Month: January 2010

Misconceptions surrounding the Afghan detainee issue in Canada.

“Human rights commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society…It is in fact totalitarianism. I find this is very scary stuff.” (Stephen Harper, BC Report, January 11, 1999)

I have heard so many rumors and comments as of late and I wanted to address some of the major misconceptions that I so frequently hear about the Afghan detainee scandal. PM Stephen Harper’s recent proroguing of Parliament has been linked by Canadian media to the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan interrogations into allegations of the torture of Afghan prisoners after they were handed over by Canadian Forces to Afghan authorities. The handing over of prisoners to torture is in breach of international laws and conventions, Canadian laws, as well as the technical agreements for the Canadian mission in Afghanistan that could result in possible war crime charges for some officials in the Canadian government. Michael Byers and William A. Schabas have formally requested the ICC investigate these allegations after pleas to apply the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms during the armed conflict in Afghanistan in the Federal Court of Canada, were denied. Sadly, the vague nature of the international laws makes justice illusive.

Firstly, I completely disagree with some of the statements I have heard that essentially say that discussing the issue or calling for an inquiry on these allegations is tantamount to not supporting our troops. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The international laws and conventions that prohibit torture or handing over prisoners to torture are in place to protect soldiers and those involved in war. Ignoring international conventions and laws not only disgraces our public image and any moral ground for our military intervention anywhere, but also puts all our soldiers at greater risk.  How can our government expect to invoke these laws for our own troop’s protection when they don’t have respect enough to follow them or investigate internal breaches fully? I will repeat my favorite comment from Brigadier-General Kenneth Watkin during the November 4, 2009 Committee meeting, “Respect for the rule of law is an essential aspect of Canadian Forces operations. Fostering respect for the rule of law is a key reason why we are in Afghanistan.

I would like to clarify that it is not individual soldiers who would be held responsible for war crimes, but rather those who ordered the troops and officials to ignore international laws. If you have doubts of this, please refer to the history of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its proceedings. Brigadier-General Kenneth Watkin further details who has this authority in the Canadian Forces, “The decision to transfer such persons rests with the Canadian Commander of Joint Task Force Afghanistan and is made on a case-by-case basis.”

Secondly, some seem to believe that direct proof of torture must be found before we are to stop transferring detainees to Afghan officials. This is simply untrue. Those handing over prisoners or detainees “must be satisfied that there are no substantial grounds for believing that there exists a real risk that a detainee would be in danger of being subjected to torture or other forms of mistreatment“. Suspicion of torture is enough. Was there any suspicion of torture?  I think it is fairly clear that there was. Here is just one report by Graeme Smith from 2007. Amnesty International also reported on these concerns (and took the matter to the Federal Court of Canada), as did the Independent Afghanistan Human Rights Commission, Mrs. Ouimet of La Presse, the U.S. State Department, several UN reports and the Red Cross. Even General Hillier has suggested that he knew of allegations of torture when asked, “Were you aware of those reports about torture in Afghan prisons?”  he responded “yes, absolutely. You could not not be aware.” (November 25, 2009), but these reports were dismissed without full investigation or follow up to ensure the laws were being properly respected.

Sadly, there have also been allegations that there was a scripted cover-up ordered by the PM and allegations of intimidation of witnesses and the obstruction and interference of Committee work by Government officials in the Committee in the House of Parliament. I quote from the above document, “That the Committee believes a serious breach of privilege has occurred and members’ rights have been violated, that the Government of Canada, particularly the Department of Justice and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, have intimidated a witness of this Committee, and obstructed and interfered with the Committee’s work and with the papers requested by this Committee.” This does not sound like the behaviour of leaders. It sounds like the behaviour of criminals. For shame. The truth must be told and any problems immediately rectified. According to the Parliamentary Journals (see particularly under the sections labeled “Business of Supply”) the majority of the house voted in favor of being supplied with access to uncensored documents currently being withheld by members of the government invoking the Canada Evidence Act (YEAS: 146, NAYS: 143). Despite this majority vote, the documents have yet to be supplied. The Committee must continue and investigations to prove or disprove the allegations must be made. Richard Colvin recently put forth this document to refute some of the evidence that was brought out during committee. Colvin has stated that he sent several emails about the issue that went ignored, with those in charge claiming that they never received emails from him that detailed anything about possible torture.

Thirdly, I have heard the excuse to the effect of, “what were they supposed to do about it, they had little choice but to hand them over”. This is also simply not true. As mentioned below in the Committee meeting from November 18th, 2009, other countries in a similar position have acted in a more responsible manner. Please read up on the actions of the Dutch and British armies in relation to our actions (it’s lengthy so I won’t quote it all here). Clearly, there was a choice and the choice made was to ignore international laws.

I urge you all to actually read the transcripts of the evidence as it is quite substantial and in parts quite disturbing. You can find the full disclosed details of the Afghan committee here.

You can watch the Richard Colvin testimony here:

I have chosen to highlight some of the evidence before Parliament that I feel is incredibly important to not overlook.

From November 4, 2009:
Brigadier-General Kenneth W. Watkin (Judge Advocate General, Department of National Defence– the legal adviser to the Governor General, the Minister of National Defence, the Department of National Defence, and the Canadian Forces, in matters relating to military law.): “Torture is abhorrent and can never be tolerated. The prohibition against torture is a peremptory and non-derogable norm of international law. The transfer of detainees to a real risk of torture or ill-treatment is contrary to international humanitarian law, also known as the law of war or the law of armed conflict. It is a specialized body of law that governs the conduct of Canada, its officials, and its military forces during the armed conflict in Afghanistan. The policies and procedures put in place by the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan and the legal test that must be satisfied before detainees can be transferred are all meant to ensure compliance with these international legal obligations.”

” The technical arrangements expressly state that, [d]etainees would be afforded the same treatment as prisoners of war. Detainees would be transferred to Afghan authorities in a manner consistent with international law and subject to
negotiated assurances regarding their treatment and transfer. The reference to detainees being afforded the same treatment as prisoners of war does not mean they have the status of prisoners of war. Rather, it demonstrates that we
are extending well-established and comprehensive international law protection for such detainees.”

“The court found that under the technical arrangements the detention of persons adverse in interest or providing support in respect of acts harmful to the Canadian Forces and coalition forces, and the transfer to Afghan custody of such persons, is to be carried out in accordance with international law. Prior to transfer, detainees are held in a temporary Canadian facility on a multinational base. The decision to transfer such persons rests with the Canadian commander of Joint Task Force Afghanistan and is made on a case-by-case basis.”

“The legal test that must be met before a detainee can be transferred by the Canadian Forces to Afghan authorities, and this was confirmed by the Federal Court of Canada and the Federal Court of Appeal in the Amnesty case, is clear: the commander of Joint Task Force Afghanistan must be satisfied that there are no substantial grounds for believing that there exists a real risk that a detainee would be in danger of being subjected to torture or other forms of mistreatment at the hands of Afghan authorities.”

“…that there is no “legal no-man’s land” concerning the transfer of detainees to the Government of Afghanistan. International humanitarian law applies. Canada has “applied” the words of that code by making arrangements and establishing procedures to guarantee that detainees transferred by the Canadian Forces are protected.”

And my personal favorite: “Respect for the rule of law is an essential aspect of Canadian Forces operations. Fostering respect for the rule of law is a key reason why we are in Afghanistan.”

From November 18, 2009:

Mr. Richard Colvin: “What was the nature of our detainee system in Kandahar? Perhaps a good place to start is to compare our practices to those of our principal NATO allies in southern Afghanistan: the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. What we were doing differed in five crucial respects.

First, we took and transferred far more detainees. …As of May 2007, Canada had transferred to the Afghan authorities six times as many detainees as the British, who were conducting military operations just as aggressive as ours and had twice as many troops in theatre, and we had transferred twenty times as many detainees as the Dutch.

Second, we did not monitor our own detainees after their transfer. Again, unlike the British and Dutch, Canada’s memorandum of understanding on detainees, signed by General Rick Hillier in December 2005, had no provision for our own officials to follow up on what happened to our detainees after they were handed to the Afghan intelligence service, the NDS, or National Directorate of Security.”

” Instead, our detainee system relied upon two human rights groups to monitor the well-being of detainees after transfer: the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, or AIHRC, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Unfortunately, the AIHRC had very limited capacity, and in Kandahar were not allowed into the NDS prisons. So for the purposes of monitoring our detainees, they were unfortunately quite useless. The Red Cross is a very professional and effective organization. However, they were also no good for us as monitors. Once a detainee had been transferred to Afghan custody, the Red Cross, under their rules, could only inform the Afghan authorities about abuse. Under those strict rules, they are not permitted to tell Canada.

The third important difference is that, again unlike the Dutch and British, Canada was extremely slow to inform the Red Cross when we had transferred a detainee to the Afghans. The Canadian Forces leadership created a very peculiar six-step process. Canadian military police in Kandahar had to inform the Canadian Forces command element at Kandahar airfield, who in turn informed Canadian Expeditionary Force Command, or CEFCOM, in Ottawa.”

“The Dutch and British military, by contrast, had a one-step process. They simply notified the Red Cross office in Kandahar directly. The Dutch did so immediately upon detaining an Afghan, and the British within 24 hours.

In other words, in the critical days after a detainee was first transferred to the Afghan intelligence service, nobody was able to monitor them. Canada had decided that Canadians would not monitor. The AIHRC could not do so, because they had very weak capacity and were not allowed into NDS jails. The Red Cross in practice could not do so either, because we did not inform them until days, weeks, or months after we had handed over the detainee.

During those crucial first days, what happened to our detainees? According to a number of reliable sources, they were tortured.”

” The most common forms of torture were beating, whipping with power cables, and the use of electricity. Also common was sleep deprivation, use of temperature extremes, use of knives and open flames, and sexual abuse–that is, rape. Torture might be limited to the first days or it could go on for months.

According to our information, the likelihood is that all the Afghans we handed over were tortured. For interrogators in Kandahar, it was standard operating procedure.”

” The final difference, which is a very important one, is that Canada, unlike the U.K. and the Netherlands, cloaked our detainee practices in extreme secrecy. The Dutch government immediately informed the Dutch Parliament as soon as a detainee had been taken. The Dutch also provided their Parliament with extremely detailed reporting on every stage of detention and transfer and on the results of monitoring after transfer. The U.K. also announced publicly the number of their detainees.

The Canadian Forces, by contrast, refused to reveal even the number of detainees they had taken, claiming this would violate operational security.

When the Red Cross wanted to engage on detainee issues, for three months the Canadian Forces in Kandahar wouldn’t even take their phone calls. The same thing happened to the NATO ISAF command in Kabul, who had responsibilities to report detainee numbers to Brussels. They were told, “We know what you want, but we won’t tell you.”

Further from November 18, 2009:

Why should we care about Afghan detainees being tortured?:

Mr. Richard Colvin: “As a final section, asking kind of a rhetorical question, even if Afghan detainees were being tortured, why should Canadians care? I think there are five compelling reasons.

First, our detainees were not what intelligence services would call “high-value targets”, such as IED bomb-makers, al-Qaeda terrorists, or Taliban commanders. High-value targets would be detained under a completely different mechanism that involved special forces and targeted intelligence-driven operations. The Afghans I’m discussing
today were picked up by conventional forces during routine military operations, and on the basis typically not of intelligence but suspicion or unproven denunciation.

According to a very authoritative source, many of the Afghans we detained had no connection to the insurgency whatsoever. From an intelligence point of view, they had little or no value. Frankly, the NDS did not want them.
Some of these Afghans may have been foot soldiers or day fighters, but many were just local people: farmers, truck drivers, tailors, peasants, random human beings in the wrong place at the wrong time, young men in their fields and villages who were completely innocent but were nevertheless rounded up. In other words, we detained and handed over for severe torture a lot of innocent people.

The second reason that Canadians should care is that seizing people and rendering them for torture is a very serious violation of international and Canadian law. Complicity in torture is a war crime. It is illegal and prosecutable.

Third, Canada has always been a powerful advocate of international law and human rights. That is a keystone of who we are as Canadians and what we have always stood for as a people and nation. If we disregard our core principles and values, we also lose our moral authority abroad. If we are complicit in the torture of Afghans in Kandahar, how can we
credibly promote human rights in Tehran or Beijing?

Fourth, our actions were counter to our own stated policies. In April 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said publicly that Canadian military officials don’t send individuals off to be tortured. That was indeed our policy. But behind the military’s wall of secrecy, that unfortunately is exactly what we were doing.

Finally, even if all the Afghans we detained had been Taliban, it would still have been wrong to have them tortured. The Canadian military is a proud and professional organization, thoroughly trained in the rules of war and the correct treatment of prisoners.”

** A side note (RS- not from the transcript): There has been a great attempt to discredit Mr. Colvin since this evidence was given. Here is my favorite quote dealing with that issue:

“If [Colvin] had no credibility, why was he promoted from Afghanistan to a senior intelligence position in the Canadian embassy in Washington? That is a very senior job that that man is holding so there is no credibility on trying to discredit him.” (Bob Fife, CTV Power Play, November 18, 2009)

From November 25, 2009:

Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh (Vancouver South, Lib.): “I want to talk to you about the issues about law, the command responsibility. You know that better than anybody else. It requires no actual knowledge of the risk of torture. If the risk of torture is widely known, as it was to the U.S. State Department, UN reports, Afghan Independent Human Rights reports, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, our own human rights reports, their knowledge can be imputed. In fact, ignorance is not a defence either, for want of reports, and you know that better than I do.”

“…Justice Anne Mactavish in February 2008? She stated that: “Eight complaints of prisoner abuse were received by Canadian personnel conducting site visits in Afghan detention facilities between May 3, 2007 and November 5, 2007.” Moreover, she noted that in some cases prisoners bore physical signs.”

Mr. Claude Bachand: “Everyone here recognizes that the suspected torture we are dealing with has certainly not being inflicted by Canadian soldiers. What we are trying to find out is if Canadian soldiers like you, on the ground, knew that torture was being practiced and if, despite that, they still transferred detainees. That is our main concern.”

“Can you explain to me how you can state that absolutely nothing happened when Amnesty International, the Independent Afghanistan Human Rights Commission and the Red Cross all stated that torture was being practiced in the prisons? Even a guard in the Sarposa prison stated that torturing prisoners it was routine. International diplomats said the same thing. Today, a Canadian diplomat repeated statements made by Mr. Colvin as well as by many reporters. You referred to the Globe and Mail but I can also mention Mrs. Ouimet of La Presse who reported on what she saw there. All the Opposition parties believe that torture was being practiced. Why are you trying to convince us that it was not?”

Mr. Paul Dewar to Gen. Rick Hillier: “Were any of you aware of these independent groups’ assessments on torture in Afghan prisons from 2005, 2006, and onwards?I guess by 2006 everyone knew, so were you aware of the independent assessments by other groups? They’ve all been listed: the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, the Red Cross, the State Department, etc. Were you aware of those reports about torture in Afghan prisons?”

Gen Rick Hillier: ” How could you not be aware of individuals saying that everything was bad and the sky was falling? So yes, Mr. Dewar, absolutely. And then I’d just balance that against a comment I heard from somebody in the ICRC or read somewhere back in February 2007, saying there’s no problem whatsoever with respect to detainees. So I tried to balance the specific against the generalities, which had no substance against specific–”
“So yes, absolutely. You could not not be aware.”
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Some links for further reading:
40th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

A year at A Peace of Conflict online.

So it has been one year now that we have been writing online at A Peace of Conflict and I couldn’t be more excited about what we have accomplished in that time. We have expanded from our original hardcopy journal to our online presence that now includes weekly conflict updates from around the world and our collaborative online conflict dictionary (which we still need your help with please!). In this time we have also written more than 75 posts about conflict and conflict related issues.

During this time, I have discussed many things, including:

I love reading about and researching global issues and I love ranting about them even more than that. The state of the world frustrates me beyond belief and sometimes I wonder how we got here, to this place of such violence. I always hope for a better way and have faith that humanity will learn to make better choices someday. That they will actually learn from the mistakes they have made in the past and do better in the future.

I have been asked why I always write about violence and so rarely about peace; I struggle with this myself as well. I feel one must know what’s going wrong in as much detail as possible before you can try to figure out a reasonable solution. So I highlight some of the biggest problems as I see them and sometimes offer suggestions as what I think would be a better way. For me, I find it difficult to see the options for peace without discussing the violent roots and stopping them from expanding first. I encourage submissions from others on peaceful solutions and demonstrations of peaceful actions around the world and I will try to write more on this topic in the future.

I think that education in mediation techniques, conflict transformation and peaceful solutions should be taught from childhood and ingrained into all our systems, to help create a culture of peace rather than a culture of war. I think our structures need to be modified to be more equitable and fair and representative of the needs and wants and well-being of the people, rather than focusing on economic or productive capacities. I think we need to educate with compassion rather than instantly punish or abhor differences. We are all humans and deserve to be treated with respect. We have more in common with each other than differences.

This year will be an exciting one for me. I will be returning to West Africa again in May for at least a year. I will still be writing posts during that time, although probably mostly of a different and more localized nature as I will be doing some heavy research while I’m there and will want to share what I have learned.

Thank you to all our readers, and those who have written pieces for us. We hope you have found some useful posts and that you will continue to interact and enjoy our work in the future.

Please be sure to bookmark us and forward our address to your friends and family (www.apeaceofconflict.com). You can also join us on facebook or follow us on twitter if you’d like to receive regular conflict or posting updates.

Rebecca

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Those in Toronto-Check it out. Theatre of the Oppressed

Was asked to pass this along. A great idea at sparking change. Please check it out:
To an introductory training in Theatre of the Oppressed:

A process of theatre-based exercises, games and techniques developed by Agusto Boal which invites participants to use theatre as a tool to explore social issues and spark the dialogue and rehearsal needed to create positive social change.

FUN! PROFOUND! TRANSFORMATIVE!

The training will be led by Naomi Tessler, a theatre educator/workshop facilitator, director, actor, playwright, poet, and Reiki Practitioner. She is a graduate of the M.A. program in Educational Theatre for Colleges and Communities at New York University.  She is a Theatre of the Oppressed practitioner and has learned directly from founder Augusto Boal.  She is passionate about using theatre as a tool for social change; encouraging self expression, community/team building, personal and professional development, environmental awareness and social justice.  She has facilitated theatre-based workshops globally and believes in making theatre an accessible tool towards positive change.

When and Where?
Saturday, February 20th
10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Steelworkers Hall
25 Cecil Street
Toronto
corner of Spadina and College, one block south and two blocks east
Sponsored by Christian Peacemaker Teams
Contact Jim Loney at 416-516-2326 for more information.
Please confirm your particapation by emailing Jim at james.loney@sympatico.ca before February 10th. If there are more people interested that we can accommodate, we’ll organize a second training.
Cost: an hour’s wage, where applicable. Everything we collect will be given to Naomi in appreciation for her work.
Participants are asked to bring their own lunch. There are lots of Chinatown restuarants nearby for those wanting an affordable lunch. Kensington Market too. Beverages and a light snack will be provided.
Free parking is available behind the Steelworkers hall.
Want More Information? Check out….
Books:
Theatre of the Oppressed, Augusto Boal
Games for Actors and Non-Actors, Augusto Boal
Legislative Theatre: Using Performance to Make Politics, Augusto Boal
The Rainbow of Desire, Augusto Boal
Hamlet and the Baker’s Son: My Life in Theatre and Politics, Augusto Boal
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire
Playing Boal, Thetare Therapy, Activism, eds: Mady Schutzman and Jan Cohen-Cruz
Augusto Boal, Routledge Performance Practitioners, Frances Babbage
Website:

*this link will lead to other websites as well*

-RS

Which Bills have we now lost Canada?

Here are the public Bills that Parliament essentially wasted its time on this year. All these Bills will have to be reintroduced again next session anew unless the MPs vote to have them resinstated, wasting taxpayer money. The discussions and committees will have to be restarted–  and all the work towards agreement lost. Which ones will you be sad to lose? Proroguing is legally allowable in our system to allow Parliament to be reset, but has been abused in its current use, by a minority government, mid-session, who claims they are seeking to be accountable and transparent.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Please speak out about them!

S-5 An Act to amend the Criminal Code and another Act
(Long-Gun Registry Repeal Act)
First Reading in the Senate (April 1st, 2009)
S-6 An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (accountability with respect to political loans) First Reading in the Senate (April 28, 2009)
S-7 An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits)
(Constitution Act, 2009 (Senate term limits))
First Reading in the Senate (May 28, 2009)
S-8 An Act to implement conventions and protocols concluded between Canada and Colombia, Greece and Turkey for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income
(Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 2009)
Third Reading in the Senate (December 15, 2009)
C-8 An Act respecting family homes situated on First Nation reserves and matrimonial interests or rights in or to structures and lands situated on those reserves
(Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act)
First Reading in the House of Commons (February 2, 2009)
C-13 An Act to amend the Canada Grain Act, chapter 22 of the Statutes of Canada, 1998 and chapter 25 of the Statutes of Canada, 2004 First Reading in the House of Commons (February 23, 2009)
C-15 An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts Third Reading in the Senate (December 14, 2009)
C-19 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions) First Reading in the House of Commons (March 12, 2009)
C-20 An Act respecting civil liability and compensation for damage in case of a nuclear incident
(Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act)
Committee Report tabled in the House of Commons (December 10, 2009)
C-23 An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia
(Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act)
C-26 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime) Second Reading in the Senate and Referred to Committee (October 29, 2009)
C-27 An Act to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating certain activities that discourage reliance on electronic means of carrying out commercial activities, and to amend the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act, the Competition Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Telecommunications Act
(Electronic Commerce Protection Act)
C-30 An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
(Senate Ethics Act)
First Reading in the House of Commons (May 7, 2009)
C-31 An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and the Identification of Criminals Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act Second Reading in the House of Commons and Referred to Committee (November 27, 2009)
C-34 An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts
(Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act)
Committee Report tabled in the House of Commons (December 7, 2009)
C-35 An Act to deter terrorism, and to amend the State Immunity Act
(Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act)
First Reading in the House of Commons (June 2, 2009)
C-36 An Act to amend the Criminal Code
(Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act)
First Reading in the Senate (November 26, 2009)
C-37 An Act to amend the National Capital Act and other Acts
(An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission)
Second Reading in the House of Commons and Referred to Committee (October 5, 2009)
C-40 An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act
(Expanded Voting Opportunities Act)
First Reading in the House of Commons (June 12, 2009)
C-42 An Act to amend the Criminal Code
(Ending Conditional Sentences for Property and Other Serious Crimes Act)
Second Reading in the House of Commons and Referred to Committee (October 26, 2009)
C-43 An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code
(Strengthening Canada’s Corrections System Act)
Second Reading in the House of Commons and Referred to Committee (October 29, 2009)
C-44 An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act First Reading in the House of Commons (June 17, 2009)
C-45 An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act First Reading in the House of Commons (June 17, 2009)
C-46 An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act
(Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act)
Second Reading in the House of Commons and Referred to Committee (October 27, 2009)
C-47 An Act regulating telecommunications facilities to support investigations
(Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act)
Second Reading in the House of Commons and Referred to Committee (October 29, 2009)
C-52 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud)
(Retribution on Behalf of Victims of White Collar Crime Act)
Second Reading in the House of Commons and Referred to Committee (October 26, 2009)
C-53 An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accelerated parole review) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
(Protecting Canadians by Ending Early Release for Criminals Act)
First Reading in the House of Commons (October 26, 2009)
C-54 An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to the National Defence Act
(Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act)
First Reading in the House of Commons (October 28, 2009)
C-55 An Act to amend the Criminal Code
(Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Shoker Act)
First Reading in the House of Commons (October 30, 2009)
C-57 An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
(Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act)
First Reading in the House of Commons (November 17, 2009)
C-58 An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service
(Child Protection Act (Online Sexual Exploitation))
Second Reading in the House of Commons and Referred to Committee (November 27, 2009)
C-59 An Act to amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act
(Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act)
First Reading in the House of Commons (November 26, 2009)
C-60 An Act to implement the Framework Agreement on Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America
(Keeping Canadians Safe (Protecting Borders) Act)
First Reading in the House of Commons (November 27, 2009)
C-61 An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of railway operations
(Railway Continuation Act, 2009)
First Reading in the House of Commons (November 30, 2009)
C-63 An Act to amend the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act and another Act in consequence thereof
(First Nations Certainty of Land Title Act)
First Reading in the House of Commons (December 10, 2009)
ConservativeAbbott.J@parl.gc.ca, Ablonczy.D@parl.gc.ca, Aglukkaq.L@parl.gc.ca, Albrecht.H@parl.gc.ca, Allen.M@parl.gc.ca, Allison.D@parl.gc.ca, Ambrose.R@parl.gc.ca, Anders.R@parl.gc.ca, <Anderson.Da@parl.gc.ca>,  Armstrong.S@parl.gc.ca, Ashfield.K@parl.gc.ca, Baird.J@parl.gc.ca, Benoit.L@parl.gc.ca, Bernier.M@parl.gc.ca, Bezan.J@parl.gc.ca, Blackburn.J@parl.gc.ca, Blaney.S@parl.gc.ca, Block.K@parl.gc.ca, Boucher.S@parl.gc.ca, Boughen.R@parl.gc.ca, Braid.P@parl.gc.ca, Breitkreuz.G@parl.gc.ca, Brown.G@parl.gc.ca, Brown.L@parl.gc.ca, Brown.P@parl.gc.ca, Rod@bruinooge.com, Cadman.D@parl.gc.ca, Calandra.P@parl.gc.ca, Calkins.B@parl.gc.ca, Cannan.R@parl.gc.ca, Cannon.L@parl.gc.ca, Carrie.C@parl.gc.ca, Casson.R@parl.gc.ca, Chong.M@parl.gc.ca, Clarke.R@parl.gc.ca, Clement.T@parl.gc.ca, Cummins.J@parl.gc.ca, Davidson.P@parl.gc.ca, Day.S@parl.gc.ca, Dechert.B@parl.gc.ca, DelMastro.D@parl.gc.ca, Devolin.B@parl.gc.ca, Dreeshen.E@parl.gc.ca, Duncan.J@parl.gc.ca, Dykstra.R@parl.gc.ca, Fast.E@parl.gc.ca, Finley.D@parl.gc.ca, Flaherty.J@parl.gc.ca, Fletcher.S@parl.gc.ca, Galipeau.R@parl.gc.ca, Gallant.C@parl.gc.ca, Genereux.B@parl.gc.ca, Glover.S@parl.gc.ca, Goldring.P@parl.gc.ca, Goodyear.G@parl.gc.ca, Gourdj@parl.gc.ca, Grewal.N@parl.gc.ca, Guergis.H@parl.gc.ca, Harper.S@parl.gc.ca, Harris.R@parl.gc.ca, Hawn.L@parl.gc.ca, Hiebert.R@parl.gc.ca, Hill.J@parl.gc.ca, Hoback.R@parl.gc.ca, Hoeppner.C@parl.gc.ca, Holder.E@parl.gc.ca, Jean.B@parl.gc.ca, Kamp.R@parl.gc.ca, Keddy.G@parl.gc.ca, Kenney.J@parl.gc.ca, Kent.P@parl.gc.ca, Kerr.G@parl.gc.ca, Komarnicki.E@parl.gc.ca, Kramp.D@parl.gc.ca, Lake.M@parl.gc.ca, Lauzon.G@parl.gc.ca, Lebel.D@parl.gc.ca, Lemieux.P@parl.gc.ca, Lobb.B@parl.gc.ca, Lukiwski.T@parl.gc.ca, Lunn.G@parl.gc.ca, Lunney.J@parl.gc.ca, Mackay.P@parl.gc.ca, MacKenzie.D@parl.gc.ca, Mark.I@parl.gc.ca, Mayes.C@parl.gc.ca, McColeman.P@parl.gc.ca, McLeod.C@parl.gc.ca, Menzies.T@parl.gc.ca, Merrifield.R@parl.gc.ca, Miller.L@parl.gc.ca, Moore.J@parl.gc.ca, Moore.R@parl.gc.ca, Nicholson.R@parl.gc.ca, Norlock.R@parl.gc.ca, Obhrai.D@parl.gc.ca, OconnG@parl.gc.ca, Oda.B@parl.gc.ca, ONeill-Gordon.T@parl.gc.ca, Paradis.C@parl.gc.ca, Payne.L@parl.gc.ca, Petit.D@parl.gc.ca, Poilievre.P@parl.gc.ca, Prentice.J@parl.gc.ca, Preston.J@parl.gc.ca, Raitt.L@parl.gc.ca, Rajotte.J@parl.gc.ca, Rathgeber.B@parl.gc.ca, Reid.S@parl.gc.ca, Richards.B@parl.gc.ca, Richardson.L@parl.gc.ca, Rickford.G@parl.gc.ca, Ritz.G@parl.gc.ca, Saxton.A@parl.gc.ca, Scheer.A@parl.gc.ca, Schellenberger.G@parl.gc.ca, Shea.G@parl.gc.ca, Shipley.B@parl.gc.ca, Shory.D@parl.gc.ca, Smith.J@parl.gc.ca, Sorenson.K@parl.gc.ca, Stanton.B@parl.gc.ca, Storseth.B@parl.gc.ca, Strahl.C@parl.gc.ca, Sweet.D@parl.gc.ca, Thompson.G@parl.gc.ca, Tilson.D@parl.gc.ca, Toews.V@parl.gc.ca, Trost.B@parl.gc.ca, Tweed.M@parl.gc.ca, Uppal.T@parl.gc.ca, VanKesteren.D@parl.gc.ca, VanLoan.P@parl.gc.ca, Vellacott.M@parl.gc.ca, Verner.J@parl.gc.ca, Wallace.M@parl.gc.ca, WarawM7@parl.gc.ca, Warkentin.C@parl.gc.ca, Watson.J@parl.gc.ca, Weston.J@parl.gc.ca, Weston.R@parl.gc.ca, Wong.A@parl.gc.ca, Woodworth.S@parl.gc.ca, Yelich.L@parl.gc.ca, Young.T@parl.gc.ca,

NDP

Allen.Ma@parl.gc.ca, Angus.C@parl.gc.ca, Ashton.N@parl.gc.ca, Atamanenko.A@parl.gc.ca, Bevington.D@parl.gc.ca, Charlton.C@parl.gc.ca, Chowo@parl.gc.ca, Christopherson.D@parl.gc.ca, Comartin.J@parl.gc.ca, Crowder.J@parl.gc.ca, Cullen.N@parl.gc.ca, Davies.D@parl.gc.ca, Davies.L@parl.gc.ca, Dewar.P@parl.gc.ca, Donnelly.F@parl.gc.ca, Duncan.L@parl.gc.ca, Godin.Y@parl.gc.ca, Gravelle.C@parl.gc.ca, Harris.J@parl.gc.ca, Hughes.C@parl.gc.ca, Hyer.B@parl.gc.ca, Julian.P@parl.gc.ca, Layton.J@parl.gc.ca, Leslie.M@parl.gc.ca, Maloway.J@parl.gc.ca, Marston.W@parl.gc.ca, Martin.Pd@parl.gc.ca, Martin.T@parl.gc.ca, Masse.B@parl.gc.ca, Mathyssen.I@parl.gc.ca, Mulcair.T@parl.gc.ca, Rafferty.J@parl.gc.ca, Savoie.D@parl.gc.ca, Siksay.B@parl.gc.ca, Stoffer.P@parl.gc.ca, Thibeault.G@parl.gc.ca, Wasylycia-Leis.J@parl.gc.ca,

Bloc

Andre.G@parl.gc.ca, Asselin.G@parl.gc.ca, Bachand.C@parl.gc.ca, Beaudin.J@parl.gc.ca, Bellavance.A@parl.gc.ca, Bigras.B@parl.gc.ca, Blais.R@parl.gc.ca, Bonsant.F@parl.gc.ca, Bouchard.R@parl.gc.ca, Bourgeois.D@parl.gc.ca, Brunelle.P@parl.gc.ca, Cardin.S@parl.gc.ca, Carrier.R@parl.gc.ca, DeBellefeuille.C@parl.gc.ca, Demers.N@parl.gc.ca, Deschamps.J@parl.gc.ca, Desnoyers.L@parl.gc.ca, Dorion.J@parl.gc.ca, Duceppe.G@parl.gc.ca, Dufour.N@parl.gc.ca, Faille.M@parl.gc.ca, Freeman.C@parl.gc.ca, Gagnon.C@parl.gc.ca, Gaudet.Ro@parl.gc.ca, Guay.M@parl.gc.ca, Guimond.C@parl.gc.ca, guimom1@parl.gc.ca, Laforest.J@parl.gc.ca, Laframboise.M@parl.gc.ca, Lalonde.F@parl.gc.ca, Lavallee.C@parl.gc.ca, Lemay.M@parl.gc.ca, Lessard.Y@parl.gc.ca, Levesque.Y@parl.gc.ca, Malo.L@parl.gc.ca, Menard.S@parl.gc.ca, Mourani.Ma@parl.gc.ca, Nadeau.R@parl.gc.ca, Ouellet.C@parl.gc.ca, Paille.D@parl.gc.ca, Paille.P@parl.gc.ca, Paquette.P@parl.gc.ca, Plamondon.L@parl.gc.ca, Pomerleau.R@parl.gc.ca, Roy.J@parl.gc.ca, stcyrt@parl.gc.ca, ThiLac.E@parl.gc.ca, vincer@parl.gc.ca,

Liberal

Andrews.S@parl.gc.ca, Bagnell.L@parl.gc.ca, Bains.N@parl.gc.ca, Belanger.M@parl.gc.ca, Bennett.C@parl.gc.ca, Bevilacqua.M@parl.gc.ca, Brison.S@parl.gc.ca, Byrne.G@parl.gc.ca, Cannis.J@parl.gc.ca, Coady.S@parl.gc.ca, Coderre.D@parl.gc.ca, Cotler.I@parl.gc.ca, Crombie.B@parl.gc.ca, Cuzner.R@parl.gc.ca, Damours.J@parl.gc.ca, Dhaliwal.S@parl.gc.ca, DhallR@parl.gc.ca, Dion.S@parl.gc.ca, Dosanjh.U@parl.gc.ca, Dryden.K@parl.gc.ca, Duncan.K@parl.gc.ca, Dykstra.R@parl.gc.ca, Eyking.M@parl.gc.ca, Folco.R@parl.gc.ca, Foote.J@parl.gc.ca, Fry.H@parl.gc.ca, Garneau.M@parl.gc.ca, Goodale.R@parl.gc.ca, Guarnieri.A@parl.gc.ca, HallFindlay.M@parl.gc.ca, Holland.M@parl.gc.ca, Ignatieff.M@parl.gc.ca, Jennings.M@parl.gc.ca, Kania.A@parl.gc.ca, Karygiannis.J@parl.gc.ca, Kennedy.G@parl.gc.ca, Leblanc.D@parl.gc.ca, Lee.D@parl.gc.ca, MacAulay.L@parl.gc.ca, Malhi.G@parl.gc.ca, Martin.K@parl.gc.ca, McCallum.J@parl.gc.ca, McGuinty.D@parl.gc.ca, McKay.J@parl.gc.ca, McTeague.D@parl.gc.ca, Mendes.A@parl.gc.ca, Milliken.P@parl.gc.ca, Minna.M@parl.gc.ca, Murphy.B@parl.gc.ca, Murphy.S@parl.gc.ca, Murray.J@parl.gc.ca, Neville.A@parl.gc.ca, Oliphant.R@parl.gc.ca, Pacetti.M@parl.gc.ca, Patry.B@parl.gc.ca, Pearson.G@parl.gc.ca, ProulM@parl.gc.ca, Rae.B@parl.gc.ca, Ratansi.Y@parl.gc.ca, Regan.G@parl.gc.ca, Rodriguez.P@parl.gc.ca, Rota.A@parl.gc.ca, Russell.T@parl.gc.ca, Savage.M@parl.gc.ca, Scarpaleggia.F@parl.gc.ca, Sgro.J@parl.gc.ca, Silva.M@parl.gc.ca, Simms.S@parl.gc.ca, Simson.M@parl.gc.ca, Szabo.P@parl.gc.ca, Tonks.A@parl.gc.ca, Trudeau.J@parl.gc.ca, Valeriote.F@parl.gc.ca, Volpe.J@parl.gc.ca, Wilfert.B@parl.gc.ca, Wrzesnewskyj.B@parl.gc.ca, Zarac.L@parl.gc.ca,

Independent

Arthur.A@parl.gc.ca,

Canadians unite. It’s time for accountable and transparent governing respectful of human rights.

I don’t usually delve too deeply into Canadian politics and legislation, but I’m starting to think that big change is in order in our system. It’s not a matter of removing Harper from office. Many aspects of our government are shameful but it lies not only with the one party. Separating into polarizing options is doing no one any good. We don’t need separation in politics, we need to come together to say that things must change. The whole system needs an overhaul for it is inequitable and flawed. It is undemocratic and that needs to change. We have an appointed representative of the British Monarchy overseeing and signing all our laws with enormous privileges. We have leaders who think they can all hijack politics to forward their own agenda. We have representatives who think they can hide their actions and be unresponsive to our inquiries even though they are there supposedly representing us. I’m sad to say that most of my letters to government go without response. Sometimes I do receive a stock form letter in return thanking me for my inquiry. I  try to always ask questions and to be respectful (it can be really difficult!), but in all my years of sending, I’ve received less than a handful of actual responses, and none that ever answered my inquiries.

Our government cannot continually ignore us if we do not let them. They are responsible to us and must hear our voices, even if they disagree with what is being said. They are supposed to answer to us, they are supposed to represent our interests– and how can they do that if they aren’t even listening to what we need and want. We are wasting money left, right and centre on personal power projects and padded bureaucracy. We are allowing corporations to take the reigns and whisper in the ears of our politicians with fantastic lures. This is not democracy people. My voice is not being heard, and I am not alone in this. I have yet to meet someone who I can say is truly confident in the government and not highly uncritical of at least parts of the political system. We do have to compromise and come up with a solution that works the best for everyone and we are not always going to like every aspect of it, but it should at the very least, be fair and open. We need to work together and open dialogue instead of shutting doors and walking away. There is a better system, but we will never know unless we make it happen ourselves.

The government reps talk of accountability and transparency– but I see none. I see sneaky manoeuvrings and a lot of cries of outrage from those who cry to cover up their own transgressions.

Now I’m nowhere close to being an expert in Canadian politics, but I know the system we have is undemocratic and unfair in many ways. No, I’m not a member of the Liberal Party. I’m not a Conservative. I’m not NDP or in the Green Party or Bloc Quebecois. I don’t subscribe to partisan politics mostly because I don’t like what any of them really have to say and find very few I’d ever fully put my name and confidence behind. I also believe that standing too firm on anything can quickly progress to fanaticism or hypocritical behaviour and I’m no fan of that either. I dread election time with petty attacking ads that skirt the candidate’s own goals, record or previous accountability. Didn’t their mothers ever teach them, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all? To me, this attacking just shows they have probably have no moral ground to be running themselves and no real goals that they are going achieve other than their own personal agenda.

I want politicians to tell me what they are going to do for me, other Canadians and those abroad; how they are going to do it, with what money and then I want them to actually stick to it. Is that too much to ask for? What are they going to do to better my life and your life and everyone else’s lives? What are they going to do to represent my values that I care about in government? How are they going to better our international relations and increase all our well-being? How are they going better our human rights record and democracy?

I also want them to be held accountable for what they say.

If they make a promise– they had better follow through (or have an excellent, justifiable excuse for why it can no longer possibly happen!). If they don’t, then they deserve to be removed from office– immediately. Simple as that. Maybe massive turnover for a few sessions of those who faulted would set those who felt arrogant and power-hungry in place.

What I’m curious about is this, with all the wonders of technology that are now in existence– the massive connectivity of people that allows us to voice our opinions instantaneously with millions of people around the world in real time– do we really need these people to make all our decisions for us in the first place? Should they not be making more of an effort to reach out to us and discover what we want and need as Canadians? Is there not the possibility of real time discussions on issues initiated by the government to the people and polling that could be done continuously online in an open manner to have a better sense of real democracy ensuring the politicians must hear our voices? Could our politicians not actually engage with us about real issues and poll us on our feelings using different types of real-time systems? How much time do they spend each and every year actually working and listening to us and how much time do they spend scrambling trying to secure their own future positions? Why can we not use our own voices to make them listen to us. Use them to rally together and speak out against injustice? Find ways to connect and pressure governments to listen to our voice?

The voice of the people? Hardly. Sometimes I feel like our voices are lost. Or maybe there are only so few speaking.

I write letters and speak out, but do the powers that be actually listen? Do they actually track the number of responses and take notice? Does it get handed to them on a slip of paper by an aide and is then filed under “G” for “garbage”? Do they engage in conversation with those who they represent, or do they hide behind canned responses crafted and forwarded by aides?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently asked the Governor General to prorogue Parliament. This means they are shutting down Parliament until March, dumping loads of Bills that are mid-progress and still in discussion and all committees that have been formed this session to discuss issues. Bills and committees that they have possibly spent months debating and working on and hammering out details that would make them more agreeable. They will now have to start over and all the Bills be re-introduced and discussed anew and they get paid for two months away from Parliament. This stands in our system as a legal political move so that if all business has been dealt with for the year, Parliament can rest early. It has happened an apparent 105 previous times as we are constantly told. It is now being used as a dodge so that the current government can give themselves time away from their shameful Afghan torture scandal and refresh the House with a crony Senate appointed so that they more likely to agree with the PM’s views and vote accordingly.

This government is not the first to do such. In fact, Stephen Harper himself shamed Chretien for using it years ago, saying “The government will prorogue the House so that it will not be held accountable for its shameful record”. The same is true now. Hide from torture Mr. Harper. Hide from possible international war crimes and take the time to hide the evidence and gain back public opinion with your lies. Stack your House full of cronies who will follow you down the rabbit hole dismantling our democratic rights. The people will not stand for it.

Or will they? Do they even care anymore? Is there even a responsible alternative to choose? It seems many politicians lie and do very little work, and the ones who do are lost in independence and discounted for going against the party-line. What’s worse is that we so often sit back while political atrocities occur. We let the MLAs work only 81 days since November of 2008 (must be nice!) and don’t seem to even notice or care. We ignore Bills and committees that are discussing our human rights and our futures and driving our Canadian values behind the voice of profit and corporate greed. We so often stay silent.

Why do we feel so apathetic? Why do we not speak up?

I think I know why. Because we are lost in it. There is so much going on around us and so many lies being told, we don’t know who to trust. We don’t understand how the system even works because it is so lost in legislative process that we can’t begin to comprehend or concentrate on it unless we are daily involved and we just don’t have the time or energy to care. We have no idea what’s really going on behind closed doors, what propaganda is being spouted, what back deals are happening, where endless budgets are really going, and whose friends stand to make great profits. There is little way to truly find out even if we wanted to. We have no idea even the political jargon behind the legislation when it sits in front of us in its pure form and have trouble understanding the point of some of the House debates we watch on tv. And so many newspaper articles barely touch on the full details of what’s happening preferring short slamming pieces that do not begin to really discuss the issues behind what’s going on or affected by legislation, and every channel spouts the same three lines instead of logically looking into arguments and doing real journalism. So instead of potentially looking foolish, or being called into a political argument we are afraid of losing, we stay silent. We sit back and not voice what we are really thinking and nothing changes. It’s not enough to vote. It’s not enough to write letters.

We need to not be afraid of our government. Our government needs to be afraid of us. If we do not understand what’s going on, we have the right ask our representatives about it and we deserve reasonable and clear answers that explains the details. We deserve the details of what’s going on with our money and our political power. We deserve the details of breaches of international law. We outnumber the politicians and our will and well-being should count. We need to act with non-participation if necessary and show them again that we have a voice that must be heard. Imagine if civil workers and unions all striked at outrages of democracy. Refused to work. They would need to listen or their economy would collapse. We have the capability of this power, and so often we forget, or can’t rally together enough to make that power felt. We let the status quo reign and stay silent while we lose more and more control over our own lives.

Why don’t we all take a prorogue from our own work until our government goes back to work. Shut down the system and tell them “no”. Be responsible and transparent.

Instead we attack each other with personal degradation and insults along party lines.

We need to engage in conversation and come together for all our futures. We are not that different, you and I. The more we talk, the more we can see this.

“You disagree, ok, well what part do you disagree with and why?”  If we logically break down the arguments and reveal real objections we can come to a compromise. We need to discuss alternatives. THERE ARE ALWAYS ALTERNATIVES! We need to compromise and discuss and come to reasonable solutions like adults.

Come on people! End rant. :)

Speak your voice:

House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0A6
Canada

The Prime Minister – pm@pm.gc.ca

The Foreign Affairs Minister- cannon.L@parl.gc.ca

The Leader of the Opposition- Ignatieff.M@parl.gc.ca

Other party leaders in Parliament-  Layton.J@parl.gc.ca; duceppe.G@parl.gc.ca

Find your Member of Parliament here.

And find your MPP here.

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