Making Peace Vigil

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Archive for July, 2017

WHY WE STAND WITH OMAR KHADR

Posted by strattof on July 31, 2017

Why did the Canadian government apologize to Omar Khadr and pay him $10.5 million? The main answer to this question is that previous Canadian governments—both Liberal and Conservative —broke Canadian, as well as international law, in their treatment of Omar Khadr following his capture by US forces in Afghanistan in 2002.

Some Canadians are angry about the apology and settlement. We at Making Peace Vigil (the folks who hand out pamphlets on peace and justice issues on the Scarth Street Mall every Thursday) are happy about it. Please have a look at our reasons, outlined inside this pamphlet, for choosing to stand with Omar Khadr.

6 REASONS FOR STANDING WITH OMAR KHADR 

1. OMAR KHADR WAS A CHILD SOLDIER

  • Omar Khadr was 15 when he was captured by the US military in Afghanistan in 2002, during a firefight in a compound.
  • The US imprisoned him first in Bagram in Afghanistan (2 months) and then in Guantánamo Bay in Cuba (10 years).
  • The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child defines “child” as a “human being below the age of eighteen.”
  • Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, yet the Canadian government did not attempt to get Omar Khadr out of either Bagram or Guantánamo Bay prisons.
  • When, in 2012, Canadian courts finally forced the Canadian government to repatriate Omar Khadr, the government, rather than ensuring his release and rehabilitation, had him incarcer-ated in Canadian prisons for the next three years, until 2015.

2. OMAR KHADR WAS TORTURED

Confessions were extracted from Omar Khadr through the use of torture and other prohibited treatment, including beatings, threats of rape, and prolonged solitary confinement.

In 2003, the Canadian government became directly involved in the torture when it twice sent CSIS agents to Guantánamo to interrogate Omar Khadr, knowing that US officials had subjected him to prolonged sleep deprivation and isolation.

Canada signed the UN convention against torture in 1975.

3. OMAR KHADR IS A CANADIAN CITIZEN

Born in Toronto in 1986, Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen and hence has the right to be protected by Canadian law.

In January 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that the Canadian government had violated Omar Khadr’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms when it sent CSIS agents to interrogate him under “oppressive circumstances” and then shared the information with US officials.

4. RESPECT FOR THE RULE OF LAW

In its treatment of Omar Khadr, the Canadian government showed contempt for both international and Canadian law.

  • Basic human rights (the right not to be tortured, for example) depend on all governments respecting international law.
  • The proper functioning of Canadian democracy depends on the Canadian government respecting the Canadian rule of law.

With the apology and settlement, the Canadian government finally showed some respect for the rule of law and Omar Khadr finally received some of the justice he deserves.

5. THE QUESTION OF GUILT

The main charge against Omar Khadr is that he threw the grenade that killed a US soldier, Sgt. Christopher Speer. There is no compelling evidence to support this charge.

  • No one saw who threw the grenade.
  • Omar Khadr was himself found lying under a pile of rocks and rubble, unarmed and severely wounded.
  • There is evidence that Sgt. Speer was a victim of friendly fire.

In 2010, facing indefinite incarceration, Omar Khadr entered into a plea bargain. In exchange for repatriation to Canada, he pleaded guilty to murdering Sgt. Speer. This coerced confession, which he has since retracted, is the main evidence against him. s

Besides, Omar Khadr was a (child) soldier in a war zone. The US soldiers who wounded him weren’t charged with attempted murder —or with murder for killing everyone else in the compound.

The whole point of war is to kill (murder) the enemy. War is evil.

6. HUMAN SYMPATHY

  • Child in a war zone. ●Witness to unspeakable horrors. ●Badly wounded—a shoulder injury that has required extensive surgery and permanent loss of sight in one eye. ●Youth spent in prison, most of it in notorious Guantánamo Bay. ●Victim of years of torture.

This was Omar Khadr’s life from the age of 10 – 28. None of it happened of his own volition.

STAND WITH OMAR KHADR

1. Sign the I STAND WITH OMAR KHADR petition: https://act.leadnow.ca/i-stand-with-omar-khadr/

2. Share this pamphlet with your friends and family.

3. Let Prime Minister Trudeau and your MP know you support the government’s apology to and settlement with Omar Khadr:

PM Trudeau: justintrudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-922-4211

Ralph Goodale: ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca or 306-585-2202

Andrew Sheer: andrew.scheer@parl.gc.ca or 306-332-2575

Erin Weir: erin.weir@parl.gc.ca or 306-790-4747

4. MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Dennis Edney, Omar Khadr’s lawyer, will be speaking in Regina—Monday September 25, 7:30 pm, Education Auditorium, U of R: The Rule of Law in an Age of Fear.

5. Learn More about Omar Khadr:

  • Watch the documentary You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo, available on You Tube.
  • Watch the CBC documentary Omar Khadr: Out of the Shadows, available online.
  • Read Roméo Dallaire’s They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children, available at Regina Public Library.

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CLIMATE DISASTER

Posted by strattof on July 31, 2017

We have just three years left to save the world from climate disaster. This warning was issued by climate scientists late last month in a letter published in the prestigious science journal Nature. Either we make significant reductions in CO2 emissions by 2020 or we face the worst effects of climate change, including:

  • Deadly heatwaves
  • Devastating droughts
  • Raging wildfires
  • Record floods
  • Rising sea levels

Time is running out! What is Canada doing to prevent climate disaster?

7 CLIMATE FACTS

  1. The upper safety limit for CO2 in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million. Today the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is 408.8 per million, well over the safety limit.
  2. 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded—the third year in a row with record-setting temperatures. Now 2017 is on track to set another heat record.
  3. Average global temperature is already 1°C higher than the pre-industrial average, enough to melt half the ice in the Arctic.
  4. 97% of scientists agree that human activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, has caused this increase in temperature.
  5. The increase in average global temperature must be kept to well below 2°C to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of global warming.
  6. Climate-related disasters—floods, storms, droughts, wildfires, heatwaves—are already on the increase worldwide.
  7. To avoid complete climate disaster, 80% of the world’s known remaining fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground. This means no new fossil fuel reserves or pipeline development and plenty of investment in renewable energy infrastructure.

THE PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT

In 2015, in order to avoid climate disaster, 195 countries, including Canada under the Trudeau government, signed the Paris Climate Agreement—agreeing to limit “the increase in global average temperature to well below 2° C above preindustrial levels,” with the added aim of limiting “the increase to 1.5° C.”

To reach this goal, each of the 195 countries pledged to reduce its emissions by a certain percentage. Canada’s pledge was for a 30% reduction below 2005 levels by 2030.

Has Canada kept this commitment?

BROKEN PROMISES

PARIS CLIMATE COMMITMENT

In 2016, the Trudeau government approved two new tar sands pipelines: a new Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, which will run just south of Regina, and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

  • Together these two pipelines will expand tar sands production by nearly 2 million barrels of oil per day.
  • Tar sands development is the single biggest contributor to the growth of carbon emissions in Canada.

If the government proceeds with these pipelines, Canada will not be able to meet its Paris Climate Agreement commitment.

ELECTION PROMISES

In approving the pipelines, Trudeau also broke three of his election promises:

  1. To make Canada a world climate leader.
  2. To overhaul the National Energy Board’s environmental assessment process before considering any more pipelines.
  3. To implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the right to “free, prior, and informed consent.”

The Trudeau government has also broken another crucial climate-related election promise: to end the Harper government’s $34 billion a year subsidy to the fossil fuel industry.

EARTH PROTECTORS

Indigenous communities have taken the lead in opposing pipelines. The original caretakers of this land, they are determined to protect it, and the entire planet, from environmental destruction.

  • First Nations across Canada have been saying “no” to tar sands development and tar sands pipelines for decades.
  • Calling themselves protectors (rather than “protesters”), thousands of Indigenous peoples from across the Americas said “no” to the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock ND.

WE ALL MUST BE EARTH PROTECTORS!

TAKE ACTION

  1. Tell Prime Minister Trudeau
  • That saying “yes” to pipelines is saying “yes” to climate disaster.
  • That climate leaders do not approve new tar sands pipelines.
  1. Also let Prime Minister Trudeau know you want his government:
  • To keep its Paris Climate Agreement commitment.
  • To overhaul the National Energy Board’s environmental assessment process as promised.
  • To say “no” to all pipeline projects, including Line 3 and Trans Mountain.
  • To stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry and invest the money in renewable sources of energy.
  • To implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

justintrudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-922-4211

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THE RICH GET RICHER: SASKATCHEWAN’S 2017 BUDGET

Posted by strattof on July 31, 2017

Saskatchewan’s 2017 budget announced cuts to a number of income assistance programs including:

  • Financial assistance for people looking for work.
  • School supplies for children from low-income families.
  • Funeral services for poor people.

We are told our province’s dire financial situation—a $1.2 billion deficit—means we all have to tighten our belts. There do, however, seem to be some exceptions:

  • The corporate tax rate, reduced by one point, making it the lowest in the country.
  • Personal income tax rate, reduced for high income people.

The 2017 Saskatchewan budget makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. It is an attack on the most vulnerable people in our society. Is this the kind of province we want to live in?

THE POOR GET POORER

TRANSITIONAL EMPLOYMENT ALLOWANCE

The provincial government is cutting the Transitional Employment Allowance (TEA) by $20 a month. This may not seem like much. However, it means a lot to some people:

  • A single person looking for work in Regina will now have to live on $563 a month, plus capped rates for utilities.
  • A single mother looking for work in Regina will now only receive $946 a month. Out of this she is expected to pay for housing, food, and clothing for herself and her children.

 The TEA program was already the least adequate of the income assistance programs. For this reason, the government expanded it so that more people are on it. Over the past few years it has grown from approximately 1,500 to 5,500 adult recipients.

FUNERAL COVERAGE

  • 160,000 people live below the poverty line in Saskatchewan.
  • Poor people have a shorter life expectancy than their wealthier neighbours. In Saskatchewan, there is a six-year gap between the wealthiest 20% of the population and poorest 20%. Cuts to funding for social programs will not help narrow that gap.
  • Now, the provincial government has cut what it will pay for the funeral services of people on social assistance from $3,850 to $2,800
  • The funeral coverage program is accessed approximately 400 times a year.
  • This dehumanizing cut is expected to save the government $400,000 annually.

 OTHER CUTS

The cuts to the TEA and funeral coverage have already been implemented. Other cuts, including the following, are still being considered as part of the provincial government’s “redesign” of income security.

HIGH CALORIE SPECIAL NEEDS DIETS

The provincial government is considering ending the $75 high calorie diet. This program has helped many with special dietary needs meet the most basic nutritional levels.

Health conditions that require a high calorie diet include cancer, HIV, burns, infections, malnutrition, and recovery from surgery or illness.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES FOR CHILDREN

Equally nasty is the government’s planned cut of the annual grant for children’s school supplies for people on social assistance. Not only will this cut increase hardship for families, it will also act to further stigmatize children living in poverty.

This is the same government that gave corporations a $25.3 million gift, for this year alone, with its reduction of the corporate tax rate.

OVERPAYMENT RECOVERY RATES

The government is also planning to raise the monthly claw-back of benefits for those who have been deemed to have an overpayment.

  • A high proportion of recipients fall into this category.
  • Rarely is the overpayment the client’s fault.
  • Sometimes the client has a flexible income.
  • Sometimes the Ministry of Social Services makes an error.

WORKING FOR JUSTICE

The Wall government claims that the 2017 Social Services budget is the “largest ever.” However, it omits to say that this is the result of more people being on Social Assistance.

Even before any of the cuts came into effect, many people in Saskatchewan had to choose between paying the rent and buying food. Now, even more people are facing these harsh alternatives.

Stopping the cuts will not bring justice. There will still be many poor people in our province. But it would be a start.

For poverty to eliminated, wealth, opportunities, and privileges in our society would have to be much more equally distributed. Let’s make this our next project: eliminating poverty in Saskatchewan.

In the meantime, let’s work to reverse all the cuts to income assistance proposed in the 2017 Saskatchewan budget.

RING THOSE PHONES: REVERSE INCOME ASSISTANCE CUTS

Phone Premier Brad Wall (306-787-9433) and Minister of Social Services Tina Beaudry-Mellor (306-787-3661) and deliver the following message:

I am calling to ask that you reverse all the income assistance cuts proposed in the 2017 provincial budget. These cuts will only save the government $10 million, but they will create great hardship for the most vulnerable people in Saskatchewan.

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