Posts Tagged CDNPoli
(Monia Mazigh Human Rights Advocate and Author Best Known For Her Advocacy of Her Husband Maher Arar Responds to Omar Khadr Settlement)
Mind Bending Politics sat down with Monia Mazigh this week to discuss the Omar Khadr settlement and her thoughts on the future of human rights in Canada. Before that interview we wanted to recap what has taken place over a very polarized week in Canadian politics.
This past week we’ve seen a very polarized political atmosphere regarding the Trudeau government’s settlement of $10.5 million to ex-Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr. The settlement comes as the highest court in the land (The Supreme Court of Canada) landed 3 court decisions in Khardr’s favor stating over the past decade that his rights had been violated. The federal conservatives lead by new leader Andrew Scheer, spearheaded opposition to the settlement, calling it disgusting and a slap in the face to those serving in military and to taxpayers. The Trudeau Government for its part, have been very quiet on the issue, only issuing very brief statements rather than attacking the opposition to this settlement head on.
The lack of response from the Liberals has fueled a lot of anger by misinformed Canadians, and fear used by the conservatives to project far right wing reform party ideologies against our constitutional rights, and to wedge the issue for political gain. We’ve seen this before 5 years ago with the conservatives, most notably from then conservative public safety minister Vic Toews comments that you either let government in on your internet communications, or you side with child pornographers. That sparked intense backlash from Canadians who stood up for their civil rights to #tellviceverything (even from conservatives) which saw the eventual scrapping of the internet snooping legislation, and eventual withdraw from public life by Toews. The same argument is being made by the conservatives again regarding Khadr. If you support Khadr’s settlement, than you side with the terrorists and are against our Canadian armed forces.
The majority of media for its part has been happy to play along, rather than providing proper information and facts surrounding our constitutional rights, how they are enforced, and more importantly question the motives of those who are not putting out factual information towards the general public. There is an excellent article from the National Observer regarding the media’s role in allowing misinformation, false facts, and baited fear to go unanswered. To quote the article:
So many media outlets are telling you what you ought to think. But you deserve thoughtful analysis to make up your own mind on an issue as fraught as this one.
To that end we at Mind Bending Politics thought it would be a great idea to connect with Mazigh and get her thoughts over this past week to what has transpired. Here is that interview in full:
MBP: Ms. Mazigh thank you for taking the time to sit with us today. There has been a lot of talk about the government awarding Omar Khadr $10.5 million over the past week at various media outlets. Can you provide your initial thoughts on the Khadr settlement? Do you think justice has been served?
Mazigh: For years, as a human rights advocate and as someone who went through injustice with my entire family, I closely followed the case of Omar Khadr. I signed petitions for his return, wrote several articles about him, attended rallies and organized event for his lawyer to speak about the case. So when I recently heard that Omar Khadr reached a settlement with the government, I was very pleased and I felt that finally justice has been served for this citizen who has been imprisoned in the infamous Guantanamo prison when he was 15 years old for almost 10 years, who has been abused by Americans officials and by Canadian officials. Omar Khadr was never given the chance to due process. He was basically dehumanized through false claims, and became the target of legal vendetta by the previous Canadian government. He had to pay for the mistakes of his family and used as “scarecrow” for anyone who dares to criticize the war on terror or issue any doubt about its efficiency.
MBP: This issue regarding the Khadr settlement has been very polarizing for Canadians. Why do you think that is, and also do you think a lack of information regarding what rights are afforded to us under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and how they are upheld could also be contributing to that polarizing debate around the settlement?
Mazigh: Unfortunately, this polarization was influenced by political partisanship, by emotional reactivity and by some media outlet with political and social agenda. In some inflamed discussions, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was rarely considered and the facts were totally and deliberately ignored. Actually, rather than real facts, false claims or distorted facts took over and became the norm. We heard things like “Omar Khadr is a convicted terrorist”, “Omar Khadr was brought to court”, and “Omar Khadr killed a paramedic”. For years, those distorted facts were challenged explained around Khadr left some citizens feel cheated or betrayed by the government. Indeed, it is false to say that Omar Khadr is a convicted terrorist. He was brought in front of a military commission that was considered by many experts as “Kangaroo court”. This presumed “conviction” was nothing than a “sham”. People look at the US and think that it is the country of freedom and constitution so how possibly can we have a “sham” there? It is important to remember that Guantanamo is a military prison. In 2002, 779 prisons were flown from Afghanistan to Guantanamo. By 2011, 600 prisoners were released most of them with no charges. Today there are 41 detainees left and many of them are cleared to go home but still imprisoned.
The successive American administrations had hard time to convict these prisoners. There is a flagrant lack of evidence at the first place and a documented use of torture. Also, some people keep repeating “Omar Khadr killed a paramedic”. The sergeant was not acting as a medic when he was at the battlefild. He was tragically killed in the battle and there is no evidence that Omar Khadr killed him.
MBP: You were instrumental in bringing your husbands case forward to the Canadian government, and to us Canadians. I remember following his situation and eventual resolution for some time. Some Conservatives commentators have raised your husband’s payout when speaking on the Khadr settlement as legitimate because your husband was found innocent of any wrong doing, and are arguing that Khadr’s settlement isn’t legitimate because of a conviction by a US military tribunal. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has come out publicly supporting the Khadr settlement stating that “It’s a legal truism that a right without a remedy is no right at all”. I was just wondering if you would be willing to respond to the way the some are using the settlement your husband has received to delegitimize Khadr’s?
Mazigh: Unfortunately, once again, it is a political partisanship war. My husband, Maher Arar, was compensated under Stephen Harper government and the public announcement about the apology and compensation at that time was also demonized by some groups and individuals. My husband was called “ a terrorist” even after the settlement and up to today some people are resentful to his settlement. When, my husband was in a Syrian dungeon some conservative MPs, rose in the House of Commons and denounced the security laxness of Canada and praised the seriousness of the US administration after arresting a “terrorist”, my husband. People tend to forget and turn a blind eye on the stigma ones go through even after the settlement. People look at the dollar figure and forget that it is impossible to find a job when you were once labelled a terrorist, despite your numerous degrees and skills. Money won’t bring back your life, your name or your reputation.
Today, the individuals and groups attacking Omar Khadr, don’t think about his future, his career, his family, his children. It is the least of their worries. They are so angry that he received money, period. And by the way, that 10.5 millions settlement isn’t even exclusively for Omar Khadr. His lawyers are sharing it with him.
MBP: There was a recent poll done by Angus Reid, in which 71% of Canadians surveyed believed that the Trudeau Government did the wrong thing by paying Khadr money and that the courts should have decided whether his detention was illegal. Missing from this poll was anything regarding the actual reason why Khadr was paid out, and that’s the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 3 times that Khadr’s rights were violated. If you were part of a polling agency, what question would you ask to Canadians regarding the Khadr settlement?
Mazigh: The polls are dangerous for our democracy. I am not saying they shouldn’t exist but we can’t govern according to them. The rule of law isn’t a popularity contest. Actually, it can be the total opposite. Courageous governments around the world were always attacked and criticized for controversial decisions. Take issues like: abortion, same-sex marriage…The Supreme Court ruled on these issues and the government had no choice than to accept these decisions. In the case of Omar Khadr, it is the same situation. The Supreme Court ruled three times in his favour and today the Canadian government had no choice than to accept and reach a settlement. This decision will never make everyone happy and comfortable but this is why we live in a democracy. We constantly disagree but the Supreme Court is our ultimate test. Take the example of “banning the Niqab at the citizenship ceremony” in 2015. This political wedge issue was used by politicians to win votes. It literally divided voters across the political spectrum but the court ruled that Ms. Zunera Ishaq, the lady at the centre of the controversy, was allowed to keep her Niqab. Many Canadians disagreed and felt uncomfortable but today it is the past.
MBP: Do you think as a result of the polarized political environment in Canada that our constitutional rights as citizens could be at further risk of being infringed upon in the future? If so, could you explain what can be done to get accurate information regarding our constitutional rights out to Canadians at large, and what you would like to see politicians do to ensure that government respects the rights of all Canadians through successive governments?
Mazigh: I am afraid that this polarization we live through is complex and the result of multiple factors. It is not only a matter of getting the accurate information about our constitutional rights. People are becoming less and less trusting of political elites and more and more ready to accept any information that would reassure them in their beliefs, be it false. This polarized environment is exacerbated by a hard and precarious economic situation for many citizens. The monetary settlement received by Omar Khadr make many Canadians feel uncomfortable because many Canadians are being laid off their jobs, many young people are unemployed or have unpaid internship. So they feel cheated and left out by the government.
When, Canada decided to join the so-called “war on terror”, the politicians narrowed it down to a “national security” issue but in reality it is far beyond that. The so-called “war on terror” eroded our civil liberties and rights. They made us accept things like “it is OK to spy on us”, “it is OK to use torture to gain useful information”, “a terrorist doesn’t deserve due process”. On the other hand, people don’t see the increase in the military budget, the billion of dollars to buy military equipment and join wars and the cuts in the social services and in education. We need to have a public discussion on these issues but unfortunately; we are made to feel that we should join on side or the other. In reality, we will never enjoy security if we don’t accept that we have international obligations and rules to respect and that our population need to see the full picture and not just one citizen receiving 10.5 million dollars as if he won a lottery ticket.
MBP: What do you see as the greatest challenge to civil and human rights, now and in the future and Canada?
Mazigh: The greatest challenge to civil and human rights is fear. We think that this happen elsewhere and not in our backward. But it is a slippery slop. When people are afraid of losing their jobs, losing their identity, losing their comfort, losing their kids, they become irrational and they can accept fake news and they can even welcome totalitarianism. Civil and human rights were instituted after the Second World War after the humanity experienced the worst. After 9/11, some politicians are trying to play the fear card again. Guantanamo was justified through fear and a need for security. Military courts were justified by fear.
In Canada, we shipped citizens to torture and deprived them for their rights because we were afraid of them, of their beliefs and we collectively presumed they were dangerous to our security. Security became an illusion being sold by some politicians to obtain more votes. Meanwhile, our social programs are being cut and defunded, our economy still rely on non-renewable energy, the economical inequalities are increasing and the politicians are not offering any serious plans to tackle them.
MBP: What do you see as recent steps forward in advancing civil and human rights in Canada? What would you like to see happen, both nationally in Canada and internationally to advance civil and human rights?
Mazigh: Canada must live up to its international reputation. For centuries, Canada has let down its indigenous people. It is time to build new relationships based on respect and equality. We can’t have human rights for some, it is a recipe for social uprising. Last year, Canada announced its intent to finally ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture after ignoring it for years; I hope this matter would be expedited. This way, cases like Omar Khadr would be less likely to happen in the future. In Canada, we need to have more accountability when it comes to issues like policing and national security. There were new announcements by the federal government that are very promising but we have to remain vigilant as abuses are not only committed by individuals but also by institutions. Internationally, we should partner with other countries to advance human rights in other place of the world. We can’t be happy of what we are achieving in Canada, we live in a globalized word and abuses in other part of the world would eventually affect us. So we have to help alleviate oppression overseas and make our global impact as “lighter” as possible.
Due process is a right that ensures every Canadian citizen is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, and the ability to properly defend and question evidence before an independent court. It is a constitutional right.
There’s been a lot of anger regarding the Omar Khadr settlement, and a lot of it coming from the alt-right side of the political spectrum, even suggestions that the constitution should not apply to those who are terrorists. Just think for a minute. If due process rights are suspended on suspected terrorists, who decides who’s a terrorists and based on what evidence? The Supreme Court of Canada has set rules regarding how much evidence is needed to convict someone of a terrorist offense. If you throw the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of “suspected” terrorists out the window, then there are no such rules that apply.
If you speak out against government, does that make you a terrorist? Do opposition parties then become terrorists of the state? If you had an argument with your neighbor does he get to call in the authorities and have you arrested on terrorism charges? Does witchcraft, and questioning the christian bible make you a terrorist? All of these are strong possibilities when due process rights are not actively administered. If there is no evidence threshold because there’s no rights guaranteed by the charter and upheld by the supreme court, than a simple thing like picking up your coffee mug different than you did the morning before could be enough to land you with a room mate named bubba.
In Khadr’s case it was the US government who decided Khadr was a terrorist and this was based on a coerced confession and evidence that even former crown prosecutors in Canada have confessed wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, let alone be able to obtain any sort of conviction in a Canadian court. There was no trial, and no court conviction. The only conviction Khadr received was that through the court of public opinion as a result of due process not being awarded, and being tortured into confession. He’s getting paid $10.5 million to compensate for damages he has suffered as a result. As far as I am concerned that number should be a lot higher.
I’m going to have a lot more on this in the next few days, and weeks but I wanted to weigh in, because the real tragedy in all of this, is that I feel almost ashamed to be Canadian. Not because we paid Khadr $10.5 million but that we have allowed the alt-right to take control of the political messaging on this for a week (as a result of the Government not coming out ahead on this), all the while they have argued against our constitution, against our Canadian values, and are calling those that support our constitution and freedoms within it, supporters of terrorism.
I must say, that as a proud patriotic Canadian, the past few days I have kicked all of my friends who claim to be from the alt-right out of my circle, without any hesitation, some of which were close friends for decades and recently bought into this cult and started attacking me for supporting our constitution, and there will be no hesitation if I find more. After what I’ve heard this week, I have no sympathy for any movement or political party that has launched such an all out assault on our constitution, which is a lot more disgusting and treasonous to me as a Canadian than ensuring one of our own is compensated for a “witch hunt” that three consecutive governments (two Liberal and one Conservative) had a hand in.
It’s been no surprise that Canada has long been in a housing bubble. Foreign investors from China have been buying up property in Canadian cities for years, and reselling them to Canadians for way more than the property is worth. China seems to be intentionally creating a housing bubble in Canada. What Chinese investors are doing is buying up property, and immediately reselling the property to the highest bidder even before the closing date of the first sale. This cycle can repeat as much as 3 or 4 times prior to the closing date of the first buyer, artificially driving up the costs of real estate property. There are signs that the artificially created housing bubble is about to burst.
Last month the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (Canada’s financial watchdog) stated that Canadian banks need to be stress tested against a 30% drop in housing prices, echoing concerns from the Bank of Canada in June. Last week Chinese media has been warning investors in that country to pull out of the Canadian real estate market, and is expecting a housing crash one that could rival or even be worse than the US housing market crash of 2008.
In 2010 the director of CSIS Richard Fadden warned Canadians in an interview with the CBC that the biggest risk to Canadian security wasn’t from terror groups but from foreign powers that are infiltrating Canadian politics and influencing public servants, fueling a growing concern about economic espionage. Little was done to correct the housing bubble by the Conservatives when they were in power. Little has been done by the Liberals either since they have taken control of the House of Commons last year. Vancouver recently passed laws to increase taxes on foreign real estate investors to help curb the growing concern regarding this artificially created bubble, however there are a lot of doubts whether or not it will work.
Why hasn’t anything been done to completely correct this bubble and warn off concerns of economic espionage? Governments of all levels seem to be cashing in on the taxes of these sales, that’s one reason. The other is because any major correction in the housing market could see that bubble burst with fears of major economic instability. This leaves Canada’s economic future purely in the hands of China, in which it seems they are now moving to burst this bubble intentionally by warning off that country’s investors.
Canada shed 31,200 full time jobs last month. While our prime minister is running around the country shirtless, there has been no word on what our federal government is doing to curb the current housing crisis it inherited from the Conservatives. As result of the current series of warnings and years of inaction, we could be in for a very rough ride ahead. Ontario will be hit particularity hard. A large segment of our population, and many businesses here in Ontario can’t even afford to keep the lights on. Gas rates set to rise as well. There also has been absolutely no word from the Ontario government on what they plan on doing to also head this expected downfall in housing prices, and economic instability as a result.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade agreement mostly negotiated in secret by quite a few governments bordering the pacific ocean. Canada has been a part of these negotiations and is committed to ratifying the treaty. Both US presidential candidates are now on the record against this treaty, while current US president Barack Obama has vowed to ratify the treaty in his lame duck session of his second term. So what exactly is the TPP?
I’ve come across a recently posted video on youtube that very clearly explains the TPP and concerns regarding the ratification of the treaty in the below video. Warning that this video is also NSFW and contains strong language:
For those of you who want an in-depth policy and law look at the concerns of ratifying the TPP; Canadian Internet law expert Michael Geist has an excellent in depth series of blogs on quite a few concerns with ratifying the TPP for those of you who like your policy research. I’ll be writing my own series of blogs on the TPP in the coming months as well.
Protection Our Constitutional Rights Should Be A Priority For Trudeau As A Result Of Trump Nomination
(Anti-terror bill C51 just took on a whole new face with Donald Trump’s nomination for US President)
Has anyone noticed that one of the major policy promises the Trudeau Liberals were elected on seems to be missing in action? When Justin Trudeau took office it seems like the mad rush to legalize pot was more of a priority than our charter rights. Just this spring the government announced plans to legalize pot by spring of 2017, yet the government hasn’t committed “yet” to looking at our draconian anti-terror legislation which was a major issue due to the Liberals position of support for the legislation prior to our election last year.
During the 2015 federal election campaign Trudeau and fellow Liberals were blasted over their support for the Conservative lead anti-terror bill. Trudeau committed to voters that if elected he would overhaul the bill, rather than scrap it, too ensure it was compliant with Canadian Charter rights. Around the same time the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression launched a charter challenge on the bill.
It very well could be that the government is waiting on the decision of the charter challenge (which can take years if not decades) before Canadians can expect any meaningful changes to the bill. The lack of response from the Liberal government to protect Canadians constitutional rights should be way more of concern now especially with Donald Trump being nominated the republican nominee for president state side. Most of our Internet traffic routes through the US than back to Canada, and the US is no stranger to its mass collection of data that crosses its boarders.
Back a few years ago the collection of data to root out possible terror attacks was front and center of a global debate on personal privacy online. Heading up that debate was a former National Security Agency (NSA) systems administrator Edward Snowden who leaked several documents to journalists detailing the mass invasion of privacy in the US and around the globe. Snowden came out strong on ones right to privacy. On the other side of that debate was General Michael Hayden who stated that collection of data was necessary to protect the US homeland from attacks. Now even Hayden is extremely concerned about what a Trump presidency could bring (especially at time index 5:07 in the below video):
It’s not just nukes the world needs to worry about, it’s how our private data would be used by the US under Trump; I would even state under Hillary Clinton as well. In the face of what is happening in US politics right now, Canadian law makers need to assure Canadians that our data remains private, secure, and out of the hands of foreign countries. We need immediate action on bill C-51 as a result.
(CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais still clueless on journalism ethics)
This week CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais ripped into journalism industry executives for asking for subsidies all while owning private yachts and helicopters. This statement has come while the CRTC has been holding hearings on the future of local journalism and TV, however spoiled executives are only part of the problem. A lack of enforcement by the CRTC on ethical regulations seems to be the other part of the problem with broadcast journalism.
From a recent CBC article:
Blais said he is “not convinced” that citizen journalism and social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook will ever be able to challenge the supremacy of legacy news organizations.
“If the journalist — trained to professional standards, who subscribes to a particular code of ethics, and who aspires to the highest standards for gathering and interpreting facts to create valuable, intelligent news analysis — disappears, in the absence of a proven alternative, I fear the future of the fourth estate as a pillar of democracy will be at risk,” he said.
The problem with Canadian journalism is it has become an arm’s length political propaganda machine rather than informative, fact driven reporting. We saw a lot of this during the election and with the debate over the debates. The main reason for this is the fact we do not have an independent body to investigate complaints around journalism ethics.
Most TV and legacy news organizations (the exception is the CBC) are part of an industry owned organization that is tasked with investigating its own conduct under CRTC regulations on complaints of false and misleading facts, inaccurate reporting, or failure to adhere to ethical standards. This self-investigating organization is called the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC). What’s worse is that there are no ethical regulations for legacy print media news, only for broadcast news.
If Canadians are that concerned about the fourth estate, than we need to properly regulate ethical standards in news. Blais should look no further than in the mirror for that, and not pivot the blame towards technological diffusion which is far easier to do than to admit the CRTC holds a huge part in the downfall of journalism ethics due to lack of enforcement of those ethical regulations, especially with the CBC. The fourth estate isn’t a pillar of democracy anymore; this is in part due to the CRTC not acting like a regulator and more like a “protector” to the industry elite since 1976.
In 2014 I reported that all the major networks including the CBC lead their newscasts in an effort to mislead Canadians on a matter Canadian law in which this consortium of broadcast journalists moved way outside their regulated ethical standards and intentionally attacked a political party by way of intentionally falsifying facts in their news reporting for corporate gain. I broke this story on the blogosphere.
I complained to the CBSC, in which nothing was done. I also complained to the CRTC regarding CBC’s role in misleading Canadians. CRTC didn’t investigate even after the CBC somehow misplaced the newscast in question, and a huge e-mail chain was provided to the CRTC displaying intent from some of CBC’s elite news reporters and news editors to mislead the public in order to protect its corporate interests. This eventually led to the Conservative Party of Canada pulling out of the consortium debates. How’s that for citizen journalism challenging legacy news.
On top of this, CBC’s news editor continued her misleading campaign on a matter of Canadian law threatening to take down CBC owned content during the election period including material considered fair use by journalists and bloggers. This news editor is still employed at CBC. I’d love Blais to explain to Canadians why this news editor is still employed at the CBC when the CRTC has direct oversight of this public broadcaster.
Throughout the election it was quite clear that Canadians trust in legacy news was quite rightly eroded, whether you were a Conservative looking down at major networks behavior towards the party and intentionally misleading facts in top news stories, or Liberal, NDP and Green looking at the conservative approach to only agreeing to conservative friendly debate hosts. Either way you look at it, we have a failure of legacy news both in broadcast and in print to uphold the standards necessary for the survival of that pillar of democracy at the very time when it is so important for them to uphold ethical standards in news.
People have lost faith and trust in the fourth estate. Blais is rightfully concerned; however I’m not sure that blame lies on the industry elite looking for tax payer’s handouts, but rather the inability or inaction of their regulator to take meaningful action when ethical standards are quite clearly broken.
Here’s a news flash Blais. Most of our audience now takes in content from several sources including citizen journalists to formulate their own opinions. The supremacy of legacy news is already being challenged due to the way these organizations handle ethical standards. In many respects the void that has been left by the CRTC’s inability to do anything on the organizations it oversees, is being filled by citizen journalists, bloggers and by “ethical journalists” who have left the industry in disgust. That’s not going to change if these organizations continue down the path they are now. In fact it’s likely to fragment the legacy news industry even more which is what I think the CRTC is just starting to see through these hearings.
If anything the CRTC should have identified the problems with legacy news during the last election. The CRTC is still very much tone deaf to the problems it has created regarding journalism ethics in this country. This regulator doesn’t seem to be watching very closely if it has to conduct hearings on the matter and rake industry executives over the coals, rather than act within their own mandate when called upon.
(Arab League Flag)
Like many Canadians I had a very heart felt response to the picture of the three year old who laid face down dead after trying to cross the Mediterranean for the EU escaping the Syrian civil war. What I found more disturbing was Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s cold response to the story on CBC, and subsequent inaction of the Conservative government for days on the issue.
The cold response coming from the Conservatives is something that also is very prevalent in some of the richest Arab nations in the world. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates’, Qatar, and Egypt have all received absolutely zero of the Syrian refugees. The only Arab nation to accept these refugees is Syria’s neighbor Lebanon.
Opposition parties here in Canada have been quick to blame the Conservative government for their cold response (and rightfully so), however no one from the Liberals, NDP or Greens are speaking about the inaction of the Arab nations we call allies on this crisis. There needs to be immense diplomatic pressure on the Arab nations to do their part if Canada gets involved in accepting refugees.
Why are the Arab nations not accepting refugees? Short answer is that they think it’s a problem with Western influence in the region, and we caused it. ISIS was born out of the US lead Iraq war and subsequent election of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who was a Shia Muslim. Shias were oppressed by Saddam Hussein. Once al-Maliki came into power, he started to target Hussein’s supporters. Rather than including them in the democratic process, many were thrown in jail and even executed out of vengeance. Historically what happens when a political group is excluded from the democratic process and oppressed? Often times it’s a revolution and/or civil war.
The Arab spring is a prime example of the 20 somethings in the Arab world rising against oppressive power. The Arab spring started in Yemen, spread to Egypt and then to Syria. ISIS and many terror related groups took the opportunity the Arab spring provided to recruit to their extreme ideologies, and has now become a threat to our Arab allies.
Every time we seem to get involved in Middle-Eastern politics, we seem to make a mess of it in large part because the politics in the Middle-East works much differently than here in Canada or the US. It’s based on different interpretations of religion. We should be playing a more supportive role in the region with our Arab allies in regards to these refugees than accepting large amounts of them here in Canada.
Almost all security experts that have been interviewed by media agree that security concerns regarding these refugee’s is a minimal concern, due to screening processes that are in place. Why can’t we work with other Arab nations on the security screening issues for these refugees so that they can be accepted by Arab nations?
Offloading tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of refugees in Canada may be the desired emotional response to the crisis, however where are all these families going to live? Social housing in Canada is falling apart. Federal funding for social housing has been completely cut off by the Conservatives. It’ll take years to repair, let alone create the amount of spaces needed to house these individuals. Jobs? Many coming over here from Syria I would suspect would be in the youth range and young families. Right now we have a youth unemployment crisis in Canada, which again will take years to solve. Then there’s also the culture shock especially for children who would be attending our public school system. We’re going to need social programs here to integrate these refugee’s into our society.
I’m in no way suggesting that Canada shouldn’t do anything, just that we stop and think past the emotional response we all have. We’re in an election right now, and serious questions need to be posed to our leaders regarding the logistics of all of this, when our Arab allies in the region are refusing to help, and turning their backs on their own people. Western nations shouldn’t be shouldering this responsibility alone. Why are we, and is accepting tens of thousands of refugees helpful to the spread of democracy in the Middle East?
By now most know that the conservative government has tabled its anti-terror legislation. The liberals are supporting the new legislation (to the surprise of not just myself but many) and the NDP are against it citing civil liberties concerns. Polls suggest that the legislation is quite popular in Canada getting 82% support. The problem with that support is that many don’t know what’s actually in the bill to make an informed choice. There are three different political perspectives on this bill that need to be explained, because this piece of legislation if passed will have a fundamental impact on our society in Canada. The bill can be viewed in it’s entirety here.
The liberals have stated they would support the bill, but want mandatory oversight, and sunset clauses to the bill. Thus the liberal political position on this bill is that they are aware there are concerns regarding civil liberties with this bill. They want parliamentary oversight (the trust us model) to ensure that Canadian intelligence agencies are not over reaching their boundaries (which they have under current oversight). The liberals want sunset clauses (or temporary suspension of civil liberties on Canadians on a whole) to fight terrorist activities. The liberals will be running on this during the next election, and have stated that they would bring these amendments in to “fix” the bill if elected in the next election, however will support this bill even if these amendments are not put in by the conservative government. Some liberal supporters believe that the liberals have been set up for a political trap in supporting this bill, when liberal MPs in the past few weeks have suggested otherwise noting that their support for the temporary suspension of civil liberties, and parliamentary oversight of intelligence agencies is needed to fight terror, citing liberal cabinet experience after the 9/11 attacks.
The NDP will not support the anti-terror bill citing civil liberty concerns in the definitions of this bill, and lack of parliamentary oversight. The problem with those definitions, comes in the legal interpretation section of the bill, and will allow intelligence agencies to essentially arrest, or charge someone under this legislation with very little evidence. I will break down each concern. Section 2 of the anti-terror legislation states (Emphasis added):
2. The following definitions apply in this Act.
“activity that undermines the security of Canada”
“activity that undermines the security of Canada” means any activity, including any of the following activities, if it undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada or the lives or the security of the people of Canada:
(a) interference with the capability of the Government of Canada in relation to intelligence, defence, border operations, public safety, the administration of justice, diplomatic or consular relations, or the economic or financial stability of Canada;
This part of the law could be used to arrest, spy on, or charge anyone who blows the whistle on what our intelligence agencies have been doing. Government whitleblowers are a big part of keeping our government/intelligence agencies accountable to the people. Anyone who blows the whistle or leaks diplomatic documents such as secret trade agreements could be charged under this bill. Anyone who puts the economic or financial stability of Canada in question could mean striking rail workers, Air Canada worker, or any union to which the government feels could impact the economic or financial stability of Canada could also be charged.
(f) interference with critical infrastructure;
Law can be used to arrest, spy on or charge anyone who disrupts rail lines, roads in legitimate protests.
The Conservatives have put in the following in the definitions of this bill to “clarify” the above to exclude:
For greater certainty, it does not include lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression
The problem with all of these provision when it comes to dissent towards government, is that peaceful non-violent advocacy and protests against government policy are meant to disrupt or inconvenience the critical infrastructure, or the economic and financial stability of industry in order to garner support and attention to their cause, and may not always be lawful.
During the 60’s Dr. Martin Luther King marched on Edmund Pettus Bridge in protest of segregation. An act that was unlawful, and had disastrous consequences, with police beating on the protesters. The Edmund Pettus Bridge protest was filmed by media. Americans were so disgusted on what they saw on their TV sets, that they ended up coming out in force on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and joining Kings march for equality and civil rights. That’s just one of many examples of unlawful dissent/protest. In Canada an example is the #idolnomore movement where aboriginal Canadians have been protesting on equal rights under the law, treaty ratification and respect just to name a few that movement stands for.
Most Canadians are familiar with the term “Reasonable Grounds to Believe” when the law is upheld. This is legalese that means there has to be a certain amount of evidence in order for the court to grant a warrant for arrest or search and seizure. The new anti-terror bill changes the “Reasonable Grounds to Believe” to “Reasonable Grounds to Suspect” meaning virtually no evidence is needed to arrest or detain individuals under this bill for a period of time without charge. The BC Civil Liberties Association is extremely concerned on some of these points, and they put out a statement on the bill just after it was tabled in the house:
Bill C-51 would create “an unprecedented expansion of powers that will harm innocent Canadians and not increase public safety.”
In a release, it said it is alarmed by proposals that would expand the amount of time a terror suspect can be jailed without charge and that would allow judges to impose stringent conditions — including house arrest — on people who have not been convicted of any crime.
Last week some of Canada’s former prime ministers, and former civil servants sent an open letter to parliament asking for more parliamentary oversight on the bill. The full list of signatories:
The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, Prime Minister of Canada (1993-2003), Minister of Justice (1980-82);
The Right Honourable Joe Clark, Prime Minister of Canada (1979-80), Minister of Justice (1988-89);
The Right Honourable Paul Martin, Prime Minister of Canada (2003-06);
The Right Honourable John Turner, Prime Minister of Canada (1984), Minister of Justice (1968-72);
The Honourable Louise Arbour, Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (1999-2004);
The Honourable Michel Bastarache, Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (1997-2008);
The Honourable Ian Binnie, Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (1998-2011);
The Honourable Claire L’Heureux Dubé, Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (1987-2002);
The Honourable John Major, Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (1992-2005);
The Honourable Irwin Cotler, Minister of Justice (2003-06);
The Honourable Marc Lalonde, Minister of Justice (1978-79);
The Honourable Anne McLellan, Minister of Justice (1997-2002), Minister of Public Safety (2003-06);
The Honourable Warren Allmand, Solicitor General of Canada (1972-76);
The Honourable Jean-Jacques Blais, Solicitor General of Canada (1978-79);
The Honourable Wayne Easter, Solicitor General of Canada (2002-03);
The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Solicitor General of Canada (1998-2002);
The Honourable Frances Lankin, Member, Security Intelligence Review Committee (2009-14);
The Honourable Bob Rae, Member, Security Intelligence Review Committee (1998-2003);
The Honourable Roy Romanow, Member, Security Intelligence Review Committee (2003-08);
Chantal Bernier, Acting Privacy Commissioner of Canada (2013-2014);
Shirley Heafey, Chairperson, Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP (1997-2005);
Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada (2003-2013).
The bill needs far more than parliamentary oversight. Internet law expert Michael Geist stated in a recent post:
Yet the problem with oversight and accountability as the primary focus is that it leaves the substantive law (in the case of CSE Internet surveillance) or proposed law (as in the case of C-51) largely unaddressed. If we fail to examine the shortcomings within the current law or within Bill C-51, no amount of accountability, oversight, or review will restore the loss of privacy and civil liberties.
The anti-terror bill has passed its second reading in the house. Debate on the bill was shut down by the Conservative government only a few hours in and after only a few MP’s were allowed to speak on it. The government knows that the more the bill is debated, the less support it is likely to get from the 82% who currently support the bill and are not properly informed on it. The bill will be in committee hearings where the experts will hopefully have a chance to have their say, but I strongly suspect that the committee hearings will be kept very short as well.
This is propping up to be an important election issue by all three parties. It’s important that all Canadians look beyond the spin, and ask many questions, and demand many answers before we all sign on to this.
The Conservative government keeps telling Canadians that everything is fine, and we will balance the budget despite many economists and the Parliamentary Budget Officers’ (PBO) views we will be posting a deficit due to falling oil prices. According to the PBO, Canada will find itself with a tiny deficit of only $400 million for 2015-2016. Such a tiny number compared to the overall scheme of things, yet the Conservatives reputation of the economic stewards of the country is coming under fire by opposition parties.
Rather than actually coming clean and being honest about the situation (which Canadian politics so seriously lacks), the Conservatives are pivoting to security issues to get away from being held accountable for a very tiny deficit. The Conservative base is mainly built on fiscal responsibility and law and order. Civil liberties is also a big part of the Conservative base.
The Conservatives on Friday will table it’s anti-terror legislation, which is turning out to be a big part of their election platform. Will this be a good idea in the Conservative political war rooms? I think they should have just stomached the deficit, and ran on the economy.
This anti-terror legislation is expected to diminish the privacy rights of all Canadians to give tools that the RCMP and other law enforcement has publicly stated in the past that it doesn’t need. This is to respond to the shootings on the hill last year (which was a law enforcement failure not a policy one). Constitutional experts state that Canadian law already provides for greater investigative tools for law enforcement, and laws that diminish our constitutional rights in the name of security is really not necessary. The legislation is also expected to further militarize our police forces, in large part because the RCMP didn’t have carbine rifles (that had long range capability) available a few years ago when some nut job was running around shooting police officers in New Brunswick last year. The RCMP only had shot guns and pistols available for the first few hours of the ordeal due to being poorly equipped. Do we really need to arm our law enforcement with tanks, armored personal vehicles, semi-automatic weapons, because the RCMP didn’t have long range rifles available a few years ago? You can’t fight ideas with guns. You fight ideology with the education and information targeted towards extremists.
I wrote a blog a few weeks ago that politicians around the world came together in defense of democracy and self-expression after the Paris attacks, when at the same time attacking those very fundamental pillars of freedom to catch a few nut jobs. If the Conservatives want to run on security, it might be best to put forth policies that will actually work rather than just throwing money at the security establishment which in over a decade, hasn’t worked in reducing extremist terror and nut job attacks. In fact they are increasing at an alarming rate due to this failed policy, and we have become less secure as a result.
The boys shouldn’t get their toys until they can demonstrate they need them. Just maybe we would be able to save ourselves $400 million in tax payers money as a result, and the budget would be balanced. That would be the less tone deaf thing to do.
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