood is festive: vendors hawk sugary drinks, horns and trumpets blow, and women and men march proudly in the brightly coloured uniforms of a bygone era. The day belongs not to the long-suffering veterans of the conflict, but to a celebration of homespun southern hospitality.

Indeed, the conflict is remembered by many as a distinctively southern war. Certainly the greater part of the fighting took place in Wassia, where massive graveyards now stand testament to the many who lost their lives in its meadows and valleys. Is it surprising, then, that it is the southern front which has persisted in the cultural memory of the Continent? That schoolchildren, filmmakers and even military historians have been drawn to its cascading offensives and desperate stands?

When, however, the war is considered from a broader historical perspective – not merely as a series of battles, but as a phenomenon that influenced the future course of a Continent – then it is the north-west, the confrontation between the Realm of Brealand and the Republic of Deugan, where our focus is inexorably drawn. It is hardly an exaggeration to claim that the Continent entered the modern era through the Gateway, that region which links the two combatants; and a study of the Brea and Deugan manoeuvrings along their shared border reveals to the historian not only a clearer portrait of the war, but also a glimpse at its more delicate and elusive cousin: peace.

(From “Introduction,” in Rothwell, Hering et. al., Perspectives on the Great War: The Northern Front (1725))

From there, of course, we would launch into the actual novel, which (at least so far) starts like this:

It was an old memory, the kind that lies concealed in the corners of the mind until it emerges in times of tension. A dirt floor, and a boy, and a night sky filled with so many stars that it almost seemed white.

Yeah … it may have looked something like this (image licensed as stock photo here) (Click image to enlarge)

stars

 

I will be back soon with some law-related posts, as well as possibly one about dance organizing. In the meantime, please comment and let me know if there’s any topic you’d like to see me write about.

Cheers,

Brian