Showing posts with label canadian politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label canadian politics. Show all posts

2.04.2019

thank you, nanaimo! the ndp government survives

Thank you, Nanaimo!

With all the personal blathering I've been doing, I forgot to write about something very important! There was a by-election here in BC: a seat in Nanaimo would determine if the coalition government -- the balance of power a mere one seat! -- would survive.

Translation for USians. In the last provincial election in BC, neither of the two major parties -- the NDP (you remember the NDP, right?) or the Liberals -- received enough seats to form a government. For the first time in Canadian history, the "balance of power" was held by the Green Party. The Greens agreed to support the NDP, so the NDP was able to form a minority government. It's not actually a coalition, but in order to stay in power, the NDP must work with the Greens.

To make things more confusing for Americans, the BC Liberal Party, which was defeated, is very conservative. The word liberal here is closer to the UK meaning of the word than to the US meaning -- not flaming right-wingers, but something like a moderate Republican. Kind of like Bill and Hillary Clinton.

More recently in BC, the provincial representative (called an MLA) from Nanaimo -- right here on Vancouver Island -- was elected mayor of that city. He was NDP, so that should be good for the residents of Nanaimo. But it meant that there would be a by-election -- an off-cycle election, for that one seat.

There have been a lot of issues on the Island -- the same social issues that haunt towns and cities everywhere, caused by governments' failure to control the cost of housing, and our society's willingness to allow the most basic human need, shelter, to be subject to the profit system. Add inadequate supports for mental health and addictions, and a lack of good jobs, and you have the usual crises of homelessness, overdoses, crime, and fear.

The difference here, I'm told, is that on Vancouver Island, these issues have been denied and ignored for a long time. Now people are finally talking about reality. Progressive people were concerned that there might be a conservative backlash, and this by-election would be just in time to reflect it.

Apparently Nanaimo voters are smarter than that.

The results:
NDP 49% (10,538 votes)
Liberal 40.47% (8,665 votes)
Green 7.38% (1,579 votes)
Conservative 2.06% (442 votes)
The Vancouver Island Party 0.7% (100 votes)
Libertarian 0.40% (86 votes)

Damn, I love living in a place where the Conservative Party is irrelevant! Yeah, I know the BC Liberals are conservative, but after nine years of Stephen Harper and with Doug Ford destroying what's left of Ontario, these numbers are just so beautiful.

(I looked up the fringe Vancouver Island Party, which wants to make the Island a separate province. Someone should tell their web designer about visual accessibility. No text over images!)

Vancouver Island seats in the provincial government:
NDP 10
Green 3
Liberal 1

6.09.2018

what i liked, what i hated, and what i don't understand: a list about my election campaign

I agreed to stand for election because it was an opportunity -- an opportunity to bring a progressive perspective to a riding where those ideas are usually overlooked, and a personal opportunity to expand my own skills and experience. Overall, it was a positive experience -- because it was so short-term. If it had been gone on for six months or a year, I would have been miserable! Here's what I liked, what I hated, and what I just don't get.

Positives

1. I met a lot of people! Community activists, progressive-minded neighbours, minority voices in our suburban city. Strangers reached out to support our campaign, to encourage me personally, and with ideas of how they could help. I loved making these connections. It was personally gratifying, and it also expanded my own network in the community.

2. It was a completely immersive experience. I was fortunate to be able to take a leave-of-absence from both library and union work, so I could campaign full-time. I felt exactly like I did during our library workers' strike in 2016 -- completely obsessed. I woke up every morning before dawn, super-charged with energy, and worked like mad the entire day. If I created a brain-map for these times, 95% of it would be the strike or campaign, with a tad leftover to take care of myself physically and remember my partner and dog. I would not have the stamina to do that for months on end, but for a few weeks, it was exciting.

3. I believed we could improve people's lives. There's a unique buzz you get from advocating on someone else's behalf, and fighting for what you believe in. I fight for better working conditions and the rights of our union's members all the time, and I love it. I got a glimpse of doing that on a larger stage, having more opportunity to improve people's lives. That was exciting.

4. I loved the challenge. I used skills I've been honing in both work and union -- leadership, strategizing, planning, listening, researching, reacting.

5. I believed so deeply in the platform. I never would have or could have done it otherwise.

Negatives

1. Being photographed so much. This was the worst part of the strike and it was the worst part of campaigning. It started off with a horrible experience getting my headshots done -- every single thing about the experience set up for failure -- and continued that way through the whole campaign, as I was forced to see images of myself all the time. I hated this.

2. Being cut off from much of my support network. Candidates are strongly advised to take their personal social media accounts offline during the campaign. I tried just being quiet and more circumspect than usual, but quickly found I was causing other people more work and concern, so I complied with the recommendation. I have many friends and fellow activists that I mostly see only on Facebook. Being cut off from my network was stressful.

3. Taking this blog offline. I hated this.

4. Having to moderate my responses to be appropriate for a candidate. The hotheaded temper of my younger days has long since mellowed and is well under control. But I still prefer a blunt response to a measured one. I zipped my lip... but I didn't like it!

5. Having so little time and so few resources. The NDP reached out to potential candidates in Mississauga very late, and for the most part, we candidates were on our own. The party used a central online platform -- a great tool -- but the structure and guidance it offered applied mostly to large campaigns with solid funds and an army of volunteers. I was able to access some guidance through CUPE, and about 80% of our donations and volunteers came through my own networks. I assume the Party's candidate search probably identifies people who have networks they can leverage, but it was inadequate.

What's up with that?

1. What is the effectiveness of lawn signs? They provide name recognition, but do they translate into votes?

I got calls and emails from many people complaining that they did not see my signs around Mississauga. They were often angry or at least very annoyed, implying our campaign was failing. They clearly equated signs with votes, and they thought we had failed to understand the importance of these signs.

Lawn signs are very expensive, and Mississauga Centre is large and sprawling. The Liberal candidate had enormous signs and they were everywhere. When we investigated the price of those signs, and the number you would need to achieve a noticeable presence, we were amazed at how much she must have spent. Allan's rough estimate was that the Liberals may have spent 8-10 times our entire budget on signs and door leaflets alone. (Our budget was $5,000, and we spent around $7,500.)

Instead, we chose to put our resources into printing. We focused on the many huge apartment and condo towers in the riding. A tiny band of dedicated volunteers put a leaflet in front of every door of more than 90 buildings. This reached a lot of people -- but it isn't public, the way signs are.

Our strategy also included a limited round of phone calls to likely sign takers, leafletting community events, meet-and-greets outside mosques, and every possible public appearance. When we received a sign request, I would contact the requester and invite them to canvass their neighbourhood with me.

Despite our lack of signage, we came in second with about 27% of the vote.

2. Why would people call a candidate for general election information?

I fielded many calls from people who received a leaflet and wanted to know where to vote, how to register to vote, why they hadn't received a voting card, what riding they are in, and so on. I returned every single phone call, and supplied whatever information was needed. Part of that is the librarian in me, and part of it is wanting the caller to come away with a favourable impression of their NDP candidate.

But why would anyone do this? Is the answer "because they don't know how to find information, and one phone number is as good as the next"?

3. Why can't people find the name of a candidate in any party?

We received many emails and phone calls from aggrieved residents saying they didn't know who the candidate was -- often because they didn't see any signs. Many of these emails were forwarded to me from the central party! If they could figure out how to email the NDP, why couldn't they figure out how to look up the name of a candidate?

4. Why do people expect a personal contact initiated by a candidate?

We did very little "door-knocking" (in-person canvassing) or phone calling, because we deemed it a very poor use of our limited resources. This contradicted advice from the central party, so I frequently questioned our decision. Then Allan and I would estimate how many people we could reasonably expect to reach in person, given the size of the riding and our small number of volunteers -- and we affirmed our decision every time.

When I did canvass, I was wholly unprepared for this reaction: "We haven't received a single phone call, not one knock on our door, not one word from any candidate!" This is said with resentment and hurt feelings. More than one person told me she would vote for me because I was the only candidate she met! In a riding of 85,000 potential voters, in a city with a population of 750,000, why would residents expect personal contact initiated by a candidate? Is this extreme passivity?

5. In a parliamentary system, where members of the legislative body vote in a block according to party, why is personal contact so important?

People want their candidate to be smart, honest, dedicated, and so on. I get that. But in a parliamentary system, the personal attributes of your representative are really not very important. What matters is where the party stands on various issues, and how many seats they win. You're voting for the party leader and the party platform. Yet many people vote for an incumbent because they're thought to be a nice guy or they host community barbecues.

6.08.2018

on poppies, veterans, trolls, and doxing

First of all, I do not apologize.

I have nothing to apologize for. No one should apologize for having an unpopular opinion, or an opinion that the majority finds offensive.

Second, I said nothing disrespectful to veterans. My utter lack of respect -- my undying contempt -- is for rulers whose policies send humans into unnecessary armed conflict. Those rulers pay lip-service to "supporting" troops, while their policies ensure more humans will suffer from the effects of war.

If you're joining us in progress, here's what you missed. 

Before the election, I took all my personal social media offline. We knew that the opposition would dedicate vast resources to digging up or fabricating anything they could use against NDP candidates. For some reason, no one directed me to remove wmtc links from the Wayback Machine (i.e., internet archives). This proved to be a grave error.

A right-wing political hack who masquerades as a journalist received excerpts from some old wmtc posts from a troll source. I know this because Hack forwarded Troll's email to me, with the identifiers scrubbed.

Hack did what hacks do, and trolls did what trolls do. Hack kept this going for way longer than any of us expected, dedicating three columns to me, and mentioning my name in several other columns. Eventually it was reported on by more mainstream media.

The right-wing attack machine moved from candidate to candidate, digging up tiny bits of online fodder, distorting and quoting out of context, in a ludicrous attempt to portray the NDP as a hotbed of wacko radicalism.

Doug Ford and his party waged the worst kind of campaign possible: they obfuscated facts, and relied on lies, sloganeering, and mudslinging.

Andrea Horwath and our party were consistently positive, focused, truthful, and precise.

That the majority of voters in Ontario chose the former over the latter is profoundly disturbing.

Doxing

I thought I knew what it was like to be attacked by trolls, from early wmtc days. I was wrong. The trolls who attacked this blog were annoying gnats who could be easily batted away. The troll attack orchestrated by Hack & Co. was a whirling swarm of angry hornets, the size of a midwest twister.

Their weapons were the most vulgar kind of personal insults, and graphic threats of violence.

I have pretty thick skin and don't tend to take things personally. My union sisters and brothers often describe me as "fearless". But this was a form of violence, and it shook me.

I'm lucky that it didn't affect my outlook, my opinions, or my self-esteem. That's down to the amazing support I had -- from the party, from my union, from friends, and from strangers who agreed with my views and reached out to me. Because of this support, I was shielded from most of the invective. I saw only a small portion of it, yet that was enough to shake me. I felt that my personal safety was threatened. That's not easy to do to me.

It's difficult -- nay, impossible -- for me to understand this kind of behaviour. The whitehot anger, the fervor so easily ignited -- the immediate willingness to attack, the assumed entitlement to say anything to anyone, hiding behind the anonymity of the internet. The seeming inability to respectfully disagree. It is truly beyond my understanding.

What I think about poppies, militarism, and veterans


I wrote the now-infamous post about the poppy symbols at a time when Prime Minister Stephen Harper was flogging the war machine in Afghanistan. I have a deeply held opposition to war, and I wanted Canada out of Afghanistan.

I also link the symbolic poppy to the general militarism that infects our society -- where "support the troops" is code for "support the war". Militarism takes many forms, including recruiting in schools, honouring military members at sporting events, using weapons as entertainment, such as air shows, and for me, the ubiquitous poppy symbol.

Naturally I understand that the majority does not view the poppy symbol this way. Hundreds tried to enlighten me, as if somehow the view of the vast majority hadn't reached my ears. But guess what? I disagree.

I have never written or said anything that disparages veterans. On the contrary, the pages of this blog are replete with disgust for the governments that disrespect veterans by slashing funding for their health and rehabilitation. My "11.11" category is about peace. If wanting peace disrespects veterans, we are living in an Orwellian nightmare.

What supporting veterans should look like

I have no doubt that for some people the poppy is a potent symbol, and that they believe wearing this symbol shows respect and reverence for veterans. I have never suggested that other people shouldn't wear poppies. I simply choose not to wear one. (I don't refuse to wear one, as the memes said. I choose not to.)

To me, if we truly want to support veterans and military servicemembers, we must do two things.

One, create and fully fund a robust array of supports for people who have suffered from war, to support their physical and mental well-being. Our society does not do that.

And two, stop making war. Stop creating veterans. Search for ways to resolve conflicts that do not involve killing people. And never use war as a means to profit.

Until these things are done, you can cover yourself in poppies, and your "support" and "respect" will be as false as the plastic flowers you revere.

A final word about respect

I don't disrespect veterans. But I don't automatically respect someone because they are a veteran.

Many people contribute to our society through their work or their passions. Others harm our society with selfishness, greed, violence, and unkindness. When people are kind and generous, when they act with compassion and integrity, I respect them. When they do the opposite, I do not. This is as true for veterans as it is for teachers, social workers, nurses, or politicians.

People who hurl crude insults at strangers because they cannot abide a difference of opinion, but who claim to love freedom and respect veterans, are ignorant wretches. I don't respect them. I pity them.

5.12.2018

elect laura kaminker for mississauga centre

Dear friends of wmtc:

I have been nominated as the NDP candidate for Mississauga Centre, the riding where I live and work. You can follow my campaign here on the web, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

I am very excited to work for the people of Mississauga Centre, to help bring change for the better. Under the leadership of Andrea Horwath, Ontario can recover from the devastating effects of past governments and begin to work for us, the working people of this great province.

We need to break the pattern that has been holding us back: moving back and forth from Liberal government to Conservative, going from bad to worse and back again. We need a bold leap to something different: change for the better. Only the New Democrats offer that. I'm enormously proud to represent Ontario's NDP, and to be part of the solution.

I hope I can count on your support.

With love and solidarity for all,

Laura Kaminker

3.26.2018

in the ontario election, the choice is clear. put down the polls and pick up your vote.

I am very frustrated by progressive reaction to Doug Ford becoming the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. People are acting as if Ford has already won an election that is three months away.

I understand there is great -- and well-deserved -- anger against Kathleen Wynne's Liberal party. But are we progressives going to stand helplessly staring at polls as we are thrown from frying pan to fire?

Under 20 years of Liberal governments, public spending has been frozen, resulting in a decrease of more than 40% in public resources. Corporate taxes are at all-time low. Privatization is strangling both services and jobs. And now -- supposedly -- we're all going to vote for more of the same. Either literally more of the same in the Liberals or worse than that in the Conservatives.

And supposedly, we won't vote NDP because the NDP can't win.

We won't vote for a party because the party can't win because not enough people will vote for it. How stupid do you have to be to subscribe to that circular logic?

ONDP leader Andrea Horvath learned an important lesson in the last provincial election. She has returned to the principles that make the NDP the party of progressive people and of labour. The party platform includes full pharmacare, dental benefits, affordable childcare, and relief for student debt. If the 1% and the corporations pay their fair share, it's all within reach.

The brutal effects of corporate tax cuts are all around us. Students graduate college and university with massive debts, but can only find part-time, precarious work. 30,000 seniors are waiting for spaces in long-term care. If they live long enough to get a space, they barely receive minimum standards of care, as private ownership starves facilities of resources. The rise of precarious work means that fewer Ontarians have employer-paid extended health benefits, so people go without "extras" (ha!) like prescription medicine and dental care.

It's been proven beyond all doubt that privatization costs us more and gives us less. So-called public-private partnerships are the same corporate welfare in a different suit.

We need a government that will invest in public services. Healthcare, including dental care, pharmacare, and mental health. Education, including smaller class sizes and an end to student debt. Seniors, including safeguarding pensions and setting minimum standards of care. Publicly-owned transit and utilities.

Don't talk to me about Bob Rae. People who won't vote NDP because of something that a former leader did in the early 1990s are too stupid to be entrusted with the vote.

Don't talk to me about polls. If you read past the headlines, half the poll stories don't even say what you think they do. Fuck the polls. They don't actually predict the future. They just give direction to sheep.

Don't talk to me about strategic voting. You know what that will get you? More of the same.

If you care about public services and you believe in progressive change, there is only one choice this June.

Vote NDP.

But first, get out there and help as many others make that choice as you possibly can.

8.13.2017

join the ndp and vote for niki ashton: deadline aug 17

The deadline to join the NDP and vote for Niki Ashton is August 17.


Last night I saw something that shocked me, and today I did something I've never done before: I joined a political party. And I did it so I can cast my vote for Niki Ashton for leader of the federal NDP.

* * * *

I worked on Saturday, and was very busy, with zero time to check headlines or social media. After work, I was watching the Red Sox trounce the Yankees and idly tapping on my tablet, when I was stopped cold.

Heather Heyer was killed when a Nazi rioter
drove a car into the crowd.
I am not easily shocked. Perhaps I think I am shock-proof. But the spectacle of an angry mob carrying torches and Nazi banners, openly attacking a group of peaceful protesters, hit me like a gut punch.

I've been writing about the collapse of the US empire, the US becoming a third world country, the fascist shift, and so on, for a long time. It's not like the rise of the white supremacists came out of nowhere. And it's no surprise that police and local government allowed this to happen. So on the level of "this happened" -- no, it's not a shock. But emotionally, psychologically, even physically, the force and weight of it hit me. Men holding Nazi banners, chanting about Jews and Muslims. A peaceful protester and two others killed. Right now, in the country of my birth.

And from the White House, silence.

And from Ottawa, silence.

White Supremacists surrounded peaceful protesters
and attacked them with pepper spray and torches.
I have no illusions about the priorities of Canada's oil-rich federal government and the shirtless Prime Minister. But I imagined they had at least the veneer of humanity. Nope. It's more important to please the US than it is to speak out against white supremacy and Nazism. They might be only empty words, but Trudeau won't even speak them.

I watched the spectacle in Charlottesville, Virginia, and I felt sick. Not a figurative "this makes me sick," but a literal churning stomach, cold chills of fear, tears in my eyes. Wondering, What's next? Wondering, where are hundreds of thousands of Americans in the streets, shouting a huge, loud, collective NO! ?

* * * *

Some people think it's funny that the Nazis used
"tiki torches". I'm not laughing.
Despite the very justified focus on the current POTUS, the US has been moving in this direction for a long time. The spectacles we saw at Trump rallies did not materialize overnight, without context. An oligarchy completely unresponsive to the needs of its people, an economy based on the transfer of wealth from poorest to richest, no meaningful work, no social system for education, housing, and, until recently, health care -- a populace armed to the teeth, like its government -- xenophobic scapegoating -- and the legacy of racism that has never stopped, never even taken a breather: all this gave birth to what we're seeing now. I've seen some people on Facebook imagining (fantasizing) that if Hillary Clinton was POTUS, this might not be happening. One could just as easily fantasize that it would have happened the moment she was elected. The powderkeg would still exist, and the catalyst wouldn't be far behind. The Democrats certainly had no plans to reverse the course of the last 30 years.

The truth is, in the US, there was no choice. There's the party of cats or the party of cats.

Of the many things that attracted me to Canada, one of the strongest was the presence of an actual, viable third party, a party that more closely represented my values. But in recent years, the NDP has been disappointing, to put it mildly. The party was using the same playbook that ruined the Democrats, moving farther and farther to the right, hoping to capture the so-called centre -- a strategy sure to lose before it even gets started. It's been depressing. My activism has never been around party politics and elections, and the NDP's rightward shift pushed me even further away.

But people's movements have surged in recent years. People are fighting back. Occupy, Idle No More, Black Lives Matter, The Fight for Fifteen -- activism around climate change -- the popularity of Bernie Sanders' platform -- union fightbacks -- all taken together, have created a groundswell. A context where real change might suceed. Where we might have hope.

And right now, in Canada, we do have hope. At last, there is someone running for NDP leadership who wants to recall the party to its roots: Niki Ashton.

From Ashton's website:
I am running because I believe we need a clear vision. We need fundamental change. We need to build the NDP as a movement for social, environmental, and economic justice.
The way forward for the NDP is clear. We must work tirelessly for true reconciliation with Indigenous people, for the protection and preservation of our environment, for working Canadians, for women, for people living with disabilities, for racial justice, for justice for transgender and non-binary people, for LGBTQ+ justice, and for the right to be who you are, and to love who you want to love. 
We must build a political movement that connects with the many Indigenous, racialized, student, environmental and labour movements that are driving progressive political change. We must move ahead with a positive agenda that tackles rising inequality and climate change. We must build a movement that has the strength of the people at its core. We must unite, and build people-centred policy as our foundation. As a party, we need to embrace the thousands of activists across this country who have paved the way for our movement. Their fight is our fight, and together, we are stronger.

I want people to know that we are in their corner, with every decision we make. I want Canadians to feel at home in the NDP because they see themselves reflected in the values and principles we fight for every single day.

It is time to be bold.
It is time to create the Canada we know is possible — we must accept nothing less.
It is time to address inequality in a real way, with real action.
I know we can do this.
I know that together, we can build a movement.
Today I realized that I must help Ashton build that movement. I need to exercise whatever power I have, to vote for Ashton for leader and to urge others to do the same.

August 17 is the last day to join the NDP in time to vote in the leadership election. You can do so here, from Ashton's own page, to show that you joined in order to support her.

Thanks to all my activist friends whose words and actions led me to this change! Solidarity always.

It's time!




7.09.2017

a must-read if you're responding to ignorance and bigotry about omar khadr's settlement

In case everyone hasn't seen this yet, written by someone named Ben Feral Selinger.
July 6

Okay, I'm fucking sick of the idiocy and done with writing a diatribe every single time a friend posts about how they're upset that Trudeau is giving a terrorist $10m. You people are.... wilfully ignorant and hypocritical. Here's why. (And I thoroughly suggest reading the entire post. If you know me, you know I'm neither stupid, nor an apologist. I am pure fucking science, and this post is such. Read it before making an ass of yourself by posting about how we just gave a terrorist money).

The story (the facts we know).

* Canadian born Khadr was taken to Afghanistan at age 9, by his father. We don't know if he wanted to go, and we don't know why they went. There has been zero evidence put forth to suggest the trip had anything to do with terrorism. Regardless, as he was only 9, he had no choice in the matter.

* Khadr, aged 15, was found in critical condition following a firefight. The mission debrief report filed by the US troops stated that a middle aged man threw a grenade, which killed one US soldier. The grenadier was shot in the head and confirmed killed.

* Khadr was taken to Guantanamo Bay prison. No charges were filed against him at that time.

* Several years later, formal charges were filed. These charges were technically not even charges of war crimes, as if they were true, Khadr would be considered an enemy combatant during a time of war, and thus everything he was accused of doing, was legal under rules of engagement. He was denied access to a lawyer at this point and no trial date was set. He was held in detention and tortured for nearly 10 years.

* Nearly a decade later, an addendum to the original mission debrief was submitted, which identified the grenadier as Khadr by name. The original report was not rescinded. No one knows who made the addendum. No US personnel present during the firefight confirms the addendum. (at least I've not been able to find any).

* A week later, Khadr is offered a plea deal. The terms of the deal were to admit guilt to all charges and serve a few more years in a Canadian prison, or refuse to admit guilt and be denied trial indefinitely. (the latter portion is not confirmed by the US government, but let's be realistic here...)

* Khadr takes the plea deal, is transferred to Canada.

* Khadr sues the Canadian government for their involvement in his illegal detention, torture, and lack of a trial.

All of the above is true as far as anyone knows. That is the official story, from both the Canadian and US governments. They have said straight out that Khadr would not be offered a trial unless he took the plea deal. Just let that sink in for a moment.

Now let me ask you a question.

As a Canadian, what do you stand for? Do you believe that you, as a Canadian, have the right to be presumed innocent, until proven guilty, as well as the right to a fair and quick trial? I know this is hard for many of you to consider without jumping to "oh, but he's a terrorist, so fuck him, he's a traitor and doesn't deserve anything", but we'll get to that in a minute. Seriously consider this. Do you believe you have, as a Canadian, the inalienable right to everything laid out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

If you do, but still think Khadr does not, because he is a terrorist, let me ask you; "How do you know he is guilty?" There was no trial for 10 years, and he was only offered a trial on the condition that he plead guilty. How do we, as Canadians, determine guilt? Have you read and understood the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? It's entire purpose is precisely to ensure that what happened to Khadr, is not allowed to happen. Period.

Now I know many of you still can't get past the "but he's a traitor so he doesn't deserve a trial" even though neither you, nor me, nor the US or Canadian government were able to provide ANY evidence whatsoever, of his guilt (no evidence was submitted during his trial, presumably because none exists), but that doesn't matter. Let me explain the problem to you.

You are worried that terrorists are trying to take away your freedoms as a Canadian right? They're trying to force their way of life upon us and we as Canadians, won't stand for that right?

Do you see where I'm going here? Presuming Khadr's guilt, with no evidence and without trial, is precisely what the terrorists want to do to Canada. Isn't that your concern? Does it not strike you then, that by saying that Khadr doesn't deserve a fair trial because he is a terrorist, with absolutely no evidence, nor a trial to prove the charges, that you are doing precisely what you are worried the terrorists are trying to do do us? A presumption of guilt, no trial, a decade of detention and torture. Is that not EXACTLY what you are worried terrorists are trying to do to us?

At this point, I don't think any of us should even be concerned about Khadrs innocence or guilt. He is inconsequential at this point. The REAL concern for all Canadians, is that our government denied a Canadian citizen his inalienable rights, guaranteed to him under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They did EXACTLY what you are worried the terrorists are trying to do. If Khadr was guilty, a trial probably would have proven such, so why was he denied a trial?

For your information, the Canadian government did not simply offer up an apology and $10m for no reason. They were sued. Khadr filed a civil suit with the supreme court of Canada, and that court found in favour of Khadr, in that the Canadian government was in breach of Canadian and International law. Over half the money awarded will be going toward legal fees.

Think about it this way. Your government, was just successfully sued for war crimes. Crimes they committed not only against Khadr, but against the entire Canadian public. They assured us that we would all be given a fair trial, but now we know that is not true. They assured us that we will always be presumed innocent until proven guilty. We know that is not true. They took your money, money which could have been spent on building half a hospital or something, and spent it instead, on committing war crimes, and crimes directly against the Charter for which our country stands.

Now I don't know if Khadr is innocent or guilty and I don't know if that money will end up right back in the middle east, but before you get upset about that, I want you to consider this: Had the Canadian government offered Khadr a fair trial, regardless of his guilt, there would have been no civil suit and we'd have $10.5m more Canadian Pesos to spend on Moose shirts, or maple syrup flavoured hockey sticks.
All they had to do, was abide by our own legal doctrine, and this whole mess would have never happened.

In summation:

If you believe Khadr did not deserve a fair and quick trial, you are not Canadian. You do not stand for what Canada stands for. You are saying very clearly, that you don't care about evidence, treating people (who we presume are innocent until proven guilty) with basic decency, or your own or anyone else's right to a fair trial. You are, quite literally, openly supporting about half of Sharia law. You fuckwits.

Addendum: Hey guys. I had no intention of this post reaching such a wide audience. It was really just directed at my fellow redneck buddies (all very excellent folk but who I felt could benefit from the data). I've adjusted some of the language to suit a wider audience.

I appreciate the feedback (surprisingly generally positive), but bear in mind that with a post this widely shared, I cannot respond to the thousands of PM's flying at me. Feel free to re-share the post, or just copy/paste to your own feed to keep the conversation going. I absolutely do not need any personal attribution.
Thank you, Ben.

4.30.2016

u.s. iraq war resisters: the struggle continues

Still war resisters. Still in Canada. Still fighting to stay.

So far, the change in government hasn't helped the Iraq War resisters who remain here, nor the ones who were forced out of Canada who would like to return. The Trudeau government could do this so easily. And yet.

The CBC Radio show "DNTO" recently did an excellent segment about the US Iraq War resisters and the fight - still going on - to let them stay in Canada.
When American soldier Joshua Key fled to Canada in 2005, he never imagined that ten years later he would still be fighting a war — against the U.S. army, against post-traumatic stress disorder, and against the Canadian government.

Key is one of an estimated 15 Iraq war veterans who are fighting to remain in Canada.

The resisters left home to avoid being sent back to a war they didn't believe in. Today, they fear they'll be sent to prison if they're deported.

On this week's DNTO, you'll meet modern war resisters. Each of their stories is unique, but they all have one thing in common: they wish to stay in Canada. Should they be allowed to?
Some segments:

Meet the war resisters desperate to stay in Canada.

Who's helping the war resisters?

The Brockway family: fighting PTSD and searching for home.

A photo essay about Josh Key.

The show is really worth hearing, and you know how I feel about radio. You can listen to the full episode here.

3.13.2016

u.s. iraq war resisters are still in canada. call on justin trudeau to let them stay.

Remember the war resisters I used to blog about all the time? It may surprise you to learn that many are still in Canada. And are still fighting to stay.


For these men and women, it's as if the recent change of government never happened. Of course I realize that a handful of people from the US are not Justin Trudeau's top priority. Still, they are people of peace and conscience. They make Canada a better country. Accepting them makes Canada a better country. Their cause is just, and the help they need can be so easily provided.

* * * *

Justin Trudeau's Liberal government has made a decent start at reversing some of the immense damage wrought by Stephen Harper's Conservatives over the past decade. While the Liberals certainly will not rewind everything that needs undoing, Trudeau has taken (or announced he will take) some good first steps.

A November 2015 editorial in the Toronto Star noted three examples:
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould rang down the curtain ... on the Harper government’s unwarranted and unlawful attempt to prevent devout Muslim women from wearing face-coverings such as the niqab at citizenship ceremonies.

The Federal Court of Appeal rightly found the Muslim-phobic ban to be illegal, a violation of the Citizenship Act, which allows for the greatest possible religious freedom in administering the oath of citizenship. But the Tories, undeterred, decided to ask the Supreme Court to hear an appeal on the case. Wisely, Wilson-Raybould has now withdrawn that request.

The Liberal government has also asked the Federal Court to suspend proceedings in cases involving stripping people of citizenship, as Ottawa consults on a new policy.
In January 2016, CBC reported on some other issues that are in progress:
Among the measures expected to be dealt with through new legislation:
- Repealing the Conservatives' Bill C-24, which allows the government to strip Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who are convicted of terrorism-related offences.

- Repealing two other Conservative laws that the Liberals argue weaken the rights of trade unions. They are Bill C-377, which requires unions to disclose how they spend members' dues, as well as Bill C-525, which makes it harder for unions to organize in federally-regulated workplaces.

- Introducing parliamentary oversight for Canada's national security agencies, though the commitment to repeal parts of the previous government's anti-terrorism law, Bill C-51, is expected to come later.
Trudeau has said he will withdraw Canada's CF-18 fighter jets by the end of March from the US-led bombing missions in Iraq and Syria.

It's not all good news. Trudeau continued Harper's policies when he stood by the Conservatives' $15 billion agreement with Saudi Arabia's brutal dictatorship, selling it military equipment. I expected no different. The West doesn't stand up to Saudi Arabia, and Canada isn't about to go it alone.

But for the war resisters, the reversal that would be extremely easy. Trudeau can and should take a quick, multi-pronged approach: rescind Operational Bulletin 202 that singles out US war resisters for deportation, cease any deportation proceedings against US war resisters, implement a provision that would allow them to apply for permanent resident status, and discontinue litigation that defends the decisions and policies of the previous government. For an extra helping of justice, the Liberal Government could allow those war resisters who were deported or forced out to apply for permanent residence status, too.

Please take a few minute to write to your MP about this important issue. You can use handy backgrounder.

It is well past time to Let Them Stay.

12.01.2015

iraq war resisters still need your help: tell the liberal government to let them stay


I rarely blog about the War Resisters Support Campaign anymore, but the war resisters are always on my mind. In fact, they're in my thoughts more than ever, now that the nightmare of the Harper Government has finally ended. With the newly elected Liberal government promising change, we have an opportunity to raise the issue again. This time we fight not only for the war resisters who remain in Canada, but for those who were so unjustly forced out for the right to return.

Wmtc readers, I haven't asked anything of you in a long time. Could you spare a few minutes for the war resisters today? Here's what you can do:

- Watch and share this video of Alexina Key asking Justin Trudeau if a Liberal government will allow her husband Joshua Key and other US war resisters to stay.

- Phone or email Minister of Immigration John McCallum to urge him to let US Iraq War resisters stay. You can email the Minister and your MP by clicking here or write your own message and send to minister@cic.gc.ca. You can also call 613-954-1064.

Key points to mention:

• Resolve this issue swiftly as part of the change promised by the new government

• It is time to fix this issue – end over 10 years of unfair and unjust legal and political actions by the former Conservative government

• Stop the deportations

• Stop pursuing war resister cases in court, as doing so defends decisions and policies made by the former Conservative government

• Rescind Operational Bulletin 202

• Implement a new Operational Bulletin that restores fairness for all war resister cases and reverses the harm done

You can also send paper mail to the Minister of Immigration and mail it to:

The Honourable John McCallum, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
365 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1

10.20.2015

meet the new boss and etc.

Well, here's something I never expected: the Harper Conservatives get booted out, and I'm not celebrating.

I'm happy they're gone, of course. And some spectacular assholes lost their seats. But on the other hand, Canadian voters in 100 ridings wanted to keep them in power. And more importantly, almost every Member of Parliament who I felt good about is out.

We have a lot of work to do.




10.11.2015

#elxn42: fear, frustration, disbelief, and hope

Although I haven't been blogging much (or at all) about the upcoming Canadian federal election, I've been thoroughly and utterly obsessed by it for months. These last weeks have brought an almost intolerable level of suspense and frustration. I've been expressing that on Facebook, rather than here on wmtc - small bursts of agony, links to share, commiseration. Seesawing emotions, trying to keep hope alive and despair at bay.

If seat projections are to be believed, only a month ago, the New Democratic Party was mopping the floor with blue and red. We would see Canada's first NDP government. It might even be a majority! The Harper Conservatives would limp in at dead last.

Fast-forward to last week, and - again, if polls are to be belived - the NDP has lost a huge chunk of seats, to the gain of both the Conservatives and Liberals.

The generally accepted explanation for this is Stephen Harper's disgusting anti-niqab campaign. Supposedly Harper waved Islamophobia, racism, and xenophobia in the face of Canadian voters, and they ran screaming away from the NDP into the arms of the tried-and-true blue team. Orange crush turned into orange crash.

I simply don't believe it.

I don't believe this niqab nonissue resonated so strongly with so many Canadians that they would actually change their voting preference. I believe that most Canadian voters understand that a woman covering her face during a citizenship ceremony, as she does daily, is not actually an election issue.

So: are the polls to be believed?

Many sources point out that polling is based on an antiquated model. Pollsters call landlines, which already selects a demographic. Caller ID narrows it down even further. So polling information is gleaned from people with landlines who are willing to answer their phones and willing to answer questions. Online polls are basically useless.

Making it even crazier, many voters are (supposedly) influenced by these polls. People are willing to vote NDP if it looks like the NDP can win. So-called strategic voters obsess on voting Liberal, as if they can predict what everyone else is going to do.

This excellent editorial in The Hill Times suspects the Canadian electorate is insane, and incapable of imagining what real change would look like.
A wise man once defined insanity as the act of “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Being that our political pendulum seems to be swinging back toward old faithful (the Libservatives) I’m going to go ahead and suggest the Canadian electorate start facing some cold, hard facts. Namely, that our country may very well be insane.

As much as we liken ourselves a wiser and broader-minded breed than our neighbours down south, Canada has been oscillating back and forth, back and forth, between two primary governing parties since 1867. Just two.

And though these two parties like to think of themselves as different as night and day, in many ways, they’re one in the same. Don’t believe me? Indulge me for a moment...
Are the polls and seat projections wrong? Are they wrong on purpose? If you noted the media meltdown after Jeremy Corbyn was elected Leader of the Labour Party in the UK, it's not out of the question. Tom Mulcair is no Jeremy Corbyn, but an NDP government would be a herald of change, of people pushing back the corporate hegemony. Why would the corporate media want that?

Was the NDP majority government in Alberta - can you believe I just typed that?! - predicted? Was the 2011 Conservative majority predicted? Was the first NDP Official Opposition predicted? I find a lot of conflicting answers to these questions.

I have some problems with Tom Mulcair. I don't agree with absolutely everything he says. But if he will deliver on promises, if he will take us in the direction of the NDP platform, we may just see "the Canada of our dreams".

Some good stuff:

Globe and Mail editorial: The niqab is a distraction. Voters should focus on real issues.

Chatelaine: I'm Muslim and I'm sick of hearing about the niqab

The Common Sense Canadian: Niqab defence might cost Trudeau and Mulcair, but they're right

Paula Simons, Edmonton Journal: Don't like the niqab? Don't wear one.

The Sun (The Sun!!): NDP popularity a sign of voters' optimism

The Beaverton (Canada's answer to The Onion): Unemployed Canadians so happy to see politicians addressing the niqab again

John Cruickshank, publisher of the Toronto Star (a must-read): The niqab crisis: by the numbers

Don't-Be-A-Fucking-Idiot.ca, Created By A Human Being Who Gives A Shit: A SWEARY
ANGRY YET ACCURATE REPORT ON STEPHEN HARPER'S TIME IN OFFICE
(NSFW!)

And finally, VOTE THAT FUCKER OUT!!, definitely NSFW.

10.06.2015

votepopup: voter education at the library

On the long list of anti-democratic policies the majority Harper Government has enacted, the Orwellian-named Fair Elections Act ranks near the top. More properly called a voter suppression law, the Act effectively disenfranchise tens of thousands of Canadians.

The Council of Canadians has taken the issue to court, including an ongoing Charter Challenge, but those won't affect the upcoming election. That means there's only one way to lessen the effects: voter education. 

Last night at the Malton Library, we contributed to that effort, with #VotePopUp, a voter education program for new Canadians. 

Some weeks ago, I learned that one of our libraries had hosted this program, and jumped onboard. I worked with an amazing community organizer, who has a bit of funding from Samara Canada and Elections Canada, and copious amounts of know-how through the Peel Poverty Action Group and her own nonprofit, Building Up Our Communities.

I promoted the program through various community organizations in Malton, and by chance it was scheduled on the same night as a newcomer ESL class, known here as LINC: Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada. These programs have been hit hard by Conservative and Liberal budget cuts (do you see a pattern here?), but thanks to dedicated teachers and social workers, they survive.

So last night, 39 adults crowded into a room in the Malton Community Centre to talk about voting. 

Why vote? Am I eligible to vote? Where do I vote? What ID do I need? How do I mark the ballot? ... and a few dozen similar questions were answered. Many of the students have voted in their original countries and are very keen to do so in Canada. Many of their original countries make voting much easier; others, more difficult. 

The program is completely nonpartisan, of course. By another excellent coincidence, there is an all-candidates meeting in Malton tonight, the night following the program. We were able to distribute flyers and explain what would happen at that meeting.

The presenter had prepared a mock ballot, and students chose the issue most important to them: jobs, transit, education, healthcare, and so on. Jobs won by a landslide. Using that, I was able to demonstrate how this would tie in with an all-candidates meeting: "What will your party do to bring more jobs to my community?" 

The library is the perfect place for a program like this. Our customers can use free, public computers to register to vote or look up their polling station. They can ask experts for free (and friendly!) help. They can use their library cards as a piece of voting ID. The public library is all about democracy and levelling the grossly unfair playing field. Voter education is naturally a piece of that picture.

9.19.2015

a historic opportunity for residents of peel region: vote ndp on october 19

In the upcoming federal election, Peel residents have an opportunity to make a real difference for ourselves, our neighbours, and all of Canada. We can support a platform aimed at supporting working people, preserving and expanding public healthcare, restoring our democracy, and protecting our environment. We can vote NDP.

NDP candidates are running in all Peel ridings. For me, these five candidates stand out as stellar choices to represent our region.

Rosemary Keenan, running in Brampton Centre, is a longtime leader of the Peel Poverty Action Group and the Peel Sierra Club. She has had a long career as a teacher, school principal, activist, and community organizer. In other words, she's been working to improve life for working people in Peel for decades. As a member of a federal NDP government, she'll have a greater reach and more opportunity to make a difference.

Adaoma Patterson, running in Brampton West, is a long-time advocate for working and low-income people, and for public services. She's had a lead role in the Peel Poverty Reduction Strategy, and has worked (both as staff and committed volunteer) for key agencies like Ontario Works, United Way, YMCA, and the Caribbean Association of Peel.

Progressive people in my own riding, Mississauga Centre, have an opportunity to create real change by voting for Farheen Khan. Farheen has managed a women's shelter, and has raised more than $2,000,000 for progressive causes in Peel, and another $1,000,000 for international relief.

Like almost everyone I know in Peel, Farheen grew up in an immigrant household. Her story will be familiar to many: after immigrating to Canada, her parents’ credentials were not recognized, and they were forced to work multiple jobs just to survive. Farheen's experience working at a young age, experiencing both poverty and violence, led her to choose a life of community service.

In Mississauga Malton, where I work, NDP candidate Dianne Douglas has worked and volunteered for many organizations that improve life for residents of Malton. On my drive to work, I pass a huge billboard picturing the Liberal candidate, who wears the turban and beard that is a frequent sight in Malton. But what good is a turban and beard if you support the corporate status quo? Malton needs an MP who champions public service and healthy communities. That is Dianne Douglas.

Peel residents should be familiar with Michelle Bilek, who is running in Mississauga Erin Mills. Michelle is an educator, a community activist, an advocate for women, children, and low-income and homeless people. As a young person, Michelle experienced homelessness, and worked her way through two university degrees. Among her activities, she is a member of Peel’s Regional Diversity Roundtable and of the advisory board of the Homelessness Partnership Strategy.

These are not the only NDP candidates running in Peel. If you live in Mississauga, Brampton, or Caledon, you can scroll through this list of NDP candidates running in Ontario to find your candidate.

In the past, most of Peel Region had been represented in Parliament by Liberal MPs. That all changed in 2011, when the Liberal Party suffered its historic collapse, and most Peel ridings flipped to the Harper Conservatives. But those dreadful results had a silver lining, and it was orange. In 2011, the New Democratic Party won historic levels of support in Peel. On October 19, 2015, we have the opportunity to strengthen that support, and elect NDP MPs throughout the region.

Unlike Conservatives, who believe in making life easy for banks and oil companies, the NDP will build and strengthen public support so that all working people have an opportunity, not only to survive, but to thrive.

The NDP is the only party that gets all its support from working people and labour unions, the only party not supported by major corporations. That tells us something right there. The Conservatives are spending five times as much as the NDP in this election. How should our election be decided: by voters, or by money?

If you're not sure where you vote, or you're unsure if you're registered to vote, you can check here: Elections Canada.

8.16.2015

help my christian friend vote, or why the harper government must go

A friend of mine is undecided about which party to vote for in the upcoming federal election.

She normally votes Conservative, but may not this time. She dislikes the Trudeau Liberals, and is deciding between sticking with the Conservatives or voting New Democrat. Strategic voting is not an option for her. She wants to vote with her conscience, something I applaud.

My friend is a committed Christian, a person of deep faith with a strong moral compass and a clear sense of justice. She is a mother, also a working woman. I am privileged to know many people whose spirituality informs their daily lives, and she is one of them.

She is researching how to vote. The NDP's platform is out there for all to see. Whether or not one believes that they will (or will be able to) deliver is a separate conversation. But we do know what the NDP stands for.

The Harper Conservatives first formed a government in 2006, and have been in power ever since. They have a long, consistent track record, but you won't find it in their campaign information. You can't just Google up an answer to my friend's dilemma. (Although if you do, the results are very fruitful!)

I was speaking with my friend about the great sense of urgency I feel around this election, and I remembered this wmtc post from 2008: we don't want another harper government because..., a wrap-up of an earlier post called play the "why we don't want another harper government" game.

So I thought... let's play another round of this game. This one's for all the money, because we've never been closer at ridding this beautiful country of this horrible government as we are right now.

Wmtc readers, join me in listing the many ways in which the Harper Government has been un-Christian, has repudiated family values, and has made Canada less democratic and less just.

I don't know if this format will work again, how many people will join in, or if everyone will answer on Facebook. But let's give it a shot.

The rules:

1. One item per comment.

2. Be as factual and specific as possible. Saying "C-51" is not enough. You must explain something you dislike about bill C-51.

3. No duplicates. If someone else has already posted that item, think of another. Different examples of the same item are ok, though. A different problem with C-51 counts as a separate comment.

As we count down to October 19, help my friend decide how to cast her vote.

I'll go first. The most difficult thing will be choosing one!

8.09.2015

a brief history of privatization

Privatization 101.


Another take, also correct.


Chomsky courtesy of Sugaring Off, a post about Harper privatizing Canadian health care. I disagree with the blogger's assessment of Harper's intentions, but I certainly agree with her/his conclusion.

3.13.2015

march 14: speak out against bill c-51

Guest post by Allan:

Tomorrow - Saturday, March 14 - there will be protests across Canada against Stephen Harper's latest assault on democracy and free speech - Bill C-51 ("The Anti-terrorism Act 2015").

While Harper states the bill would merely "criminalize the promotion of terrorism" and give the government the power to remove "terrorist propaganda" from the internet, left unanswered is who defines "terrorism" and "terrorist propaganda". The bill is written in such overly broad terms it could be applied to nearly anything the Conservative government wants to deem criminal.

The introduction of C-51 comes on the heels of news that the Communications Security Establishment, Canada's spy agency, is operating a covert, mass surveillance program that monitors the online activities of millions of Internet users around the world. Ron Deibert, a professor at the University of Toronto, likened the CSE program to a "giant X-ray machine over all our digital lives. . . . Everything single thing that you do . . . is being archived, collected and analyzed."

To find out where the nearest rally is to you, click here or here. (Information about the Toronto rally is here.)

Amnesty International lists seven reasons to oppose C-51. Other groups endorsing the rallies include: Leadnow.ca, Idle No More Toronto, Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), Occupy Canada, and Greenpeace Canada.

C-51 will expand the mandate of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) while also allowing the Conservatives to increase their crackdown on legal political dissent.

Paul Champ, a civil liberties lawyer, said there are serious concerns that C-51 "is going to target not just terrorists who are involved in criminal activity, but people who are protesting against different Canadian government policies." Indeed, an internal RCMP report from January 2014, obtained by Greenpeace, reported that the so-called "anti-petroleum" movement is a growing security threat to Canada.

C-51 would relax privacy restrictions, lower the legal threshold for police to obtain a warrant, and allow Canadian authorities to hold suspects without charges for as long as one year. The Toronto Star reported the bill would give 17 security agencies "access to any information in any government department on any Canadian".

Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, has sharply criticized the bill, saying it would "allow the Conservatives to turn CSIS into a secret police force". After some initial waffling, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has spoken out against C-51.

Silencing of dissent appears to be one of the bill's main goals. When May asked the public safety and justice ministers during question period if C-51 could be applied to non-violent civil disobedience, such as blockading along a pipeline route, she did not receive a direct answer.

Micheal Vonn, Policy Director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, said C-51 "proposes an unprecedented expansion of powers that will . . . impose a broad chill on legitimate political speech".

Harper and the Conservatives remain hostile to transparency and accountability. CSIS's internal watchdog was eliminated by the Conservatives in 2012 and C-51 offers little in the way of additional oversight. University of Ottawa law professor Craig Forcese says the Conservatives want to return to an era when the security services were free to engage in illegal, dirty tricks. He wrote that the bill creates a "secret jurisprudence on when CSIS can act beyond the law".

We must speak out against such obvious anti-democratic activities and resist Harper's totalitarian measures.

1.25.2015

let them stay week 2015: january 25-31: make your voice heard

Allan guest post

Since September 2014, seven US Iraq War resisters have received negative decisions in their cases. Two veterans were given removal dates (i.e., dates by which they must leave the country). One resister received a stay of removal and the government rescinded the second removal order at the last minute. These reprieves are extremely good news, but war resisters and their loved ones continue to feel stress and uncertainty.

The timing of these initial negative decisions was odd. After no movement on any cases for more than a year, seven cases — allegedly independent of one another — were suddenly announced as Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to increase Canadian support for the US's latest attack on the people of Iraq.

As the resisters continue their fight, they know that a majority of Canadians are on their side. Nearly two-thirds of Canadians support allowing US Iraq War resisters to remain in Canada. However, the Harper government continues to ignore both the will of the people and the will of Parliament, which has twice passed resolutions calling on Harper to allow war resisters to stay in the country. In addition, all of the opposition parties have recently reaffirmed their support for US war resisters in Canada.

The War Resisters Support Campaign is once again calling on Canadians to speak out against these attempts by the Harper government to remove remaining US war resisters from Canada.

During Let Them Stay Week — January 25 to 31, 2015 — let Minister of Immigration Chris Alexander know that you support a provision for US war resisters to remain in Canada, and that you oppose any and all attempts to deport them.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

Sunday, January 25 – Profile Picture Day: Change your profile picture on Facebook in support of US war resisters for the duration of Let Them Stay Week.

Monday, January 26 – Media Outreach Day: Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

Tuesday, January 27 – Email/Phone Blitz: Call or email Minister of Immigration Chris Alexander (cc to party leaders, immigration critics, and your MP). Click here to send your email. Mr. Alexander's phone numbers are: 613-995-8042 and 905-426-6808.

Wednesday, January 28 – Mail-in Letters Day: Write a letter to the Minister of Immigration Chris Alexander, House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0A6. The letter can be sent postage-free within Canada.

Thursday, January 29 – Social Media Day: Share, post, disseminate information on war resisters on social media.

Friday, January 30 – Community Outreach Day: Call your local MP's office to express your concern; circulate the US war resister petition; make a donation to the War Resisters defence fund; post a window-sign at your home, workplace or community organization.

Below is a joint statement recently issued by US war resisters in Canada.
Joint Statement by former US military personnel who came to Canada because of their conscientious objection to the Iraq War.

We are American war resisters. Many of us are combat veterans. All of us came to the conclusion that we could not in good conscience participate in the unjust and illegal war and occupation launched in March 2003 against Iraq.

Faced with jail time and forced redeployment in support of that disastrous war, we sought refuge in Canada.

The response from Canadians has been overwhelmingly welcoming and supportive, and has made it possible for us to settle here, raise families and build communities.

But the Conservative government has directly intervened to deny us access to a fair immigration process.

We now face imminent removal from Canada. Our removal will tear apart our families and punish us for simply doing what Canadians have already done – refusing to support and participate in an illegal and unjust war.

Former Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney publicly disparaged us, instructed immigration officers to "red-flag" our cases, and labelled us "criminally inadmissible" to Canada. This has prejudiced any chance of having our cases decided on their merits.

Yet Canada's Parliament twice voted to allow us to stay. Canadian courts have acknowledged the disproportional punishment handed to US soldiers who have spoken out publicly in Canada. Those who have been forced back by the Conservative government have been court-martialed and received sentences from 12 to 24 months in jail.

It is no coincidence that so many of us are facing deportation at this very moment. It is difficult to manufacture consent for a new war when we are still here to tell the ground truth of the previous war. There is still time for Canadians to speak out – but time is running out.

12.26.2014

what i'm reading: pro: reclaiming abortion rights by katha pollitt

Katha Pollitt's new book, Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, is a powerful gust of fresh, clean air that blows away the toxic stench of the current discourse about abortion.

Pro is a thorough, no-holds-barred takedown of the hypocrisy of anti-abortion-rights movement - not only in the most obvious sense that people who claim to be "pro-life" also (usually) support war and the death penalty, oppose gun control, and encourage lethal terrorism against abortion providers and clinic staff, and of people who claim to care about women and children, but oppose all social supports that might improve the lives of actual living children. Pro also exposes the perhaps less obvious hypocrisy of how the anti-abortion movement has created conditions that result in more unwanted pregnancies, more abortion, more later abortions, and less safe abortions. Using unassailable logic and facts, Pollitt exposes what the real agenda of the anti-abortion movement is and has always been: punishing women for trying to live modern, emancipated lives.

She exposes, too, the contradictions in how the current abortion debate is framed, and how the majority of people - not the vehemently pro-choice or the vehemently anti-abortion, but the "muddled middle," as Pollitt calls it - thinks about abortion. The vast majority of North Americans, it appears, believes abortion should be safe and legal, but also regard the procedure with distaste, discomfort, and shame. Pollitt makes it sparklingly clear why "legal, but..." doesn't work, why it can't work, and why we shouldn't want it.

This book is about something many people might find a strange contradiction: reclaiming abortion as a social good.
First, the concept of personhood, as applied to the zygote, blastocyst, embryo, and at least until late in pregnancy, fetus, makes no sense: It's an incoherent, covertly religious idea that falls apart if you look at it closely. Few people actually believe it, as is shown by the exceptions they are willing to make.

Second, the absolutist argument that abortion is murder is a mask by which people opposed to the sexual revolution and women's advancement obscure their real motives and agenda: turning back the clock to an idealized, oversimplified past when sex was confined within marriage, men were the breadwinners and heads of families, Christianity was America's not-quite-official religion, and society was firmly ordered.

Third, since critiquing what came before does not necessarily help us move forward, I want to help reframe the way we think about abortion. There are definitely short-term advantages to stressing the anguish some women feel when facing the need to end a pregnancy, but in the long run presenting that as a general truth will hurt the pro-choice cause: It comes close to demanding that women accept grief, shame, and stigma as the price of ending a pregnancy. I want us to start thinking of abortion as a positive social good and saying this out loud. The anti-abortion movement has been far too successful at painting abortion as bad for women. I want to argue, to the contrary, that it is an essential option for women - not just ones in dramatic, terrible, body-and-soul destroying situations, but all women - and thus benefits society as a whole.
For anyone deeply involved in the pro-choice movement, as I have been, Pollitt breaks no new ground. You'll be familiar with all the ideas, trends, and arguments. But to read them all gathered together, laid out logically, backed by impeccable research, and pronounced without apology in Pollitt's lively, witty style, is thrilling.

For people who think of themselves as "pro-choice but" - the muddled middle, the majority, who say abortion should be legal and permissible in certain circumstances - this book is for you. Pollitt argues in the clearest, most convincing manner: none of your restrictions make sense. All of them must go. If that seems extreme, read this book with an open mind, then see how you feel.

Pro is written in a US context, and it's important for everyone in the US to read, especially moderate liberals who adopt the "safe, legal, and rare" position.

But this is an important book for Canadians to read, too. Without directly referencing the history of abortion rights in Canada, Pollitt shows us why Dr. Henry Morgentaler and the movement that grew around his work were correct to insist on no abortion law, and why Canada's courts were correct to realize that was necessary. The arguments in Pro explain why the pro-choice movement in Canada kicks up such a loud and sustained noise every time proposed legislation threatens to restrict abortion rights. (The Harper government has tested the waters many times under the guise of private members' bills. Rights don't protect themselves.)

Pollitt argues for abortion as a basic human right: necessary to women's full participation in society, necessary for her survival and her safety, not just in extreme circumstances, but in all circumstances. She excoriates the hypocrisy of a society that worships motherhood as an abstract concept, but in reality, so belittles and minimizes the experience of parenthood as to imagine that a woman can simply have a baby and raise a child any time she becomes pregnant, no matter her current life circumstances - then dismisses the notion that she must do otherwise as abortions "for convenience".

Pollitt also widens the lens to include all aspects of reproductive justice, including access to affordable and reliable birth control, free and affordable childcare, paid parental leave, and working hours designed for working parents. She places abortion in an historical context - it has always existed, in all societies and in all eras - and reminds us what happens to women who live in Ecuador, Ireland, most of the US, and other countries where women's access to this basic, necessary health care has been denied.

After teasing out the many sacrifices, the pain, the accommodation, the compromises, that women routinely make in order to bear children, Pollitt writes:
To force girls and women to undergo all this against their will is to annihilate their humanity.
And that is the bottom line.

Pro is an eloquent, sustained wake-up call. I hope you will all read it.