Monthly Archives: March, 2016

Rob Ford was a violent, abusive, bigoted bully. His death changes none of that.

Image description: On the left is a still from a cell-phone video, showing then-Mayor Rob Ford, in a short-sleeved shirt and tie, gesturing wildly. On the right in a transcript from that video, reading: “FORD: No hold barred, brother. He dies or I die, brother. Brother you’ve never seen me f**king go. You think so, brother? But when he’s down, I’ll rip his f**king throat out. I’ll poke his eyes out.” (Image source: YouTube)

It’s generally considered in poor taste to speak ill of the dead, especially in the immediate aftermath of their passing away. But this tradition, when applied to public figures, has a pernicious effect. It allows for that person’s defenders and apologists to praise the person in the highest possible terms, while their opponents can only grit their teeth and mouth anodyne platitudes about sympathy for the recently deceased’s family.

So, for instance, today we see folks dwelling on Rob Ford’s dedication to the high school football team that he coached, his willingness to take calls at all hours from his constituents, and (because it sells papers) the lurid addiction scandal that dogged the second half of his tenure as Toronto’s mayor. What’s missing from this sanitized version of Ford’s career is his well-established record as an abusive bully, a political opportunist who used the poor as props while undercutting city support for them, a misogynistic racist bigot, and indeed a violent person.

To be clear, my heart goes out to Rob Ford’s family today – particularly his poor children. I appreciate that the Ford family is suffering right now, and I understand why many feel that it’s crass to publish a piece with a headline like this one has.

But while in death he is provoking grief in those who were close to him, in life Rob Ford was the direct cause of a lot of pain and suffering in his role as a public official. And it is unacceptable that we allow the pain of Ford’s family to eclipse the pain of Ford’s victims as we recount his legacy and assess his life. Continue Reading

Taking “no” for an answer on pipelines

Image description: A banner reading "IDLE NO MORE - Unity - Sovereignty - Coast to coast to coast - Nipissing First Nation - UOI - WBAFN - NFN". The banner also features a closed fist clutching a large feather. In the background are dozens of people dressed for rainy cool weather. (Image credit: Michelle Caron/Wikipedia)

Image description: A banner reading “IDLE NO MORE – Unity – Sovereignty – Coast to coast to coast – Nipissing First Nation – UOI – WBAFN – NFN”. The banner also features a closed fist clutching a large feather. In the background are dozens of people dressed for rainy cool weather. (Image credit: Michelle Caron/Wikipedia)

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, said something in reaction to the Trudeau government’s new pipeline review policy in late January that has rattled around in my head ever since. “What needs to be demonstrated,” Phillip said, in registering his disappointment with the policy, “is the federal government’s willingness to take no for an answer from First Nations…who are exercising their sovereign decision-making power.”

In many ways, this is the crux of the pipeline debate – at the intersection between Indigenous rights and energy policy, where we need to decide whether our stated principles or our obligations to corporate shareholders should take precedence. It’s vital to be mindful of the fact that the struggle against pipelines, as pivotal and momentous as it is for the climate justice movement, is also the latest front in a centuries-old Aboriginal struggle for the right to say “no” to settlers who want to exploit and despoil their land.

And let’s be clear – by and large, First Nations are saying “no” to pipelines, and they’re saying it firmly and unequivocally. Right across the country, Indigenous folks, both from the grassroots and from the leadership, are speaking out in the strongest possible terms against major proposed projects like Energy East, Northern Gateway, and Trans Mountain.

As these proposals reach their culmination, it’s becoming critical that the Canadian government affirms the right of First Nations to, as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples puts it, “free, prior, and informed consent” – or, in Phillip’s formulation, their right to say no and have that be the final word on the subject. Continue Reading

If Ayanle Hassan Ali is a terrorist, so was the Kalamazoo Uber gunman

Image description: the top results of a Google Image search for "terrorist". Of the 37 images shown, 35 are Islamic terrorists, one is a member of the KKK, and one is a bar graph which shows that terrorism by separatist organizations is orders of magnitude more common than Islamic terrorism.

Image description: the top results of a Google Image search for “terrorist”. Of the 37 images shown, 35 are Islamic terrorists, one is a member of the KKK, and one is a bar graph which shows that terrorist attacks by separatist organizations are orders of magnitude more common than Islamic terrorism in the European Union.

Today I’d like to compare two prominent incidents of violence from the last month – the stabbing of two active-duty military personnel in North York, Ontario by Ayanle Hassan Ali and the shooting of eight people in Kalamazoo, Michigan by Uber driver Jason Brian Dalton  – and look at how each of them was portrayed in the media. It shouldn’t be a surprise, given the names of the men involved, which of them got labelled a potential terrorist, but the comparison goes quite a bit deeper than it may appear at first glance.

In case you missed the story, Ali entered a Canadian Forces recruitment centre mid-afternoon on Monday, March 14, and (non-fatally) stabbed the person behind the counter. He then attempted to enter further into the centre, but was stopped by several soldiers, one of whom was (non-fatally) wounded. According to Toronto police chief Mark Saunders, Ali allegedly told the soldiers that “Allah told me to do this, Allah told me to come here and kill people”. He faces several charges in connection with this attack.

There’s been quite a bit of back-and-forth in the Toronto press over the past week about whether Ali’s attack on the military recruitment office constituted an act of terrorism. This past Tuesday, the Toronto Sun’s cover read “‘TERROR’. THERE, WE SAID IT”, and they leaned heavily on the notion that they were bravely defying a cadre of ultra-leftist social justice warriors which has somehow wrapped their commie tentacles around the public consciousness and coerced people into being terrified of calling Muslims terrorists: Continue Reading

Supreme Court to rule on whether Line 9’s First Nations consultation process was constitutional

Image description: Two people hold a large flag, featuring on horizontal white bands with a horizontal purple band above and below it. On the flag are the words "No Consultation! No Consent! No Line 9! Respect The Treaties - Support Chippewas of the Thames First Nation!" In front of the banner, a woman is speaking into a microphone, presumably addressing an out-of-the-picture crowd; to her left are two onlookers. (Image credit: Facebook/Anishnabek Rise via rabble)

Image description: Two people hold a large flag, featuring a wide horizontal white bands with narrower horizontal purple bands above and below it. On the flag are the words “No Consultation! No Consent! No Line 9! Respect The Treaties – Support Chippewas of the Thames First Nation!” In front of the banner, a woman is speaking into a microphone, presumably addressing an out-of-the-picture crowd; to her left are two onlookers. (Image credit: Facebook/Anishnabek Rise via rabble)

In a major win for pipeline resisters, the Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear an appeal by the Chippewas of the Thames First Nations which threatens to shut down Enbridge’s Line 9B.

It’s also a case with broad implications for several major pipeline projects currently under review, as well as for resource development on First Nations across (so-called) Canada.

The Chippewas of the Thames allege that they were not properly consulted on the reversal of the pipeline, which was previously transporting light crude oil from east to west. A finding in their favour could mean a cancellation or suspension of Enbridge’s approval to reverse the line, and may have an impact on several ongoing NEB reviews into major tar sands pipelines. Continue Reading

One First Nation’s endorsement of Energy East highlights issues with pipeline consultation

Image: a large silvery pipeline curves off into the distance under a blue sky. (Image credit: TransCanada/I don't have any right to use this but whatevs)

Image: a large silvery pipeline extends off into the distance under a blue sky. (Image credit: TransCanada/I don’t have any right to use this but whatevs)

“First Nations and Métis partnership is at the very heart of the Northern Gateway Project,” claims energy giant Enbridge on their website promoting the pipeline project.

In extolling the benefits of the Energy East pipeline, TransCanada boasts that “Fostering strong, long-term relationships with Aboriginal communities is, and will continue to be, an integral part of everything we do here at TransCanada…In fact, many Chiefs have already expressed their appreciation for our engagement process.”

Kinder Morgan, touting the 22 “long-term mutual support and benefit agreements” they’ve signed with First Nations along the route of Trans Mountain, promises to “continue to work with Aboriginal communities along the pipeline to build mutual benefit agreements with all communities along the proposed pipeline corridor.”

These proclamations of mutually beneficial relations with First Nations and of the support of Aboriginal communities for the pipeline process are in many ways fantasies. Each of these projects faces widespread opposition from Indigenous peoples, both at the grassroots level and among many provincial and national leaders. This opposition has in many cases escalated to the extent of constructing blockades and protest camps to prevent pipeline construction. The consultation process of which these titans of industry are so proud has been widely condemned by First Nations across the country, with Aboriginal elders in Manitoba refusing to participate in NEB consultations over Enbridge’s Line 3 due to the absurd restrictions imposed on the process.

To claim that the support of First Nations is “integral” to these companies’ success is therefore somewhat ridiculous on its face, as evidence of this support is in short supply. And yet, in another sense, these claims are absolutely true. These pipeline companies know that without at least the appearance of First Nations support, their chances of ever constructing these behemoth tar-sands tubes are slim. And so they quite reasonably do everything they can to play up the support they have received from some First Nations communities.

But even that support isn’t as simple as it may seem at first glance. Continue Reading

ICYMI: Stéphane Dion reveals Liberals’ real reason for allowing Saudi arms deal

Image description: A big-ass tank with like eight wheels and two armed soldiers sticking out the top in a sandy-looking locale. (Image credit: General Dynamics Land Systems Canada) NOTE: this may not be the actual model of Light Armoured Vehicle GDLS is selling to Saudi Arabia with Canadian governmental mediation and approval; details are sketchy, but the Globe and Mail reports that whatever they look like, they’re gonna be deadly.

Ever since early January, when dozens of shocking executions in Saudi Arabia reignited a long-simmering controversy over a major Canadian arms deal with the human-rights-abusing nation, the Liberal government has been extremely cautious in its public statements, while steadfastly maintaining the Harper regime’s policy on the issue.

And despite widespread condemnation from activists and incisive questioning from the press, the government has refused to withdraw its approval of the sale of $15 billion of light armoured vehicles (LAVs) or elaborate very much on its justification of the deal.

But on February 18, Foreign Global Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion appeared before the Senate for questioning on a variety of subjects, and Québec Senator Serge Joyal raised the issue. Invoking Saudi Arabia’s atrocious human rights record, Joyal demanded to know how Dion could square his department’s explicit rules on the issue – “The policy with respect to countries with serious human rights problems places the onus on proving `no reasonable risk’ squarely on the exporter” – with the government’s decision to allow the sale proceed.

Dion’s response was incredibly revealing, and demonstrated clearly what the Liberal Party’s priorities are. I quote his statement here in full: Continue Reading

Defying all reason, NATO is shambling towards another disastrous war in Libya

Image description: Two fighter jets release explosives in mid-air. (Image credit: Coto Report)

Image description: Two fighter jets release explosives in mid-air, apparently over Benghazi, Libya. (Image credit: Coto Report)

As Canada and its NATO allies gear up for yet another military intervention in Libya, I feel it’s worth asking what exactly they hope to accomplish there.

Note I don’t say “what we hope to accomplish”. I was against the first round of bombing and political interference and sneaky boots-on-the-ground special-forces whatever-it-was-they-did (cause-we’ll-never-know), although of course Stephen Harper & Co. never asked me for my opinion. And I’m solidly against a second ill-conceived round of open-ended meddling into one of the more complex civil wars in the world, mostly on the grounds that Western militaries caused the damn war by virtue of its first ill-conceived intervention, and haven’t exactly demonstrated any kind of penitence or even awareness that they played a role in creating the chaos that subsumes Libya today.

If you’ve forgotten about the First Libyan War Non-Combat Operation, or if you weren’t paying attention at the time, here’s how it went down: Continue Reading

After protest camp removed, what’s next for Site C resisters?

Image: A sign reading "Keep the Peace" with the words "Site C Dam" in a circle with a line through it is staked into the ground overlooking a river valley. (Image credit: Wayne Sawchuck/The Green Pages)

Image: A sign reading “Keep the Peace” with the words “Site C Dam” in a circle with a line through it is staked into the ground overlooking a river valley. (Image credit: Wayne Sawchuck/The Green Pages)

A 62-day protest encampment on land set to be flooded by the contentious Site C Dam project in northern British Columbia came to an end earlier this week, after a judge awarded B.C. Hydro an injunction ordering the removal of protesters.

Now, opponents of the massive hydroelectric project are wondering what comes next.

The project is, of course, shrouded in all kinds of controversy. It’s being pushed ahead despite at least three ongoing court cases challenging its legality on various grounds, concerns about the propriety and legality of permits issued by the Harper government in the dying weeks of the election campaign, alarm over the massive costs the project will impose on B.C. taxpayers, and mounting questions about the bidding process for construction and the possibility that temporary foreign workers could push out unionized labour, to name just some major issues. (See here for a more comprehensive summary.)

The project faces intense criticism from First Nations, environmentalists, local farmers and landowners, Amnesty Internationalfood sovereignty advocates, federal and provincial politicians, and even this guy: Continue Reading

Massive cost of Nuttall & Korody sting raises serious questions about counter-terrorism funding

Image description: John Nuttall, with long stringy hair and unkempt beard, sits in the passenger seat of a car, his head turning towards his left. In the back seat is Amanda Korody, wearing a black headscarf and smoking a cigarette while gesturing emphatically with her left hand. (Image credit: RCMP surveillance)

Image description: John Nuttall, with long stringy hair and unkempt beard, sits in the passenger seat of a car, his head turning towards his left. In the back seat is Amanda Korody, wearing a black headscarf and smoking a cigarette while gesturing emphatically with her left hand. (Image credit: RCMP surveillance)

Back when The Alfalfafield was a brand-new little baby blog, my very first serious post focussed on a Toronto Star investigative report into the alleged underfunding of the RCMP.

The article relied almost entirely on internal RCMP documents asking the government for more money. The documents were provided to the Star by the Liberal Party’s then-finance critic Ralph Goodale, who got in a few good kicks at the Harper Conservatives in the piece. The Star attempted to make the case that the RCMP, faced with limited funds, was being forced to choose between pursuing dangerous terrorists and going after more conventional criminals.

At the time, I called bullshit, pointing to the ongoing trial of the so-called Canada Day bombers, John Nuttall and Amanda Korody, as evidence that the funds allocated by the Mounties for combatting terrorism were being poorly spent. Even then, it was clear that the pair of incompetent indigents couldn’t have orchestrated a bomb plot on their own if their very lives had depended on it, and that it was only the intervention of two hundred and forty RCMP officers that made the pressure-cooker plot possible.

Undercover Mounties steered Nuttall and Korody away from impossibly far-fetched schemes, pushed the idea of pressure cookers and a Canada Day detonation date, brought them to a Kelowna hotel for a weekend to teach them how to make C-4 plastic explosive, bought them groceries and cigarettes so they would be able to afford bomb-making materials on their meagre welfare benefits, and left John Nuttall with the impression that his life was in danger if he didn’t go through with the plot.

If Nuttall and Korody were the face of the menacing terror threat facing Canadians, if the threat their ilk posed was the reason that the RCMP was being “forced” to divert scarce resources away from investigations into gangs or white-collar financial crime, if their paranoid/delusional brand of homegrown extremism was the justification for major increases to the federal anti-terror budget, then all this fuss is just so much empty hype and noise.

The RCMP didn’t urgently need more money to combat terrorism; they just wanted more money. And rather than reflexively reaching for our wallets in response to their fear-mongering, we ought to take a good hard look at how reasonable this request actually is.

At that time, the public didn’t have any access to hard numbers on how much the Nuttall/Korody sting had cost. We still don’t have the full picture, but based on recently released figures on overtime pay for the operation, it looks to have been pretty darn expensive: Continue Reading

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