Canadian Immigration, Conservative Xenophobia

In the United States, debate surrounding Arizona’s new harsh immigration policy – the ‘papers please‘ law – moved from arguing the merits, necessity and constitutionality of SB1070, to a nonsensical discussion about the 14th amendment; the part of the constitution which guarantees American citizenship to all persons born in the United States. Republican lawmakers, seemingly unsatisfied with even the most draconian elements of the ‘papers please’ law, felt it necessary to take immigration reform to the extreme, calling for a repeal of the 14th amendment.

Explanations given to justify the radical proposal have ranged from the farcical (‘anchor babies‘), to the downright hysterical (‘terror babies‘). Less conspiratorial, but equally inaccurate, is the mysterious ‘crime wave‘ Republicans argue demonstrates the need for immigration policy overkill. This argument was recently discussed, and debunked, on the Rachel Maddow Show:

MADDOW: You might have also heard the one about Phoenix, Arizona, now being the number two kidnapping capital of the world.That‘s become a mainstream conservative talking point trotted out over and over again by Republicans. But when PolitiFact, Texas checked out that claimed when it was made by the lieutenant governor of Texas in June, they found it to be, and I quote, ‘false.’ Nevertheless, Republican Senator John McCain repeated it a few weeks later on Meet the Press.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Why is it that Phoenix, Arizona, is the number two kidnapping capital of the world? Does that mean our border is safe? Of course not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Same claim, same results-and I quote, ‘false,’ according to PolitiFact. Despite that, Republican Senator Jon Kyl, undaunted, is still going for it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: Phoenix is a very large source of kidnapping. It‘s called the kidnapping capital of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: It‘s like it‘s too good of a talking point to stop using it even though it‘s not true. Jon Kyl also distinguished himself by going to great detail about how awful illegal immigration has made crime in his home state of Arizona-a state you would think he would take care to know some factual things about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRY SMITH, CBS NEWS: In some of these border towns that were thought to be susceptible to lawbreaking of illegal immigrants, the crime is actually down. Crime in Phoenix, for instance, is down significantly over the last couple of years.

KYL: Well, that‘s a-that‘s a gross generalization. Property crimes are up. Certain property crimes on certain parts of the citizenry are up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Property crimes are up, violent crimes are up-define up, Senator Kyl. Let‘s take property crimes first. There were about 231,000 property crimes in the state of Arizona last year, in 2009. That was down from the year before, which had about 262,000 property crimes-a number that was down from the year before that, which was down from the year before that. Property crimes there, down in Arizona right now.
Senator Kyl also mentioned violent crimes being up. Let‘s have a look at what he thinks about up in this context. In 2009, there were 26,000 violent crime offenses in Arizona, a number down from the year before, which was also down from the year before that, which happened to be down from the year before that.
So, down, down, down, down, down-also known in anti-immigrant white people politics as up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: The United States of America has an unsecured border between Arizona and Mexico which has led to violence, the worst I have ever seen, and numbers that stagger those who are unfamiliar with the issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Yes, they are staggering numbers-for the exact opposite reason of what you mean.Whether or not you want to run on an anti-immigrant platform is up to you. It‘s a political decision. Everyone gets to choose their own political strategy. But as they say, you do not get to choose your own facts.

The common thread linking the various Republican arguments for repealing the 14th amendment is fear – fear of non-white citizens; fear of men, women, and even children, who ‘don’t look like you.‘ To justify their deeply held anti-immigration ideology, Republicans are presenting misinformation as fact, disseminating fear as a means to a legislative end.

Canada, for the most part, has been immune to such radical immigration demagoguery, as we are a nation built on immigration; from the Europeans who first explored in the 15th century, to the estimated 1.5 million displaced persons, war brides, evacuated children, and refugees who passed through Pier 21 – the gateway to Canada – between the years of 1928 and 1971.

Canada’s history of immigration is so cherished, the stories of migrants so important, that on June 25, 2009, Prime Minister Stephen Harper designated Pier 21 as a National Museum of Immigration.

“No country in the world has benefited more than Canada from free and open immigration,” Harper declared. “In every region and across all professions, new Canadians make major contributions to our culture, economy and way of life. It takes a special kind of person to uproot and move to a new country to ensure a better future for your family. Anybody who makes the decision to live, work and build a life in our country represents the very best of what it means to be Canadian.”

What a difference a year makes.

The harrowing voyage of the MV Sun Sea, in which 492 Tamil refugees endured months of squalor in dangerous waters to escape “mass murders, disappearances and extortion” following 25 years of brutal civil war in Sri Lanka, mirrors the experience of so many migrants who passed through Pier 21.

However, unlike Pier 21, there were no counsellors waiting to hear the Sri Lankan’s stories; no team of volunteers eager to swiftly process and fairly evaluate the prospective new residents. Instead, the men, women and children aboard the MV Sun Sea arrived to allegations, leveled by the Harper government, of ties to terrorism and human trafficking; accused by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews of being a “test boat” for an apparent mass immigration conspiracy.

As for the Prime Minister, compare the above remarks made at Pier 21 just fourteen months ago, to this statement he gave following the arrival of the MV Sun Sea:

“Canadians are pretty concerned when a whole boat of people comes – not through any normal application process, not through any normal arrival channel – and just simply lands.

We are responsible for the security of our borders, and the ability to welcome people, or not welcome people, when they come. This trend gives us some significant concern, and we’ll take whatever steps are necessary going forward … We will not hesitate to strengthen the laws if we have to.”

So Harper, who one year ago asserted “it takes a special kind of person to uproot and move to a new country to ensure a better future for your family,” no longer feels those “who make the decision to live, work and build a life in our country represents the very best of what it means to be Canadian.”

Instead, he seems to have adopted the Republican ‘immigrants are scary’ mantra; using the MV Sun Sea as a political prop in an effort to appear ‘tough on immigration.’ Furthermore, like his ideological equals to the South, Harper has proposed changing existing legislation to suit his ideology; specifically the 1985 Supreme Court Ruling which guarantees constitutional charter rights to refugee claimants in Canada.

The Conservatives’ anti-immigration demagoguery has been amplified by Sun Media (QMI), the organization known as Fox News North, now headed by Harper’s former director of communications Kory Teneycke. Sun Media (QMI) has fervently tried to vilify, discredit, and slander the Sri Lankan migrants, even going so far as to incite violence against future refugees.

The xenophobia propagated by both the Harper government and their colleagues in the press is disgraceful to who we are as a nation. It is an insult to our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents who went to great lengths to journey here; who are among the proudest residents to call Canada home.

To discredit those who seek refuge within Canadian borders, fleeing circumstances such as war, poverty, oppression, and corruption, before they have a chance to present their case, does a great disservice to the generations of migrant Canadians on which the Country was built.

Those who’ve attacked the migrants aboard the MV Sun Sea would be wise to listen to the stories of past immigrants, for “too many people in Canada forget that people crawl across minefields to get here.” ~ Ignat Kaneff, Bulgarian born Great Canadian.

Cross-posted at rabble.ca

This is the ‘General cc Ballou’, the ship that carried my Polish grandparents to Pier 21 from a camp in Germany following the Second World War.

 

 

I encourage you to read the personal accounts of those who came to Canada through Pier 21 HERE. It’s a proud part of our history.

Lies, Damned Lies, And The Census

“(The Unites States), and particularly your conservative movement, is a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world.” – Stephen Harper, 1997

In an astonishing display of incompetence, and a complete disregard for the facts, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is forging ahead with plans to scrap the mandatory long form census. The move, cited as “government stupidity” by the former directer of the United States Census Bureau, has drawn the ire of academics, statisticians, economists, genealogists, medical associations, provincial and municipal governments, religious organizations, and charitable groups, just to name a few. It has also prompted criticism from former head of Statistics Canada Ivan Fellegi, and resulted in the very public resignation of Harper’s chief statistician, Munir Sheikh. In a letter posted to the Statistics Canada website, Sheikh wrote in part:

“I have always honoured my oath and responsibilities as a public servant as well as those specific to the Statistics Act. I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion. This relates to the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census.

It cannot.

Under the circumstances, I have tendered my resignation to the Prime Minister.”

(Sheikh’s letter was quickly removed by the government. Anticipating this act of cowardice by Harper, I captured a screen shot for documentation.)

Sheikh’s revelation flies in the face of assurances given by Industry Minister Tony Clement, who claimed he’d “asked [Statistics Canada] specifically, ‘Are you confident you can do your job?’ They said ‘If you do these extra things: the extra advertising and the extra sample size, then yes, we can do our job.’ ”

Clement’s false assertion that he had the support of Statistics Canada is one of the many flawed arguments put forward by the Harper government in efforts to garner support for the unpopular, and purely ideological, policy decision.

The primary justification given for scrapping the long form census were based on Conservative allegations of ‘outrage’ by ‘ordinary citizens “who felt [the long form census] was an intrusion of their privacy.” Taking this explanation one step further, Conservative MP Maxime Bernier insisted he personally “received an average of 1,000 e-mails a day during the [2006] census to my MP office complaining about all that, so I know that Canadians who were obliged to answer that long-form census – very intrusive in their personal lives – I know they were upset.”

So, were Canadians really up in arms over the census in the past? Not according to the Canada’s privacy watchdog, whose office received a grand total of THREE complaints regarding the census over the course of the last decade. Furthermore, a comprehensive study undertaken by Statistics Canada following the 2006 census fails to substantiate the government’s claim of widespread privacy concerns from citizens. The 53 page StatsCan report, which garnered over 1,200 responses from “government agencies, municipalities, non-profits, community groups, academics, private businesses and ordinary citizens,” makes no mention of Canadians finding the census intrusive or overly burdensome.

As for the “thousands of e-mail [complaints] a day” Bernier claimed he’d received during the 2006 census period, he alleges “these messages were obviously not filed for future use by my staff and were deleted.”

Of course they were.

Regarding the reliability and accuracy of information gathered through a voluntary questionnaire, one only has to look to our neighbours to the south, who in 2003 experimented with a voluntary survey in place of a mandatory census. What resulted was an expensive mess of skewed and degraded data, prompting an about face on the very idea of a voluntary form.

Even so, despite having already proven to be a costly blunder, Industry Minister Clement took to twitter to refute criticism from experts who’ve warned that a voluntary survey would result in key segments of the population being underrepresented. Clement’s argument? “Wrong. Statisticians can ensure validity w larger sample size.”

The scope of ignorance displayed by that single tweet was summed up with devastating beauty by Andrew Potter of Maclean’s:

“Clement’s statistical illiteracy is so profound it gives one vertigo. The notion that simply making the sample bigger can’t fix a skewed sample is something undergraduates learn in first-year classes, yet is somehow beyond the mental grasp of a senior minister of a G8 country. And the comedic benefit of watching Clement fail first-year economics is undermined by the cold realization that he fundamentally does not understand the intellectual foundations of the files that he controls. When he is cornered by his intellectual betters, moreover, Clement’s instinct is to reach for the debating-hall comforts of cheap populism.”

Thus is the crux of the matter: The ill-advised move on the census is based not on tangible arguments nor on substantiated data, but on a shrewd political calculation made to play to the Conservative’s ideological base. Notice the champions of doing away with the long form census are Right Wing ideologues who read from a single script of talking points; Who share in a fundamental lack of understanding surrounding the importance of the long form census, and who exhibit a callous disregard for the people who’d be impacted the most.

Even Tom Flanagan, influential conservative and former chief of staff to Harper, fails to see the justification behind the move, noting “it’s just never been an issue in the Conservative movement. It just literally comes out of nowhere as far as I can see.” Flanagan is also critical of the underhanded manner by which the Conservatives made the change, believing “it was an exercise in bad government to suddenly spring this on the public without any previous discussion, no consultation at all. You don’t deal with the public that way in a democracy.”

Unfortunately, as recent events have demonstrated, the Harper government isn’t particularly concerned about a functioning democracy. They remain oblivious to the havoc created as a result of ill-conceived policy decisions, and at this moment, remain unfazed as a world class Canadian institution devolves into chaos. Regarded as the international gold standard, the legacy of Statistics Canada at risk of being permanently tarnished through no fault of its own; Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale, echoing the sentiment from within Statistics Canada, telling reporters that “[Statistics Canada’s] reputation is hanging by a thread at the hands of a bungling minister and a Conservative government that simply doesn’t believe in fact-based decision making.”

Indeed, ignoring evidence while crafting policy has become a recurring theme for this government; One who’d rather build talking points to support their desired legislation, than build legislation based on indisputable, real world, information.

Our current legislators would be wise to heed the advice of André Pratte of La Presse:

“Before this government does even more harm to the institution that is the government of Canada, the intelligent people within the federal cabinet have a duty to rise up and stop the pillaging. Otherwise, the Harper government may be remembered as one of the most incompetent and harmful governments this country has ever known.”

Further reading: A breakdown of how the long form census information is used, and a breakdown of the consequences of ending the mandatory long form census.

Cross-posted at rabble.ca

Who’s Influencing Policy Decisions In Stephen Harper’s Government?

In the wake Marci McDonald’s newly released book The Armageddon Factor: The Rise Of Christian Nationalism In Canada, a political firestorm has erupted on Parliament Hill, igniting debate about just who’s influencing the policy decisions made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The release of McDonald’s book comes amid the brewing tension of apparent ideological moves made by the Harper government, including the ‘Mexico City Policy’ for the upcoming G8 maternal and child health initiative, the rescinding of funds of women’s organizations who promote a full range of family planning options, and the denial of federal tourism funds for Pride Toronto.

With public focus being drawn to the back rooms of the PMO, the Harper governmentlashed out following a CBC segment featuring an interview with McDonald and a glimpse at some of the people discussed in the book. The Conservatives accused the public broadcaster of “fomenting religious division” and waging a “faith war” in an “ongoing campaign against the Conservative Party.” (Take note, this is just the latest in a string of baseless allegations made by the Conservative Party and Right Wing pundits against the CBC.)

The desperation exhibited by Conservative strategists in a fervent attempt to discredit McDonald, gives proof to explosive information contained between the covers of The Armageddon Factor; connections the Harper government would rather Canadians not be aware of. Try as they might to downplay the influence of Right Wing religious figures on policy decisions made by Harper, Conservatives cannot deny the presence of one prominent Christian activist and senior advisor in the PMO, who recently moved from his position as director of policy to become Harper’s new deputy chief of staff.

The prominent Christian activist is none other than Darrel Reid, former president of Focus On The Family Canada; Canada’s own James Dobson.

Reid served as Director of Policy and Research for the Reform Party of Canada, and in 1996 became chief of staff to then leader of the Reform Party, Preston Manning. In 1997 Reid won the Reform nomination for the Ottawa riding of Lanark-Carleton, but was ultimately defeated by the Liberal Party’s Ian Murray. The following year Reid became president of Focus On The Family Canada, an evangelical Christian organization which views homosexuality as a ‘curable condition,’ seeks to repeal gay rights legislation, equates the pro-choice movement to ‘systemic genocide,’ and believes ‘activist judges’ on the Supreme Court of Canada are a threat to democracy.

As president of Focus On The Family Canada, Reid described his role as mobilizing Christians in Canada to infuse their religion with their political beliefs, stating in a 2002 op-ed “it would be great to see social conservatives from all our parties and traditions begin to reinsert their most deeply-held convictions into our nation’s political discourse.” Reid later asserted that “every Christian is under an obligation to change law to reflect biblical values.”

Reid’s organization lobbied hard against same sex marriage legislation, later arguing Section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides for use of a ‘notwithstanding clause’ to overturn the right for gays to marry. He argued against the inclusion of sexual orientation to the list of minorities protected against hate crimes, and promoted ‘conversion therapy’ for those ‘afflicted’ by homosexuality. Conversion therapy, referred to by many as ‘Pray Away The Gay,’ stems from the belief that homosexuality is a choice and an inherent weakness. By praying for forgiveness and seeking divine guidance ,God will ultimately ‘relieve’ the ‘sufferer’ of their homosexual urges. It goes without saying that what Reid and Focus On The Family refer to as a ‘cure’ for homosexuality, is better known as living in denial.

During his time At Focus On The Family Canada, Reid worked closely with Dobson’s American organization, and between 2000 – 2003 Focus On The Family Canada received$1.6 Million from its U.S. counterpart to assist in the fight against same sex marriage legislation. Dobson’s influence through Focus on The Family Canada continues to this day, most recently through a misleading publication appearing in Today’s Family News – a publication of Focus On The Family Canada. The article, entitled Pediatricians Reject Teens Same Sex Attraction As ‘Normal’, states

“The American College of Pediatricians is cautioning ‘well-intentioned but misinformed’ high school teachers and staff across the US against being too quick to affirm students who say they are attracted to people of the same sex. ‘Adolescents experience confusion about many things, including sexual orientation and gender identity, and they are particularly vulnerable to environmental influences,’ the Florida-based ACP wrote in a letter to every school superintendent in the country. ‘Rigorous studies demonstrate that most adolescents who initially experience same-sex attraction, or are sexually confused, no longer experience such attractions by age 25.’ Such ‘premature labelling,’ the doctors warn, could encourage some teens to engage in harmful behaviours ‘that they otherwise would not pursue.’ And while schools have a ‘legitimate role to provide a safe environment for respectful self-expression for all students,’ it is not for them to ‘affirm’ a student’s perceived same-sex attraction.”

The letter referenced by Today’s Family News, and sent by The American College of Pediatricians (ACP) to the 14,800 American high school superintendents, reads in part:

“In dealing with adolescents experiencing same sex attraction, it’s essential to understand there is no scientific evidence that an individual is born ‘gay’ or ‘transgender’ … it is also critical to understand that these conditions can respond well to therapy.”

The problem? The American College Of Pediatrics (ACP), though it sounds like an official organization, is actually an American Right Wing ‘cure the gays’ group. The the REAL medical association is the American Academy Of Pediatricians (AAP), who clearly state:

“You Are Normal. Homosexuality is not a mental disorder. All of the major medical organizations, including The American Psychiatric Association, The American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree that homosexuality is not an illness or disorder, but a form of sexual expression. No one knows what causes a person to be gay, bisexual, or straight. There probably are a number of factors. Some may be biological. Others may be psychological. The reasons can vary from one person to another. The fact is, you do not choose to be gay, bisexual, or straight.”

In a 2001 interview with Dobson’s Focus On The Family Magazine, which noted ‘Focus Canada was active in the debate over a recent parliamentary bill, introduced by the government, that sought to rewrite 68 federal laws to give same-sex couples virtually all the same rights as heterosexual couples,’ Reid said he “called on Canadians to challenge the proposed law, demanding Parliament respect the distinct heterosexual nature of marriage, the benefits it brings and its biblical worldview.” He added that “Dr. Dobson … fears the United States could follow Canada’s lead in social radicalism. The rest of Canada, it appears, could be following Quebec’s lead. When it comes to marriage, sexual mores and abortion, that’s not reassuring.”

Commenting on the Canadian Charter Of Rights And Freedoms, Reid told the magazine that “since the Charter came in, we’ve seen a huge shift in influence from our legislatures and elected representatives to the courts … this represents a worryingly anti-democratic trend, especially when it comes to marriage, family and sanctity of life issues in Canada.”

Regarding the United Nations and Canada’s contributions, Reid asserted “left-wing activists have been using the United Nations for nearly 20 years to impose their kind of anti-life, anti-family agenda … Among the leading agitators in that process are Canadians. The problem is that we send delegates to the U.N. who represent small interest groups.”

Reid is mentioned in a number of American Conservative religious publications, including a2009 newsletter from The World Congress Of Families – a worldwide coalition of Right Wing religious groups – listing the “Top Ten Best And Worst Developments Impacting on the Family in 2008.”

Among the ‘Best’ developments:

Sarah Palin
“Pro-Life Woman Is Vice-Presidential Nominee – For only the second time in U.S. history, a woman was the vice-presidential nominee of a major party. For the first time, that woman was staunchly pro-life and pro-family. The mother of five children, including one with Down Syndrome, Sarah Palin exemplifies family values. She drew larger and more enthusiastic crowds than the head of the ticket.”

Rescinding gay rights in California
“Despite massive opposition by the governor, legislature, courts and media, in November, voters in the largest state in the U.S. passed an amendment to the California constitution limiting marriage to ‘a man and a woman’.”

Reid’s appointment to the PMO
“Family Advocate Becomes Senior Advisor To Canadian Prime Minister – In July, Darrell Reid became director of policy for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Reid, who served as president of Focus On The Family, Canada (1998 to 2004), told World Congress of Families II (Geneva, 1999) ‘It is nothing less than a bald-faced lie to say it harms no one to bestow the privileges bestowed on legally married couples to other relationships’.”

Among the worst developments:

President Barack Obama
“The Election of Barack Obama – Along with Secretary of State Designate Hillary Clinton, expect a sea-change in U.S. policy regarding the family, both at home and internationally. The U.S. delegation to the United Nations, which has been resolutely pro- life and pro-family under Bush, is expected to turn 180 degrees under Obama and Clinton (both dogmatically pro-abortion and anti-traditional marriage). Obama’s judicial appointments are expected to mirror his anti-family mentality.”

Access to safe abortion
“UNFPA Nigeria Meeting Pushes Abortion In the Guise of Women’s Health – At a meeting in Sokoto, Nigeria (July 16-27) for 270 of the continent’s tribal and religious leaders, the United Nations Population Fund sought to enlist African leaders in its drive for universal abortion on demand. Under the deceptive slogan “No One Should Die Giving Life,” UNFPA equated pregnancy with a disease – in an effort to co-opt medical science for a political cause and foreclose a debate on the moral dimensions of abortion.”

Governor General Michaelle Jean
“Queen’s Representative In Canada Celebrates Androgyny – Canada’s Governor General Michaelle Jean has hung a 20-ft. mural in Rideau Hall (where Canada’s prime minister and cabinet members are sworn in) celebrating androgyny — the condition of having both male and female organs or characteristics. The mural supposedly represents the Okanagan tribe. According to the Governor General’s website, “In many native tribes, the order of life learning is that you are born without sex as a child; through learning, you move toward full capacity as either a male or female.” The Canadian gay lobbying group Eagle has pledged to fight “the discriminatory practice of labeling children male or female at birth.” Jean isn’t just another gender deconstructionist, but a gender deconstructionist who is the British monarch’s representative in Canada, as well as head of state and commander of the armed forces.”

As noted above by The World Congress Of Families, Reid was a keynote speaker at their 1999 convention in Geneva, Switzerland. In his lengthy address, Reid advocates to:

“Define Marriage in Legislation … A Definition of Marriage Act would signal that marriage is a foundational aspect of our society and should not be easily redefined. Such legislation has already been introduced throughout the U.S. and we at Focus on the Family Canada are calling for similar legislation to be introduced in our country … The key aspects of Definition of Marriage Act are:
Marriage is clearly defined as a relationship between one man and one woman.
Spouse is clearly defined as either a man or woman who are married to each other.
Marriage is established as a unique legal relationship deserving of special status before the law.”

“Promote Abstinence Education: Governments need abandon safe sex education and begin promoting abstinence education. Decades of sex education programs have done nothing to lower teen pregnancies … abstinence education works whereas “safer-sex” programs do not … Abstinence education leads to fewer teen pregnancies, fewer abortions and fewer children in single parent homes.”

“Reform Welfare and Other Social Programs: Social programs should not take the place of a spouse nor should they encourage irresponsible parenting. Yet this is exactly what many of our current welfare programs do. Single moms are rewarded not for getting married, but rather for having another child. Not only has welfare become more lucrative than getting a low-paying job, it is also more lucrative than marrying someone with a low paying job. These disincentives to marriage are one of the biggest contributors to the problem of fatherless families. Society should not encourage single parenting and more importantly it should not help fathers abandon their responsibilities to their children. Fortunately, many states in the U.S as well as provinces in Canada have begun to lower benefits to make working and marrying someone who works more attractive. Some jurisdictions are limiting the benefits available to those who have another child well on welfare.”

In my quest to unearth documents written by Reid during his time at Focus On The Family Canada, I obtained two audio recordings of a November 2003 Focus On The Family seminar held in Singapore, in which “Dr. Darrel Reid, a Political Historian and President of Focus on the Family Canada” presented “Deconstructing Marriage and Family: Canada’s Present, Singapore’s Future? —- Homosexuality: Myths & Truths.”

‘Dr. Darrel Reid’ began, ironically, by telling the audience “I’m not a doctor, my specialty has been in the area of public policy.” Among other things, Reid claims “the (Canadian) court redefined federal and provincial marriage laws by itself; It said those laws are discriminatory and ordered the governments to change, to comply with that ruling … that has caused a certain amount of upset in Canada … because the majority of Canadians believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman … but the federal government began a propaganda campaign to sell (same sex marriage rights) to the public.”

He rambled at length about the evils of “no fault divorce”, “co-habitation/living in sin” (common law marriage), spanking laws, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, before returning to the issue of same sex marriage; specifically how ‘the gays’ managed to achieve equal rights in Canada.

“In the gay lifestyle, sexual identity is paramount. According to the homosexual arguments in Canada, gays are an oppressed minority … it’s very key to become an oppressed minority, because nobody wants to see that … The media has been very, very active in promoting and bringing these stories forward. The line is that ‘we’re just folks, we’re just like you but our lifestyle may be a little bit different’ … and that plays very well in the media; it does have an impact on our legislators and on our judges. Then (they) seek and receive special protection by governments.”

“… In canada we have federal human rights commission and provincial ones … these are not courts but they speak with the authority very much, or often times courts back them up. We have human rights tribunals in provinces which often champion and emphasize gay rights causes using words like ‘oppression’ and ‘discrimination’. The cases are inevitably highly publicized … on these issues we often refer to (the Human Rights Commission) as a kangaroo court.”

“If you’re concerned about your religious freedom … you need to know your rights will come secondary to same sex groups.”

By far the most incendiary remarks came when Reid spoke about the ‘myths & truths of homosexuality.’

“I am sorry to say tonight I will not be speaking about myths and truths,” Reid begins. “I will just be talking about truths, and that is what has happened in the Canadian experience … we as a culture have been taken over by an activist court; by radical lobby groups, that have changed the country beyond the wildest imagination … in a way I’m ashamed and sorry to be standing before you as a Canadian and telling you this, but my reason for doing so …is that perhaps our present will never be your future.”

“Marriage is no longer determined by how we’ve been created by God. You read in Genesis : 2, you read in Matthew : 16; It’s not good for man to be alone. We are created for community. We are created for that marriage bond. It is encoded in out genetic structure. In (Canada), that’s not what the courts say.”

“Same sex marriage is better understood as a co-habitational relationship. There hasn’t been much research on this. The only research that’s been published on this is a study that was done in the Netherlands on same sex marriage … what they found is that gay marriage was very different than heterosexual marriage. You see, the average same sex marriage in the Netherlands lasted 18 months and had an average of 8 different sexual partners involved in that relationship. So whatever you want to call it, don’t call it marriage because it’s not and it never will be. In every way it is inferior and socially disruptive.”

“In Canada today, children to not have the right to have a mother and a father.”

“What we’ve seen in Canada is that the gender distinction has been erased. The gay groups in Canada really believe there’s really functionally, ultimately, no difference between men and women; it’s just a matter of plumbing.”

“What about education? … What we’ve seen in Canada is that (homosexuality) is beginning to be promoted at the earliest education levels. That means kindergarten which is age five, grade one which is age six. Already same sex groups are being brought into the classroom to talk about how normal it is.”

“There’s a very narrow definition of religious rights (in Canada) … our legal people, our media, our academic elite don’t care what you believe (against same sex rights), they just don’t want you to talk about it to anybody or act upon it. Now I’m a historian … the best parallel that I can think of historically is in Germany in the 1930s, as the rise of the Nazi party and Adolf Hitler came to power. You see, Adolf Hitler and his friends didn’t care what you believed, you only became dangerous when you talked to somebody else about it, or you acted on it. I believe the same rational is taking place (in Canada.)”

“On freedom of expression, there’s been a chill on democratic discourse in our country, that is the strength of our democracy is that we can say what we believe … There’s a move afoot in Canada to clamp down on that. There’s a bill in our House of Commons that’s well on it’s way to being passed that would criminalize statements of hatred toward homosexuals. Now what do we mean by statements of hatred? That’s the problem, because nobody knows what that means. We do know that a judge one of our provinces has taken passages from the Bible … and has already ruled that those passages of scripture constitute hatred … we’re coming close to losing our religious liberties and religious freedoms in Canada.”

You may have noticed that Reid has an issue with so called ‘activist’ judges, whom he blames for Canadian gay rights legislation; This common cause of the religious right continues, most recently by president of Canada Christian College, Charles McVety.

Earlier this month, as noted by Macleans, McVety took to Parliament Hill, “on behalf of an alliance of evangelical Christian and family-values groups,” calling for Harper to ” ‘restore democracy’ by filling any vacancies that might open up on the country’s top court with judges who won’t insist on writing their own laws.”

May 5 press release from the Institute For Canadian Values coincided with McVety’s march on Parliament Hill. It reads:

“The President of Canada Christian College, Dr. Charles McVety says ‘This is the most important issue of our time. Out-of-control lawmaking judges have legalized two types of child pornography, reduced the age of consent for anal sex to 14 and redefined marriage.’ As part of a campaign to inform Canadians the importance of Supreme Court appointments, we have produced the full feature documentary film ‘Besieged, Democracy Under Attack.’ Viewers can watch Canada’s Chief Justice articulate the current judicial lawmaking philosophy and judge for themselves.”

Indeed, you can watch the trailer (and buy the DVD!) at www.besieged.tv. The short video features dramatic music, ‘1984’ visuals, and the requisite ‘shocking’ information:

“Democracy is under attack … Judges have made themselves lawmakers, usurping Parliament … Canadian activist judges have legalized fictitious child pornography, reduced the age of consent for anal sex to 14, legalized sex clubs for orgies, and redefined marriage and family … Get your copy while you still can. Warning! This film contains information the government does not want you to hear.”

Though I found the ‘Besieged’ video comical, it’s important to remember that Reid, who now works directly with Harper, is part of a group of Christian activists who hold beliefs such as this. During his tenure at Focus On The family Canada, Reid worked hand in hand with McVety an other extremist religious figures, and is now considered an ‘inside man’ by the various religious Conservative organizations.

One only has to look at decisions made by the Harper government over the last 12 months to see the effects the Right Wing religious organizations are having on Canadian policy:

-Defunding KAIROS
-Defunding Rights & Democracy
-Defunding multiple women’s NGOs
-Rescinding funds for Gay Pride events
-Implementing a ‘Mexico City Policy’ for the G8 maternal health initiative
-Initiating a ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ policy for Abortion rights in Canada

While religion remains an integral part in the lives of many Canadians, it has no business in the halls of Parliament, and certainly does not belong in the process of crafting government legislation. The separation of Church and State serves an important purpose; the beliefs and desires of a given religion are not necessarily beneficial to society as a whole. Any religion or belief system that seeks to ostracize or blacklist a group of individuals for not adhering to a given set of rules, works against the message of the ‘loving God’ they purport to represent. If God has an issue with homosexuality or access to safe abortion, the use of contraception, or a whole host of other social issues, ultimately it’s between each individual and God. It’s troublesome enough to have religious figures spreading misinformation about lifestyle choices to suit their own religious agenda, but to have these religious figures directly influencing Government policy is a serious cause for concern.

Cross-posted at rabble.ca

For further information regarding Harper, the CPC, and the U.S. Religious Right, visit THIS page and download the PDF.

UPDATE! – December 9, 2010 – Darrel Reid leaves the PMO to join the Calgary School.

Ex-Harper aide gets ethics exemption to take University of Calgary post

BY GLEN MCGREGOR, POSTMEDIA NEWS

OTTAWA — A former top aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper was given an exemption from an ethics rule that restricts the jobs public officials can take after they leave government.

Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson waived a post-employment requirement for Darrel Reid, who served as Harper’s deputy chief of staff and director of policy until earlier this year, so he could take a fellowship at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.

The Conflict of Ethics Act prohibits public-office holders from taking a job with an organization they had “direct and significant official dealings” with in the final year of their government employment.

Although Dawson’s ruling makes no mention of it, lobbyist registration records show Reid had contact with lobbyists from the University of Calgary on two occasions in 2009, with “education” and “Strengthening links with U of C” listed as the subjects discussed.

“In reviewing this request, the Commissioner has determined that because of Mr. Reid’s experience and expertise in the field of public policy, the public interest in granting this waiver outweighs the public interest in maintaining the prohibition,” the waiver notice on Dawson’s website says.

“Mr. Reid continues to be subject to all post-employment obligations that would otherwise apply.”

In an email, Reid wrote: “She has made her ruling and I will abide by it.” He did not comment further.

The lobbying records show that Reid is only the second public-office holder to receive the same kind of post-employment exemption from Dawson.

Earlier this year, she granted an exemption to Kenneth Watkin, the former judge advocate general in the Canadian Forces, so he could accept an appointment from the Israeli government to be a foreign observer in an inquiry into the Gaza flotilla affair.

Reid is a past-president of the evangelical organization, Focus on the Family. He left the Prime Minister’s Office this summer and became the executive director of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, a conservative group founded by his old boss, former Reform party leader Preston Manning.

At the School of Public Policy, Reid will join another Harper alumnus, Ken Boessenkool, who served as Harper’s chief of staff in Opposition, then became a lobbyist with Hill and Knowlton before the Tories formed the government. Because he left before the Federal Accountability Act took effect, Boessenkool was allowed to lobby his former colleagues in the party.

Boessenkool is now listed as a fellow at the school.

At The G8, Refusing To Be Silenced On Women’s Rights

A Monday gathering of Canadian and international women’s rights experts on Parliament Hill was intended to discuss Canada’s role in the maternal and child health initiative at the upcoming G8 summit; To voice their concerns over the erosion of gender equality and women’s rights in foreign policy under Stephen Harper, and address the omission of abortion rights in the maternal health initiative.

But rather than taking into consideration the issues brought forward by those in attendance, Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth offered some raw advice in an effort to silence further debate on the abortion issue.

“We’ve got five weeks or whatever left until G-8 starts. Shut the fuck up on this issue. Let it roll out. I hope I’m not proven wrong, but I have every confidence that it will include family planning and so on … and I hope I’m right. It’s just, if you push it, there will be more backlash. This is now a political football. This is not about women’s health in this country.”

The threat of potential ‘backlash’ validates the suspicions already percolating throughout various Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), that in criticizing the Harper government you run the risk of having your organization defunded. In fact, over the past two weeks alone, many women’s rights groups have already been stripped of their funding:

-Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW)
-Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA)
-Conseil d’intervention pour l’accès des femmes au travail (CIAFT)
-New Brunswick Pay Equity Coalition,
-Réseau des Tables régionales de groupes de femmes du Québec
-Alberta Network of Immigrant Women,
-MATCH (30 year old organization fighting for equality for poor women),
-Centre de documentation sur l’éducation des adultes et la condition feminine
-Association féminine d’éducation et d’action sociale (AFEAS)
-Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH)
-Womenspace Resource Centre (Lethbridge, AB)
-Feminists for Just and Equitable Public Policy (FemJEPP) in Nova Scotia

The rescinding of federal funds from these organizations strikes an eerie resemblance to George W Bush’s infamous Mexico City Policy, also known as the global gag rule, which prohibited all federally funded NGOs from performing, promoting, or advocating for abortions in other countries. This poorly conceived policy is supported and promoted by the religious right, where ideology always comes first and scientific fact is often ignored.

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated during her appearance at the G8 foreign minister’s meeting, “if we’re talking about maternal health, you cannot have maternal health without reproductive health; and reproductive health includes contraception and family planning, and access to legal, safe abortion.”

In what it bills as ‘The Preventable Pandemic,’ the World Health Organization (WHO) compiled a sobering report on the “urgent public-health and human-rights imperative” of unsafe abortions. The report sheds light on the fact that “unsafe abortion remains one of the most neglected sexual and reproductive health problems in the world today,” providing stunning statistics to back up the assertion. The report estimates about 68 000 women die every year from unsafe abortions, 97% of which occur in developing countries. In Africa alone, over half of all maternal deaths come as a direct result of unsafe abortions.

Death isn’t the only consequence of so called ‘backstreet’ abortions; morbidity, or permanent injury, including haemorrhage, sepsis, infection, and trauma to the uterus and abdominal organs is a common occurrence. The report states that when access to safe abortion is made more difficult or illegal, women’s health rapidly deteriorates. By contrast, women’s health rapidly improves when abortion is made legal, safe, and easily accessible.

The WHO report also details the impact unsafe abortions have on the medical system, noting “treatment of abortion complications burdens public health systems in the developing world. Conversely, ensuring women’s access to safe abortion services lowers medical costs for health systems. In some low- income and middle-income countries, up to 50% of hospital budgets for obstetrics and gynaecology are spent treating complications of unsafe abortion.”

“The cost per woman to health systems for treatment of abortion complications in Tanzania is more than seven times the overall Ministry of Health budget per head of population. Estimates from Uganda comparing costs of treatment of abortion complications with costs of providing safe, elective abortion show the potential resource-savings to health systems. Post-abortion care offered in tertiary hospitals by physician providers was estimated to cost health systems ten times more than elective abortion services offered by mid- level practitioners in primary care.”

Perhaps the most compelling argument for the inclusion of access to safe abortion in the G8 maternal health initiative deals with the sensitive issue of rape. It’s undeniable that rape is used as a weapon of war, and women and young girls are targeted as a means to punish others. Some people in South Africa hold the belief that intercourse with a virgin will cure HIV, so children are preyed upon and victimized, many becoming pregnant as a result. Why should these victims, having already been traumatized, be forced to carry the child of the man who raped them? More importantly, why should children who are impregnated following a rape, be subjected to a full pregnancy at the tender age of 11?

In Canada we’re fortunate to have the freedom of choice; When a woman is faced with a dangerous or unwanted pregnancy, she has a full range of options available to her. The fundamental advantage of a pro-choice policy is safe access to abortion when necessary, but not necessarily an abortion. It means protecting and preserving life in the vast majority of pregnancies, while providing safe access to a service that, in various circumstances, is medically necessary.

The NGO’s and advocates speaking on behalf of women’s rights understand the importance of a woman’s right to chose. The foundation from which they craft their policy is based on sound research, verifiable data, and direct input from medical professionals. The push for the inclusion of access to safe abortions in the G8 initiative is not based on a political agenda or religious ideology; It’s based on the desire to craft a comprehensive foreign aid policy that will best enhance the lives of women and children in developing nations.

These tireless crusaders for women’s rights must continue to speak out, demanding to be heard. At a time when their voices are more important than ever, they mustn’t surrender to the threats and intimidation from the Prime Minister and his Conservative colleagues. If Harper is genuinely interested in improving the health and welfare of women and children abroad, he’d do himself a great deal of service by heeding the advice of those who’ve dedicated their lives to the very initiative he espouses.

Cross-posted at rabble.ca
—-

Further reading:
Congo Rape Victims Jailed For Seeking Abortions
Top medical journal chides Harper on abortion funding: “hypocritical and unjust”

A Landmark Decision, A Democratic Victory

In a historic decision regarding the battle for access to documents on Afghan detainees, Speaker of the House Peter Milliken ruled in favour of the opposition, reaffirming the notion that Parliament reigns supreme over the powers of Prime Minister and the Federal Government.

“Before us are issues that question the very foundations upon which our parliamentary system is built,” Milliken asserted. “In a system of responsible government, the fundamental right of the House of Commons to hold the government to account for its actions is an indisputable privilege and, in fact, obligation.”

This was precisely the argument opposition MPs had made in their attempts to obtain uncensored documents containing key information on the reported abuse and torture of Afghan detainees. In December 2009, the three opposition parties unanimously passed a Commons motion which demanded the Harper government provide them access to the confidential detainee files believed to reveal government knowledge of torture. After months of stonewalling by the Conservatives, as well as the Prime Minister’s adamant refusal to comply with the December motion, the opposition raised the question of privilege with the Speaker of the House, calling for the government to be held in contempt.

Milliken was tasked with wading through the debate, and in an unprecedented ruling, found the Harper government had violated parliamentary privilege and overstepped their powers in their handling of the request for unredacted documents.

“It is the view of the chair,” stated Milliken “that accepting an unconditional authority of the executive to censor the information provided to Parliament would in fact jeopardize the very separation of powers that is purported to lie at the heart of our parliamentary system and the independence of its constituent parts. Furthermore, it risks diminishing the inherent privileges of the House and its members, which have been earned and must be safeguarded. Therefore, the chair must conclude that it is perfectly within the existing privileges of the House to order production of the documents in question.”

On the decision by Harper to thwart the opposition’s motion by appointing former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci to independently review the documents, Milliken had this to say:

“The (Harper) government has argued that in mandating this review by Mr. Iacobucci, it was taking steps to comply with the Order consistent with its requirements to protect the security of Canada’s armed forces and Canada’s international obligations. However, several Members have pointed out that Mr. Iacobucci’s appointment establishes a separate, parallel process outside of parliamentary oversight, and without parliamentary involvement. Furthermore, and in my view perhaps most significantly, Mr. Iacobucci reports to the Minister of Justice; his client is the (Harper) government.”

In a telling observation, the Speaker addressed accusations coming from the Conservative caucus that granting opposition MPs access to confidential information somehow posed a threat to national security.

“There have been assertions,” noted Milliken “that colleagues in the House are not sufficiently trustworthy to be given confidential information, even with appropriate security safeguards in place. I find such comments troubling. The insinuation that Members of Parliament cannot be trusted with the very information that they may well require to act on behalf of Canadians runs contrary to the inherent trust that Canadians have placed in their elected officials and which Members require to act in their various parliamentary capacities … from the submissions I have heard, it is evident to the Chair that all Members take seriously the sensitive nature of these documents and the need to protect the confidential information they contain.”

Milliken called for co-operation from all parties involved, and though he acknowledged “finding common ground will be difficult,” he urged them to work together to find a solution to the ongoing stalemate.

“Now, it seems to me, that the issue before us is this: is it possible to put into place a mechanism by which these documents could be made available to the House without compromising the security and confidentiality of the information they contain? In other words, is it possible for the two sides, working together in the best interest of the Canadians they serve, to devise a means where both their concerns are met? Surely that is not too much to hope for.”

“But the fact remains that the House and the Government have, essentially, an unbroken record of some 140 years of collaboration and accommodation in cases of this kind. It seems to me that it would be a signal failure for us to see that record shattered in the Third Session of the Fortieth Parliament because we lacked the will or the wit to find a solution to this impasse.
The House has long understood the role of the Government as ‘defender of the realm’ and its heavy responsibilities in matters of security, national defence and international relations. Similarly, the Government understands the House’s undoubted role as the ‘grand inquest of the nation’ and its need for complete and accurate information in order to fulfill its duty of holding the Government to account.”

In granting the Government and the opposition fourteen days to break the current impasse, Milliken warned “if in two weeks’ time, the matter is still not resolved, the Chair will return to make a statement on the motion that will be allowed in the circumstances.”

Having provided a thorough analysis of the events which played out over the past year, explaining in depth the reasoning behind his decision, Milliken rendered his verdict on the conduct of the Prime Minister and the Conservative government.

“Accordingly,” ruled Milliken “on analyzing the evidence before it and the precedents, the chair cannot but conclude that the government’s failure to comply with the order of December 10, 2009 constitutes prima facie a question of privilege.”

Somewhere in the span of his 45 minute address, the Speaker of the House reignited the flame of democracy that Prime Minister Stephen Harper had all but extinguished. Members of the opposition applauded Milliken for his hard work and dedication concerning the matter, and political observers celebrated a rare victory for transparency and accountability in the ‘culture of deceit‘ that embodies the Harper government.

There is much work yet to be done, and it will take an honest effort from all parties involved to agree on a course of action from which to proceed. Nevertheless, with the balance of power between Members of Parliament and the Federal Government restored, Milliken’s decision was an unequivocal victory for democracy in Canada.

Cross-posted at rabble.ca

These are some of the redacted documents which, until now, have been the only form of documents released to members of the opposition by the Harper government.

Behind The Redactions

The detainee document game of hide-and-seek the Conservatives are engaging in is an affront to members of Parliament and a subversion of the Military Police Complaints Commission. It cannot be allowed to continue, and this government must be held accountable for their willful complicity in the torture of Afghan detainees.

Although the Prime Minister would prefer to continue his autocratic reign, never having to answer for the actions of his government, Canadians will not stand for the continued assault on our access to information and our right to know.

The refusal by Harper to submit the requested unredacted documents to the MPCC, who have the highest level of security clearance, speaks volumes to the extent of the incriminating evidence being hidden behind layers of black ink.

The audacity of Defence minister Peter MacKay to accuse those asking questions of undermining our troops serves only to insult those very soldiers who adhere to the Geneva conventions and conduct themselves with courage and honour.

There is no doubt as to whether this Conservative government violated the rules of the battlefield; it most certainly did. But precisely who was aware of the prisoner abuse, and to what extent detainee torture took place remains unclear, because the answers lie in the files Harper is so desperate to suppress.

If the Prime Minister is found in contempt of parliament, and chooses not to produce the uncensored files being demanded by the opposition, Harper may well find himself and fellow Conservatives before the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face charges of war crimes.

The increasing sense of urgency exhibited by the government in the face of fresh requests for document disclosure suggests the ICC may just be the perfect venue for the Conservatives to answer for their crimes.

Cross-posted at rabble.ca

The video shows Peter MacKay in a media scrum following the testimony of the Generals in November 2009. The reporter wants to know how it is the Generals obtained the documents while the opposition MPs were still being refused access.

Denial And Deceit: The Harper Government And Torture In Afghanistan

Canada has long been known as a peacekeeping nation; lauded for our humanitarian missions and respected for our international contributions. The unassuming nature of Canadian soldiers garners an admiration few other militaries can boast; A history of moral and honourable service.

But for the mission in Afghanistan, the ethics and standards that once guided military decisions have been all but abandoned by the military brass. Under the Harper government, the rules governing the battlefield are ignored; the Geneva conventions are flouted and war crimes are committed.

The Prime Minister has long been aware of the repercussions his policy on detainees was having, and the implications on his government if the warnings were not heeded. But it wasn’t until a diplomat, who’d been muzzled by Harper, broke his silence that most Canadians became aware of the misconduct being perpetrated by our government in Afghanistan.

Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin began working for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Kandahar, shifting later to Kabul where he was the second in command at the Canadian Embassy. His 2006 arrival in Afghanistan came one month after the U.S. State department issued a report concerning the “continued and routine” torture and abuse of Afghan detainees by local authorities, including “pulling out fingernails and toenails, burning with hot oil, beatings, sexual humiliation, and sodomy.”

In November 2009 during his first appearance before the Afghan Committee in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Colvin described what he encountered upon visiting detainees transferred by Canadian forces to the Afghan intelligence service, or NDS.

“As I learned more about our detainee practices, I came to a conclusion they were contrary to Canada’s values, contrary to Canada’s interests, contrary to Canada’s official policies and also contrary to international law. That is, they were un-Canadian, counterproductive and probably illegal,” Colvin testified. He also claimed many detainees were not “high-value targets,” but “according to a very authoritative source, many of the Afghans we detained had no connection to insurgency whatsoever … many were just local people: farmers; truck drivers; tailors, peasants – random human beings in the wrong place at the wrong time … From an intelligence point of view, they had little or no value.”

Colvin said he believed Canada’s “complicity in torture” undermined the efforts and goals of the strategy in Kandahar. “Instead of winning hearts and minds, we caused Kandaharis to fear the foreigners. Canada’s detainee practices alienated us from the population and strengthened the insurgency.”

The Canadian diplomat began alerting Ottawa to the “serious, imminent and alarming” circumstances surrounding detainees in 2006; sending a series of memos to both the senior ranks of the military and Department of National Defence.

“At first, we were mostly ignored,” Colvin recalled. “However by April 2007 we were receiving written messages from the senior Canadian government co-ordinator for Afghanistan to the effect that I should be quiet and do what I was told, and also phone messages from a DFAIT assistant deputy minister suggesting that, in future, we should not put things on paper, but instead use the telephone … Immediately, thereafter, the paper trail on detainees was reduced; Reports on detainees began sometimes to be censored with crucial information removed.”

Following his testimony, the Conservative government set their sights on Colvin; Intent to undermine his credibility and reputation. The relentless smearing of the well respected diplomat prompted twenty-three former Canadian ambassadors (joined later by an additional twelve) to release a letter to the media condemning the behaviour of the Conservative government.
One of the letters signatories, former ambassador Paul Durand, singled out Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s particularly reprehensible attacks.
“He savaged him in public, and ridiculed him,” said Durand. “And that’s not the way to treat a guy who’s doing his job. He is not a whistleblower. He was hauled before a parliamentary committee and had to state the truth.”

Though the government and military brass vehemently deny allegations it was aware of what was happening to detainees, a series of information leaks to the media reveal a pattern of deceit and denial from the Harper government and military brass.

Details emerged that military allies had lodged complaints over Canadian’s “secretive manner with which it handled detainees … stonewalling on providing basic information on the Afghans it was capturing.” Reports from The Globe and Mail note that “Mr. Colvin wasn’t the only foreign service officer relaying criticisms about detainee transfers to Ottawa. A Sept. 11, 2006, memo from a Canadian NATO staffer alerted the government to the fact that the ICRC had singled out Canada’s practice of handing over prisoners to the Afghans on the battlefield, a practice it feared could result in human-rights monitors losing track of detainees.”

It was also revealed that in 2007, Canadian diplomats in Afghanistan were ordered omit information regarding the treatment of detainees in reports sent to Ottawa. Sources told The Globe that the order, “issued soon after allegations of torture by Afghan authorities began appearing in public, was aimed at defusing the explosive human-rights controversy … There was a fear that graphic reports, even in censored form, could be uncovered by opposition parties and the media through access-to-information laws, leading to revelations that would further erode already-tenuous public support. The controversy was seen as ‘detracting from the narrative’ the Harper government was trying to weave around the mission, said one official. ‘It was meant to put on happy face’.”

In direct contrast to MacKay’s assertion “not a single Taliban prisoner turned over by Canadian Forces can be proven to have been abused,” uncensored documents and sworn testimony by senior officers detail an instance in 2006 where an detainee transferred to Afghan police was so severely beaten, Canadian troops had to intervene and ultimately took the man back. The Globe notes “the Canadian soldier’s account, handwritten in a field notebook in the hours after the June 19, 2006 incident, is corroborated by a medic’s examination of the detainee’s injuries and photographs, which the (Harper) government refuses to release.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has done everything in his power to deny opposition MP’s access to key documents, allowing them access only to heavily redacted files ‘in the interest of national security.’ However, upon close examination it’s clear the redactions have less to do with national security, and everything to do with concealing the government’s knowledge of torture.

In a delay tactic veiled as co-operation, Harper called upon former supreme court justice Frank Iacobucci to review the unredacted documents. It’s unclear how may documents Iacobucci will review, which documents he’ll be provided, how long it will take, or if the government will even take into consideration recommendations made. Meanwhile, opposition parties issued motions in the House of Commons calling for a vote that would hold the government in contempt of parliament, a ruling that would force Harper to provide opposition MP’s with the unredacted files they’ve repeatedly requested. The decision currently rests with speaker of the house Peter Milliken, who is expected to issue his decision this week.

But the opposition parties are hardly alone in condemning the government’s lack of transparency surrounding the treatment of detainees. The Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC) are now directly accusing Harper of withholding information pertinent to the inquiry, warning that “the (Harper) government’s refusal to release key letters written by Canadian Forces commanders raises troubling concerns about Ottawa’s approach to divulging information in this matter.”

Back in 2007, the MPCC, and then chairman Peter Tinsley, ordered public hearings on the issue of detainees “to ensure a full investigation of the grave allegations.” The Harper government initially agreed to fully co-operate with the MPCC, Defence Minster MacKay promising “(the MPCC) will get the co-operation with respect both to information disclosures and the funding necessary to have a full-blown hearing.”

A Globe report from November 2008 outlined that “more than 20 months after it first promised full co-operation, the Harper government has moved to block public hearings into whether it ordered Canadian soldiers to transfer prisoners to Afghan security forces knowing the detainees would likely be tortured … The government is seeking a Federal Court order that the MPCC can neither investigate nor hold hearings into allegations that transferred prisoners were tortured and that senior government officials and military officers knew it would happen. Government censors have blacked out key passages of secret documents that showed that ministers knew that torture was rife in Afghan prisons.”

In essence, the Harper government has been working to avoid accountability for three long years, and counting.

In December 2009, a year after effectively shutting down the MPCC’s attempt at a public inquiry, Harper refused to extend the contract of Tinsley and opted against appointing someone to replace the outgoing MPCC chairman. Tinsley warned of a ‘chilling effect’ by the Harper government in their ongoing efforts to dodge accountability regarding the treatment of Afghan detainees, and Harper likely believed he’d have no further ‘intrusions’ from the MPCC. So it came as a surprise when, in February 2010, former Windsor police chief Glenn Stannard announced he’d take over the acting duties of former chairman Tinsley since the government hadn’t ‘gotten around’ to filling the vacancy. In other words, the MPCC would resume hearings on the transfer and treatment of detainees, despite the government’s best efforts to block further inquiries on the matter.

No sooner had the MPCC reconvened for hearings, than a series of explosive allegations came to light.

Colvin’s much anticipated return to Ottawa provided further evidence that the government was not only aware of torture, but that it deliberately looked the other way. Colvin testified that his warnings of torture were credible and substantiated, but the government and the military didn’t want to deal with the ‘hot potato’ issue of detainee abuse. He recounted a 2007 meeting in Ottawa with upwards of fifteen government officials, where he urged them to stop transferring detainees to the NDS.

“You know the NDS tortures people. That’s what they do,” Colvin told the officials in attendance. “And if we don’t want our detainees tortured we shouldn’t give them to the NDS.” Colvin said that the government note-taker at the meeting put her pen down and immediately stopped recording.
He also alleged the government actively prevented detainee monitoring by the International Committee of the Red Cross. “In practice we were blocking them from doing that. They were losing many, if not most, or possibly all, of our detainees.”

The Red Cross had raised concerns over the government’s refusal to take its calls regarding detainees; Waiting weeks, or months, before it bothered to notify the Red Cross about detainees transferred to Afghan authorities. The information delay made it impossible for the Red Cross to effectively locate or follow up on detainees sent by Canadians to the notorious NDS.

The MPCC also heard testimony from Lt.-Col. Gilles Sansterre, commander of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service. Sansterre addressed a 2007 incident where an Afghan’s claim of abuse after being transferred to the NDS by Canadian soldiers was ignored. After the man, who was covered in welts and bruises, showed officials a hidden stash of electrical cables and a rubber hose used to beat him, his accusations were taken seriously. Though military investigators deemed the allegations credible enough to temporarily halt all detainee transfers, they failed to further investigate the matter. Sansterre conceded that the failure to probe the claim of abuse violated the Geneva conventions and ‘raises the possibility’ that war crimes were committed.

Perhaps the most damning allegations emerged from an April 14 special Commons committee where Ahmadshah Malgarai, or ‘Pasha’ as he was known by his colleagues in the Canadian Forces, submitted stunning allegations about the treatment of detainees. Malgarai, a Canadian citizen born in Afghanistan, served as an interpreter and cultural adviser for Canada’s Joint Task Force Afghanistan unit. He is well respected among his peers and provided MP’s with letters of commendation he’d received from both the military and Afghan government, reaffirming his credibility. In a day of dramatic testimony, Malgarai called out the Conservative government for misleading the public, saying the Canadian military intentionally ‘subcontracted’ torture to Afghan security.

“Canada’s government says detainees have never been transferred to NDS if there is a risk of abuse; but this is a lie,” Malgarai told the hearing. “I saw Canada’s military intelligence sending detainees to NDS, when the detainees did not tell them what they expect to hear. If the interrogators thought a detainee was lying, the military sent him to NDS for more questions, ‘Afghan style.’ Translation: abuse and torture …. the military used the NDS as subcontractors for abuse and torture.”

Malgarai insisted the routine occurrence of torture was well known throughout the military ranks, and all the way up to the Department of Defence. “I cannot believe that Mr. Defence Minister Peter Mackay says that he doesn’t know,” the former translator stated. “I want him to sit across from me look me in the eyes and say he doesn’t know.”

Meanwhile, a secret memo obtained by the CBC effectively debunks Harper’s claim he fixed the flawed detainee transfer agreement in 2007, and backs up testimony that the government was aware that torture was, and still is, taking place. The memo, “circulated at the highest levels of government” in mid 2009, reveals that while the government was telling the pubic the detainee problem was fixed, it was quietly sounding the alarm bells. The confidential memo warns “the notoriously brutal Afghan security service, the NDS, did not change its ways after the new agreement and is still was ‘organized according to a Soviet-KGB model’ with ‘considerable scope for improper methods’ which ‘entails a degree of risk to Canadian interests.'”

The problem, notes the CBC, is that “the Geneva convention, and Canadian law, forbid handing prisoners over to a known risk of torture. But Canada still transfers prisoners to the NDS which is known to use torture routinely.” The memo even “names the head of the NDS … as a man who wants to inspire fear. (He) has openly stated that merely interviewing suspects is not enough to get information out of them.” It acknowledges Canada may be an accomplice in torture, and ‘runs the risk of appearing to condone human rights abuses and acts, which would be illegal under canadian law.’

The CBC report included testimony from a Canadian general who said the NDS “were a very valuable partner … we acted on the intelligence we received from the NDS.” In other words, Canada did use intelligence from the NDS; intelligence which was obtained through torture, which the government was fully aware, making them complicit in war crimes.

A report just released by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) gives credence to Colvin’s 2009 testimony that Canadian forces were taking six times as many detainees as the British and 20 times as many as the Dutch. The statistics, compiled by the AIHRC, reveal of the 267 suspected insurgents transferred by NATO forces in the first 9 months of 2009, Canada nearly doubled it’s allies, transferring 163 prisoners to the NDS. By contrast, Britain’s transferred 93 detainees, while the Netherlands handed over 10, and Denmark just 1. This raises the possibility that the allegations Canadian forces captured mostly innocent people are accurate.

With evidence continuing to mount supporting the claim Afghans transferred by Canadian forces were being tortured by the NDS, the credibility of the Harper government continues to crumble under the weight of the lies it wrapped itself in. As they hide behind Canadian soldiers, accusing those searching for answers of not supporting the troops, the Conservatives demonstrate their cowardice by refusing to be accountable for their actions.

George Peterson, a veteran of the second world war, is also looking for answers. Once a soldier and a guard, he became prisoner number 38 and was systematically starved and abuse for nearly 4 years. He’s not naive to the realities of war, yet knows the importance of the Geneva conventions. Peterson is particularly bothered by the denials from the Canadian government. “I think the Prime Minister, and the Minister of Defence are trying to pass the buck. Blaming the opposition that they’re picking on the military. I don’t think they are. That’s not right.” Peterson hopes there is an inquiry, because without answers “our reputation will suffer.”

Indeed it will, Mr. Peterson. And you, your fellow veterans, and current members of the Canadian Forces certainly deserve better.

Cross-posted at rabble.ca

UPDATE May 7: Afghan authorities beat detainees ‘on a whim,’ military inquiry finds – Investigation into 2006 incident was launched after Chief of Defence Staff had to correct himself a day after Commons testimony