i may hate christmas, but i dig new year's eve

I never cared that much about New Year's Eve.

When I was a teenager or in university, I went to parties, even hosted a party one year when my parents were out of town. But as I got older, I didn't like the forced hilarity, the pressure to have something lined up, the implication to feel dejected if you didn't.

Allan and I always stay home New Year's Eve, with a bottle of champagne and some fun food. Our anniversary is January 3, and we always save our celebration for that.

But my attitude about New Year's Eve changed on December 31, 1999, and from a TV broadcast, of all things. We had the TV on all day, watching people around the globe celebrate that giant odometer click. From the Fiji Islanders to Australia, through Asia, then the great cities of Europe, then over to Newfoundland, to New York... I don't think I made it past Chicago!

But I really caught the spirit of the moment: the whole world celebrating one occasion. Not religious, not nationalistic, just a vast human community.

Incidentally, on that night, I discovered there was a North American time zone east of Eastern! Embarrassing but true; I never knew that. After the celebrations in London and Dublin, I thought New York and Montreal were up next. But no, there was St. John's! What can I say. Now I not only know where Newfoundland is, I've been there.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year, and a 2009 full of the best things in life: peace, friendship, creativity, and a new Canadian government.

Thank you for reading wmtc this year and for being part of this community. Most of all, thank you to everyone who made a phone call, sent an email, wrote a letter, attended a meeting, joined a demonstration, talked to a friend, or took any other action on behalf of war resisters in Canada. May 2009 bring all our hard work to a joyous conclusion.

Happy New Year!

* * * *

Two updates brought in from comments.

Please vote in my reader's poll!

And a note about New Year's, which I should have made explicit in this post. I actually find this date meaningful in my own life. To me New Year Eve is is a time to look back on the previous year, where I've succeeded and where I've failed, what's happened to me for better or worse, and to look ahead with a fresh start.

In 2001, I remember feeling some closure on all the horror and sadness of that autumn.

At the end of 2002, we knew we were leaving the United States.

At year's end in 2005, we celebrated our first New Year in Canada, and said goodbye to the year we lost Buster.

And when I think much farther back, I realize I've felt this way most of my life. It's kind of cool.

This year, I look ahead to great change - for Canada and for the war resisters.

final thoughts on the will-you-move-back question

Two months ago, there was a flurry of media interest in this blog, as reporters searched for US ex-pats to pose that vital question, "If Obama wins, will you return to the US?" I would have thought the question was beyond asking, but some people only pretend to read blogs.

Now year's end seems to have revived the story. Two people sent me this from the Hartford, Connecticut Courant.
Each time George W. Bush won the presidency, some people swore they would move to Canada.

Most of it was just talk. But there are those who actually made good on their threats. So now that Bush is leaving the White House, will the expats be coming home?

Kaitlin Duck Sherwood, now a computer programming consultant in Vancouver, was among those who moved north. When she was living in Palo Alto, Calif., Sherwood was vexed by Bush policies that she saw as eroding individual rights. When he beat John Kerry for a second term, she started applying to grad schools in Canada.

It wasn't just Bush, Sherwood says. She felt disillusioned by her fellow Americans.

"In the second [election], my fellow citizens knew who George Bush was and knew what he was going to do, and they elected him," Sherwood says. "That was just heartbreaking to me."

Last month's election, of course, was heartening for Sherwood.

"Obama's election, that shows me that they are, in fact, reasonable people," she says. "They have restored my faith in America." So she's moving back, right?

Not so fast.

Besides her frustration with the Bush administration, she had concerns about the U.S. economy when she left. . . .

Later in the story, we hear from a USian who moved to Canada for non-political reasons.
Kastrina Brogden, who moved to Canada from Dallas about eight years ago when she married a Canadian, thinks there was a lot more talking about moving up north than actual moving. Although she's a member of Democrats Abroad, she does not know anyone who moved out of the U.S. specifically because of President Bush.

"I think that was kind of a mythology," she says. "That sprang up, and people wanted to believe that. I think there were people who were happy to be away from the Bush administration, but I think you'd have to be pretty extreme in your political views [to move away]."

Welcome to mythology! This woman ought to get out more. Or are the thousands of us who actually did emigrate - not "because of Bush", but because of what his residency in the White House says about the US - extremists? To many people in the US, yes, we are. In Canada, we're just ordinary NDPers. (And a few of us are voting Liberal!)

The story continues:
Lee Rowan moved to Canada shortly after the first Bush election and is now settled in a town close to Toronto, where she writes gay romance novels. Rowan's discontent with Bush had been simmering since the 2000 election and all of the controversy that surrounded it. Then came the Patriot Act and the invasion of Iraq. Then the second Bush victory. Finally, she and her partner of nine years decided to move to Canada in 2004 when their home state of Ohio passed an amendment banning gay marriage. The emigration process was a lengthy one, and they finally settled in Canada in the summer of 2007.

Rowan is encouraged by the election of Obama, but the jury is out on whether she'll head back to the States. For one thing, she likes living in Canada. Also, gay marriage is another big issue for Rowan. She and her wife got married at Niagara Falls a few years ago after the federal government legalized same-sex marriage. Obama seems to lean more toward her own world view, but has said he doesn't support gay marriage. Until he changes his mind on that, Rowan says, she'll probably stay where she is.

"Yes, I could see moving back to the U.S. someday, possibly," she says. "Many friends and family are there. But for the moment, I think we made the right decision and we're putting down roots here."

A reader from Nelson, BC - another US-to-Canada defector, whose move pre-dates mine - sent me a very strange story.

It was written by the same AP reporter who contacted me after the US election with The Annoying Question about moving back. We emailed a bit, but she never interviewed me. I guess she kept looking until she found what she wanted.
For Jeb Assaf, Barack Obama's election win and America's overwhelming vote for "change" has forced him to seriously consider a long-feared change of his own: moving to Canada.

As a John McCain supporter, Assaf says he is fed up with the direction of U.S. politics. He feels his only real option is to make the move north that so many Americans joke about when things don't go their way.

"I am so disappointed that my fellow citizens have looked past the lack of (President-elect Obama's) relevant experience and poor judgment and have treated something so important and sacred like it was 'American Idol,' " said Assaf, 26, of Brooklyn, N.Y. "At least I know what I am getting with (Canada's Conservative Prime Minister) Stephen Harper."

In the days following the election, Canada's Citizenship and Immigration's Web site traffic went to the high end of its normal range, said spokeswoman Karen Shadd. The site, which averages 13,000 to 19,000 hits from U.S. visitors, logged just under 19,000 on Nov. 5.

While it's too early to tell if any recent interest will translate into a significant increase in immigration, Canadian lawyers say there was a significant flood of Americans after President Bush's 2004 re-election, when Web traffic at Canada's immigration site hit a record high of 150,000 visits in a day from Americans.

In fact, any influx of Americans disgruntled with Obama might be countered by a return migration of those who left during the Bush years.

About 11,000 Americans immigrated to Canada in 2006, the last figure Canada's immigration department has, up from about 6,000 in 2003. Because it can take years to finish the immigration process, experts said the latest numbers reflect moves initiated after Bush's re-election.

One of those immigrants was Shirley Kelley, 64, a retiree who left Seattle after Bush's win to seek what she calls a safe haven in Canada's beautiful coastal region of Vancouver, B.C.

"I was angry, I was ashamed of being an American. I was afraid of where my country was heading, and I just had to get out so I packed up my yellow Lab and headed North," she said.

. . .

And while Canada has not become starkly conservative by any means -- the country has single-payer health care -- the country's somewhat transformed political landscape does provide a slight political refuge for Republican Americans.

"What scares me about Obama is Democrats having control over both Houses and the Senate, and being able to ram through legislation. Democrats controlling the country is not good. Obama's policies are bad for the country," said Christopher Buck, 28, a recent law school graduate from New Hampshire, who is considering a move to Montreal as a result of the election results.

"There's a lot to like about Canada," he said.

There are more than a dozen Facebook groups of people threatening to move to Canada, with names like the group Assef founded, "If Obama Somehow Wins, I'm moving to Canada." Assef, a recent law school graduate, has been researching immigration requirements and how to get licensed as an attorney in Ontario.

. . . .

Despite "absolutely loving" Canada and its "gentle, peaceful ways," Kelley said that its the first time since 2004 she's thinking about heading back to the United States.

"I feel like I have a new lease on life. Obama is hope. He's my prayers answered," she said. "He's brought back my faith in the U.S."

Where to begin? First, a USian in Canada says Obama's election is the answer to her prayers. I wonder if she's been praying for increased military spending, more troops in Afghanistan, and "maintaining a strategic force posture" against Iran. Then again, she thinks Canada has "gentle, peaceful ways". Well, everything is relative. I doubt Zofia Cisowski finds Canada very gentle.

Then there's the conservative side. As Tresy, who sent me this story said,
How stupid do you have to be to be a US conservative? Stupid enough to think moving to Canada is a rational response to the 2008 elections. "I can't stay in the US - Obama's going to raise my taxes, institute single-payer, and legalize gay marriage. I know - I'll move to Canada!"


jason kenney admits interfering in war resister refugee claims

Here's John Hagan, author of Northern Passage: American Vietnam War Resisters in Canada (among other books), writing in the Toronto Sun. (Support can come in the strangest places!)

Please read the whole thing. Hagan writes about developments I haven't blogged about before.
Until recently, the federal government toed a careful line on its claim to fairly treat American Iraq war resisters who are seeking refuge and sanctuary in Canada.

The party line was each resister would receive individualized and fair consideration to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

There presumably was no "one fits all" outcome for the former soldiers fleeing America in search of protection as conscientious objectors -- a protection they realize it is impossible to attain south of the border.

Diane Finley, minister of citizenship and immigration until October, guaranteed in Parliament and during election forums each war resister would be entitled to access current immigration programs. They were to have their applications for permanent residence decided on an impartial, case-by-case basis, without fear of a preconceived policy or pre-judgement.

Yet, in the light of renewed media scrutiny and with less than a week remaining before Christmas, the office of Jason Kenney, the new minister, contradicted that promise.

"The government remains convinced that U.S. military deserters are not genuine refugees and do not fall under internationally accepted definitions of people in need of protection ... we have successfully advanced this position before three independent tribunals," a spokesman in Kenney's office said.

The immigration officers who are deciding the war resisters' applications do not constitute "independent tribunals." They exercise decision-making authority delegated to them by the minister of citizenship and immigration.

The spokesman's statement provides no insight into why the government has now apparently adopted a policy in favour of uniformly denying war resisters' applications to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Furthermore, Kenny's stated policy is at odds with three recent findings in Federal Court, which in the cases of Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman and Matt Lowell found American Iraq war resisters would suffer irreparable harm if they returned to the U.S.

Kenny needs to explain to the Canadian public and to the MPs who voted to let the resisters stay why he disagrees with the findings of the three recent Federal Court cases.

This month's developments were not only unexpected and untimely, they were unfair.

As the holiday season continues, Canadians who continue to support letting the war resisters stay deserve a fair and coherent response from their government.

True fairness would impose a moratorium on the deportation of war resisters. This would allow repair of the departmental process and time for reconsideration of the blanket opposition to these conscientious objectors to the Iraq War. Such a moratorium could also allow each of the resisters a day in court.

Robin Long, the first Iraq war resister to be arrested and deported to the U.S. by the Harper government, faced a military court martial on his return in July. He is now serving a 15-month jail sentence and has a criminal record.

The uncomfortable fact is Long was not just punished for coming to Canada -- he was given a harsh sentence because he spoke out against the Iraq war and acted on his objections to this war in a conscientious and public way.

Many resisters who are threatened with deportation by the Harper government are spending this holiday season in fear of sharing Long's fate.

The war resisters in Canada need your help, now more than ever. The list of pending deportations grows longer every day. We need the government to stop all deportation proceedings against war resisters until they can receive full and due process in the courts (or until a new government lets them all stay).

Please take a moment to write your MP, to email Jason Kenney, or to write a letter to the editor.

Remember, Parliament already voted to let them stay. Almost two-thirds of Canadians (64% in the most recent poll) want Canada to allow war resisters to stay. Canada should be - and be - a refuge from militarism, not the enforcement arm of the US military.

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney

If you email, please cc:

Liberal party immigration critic Borys Wrzesnewskyj: wrzesnewskyj.b@parl.gc.ca

NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow: chow.o@parl.gc.ca

Bloc Québécois immigration critic Thierry St-Cyr: st-cyr.t@parl.gc.ca

War Resister Support Campaign: resisters@sympatico.ca


jon swift best-of and wmtc reader poll

Jon Swift's annual best-Of round-up is out.

Each year, the talented and generous Mr Swift loosens his satirical robes - just a little - to highlight the best of the progressive blogosphere, as chosen by bloggers ourselves. The post represents a huge effort, and reflects the best spirit of blogosphere. Treat yourself to some good solid time there.

Last year, I asked for your help in choosing my best post, but this year I forgot all about it until the deadline, then had no time to consult with you.

But no matter, I can ask your opinions retroactively. Which of these would you vote for as wmtc's Best Post of 2008?

(a) January 18: on liberals, conservatives, good blogosphere citizens and free speech

(b) January 28: moral illogic: supporting peace, but not war resistance

(c) February 21: on raising consciousness and wanting a new cell phone

(d) March 18: why i won't watch the beijing olympics

(e) July 3: either margaret wente needs a fact-checker or the entire united states is a backwater

(f) A four-part series that I'm counting as one post:

September 4: keep canada canada, part 1: arts funding

September 5: keep canada canada, part 2: thank you, tommy douglas

September 9: keep canada canada, part 3: campaign on issues

September 13: keep canada canada, part 4: let them stay

(g) November 17: involuntary military service is a form of slavery

(h) Write-in vote. Like this one?

* * * *

I could use a very slow weekend at work to make a best-of widget on my sidebar, one for each year I've been blogging. I think that would be more useful than the category index. I have to wonder if that index really serves any purpose, although I can't seem to stop categorizing my posts or take the index off the blog.

The sidebar seems too crowded for both the categories and a best-of by year.

Anyway, please vote in comments!

slavery. in the united states. today.

From the Associated Press.
Child maid trafficking spreads from Africa to US

By Rukmini Callimachi, Associated Press Writer

IRVINE, Calif. (AP) -- Late at night, the neighbors saw a little girl at the kitchen sink of the house next door. They watched through their window as the child rinsed plates under the open faucet. She wasn't much taller than the counter and the soapy water swallowed her slender arms.

To put the dishes away, she climbed on a chair.

But she was not the daughter of the couple next door doing chores. She was their maid.

Shyima was 10 when a wealthy Egyptian couple brought her from a poor village in northern Egypt to work in their California home. She awoke before dawn and often worked past midnight to iron their clothes, mop the marble floors and dust the family's crystal. She earned $45 a month working up to 20 hours a day. She had no breaks during the day and no days off.

The trafficking of children for domestic labor in the U.S. is an extension of an illegal but common practice in Africa. Families in remote villages send their daughters to work in cities for extra money and the opportunity to escape a dead-end life. Some girls work for free on the understanding that they will at least be better fed in the home of their employer.

The custom has led to the spread of trafficking, as well-to-do Africans accustomed to employing children immigrate to the U.S. Around one-third of the estimated 10,000 forced laborers in the United States are servants trapped behind the curtains of suburban homes, according to a study by the National Human Rights Center at the University of California at Berkeley and Free the Slaves, a nonprofit group. No one can say how many are children, especially since their work can so easily be masked as chores.

Once behind the walls of gated communities like this one, these children never go to school. Unbeknownst to their neighbors, they live as modern-day slaves, just like Shyima, whose story is pieced together through court records, police transcripts and interviews.

"I'd look down and see her at 10, 11 - even 12 - at night," said Shyima's neighbor at the time, Tina Font. "She'd be doing the dishes. We didn't put two and two together."


Shyima cried when she found out she was going to America in 2000. Her father, a bricklayer, had fallen ill a few years earlier, so her mother found a maid recruiter, signed a contract effectively leasing her daughter to the couple for 10 years and told Shyima to be strong.

For a year, Shyima, 9, worked in the Cairo apartment owned by Amal Motelib and Nasser Ibrahim. Every month, Shyima's mother came to pick up her salary.

Tens of thousands of children in Africa, some as young as 3, are recruited every year to work as domestic servants. They are on call 24 hours a day and are often beaten if they make a mistake. Children are in demand because they earn less than adults and are less likely to complain. In just one city - Casablanca - a 2001 survey by the Moroccan government found more than 15,000 girls under 15 working as maids.

The U.S. State Department found that over the past year, children have been trafficked to work as servants in at least 33 of Africa's 53 countries. Children from at least 10 African countries were sent as maids to the U.S. and Europe. But the problem is so well hidden that authorities - including the U.N., Interpol and the State Department - have no idea how many child maids now work in the West.

"In most homes, these girls are not allowed to use so much as the same spoon as the rest of the family," said Hany Helal, the Cairo-based director of the Egyptian Organization for Child Rights.

By the time the Ibrahims decided to leave, Shyima's family had taken several loans from them for medical bills. The Ibrahims said they could only be repaid by sending Shyima to work for them in the U.S. A friend posed as her father, and the U.S. embassy in Cairo issued her a six-month tourist visa.

She arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on Aug. 3, 2000, according to court documents. The family brought her back to their spacious five-bedroom, two-story home, decorated in the style of a Tuscan villa with a fountain of two angels spouting water through a conch. She was told to sleep in the garage.

It had no windows and was neither heated nor air-conditioned. Soon after she arrived, the garage's only light bulb went out. The Ibrahims didn't replace it. From then on, Shyima lived in the dark.

She was told to call them Madame Amal and Hajj Nasser, terms of respect. They called her "shaghala," or servant. Their five children called her "stupid."

While the family slept, she ironed the school outfits of the Ibrahims' 5-year-old twin sons. She woke them, combed their hair, dressed them and made them breakfast. Then she ironed clothes and fixed breakfast for the three girls, including Heba, who at 10 was the same age as the family's servant.

Neither Ibrahim nor his wife worked, and they slept late. When they awoke, they yelled for her to make tea.

While they ate breakfast watching TV, she cleaned the palatial house. She vacuumed each bedroom, made the beds, dusted the shelves, wiped the windows, washed the dishes and did the laundry.

Her employers were not satisfied, she said. "Nothing was ever clean enough for her. She would come in and say, 'This is dirty,' or 'You didn't do this right,' or 'You ruined the food,'" said Shyima.

She started wetting her bed. Her sheets stank. So did her oversized T-shirt and the other hand-me-downs she wore.

While doing the family's laundry, she slipped her own clothes into the load. Madame slapped her. "She told me my clothes were dirtier than theirs. That I wasn't allowed to clean mine there," she said.

She washed her clothes in a bucket in the garage. She hung them to dry outside, next to the trash cans.

When the couple went out, she waited until she heard the car pull away and then she sat down. She sat with her back straight because she was afraid her clothes would dirty the upholstery.

It never occurred to her to run away.

"I thought this was normal," she said.


If you could fly the garage where Shyima slept 7,000 miles to the sandy alleyway where her Egyptian family now lives, it would pass for the best home in the neighborhood.

The garage's walls are made of concrete instead of hand-patted bricks. Its roof doesn't leak. Its door shuts all the way. Shyima's mother and her 10 brothers and sisters live in a two-bedroom house with uneven walls and a flaking ceiling. None of them have ever had a bed to themselves, much less a whole room. At night, bodies cover the sagging couches.

Shown a snapshot of the windowless garage, Shyima's mother in the coastal town of Agami made a clucking sound of approval.

"It's much cleaner than where many people here sleep," said Helal, the child rights advocate. He explains that Shyima's treatment in the Ibrahim home is considered normal - even good - by Egyptian standards.

Even though many child maids are physically abused, child labor is rarely prosecuted because the work isn't considered strenuous. Many employers even see themselves as benefactors.

"There is a sense that children should work to help their family, but also that they are being given an opportunity," said Mark Lagon, the director of the U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

That's especially the case for well-off families who transport their child servants to Western countries.

In 2006, a U.S. district court in Michigan sentenced a Cameroonian man to 17 years in prison for bringing a 14-year-old girl from his country to work as his unpaid maid. That same year, a Moroccan couple was sentenced to home confinement for forcing their 12-year-old Moroccan niece to work grueling hours caring for their baby.

In Germantown, Md., a Nigerian couple used their daughter's passport to bring in a 14-year-old Nigerian girl as their maid. She worked for them for five years before escaping in 2001. In Germany, France, the Netherlands and England, African immigrants have been arrested for forcing children from their home countries to work as their servants.

In several of these cases, the employers argued that they took the children with the parents' permission. The Cameroonian girl's mother flew to Detroit to testify in court against her daughter, saying the girl was ungrateful for the good life her employers had provided her.

Shyima's mother, Salwa Mahmoud, said her father believed she would have better opportunities in America.

"I didn't want her to travel but our family's condition dictated that she had to go," explained Mahmoud, a squat, round-faced woman with calloused hands and feet. She is missing two front teeth because she couldn't afford a dentist.

"If she had stayed here in Egypt, she would have been ordinary," said Awatef, Shyima's older sister. "Just like us."


On April 3, 2002, an anonymous caller phoned the California Department of Social Services to report that a young girl was living inside the garage of 28 Pacific Grove.

A few days later, Nasser Ibrahim opened the door to a detective from the Irvine Police Department. Asked if any children lived there beside his own, he first said no, then yes - "a distant relative." He said he had "not yet" enrolled her in school. She did "chores - just like the other kids," according to the police transcript.

Shyima was upstairs cleaning when Ibrahim came to get her. "He told me that I was not allowed to say anything," said Shyima. "That if I said anything I would never see my parents again."

When police searched the house, they turned up several home videos showing Shyima at work. They seized the contract signed by Shyima's illiterate parents.

Asked by police if anyone other than his immediate family lived in the house, Eid, one of the twins, said: "Hummm ... Yeah ... Her name is Shyima," according to the transcript. "She uh ... She works - she works for us at the house, like, she cleans up the dishes and stuff like that."

Twelve-year-old Heba got flustered: "Yeah. She's uh - my - uh - How do I say this? Uh ... My dad's ... Oh, wait, like ... She's like my cousin, but - She's my dad's daughter's friend. Oops! The other way. Okay, I'm confused."

Heba eventually admitted that Shyima had lived with the family for three years in Egypt and in California.

The police put Shyima in a squad car. They noted her hands were red and caked with dead, hard-looking skin.


For months Shyima lied to investigators, saying what the Ibrahims had told her to say.

She went without sleep for days at a stretch. She was put on four different types of medication. She moved from foster home to foster home. Her mood swings alarmed her guardians. In school for the first time, she struggled to learn to read.

Investigators arranged for her to speak to her parents. She told them she felt like a "nobody" working for the Ibrahims and wanted to come home. Her father yelled at her.

"They kept telling me that they're good people," Shyima recounted in a recent interview. "That it's my fault. That because of what I did my mom was going to have a heart attack."

Three years ago, she broke off contact with her family. Since then she has refused to speak Arabic. She can no longer communicate in her mother tongue.

During the 2006 trial, the Ibrahims described Shyima as part of their family. They included proof of a trip she took with the family to Disneyland. Shyima's lawyer pointed out that the 10-year-old wasn't allowed on the rides - she was there to carry the bags.

The couple's lawyers collected photographs of the home where Shyima grew up, including close-ups of the feces-stained squat toilet and of Shyima's sisters washing clothes in a bucket.

In her final plea, Madame Amal told the judge it would be unfair to separate her from her children. Enraged, Shyima, then 17, told the court she hadn't seen her family in years.

"Where was their loving when it came to me? Wasn't I a human being too? I felt like I was nothing when I was with them," she sobbed.

The couple pleaded guilty to all charges, including forced labor and slavery. They were ordered to pay $76,000, the amount Shyima would have earned at the minimum wage. The sentence: Three years in federal prison for Ibrahim, 22 months for his wife, and then deportation for both. Their lawyers declined to comment for this story.

"I don't think that there is any other term you could use than modern-day slavery," said Bob Schoch, the special agent in charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Los Angeles, in describing Shyima's situation.

Shyima was adopted last year by Chuck and Jenny Hall of Beaumont, Calif. The family lives near Disneyland, where they have taken her a half-dozen times. She graduated from high school this summer after retaking her exit exam and hopes to become a police officer.

Shyima, now 19, has a list of assigned chores. She wears purple eyeshadow, has a boyfriend and frequently updates her profile on MySpace. Her hands are neatly manicured.

But in her closet, she keeps a box of pictures of her parents and her brothers and sisters. "I don't look at them because it makes me cry," she said. "How could they? They're my parents."

When her father died last year, her family had no way of reaching her.


EPILOGUE: On a recent afternoon in Cairo, Madame Amal walked into the lobby of her apartment complex wearing designer sunglasses and a chic scarf.

After nearly two years in a U.S. prison cell, she's living once more in the spacious apartment where Shyima first worked as her maid. The apartment is adorned in the style of a Louis XIV palace, with ornately carved settees, gold-leaf vases and life-sized portraits of her and her husband.

She did not agree to be interviewed for this story.

Before the door closed behind her, a little girl slipped in carrying grocery bags. She wore a shabby T-shirt. Her small feet slapped the floor in loose flip-flops. Her eyes were trained on the ground.

She looked to be around 9 years old.


EDITOR'S NOTE - This story is based on interviews in Los Angeles, Irvine and Beaumont, Calif., and in Cairo and Agami, Egypt, in September and October. In addition to interviews with Shyima, her mother and nine of her brothers and sisters, the AP also interviewed her neighbors in Irvine, law enforcement officials and the lawyer who prosecuted her case. Quotes and scenes were observed by the reporter or described by Shyima and confirmed in police transcripts and court records.

"how many palestinian lives equal a single israeli life?"

Perhaps the only thing shocking about Israel's massive and sustained attack on Gaza is that some Canadians and Americans still defend Israel's actions.

This is, supposedly, self-defense. It's simply mind-boggling. I find it difficult to respond in any coherent way. It leaves me speechless and head-shaking, so I'll borrow other people's words.

Here are two letters from today's Globe and Mail.
If Israel was really interested in the security of its people, it would have had direct talks with Hamas (it was already in indirect talks with Hamas over its captured soldier) to end the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the Palestinian militant rocket attacks, both of which are violations of international law. This would have avoided the unnecessary bloodshed and escalation of violence we are now witnessing.

Israel knows it cannot avoid harm to innocent Palestinian civilians by "targeting" Hamas security centres in urban areas, given that roughly half of the 1.5 million people in densely populated Gaza are children. International human-rights law re-quires that Israel avoid excessive use of force leading to the killing and injuring of civilians.

Rula Odeah, Kirkland, Quebec


How many Palestinian lives equal a single Israeli life? As of yesterday, about 290 and counting.

Trust Israel to take what is, on the surface, a defensible national security action and turn it into a display of disproportionate violence. And to what end?

These actions have only strengthened Hamas and the willingness of Palestinians to resist Israel. They have done nothing to stop the rocket attacks that are the ostensible cause of this most recent incursion.

Why not try something new? Perhaps Israel could recognize that Hamas was democratically elected by the Palestinian people and open negotiations, without preconditions. Maybe it could appreciate the importance of talking to your enemies, not just your friends.

And perhaps Israel and its Western allies could stop pretending that Hamas poses any significant threat to Israel. As this most recent display has proven, the Palestinians are almost pathetically powerless.

Shaun Narine, Fredericton

Two more Canadians were killed in Afghanistan this weekend. Defence Department figures show that more than 360 Canadian soldiers have been wounded in the past three years of fighting in southern Afghanistan. The 360 figure "represents the number of troops wounded since Canada took on a major role in the more dangerous southern part of the country in 2006 and does not include those hurt between 2002 and 2005".

We don't know how many Afghans have been killed and wounded.

Israel doesn't listen to the international outcry against its aggression any more than the US does. But we can still make Canada listen to Canadians. Let's not forget Canada's role in the violence that currently stalks the world, and let's make it stop.


re-open abortion debate? you'll have to get past us first (and you won't)

As you may have noticed, I'm in a bit of a blogging lull. I'm just popping in to say: Oh no you don't. Oh no you won't.
The new chairman of a secretive Parliamentary caucus opposed to abortion is pledging to rekindle the abortion debate in Canada and bring "more value" to the lives of unborn children.

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he's not interested in reopening the divisive issue, Winnipeg MP Rod Bruinooge told The Canadian Press people need to be better educated about Canada's abortion stance, which he says puts the country in a "class of its own."

"Very few Canadians appreciate the fact that essentially until a child takes its first breath, it has less value than a kidney," says Mr. Bruinooge.

"In Canada you can't remove your kidney and put it on eBay and auction it off. That is illegal. Whereas you actually can end a beating heart of an unborn child the second before it's delivered. Most Canadians would agree that is truly a poor bioethical position for our country to be in."

Pro-choice advocates say Canadian doctors only perform such later-term procedures if there's a serious threat to the health of the mother or if it's virtually certain the baby wouldn't survive past birth.

As Canada marks 20 years since a Supreme Court decision struck down Criminal Code restrictions on abortion, some advocates are worried the Conservatives will reopen the debate. But they say they are ready to fight for a woman's right to choose once again if necessary.

At the party's convention recently in Winnipeg, Conservative delegates voted to resurrect a proposal that would create specific criminal charges that could be laid against a suspect who kills or injures a fetus during a crime against a pregnant mother. A bill that would have done that died on the order paper when the last federal election was called.

Critics argue such a law would reopen the abortion debate by recognizing fetal rights.

"I think the debate is ongoing," Mr. Bruinooge says. "We need to have a starting point of debating whether or not abortion should be legal right up until the moment of birth."

Mr. Bruinooge wouldn't say how many MPs are formally part of the caucus, but said there are supporters from every party. It's up to individual members to "present their personal philosophy on this issue," he says.

Joyce Arthur, co-ordinator of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, says it's not surprising that the pro-life movement is feeling "energized lately." The majority of the Conservative caucus are "publicly anti-choice," she says, and many are lobbying intently against a woman's right to choose.

"It's something that the Conservative party is out of touch with because Canadians don't want to go back to the abortion debate," Ms. Arthur says. "People are happy with the status quo. It's working well."

Erin Leigh, acting executive director of Canadians for Choice, says the anti-abortion caucus has been around for years, trying to work behind the scenes to resurrect the abortion debate.

But she says the "silent majority" of Canadians are pro-choice and realize it's important for women to have a safe, accessible alternative to pregnancy.

"If a woman is pregnant and she doesn't want to be, she'll find ways to terminate that pregnancy, legally or illegally."

Lest pro-choice Canadians need reminding of what a slippery slope looks like (are you reading this, Margaret Wente?), go here.


'tis the season to be ranting

I signed up for this person's email list. I don't want to miss a single rant.

The Annotated Rant

As they say on TV, "...may contain coarse language. Viewer discretion is advised".

white house election-rigger was planning to tell all - then died in plane crash

From a PRNewswire-USNewswire release run on the New York Times website, December 20, 2008.
Bush Insider Who Planned To Tell All Killed In Plane Crash: Non-Profit Demands Full Federal Investigation

Michael Connell, the Bush IT expert who has been directly implicated in the rigging of George Bush's 2000 and 2004 elections, was killed last night when his single engine plane crashed three miles short of the Akron airport. Velvet Revolution ("VR"), a non-profit that has been investigating Mr. Connell's activities for the past two years, can now reveal that a person close to Mr. Connell has recently been discussing with a VR investigator how he can tell all about his work for George Bush. Mr. Connell told a close associate that he was afraid that George Bush and Dick Cheney would "throw [him] under the bus."

A tipster close to the McCain campaign disclosed to VR in July that Mr. Connell's life was in jeopardy and that Karl Rove had threatened him and his wife, Heather. VR's attorney, Cliff Arnebeck, notified the United States Attorney General, Ohio law enforcement and the federal court about these threats and insisted that Mr. Connell be placed in protective custody. VR also told a close associate of Mr. Connell's not to fly his plane because of another tip that the plane could be sabotaged. Mr. Connell, a very experienced pilot, has had to abandon at least two flights in the past two months because of suspicious problems with his plane. On December 18, 2008, Mr. Connell flew to a small airport outside of Washington DC to meet some people. It was on his return flight the next day that he crashed.

On October 31, Mr. Connell appeared before a federal judge in Ohio after being subpoenaed in a federal lawsuit investigating the rigging of the 2004 election under the direction of Karl Rove. The judge ordered Mr. Connell to testify under oath at a deposition on November 3rd, the day before the presidential election. Velvet Revolution received confidential information that the White House was extremely concerned about Mr. Connell talking about his illegal work for the White House and two Bush/Cheney 04 attorneys were dispatched to represent him.

An associate of Mr. Connell's told VR that Mr. Connell was involved with the destruction of the White House emails and the setting up of the off-grid White House email system.

Mr. Connell handled all of John McCain's computer work in the recent presidential campaign. VR has received direct evidence that the McCain campaign kept abreast of the legal developments against Mr. Connell by reading the VR dedicated website.

VR demands that the Justice Department conduct a complete investigation into the activities of Mr. Connell and determine whether there was any foul play in his death. VR demands that federal law enforcement officials place the following people under protective custody pending this investigation: Heather Connell who is the owner of GovTech Solutions, Randy Cole, the former President of GovTech Solutions, and Jeff Averbeck, the CEO of SmartTech in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Both GovTech and SmartTech have been implicated in the rigging of the 2000 and 2004 elections and the White House email scandal. Our prior request to have Mr. Connell protected went unheeded and now he is dead.

The world is full of coincidences. But is everything coincidence?

two greats: odetta with studs terkel, 1957

Allan found an interview Studs Terkel did with Odetta in September, 1957. The interview segments are between songs.

It's almost an hour long. You can upload it here. Enjoy.


memories of oz elliott

As I mentioned here, Osborn Elliott died earlier this year. I didn't write about him when he passed away at the end of September, and I want to share a few personal memories of him now.

Oz's primary background was as a journalist and editor. He took over the editorship of Newsweek magazine and changed it from a little-read, stodgy also-ran into Time's major competition. He was dean of Columbia University's School of Journalism, and deputy mayor of the City of New York under mayor Abe Beame. The Asia Society, which he was involved with for many years, established the Osborn Elliott Award for Excellence in Journalism on Asia in his name.

Oz was also the person on whose story playwright John Guare based his play (and later, movie) "Six Degrees of Separation". The person claiming to be Sidney Poitier's son - but who was actually a con artist - showed up at Oz's door one night. In the movie, at the dinner party you'll see a quick shot of a senior gentleman in a bow tie. That's an inside reference to Oz.

I knew Oz when he was Chairman of the Citizen's Committee for New York City, a nonprofit organization that he founded and chaired for more than 30 years. The Citizens Committee was dedicated to increasing grassroots participation. It sponsored community gardens, helped young activists organize, funded neighbourhood improvement groups, and the like.

Oz had an idea to create a "mayor's march" - a March on Washington to speak for cities, and to call on the federal government to restore funding for cities. He was the driving force behind the march and I was his assistant. It was 1992. I was 30 years old, temping and writing essays while my young-adult novel made the rounds at publishers.

The march was a tough sell. It was rough going to build interest and momentum, until a strange coincidence occurred. Just weeks before the scheduled date, the Rodney King verdict was announced, followed by riots and urban uprisings. Our march suddenly gained visibility and, to some extent, helped people peacefully blow off some steam. Crowd estimates ranged from 75,000 to 200,000 people, not enormous by US standards, but many long-term alliances formed and strengthened, and we helped return urban issues to the national agenda.

No matter what the relative success or failure of our march, working with Oz was an invaluable experience for me. I attended meetings with City officials and aides, labour leaders and peace activists; I learned a tremendous amount about politics and the inner workings of Getting Things Done; I went to events with mayors from all over the US; I had breakfast at Gracie Mansion; I met people like Jessie Jackson, Mario Cuomo, Arthur Schlesinger and David Dinkins; and I learned so much about writing from watching Oz edit. In return, I worked my butt off and enjoyed Oz's crazy company.

I have many enduring memories of Oz. I'll share two of them.

In our office, the world was divided into "good guys" and "fascists". Some of you may be offended by that polarization, but it was a useful shorthand for knowing - before you took a phone call or shook a hand - what you could expect from someone and what kind of language to use.

Wealthy, white, patrician, Oz knew only this division. All were welcome and all were equal, as long as they were "good guys". Our working circle included faces of all colours, backgrounds, orientations and expertise. If you believed in social justice, you were a good guy. The rest were fascists.

The other memory is a little New York City moment. After the march, while I was still working with Oz, the Democratic National Convention was in town. New York was even more crowded than usual, and midtown was swarming with cops. The City was supposed to be on its best behaviour for all the visitors.

Oz and I were in a cab, stuck in crosstown traffic. I mean stuck - just sitting, not moving.

To our surprise, a police officer greeted us through the open window. "How are you today, Sir? I'm sorry for the inconvenience, there's some traffic in Times Square, we're doing our best to get things moving."

Oz - picture him, a senior gentleman with white hair and a bow tie - said, "Oh, we're not tourists, no need to be nice to us. Just say 'fuck you' and move on."

I don't think the cop actually heard Oz; it was very noisy and he had probably moved on to the next car. But we both got a great laugh out of it.

As I said earlier, Oz was brilliant, talented and incredibly generous with his time and talents. He was also deeply committed to social justice. Newsweek remembers him as a "giant of American journalism and a tireless crusader for revitalizing America's cities"; the obit in the New York Times briefly mentions our march and the Six Degrees connection.

how to feel miserable as an artist

I don't know who wrote this or where it's from. I found it in Allan's office. He doesn't know where it came from either.

(Or, what not to do.)

1. Constantly compare yourself to other artists.

2. Talk to your family about what you do and expect them to cheer you on.

3. Base the success of your entire career on one project.

4. Stick with what you know.

5. Undervalue your expertise.

6. Let money dictate what you do.

7. Bow to societal pressures.

8. Only do work that your family would love.

9. Do whatever the client/customer/gallery owner/patron/publisher/investor asks.

10. Set unachievable/overwhelming goals. To be accomplished by tomorrow.

For more excellent guideposts on the creative process, see Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

Update: This great list was seen here, at Keri Smith's blog, The Wish Jar. Thanks to Lee for spotting it - and for still checking in with wmtc!

passings 2008

I'm sure you all saw that the great Eartha Kitt has died. If you haven't listened to her music before, or don't know her life story, treat yourself to learning about both.

The passing of many people whose work I grew up with is a sad and interesting phenomenon. These are not people I know from history, like when you hear someone died, but don't know much about them, or maybe never heard of them, and you try to understand who they were and why the death is noteworthy.

They're also not people from my own generation, like when a death hits you personally, and you shudder at the realization of your own mortality and fragility.

These are people I came of age reading, listening to, being challenged by, admiring, learning from, or just enjoying. It's a generation passing.

Passings like that for me this year: Clive Barnes, George Carlin, Bo Diddley, John Leonard, Del Martin, Mitch Mitchell, Paul Newman, Odetta, Oscar Peterson (end of 2007), Utah Phillips, Harold Pinter, Rosetta Reitz, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Studs Terkel, Jerry Wexler, Abraham Woods.

Both Noam Chomsky (age 80) and Howard Zinn (age 86) lost their life partners this year.

Osborn Elliott, former editor and "architect" of Newsweek, my former boss and one-time mentor, died at the age of 84. Oz and I worked together on a march on Washington, a crazy time and amazing learning experience. He helped me get my first publication. Although we worked together for less than a year, it was a very intense time that had a lasting impact on my life. He was an amazing man - smart, talented, generous, adventurous, and hilarious - and I'll never forget him.

Some too-early deaths that touched me this year: Harriet McBryde Johnson, Danny Federici, Jeff Healy, and most of all, David Foster Wallace.

Other passings noted: Eliot Asinof, Dottie Collins, Buddy Harman, Don Helms, Bobby Murcer, Dith Pran.

Noted but not mourned: Charlton Heston.

Noted and cheered: Jesse Helms.

Allan and I lost two elderly family members this year, his grandmother Mary Wood and my great-aunt Lillian Weiss.

Of course these are just deaths that touched me this year. I memorialized some of them here. If you want to note anyone in comments, please feel free.


harold pinter

I was very sorry to hear that Harold Pinter has died at the age of 78.

In addition to being one of the greatest playwrights of our time, Pinter was a steadfast and vehement voice for peace and democracy. When he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, his Nobel Lecture was a scathing condemnation of US Empire, and a perspective on US history one seldom hears in the mainstream. You can read it here, or watch the address on video here.

Pinter's passing marks a big loss for literature, theatre and the struggle for justice, but he gave us tremendous amounts of all three.

Update: New York Times obit.

happy un-christmas

Although this day means nothing to me, it's nice to have some extra time off, and an excuse to eat dim sum.

The traditional New York Jewish Christmas - Chinese food and a movie - translated very well to Mississauga, where the dim sum houses are packed on Christmas Day. We live very near the most popular place, and today we'll be one of the few non-Chinese families there.

I have a ton of links in my in-box, but very little desire to blog at the moment. So, a short break. I hope everyone who celebrates this day is enjoying it, and everyone who doesn't is enjoying that, too.


afghanistan human rights commission: coalition forces terrorizing and abusing civilians

What the hell is Canada doing in Afghanistan?
Lethal air strikes and "abusive" nighttime raids by coalition forces in Afghanistan threaten to turn the local population against foreign troops, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report, released in Kabul by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, questions U.S. and NATO air strikes and nighttime searches of civilian houses.

"Afghan families experienced their family members killed or injured, their houses or other property destroyed, or homes invaded at night without any perceived justification or legal authorization," the report says.

"They often did not know who perpetrated the acts against the family or why. ... To their knowledge and perception those who perpetrated the acts were never punished, nor prevented from repeating them."

The 55-page report says the night raids frequently involve "abusive behaviour and violent breaking and entry," which it says stoke almost as much anger toward coalition forces as the air strikes.

"Afghans in these regions generally know stories of friends or family members who have been awakened in the middle of the night to be tied up, and often abused by a group of armed men," it says.

Unsurprisingly, the head of Canadian and NATO Forces in Kandahar defends the military's actions and rejects the criticism. Well, what could he be expected to say? We're abusing and humiliating people in their own country, thereby breeding hate and potential terrorism? We have become terrorists are ourselves?

Enough! How many years will this go on? And to what end? (Oil. Empire.) Who is it helping? (The US.)

Enough! Enough Canadians dying in Afghanistan. Enough Afghans dying because of Canada in Afghanistan.


In 2009, those of us who have been speaking out against the war in Afghanistan must continue to. Those of us who have been silent must raise our voices. We must demand that the troops come home.

Why wait until 2011? (If indeed we will see an end to combat that year. Will Canada continue to resist US pressure?) What will another two years accomplish, except more death?


Canada isn't wanted in Afghanistan. Period. It's not for us to decide what's best for people in another country.

Let's not talk about NATO or the US or "our commitments". Canadian foreign policy should be made by Canada.


Get involved. Renew your commitment to peace.


read a.c. thompson's "katrina's hidden race war" in the nation

This story is getting a lot of well-deserved attention. Allan posted it in comments here, but I wanted to make sure everyone who reads this blog sees it.

This week in The Nation, please read A. C. Thompson's "Katrina's Hidden Race War".

After Hurricane Katrina, white vigilante groups patrolled New Orleans, blockaded streets, and shot at least eleven black men.
The existence of this little army isn't a secret--in 2005 a few newspaper reporters wrote up the group's activities in glowing terms in articles that showed up on an array of pro-gun blogs; one Cox News story called it "the ultimate neighborhood watch."

Herrington, for his part, recounted his ordeal in Spike Lee's documentary When the Levees Broke. But until now no one has ever seriously scrutinized what happened in Algiers Point during those days, and nobody has asked the obvious questions. Were the gunmen, as they claim, just trying to fend off looters? Or does Herrington's experience point to a different, far uglier truth?

Over the course of an eighteen-month investigation, I tracked down figures on all sides of the gunfire, speaking with the shooters of Algiers Point, gunshot survivors and those who witnessed the bloodshed. I interviewed police officers, forensic pathologists, firefighters, historians, medical doctors and private citizens, and studied more than 800 autopsies and piles of state death records. What emerged was a disturbing picture of New Orleans in the days after the storm, when the city fractured along racial fault lines as its government collapsed.

Herrington, Collins and Alexander's experience fits into a broader pattern of violence in which, evidence indicates, at least eleven people were shot. In each case the targets were African-American men, while the shooters, it appears, were all white.

The new information should reframe our understanding of the catastrophe. Immediately after the storm, the media portrayed African-Americans as looters and thugs--Mayor Ray Nagin, for example, told Oprah Winfrey that "hundreds of gang members" were marauding through the Superdome. Now it's clear that some of the most serious crimes committed during that time were the work of gun-toting white males.

So far, their crimes have gone unpunished.

The organization Color of Change is organizing a campaign to tell Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and state officials to investigate the shootings, as "Louisiana's broken law enforcement agencies have refused to investigate these crimes."

At Color of Change, you can watch Thompson's video on his report, and sign a petition demanding that Jindal, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, and the US Department of Justice investigate the shootings. Sign the petition here.

Thanks to Allan and Dean G for the links.

not a newsflash: harper is a humongous hypocrite

Let me add my voice to the chorus calling Stephen Harper a hypocrite of mammoth proportions. Hypocrite hardly seems like the word. There ought to be a bigger, more expansive word to express hypocrisy of this magnitude.

The man repeatedly states he will not appoint anyone to the Senate because he is committed to Senate reform.

Then he dissolves Parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote.

Then, while he shouldn't be doing any government business, since he's governing by himself, he appoints a record number of Senators, many of them clearly patronage gifts.

And, after repeatedly stating that Supreme Court of Canada appointments should be subject to Parliamentary review, he appoints a Supreme Court Justice on the same day.

And may I just say, Mike Duffy? That Mike Duffy?? I thought there must be some other Mike Duffy, besides the Conservative media hack. But no. I don't know who to credit for this little bit of brilliance, but some smart blogger said CTV stands for "Canada's Tory Voice". Much better than the also-true, but obvious, "Conservative TV".

Would you like a few irony sprinkles on that hypocrisy sundae? One of the new Senators is Michel Rivard, formerly of the Parti Québécois. In the words of Harper's own lackeys, a "separatist". On The National last night, they showed a clip of Conservative MP Steven Fletcher spouting the party line during the wrangling over the coalition: "Can you imagine a Michel Rivard having veto power...?"

Let me also note, to pre-empt the chorus of jaded cynics, that I was not surprised. Merely disgusted.

For USians and other non-Canadians reading this, Canada's unelected and often invisible Senate is something that took me a long time to understand. If you're interested, this link is very helpful: The Canadian Senate: Role, Powers & Operation.

Like the NDP, I'd just as soon as the Senate abolished altogether. It's a hangover from feudal times - antiquated and un-democratic.


war resister cliff cornell's deportation delayed - more deportation dates in the new year

Whew. Cliff Cornell's deportation date has been deferred until January 22, thanks to his lawyer, who moved fast and skillfully, and to all of you who wrote, called, and emailed Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

The deferral gives Cliff's lawyer time to prepare a court challenge - and it gives us more time to mobilize support for Cliff and the other war resisters threatened with deportation.

To summarize:

January 7: Kim Rivera and her family, including newborn daughter Katie, will receive a decision on their Pre-Removal Risk Assessment and Humanitarian and Compassionate Application. We hope it will be a positive one, but our experience is that it is likely to be another deportation date.

January 15: Patrick and Jill Hart and their 6-year old son Rian are supposed to leave Canada or face deportation. They are working with their lawyer to get a court hearing or other postponement. So far no word on that.

January 22: Cliff Cornell is supposed to leave Canada or face deportation.

January 30: Dean Walcott is supposed to leave Canada or face deportation.

February 10: the Federal Court will hear Jeremy Hinzman's appeal against the negative decision on their Pre-Removal Risk Assessment and Humanitarian and Compassionate Application. The court decision could come at any time after that. If it is positive, the Hinzmans may be allowed to make a new PRRA or H&C application. If it is negative, they will receive a new deportation date.

Matt Lowell has also been granted a stay of deportation while the Federal Court decides whether to hear his appeal. So far no decision on that has been made.

At year's end, there will have been only one deportation of a war resister who has been assisted by the War Resister Support Campaign: Robin Long. (Another resister has been deported, but we never had the opportunity to work with him.) Those two are two too many, but it is wonderful that the others are still here with us, despite a Government intent on deporting them.

If you are in Toronto, perhaps you will join war resisters and their supporters tomorrow, Tuesday, December 23, for a brief vigil. We will meet from 4:30 to 5:00 p.m. at the corner of University and Armoury, across from the US Consulate.

But no matter where you are, keep in your thoughts our friend Robin Long, who spends this holiday season in a US military prison.

mentally ill man murdered by police in mississauga

Gregg Moynagh lived in Port Credit, Mississauga, around the corner from where we used to live, a few kilometers from where we live now.

He was 25 years old. He suffered from mental illness.

Yesterday he was yelling and throwing things off his balcony. Police say he was lunging at them. "Knives were recovered" at the scene, as the vague expression goes. Whether or not Gregg Moynagh was holding one of them, we don't know.

We do know the police shot and killed him.

There were four police officers. Mr. Moynagh was alone. Was there no other way to subdue this poor soul than to kill him?

Of course this will be investigated. By the police.

Update and correction. This is being investigated by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), a civilian review board, not the police. I'm not convinced of the SIU's impartiality or independence, but it's not an internal investigation, as I originally thought.

Some people see the low incidence of SIU findings against police officers as evidence of good policing. I'm quite a bit more skeptical.


the great swindle

Having recently seen this movie, my old trope about the US turning into a third-world country is heavily on my mind.

If you haven't seen Spike Lee's "When The Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts," see it, and soon.

And how does the other 1% live? For a taste, read Amy Goodman on the latest bailout outrage. Emphasis mine.
The $700-billion financial bailout package, TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program), was supposed to mandate the elimination of exorbitant executive compensation and "golden parachutes." As U.S. taxpayers pony up their hard-earned dollars, highflying executives and corporate boards are now considering whether to give themselves multimillion-dollar bonuses.

According to The Washington Post, the specific language in the TARP law that forbade such payouts was changed at the last minute, with a small but significant one-sentence edit made by the Bush administration.

. . . .

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said recently, "The Treasury Department's implementation of the TARP is insufficiently transparent and is not accountable to American taxpayers." Barney Frank, D-Mass., chair of the House Financial Services Committee, said earlier, "Use of these funds ... for bonuses, for severance pay, for dividends, for acquisitions of other institutions, etc. ... is a violation of the terms of the act."

Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa said of the loophole, "The flimsy executive-compensation restrictions in the original bill are now all but gone." Put aside for the moment that these three all voted for the legislation....

moral illogic in bizarro world


Moral illogic part 1: supporting peace but not supporting war resisters because "they signed a contract".

Moral illogic part 2: supporting freedom, but only in a quiet, orderly fashion.

Moral illogic part 3: outrage over throwing a shoe at a war criminal.

Glenn Greenwald: prostitution vs. war crimes.
...yesterday, TNR published a finger-wagging sermon by former Sun reporter Jacob Gershman, who vigorously objects that Eliot Spitzer is allowed to appear in public and even write a Slate column so soon after exposure of his grave and monumental sin of hiring adult prostitutes.

Gershman's column -- entitled: "Why Eliot Spitzer's attempt to be taken seriously again won't work--and doesn't deserve to" -- illustrates how warped our public morality has become. As a result of his minor, consensual, victimless, private crime (not because of his actual sin of hypocrisy as a former persecutor of prostitution rings), Spitzer was forced to resign as Governor, had intimate details of his sex life voyeuristically dissected by hordes of people driven by titillation masquerading as moral disgust, and was as humiliated and disgraced as a political figure can be.

. . . .

Meanwhile, Dick Cheney went on ABC News on Monday night, where he was treated with oozing (i.e., typical) respect by correspondent Jonathan Karl, and literally admitted, brazenly and unapologetically, to committing war crimes; blithely justified the atrocities that were committed as part of our attack on Iraq; and glorified the whole slew of illegal surveillance programs he ordered. And that's how most of the world outside of the U.S. (accurately) perceives Cheney's comments -- as a brazen admission of responsibility for many of the world's worst crimes of the last decade:

. . . .

What's most striking is not that we have zero intention of prosecuting the serious crimes committed by our leading establishment figures. It's that we don't even recognize them as crimes -- or even serious transgressions -- at all. To the contrary, we still demand that those who are culpable be treated as dignified, respectable, serious and inherently good leaders. Real outrage is never generated by the crimes and outrages they have undertaken, but only when they are not given their proper respectful due as leading American elites. Hence:

An Iraqi citizen throws his shoes at an American President who -- all based on false pretenses -- invaded, occupied and obliterated his country; set up prisons where his fellow citizens were encaged without trials and subjected to brutal treatment; slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and displaced millions more. And the outrage is predominantly directed at the disrespect, irreverence and the "ingratitude" displayed by the shoe-thrower, not the murderous and inhumane acts of the dignified American leader.

Please go read it now.

what's wrong with this picture? cbc headline misses the point

The headline reads, "Troops find 2.3 tonnes of marijuana in Afghan school".

But the first sentence of the story says, "Afghan and coalition troops found and destroyed nearly 2.3 tonnes of marijuana in an abandoned school in southern Afghanistan, while coalition troops killed four militants elsewhere in the south, officials said Sunday."

"Coalition troops killed four militants..."

If four Canadian soldiers were killed, you can bet your last nickel bag that it would be a more important headline than how much weed was found in a school.

I like the Canadian media's focus on Canadian deaths in Afghanistan. Those deaths are important, and it should be major news. But Afghan deaths in Afghanistan, caused by Canada's presence there, are equally important.

Unless we label them "militants". Then we don't have to care, right?

And, although every person's life and death is equally important, the Canadian Forces chose to be there. I hope and assume they knew the risks. The Afghans were given no such choice.

Out. Now.

request for proposals from whoweare.ca

WhoWeAre.ca wants to show the many faces that comprise Canada, and to give a voice to cultural minorities.

To those ends, they are requesting proposals for videos. People whose proposals are selected will be asked to produce a video. After production, each contributor will receive a $1,000 grant, funds that WhoWeAre has obtained from the National Film Board of Canada.

Video proposals should address themes of cultural diversity, immigration and multiculturalism. WhoWeAre envisions becoming "a sort of YouTube for cultural diversity and immigrant experiences," when their website is fully operational in February. (It's in beta now.) The videos that are produced through this process will get the ball rolling. They also envision having an open platform, where anyone will be able to upload videos to the site.

I don't know the exact number of proposals that will be chosen; I'm told it's "between 10 and 20". For details and more information, go here.


what would you do? (i hate christmas, part 3)

I was very interested in your comments to my post i hate christmas, part 2. Some of them surprised me, but it was interesting to see the range of reaction. Even more surprising, I had an unsatisfactory answer from human resources, which I posted in comments on that post.

Today I exchanged little holiday cards with a few co-workers. A woman I used to work with left a card for me. We were friendly when we worked together, then she had a schedule change, and we haven't seen each other in many months.

The pre-printed part of her card reads:
Celebrate the season...
Worship the Reason...
Experience the joy...

She wrote "Dear Laura" and "Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a blessed 2009" in red - and underlined the words "Worship the Reason", also in red. The R in Reason is upper-case.

And the bottom of the card, in small type, is printed: "Rejoice in the Lord always." Philippians 4:4. She also underlined the quote in red.

She knows I'm Jewish. I don't think she would know I am atheist, I can't imagine we ever talked beliefs, but I'm sure she knows I'm Jewish.

This woman is generally a nice person, a good worker, and pleasant to be around. But I'm absolutely offended by this. Coming as I'm sitting in a cubicle decorated in creches, angels and baby Jesuses, it feels insulting.

I'm sure it wasn't her intention to insult me. But knowing I am Jewish, she is proselytizing. And that is an insult.

What would you do?

I'm not asking for advice. I've already done whatever I'm going to do or not do. But I'm interested to hear what you all would do, if anything, in this situation.

If you're Christian, you have to imagine this from the other perspective. You work in a place where you are the only person who doesn't celebrate the Jewish High Holy Days. At Rosh Hashanah, your Jewish co-workers distribute Shana Tovah cards. Someone, knowing you are Christian, gives you a card. She wishes you a Happy New Year and implies that you should See The Light.

What would you do?

lillian weiss, 1917-2008

I just heard that my beloved great aunt passed away.

As many of you know, this is the tough part of long-distance. Jewish funerals are immediately after the death, so there's no way I can make it to the funeral. Whether or not I can make a shiva call - the Jewish post-funeral period of family visitation and mourning - I don't know.

Lillian was my grandmother's youngest sister, the last surviving of five siblings. She and I had a special relationship. We were "pen pals" (what an old expression!) when I was 8, 9, 10 years old, writing letters back and forth between Brooklyn and the New York suburbs.

And we stayed close over the years. It was just a special thing we had.

I find Lillian's death especially sad because in her last years, she was very depressed. She withdrew from everybody except her daughter and her sister Ida, with whom she lived at a senior home. When Ida died five years ago, Lillian withdrew from everybody. Allan and I used to visit them once or twice a year, but in recent years she refused to see us. We wanted to visit before we moved to Canada, but she wouldn't let us come out. I still called her and wrote to her. In fact, I just mailed a letter yesterday, one she'll never see.

She was 91. I'll miss her.

* * * *

This morning when I posted this, I was too sad to think of anything positive. A few hours later, plus a comment from a thoughtful friend, and I am remembering happy times with Aunt Lillian.

Lillian was a creative, artistic person. She would have liked the opportunity to go to art school when she was younger. As an adult, that wasn't something she would give to herself. She painted copies of famous paintings that she framed and hung in her home, joking that they were authentic fakes.

The creativity Lillian was best known for were her hand-made cards. For birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and any other special occasion, she would make her own cards. She'd cut out a cardboard square - my grandmother saved the cardboard that came in my grandfather's shirts from the laundry - and paint a little scene relevant to the occasion.

They were always humourous, full of inside jokes about the person. On my grandparents' anniversary, my grandmother, a neat freak, would be dusting my grandfather's head. There would be travel brochures on a table and suitcases by a door, since they traveled the world together.

Cards for me and Allan had dogs in them, and baseball caps, and maybe music playing, or we might be going to a club to hear music. My birthday cards often had me at a typewriter. My mother would be knitting.

These cards were always so clever and cute. We looked forward to seeing what she'd put on them every year.

I have at least a dozen of Aunt Lillian's cards, probably more, stowed in the shoeboxes that are the archives of my life. Here's one Allan found in a box. I think the wish refers to Allan's writing, trying to get wider recognition, and the double meaning of the dogs not being in their place - an ongoing issue she heard a lot about!


That's Gypsy and Clyde, our first two dogs. I think I'm yelling at the dogs! Not very nice!

there is no centre ground when it comes to equal rights

I have a letter in today's Globe and Mail.
John Ibbitson writes that Barack Obama's choice of Rick Warren to deliver an invocation at his inauguration reflects Mr. Obama's efforts "to craft an administration that hews to the centre." This implies that same-sex marriage is an extreme position, pitting anti-gay right-wingers against a radical left.

But equality under the law is not a radical idea or a leftist idea. Equality under the law is supposed to be a bedrock value of the United States. There is no centre ground when it comes to equal rights. One either has them or one does not.

The bullshit I was responding to is here.

I remember when Bill Clinton was first elected in 1992, how thrilled we were that the Reagan-Bush era was over, how hopeful we were for change. Fellow activists who were older than us were more muted. I remember a friend saying, "I'm very happy that Bush is out of a job, but I don't expect much to change."

Then in his first weeks in office, seemingly one day after the next, Clinton betrayed us. Haitian refugees, gays in the military, anti-choice judicial appointments. And that was before NAFTA and welfare. It wasn't that Clinton himself was particularly duplicitous. But he was a standard-issue Democrat, doing what Democrats do.

I hope everyone's hopes do better under Obama, but it isn't looking very promising.


how to enjoy winter

How to enjoy winter.

Best enjoyed on mute, in my opinion.

news release from winnipeg: stephen harper is a hypocrite

Update. We originally heard that war resister Cliff Cornell received a deportation date of December 24. This afternoon we learned that Cliff's deportation date was today. His lawyer went to court to try to win a deferral, so he can finish his appeals process. No word yet if those efforts were successful.

As of right now, Cliff is still in Canada. I will update when I hear anything more.

News release from the Peace Alliance of Winnipeg.
Subject: News Release: Harper government denies war resisters' rights to safe haven while Harper turns the sod at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights

(Winnipeg, December 19, 2008) On the day that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is turning the sod at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, his government is forcibly deporting American war resister Clifford Cornell.

Despite Mr. Harper's pretensions as a patron of human rights, his government has completely ignored a motion, passed by Parliament June 3, 2008, that called on the Canadian government to allow US war resisters to apply for permanent resident status in Canada and to cease all deportation and removal proceedings against US war resisters.

His refusal to allow war resisters a safe haven in Canada reverses a proud Canadian tradition of providing conscientious objectors a refuge from militarism, one recently reaffirmed in a June 2008 Angus Reid poll which showed that 64% of Canadians support allowing war resisters to stay in Canada.

Prime Minister Harper admitted during the last election that the Iraq war, one he had earlier championed, was "absolutely an error." Yet his refusal to grant safe haven to that war shows that Mr. Harper supports what most international legal experts regard to be an illegal invasion and occupation that has led to the death of perhaps 1.2 million Iraqis and the displacement of another four million. His determination to punish U.S. War resisters by deporting them to the U.S. where they face imprisonment is hypocritical, to say the least.

Since Parliament passed its motion to allow war resisters to remain in Canada, the Federal Court has issued stays of removal to war resisters Jeremy Hinzman, Patrick Hart, Corey Glass and Matt Lowell. This will allow them additional time to make their cases to remain in Canada.

However, Robin Long, deported earlier this year, was sentenced on August 22, to 15 months in prison at a military penitentiary. War resister Dean Walcott was told on December 3rd that he must leave Canada by January 6th or face deportation to the United States. Another war resister, Kimberly Rivera, will receive a decision on her request to remain in Canada on Jan. 7. As noted earlier, Clifford Cornell is scheduled for deportation today. (Earlier reports said he would be deported on Christmas Eve.)

Peace Alliance Winnipeg (PAW) calls upon all who believe that conscientious objection to an illegal, immoral war is a human right to voice their opinions to the federal government.

PAW asks citizens to contact Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney at (613) 954-1064 or (613) 992-2235 or minister@cic.gc.ca or Kenney.j@parl.gc.ca.

Please cc the opposition party critics if you email Jason Kenney:

• Liberal party immigration critic Borys Wrzesnewskyj: wrzesnewskyj.b@parl.gc.ca
• NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow: chow.o@parl.gc.ca
• Bloc Québécois immigration critic Thierry St-Cyr: st-cyr.t@parl.gc.ca.

Finally, visit the websites of War Resisters Support Campaign and Peace Alliance Winnipeg to see how you can become further involved.

b.c. wages brutal, senseless - and secret - war on wolves

This makes me so sad. It's so wrong - and so completely unnecessary. A disgrace.
It's a dirty business killing wolves and the British Columbia government would rather the public didn't think about it much.

Reports on how many wolves are being shot, trapped, sterilized, and otherwise hounded out of existence under predator-control programs in beautiful B.C. aren't readily available. When they do occasionally surface, it is a reminder of just how grim the battle is that is being waged out there against wolves.

Anne Sherrod, a researcher with Valhalla Wilderness Watch, was recently leaked a government PowerPoint presentation on a wolf-control program being conducted by the Ministry of Environment.

The document shows that between 2001 and 2004, as part of an effort to save endangered mountain caribou, the government killed 30 wolves and sterilized 16 others in the Quesnel Highlands area in central B.C.

Ms. Sherrod said the government report refers to "live trapping" wolves, but what that term really means is the wolves are caught in leghold traps. They aren't alive for long, and as a Creston man recently found out when his dog stepped in two wolf traps - the death is agonizing.

The government did take some wolves alive using net guns during its Quesnel Highlands wolf project, and 27 of those animals were fitted with radio collars.

The signals transmitted from those collars allow government officials to track the wolves from aircraft, to shoot members of the pack if they want, or to log their movements and see how often they overlap with caribou herds.

Not surprisingly, the radio study has shown that wolves and caribou often cross each other's tracks.

It isn't known, however, how often wolves actually kill caribou. It may be rare.

But that hasn't stopped the B.C. government from making wolves open targets in areas where endangered herds of mountain caribou are found.

"In the Quesnel Highlands, they have been killing the sub-alpha wolves and sterilizing the alpha males and females," Ms. Sherrod said. "This doesn't make any environmental sense. ... Animals like caribou have to have habitat to survive and if they don't have that habitat because of logging and other development, then shooting the predators won't save them."

Ms. Sherrod said lots of researchers have looked at the relationship between wolves and mountain caribou.

But so far nobody has turned up any hard evidence to show that wolves have any significant impact on mountain caribou populations.

Certainly any hungry wolf that got a chance would take down a caribou. But the highly mobile caribou herds are so small and so widely spread, it may be that wolves just don't feed on them very much.

But killing wolves is something that's been in the B.C. government's blood for a long time. While trappers, hunters and ranchers have done a good job of controlling local populations, the government has several times sanctioned large-scale control programs. In the fifties, bounties were offered, and in the sixties, the government was doing aerial drops of poisoned baits. Those programs ended because of public protests, but the government seems to be quietly moving in that direction again.

"We don't fully know what's going on because the information just isn't available," Ms. Sherrod said.

"But what we do know about wolf-control programs is that the killing has to be massive and prolonged if you really want to wipe out wolves," she said.

"What happens when you first start killing them is that the pack compensates by increasing the birth rate. They have more pups. The packs scatter. And so you end up with more wolves in more places."

Ms. Sherrod says when that happens, the predator-control experts argue for an increased kill, to stop the infestation from spreading.

"What we have seen happen is that wolf-control programs get more brutal and unrelenting as they go along," Mr. Sherrod said. "When predator-control programs start, one way or another they eventually devolve to the worst level. We've seen wolf poisoning in the past in B.C. and I fear that sooner or later, that's where we'll end up again."

If that happens it may be a while before the public learns about it - because, in B.C., not much is said about the killing of wolves.

Thanks to Mark Hume for this story.

victory for debbie shank

Activism works, especially when it causes a lot of bad publicity. Perhaps you recall the story of Debbie Shank; I blogged about it here and here. Shank is a former Wal-Mart employee, now permanently disabled and brain-damaged, and living in a nursing home. After her family won a small settlement to help pay for her care, Wal-Mart sued them for that claim.

It takes Wal-Mart all of 38 seconds to earn the $470,000 that they spent on Shank's care. But they sued her husband to get that money back - and they got away with it.

From Wal-Mart Watch:
It took a massive media outcry and the voices of thousands of Americans, but Wal-Mart has finally taken a small step in the right direction with a change to its 2009 health care plan, which should prevent the company from putting another family through the agony it put Debbie Shank's family.

The new rule is an exception to the company's right to subrogate against a covered person completely in cases of 1) paraplegia or quadriplegia; 2) severe burns; 3) total and permanent physical or mental disability; or 4) death. In all other cases, the plan also limits the right to recover to 50% (from 100% previously) of a settlement plus lawyers' fees.

You may recall that it was only months ago that Wal-Mart was battling in court to take money that one of its former Missouri employees -- Debbie Shank -- won in a settlement after being hit by a tractor trailer and becoming paralyzed and permanently brain damaged.

Now, thanks to your efforts, the company is promising its employees that it won't attempt to take their money after a personal health care tragedy like hers. Wal-Mart still has a very long way to go toward offering its employees truly quality health coverage, but it's a good first step.

Jim Shank had this to say about the news of Wal-Mart's change to their health care plan:

"Knowing what Debbie and our family experienced with Wal-Mart's attempts to take away Debbie's financial security for her ongoing medical care on top of a very real, life-changing tragedy, I am grateful that the focus on our situation will spare other families the same type of suffering. I wish it wouldn't have taken national outrage to push Wal-Mart to do the right thing, but I'm glad that the company listened to everyone who spoke up on our behalf."

Tens of thousands of you took action and urged Wal-Mart to treat Debbie and her compassionately. Without your hard work, Wal-Mart certainly would not have changed its policy.

While we still have much to do to make sure that Wal-Mart provides its employees with adequate health care coverage, this was a big victory that would not have been possible without your help.

Thank you for pressuring Wal-Mart to be a responsible corporate citizen.

In Canada, employees at the Wal-Mart in Weyburn, Saskatchewan were granted union status on December 8, but knowing Wal-Mart's history, it's unclear how long that status - or their jobs - will last.
As we know, in 2000 when Wal-Mart meat department employees unionized in Jacksonville, Texas, Wal-Mart abruptly scrapped their entire network of in store butchers. [Occupational Health & Safety, 3/16/08]

In August 2004, workers in Jonquière, Quebec store gained union certification and attempted to bargain with Wal-Mart but were unable to reach a settlement. On February 1, 2005, the same day that the Minster of Labor granted the union's request for contract arbitration, Wal-Mart announced that it would close the Jonquière store. [Human Rights Watch "Discounting Rights", May 2007] [Go here for full story and links.]

As always, Wal-Mart Watch is the best source of news on the battles to hold North America's largest employer accountable for labour, environment, health care and the communities it claims to serve.

some things you can do to help stop deportations of iraq war resisters


Iraq War resister Cliff Cornell has been given a deportation date of December 24, 2008.

War resister Kimberly Rivera will receive a decision on her Humanitarian and Compassionate Application and Pre-Removal Risk Assessment on January 7.

War resister Patrick Hart and his family are scheduled for deportation on January 15.

War resister Dean Walcott is scheduled for deportation on January 30.

Here are some things you can do to raise your voice in protest, and to show solidarity and support for Cliff, Kim, Patrick, Dean and all the other Iraq War resisters in Canada.

1. Everyone:

Send a holiday greeting to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney!

Tell him to respect the will of Parliament, which passed a motion in June calling on the government to cease all deportation proceedings against war resisters and to allow them to stay legally in Canada. Tell him you want a Canada that respects democracy and welcomes people of peace and conscience!

Copy the Immigration critics and the War Resisters Support Campaign.

To: Jason Kenney: minister@cic.gc.ca or kenney.j@parl.gc.ca

cc: Borys Wrzesnewskyj: wrzesnewskyj.b@parl.gc.ca
cc: Olivia Chow: chow.o@parl.gc.ca
cc: Thierry St-Cyr: st-cyr.t@parl.gc.ca
cc: War Resisters Support Campaign: resisters@sympatico.ca

2. Everyone, but especially supporters in BC:

Write letters to your local media! Make sure voices of peace are heard.

The 3 main points to cover are:

  • Prime Minister Harper admitted during the last election that the Iraq war was "absolutely an error". US War resisters should not be deported to be punished for refusing - just like Canada - to participate in this illegal war.

  • Respect democracy! Our elected representatives have already voted on this. Parliament directed the government to immediately stop the deportations of all war resisters and implement a program to let them apply to for permanent residency. It's been more than six months since the June vote and it's time for the Minister Kenney to act.

  • All the war resisters want is the fairness they've been promised. Since seems like the federal government apparently has taken the position that conscientious objectors don't deserve due process, Minister Kenney and Prime Minister Harper should at least grant a moratorium on deportations until all of the war resisters' court appeals have been completed.

    Letters can be sent to:

    - letters@theherald.canwest.com
    in response to this article in the Calgary Herald,

    - provletters@theprovince.com in response to this article in The Province,

    - kreid@stcatharinesstandard.ca and akriluck@stcatharinesstandard.ca in response to this article in the St. Catherine Standard,

    - letters@globeandmail.com in response to this story in the Globe and Mail, and

    - letters@straight.com in response to this story in the Georgia Straight.

    3. Supporters in Toronto:

    Here's a letter from the Campaign. If you're in Toronto on December 23, perhaps you'll take a half-hour to stand up for peace.

    Dear Friends --

    "And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger BECAUSE THERE WAS NO ROOM IN THE INN" -- Luke 2:7

    Please join us for a brief Holiday Vigil to protest the imminent deportations of war resisters Cliff Cornell and Kim Rivera, and to show our support for a vigil that will take place that day in San Diego, CA in support of jailed war resister Robin Long.

    DATE: Tuesday, December 23

    TIME: 4:30 to 5:00 p.m.

    PLACE: Across from the US Consulate, corner of Armoury and University, 1 block north of Queen Street West, 1 block south of Dundas Street West


    This holiday season has been clouded by the actions of our government as they try to hound the war resisters out of Canada.

    Cliff Cornell and Kim Rivera and her family are the latest of a number of war resisters who have been, or will soon be, ordered out of Canada, so they can be punished in the US. Robin Long was deported in July, and is now serving a 15-month jail sentence.

    Cliff Cornell came to Canada in 2005 to avoid serving in a war he never enlisted to fight. He joined the US Army in 2002, attracted by the $6000 bonus offered him by a recruiter. When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, Cliff looked into the reasons for the war. By 2005 he was convinced that it was illegal and immoral. Cliff lives in Gabriola Island, BC. He has been ordered to leave Canada by Christmas Eve, or be forcibly deported face punishment in the US.

    Kim Rivera came to Canada with her husband Mario and their two children, Christian and Rebecca, in February 2007. She enlisted to get access to a steady salary, housing and health care for her family. She was told that, as a wife and mother, she would not be in a combat role. But she was sent to Iraq in 2006, and was assigned to a Forward Observation Post exposed to daily rocket attacks. On leave back in the US, she and her husband decided to come to Canada. On November 23, 2008, Kim gave birth to her third child, Katie. The Riveras will learn on January 7 whether they too will face deportation, so Kim can be punished in the US.

    The Harper Government keeps trying to deport the war resisters. Cliff and Kim are only the most recent war resisters to be lined up for deportation. Others in the lineup are Jeremy Hinzman and his family, Patrick Hart and his family, Matt Lowell, and Dean Walcott.

    Our vigil will call on the Harper government to stop the deportations immediately. We will also call on the government to implement the motion adopted by the House of Commons last June, recommending that the war resisters be allowed to stay in Canada, and that all deportation proceedings against them be stopped.


    Thank you to the Vancouver chapter of the War Resisters Support Campaign for the graphic.