Tag Archives: Stephen Harper

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

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

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

ICYMI: Conservative Party’s disastrous approach to Ukraine embraced by Liberals

Image description: Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, both standing, shake hands in front of a row of Canadian and Ukrainian flags on July 14, 2015. In front of them is a table with two chairs, two sets of documents and pens, and a vase of flowers. To either side of the Prime Ministers are two unidentified observers. (Image credit: Uncredicted/pm.gc.ca via the Wayback Machine)

Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada says that the new Liberal government hasn’t departed in any major way from the policies of the old Conservative one – and that’s cause for major concern.

But unlike other continuities from the Harper era which have garnered much more attention, the new administration’s steady-as-she-goes approach to the Ukraine file is drawing precious little comment from the press or the public.

While debate rages over the Trudeau government’s retooled war non-combat operation in Iraq, for instance, a renewed deployment of Canadian Forces troops on a virtually identical “training” “non-combat” mission to Ukraine came and went with a minimum of national attention or fuss.

But that’s a problem, because the mission was never subject to much public scrutiny to begin with. That was despite the fact that there were major concerns that Canadian troops would be training Nazis.

Typically, the word “Nazi” is deployed as a hyperbolic epithet, but in this case we’re talking about actual factual honest-to-God Nazis: 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

String of prisoner strikes highlights atrocious state of jails in Canada

Image: a view of the front entrance of the Toronto South Detention Centre, a tall building with glass-panelled walls.

A hunger strike at a Regina jail last week was just the latest in a series of high-profile protests by prisoners over the past six months, and underscored the crisis facing the Canadian prison system as it struggles to deal with the legacy of the Harper-era tough-on-crime agenda.

Back in late 2010, when Stephen Harper laid out his new prison-building tough-on-crime agenda, critics were quick to point out a lot of flaws in his plan.

They questioned the necessity of building new prisons at a time when crime rates were at an all-time national low. They questioned the wisdom of harsh mandatory minimum sentences for drug offences, a practice that many charge creates far more problems than it solves. They questioned the massive $2-billion price tag attached to the prison expansions and sentencing changes. They questioned the unnecessarily harsh and punitive approach taken by the Harper government, which overlooked research into proven successful measures like poverty reduction and increased support for people with mental illnesses.

Those questions – including ones raised by senior researchers in the Justice Department – ultimately went unanswered as an omnibus crime bill was pushed through Parliament in early 2012.

By the next year, prisoners across Canada were going on strike, as this VICE investigative report details: Continue Reading

Trudeau, Harper, Saudi Arabia, and Real Change™

Image: 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 Artillery 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.

 This one is from the prosaically named Department of Plus ça change, plus c’est le meme chose. 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

Canada’s $15-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia moves forward despite brutal executions

Today, the Saudi Arabian government executed forty-seven people on terrorism charges, several of them by beheading and the rest by firing squad.

The most prominent of the forty-seven was Sheikh Nimr al-Namr, a Shia cleric who had been critical of the House of Saud for several years and took a prominent role in a 2011-12 protest movement against the regime in the nation’s eastern provinces.

Charged with “disobeying the ruler” and “encouraging, leading, and participating in demonstrations”, al-Namr was sentenced to death last October. His death has provoked outrage from human rights advocacy groups and in Shia-majority nations, including Iran, where protesters apparently stormed and looted the Saudi embassy.

But expect to hear little or no condemnation of the Saudi regime from our government here in Canada. One can easily imagine the outcry if it were, say, Iran, or Russia, or Syria’s Bashar al-Assad brutally executing four dozen dissidents, but when it comes to our “allies” the Saudis, most Western governments have a massive blind spot. Continue Reading

Remember #StopC51? Anybody?

Image: a protester holds a sign with a thumbs-down symbol over the words C-51 at a large rally. (Image credit: openmedia.org)

It was the major rallying cry of activist groups across Canada this spring. Tens of thousands took to the streets in big cities and small towns in opposition to its passage. Editorial boards slammed its heavy-handed creeping totalitarianism, even at more conservative publications like the Globe and Mail:

On close inspection, Bill C-51 is not an anti-terrorism bill. Fighting terrorism is its pretext; its language reveals a broader goal of allowing government departments, as well as CSIS, to act whenever they believe limply defined security threats “may” – not “will” – occur.

It became one of the most fiercely debated and protested government bills in recent years, and its passage was fought tooth and nail.

It’s easy to forget now, but when C-51 was first proposed, it was wildly popular. Something like 80% of Canadians were in favour of its passage, with many saying that the bill didn’t go far enough in tackling terrorism.

It was only after a fantastically organized grassroots campaign of public education against the bill and high-profile criticisms of its contents, including condemnations from the Canadian Bar Association and four former Prime Ministers, that public opinion started to turn around. And, it’s worth noting, it was only when a majority of Canadians opposed the bill that Leader of the Opposition Thomas Mulcair finally clarified that he favoured its repeal. As late as mid-May, the NDP’s opposition mainly focussed on the lack of Parliamentary oversight of intelligence agencies, and while Mulcair had indicated he would vote against the bill, some comments he had made on the issue seemed to imply that he favoured reforming it if his party won the election in October.

Meanwhile, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s inherently mockable wishy-washy position, that he was against portions of the bill but would be voting for it nonetheless, seemed to fail to capture the urgency of the issue. For many, it was nuance for the sake of nuance, when what was called for was a clear and unequivocal denunciation of the dangers of the law. Andrew Mitrovica at iPolitics was unreserving in his scorn: Continue Reading

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