galloway vs kenney: report on federal court hearing, part three

Part One here.

Part Two here.

After I left, the government's counsel continued to hammer away on case law, intending to prove that there is a mountain of legal precedent for interpreting Section 34 of IRPA - the anti-terrorism section - so broadly that George Galloway's donation to Hamas renders him inadmissible to Canada.

She also elaborated on the argument that CIC Minister Jason Kenney and Communications Director Alykhan Velshi do not speak for the government. Government counsel characterized Kenney's and Velshi's comments as "ill-advised," "regrettable" and "unfortunate". They claimed that no matter how much rhetoric is thrown around, decisions of admissibility are rendered independently. Thus, because Galloway never arrived at the border, no decision was made.

* * * *

Next, lawyer Barbara Jackman deftly demolished the government's case.

Jackman herself had represented many of the people cited in the government's argument. She had argued their cases in federal court - and won many of them - so she knows these cases inside-out. She proceeded to demonstrate how the details of those earlier cases were not congruent with the facts of Galloway's case.

In each earlier case, donating money to a "listed organization" was only one of several criteria used to prove membership. People had recruited members, had been paid for work, and in general had engaged in several other activities that could be taken to demonstrate membership status. In each case, there were four or five criteria, which taken as a whole, were deemed to represent membership. Not one case for inadmissibility based on membership in a terrorist organization was proven solely on the basis of someone having donated funds. In other words, there is no way that Galloway's cash donation constituted "membership" in Hamas.

In addition, Jackman said it was absurd to claim that because Galloway did not have absolute certainty that his donation would be used for humanitarian aid, that therefore he might have been donating to terrorist activities. The Canadian government, said Jackman, gives foreign aid money to some governments who later use the funds for personal enrichment or other corruption. Can the government demand that individuals seeking entry to Canada have a higher level of oversight and control over their donations than our own government?

[An aside: A letter in today's Globe and Mail:
The government's lawyer complains that George Galloway had no way to track how Hamas authorities spent the £25,000 he gave them. Does this mean a higher standard of care is now expected when giving someone money than when giving them Afghan prisoners? - David Arthur, Cambridge, Ont.]

The lion's share of Galloway's donations were in goods: vehicles, medical supplies, toys, clothes, food, all given to Red Crescent for distribution. And the Red Crescent itself may channel supplies and donations through Hamas. Is it, too, a terrorist organization?

The Gazan Ministry of Health has confirmed how Galloway's cash donation was used: to purchase incubators and a pediatric dialysis machine, and to help build a pediatric health unit. The government's counsel acknowledged this. Jackman argued that it's absurd to claim that because, in theory, Hamas could have used Galloway's humanitarian aid for anything, that therefore he donated money to a terrorist organization, and is there a member of a terrorist organization.

Jackman also demonstrated that the claim that border guards make independent assessments of admissibility, separate from any direction or pronouncements from the Ministry, is utter nonsense. The guards are employees of the Ministry. They are not some quasi-judicial tribunal that issues their own determinations in a vacuum. The documents we were never meant to see make it exceedingly clear that the government did everything it could to ensure that Galloway wouldn't be "waved in" (as they put it) to Canada. They sent his file. They sent photos. They issued an advisory so that when Galloway's passport was swiped, it would trigger an alert. (Sounds familiar...) In short, they wanted a guarantee from the border guards that Galloway wouldn't be allowed in the country.

Jackman also pointed out how the government's reasons for banning Galloway changed over time. At first, the statements coming from the CIC were about "George Galloway said..." or "George Galloway has advocated...". Meaning, he is inadmissible to Canada because of his ideas and his speech.

As the media and public backlash grew over this blatant abuse of power and infringement of Charter rights, the government created two new excuses. One, no decision was made, the CBSA letter was merely a preliminary assessment. And two, Galloway was inadmissible to Canada under section 34 of IRPA, giving material support to a listed terrorist organization. The backpedaling and the after-the-fact excuses should tell us something.

* * * *

Now that the hearing is over, legal briefs can be released, so I'll soon have the Galloway team's factum and summary of their case. I'll read the documents this weekend, and if I find anything of particular interest, I will definitely let you know. I can also upload the documents so you can read them yourself.

galloway vs kenney: report on federal court hearing, part two

Part One here.

The government's lawyer opened with an anecdote and an analogy. On her way to court, she saw a copy of Maclean's with a picture of the recently famous Iceland volcano on the cover. She said that blaming the Canadian government for the ban of George Galloway is like blaming European air-traffic controllers for the grounded planes. The closures were because of the volcano, and the ban of George Galloway was caused solely by the actions of Galloway himself. Galloway donated money and goods to Hamas, and Galloway himself chose not to visit Canada.

After this embarrassing attempt at analogy, the CIC lawyer tackled the "no decision was made" argument, claiming the letter from CBSA to Galloway's office were merely informative. It did not deny him entry. Galloway himself chose not to attempt to cross the border.

The judge asked what other options were available. [Note: words in quotation marks are verbatim quotes. Everything else is a very close paraphrase.]

CIC Lawyer: He could have asked for a Temporary Resident Permit.

Judge: Those are given at the discretion of the Minister, who had already indicated that Mr Galloway wouldn't receive one.

CIC Lawyer: Yes, but he could have shown up at the border--

Judge: --and run the risk of indefinite detention. That's not much of an option, is it?

CIC Lawyer: I admit that these are not very palatable options, but--

Judge: --Short of showing up and being detained, what options did Mr Galloway have? Once receiving the CBSA letter, how did he have any option of a review or a challenge to this decision? "This is the aspect of this case that troubles me the most."

CIC Lawyer replied that any person who does not require a visa to enter Canada (which includes Galloway) can only seek admission at a port of entry. That's where admissibility or inadmissibility is determined. Because Galloway didn't show up at the border, there was no inadmissibility. It was his choice.

Judge: "So you're saying the counsel for George Galloway jumped the gun?" Despite receiving a letter warning them about inadmissability, they merely assumed inadmissibility?

CICL: The relevant section of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act says that admissibility is determined at the border. There is no "advance opinion" of inadmissibility. The CIC and CBSA were merely giving Mr Galloway a heads-up that they had some concerns, so he wouldn't be surprised. They were acting in good faith--

Judge: "Was it in good faith? Or was it because the leader of the Canadian government was about to visit the UK and they were trying to save Canada some embarrassment? The British press would have had a field day."

CICL: They had a field day anyway, so you see, that didn't work.

CICL then tries to say that when George Galloway was leading the Viva Palestina convoy, he knew that this would make him inadmissible to Canada.

Judge: Do you really think that while Mr Galloway was taking 109 trucks from Europe to Gaza and giving money to Hamas, he was considering the reactions of the Canadian government?

We were all trying not to laugh out loud.

Earlier, lawyer Barbara Jackman had characterized the CIC as "taunting" George Galloway to come to the border and risk arrest under terrorism laws. Now CICL said: Earlier today we heard about taunting. Galloway traveled through eight European countries, taunted them to stop him--

Judge: And they didn't. All those countries have anti-terrorism laws and none of them took action against Mr Galloway.

CICL: Yes, and that's their decision, but under Canada's laws, Mr Galloway is inadmissible because he donated money through Hamas.

The Judge pointed out that Galloway only gave humanitarian aid.

CICL said it doesn't matter, because it went through Hamas.

Judge: "So you're saying that if anyone sends aid to Palestine they are inadmissible to Canada?"

CICL: No, not if the aid goes through the Red Crescent. Only if it goes through Hamas.

Judge: "So the moment you give one dollar to the widows and orphans in Gaza through Hamas, you are a member of a terrorist organization?"

Sitting next to me, NCF said, "I'm almost starting to feel sorry for her."

At this point, CICL said she would leave her current arguments to the written submissions and jump ahead to clarify the definition of a terrorist and "a member of a terrorist organization" under section 34 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).

First CICL sought to clarify the legal definition of the word "member". The words "devotes full-time or nearly full-time work" came first, and the judge again interrupted.

Judge: "I don't know or care what Mr Galloway does with his time, but he is a sitting member of the British Parliament, so presumably one could hardly say he meets this definition."

CICL backed down, and cited case law where someone who had given money to an organization deemed to be a terrorist group had been found to be a member of that group. The case involved the LTTE, the Tamil organization.

Judge: But Mr Galloway gave money for medical supplies, and evidence shows the money was used for medical supplies.

CICL: But Mr Galloway had no assurance that the money would be used that way. Once he handed the money over, he had no control over it. It was used for medical supplies, but it could have been used for militant purposes.

Judge: Mr Galloway says he is not a member of Hamas. He says he supports Fatah.

CICL: That is Mr Galloway's own statement. He can make that claim, but he can't dictate Canadian law.

This is when it got tricky.

The CIC lawyer cited case after case where a person donated money or time to an organization that Canada has deemed to be a terrorist group, and was found to be a member of that group, and so, inadmissible to Canada. None of these people were themselves involved in violence or the promotion of violence. They passed out pamphlets, campaigned for elections, or donated tiny sums of money. But the organizations in question are on the terror list, and each time, the person was declared inadmissible. (An aside: this should emphasize the danger to all of us in these arbitrary and biased characterizations of certain groups as terrorist organizations.)

There were a lot of these cases, and the judge stopped interrupting, and let her pile up her precedents.

[At this point I had to leave. I didn't hear our side's rebuttal or closing arguments. I'm waiting to get filled in and will update if necessary.]

So it's conceivable that under these elastic definitions of "member of a terrorist organization," George Galloway could be found inadmissible to Canada. But the people in the cited cases were all brown, with foreign-sounding last names and no status. I have trouble believing that a Canadian court will find a white, Scottish-born Member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to be a member of a terrorist organization because he gave humanitarian aid to an elected government.

But of course none of us know what the outcome will be. I can only hope that Mr. Justice Mosley will find in favour of Charter rights, of free speech, of freedom of association and of sanity, and against the arbitrary imposition of Jason Kenney's personal opinions on the rest of us.

Update: I've just spoken to James Clark, a principal organizer of the Galloway tour, who was in court for the hearing. I have a summary of what I missed, as well as court documents that can now be made public. More soon!

george galloway vs jason kenney: report on federal court hearing, part one

This week, I attended the Federal Court hearing reviewing the Canadian government's decision to bar British MP George Galloway from entering the country. I wasn't able to stay til the end, but what I saw was very interesting and sometimes amusing. I've asked a few people about what I missed, so I'll update this later if necessary.

The Federal Court agreeing to review this case is itself a victory, and was accomplished through the tireless efforts of Canadian peace activists and defenders of free speech, and likely because the person deemed inadmissible is a Member of the British Parliament.

In my opinion, in order to find for the Government - that is, in order to uphold the ban against Galloway - the Federal Court will have to find that a British MP is a member of a terrorist organization. It's the only halfway cogent argument the government has, and I don't believe the court will be willing to do that. I may well be wrong - no one knows what will happen in any court case - but that's my assessment, based on what I heard. Here are some details.

* * * *

The government's case defending the decision to bar Galloway from Canada has four parts.

  • 1. No decision was actually made as to Galloway's inadmissibility. The information sent from the CIC to the CBSA was merely a recommendation, and the letter Galloway received was merely a heads-up that he might have trouble at the border. Only a border guard determines admissibility. Galloway himself decided not to arrive at the border. It was his decision.

  • 2. When Alykhan Velshi, director of communications for the CIC, declared Galloway inadmissible to Canada because he supposedly supports terrorism, Velshi wasn't speaking in any official capacity. Likewise, CIC Minister Jason Kenney's "unfortunate comments" (that's a quote, I swear), were not said in any official capacity.

  • 3. Galloway's supporters and the organizers of his tour have no standing to bring suit in this case. Their rights were not infringed. Only Galloway has standing to bring this suit.

    And finally, and most importantly,

  • 4. Because Galloway donated money for humanitarian aid through the Hamas government, he is a member of a terrorist organization, and therefore inadmissible to Canada.

    * * * *

    In the opening statements, we heard how this whole thing started: with a letter from the right-wing "Jewish Defense League" (I can't write their name without quotes!) to Jason Kenney, alerting him that Galloway was planning to come to Canada and asking Kenney to prevent that from happening.

    The next day, CIC flack Alykhan Velshi emailed the Canadian Border Services Agency: subject line, "Inadmissible". (You can see these emails here. We have access to them thanks to a government bureaucratic blunder and a positive court decision.) In the span of eight minutes, Galloway is found inadmissible to Canada. Over the next two hours, there are a series of emails between the CIC and the CBSA, discussing how to present this decision to the media and the public.

    A few days later, Velshi emailed the CBSA, asking them to update border security on Galloway's status, to ensure that a border guard doesn't just "wave him in" to the country. CBSA says they'll use all their resources to make sure Galloway is flagged. CBSA then sends a letter to Galloway's office informing Galloway that he is being deemed inadmissible to Canada.

    The judge asked, "This was a recommendation. Isn't it possible for the border guard or customs officer to make a different decision?"

    Lawyers for the Applicants: "It's theoretically possible, but it's very unlikely."

    Judge: "Couldn't the officer decide for him or herself, at his or her own discretion?"

    Lawyer: "Perhaps if the officer was retiring in two weeks."

    The judge nodded.

    Lawyers for our side quoted from the relevant statutes proving that at the port of entry to Canada, guards' decisions are subject to the direction of the Ministry. There was little doubt that despite what the government claims, a decision was made.

    In addition, they demonstrated very clearly that Galloway's "choice" was between arriving at the border and risking detention (potentially indefinite detention under current anti-terrorism laws), or staying away. That is, not really a choice at all.

    * * * *

    Next, lawyer Barbara Jackman showed that the organizers of Galloway's tour, as Canadian citizens, do have standing to bring this suit, because their Charter rights were clearly infringed.

    Jackman walked the court through Galloway's work on behalf of Palestinians, especially the people of Gaza during the siege of that territory - his "Viva Palestina" convoy of 109 trucks delivering food, clothes and medical supplies, as well as £25,000 he donated to buy medical equipment, incubators and other humanitarian aid. She mentioned that 30 British Members of Parliament joined dozens of NGOs and other international organizations in signing a letter urging the lifting of the Gaza blockade.

    On the other side, Jackman showed Jason Kenney's consistently anti-Palestinian point of view, including funding cuts to the Canadian Arab Federation and KAIROS for supposedly being terrorist and anti-Semitic, respectively, slamming CUPE for calling for a boycott of Israel, and a host of comments in the media and on the floor of the House of Commons.

    Lawyers for the government say that these "unfortunate comments" would not influence CIC staff, and are separate from any official decision making. (This reminds me of their laughable claims that war resisters can petition the Supreme Court for review of conscientious objector status.)

    Jackman demolished these arguments, showing how Kenney is himself the decision maker, that officers of his Ministry act on his behalf and under his direction, and that the decision to ban Galloway must be seen in context of this bias. Indeed, as the internal emails say: The good news is we can ban Galloway, the bad news is what are we going to tell the media.

    If Alykhan Velshi spoke out of turn or usurped authority in making this decision-that-was-not-a-decision, not once did Jason Kenney publicly disavow Velshi's statements. Not once did Kenney distance himself from his staff's remarks. Only now does he try to hide behind Velshi. But the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled more than once that Ministry officials do speak for the Ministry.

    Jackman even showed that CSIS itself had cleared Galloway for entry into Canada! CSIS had no problem with Galloway, nor did the US. But Jason Kenney had a problem with George Galloway.

    Many defenders of the government's decision to bar Galloway from Canada say, "He has no right to tell Canada it must admit him." That's true, and Jackman made it clear that she agrees. Galloway can't say "I have a right to enter Canada," but he has a right to expect the law to be applied fairly, and in this case, it was not.

    * * * *

    Jackman demonstrated at great length that Galloway's actions outside of Canada do not fall under any reasonable definition of terrorism.

    Galloway's convoy to Gaza was on a peaceful, humantarian mission. He entered Gaza the only way he could have gotten in, with the permission of Israeli authorities. He delivered food, medical aid, toys and other supplies, all of which were approved by Israel. He also delivered aid through the Red Crescent.

    What the government wants to call terrorism is this: Galloway donated some funds through Hamas, the elected government of the Palestinian Authority. The money was for humanitarian aid, and it was used as such. Many other countries, such as Norway, donated similar aid.

    Jackman mentioned the Gaza Freedom March, a convoy of 1300 people, including many Canadians (and a few wmtc readers!). Jackman specifically mentioned the support of Canadians Naomi Klein and Sasha Trudeau.

    And she mentioned that Galloway did what Canada's own government has done: "If George Galloway is a terrorist for giving aid to the Palestinian people, then so is the leader of Canada's own government." (Jackman later said she got "carried away". I'm not so sure.)

    Jackman makes a powerful argument that if Galloway's actions are deemed to constitute terrorism, we devalue the entire notion of terrorism. Canada's anti-terror laws were instituted to protect Canadians from violence, not meant to punish unpopular political views or curtail humanitarian aid.

    Jackman asks, what's the point of having anti-terrorism laws if they apply to peaceful people who are merely saying things the government doesn't like? "Even if we maintain a myth that an officer at a Port of Entry can make a decision different from the Ministry's recommendation," she said, we must not interpret the decision of terrorism so broadly as to forget what terorrism really is. "If we call Mr Galloway a terrorist," she said, "then the word terrorism has no meaning. An incubator is not a gun."

    Alykhan Velshi has claimed that Galloway "expressed support for Taliban murderers who want to kill Canadian troops". No one can find any record, anywhere, of George Galloway saying such a thing. Galloway has never expressed support for the Taliban, and anyone who is familiar with his ideas finds the idea of him doing so completely ridiculous. However, even if Galloway had said such a thing, his speech is still protected, and he cannot be denied admission to Canada on the basis of his speech.

    * * * *

    Both Jackman and a lawyer for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association demonstrated at length and incontrovertibly that when Galloway was barred from Canada, the Charter rights of Canadians and Permanent Residents were infringed. The freedoms of speech, expression and association of all of us were most certainly violated.

    The government claims Galloway was merely denied "a platform". After all, we were able to watch his speech through a video link. We can read his speeches and anything he writes.

    But the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled very clearly that expression is a two-way street. That our right of free speech is not only the right to speak, but the right to listen, the right to be exposed to ideas. That public meetings, pickets, protest and rallies are fundamental to these rights. That our rights to receive information and ideas, to engage in discussion and debate, are inherent in our rights of freedom of speech, association and assembly.

    Freedom of expression involves not just our right to speak and to publish, but our right to read, to know, to learn. It involves the "collective actions of individuals in pursuit of a common goals". Our freedom of expression is a process, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects that process.

    The Supreme Courts of both Canada and the United States have ruled time and again that the existence of alternate technology to bring a person's ideas to listeners does not obviate the listener's right to meet a speaker in person, to hear, to shake hands - to freely associate with whom they choose. Jackman and the CCLA showed that the government cannot recharacterize their ban of Galloway as merely the denial of a "platform" and still claim that Canada has freedom of speech.

    Of course, there are limits on our freedoms, put in place to protect national security and protect against violence.

    But there was no threat to national security here. There were only Galloway's views, which are contrary to the views of the Canadian government - and worse, contrary to the views of some individuals in the Canadian government. There are limits to our Charter rights and freedoms, but those limits cannot be applied arbitrarily, and they must always be content-neutral. (Meaning if Ann Coulter is allowed in Canada, Galloway has to be allowed, too.) Declaring someone inadmissible to the country because of the content of a speech is a violation of basic freedoms. Canada has no provision for inadmissibility because of speech or politics, only for actions.

    Jason Kenney says Galloway was only denied a platform, nothing more. Jackman and the CCLA showed that the government cannot do that, period. According to the CCLA, when the government says, "all that is missing is seeing him in person," we must say, "That's our whole point. We are allowed to see him in person, and you can't deny us that right simply because you don't like his ideas."

    The CCLA was particularly strong on this point. The ban on Galloway violates the Charter rights of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. The "threat of exposing Canadians to ideas that are unpalatable to the government in power" is not what Parliament had in mind when it passed anti-terrorism laws.

    Part Two, the government's side, coming soon.
  • 4.29.2010

    ethan mccord on collateral murder: "you don’t just take somebody’s life and then go about your business for the rest of the day"

    Remember the WikiLeaks video, "Collateral Murder"? This highly disturbing footage leaked from the US military's own flight videos shows a practice we have heard about time and again from war resisters. Pilots confirm that there are no allied troops in the area - but ask and receive no information whether the people are civilians or "combatants" - then fire away. In this instance, twelve people were killed, all civilians. They were women, children and civilian men, including two Reuters journalists.

    When the video began to circulate, Army specialist Ethan McCord recognized himself in the footage. Anna Maria Tremonti had him on "The Current" yesterday. Earlier, he was interviewed by Wired.

    McCord tried to save two Iraqi children's lives. He was ordered not to, and although he tried anyway, one grievously wounded boy died in his arms. When McCord was distraught and sick over the incident, he was mocked, harassed and threatened.

    This is not unusual: it is typical. It is what happens.

    McCord testifies to exactly what we hear from war resisters - those in Canada and those still hiding or in prison in the US - all the time.

    McCord, who suffers from PTSD, also talks about his reaction to the release of the video, why many military people deny the reality it shows, and why we need to end this terrible war.

    Please listen to The Current here (it's the third segment), or read the interview at Wired. I am not quoting and linking to it here because the material may be highly triggering. This is the buffer zone for people who may not want to click, or who need time to steel themselves, as I do.

    [Related: soldiers describe the despair and isolation in medical trauma units: "It is just a dark place," said the soldier, who is waiting to be medically discharged from the Army. "Being in the W.T.U. is worse than being in Iraq."]


    galloway vs kenney in federal court: report coming soon

    Thanks to the hearing being rescheduled, I was able to attend today's Federal Court hearing into Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney's ban on British anti-war MP George Galloway.

    I'll be busy with War Resisters Support Campaign activities all evening, and we have plans tomorrow, too. I'll write as thorough a report as I can and hopefully post it on Friday. See you then.


    petition in support of new ontario sex education curriculum

    Sign and share!

    We, the undersigned, call on Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario government to go forth with intended changes to Ontario's sexual education curriculum beginning September 2010.

    notice to appear to write a citizenship test

    Good timing, eh?

    We received this in the mail today.

    Please appear on: 27 May 2010 4:00pm

    75 Watline Avenue . . . [I know it well!]

    You will have to write a test about your knowledge of Canada and the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship. You may write the test in English or French. To prepare for the test, you should study the book "A Look At Canada"...

    This says our test is based on the old citizenship guide, but they may be using a form letter that was never updated. An earlier letter I received said our test will be based on the new guide.

    Hm, what to do... Study both? "Before I write the test, could you please tell me if the test is based on the neoconservative wishful-thinking version of Canada, or the progressive wishful-thinking version?"

    Whoo-hoo! We'll be citizens in time for this year's wmtc party!

    PS: Dear Trolls: in your face!

    "the canadian people know the blood of their soldiers and the treasure of their treasury is being spent in a doomed enterprise"

    As I type this, Canadians who love free speech and democracy are gathering in front of the Federal Court building in Toronto. (I'm so disappointed to not be there, but this one was just impossible for me.) After the rally, supporters will pack the courtroom to witness George Galloway's suit against the Canadian government for refusing him entry to Canada last year.

    Galloway and his legal team - through a government error - gained access to 66 pages of government emails and supporting documents demonstrating how Alykhan Velshi, Jason Kenney's communications director, took a special interest in keeping Galloway out of Canada, misinterpreting Canadian law to reflect his political point of view.
    From the first e-mail that Mr. Kenney's communications director, Alykhan Velshi, sent on March 16, 2009, at 2:09 p.m. to immigration bureaucrats – the subject line was "inadmissible" – only 102 minutes passed before an official in the National Security section of the CBSA had agreed that Mr. Galloway should be barred for being a member of a terrorist organization.

    Monday's arguments in a legal case contesting the government move will raise a host of crucial questions for Canada's immigration system. Mr. Galloway insists he was never a member of Hamas, and he's being barred for his political and pro-Palestinian views.

    But the court record has already revealed much about how the Galloway affair began: not in routine work by security officials, but because it was triggered by political aides, then pushed quickly by high-ranking officials, and approved by the Prime Minister's Office.

    Unsurprisingly, the Government tried to keep these revealing documents out of court on "national security" grounds, but the judge wasn't buying.

    The Globe and Mail has a brief Q&A with Galloway about Canada's decision.
    The thrust of the ban is that you support terrorist organizations. What do you say to that?

    Well, I'm five times elected to the British Parliament and I travel freely and widely in the United States of America. So that can hardly be true, can it? The British Parliament would not have a terrorist in it and the United States of America would not admit a terrorist. So to be banned from Canada, it's just preposterous.

    You were recently booted from Egypt, too.

    I was declared a persona non grata by the dictatorship in Egypt because I showed the world that they are the reason why there is a siege on Gaza. I'm content to be banned from Egypt because that's a dictatorship, but I’m not content to be banned from Canada, because that isn't.

    The Canadian government says you gave about $45,000 to Hamas and that's part of why you shouldn't be allowed here.

    I didn't give any money to Hamas, I gave it to the ministry of health in Gaza to pay for the salaries of the doctors and nurses who hadn't been paid. By the way, we're talking about 20 odd thousand pounds, not millions. It's a symbolic donation. I gave it to the ministry of health in Gaza and I'm proud to have done so.

    What are your views on Hamas?

    It's all in the court documents. I have never been a supporter of Hamas, I am not a supporter of Hamas now. On the contrary, I was with President Arafat for the best years of my life, from 1983 until the day that he died in Palestine, I was at his bedside. So, I'm sorry but it's all nonsense. As the revelations of these documents prove, this was a political job.

    Jim Wright, Canada's high commissioner in Britain, has said you're "not taken seriously in the U.K. and that denying [you] entry to Canada will simply give [you] a greater platform?" Does that reveal further motives for barring you?

    If you want my honest opinion, I think the Canadian government is more afraid of my views on Afghanistan than they were on my views on Palestine. The Canadian people know that the blood of their soldiers is being spent and the treasure of their treasury is being spent in a doomed enterprise. And I'm far from not being taken seriously. I'm surely to be elected for the sixth time. I am the leader of an anti-war movement in Britain that is millions strong.

    What are your impressions of Canada as a nation and how might they differ from your reaction to this case?

    Well, as a Scotsman, and Canada being a place where very many Scottish people immigrated, I always regarded Canada, to which I've travelled often, as a home away from home. It was the kinder, gentler, North American state. But I'm afraid the Harper government has made it the last bout of Bush-ism on the continent.

    How has this situation become a battle for free speech as well as a pursuit of human rights and political justice?

    Well, I addressed all the audiences and more than I was going to address if I had been allowed into Canada. I just did it by the technology that is today available. And I achieved the remarkable thing, really, of packing thousands of people into halls and churches to watch a video screen and watch someone broadcasting from New York. And the irony was not lost – I'm banned from Canada, but I'm broadcasting from New York. It's just ridiculous.


    "discover canada": the harper government's vision of canada and of immigrants

    new cover
    Cover of "Discover Canda," the CIC's new guide to citizenship

    In November 2009, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced the release of a new study guide to help immigrants prepare for Canadian citizenship. The new guide, called "Discover Canada: the Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship" replaced a booklet called "A Look at Canada," first published by Jean Chrétien's Liberal government in 1997 and updated in 2005 by Paul Martin's Liberal government.

    This is a comparison of the two guides and the differing visions of Canada they reflect.

    A noticeable absence of peace

    The new booklet was announced with much fanfare. In a media release chock full of praise, Rudyard Griffiths, co-founder of the ultra-conservative Dominion Institute, gives an enthusiastic "Two thumbs up!"; historian Margaret MacMillan says approvingly, "It is not easy to capture Canada — its geography, its people, its society and its history — in a brief document, but this one does a fine job." Military historian and war apologist Jack Granatstein says, "At last, Canada has a guide for prospective citizens that is not an embarrassment."

    The CIC's media release also provided media with highlights of Canadian history and culture that were absent in the old guide but are included in the new.

    [topic old guide new guide]
    Responsible government No mention 3 paragraphs, page 18
    The First World War No mention Featured section, page 21
    Women's voting rights No mention Featured section, page 21
    Remembrance Day No mention Featured sidebar, page 22
    Second World War No mention Featured section, page 23

    And so on.

    But when "Discover Canada" was released, some media noted a change not mentioned by the CIC. This paragraph from the old guide--
    Canada has a long tradition of welcoming newcomers because they increase the diversity and richness of Canadian society. Canadians are proud of the peaceful and tolerant society they have built.
    --is absent from the new one. The two publications are organized differently, so one cannot point to a paragraph that specifically replaces this identifying description. The closest might be this:
    Canada has welcomed generations of newcomers to our shores to help us build a free, law-abiding and prosperous society. For 400 years, settlers and immigrants have contributed to the diversity and richness of our country, which is built on a proud history and a strong identity.

    One can debate whether either phrase is historically accurate, or which comes closer to Canadians' view of themselves, but that's a separate and more complex discussion. Indisputable, however, is that under the Harper government and the Ministry headed by Jason Kenney, law and order trump peace and tolerance.

    The Globe and Mail put it this way:
    The Conservative government will redefine what it means to be Canadian this week by introducing a new guide to citizenship, a rare and significant attempt to reshape the national image.

    The new document, which will be the citizenship study guide for the 250,000 immigrants who arrive in Canada each year, instantly becomes one of the country's most widely read and potentially influential pieces of writing. It will replace a document created by the Liberals in 1997 that the Conservatives criticized for its anemic presentation of Canadian history and identity.

    No longer will new Canadians be told that Canada is strictly a nation of peacekeepers, for example. The new guide places a much greater emphasis on Canada's military history, from the Great War to the present day.

    We recently learned that Kenney took a personal interest in removing all references to Canada's leadership role in equal rights for gay and lesbian citizens from this guide. The CIC already had removed from its website references to Canada welcoming US war resisters during the Vietnam War.

    I applied to emigrate to Canada in 2003, became a Permanent Resident in 2005, and applied for citizenship as soon as I was eligible, in 2008. Because of that timing, I eventually received both guides in the mail. In this post, I examine and compare the two booklets, to discover exactly what the Conservative government wants immigrants to know about their country of choice, how the government views immigrants, and how it views Canada.

    You can read, order, listen to or download "Discover Canada" here.

    A prettier package, but what's inside?

    When one compares the old and new guides side-by-side, the first thing that jumps out is the much higher production values used in the new version. "Discover Canada" has a much more professional look and feel.

    "A Look at Canada" sports a full-colour, glossy cover, but when you flip it open, you find a very plain, black and white booklet, with some text highlighted in red. All the photographs are black and white.

    old cover
    Cover of "A Look at Canada," the old citizenship guide created by previous Liberal governments

    The page layout is reminiscent of a grade-school workbook. The language is very simple, with key words and phrases highlighted in the margins.

    old sample page
    A sample page from "A Look at Canada," the old citizenship guide

    Printing was much more expensive in the pre-digital era, and the old guide obviously was done on the cheap. That's not necessarily a bad thing. We can all imagine the headlines decrying a Liberal government's unnecessary spending on a slick, magazine-style booklet. Digital technology has made full-colour printing cost-effective, and the Conservatives were able to take advantage of that. The quality of the writing is improved, but the font size is smaller and the text is geared to a higher reading level than the old guide.

    new sample page 02
    A sample page from "Discover Canada," the new citizenship guide

    Rights and responsibilities, contempt and distrust

    "A Look at Canada" (the old guide) begins with the question "What Does Canadian Citizenship Mean?", and offers this answer:
    Canadian values include freedom, respect for cultural differences and a commitment to social justice. We are proud of the fact that we are a peaceful nation. In fact, Canadians act as peacekeepers in many countries around the world.

    Under this, bold-face type shows: democracy, democratic values, equality, respect for cultural differences, freedom, peace, and law and order. It suggests to readers:
    As you reflect on these values, as yourself which responsibilities you will take on when you become a Canadian citizen.

    Next (still in the old guide), the section "Introducing Canada" tells us:
    Throughout Canada's history, millions of immigrants have helped build our country. We welcome people from more than 150 countries each year.

    It immediately mentions the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, the original people of Canada, and Canada's official bilingualism.

    By contrast, the new guide begins with "Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship". In the summary of the rights of all Canadians, Canada's own Charter of Rights and Freedoms takes a back seat to Magna Carta. This is another frequent underlying theme: an emphasis on Canada's British (and somewhat French) heritage and colonial roots.

    After a brief look at a few Charter rights, "Discover Canada" issues a warning.
    In Canada, men and women are equal under the law. Canada's openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, "honour killings," female genital mutilation or other gender-based violence. Those guilty of these crimes are severely punished under Canada's criminal laws.

    The reference to "barbaric cultural practices" fairly leaps from the page, its language completely out of step with the otherwise bland tone of the text. One would think that if it weren't for immigrants and their "barbaric cultural practices," violence against women would have been eradicated from Canadian society. As we are all aware, some people bred among the "English-speaking and French-speaking Christian civilizations" mentioned in this booklet also indulge in such barbarism.

    Indeed, on the following page, there is a reference to a certain cultural practice that saw aboriginal Canadian children forcibly removed from their homes, forbidden to speak their own language or practice their own religion, and subjected to horrific abuse. Sounds pretty barbaric to me. And it was the ruling elite - the dominant immigrant culture, the "English-speaking . . . Christian civilizations" - that practiced this. Now we have the descendants of those ruling elites, warning that abuse of women by foreign immigrant cultures will not be tolerated.

    It should be obvious that I abhor the abuse of women in all its many forms. But Canadian-born Canadians may abuse women, too, and they may or may not be punished for it. Whether it is the missing or murdered aboriginal women, the Canadian women who are murdered by a current or former partner (one or two each week), the murdered survival sex workers in Vancouver, or the millions of Canadian women who will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes, violence against women knows no cultural boundaries. This Conservative government has shown nothing but contempt for women's rights, but here they are lecturing immigrants on equality. It speaks not only of the government's hypocrisy, but their fear and distrust of the people they are supposedly welcoming in this booklet.

    Responsibility is also mentioned in the old guide, although not as prominently. Towards the back of the book, we are told that Canadians' rights are protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (no mention of Magna Carta or Britain), with a brief summary of those rights. Then:
    All Canadian citizens have the responsibility to:

    - vote in elections;

    - help others in the community;

    - care for and protect our heritage and environment;

    - obey Canada's laws;

    - express opinions freely while respecting the rights and freedoms of others; and

    - eliminate discrimination and injustice.

    In the new guide, immediately following the warning about violence against women, there is a list of "Citizenship Responsibilities", with brief descriptions after each. I have included the descriptions of the first two.
    - Obeying the law: One of Canada's founding principles is the rule of law. Individuals and governments are regulated by laws and not by arbitrary actions. No person or group is above the law.

    - Taking responsibility for oneself and one's family: Getting a job, taking care of one's family, and working hard in keeping with one's abilities, are important Canadian values. Work contributes to personal dignity and self-respect, and to Canada's prosperity.

    - Serving on a jury

    - Voting in elections

    - Helping others in the community

    - Protecting and enjoying our heritage and environment

    Social justice is gone. Respecting other people's opinions has also been deleted. The top two responsibilities are now: obey the law and get a job. The specifics of this list and its prominent placement speak to the Harper government's and the Kenney CIC's paternalistic, condescending disdain for immigrants. They must be lectured on responsibility. They must be warned that Canada will not tolerate their lazy, illegal habits.

    I'm aware of no evidence that shows immigrants are any less law-abiding than Canadian-born citizens, or that working hard is a particularly Canadian-born trait. Chinese and Irish labour built the Canadian national railroad in the 19th Century. Italian, Ukrainian, German and other European-born farmers toiled through the harsh climate to grow wheat and raise livestock. Today, Canada's cities and suburbs crackle with the energies of the children and grandchildren of immigrants, and immigrants themselves, working in health, law, finance, technology, education, the arts, and every other conceivable field.

    It's difficult to emigrate to Canada. One needs education, employability, language skills and quite a bit of money. To emigrate anywhere requires intelligence, organization and not a little gumption. Why must such prospective citizens be warned about obeying the law and supporting their families? The selection of "responsibilities" in the guide, and their prominent placement, reflects underlying prejudice and the bigoted, mistaken belief that immigrants come to Canada to "live off the system". Combined with the reference to "barbaric cultural practices," this is evidence of the view of immigrants as coming from lawless, savage cultures, people who will need to be tamed by Canadian - an extension of British - society.

    Environment out, military in

    Early in the old guide, there is a two-page spread called "Protecting the Environment – Sustainable Development".
    Economic growth is crucial for the future prosperity of Canada, but growth must be managed carefully so that it does not harm the environment. The Canadian government is committed to the goal of sustainable development, which means economic growth that is environmentally sound.

    It lists several ways that Canadians can protect the environment, including recycling, reusing, composting, conserving home energy, car pooling or using public transit, planting trees and becoming active in local conservation groups.

    In the new guide, the sole mention of the environment is under "Responsibilities".
    - Protecting and enjoying our heritage and environment. Every citizen has a role to play in avoiding waste and pollution while protecting Canada's natural, cultural, and architectural heritage for future generations.

    Clearly not a priority. My question is, does "every citizen" include the Prime Minister, his cabinet and their friends in industry?

    Also on the "Responsibilities" page, under the heading "Defending Canada," new Canadians are encouraged to join the military.
    There is no compulsory military service in Canada. However, serving in the regular Canadian Forces (navy, army and air force) is a noble way to contribute to Canada and an excellent career choice. You can serve in your local part-time navy, militia, and air reserves and gain valuable experience, skills, and contacts. Young people can learn discipline, responsibility, and skills by getting involved in the cadets.

    You may also serve in the Coast Guard or emergency services in your community such as a police force or fire department. By helping to protect your community, you follow in the footsteps of Canadians before you who made sacrifices in the service of our country (page 9).

    Below that, the proud, smiling faces of Canadian troops beam at us. No amputees here. No caskets. No PTSD. No mention that this "noble" career choice may require you to kill civilians in a mission that has nothing to do with "defending Canada".

    The old guide does not mention military service. In the "Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities" section, it states:
    Being a Canadian citizen is more than voting and obeying laws. Being a citizen also means getting involved in your community and your country. Everyone has something to give to make Canada a better place. Here are some ways to participate:

    - join a community group such as an environmental group;

    - volunteer to work on an election campaign for a candidate of your choice;

    - help your neighbours;

    - work with others to solve problems in your community; and

    - become a candidate in an election.

    There's nothing wrong with pairing rights and responsibilities. But while our rights as citizens are specific and codified in law, our responsibilities as citizens - whether Canadian-born or foreign-born - are more subjective. Obviously we all have a responsibility to obey the law. Presumably immigrants come from countries where citizens are also supposed to obey the law.

    Do we have a legal responsibility to work hard? To vote? To volunteer in our community? Not really. We'd like everyone to do these things, but we can't compel them – not for New Canadians, and not for Canadian-born Canadians either. Canadian-born Canadians are not required to sign a loyalty oath, nor are they required to adhere to any government's Rules To Live By. Only immigrants are lectured and warned in this manner.

    The references to "barbaric cultural practices," obeying the law and supporting one's family, and indeed the prominence of the "responsibilities" list must be seen in context of the Harper government's continued attacks on immigrants and refugees, represented by Minister Kenney.

    We've heard that immigrants who can't speak English or French well enough should be denied citizenship.

    We've seen public denigration of refugee claimants as "bogus" and "clogging up the system".

    We've seen the persistent under-funding and under-staffing of the Immigration and Refugee Board, and the sharply decreasing numbers of refugee claimants admitted to Canada.

    We've seen the Conservatives create a backlog of immigration applications, then throw all the cases out.

    We've seen them refuse entry to Canada to prominent foreign citizens whose opinions they don't agree with.

    We've seen them cut funding to immigrant settlement groups that teach the language skills Kenney claimed immigrants need.

    We've seen them repeatedly refuse to help Canadian citizens - all brown, all Muslim - trapped in other countries, even in concentration camps or prisons. And so on.

    Seen in this context, this list of the responsibilities of citizenship looks ever more odious. Jason Kenney has said many times that Canadian citizenship has been devalued by being too easily acquired. Yet most people acquire it by accident of birth, and are asked very little in return. Only immigrants are singled out for lectures on responsibilities. The government seems to fear these newcomers will not know the basic requirements of adulthood.

    A monarchy or a democracy?

    In the old guide, the Oath of Citizenship, which all New Canadians are required to recite, appears at the end of the book. In the new guide, the Oath is the first thing you see when you open the cover. Along with pride of place on the inside cover, the Oath is accompanied by a photograph of Queen Elizabeth II, and another of a cute brown child, smartly dressed, raising his hand, presumably as he recites the Oath. If it weren't for the Maple Leaf flag in both pictures, you might think you were seeing Queen Victoria inspect one the jewels in her empire crown.

    This is significant. On the very first page, we read, "Canada is a constitutional monarchy, a parliamentary democracy and a federal state." The new guide includes three pictures of Queen Elizabeth II and a full 30 references to the monarchy or the Queen - including the lyrics to "God Save the Queen," which I've never heard sung in Canada. (It also includes the lyrics in French. Why do I think that song is not very popular among Francophones?)

    In the old guide, Canada's political system is described this way:
    Canada is a democracy. It has a system of parliamentary government. Parliament has three parts: the Queen, the House of Commons and the Senate.

    Democracy is listed first. There is no mention of the monarchy. I count only three references to the Queen. The new guide has ten times the number of references to the Queen as the old guide.

    The new guide gives ample, respectful mention to the original inhabitants of the land now called Canada. It then tells us that:
    Canadian society today stems largely from the English-speaking and French-speaking Christian civilizations that were brought here from Europe by settlers (page 11).

    That might be a fair description of the roots of modern Canada. But does it reflect "Canadian society today"? On page 25, we read, "By the 1960s, one-third of Canadians had origins that were neither British nor French, and took pride in preserving their distinct culture in the Canadian fabric."

    According to Statistics Canada, by 2031, 46% of Canadians aged 15 and older will be either foreign born or with at least one foreign-born parent (up from 39% in 2006). It's true that Canada was founded by British and French settlers who took the land from aboriginal people, and it's important to know your new country's history. But how relevant is that British, Christian background to modern immigrants? Or, for that matter, most Canadian-born Canadians?

    Under "Diversity in Canada," the new guide tells us:
    The majority of Canadians were born in this country and this has been true since the 1800s. However, Canada is often referred to as a land of immigrants because, over the past 200 years, millions of newcomers have helped to build and defend our way of life.

    Today, many ethnic and religious groups live and work in peace as proud Canadians. The largest groups are the English, French, Scottish, Irish, German, Italian, Chinese, Aboriginal, Ukrainian, Dutch, South Asian, and Scandinavian. Since the 1970s, most immigrants have come from Asian countries.

    Non-official languages are widely spoken in Canadian homes. Chinese languages are the second most-spoken at home, after English, in two of Canada’s biggest cities. In Vancouver, 13% of the population speaks Chinese languages at home; in Toronto, the number is 7%.

    The great majority of Canadians identify as Christians. The largest religious affiliation is Roman Catholic, followed by various Protestant churches. The numbers of Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and members of other religions, as well as atheists, are also growing. In Canada the state has traditionally partnered with faith communities to promote social welfare, harmony and mutual respect; to provide schools and health care; to resettle refugees; and to uphold religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

    Together, these diverse groups, sharing a common Canadian identity, make up today's multicultural society.

    It is disingenuous to say "the majority of Canadians were born in this country," as a huge percentage of Canadians have parents or grandparents born elsewhere. The majority may be Canadian-born, but not necessarily descended from British or French ancestry.

    Statements like "the great majority of Canadians identify as Christians" and "Canadian society today stems largely from the English-speaking and French-speaking Christian civilizations" send a subtle but clear message to immigrants of colour and those who are not Christian. Despite what you may have heard from your friends and family, if you are not Christian, and you don't speak English, you will always be an outsider. Are you sure this is the country for you?

    Lots of history and culture, but who's not included?

    As noted by several hand-picked historians in the CIC media release, the new guide offers a capsule version of Canadian history that the old guide didn't attempt. Like much official history, it's a story largely defined by war: the War of 1812, World War I, World War II. Similarly, under "Canadian Symbols" (pages 38-41), the Victoria Cross gets pride of place over the "Order of Canada and other honours", using a lot more real estate and many prominent photos. A small margin photo of jazz great Oscar Peterson receiving the Order of Canada is dwarfed by six prominent photos of men (including one person of colour) who have received "the highest honour available to Canadians," "awarded for the most conspicuous bravery, a daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy."

    I give the authors of the new guide a lot of credit for including some of the shameful episodes in Canada's history: aboriginal residential schools, detention and forced relocation of Japanese-Canadians during World War II, legal discrimination against Chinese immigrants, turning away Jews fleeing Nazi genocide. There is significant attention to aboriginal peoples, and although the language is bland, as one would expect in such a document, the content has not been sanitized. One may say that the government is forced to do this these days, but regardless of motive, these facts are included. It's a very positive development that would not have been seen in previous generations.

    Along with history, there is a celebration of Canadian cultural achievements: art, film, science, sports. In sports we see Donovan Bailey, Chantal Petitclerc, Terry Fox and Wayne Gretzky. A margin photo of Olympic gold-medalist Mark Tewksbury is captioned as a "prominent activist for gay and lesbian Canadians" (the guide's only mention of queer culture). The nine "discovery and invention" highlights are all male.

    In the section "Modern Canada," we learn that:
    Canada welcomed thousands of refugees from Communist oppression, including 50,000 who escaped Soviet tyranny in Hungary in 1956. Rules that gave preference to Europeans were removed from immigration laws in the 1960s. With the victory of North Vietnam in 1975, many Vietnamese fled from Communism, including over 50,000 who sought refuge in Canada. (24)

    Interesting. Fifty thousand Vietnamese refugees escaping "Communist oppression" are highlighted, but no mention is made of another major influx of immigrants - who also wanted to leave or avoid Vietnam! In his book Northern Passage, John Hagan shows that between 50,000 and 100,000 American men and women came to Canada in the late 1960s and early 1970s. That is a very sizeable number relative to the total population of Canada at the time, and the Vietnam war resisters had a profound influence on Canadian society. Canada was hailed throughout the world as a safe haven for military resistance; the Prime Minister publicly declared Canada "should be a refuge from militarism". That piece of Canadian history is absent from this guide. You can be sure Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau is not quoted here!

    Speaking of politics, "Discover Canada" includes a bit of unintentional humour, or at least irony. When describing Parliamentary Democracy on page 28, the guide says: "Cabinet ministers are responsible to the elected representatives, which means they must retain the "confidence of the House" and have to resign if they are defeated in a non-confidence vote." Perhaps there's an invisible asterisk: Liberal governments only.

    The old guide included two-page profiles of each region of Canada. The new guide has shortened these considerably, putting two or three regions on a page, giving the profiles more photographs and less text. The "for more information" section is expanded, and there are travel and tourism website URLs listed by region and province.

    Stephen Harper's Canada

    This, in brief, is Stephen Harper's, Jason Kenney's and the Conservative Government's Canada. A country that: does not value peace and tolerance; measures its history by armed conflict; does not encourage its citizens to work for social justice; is not concerned with protecting the environment; reveres the monarchy; is mostly Christian; warns immigrants to tame their savage ways; and emphasizes obedience to authority.

    One last quote from "Discover Canada": "Help us serve you better! Tell us what you think of this publication at www.cic.gc.ca/feedback."


    globe and mail: if stigma kept people from being gay, there would be no queers

    It's hard to believe this is still being debated in Canada, but as long as there are bigots like Charles McVety, this will need to be said. Good, thoughtful editorial from the Globe and Mail. If a basically conservative media outlet like the G&M can see clearly on this issue, the Province of Ontario should be able to, as well, and not be held hostage to right-wing protest.

    The only thing I dislike about this piece is the use of the phrase "family values" to describe these anti-gay groups. I grew up in a family that valued tolerance, respect and diversity. Progressives raise their children with family values. Same-sex couples raise their children with family values. Calling anti-gay bigots "family values" groups is another linguistic hoax, along with "pro-life" to describe anti-abortion-rights, "ethnic cleansing" to describe genocide and "liberal media" to describe nearly anything left of Bill O'Reilly.

    With that caveat, I applaud the G&M for this.
    A new sex-education curriculum in Ontario treats homosexuality as a normal part of life, and so it should, in a country in which gay marriage is legal. Sexual health and identity need to be taught in a way that does not contribute, even indirectly, to the shame and stigma that have attended homosexuality through the ages.

    Ontario is not the first province in which teaching about homosexuality has been controversial. In Surrey, B.C., the issue of whether books about same-sex families should be on a reading list – in kindergarten – went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2002. (The court said they probably should be.)

    Now a coalition of religious and family-values organizations is threatening to pull their children out of Ontario public schools on May 10 in protest against the new curriculum. Charles McVety, a leader of Canada’s evangelical Christians, says it’s unconscionable to teach children as young as eight about gender identity and sexual orientation. Reverend Ekron Malcolm, director of the Institute for Canadian Values, says the teaching of homosexuality should be left to parents. “I believe that it will end up infringing on their thought processes and their desires and ability to make correct choices.” The implication is that children may choose homosexuality because of what they learn in school.

    If stigma were enough to keep people from being homosexuals, the practice would have disappeared long ago.

    The children of same-sex parents are part of the schools. So are students who may be coming to terms with a feeling that they are oriented toward the same sex. And all students hear the term “gay” from the earliest years in the schoolyard, or at home, or on television. Even young children perceive that the term may be used as an insult. It does no one any good to leave the children on their own to make sense of it all.

    It is not the place of the schools to provide how-to instruction on sex, heterosexual or same-sex. But that is not what Ontario’s new curriculum is about. It appears to be sensitive to teaching what is appropriate at different ages. In Grade 3, the curriculum suggests that teachers “describe how invisible differences (e.g., learning abilities, skills and talents, personal or cultural values and beliefs, gender identity, sexual orientation, family background, personal preferences, allergies and sensitivities) make each person unique, and identify ways of showing respect for differences in others.” In Grade 7, teachers are told to talk about the importance of having a common understanding with a partner about delaying intercourse (“e.g. . . choosing to abstain from vaginal or anal intercourse”) until they are older. This is not very different from how sex was taught 40 years ago.

    It is about having respect for differences, a respect that would be undermined if some differences were treated as still unsafe to talk about.

    harper govt closing canada's doors to refugees: proof by numbers

    From Embassy:
    When Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced sweeping reforms to Canada's refugee determination process at the end of March, he promised to increase the number of UN-selected refugees that resettle in Canada by 2,500 to maintain "balance."

    But despite a persistent notion that Canada is a generous country that graciously welcomes thousands of refugees each year, Citizenship and Immigration Canada records show the Conservative government has been gradually but significantly granting fewer refugees permanent residence status since 2006. The decrease worries experts and advocates, who say the government is trying to quietly close refugees out.

    Each year, CIC prepares an immigration plan as part of its plans and priorities, highlighting permanent residency targets for different categories of migrants. Government-assisted refugees, privately-sponsored refugees, inland refugees and their dependants abroad make up the overall refugee category.

    In 2006, the department projected granting a minimum of 32,800 refugees permanent residency. In 2010, that target had decreased by 40 per cent, to 19,600. In addition, the targets for inland refugees—those who made claims at the Canadian border and were accepted by the Immigration and Refugee Board—decreased by 54 per cent, from a minimum of 19,500 in 2006 to 9,000 in 2010. The latter number may in fact be even lower since, for the first time, it also includes dependants abroad (family members of already-accepted refugees).

    The department's yearly performance reports, which shows actual refugee intake numbers, also reflected the drop. A total of 32,492 refugees became permanent residents in 2006, while only 21,800 fit that description in 2008 — a 32.7 per cent decrease. Inland refugees saw a decrease of 56 per cent, from 15,892 in 2006 to 6,994 in 2008.

    . . . .

    "I think [these numbers] reflect the overall closing of the doors on refugees, and it reflects that priority has increasingly been given to economic immigrants over family class and refugees," Ms. Dench said. "This highlights the contradiction between facts and discourse that the government has been pursuing, and it reflects the effort of the government of preventing refugees to make a claim."

    Mr. Kenney's promise to increase by 2,500 the number of UN-approved refugees — which are represented as government-assisted and privately-sponsored refugees in CIC figures — is meant to deflect attention away from the overall decreasing numbers, alleged Tom Abel, settlement worker at the Toronto-based Romero House, a non-profit organization providing housing and advocating for refugees.

    "Quite frankly, the Conservatives' intention is to lower the number of refugees coming in this country," Mr. Abel said. "This has been the predominant opinion of practitioners in Toronto and I think around the country."

    Mr. Abel also said Canadians are dealing with "an archaic" understanding of Canada's worldwide refugee role.

    "I honestly think that the government is being quite successful in gradually creating a system where people cannot make refugee claims in Canada," he said. "They are not overtly going to take any action to stop refugee claimants from coming to Canada, but they are going to work into it in a way that won't stir up negative public sentiment and will not raise suspicions in Canadians' minds that the government is giving up on its humanitarian traditions."

    Read this excellent article here.

    "so this is how the army works"

    The physical and academic requirements of basic training posed little challenge for Rob. From the beginning, however, he had serious doubts about life in the army. He recalled, "One night we're there eating and this guy says, 'You know, this is the first time I've ever had three meals a day. You know what else, this is the first time I've ever had shoes that didn't leak.' And I look at him and I was thinking, so that's why, that's how the army works."

    US Vietnam War resister, quoted in Northern Passage, by John Hagan

    bill c-440 to let them stay: second reading begins may 25!

    We've learned that Bill C-440, which would allow US war resisters to apply for permanent resident status in Canada, will begin second reading on May 25. This is very exciting!

    This is the same date as a major court hearing for war resister Jeremy Hinzman, so the Campaign is rocking.

    We have a lot to do between now and that first hour of debate at the end of May, and there are some concrete steps you can take to help.

  • Postcards! Have you signed one? Have you asked your friends, family and cohorts to sign? There's still time. The new final date to get your signed postcards in is May 21.

  • MPs! Tell your MP you support Bill C-440 and you want to know if she or he will be supporting it, too. Although there will not be a vote on May 25, this is the time to lay the groundwork. Click here to email your MP.

  • Donate!

  • In Toronto, stay tuned for info about an exciting Campaign event featuring Naomi Klein and the spirit of Howard Zinn. Details coming soon.
  • george galloway vs jason kenney: monday april 26 in toronto

    After the Harper Government banned UK MP George Galloway from Canada last year, Galloway and his Canadian supporters filed a suit challenging that decision. This Monday, April 26, the Federal Court of Canada will hear arguments by lawyers representing Galloway and the organizers of his 2009 speaking tour. Galloway's legal team will be joined by lawyers representing the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), which has been granted leave to intervene in the case.

    There have been some developments in this court case that are just delicious. Thanks to some Government bureaucratic bungling, the Galloway team learned exactly what went on behind the scenes that led to Galloway being banned. I heard about this months ago but didn't know enough details to blog about it. Now Rabble is running a terrific two-part series on the case. Here's a taste.
    Galloway and his supporters launched a court action against the government when he was barred from entering Canada in March 2009 after being invited to give four lectures in Toronto, Mississauga, Ottawa and Montreal. The aim was to overturn the ban.

    To their surprise, a 66-page dossier of important internal government emails, memos, and letters relating to the case was mistakenly mailed to them in Nov. 2009.

    These items were of particular importance to the Respondents -- Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and Peter Van Loan, then Minister for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, who was responsible for the Canadian Border Services Agency.

    The documents primarily covered a four-day period, from March 16 to March 20, 2009, when bureaucrats in Ottawa and London hurried to build the case against Galloway. Initially, the haste was due to a need to have an official decision in place before the proposed start date of his Canadian visit, March 30. But on March 20, the British tabloid The Sun splashed with the exclusive that Galloway was banned. This was prior to the man himself being informed, and the officials acted even more quickly as they attempted to limit the damage.

    This was especially important to them as it seemed possible that since the publication of the story took place before Galloway himself was informed, Canada's Privacy laws might have been broken.

    To have such information was, of course, a godsend to Galloway's legal team, providing an important outline of the inner workings of the bureaucratic machine that made the ban possible.

    The dossier also showed that Minister Kenney's director of communications, Alykhan Velshi, had been the apparent initiator of the investigation into Galloway's visit to Canada, and was in direct contact with the bureaucrats responsible for Galloway's case in the run-up to the banning, placing pressure and praise on them where appropriate.

    It will not surprise you to learn that the Government attempted to redact all 66 pages of this giant oops by pleading - altogether now - national security. Fortunately the judge wasn't buying.

    Read more: Part I: Court documents put spotlight on minister in banning of British MP, and Part II: National security claim rejected by judge in bid to redact Galloway emails, both by Cathryn Atkinson.

    If you're in Toronto, there will be a rally outside Federal Court by supporters of free speech and those who believe George Galloway - and others who speak out in dissent - should be allowed in Canada. The hearing is open to the general public and media, and supporters are welcome to attend.

    Monday, April 26, 2010
    Rally 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. (outside)
    Hearing 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (inside)

    Federal Court Building
    180 Queen Street West
    TTC: Osgoode / Public parking on Queen Street West

    Solidarity rallies will be held the same day, on April 26, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Federal Court Buildings all across Canada. Rallies are currently being planned in Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Edmonton and other communities. For more information about local rallies, please visit Defend Free Speech.

    If you want to organize a rally in your community, email defendfreespeech.ca at gmail.com.

    Facebook: Let Him Speak: Allow George Galloway To Speak In Canada


    question: is there no end to this conservative party arrogance?

    We'll release more Afghan detainee documents when we're "good and ready".

    Oops, sorry! Although not sorry enough to release all the documents.

    The Liberal caucus should see to it that Michael Ignatieff is "black and blue".

    Oops, sorry! I don't know how that got in there. Even though it has my name on it.

    Answer: Apparently not.

    sonoma county (california) separates elderly gay couple, sells their home

    This is a terrible, heartbreaking story of bigotry and discrimination. None of it (except perhaps the household accident) ever had to happen.

    When I posted this link on Facebook on Monday morning, none of my contacts (including folks in California) had seen it or heard about it yet. By now groups have formed and real-life action is being taken. But it's very frightening to think that this can happen in one's own backyard, in a country built under the words "all men are created equal".
    Clay and his partner of 20 years, Harold, lived in California. Clay and Harold made diligent efforts to protect their legal rights, and had their legal paperwork in place--wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives, all naming each other. Harold was 88 years old and in frail medical condition, but still living at home with Clay, 77, who was in good health.

    One evening, Harold fell down the front steps of their home and was taken to the hospital. Based on their medical directives alone, Clay should have been consulted in Harold's care from the first moment. Tragically, county and health care workers instead refused to allow Clay to see Harold in the hospital. The county then ultimately went one step further by isolating the couple from each other, placing the men in separate nursing homes.

    Ignoring Clay's significant role in Harold's life, the county continued to treat Harold like he had no family and went to court seeking the power to make financial decisions on his behalf. Outrageously, the county represented to the judge that Clay was merely Harold's "roommate." The court denied their efforts, but did grant the county limited access to one of Harold's bank accounts to pay for his care.

    What happened next is even more chilling.

    Without authority, without determining the value of Clay and Harold's possessions accumulated over the course of their 20 years together or making any effort to determine which items belonged to whom, the county took everything Harold and Clay owned and auctioned off all of their belongings. Adding further insult to grave injury, the county removed Clay from his home and confined him to a nursing home against his will. The county workers then terminated Clay and Harold's lease and surrendered the home they had shared for many years to the landlord.

    Three months after he was hospitalized, Harold died in the nursing home. Because of the county's actions, Clay missed the final months he should have had with his partner of 20 years. Compounding this tragedy, Clay has literally nothing left of the home he had shared with Harold or the life he was living up until the day that Harold fell, because he has been unable to recover any of his property. The only memento Clay has is a photo album that Harold painstakingly put together for Clay during the last three months of his life.

    With the help of a dedicated and persistent court-appointed attorney, Anne Dennis of Santa Rosa, Clay was finally released from the nursing home. Ms. Dennis, along with Stephen O'Neill and Margaret Flynn of Tarkington, O'Neill, Barrack & Chong, now represent Clay in a lawsuit against the county, the auction company, and the nursing home, with technical assistance from NCLR. A trial date has been set for July 16, 2010 in the Superior Court for the County of Sonoma.

    Read more about NCLR's Elder Law Project.

    Facebook group: Support Clay Greene and Marriage Equality


    project maddie in the toronto star

    The Star has a great story about Project Maddie!

    You may recall that Project Maddie is the brainchild of my friend and fellow activist Kim Ford (sometimes known as Dharma Seeker). I heard about a war-resister family in a serious financial crisis, and contacted Kim, wondering if she could connect them with resources to help feed their Golden Retriever, Maddie. The next thing I knew, we were dropping off food donations with Maddie's mom, and Kim decided it was time to launch her dream project.

    The Star story also profiles the Companion Animals Wellness Foundation, K9 Rescue Me and other initiatives to help people and animals get and stay together.

    The best thing about the story, from an organizer's point of view, is that it includes a link to the Project Maddie blog. Here's hoping the donations will soon be rolling in.

    u.k. war resister joe glenton needs our support: please email and write today

    In early March, I wrote that Joe Glenton, the first known U.K. soldier to publicly refuse to fight in Afghanistan, was about to be court martialed. I neglected to follow-up: he was sentenced to nine months in prison.

    Glenton is now facing mistreatment in prison. His appeal is scheduled for tomorrow, April 21, and his support network has asked us to send letters of protest and support to the Ministry of Defense.

    Here's information from the Stop the War Coalition (UK); below that is a model of a letter that can be sent on Glenton's behalf. Whether you copy and paste this model, or write your own letter, or send two quick sentences of support, the Ministry will count them and they will know that Joe is not alone. And Joe will know he is not alone.
    Cruel treatment of soldier refusing to fight in Afghanistan

    Soldier Joe Glenton, who was court martialled on 5 March and jailed for nine months for refusing to fight in Afghanistan, and for speaking out at anti-war demonstrations, is being subjected to cruel treatment by army prison staff.

    Joe Glenton, the British soldier who refused to return to fight in Afghanistan in a war he believed to be unjustified and unwinnable, is receiving cruel treatment at the hands of military prison staff, following his court martial and sentence to nine months imprisonment.

    The prison authorities are trying to force him to sleep under an unwashed or dirty blanket - a punishment that often leads prisoners to get body lice - and to wear boots despite the fact he has broken his toe.

    He has also received no treatment for his Post Traumatic Stress disorder despite the fact that the Judge who sentenced him 36 days ago assured the court he would receive treatment in prison.

    Problems started after complaints that he was not receiving books sent by supporters. On Thursday 8th April he was told he was to be disciplined after claims he insulted an officer.

    Joe denies the claims. The authorities refused his lawyers' application that he be represented at the disciplinary hearing.

    Joe has refused to accept the 'blanket treatment', part of a punishment called One Bravo, despite threats of solitary confinement.

    Joe's mother Sue Glenton said today: "We are seriously concerned for his welfare. This kind of bullying and victimisation is simply unacceptable. It is hardly going to help his mental state."

    John Tipple, Joe's legal caseworker, said: "This kind of treatment is from the 19th century not the 21st. We are determined to test its legality in court at the first opportunity. The military should not be allowed to get away with this cruel and degrading treatment."

    Most people in Britain oppose the war in Afghanistan. It is extraordinary that Joe Glenton, already being punished for his anti war views by a nine month prison sentence, is now being picked on by the military in prison. Stop the War will be organising protests outside the military prison where Joe is being held and at his appeal hearing against his prison sentence on Wednesday 21 April (details below).

    From Refusing To Kill, what we can do:

    * In the lead-up to Joe's appeal hearing on 21 April in London, we invite groups and individuals to picket British embassies and consulates or to organise other actions, including alerting the media. Please let us know at payday@paydaynet.org so we can publicise your actions on our website and to the press.

    * Send a message of protest to the Ministry of Defence minister: ministerial-correspondence@mod.uk.

    * Write your own message or copy and paste our model letter below. Copy your message to the Military Corrective Training Centre (Colchester) (mctcwelfare@hotmail.com) where Joe is detained, and to payday@paydaynet.org [US organizers].

    * In London, UK, on 21 April from 9:30 a.m., join the picket of the Royal Courts of Justice on The Strand in London (called by the Stop the War Coalition) to support Joe and his family, to make this international protest known and to demand the immediate release of Joe Glenton.

    + + + +

    Model Letter: ministerial-correspondence@mod.uk; mctcwelfare@hotmail.com; payday@paydaynet.org

    To: The Rt Hon. Bob Ainsworth, MP
    Secretary of State for Defence
    Ministry of Defence

    cc: Military Corrective Training Centre (Colchester); Payday men's network;

    Dear Mr Ainsworth,

    Joe Glenton, 27, joined the Army in 2004 and was sent to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2006. During his tour, he was shocked to find that the Afghan people, whom they had been told they had come to help, were fighting against British troops. Ashamed, disillusioned and traumatised by his military experience, he went absent without leave (AWOL) in 2007 and handed himself in two years later.

    Joe Glenton was jailed in November 2009 after he spoke to an anti-war rally in London. Diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), he was released five weeks later on condition that he no longer speaks publicly against the war. And this is Joe Glenton’s worst “crime”.

    On 5 March 2010, he was sentenced to nine months in jail, a harsh sentence compared to what other (less public) soldiers convicted of going AWOL have received.

    Prison conditions have also been harsh. The Army stopped Mr Glenton’s pay -- he gets only 88p a day pocket money. He cannot receive money, food, clothes or cigarettes and is only allowed ten minutes a week for telephone calls and (apart from his lawyer) two hours a week for visits.

    He is suffering additional mistreatment: after complaints that he had not received books sent by supporters, the prison authorities accused Mr Glenton of insulting an officer, a charge he denies. They are trying to force Mr Glenton to sleep under a dirty blanket - a punishment that often leads prisoners to get body lice, and to wear boots despite the fact he has a broken toe. He has refused the ‘blanket’ punishment: he is now threatened with solitary confinement. Crucially, he is getting no help whatsoever for his PTSD. These practices are totally unacceptable and we believe illegal. We urge you to stop them immediately.

    We believe that Mr Glenton is being punished because he and his family have never stopped speaking out against the war in Afghanistan, a feeling shared by the majority of British public outside and, increasingly, inside the barracks.

    Joe Glenton has already spent far too much time in jail. We request that he is released immediately so that he can go back to his family and community and access the health care his condition requires.

    Yours sincerely,

    + + + +

    For more background on Joe Glenton:

    * Joe delivers letter to prime minister Gordon Brown at Downing Street

    * Joe joins landmark demonstration against the war in Afghanistan

    * "Why I'm defying orders to join the Stop the War demonstration", by Joe Glenton

    * Soldier sentenced to nine months for refusing to fight in Afghanistan

    + + + +

    My letter:

    The Rt Hon. Bob Ainsworth, MP
    Secretary of State for Defence
    Ministry of Defence
    United Kingdom

    Dear Mr Ainsworth,

    I am writing in support of former soldier Joe Glenton.

    As you know, Glenton was sentenced to nine months in jail for refusing to serve in Afghanistan and refusing to be silent about his opposition to the war.

    I've learned that Glenton is being mistreated in prison. Indeed, being sent to prison for refusing to participate in an unjust occupation is already mistreatment. But in addition, Glenton has been refused treatment for his PTSD, is being held in inhumane, harsh conditions, cannot receive money or personal comforts from outside prison, and has severely restricted visiting time.

    The majority of people in the UK and throughout the world, including Canada, do not support the war in Afghanistan. Joe Glenton should not be punished for exercising his human right to conscience. He has already spent far too much time in jail. Please release him immediately.


    "there is evil in the world and we must recognize that. after all, gandhi destroyed the british empire and there's nothing wrong with that"

    I hope you will enjoy this wonderful video of the great environmental justice activist Vandana Shiva, part two of "Food, farming, and climate change: People-centred solutions". If you can't take 10 minutes to watch the whole thing, scroll over to about 8:00, where you'll see this wonderful exchange.


    It really strikes me that there's a good guy-bad guy thing going on and that Monsanto are sort of this evil corporation. And I'm just wondering if you had a response to being able to communicate with them in a way that's, apart from what we're doing, which is the grassroots and the local work, but a way to communicate with them to try and change their consciousness or to expand them, because, I don't know, I'm uncomfortable with the idea that they need to be destroyed in some way, but it'd be better to communicate with them."


    The communication issue of course must be kept open. But I've dealt with Monsanto now for more than 22 years, and in the 22 years it's not that they don't know. They know. It's not that they don't know that the high-cost seeds they're selling are pushing farmers into debt and that indebted farmers are committing suicide. It's not that they don't know that a vegetable grower who has only a quarter acre farm will not be able to afford the 50,000 rupee GM (genetically modified) eggplant seeds they want to sell. They too will get into debt and get wiped out. I guess I'm not so uncomfortable with the idea of deliberate destruction, because I've grown up in a society where our mythology is all about the contest between good and evil. You know, this is something new that's happening in the West, I'm finding, this discomfort of recognizing evil as evil. There is evil in the world: the people who deliberately destroy. We must recognize them for that. That doesn't mean you hate the individual in there. After all, Gandhi said he wanted to destroy the British empire and he did. There's nothing wrong with that."

    Many thanks to Dean G for sending.

    I'm writing a few more substantial posts while juggling the usual 15 other things. As I heard on a stalled New York City subway last week, "Thank you for your patience and cooperation".