Monthly Archives: November, 2015

“Political realities”, protest, and the preemptive deflation of expectations at COP21

As Prime Minister Justin “We don’t need emission targets” Trudeau heads to Paris for the COP21 climate summit, his Minister of the Environment and Climate Change is already trying to negotiate down expectations for the final outcome of what has been billed as humanity’s last chance at averting catastrophic global warming.

If you’ll recall, there was a lot of fanfare when it was announced that “climate change” was going to be tacked on to the Environment Minister’s title, but I pointed out at the time that this was pure spin – the Liberals campaigned actively on being a more effective champion for the oil/gas/pipeline industry than the outgoing Conservatives had ever been, and that substantive commitment far outweighed any superficial change in tone.

Now, I hate to be right about this, but I’ve gotta say, I was right…

Canada on Friday backed the U.S. approach to major climate change talks in Paris, saying any carbon reduction targets agreed to at the negotiations should not be legally binding.

The announcement by Environment Minister Catherine McKenna could irritate host nation France, which wants any deal to be enforceable. That would be politically impossible for the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, however, since it is clear the Republican-dominated Congress would not ratify any treaty imposing legally binding cuts on the United States.

“Everyone wants to see the United States be part of this treaty,” McKenna told reporters on a conference call before flying to Paris. “There are political realities in the United States … they cannot have legally binding targets. We don’t expect that the targets will be internationally legally binding,” she said.

In other words, it’s unfortunate that oil-funded Republican corporate shills in the U.S. Senate essentially hold veto power over a comprehensive, legally-binding climate change agreement that will preserve a livable future for our planet, but what can we do? That’s the “political reality”, after all…hell, even Thompson Reuters agrees, in an objective neutral journalistic tone, that it would be “politically impossible” to push a legally binding agreement through the U.S. Congress. Continue Reading

RCMP chief’s illogical, incoherent arguments for eroding online privacy printed unchallenged by Canadian Press

RCMP chief Bob Paulson wants your private information (Image credit: RCMP)

RCMP chief Bob Paulson wants your private information (Image credit: RCMP)

RCMP Chief Bob Paulson (no, not that Robert Paulson!), apparently unsatisfied with the massive increase in powers the Mounties received under C-51, spoke Wednesday on the force’s “need” to access people’s Internet subscriber information without a warrant, despite a recent Supreme Court ruling barring the police from doing exactly that.

I wrote in September about the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs’ identical demand, issued in conjunction with demands to allow them to search the mail and seize people’s phone numbers without warrants, part of a troubling trend among law enforcement agencies of ceaselessly asking for more and more powers.

Paulson, speaking before a panel at Securetech, a trade show put on by the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries, put on a master-class in fallacious argumentation, which the Canadian Press was only too happy to stenographically regurgitate into newspapers across the country.

I’d like to take a look at some of Paulson’s more preposterous points, starting with this little gem of a false analogy:

“I’m all for warrantless access to subscriber info,” Paulson told a security conference in Ottawa, comparing the process to his beat-cop days of entering licence-plate data into a computer and coming up with a vehicle owner’s name.

“If I had to get a judge on the phone every time I wanted to run a licence plate when I was doing my policing, there wouldn’t have been much policing getting done.”

The level of sheer stupidity which forms the foundation of this argument is unbelievable.  Continue Reading

NEB consultation process with First Nations is bureaucratic racism at its most absurd

A vital legal issue which has emerged from the ongoing battles over major pipeline projects across Canada revolves around the government’s constitutional duty to consult First Nations on energy and resource extraction projects which impact their territories.

The National Energy Board (NEB), a committee of appointees charged with reviewing proposed energy infrastructure projects, has been holding these consultations on the government’s behalf. Not good enough, say many First Nations; they assert that they have a treaty right to be consulted directly by government, on a nation-to-nation basis, rather than by an arms-length bureaucratic entity widely viewed as a rubber-stamping sinecure for well-connected energy/pipeline industry professionals.

One band, the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, is pushing its challenge over lack of proper governmental consultation all the way to the Supreme Court in relation to Enbridge’s Line 9B, a case that I’ve covered in some detail here before.

There was some initial hopefulness after the election of Prime Minister Trudeau that the new government would take a different approach in this regard. They made encouraging noises about ratifying the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Trudeau instructed his new Natural Resources Minister, Jim Carr, to “modernize” the NEB process to ensure it is more “inclusive” and “confidence-inspiring”.

However, APTN revealed today that there will be no additional consultation of First Nations beyond the NEB’s process, a real blow to hopes that Trudeau was serious about establishing meaningful nation-to-nation relations.

But issues with the NEB’s consultation of First Nations go far beyond the question of whether they are the correct body to be conducting this process, constitutionally speaking. The actual process of consultation itself is a bureaucratic absurdity, with the byzantine (and frankly racist) rules governing which kind of evidence can be presented and when dictated largely by the energy and pipeline companies pushing these projects.

Just take a look at this: Continue Reading

Nuttall and Korody trial: the case for an entrapment finding keeps getting stronger

Image description: courtroom illustration of John Nuttall, wearing a suit jacket and dress shirt, and Amanda Korody, wearing a green headscarf and robe, with a court security guard standing between them.

Convicted terrorists John Nuttall and Amanda Korody are one step closer to freedom today – and if you ask me, that’s a good thing.

Nuttall and Korody, you may recall, were found guilty in June of terrorist offences for their plot to plant explosive pressure cookers at the B.C. Legislative Building on July 1, 2013. The trial is ongoing, however, with the defence arguing that the pair were entrapped by the RCMP, which conducted an undercover sting operation involving 240 officers that guided Nuttall and Korody through the entire planning process.

If the B.C. Supreme Court Justice, Catherine Bruce, finds that the pair were entrapped, their conviction will be overturned.

For some people, the very fact that this is possible is sickening. For instance, Ed Bird of Victoria says in a letter to the Times-Colonist: Continue Reading

After Paris attacks, protest is criminalized – and major activist groups are complicit

Image description: a WWF promotional poster features a panda with a megaphone and a young person with a skateboard leading a crowd of protestors holding signs and banners through rubble-littered streets. The caption reads: “Paris Climat 2015: Pour tout changer, nous avons besoins de tous.” (To change everything, we need everyone.)

Starting next Sunday, November 29, the largest and most important international climate conference to date will begin in Paris. The 21st meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP21) aims for nothing less than the establishment of an international framework for pricing and trading carbon, with the aim of holding the global increase in temperatures to 2°C.

The behind-the-scenes planning and lobbying and scheming in the lead-up to this conference has been extensive – as has the out-in-the-open organizing by environmental activists and organizations. And, upon close inspection, there’s quite a bit to protest at the COP21.

For instance, the access to negotiations and deliberations that has been granted to major international corporations is considerable and troubling, especially when compared with the positive dearth of consultation with the most affected frontline communities. As such, it’s perhaps not surprising that the promised emissions reductions to date fall miserably short of achieving the hardline target of 2°C or less of warming which the scientific community warns is the most that our civilization can possibly endure.

Given how high the stakes are, and how non-transparent and open to corruption the negotiation process is, the scale of demonstrations was projected to be massive – the “largest climate civil disobedience ever”, organizers said in October, although even then the major professional activist organizations were trying to soft-pedal the more militant grassroots factions’ plans: Continue Reading

Fact-free arguments: how the case against refugees reveals widespread implicit racism

At this point, it’s a well-established and impartial fact that the attacks on Paris were committed by Europeans, and that not one of the attackers was a refugee.

In fact, the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled to Europe (and the millions more in Turkey, Lebanon, and other Middle Eastern nations) left their homes largely because of type of indiscriminate and contemptible violence which was visited upon Parisians last Friday night had become intolerably (and dangerously) commonplace in their cities and towns [CW: graphic images].

These are plain and simple facts. And you won’t hear them referred to – or even acknowledged – by opponents of an increase in the number of refugees taken in by this country.

In fact, on the contrary, what you’ll hear is a lot of subtle (and some not-so-subtle) suggestions that the refugees and the terrorists are in some ways indistinguishable, and that to accept the former is to also accept the latter.

Some of this discussion is openly reprehensible. New Jersey Governor and struggling Presidential candidate Chris Christie’s desperate-for-a-headline statement that not even orphan refugees should be allowed into the United States is a stand-out of the genre, as is the increasingly-terrifying Donald Trump’s musing that Syrian refugees may be a terrorist Trojan horse, and that as President he would create a national database to register all American Muslims (a stand he has since backed away from).

Statements like these, and the hate-filled crimes that go along with them, are, as I said the other day, the easy shit to spot and condemn and call out.

But a lot of the time, the anti-refugee animus is a lot more subtle.

Consider, for instance, this lead paragraph in an Ottawa Citizen article from a few days back: Continue Reading

Thoughts on Paris: radicalization, overt vs subtle racism, war profiteering, and more

I’ve been thinking a lot about what happened in Paris – and more specifically, what people have said about what happened in Paris on the Internet. Here’s a serious of disconnected and unfinished thoughts on the subject.
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In the popular Western imaginary, the figure of the jihadi is rife with internal contradictions. The jihadi is in some scenes a mindless automaton, thoughtlessly carrying out the orders of a far-away mastermind; in others, he (and they’re almost always hes) is driven by a fanatical medieval religiosity; in others still, he is the vision of purest evil, a miniature Hitler whose body count may be in the tens instead of the tens of millions but who is nonetheless a genocidal maniac.

Lost amidst all this frenzied fear and loathing is any real sense for why anybody might actually want to become a jihadi, why somebody might want to commit the kinds of hideous crimes we witnessed this week.

We now know with a fair amount of certainty that all of the men involved in the killings in Paris earlier this week were European nationals. All of them were born and raised in either France or Belgium; most were the children of immigrants. Some of them, like Bilal Hadfi, who blew himself (and nobody else) up with a suicide vest outside of a stadium, were up until a few years ago typical European young men, fanatical about nothing more serious than their favourite football teams. What makes these people turn to violent extremism?

Well, let’s start off with the obvious. Young Muslim men who feel accepted and valued in their communities, who have opportunities to live a good and fulfilling life, who are treated as equals by their peers and the institutions they interact with, who are free to pursue their religion and practice their culture, or not, as they please, who in effect are not stigmatized for being young Muslim men, are not exactly the type of people who are likely to run off and join ISIS.

I think we can all agree on that, right?

Well…what does that imply, then? Continue Reading

ICYMI – general strike looms in Quebec as public service, students fight back against austerity

A massive protest against Quebec by public sector workers. (Image credit: Graham Hughes/CP)

Every Monday, I like to take a look at important stories which got gobbled up by the vicious ever-moving news cycle. Typically, these are one-off events, official announcements which get overlooked or trends which don’t get reported on.

But today, I’d like to look at a major, ongoing, and extremely newsworthy event which is barely making an impact in the national consciousness.

I follow Canadian politics and activism pretty darn closely, if I do say so myself. So I was shocked to discover a few days ago that there have been massive union-organized demonstrations and widespread strike actions against austerity in Quebec since mid-October without my hearing a single word about it.

It’s a story that’s been barely reported outside of Quebec, and yet it holds out promise and potential to the anti-austerity movement everywhere in Canada and across the globe.

Today, teachers across Montreal and Laval, along with other public sector workers, struck against government contract proposals that would cut pay for teachers, nurses, and other public sector workers while simultaneously raising the age of retirement and increasing the workload (by, for instance, increasing the number of students per classroom or nurses per patient), thus guaranteeing a decreased quality of service for every member of the public who accesses these services.

Today’s strike actions were the third such round of rotating strikes, which have affected multiple cities across the province.

The culmination of this agitation, failing an eleventh-hour agreement with an intransigent provincial government, will be a three-day general strike by nearly half a million workers on the first three days of December. Continue Reading

Militarism and the Paris attacks – why more war isn’t the answer

“An act of war”, thundered French President Francois Hollande. The nation would respond “ruthlessly” towards the “barbarians” who planned this “cowardly” attack.

These words have power.

The past few days I feel like I’ve been living in a strange time warp. All the worst aspects of the reaction to 9/11 are playing out again – the flag-waving hyperpatriotism, the muscular aggressive posturing, the xenophobic threats, the total erasure of historical causes, the incessant vapid useless questioning of “why to they hate us?” – only this time, we’ve got Facebook and Twitter to amplify the loudest and stupidest voices.

And, to be fair, to act as a corrective.

After the recent carnage in France, my social media feeds have been filled mostly with the exact kind of critically-minded anti-racist don’t-forget-about-all-the-Muslim-victims-of-Western-state-terrorism thoughts and feelings that I’ve had myself – so much so that the odd anti-refugee post that strays into the mix is immediately drowned out.

Honest to God, I live in a little progressive/radical bubble.

It’s a pretty comfortable bubble, but it’s insulating, and when it comes right down to it, I haven’t got much of a clue what’s going on outside of it.

And so it came as a big surprise to me when I found out earlier today that the only mosque in my hometown of Peterborough, Ontario was set on fire last night. The mosque is not five minutes away from where my parents live. Nobody was inside at the time, thank goodness, but just half an hour before the fire was started, around seventy people were apparently there celebrating the birth of a baby.

It shouldn’t have surprised me, really. Peterborough, lovely and progressive as it can seem, has a deep undercurrent of ugly racism running right through it – and in that sense, it’s a lot like most every Canadian city or town I’ve ever been in.

And really, when even people like the supposedly “socialist” Hollande deploy hateful vicious rhetoric, it shouldn’t be shocking that some fragile white folks feel incited to take some kind of grossly misled “revenge” against people who had literally nothing to do with what happened in Paris.

“Barbarians”, “cowards”, “we will be merciless”.

These words have power. Continue Reading

Prime Minister Trudeau: Intervene to put Line 9 on hold!

Earlier this week, incoming Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett announced that the Liberal government intends to (finally) ratify the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Canada was one of only four nations to vote against the declaration at the UN back in 2007.

Speaking to media earlier this week, Bennet was full of enthusiasm for the treaty:

“That means starting out right, such that everything has been considered before a decision is taken so that you can find that win-win of ‘you can develop there but not there,’” Bennett told media this week, when asked how her government would abide by the UN declaration.

Her conciliatory remarks build on a statement by her boss, Justin Trudeau, who said, “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples.”

And as the Star’s Joanna Smith notes, the move has more than symbolic consequences; it could have a serious impact on resource extraction in this country:

The Crown already has a constitutionally protected “duty to consult” with aboriginal peoples on issues that might affect their interests, but the UN declaration goes much further and calls on governments to obtain “free, prior and informed consent,” including when it comes to natural resources development…

How does a federal government implement those principles without risking a loss of control over its agenda? Bennett said achieving mutually beneficial results begins by having a conversation, and having it right away.

“There are many ways of achieving mutual results, but it begins with the conversation and it isn’t writing legislation and then saying, ‘You love it, don’t you?’ We are committed to sitting down early, at the earliest possible moment, on every single thing that will affect indigenous people in Canada,” said Bennett, who believes it is “hugely important” all parliamentarians, government departments, provinces, territories, mayors and municipalities understand this too.

All of which sounds fantastic. But it just so happens that there is an ongoing court case which touches on exactly these issues, and in which the Trudeau government has an opportunity to intervene and demonstrate that they’re not just making nice hopey-changey promises. Continue Reading

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