Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Another Route To Justice

Those that follow such things will know that proving police brutality is very difficult. Absent video evidence, the police narrative usually is that the one claiming to have been brutalized was in fact the perpetrator, and charges of assault on police almost invariably result.

Such was the situation that Toni Farrell faced when she was viciously assaulted by OPP Sgt. Russell Watson in 2013, a situation I wrote about in January. Russell's 'crime'? She tried to help police find the three men who had viciously assaulted a woman.

Happily, the charge that she assaulted Watson was tossed out by Ontario Court Justice George Beatty, who ruled that she was only being a Good Samaritan. The SIU chose not to investigate Watson, but relented when the story hit the media.

Knowing that if justice is to be achieved, she must pursue it herself, Farrell is suing Watson, the police force and the local police services board for close to $4 million.
Tonie Farrell, 48, “has sustained permanent and serious injuries including, but not limited to, a fractured leg, crushed knee, lost tooth, as well as bruising, spraining, straining and tearing of the muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves throughout her body including her neck and back,” alleges the statement of claim, filed in Newmarket Superior Court in January.

The OPP “knew or ought to have known that Sgt. Watson had a history of using excessive or unwarranted force but failed to take appropriate steps to address the issue,” the statement alleges. “It continued to employ Sgt. Watson when it knew or ought to have known that Sgt. Watson was a danger to the public.”
Farrell's list of grievances is long:
Farrell is demanding $4 million in general, aggravated and punitive damages, and $100,000 in Charter of Rights and Freedoms damages. Her family members are each asking for $100,000 in damages.

The statement alleges Watson “is liable for the tort of battery,” saying he “owed a duty to the plaintiff . . . not to make harmful or offense (sic) physical contact with her in the absence of legal justification or authority.”

It also alleges that he wrongfully arrested Farrell, that he was “negligent in failing to carry out a reasonable investigation,” and was “actively involved” in the “malicious prosecution” of Farrell.

The statement of claim goes on to allege that Watson “caused and continued prosecution against the plaintiff in order to conceal or obfuscate his misconduct; he deliberately misstated the events in his notes in hopes of securing a conviction; he counseled fellow officers to misstate evidence to the court in order to secure a conviction.”
If anyone is able to break through that thick 'blue wall' the police regularly hide behind, I suspect it will be Toni Farrell.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Some Inspiration From A Clear-Thinking Citizen

That's what I derive from Donald Crump's Star letter. It is a shame more of our fellow citizens are not possessed of such critical faculties:

Increasing risk of terror in Canada
When a government starts making decisions based primarily on getting re-elected, with little regard for what is best for the country, we should all take notice. In Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s view, the fact that a majority of voters support his “war on terrorism” is reason enough for his government to increase the risk that terror will come to our shores. I think we have learned since 9/11 that terrorists cannot be defeated through the normal rules that apply to wars between countries. Rather than feeling safer because our Armed Forces are fighting in the Middle East, we now have a large target painted on our country, a target that gets larger and more tempting with each passing day to those who would do us harm.

I understand the political motivation for our leaders to show decisiveness in the face of a threat, but I don’t understand the blind pursuit of a political strategy that can have no outcome other than to make us less safe and secure. If, as Harper professes, the terrorists hate our freedoms, the measures under Bill C-51 to restrict those freedoms seem to be giving ISIS et al. exactly what they want. Coupling that with attempting to bomb them into submission through military excursions that may be illegal if they include Syria is the height of folly — and arrogance — and will inevitably anger those terrorist organizations and motivate more to join them.

For my part, I would rather live my life in freedom, accepting that occasionally bad things will happen. That is the price of being free and is a price we should all be willing to pay. The remote risk that a terrorist act would affect any individual Canadian should not justify a government creating fear and exaggerating that risk.
It’s time for our government and opposition parties to show leadership and consider effective means to combat terrorist organizations rather than knee-jerk revenge measures and totalitarian restrictions on our rights to be free.

David Crump, Toronto

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Quiet Eloquence Of Harry Smith

His is a quiet eloquence that speaks far louder than all the braying our political 'leaders' engage in with abandon. Harry Smith, about whom I previously posted, is a man who has seen much during his long life. He has seen the worst that happens when society treats the majority of its people with contempt, condemning them to short lives of poverty, illness, and despair. He has also seen the best when society recognizes the obligations government has to the less advantaged through the construction of a comprehensive social safety net. It is the latter that he now sees being steadily eroded, as the neoliberal agenda works hard to return us to that earlier time when only the relatively few mattered, the vast majority abandoned to only their own devices and the charity of individuals to sustain them.

The first video is a trailer for his memoir, Harry's Last Stand, which he describes as
"a rallying cry to a younger generation" to fight for a social safety net "that allows every citizen the right to decent housing, advanced education, proper health care, a living wage, and a dignified old age free of want."

Many of these post-war gains, achieved by his generation after the Second World War, are being clawed back, with the poor and middle class losing more and more ground in the face of growing inequality, says Smith.

The second brief video is a stinging indictment of Stephen Harper's agenda which, despite political rhetoric to the contrary, favours the few while disdaining the majority.
In a blistering attack on the Prime Minister, broadcast Saturday at the Broadbent Institute's Progress Summit 2015, the 92-year-old Smith said Harper "has treated veterans with disdain, intimidated scientists, environmentalists, and most importantly the poor," "robbed the vulnerable" and "enriched the 1% at the expense of the 99%."

All disengaged citizens, especially the young, need to hear Harry Smith's message and act upon it.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Mandatory Church Attendance?

I'm sorry. As Johnny Carson used to say, "I do not make these things up, folks, I merely report them."

Click here to play the video.

Perhaps Americans have far more in common with that theocracy in Iran than they realize?

Penetrating The Fog Of War

Today I turn, once again, to Star letter-writers to inspire both sanity and hope in our troubled land:

No ‘middle’ in Mideast war debate, March 25
Prime Minister Stephen Harper bet Canada’s future on oil prices remaining abnormally high. Some economist! Now he is about to order our Armed Forces to take another series of baby steps into that miserable immoral morass known as the Middle East. Why? To distract voters from taking a hard look at his government’s dismal record. History shows banging the drums of war is by far the best way to manipulate people’s emotions. Attacking thoughtful critics for being unpatriotic or cowardly is another ploy used by tyrants and bullies.

Horrendous atrocities have occurred in the Middle East and will continue as long as that region’s despotic quarrelling nations support local terrorist groups. Western governments and their multinational energy corporations have been maliciously meddling in the area for more than a century. If only the seeds of democracy had been planted and nourished during that time. But nobody cared about the ordinary people. The ongoing violence has turned the Arab world into an irrational religious-based kaleidoscope of warring factions. The cradle of civilization is becoming enveloped in a shroud of acrid smoke and the putrid stench of death. Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread.

Lloyd Atkins, Vernon
Harper’s flip-flop on war fits larger pattern of deceit, Column March 26
Haroon Siddiqui speaks volumes when he describes our leader’s ill-conceived venture into Syria. As I flip more pages in the Star and see a country of interracial harmony, I am saddened by the fact that our new generation, which was created by a young nation built with a vision for transparency, peacekeeping and diplomacy, is now relegated to fear mongering and misrepresentation of our foundation.

Peter Keleghan, Toronto

Friday, March 27, 2015

CBC: The Appeasement Continues*

Those who read my blog on a regular basis will know that I have felt disaffected from the CBC for some time. While I am a supporter of public broadcasting and believe in its adequate funding, the CBC's futile policy of appeasing its Conservative overlords has eroded my respect for the institution. As well, the recent imbroglio over Amanda Lang's clear conflict of interest and the Corporation's subsequent whitewash has earned it no brownie points with me.

Over at Canadaland, investigative journalist Jesse Brown has uncovered more damning evidence of decline and rot at the Mother Corp. This time, it has apparently succumbed to outside pressure and scratched from its lineup a documentary entitled Volunteers Unleashed, a program critical of 'voluntourism' that my wife had intended to watch earlier this month. While no explanation was offered, Brown has uncovered that
the reason Volunteers Unleashed was pulled was due to "concerns" raised by Craig Kielburger's Me to We, the for-profit sister company to his Free the Children charity. Me to We pops up a couple of times in Volunteers Unleashed. Kielburger happened to be wrapping a stint as a CBC Canada Reads panelist on the day the doc was set to air.

Officially, CBC says the doc was temporarily pulled due to a "copyright issue" and will be "re-edited and re-scheduled". [In fact, it is rescheduled for April 2] Free the Children similarly told us that it was the CBC's use of "unauthorized footage" that led to their complaint.
Brown also alleges
that Me to We may have also raised the spectre of libel with the CBC over how they were portrayed in the documentary. Kielburger has sued journalists for libel before. We asked both parties if libel came up in this case. Neither answered the question.
The larger issue here, of course, is the very real question of how independent our journalism is.
Free the Children spokesperson Angie Gurley was nevertheless quick to dispel any suggestion that her organization tried to kill a documentary because they didn't like how they came across in it. In fact, she asked us to remove our description of the doc as being critical of their organization.

"No Critical Coverage"

Though Gurley admitted that her camp had not seen the doc, they trusted that "there is no critical coverage of Me to We or We Day in the film" because that's what the CBC told them.

Here is the "unauthorized" footage in question, which we present here under the Fair Dealing exceptions for news reporting and criticism in the Copyright Act. You can judge for yourself if it's critical coverage of We Day or not.

Also, Free the Children's Angie Gurley also told us that the CBC assured her that Volunteers Unleashed "did not include footage of Me to We Trips".

You can see here that this is not true:

Brown asks these pertinent questions:
Exactly how is the footage of We Day or the We to Me Ecuador trip "unauthorized"? CANADALAND has learned that the rights to the We Day footage were licensed from Global TV, and does not belong to Me to We/Free the Children.

Is the CBC going to remove footage of a company scrutinized in their journalism because that company asked them to?
That second question should be answered on April 2. As they say, stay tuned.

* Many thanks to my friend Dave for alerting me to this story.

An Instructional Video

The following has been floating around the Internet for some time, but it warrants renewed circulation, in that it shatters some of the stereotypes about Islam. I would suggest it could edify Prime Minister Harper, but I live in the real world, a world where Canada's leader, for crass political purposes, is intent on demonizing and sowing fears about 'the other' within our midst.

Reza Aslan killed these two "journalists"

You need to watch this! Reza Aslan killed these two "journalists". They weren't able to salvage a shred of dignity because they are simply stupid, ill-informed, racist. Party on CNN!

Posted by Issam Bayan on Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Apparently, The Proof Is Not In The Tasting

Dr. Patrick Moore, a shill lobbyist for Monsanto, refused to put his mouth where his money is when offered the opportunity to prove his claim that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide, has nothing to do with increasing cancer rates in Argentina:
“You can drink a whole quart of it and it won’t hurt you,” Moore insists.

“You want to drink some?” the interviewer asks. “We have some here.”

“I’d be happy to, actually,” Moore replies, adding, “Not really. But I know it wouldn’t hurt me.”

“If you say so, I have some,” the interviewer presses.

“I’m not stupid,” Moore declares.

“So, it’s dangerous?” the interviewer concludes.
You can watch the testy exchange below:

UPDATED: Meanwhile, South Of The Border

Ah yes, that land whose political representatives make our elected reprobates look like shining exemplars. For this edition of The Dark Side, we return to the ongoing saga of Gordon Klingenschmitt (a.k.a. Dr. Chaps), recently elected as a Republican State Legislator in Colorado.

A man with many demons (which he regularly exorcises), in this edition he exploits explores a tragedy wrought by the 'demonic spirit of murder' that, it seems, has provoked God's judgement:

UPDATE: It appears that many Republicans and other right-wingers are disassociating themselves from this crazed evangelical:
“God did not will for this horrific tragedy to happen,” said Sarah Zagorski, who leads the anti-abortion group. “Sadly, Rep. Klingenschmitt’s comments take away from the seriousness of this tragedy and the aftermath Michelle and her family are facing.”
“Gordon does not speak for his caucus,” said Rep. Polly Lawrence, the House assistant minority leader.

“He does not represent the Colorado Republican Party,” said Steve House, chairman of the state GOP, although he pointed out that Klingenschmitt had a First Amendment right express his beliefs.

Several other leading GOP members denounced the lawmaker’s comments, including Laura Carno – who started a Facebook page in January called “Conservatives against Gordon Klingenschmitt” – and former state Rep. Mark Waller, who previously held the same House seat, reported the Denver Post.
I guess you know you are in trouble when even fellow-travellers repudiate you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Meanwhile, In Canada

H/t Anne Montgomery

H/t Michael Nabert

A Solution Lacking Political Will

While reading the following, I found myself pining for the kind of scenario Jerry Ginsburg adumbrates. Then I had my second cup of coffee and reawoke to the prime motivation enveloping our current crop of 'leaders (excepting Elizabeth May): the bald and venal pursuit of power.
Stephen Harper’s Canada is not my Canada. More importantly, it’s not the Canada desired by most Canadians. Two-thirds of us, judging from polls and the last election, don’t want a Canada where policy-making relies on bullying and the suppression of dissent, where military intervention and one-sided bluster have replaced peacemaking as our foreign policy, where core issues like the environment are totally ignored, and where minorities in our community are stigmatized and mocked rather than welcomed into an inclusive, diverse whole.

Many of us are “mad as hell and don’t want to take it anymore.” But unless something changes, Harper’s Canada is the one we’re going to end up with after the next election. Once again the Liberals, NDP, and Greens will divide the opposition vote, and once again the Conservatives will sweep into power with a “majority” representing less than 40 per cent of us. This must not happen again. But how can it be avoided?

Both Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau suggest the answer is obvious: just vote for us. Says Mulcair: “We’re already the Opposition; give us a few more seats and we’ll form the next government.” Says Trudeau: “Look at the polls since I became leader. We’re on our way back, and we’re the only party that can defeat Harper.” The hubris is impressive, but we know where this is headed. Mulcair is not going to be the next PM; he’ll be lucky not to end up third. Trudeau may come closer, but he’s been bleeding support for months, and this trend will, if anything, accelerate once he’s exposed to the harsh light of the campaign. Nonetheless, both men, pushed along by their self-interested party organizations, will valiantly soldier on, pretending mightily that success is imminent. The result will be exactly what the majority of us dread: a split vote leading to the re-election of Harper.

I believe most Canadians would prefer to have our opposition parties come together and form a mature, responsible coalition, one that could compete effectively in the election and govern effectively thereafter. Such a coalition would not necessitate the dismantling of the Liberals, NDP and Greens. Each party could continue to advocate for the policies it views as crucial. But each would also have to make significant compromises in the interest of maintaining a functioning coalition. If such compromises were openly negotiated and clearly explained to the electorate, they would not be vilified but respected as examples of the give-and-take necessary for genuinely democratic government to work.

This might seem hopelessly naive and idealistic. But in fact it’s a reasonable description of how our system could function under proportional representation. No party or coalition of parties with less than 50 per cent popular support would have the power to make policy. Can you imagine it: a Canada where legislation actually reflected the wishes of the majority?

Is it possible a unifying coalition could come about before the next election and allow the majority of Canadians finally to rule? It all depends on whether the Liberals, NDP and Greens can be weaned away from the selfish pursuit of minority power to give voice to an electorate with more parties than its current electoral system can accommodate.

Jerry Ginsburg, Thornhill

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Harry Smith Has Stephen Harper In His Sights

Harry Smith is a man on a mission, one that should put disengaged Canadians to shame.

The 92-year-old long-time activist, who splits his time between Canada and England, is ashamed of what has happened under the rule of Stephen Harper, and plans to make a difference as soon as he returns from the United Kingdom, where he is currently on an extensive speaking tour for Britain's Labour Party, which asked him to be a spokesman in the campaign for the May 7 election.

Smith has become a sensation
for his opinion pieces and memoir Harry's Last Stand, in which he draws parallels between his brutal childhood in the U.K. and where the western world is headed today as government austerity grips many of its countries.
Those experiences, and his memory of what Canada was like in the 1950's when he came here with his family to pursue a better life, have informed a life of activism which now takes the form of opposing austerity and corporate greed.

Here is a brief sample of Smith's early years in Britain in a moving speech he gave last year:

When the British election is over, he plans to replicate his tour in Canada,
in a ''full-tilt'' effort on his part to help oust Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

''He is really, to me, the worst prime minister that ever existed,'' Smith said over the phone from Manchester, pausing for a drink of water. ''Since Harper has come into power, everything has gone downhill. He has one consideration, and that is to let the rich get richer and the poor fend for themselves.''

Smith said the ''epidemic'' of child poverty in Toronto, government service cutbacks, and tax loopholes used by corporations are some of the most concerning threats facing the country today.
The Canada he sees today presents
a stark difference from when he first arrived in Ontario in the 1950s to start anew after serving in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.

''I've seen this province and the rest of the western world slip back to a society that reminds me of my boyhood,'' Smith said. ''Today is starting to have that same edge -- the same cruelty, the same divisions between those that have, and those that have not, that polarized the 1920s.''
When he arrived here, he saw a country offering people real opportunities for establishing themselves, a country where
none of his friends or neighbours had a problem with paying taxes. Most of them, having grown up in the Depression, thought services paid for by taxes were what made the country a safe and good place to live.
That has all changed now,
as corporations and politicians robbed the public of its social safety net, he said.
With that has come a loss of faith in our political institutions.
Smith said he will tour the country in the run-up to the Canadian election, delivering speeches aimed at youth about the perils of austerity and attacks on government services.

He said young people in Canada need to realize their futures are at risk if they don't oust Harper and vote in someone with ''compassion'' who cares about them.
Smith has an especially sharp warning for the young, disengaged among us:
[Y]oung Canadians must be warned their inaction risks the return to an uncivilized, brutish reality -- one festering with poverty and indifference to those drowning in it.
Harry Smith will be returning to Canada soon and
he said he's ''looking forward to seeing the back of that monster,'' Harper.
I, and millions of other Canadians, wish him every success in his campaign.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Full Of Sound And Fury, Signifying Nothing But An Unfitness To Govern

Like one of my favourite Shakespearean creations, Macbeth, the story of a corrupted Scottish king, Stephen Harper's tale unfolds on a landscape that has become increasingly blighted thanks to his diseased leadership. Harper's demagoguery, his total disregard for the moral, social and ethical well-being of Canada, all powerful attestations to his unfitness for the country's leadership, grows more poisonous the closer we come to the next election. A man seemingly without any ethical underpinnings, he exploits every opportunity that presents itself to vilify and condemn, inviting the citizens of our country to participate in his campaigns of hatred and segregation.

Muslims are one of his favourite targets, easy ones given fears about terrorism and the horrific actions of ISIS, an ever-growing group of fanatics who seem to know no bounds whatsoever. And yet, it is the height of stereotyping to conflate such with the overall Muslim population, something Harper does with especial relish.

Zunera Ishaq, in her refusal to doff her niqab for the Canadian citizenship ceremony (which, the laws says, is not necessary) has become an easy target for Harper's vituperation, attended by his claim that the wearing of the niqab is rooted in a 'culture that is hostile to women.' Fortunately, not all Canadians are swept up in Harper's hatred.

As usual, a group that keeps me from total despair, Star letter-writers, offer their reactions to the prime minister's war on the niqab:

Why I plan to wear a niqab at my citizenship ceremony, Opinion March 16
I have thought long and hard about joining the debate on the right of Islamic women to wear the veil for the citizenship ceremony. I cannot remain silent on this matter as we all have to at some point say enough is enough.

First of all, like many non-Muslims and even some Muslims I am uncomfortable with the whole concept of the niqab or burka. However, my discomfort does not give me or anyone else the right to deny anyone to wear them if that is her wish.

The issue in question is not an immigrant demanding that Canada amend its laws to accommodate her views or those of the culture she chose to leave behind. The issue is her asking us to uphold our own law and allow her to take her oath, having already removed her niqab before the judge to establish her identity.
If we allow our uneasiness and fear, which is being stoked by cynical politicians, to allow us to change our laws to trample this woman’s rights, then everyone of us who is different in any way should start looking over his or her shoulder.

When all the Muslims are gone, who will be next?

Denise Irvine-Robertson, Toronto

Tory MPs are kept on very short leashes with their barking restricted to PMO-approved talking points. The recent spate of racist and anti-Muslim comments coming forth from this group appears to be a rather disgusting tactic within Harper’s re-election campaign much like a lawyer who speaks inappropriately before a jury and then withdraws the comment – knowing full well it will be remembered.

These messages are intended to attract, engage and inflame the fearful and prejudiced components of our personalities to motivate us towards voting Conservative. So does Bill C-51 address the radicalization of the Canadian public when it’s committed by MPs and a prime minister?

Randy Gostlin, Oshawa

MP Larry Miller’s inappropriate comments are proof that the veil has finally fallen off the Harper Conservatives hidden agenda. It has been slipping for months as nasty, mean-spirited, bigoted utterances have been made by Conservative caucus members and cabinet ministers.

Harper himself tested the waters with a bigoted comment and when it was cheered by his base Harper, the only economist who thinks one third of anything is most, quickly adopted the mantra that most Canadians agree with him. True to form this chant has been taken up by his cabinet and caucus to support the party policy.

Keith Parkinson, Cambridge

Demanding that a woman take off her niqab during the Canadian citizenship swearing in ceremony offends me deeply. I am a 33-year-old Jewish male. I am proud that Canada is a multi-cultured country. People wear turbans and kippahs and should be proud of their cultural dress.

Philosophically, I don’t love the idea of a niqab, but who am I to judge? I have a thick beard that grows to my eyebrows — my face is technically “covered.” If they have to take off the niqab, I should have to shave.

Many people mistakenly associate the niqab with oppressive Muslim extremists, which elicits fear. But when someone wants to be Canadian, so long as they aren’t harming anyone, they should be accepted for who they are, and what they wear.

Our opinion on their choice of clothing is irrelevant. And if you argue that wearing a niqab is not a choice, just ask Zunera. I’m with her, and offended that this conversation even needs to be had.

David Keystone, Toronto
So 67 per cent of Canadians oppose women wearing the niqab. So what? From time to time, in both personal attitude and public policy, “Canadians” have opposed everything from immigrants to aboriginals to pit bulls to nude beaches – the list is long and embarrassing.

Canada has evolved, with painful slowness, from its elitist, xenophobic roots to a diverse and somewhat tolerant society that was until recently the envy of the world. Now a desperate government is trying to use public opinion polls to drag us back into the dark ages where democracy is equated with majority dictatorship.

Paul Collier, Toronto

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Fear In The Streets? It's What He Wants

Those of us who have been following the machinations of our Machiavellian prime minster know that he seems intent on remaking Canada in his own malevolent image - a land where fear, suspicion, and division prevail, a land where only he and his party deserve the people's electoral trust to keep a panoply of hobgoblins at bay.

Immobilized by Islamophobia? Mr. Harper is on the job, protecting our values from the niqab and fighting ISIS for all that is good and holy. Intimidated by domestic terrorism? Bill C-51 is the answer. Horrified at the prospect of rural renegades? Gun ownership for personal protection is your salvation, intones the Dark Lord. The world is a dark place, and only the strong leadership of Dear Leader can save us from perils too prolific to enumerate.

So goes the official narrative, growing increasingly shrill the closer we come to the next election.

Yet Haroon Siddiqui feels our fears are misplaced. We should be much more wary of Harper's war on truth and transparency. Take, for example, his plan to extend the ISIS mission:
In keeping with the Conservative penchant for saying one thing and doing another, the government is positing the war plan as non-partisan — after having brazenly used the war as a partisan wedge issue to whip up fear, paint critics as terrorist sympathizers (even possibly “a national security threat,” as Greenpeace has been told), and raise funds for the ruling party.
The threat that Islamic terrorists pose to Canada is itself largely a Harper creation:
... the Canadian Security Intelligence Service says that Muslim terrorists are less of a threat than white supremacists. “Lone wolf” attacks are more likely to come from radical right-wingers than radical Islamists.
Harper's fevered campaign attests to the fact that in war (either real or imaginary), truth is the first casualty:
Contrary to facts, Harper links Muslim radicalization with Canadian mosques. And he remains undeterred even though his ban on the niqab during a citizenship ceremony has been tossed out by the Federal Court. He and his acolytes are inventing new rationale on the run: the citizenship oath must be seen to be recited and it should be recited loudly — when there is no such requirement.
The Machiavellian motivation behind his campaign is obvious to those whose intellects allow them to resist the puppet-master's manipulations:
The Conservatives are shameless in using the anti-niqab campaign to raise funds. Similarly, no sooner had Harper told rural Canadians to use guns to protect themselves than the party followed with a fundraising appeal.

Jenni Byrne, the party’s national campaign manager, told potential donors that Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau “want to make life harder for lawful hunters, farmers and sport shooters by bringing back the long-gun registry,” while “opposing everything we do to punish criminals who commit crimes with guns.”
Siddiqui ends his column with this bracing observation and advice, to which I have nothing to add:
The Harperites want us to be terrified of terrorists, niqabis, criminals, thieves, etc. Time for us, in fact, to be terrified of the Harperite bigots, bullies and ideologues.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Understanding Climate Change And Its Impacts In Two Minutes

This two-minute primer shows us how the science of climate change is not, well, rocket science.

An Imperiled Democracy: Civic Illiteracy In Canada

I imagine that bloggers have any number of reasons for doing what they do, ranging from writing as catharsis to sharing information and insights in the hope of informing and/or changing people's views. And while I read a number of blogs on a daily basis that further inform my worldview, I am under scant illusion that our collective efforts have much chance of altering people's perspectives, largely due to the self-selection involved in the reading process. In other words, progressives tend to read progressives' blogs, while regressives reactionaries read the scribblings of fellow travellers. Rarely do the twain meet. The only audience that is 'up for grabs' is the 'mushy middle' and the politically disengaged, neither of whom are likely to be taken with a sudden passion for reading political viewpoints.

So what is the key to having a better-informed citizenry?

In a thoughtful piece at rabble.ca entitled Civic literacy and the assault on Canadian democracy, Murray Dobbins looks back to the time when there was a real appetite for activist governments, a time when people expected government to be a force for the collective good:
That was the so-called golden age of capitalism and it wasn't just because of expanding government services. It was so-called because of a much broader and well-informed citizen engagement -- both through social movements and as individual citizens.
That time, of course, has been replaced with one that emphasizes fear and economic insecurity, ably stoked by a regime that pays little but lip service to the notion of citizenship while systematically dismantling the very underpinnings of what makes a democracy healthy, even vibrant.
It's not just the institutions that are vulnerable, though they certainly are. It's a familiar list, including Harper's bullying of Governor General Michaëlle Jean to force the proroguing of the House, his guide book on how to make parliamentary committees ineffective, the use of robo-calls and other election dirty tricks, his attempt to break the rules in appointing a Supreme Court judge and his neutering the House of Commons question period through a deliberate strategy of refusing to answer questions -- a practice that institutionalizes a contempt for Parliament that spreads outward to the general public. At a certain point it doesn't matter who is responsible -- the institution itself becomes risible and irrelevant to ordinary citizens. Which is, of course, exactly what Harper intends.
But, Dobbins points out, such nefarious actions do not take place in a vacuum. At least in theory, democracy
rests on the foundation of the voting public. The extent to which the institutions of democracy can be assaulted and eroded with impunity is directly proportional to the level of civic literacy. The lower it is, the easier it is for malevolent autocrats like Harper to abuse his power.
"I'm not interested in politics" is indeed sweet music to the ears of autocrats like Harper.

The growing basis for our culture is not community or co-operation but conspicuous consumption and possessive individualism, asserts Dobbins, making Harper's dismantling of our institutions all the easier.

So what is to be done? When we could trust government to do the right things, we could afford to be minimally engaged. That time is long gone.
But when a politician suddenly appears on the scene willing to systematically violate democratic principles as if they simply don't apply to him, then the demand for increased civic literacy is just as suddenly urgent and critical. Yet it is not something that can be accomplished easily or quickly. Three sources come to mind: schools, the media and civil society organizations and activity.
Despite the best efforts of teachers and their unions over the decades, civic literacy is extremely low on the curriculum totem pole in Canadian schools. Provincial governments have resisted such pressures, which should hardly come as a surprise. There is a built-in bias in a hierarchical, capitalist society against critical thinking -- precisely because in liberal democracies the over-arching role of government is to manage capitalism with a view to maintaining it along with all its inherent inequalities. Having too many critical thinkers is not helpful.
The Media
The media, of course, are largely responsible for helping put Stephen Harper in power. Ever since the Machiavellian Conrad Black bought up most of Canada's dailies, they have been used (by him and his successors) as an explicit propaganda tool for the dismantling of the post-war democratic consensus. While there are some tentative signs that they now recognize they've created a monster (Globe editorials criticizing the PM on a number of issues like C-51) it's a little late. Twenty-five years of telling people there is no alternative to unfettered capitalism has had a pernicious effect on both democracy and civic literacy.
Civil Society Oragnizations
...despite their objective of informing people about the myriad issues we face, here, too, the model falls short of significantly expanding the base of engaged, informed citizens. Ironically, much of the defensive politics of the left are the mirror image of Harper's reliance on fear (of Muslims, criminals, niqabs, terrorists, environmentalists, unions, the CBC) to energize his base. We peddle more mundane but substantive fears -- of losing medicare, of climate change, of higher tuition fees, of unprotected rivers and streams and dirty oil.
Dobbin concludes that we must look elsewhere for inspiration, specifically to the Scandinavian countries, where informed citizens are not easily manipulated by fear and their level of trust in government remains high.
"Swedish prime minister Olof Palme once said that he preferred to think of Sweden not as a social democracy but as a 'study-circle democracy.' The idea … is associated most of all with the efforts of the ABF (the Workers' Educational Association). …The ABF offers courses in organizing groups and co-operatives, understanding media, and a broad range of contemporary issues, as well as languages, computers, art, music, and nature appreciation."

There were 10 other groups doing study circles -- many of them subsidized by the government. Half of all Swedish adults were involved in them.
Much work needs to be done to reinvigorate our democracy and reengage our citizens. Articles such as Dobbin's only represent the start of what will be a long and very difficult process.

And time is very short.

Friday, March 20, 2015

More About That Gun Thing, Mr. Harper

Despite Stephen Harper's strong warnings last year about its dangers, two professors of criminology have thrown caution to the wind and 'committed sociology.'

In today's Star, Irvin Waller and Michael Kempa use that dark art to question Mr. Harper's recent professed enthusiasm for the use of guns as personal protection, especially in rural areas.

The professors assert that the facts, never especially useful to an ideologue like Harper, suggest otherwise:
In Canada, home invasions and violent assaults by strangers in rural areas are so rare that they are virtually unrecorded and unreported threats.

And random gun violence is only slightly more likely in urban areas. A quick glance at our recent police data confirms 505 homicides last year for our whole country of 35 million.

More importantly, of the 131 murders with a gun, 85 were gang-related shootings, which by definition do not occur in our typical rural communities. So you are left with 46 gun murders or less than 10 per cent of the total. There are few occasions where guns are likely to be useful for self-defence.
Beyond those indisputable facts, however, lies another element that makes Mr. Harper's demagoguery dangerous:
Suggesting that gun owners have their weapons ready for self-defence will encourage rural Canadians to break our laws requiring ammunition and guns to be stored separately. These laws are important because it is well-known that storing loaded weapons increases the suicides, accidents and murders that occur in emotional situations, especially in those tragic cases involving domestic violence.
Another statistic shows the folly of having loaded weapons readily available:
Nearly nine out of 10 Canadian homicide victims are killed by someone they know, too often their distraught spouse or separated partner. By loading up more guns, Canadians can expect to have more innocent victims killed, not fewer houses invaded by strangers.
Towards the end of their piece, Waller and Kempa commit full-bore sociology:
Rather than take the easy path of following some of the U.S.’s worst gun failures, rural safety in Canada would profit most through developing crime and violence reduction programs that have been proven through mostly American research. Massive databases of program evaluation results confirm that sensible prevention approaches that provide non-violent conflict resolution training in schools and community centres protect two of the most over-victimized groups in our society: women and youth.
Clearly, their words will be lost on a heart as densely obdurate as Harper's. One can only hope that there are sufficient numbers of Canadians who have not been infected with the prime minister's dark visions and philosophy and recognize his ideology as the true danger stalking all of us.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Work In Progress

The website SHD (Shit Harper Did) is currently completing a documentary looking into Canada's surveillance programs. Now in post-production, it is seeking donors to help complete the process. If you would like to contribute, you can click here.

Following is a trailer of their work:

About That Gun Thing, Mr. Harper

Yesterday, I wrote about Prime Minister Harper hitting upon yet another red-meat issue, this one potentially quite dangerous, over which his base can salivate. He suggested that guns are an important part of personal safety, especially in rural areas.

Two letters in today's Globe suggest not everyone with rural experience embrace Mr. Harper's twisted vision.

PM, gun control
As one who resides in a rural area and has guns, the concept of having them for my safety has never been something I’ve thought about (Provocation, Pandering And Prejudice – March 17). I suppose if that were the case and I were truly worried about my safety, instead of locking them up and storing the ammunition separately, loaded guns would lying all over the place. It’s hard to believe that this is what Stephen Harper had in mind. Instead, chalk the comments up to the mouth moving faster than the brain.

Jeff Spooner, Kinburn, Ont.


My father spent his early days on granddad’s horse ranch in the Cypress Hills where the ethic was to keep one’s doors open, whether at home or not, for anyone who needed shelter and a meal.

Americans across the border had a different approach. Our gunslinger PM wants seems to want to bring gun violence north.

Jerry Thompson, Ottawa

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

There Is No Depth To Which He Won't Sink

It is well-known that Stephen Harper is in constant election mode, ever in search of issues that will further divide Canadians as he makes almost exclusive appeal to his base. His positions on climate change, Mulsim dress habits, provincial relations or a whole host of other issues serve only an agenda that invites discord, quarrel, contempt and dismissal of all concerns other than his own.

Just when you thought he couldn't sink any further, the putative prime minister has achieved a new low. Disgust and outrage do not adequately convey what I feel about this:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, after years of cautiously linking gun ownership to farmers and duck hunters, now says firearms are needed by rural Canadians for their own security so they can shoot people who pose a danger.

Harper’s comments are being promoted by the Conservatives’ election campaign manager, [Jenni Byrne] who says she is “proud” of how Harper said gun ownership is “important for safety for those of us who live a ways from immediate police assistance.” But a spokesman for the Canadian Bar Association is urging people to realize that they do not have an automatic right to defend themselves at home with a gun, and that they could end up facing criminal charges.
Never one to miss an opportunity, the Conservative party is distributing fund-raising emails that include Harper's remarks equating gun ownership to personal protection. And those remarks are being very well-received in some quarters. NFA president Sheldon Clare thinks what Harper said is just peachy:
On Monday, the National Firearms Association (NFA) applauded Harper for making a statement that was “long overdue.” The association said all Canadians — rural and urban — should have a clear right to use firearms to defend themselves against an intruder who breaks into their home.
Fortunately, not everyone embraces the concept of vigilante justice:
Eric Gottardi, chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s criminal justice section, rejected the notion Monday evening that Canadians have the legal right to defend their homes with a gun.

“Deadly force through the use of a gun would never be justified unless that situation turned into one that was life-threatening. And at that point, you’re really talking about self defence.”

“At 3 a.m., if someone is breaking into your house, you might think that your life is in danger. But the reality is that if it’s an unarmed intruder and you blow them away, you’re going to be arrested for murder.”
Others weighed in as well:
Wendy Cukier, president of the Coalition for Gun Control, reacted in an emailed statement to the Citizen.

“The Prime Minister seems to be implying firearms are used for personal protection against criminals which is not the usual purpose for having firearms in rural areas and is at odds with safe storage requirements that only allow guns to be unlocked if there is reason to assume that there is an imminent threat,” she wrote
Wayne Easter, Liberal public safety critic,
said Monday that this is not the message Canadians should hear from their prime minister.

“One thing that police always say is, ‘Do not take justice into your own hands”.

“That position has done Canadians well throughout time and it’s a position we should maintain. What Harper’s statement could lead to is (that) the prime minister is almost saying vigilante justice is fine.”
Clare, of the NFA, has an accurate take on Harper's ploy, for which he utters praise:
“We think it’s really something that he is well aware is an issue with people who would normally vote Conservative. I think he is reading his mail. I think he’s getting the message that people are concerned about defence as a fundamental right.”
"Unfit to govern" seems far too mild an assessment of this malevolent presence polluting the Canadian landscape.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Some Much Deserved Mockery


Resisting The Fashion Fascists

If his shrill demagoguery is any indication, I suppose Herr Harper and his regime can be considered to be at war with Islam; the latter's offences range from embracing jihadism to being a culture that, according to our self-appointed fascist fashionista, is 'anti-women.'

In that war, Zunera Ishaq is what we might consider a resistance fighter. You will recall that the Pakistani woman and devout Sunni Muslim who is seeking Canadian citizenship, while willing to remove her niqab to an official before taking the citizenship test, wanted to remain veiled for the swearing-in ceremony. A federal judge overturned the ban on her veil, but the Harper regime is appealing the decision, while at the same time eagerly fanning the flames of intolerance to better reach his base.

In today's Star, Zunera Ishaq offers her perspective on the issue:
I am Zunera Ishaq. I am a mother. I am university educated. I believe that the environment needs saving and I try to do my part by joining campaigns to plant trees. Chasing my boys in the snow is one of the things I love most about winter. I believe we should strive to give back to others, and for me that means volunteering: at women’s shelters, for political candidates or at schools.

I also wear a niqab. And according to my prime minister, that is all you need to know about me to know that I am oppressed.

It’s precisely because I won’t listen to how other people want me to live my life that I wear a niqab. Some of my own family members have asked me to remove it. I have told them that I prefer to think for myself.
Ishaq, who has removed her niqab on every occasion that required facial identification (airport security, driver's licence, etc.) offers a spirited defense of her decision:
I will not take my niqab off at that same ceremony for the sole reason that someone else doesn’t like it, even if that person happens to be Stephen Harper.

I am not looking for Mr. Harper to approve my life choices or dress. I am certainly not looking for him to speak on my behalf and “save” me from oppression, without even ever having bothered to reach out to me and speak with me.
Had Harper asked why she wears the niqab, he might have learned a few things that would have challenged his rigid intolerance:
I would have told him that it was a decision I took very seriously after I had looked into the matter thoroughly. I would tell him that aside from the religious aspect, I like how it makes me feel: like people have to look beyond what I look like to get to know me. That I don’t have to worry about my physical appearance and can concentrate on my inner self. That it empowers me in this regard.
In her article, Zunera Ishaq emerges as a thoughtful and independent thinker. As we know, those qualities, while normally real assets, are seen as most unwelcome obstacles in Harperland.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Has Mr. Harper's Niqab's Misdirection Worked?

You decide.

H/t Michael Nabert

Meanwhile, Bruce Anderson wonders about the implications for our democracy in Mr. Harper's pontifications on what women should and should not wear.
Stephen Harper says covering your face is concealing, not expressing, a “Canadian” identity. He didn’t argue that it was a security threat. He was saying that if this is how you express your personal values, it’s not Canadian enough for his tastes.

Initially his comments were focused on the citizenship ceremony. But he has since wandered further, hazardously afield.

The problem, he says, is that the practice of wearing a niqab is rooted in a culture that is “anti-women.” He appeared to be generalizing about the Muslim faith. His reference was not specific to the Taliban or the Islamic State, or any radical faction.

His point was that those who cover their faces are not making a choice of their own free will – but are victims of subjugation.

You don’t have to be a Muslim to wonder if this line of commentary from a Prime Minister is a healthy development in our democracy.

I Start To Worry

This is, I believe, the second time in recent weeks that I have agreed with Rex Murphy. You see my problem.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

About The "Harper Gestapo Act" And Other Prime Ministerial Fear Mongering

I would feel much more hopeful about October's election if I believed this kind of critical thinking were common among our fellow citizens:

Re: Tory rhetoric defies belief, Editorial March 12
Re: Terror a diversionary tactic, Letter March 12

As a Canadian-born Jew I am offended at Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney’s use of the Holocaust to justify his government’s draconian and vicious terror legislation, Bill C-51.
The roots of the Holocaust are to be found in the German government’s manipulation of hatred and fear of an ethic and religious minority that was seen by the government as a threat to the nation’s economic well-being and to the cultural and ethical values of the German people.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government are using words — not only in the media, but in the very laws of Canada — to attack members of a religious minority.
The government’s rhetoric for writing and then defending Bill C-51 by its constant referral to jihadists and now to the Holocaust reeks of the crematoriums and echoes of jackboots smashing a human face.

Howard Tessler, Toronto

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney has it backwards. The Holocaust was started by casting dispersions on an ethnic minority and blaming them for all the problems in the country and if only they were pure like us we wouldn’t have to rid the country of them; and eventually the world. The propaganda of hate came first and then the Holocaust.

Allan McPherson, Newmarket

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney is right in his assertion that the Holocaust began with words. However, it began with the Nazi government’s words, with a propaganda campaign of lies about “the threat from within” to the German nation from Jews and other minorities.

Once it had unleashed a torrent of words to divide a fearful nation, it passed legislation that day by day stripped German citizens of basic freedoms, including the right to free speech and equal protection under the law.

When our government resorts to this kind of false analogy in order to promote its proposed security legislation, we have reason to question not only the legislation itself, but also the very assumptions on which these proposals are based.

Let no Canadian be misled by the old bromide: “It can’t happen here.”

Rabbi Arthur Bielfeld, Toronto

I think that it should be called the “Harper Gestapo Act,” because that’s what it simply is.

G. Burns, Oshawa

Friday, March 13, 2015

Harper To Muslims: Prove You Are With Us

That certainly is the implication given the tone that Diane Ablonczy takes with National Council of Canadian Muslims executive director Ihsaan Gardee during hearings on Bill C-51. As you will see, however, the latter eloquently and quite effectively denounces the spirit of McCarthyism behind Ablonczy's question:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Meanwhile, On the Back Nine

When this happens, do you still have to yell "Fore'?

Philip Junop Has An Important Message

If we truly love our country, it is one we all should heed:
Life in Canada has been good to me as I approach my 60th birthday. A loving and carefree childhood in scenic, small town Ontario, a good education that led to a steady, decent paying job and a happy, healthy family I am forever grateful for, are some of the realities responsible for my contentment.

Yet, the one ingredient in my life that has been a constant source of pride and delight is that I am Canadian, living in what I consider to be the greatest country in the world. That was until Stephen Harper came along to obliterate that notion.

Paying a little less in taxes every year as we watch our beloved country slide deeper into a Harper-greased pit of Conservative-style totalitarianism is simply not acceptable.

If you have even a trace of the same sadness in your heart and fear in the pit of your stomach for Canada that I do, this coming election will be the most important you will ever vote in.

Philip Junop, Newmarket

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

UPDATED: The Latest Example Of Tory Contempt For The Electorate

This is the 'poll' Conservative MP Lawrence Toet is sending out to his Winnipeg constituents:

Federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair said on Wednesday the survey reflects a viewpoint pervasive in Conservative circles.

“It's the same approach as Stephen Harper. It's the same approach as Vic Toews, you know: ‘You're with us or against us; you can stand with us or stand with the pedophiles,’" he said.

“It's the same ludicrous divisive approach that the Conservatives have been taking for years. Canadians deserve better."
For me, what is most noteworthy here is what the tactic says about a government that thinks it can so egregiously, shamelessly and crassly manipulate the public.

UPDATE: It seems many Canadians are outraged, if their reddit mockery of Toet's mailout is any indication. Here are a couple of their suggested poll themes:
Do you believe the Keystone pipeline is in Canada's best interests?

Yes! It will create thousands of jobs.
No! I am an environmental terrorist and should be put in prison.

Will you be voting for Stephen Harper next election?

Yes, I want Canadians to be safe.
No, I like ISIS.

Are you: A) Conservative? B) Wrong?

Mary Walsh Shreds Stephen Harper

Really. Literally. But enquiring Conservative minds (if that is not a contradiction in terms) will want to know if she qualifies as a terrorist under Bill C-51:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

If Only Our Politicians Felt This Sense Of Shame

Perhaps it's time to send Pamela Wallin and Diane Finley to obedience school?

Human Rights And The Politics Of Fear

When Alex Neve, longtime Secretary General of the Canadian branch of Amnesty International, speaks, people should listen. He and his organization have now weighed in on Bill C-51, the 'anti-terror' bill being promoted with such relish by Stephen Harper and his acolytes. It is a bill, Neve and many others contend, that will seriously erode human rights and freedoms in the name of national security. Its powers will far exceed anything necessary.

Neve's position is best summed up this way:
Human rights do not stand in the way of security that is universal, durable and inclusive. Human rights are in fact the very key.
And it is these human rights that are being most seriously compromised by the terms of the bill.
In C-51 we are faced with a set of brand new and significantly revised national security laws that could undermine human rights more insidiously than at any time since the October 1970 invocation of the War Measures Act.
Among Amnesty's many concerns:
- Bill C-51 authorizes Federal Court judges to approve, in secret hearings, CSIS threat-reduction activities that would violate the Charter of Rights

- [T]hese threat-reduction powers can be carried out anywhere in the world. If outside Canada, the bill instructs judges simply to disregard foreign laws when issuing warrants.

- The bill does not specify what CSIS agents are allowed to do in the name of reducing security threats (notably the definition of threats goes far beyond terrorism to include protests and blockades that are not considered lawful).

- We do know that CSIS agents can’t kill, commit bodily harm, pervert justice or violate sexual integrity. That is reassuring, one supposes. But what of all the human rights violations that aren’t on that no-go list?
When added to all the other warnings sounded about this insidious legislation, it is clear that there is much to be concerned about here. Yet, as with all such dissenting views, expect Stephen Harper to treat Neve's concerns with disdainful dismissal.

For the sake of our basic rights and freedoms, it is an attitude the rest of us can ill afford to embrace.

Monday, March 9, 2015

But Can He Heal Himself?

That well-known metaphysician to the fundamentalist Christian soul, 'Doctor' Pat Robertson, prescribes some strong medicine to combat an infectious workplace agent:

If You Had Any Doubts About The RCMP...

Look no further for confirmation of the federal force's politicization than a piece written by that 'environmental extremist' David Suzuki in the Chronicle Herald.

In the article, Suzuki makes reference to the secret RCMP report, obtained by Greenpeace, that
both minimizes the threat of global warming and conjures a spectre of threats posed by people who rightly call for sanity in dealing with problems caused by burning fossil fuels.
The report echoes the kind of fraught language of Bill C-51, which many allege will intrude upon legitimate dissent, given its own worrisome authorization of CSIS
to prevent any person or group from “undermining the security of Canada,” including “interference with critical infrastructure” and the “economic or financial stability of Canada.”
Note the language of the RCMP report (I have italicized key words):
The RCMP report specifically names Greenpeace, Tides Canada and the Sierra Club as part of “a growing, highly organized and well-financed anti-Canada petroleum movement that consists of peaceful activists, militants and violent extremists who are opposed to society’s reliance on fossil fuels.” The report downplays climate change, calling it a “perceived environmental threat” and saying members of the “international anti-Canadian petroleum movement claim that climate change is now the most serious global environmental threat and that climate change is a direct consequence of elevated anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions which, reportedly, are directly linked to the continued use of fossil fuels.” It also makes numerous references to anti-petroleum and indigenous “extremists”.
One can legitimately ask whether the obvious editorializing in the report is appropriate. As well, one can wonder whether it is mere coincidence that its language of doubt echoes the obdurate climate-change skepticism of the Harper government.
Language in the RCMP report and Bill C-51 leaves open the possibility that the act and increased police and CSIS powers could be used against First Nations and environmentalists engaging in non-violent protests against pipelines or other environmentally destructive projects.
As University of Ottawa law professor Craig Forcese points out, with its reference to “foreign-influenced activities within or relating to Canada that are detrimental to the interests of Canada,” the anti-terrorism law could be used in the case of a “foreign environmental foundation funding a Canadian environmental group’s secret efforts to plan a protest (done without proper permits) in opposition to the Keystone Pipeline Project.” Considering that government ministers have already characterized anti-pipeline protesters as “foreign-funded radicals”, that’s not a stretch. The RCMP could consider my strong support for greenhouse gas emissions reductions and renewable energy as “anti-petroleum”.
None of this is really either shocking or new to those of us who have followed the machinations of the Harper regime over the years. Harper's intolerance of dissenting views, his contempt for democratic principles, and his 'narrowcasting' of policy are all of a piece with the provisions of Bill C-51 and are amply reflected in the doctrinal orientation of our national police force.

We only have one more chance to put Canada on a more balanced keel, and that chance comes in October.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

We Have The Technology

Outside of politics, my other passion is the environment, something we continue to degrade at unprecedented rates. The biggest threat to humanity's future, of course, is climate change. While the vested interests would have us all believe that there are no practical or large-scale alternatives to our fossil fuel addiction, incrementally we are reaching the stage where it is possible to drastically reduce our carbon emissions if we have the will. Here is one such story:
Normally, landfill sites and paper mills are targets for environmental groups but things are different, in Thorold.
“We really got into it because of odour control. Obviously don’t want to annoy our neighbours any more than we need to” says Mike Watt from Walker Environmental Group. And so what they got into instead was green energy. The huge landfill site generates hundreds of thousands of tons of natural methane gas each year, from decomposing garbage. Almost half of that methane is carbon dioxide – greenhouse gas, that used to go into the environment. Now, a large portion of it, goes into a pipeline instead. “If you eliminated 79 -80 thousand cars that would have the same impact as this project has, so it’s a pretty big impact.” says Mr. Watt
You can watch the video by clicking here.

It Could Happen To You

Although the narration is at times melodramatic, the message of this video is clear: trusting government to respect your privacy is a naive notion.

H/t Occupy Canada and Operation Maple

Friday, March 6, 2015

Thursday, March 5, 2015

It's Official: Trying To Protect Your Privacy Can Lead To Criminal Charges

Are Canadians really okay with this?
A Quebec man charged with obstructing border officials by refusing to give up his smartphone password says he will fight the charge.

The case has raised a new legal question in Canada, a law professor says.

Alain Philippon, 38, of Ste-Anne-des-Plaines, Que., refused to divulge his cellphone password to Canada Border Services Agency during a customs search Monday night at Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

Philippon had arrived in Halifax on a flight from Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. He's been charged under section 153.1 (b) of the Customs Act for hindering or preventing border officers from performing their role under the act.

According to the CBSA, the minimum fine for the offence is $1,000, with a maximum fine of $25,000 and the possibility of a year in jail.
And the most chilling aspect of this, perhaps, is that it is entirely unrelated to the massive abrogation of privacy and citizen rights that Bill C-51 will make possible.

UPDATED: A Comforting Illusion Shattered

When it comes to massive intrusions by the state, the kind reflected in legislation like Bill C-51, people frequently rationalize their acceptance and passivity by this comforting fiction: "I don't have anything to hide; I'm not a terrorist, so why should I worry?"

A story of one family's unpleasant experience may prove instructional in challenging that complacence.
Firas Al-Rawi, an emergency room doctor at Toronto General Hospital, said he booked the Family Day holiday trip [to Disney World] in early December so his wife and children could join him at a professional conference in Orlando that week. The family had taken numerous trips to the United States by air and car without incident.

"My kids were so excited, and they were counting down the days for the trip,” said Al-Rawi, 48, an Iraqi who immigrated to Canada with his family in 2006 via Qatar, where he and his wife, Asmaa Ahmed, both worked as physicians. They and their children are all citizens who hold Canadian passports.
Alas, the trip was not to be:
The Al-Rawis became part of the 330 or more travellers a day who are refused entry to the United States under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, which gives border officials the right to refuse admission of non-Americans — including Canadian citizens.
The apparent grounds for their inadmissibility appears to be that they are Muslims:
According to the National Council of Canadian Muslims, 14 per cent of the 182 human rights complaints it received between 2011 and 2013 involved travel restrictions to the U.S.
After being fingerprinted and photographed at the check-in counter, Al-Rawi said, they were asked to go for a secondary inspection.

As his family waited in a public area, Al-Rawi said he was questioned about the purpose of his visit, his employment and his family trips in 2014 to Qatar and Dubai.

“We didn’t really mind if it was a random check, given the typical screening with what’s happening with ISIS (the terrorist Islamic State group). We had nothing to hide,” he said. “But we were not prepared for the rest of it. We were stressed, not knowing what was going on.”

After a 10-minute interview, Al-Rawi said he and his family were fingerprinted and photographed again before uniformed officers came to inspect their suitcases.

During the inspection, the family said, their electronics — one iPhone, two MacBooks and three iPads — were confiscated, and they were ordered to provide passwords so officials could unlock the devices.
The reason given to the family for refusal was that U.S. officials did not think they would return to Canada, despite the fact that Al-Rawi spent more than five years working to earn an Ontario medical licence and restart his stalled practice in Canada.

Of course, entry to another country is not an automatic right, but the fact that the refusal amounts to a denial of natural justice is disconcerting:
United States Customs and Border Protection refused to comment on the Al-Rawi incident, but said travellers are responsible for proving their innocence.
Think about that - guilty unless proven innocent.

So what does any of this have to do with legislation that curtails one's civil liberties? It is, I suspect, a peek at what may be ahead for anyone who takes his or her citizenship responsibilities seriously and holds to them tenaciously, despite the kind of conformity that Bill C-51 will promote.

Of course, there will be other comforting illusions we can fall back on to discount the experiences of the Al-Rawi family: I'm a citizen (but isn't the entire Al-Rawi family as well?), I'm not a Muslim (Should that be a barrier?) I don't have a foreign-sounding name (Congrats! You won the birth lottery there).

But how long will it be before we have to come up with additional disclaimers, such as I have never joined an environmental protest, I have never stood up for any cause, I have never written a letter of criticism of my government, etc. etc.

Congratulations, Unknown Citizen, for living what will have been a wholly unexamined life.

UPDATE: if you think Canadian Border Services is more respectful of privacy, think again and click here.

A Little Perspective, Please

Are we losing all perspective on the threats posed by terrorism? While there is no doubt that all perils to public safety need to be taken seriously (yes, even those posed by pipeline ruptures that Enbridge seems to treat as state secrets), one cannot escape the conclusion that the Harper regime sees it in their best electoral interests to convince us that we cannot go about our daily lives without a massive surrending of freedoms, à la Bill C-51.

Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who leaked classified information, suggests we need to get a little perspective.

In an online chat with Ryerson students yesterday, he had this to say about the Harper bill:
The former National Security Agency employee said only Canadians can decide on whether C-51 is a good or bad bill, but “Canadian intelligence has one of the weakest oversight frameworks out of any western intelligence agency.”

In Canada, terrorism kills fewer people than lightning strikes and it is extraordinarily rare, Snowden said.

“No matter what we do, no matter what laws we pass, we cannot throw away all of our rights, all of our liberties, all of our traditional freedoms because we are afraid of rare instances of criminal activity,” he said.
Snowden sees Canada going down the same pernicious route as the United States, asserting that C-51 is
just like the U.S. Patriot Act, the law passed following the 9-11 terrorist attacks to bolster the powers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Under Bill C-51, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service would gain police-like powers to “disrupt” threats to Canada — including, but not limited to, terrorist threats.
Despite the fact that most people are innocent,
the freedoms and liberties people enjoy are being changed without their consent, Snowden added.
I think we can all rest assured that Snowden's warnings will go completely unheeded by the Harper regime.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Salamander Has Some Questions

The Salamander has been doing a lot of thinking, and has some questions. Read his post, and feel free to weigh in:

.. the other day, I was thinking about 'the Base' ..
that unusual group of committed voters for Stephen Harper..
plus truly fervent media.. Lilley, Levant et al
wondering what caused their odd shrill partisan malady

And I was also thing about the Harper apparatus - Party & Government
and the retinue of PMO, lawyers, RoboCall vendors, pollsters etc etc
and beyond belief wealthy corporate partners & think tanks
you know, the folks that truly benefit from their complicity

And then I thought about the rest of Canada.. voters, people, kids, elders etc
and within that group I guess falls Trudeau & Mulcair, May et al
all with some sort of perspective or belief in what exactly Canada stands for
province to province, urban rural, young old, employed or unemployed etc

I can't claim any blinding insight came from that particular thinking session
it was really just musing to myself on how laughable or insane the reality is..

I asked myself some simple questions though.. about what defines Canadians
now.. like right now.. A majority of Canadians.. and to a certain extent..
eligible voter Canadians.. When they vote.. what drives that decision?
Or even if not voting, what drives their perception of Canada
and their perception of the politics or politicians currently serving Canadians..
You know.. as elected public servants.. or paid public servants ?

I plan to write a 'rant' .. like the 'I am Joe' kind of rant..
and I want to write it correctly.. because I'm not Joe.. I'm me
and I want the rant to speak to and speak for current Canadians

And if I can't exactly put my thumb on what describes all Canadians
or what the particular dreams, needs or wishes of each or all Canadians are ..
I certainly want to identify what I'm certain they do not want or believe in..
as well as the issues or action or realities that give them pause, fear & doubts

I get that Canadians may not support Trudeau, Mulcair, Ms May etc
as being a clear improvement over Mr Harper & his record or promises
and that bothers me.. It really truly scares me, as a Canadian..
That we have no obvious and clear alternative to a despicable flailing government

How can this be? That we must even contemplate such a catastrophic failure?

I'll think on this some more.. work on my rant..
and hope Duffy & Harper's key associates' testimonies
at the very least send the toxic government, party and apparatus packing

Details. Mere Details

H/t We Don't Want This

The most egregious, anti-democratic elements of Harper's terror Bill C-51 are the following:

-jail for 5 years if someone posts anything counter to the government and that could be interpreted as a terrorist posting in general;

-secret trials;

-indefinite detention without charge;

-sharing of information between all departments of government without concern for privacy;

-secret police;

-no civilian oversight;

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I see that the Commons anti-terror committee, a majority of whom are Conservatives, will not be permitting testimony from Joe Clark, John Turner, Jean Chrétien or Paul Martin, all four former prime ministers who have publicly criticized Bill C-51. Some things (actually, many things) are unforgivable in Harperland, I guess.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

And Speaking Of Profound Stupidity

...not to mention rabid partisanship, watch another Harper MP disgrace herself:

I wonder how well any of this sits with Cheryl Gallant's riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. Don't those constituents, like the ones living in James Lunney's riding, deserve better?

Could It Be A Virus?

Stupidity, it has been said, is contagious, and one has to wonder whether a particularly virulent virus is running through the Conservative tent these days. First there was Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP Rick Nicholls suggesting that evolution shouldn't be taught in schools, as he doesn't believe in it. Now comes word of similar sentiments on the part of one of his federal cousins, B.C. Conservative MP James Lunney.

Coming to the defense of his fellow fundamentalist, Lunney tweeted:
"[Just] stop calling #evolution fact!" tweeted Lunney, who said he had no problem calling it a "theory."
A man clearly comfortable in his own skin and not afraid to parade his profound ignorance, Lunney made this statement to the House in 2009:
"Any scientist who declares that the theory of evolution is a fact has already abandoned the foundations of science. For science establishes fact through the study of things observable and reproducible. Since origins can neither be reproduced nor observed, they remain the realm of hypothesis," he said then.

"The evolutionist may disagree, but neither can produce Darwin as a witness to prove his point. The evolutionist may genuinely see his ancestor in a monkey, but many modern scientists interpret the same evidence in favour of creation and a Creator."
Like many of his benighted ilk, Lunney is also deeply suspicious of claims made about climate change:
Last year he tweeted "Science settled? Think again!" and posted a link to an article by a University of Guelph economist who is one of the signatories of a declaration disputing climate change.
But wait! As they say, there's more!

As reported last year in The Huffington Post, Linney signed An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming:
"We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception. Recent global warming is one of many natural cycles of warming and cooling in geologic history."
The declaration went on to say,
We deny that carbon dioxide—essential to all plant growth—is a pollutant. Reducing greenhouse gases cannot achieve significant reductions in future global temperatures, and the costs of the policies would far exceed the benefits."
Oh, and one more thing. Lunney's disdain for science extends to vaccines with this discredited notion:
In a 2004 speech in the House of Commons, Lunney cited figures he said showed a tenfold increase in the incidence of autism and said Canada should explore a link to vaccines.
It is said that people get the government they deserve. Somehow, I can't help but think that the residents of Nanaimo—Alberni deserve much, much better than what this man has to offer.