Howard Drake

Howard Drake

British High Commissioner to Canada

Part of UK in Canada

19th June 2015 Ottawa, Canada

Canada and Magna Carta

This is an edited transcript of an interview I did with Bianca Gendreau from the Canadian Museum of History on the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. As the Director of Research at the museum she offers a unique insight into the Magna Carta’s legacy in Canada and explains how a copy of Magna Carta from 1300 ended up on tour in Canada this year.

You can also listen to my complete interview with Bianca below.

High Commissioner Howard Drake (HD): So, tell us a little bit about the exhibition, Bianca, and then perhaps also a little about what it means to Canada to have this remarkable document here.

Bianca Gendreau (BG): We are very pleased to welcome the first presentation of the Magna Carta exhibition. This conversation started 4 years ago when a couple from Toronto started the conversation about having this wonderful document here in Canada. They contacted Durham Cathedral about borrowing these documents and we were very pleased to have the opportunity to show these documents. This is the first time that these documents have been shown in Canada, but also they were never shown before; they were saved in a vault at Durham Cathedral.

HD: What does it mean to Canada and to Canadians; here we are in the nation’s capital across the river from Canada’s parliament, which is of course a Westminster style parliament, what does it mean to Canadians and in particular, younger Canadians?

BG: Well, the Magna Carta is more than just a medieval document, because if it was just that, we would be celebrating 800 years of a medieval text. But this is more than that because the principles that were issued in the Magna Carta are still very important today. The concept for trial by jury or that nobody is above the law. In those days, when we’re thinking about 1215, those ideas were revolutionary. So, to have these ideas, you know, they are still important today, still present in our own charter of freedom from 1982. So they are still important and we are still living with these concepts.

HD: Absolutely. And as I understand it, education is a part of what this exhibition is about.

BG: Absolutely. What we’re doing here is showing what the Magna Carta is, how it came to be. But also the importance of the Magna Carta, the legacy it left. So we hope that visitors will say “ah, yes” that’s why we have these concepts, such as trial by jury came from.

HD: And the other great thing of course is that this exhibit is going elsewhere across the country during the rest of the year.

BG: After the presentation here at the Museum of History until July 26, it’s going to travel to the Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg. Then it will travel to Toronto and Edmonton. We are really happy that there will be a few venues, it’s a unique opportunity.

HD: Absolutely, it’s fantastic. This remarkable document means so much in your country and in ours. The fact that it’s going across this huge country for more people to get a chance to see it… I think it’s wonderful. Thank you so much for working with us here, it’s our pleasure to be working with you, it’s such a great exhibit. We look forward to see it. Thank you.

BG: Thank you.

2 comments on “Canada and Magna Carta


    Machines can’t feel period! They are NOT ALIVE! They can ask questions, but they don’t really know if the person is lying or not or telling a joke or how accurate they are or if they are depressed or being playful or creative. They can’t necessarilly really understand or be forgiving! Machines are only as good as the programmers and the data they get. If the programmers have a different agenda like hacking or phishing or identity theft, the data isn’t secure and it will fall into the ‘wrong’ hands. Who judges which are the ‘wrong’ hands, certainly a machine can’t make that assessment, and human’s and politicians are notoriously fickle about that problem. Interest rates 30 years from now are the question, and they are intimately tied with life expectancy. With climate change happening, life expectancy is likely to go down, and interest rates up. Nobody has the right probability distributions to forecast it accurately and the polticians are the wild card. AI might be making big classification errors of people, and so the banks might be making big mistakes too about the current human captital and how they are trying to exploit it! Keep in Mind Naomi Klein and Disaster Capitalism! It’s also a wild card that the banks can’t predict, and there is a lot of sentiment about that ant-Establishment feeling. It will lead to instability and maybe chaos and destruction and higher rates and lower life expectancy! Machines don’t know how the population is feeling or what they have to go through every day or week or month or year! Unless the polticians like Trudeau grasp the Zeitgeist, and draw the international investment with some certainty of payback and win-win, the future is bleak indeed! AI programmers might not really laugh or smile much like normal people and they can be very cold and distant from the rest of humanity, this can also be true of scientists! Have they lost their fundamental humanity? Context is the real cue, and puns, language can have multiple meanings and people can talk in code like Music, and machines can’t grasp it! Machines have no idea how it really feels! Jacques Elul wrote a book called ‘The Technological Society’ where machines seem to be taking over and all people do is service them and not each other! It certainly is a frightening prospect, and some people are going back to humanities roots of hunter gatherer and anarchist….. so it might fragment society and raiseinterest rates and lower life expectancy and reduce security! Some Humans have an abhorrence of the machine telling them what to do all the time! And people like to just play music or play period, endlessly amused in a peaceful way! Sometimes the AI is good, and can reduce pain by keeping people amused with gossip or books or music or movies! Is any of it Real? How in touch with their local communities are they? Think Global and Act Local!Does AI really know the person exists or a tree or the ocean exists? Or that the person is or isn’t clean or that the Bubonic plague happened in the dark ages or that the enlightenment happened after the dark ages and really understand what that meant to history and people and the world?Facebook is doing huge amounts of research into the social sciences and focusing on likes and dislikes and topics of interest to humans…. they may be the big hope for a human compatible AI and might bring about the renaissance in the modern world! We also have to believe in Science and Music as self correcting, and that it will eventually get the feeling right! A lot of people want it to make their lives easier but many people really fear it! And that goes for Science as well, it is fear of the unknown possibilities!
    I agree that the Weaponization of AI is a big problem!

    We can focus or concentrate on the taste, or touch or smell of our surroundings and environment and also on external influences like sound and electromagnetic waves.
    Especially magnetic waves and the blood , as functional MRI is starting to reveal…. there are a huge number of feelings and intuitions in this sixth sense!
    Oxygenated blood is diamagnetic and sweeter than deoxygenated blood which is paramagnetic…. its the oxygenated blood that ‘vampires’ (as a metaphor) want!
    No Robots can feel this sixth sense!

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About Howard Drake

Howard Drake has served as High Commissioner since June 2013.