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.
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