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Archive for September, 2014

HAPPY BIRTHDAY OMAR KHADR

Posted by strattof on September 26, 2014

On September 19, Omar Khadr turned 28. Captured in a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002, he has now spent more than 12 years ‒ and almost half his life ‒ in prison cells in Bagram Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay Cuba, and now Bowden Institution Canada.

  • Omar Khadr was 15 years old when he was captured by US forces. He was a child soldier.
  • The offences with which he was charged are not crimes under Canadian, American, or international law.

Omar Khadr should never have been imprisoned.

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.” ‒ Roméo Dallaire

BREAKING THE LAW: THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT & OMAR KHADR 

Omar Khadr was born in Toronto to Canadian parents. He is a Canadian citizen.

In its treatment of Omar Khadr, the Canadian government ‒ first the Liberal, then the Conservative ‒ has broken both Canadian and international law. The proper functioning of a democracy depends on the government respecting the rule of law. 

  • CHILD SOLDIER: Omar Khadr was 15 when he was captured by US forces in Afghanistan in 2002. The UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, ratified by Canada in 1991, defines “child” as a “human being below the age of eighteen.” 
  • TORTURE: Confessions were extracted from Omar Khadr through the use of torture and other prohibited treatment, including threats, beatings, and prolonged solitary confinement. In 2003, the Canadian government twice sent CSIS agents to Guantánamo to interrogate Omar Khadr, knowing that US officials had subjected him to prolonged sleep deprivation and isolation. It was only a federal court injunction that stopped further interrogations. Canada signed the UN Convention against torture in 1975.
  • GENEVA CONVENTIONS: Omar Khadr was and is properly presumed to be a “prisoner of war” and is entitled to protection under the Geneva Conventions signed by Canada in 1949. 
  • CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS: The Canadian Charter, signed into law in 1982, 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.

ADVOCATES FOR OMAR KHADR

Amongst those who advocate on Omar Khadr’s behalf are:  

ROMÉO DALLAIRE, who said in a 2012 speech to the Canadian Senate: We have… learned that after being hospitalized at Bagram, this seriously injured 15-year-old was pulled off his stretcher onto the floor and his head was covered with a bag while dogs barked in his face. Cold water was thrown on him; he was forced to stand for hours with his hands tied above his head and to carry heavy buckets of water to aggravate his wounds. He was threatened with rape, and bright lights were shone on his injured eyes. In fact, he has lost one eye.” 

DESMOND TUTU, who said after talking to Omar Khadr by phone in 2014: “Many people were incarcerated [in South Africa] for endless periods, held in solitary confinement simply on the say so of some lackey of an unjust and oppressive system. It has been galling in the extreme to discover that those in other countries who even helped us overthrow our oppressive system of apartheid, should have no qualms it seems in employing the same discredited methods as those of a system they purported to oppose.” 

STEPHEN XENAKIS, who said in 2010, after interviewing Omar Khadr extensively: For a person who has had to endure what he has in these kinds of settings now for 10 plus years, he has an equanimity about him and a sensitivity and a thoughtfulness that is extraordinary. 

OMAR KHADR IN HIS OWN WORDS

Omar Khadr is currently seeking to have lifted a media ban imposed on him by the Harper government. In the meantime, we are able to hear his voice through his response to letters. Here is part of a letter he wrote to us at the Making Peace Vigil: I can never get used to people who care for me without knowing me personally. It is always heart-warming and reassuring, and it never ceases to inspire me to keep on going. People like yourselves are what we, as Canadians, pride ourselves with, the generosity to empathize with others in hardship and suffering.

SOURCES AND RESOURCES

Learn more about Omar Khadr and his on-going illegal imprisonment.

  • Visit the following website: Lawyers Against the War and Free Omar Khadr Now: http://freeomarakhadr.com/
  • Watch the documentary You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo, available on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hx-0G_pAgPE
  • Read Roméo Dallaire’s They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers, available at Regina Public Library.

 FREE OMAR KHADR NOW

Omar Khadr has been illegally imprisoned for 12 years, first in Bagram, then at Guantánamo, and now in Canada. He needs justice.

  • Contact Prime Minister Stephen Harper and ask for the immediate release of Omar Khadr: harper@parl.gc.ca or 613-992-4211.
  • Send the same message to Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice, and Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety: mackay@parl.gc.ca or 613-992-6022 steven.blaney@parl.gc.ca or 613-992-7434
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WORLD PEACE DAY: SEPTEMBER 21 2014

Posted by strattof on September 23, 2014

Sunday, September 21, was the day declared by the United Nations as the International Day of Peace, also known as World Peace Day. Established in 1981, it is a day devoted to “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace within and among all nations and people.”

This year World Peace Day has a special meaning:

  • Canada is directly involved in two international wars ‒ Iraq and Ukraine ‒ and indirectly in at least one other ‒ Palestine-Israel.
  • Canada has jumped from the 15th to the 12th largest military exporter in the world.
  • Regina high schools, both public and Catholic, are about to start offering courses in military training for credit and money.

WHAT CAN WE DO FOR PEACE?

IRAQ, UKRAINE, PALESTINE-ISRAEL 

MAKING WAR

  • Canada has sent 69 Canadian soldiers to northern Iraq to work with Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting ISIS, also known as ISIL and the Islamic State.
  • Canada has contributed troops, fighter jets, and a war ship to NATO forces in eastern Europe.
  • Canada supports Israel unconditionally, even when Israel breaks international law. 

DEMONIZATION, A STRATEGY OF WAR

  • In each of these conflicts, Canada demonizes one of the combatants: ISIS in the case of Iraq, Putin in Ukraine, and Palestine in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The other side is idealized ‒ identified with freedom and democracy.
  • Such a good-versus-evil scenario lays the groundwork for war by creating a culture of hate and fear.
  • There are few, if any, totally good guys or bad guys in any of these conflicts, just many varying shades of gray.
  • For example, ISIS has killed two American journalists by beheading them. Undoubtedly, these were, as Prime Minister Harper said, “brutal and barbaric” acts. But are they any worse than dropping bombs on people? The 2003 US “shock and awe” campaign in Iraq, done in the name of non-existent weapons of mass destruction, killed 7,500 Iraqi civilians.

MAKING PEACE

War is carnage and calamity. It inflicts suffering on soldiers and civilians alike. Peace can prevail.

5 STEPS CANADA CAN TAKE FOR PEACE

  1. Stop being one-sided. Start being even-handed.
  2. Work through the UN for a political solution to these conflicts.
  3. Stop the flow of weapons. Call for an arms embargo.
  4. End the war economy. Shift production to renewable energy.
  5. Address the humanitarian crises we have helped to create.

MILITARY TRAINING IN REGINA HIGH SCHOOLS

Starting in February 2015, Regina high schools, both public and Catholic, will be offering an army training program to grade 11 and 12 students.

  • Students will earn 2 credits for taking the course.
  • They will also be paid $2,000.

The course, which will be offered at the Armouries Building, is the only course on the curriculum that students will be paid to take.

THE GOAL OF THE PROGRAM

  • “Revitalize the reserves”: Ross Ermel, Saskatchewan reserve unit commander.
  • “Provide as many career pathways and opportunities as we can: Greg Enion, deputy director of student achievement, Regina Public Schools.
  • “Give our students…great chances to learn life and leadership skills”: Don Morgan, Saskatchewan Minister of Education. 

7 QUESTIONS TO REFLECT ON

  1. Should we be training our young people to kill other young people through our school system?
  2. Do we want our youth to be encouraged to accept the military and military values as normal?
  3. Is the army training program compatible with the UN’s view of education as enabling “individuals to learn to live together in a world characterized by diversity and pluralism”?
  4. Is the program targeting students from low-income families?
  5. What’s the difference between the army training program and the use of child soldiers?
  6. What about a military-free education?
  7. How about a high school course for credit in Peace Studies?

STOP ARMY TRAINING IN REGINA HIGH SCHOOLS 

TELL JULIE MACRAE, Director of Education for Regina Public Schools, you do not want military training to be taught in Regina schools: Julie.MacRae@rbe.sk.ca or 306-523-3017   

SEND THE SAME MESSAGE TO 

ROB CURRY, Director of Education for Regina Catholic School Division: r.currie@rcsd.ca or 306-791-7200

PREMIER BRAD WALL: bwall@mla.legassembly.sk.ca or 306-787-0613

DON MORGAN, Minister of Education:  dmorgan@mla.legassembly.sk.ca or 306-955-4765

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JUSTICE FOR INDIGENOUS WOMEN

Posted by strattof on September 4, 2014

In August, the body of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, found wrapped in a plastic bag, was pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg. As Winnipeg police Sgt. John O’Donovan said “Society should be horrified.”

The teenager’s death has renewed calls for a national inquiry into Canada’s shocking number of missing and murdered Indigenous girls and women. Once again, the Harper government has dismissed those calls. In the words of Stephen Harper, “We should not view this as a sociological phenomenon. We should view it as a crime.”

The end of Tina Fontaine’s short life adds her to a list of over 1,100 Indigenous girls and women who have gone missing or been murdered during the last 30 years.

VIOLENCE AGAINST INDIGENOUS WOMEN: 6 KEY FACTS

  1. A 2014 RCMP report found that 1,017 Indigenous women were murdered in Canada between 1980 and 2012. Another 164 are missing. That’s 37 women a year.
  2. Indigenous women make up only 4.3% of the Canadian population, yet they account for 16% of female homicides and 11.3% of missing women.
  3. 153 Indigenous women were murdered in Saskatchewan between 1980 and 2012. Indigenous women make up only 6% of Saskatchewan’s population, yet they account for 55% of female homicides.
  4. Saskatchewan has the highest rate of murdered Indigenous women among the provinces.
  5. In Canada, Indigenous women experience violence at a rate 3.5 times higher than non-Indigenous women and are 5 -7 times more likely to die as the result of violence.
  6. In 1980, Indigenous women accounted for 9% of female murder victims in Canada. In 2012, they accounted for 23%.

STEPHEN HARPER, WILLFUL BLINDNESS?

Yes, Stephen Harper, the murder of Tina Fontaine is a crime. And the police must do their job and solve that crime.

But, as the statistics above show, Tina Fontaine’s murder is also “a sociological phenomenon”: that is part of wider social pattern of disproportionate violence against Indigenous women in Canada.

Is Stephen Harper being willfully blind?

A national public inquiry would focus on the prevention of violence against Indigenous women. It would address the question: what can be done to overcome systemic inequality rooted in colonial dispossession and white privilege ‒ the underlying cause of violence against Indigenous women?

Indigenous peoples are at the bottom of the scale on every socioeconomic measurement in Canada. It is a situation that allows privileged groups to maintain their privilege and power.

Might this explain why Stephen Harper doesn’t want a national enquiry?

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

“Long-standing patterns of marginalization, impoverishment and discrimination are critical factors putting Indigenous women in Canada at risk of violence and exploitation. These same factors have also denied many Indigenous women full protection of the police and justice system.

The Canadian government has condemned the violence and promised to take action. But efforts to date have fallen far short of the comprehensive, coordinated response needed to address such serious and pervasive human rights violations.”

NATIONAL PUBLIC INQUIRY

Who wants a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women? Almost everyone! ●Amnesty International ●United Nations ●RCMP ●Assembly of First Nations ●Native Women’s Association of Canada ●provincial premiers ●both main federal opposition parties.

Who doesn’t want an inquiry? Stephen Harper.

TAKE ACTION

A T T E N D

VOICES FOR OUR STOLEN SISTERS

Sunday September 14, 1 pm, Legislative Building

C O N T A C T

Your MP and tell him a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women is long overdue.

Ray Boughen: ray.boughen@parl.gc.ca or 790-4646

Ralph Goodale: ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca or 585-2202

Tom Lukiwski: tom.lukiwski@parl.gc.ca or 790-4747

Andrew Scheer: andrew.scheer@parl.gc.ca or 790-4727

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