Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

Archive for August, 2008


Posted by strattof on August 29, 2008




Last week Canadians learned about Omar Khadr’s subjection to sleep deprivation and isolation to “soften him up” for interrogation by CSIS agents in 2003. He was 16 year old at the time. We also learned that the Liberal government of the day knew these techniques were being used prior to dispatching the CSIS agents.


No Canadian government has defended Omar Khadr’s rights as a Canadian citizen during his six year incarceration in Guantanamo Bay. The recently revealed complicity of the Liberal government in his abuse is one more reason why the current government must take up his case. Here are some of the other reasons Canada needs to speak up and to demand that Omar Khadr be returned to Canada.


·         Omar Khadr is a child soldier. When captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2002, he was just 15. International law says anyone under 18 is exempt from prosecution as a war criminal. In all other cases involving child soldiers, the response has been sympathy and reintegration rather than punishment. If Omar Khadr’s case goes to trial in October as scheduled, he will be the first ever child soldier to be tried for war crimes.


·         Omar Khadr has been tortured. Following his capture in 2002, Omar Kahdr spent three months in the infamous Bagram prison in Afghanistan, before being transferred to Guantanamo. One of his main interrogators at Bagram has since been convicted of killing another detainee. U.S. interrogators’ routine use of torture at detention centres such as Bagram and Guantanamo is well-documented. Sleep deprivation, a tactic since prohibited by the US military, is a form of torture. 


·         Omar Khadr is being held under an illegal system. On three separate occasions, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Guantanamo detention regime violates the U.S. Constitution. In 2005, a Canadian federal court ruled that conditions at Guantanamo fail to meet Charter-of-Rights standards.


·         The evidence against Omar Khadr is unreliable. Omar Khadr is charged with killing a U.S. soldier with a grenade. No eyewitnesses saw him throw the grenade. While the prosecution claims that he was the only combatant alive at the time, U.S. military documents accidentally disclosed the defence show that at least one other combatant was alive. It has also been revealed that U.S. soldiers were throwing grenades, raising the possibility that friendly fire may have caused the soldier’s death. The only real evidence against Omar Khadr is what he confessed to under torture.


·         Omar Khadr is the last citizen from a western country still in detention at Guantanamo. Australia, Britain, Germany, and Sweden all intervened successfully on behalf of their citizens, leading to their repatriation. 


Canada, on the other hand, has chosen to collude with the illegal system at Guantanamo. 



Call on the Canadian government to repatriate Omar Khadr.  Cut along the dotted line and send the following letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Office of the Prime Minister, 80 Wellington Street, Ottawa, K1A 0A2. A stamp is not required on letters to the Prime Minister.




Dear Prime Minister Harper


Please act to bring Omar Khadr back to Canada. Both Canadian and U.S. courts have ruled that the detention regime at Guantanamo is unlawful. Furthermore, under international law, Omar Khadr is a child soldier and hence immune from prosecution. 


The previous Liberal government was complicit in the abuse of Omar Khadr, sending CSIS agents to interrogate him when it knew he had been subjected to sleep deprivation and isolation. This is an enormous stain on Canada’s reputation for decency and justice. Your government can remove this stain by seeking Omar Khadr’s repatriation.



_________________________________________                                      _______________     

Signature                                                                                                         Date




Name (please print)






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Claiming ‘victory’ in Afghanistan: What is the real story?

Posted by strattof on August 29, 2008

Claiming ‘victory’ in Afghanistan: What is the real story?


Earlier this month, US/NATO coalition officials, including Canadians, claimed victory in what they hailed as “the biggest show of force” so far this year.  Operation Timis Preem supposedly struck a “major blow” and served as a “final show of force” before the traditional end of the Afghan fighting season.  But here is some of what the “show of force” doesn’t show:



According to Canadian Lt.-General Andrew Leslie, the number of “angry young men” created for every Afghan killed by US/NATO forces.


The number of aid workers killed in Afghanistan so far this year, compared to 15 last year.  The number of districts too dangerous for aid work is increasing.


The percentage increase in insurgent attacks for the first half of this year, compared to the same time last year.  This increase reflects over 2066 attacks.


The percentage of pledged aid to Afghanistan actually delivered by donor countries; of $25 billion promised since 2001, only $15 billion has been delivered; furthermore, 40% of the aid spent is funneled back to the donor countries through corporate profits, consultant salaries, and other costs.


The number of millions of dollars insurgents are expected to reap from this year’s opium harvest, despite a 19% drop in opium poppy cultivation due to drought and anti-drug campaigns.


The number of Canadian soldiers who have died so far in Afghanistan.


The number of additional Canadian troops recently announced for Afghanistan, bringing Canada’s contingent to 2,700.


The number of families displaced by fighting in June & July of this year in Kandahar province, where Canadian troops are stationed.  They join the over 100,000 Afghans currently displaced by combat, drought or natural disasters.


The minimum number of Afghan civilians killed so far this year: the real number may be over 1,000.  According to the UN, some 90 more were killed in a US-led attack last week.  This would bring the US/NATO share of civilian deaths to 30%, with insurgents accounting for the other 70%.


The minimum number of Afghan civilians killed since the war started in late 2001.


The total number of US/NATO troops now in Afghanistan.


The number of dollars recently announced for US “terrorism experts” to teach Canadian troops how to “better” wage the counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan. 

731 million

The number of dollars spent on Afghan development aid by Canada so far; or about 1 dollar spent on peace for every 10 spent on war-fighting.

7.5 billion

The total number of dollars committed to Canada’s Afghanistan war so far.


This “figure” shows the only real hope for progress.

“You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can’t bomb the world to peace.”                                                                                                                                                  –Michael Franti



Sources: ACBAR, Angus-Reid Surveys; Associated Press; The US Senate Armed Services Committee; The Globe & Mail; The National Post; NATO; NPR; The Ottawa Citizen; Oxfam; The Telegraph; The Toronto Star; the United Nations.



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Posted by strattof on August 25, 2008




63 years ago this week, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, instantly killing hundreds of thousands of people, most of them civilians. Since then, many thousands more have died from injuries or illness due to exposure to radiation.


Polite and peaceful Canada: not a country you would immediately associate with nuclear weapons. Yet Canada has been involved in the nuclear arms industry from the beginning.


·         Canada played a central role in the Manhattan Project, contributing scientific skill and uranium to the US program to build the first atomic bomb. 


·         Canada was the primary source of the uranium used in making the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The uranium came from Port Radium, North West Territories.


·         Between 1945 and 1969, uranium from Ontario and Saskatchewan played a major role in the US nuclear weapons industry. According to one estimate, the uranium that came from Saskatchewan alone was used to produce 27,000 nuclear weapons.


·         In the 1990s, Saskatchewan became the world’s largest producer and exporter of uranium. Officially, Canada now exports uranium exclusively for the generation of electricity. However, Saskatchewan uranium is the initial source of much of the depleted uranium currently being used by the US military for the production of depleted uranium weaponry. 



Depleted uranium is a by-product of the manufacture of enriched uranium for use in atom bombs and nuclear power plants. Used to coat bullets and rockets, it makes them dense enough to penetrate tank armour and concrete underground bunkers. On impact, depleted uranium ignites and vapourizes into tiny radiation particles that enter the air and water.



Depleted uranium was used for the first time in history by the US in the 1991 war against Iraq. The US has since used depleted uranium weapons in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Afghanistan, as well as in the current war against Iraq.



Depleted uranium can cause kidney damage, cancers of the lung and bone, skin disorders, immune system failings, and birth defects. It remains radioactive for about 4.5 million years. The killing and maiming continue long after the fighting has stopped.


In 1970 Canada signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  The only way to stop the manufacture and use of nuclear weapons is to stop the trade in uranium.  Without uranium there can be no nuclear weapons.


Sources: Jim Harding, Canada’s Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan Uranium and the Global Nuclear System; The Catholic Worker; the Government of Saskatchewan, website; the Inter-Church Uranium Committee Educational Co-operative.


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Posted by strattof on August 25, 2008




August is Prisoners’ Justice Month, a time to reflect on the Canadian judicial and prison systems and to ask the question: Is justice being served?


In Saskatchewan

  • The incarceration rate of Aboriginal adults is 35 times that of non-Aboriginals.
  • Aboriginal adults make up 77% of the total prison population.
  • Aboriginal women account for 87% of all female admissions.


Aboriginal peoples make up 14% of the population of Saskatchewan. Why are they over-represented in the prison system?


  • The legacies of colonization and residential schooling have resulted in cultural discontinuity in Aboriginal communities. This is tied to high rates of depression, alcoholism, suicide, violence, family breakdown, gang activity, and low levels of education. In a Saskatchewan study, treatment centre staff ranked lost cultural identity as the single most important factor for drug and alcohol abuse among Aboriginal people.


  • Racism is a daily experience for Aboriginal peoples in Saskatchewan. According to a 2007 survey on the state of race relations in the province, “there is a higher rate of racism experienced in Saskatchewan than there is nationally” (Leader Post May 15 2008).


  • Racism, both nationally and provincially, consists not only of the racial bias of individuals, but is also systemic. For example: ◘ Nationally, the charge rates of Aboriginal youth are 19% higher than those of non-Aboriginal youth (Statistics Canada). ◘ In today’s Saskaboom economy, the employment rate of Aboriginal peoples living off reserve experienced a pronounced decline from 57.1% to 52.9% during the last year. Over the same period, the employment rate among non-Aboriginal people in Saskatchewan edged up 0.2 percentage points to 68.2%. “Saskatchewan has the lowest employment rate among its off reserve Aboriginal population of the western provinces” (Statistics Canada).


On June 11 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered an apology to former Indian residential school students. Earlier in the year, his government introduced a new “tough on crime bill” that will result in increased incarceration for those people who are easiest to arrest and prosecute.  Are prisons the government’s replacement for residential schools in Canada?


For the Prime Minister’s apology to have any meaning, the question of justice for Aboriginal peoples in Canada must be dealt with. 


  • Incarceration does not address or solve the problems resulting from colonization, residential schooling, and systemic racism. The Canadian justice system is an ineffective, alien, and inappropriate means for resolving conflict involving Aboriginal peoples.  


Other reasons why prisons are not the answer:

  • Imprisonment is an uneconomical means of addressing social problems. Funding incarceration means that resources are cut from social services, education, health care, and job creation programs. If even half of the $7 billion currently spent annually on imprisoning people was invested in social spending, there would be an enormous benefit to whole communities.
  • Imprisonment has negative effects. In the words of the director of the RCMP’s National Aboriginal Policing Services, Chief Superintendent Doug Reti, “Many of the youth we were dealing with, if they were not gang members going into jail, they certainly were coming out” (Toronto Star).
  • “Prisons do not make us safe, but instead reinforce conditions that produce violence and insecurity” (Julia Sudbury, Canadian Roundtable on Prison Abolition). 


The incarceration of Aboriginal peoples is connected to family breakdown, loss of culture, and substance abuse stemming from colonization, residential schools, and racism. How is a harsh prison system going to initiate any healing for future generations?


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