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Archive for September, 2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY OMAR KHADR

Posted by strattof on September 29, 2013

Captured during a firefight in July 2002, Omar Khadr has now spent more than eleven years – and almost half of his life – in prison cells in Afghanistan, Cuba, and Canada. Many people still imagine Omar Khadr as a child soldier. On September 19th, he turned 27 years old. The crimes for which he is incarcerated do not exist in Canadian, American, or International Law.

OMAR KHADR IN EDMONTON INSTITUTION

“The domestication of Khadr’s incarceration may make it easy to forget him.” Fathima Cader, briarpatch

For almost a decade, people who understood that Khadr was a child soldier at the time of his capture, and that he was being tried in a court that operated outside of international and domestic laws, argued that he should be repatriated to Canada. The fact that Khadr is back in Canada does not mean that justice has been served.

PRISON VIOLENCE

  • When Khadr was repatriated in September 2012, he spent several months in isolation before joining the general population in February 2013. Khadr was put on food line duty. When he refused to give an inmate more than his share, the inmate threatened to stab Khadr. Khadr was put back into isolation.
  • Sent to the “hole” for “protection,” Khadr was forced to spend 23-hours a day in solitary confinement. This made it virtually impossible for him to participate in the type of prison programming that would prepare him for parole.
  •  At the end of May, Khadr was moved to Edmonton Institution. Not only was Khadr moved away from the threat, but he was also closer to an English professor who had been providing him with lessons from Edmonton for years (even when he was being denied educational opportunities at Guantanamo Bay, his lawyer was smuggling in these lesson plans in his boot).
  • Only two weeks after being moved to Edmonton, Khadr was assaulted by another prisoner. 

MAXIMUM OR MINIMUM SECURITY?

  • Before he was transferred to Canada, Khadr’s American jailers classified him as a minimum security inmate. In spite of this, the Correctional Service of Canada gave Khadr a maximum security designation.
  • In a recent letter to a prison official, Canada’s prison ombudsman criticized Khadr’s maximum security designation, calling it “unique and exceptional.”
  • Khadr’s sole offense was committed while he was a minor. He has never been charged for another offense while in prison.
  • Although he has been attacked by other inmates, a psychologist’s report points out that Khadr interacts well with others. An American psychiatrist’s report makes similar claims, further pointing out that Khadr has “consistently verbalized his goal to conduct a peaceful, prosocial life as a Canadian citizen.”
  • Khadr’s security designation affects his access to prison programming, and his eligibility for parole.

 LEGAL BATTLES CONTINUE

  • On September 23rd, Khadr’s lawyer argued that his designation as a maximum security inmate was illegal under the International Transfer of Offenders Act.
  • Khadr’s lawyers are also preparing to file an appeal to overturn the military tribunal convictions with the U.S. Court of Appeals. The crimes for which Khadr was convicted did not exist when he was charged, nor do they exist in international law today.
  • In the midst of all of this, Khadr was supposed to be eligible for day parole in January 2013, and for a full parole hearing in July 2013. The fact that he is in legal and prison limbo makes his progress very difficult. Instead of preparing him for release, Khadr’s conditions of confinement in Canada are regressive: they are ill-suited to who Khadr is, and to who he strives to become.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

The Minister of Public Safety has recently changed.  

  • Contact Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney. Let him know that you object to Khadr’s designation as a maximum security inmate. Khadr has spent far too long in prison. It is time to take steps towards his release: (613) 992-7434 or steven.blaney@parl.gc.ca  
  • Send the same message to your MP:

     Ray Boughen: ray.boughen@parl.gc.ca

     Ralph Goodale: ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca

     Tom Lukiwski: tom.lukiwski@parl.gc.ca

     Andrew Scheer: andrew.sheer@parl.gc.ca

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RIDER FANS FOR PEACE SAY “VOTE YES! KEEP WATER PUBLIC”

Posted by strattof on September 20, 2013

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JUSTICE FOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLES

Posted by strattof on September 15, 2013

There is no justice for Indigenous peoples in Canada.

  • The Canadian government has continuously broken the Treaty agreements it made with First Nations people – from the time of their signing up to the present moment.
  • Today, a child who attends school on a reserve receives 25% less in government funding than other Canadian children.
  • Today, 40% of Indigenous children live in poverty, more than twice the national average.
  • Today, Indigenous peoples are more than twice as likely as non-Indigenous people to be unemployed.
  • In the last 20 years, there have been at least 582 cases of missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.
  • While Indigenous peoples make up only 4% of the Canadian population, they constitute 23% of the federal prison population.

OVER 150 YEARS OF INJUSTICE

EDUCATION

Residential Schools: 1884 – 1996

Under Treaty 4, the Canadian government promised “to maintain a school on the reserve, allotted to each band, as soon as they settle on said reserve.” Instead, the government implemented the residential school system, with the aim of assimilating First Nations into European-Canadian society – of “killing the Indian in the child.”

Attendance at the schools was compulsory for all children aged 6-15. Parents who failed to send their children willingly had their children taken from them forcibly.

All students at residential schools experienced cultural abuse.

  • Many students were also subjected to physical and sexual abuse.
  • The Canadian government ran biomedical experiments on children at residential schools in the 1940s and 50s. Subjects were kept on starvation diets and provided or refused vitamins.
  • The mortality rate at some schools reached 69% – caused by poor diet, overcrowding, and lack of sanitation and medical care.

Genocide

Genocide, as defined by the United Nations, includes:

  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part

Canada’s residential schools constituted genocide.

Reserve Schools: 2013

Schools on reserves are funded by the federal government, while non-reserve schools receive their funding from the provinces.

  • Some reserves still do not have schools and children must leave their families and communities to attend school.
  • First Nations schools receive on average 25% less funding per student for K – 12 education than their off-reserve counterparts. In Saskatchewan, the funding gap is 40 – 50%.
  • Because of underfunding, many First Nations schools are in poor condition and present health concerns.  
  • The federal government has complete control over the First Nations educational system, which means schools risk promoting a colonial agenda.  

MISSING AND MURDERED INDIGENOUS GIRLS AND WOMEN

  • There are 582 recorded cases of missing or murdered Indigenous girls and women in Canada.
  • Only 53% of the cases involving murder have been solved, compared to 84% of all murder cases across the country.
  • While Indigenous women make up only 3% of Canada’s female population, they represent approximately 10% of all female homicides.
  • Young Indigenous women are 5 times more likely than other women of the same age to die as a result of violence.
  • Indigenous women are almost 3 times more likely to be killed by a stranger than non-Indigenous women.
  • According to a 2013 Human Rights Watch report, the police fail to give Indigenous girls and women adequate protection and to fully investigate when they go missing. They also sometimes make Indigenous girls and woman objects of police physical and sexual abuse. 

IMPRISONMENT

Imprisonment has been a recurring theme in the experience of Indigenous peoples since the time of colonization.

  • Residential schools were prisons for children.
  • Reserves became prisons when the pass system was imposed to control the movements of Indigenous peoples.
  • Today, a First Nations youth is more likely to go to jail than to graduate from high school.

From the 2013 report by the Canadian Office of the Correctional Investigator:

  • Since 2006, there has been a 43% increase in Indigenous prison population.
  • Indigenous people are sentenced to longer terms; spend more time in segregation and maximum security; and are less likely to be granted parole – all indications of systemic racism within Canada’s legal system.  

Treaty agreements did not extinguish Indigenous peoples’ right to govern themselves. The imposition of Canada’s legal system on Indigenous peoples is a violation of Treaty agreements.

TREATY 4

139th ANNIVERSARY, SEPTEMBER 15

This Sunday is the 139th anniversary of Treaty 4. On September 15 1874, Cree and Saulteaux First Nations and the Canadian government signed Treaty 4 at Fort Qu’Appelle.

We are all Treaty people. All southern Saskatchewan residents, whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous, benefit from Treaty 4. The Scarth Street Mall, where we stand every Thursday, is situated on Treaty 4 land. So too are Mosaic Stadium and Wascana Park.

For the past 139 years, the Cree and Saulteaux First Nations have kept their side of the Treaty 4 agreement. The Canadian government, on the other hand, continues to breach its treaty commitments.

When will there be justice for Indigenous peoples in Canada?

STAND FOR JUSTICE: FURTHER READING

BOOKS – available at the Regina Public Library

●Arthurson, Wayne. Fall From Grace, 2011 (novel)

●Daschuk, James. Clearing The Plains, 2013 (history)

●Gosse, Richard. Continuing Poundmaker and Riel’s Quest (law)

●King, Thomas. The Inconvenient Indian, 2012 (history)

●Wagamese, Richard. Indian Horse 2012 (novel)

OTHER RESOURCES – available online

●Angus, Charlie. “Four Horses at the Great Divide: Google CBC Morning Edition, Archives, Monday September 9, Charlie Angus

●Gebhard, Amanda. “Pipeline to Prison,” BriarPatch Magazine, September-October 2012

●Henderson, James Youngblood. Implementing the Treaty Order

●Human Rights Watch. Those Who Take Us Away

●Idle No More, The Manifesto, 2013

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SYRIA: BOMBS ARE NOT THE ANSWER!

Posted by strattof on September 6, 2013

Canada should pursue diplomacy and peace, not missile strikes.

BACKGROUND FACTS

Since March of 2011, Syria has been at civil war. Over 100,000 people have died in the conflict, including many civilians.  According to the UN, nearly two million people have fled as refugees to neighbouring Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.

On August 21, 2013 an alleged chemical weapons attack killed many civilians in suburbs of Damascus, the Syrian capital.  A UN team is investigating the attack, and may take several weeks to report.  Currently, we do not know for certain what has happened or who is responsible.

The United States, possibly backed by France (Syria’s former colonial master) and other countries, now threatens military strikes against Syria to “punish” the Syrian government for chemical weapons use, moving five destroyers armed with cruise missiles into the region.

The Canadian government has expressed support for this plan.

ILLEGAL ATTACKS ARE NOT THE ANSWER

Under international law, states can use military force only in self-defence or when authorized by the UN Security Council.

A military strike against Syria, without UN approval, would be as illegal as the US invasion of Iraq.

When it launched “Operation Iraqi Freedom” in 2003, the US claimed to have evidence of Weapons of Mass destruction, claims later found to be false.

CHEMICAL WEAPONS USE & DOUBLE-STANDARDS

A 1925 Geneva protocol prohibits the use of chemical weapons, though they have been used since then. For example:

  • In Vietnam, the United States used napalm and Agent Orange.
  • In Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, and Kosovo, the United States used depleted uranium weaponry. Depleted Uranium weapons are classified as weapons of mass destruction under international law. They have long-term horrendous effects on the civilian population, including cancer, immune system failings, kidney damage, and birth defects.
  • During the 1980s, Iraq – then an ally of the United States and other western governments – used chemical weapons against its own population and its enemy, Iran. According to recently declassified CIA documents, “The Reagan administration decided that it was better to let the attacks continue if they might turn the tide of the war.”—Foreign Policy Magazine, August 26, 2013.
  • The government of Syria does not respect human rights, but the same country now leading the charge to war – the United States – sent Canadian citizen Maher Arar to Syria to face interrogation and torture because it wrongly suspected him of involvement with Al-Qaeda.

WILL A MILITARY STRIKE HELP THE PEOPLE OF SYRIA?

According to the CIA, in addition to the major actors in the civil war, “there are also hundreds of local groups that organize protests and stage armed attacks.”  The US, Israel, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others all have their favoured factions in the conflict, assisting them for their own purposes.

Past conflicts teach important lessons: According to a Human Rights Watch report, 72 civilians were killed by US/NATO airstrikes during the recent war in Libya, in which Canada participated.  Even if US/NATO forces take precautions in Syria, innocent civilians will be killed by missile or bomb attacks.

Speaking of Afghanistan, Steve Staples of the Rideau Institute says the war cost Canada “billions of dollars, the lives of more than 150 soldiers and many times more Afghans, leaving that country no better off today than it was a decade ago.”

Who will be helped by a bombing campaign?  Who will be hurt?

WHAT CAN CANADA DO?

  • Demand that all countries, including NATO allies, respect international law and act only with UN approval.
  • Push for a diplomatic solution. Call on both the United States and Russia to come together and pressure the Syrian government and the rebels for a ceasefire, with the goal of a transition to a more democratic, representative government in Syria.
  •  Accept more refugees, reuniting some of the millions of displaced Syrians with their families here in Canada.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

  • Attend the NO WAR WITH SYRIA rally: Saturday, September 7, 2 pm. Meet in front of City Hall. March to Victoria Park.
  • Email Prime Minister Harper and your MP and say you want Canada to push for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria.  Bombs are not the answer!

Stephen Harper: pm@pm.gc.ca

Ray Boughen: ray.boughen@parl.gc.ca

Ralph Goodale: ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca

Tom Lukiwski: tom.lukiwski@parl.gc.ca

Andrew Scheer: andrew.sheer@parl.gc.ca

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VOTE YES! KEEP REGINA’S WATER PUBLIC

Posted by strattof on September 2, 2013

On September 25, you will be asked to vote on whether you support the City of Regina publically financing, operating, and maintaining Regina’s new $224.3 million waste water treatment plant.

This is an exciting and historic opportunity for our city which has not had a referendum since 1994.

  • Get out and vote on September 25thThe referendum gives Regina citizens a rare opportunity to have a direct say on a particular matter.
  •  VOTE YES and reject the P3 model for our city’s new waste water treatment plant. Turn the page and find out why you should Vote YES

WHY VOTE YES 4 REASONS

1. VOTE YES to keep our water public.

According to our Mayor and City Council, waste water isn’t water. It’s sewage or poop. They are wrong.

Waste water is part of the water system. After treatment, it is typically discharged into a river or a lake. In other words, it is treated in order to make the water reusable. “A clean water supply, especially so with regard to sewage, is the single most important determinant of public health” (Wikipedia).

City Council also claims it will control the new plant. According to the Deloitte report – a report commissioned by the City of Regina, “The P3 models are only feasible if the City is willing to transfer operational responsibility for the waste water treatment plant to a contractor for a 25 to 30 year period” (5). In other words, the P3 deal is a transfer of an essential public service into private hands for an extended period.

2. VOTE YES to pay less.

According to City Council, the P3 deal will save Regina taxpayers money. It is true that the P3 deal comes with up to $58.5 million in federal government infrastructure funding. If Regina chooses not to go the P3 route, we will lose that federal funding.  

However, this does not mean a P3 waste water plant is a good deal. $58.5 million in federal funding will not make up for the additional costs of the P3:

  • Cities can borrow money more cheaply than private companies. Private borrowing interest rates are higher than public rates.
  • Private companies need to make a profit. Regina citizens will not only pay for the service, we will also pay for the profit that must be paid to shareholders in the private company that is operating and maintaining the facility over the 30-year period.

City Council claims other P3 savings, but it will not release the figures on which it bases these claims.

Earlier this week, the City posted the Deloitte report on its website, but it is heavily redacted with all the key information missing. See all the blank pages in the redacted report. Go to the City of Regina website, click on “Sewage treatment plant,” “Reports and Links,” and “Deloitte report.”  

Regina Water Watch, the citizens’ group that organized the petition campaign, says that rejecting the P3 and choosing the publically financed, operated, and maintained model for the new plant will save Regina taxpayers about $13 million. All of the calculations involved are publically available. Google “Flushing Money Away Regina Water Watch” or go to www.reginawaterwatch.ca/  and click on “Learn More.”

Transparency is essential for democracy. Ask Mayor Fougere and your City Councillor to disclose the secret calculations on which the P3 deal is based so citizens can cast an informed ballot.

3. VOTE YES to maintain a high quality of service.

Private companies minimize cost in order to maximize profit. When they take over a public service, such as waste water treatment, they typically cut costs by laying off workers and reducing safety measures.

The waste water system in Hamilton-Wentworth provides an instructive example. In order to cut costs, the private company running the plant laid off half the workers. The result? A disastrous reduction in service quality with raw sewage being dumped into Hamilton Harbour. In the end, the city had to step in and take back the plant and clean up the mess.

4. VOTE YES TO KEEP REGINA’S WATER UNDER LOCAL CONTROL AND OUT OF THE HANDS OF OUT-OF-PROVINCE CORPORATE FORCES.

Handing off one of our most vital services and assets to an out-of-province corporation is a lose-lose situation. ●Regina taxpayers lose money. ●The City of Regina loses control of an essential public service.

Who wins with P3s? Large corporations.

FAILED P3s: EXAMPLES

Britian, 1992 – present: Britain’s Private Finance Initiative (PFI) is the model for Canada’s P3 privatization program. Britain’s PFI projects include water, transportation, hospitals, schools, and prisons. The result has been cuts in staff and service, excess costs, bankruptcies, and public sector bailouts.  

Hamilton-Wentworth, ON, 1994: A P3 waste water treatment deal promised local economic development, new jobs, and cost savings. Instead, the citizens of Hamilton got a workforce slashed in half, a spill of 489 million gallons of raw sewage into the harbour, the flooding of 200 homes and businesses, and major additional costs.

Moncton NB, 1998: Moncton entered into a P3 for its water filtration system. Between 1999 and 2000, water rates went up by 75% and the private company received a 24% return on its investment.

WATER IS NOT A COMMODITY.

WATER IS:

A HUMAN RIGHT

A COMMON GOOD

A PUBLIC SERVICE

AN ESSENTIAL HUMAN NEED

VOTE YES!

KEEP REGINA WATER PUBLIC 

 

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