Category Archives: Off-Topic Tuesday

Trudeau the Quant – “Deliverology” and the limits of data-driven governance

Image description: Justin Trudeau, in a grey jacket and white button-down shirt, stands by the side of a four-lane street, his mouth open, his brow slightly furrowed. (Image credit: Alex Guibord)

Image description: Justin Trudeau, pictured from the waist up wearing a grey pinstripe jacket and white button-down shirt, stands by the side of a four-lane Toronto street, his mouth open, his brow slightly furrowed. (Image credit: Alex Guibord)

The CBC is reporting that Sir Michael Barber, one-time “Chief Advisor on Delivery” to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is once against providing advice to the cabinet of Justin Trudeau at a retreat.

Barber first addressed the neophyte-heavy cabinet in New Brunswick in January, instructing the politicians on a delivery-focussed method for ensuring that the new government would be able to keep its promises.

If you’re unfamiliar with Michael Butler, well, lucky you. Continue Reading

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

Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP agree: criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic

Image description: A crowd at a protest. People hold signs reading "Boycott Israel BDS", "Free Palestine", and "Free Palestine - Let Gaza Live!" (Image credit: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Image description: A crowd at a protest. People hold signs reading “Boycott Israel BDS”, “Free Palestine”, and “Free Palestine – Let Gaza Live!” (Image credit: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Yesterday’s vote in Parliament on a resolution formally condemning the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement once again highlighted a massive shortcoming of the Canadian party system: on the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine, as on many critical issues, Canadians have no meaningful representation in Parliament. And it’s hard to avoid coming to the conclusion that that’s a feature, not a bug, of the system.

The Conservative Party, of course, is continuing in its steadfast and unrestrained embrace of right-wing Israeli politics, in the tradition of their former Dear Leader Stephen Harper, who in a 2014 speech to the Israeli Knesset had some strong words about the BDS movement: Continue Reading

RCMP indiscriminately collecting DNA from virtually every man in remote Manitoba First Nation

Image description: an aerial view of the First Nations community of Garden Hill, a town of single-storey dwellings and dirt roads on the shore of a large lake. (Image credit: By Timkal - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Image description: an aerial view of the First Nations community of Garden Hill, a town of single-storey dwellings and dirt roads on the shore of a large lake. (Image credit: Timkal – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Questions are being raised by human rights lawyers about the RCMP’s indiscriminate collection of the DNA of thousands of men in the remote Garden Hill First Nation in Manitoba.

The DNA collection is the latest effort by the RCMP to solve the murder of Teresa Robinson, an 11-year-old who was killed in May 2015. Apparently, the Mounties have no leads on the case, and so have started going door-to-door asking every man aged 15-66 to voluntarily provide a sample of their DNA. Roughly two thousand men in that age range live in the fly-in community.

It’s the largest DNA collection effort ever in Manitoba, and possibly in Canada. And some experts say the sheer scope of the collection is cause for concern: Continue Reading

Comedy of errors at CSIS highlights incompetence of surveillance review body

Image description: an outline of a keyhole against a black background. Through the keyhole is a blue eye looking directly at the camera. In the top left is a crest of a red maple leaf surrounded by a blue circle.

Last week, with the release of an annual report by the Security Review Intelligence Committee (SIRC), we got a rare glimpse into the normally secretive world of Canada’s spy agency – and the barest outline of a farcical comedy of errors emerged.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is very protective of its privacy – see their attempts to engineer a top-secret closed-doors no-defence-lawyers-allowed court session discussing their alleged involvement in a high-stakes terrorism trial – so it’s unlikely we’ll ever know the full story of what transpired. But from what’s been revealed to the public already, there’s some serious cause for concerns, both about CSIS’s ability and willingness to respect Canadians’ rights and about the government’s ability and willingness to create effective oversight for intelligence agencies. Continue Reading

Why 2016 will be a year of victories for the pipeline resistance movement

Image description: Three pipeline resisters are chained to a valve behind a chain-link fence, which bears a sign reading “NOTICE: NO TRESPASSING”. These three brave folks had their first trial session in Sarnia today in relation to the incident in question. (Image credit: The Indignants/Facebook)

Pipelines are having a moment right now.

Even in the darkest depths of the Harper years, I can’t recall a time when tar sands bitumen transportation infrastructure was such a hot-button headline issue. And not in an isolated one-off kind of way, either – barely a day goes by without some prominent national figure making some newsworthy statement about pipelines.

I mean, it’s only Tuesday, and here’s just some of the big news in pipelines so far this week: Continue Reading

Alberta introduces landmark policy on LGBTQ+ rights in schools; bigots everywhere outraged

Image: a rainbow flag with a Government of Alberta logo beneath it. Above is the caption “Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions”.

CONTENT WARNING: Transphobia, homophobia, discussion of suicide and suicidal thoughts

In a major victory for LGBTQ+ rights advocates, the Alberta Department of Education announced new guidelines on dealing with sexuality and gender in schools last week. The landmark new policy is the most comprehensive in Canada and sets a high standard for other provinces to follow.

Alberta’s new approach is especially pioneering on gender issues, as the Edmonton Journal details:

The new government guidelines say policies and regulations must “explicitly” protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, two-spirit, queer, questioning and/or gender-diverse students, teachers and family members. The document says all students have the right to be addressed by their chosen name and with pronouns that match their gender identity.

School dress codes should be revisited to ensure they don’t imply skirts can be worn only by females. Gender-segregated activities, including sports teams, should ensure students who are gender-diverse have the right to participate in activities congruent with their gender identity. Students should also be able to choose which washroom to use.

(If you’re interested, you can read all 12 of the guidelines in PDF form here.)

Though the policy released by the Alberta Department of Education is only a guideline, Education Minister David Eggen heavily insinuated that school boards which completely refuse to cooperate could find themselves in hot water: Continue Reading

With provincial election looming, did B.C. Liberals announce opposition to TransMountain due to public opposition?

In exciting news out of British Columbia yesterday, the provincial government announced that it will be recommending that the National Energy Board (NEB) deny Kinder Morgan’s proposal to construct the TransMountain pipeline.

The reason for their rejection of the proposal, ostensibly, is that Kinder Morgan didn’t meet their “world-leading” safety standards – an explanation that the always-good-for-a-giggle Financial Post didn’t find entirely convincing:

Of the four major export pipeline projects proposed to open new markets for Canadian oil production, the TMX expansion should have been the easiest to pull off because it twins a pipeline that has been safely transporting oil from Alberta to the B.C. coast for 60 years.

But in its final argument to the NEB, which is in the last days of a two-year review, B.C. threw the book at the project, claiming: “the company has not provided enough information around its proposed spill prevention and response for the province to determine if it would use a world leading spills regime.”

This after a review that, according to TMX proponent Kinder Morgan, was one of the most comprehensive in the board’s history and involved the filing of a 16,000-page application, answering 17,000 questions, participation of more than 400 intervenors and of 1,250 commenters, not to mention more than $300 million in costs.

There’s more snarky disbelief further down in the article, if you’re into that sort of thing.

The thing is, I think the FP is on to something here. Because I can just as easily imagine the B.C. government using those exact same statistics to label the consultation and review process “exhaustive” and throwing their support behind the project.

This is the B.C. “Liberal” Party we’re talking about here, after all – in a province where the Conservative Party failed to capture a single seat in the last election, they are the pro-business right-of-centre option. Mining, forestry, and construction corporations have given them nearly $50 million over the last decade, and their victory in the 2013 provincial election was celebrated by the B.C. Chambers of Commerce as “good news for business owners“.

Which is to say, one can easily imagine a parallel universe in which they spun the research and the data in the other direction and supported TransMountain. So why didn’t they IRL? Continue Reading

History lesson: the Ts’Peten (Gustafsen Lake) standoffs

An open letter from Secwepemc elder Wolverine (also known by his colonial name William Jones Ignace) to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been making the rounds on social media recently. Wolverine was a major figure in the Ts’Peten (Gustafsen Lake) standoff between the RCMP/Canadian Armed Forces and Secwepemc Sundancers and their allies in British Columbia in 1995. In his letter, Wolverine urges the Prime Minister to launch a national inquiry into the standoff.

His letter is powerfully eloquent and well worth reading in full, as are his protege Harsha Walia’s comments on the man and his legacy. I’m quoting him at length but I strongly urge you to read the whole thing:

Today I am writing to you to request that you initiate a federal public inquiry into the events surrounding the month long standoff at Ts’Peten (Gustafsen Lake), British Columbia in 1995, an event which cast a deep shadow on the relationship between the Canadian government and Indigenous nations, which to this day has not been adequately investigated.

In 1995, after a long history of peaceful attempts to have Secwepemc sovereignty respected, Indigenous people from the Secewpemc nation and their supporters took a stand on sacred Sundance lands at Ts’Peten, aka Gustafsen Lake. The incident began after a local white rancher, Lyle James began demanding that the sacred Secwepemc Sundance Camp leave land to which he claimed ownership. Approximately 24 Sundancers set up camp to defend Ts’Peten. I was one of those people.

Beginning in August 1995, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) surrounded the Ts’Peten Defenders. Over the next month police, politicians, and media escalated the situation to make the siege the most expensive and largest domestic military operation in Canada’s history: armoured personnel carriers, .50 calibre machine guns, land mines, and an astonishing 77,000 rounds of ammunition were directed at the land defenders. In the course of the standoff, RCMP shot at unarmed people and at people in negotiated no-shoot zones. RCMP Superintendent Murray Johnston expressed the belief that a resolution to the standoff would “require the killing” of the defenders, including myself. Although this thankfully did not come to be, the unjust and violent actions carried out against the Secwepemc people during the siege remains strong in our memories to this day.

Despite the twenty years that have passed since the Ts’Peten standoff, the core issues that so forcefully clashed against each other remain at the forefront of the hearts and minds of Indigenous people. That is our right to self-determination, autonomy and protection from the dispossession of our lands and territories. According to the Royal Proclamation of 1763, Aboriginal Title to land exists inherently and will continue to exist until it has been ceded by treaty with the Crown. The land on which the Ts’Peten standoff occurred was, and remains to this day, unceded territory. The land at Ts’Peten was never handed over by the Secwepemc Nation to Canadian control through treaty or otherwise, and is therefore land that cannot have been sold to settlers by the Canadian or British Columbian governments. The use of Canadian paramilitary forces against the people of the Secwepemc nation asserting our inherent jurisdiction and title over our own territories therefore is a serious abrogation of the Nation to Nation relationship between the Canadian government and the Secwepemc Nation.

This abrogation has yet to be properly investigated, and remains one of the largest stains on relations between Indigenous nations and the Canadian state. A public federal inquiry is long overdue into the actions of the RCMP, the Canadian government and the provincial government of British Columbia.

Continue Reading

As 2015 comes to a close, these major ongoing issues aren’t going anywhere

This awkward week jammed in between Christmas and New Year’s is when some of the year’s most half-assed journalism gets cranked out, in the form of phoned-in Year in Review pieces, or worse, Top Ten Blanks of 201x listicles.

I don’t have a problem with retrospectives. It’s just that the last week of December is only ever the actual turning point in current events by pure chance or accident. More often than not, major stories are still developing, trends are still unfolding, and it’s too soon to pass judgement on what the legacy of recent events will actually be.

So in my final post of 2015, I’m going to eschew the lazy conventions of the genre by highlighting a few stories which are very much ongoing affairs as the year comes to a close. Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.