“A proof is a proof”

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s humorous and pointed response in 2002 to media questions about when – or how – he might be satisfied that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction or was linked to terrorism.

At first shocked then perhaps bemused, he said “a proof is a proof and when you have a good proof, it’s because it’s proven.” Chrétien never got his proof, apparently, because Canada never went to war against Iraq, as the U.S. and Britain did six months later.

Years later, a similar battle over facts played out during the COVID-19 crisis. And as was the case with Chrétien’s retort in 2002, context is important in 2020 to understand what comprises a proof. 

In a social media-soaked era – when many people claim that all opinions are equally valid and that facts are not always facts – one might reasonably ask if we will ever have proof of anything again? 

Like the American judge who once said of pornography that he would “know it when I see it”, for some, proof has become malleable and subjective in policy debates.

Image Source: CBC

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