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Treason isn’t what it used to be

No matter which parliamentarians, if any, are exposed for sleeping with the enemy, the penalty for doing that has changed drastically.

It used to be death.

Indeed, Canada’s National Defence Act prescribed the death penalty for treason until 1999, although no military executions had been carried out since 1946. In the US, the last American convicted of treason and hanged in 1862 was William Bruce Mumford for tearing down a United States flag during the Civil War. And in Britain, the last person executed for treason was William Joyce, also known as Lord Haw-Haw. He was hanged in 1946 for his Nazi propaganda broadcasts in World War II.

But today, just as the meaning of treason has changed, so too has the punishment for it.

Spies and collaborators used to betray their countries for money, ideology or resentment.

Today, vanity and narcissism play a larger role, as Edward SnowdenChelsea Manning and Julian Assange exemplify via their involvement in the ongoing WikiLeaksrevelations. Today, Snowden lives in Moscow, the winner of countless awards. Manning, who was a visiting fellow at Harvard in 2017, lives in Brooklyn and makes her living as a speaker. As for Assange, who has been imprisoned since 2019 in a London prison, he was told by a British Court three weeks ago he can appeal his extradition to the US to answer espionage charges.

Meanwhile, back in Canada, former RCMP intelligence official Cameron Ortis was sentenced to 14 years in prison in February for….well, no one’s quite sure. The specifics are under wraps because of their national security implications. However, assistant crown attorney Judy Kliewer said Ortis’s conduct was a “betrayal” of the RCMP and Canada’s Five Eyes partners that “jeopardized the safety of Canadians.”

It’s important to remember that while we may think Canada is a backwater in the world of espionage, we were Ground Zero for the creation of The Cold War.

Indeed, three days after the end of the Second World War, Russian cipher clerk and KGB lieutenant Igor Gouzenko defected to Canadian officials in Ottawa. With that act Robert Fulford wrote he was “absolutely certain the Cold War began in Ottawa”.


1. Funny girl leads Secret Canada. It’s the freedom of information project from The Globe and Mail that lets you search through their national database of FOI summaries and learn to file your own. Given the number of scandals that have been unearthed via FOI and our governments’ reluctant excellence at revealing information, this is important work, for us as well as journalists. Secret Canada is led by the Globe’s Robyn Doolittle, who you definitely don’t want to be on the receiving end of a phone call from.

2. Remember when drinking was good for you? It seems the media, fed by the wine industry, got that dead wrong. On the other hand, medicine is inching towards a forestaller of early Alzheimer’s symptoms. On the third hand, depression not only keeps men pulling the covers over our head, it kills us. Time to stop manning up.

3. We’re Number 23! The United States beating Pakistan at cricket is like Jamaica beating Canada at bobsledding. But it happened last week.

4. Where have you been, Cory Doctorow? Why have I not followed this man who was born in Toronto 52 years ago, and whose daily blogs are a wonder of research, righteousness and reason. Like this on “junk fees”.

5. True confessions. From the US Supreme Court on gays and abortion. This week, gotcha journalist Lauren Windsor, posing as a conservative journalist, secretly recorded Sam Alito and his wife Martha Ann. Shocking, but not surprising.

6. Gorgeous engineering. The Gordie Howe Bridge, spanning Detroit and Windsor, is today separated by just 10 metres. It costs $6.4 billion (all paid by Ottawa) and will double cross-border traffic when it opens next year.

Speaking of gorgeous exploration, this week a group of Canadians discovered Shackleton’s last ship off the coast of Labrador. Their motive? Hints that the Americans would find it first. The expedition was led by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

Finally, here’s how the world’s 5,800 containerships work. Since 2000, their average size has more than doubled.

7. Two new kinds of travel. First, travel as therapy, instead of fun or fulfillment. Second, sober travel, which is booming.

8. Are you loading your dishwasher wrong? Forget what happens when we stop remembering. Or if gender apartheid is alive and well.  Or even how you can start a conversation with a stranger. The big urgent question is those clean dishes.

9. A different kind of running club. First, for former prisoners. Next, for current ones.

10. The ultimate playlist. 715 of your favourite songs. All guaranteed to produce frisson. Plus “Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boys”, now and the original. Plus, you’d expect the Royal Marines Band to be pip-pip. But the Top Secret Drum Corps? Who dey?

11. What I’m liking. The secret mountain valley in Italy called Alta Valsesia. I guess a secret no more….We were here this week hiking to The Hills Are Alive peaks through the gorgeous valleys, eating raclette, and taking in Walser culture.

You can do this later this summer, or next summer.






It’s June right now and summer is almost here. Time’s running short to book the trip of a lifetime in your home and native land.

So join us …in BC’s fabled Great Bear Rainforest…. aboard the National Geographic Venture… on a Lindblad Expedition.  The adventure starts in Ketchikan, Alaska, on September 2nd, 2024, and ends on September 9th, 2024  in Prince Rupert, BC.

Here are the details of the trip.

You can register in one of two ways:

1.  Download the application form and fill it out by hand, click here and then email it to the Lindblad Groups at

2.  Fill  out the form online, click here and your completed copy will automatically be sent to Lindblad Groups and to RamsayTravel.





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