Category Archives: Fallacy Friday

B.C. Superior Court rules that RCMP coerced couple, manufactured terror plot

Image description: A grainy low-resolution photo of a beaming John Nuttall, with shoulder-length hair and unkempt beard, sitting in the passenger seat of a car. Directly behind him is Amanda Korody, wearing a black headscarf; Korody is grinning and has a cigarette in her mouth. (Image credit: RCMP surveillance photo)

Today, after over three years of legal limbo, accused terrorists John Nuttall and Amanda Korody were freed when B.C. Superior Court Justice Catherine Bruce found that the RCMP manipulated them into planting pressure cooker bombs on the British Columbia legislature’s grounds on Canada Day 2013.

This is the first time that a North American terror-related trial has ended in a finding of entrapment, a historical event amidst an onslaught on Muslim communities by the FBI and RCMP.

Regular readers of The Alfalfafield will be familiar with the details of this case, but for those coming in late: Nuttall and Korody were found guilty last year of multiple offences related to the pressure cooker bomb incident, but they were never sentenced. Instead, Justice Bruce took up the question of whether or not they were entrapped into committing these crimes by a team of approximately 240 RCMP officers.

The longer this entrapment phase of the trial went on, the clearer it became that the true authors of this plot were undercover Mounties: Continue Reading

Would pipelines even solve any of Alberta’s problems?

Image description: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley speaks at a podium, with an Alberta flag and a picture of mountains and a lake in the background. Notley recently advocated for the use of pipeline revenues to fund Canada's transition away from fossil fuels. (Image credit: Premier of Alberta/Flickr)

Image description: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley speaks at a podium, with an Alberta flag and a picture of mountains and a lake in the background. Notley recently advocated for the use of pipeline revenues to fund Canada’s transition away from fossil fuels. (Image credit: Premier of Alberta/Flickr)

It’s early days yet, but already it looks as though the great debate over pipelines will be one of the defining issues of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s time in office.

The pipeline issue is hot right now. Opposition to pipelines from the pro-Leap Manifesto faction of the NDP played a significant role in unseating leader Thomas Mulcair earlier this month and may yet lead to a splitting of the party. Enbridge’s Northern Gateway, long presumed dead, is poised for a potential last-minute revival thanks to the campaign-promise-breaking support and behind-the-scenes machinations of several prominent politicians. And pipeline fever won’t be going anywhere soon; with the NEB due to deliver its recommendations on Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain in just under a month, the issue will be widely discussed and debated this summer. Meanwhile, the NEB’s final report on TransCanada’s Energy East isn’t expected until March 2018, with a cabinet decision due three months later, guaranteeing that pipeline politics will feature as prominently in the run-up to the next election as they did in the last one.

This is also an issue on which our Boy Wonder PM just can’t catch a break. He finds himself attacked on all sides for his opaquely unsatisfying position. Pipeline proponents like Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, and Conservative Party interim leader Rona Ambrose have slammed Trudeau for being insufficiently enthusiastic about pushing the issue, despite the seemingly unending litany of statements from senior cabinet ministers that this government is “committed” to “getting Canada’s resources to market” – indeed, that this is “one of the fundamental responsibilities of any Canadian Prime Minister”. Meanwhile, although the government has taken steps to make the pipeline review process at least appear more impartial and thorough, activists and environmentalists have slammed the piecemeal reforms as woefully insufficient, with some charging that they amount to little more than a fig leaf designed to provide cover for pipeline approval.

Pipelines occupy the precise intersection between economic issues and environmental concerns. The issues is therefore a kind of proxy war, a struggle over what kind of future we want to work towards. Concerns about catastrophic climate change clash with worries for the plight of the suddenly impoverished workforce of Alberta and Saskatchewan, who are facing a once-in-a-century economic calamity.

And this really does need to be stressed – things are BAD out west.  Continue Reading

B.C. terror trial to resume without critical evidence of CSIS’s involvement in sting operation

Image description: A grinning John Nuttall, sporting a massive goatee and wearing a leather jacket and a t-shirt emblazoned with the words "SURREY WHAT" in gothic-style lettering, is seated in the passenger seat of a car, his head turned toward the driver (not pictured). (Image credit: RCMP/Project Souvenir)

Image description: A low-resolution surveillance photo of a grinning John Nuttall, sporting a massive goatee and wearing a leather jacket and a t-shirt emblazoned with the words “SURREY WHAT” in gothic-style lettering, is seated in the passenger seat of a car, his head turned toward the driver (not pictured). The photo seems to have been taken from a hidden camera in the car’s rear-view mirror. (Image credit: RCMP/Project Souvenir)

For nearly a year, defence lawyers for B.C. Legislature bombers John Nuttall and Amanda Korody have been doing everything in their power to compel the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to turn over evidence about the role one of their operatives or sources played in radicalizing the Surrey couple and encouraging them to commit violent acts of jihad.

Yesterday, after many interminable months of procedural delays and closed-door hearings, they abandoned those efforts.

Speaking in B.C. Superior Court, Marilyn Sandford, Nuttall’s attorney, told Justice Catherine Bruce that her client had simply had enough of waiting, and was willing to abandon his efforts to obtain this critical evidence if it meant the trial would be able to move forward.

“My clients have been in custody for a long time,” Sandford said. “They are anxious to proceed and they are anxious that there not be any further delay.” 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

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

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

Fallacy Friday: Security agencies utterly lacking in credibility on security issues

Image description: One of those obnoxious "Keep calm and carry on"-style posters, reading "Keep calm and trust me - I'm an expert".

Image description: One of those obnoxious “Keep calm and carry on”-style posters, reading “Keep calm and trust me – I’m an expert”. (Image credit: Author)

The Ministers of Defence and Public Safety tout the “prominent” and “robust” roles that the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) will play in Canada’s retooled military operations in Iraq, but aren’t at liberty to reveal exactly what the two agencies will be doing.

Two former high-ranking national security officials pen an editorial urging the Trudeau government to retain and expand upon new powers granted to intelligence agencies by the controversial C-51, arguing that (unspecified) threats to Canada have “seldom been so high”.

In the wake of a pair of high-profile scandals at CSE and CSIS, officials reassure a worried public that the difficulties were the cause of “inadvertent” errors or the behaviour of a “rogue” lone (now-ex-)employee, and that when it comes to privacy concerns, people don’t really have anything to worry about.

How are we to assess these stories and others like them? The occasional dispatches we mere mortals receive from the lofty milieu of those with above-top-secret clearances are always glaringly incomplete, with key details replaced by an index finger coyly placed upon a smilingly tight lip. It’s often implied that if we just knew all the details, then of course we’d see things their way, but since for obvious reasons certain facts just can’t be revealed, we’ll just have to trust them.

But there’s a strong case to be made for doing the exact opposite – to treat each and every claim made by a national security official, a government minister, or a private-sector apologist for the surveillance apparatus with extreme skepticism or disbelief. Because of informational asymmetry and perverse incentives, the public has effectively no ability to objectively assess the claims of intelligence and security agencies, and no compelling reason to accept on faith alone that we aren’t being deceived in some way.  Continue Reading

100 days of (mostly cosmetic) Real Change™

Image description: Justin Trudeau stares intently into the camera, smiling slightly. In the top left is the Liberal Party logo. At the bottom, in white letters over a red background, it says: “I’m voting for real change”. The word “real”, unlike the other words, is in a hand-printed-esque font. (Image credit: Justin Trudeau/Twitter)

Though it’s hard to believe, it’s now been one hundred days since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took office. The hundred-day mark has held symbolic significance ever since U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt’s first term in office, in which he made a big show out of accomplishing certain campaign promises in his first hundred days.

Since then, the milestone has become an inflection point for new administrations, after which they cease to be new and begin to be judged in earnest on what they have done rather than what they have promised to do. When looking back on the first few months of a new government, one is often able to clearly see the priorities, methods, and style which will come to characterize its entire term in office. (One hundred days is, after all, not a trivial length of time, amounting to around 7% of the government’s term.)

So what can we discern about the Justin Trudeau government, looking back at the events which have transpired since that sunny November day on which he and his cabinet were sworn in with much pomp and celebration? The answer necessarily varies by issue, but one general trend is abundantly clear: in its first hundred days, the Trudeau government has demonstrated a commitment to changing the tone and style of politics in Ottawa, but that change has, with only a few exceptions, not been matched by a corresponding shift in the substance of the government’s policies on most major issues.  Continue Reading

B.C. terror trial suspended indefinitely after CSIS refuses to discuss their involvement in plot

Image description: A beaming John Nuttall, with shoulder-length hair and unkempt beard, sits in the passenger seat of a car. Directly behind him is Amanda Korody, wearing a black headscarf; Korody is grinning and has a cigarette in her mouth. (Image credit: RCMP surveillance photo)

The trial of Canada Day bombers John Nuttall and Amanda Korody has been indefinitely suspended after CSIS once again refused to turn over documents relating to their involvement in the plot.

Specific details on the reasons for the delay seem to be subject to a publication ban, as much of the past several weeks of the trial have been. But what is clear is that Canada’s spy agency is committed to doing everything in its power to keep its role in the affair under wraps. After weeks of efforts by the defence and the judge to compel CSIS to disclose any documentation they may have relating to an alleged human source of theirs, whom Nuttall says radicalized him and repeatedly urged him to commit violence in the name of Islam, the spy agency continues to stonewall. Continue Reading

New NEB rules aren’t credible coming from a government committed to building pipelines

Image description: a group of twenty to thirty people march down a sidewalk holding homemade signs protesting the tar sands and pipelines. (Image credit: Fibonacci Blue/Flikr)

Image description: a group of around thirty people march down a sidewalk holding signs (mostly homemade) protesting the tar sands and pipelines. (Image credit: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)

Earlier this week, the Trudeau government announced that it would be instituting new principles for ongoing reviews of pipeline projects like Energy East and Northern Gateway by the National Energy Board (NEB). These changes, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna said, were required to “rebuild Canadians’ trust in our environmental assessment processes” and to “take into account the views and concerns of Canadians, respect the rights and interests of indigenous peoples and support our natural resources sector.”

Setting aside the worrying implication that the current review process didn’t already perform basic consultative tasks, there was a troubling indication at the heart of the government’s rhetoric which completely undercuts their insistence that they want to build confidence in the NEB’s ability to reach scientifically sound and community-supported decisions:

[National Resources Minister Jim] Carr said the process will provide pipeline proponents greater certainty about the time involved in reaching decisions.

“If we’re going to attract the investments we need to sustainably develop our energy resources, then we have to better engage Canadians, conduct deeper consultations with indigenous peoples and base decisions on science, facts and evidence,” Carr said.

Did you catch it? It’s surrounded by caveats and reassurances, but it’s there – the assumption that the government must somehow find a way to facilitate the development of energy resources. (Note also McKenna’s statement above that the changes to the NEB process will “support our natural resources sector”.)

This is far from a one-off from Trudeau’s ministers. In fact, it’s been somewhat of a refrain for Jim Carr. Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.