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Archive for August, 2012

ROMEO DALLAIRE & OMAR KHADR

Posted by strattof on August 23, 2012

It’s a very unlikely pairing: Roméo Dallaire, an inspiring hero to many Canadians, and Omar Khadr, often seen as a murderer and terrorist. Here’s the connection:

Last month, Roméo Dallaire launched an online petition calling on the Harper government to bring Omar Khadr home without delay.

In the words of Dallaire: “The case of Omar Khadr – a Canadian citizen and former child soldier  – is a stain upon our society and shows a blatant disregard for Canada’s obligations under international law.”  

As of August 21st, the petition had received 29,959 signatures.

ROMÉO DALLAIRE’S PETITION LETTER

ADDRESSED TO MINISTER OF PUBLIC SAFETY VIC TOEWS

Do the right thing: Authorize Omar Khadr’s repatriation without delay.

Dear Minister Toews

I am writing to urge you to authorize the repatriation of Omar Khadr without delay—a Canadian citizen and former child soldier held in Guantánamo Bay.

Over the past decade, Khadr’s rights have been violated time and again. He has been denied the right to due process and a fair trial, the right to protection from torture, and the rights stemming from the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict.

This month marks the 10 year anniversary of his capture as a child soldier. And while Omar Khadr continues to sit in solitary confinement in Guantánamo, what’s done is done. We now have an opportunity to do the right thing and bring Omar Khadr home.

In 2010, Canada agreed to his return, as long as he served one additional year in Guantánamo. In the House of Commons, then Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon said that Canada would implement the agreement. Khadr has been eligible for repatriation since November 2011 and yet we have seen no action from the government.

The Americans have held up their end of the deal. Omar Khadr has held up his end of the deal. Now Canada must follow through on its commitment. A deal is a deal. We must honour our word.

I call on you to immediately authorize Khadr’s return to Canada.

To sign Roméo Dallaire’s petition, 1) google “Change.org Romeo Dallaire; 2) click on “Petition Minister Toews: Bring back Omar Khadr.”

THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT, THE LAW, AND OMAR KHADR

  • UN CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD, ratified by Canada in 1991: The document defines “child” as a “human being below the age of eighteen.” Omar Khadr was 15 when he was taken into custody by US forces in Afghanistan in 2002. He has spent the last 10 years of his life in US military detention, most of it at the infamous and illegal Guantánamo Bay Prison in Cuba.
  • UN CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE, signed by Canada in 1975: In 2003, the Canadian government sent CSIS agents to Guantánamo to interrogate Omar Khadr, knowing that US officials had subjected him to prolonged sleep deprivation and isolation. In 2004, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported that interrogation techniques used at Guantánamo are “tantamount to torture.”
  • CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS, 1982: The Canadian Charter guarantees every Canadian the right on arrest to be informed promptly of the reasons for the arrest; the right to legal counsel; and the right to appear before a court of law. None of these conditions were met in the arrest and detention of Omar Khadr.
  • CANADIAN COURTS, 2008-2010: Both the Federal Court and the Supreme Court of Canada have twice ruled that Omar Khadr’s rights under the Charter have been violated. In its 2010 ruling, the Supreme Court concluded that in sending CSIS agents to Guantánamo to interrogate Khadr, the Canadian government had acted “contrary to the principles of fundamental justice.”
  • PLEA BARGAIN, October 25 2010: Omar Khadr entered into a plea bargain, pleading guilty to a killing he may or may not have committed, in return for being returned to Canada after having served one more year in Guantánamo. He has been eligible for transfer to Canada since November 1 2011, but the Harper government is refusing to keep its side of the bargain.
  • APPLICATION FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW, June 2012: Omar Khadr’s lawyers filed an application in Federal Court in an attempt to force the federal government to keep its side of the plea bargain. In response, Minister of Public Works Vic Toews asked to review the report of psychiatrist Michael Welner before deciding on the transfer application. Welner has said that he was influenced in his evaluation of Khadr by Danish psychologist Nicolai Sennels, a known anti-Muslim racist who believes Muslims are genetically defective.

“[Omar Khadr] was just 15 years old that day and should never have been on that battlefield in the first place. The various adults in his life, including his own father, cajoled, encouraged and allowed him to take part in the fighting, contrary to international standards that prohibit drawing kids into war. But that crucial human-rights reality – Oman Khadr, child soldier – has been ignored at every turn by US and Canadian officials.” – Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International

OMAR KHADR IS THE LAST CITIZEN FROM A WESTERN COUNTRY STILL IN GUANTÁNAMO. Recognizing the illegality of Guantánamo from the outset, 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 Guantánamo.

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STOP THE STADIUM! WE WANT AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Posted by strattof on August 18, 2012

S T A D I U M  Q  &  A

1. How much will the stadium cost?  A lot! The total cost, including loan interest and maintenance over a 30 year period, will be $675 million. This amount does not include cost overruns. 

2. Who is going to pay for the stadium? Mainly the taxpayers of Regina. According to the City’s funding plan, $300 million will come from the pockets of Regina taxpayers, who will be required to pay a 0.45% increase in property taxes each year for 10 years.

3. Has City Council consulted the citizens of Regina about the stadium plan? No. Without consultation, City Council is substantially increasing property taxes, as well as taking on a sizable debt, to fund the stadium.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

  • If you live in Regina, sign the petition calling for a referendum on the stadium, available every Thursday, from noon to 12:30 pm, at the corner of Scarth St. and 11th Ave., from the Making Peace Vigil.
  • Print off copies of the petition and collect petition signatures: urdamnright.info 

To force the City to hold a referendum on the stadium, 20,000 signatures have to be collected by November 7 2012.

  • Tell Mayor Fiacco and your City Councillor you want the City to act democratically and voluntarily hold a referendum on the stadium during the October 24th municipal election.
  • If you do not live in Regina, google “Canadian Taxpayers Federation Referendum for a Saskatchewan Stadium.”

HOW MANY AFFORDABLE HOUSING UNITS CAN WE GET FOR ONE STADIUM?

At a cost of $150,000 per unit, $300 million will get us, 2,000 affordable housing units.

REGINA’S HOUSING CRISIS: 5 KEY FACTS

1. Regina’s apartment vacancy rate is the lowest in Canada, according to the spring 2012 report of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). It is 0.6%, which essentially means there is no rental accommodation available in the city.

2. Average rent in Regina increased 5.5% from April 2011, well beyond the rate of inflation.

3. In 2010, over 3,400 people used one or more of the city’s shelter services. Many others double-bunked, couch-surfed, or lived in overcrowded unhealthy conditions. These latter groups could easily double the number of homeless people in Regina.

4. The average monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment in Regina is $817, an increase of $47 (5.8%) a month from the previous year.

5. A cashier earning $1,811.30 per month cannot afford a one bedroom apartment in Regina. Nor can a security guard earning $2,031.43 per month or a food services supervisor earning $2,395 per month. “Affordable housing,” as defined by the CMHC, is 30% or less of a household’s before-tax income.

NO AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN STADIUM PLAN

The new stadium is part of the Regina Revitalization Initiative. Both city and provincial officials will tell you this plan includes affordable housing. But it does not.

What the plan calls for is “up to 700 new affordable, market-rate housing units.” As everyone knows, the market-rate for housing in Regina is anything but affordable. 

WE WANT AFFORDABLE HOUSING!

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PRISONS ARE NOT THE ANSWER!

Posted by strattof on August 9, 2012

2006, the Harper government has passed a slate of tough-on-crime legislation as part of its US-style law-and-order agenda. This legislation creates new mandatory prison sentences, reduces the use of house arrest, limits parole and pardons, and expands the types of crime youth can be charged with.   

WHAT THIS LEGISLATION MEANS:

  • More Canadians will be spending more time in prison.
  • More prisons will have to be built, at taxpayers’ expense, to accommodate the increase in prison population.

It does not mean that Canadian communites will be any safer. As Statistics Canada figures show, Canadian communities are, in fact, already quite safe. Moreover, most Canadians are aware of it.

A recent Statistics Canada study shows that 93% of Canadians feel safe from crime.

Canada’s crime rate has been falling steadily for the past 20 years and is now at its lowest level since 1973 (see the figures below, taken verbatim from the Statistics Canada website: http://www.statcan.gc.ca). According to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, the Harper government does not “govern on the basis of statistics.” But the government is ignoring facts at taxpayers’ expense as it pursues its “tough-on-crime” legislation. 

POLICE-REPORTED CRIME STATISTICS: 2011

The police reported crime rate, which measures the overall volume of crime, continued its long-term downward trend in 2011, declining 6% from 2010. The Crime Severity Index, which measures the serverity of crime, also fell 6%.

Since it peaked in 1991, the crime rate has generally been decreasing and, in 2011, was at its lowest point since 1972.

CONRAD BLACK SAYS:

“The government should run, not walk, to the dustbin to deposit there its proposals for…larger prisons, longer criminal sentences, and harsher treatment of inmates….

“There is no rationale or excuse for confining those who are not physically dangerous nor for reducing their access to treatment, which is cheaper, and more effective, and more humane than prison” (“The case against being dumb on crime,” National Post, February 19, 2011).

WHY IS THE HARPER GOVERNMENT PURSUING  A TOUGH-ON-CRIME AGENDA?

There are many reasons why the government should NOT be pursing a tough-on-crime agenda:

1. The crime rate has been falling for over two decades.  

2. Tough-on-crime legislation is very expensive. California, along with other states that provided the model for the Canadian legislation, is in the process of dismantling its tough-on-crime legislation because it is bankrupting it.

3. “The budget for the Correctional Service of Canada has already increased 86.7%, from $1.597-billion annually since 2006 when the Harper government took office, and is expected to climb to $3.147 billion by 2013-14” (Globe and Mail, July 21, 2011: “Crime falls to 1973 levels”).

4. According to the Harper government, we are living in times of austerity, not unrestrained spending.

5. Tough-on-crime legislation doesn’t work. Study after study has shown that increased rates of incarceration do not decrease crime or act as a deterrent to it. What does reduce crime are education, anti-poverty initiatives, affordable housing, and mental health centres. 

6. Studies show the longer a person spends in prison, the more likely he/she is to reoffend. Prison, in other words, acts as a crime school.

7. Tough-on-crime legislation does not get big-time criminals off the street. Nor does it tackle white-collar crime or middle or upper-class drug-related offences. Rather, it targets minor drug-related offences committed by those who are economically and politically marginalized and hence already under police surveillance.   

Tough-on-crime legislation makes no sense. Why, then, is the Harper government pursuing it? Here are two possible explanations:

  • Ideology: Members of the Harper government believe that crime is the result of moral weakness and that punishment teaches morality.
  • Prison Privatization: An increasing prison population could provide the rationale for prison privatization. Two US private prison corporations, Corrections Corporatiion of America and GEO Group, are already lobbying the Harper government for permission to set up in Canada. Wherever they have operated, private prisons have been an economic, legal, and moral disaster.

Tomorrow, August 10, is Prisoners’ Justice Day, a time to reflect on Canadian judicial and prison systems.

BETTER OPTIONS

If even half of the money Canada spends on imprisoning people were to be invested in education, anti-poverty initiatives, affordable housing, and healthcare, all Canadians would benefit enormously.

LOWER THE CRIME RATE BY WORKING FOR JUSTICE

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REMEMBERING HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI

Posted by strattof on August 2, 2012

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, a city of 350,000. The bomb instantly killed a third of the population, most of them civilians. Three days later, it dropped another atomic bomb, this time on Nagasaki. It too killed tens of thousands of people. In both cities, many more would be dead by the year’s end, as a result of injuries and radiation poisoning.

CANADA AND THE NUCLEAR WEAPONS INDUSTRY

Canada has never produced an atomic bomb itself, despite having the technical ability to do so. However, Canada’s nuclear record is not innocent. Indeed, Canada has been very much involved in the nuclear arms industry from the beginning.

1942–1969: TRADING ATOMS

  • Canada started trading atoms in 1942 when it joined the US nuclear bomb effort known as the Manhattan Project, providing scientific skill and uranium to US weapons laboratories.  
  • Canada was the primary source of the uranium used in making the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. The uranium came from Port Radium, North West Territories, and was refined at Port Hope, Ontario.
  •  Between 1945 and 1969, Canada was the main supplier of uranium for the Cold War atomic arsenals of the US and Britain. According to one estimate, Saskatchewan uranium alone was used to produce 27,000 American nuclear weapons.

In 1970, Canada signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Officially, Canada now exports uranium exclusively for the generation of electricity. However, much of that uranium, whether exported raw or as fuel in a nuclear reactor, ends up being used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

1970–2012: REACTOR EXPORTS AND ATOMIC BOMBS

  • In 1974, India used a Canadian nuclear reactor to produce plutonium for its first atomic bomb. The reactor, a forerunner of the CANDU reactor, was a gift to India from Canada. India now has between 40 and 95 nuclear weapons.
  • India’s nuclear success set off a nuclear arms race with Pakistan. In 1998, Pakistan was able to detonate its first atomic explosion also using plutonium from a Canadian nuclear reactor. The on-going tension between India and Pakistan poses one of the greatest risks of nuclear war in the world today.
  •  Canada has already sold CANDU nuclear reactors to Argentina, China, India, Pakistan, Romania, and South Korea. CANDU produces larger volumes of plutonium than other commercial reactors. Every CANDU reactor that has been sold has been heavily subsidized by Canadian taxpayers.
  •  In 2011, the federal government sold CANDU to SNC-Lavalin.

1990-2012: RAW URANIUM EXPORTS AND WMDs

  • Saskatchewan is Canada’s only producer of uranium. Our province accounts for 20% of world production.
  • Most of Saskatchewan uranium is exported to the United States.
  • This uranium is the initial source of much, if not all, of the depleted uranium currently being used by the US military for the production of depleted uranium weaponry–bullets and rockets coated with depleted uranium, making them dense enough to penetrate tank armour and concrete underground bunkers. 
  • On impact, depleted uranium bursts into flame, releasing tiny radiation particles that contaminate all living things and the environment with deadly radiation.  
  • A form of low-level nuclear warfare, depleted uranium weapons are classified as weapons of mass destruction under international law. Their demonstrated public health effects include cancer, immune system failings, kidney damage, and birth defects.
  • The US has used depleted uranium weaponry in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, and Kosovo. 
  • Earlier this year, the federal government made a trade deal with China which will allow Cameco, the world’s third largest uranium producer, to sell uranium to China.

NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT

67 years after the nuclear desolation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the proliferation of nuclear weapons continues. This is despite the fact that all but 4 countries (India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea) are parties to the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

By exporting uranium and nuclear reactors, Canada, one of the original signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, has played a key role in the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Here are two other ways in which Canada undermines the logic of the treaty:  

  • Canada is never critical of US use of depleted uranium in wars, not even those wars in which Canada is also involved as an ally.
  • Hypocritically, Canada regularly calls for new sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program, but it never asks Israel to give up its sizable, undeclared arsenal of nuclear weapons or to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

THE ELM DANCE: HEALING THE WORLD

With us at the vigil today are the Singers of the Sacred Web.

We invite you to join in the Elm Dance.

From its Latvian roots this intimate folk song has grown into the Elm Dance and is danced by circles of activists around the world, from Novozybkov, 100 miles downwind from Chernobyl, to the uranium mines of northern Saskatchewan.  

Danced with reverence for human and more than human life, and in solidarity with trees who breathe in what we breathe out, the dance begins always with the dancers saying together this statement of intention: ’We do this dance as a way of strengthening our intention to participate in the healing of this beloved planet,  its humans and all beings.’  

On this anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima we dedicate this dance to all places and beings damaged by uranium mining, nuclear weapons, and nuclear power generation.

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