Saturday, April 30, 2011

Will Harper provoke constitutional crisis?

Harper refuses to say if he would accept governor general's decision on coalition (includes VIDEO) Richmond Hill, Ont: Conservative leader Stephen Harper refused Saturday to say if he would accept a decision by the governor general to hand power to one of the opposition parties after Monday's election... After five weeks during which Harper has, on a daily basis, said that the opposition parties will form a coalition government if he doesn't win a majority, Harper would not say if he would publicly accept or oppose a decision by Gov.-Gen David Johnston to make that happen.

Under constitutional tradition, say experts, if Harper is defeated in the House of Commons by the opposition parties, it will then be up to Johnston to decide if he wants to ask one of the opposition leaders if they have the 'confidence' of the House and form a government. Only upon that invitation by the governor general would a new government be formed -- meaning it is Johnston, not Harper, who has the constitutional power...

At a campaign event Saturday... Harper was asked a direct question. 'Will you or will you not accept a decision by the governor general to call on the second party to form a government if you again lose the confidence of the House?'... Despite being asked repeatedly by a reporter to answer the question, Harper declined... His refusal to answer... raises fundamental questions about whether Harper will provoke a constitutional crisis in the wake of an election...

When a CBC TV reporter continued to press for an answer Saturday, Harper shot back, 'I've given you my answer.' Someone in the crowd shouted out 'Shut down the CBC!' prompting cheers from Harper's supporters.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Constitutional expert 'full of fear' of Harper majority

VIDEO: Leading constitutional expert Peter Russell on Speak Up/Parler Fort. Watch it here.

"I've never been more worried in my entire lifetime about the possible outcome of an election. I really fear that if the Harper Conservatives were to win a majority in the the of House of Commons it would be an indication that parliamentary crime pays... I really tremble. I'm just full of fear... It's a scary election... and an important one for Canadians. Whether we really treasure the parliamentary democracy we've enjoyed... for over a century and a half. I hope all Canadians will really worry and think about it and try to prevent a majority from killing."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A must read -- and pass it on

The daring Mr. Harper
Aaron Wherry, Maclean's: He is not creating alternate realities, he is simply daring enough to breeze past any assertion of reality which does not serve his purposes. He is looking you in the eye, shrugging and moving on. He is entirely undaunted by his own record of words and actions... What he has pitched throughout this campaign is a series of bold assertions -- or at least a series of assertions that must seem bold to anyone stubborn enough to hang on to recorded history.

Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

Abstraction of Destruction

Facial Tissues, September 2005, Ontario

The Guardian: Paper pulp waste, resulting from facial tissue manufacture. At this factory, the pulp for the most popular facial tissue is produced. The wood fibre is obtained from the Kenogami national forest in Ontario, where the government subsidizes the cutting of old growth forest. The forest, once home for a multitude of species, is an immensely diverse and complex ecosystem and habitat, and will be replaced by a monoculture of factory farmed trees which will be cut again. This aeration pond is part of the effluent treatment system. The primary task of the treatment is to remove organics (wood fibre) from the water before it is returned to its source (typically a river). These ponds are filled with a mixture of micro-organisms that break down the organic material. The aeration is to break up particles in the effluent and to provide oxygen to the microbes.

From Abstraction of Destruction, J. Henry Fair's images of environmental degradation, most of them taken out of planes at 1,000 feet. The pictures appear in his recent book, The Day After Tomorrow: Images of Our Earth in Crisis.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

God's wife Asherah: 'mighty and nurturing'

God's Wife Edited Out of the Bible -- Almost God had a wife, Asherah, whom the Book of Kings suggests was worshiped alongside Yahweh in his temple in Israel, according to an Oxford scholar. In 1967, Raphael Patai was the first historian to mention that the ancient Israelites worshiped both Yahweh and Asherah. The theory has gained new prominence due to the research of Francesca Stavrakopolou, who began her work at Oxford and is now a senior lecturer in the department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter...

Asherah's connection to Yahweh, according to Stavrakopolou, is spelled out in both the Bible and an 8th century BC inscription on pottery found in the Sinai desert at a site called Kuntillet Arjud. "The inscription is a petition for a blessing,... 'a blessing from Yahweh and his Asherah.'" Here was evidence that presented Yahweh and Asherah as a divine pair. And now a handful of similar inscriptions have since been found...

Also significant, Stavrakopoulou believes, "Is the Bible's admission that the goddess Asherah was worshiped in Yahweh's Temple in Jerusalem. In the Book of Kings, we're told that a statue of Asherah was housed in the temple and that female temple personnel wove ritual textiles for her."

J. Edward Wright, president of both the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies and The Albright Institute for Archaeological Research, [agrees]: Asherah was not entirely edited out of the Bible by its male editors... Asherah -- known across the ancient Near East by various other names, such as Astarte and Istar -- was "an important deity, one who was both mighty and nurturing."

"Many English translations prefer to translate 'Asherah' as 'Sacred Tree,'" Wright said. "This seems to be in part driven by a modern desire, clearly inspired by the Biblical narratives, to hide Asherah behind a veil once again."... Aaron Brody, director of the Bade Museum and an associate professor of Bible and archaeology at the Pacific School of Religion, said... Asherah as a tree symbol was even said to have been "chopped down and burned outside the Temple in acts of certain rulers who were trying to 'purify' the cult, and focus on the worship of a single male god, Yahweh."

The ancient Israelites were polytheists, Brody [said] "with only a small minority worshiping Yahweh alone before the historic events of 586 BC." In that year, an exile community within Judea was exiled to Babylon and the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. this, Brody said, led to "a more universal vision of strict monotheism: one god not only for Judah, but for all of the nations."

Image source here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Trees reflected

Ingrid Nelson, Pavement Trees: Last sumer I started shooting concrete and parking lots and dividing lines, fading paint and patterns... With all the rain this winter, my eye was drawn into the glistening cement and of course... puddles.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Immigration experts warn against HarperCons

Don't vote Conservative, newcomers urged
Toronto Star: In an unusual move, a group of Canadian lawyers and legal academics are urging voters not to support the Conservative Party in the May 2 election. "The Conservative Party has been telling visible minority immigrant communities, which it calls the 'ethnic vote,' that it is improving the immigration system," said the group in a statement released [April 20]. "A review of their record shows the contrary." The group, made up of leading immigration lawyers and professors across Canada, said the Conservative Party has misled the public, especially immigrant voters, by making twisted statements about the state of Canada's immigration and refugee system, in order to win newcomer votes.

Despite the media hype and government propaganda, Canadian immigration experts, both academics and lawyers, do not think that the Conservative government is doing immigrant communities any favours.

Stephen Harper, Jason Kenney and the Conservatives have target the so-calle 'ethnic vote,' hoping to convince immigrant communities that the Conservatives have made things better fot their communities and that these communities should support them. However, a review of the facts shows that this government's policies have not been friendly to immigrant communities. Moreover, the Conservative government has made a habit of using immigration issues to stir up anti-immigrant sentiments amongst other Canadians.

[See list of specific charges here.]

If you believe in the concept of family reunification, that is the ability of immigrants and Canadians to bring their parents, grandparents, children and spouses to Canada; if you believe in a fair and timely skilled worker program that recruits the best and the brightest from around the world to join our midst; if you believe in justice for refugees without automatic imprisonment; if you believe in spousal sponsorship processing that does not lead to the potential for greater spousal abuse and neglect, then you must not support the Conservative Party in the upcoming Federal Election on May 2nd.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Canada #2 'happiest country'

Survey says: Canada is second happiest country in the world

National Post: According to a new global survey from Gallup, 69% of Canadians rated their lives as 'thriving' in 2010 -- putting the country in a tie with Sweden for second place in the rankings. The top spot belongs to Denmark, where 72% of residents are feeling pretty great about life...

Respondents had three options to choose from: 'thriving' -- where they classified their lives as 'a 7 or higher and their lives in 5 years an 8 or higher,' 'struggling,' or 'suffering.' Gallup's method is based on the Cantril Scale, which encourages participants to imagine a ladder with 10 steps (to signify a scale of 10). The top of the ladder is the best life imaginable, and as you can expect, 0 is the worst.
The top ten countries:
1. Denmark: 72%
2. Canada: 69%
2. Sweden: 69%
4. Australia: 66%
5. Finland: 64%
5. Venezuela: 64%
7. Israel: 63%
7. New Zealand: 63%
9. Netherlands: 62%
9. Ireland: 62%
The bottom 10 countries:
1. Chad: 1%
2. Central African Republic: 2%
3. Haiti: 2%
4. Burkina Faso: 3%
5. Cambodia: 3%
6. Niger: 3%
7. Tajikistan: 3%
8. Tanzania: 4%
9. Mali: 4%
10. Comoros: 4%
Image: Vancouver (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images); source here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

UBC lipdub video goes viral

Stunning UBC student lipdub
More than 1,000 students appear in the one-long-shot wonder

Vancouver Sun: A UBC lipdub video, filmed in one long shot on the school campus March 26, has gone viral on YouTube. The filmmakers say proceeds from the YouTube views will be donated to charity. Be prepared to be amazed as scores of students lip synch to Pink's 'Raise Your Glass' and Marianas Trench 'Celebrity Status.' Watch the video on YouTube, at the official UBC LipDub website or in the online Vancouver Sun article (along with other student lipdubs) here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ice retreat, permafrost melt eroding coastline

Canadian Press: Scientists suspect that gradual washing-away along thousands of kilometres of gravelly northern shoreline is speeding up. And that steady erosion is already having profound effects on northerners, the majority of whom live along the coast.

'Every single element of the North is going to be affected, right from the engineering side to how the Inuit interact with their environment,' said Wayne Pollard, a McGill University geomorphologist who contributed to the massive, 10-country study...

Much of Canada's northern coast is composed of a kind of frozen goo -- an unconsolidated pile of rubble and mud cemented into place by permafrost. It has always been subject to erosion from wind and waves. The study concludes the vast Beaufort Sea coastline of the western Arctic is retreating faster than any other northern coastline. On average, the sea washes away a metre of it every year. In some places, the erosion reaches eight metres a year...

The study point out that the sea ice is crucial to protecting the shore. And sea ice, in the face of climate change, is undergoing its own retreat. This year's sea ice maximum was tied for the lowest on record... Permafrost is also becoming less stable as temperatures in the North increase...

The changes are already affecting traditional practices such as hunting seals, polar bears and beluga whales. People so attuned to their local environment that they can navigate in fog by the currents affecting their boats can no longer count on the old assumptions... Pollard said the study underlines how interconnected the shoreline is with both the human and natural world.
Image source here.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Citizenship guide: Canada as 'bellicose nation'

Canada for Spartans

In the government guidebook Discover Canada, required reading for people seeking to become Canadian citizens, the word 'war' appears thirty-five times and Ontario and Quebec become a single region

Stephen Henighan, in Geist (Spring 2011): If I did not recognize the land described in Discover Canada, that was the volume's intention: to drive a wedge between old Canadians and new Canadians... between the liberal, statist, internationalist culture of the past and what the authors hope will be the conservative, militaristic culture of the future...

Medicare... is bypassed in a fleeting reference to the Canada Health Act. Tommy Douglas may have been voted 'the Greatest Canadian' in 2004, but his name does not appear here. The CBC, government aid agencies,... the right to unionize, gay and lesbian rights -- all vanish... Peacekeeping receives one grudging mention... Canada is a bellicose nation, adamant about its 'Christian civilizations' and fixated on 'the rule of law.'...

The only two waves of political refugees identified by the guide are Hungarians who 'escaped Soviet tyranny' in 1956 and Vietnamese who 'fled from Communism' after 1975... [not] military governments in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, or right-wing death squads in El Salvator or Guatemala... [or] men who came to Canada from the United States as refugees from the Vietnam War, and women who accompanied them. The dignity of General Pinochet takes precedence over an accurate account of the origins of Canada's population...

The bottom of the opening two-page spread on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship is emblazoned with photos of happy soldiers. Would-be citizens must study the names of all Canadians who have won the Victoria Cross... [Description of] The two Riel rebellions tilts the emphasis toward the battlefield... Tory gun-lovers can thrill to a photograph of a gun-wielding hunter (who, unassailably, is Inuit)...

The most enduring lesson... citizenship applicants can learn from this volume is that Canada is a country whose government misrepresents its past in order to deprive them of the information they need to engage in debate about its future.
Image from Discover Canada, page 9.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Virtual Choir: 'Sleep'

The virtual choir combines more than 2000 individual YouTube videos of singers in nearly 60 countries singing parts to one song: 'Sleep' by Eric Whitacre, conducting. Listen to it here.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

From space: How 'green' is the Earth?

Thirteen Years of Greening from SeaWiFS

To enlarge image, go here.

Earth Observatory: From 1998 to 2010, the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor, or SeaWiFS, made a simple but elegant measurement: how 'green' is the Earth. That is, how much chlorophyll -- the pigment that helps turn sunlight into organic energy for plants -- is present in the seas and on land. Those measurements offered a window into the planet's ability to support life. The long, well-calibrated data record also gives scientists one of the best benchmarks to study the planet's biological response to a changing environment.

The image above shows SeaWiFS data as a global average over the entire 13-year record. For the oceans, the colors represent the concentration of chlorophyll and indicate where phytoplankton most often bloomed since 1998. On the land, data are depicted as a Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), which shows the density of green vegetation. An NDVI of zero means no green plants and a high value (0.8 of 0.9) is a thick canopy of green leaves.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Border deal kept secret while planning PR

Federal documents contradict Harper's office on perimeter security talks

The Canadian Press: Months before the Conservative government dismissed talk of a perimeter security accord with the United States as hearsay, senior officials were quietly discussing a draft of the border agreement. Documents obtained by The Canadian Press show federal deputy ministers considered a version of the accord early last September.

The planned perimeter agreement is intended to expand joint operations on security, creating a sort of continental fortress while allowing for smoother flow of goods, people and services across the 49th parallel...

Despite the advanced efforts, a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper waved off questions about an accord in December when word began to leak out. 'No such announcement is planned. We don't comment on hearsay or speculation.' Less than two months later, Harper and U.S. President Barak Obama signed an agreement that could ultimately lead to a formal North American security perimeter. Critics say the federal government is risking sovereignty over key policies such as immigration as well as control of personal information about Canadians...

The newly released documents say the deputy ministers and security officials who met Nov. 22 were to be provided with a copy of the federal 'communications strategy' for the declaration, details of which are blacked out. In February, however the Toronto Star reported on a leaked copy of the strategy, saying the government purposely kept negotiations on the border deal secret while it planned ways to swing public opinion in favour of the deal. The newspaper said the 14-page public relations document suggested keeping a 'low public profile' in the months leading up to the announcement.
Image source here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tsunami debris on the way

Where Will the Debris from Japan's Tsunami Drift?
IPRC: The powerful tsunami triggered by the 9.0 Tohoku Earthquake destroyed coastal towns near Sendai in Japan, washing such things as houses and cars into the ocean. Projections of where this debris might head have been made by Nikolai Maximento and Jan Hafner at the International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Failed HIV project only 'giant photo-op' for Harper

HIV project Harper signed with Bill Gates fizzled soon after

The Toronto Star: A $139-million project to fight HIV-AIDS, launched by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a glitzy photo-op with Microsoft's Bill Gates, began to flounder within months, says an internal report... 'Very significant delays... have put into question the extent to which the initiative can achieve the expected results within the remaining time frame,' says the report, completed last August for the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The $62,000 study, commissioned from Goss Gilroy Inc. consultants, examined the effectiveness of the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative, created with great fanfare four years ago. A copy of the document was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, after a five-month delay.

The Prime Minister won headlines across Canada when he announced the project on February 20, 2007, smiling Bill Gates at his side.. But the report says the grand plans quickly became entangled in a cat's cradle of red tape... The most high-profile was a decision not to proceed with the pilot facility to produce HIV vaccine in Canada...

Stakeholder support for the facility seriously eroded in September 2007 when an international trial of a promising HIV vaccine was cancelled.. The vaccine was found to be ineffective. Program officials and others told Goss Gilroy that the unexpected cancellation immediately raised red flags about the proposed Canadian facility -- but few had the appetite to question in so soon after Harper's photo-op...

'A great deal of time, effort and money were wasted on a giant photo-op for the prime minister, says Terry Duguid, who headed a Winnipeg-based consortium that spent $750,000 applying to operate the pilot facility. 'It was just incompetence of the highest order... I think Canada's reputation has taken a big hit.'
Image source here.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Inequality: 'power of entrenched interests'

What Causes Social Inequality?
From a review by Lars Osberg, in

In Power and Inequality: A Comparative Introduction, Gregg Olsen examines three 'Nordic' countries -- Finland, Norway and Sweden -- and three 'Anglo' countries -- Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States -- through the lens of social inequality... As well as inequalities of income and wealth, there are those of access to education, health care and housing...

The Nordic countries have substantially less social inequality than the Anglo countries:... 'social inequality is created, reproduced, institutionalized, legitimated and perpetuated by the people who hold the most resources in society.'... The power of the entrenched interests of the status quo has always been partly based on a combination of fatalism and collective failure of popular imagination. When most people really cannot conceive of a different organization of society, the default setting is that social inequality continues in the future as it has been in the past...

There have always been more or less sophisticated rationalizations -- along the TINA (There Is No Alternative) line -- for the perspective that 'things must be as they always have been.' In sociology, 'neo-functionalists' have argued that social inequality is the inevitable and natural implication of society's need to fill crucial roles and positions. Sociobiologists and social Darwinists have also claimed to find 'immutable laws' of social stratification... Although such theories may have been convincing when researchers could only examine a single country's data... they cannot survive cross-national comparisons because they offer no reason why countries might differ.
Image source here.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

DND under 'political pressure' to hide Libya costs

Cost of Canadian action in Libya still unknown
Postmedia News: The war in Libya has cost the United States more than half a billion dollars so far, but Canadian taxpayers appear to be in for a longer wait before they find out how much the military campaign will ding their pocketbooks. Some Canadian Forces personnel have told their families they expect to be overseas for up to six months...

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told American lawmakers that the conflict cost the country $550 million in the first week of action... Canada's Defence Department, however, will not be releasing its cost figures at this time and does not have a date set for when that might happen. 'The department is not the the practice of putting forward estimates that may be subject to change because of all sorts of variables that are still in play,' said DND spokeswoman Jessie Chauhan... She added that the numbers aren't 'hard and fast.'

But Liberal Sen. Colin Kenny said that isn't the case. 'DND does have the figures,' said Kenny, the former chair of the Senate defence committee. 'They know all of these numbers but they don't want people to know they're spending a hell of a lot of money on a place most Canadians couldn't find on a map.'

Kenny said DND has specific numbers on what it costs to run a frigate per day, as well as operational costs for CF-18s and other aircraft. Military officers privately acknowledge he is right. 'The only reason I can think of for not releasing such figures is that DND is under political pressure not to do that,' said Kenny... There has been no public discussion of how long the Canadian contribution will be required.
Image source here.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Arctic warming breaks NASA's temp chart

Extreme Warming Forces Climate Scientists To Add Hot Pink To Temperature Map
ThinkProgress: As global warming from unlimited fossil fuel burning accelerates, the Arctic is being radically transformed. This winter saw large regions of Canada and Greenland about 10C above the historical average. Temperatures in eastern Canada in the dead of winter were a staggering 21C above average.

The extreme Arctic warming is wreaking havoc with the polar ecosystems and is linked to the catastrophic snowstorms that pummeled the United States. In a summary of how global climate change is becoming observable to people in their daily lives, NASA scientist was forced to redraw his global map with hot pink. 'One sure bet is that this decade will be the warmest in history, Hansen writes in his survey (.pdf)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ancestral message saved lives in Japan

Residents of tsunami-ravaged towns forgot wisdom left by ancestors

The Toronto Star: Modern sea walls failed to protect coastal towns from Japan's destructive tsunami last month. But in the hamlet of Aneyoshi, a single centuries-old tablet saved the day. 'High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants,' the stone slab reads. 'Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.'

It was advice the dozen or so households of Aneyoshi heeded, and their homes emerged unscathed from a disaster that flattened low-lying communities elsewhere and killed thousands along the northeastern shore.

Hundreds of such markers dot the coastline, some more than 600 years old... The markers don't all indicate where it's safe to build. Some simply stand -- or stood before the tsunami hit -- as daily reminders of the risk. 'If an earthquake comes, beware of tsunamis,' reads one... One stone marker warned of the danger in the coastal city of Kesennuma: 'Always be prepared for unexpected tsunamis. Choose life over your possessions and valuables.'...

[In] the tightly knit community of Aneyoshi...'Everybody here knows about the markers. We studied them in school,' said Yuto Kimura, 12. 'When the tsunami came, my mom got me from school and then the whole village climbed to higher ground.'... Isamu Aneishi, 69, said his ancestors moved their family-run inn to higher ground more than a hundred years ago. But his three grandchildren were at an elementary school that sat just 150 metres from the water in nearby Chikei. The school and surrounding buildings are in ruins. Their bodies have not been found.
Image source here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fraser River too warm for sockeye

Sockeye salmon at risk of overheating due to climate change

The Globe and Mail: Sockeye salmon in the Fraser River are facing such critically warm water in the summer that populations will either have to adapt or die as climate change pushes temperatures even higher, according to new research at the University of British Columbia. With oceans, lakes and rivers warming worldwide, the study holds a warning that fish stocks are facing increasingly dire environmental challenges...

Researcher Erika Eliason found... that sockeye, which migrate up to 1,200 kilometres in the fraser, are already 'near their upper limit' for warm water and any further increases could lead to the disappearance of some population... There are more than 100 sockeye populations in the Fraser and over time they have evolved in response to the specific environmental conditions they face during migration...

Ms. Eliason said it isn't known how long it takes a population to change physiologically to adapt to environmental conditions -- and it might not be possible for any of the populations to change fast enough to survive in the long run... The Fraser has warmed by about two degrees over the past two decades and the trend is expected to continue. The river is usually over 19 degrees in the summer, and often hits highs of around 21.5 degrees.

'They are all near their upper limit... 21.5 degrees C is already higher than the optimal temperature for every single population in the Fraser, she said. 'There is not much room there, for anybody.'

Postmedia News: The salmon... appear to undergo 'cardiac collapse' when river temperatures get too high... The researchers found that the sockeye that spawn near the coast and have a much easier migration route, have much smaller hearts and less resilience than fish that make more gruelling trips... Sockeye that head farther up the Fraser have hearts almost 50 per cent bigger than the weaker populations, and had more developed cardio-respiratory systems that could handle hotter water.

In recent years the scientists say between 40 and 95 per cent of some sockeye populations have died en route to their spawning grounds... 'We think that fish can't swim at hot temperatures because the fish can't provide sufficient oxygen to their swimming muscles,' [Eliason] says. 'We think this is because the heart can't pump sufficient blood.'
Image source here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cons delay cluster bomb treaty to please U.S.

Canadian ex-arms negotiator breaks silence with concerns about cluster bomb treaty

The Canadian Press: Canadian troops could be complicit in the deaths of innocent civilians if the government proceeds with weak recommendations in the international treaty to ban cluster munitions, says Canada's former lead negotiator. Earl Turcotte resigned last month from Foreign Affairs after nearly 30 years in the public service, the last decade of which was dedicated to disarmament issues.

Turcotte broke his silence and told The Canadian Press... that he was removed as the government's chief negotiator in part because he ran afoul of his superiors after senior U.S. officials complained he was too aggressive in cluster bomb treaty negotiations. Turcotte also registered a 'conscientious objection' to his bosses on how the government had planned to interpret a key provision of the Convention on Cluster Munitions -- Article 21.

The provision covers joint operations between countries such as Canada, which are expected to ratify the treaty, and countries that will not -- specifically, the United States... Turcotte said the true intent of the section is being subverted and would essentially 'aid and abet' the continued use of cluster bombs... 'Canada could be in part responsible for more civilian deaths because of the use of this weapon. That's just, to me, morally and legally unacceptable. I simply couldn't live with myself if I allow this go through unchallenged.'...

Canada was one of 108 countries to sign the cluster bomb treaty in December 2008, and it went into effect in August 2010 after being ratified by more than 50 countries. But critics say the government is dragging its heels on tabling legislation in Parliament that would ratify the treaty, unlike its speedy adoption of the Ottawa Treaty to ban landmines in the late 1990s.

Tucrotte said... 'In the inter-departmental debate, DND has prevailed. I think that they have gone too far and I believe they have done so largely to preserve what they consider to be the unique relationship that the Canadian military enjoys with the U.S. military. And I think they have been unduly influenced by their desire.'
Image source here (scroll down).

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cons try to gag report on Afghan prisoners

Feds accused of trying to muzzle commission report into Afghan torture

The Canadian Press: The Conservative government quietly went to Federal Court last week hoping to impose limits on what a military watchdog can say in its final report into torture allegations involving Afghan prisoners. The Military Police Complaints Commission is currently reviewing evidence and writing its report after hearings into allegations that army cops turned a blind eye to suspected abuse in Afghan jails...

The government wants to exclude the testimony of diplomats and civilians who did not work for the Defence Department. Its lawyers also want any documents belonging to those officials, including reports that warned of torture or documented the abuse, excluded from the commission's findings... The commission's report is the last chance for Canadians to get a comprehensive account of what happened...

The government's refusal to hand over documents to both the commission and a House of Commons committee sparked a crisis in December 2009 where the Liberals brought in a contempt motion that threatened to topple the Conservatives. The prime minister avoided it by shutting down Parliament during the Christmas Holidays that year.

The government eventually agreed to let independent experts and a committee of MPS -- excluding the NDP -- to review what documents could be released. A year after the agreement, the committee has yet to release a single scrap of paper, although Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe has given them until April 15.
Image source here.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

New treaty 'taking our rightful place in Canada'

Historic treaty will allow B.C.'s Maa-nulth First Nations to go beyond the Indian Act

Georgia Straight: Five First Nations will begin a new era of self-government as Vancouver Island's first modern-day treaty comes into effect. The Maa-nulth Final Agreement (.pdf)... has been in the works for 18 years. On April 1, a series of new laws [were] enacted to breathe life into what Huu-ay-aht First Nations hereditary chief Tom Mexsis Happynook says is a 150-year ancestral vision... 'We will be rising from the ashes of colonialism and taking our rightful place in Canada.'... The treaty will reinvigorate powers of Huu-ay-aht hereditary institutions; a system of government that combines hereditary chiefs with elected council members...

As part of the final agreement, the Huu-ay-aht First Nation will receive a capital transfer of $26.4 million over a period of nine years. They'll also receive access to natural resources they say are critical to economic stability. 'We will be able to climb out of the Third World conditions that Canadian First Nations live in across this country,' Happynook said. 'We now have the tools and the resources, both human and natural, to start rebuilding our economy.'... Those tools include an already successful forestry company, fishing opportunities, and cultural tourism...

Happynook said he anticipates that the process will eventually be simplified for others going through the negotiation process. 'I think that as time passes by that we will become more efficient at negotiating treaties in B.C. and that other First Nations will feel the joy that we're feeling right now,' he said.

The Maa-nulth Final Agreement is just the second modern-day treaty to be ratified under the B.C. Treaty Commission process. The Tsawwassen First Nation treaty came into effect in April 2009. The Nisga'a Final Agreement, the first modern-day treaty in the province, came into effect in May of 2000, and was not a part of the current B.C. treaty process.

The Maa-nulth treaty-implementation date comes about a week after a vote by the K'omoks First Nation on March 26 in favour of their agreement in principle. The eastern Vancouver Island community is one of seven First Nations across the province in advanced agreement-in-principle negotiations. The Sliammon community is one of three First Nations that have completed treaties that have not yet been ratified. [Two others] are completing their treaties, while another 27 First Nations are in active negotiations.
Image: Maa-nulth nations; source here.

Friday, April 1, 2011

'Canada has lost its standing' in human rights

Globe and Mail: Canada has lost its standing as a world leader in pressing for human rights, in part by taking a one-sided view on Middle East rights issues... That judgment, according to Amnesty's global secretary-general Salil Shetty, is the cumulative effect of several moves in recent years, including a reluctance to sign new UN rights declarations, avoiding accountability for the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan, and a failure to stand up for the rights of Canadians accused abroad, such as Omar Khadr, the Canadian detained in Guantanamo Bay... 'Globally, Canada's reputation as a reliable human-rights champion has dropped precipitously, Amnesty concluded...

Among other things, Canada's shift in the Middle East has including 'unflinching refusal' to raise concerns about Israel's rights record, and the government has stifled or defunded agencies that 'promote the rights of Palestinians'... Canada has lost the reputation for evenhandedness... Most of the steps criticized in the report came under Stephen Harper's Conservative government -- with the notable exception of the long-standing criticism of Canada's failure to shrink the gap in standard of living between aboriginal Canadians and most citizens.

Amnesty chief blasts Harper on death penalty, and Tories' right record overall
Canadian Press: Prime Minister Stephen Harper's personal support for the death penalty is 'outlandish' and out of step with the world at large, says the head of Amnesty International... Secretary General Salil Shetty... Shetty was in Ottawa to release a scathing report that accused the government of eroding Canada's global reputation as a human rights champion...

Shetty said his organization's latest death penalty report showed that 139 countries have abandoned executions. The only notable exception in the developed world is the United States... The report also notes that Canada has scaled back its efforts at the United Nations to work towards the abolition of the death penalty... Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976...

In January, Harper gave a grammatically awkward answer when asked by the CBC... 'I personally think there are times when capital punishment is appropriate. But I've also committed that I'm not, you know, in the next Parliament, I'm not, no plans to bring that issue forward,' he said. 'Why would he want to say or do that unless there's an expectation that it would bring some political gains,' Shetty said.

'The thing is, there seems to be quite a big gap between what Canadians think their values are, and the government's positions are, and the reality.'
Image source here.