Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thank God for People Like Adam Radwanski

Even though the front page of today's Globe has been taken over by other news, within its pages is an incisive article by Adam Radwanski that is highly critical of both the McGuinty Government and Police Chief Bill Blair. The article follows:

McGuinty washes his hands of police mistreatment allegations

Ontario Liberals prepared to give police carte blanche

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail Published on Tuesday, Jun. 29, 2010 10:29PM EDT Last updated on Wednesday, Jun. 30, 2010 10:03AM EDT

It’s even worse than it originally appeared.

Not only did Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals place limits on civil liberties without telling anyone – but they also then washed their hands as police misrepresented and misused their new powers.

It’s a glaring abdication of responsibility, reflective of a government overly content to give police carte blanche even in the most volatile situations.
In this instance that free rein seems to have been abused, not least by Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair.

For several days, most everyone was under the impression that the province – through a temporary regulation affecting the Public Works Protection Act – had very quietly given police the power to conduct searches and demand identification up to five metres outside the security fence erected for last weekend’s G20 summit. They were under that impression because police acted as though it was the case.

The legislation was cited in last Thursday’s arrests of at least two activists, neither of whom seems to have tried to enter the zone. There is video evidence of officers citing the five-metre rule as they demanded that one of those activists, a rather harmless-looking, megaphone-wielding member of a group calling itself “the Love Police,” stop filming video well outside the fence.

Chief Blair, who requested the regulation in the first place, now claims that he only realized last Friday that the “five metres” refers to an area inside the fence, at which point he told his officers to stop invoking it. But he seemingly implied to a reporter Tuesday that he was willing to allow the public to continue to think through the weekend that police powers existed where they really didn’t, because he was “trying to keep the criminals out.”

Clearly, Chief Blair has a lot to answer for. But it was the Liberals who set this mess in motion, and declined to put an end to it when they had ample chance.
First, the government failed to announce its new law. A simple press release could have explained what the regulation, which is worded in such a way that even police claim to have been confused by it, did and didn’t cover. Instead, the province buried it on a government website, such that nobody heard about it until an arrest was made.

Worse, the Liberals made no effort over the weekend to set the record straight, even though virtually every media outlet was reporting that people merely passing by the fence could find themselves in deep trouble. Mr. McGuinty could have stepped forward and reassured the public that the liberties of anyone not trying to enter the security zone were intact. Instead, he offered only “a lot of confidence in Chief Blair” and “very strong support of this time-limited extraordinary measure,” which reinforced the impression that the latter included the zone’s surrounding area.

Now, the Liberals are ducking any responsibility for the fact that they effectively (if inadvertently) gave police powers they were never intended to have. “The language of the regulation is very clear,” a spokesperson said, even as other senior Liberals acknowledged that they themselves were confused by it. Meanwhile, the Premier is nowhere to be seen, having not talked to reporters yet this week.

Behind the Liberals’ nonchalance about the whole affair lies what seems to be a wild overreaction to behaviour of the previous government.

Mike Harris’s Conservatives were accused of helping to overheat the standoff with aboriginals in Ipperwash Provincial Park, at which unarmed protester Dudley George was killed by the Ontario Provincial Police. So the Liberals came to office vowing never to interfere with police tactics – a policy they’ve maintained with religious conviction ever since.

It’s raised eyebrows before, particularly when the government seemed indifferent to the controversial way the OPP handled another standoff with natives in Caledonia.

But it’s now been taken to new and absurd extremes.

Nobody else will be arrested under this month’s botched regulation. But the message to police is clear: The current government couldn't care less how they do their jobs, even when they’re doing them wrong - and wrongly applying that government's decisions in the process.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Police Chiefs and Premiers

I have to confess that my nose is presently feeling quite abraded and raw, not surprising given its strenuous workout in today’s smell tests, beginning with the spectacle of Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair displaying a cache of ‘weapons’ seized from protesters that turned out to be less than claimed. First, an astute CBC reporter asked about the cross bow that was given prominence. Hadn’t that, in fact, been seized from a car before the summit began and determined to have nothing to do with the G20? Well yes, the good chief sheepishly admitted that it shouldn’t have been there, as reported in The Globe and Mail:

A car search last Friday netted a cross bow and chain saw but they were not determined to be G20 related, and no charges were laid. When this was pointed out, Chief Blair acknowledged the items should not have been displayed but said “everything else” was seized from summit protesters.

However, police also included objects taken from a Whitby, Ont., man who was heading to a role playing fantasy game in Centennial Park Saturday morning. As was reported by the Globe on Saturday, Brian Barrett, 25, was stopped at Union Station for wearing chain mail and carrying a bag with an archery bow, shield and graphite swords. His jousting gear was seized by police, but was on display Tuesday, even though he was not charged and police told a Globe reporter it was a case of bad timing.

The critical thinker, of course, would have even more reason after this display to question the veracity of what he or she was being told. But then things got worse. Blair announced that there was no five-metre rule in place allowing police to search bags and demand identification from interlopers who had violated the police’s ‘comfort zone.’ His justification for this alleged lie: “I was trying to keep the criminals out.”

I say alleged lie, because this came only after an announcement from the Ministry of Community Safety made an announcement that “all the cabinet did was update the law that governs entry to such things as court houses to include specific areas inside the G20 fences — not outside.

A ministry spokeswoman says the change was about property, not police powers, and did not include any mention of a zone five metres outside the G20 security perimeter. “

However — and my nose was really starting to hurt by this point — we remember Dalton McGuinty’s statement of support for the police on Friday after word got out about the secret order-in-council suspending some of our Charter Rights:

Premier Dalton McGuinty denies it was an abuse of power for his government to secretly approve sweeping new powers for police.

“I just think it’s in keeping with the values and standards of Ontarians,” McGuinty told the Toronto Star on Friday amid a battery of complaints from opposition parties, city councillors, civil libertarians and regular Torontonians that the new rules were kept secret and, some say, may go too far.

The rules allow police to arrest and potentially jail anyone refusing to produce identification or be searched within 5 metres of the G20 security zone.

“Most Ontarians understand that there’s something extraordinary happening inside our province,” the Premier said. “We’ve tried to limit the intrusiveness to a specific secure zone as much as we can by working together with our police.”

Despite the fact that it was front page news on several of Ontario’s dailies, Premier McGuinty did nothing to disabuse the public about this seemingly inaccurate information, which leads me to conclude a number of limited possibilities:

He is so inept a Premier that, despite the alleged regulation having been passed secretly by his Cabinet, he knew none of the details;

Chief Blair was lying about these special powers, promulgated throughout the media and eliciting mass confusion and outrage. Were this so, wouldn’t it be incumbent upon McGuinty to immediately terminate the Chief, having gone far beyond anything General Stanley McCrystal did to warrant firing?

He was colluding with the police to continue to perpetrate this ‘falsehood,’ a possibility that would justify our asking how committed the Premier is to Charter Rights and basic democracy;

The regulation was as everyone understood it, but because of the widespread revulsion it inspired, the Liberal Government, realizing the potential political consequences to be so very costly, disavowed any relationship to the odious regulation, therefore requiring Bill Blair to ‘fall on his sword’ over this issue.

The fact that the position of Chief of Police is, de facto, a political one, would likely have convinced Blair that his future would be far better served by obeying his political masters than hewing to the path of integrity.

Further evidence of government and police lying to the public emerges as the McGuinty Government is now stating that no one was arrested under any extended laws, but only regular criminal laws. The critical thinking public will, of course, want to know why 31-year-old Dave Vasey was arrested when he ventured within the allegedly non-existent boundary, refusing to either show his i.d. or allow his bag to be searched, believing he was only enjoying his basic rights of citizenship. Told he would then have to leave, he refused, after which he was arrested under this ‘non-existent’ rule. What then, was the offense for which he was arrested?

These and other questions must be forcefully asked and re-asked in the days to come. To do anything less would be criminal.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Summit Update

Unfortunately, violence has now erupted in Toronto, apparently caused by about 50 anarchists. I've never understood what they think is accomplished by setting cars on fire, breaking windows, etc.

Unfortunately, those who see things in a simplistic manner will now likely say that the violence validates the suspension of our civil liberties by the McGuinty Government, conveniently ignoring the fact that police already have sufficient powers without those draconian measures.

Waldo Has Been Found

Apparently, Premiere McGuinty, contrary to my assertion in my last post, did emerge from hiding to make the following statement:

Premier Dalton McGuinty denies it was an abuse of power for his government to secretly approve sweeping new powers for police.

“I just think it’s in keeping with the values and standards of Ontarians,” McGuinty told the Toronto Star on Friday amid a battery of complaints from opposition parties, city councillors, civil libertarians and regular Torontonians that the new rules were kept secret and, some say, may go too far.

The rules allow police to arrest and potentially jail anyone refusing to produce identification or be searched within 5 metres of the G20 security zone.

“Most Ontarians understand that there’s something extraordinary happening inside our province,” the Premier said. “We’ve tried to limit the intrusiveness to a specific secure zone as much as we can by working together with our police.”

You can read the entire account in The Toronto Star.

Where's Waldo (a.ka. Premier McGuinty)?

Despite the fact that over 24 hours have passed since the revelation that the McGuinty Government secretly passed a law giving the police unprecedented powers of arrest for those venturing within 5 metres of the perimeter fence at Toronto's G20 summit, the Premier, as far as I have been able to determine, is nowhere to be found. Is this leadership? Or does he vainly hope that people will quickly forget this issue when these extraordinary powers are rescinded on June 28th?

Below is the message I left for him on his website

I was absolutely disgusted to learn that your government, through an order-in-council, secretly passed a law allowing for the arrest of people coming within 5 metres of the security perimeter at the G20 should they refuse to provide identification to police. Compounding this unwarranted abrogation of our Charter Rights is the fact that your Government kept this information from the citizens who have always understood they were not subject to arbitrary arrest in this country.

This action, and the cowardly attempt to conceal it, has shaken my confidence in your leadership, and is leading me to reassess my choices come next election.

His website does require you to leave your personal information, but I didn't see any harm in that ….. Just a moment, who are those men at the front door, knocking so loudly?

Friday, June 25, 2010

More On Our Fragile Charter Rights

My last two posts have tried to address the issue of the sudden abrogation of Canadian Charter Rights during the G8 summit in Huntsville and the G20 in Toronto. The following article reveals that things are even worse than I thought, in that the McGuinty Liberal Government of Ontario passed secret enabling legislation, known as an order-in-council, allowing for the arrest of anyone who comes within five metres of the security fence and refuses to provide identification to the authorities. The law provides for fines and jail time upon conviction. Again, this was passed secretly, and the public WAS NOT INFORMED! SHAME ON THEM. One person has already been arrested.

G20 law gives police sweeping powers to arrest people

Jennifer Yang Staff Reporter

The province has secretly passed an unprecedented regulation that empowers police to arrest anyone near the G20 security zone who refuses to identify themselves or agree to a police search.

A 31-year-old man has already been arrested under the new regulation, which was quietly passed by the provincial cabinet on June 2.

The regulation was made under Ontario’s Public Works Protection Act and was not debated in the Legislature. According to a provincial spokesperson, the cabinet action came in response to an “extraordinary request” by Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who wanted additional policing powers shortly after learning the G20 was coming to Toronto.

The regulation kicked in Monday and will expire June 28, the day after the summit ends. While the new regulation appeared without notice on the province’s e-Laws online database last week, it won’t be officially published in The Ontario Gazette until July 3 — one week after the regulation expires.

“It’s just unbelievable you would have this kind of abuse of power where the cabinet can create this offence without having it debated in the Legislature,” said Howard Morton, the lawyer representing Dave Vasey, who was arrested Thursday under the sweeping new police powers.

“It was just done surreptitiously, like a mushroom growing under a rock at night.”
According to the new regulation, “guards” appointed under the act can arrest anyone who, in specific areas, comes within five metres of the security zone.

Within those areas, police can demand identification from anyone coming within five metres of the fence perimeter and search them. If they refuse, they face arrest. Anyone convicted under the regulation could also face up to two months in jail or a $500 maximum fine.

“It reminds me a little bit of the War Measures Act,” said lawyer Nathalie Des Rosiers of the new regulation. Des Rosiers is a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which has been working to monitor arrests during the summit. “This is highly unusual to have this declaration done by order-in-council without many people knowing about it.”

Des Rosiers learned of the regulation Thursday afternoon, shortly after Vasey was arrested while standing near the security fence.

Vasey said he was exploring the G20 security perimeter with a friend when they were stopped by police and asked for identification. Vasey says he had also been searched by police the night before.

According to Vasey, police explained there was a bylaw in place obligating him to provide identification but he refused, acting on the advice of a “Know Your Rights” information pamphlet given to him by the Toronto Community Mobilization Network, a group assisting protesters.

The York University master’s student was taken into custody at around 4 p.m. He was brought to the Eastern Ave. detention centre, a former movie studio that has been temporarily converted into a prisoner holding pen. According to his charge sheet, he was charged with refusing to comply with a peace officer under the act.

Vasey said he only learned of the new regulation after his release, at around 9 p.m. The summit’s Integrated Security Unit did not respond to interview requests from the Star.

According to Vasey’s lawyer, neither he nor his colleagues at the law union were aware of this draconian new regulation. Des Rosiers said the CCLA and protesters have met with summit officials on several occasions and the regulation was never mentioned.

“They don’t even have signs up saying you can’t be within five metres or you’re subject to the following,” Morton said. “If they really wanted to keep the peace, they would have announced the regulation.”

According to Laura Blondeau, an aide to Community Safety Minister Rick Bartolucci, the regulation “ensures that police have the legal authority” they need for such a massive security zone.

“They really wanted to ensure they could provide a certain level of security,” Blondeau said Thursday. “The regulation does not include private residences or businesses. It’s for certain streets and sidewalks in the security perimeter.”
Blondeau said “rightly or wrongly,” the new regulation can be compared with airport security.

“You don’t have to get on that plane if you don’t want to be searched and wanded,” she said, adding that Bartolucci carefully weighed public safety and civil liberty concerns before agreeing to the one-time amendment.

“It was an extraordinary request. This is just for Toronto, just for the G20,” she said. “Given the environment that the police were expecting, they needed to be prepared.”

Blondeau emphasized the law only affects those trying to enter the security zone and applies solely to police officers, not to private security guards contracted for the summit.

If someone declines to comply it empowers the police to turn them away — or face being searched.

According to government lawyers, the regulation was passed by cabinet using what is known as a “covering” order-in-council.

“The authority for the regulation is contained in the PWPA (Public Works Protection Act). The PWPA authorizes the designation by cabinet of places as ‘public works,’” the lawyers said.

The Public Works Protection Act was created in 1990 and defines a “public work” as everything from a railway to a bridge or a provincial building. The act says any other building, place or work can also be “designated a public work by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.”

Morton said he’s unaware of any precedents to such a regulation being passed in Ontario and questions if it is even constitutional.

Des Rosiers said the regulation runs contrary to the Charter of Rights because it prohibits people from generally circulating on public land.

The G20 security fence has been a magnet for passersby and protesters alike, with many people approaching to take pictures or just quench their curiosity.

For Des Rosiers, she is especially worried because most people, including protesters, will operate under the assumption they have a right to refuse handing over identification to police.

“Protesters would have been told that the law of the land is that you don’t have to talk to police officers if you don’t want to,” she said. “This changes things because even if you attempt to approach, it gives the power to the guard to demand identification.

“It’s a significant intrusion on people’s rights.”

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An Update on My G20 Summit Inquiry

In my last posting, I questioned the legality of the stern security measures imposed for the G20 summit in Toronto. In yesterday's Globe and Mail, columnist Adam Radwanski finally addressed the issue, but his explanation of the legislation that allows for the suspension of our Charter rights is hardly reassuring, suggesting that Canadian democracy is at best an ethereal concept, and at worst, fragile and ephemeral.

When it comes to summit security, police answer to no one

Police make their presence known Tuesday on the streets of Toronto. Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

With neither legislation nor precedent to limit their powers, the rights of Canadians come off second best

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail Published on Tuesday, Jun. 22, 2010 8:05PM EDT Last updated on Wednesday, Jun. 23, 2010 11:14AM EDT

It's known as the “red zone.” But given the extent to which police are being left to their own devices in locking down a large swath of Toronto for the G20, the “grey zone” might be more apt.

The federal government did police and local residents few favours by sticking the summit smack in the middle of downtown. That it’s in an area more difficult to secure than other available locations, such as the city’s Exhibition grounds, forced more heavy-handed enforcement than should have been necessary.

But it doesn’t help that, as officers are expected to balance security with civil liberties, there’s neither legislation nor clear legal precedent specifying what they can and can’t do. From the handling of protesters to the requirement of identification to enter public spaces and private homes, it’s left to their discretion.

Since each summit is different, there’s no choice but to be somewhat ad hoc in handling them. But civil liberties experts argue that it didn’t need to be quite this ad hoc.

On that front, the responsibility seems to lie more with a past government than the current one.

Following widespread criticism of how the RCMP handled security at the 1997 APEC meeting in Vancouver and (to a lesser extent) the 2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, there was pressure on Ottawa to set ground rules for how such events should be policed. Instead, Jean Chr├ętien’s government opted to amend the existing Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act in a vague manner that, if anything, gave police further carte blanche.

“For the purpose of carrying out its responsibility [to secure multi-state conferences],” the amendment stated, “the Royal Canadian Mounted Police may take appropriate measures, including controlling, limiting or prohibiting access to any area to the extent and in a manner that is reasonable in the circumstances.”

It’s not clear to what extent that legislation was considered as security plans were made for the G20. (A spokesman for the Summit Integrated Security Unit, the joint force headed by the RCMP, was quicker to cite the basic duty to keep the peace.) But it would at least be used to justify any tactics called into question.

Appearing before the House of Commons foreign affairs committee in November, 2001, University of British Columbia law professor Wesley Pue called the amendment “a terribly unfortunate piece of legislation” that “simultaneously reaches too far and is inconclusive.” His complaint that it failed to consider how police powers would be balanced with the rights of Canadians to move freely, to express themselves, to assemble, to enjoy their property, and to “go lawfully about one’s daily life without interruption or harassment by the police,” might strike Torontonians as prescient.

It’s debatable whether the law would withstand a court challenge. But part of the reason there’s so little precedent on police powers at international gatherings (a problem extensively documented in a study late last year by Dr. Pue and Capilano University professor Robert Diab) is that there’s rarely much incentive for anyone to bother with cases after the fact. Probably the most relevant decision came when a Quebec judge ruled against a lawyer’s complaint that the Summit of the Americas barriers infringed upon his right to move freely and protest peacefully – this just days before the event’s start, when ruling the other way might have forced its cancellation.

In fairness to the RCMP, it seems to have come a long way on securing national events since the APEC days of pepper-spraying students; by most accounts, its conduct around this year’s Vancouver Olympics was encouraging. But the G20 is in a whole other realm.

Most Torontonians probably wouldn’t fault police for erring on the side of caution. But the fact that they’re operating without any real restrictions, however noble individual officers’ intentions, could cause a bit of alarm.

For a few days, the related rights questions might get some attention. But history suggests they’ll soon be forgotten, at least until next time.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The G20 Summit

This past week we visited our son in Toronto, and after an enjoyable visit I was once more reminded of the restrictions being imposed due to the impending G20 conference in Ontario's capital. Because the security perimeter has already been established, we had a rather difficult time getting to the Gardiner Expressway, obstructed as it was by concrete bunker type bases anchoring the huge fences designed to keep protesters and ordinary citizens at bay. The plan is to deny access to the restricted zone unless people can produce a passport or other photo i.d. as well as a compelling reason for entry, e.g. work, having the misfortune of living in the area, etc.

The restricted zone is quite large, encompassing many hotels and businesses, all of which will lose substantial sums of money because of lost patronage during the summit. The Harper Government is on record as saying there will be no compensation offered to those affected. As well, GO trains with Toronto destinations will have all their washrooms locked up except for one for the handicapped. Travellers are being told to expect substantial delays. Let's hope the delays won't be too long, given GO's decision.

The security for the G20 and the G8 (to be held in Huntsville) combined will cost $1 billion in tax dollars, and most of the public's outrage has been directed at that outrageous amount, while it seems that something more fundamental and basic to Canadians has been virtually ignored in the press: the fact that our Charter Rights, most notably our freedom of movement, has essentially been suspended for the duration of the summit.

My question is simple: how can any democratic government simply suspend those Charter Rights under the guise of security? The thoughtful reader will doubtless understand the implications of such an action.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

An Article on the Importance of Critical Thinking

I was pleased to see that today's Globe and Mail has an interview with Martha Nussbaum who has just published a book entitled Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, which discusses how a healthy and functioning society needs to step back from the current obsession with education that teaches the acquisition of 'hard skills' to the almost total exclusion of any respect for the arts, arguing that the later are equally necessary in order to strike a proper balance and ensure an informed and critically-thinking populace.

Here is the interview:

Teaching the humanities: Vital to society?

Acclaimed philosopher Martha Nussbaum argues it is. She’s the latest sage to raise the alarm against higher education's growing obsession with knowledge you can take to the bank.

By John Allemang
From Saturday's Globe and Mail Published on Friday, Jun. 11, 2010 4:45PM EDT Last updated on Saturday, Jun. 12, 2010 1:56PM EDT

University students worried about getting a job see the study of the humanities as a waste of precious time. Research funding (of the new $200-million Canada Excellence Research Chairs, for example) overwhelmingly favour the useful sciences, politicians see technical skills as the key to global economic success and cultural commentators bash the liberal arts as a naval-gazing luxury. Times are hard for humanists.

But when economic growth becomes the focus of education, both democracy and human decency are in jeopardy. In her new book, Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (Princeton), acclaimed University of Chicago philosopher and legal scholar Martha Nussbaum argues that our culture of market-driven schooling is headed for a fall.

As the critical thinking taught by the humanities is replaced by the unexamined life of the job-seekers, our ability to argue rights and wrongs is silenced. In a society of unreflective, undiscerning yes-men and yes-women, politics becomes meaner and business can invite disasters such as the economic meltdown or the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

As Prof. Nussbaum explains in this question-and-answer session from Chicago, our faltering democracies need the intellectual strength that only the humanities can supply.

Question: How can the study of the humanities improve our political system?

Answer: The first thing you get from the humanities, when they're well taught, is critical thinking.

Philosophy in particular can play that role, not just in universities but in schools as well. Thinking about the logical structure of an argument is something we know children can do quite young.

The second thing you get from the humanities is a greater understanding of the world, its different groups of people, their histories, the way they interact.
The third thing you get is the training of the imagination.

You can't have a democracy when people don't learn to put themselves in the shoes of another person, who can't think what their policies mean for others.

Yet the governments prefer to fund technical education – which tells me that practical, marketable skills are considered more valuable in our democracies.
People may believe that, but they haven't thought hard enough. First of all, we badly need people who can think critically about authority and tradition.

And that's what democracy has always required, ever since the time of Socrates – not just accepting what's passed down from some kind of authority, but thinking critically about it, examining yourself and figuring out what you really want to stand for. And then having debates in that spirit of respectful critical inquiry with other people – you can't have a democracy that's run simply by sound bites and cultural authorities. And I'm afraid that's what we're increasingly slipping into.

Yes, we call our governments democracies, but I think they're functioning badly now. The atmosphere of vilification is so bad that good people steer clear of the political process. And if they get in, their lives are made miserable.

Do you think there's something inherently anti-democratic about the study of science, technology, engineering?

Not at all, if they're taught well with an attention to the basic structures of thought and inquiry.

But what we're getting now is the demand for a quick fix for economic problems using highly applied technical skills but without the focus on basic scientific education – learning about argument, scientific method. So it's that debased version of science that's particularly dangerous.

Who's doing the debasing?

It's a lot of people, starting with the politicians who are demanding a greater share of the global economy and are demanding more technical education. But I also see it in parents who want their children to get ahead – there's tremendous pressure to cut the arts and focus on useful marketable skills.

Their feeling is that we need to prune away useless frills to make sure our children remain competitive. Of course, it's very difficult to get into college now, and people equate that with a focus on narrowly marketable skills. But that's the wrong position to take because colleges want well-rounded people – people who excel in the arts are actually going to enhance their college profile.

When you're advocating for the humanities, it seems that you always have to make a case for their applied value – what's wrong with art for art's sake?

I think you do have to say what their role is in society, but I don't think you have to portray them as instrumental to some economic end. My gambit in Not for Profit is to say they have tremendous value as elements in a political culture.

Because even if people are not sold on the humanities and the arts intrinsically, they do value a healthy democracy. But of course the arts and humanities have value much more broadly in making lives that are rich in meaning, in illuminating aspects of the world, like giving us an understanding of human sexuality, or giving us an understanding of racial differences. All of these things are humanly important quite apart from their contribution to political culture.

Do you really believe our leaders want us all to improve our critical thinking? Surely a servile populace suits the needs of many.

For a while they can coast along in that belief, but something blows up in the end.
NASA, the space administration, is a good example of that. My colleague and I teach about NASA's experience in a course called Decision-making – how a culture of yes-people produced the disaster of the space shuttle Challenger:

You could see in the data that the O-rings were dangerous at a certain temperature, but no one was willing to point that out, and they packaged data the way they thought the leaders would want to hear it.

Now, NASA has reformed its culture and is much more encouraging of dissent.
People are saying BP and all the other oil companies should take a page out of NASA's book and reform their internal culture.

It's graduation time, and the people who've spent their university years studying the humanities are going into the world. Do you feel obliged to prepare them for the big surprise when their values of critical thinking don't fit the needs of the workplace?

I'm giving the graduation address at our law school, and I'm thinking of these wonderful people so full of critical ideas who are going to work for law firms. They'll be under great pressure to narrow themselves and do less of that searching. So our responsibility is to strengthen the side of the personality that wants to stay focused on that goal and help them fight the forces in life, including overwork, that militate against that need.

And then prepare them to be fired from their law firm for doing so?

You just have to figure out how you in your particular situation are going to do it. It might be through being a critical voice in your law firm. It might be by writing short stories if you can carve out a space. It might be through being a productive alum of your university. Or it might be by bringing up children who can think critically.