anti-immigrant government propaganda you can set your watch by

First think about Bill C-49, the bill the Harper Government calls anti-smuggling, which is actually anti-refugee.

Then read this. From CBC's Inside Politics blog, Hannah Thibedeau reporting.
So a news alert comes across on my computer screen saying, "Thai officials arrest over 100 Tamil migrants heading to Canada."

The newsroom jumps on the story and we try to find out if these people were about to get on a ship to come here.

A call into Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's office points us to stories in the Thai media.

The articles are all in Thai, but we use a handy-dandy translator on the internet to translate them into English.

The Thai media reports there was an arrest of over 100 people. So how do we know they were coming to Canada?

Kenney's office says, "We aren't going to get into details. All I will do is point you to the media articles."

The translated articles say these people were headed to a third country. Then there's a reference to the story of the MV Sun Sea, a ship that arrived on Canadian shores last summer carrying about 500 Tamil asylum seekers.

So all we have is information from the Thai media -- no concrete details from the minister's office.

The Thai embassy here in Canada says it has heard no word from its government about the arrested Thai migrants trying to come to Canada.

How do we know these people were heading to Canada? At this point, we don't.

However, Kenney's office did want to add how important it is that Bill C-49 passes Parliament. That's the Conservative government's proposed bill designed to crack down on human smugglers and illegal immigrants.

Just take our word for it. We're the government. We never lie.

this is not what democracy looks like: 15% of torontonians voted for ford

From Toronto Media Coop.
While Rob Ford won the Mayoral election with 47.12 percent of the vote, only 15 percent of the city's population voted for him. Some of those who did not vote choose not to, but others were not eligible to vote or chose not have sufficient I.D.

"Toronto is ... home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people" read a press release sent out on election day. However, only 813,984 people voted in the election, that's 32.46 percent of the population. Of those 383,501 people voted for Ford.

Some Torontonians are not allowed to vote because they are not Canadian citizens or because they are under 18 years of age. There is no way to determine what percentage of eligible voters turned out at the polls.

Breakdown of Election Data:

Population in 2006 Census: 2,503,281

Registered voters before election day: 1,526,518

Votes cast: 813,984

Votes for Rob Ford: 383,501

Percent for each candidate:

Rob Ford: 47.12%

George Smitherman: 35.59%

Joe Pantalone: 11.74%


a resister's story

Someone blogging under the name "Dave Ward" is writing about his experience as a US war resister living in Canada: Living Resistance.

Those interested in this issue might like to follow his blog. Perhaps if we follow Dave, he will write more. And perhaps writing more will help him.

bill c-49: it's not anti-smuggling, it's anti-human, and it's un-canadian

This was a bad week for Canada. Rob Ford was elected mayor of Toronto. The US finally succeeded in breaking Omar Khadr into a "confession". Private Member's Bill C-300, the responsible mining bill, died in third reading when a dozen Liberals and two NDP MPs didn't vote. (Sound familiar?)

It's a bad week added to many bad weeks, and months, and years, of this anti-democratic, anti-people Conservative government and their spineless Liberal lapdogs. (My apologies to small dogs everywhere. My sister's Papillion named Pixie has more gumption than the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.)

There's one more fight this week, and it's a doozy: C-49. Jason Kenney claims it's anti-smuggling, but in reality, it's anti-refugee. It's anti-human.

Refugee claimants have no voice in Canada. That makes them easy targets for the immigrant-hating Conservative bullies. That's why we must speak for them, and for a Canada that includes justice.

I'll quote a friend who is a refugee lawyer.
The government says it wants to legislate stiffer penalties for those who engage in people smuggling. I believe at present the law provides for a stiff fine for those who engage in people smuggling but the government wants to impose prison time.

Unfortunately, the government is ALSO imposing punishment on those people who arrive in Canada with the assistance of smugglers or criminals. Such people (along with anyone the government can’t examine within a timely manner) are to be placed in mandatory detention for a period of minimum 1 year. Thereafter, if their refugee claims are accepted, they are banned from applying for permanent residence for 5 years.

Who will this impact?

The Bill will impact a lot of refugees.

Unlike Canadians who are generally visa-exempt and able to travel to wherever we please, a lot of people around the world need the special permission of a government – an entry visa – in order to get on a plane and physically leave their country. Airplanes won’t let them on without these visas. This is why a lot of refugees who are fleeing serious harm to themselves and their families must employ the assistance of others to get out. They must purchase fake passports or other means of travelling just so they can get out of their country and avoid being killed. Under the bill proposed by the conservatives, Bill c-49, it is these people who WILL - not may, WILL - be placed in prison for a year.

The Refugee Convention – the international treaty that requires Canada to grant asylum to those people who fear persecution, torture or cruel and unusual punishment in their country of origin – takes into account the reality that people fleeing persecution will often have to travel on fake documents or with the assistance of some illegitimate means and therefore orders that refugees not be punished for doing so. Bill C-49 would totally ignore that binding requirement on Canada. (No wonder Canada didn’t get a seat on the Security Council since our federal government could care less about international law or the UN).

So the bill will result in imprisoning a lot of legitimate refugees who arrive in Canada seeking asylum and the basic right to live, just because they... well... just because they did what it is acknowledged by the international community they had to do in order to save their lives. Does that seem fair or necessary to you?

Why does the 5 year ban on permanent residence status matter?

A person cannot sponsor any family members to come to Canada until they are permanent residents. So this means families – parents, kids, spouses – will remain separated from each other for at least a period of 6 years but more likely 8 or 9 when all the additional processing is taken into account.

Does that sound right to you? What benefit is derived from imposing mandatory detention for refugees? What benefit is derived from banning these people from applying for permanent residence status for 5 years?

The law will not deter smugglers from engaging in their activities. The law will only punish refugees. The bill is therefore, in my opinion, clearly anti-refugee, as opposed to anti-smuggler. The government could have merely imposed stiffer punishment on those who are the smugglers, but instead they have also decided to punish refugees, the most vulnerable of the world’s people, who need our help.

Please just take four minutes to write your MP and say: I don’t think refugees should be placed in prison. Please don’t vote yes for Bill C-49.

Go here to find your MP's contact information.

Go here to learn more about Bill C-49 and how unjust it is: Canadian Council for Refugees.

Worth reading: Tory refugee bill would have rejected Einstein.


rage against the library machine

Yesterday in my "Foundations of Library and Information Science" class, we discussed the role of the librarian in the digital era. It's a fascinating and important issue for librarian students to unpack, as there are vast implications for public services, education, equal access - and our future employment. I can't do it justice here, but I will pass along this alternative vision: the robo-library.

Wall Street Journal:
New Library Technologies Dispense With Librarians

In this suburb of St. Paul, the new library branch has no librarians, no card catalog and no comfortable chairs in which to curl up and read.

Instead, the Library Express is a stack of metal lockers outside city hall. When patrons want a book or DVD, they order it online and pick it up from a digitally locked, glove-compartment- sized cubby a few days later. It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generation.

Faced with layoffs and budget cuts, or simply looking for ways to expand their reach, libraries around the country are replacing traditional, full-service institutions with devices and approaches that may be redefining what it means to have a library.

Later this year Mesa, Ariz., plans to open a new "express" library in a strip-mall, open three days a week, with outdoor kiosks to dispense books and DVDs at all hours of the day. Palm Harbor, Fla., meanwhile, has offset the impact of reduced hours by installing glass-front vending machines that dispense DVDs and popular books.

The wave of innovation is aided by companies that have created new machines designed to help libraries save on labor. For instance, Evanced Solutions, an Indianapolis company that makes library software, this month is starting test trials of a new vending machine it plans to start selling early next year.

Read it here. Even some of the comments on that story are surprisingly worth reading.

In this vision of the library, there is no serendipitous discovery of a new book - or a new idea. There is no one to help with research. There is no children's storytime, ESL classes, or resume-writing workshops. No quiet, safe space for teens and tweens to study after school. No free internet access for the millions who cannot afford it at home. No private internet access for people who need to research something without their family's knowledge. No help for those confused about computer use but too embarrassed to ask anyone they know for help. No place for seniors to read magazines.

Really, there is no library at all.

your heart's on the left: wikileaks proves iraq war resisters were right

From your heart's on the left:
For 6 years US Iraq War resisters have been coming to Canada to seek refuge, and the Pentagon vindicates their reasons: they don’t want to take part in the daily widespread practice of killing civilians and ignoring torture. That they volunteered and signed a contract is completely irrelevant. The Nuremberg principles demand soldiers refuse participation in war crimes, and wikileaks proves that this is the daily experience in Iraq. Furthermore, the majority of Canadians and their MPs support war resisters.

The only rational conclusion from wikileaks is for the US to finally end its occupation of Iraq, and for Canada to welcome war resisters.

Read Dr. J's excellent post: 5 lies and 3 truths revealed by wikileaks.

needed: a plan to get through the next eight weeks

Yesterday a school friend - who is also a war-resisters friend - showed me her computer screen: she's following wmtc.

First I thought, how cool. Then I thought, what a crappy time to join this blog in progress. I don't blog very much or very well during the school term. I mostly pass things along and share half-formed thoughts. Earlier this year, I had a mild freak-out about this, but I've come to accept the reduced blogging (both quality and quantity) as a necessity.

My big goal this fall was to set firmer limits and stick to them: school, war resisters, work, swimming or walking. And that's it. Stop trying to fit anything else in. I've been sticking to those limits... but now I think the limits are set too high.

As I recently told another friend: I'm in over my head. I am barely keeping up, but unwilling to drop anything. I cannot afford to work myself into a fibro crash, yet I'm not pulling back. I feel like I'm rolling down a hill, faster and faster, soon to be careening out of control. Which will come first? Winter break, or slamming to the ground at the bottom of the hill?

In the years after I was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I gradually learned how to reduce the incidents of flare-ups, or crashes, as I call them. Instead of being completely out of commission for 2 or 3 days a month, I could reduce that to every-other month, then a few times a year. The flare-ups would be less severe, too, and I'd bounce back more quickly. Now, with better medication and supplements - and, undoubtedly, a good bit of luck - I haven't had any serious flare-ups for several years. All the pieces work together, but I think the single most important factor is getting enough rest.

Last fall, when I started graduate school, I felt that delicate balance being threatened for the first time in many years. At the beginning, I took a month off from the war resisters campaign and froze my gym membership. I re-joined my activism, re-joined the gym, and figured out how to do the necessary school work with the minimal possible effort. It's been working so far.

Now I feel the whole enterprise teetering. Yet I have no plan for change.

A wise friend recently emailed: "YOU have to do it. NO ONE can do it but you!" It's true. I'm not asking for your help, because there's nothing anyone else can do. But feel free to kibbitz and commiserate.

today: call your mp: urge them to support bill c-300, the responsible mining act

The world held its breath and shed tears of joy two weeks ago when the Chilean miners were rescued, but all over the world, people risk their lives and their health under similar circumstances, every single day. More than 60% of mines worldwide are owned by companies with headquarters in Canada. You can help create better protections for miners - and for the earth - by contacting your MP today.

C-330, the Responsible Mining Bill, introduced by MP John McKay (Scarborough-Guildwood), would force Canadian extraction companies operating in other countries to use Canadian environmental and labour standards. It would give the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of International Trade a mandate to hold corporations accountable for their practices, and give the House of Commons and the Senate oversight responsibility.

Bill C-300 goes to third reading tomorrow, October 27. It passed second reading by only four votes (137-133). You can be sure the extraction industries - gas, oil and mining - are doing their best to kill it in third reading. Your MP needs to hear from you.

If you know anything about mining, you know that the people who do the grueling, incredibly dangerous work need all the protections they can get. If you've never imagined what it might be like to work in a mine, I recommend George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier. For the links between mining, imperialism and colonialism - and what mining does to the countries whose riches are stripped for the profits' of others - try Eduardo Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America. And for how change is created, and at what cost, John Sayles' movie Matewan might be a good place to start.

But don't wait until you've digested those classics. Contact your MP today. If passed, Bill C-300 will:
  • put in place human rights, labour, and environmental standards that Canadian extractive companies receiving government support must live up to when they operate in developing countries;

  • create a complaints mechanism that will allow members of affected communities abroad, or Canadians, to file complaints against companies that are not living up to those standards;

  • create a possible sanction for companies that are found to be out of compliance with the standards, in the form of loss of government financial and political support.

  • The only people who oppose this bill are those who profit from extraction. Why should their profits be decreased by silly concerns like clean air, clean drinking water, safety standards, or supporting former workers dying of mesothelioma?

    For more detail, see Mining Watch Canada, and find out how your MP voted on C-300 in second reading here.

    The vote is tomorrow - making today the perfect time to call your MP and urge them to vote in favour of this important bill.

    More info:

    Montreal Gazette: Canadian mining companies need tougher rules

    The Mark: Bill C-300 is Mining for Change

    Undermining Guate, a blog about the impact of Canadian mines in Guatemala: Why Canada Needs Bill C-300

    Bill C-300 on Facebook

    Please call your MP today.


    today... (drumroll, please!)

    I am voting! In Canada! For the first time!

    Please can I vote in a federal election ASAP????

    Torontonians: Why you should vote.


    wikileaks founder assange walks out on interview with cnn

    More than 300,000 documents leaked and all CNN wants to talk about is Assange's personal life. Nice try, CNN. We will not be distracted.

    Update from redsock: If you want to hear information about the actual leaked documents and not about what Assange might or might not have done with his penis -- which is clearly what CNN has deemed the most important aspect of this event -- you have to go outside the United States. Here is a lengthy BBC report, featuring Assange and John Sloboda (Iraq Body Count).

    robert fisk: wikileaks reveal the u.s.'s shame

    Robert Fisk in The Independent:
    As usual, the Arabs knew.They knew all about the mass torture, the promiscuous shooting of civilians, the outrageous use of air power against family homes, the vicious American and British mercenaries, the cemeteries of the innocent dead. All of Iraq knew. Because they were the victims.

    Only we could pretend we did not know. Only we in the West could counter every claim, every allegation against the Americans or British with some worthy general – the ghastly US military spokesman Mark Kimmitt and the awful chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Peter Pace, come to mind – to ring-fence us with lies. Find a man who'd been tortured and you'd be told it was terrorist propaganda; discover a house full of children killed by an American air strike and that, too, would be terrorist propaganda, or "collateral damage", or a simple phrase: "We have nothing on that."

    Of course, we all knew they always did have something. And yesterday's ocean of military memos proves it yet again. Al-Jazeera has gone to extraordinary lengths to track down the actual Iraqi families whose men and women are recorded as being wasted at US checkpoints – I've identified one because I reported it in 2004, the bullet-smashed car, the two dead journalists, even the name of the local US captain – and it was The Independent on Sunday that first alerted the world to the hordes of indisciplined gunmen being flown to Baghdad to protect diplomats and generals. These mercenaries, who murdered their way around the cities of Iraq, abused me when I told them I was writing about them way back in 2003.

    It's always tempting to avoid a story by saying "nothing new". The "old story" idea is used by governments to dampen journalistic interest as it can be used by us to cover journalistic idleness. And it's true that reporters have seen some of this stuff before. The "evidence" of Iranian involvement in bomb-making in southern Iraq was farmed out to The New York Times's Michael Gordon by the Pentagon in February 2007. The raw material, which we can now read, is far more doubtful than the Pentagon-peddled version. Iranian military material was still lying around all over Iraq from the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and most of the attacks on Americans were at that stage carried out by Sunni insurgents. The reports suggesting that Syria allowed insurgents to pass through their territory, by the way, are correct. I have spoken to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers whose sons made their way to Iraq from Lebanon via the Lebanese village of Majdal Aanjar and then via the northern Syrian city of Aleppo to attack the Americans.

    But, written in bleak militarese as it may be, here is the evidence of America's shame.

    Read it here.

    wikileaks, harper, kenney, and the brave soldiers who said no to the killing fields

    More than 300,000 formerly secret documents detailing the illegal US-led occupation of Iraq has been given to New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel. Al Jazeera English was also given access to the documents, 12 weeks in advance of the official leakage.

    The documents are being called "Iraq War Logs," and they demand our attention. So do the brave men and women who said "NO" to this horror, at great cost to themselves. We can support peace by supporting military resistance to war.

    Right now, the WikiLeaks site is often down from high traffic. Their announcement reads:
    At 5pm EST Friday 22nd October 2010 WikiLeaks released the largest classified military leak in history. The 391,832 reports ('The Iraq War Logs'), document the war and occupation in Iraq, from 1st January 2004 to 31st December 2009 (except for the months of May 2004 and March 2009) as told by soldiers in the United States Army. Each is a 'SIGACT' or Significant Action in the war. They detail events as seen and heard by the US military troops on the ground in Iraq and are the first real glimpse into the secret history of the war that the United States government has been privy to throughout.

    The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 'civilians'; 23,984 'enemy' (those labeled as insurgents); 15,196 'host nation' (Iraqi government forces) and 3,771 'friendly' (coalition forces). The majority of the deaths (66,000, over 60%) of these are civilian deaths.That is 31 civilians dying every day during the six year period. For comparison, the 'Afghan War Diaries', previously released by WikiLeaks, covering the same period, detail the deaths of some 20,000 people. Iraq during the same period, was five times as lethal with equivalent population size.

    New York Times

    The Guardian

    Der Spiegel English edition

    Al Jazeera English

    Canadian history:

    Jason Kenney angrily defends George W. Bush as Iraq War begins - March 20, 2003: watch

    Stephen Harper's Conservatives wanted Canada to join the war in Iraq: watch.

    Stephen Harper himself admits the Iraq War was "absolutely an error": watch.

    From the War Resisters Support Campaign:

    Wikileaks documents show US Iraq War resisters were right

    Canadians renew call for Harper and Kenney to let Iraq War resisters stay

    Newly released US Military documents from Wikileaks, detailing widespread civilians deaths in Iraq, provide unequivocal proof that Iraq War resisters did the right thing. The government of Canada should heed the will of the majority of Canadians who support the stance taken by these young men and women, and stop deporting them to jail in the US.

    The leaked Pentagon files reveal that according to the US military’s own statistics, the Iraq War has so far killed more than 109,000 people, of whom more than 66,000 were civilians.

    The documents affirm the wisdom of Canada’s decision not to participate in an illegal war that has produced widespread atrocities from the individual torture in Abu Ghraib to the mass killings documented in the recently leaked files. They provide further justification for the position of the majority of Canadians who continue to oppose the war, believe the Prime Minister’s statement that the Iraq War is “absolutely an error” because weapons of mass destruction were never found, and support the US troops who came to the same conclusion.

    By the Nuremberg Principles soldiers have an obligation to refuse unlawful orders. Yet in a stunning move, Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney has sought to label those US soldiers who refused to follow unlawful orders in Iraq as “criminals.”

    Operational Bulletin 202, issued by Citizenship and Immigration Canada on July 22, flags US Iraq war resisters as potentially “criminally inadmissible” to Canada.

    Peter Showler, former chair of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board, says, “The bulletin implies that military deserters from the US should be treated differently than deserters from other countries. There is no basis in law for that proposition.”

    Amnesty International Canada has also written to Minister Kenney, calling for the withdrawal of Operational Bulletin 202 because it “misstates the law and seeks to intrude on the independence of both IRB members and Immigration Officers.”

    Minister Kenney’s announcement that Canada will extend measures for Iraqi refugees, merely hours after the Wikileaks documents were released, was deliberately timed to be a distraction.

    “Of course our government should be doing more to help Iraqi families who have suffered from this unnecessary war,” said Michelle Robidoux, spokesperson for the War Resisters Support Campaign. “Minister Kenney must also stop his vendetta against veterans who tried to end the Iraq War sooner. Minister Kenney’s announcement today was timed to distract from his party’s record on the Iraq War and the fact that he and Mr. Harper are deporting Iraq War resisters who did the right thing.”

    “Parliament has voted twice to stop the deportations and to let Iraq War resisters stay,” Robidoux continued. “Mr. Harper’s belated realization that the Iraq War is ‘absolutely an error,’ will continue to be lip service until he stops punishing these courageous men and women who, like Canada, refused to participate in this unjust war.” [See original for important links.]

    * * * *

    War resister Joshua Key talks to the Canadian Press about the Iraq War Logs.

    War resister Phil McDowell speaks to CTV about the Iraq War logs (click on video link at right).

    * * * *

    Speak out on behalf of US war resisters in Canada. Let them stay!

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper

    Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism

    Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Opposition, Leader, Liberal Party

    Jack Layton, Leader, New Democratic Party

    Giles Duceppe, Leader, Bloc Québécois


    when we train people to kill, why are we so surprised when they kill?

    Russell Williams in context:

    First: Colonel Williams and violence in the military by Dr. J of your heart's on the left.

    Follow the trail of violence from basic training, to whatever foreign war you can think of, and back home again. When we train people to dehumanize and kill other people, why are we so shocked when they do just that?

    Then: The horrific Williams murders were about power not personal fetishes by Elizabeth Pickett, writing at Rabble.

    These were not only murders: they were rape-murders. Watching media reaction, you'd think Williams' victims were the only women raped and murdered in Canada, ever.

    Please read both these excellent pieces: here and here.

    If we don't look at this in context of both war and everyday violence against women, it's just another celebrity story.

    + + + +

    Others who get it: La Zerbisias and Rose DiManno, who I would have never seen, so double thanks to Antonia.

    advice needed: we really did not use all this water

    Yesterday I received a water bill from the Region of Peel. These bills cover a three-month period and usually run around around $60.

    My current bill is $494.43.

    Our average daily water usage is usually 4M or 5M. On this bill, it's 38M.

    [Correction: our past average daily consumption has been 330 litres, 538 litres, 337 litres, 404 litres, and so on. On this bill, our average daily consumption is 3,918 litres.

    The 4M or 5M figure represents our consumption for the entire three-month period. On this bill, it is 38M.]

    I don't know what unit of measurement an "M" is, but I know we didn't use an 38 of them - nine times our normal water usage.

    I immediately called Peel, expecting to hear that they had a computer problem and were issuing everyone new bills. Instead, the rep suggested I check the meter to see if it coincided with their reading. It did. It was only very slightly higher from the end of the billing cycle until the day of my phone call. Thus, they said, we used this water. The end.

    We've now placed several calls to Peel. We've been told that there is no way that a water meter can malfunction. It works, they say, much like an odometer. The car wheels turn, the numbers representing kilometers or miles turn with it. The water in the pipes moves past the meter, the numbers turn. The meter supposedly cannot accelerate or turn at an incorrect rate. So we are told.

    The meter also has a flow indicator. If the flow indicator is moving, water is running in your home. So if you're not aware of any water use, but the flow indicator is moving, that means there is a leak. The flow indicator on our meter was not running.

    The Region of Peel representatives tell us that the two most likely culprits for overly high water bills are running toilets or outside faucets left open, sometimes from vandalism. We have had neither. What's more, we've had a running toilet on occasion in years past, and it never accounted for anything even close to this kind of water bill.

    We asked for a day-by-day breakdown of the billing cycle, so we could see exactly when this crazy water usage supposedly occurred. They said they cannot supply that.

    Now a technician will come to the house to check the meter. But we're told this is done "as a courtesy," to see if there is a leak (which there isn't).

    I usually pay my bill in full online, but in this case, I will write a cheque for the amount of a typical bill, as a show of good faith, and send it with a letter explaining the partial payment.

    Then what?

    How do I handle this? Can my MPP help me? The City of Mississauga? The Region of Peel does not appear to have an ombudsman. Ontario has an Ombudsman, and it appears that they handle municipal matters. Does this qualify? Is it too soon for to take that step?

    Any advice?


    mysterious mississauga municipal elections (updated)

    Update below

    Like the City of Toronto, the City of Mississauga will hold municipal elections on Monday, October 25. (Advance voting is already over.) But unlike the elections in Toronto, the elections in Mississauga attract very little attention, including, I think, for most residents of Mississauga. There are lawn signs everywhere announcing candidates' names in big bold letters, but other than that... almost nothing.

    This is the first election for which I'm eligible to vote in Canada, and municipal elections can be very important, and Allan and I both want to vote. But we have no idea who to vote for. We have no idea what any mayoral or city councillor candidate in our ward stands for.

    I did some research, or tried to. I started at the Mississauga Elections website, and from there visited various candidates' websites. These turned out to be either nonexistent, or a confusing mess, or the blandest rhetoric ("working together, we can make this city a better place..."), or ridiculous wishful thinking (let's lower taxes, increase services and make everyone rich!).

    I know a few activists in Mississauga, people who care about public sector jobs, the environment, public transit and other municipal issues. Is anyone familiar with any of the candidates in Ward 4? Is there a progressive person running for Mayor? Hazel McCallion will win, of course, but is there a progressive alternative I can support? No one knows.

    Many of my neighbours are displaying lawn signs, either for the incumbent, or for a candidate whose last name reflects their own ethnic background. Not much of a way to choose a candidate. The pamphlet we received from the incumbent, Frank Dale, gave me the creeps. Everyone pictured in it was white, and there was no mention of diversity or multiculturalism - this, in one of the most diverse, multicultural cities in North America. Councillor Dale also wants to bring more police to Mississauga to maintain order and security. Let me tell you, Mississauga is pretty orderly and secure. Crime should not be a high priority. So I'm disinclined to vote for Mr. Dale. But is this really enough to go on? No. And who do I vote for instead? No idea.

    There is one potential source of information: debates and candidates statements on Rogers Channel 10, the local access channel. They seem to rebroadcast the debates often (why not, there's nothing else to show), and there's probably video somewhere. Are the debates a bunch of softballs and innocuous statements? I'll find out.

    But even with this option, my point remains. If a concerned resident doing research can't find out who stands for what, how are people making ballot decisions? It doesn't bode well.

    Update. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but: RogersTV to the rescue! Channel 10 is local programming all over Rogers' territory. At this very moment, I am watching a debate among candidates for councillors for Ward 4. I think I found the only progressive - or at least small-l liberal - in the bunch: George Kairys.

    In addition, my socialist/labour/peace-activist friend in Mississauga has recommended a mayoral candidate, and I'll be watching out for him in the mayoral debate that I'm taping this weekend.

    Hooray! I'm going to vote!

    why strategic voting sucks

    Many people in Toronto hate Rob Ford and are horrified that he might soon be the mayor of their great city.

    Many of the same people are uncomfortable with George Smitherman, who is less offensive than Ford, but politically different only by degree. There's a reason Joe Pantalone calls Smitherman "the return of Mike Harris," and why dozens of Tories line up to endorse him.

    These same folks who hate Rob Ford and dislike George Smitherman tend to like Joe Pantalone. They believe he would make a good mayor. But, because they believe he has no chance of winning, they claim they must "vote strategically" for the "lesser of two evils".


    Your candidate has no chance of winning? Vote for him and give him a better chance of winning.

    Lesser of two evils? You are voting for evil. Why do you want to vote for evil? Why are you content to vote for evil when there is an alternative?

    I'm not here to argue Ford vs Smitherman vs Pantalone. To me it is very obvious that Pantalone is the only progressive candidate, and progressive people should vote for him.

    I'm here to state a very simple fact: vote for who you want. Vote for the candidate who best represents your values. If every Torontonian eligible to vote votes for the person he or she prefers for mayor, Toronto will get the mayor it wants. But if people vote for who they think is less-worse, then the best you'll get is less-worse. And less-worse is not good.

    Don't be fooled by appearances and rhetoric. The mainstream Canadian media acts like Barack Obama is the polar opposite of his predecessor in the White House. But their policies are nearly identical, and in some areas, Obama is worse. George Smitherman may not be as scary as Rob Ford, but what does he stand for? What is his vision for Toronto?

    And for dog's sake, don't vote for the man because he's gay. That's just stupid. Unless you're prepared to argue that all gay people think exactly alike - meaning, gay people are stereotypes and cartoons, not real people - then don't vote for someone because he's gay. Or because she's a woman. Or brown. Or white.

    When you vote for a centre-right candidate to keep a right-wing candidate from getting in, you help move the centre further to the right. And every time the centre moves rightward, so does the right wing. And progressive thought becomes ever more marginalized, and more people say the progressive candidate has no chance of winning, and so they vote centre-right, and on it goes.

    For a demonstration of what happens when people continually vote for the lesser of two evils with no viable alternative, look no further than our neighbours to the south. If you think you can distinguish between the Democrats and the Republicans - not on rhetoric, on action - you might want to check the voting records.

    When there are only two candidates running, the "lesser of two evils" argument might make sense. I say "might," because I am personally done with voting for evil, at all, ever. But if there is an alternative, you don't have to vote for any evil. You can vote for the person you want.

    So please, do that.


    the end of dadt: unit cohesion does not appear to be compromised

    So Don't Ask Don't Tell is supposedly history.

    Naturally, I support the right of queer Americans to serve in the US military, because I believe in the equality of all people, and the right of all people to self-determination.

    But I find it difficult to celebrate this as a victory.

    stop the deployment of traumatized troops: support ivaw's operation recovery

    Iraq Veterans Against the War has launched its first-ever strategic campaign: Operation Recovery. From IVAW:
    The Issue

    Thousands of troops are being sent to war despite suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Many of us within IVAW have faced or are currently facing deployment as we try to recover from the severe trauma we have already experienced.

    While we recognize that we must stop the deployment of all soldiers in order to end the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, we see the deployment of soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and Military Sexual Trauma as particularly cruel, inhumane, and dangerous. Military commanders across all branches are pushing service members far past human limits for the sake of 'combat readiness.' We cannot allow those commanders to continue to ignore the welfare of their troops who are, after all, human beings.

    There is a problem, a basic right is being denied, and we will organize to get it back.

    This issue affects all of us. Everyone needs to recognize that the improper standards of care in the military and VA are harming our brothers and sisters, our nation, and only furthers the cycle of dehumanization and destruction of these wars.

    Service Members have the Right to Heal

    Because the military is desperate for warm bodies in the field, and the VA doesn't have the resources to serve all those in need, too often service members are conveniently denied care or access to quality mental health screenings. We say, service members with PTSD, TBI, MST, and combat stress have the right to high quality health care. They have the right to seek care and pursue treatments in the best interest of their health and well-being.

    Please go to IVAW's Operation Recovery website to learn more.

    How does the US military deal with the trauma they create? Ask Ethan McCord. Here's an excerpt from an excellent piece called "Invisible Wounds: Mental Health and the Military," by Mark Thompson, writing in Time magazine.
    US Army specialist Ethan McCord was one of the first on the scene when a group of suspected insurgents was blown up on a Baghdad street in 2007, hit by 30-mm bursts from an Apache Helicopter. "The top of one guy's head was completely off," he recalls. "Another guy was ripped open from groin to neck. A third had lost a leg... Their insides were out and exposed. I'd never seen anything like this before." Then McCord heard a child crying from a black minivan caught in the barrage. Inside, he found a frightened and wounded girl, perhaps 4. Next to her was a boy of 7 or so, soaked in blood. Their father, McCord says, "was slumped over on his side, like he was trying to protect the children, but he was just destroyed. McCord couldn't look away from the kids. "I started seeing images of my own two children back home in Kansas." . . . .

    That night, he told his staff sergeant he needed help. "Get the sand out of your vagina," McCord says his sergeant responded. "He told me I was being a homo and needed to suck it up."

    If you're reading this in New York City, IVAW is looking for volunteers to be trained for the GI Rights Hotline. The Hotline is often the only place service members can go for correct, unbiased information on their rights within the military.

    There will be a training session on October 23 and 24, both days from 10 am to 4 pm. The training will include information on military law, service members' rights, and conscientious objection. Bill Galvin, an expert soldier-advocacy counselor from the Center on Conscience and War, will speak about military law, discharges, conscientious objection, and discrimination.

    Volunteering for the GI Rights Hotline is a unique opportunity to dig in and really support the troops - and support peace. For more information or to attend, use the contact information below.

    WHAT: GI Rights Hotline Volunteer Training

    WHEN: October 23 and 24, 10:00 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    WHERE: IVAW National Office, 630 9th Avenue, Suite 807, New York


    IVAW is asking for a $10 donation to help cover their costs. A light breakfast and lunch will be provided.

    * * * *

    Many thanks to NN for sending me the info on the training session.

    Please support Operation Recovery in any way you can.

    alex hundert, the g20, and our civil liberties being flushed away

    Between school and war resisters, my blog time is very limited these days. I've been reading about the events surrounding activist Alex Hundert, that is, the very real threat to all of our basic civil liberties. I haven't been able to write anything myself, so I'll just redirect you to someone who has.

    For the best news and analysis on this, see Dr Dawg:
    Alex Hundert, an anarchist arrested for G20 actions before a single demonstrator was even on the street, is back in jail. As many readers will know, he was out on bail when he was re-arrested by seven police officers for speaking on a university panel. Allegedly this was a breach of previous bail conditions that forbade his attendance at political demonstrations. An evidently brain-dead justice of the peace--no legal training is required for these patronage appointees--agreed with the cops, and he was jailed over Thanksgiving.

    At a new bail hearing this week, he was told he would be freed, but only upon several new conditions, including (pay close attention here, Canada) no expressing political views in public, including in the media. He said no to that, and as of this writing he's behind bars.

    Not that the corporate media give a damn about this obvious breach of what used to be our Charter rights. As of this writing, the news about Hundert has appeared in all of two places: Rabble.ca and the Vancouver Media Co-op.

    The above post has two updates, and you can get all caught up there.

    There's also very good coverage from Peace, order and good government, eh? and a statement from the Canadian Association of Journalists at Rabble.

    This is scary stuff, and if we think it's insignificant because it's happening to only one person, that's even scarier. We shouldn't need anyone to quote the old saw that ends with "...and then they came for me." It's happening here, in my country, to someone. Isn't that enough reason to speak out?


    "refusing orders, crossing borders": a report on the war resisters event in fort erie

    On Saturday, October 16, a panel of 11 Iraq War resisters spoke about their experiences in the US military and what caused each of them to desert and come to Canada.

    Peace activists from Toronto, western New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio gathered to hear these stories of courage and resistance, of people who found the strength to stand up and say "No!" to the most powerful military in human history. The event was held at St. Paul's Anglican Church in Fort Erie, Ontario, co-sponsored by the Buffalo, New York, chapter of Veterans for Peace, and the War Resisters Support Campaign.

    After brief welcomes from Reverend Mark Gladding, pastor of the Ft. Erie church, and Reverend Rob Hurkmans, of the Anglican Church in Port Colborne, Ontario, the war resisters told pieces of their stories in a panel discussion.

    * * * *

    Justin Colby was trained as a medic and he spoke of the military's complete disregard for human life in Iraq. His unit would work on both US soldiers and injured Iraqis – but he was ordered not to use anesthesia on Iraqis suffering from severe trauma. Less experienced medics were ordered to practice their skills on Iraqi patients. If one of them died during surgery, Justin said, no one thought it was any big deal.

    Chris Vassey said his unit was told that accessing health services made the unit look bad – so no one would be allowed to get health services, even if they were sick. Their commanders falsified information on combat-related mental health issues – making it look like there were none – in addition to ridiculing and punishing anyone who tried to get help. Chris has learned a trade in Canada: he is currently helping build a hospital. "After all the things I destroyed over there, maybe now I can build a place where people will heal."

    Dean Walcott wasn't a good student in high school: "Going to university or college would have been a complete waste of time and money." The military gave him structure and a strong work ethic. He knew going to war one day might be a possibility, but he expected there would be solid reason for making that sacrifice. He grew to understand the only reason he was serving in the Iraq War was because "the president said so" – and that was not good enough. Not after he saw the mangled, charred bodies at the hospital in Germany where families would be flown in to see their mortally wounded child or spouse one last time. Walcott was also assigned to recruiting young people for the military. For him, that was the last straw before he boarded a greyhound for Toronto.

    Chuck Wiley, a 17-year veteran and the oldest person on the panel, was stationed on an aircraft carrier. He learned that many of the bombing runs his planes flew had nothing to do with fighting insurgents or assisting ground troops: they were clearing the path for oil pipeline construction. Wiley was only a few years away from a generous Navy pension, but he knew he could no longer be a part of "Halliburton's Navy" (as someone in his unit called it). When asked about his decision to desert, Chuck said, "It wasn't a decision so much as my life taking a different course. It didn't ask myself, what should I do? I had to leave. I couldn't unlearn what I knew."

    Joshua Key, whose experiences are detailed in the book A Deserter's Tale, spoke about trying to convince his cousin not to enlist. The cousin deployed to Iraq and when he was home on leave, told Josh that he wished he could have done what Josh did. Josh's cousin redeployed to Afghanistan. A few weeks later, he had both legs and one arm blown off in an explosion.

    Before Ryan Johnson was ordered to deploy, he heard stories on base from soldiers who had already deployed. He saw the terrible shape they were in, the effects of PTSD. He started having nightmares – not that he would be killed in Iraq, but that he would survive, and have to live in that condition. Ryan went AWOL right before deployment. He's been in Canada four times as long as he was in the US military.

    To the question of why they joined the military, the war resisters' answers repeated two themes: economics and patriotism. Phil McDowell joined a few weeks after September 11, 2001, believing his country was in danger and wanting to help. Josh Key was working as a welder for $7.25 an hour with no health insurance, and had a family to support. Kimberly Rivera had hit the pay ceiling at Wal-Mart, so the company brought in a cheaper replacement. Military recruiters were a permanent fixture at Kim's Texas high school, and she grew up believing that the US were the "good guys", working to make the world a safer and more democratic place.

    Dale Landry finds a more open, accepting attitude in Canada, less judgement, less pressure to conform. "In Canada, I can be a socialist. In Canada, I can be an atheist," and no one cares. Dale appreciates living in a country that doesn't care whether or not the Prime Minister goes to church. "In one country people are screaming about whether the President is a Muslim. In this country, I don't know what church, if any, Michael Ignatieff belongs to – and I'm so glad I don't know."

    Chuck Wiley picked up on that theme to remind us why multiculturalism matters. "It's a lot harder to say, let's go kill all these Muslims, and get people to follow you, if the family next door is Muslim and there's a Muslim community around the corner. That's why I value Canada's multiculturalism so much – that's why we need it."

    Asked whether they are estranged from family members because of their decision to desert – because of the family members' disapproval - nine of the 11 resisters raised their hand. Many of the resisters have lost family members while in Canada and were unable to go home to attend the funeral. They've sacrificed a lot – but each of them said they will never regret their decision to leave the killing.

    * * * *

    After lunch, Ashlea Brockway spoke about her husband, Jeremy Brockway, who suffers from severe depression and PTSD from his experiences in Iraq.

    The audience watched excerpts from a video interview, because Jeremy's condition makes it impossible for him to appear in public. He spends most of his time alone in one room in their apartment, afraid he will have a flashback and hurt his wife or their two children. Jeremy has tried to commit suicide twice.

    On the video, Jeremy speaks in a soft voice and never looks directly at the camera. His head and upper body never move, his blank expression never changes. Wringing his hands together, he pauses between sentences, between memories.

    He recalled that a few days after blowing up what he was told was an empty building, he saw Iraqi parents dragging the burned corpses of their children from the rubble. An Iraqi policeman, his friend, bled to death on the street because command said it was cheaper to pay the man's family a token life insurance rather than risk any damage to a helicopter.

    After the video, Ashlea Brockway addressed the audience. She's an incredibly articulate speaker, always relating their own heartbreaking experience to the larger picture: veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress symptoms, how the military has abandoned them. "The soldiers have already given of themselves. They can't take that back. But because they are not in good standing with the military, the military doesn't meet their side of the bargain – the veteran can no longer get health care or services. But the problems they are having are a direct result of the service they gave. If they could have gotten treatment and services while they were in the service, they wouldn't have gone AWOL."

    Jeremy Brockway tried repeatedly to get a medical discharge: his commanding officer shredded his papers in front of his face. He was ridiculed, bullied, harassed – persecuted – for trying to get a medical discharge. This was clearly meant to send a message to any other troops considering doing the same.

    Ashlea said, "I heard the Minister [of Citizenship and Immigration] say that war resisters are clogging up the refugee system, slowing things down for 'real' refugees. But I don't believe he cares about real refugees. Parliament passed a motion that would have taken us out of the refugee system. He could have implemented that, and the refugee system would be free of our cases, but he chose to ignore it."

    For more on Ashlea and Jeremy Brockway, please see this post, my report on Ashlea's talk in Port Colborne. I posted some local stories about the Brockways here.

    This family needs our help. They need Canada. If Jeremy is sent back to the US, there is a very real possibility that he will not survive.

    * * * *

    After a short break, Michelle Robidoux addressed the audience, giving a brief history of the War Resisters Support Campaign, how we got here and where we are going now. She focused on Operational Bulletin 202, Jason Kenney's illegal and unjust singling out of war resisters for automatic rejection. Bulletin 202 is the formal, institutional extension of Jason Kenney's public comments calling war resisters "bogus" refugee claimants. (Reaction to Bulletin 202 from Amnesty International and a former chair of the Immigration and Refugee Board: here and here.)

    Michelle reminded us that passing a private member's bill is a huge undertaking – most fail. This one sought a change in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, an enormous undertaking in itself. And still, it was defeated by only seven votes. The war resisters have the complete support of the NDP, the Bloc Quebecois and a strong majority of the Liberal MPs.

    Now that the bill has failed, there is a possibility that war resisters will be deported – but not a probability. We are doing everything we can to keep US war resisters in Canada, and we're more determined than ever to fight this to the end.

    * * * *

    The day ended with a walk to the river, the United States only half a kilometer away on the other side. War resisters and their supporters stood together side by side, shoulder to shoulder, in solidarity, always.

    Many thanks to redsock for helping me write this post.

    The war resisters who participated in the event and their partners:

    Video by Russell of Adopt Resistance.


    amnesty international, former irb chair decry harper govt interference in refugee process

    Canadian Press:
    Outlast Harper, likely stay in Canada, Chow tells war deserters

    American war deserters may get to stay in Canada if they outlast the federal Conservative government, New Democrat MP Olivia Chow said on Saturday.

    Chow's comments came as the Americans met with their supporters to try to decide what to do next after a bill that would've allowed the deserters to stay in Canada was defeated in Parliament earlier this month.

    Chow says her party and the Bloq Quebecois are in favour of letting the Americans stay.

    "There would be a chance if the Conservatives lose power in this election, (deserters) might still be in Canada I hope," Chow said in an interview from Ottawa.

    "I suspect we might have a spring election so their fate is in the hands of some of the Liberals and Conservative MPs," she said.

    Michelle Robidoux, a spokeswoman for the deserters, said about 80 Canadians and Americans gathered for a panel discussion on Saturday in the Ontario border town of Fort Erie.

    They hope to gain support by educating people about the reasons why deserters moved north instead of following deployment orders to Iraq, Robidoux said.

    "When people hear what it is that motivated them, but also what they've given up to seek asylum in Canada, I think it's obvious to most people that Canada should let them stay and not send them to face punishment in jail," she said.

    Drop war-resister policy: rights activists

    A new immigration policy is denying American war resisters due process, human rights advocates say, and they are calling on the government to rescind it.

    About 200 U.S. soldiers who fled the Iraq war are in Canada, and the recently introduced policy singles out their refugee claims for special attention. The policy, called Operational Bulletin 202, says that because deserting the military is a crime, the war resisters may not be eligible for asylum.

    War resister Phil McDowell said he will never forget the day he decided to flee to Canada.

    "It was a difficult decision to make, thinking I might not ever go back or see my family again," McDowell said.

    McDowell came to Toronto four years ago. He had just finished a year-long tour in Iraq, and didn't like what he saw there.

    "Just the general resentment toward the population. . . a real racist sentiment toward the Iraqis that I felt uncomfortable with," he said.

    McDowell was ordered to go back to Iraq for another tour of duty, but he refused. "I was looking for justification to convince myself we were there for good reasons, but the more I looked the clearer it became that that just wasn't the case," he said.

    Upon his arrival in Canada, he applied for refugee status.

    However, any conscientious objector from the United States faces the new guidelines when they seek the protection McDowell sought.

    The guidelines instruct immigration officers to red-flag U.S. military deserters and contact a supervising authority rather than deal with the cases themselves. There are some concerns it could be applied retroactively.

    Peter Showler, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and a former chairman of the Immigration and Refugee Board for three years, said the policy "smacks of government interference." [Ed note: Here is Peter Showler's response to Bulletin 202.]

    He said each case should be decided on independently and on its own merits.

    "What it is telling immigration officers is: Don't you dare make a positive decision without our seeing it first," Showler said. "There's going to be a lot of institutional pressure not to make positive decisions in cases where, manifestly, they should be positive."

    In a recent letter, Amnesty International Canada urged Jason Kenney, minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, to withdraw Bulletin 202.

    "It gives rise to the very real concern that this a way of managing the cases in a way which is going to ensure that a maximum number are not accepted," said Alex Neve, Amnesty's secretary general.

    And, believe it or not, a good story on Operational Bulletin 202 in the National Post.

    Your letters in response to these stories are needed - and important. Write to the National Post here. You know voices of reason are always needed at that venue.


    a trio of smackdowns for canadian conservatives: the u.n., the citizenship guide and fox news north

    Stephen Harper and his merry band of Canadian Conservatives suffered a trio of defeats in the past week - which is another way of saying that we, the people who want to reverse the damage the Harper government has done to Canada, enjoyed a series of significant victories.
  • First, the world said no to the Harper foreign policy agenda when the UN denied Canada a seat on the UN Security Council. Haroon Siddiqui has an excellent round-up of why the UN very rightly said no to Canada, and how the Conservatives are typically and lamely trying to spin their defeat.
    It’s not just his pro-Israeli stance that made Canada a pariah at the UN. He:

    • Sabotaged the UN climate accord.

    • Decried the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    • Downgraded UN peacekeeping — to 160 Canadian soldiers out of 105,500 worldwide, placing Canada 57th, behind Yemen and Uganda. (Tuesday, the day we lost the vote, was the anniversary of Lester B. Pearson’s Nobel Peace Prize for inventing peacekeeping.)

    • Diminished our role at the UN and its agencies.

    • Diverted Canadian funds from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency to the Palestinian Authority, to boost Mahmoud Abbas against rival Hamas.

    • Thwarted a probe into the alleged torture of Afghan detainees.

    • Left Omar Khadr to rot in Guantanamo Bay, while defending the policy of indefinite detention as well as the American military’s kangaroo courts.

    In many of the above policies, Harper copied George W. Bush. Whereas America has shaken them off, the Prime Minister is still pursuing them.

    Of course, that last paragraph is completely wrong. Obama hasn't "shaken off" the policies of his predecessors; he has reinforced and extended them. This is typical of mainstream Canadian commentary: the US taken at face value. But the column is well worth reading, especially for the neat summary of how the Tories are trying to spin this defeat as a victory.

  • It was announced that new editions of the guide to Canadian citizenship will refer to legal same-sex marriage and the fact that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This wouldn't be news if it hadn't been proven - thanks to Access to Information requests by the Canadian Press - that Jason Kenney himself had all mention of LGBT rights stripped from the citizenship guide.
    Internal documents show an early draft of the guide contained sections noting that homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969; that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation; and that same-sex marriage was legalized nationally in 2005.

    But Kenney, who fought same-sex marriage when it was debated in Parliament, ordered those key sections removed when his office sent its comments to the department last June. Senior department officials duly cut out the material, but made a last-ditch plea with Kenney in early August to have it reinstated.

    "Recommend the re-insertion of the text boxes related to ... the decriminalization of homosexual sex/recognition of same-sex marriage," says a memorandum to Kenney from deputy minister Neil Yeates.

    "Recommend the addition of 'equality rights' under list of rights. Had noted earlier that this bullet should be reinserted into the list as a means of noting the equality of all based on race, gender, sexual orientation etc..."

    In the end, however, Kenney's view trumped that of the bureaucrats. The 63-page guide, released with fanfare last November, contains no mention of gay and lesbian rights.

    Wmtc readers know that equal rights for LGBT citizens weren't the only good thing about Canada omitted from the new citizenship guide: peace, social justice and the environment were all cut, making for more room for war, distrust of immigrants and as many mentions of the Queen as they could stuff in. For more on that, see my comparison of the current citizenship guide with the previous version: short version here, full version here.

  • And finally, I hope you've all heard the good news about "Fox News North": Quebecor has dropped its bid for special treatment from the CRTC.
    It was Quebecor's second shot at special treatment: first, in March, it applied for a rare licence from the CRTC, which would have required cable and satellite companies to carry Sun TV News on their services. That type of licence, known as Category 1 (soon to be Category A), is currently not being granted by the regulator, and it rejected Quebecor's application.

    The company then tried again in July, asking for a much more common Category 2 licence to operate a specialty channel. But in that run-of-the-mill application, it included a request for "must offer" conditions – requiring distributors to offer the channel during its first three years, on at least one tier of their services. The company argued this was different from must-carry status because it let consumers decide whether to subscribe.

    There can be little doubt that Quebecor was pushed into this retreat by public pressure. From Avaaz:
    83,000 of us signed the petition, 25,000 sent letters to the CRTC and 4,000 donated over $115,000 - and last week SunTV, seeing they could not win, dropped their request to the government to force cable companies to carry them. A huge congrats to everyone on this amazing victory for Canada!

    It wasn't easy -- the Sun media empire threw everything they had at us - smear pieces, legal threats, even insider knowledge of sabotage of our campaigns -- but our united voices proved more powerful than even a Harper-allied corporate giant.

    I frequently hear progressive Canadian friends lament how Canada is "becoming the United States". I have a solid list of reasons why that isn't so, but this post points out a central difference: here, it's still possible to create change. Keep speaking out.
  • 10.14.2010

    lawrence martin: "countless examples of the intolerant streak that marks this government"

    In case you missed it, here's an excellent column by Lawrence Martin in the Globe and Mail from earlier this week. I'm pleased to note it bears a strong resemblance to something I recently wrote. I'm even more pleased to see Martin's prominent reference to US war resisters seeking refuge in Canada.
    Canadians have gained a reputation as a fair-minded people. There have been exceptions through our history, but, by and large, we have been seen as a moderate and tolerant country.

    We didn’t do guilt by association, for example. But that’s what so distressing about the character of today’s Conservatives. They revel in it. The most recent manifestation is the cancellation of a speech by the head of the Canadian Islamic Congress at the National Defence Headquarters. Many years ago, a former director of the group made some remarks – vile remarks – about Israelis over the age of 18 being legitimate targets for suicide bombers.

    By all accounts, new director Imam Zijad Delic repudiates that extremism. By all accounts, he is trying to bridge the divide. But the Conservatives tar him with the same brush and won’t allow him to give a speech at the National Defence Headquarters. Imagine the harm it would have done!

    There are countless examples of the intolerant streak that marks this government. Canada opposed the Iraq war, yet we won’t allow a haven to Americans who opposed fighting in that war, as we did with Vietnam. We’re probably the only G20 country that tried to bar George Galloway, at the time a British MP, from coming to speak. Minister of State Diane Ablonczy was stripped of some of her responsibilities for her support of Gay Pride week. Those criticizing aspects of our Afghanistan policy are berated for not supporting our troops. If a bank executive like Ed Clark criticizes government economic policy, he’s pilloried for supposedly being motivated by politics rather than economic expertise.

    The tolerant Canada of old would have allowed Omar Khadr his basic Charter rights. The tolerant Canada of the past would have allowed our federal scientists to express their views, not have them vetted by political operatives. It would allow sophisticated research at the Justice Department to see the light of day even if it contradicted government sentencing policy, and it would give full wing to data collection by Statistics Canada. . . . [Read more here.]

    I'm sure most Canadian wmtc readers are planning to read Martin's new book, Harperland, if you haven't read it already. It's the first book on my winter-break non-school reading list.

    this saturday: refusing orders, crossing borders: a dialogue with u.s. war resisters

    On Saturday, October 16, the Buffalo, New York chapter of Veterans for Peace and the War Resisters Support Campaign will co-host a special event in Ft. Erie, Ontario. "Refusing Orders / Crossing Borders" will include a roundtable discussion with a dozen or so US war resisters trying to stay in Canada. Ashlea Brockway, the partner of war resister Jeremy Brockway, will also address the audience. The Brockways are the family living in Port Colborne, Ontario, who I wrote about here. If you are interested in the struggles of war resisters, I encourage you to go back and read that post.

    We expect a good crowd of supporters from western New York State and from the local community. If you're anywhere nearby, join us for what promises to be a moving and eye-opening day.


    must-see video: lawless harper government

    This is a terrific video, marred, in my opinion, by the inadequate conclusion it draws for the very real issues raised.

    Vote? That's it? That's all we should do?

    Speak, write, march, rally, educate, document, agitate, organize. Also, vote.


    justice for fallujah: former marine speaks out

    And finally, my last pass-along of the day, an important act of military resistance and peacemaking. Longtime reader deang shared The Justice For Fallujah Project, co-founded by Ross Caputi, a former US Marine who was involved in the terrible assault on that Iraqi city in 2004.

    The Justice for Fallujah Project is raising awareness of the dramatic increases in birth defects - including brain damage, congenital heart defects and childhood cancers - and other serious illnesses in Fallujah since the US used illegal weapons there. I posted about this here, citing articles in the UK media on a "toxic legacy" in Fallujah "worse than Hiroshima".

    Thank you, Ross Caputi. You are a true war resister.

    say it: canadian and u.s. troops in afghanistan are cannon fodder (updated with video)

    I was very sorry to learn the Quebec Women's Federation anti-war video was removed from YouTube before I was able to post it.

    Some Canadians who lost children in Afghanistan were offended. But war should offend all of us. Endless war for profit is the outrage, not those who speak out against it.
    It shows an actress playing the part of a grieving mother. As she fills a military-issue bag with her children’s personal belongings, including a rifle, she explains that her eldest son has died in Afghanistan and, as she places a red, flowery bra in the bag, that her youngest daughter has just been recruited in school.

    “People say, ‘Make love not war,’” the actress begins. “But you should say, ‘Make love for war,’ because you need a lot of children to make an army.”

    “If I’d known that in giving birth I was going to supply cannon fodder,” she continues, “I might not have had kids.”

    I found an excellent post about this at the blog Zero Anthropology: "Memo to the Parents of Cannon Fodder".
    The conservative and pro-war mainstream media in Canada, which is releasing more and more articles featuring grieving parents requiring more war to validate and vindicate the deaths of their children, has marshaled a selective group of parents to express outrage at the video. The FFQ, I am very happy to say, stands by the video and its message and refuses to take it down.

    Quebec is Canada’s leading anti-war province in terms of the overwhelming majority that has consistently opposed the war in Afghanistan since the start. That is one of the things that makes Quebec a great place in which to live and work. In addition, Quebec has been the site of recent armed action against a Canadian Forces recruitment centre. Résistance Internationaliste has claimed responsibility for that and other actions. The Canadian Forces are not allowed to recruit on university campuses, but can recruit at the university-preparatory schools known as CEGEPS as well as high schools. In other provinces, especially in impoverished zones, Canadian Forces set up tents on campus and focus on students graduating in areas where employment prospects are very dim. The Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has devoted increases in funding to Canadian military recruitment via a media campaign, and even the guide to new citizens stresses the “nobility” of serving in the military.

    Here is an old anti-war hit song, sung by Marilyn Horne in 1915. Will it be protested as well? Is there a Facebook page that has been launched to rail against it too?

    Many thanks to Zero Anthropology for posting this moving song.


    Maximilian Forte, who writes Zero Anthropology, has re-posted the video. Many thanks.

    don't extend it, end it: malalai joya and where our tax dollars are going

    I'm trying to focus on school work, so I'll just pass along a few important thoughts.

    One, Malalai Joya is back in Canada. I nearly destroyed my hand trying to report on her last talk in Toronto. This time, go see for yourselves. She's already spoken in Ottawa and Calgary, but you can catch her in Vancouver tomorrow, October 12, and in Toronto on Wednesday October 13 and Thursday October 14.

    Canadians, learn about what our tax dollars are supporting. Speak out to bring all the troops home from Afghanistan, now.

    Don't Extend It. End It.


    brain snatchers on the move again: using your children as billboards

    Continuing on the advertising theme, we have another answer to my perennial rhetorical question: Is there any space that isn't covered in advertising these days?

    This time I also ask a related question. How does the US government help support small businesses? By spending trillions on war and pennies on education. From the Boston Globe:
    Ads for cigarettes and liquor won't make the cut.

    But ads for local ice cream shops or hair salons could soon be appearing on permission slips, class calendars, and school notices sent home with Peabody elementary school students after a unanimous School Committee vote this week.

    The novel plan to sell ad space on school communications marks the latest twist in how commercialization of schools — from the sale of billboard space to ads on buses — is generating cash in lean times.

    The ads, possibly the first of their kind in Massachusetts, "will have to be age-appropriate, but we’re thinking about ads from local pizza and ice cream shops, dance and karate schools, maybe from a florist or a college," said Superintendent C. Milton Burnett. The initial program aims to earn at most $24,000.

    excellent date

    It's 10/10/10! I will schedule this post for 10:10 a.m.

    I see I did this last year in September. This date is even better. Something about those ohs and ones.

    the pinkwashing of parliament: we need less pink and more green

    October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and our government wants us to remember that by turning on pink lights on Parliament Hill, through the Estée Lauder Companies' Breast Cancer Awareness Global Illuminations Initiative.

    So please buy cosmetic products that are laden with toxins, sold in packaging made of future landfill, and perpetuate the harmful myth that the signs of aging are shameful and must be concealed. Because if you do, a corporation that profits from this deception will donate a tiny portion of their profits to cancer research! Hurrah! What more could we want to fight cancer?

    Pinkwashing has become positively ubiquitous, and we're all supposed to cheer that more companies are showing "corporate responsibility". If you criticize this massive corporate shell game, even progressive people will defend it, because it's better that they donate than not, right?

    Just don't peek behind the pink curtain. Are these corporations actually responsible? Does the manufacture of their products harm the environment? (Hint: are they produced in countries where there are environmental standards, and are those standards enforced?) Are their employees well compensated and have job security? (Hint: why is it so much cheaper to manufacture in Asia?) Do the companies practice unnecessary testing on animals? Do the products themselves contain carcinogens?

    Chances are you don't know the answers to these questions. Unless we do our own research, we know nothing of most companies' supposed responsibility. But they're sticking pink ribbons on their packaging. What more do you need?

    Hey, I got an idea. If you want to donate to cancer research, don't buy a tube full of unpronounceable chemicals. If you want to donate to cancer research, donate to cancer research.

    Mainstream media is awash with exhortations to reduce our risk of cancer - always full of qualifiers like "somewhat reduce," "possibly prevent" and "some cancers" - but rarely asks why cancer has become so incredibly common. Getting more exercise, wearing sunscreen and not smoking are healthy choices, but the focus remains on individual attempts to avoid disease - rather than collective attempts to reduce the skyrocketing cancer rates overall. It's like we're insisting on wearing seat belts while allowing cars to be sold without brakes.

    In this sense, pinkwashing becomes just another advertising sleight-of-hand to divert attention from the questions we should be asking. Dr. J at "your heart's on the left" writes:
    When it comes to prevention, the dominant medical model is highly selective in what carcinogens it chooses to blame. The continual rise in lung cancer is blamed solely on the dissemination of [tobacco], but cigarettes are not the only chemical to enter existence over the last century. According to the Canadian Auto Workers Prevent Cancer Campaign:

    "The International Agency for the Research of Cancer has identified 24 substances that cause lung cancer in humans. Twenty-three were determined by the excess mortality of workers who were exposed to these substances. The 24th, of course, is tobacco. Why do we hear so much about the dangers of tobacco but so little about the other 23 lung carcinogens? The reason is that tobacco is claimed to be a 'lifestyle' choice, so industry and the medical profession can blame the victims. The other 23 known causes of lung cancer are related to industry. They can be prevented and removed from our workplaces and our environment."

    Dr. J's post calls out the gargantuan hypocrisy of a government blathering about cancer "communication" while stonewalling all criticism of the carcinogenic stew that is the tar sands. For more from this perspective, please read "Cancer awareness: stop the tar sands, good green jobs for all".

    I wrote about my loathing of the deceptive link between advertising and charitable donations in a popular wmtc post called "you can't find inner peace in a bottle (of iced tea)" (see second half of post).

    For more on pinkwashing, see Think Before You Pink:
    Think Before You Pink, a project of Breast Cancer Action, launched in 2002 in response to the growing concern about the overwhelming number of pink ribbon products and promotions on the market. The campaign calls for more transparency and accountability by companies that take part in breast cancer fundraising, and encourages consumers to ask critical questions about pink ribbon promotions.

    Don't just consume. Ask.


    animal rescue in its purest form

    Many thanks to JohnGF for sending this.

    A great story without words.

    celebrate 2011 with the swans of stratford

    stratford swans 058

    For those uber-organized people who (like me) are already thinking ahead to 2011, or who (unlike me) have a list of holiday gifts to buy, I have a recommendation. The good folks at Across the Bridge B&B of Stratford, Ontario, have created a beautiful calendar showcasing their town's famous swans.

    Eric and Kelly are originally from the US, now Ontarians running one of the many family businesses that live around the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. I'm totally biased towards this calendar: I love Shakespeare, Stratford, Across the Bridge, and the swans, and Eric and Kelly are our friends. But even without that list, it's a lovely gift idea that helps support a local, family-run business in a beautiful part of Canada.

    You can see the photos and order a calendar here on their website.


    letters in the toronto star: some smart people weigh in on war resisters and the liberal "leader"

    In today's Star:
    Re: Ignatieff did the right thing, Letter, Oct. 6

    Letter writer George Pengilley mistakenly believes that U.S. war resisters deported from Canada “will get a short prison term, dishonourable discharge and they can then carry on with life.” I do not feel 15 months in prison is a just sentence for the “crime” of refusing to kill innocent civilians who were never a threat to the U.S. That's how long Robin Long, a war resister deported by the Harper government, served. Additionally, a dishonourable discharge is a life sentence, limiting one's opportunities forever: no student loans, no mortgage, no jobs.

    Pengilley says that Canadians are proud of our troops who do their duty. I agree. I am proud of every veteran who recognizes their duty to refuse to participate in war crimes. Haven't we learned the price of soldiers “just following orders”? I am proud to welcome U.S. war resisters to Canada.

    Laura Kaminker, Mississauga


    Angus Reid has consistently shown that nearly two-thirds of Canadians support American soldiers who stood up to George Bush and the illegal war in Iraq. That's on top of the 82 per cent who think it was a good idea that Canada did not send our troops into Iraq. Michael Ignatieff and Stephen Harper enthusiastically supported the initial invasion, then issued very weak mea culpas after the war went bad. If politicians can change their minds on the disastrous Iraq war, why can't soldiers who see the horror of the war up close do the same thing?

    David C. Fox, York


    I was 20 years old before I figured out that wars are started by politicians, fought by soldiers, then settled by the same politicians after a sufficient number of lives have been lost, property destroyed and tears shed. I welcome deserters and wish more soldiers understood that moral responsibility always trumps their signature on a recruiting document.

    James Russell, Toronto


    George Pengilley thanked Michael Ignatieff regarding Bill C-440. He said Ignatieff finally stood up and showed some Canadian backbone.

    Bill C-440 was defeated. Ignatieff and a number of Liberals absented themselves from the House during the vote. Their absence ensured the bill was defeated. I would call that an insult to democracy.

    If Ignatieff was opposed to letting American Iraq war resisters stay in Canada, he should have voted against the bill. If he was in favour of having them stay, he should have voted for the bill. Ducking out is not acceptable.

    Paul Copeland, Toronto

    Let me repeat James Russell for emphasis: I welcome deserters and wish more soldiers understood that moral responsibility always trumps their signature on a recruiting document.