Tag Archives: racism

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

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

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

Body cameras, TPS’s biggest response Sammy Yatim shooting, wouldn’t have prevented his death

Image description: A close-up shot of a Toronto police officer, from chin to mid-torso. Attached to their uniform just below the shoulder is a small black camera with a forward-facing screen. (Image credit: TPS)

Image description: A close-up shot of a side-facing Toronto police officer, from chin to mid-torso. Attached to their uniform just below the shoulder is a small black camera with a forward-facing screen. (Image credit: TPS)

As you’ve no doubt heard if you live in Toronto, James Forcillo, the cop who shot and killed Sammy Yatim on a streetcar in 2013, was found guilty this week – not of murder, but of attempted murder.

It’s a sad but true fact that no cop has ever been convicted of murder in Ontario, and many legal observers expected that, given the legal system’s built-in lenience towards killers in uniforms, Forcillo was likely to get off scot-free. It’s better than nothing, a lot of folks are saying. At least he was found guilty of something.

While I see where this argument is coming from, it feels defeatist to me. It feels like it gives up too easily, resigns itself to a certain level of police brutality and impunity.

James Forcillo murdered Sammy Yatim. He had a vast variety of options at his disposal short of shooting and killing the disturbed teenager, and he tried literally none of them. Sammy Yatim’s death was tragic, senseless, entirely unnecessary. In finding Forcillo not guilty on a charge of second-degree murder, the jury was essentially saying that his actions were justifiable. That this is possible, that we aren’t able to legally hold police to higher standards than the general population, is a travesty.

As for the precedent this trial sets, it’s hard to say. Police union president Mike McCormack is convinced that it will have a chilling effect on officers, will make them more hesitant to act in volatile situation, will make us all less safe. There’s a lot of bullshit in the way he’s spinning that, but maybe it’s true that cops will feel slightly less trigger-happy knowing that they may actually face (gasp!) consequences.

To date, the most significant consequence of the Yatim shooting is the implementation of a few key recommendations made by an inquiry into his death by Frank Iacobucci, a retired Supreme Court justice. One of these recommendations was the use of body cameras by frontline Toronto police officers, and a pilot program was launched last May.

In this article, I argued that body cameras are a solution in search of a problem (in that we don’t lack for footage of abusive cops, taken by civilians or surveillance cameras or dash cameras), that they are problematic and prone to abuse, and that body cameras do literally nothing to address the actual root causes of police brutality. Continue Reading

In massive disappointment, Bill Blair selected to lead government’s marijuana legalization initiative

My initial reaction to Justin Trudeau’s announcement of the composition of his cabinet last November was profound relief at the omission of former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair.

Long-time readers of The Alfalfafield will know that I’m no fan of Blair. And after watching Trudeau’s Liberal Party do some heavy lifting to get their preferred candidates selected in their supposedly “open” nomination contests prior to the election, including having Trudeau publicly appear with Blair at a joint press conference in Ottawa long before he was selected as a candidate by his local riding association, I was concerned that a Liberal government would elevate the criminal and racist ex-cop to a prominent post in a ministry like Public Safety or even Defence. (He was selected for the seemingly low-profile position of Parliamentary Secretary for Minister of Justice Judy Wilson-Raybould.)

My relief that the rookie MP and veteran abuser of rights would be largely relegated to the back-benches was, sadly, short-lived. Yesterday, the CBC reported that Blair has been tapped by Trudeau to be the point person for the Liberals’ efforts to legalize marijuana.

For folks who have tirelessly advocated for legalization over the past several years and decades, this has to be a disappointing choice.

It seems to indicate that the government’s foremost priority is placating conservative critics of their push for legalization. By deploying a former police officer, they undermine claims that they’re being “soft on crime”, to be sure – but they’re also putting arguments about law and order, and about public safety, at the forefront of their effort.

Just look at these glowing quotes the CBC got about Blair’s selection: Continue Reading

Looking on the bright side – Liberals move to abolish two-tier citizenship

It pains me to admit this, but today I was pleased with Justin Trudeau.

Regular readers of The Alfalfafield will know that I’m not a big fan of our Boy Wonder Prime Minister, with his signature Sunny Ways™ “change of tone” and his short-on-specifics promises of Real Change™.

I’ve castigated this new government over its lukewarm attitude towards privacy rights in its efforts to “fix” Bill C-51, the Prime Minister’s incoherent and misguided approach to the fight with ISIS, the Liberal Party’s wishy-washy, unexplained, and unjustified support for the corporate-sellout sovereignty-killing TPP, the half-assed reforms of the National Energy Board which leave major Indigenous concerns unaddressed and make the approval of environmentally destructive pipelines extremely likely, and Trudeau’s unwillingness to back down from a major arms deal with Saudi Arabia despite overwhelming concerns about the human rights implications of helping to arm such a notoriously repressive regime, among other issues.

A few days following his election, I said that “in most ways that matter, Prime Minister Trudeau will be no better than Harper”, and much to my disappointment, I haven’t really changed my opinion on that score. Though their motivations and their personalities are worlds apart, the two Prime Ministers are ideologically united on far more important issues than most people realize

But it’s tough being all gloomy and doomy all the time. It’s nice to look on the bright side every now and then. And every once in a while, Trudeau gives me a reason to smile.

Now, usually it’s just a matter of him not being as big of a raging flaming asshole as Stephen Harper was, and so really he’s only looking good by comparison. But after a long decade under that terrifying psychopath, it’s actually pretty satisfying when the government doesn’t take the path of maximum assholery.

Cause for celebration? No, not really. But I’m doing my best to look on the bright side today, so bear with me. Continue Reading

Fallacy Friday: Acknowledging police racism endangers cops, says RCMP officers’ association

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson was criticized for acknowledging that there are racists officers in his police force. (Image credit: RCMP)

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson was criticized for acknowledging that there are racists officers in his police force. (Image credit: RCMP)

CONTENT WARNING: This article contains graphic descriptions of police brutality, violence (including sexual violence), and institutional racism.

Early last month, RCMP Commission Bob Paulson (no, not that Robert Paulson!), speaking to a gathering of First Nations chiefs, made a somewhat surprising admission. Continue Reading

Trudeau’s reaction to Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report provokes both hope and skepticism

The residential school system which was imposed upon generations of Indigenous people across so-called “Canada” is a permanent stain upon the history of this land.

The full extent of the horrors suffered by the children forced into these brutal institutions was for decades denied, then downplayed, then shrugged off as ancient history.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper did his best to put an end to discussion of the matter by offering a formal governmental apology, an apology that was clearly shown to be hollow when his government refused to cooperate with the survivor-funded Truth and Reconciliation Commission when it embarked on a systemic inquiry of residential schools some six years ago.

The TRC today released the final volume of its report on the residential school system. You may recall that the summary of their report, issued with 94 recommendations, was released with great fanfare back in June, on the eve of a federal election, and, in a pathetic commentary on white fragility, managed to make waves for its use of the term “cultural genocide” to describe the practice of forcibly removing Indigenous children from their parents, punishing them for speaking their languages, teaching them their customs were barbaric and savage, and employing extreme physical and sexual violence against them in an effort to make them conform.

One other moment from that event which sticks out in my memory is when TRC Chair Justice Murray Sinclair called for a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women, and the whole room stood and applauded except for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, whom Thomas Mulciar side-eyed the fuck out of.

The change in tone from the Conservatives at the release of the report’s summary to the Liberals at the release of the full report is night and day. Here’s what Prime Minister Trudeau had to say today:

But here’s the thing: at this point, the difference is only one of tone, and that needs to be pointed out, again and again, relentlessly, because saying nice and comforting and agreeable things is what politicians are best at, and what ultimately matters least. Harper was willing to say the nice and comforting and agreeable things when he apologized for the residential school system, and he had no compunctions about thereafter decimating funding for Indigenous people, refusing to consult First Nations on major resource extraction projects which affected them, refusing to meet hunger-striking Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, and enacting policies which made it much more difficult for Indigenous people to vote.

Similarly, the Liberal Party doesn’t exactly have a sparkling history when it comes to Indigenous issues, including under the current Prime Minister’s father and his then-Indian Affairs Minister (and future PM) Jean Chretien. As Cree writer Harold Cardinal put it back in his 1969 book “The Unjust Society”: Continue Reading

Don’t act so smug about Trump, Canada – Islamophobia is a serious problem here too

Image: Zunera Ishaq wearing a colorful patterned niqab. Ishaq’s battle to wear her niqab while she took her oath of citizenship became a central focus in the recent election, just one example of widespread anti-Muslim racism in Canadian politics. (Image credit: CP/Patrick Doyle)

Yesterday, as the first few hundred Syrian refugees since the election began to arrive in Canada, the Toronto Star printed a front-page editorial saying, in English and Arabic, “Welcome to Canada,” telling refugees that they’re “with family now.”

The short piece, which leaned heavily on well-worn and outdated Canadian stereotypes (and a totally gratuitous plug for Tim Hortons), played up the notion that Canadians are, as a group, a welcoming and tolerant people.

There was an almost self-congratulatory tone to the whole thing – an entirely implicit one, of course. But in a week which featured a call from a leading candidate for the American presidency to ban all Muslims from entry into the “land of the free”, the very act of publicly welcoming Syrian refugees takes on a secondary dimension of subtly proclaiming that we are a much more open and accepting nation.

As for Trump himself, his anti-Muslim remarks this week set off a flurry of condemnation from Canadian politicians. NDP leader Thomas Mulcair called for banning Trump and others who “spout hatred” from entering Canada, and Toronto and Vancouver city councillors are working on proposals to remove Trump’s name from high-profile skyscrapers in the two cities. Toronto councillor Josh Matlow went so far as to call Trump a “fascist” on Twitter.

And for many, the contrast between Canada and the United States was crystal clear: 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

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