Monthly Archives: May, 2015

HypocrISISy and the House of Saud – The Canadian Government’s Double Standard on Radical Islam

There is a group currently terrorizing large sections of the Middle East.

Using a radical interpretation of Islam as their pretext, they treat women and minorities horrifically. They are internationally renowned for their beheadings and public floggings of “heretics” and “witches”. The United Nations and major human rights organizations have accused them of war crimes and of violating international law. In their most recent offensive, hundreds of innocent civilians have died, and access to medical care has been cut off for millions.

They are the House of Saud, rulers of Saudi Arabia and one of Canada’s partners in the war against ISIS and the bombing campaign in Syria. And the Canadian government confirmed today that it is proceeding with a $15-billion sale of weaponry, notwithstanding the kingdom’s atrocious human rights record.

In fact, the government insists that it doesn’t need to justify the purchase to the public.

From the Globe:

The Department of Foreign Affairs argues it must keep deliberations secret regarding this deal – by far the largest export contract ever brokered by Ottawa – citing the need to protect the “commercial confidentiality” of General Dynamics Land Systems Canada, which makes the light armoured vehicles.

Ottawa maintains this despite the fact that Foreign Affairs, by its own stated rules, is required to screen requests to export military goods to countries “whose governments have a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens.” Among other things, it must obtain assurances “there is no reasonable risk that the goods might be used against the civilian population.” [my emphasis]

When it comes to persistently violating the human rights of its citizens, few countries can rival Saudi Arabia. Indeed, its record of human rights violations is well-known, although few Western nations are willing to call it out on the virtual enslavement of its women or its incredibly harsh treatment of dissidents. Human Rights Watch summed up the situation in this commentary from shortly after the recent death of Saudi King Abdullah: Continue Reading

The ISIS racket

The fall of Ramadi to the Islamic State over a pretty-much-done-with-this-shit Iraqi army earlier this week has helped to clarify a few aspects of this latest twist in the ongoing, never-ending, self-perpetuating “Global War on Terror”.

Before we dive in, let’s let b over at Moon of Alabama bring us up to speed on this conquest:

The Islamic State took Ramadi with the help of armored bulldozers and some 10 suicide vehicles. That many of the nominal defenders of the city had no real will to fight also helped. But there is another important actor that allowed it to happen. In the critical 24 hours the U.S. coalition which had promised to defend Iraq and to defeat the Islamic State launched just seven air strikes and all only against minor ISIS targets around the city. That’s like nothing.

Pretty much. Which kinda puts the lie to US Secretary of Defence Ashton Kutcher Carter’s furious denunciation of the Iraqi army on the Sunday morning political love-in yesterday: Continue Reading

“Strength of Conviction”? Popping the NDP’s bubble

A few days ago, amidst a slew of polls showing the NDP pulling into a three-way tie nationally with the Libs and the HarperCons, there was a wave of generically interchangeable op-ed pieces from knowledgeable old political hacks opining that Thomas Mulcair’s party was poised to win this fall’s election.

The Star’s Tim Harper opined that “Thomas Mulcair [is] emerging as the real agent of change”, arguing that the Trudeau Liberals have proven too wishy-washy to take on the polarizing HarperCons, and that this year’s election could be a “change” election, which is pundit-speak for “people are sick of Stephen Harper”.

Lawrence Martin over at the Globe, under the headline “Mulcair or Trudeau: One must offer real change”, manages to say a lot without actually stating much about what he thinks will happen. After all the “on-the-one-hand,-but-on-the-other-hand”ing, he seems to ever so slightly imply that maybe this time the NDP might have some chance – which for the Globe is I suppose a pretty big deal.

Meanwhile, over at the Ottawa Citizen, Andrew Cohen sees the NDP making gains in the battle for the anyone-but-Harper crowd, which he labels “progressive voters”, a group he generously includes Red Tories in. (Are there any of those left?) He slams Trudeau as a “retail politician,” and says of the NDP leader, “Mulcair may not be cuddly but he is effective in Parliament. His principled critique of the anti-terrorism bill – admired by many Liberals – is one reason that public support for the bill has fallen sharply.” Continue Reading

Activists flood Toronto city council meeting, demand end to TPS cooperation with immigration enforcement

Toronto Police Services is in violation of the City of Toronto’s Access Without Fear policy, which guarantees access to city services to all residents of the city regardless of their immigration status. What’s more, TPS misrepresented both their policies and their obligations in a report to Toronto’s city council.

Those were the accusations levelled by a coalition of community groups and activists at a meeting of council’s Community Development and Recreations Committee this morning. In a series of well-prepared and impassioned deputations to the committee, representatives from a broad array of organizations working with different affected communities detailed the many ways in which Toronto police violate non-status immigrants’ right to access law enforcement without fear of deportation.

The consequence of this, as many of the deputations made clear, is that many communities are fearful of turning to the police even in the most severe emergencies.

TPS’s policy is that they will not ask for proof of status unless they have a “bona fide” reason for doing so – what they call their “Don’t Ask” policy. They also contend that, once they have discovered that a person is a non-status immigrant, they have a legal obligation under the Ontario Police Services Act to inform the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Both of these positions were hotly disputed at the committee meeting. Continue Reading

Are the HarperCons trying to give themselves retroactive immunity for indictable offences?

It’s getting hard to keep up with the onslaught of scandal besetting the Harper regime.

Nine years in power is a long time in politics, and there seems to be an almost-inevitable tendency towards corruption and mismanagement and arrogant hubristic behaviour in any long-lasting regime, “democratically elected” or not.

And it’s certainly true that Harper & Co. have made very few friends in the press over the last decade. The national press corps is surely sick of being kept out of the loop by the PMO and only spoon-fed triumphalist press releases at the whim of our Fearless Leader. Regardless of each journalist’s individual political preferences, the tendency has to be anti-Con, and pro-anybody-more-enjoyable-to-cover.

I mean, he’s lost the freakin’ Sun. For years they’ve been against him. During the hoopla surrounding the Nigel Wright/Mike Duffy revelations, and Harper’s inconsistent and evasive statements about what he knew and when re: Wright’s $90 000 hush-money cheque, the Sun published a national editorial calling on Harper to resign, for Pete’s sake.

So perhaps it’s just that the press smell blood. A vulnerable Prime Minister with a weak economy facing reelection against a surging opposition makes an easy target. Maybe that explains the slew of controversies the HarperCons are busy ignoring these days. Continue Reading

Against Victoria Day

Haven’t we had enough of empire-glorification? I say it’s long past time we got rid of the ridiculous institution of the British Crown.



Because today is Victoria Day, I got paid time and a half to cook for people who are more well-employed than I am, people who were enjoying a beautiful sunny day of leisure, dedicated to the memory of a long-dead Queen of the long-dead British Empire.

Today is not actually the anniversary of Victoria’s birth, but it was legislated that we shall celebrate that anniversary on the first Monday immediately preceding the actual anniversary, and so that’s what we do.

As she reigned during the heyday of the Empire, there are quite a lot of places named after ol’ Queen Vicky – in Toronto alone, we’ve got Queen Street, Queen’s Park, Victoria Avenue, and Victoria Park Avenue, as well as Queen’s Park and Victoria Park subway stations.

The main intersection in Regina (the Queen City, after guess who?) is the corner of Albert and Victoria, and their provincial legislature (surely among the prettiest in Canada) is, like Ontario’s, in a park named for Queen Vic.

The prettiest city I’ve had the privilege of living in, out in BC, was named after the Queen.

The tallest waterfall in the world bears her name. A whole state in Australia, Queensland, was dedicated to her, and another, well… Continue Reading

TPS’s new body cameras: tamper-friendly, a privacy nightmare, and a private-sector cash grab

The rhetoric of the police apology is highly distinctive.

More often than not, the apology never happens, of course, because police forces are great at not acknowledging police brutality or corruption or lawbreaking. The victims become the perpetrators, and the thin blue line is all that stands between all that is decent and the depraved anarchist thugs.

Occasionally, though, some cop does something so brazen and unforgivable that the force must respond publicly, and when they do, they do their utmost to throw the perpetrator under the bus.

One hears of bad apples, and of tireless service, and of how most cops are really great people; while “mistakes were made”, nobody particularly high-up or important made them; and if you just for God’s sake trust us, things will work out better next time.

After Sammy Yatim, a distressed teenager with the world’s tiniest switchblade, was murdered on a Dundas streetcar two years ago by a cop who had so many other options at his disposal, we heard these same tired slogans and excuses and empty promises, from police apologists in the press and from TPS spokespeople.

But there was a lot of disbelief in the community. After so many years and so many deaths, that “Trust us” rang pretty goddamn hollow. Continue Reading

This week in The Canadian Government Does Stupid And Bad Things

Everybody who spends even a little time following federal politics in this country will quickly realize that Stephen Harper is a combative human being. He sees things in terms of sides, and if you’re not on the same side as him, then he will try to crush you, plain and simple.

This week alone was rife with examples demonstrating that disagreement won’t be tolerated. Harper’s mean streak was on full display in the government’s desperate attempts to keep child soldier and torture victim Omar Khadr in prison. He deployed attack dog and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, who not only smeared Khadr, but also accused the judge who authorized Khadr’s release of not considering his (alleged) victims.

It’s a sign of how tired and well-worn this fear-and-terror rhetoric is getting that even the Calgary Sun wasn’t buying it.

Opinion columnist and unrepentant bigot Ian Robinson, who describes his attitude towards the War on Terror as “Kill ’em all, let God sort them out”, had this to say: Continue Reading

The din and fury over the CBC’s story on BDS

There are many disadvantages to blogging on current events in my spare time. One of the biggest is that news has an unfortunate tendency to break while I’m at busy.

When I read the CBC’s explosive conversation-starter of an article about the HarperCons’ apparent willingness to use hate crime laws against proponents of the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) campaign over a hurried pre-work breakfast this morning, I knew that (a) it was something I really wanted to post about, and (b) by the time my shift was over so many people would have weighed in that I probably wouldn’t have anything new to add.

Now here it is, several hours later, and this story has certainly made the rounds online.

Everybody from Warren Kinsella to Glenn Greenwald has weighed in on the controversy, with the story about the story becoming an increasingly important metanarratival (metanarrativistic?) part of the narrative.

But let’s begin at the beginning.
Continue Reading

#Omnibus2015: Harper tries to set up secret terrorist courts, stomp public sector unions on the DL

Last month, I went on at length about how godawful the federal budget was. I surprised myself with how upset I was able to get over the damn thing.

At that time, I couldn’t have predicted that the budget could get any worse. After all, it had all the credibility of a sheaf of hastily scribbled, semi-illegible, mostly incorrect and three weeks overdue math homework.

But never doubt the HarperCons’ ability to take bad and make it worse. They succeeded in this ignoble endeavour this time by stapling a bunch of completely unrelated laws and bills to the back of the budget and giving it a fancy Latin name to make it sound boring to the Average Voter.

Now, omnibus bills are nothing new in HarperLand, and to be fair, this one isn’t quite as bad as previous ones have been – mostly because they’re running out of ideas for awful/stupid/destructive laws to pass.

This isn’t to say there aren’t any awful/stupid/destructive new laws proposed in #Omnibus2015 (officially titled Bill C-59, which you can read here if you want a headache). They’re mostly pretty bad. Continue Reading

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