Canada

Those in Toronto– Another Theatre of the Oppressed workshop!

Readers in the Toronto area, here’s a chance to learn how to make social changes using the Theatre of the Oppressed method. Please check it out:

Branch Out Theatre Workshops Presents:

An Introductory Workshop Series in

Augusto Boal’s

Theatre of the Oppressed

With facilitator: Naomi Tessler, M.A. Educational Theatre, N.Y.U.

Learn to use theatre as a tool for social change!

Fall Series Dates:

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Wednesday, November  17th, 2010

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

*Drop in option available*

Time: 7pm-9:30pm

Location: Christie Studio, Artscape Wychwood Barns,

601 Christie st.

To Register and for more info, contact Naomi at:

naomi.tessler@gmail.com 416-910-4972

www.branchouttheatre.com

Cost: Individual Workshop: $40, $110 for fall series

Student Rate: Individual Workshop: $30, $80 for fall series

*sliding scale option available*

Looking To Create Change in Your Life?

Gain Clarity.  Feel Empowered.

Actively Create Space for Change.

in Branch Out Theatre Workshops’

Rainbow of Desire Theatre Lab

An interactive workshop series in creative self-discovery and personal growth

Facilitated by: Naomi Tessler, M.A Educational Theatre N.Y.U.

Join us for the Fall Series!

Fall Series Dates:

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Time: 7pm-9:30pm

Location: Christie Studio, Artscape Wychwood Barns, 601 Christie st.

NO theatre experience necessary!

To register and for more info, contact Naomi at:

naomi.tessler@gmail.com 416-910-4972

www.branchouttheatre.com

Cost: Individual Workshop: $40, $75 for fall series,

Student Rate: Individual Workshop: $30, $55 for fall series

*Sliding scale options available*

Outdated democracy.

The concept of democracy has been around since at least the 4th or 5th century BC. It has flourished in the past couple decades and has become the main hope for all fledgling nations by the international community.

Yet, is our concept of democracy in the West outdated? Does it need to be changed and altered to be more inclusive, and more representative of the People it supposedly represents? Rule of the people hardly seems to be reality in Canada, the US or Europe. We elect representatives, who rarely actually represent the average person, let alone even listen to us or address our needs in government. Many politicians come from privileged backgrounds or enormous wealth, which aids in their campaigning ability– especially at higher levels of office. How often do our letters or calls go unheard by our MPs or other representatives? How often does the average representative even spend time in their constituency, and how much of that time is spent at fancy galas or openings or campaigning with public pat-on-the-back photo-ops for themselves instead of actually talking to those in their region about what THEY would like to see happen in government? How much of their policy is based upon their own personal belief system and not the wishes of their constituency? How much research and polling do they do of their constituency prior to voting on a subject in governmental forums? Considering I lived in Canada the vast majority of my life and have yet to actually be polled or asked about my opinion on an issue by my MP, let alone received an adequate response back to my written or verbal inquiries or concerns, I’d say, not much.

The average US House member represents more than 640,000 citizens, and this number is rising with the population. When the first census was taken, this ratio of citizens per district was closer to only 30,000 for each representative, a much more manageable number for them to actually “represent”. An older research study found that most representatives spent an average of only 101 working days actually in their districts in a year, or just under 28% of their time and I’d argue that lobbyists are much more likely to get the ear of a Representative than their constituents are.

Considering we now live in the electronic age of computers, cellphones, blackberries and the internet, I am always amazed at how little our “representatives” use these technologies to actually consult with those they profess to represent. In 2004, it is said there were more than 762,000 computers for every million people in the US (and similar statistics for most of the western world), and that nearly 75% of Americans spend more than 3 hours a day online (Stone, 2005:62). For those between the ages of 12 and 18, computer and internet usage actually approaches 100% (Levy, 2004; 14). When one includes those with wireless capability on blackberries, cellphones, iphones and other such devices, the vast majority of the population is wired and using Internet capabilities on a daily (if not hourly) basis. For those who don’t have personal access at home, nearly 95% of public schools have computers with internet access; and nearly 99% of public libraries have public access to the Internet with most offering formal or informal technology training to those looking to enhance their tech skills. Not only do I think that our so-called representatives should be using this access to technology to actually engage with their constituencies on the issues, I think that the time has come for a complete overhaul of democracy itself so that it can truly be “representative” of the population.

A survey of US Representatives and Senators showed that 38% of House Members and 39% of Senators were registered with Twitter, and although these Members sent an average of  one “tweet” every other day– those “tweets” were mostly spent on securing their own “brand” and image. What were these Representatives using this communications for? Well, certainly not polling their constituencies, as this was not even mentioned as a possible category of types of “tweets” sent by Representatives. No, instead, the Reps were talking about their position on a policy (18% of the time); reciting information about a public policy; talking about their own media or public relations campaign (34% of the time); talking about their own trips, visits or events in a home district; talking about what official congressional actions they did (14% of the time); or talking about their own personal life or campaign (5% of the time). Only 3.7% of the tweets were direct replies to others. These “representatives” are so concerned with securing the next election or sticking to the party-line– that actual consultation of those who are to be represented is barely even considered. Why are we not being polled on what we, the People, want? Why are we not being consulted and truly “represented”?

Electronic surveys are not without their flaws; however I believe even despite the flaws, regular public polling via technology would give a more accurate opinion of the People than what is currently being done. Some would argue that access to technology is more prevalent among the rich and educated, with the poorer, less educated folks less likely to be online and therefore less likely to participate in surveys or polls. I don’t argue that fact, however, I’d be remiss to say that traditional polling most likely excludes many of these folks as well. How often do the representatives send their lackeys to take polls on public issues in the slums right now? How many of the current written surveys on policy issues exclude those who are functionally illiterate? None of the current polling methods are without their flaws and exclusions, but online polling and consultation could demonstrate a more accurate picture of what the People want.

Some would also argue that the over 65 years of age population is less likely to be online or have computer access or skills. Again, true. However, are these also not currently the most politically active participants in our democracies and most likely to be letter writers or callers to their representatives? Also, considering that the baby boomer population IS highly versed in technology, this statistic is likely to dramatically change over the coming years, as the boomers move into this age bracket.

How can we also ensure that a non-voter (ie. too young) isn’t voting; or that a person isn’t voting at multiple computers. Simple. Have everyone vote using their public IDs such as Social Insurance or give them a public voting ID on their voter registration card and cut them off after one vote for each topic. There is also the possibly of hacking, which is a legitimate problem if polling is online. Not being a computer expert, and seeing how many national systems have been broken into, I have no solution for this. But is it not better to have a general idea of what the People want, as opposed to just ignoring them?

I think our democracy has become outdated, flawed and unrepresentative, which is incredibly problematic if we are to spread this type of “freedom” across the globe. There’s got to be a better way.

Some sources mentioned in the above article:

Brad Stone, “Hi-Tech’s New Day”, Newsweek, April 11, 2005, p. 62.

Steven Levy, “No Net? We’d Rather Go Without Food.”, Newsweek, October 11, 2004, p. 14.

Theatre for the Oppressed Workshop in Toronto

Branch Out Theatre Workshops Presents:

Spring Forum Training

~Second Bloom~ A Workhop Series for Peacemakers, Community Organizers, Activists, Educators, Social Justice Advocates, Artists, Social Workers Everyone is INVITED!

With facilitator:  Naomi Tessler, M.A. Educational Theatre, N.Y.U.

Come and build your skills in Augusto Boal’s Forum Theatre techniques and learn to use theatre as a tool for social change!

Dates: Wednesday, June 16th, 2010,

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010,  Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

*Drop in option available if unable to attend all three training dates*

Time: 6:30pm-9pm

Location: 854 Bloor St. West Toronto

(Christie Ossington Neighbourhood Centre)

To Register and for more info, contact Naomi at:

naomi.tessler@gmail.com 416-910-4972

www.branchouttheatre.com

Join us in training for change!

Cost: $125 for adults, $100 for students

*$100 for adults, $75 for students if registered by June 11th, 2010*

*sliding scale option available*

Part I: Summary of Human Rights Watch- World Report 2010

Human Rights Watch recently released their latest Human Rights Watch Report  for 2010.

As I read through the list of countries profiled in the report, I found myself disappointed that Canada, the UK, Australia or any Western European countries had not made the list. I have read reports of almost all of these governments committing human rights violations  or allowing their companies to do so and the populations of these nations do still experience routine violations against human rights. In fact, considering these countries have signed numerous conventions and incorporated human rights laws more thoroughly into domestic laws than most of the rest of the world, their breach of them is all the more abhorrent and worthy of reporting. I thoroughly respect the work that organizations like Human Rights Watch do and I understand that Human Rights Watch is limited in their scope and resources as indicated in the end of the first report; so in no way do I mean to undermine the work that has been done to compile this report. I simply wish that it would cover the entire world and not just pieces of it.

The main violations of concern in the report this year are described in four sections followed by individual country reports. These sections are as follows:

1) The Abusers’ Reaction: Intensifying Attacks on Human Rights Defenders, Organizations and Institutions

2) Civilian Protection and Middle East Armed Groups: In Search of Authoritative Local Voices

3) Abusing Patients: Health Providers’ Complicity in Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment

4) In the Migration Trap: Unaccompanied Migrant Children in Europe.

I will cover the details of the report over the next little while in a series of posts. The first post will address the first section of the report.

Intensifying Attacks on Human Rights Defenders, Organizations and Institutions.

Putting a spotlight on human rights violations can be risky, and often those who defend human rights face extreme abuse, imprisonment, harassment, intense intimidation and even death. Organizations fighting this fight have been suppressed, denied funding, shut down and worse. Russia received a great deal of attention for its attacks on human rights defenders. Many victims reported cases of arson, arbitrary detention, disappearances of loved ones, torture, and brutal executions in Chechnya and other parts of the country. Also specifically mentioned in this section was Kenya, Burundi, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Malaysia, India, and Uzbekistan. Several states were also listed as completely closed or restricted for activism. At the top of this list are Eritrea, North Korea, and Turkmenistan. Burma and Iran bar international human rights groups completely. Saudi Arabia will not acknowledge NGO supporting human rights promotion and clamps down tightly on any who speak out. Danger in Somalia makes human rights monitoring essentially impossible. Libya allows international visits but completely suppresses any independent civil society. Syria will not license any human rights groups and prosecutes those who push for registration. Indonesia prohibits international human rights groups to visit to certain areas of the country, as has Israel into the Gaza strip. Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam all refuse to allow access to UN special procedures, including on torture and human rights defenders. As does Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Zimbabwe and Russia have also prevented the special rapporteur on torture from entering their respective countries. Sudan has shut down human rights organizations and expelled several international humanitarian NGOs working in Darfur. China closed the Open Constitution Initiative (a legal aid organization) because of controversy over Tibetan protests and melamine-poisoned milk that sickened hundreds of thousands of children.

Other governments have been accused of openly harassing, detaining or attacking human rights defenders including Cuba, Vietnam, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Cambodia, Syria, and Yemen. The governments of Columbia, DR Congo, Sri Lanka, and Nicaragua have been accused of using threats of violence to deter or punish human rights defenders. Russia, Ethiopia, India, Israel, Jordan, Uganda, Turkmenistan, Libya, Venezuela, Peru, Cambodia, Rwanda, Kyrgyzstan and Egypt have all been accused of creating restrictive laws on NGOs and associations in an attempt to restrict the monitoring of human rights. China, Iran and Syria have all disbarred lawyers, refusing to renew their professional licenses to prevent them from representing victims of human rights abuses. China, Uzbekistan, Rwanda, Iran, Morocco, Serbia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka have been accused of trumping up criminal charges to silence human rights defenders.

The report then details the efforts made by some leaders to silence or curtail the activities of the International Criminal Court (ICC). After the ICC issued an arrest warrant for sitting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the African Union (AU) adopted a resolution urging African states to not cooperate with the arrest proceedings. The AU accused the court of unfairly targeting Africans, even though no objections were raised when the court indicted several warlords and the African governments themselves had requested the court to open the investigations. The ICC has also been hampered by the lack of ratification in the areas it is most needed, namely Sri Lanka, Iraq, Gaza, and Chechnya and a seeming double-standard that allows major Western powers and their allies to escape impunity.

The UN Human Rights Council is also described as problematic. The report demonstrates the bias and subjective nature of inquiries into human rights violations. Regional solidarity reigns in voting procedures over human rights principles, with members convinced to ignore their domestic principles for their allegiances to repressive neighbouring governments. Repressive leaders at the Council seemed determined to silence voices of dissent whenever possible. Similar problems have occurred within the UN NGO Committee, who has the power to decide which NGOs are able to gain “consultative status” and the right to speak before UN bodies. Several governments who are extremely restrictive towards NGOs seem to actively seek membership within the Committee to ensure that certain voices are silenced. For example, a Christian group from China was rejected for refusing to provide a list of its Chinese members, an action that would have severely endangered the lives of those involved. Another group, the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, was denied the right to speak because it had not complied with Ethiopia’s new stringent civil society laws.

The European Court of Human Rights has repeated issued rulings against Russia (more than 100) for the abduction, torture, and execution of the people in Chechnya, and failing to properly investigate the crimes. Russia has refused to implement structural reforms ordered by the Court, as well as share relevant documents with the court in over 40 cases. The Russian government continually postpones visits by the rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on human rights situations in the North Caucasus and has so far faced little consequence.

The ASEAN Commission on Human Rights was highlighted as a potentially positive new institutional development in the eastern world. Launched in late 2009, the 10-member Association vowed to adopt a “constructive”, “non-confrontational” and “evolutionary” approach to human rights, however, its non-interference policy ensures that member states cannot be monitored and investigated properly, giving each state the right of veto. Engagement with civil society remained repressive as each state was allowed to chose the civil society organization it wished to be part of an “interface meeting” on human rights.

More vigorous governmental defense of human rights activists and institutions is necessary, even in the face of abuse by allies. The attack on those who would defend human rights is an attempt to silence. The world cannot sit silent in the face of abuse. Voices must be heard. Human rights is a relatively new concept on the earth, but is one that must be vehemently defended if our rights and freedoms are to be respected.

Please read through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Is there anything written there that you wouldn’t want for you and your family?

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Government Accountability. My encounter with MP Peter Braid.

I have been struggling to write this post. I wanted it to be succinct, eloquent and as respectful as possible. This has proven much more difficult than I had anticipated, especially since I did not have an actual recording of the meeting as I had requested. My meeting with MP Peter Braid was nearly a month ago now, and I am still furious and beyond frustrated with him, his actions and his words. I am still having trouble writing anything mildly respectful for a man who fills me with such contempt.

I first contacted MP Peter Braid’s office on January 3rd, 2010. I did so because MP Braid is my Member of Parliament in Canada and I was concerned about the prorogation of Parliament and the effect this would have on the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan. My email went unanswered all week, so I emailed again. On January 11th, 2010, I finally receive an email back. A stock, standard reply, that ignored my concerns and questions entirely. I immediately responded by email picking apart the stock reply and again expressing my deep concerns and asking my questions. Six days later, I received the EXACT same stock response again. Again, I wrote back immediately expressing my concerns with this response.

It was around this point that I started to call the office instead, hoping for an actual response to my questions. On the first call, I reached a message machine that promised to return all calls by the end of business day. I left a message expressing my concerns. The end of the day came and went, and I never received that call back as promised. I waited the next day, and as 3pm rolled around and it appeared I again would not be receiving a call back, I called again. Again, I reached an answering machine. Again it promised to return my call by the end of business day. Again, I waited and received no such return call. In fact, I had to call 4 times and wait 5 full days until his office finally decided to return my call.

I asked the person (whose name I won’t repeat here because I believe they are a given a script with standard answers in it and are not allowed to go outside of that) on the other end three separate questions.

1) Is it routine for a minority government to prorogue Parliament?

2) Is it routine for to prorogue mid-session with so many Bills left to be debated in the House?

3) What is MP Braid going to do to ensure the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan returns in its current form after the prorogation?

To the first question, the employee, clearly flustered and flipping through pages, started to read to me the definition of what prorogation is, and in fact said that he had had to look it up because he wasn’t sure. I said, I already know the definition of prorogation. That’s not what I’m asking. He then started telling me all about the Economic Action Plan, completely skirting my question entirely. I told him this did not answer my actual question and that I would like him to please actually answer what I have asked. After arguing with me that he had already answered the question (he had not), he said that he didn’t have an answer for the first two questions then, but that they would get back to me. As for the third question, I was told, “the committees automatically return in their current form after prorogation”. Really? This is simply untrue. While prorogation doesn’t mean the committee can’t possibly be reinstated, it does in fact mean that all Bills being considered by the House and Senate are terminated, and all Parliamentary committees cease to exist, all orders of reference to committees lapse and membership and committee chairs end their duties. This is what prorogation IS. In order for the committee to be reinstated, all Members must vote for this to happen. It is not an automatic process.

Extremely frustrated, I emailed MP Braid’s office yet again. I explained my frustrations at his office and requested that he please phone me personally since his employees were unable to actually assist me even though they were trying “to the best of their ability”. They were clearly not able, or more likely, not authorized to answer any questions beyond the script in front of them.

I did not receive a call back or return email as promised with my answers within the next few days, so I called back again. This time, I received very similar treatment. The employee started to define for me what prorogation is. Again, the employee skirted the questions entirely. When I told her, I already know that, can you please just answer my question– she responded curtly with “well, if you already know the answer, why are you asking then?”. When I pushed for an answer to the second question I was told “this is what proroguing is for”. Really? Interesting, because half the Bills are still on the table, definitely not the norm and definitely not the purpose of proroguing. The conversation ended without answers to all my questions, but again with a promise of a call back eventually when they find the answers for me.

Six days later I receive this email from the employee to “answer” my questions.

"Dear Ms. Sargent,
 In response to your questions about the Afghanistan Committee,
the  information I received is that this is a special committee
created by a motion in the  House of Commons to which all parties
agree. As a result, we can't be sure  what will happen in the
new session. Mr. Braid is in  favour of the committee continuing
its work as there are many critical issues which must be addressed.
 As you may recall, this committee was created by the Conservative
 government in response to a recommendation in the Manley Report,
 also commissioned by  this government.
On 13 March 2008, a motion was passed in the House of Commons which
specified changes to the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, and also
included a description and mandate for a special Parliamentary
committee on Afghanistan.  On 8  April 2008, the House of Commons
unanimously supported a motion “that a special committee be 
appointed to consider the Canadian mission in Afghanistan as 
referred to in the motion adopted by the House on 13 March 
2008.”
 Mr. Braid understands the concern of Canadians  regarding the
treatment of captured Taliban insurgents.  It is important
to note that there is no evidence of wrongdoing by our
Canadian Forces.
 Sincerely,"

I wrote back immediately to again express my frustrations that my questions had again gone unanswered. I also asked what specific actions MP Braid was going to take to ensure this Committee resumed if he felt it was “critical”. No response for several days. At this point, I wrote another email and this time CC’d members of the opposition, and members of the media hoping this would elicit an actual and truthful response. I expressed my outrage at the lack of response, the lies I received from employees over the phone and what I felt as lack of respect for his constituency (keep in mind, his office kept telling the media during this time was that he was in fact, spending the time consulting with his constituency).

Two days later, I receive this response:

"Rebecca,

 The information you are looking for regarding Parliamentary
Procedure  may be found in House of Commons Procedure and
Practice, 2009 edition,  and can be accessed online at:
 http://www2.parl.gc.ca/procedure-book-livre/Document.aspx?sbdid=7C730F1D-E10B-4DFC-863A-83E7E1A6940E&sbpidx=1&Language=E&Mode=1

 General historical information regarding Parliament can
 be found here:
 http://www.parl.gc.ca/common/AboutParl_Process.asp?Language=E&Sect=infohist

 thank you for your interest,"

If you actually follow those links you will know that it only leads you on a wild goose chase through mounds and mounds of Parliamentary paperwork. To me, it seemed that if you are using the line “it is routine to prorogue” then you should have some evidence of this and be able to answer my questions about how it is in fact routine. It is not routine to use Parliament in the way it was used and the answers to my first two questions clearly demonstrate how different this prorogation is from past usages.

At this point, I called MP Braid’s office again and requested a personal meeting with him and was told they would have to get back to me with a meeting time. I was then told that procedure is to email this request to his braidp6@parl.gc.ca email (even though I had already asked for a personal response from him repeatedly in past emails), so I did. At this point in the phone conversation I asked when exactly they would have the information about a meeting time for me. I was told by Friday (the 29th of January). Friday came and no call or email came. At 4pm, I decided to call the office again. I was met with the answering machine again, so I left another message.

I called again on Monday, and again reached the answering machine. I called for a second time on Monday, and again, got the answering machine. So I tried a different approach less than 2 minutes later. This time, I used call block to block my outgoing number and called again. This time, to my surprise, my call was answered. To my shock, they not only seemed to recognize my voice but asked, “Is this Rebecca?”. I asked the woman whether or not they had an appointment time for me yet. I was finally told the meeting would be February25th, a full month away and only days before the end of prorogation– the object of my original concern.

I then saw this video on Power Play where MP Braid essentially says that to investigate allegations of torture in Afghanistan is tantamount to being unpatriotic:

How can you think the Afghan Committee critical while at the same time saying that investigating allegations of torture is somehow unpatriotic? Seems quite contradictory to me.

I was told to send in questions prior to our meeting, so that MP Braid could be prepared and not waste my time. I sent in these questions:

1) I have been repeatedly told by your office that this prorogation is
routine. Please explain to me HOW it is routine in comparison with
other prorogations. Is it routine for a minority government to
prorogue? Is it routine to prorogue mid-session of Parliament?

2) After several inquiries into your office regarding the Afghan
Committee, I was provided with this response: “Mr. Braid is in favour
of the committee continuing its work as there are many critical issues
which must be addressed.”, yet several days later, I watched an
interview with you on CTV’s Power Play where you insinuated that this
committee is essentially unpatriotic and calling into question the
actions of our troops. Where do you actually stand on this committee’s
work and what will you do to ensure it continues undisturbed after the
prorogue? Why, if you are in favor of the committee continuing, did
you NOT attend the all-party committee on Feb 3, 2010?

3) Over the past several weeks, I have called and emailed your office
repeatedly trying to seek answers to very specific questions about the
prorogue. During this time, I was lied to on two separate occasions,
by two separate employees, once on Jan 20th and again on Jan 26th.
What do you plan to do to ensure your office is not lying to your
constituency? Will those who have outright lied be reprimanded?

So I waited for my meeting and didn’t call or email his office anymore during this time.

When I first came into the meeting I asked MP Braid, ” do you mind if I tape this conversation”.
He responded “No, you cannot. It is my policy that only journalists are allowed to record”
Me, ” Well, actually, I freelance for this org…”
Him ” tough”.

This frustrated me to no end. I was here to talk about his office lying to me and he wasn’t going to let me tape the conversation? What about accountability and transparency in government, a platform his party promised during the last election? This would mean if it came down to it, it would be my word against his. Are you afraid of being quoted Mr. Braid? Is this why you will not let me tape you? If you have nothing to hide, there is no reason I cannot tape you. You are a public official, who was meeting with me about public business in your office. There is, in my mind, no reason I cannot tape that conversation. If I had met up with you on the street, I could understand your concern, but this was business. You had the specific questions I was going to ask you already spelled out and researched for you beforehand. Why can I not tape that?

The meeting only went downhill from there. When asked about the Afghan Committee, MP Braid started spouting off the standard party line about non-related issues. I interrupted him and said, “that’s not what I asked.” To which he responded, “well, that’s what I’m answering.”

He then started aggressively asking me what specific evidence I had about the troops being involved in torture. I started by bringing up Graeme Smith, and Ms. Ouimet, two journalists who have brought forth allegations of wrong-doing. He then again asked me what evidence I had specifically, as if it was my personal duty to prove Canadian involvement in torture to him. It is not in my power as an individual citizen to investigate Mr. Braid, not that I could even get the proper information if I tried. If Parliament can’t even get its hands on documentation, how can I as a private citizen be expected to?

The conversation continued, “Perhaps you should check your facts, there is no proof of any wrongdoing.”

To which I said, “So allegations of wrongdoing shouldn’t be investigated?”

To which Mr. Braid again replied, “You tell me the specific proof of wrongdoing.”

It went back and forth in such a manner with no real answer, so I moved on to the last question regarding his office lying to me. He was clearly getting annoyed with me at this point, as I was with him and started pressing me continually in an aggressive manner, ignoring my actual complaints and instead focusing on repeating the same lines back to me in an effort to ignore the question. It wound up in another back and forth and before I even explained the lies his office had told me in full, he abruptly stood up and said, “this meeting is over” and I was then escorted out of the office.

It shouldn’t be this difficult to get straight answers from my Member of Parliament. I should not have to be lied to and if I am, I should be able to fully detail these accounts and have assurances that it will not happen again. There is no reason I should not have a tape recording of this meeting so I can more exactly detail the interview to my readers and actually be transparent and accountable as I had wanted.

A week after the meeting, I received this letter in the mail:

"Dear Ms. Sargent,
Just a quick note to  thank you for coming in recently to meet
with me at my constituency  office. I appreciated the
opportunity to hear your questions and  concerns, and that
you took the time to hear my  thoughts as well.
Again, thank you for coming in to share your  concerns.
Please let me know if my office can be of any assistance
or  support in the future.
Sincerely,
Peter Braid"

Yes, your office can be of further assistance. How about addressing the main concern I had in our meeting– what are you going to do to ensure your office is not lying to its constituency? Or even better, actually answering my questions. If I was lied to twice in two separate phone conversations, who else was lied to during this time and who actually believed those lies? How often is this happening? What else are they lying about?

I didn’t know what else to do, so I started this group, called MP Peter Braid Out of Office. Peter Braid only won the last election by 17 votes. 17. Can we convince 18 people to switch to another candidate in the next election or 18 non-voters to vote for any other candidate? I certainly hope so. This man, in my opinion does not deserve to be in office. I am disgusted to call him my MP. Peter Braid does not represent me. He does not listen to my concerns. He is not looking out for his constituency. He is looking out for his party and himself.

Do you have letters or stories of an encounter with MP Peter Braid that you would like to share? Please add it in the commentary below. Please use your voice and express your concerns to your own MP as they arise. Keep on them and if they don’t answer your questions, tell them so, and tell everyone else who will listen. In Canada, we supposedly have a democracy, the voice of the people. I feel like the people of Kitchener-Waterloo are being ignored by this MP and that’s just not right. Peter Braid, we do not have to agree on all the issues, but I should still be treated with respect, and should not be lied to. You should answer questions honestly and forthrightly, and if you don’t want to answer it, then say so. Don’t skirt the issue. At least then I would respect you. You should be able to properly explain your actions in Parliament. If you can’t– you don’t deserve to be there.

If you have any ideas of how we can ensure this man is never re-elected, please share them with me. The K-W Anti-Torture Coalition meets in protest every Wednesday morning in front of MP Peter Braid’s office at 830 am (22 King Street, Waterloo– right across from Waterloo Public Square) to demand a public inquiry into allegations of Canadian complicity in torture in Afghanistan. Join them if you can or at least honk on your way by them to show your support!

Here are some additional stories of MP Peter Braid’s appalling actions since being in office:

Peter being part of a gang that ambushed a family doctor.

Peter giving advice on how to siphon money from university student unions through front organizations to further the goals of the Conservative Party.

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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

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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Actions are taking place all over Canada. Check out http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=227662474562 for details of rallies happening in your city or start your own!

The United Nations Human Development Report 2009: A Very Brief Look

Written by Heather Wilhelm

On Monday, the United Nations (UN) released their Human Development Report (HDR) for 2009, ranking 182 countries into their respective places based on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Human Development Index (HDI) of these countries.  GDP is defined as the total market value of all final goods and services produced in a country in a given year, equal to total consumer, investment and government spending, plus the value of exports, minus the value of imports.  In layman’s terms, it measures a country’s economic performance on a yearly basis.  Since its inception in 1990, the HDR has reached beyond simply looking at a country’s GDP and has created the HDI which measures three dimensions of human development:  life expectancy, literacy and gross enrolment in education, and having a decent standard of living.  While it is easy to argue that these measurements are not an effective way to gauge the success or failure of a country in a numbered ranking system (what of gender, social services, child welfare), for the purpose of this article, let’s just look at the gross difference between those living at the top (Norway, Australia, Iceland and Canada ranked 1 through 4) and the bottom (Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Niger in spots 180-182).

While it should be noted that this Report was created using 2007 statistics before the current economic crisis, it is still very apparent that there are stark disparities between those countries at the top of the list, and those at the bottom.  For instance, the average life expectancy in Niger is 50 years, which is a full 30 years less than the life expectancy in 4th place Canada.  For every dollar earned in Niger, eighty-five (85) dollars is earned in 1st place Norway.  It is believed that more than half the population in the lowest ranking 24 countries are illiterate.  These kinds of statistics put on paper what most students of global studies already know – we do not live in a world of equality and justice.  These yearly reports simply reiterate that while the privileged can expect to enjoy a long life with education and excellent standards of living the poor seem to be destined to remain in a position of poverty, illiteracy and shortened life expectancies.  I’ve provided a very brief background on the UNHDR for you, and I encourage you to click the link that follows and read a bit more on your own…the results will hopefully shock you back into reality – I know it always does for me.

Click here to view the full Human Development Report 2009.

hw

A new Canadian army of peace?

Could it be possible?

Some current legislation could take serious steps towards the creation of a new more peaceful Canada. The Campaign to Establish a Canadian Department of Peace , MP Bill Siksay, many non-governmental organizations, academics and individuals have been proposing new ideas to help establish a more peaceful Canadian culture. How do we create a more peaceful society? A more peaceful image? A more peaceful value system in Canada? Some suggestions have been recently brought to the Canadian Parliament.

In May of this year, MP Bill Siksay introduced Bill C-390 to Parliament which would give conscientious objectors to war an opportunity to divert their tax funding away from military spending. Unfortunately, this Bill will never likely be incorporated into law, especially seeing as it has already been brought into Parliament four times and has not moved forward. It is more of a symbolic gesture and chance to open a dialogue on the issue of peace within the House.

On September 29th, Bill Siksay introduced Bill C-447, which would establish a Canadian Department of Peace to help to create a culture of peace in Canada instead of a culture of war. This department of peace would work in conjunction with the current structures and would dedicate itself to peacebuilding and the study of conditions conducive to peace both domestically and abroad. In essence it would work towards creating a culture of peace in Canada, expanding the scope of peace building, peace making and peace keeping missions of Canadians, and promoting education in peace.

There are many who think this is some huge joke and another pointless waste of taxpayer money, which to some extent I understand and agree with. Our current level of bureaucracy leaves many great ideas bound in discussion and paper-pushing, wasting money but producing few actual results. A Bill becoming a law doesn’t always ensure change– this I can agree on. What I don’t understand is the mentality that violence is the only way to meet violence and that it is not possible to change our culture (and other cultures) to become more peaceful.  I think it is important to entertain the reasons why some think this is impossible and I would love to hear thoughts on the matter who could enlighten me more towards this end.

I am not naive to violence and have experienced the world outside of Canadian safety. I have seen violence with my own eyes in many forms and have lived within cultures of fear and war. So it is not because I do not know about the realities of war that I suggest this is a positive thing.

I have read extensively over the last decade anthropological works that detail the changing cultural forms and structures of different populations over time. These have taught me that many things taken as innate in humanity are actually learned social behaviours. This includes the way we walk, the way we sleep, the way we give birth, everything we take for granted as natural and non-changeable (read Marcel Mauss “Techniques of the Body” if you’d like more insight into this). For example, while we here in North America tend to sleep in beds (on mattresses with pillows and blankets), some cultures actually sleep standing up, some cultures use neck benches, some sleep in hammocks. There is no one way to sleep. All of these “facts” that many of us take for granted as part of  humanity are not facts at all; rather they are culturally learned. The important lesson in this is that these natural “facts” can be changed if the culture itself changes because the people find the change somehow advantageous and worthy of passing on.

Violence is often thought to be an innate human trait. Much of violence, however, is culturally ingrained within us as learned social behaviour. Think about the cycle of domestic violence that we now see as a mostly a learned trait. A child that sees violence in a home thinks that this is normal and will grow up more likely to be violent as an adult. It works the same way on the national and international levels. If a society sees violence in their country, they begin to think that this is normal and will be more likely to be violent in their laws and actions. If the international community sees violence in the world, they begin to think that this is normal and will be more likely to be violent in their actions towards other countries and the international forums.

So can we lessen this massive cycle of violence in anyway? If so, how?

That’s what creating a Department of Peace could help to do. It’s not going to magically transform society into some beautiful utopia, but if we create a discussion on peace, an option for peace, education in peace; we help to create a culture of peace. The more we learn about peace, the more we accept it as culturally normal and find ways to interact with each other in non-violent ways.

The department of peace would not take away from the army. It would supplement it. It could allow for other solutions to be made so that we would not have to send our troops into dangerous situations in the first place and spare their families their loss of life in battle. How’s that for supporting our troops?

It could give another voice a chance to speak. The culture of war has taken over our country, even though the majority of Canadians (69%) consider peacekeeping a defining characteristic of Canada (p.5).  Our army has been given almost an endless budget in recent years to the detriment of our international image, and our national security. Instead of being seen as a neutral party in the world, we now are now classed among the world’s aggressors. This puts all of us in danger of retaliation. It also creates a culture of war and violence that will only be reproduced throughout our culture and among other cultures.

I for one, would like to thank Mr. Siksay for bringing this discussion to light and for trying to make Canada have more of a culture of peace. If you agree, you can thank him too at Siksay.B@parl.gc.ca. I urge you to please write to your MPs and tell them what you think of these Bills and if you would like to live in a culture of peace instead of a culture of war. If you need suggestions on what to write, please feel free to email me at apeaceofconflict@gmail.com.

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Cambodia’s Trouble with Landmines – is a Brighter Future Possible?

Written by Heather Wilhelm

For my birthday last week, my boyfriend bought me a beautiful necklace from a great fair trade store called Ten Thousand Villages.  The necklace is called a Peace Dove Bombshell Necklace, and upon reading the literature that came with it, I learned that this piece of jewellery was made in Cambodia by a group of artisans who had formed an organization called Rajana.  Rajana is completely owned and operated by the Khmer people of Cambodia, and offer fair salaries, education, interest-free loans and many other benefits to their workers.  They are working to create beautiful art by turning the ravages of decades of war and tragedy into prosperity for their people.  The Peace Dove Bombshell Necklaces are made from the remains of land mines that litter the land of Cambodia and have led the country to have one of the highest numbers of amputee populations in the world.  This birthday gift – as beautiful as it is – tells the story of a horrific past and the ever-present danger that face the people of Cambodia.

Between 1975 and 1979 the ruling party in Cambodia was a totalitarian government called the Khmer Rouge.  The party was led by Pol Pot and believed in extreme Communist principles including social engineering and agricultural reform.  Their radical social reform process was carried out by deporting all the inhabitants of major cities to the countryside where they combined populations with farmers and were forced into labour in the fields.  Anyone suspected of capitalism (a group that included teachers, professors, urban city dwellers, anyone connected to foreign governments, and even people who simply wore reading glasses) was arbitrarily executed, tortured or detained.  There is a large range of estimated deaths in the four years that the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia, but most estimates but the death toll at 1.5 million people.  This included those executed by the government, as well as those who died of starvation from lack of experience growing food, and those who died of preventable diseases because of the government’s insistence that westernized medicine be kept out of the country.  Money was abolished; schools, hospitals, banks, industrial and service companies were closed; books were burned and as mentioned earlier, almost the entire intellectual population of the country was massacred.  Most notable in the long list of treacherous crimes performed by the Khmer Rouge was the separation of children from their parents (who were believed to be tainted by capitalism) and their subsequent brainwashing (children were often given leadership roles in torture and execution) into this dangerous form of socialism.  While the Khmer Rouge were toppled from government in 1979, the group itself survived as a group into the 1990s, causing death and destruction throughout these decades.

It is estimated that four to six million landmines were laid in Cambodia over the decades of war fought there, and every year hundreds of Cambodians fall victim to the lasting effect of these forgotten weapons.  In a population of approximately 12 million people, it is estimated that more than 40,000 amputees are living, or one in every 290 Cambodians.  These amputees are chastised by their peers and have been forgotten by their government, often having to try and make a living selling merchandise on the streets for small commissions.  There are many active mine removal organizations that work within Cambodia that are trying to clear mines in an effort to make the country safer, but this sizable job is nowhere near completion leaving the citizens of Cambodia in constant danger or death or amputation.

Organizations like Rajana are imperative to the turnaround of countries like Cambodia that are suffering the after effects of decades long war, as they play a role in creating job opportunities and education for its citizens.  By providing fair wages, health care, education and more to their employees Rajana is working to create a different future for Cambodia.  Aside from creating a better social welfare system, it is imperative that the international community become active in the banning of land mines and cluster bombs.  The Ottawa Treaty also known as the Mine Ban Treaty became effective on March 1, 1999, and as of early 2009 had 156 parties to the Treaty.  Once a country has signed, they are required to cease production of anti-personnel mines as well as destroy any stockpile of mines within four years (except for a small number they are allowed to retain for training purposes).  Thirty-seven countries have not signed the Treaty, including the People’s Republic of China, India, Russia and the United States of America, all of whom are some of the largest producers and carry some of the largest stockpile of anti-personnel landmines.  By refusing to sign this Treaty, some of the most powerful countries in the world, namely the United States and China, are perpetuating a problem that has caused countless deaths and produced mass destruction.

The Peace Dove Bombshell Necklace is just one small way that we can make a difference in the eradication of land mines while at the same time allowing us to contribute to the social development of a nation.  A portion from the proceeds of every necklace sold between the International Day of Peace (September 21) and Remembrance Day (November 11) goes to Mines Action Canada while the remainder goes to the artisans making a change through the Rajana organization.  While I hazard to use this site to advertise for companies, Ten Thousand Villages has spent decades providing international communities with a venue to sell fair trade items and I feel their work should be recognized.  If you’re interested in learning more about Ten Thousand Villages and their fair trade items, visit them at www.tenthousandvillages.ca.  To learn more about the work of Mines Action Canada, visit them at www.minesactioncanada.org.  While it is often hard to read about the horrors occurring in other countries, at times I feel our minds can be eased by trying to make any kind of difference, however small or insignificant it may seem.

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The Global Hunger Crisis – Why Haven’t We Made More Progress Towards the Millenium Development Goals?

Written by Heather Wilhelm

It is so easy to forget about the true state of the world when we live our day to day lives just going through the motions.  Here are some statistics to shock you back into reality:

~        1.02 billion people do not have enough to eat – more than the populations of USA, Canada and the European Union;

~        More than 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women;

~        Every six seconds a child dies because of hunger and related causes; and

~        Lack of Vitamin A kills a million infants a year.

When I read statistics like these, I actually find it very hard to believe that they are real.  How is it possible that I’ve lived 28 years never going hungry, and yet somehow during my regular 8 hour work day more than 4,800 children die of hunger-related diseases?  Women and children the world over continue to be the most disenfranchised individuals on the planet, and even the most well-meaning organizations, like the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP), are unable to help effectively.  A recent report from Reuters states that world food aid is at an all-time low despite the fact that the number of hungry people in the world soared to its highest level ever, with more than 1 billion people classified as lacking food.  The WFP has barely enough funding this year to help a fraction of these people, which is made more horrifying by the fact that it would take a mere 0.01% of the global financial crisis bailout package from the United States to solve the hunger crisis.  Priorities need to shift in Washington and in neighbouring developed countries, with the eradication of poverty and starvation not only in “third world” countries, but also right in their own backyards moving to the top of the list.

As per the WFP’s website, one of the possible solutions to the world hunger crisis is the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, which are:

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight goals to be achieved by 2015 that respond to the world’s main development challenges. The MDGs are drawn from the actions and targets contained in the Millennium Declaration that was adopted by 189 nations-and signed by 147 heads of state and governments during the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000.

These eight development goals are:

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality

Goal 5: Improve maternal health

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

The importance of the implementation of the MDG’s cannot be overlooked, but considering we are more than halfway through the fifteen year period that was allotted to make these development goals a reality, how much has really been accomplished?  If the WFP can say that 2009 saw more hungry people than ever before, clearly something is being done wrong.  In an attempt to look into progress reports, I found most sites to be sorely lacking (for instance, the United Nations Development Programme website’s section entitled “Implementation of the MDG’s” last shows an update in 2005), which is beyond discouraging.  The eight goals listed above are so basic, so simple and so easily achieved that is simply doesn’t make sense why there hasn’t been more progress reported.  As a society, we need to hold our government accountable for the commitments they made to the disenfranchised, poverty-stricken people of the world in 2000, and ensure that they are meeting the requirements set out for each country in helping to bring the Millennium Development Goals to fruition by the year 2015.  If you want to make sure they are held accountable, speak up, tell people what you’ve read here and make your voice heard.  Local government representatives aren’t just elected to sit around and look pretty – they are supposed to carry our voices and concerns up to Ottawa and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.  If there’s one country in the world that exemplifies the spirit of helping others, it’s Canada, so let’s make sure when 2015 rolls around, our country has done everything in its power to ensure the full implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.

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Corporate Accountability: Political action to stop human rights abuses by Canadian mining, oil and gas companies.

It is about time!  Finally, the government of Canada is seeing the light and is attempting to mandate the corporate social responsibility of the Canadian mining, gas and oil extraction industries necessary to stop their involvement in major human rights violations around the world. This bill, if enacted, would help to ensure that corporations engaged in mining, oil or gas activities who often receive significant financial and political  support from the Government of Canada act in a manner consistent with international environmental best practices and with Canada’s commitments to international human rights standards. The Act gives the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of International Trade the responsibility of holding corporations accountable for their practices by submitting annual reports to the House of Commons and the Senate for review and allowing for a formal complaints procedure for those who have been wronged. Essentially, it is enabling a process to help catch Canadians committing crimes around the world and to prevent human rights abuses from occurring by the hand of certain Canadian corporations.

Sadly, this bill almost didn’t make it to the third reading with 137 votes for and 133 against in Parliament… only one Conservative party member voted for this bill while almost all of the rest of the Conservative party (132 of the 137 “Nays”) voted against it.

Profits should not come before people and companies should be held liable if they are committing abuses around the world to make their profits. We have laws against these types of abuses here in Canada and have signed countless international covenants against them, so why should some be allowed to get away with them just because they happen on foreign soil or because they bring in massive profits in tax dollars? Why should the government of Canada support companies if they are helping to commit crimes around the world? This makes us all guilty!

WHY ARE WE CHOOSING ECONOMIC SECURITY OVER THE RIGHTS OF HUMAN BEINGS? THAT IS CRIMINAL!

Why do some stand against this bill? Well, one position is that it will “diminish the international competitiveness of the Canadian mining industry” and possibly “drive Canadian companies to seriously consider relocating their head offices and listing outside of Canada”. Frankly, if companies are not willing to be socially responsible enough to ensure that they are not committing major human rights abuses– then I say– GOOD RIDDANCE to them!

I do not want one cent of my tax dollars going to help support their abuses. It is disgusting to me that we live in a world that gives us little choice but to use human rights abusing products to be part of our society, mostly without our knowledge and I would be thrilled if allowed the choice to choose those that are human rights abuse free.

And as for the claim that it will diminish the international competitiveness of the industry– I say being free of human right abuses gives them a new competitive edge and added marketing capability. How upset are people to learn that their products are made in sweat shops? The mining, oil and gas industries are responsible for much more far reaching and atrocious abuses. Imagine the marketing potential if the government supported the ones who made the effort with a seal of “free of human rights abuses”?  It also will make Canadian industries the new standard for the world and a shining example of what is possible; that the industry does not have to be human rights abusing and that we can buy products such as metals without having to feel guilty.

Do we really want an industry that has a hand in committing awful crimes around the world to continue that practice? Does the profit to be had really mean more than the lives of those who are being wronged? Well, according to at least 133 members of our government (because I would also tend to include those who abstain), it does.

Please take the time to review this issue and write to your politicians about it. You can read about some of the human rights abuses associated with the mining, oil and gas industries here.

If you want to write to the government (and I’m hoping you will!), here are some people to try writing to:

John McKay, MP. Liberal Party of Canada, MckayJ@parl.gc.ca- responsible for bringing the bill to Parliament.

Kevin Sorenson, Chair, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, SorenK@parl.gc.ca
Angela Crandall, Clerk, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, faae@parl.gc.ca

or Write to:

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.

Here are some sample letters for you to use:

If your MP voted for, or abstained on the Bill:

Date:

Dear

Re: Support for Bill C-300 on Corporate Accountability

I am writing to let you know that I strongly support Bill C-300, an Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries.

I am appalled by regular reports that Canadian mining, oil and gas companies are involved in human rights, labour, and environmental violations around the world and by the fact that these companies often receive financial and political support from the Canadian Government. The current government’s response to these concerns is its “Building the Canadian Advantage” strategy. This voluntary approach is completely inadequate.

Bill C-300 responds to the urgent need for a stronger regulatory framework to hold Canadian mining, oil and gas companies accountable, in Canada, for human rights, labour, and environmental violations overseas. Bill C-300 has garnered support across the country and internationally. It is supported by the Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability (CNCA), an organization which includes Amnesty International Canada, the United Church of Canada, the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, Friends of the Earth, the Steelworkers Humanity Fund, the Canadian Labour Congress, KAIROS – Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, MiningWatch Canada and many other organizations. Bill C-300 has my support as well.

I urge Members of Parliament and the members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development to support Bill C-300, recognizing that Bill C-300 reflects and responds to the recommendations that were made to the Government of Canada by the earlier Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in 2005.

Yours truly,

(your name and address)

If your MP voted against, you can try this:

Dear Mr.,

I am writing to let you know that I strongly support Bill C-300, an Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries. I am absolutely appalled and disgusted to learn that you voted against this bill. How can you vote against protecting the human rights of people? How can you choose economic security over human rights? Against what we as Canadians stand for? You do not represent your constituency by this vote, instead, you do us all a disservice as Canadians. This will not diminish the international competitiveness of the mining industry– it will give us a competitive edge and added marketing potential and set us as a standard for the world.

We should not be supporting, either financially or politically, companies that are responsible for major human right abuses around the world. We should not leave this to voluntary cooperation– because it is NOT enough to stop the abuses from happening. If it is illegal to commit these crimes on Canadian soil, then these companies should not be permitted (and even encouraged through our support) to do so on foreign soils. This is absolutely appalling and I am deeply disturbed that you have voted it down in Parliament. I am disgusted at your lack of compassion for the violated and lack of responsibility in this issue.

Bill C-300 responds to the urgent need for a stronger regulatory framework to hold Canadian mining, oil and gas companies accountable, in Canada, for human rights, labour, and environmental violations overseas. Bill C-300 has garnered support across the country and internationally. It is supported by the Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability (CNCA), an organization which includes Amnesty International Canada, the United Church of Canada, the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, Friends of the Earth, the Steelworkers Humanity Fund, the Canadian Labour Congress, KAIROS – Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, MiningWatch Canada and many other organizations. Bill C-300 has my support as well.

I urge Members of Parliament and the members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development to support Bill C-300, recognizing that Bill C-300 reflects and responds to the recommendations that were made to the Government of Canada by the earlier Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in 2005.

Yours truly,

(your name and address)


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Who cries for the three-year old rape victim?

A three year old girl died this week after being brutally gang-raped by rebel fighters in the DR Congo. Somehow, the last 7 words in that sentence seem to make the rest disappear. A three-year old rape victim dying in North America would be the cover of every news story in the country. A massive campaign would be launched to prevent it from happening in the future and a thorough investigation into how it happened in the first place would be ordered. The public would have no less. They would take every effort to ensure this type of crime never occurred again.

Why is it any different when it happens in the Congo? Why do we suddenly feel it is ok to ignore this problem? Is it because it is happening in a place that is already so violent? Does that somehow make it ok? The child would have probably faced violence her entire life anyway, right?

Is it because we feel disconnected from the violence there? This is interesting, since, as electronics loving Canadians, we are probably more connected to this crime than we might think. We could do something about it. We could protest. We could stop buying things that could help contribute to the crimes (and that list includes most of the electronics and metal products that we use every single day). We could write our government. But most of us never will. We won’t do this because it isn’t easy. Because it would involve some sort of sacrifice on our part.

Ask yourself this: If this rape victim were in North America, and the crime was partially committed by some company whose product you used every day– would you stop using it? Would you write the company a letter to express your outrage? Or would you sit there and do nothing? Why does this victim deserve any less?

Lately, violence in this region seems to be on the rise again. And we are still oblivious. Human rights campaigners and journalists trying to get the truth out are being silenced. Rape is again on the rise. The metal industries (and many many others) are making profit from these crimes. They are supplying massively violent warlords with weapons and money, and sometimes even logistical supplies to commit massacres. When will we stand up against them and say, no more?


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