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

ICYMI: Stephen Lewis lays it down

Image description: The outlines of the letters "L E A P" appear over a background of colourful shapes and patterns drawn in what looks like pencil crayon. The images include a tree, the head of a bird, triangles which may represent mountains, and a building with a smokestack. At the bottom, in small white letters, is a passage which reads: ""Moved by the treaties that formed this country and bind us to share the land "for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow," we want energy sources that will last for time immemorial and never run out or poison the land." - The Leap Manifesto" (Image credit: Matt Forsythe/Leap Manifesto)

Image description: The large outlines of the letters “L E A P” appear in white over a background of colourful shapes and patterns drawn in what looks like pencil crayon. The images include a tree, the head of a bird, triangles which may represent mountains, and buildings with smokestacks. At the bottom, in small white letters, is a passage which reads: “”Moved by the treaties that formed this country and bind us to share the land “for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow,” we want energy sources that will last for time immemorial and never run out or poison the land.” – The Leap Manifesto” (Image credit: Matt Forsythe/Leap Manifesto)

Last September, when the Leap Manifesto burst into the middle of a massively meh marathon election campaign, I was completely in favour of the proposals it espoused and entirely pessimistic about its chances of being seriously considered by any of the major parties.

The Manifesto, in case you came in late, can be read here and is essentially a concrete and detailed plan for a transformation of the Canadian economy, political system, energy infrastructure, racial relations, and worker/capitalist relations, all with the aim of making Earth more habitable and life more enjoyable in both the short and long term.

As I wrote at the time, the Manifesto seemed to be doomed due to its overt hostility towards the ruling class: Continue Reading

Mulcair’s dismissal is latest escalation in NDP’s civil war

Image description: a close up of Thomas Mulcair’s face, from bearded chin to eyebrows. Mulcair looks happy, euphoric even. There are smile creases around his eyes and his teeth are showing. The lighting is low and blue-tinged. (Image credit: Youtube)

It’s trite and commonplace, in the aftermath of a surprising turn of events, to say that we all should have seen it coming. And many pundits, struggling to explain the stunning rejection of Thomas Mulcair by the NDP’s membership, are already hastening to reassure us all that the signs were there all along that Mulcair was done for.

Chantel Hébert, writing in the Star, insists that the “writing was on the wall for Mulcair”, and that it should have been obvious to everybody that the record-high turnout for the NDP convention foreshadowed a shakeup at the top. The pundits on CPAC, reeling from the shock of the result, anxiously rattled off a long list of signs that things hadn’t been going the way Angry Tom had planned.

But all those same pundits had spent the last few weeks talking about a hypothetical 70% approval rating threshold, and whether or not Mulcair would be able to cling to power had he failed to achieve that magic number. A lot of attention was paid to many scenarios, from a commanding Mulcair victory to a mid-50s approval, but not one professional commentator I heard or read even suggested that outright rejection at the hands of the party was possible.

In retrospect, yes, it seems obvious that Mulcair was doomed. But if we’re gonna get all retrospectively prognosticatory, why cast our gaze back only a few days? Why not cast it back even further than last October’s disastrous election night, in which the NDP lost more than half its seats and its best-ever chance at forming government?

We should have seen it all coming the day that Naomi Klein launched her Leap Manifesto with the support of an all-star line-up of Canadian activists and leftists. Continue Reading

Pre-crime arrest shows Trudeau Liberals intend to leave C-51 mostly intact

Image: A hand holds a cardboard sign reading “C-51 IS TERRORISM – REJECT FEAR”

For well over a year now, Justin Trudeau’s promise to “fix” the “problematic aspects” of Bill C-51 once his party formed government has been the source of considerable uncertainty. Just what exactly does he mean by “problematic”? Which parts will he keep, and which will he amend, and which will he discard? Neither the Prime Minister nor his Public Safety Minister, Ralph Goodale, have been particularly detailed in their public statements on the matter, although careful parsing of their interviews do glean some insights, at least about some things they intend to change.

The government’s focus so far has been on increased oversight of intelligence and security agencies, both by existing bodies and by a new committee of parliamentarians. (Although their major cuts to the budget of SIRC, the body which provides oversight to CSIS, raises serious questions about their commitment to robust oversight.) They’ve made vaguely reassuring noises about protecting “civil” protest and have promised to tidy up the bureaucratic Gordian Knot commonly known as the no-fly list.

But they’ve been silent about privacy concerns, and documents recently released in response to a Freedom of Information request begrudgingly acknowledged that Canadians’ private information has been shared by at least four agencies, one of which had its name completely redacted from the release. Given the responsiveness of CSE to Defence Minister Sarjit Hajjan’s demand that the signals intelligence agency stop sharing information with its foreign counterparts during the metadata scandal which erupted earlier this year, we have to presume that this inter-agency C51-approved info-sharing is happening with the Trudeau government’s blessing.

The government has been equally circumspect as to their plans for the controversially expansive new powers granted to spy agencies like CSIS. In fact, they’ve been frustratingly tight-lipped on the subject of how they have been using these new powers since they formed government last year, and are keeping their predecessors’ instructions to CSIS on how to use these powers top secret. This silence, as I’ve suggested, always seemed to indicate that they intended to leave these issues unaddressed.

And with the arrest of Kevin Omar Mohamed by the RCMP last week, the Liberal government has finally and conclusively tipped their hand – the security agencies’ new powers look to be here to say. Continue Reading

Defining victory in activism, from #BLMTOtentcity to the Site C hunger strike

Image description: A split shot. On the left is hunger striker Kristen Henry at the protest encampment outside of B.C. Hydro; behind her are several tarps, tents, and signs. On the right is the Black Lives Matter Toronto "tent" city outside of TPS headquarters; a large crowd is gathered on the sidewalk, with several colourful tarps in the foreground, apparently covering piles of supplies. (Image credits: Facebook/Youtube)

Image description: A split shot. On the left is hunger striker Kristen Henry at the protest encampment outside of B.C. Hydro; behind her are several tarps, tents, and signs. On the right is the Black Lives Matter Toronto “tent” city outside of TPS headquarters; a large crowd is gathered on the sidewalk, with several colourful tarps in the foreground, apparently covering piles of supplies. (Image credits: Facebook/Flipboard)

Often, activists are met with derisive questions from opponents as to what, exactly, they think they’re trying to accomplish by (blocking off traffic/marching and chanting/occupying space/working to rule/etc). The implication often seems to be that important decisions about the division of power and resources aren’t made in the streets, but in the halls of power, and that by taking up public space and making a ruckus, advocates are misdirecting their energy and doing nothing to forward their causes. (Often, of course, these criticisms are coupled with disdain for those very causes.)

In recent years, we’ve heard these criticisms mounted, with varying degrees of self-righteous intensity, against the massive anti-capitalist demonstrations at the Toronto G-20 in 2010, against the Occupy movement and its encampments in 2011, against the Québec student strike in 2012, against Idle No More’s road and rail barricades in 2013, and against anti-pipeline demonstrations for quite some time. We’re once again hearing this rhetoric deployed against the two most high-profile protest encampments since Occupy, the Black Lives Matter Toronto tent city (#BLMTOtentcity) at Toronto Police Services’ headquarters and the protest camp/hunger strike against Site C taking place on B.C. Hydro’s doorstep in Vancouver.

To listen to the contemporary critics of each of these movements, all were wastes of time, orchestrated by “professional activists” and attended by the ignorant unemployed, employing needlessly confrontational and counter-productive tactics which would ultimately prove self-defeating.

But the simple truth is that each of these movements did have accomplishments. Some were more successful than others, to be sure, but each of them was able to boast some major achievements.

That being said, not all are remembered as successes. Continue Reading

Unscheduled hiatus

Image description: A GIF of a black and white cat sitting at a laptop and moving a mouse with its paw. (Image credit: Buzzfeed/I don’t own this at all/please don’t sue me!)

Hello folks!

As you may have noticed, The Alfalfafield has been on an unscheduled hiatus for the last week or so, and posts have been less regular for a while now.

This blog is a labour of love for me – I do all of my research and writing in my spare time, and that spare time has been pretty scarce lately, for a variety of reasons.

The good news (at least blog-wise) is that I’m now unemployed, and so I should be able to return to a consistent posting schedule, for at least as long as I need something to distract me from the miserable hell which is job hunting. If all goes well, I might even be able to take on some more ambitious and longer-form projects.

Thanks for your patience, and keep your eye on this space!

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

Copyright © 2017. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.