Sun News Network: Let The (Incredibly Lazy) Astroturfing Begin!

It has been fascinating to watch the Conservative campaign strategy evolve over the past two weeks; working in tandem with Sun TV in a quest to secure a Harper majority, and to destroy the opposition leaders.

Aside from the standard issued talking points submitted by the Conservative war room and subsequently written into Sun TV scripts, the Tories are running a co-ordinated effort with their Sun Media counterparts as they try desperately to reach that magical number of 155 seats.

Take for instance, week number one (April 18-22) where the focus was entirely on Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal Party, and the ‘threat’ of a coalition:

Brian Lilley, on Ignatieff and the Liberals:

“Michael Igantieff wants to be in power, but do we know where he stands?  He has flipped and flopped on so many big issues that it’s tough to know.  Look at his parliamentary record. Look at where he and his party stands. A quick glance shows that they would bring about a national daycare program to raise your kids for you, and they’d regulate what you can do with your own children by outlawing spanking and any use of force.

Now that part’s important.

Any use of force would be illegal. That could include making it illegal for you to strap your two year old, your wiggly two year old, into their car seat against their will … no parent would be allowed to strap their screming kid into a mini van.

The Liberlas would also expand ‘harm reduction sites’ from Vancouver to other major cities across Canada. What does that mean? Government sanctioned (drug) shooting galleries in a neighbourhood near you.

Oh, and convicts in jail? They’ll get ‘harm reduction’ as well. That’s right, free smack for junkies in jail and a needle exchange program to administer illegal drugs in Canada’s prisons.”

Note, that the ‘harm reduction site’ Lilley despises so much refers to Insite, Vancouver’s safe injection site which Harper has been fighting to have shut down despite clear, scientific, evidence the program saves lives.

You can listen to Lilley, Adler, and Levant discussing this issue, and alternatives  to Insite (such as dumping drug addicts in a deserted place – yes that what Lilley actually proposes), BY CLICKING HERE.

(Let’s not forget Lilley’s “Exclusive: Ignatieff planned the Iraq war!” fabrication, which made star appearance during their first week on the air.)

Enter the weekend, a monumental surge in the polls by Jack Layton and the NDP, and a shift in strategy for week number two (April 25-29), the week of Sun Media’s “Layton caught in Bawdy house!” smear campaign.

Charles Adler, on Layton and the NDP (April 26):

“Jack Layton’s resemblence to Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou – it’s uncanny, both in appearance, and in policy.

NDP love for big government has the potential to turn Canada into the next Greece, with a top heave public sector that could break the neck of the economy. This prospect is scaring a lot of citizens of Adler Nation.

From Peter in Port Rowan, Ontario, he says ‘in my youth I lived in Communist East Germany and we had to adore Vladimir Lenin – now I see a remarkable physical likeness in Layton to Lenin – their socialist policies are pretty close also. De we really want that kind of a Country? God help us and do not let this come to pass.’

Wait a minute … Jack Layton, George Papandreou, Vladimir Lenin – it’s getting a little eerie, don’t you think? Three men, three moustaches, three power alley hair-do’s …”

“Layton doesn’t need 100 (seats) to become Prime Minister. He could do it with fewer than 80. What are the consequences of a coalition led either by the NDP or by the Liberals? David Frum made that clear last night, said that Harper would not govern if he get’s a minority. And the premise is, if Harper doesn’t get the magic 155 seat total, Jack — with the help of Igantieff and Duceppe — Jack could move into 24 Sussex with Olivia.

The ‘Stop Jack’ campaign, in the next few days, may proove meaningless if the blood is already in the water.”

Adler and his favourite (not-an-actual) Liberal Dan Donovan, on Layton (April 29):

Adler – “At this point, what’s most important, I think you and I could agree, what’s most important is not having the NDP at 24 Sussex, I think that’s what’s crucial. So here’s my question to you: If the Liberals end up in the number three spot as now appears likely, if they’re number three will they be willing to do some sort of deal with Stephen Harper, to give the Country as much stability as possible, and to keep Jack and Olivia out of 24 Sussex? I think that’s the question tonight that most people are most interested in pursuing.”

Donovan – “We’ve agreed and disagreed on many things over the past year, but I think one thing we both can agree on is that Jack Layton would be an absolute calamity for this country, and I think a lot of Liberals, like myself, who want reform in the party and want us to reach further and do things better do not see a Jack Layton led coalition.”

Take note of Adler’s statement from April 26: “The ‘Stop Jack’ campaign, in the next few days, may proove meaningless if the blood is already in the water.”

Two days later, on April 28, the domain www.liberalsforharper.ca was registered, and the ‘stop Layton’ Astroturf campaign was officially launched. That evening, Stephen Taylor, director of the National Citizen’s Coalition (NCC), wondered aloud if there were “Liberals out there who would rather vote for Harper than see Jack Layton form any sort of government.”

On the morning of April 29, Taylor introduced liberalsforharper.ca to the public for the first time, feigning ignorance of its origin in the process.

That evening Adler spent a good portion of his show promoting the liberalsforharper.ca cause (as detailed above),  building on a plea he issued to readers earlier in the day:

 “A few years back, (Ignatieff) cracked a few standing beside Stephane Dion. There is very little doubt that when the clock strikes 12 on Monday night, the party of Chretien and Trudeau will have struck out, finishing No. 3 for the first time ever. The big question on Tuesday morning will be, how does the Grit family deal with sickly Uncle Grit?

On Tuesday morning, Dr. Stephen Harper must scrub up, then go into the operating room.

The PM needs to find the right scalpel to save Uncle Grit’s life. If he can find a way to give Michael Ignatieff a shred of dignity, he might be able to prevent Ignatieff from seeking revenge by cutting a deal with Jack Layton, making the NDP leader prime minister.

There is a coalition government in Britain today. It was formed by the party that got the most seats with the party that got the third-most. It was formed by the Conservatives and Liberals. Do we still have a British parliamentary system?

Suck it up boys. The country is surely worth it.”

On April 30, Harper himself began trumpeting the liberalsforharper.ca strategy, both on the campaign trail and through the media, telling the Toronto Star,

“I believe that as the choice becomes clear … a lot of traditional, Liberal, moderate voters, are going to look and going to say that the Conservative platform — and where the Conservative Party is taking the economy — is a hell of a lot closer to what I think than what the NDP has in its platform …”

“I think a lot of Liberals who understand that, are going to think twice and I think ultimately, rather than follow their party blindly down an alley toward the kind of merger with the NDP that Mr. Ignatieff mused about, I think they will take a hard look at voting for this (Conservative) party, and I welcome that.”

As Canadians head to the polls in what, by all accounts, promises to be an historic election, it’ll be interesting to see how the partnership bewteen the Conservatives, Sun Media, and the NCC continues to unfold.

If Harper fails to get his majority, you can be sure Sun Media will be urging Liberals to ‘do the responsible thing’ and ‘save the country from Layton,’ knowing full well a full merger between the Liberals and the NDP is a very real possibility.

And if that happens, the prospect of a Conservative government completely evaporates, not only for the current election cycle, but quite possibly well into the future.

Cross-posted at rabble.ca 

Below is an actual picture from Adler’s show, comparing Layton to Lenin

Sun News Network: Because Facts Have A Well Known Liberal Bias

“Folks, this is gonna be a thing.” ~ Sun TV host Theo Caldwell

Sun News Network, a channel brought to by its own sense of self importance, is the epitome of pseudo-journalism comprised of (self professed) semi-literate on-air personalities with the combined intellectual curiosity of failed Vice Presidential candidate and former half-term Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin.

Irresponsible at best, the inherent lack of journalistic integrity is an insult not only to the many well-established, credible, hard working news organizations across the country, but to Canadians who’ve come to expect both accuracy and honesty in reporting.

Simply put, Sun TV is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Conservative Party of Canada, the National Citizen’s Coalition, and the Canadian network of industry funded, Right-leaning ‘think tanks’ dedicated to promoting a given agenda.

Modeling itself after Fox News – ‘Hard News’ in the morning and throughout the afternoon, followed by “Straight Talk” opinion programming during prime time evening hours – it’s hardly surprising that like their southern counterparts, there is little to distinguish between the two.

Take for instance ‘Straight Talker’ and host of Byline, Brian Lilley.

Three days into its network debut, Sun TV’s ‘Hard News’ team began the day with an “exclusive” report from Lilley, who suggested Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was “on the front lines of (the Iraq War) pre-invasion planning.”

‘Hard News’ host Neelam Verma dedicated her entire two-hour show to covering the “bombshell” report, often wondering aloud whether Canadians “know the REAL Michael Ignatieff.”

Joining Verma in “exposing Ignatieff” was Lilley himself, along with Sun TV’s ‘Hard News’ analysts Brigitte Pellerin (wife of Sun Media columnist & Sun TV contributor John Robson, and founder of Canada’s anti-choice movement Pro Woman Life,) and Alex Mihailovich.

Among the notable statement to arise from the two hour assault on reality:

Lilley:  “Ignatieff was on the front lines of pre-invasion planning … his own words show he was intimately involved.”

Verma:  “This is really important information right before the election.”

Pellerin: (noting Ignatieff professed to have been on the sidelines) “Why do I feel this Bill Clintonian debate here by the meaning of sidelines? Really!”

“This new information shows that indeed he was on the front lines. His role was in the pre invasion planning.”

Mihailovich:  “I keep hearing over and over ‘compassion’ coming out of (Ignatieff’s) mouth and how compassionate he is and how Liberals are about compassion … Ignatieff himself was in the war room. He was in the background. He was planning this stuff out. He was helping the US build towards a war.”

“Ignatieff was involved with the US government planning the Iraq war – that’s the bottom line …. Ignatieff was in on the Iraq war”

“I have a document here; This isn’t written by Ignatieff but this is from one of the centers that he chaired, looking at civilian body count and what would be acceptable. Now these are not words of compassion, in my eyes. This is something far beyond. This is cold and constantly it is something these guys in the back room do to go forward, and he was a part of this … Now all of a sudden he’s a peacknik of sorts and he’s compassionate? Like, really!”

Pellerin:  “This is going to be a revelation for a lot of Canadians for how deeply involved Ignatieff was in these ‘cold calculations.’ “

“You can bet the term ‘flip flop’ will be used a lot today, and in the coming days. This is really damaging info.”

“Will the real Michael Ignatieff please stand up?”

Verma:  “Do you think it will have an impact on how Canadians vote?”

Mihailovich:  “I hope it does.”

“The amount of flip-flopping we’re seeing here is unprecedented.”

Where Verma’s morning show left off, subsequent ‘Hard News’ programs picked up, delivering eleven straight hours of fomented outrage, which was then followed by five ‘Straight Talk’ hours of rhetorical hyperbole.

Given the amount of time, and effort, dedicated solely to the coverage of Lilley’s “earth shattering investigative journalism,” one would assume the accusations regarding Ignatieff’s involvement in the Iraq war were unequivocal; that the article was thoroughly vetted and meticulously fact checked, as is standard procedure with all credible news organizations.

Of course, that would require Sun Media (Quebecor/QMI) to be either credible or a news organization, neither of which it qualifies as.

Within hours of the report saturating the Sun TV airwaves, respected journalist Glen McGregor put Lilley to shame by swiftly, and thoroughly, disproving the entire premise of his piece.

Following a run down of the facts regarding Ignatieff and his activities with the Carr Center for Human Rights, including listing multiple NGO’s in attendance for the “Understanding Collateral Damage” conference, McGregor levels the following blow:

“If the Sun was unaware these groups also participated in ‘invasion planning,’ that’s just shoddy reporting. It took me four minutes to find the participants list on the Carr Center website.

If the Sun knew and chose not to include this fact in the story, readers can draw their own conclusions about the integrity of the reporter and his news organization.”

Ouch.

Ironically, “Hard News” personality Krista Erickson hosts a ‘Media Monitor’ segment with Lilley wherein they heap criticism on other media personalities; the first one taking place two days after Lilley’s failed attempt at investigative reporting.

In the category, “Barefaced Bias”, Lilley scolds the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge for his interview  with Ignatieff versus his interview with Stephen Harper.

Lilley: “the tone was different … with Ignatieff it was relaxed, it was sitting back, it was in his studio; it was cordial. There was a much more aggressive nature with Stephen Harper than there was with Michael Ignatieff. (Mansbridge) constantly interrupted him … Harper is constantly interrupted.”

Assuming Lilley watched both interviews, he had to have known, as was explained by Mansbridge at the beginning of each, it was the politicians who chose the manner in which to be interviewed. Ignatieff was “relaxed, sitting back, in studio” because he chose the “in studio” option. Harper, on the other hand, selected “location of choice,” his choice being to stand awkwardly inside a minor Hockey arena.

Lilley’s suggestion that Harper was “constantly interrupted” by Mansbridge is countered by observations made by respected journalist, and national editor of Maclean’s magazine, Andrew Coyne:

It’s telling that in interviews Harper simply talks through and over questions he does not wish to answer. The interviewer asks a question. Harper talks around it. So the interviewer tries to follow up. At that point most (people) yield long enough to at least listen to the question. Harper does not. He just ploughs on. He won’t take the cue. Saw that (with) Mansbridge, now (with) FriesenCan’t recall whether he was always that way, or only since becoming (Prime Minister). But that absolute refusal to yield the floor is not incidental.

Next, Lilley names Tonda MacCharles of the Toronto Star as the “Sloppiest Story” of the week, referring to her coverage of controversial remarks made by Conservative candidate Brad Trost about the funding status of funding of Planned Parenthood.

Lilley claims MacCharles “failed to contact the International Planned Parenthood Federation in London, England,” claiming he did, and was told “the election got in the way” of their funding and “there’s no problem with the Harper government.”

Had Lilley bothered to read past the first paragraph of the article, he’d have come across this:

“William Stairs, chief of staff in Oda’s ministerial office said in an email to the Star late Wednesday that despite Trost’s claim, no decision has yet been made on Planned Parenthood’s application because CIDA is ‘still reviewing the file.’

Brad Trost did not respond to the Star’s queries.

Ryan Sparrow, spokesman for the national Conservative campaign, responded late Wednesday via email, and did not deny that the group had been turned down.

He said only: ‘We base funding decisions on the quality of the proposals we receive. We are proud of our international assistance record and we are proud of the results that have been accomplished under our Conservative government.’

CIDA had not yet responded to the Star’s questions on the Planned Parenthood’s funding applications.”

In light of recent reports which detail Planned Parenthood’s struggle with the Harper Government, it begs the question whether Lilley spoke with the organization at all.

Elizabeth Payne of Postmedia writes:

“In 2010, while Prime Minister Stephen Harper was getting kudos for putting maternal health on the international radar screen, Canada, for the first time in 40 years, provided no money to support an organization which is one of the world’s biggest health providers to vulnerable women.

As a result, International Planned Parenthood Federation was forced to draw on reserve dollars and had to make cuts to some technical services to make up a $6-million shortfall, officials at the organization’s London office confirmed.”

So, that’s journalism : 2 -  Lilley: 0.

Evidently, the Sun News Network can’t even accurately consume the news, let alone report on it. It’s a woefully inadequate, amateurish parody of itself, destined to fail miserably once viewers have to start paying subscription fees.

It will, however, be interesting to see who the ‘champions of the free market’ point the finger at following when they meet their inevitable demise.

George Soros? The ‘homosexual agenda’? Muslims? Frank Graves? The Human Right’s Commissions?

Ah,who am I kidding? They’ll blame the CBC.

Cross-posted at rabble.ca

Secondary Suites And The Right To Affordable Housing

In December 2007, at the height of Calgary’s housing crunch, a report emerged from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation that confirmed what many had long suspected: the cost of renting a two bedroom apartment in Calgary eclipsed that of all major Canadian cities, marking the first time since the CMHC started tracking the data that Calgary tenants paid more than their counterparts in Toronto and Vancouver.

What’s more, the cost of that two bedroom apartment had grown by 83% over the span of a decade, from the $595 paid on average in 1996, to the $1,089 required to rent an equivalent unit in 2007.

A poll conducted in 2008 found that due to this dramatic cost increase (combined with a critically low vacancy rate), half of those sleeping on Calgary streets were employed, including 200 working families – 190 of which included one or more children.

Even those fortunate enough to have secured affordable accommodations before the vacancy rate plummeted to 0.5% were’t immune.

Some Calgarians found themselves among the 2500 tenants unilaterally evicted as landlords raced to convert entire rental complexes into more profitable condominiums, while others faced seemingly obscure rent increases, leaving them little option but to pay hundreds of dollars extra per month in order to stave off eviction.

Such was the experience of Marni Armstrong, whose landlord hiked her rent by 150%, from $600 to $1500 per month in an effort to force her and others from their units so to hasten the process of condo conversion.

Despite widespread calls for the Province to implement rent controls, a measure overwhelmingly supported by homeowners (78%) and renters (92%) in both Calgary and Edmonton, the Stelmach government flatly rejected the idea, even refusing to consider it as a temporary measure.

Because of the Tories’ reluctance to intervene, hundreds, if not thousands, of Calgarians were effectively priced out of the market during the housing crisis, forced onto the streets despite having steady, if not multiple, sources of income.

Skip ahead to 2011, and evidently, little has changed.

According to the most recent data from the CMHC, the average cost of renting a two bedroom apartment in Calgary sits at $1,069 per month, virtually identical to the 2007 market. A 2011 report released by The City of Calgary Community and Neighbourhood Services Social Research Unit outlines the continual need for affordable housing alternativesin the city.

On affordable housing and homelessness, the report states “homelessness is not only a housing problem, but it is always a housing problem.”

“In order to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Calgary in the Private Rental Market without overspending on shelter, a person would need to earn a minimum wage of $20.62 per hour, which is an hourly shortfall of $11.82 over the current Alberta Minimum Wage of $8.80. Stated another way, 2.3 people would need to work full- time for a full-year at the current Alberta Minimum Wage of $8.80 to affordably rent a two-bedroom apartment in Calgary.”

It estimates nearly 40,000 renters in Calgary who “simply cannot afford to pay average market rent [leaving] them at considerable risk of becoming homeless.”

Though Calgary’s city council cannot change decisions made at the provincial level (rent control, minimum wage), they posses the ability to expand the market of safe, affordable housing for both renters, and home owners, simply by making secondary suites legal throughout the city.

The measure currently being considered by city council, and endorsed by influential organizations including the CMHC, Calgary Chamber of Commerce (CCOC), Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB), Canadian Home Builders’ Association – Calgary Region (CHBA), Commercial Real Estate Development Association (NAIOP), Urban Development Institute (UDI), Fraser Institute, Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF), and the YWCA of Calgary, would be beneficial to all Calgarians, irrespective of age, race, gender, or income.

As noted by the CMHC, legalizing secondary suites is “a relatively inexpensive, low impact way to provide safe, affordable housing to Calgarians [which] affords the opportunity for renters to live in locations … close to their places of work, educational institutions or important services.”

Calgary home owners, both current and prospective, would also benefit from the legalization of secondary suites because rental income from legal suites can assist in paying down, or count toward qualifying for, a home mortgage. In essence, secondary suites make housing more affordable for all Calgarians, regardless of socioeconomic status.

Much of the opposition toward the broad legalization of secondary suites arises from the disconnect between the reality and perception of what constitutes a livable income, as well as attitudes toward those on the lowest end of the bracket.

A Salvation Army report examining Canadians’ attitudes toward poverty found over half of those surveyed believe a family of four “can get by on $30,000 a year or less, including 21 per cent who think $20,000 is enough.” According to Statistics Canada, a Canadian family of four earns, on average, $84.800 annually – more than double what is believed to be the absolute minimum.

On those living in poverty:

- 49 per cent believe if the unemployed really want to work, they’d find a job

- 43 per cent believe all you need to escape poverty is “a good work ethic”

- 41 per cent believe those in poverty “take advantage” of assistance programs

- 28 per cent believe those in poverty have lower moral values

- 23 per cent believe people live in poverty because they’re lazy

The fact is, people who live at or below the poverty line include  students, seniors, and those with struggling with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. They include single parents, working families, and immigrants new to the Country. Many living in poverty aren’t unemployed, but underemployed – possessing an extensive range of skills and training, but only able to find work in low paying positions.

For these people, having access to safe, affordable accommodations is often the vital first step toward escaping life on the brink.

Affordable housing should never be considered a privilege, but a basic human right.

Calgary prides itself on being a world class city, welcome to all who wish to enjoy the vast array of culture, diversity, and opportunity the city provides.

How attainable this ideal will be for future generations will depend entirely on the ability to afford the opportunity to call Calgary home, and the looming decision on secondary suites could prove to be the deciding factor.

Cross-posted at rabble.ca

Calgary City Council will decide the fate of secondary suites THIS COMING MONDAY, March 7. It’s time to  Take Action, Calgary!

Contact Mayor Nenshi and/or your local Alderman and tell him/her to support the legalization of secondary suites – ALL contact information can be found HERE

Together we can keep the city moving forward, beyond outdated policies, and toward a Better Calgary.

Facts Matter In The Debate Over Water Fluoridation

It’s known as one of the top ten public health achievements of the 20th century; a “classic example of clinical observation leading to epidemiological investigation and community-based public health intervention;” Remaining “the most equitable and cost-effective method of delivering [health benefits] to all members of most communities, regardless of age, educational attainment, or income level.”

It’s a service that has benefitted Calgarians for two decades, backed by peer reviewed research and conclusive scientific data demonstrating the undeniable role it plays in the field of preventive medicine.

Raise a glass to Community Water Fluoridation (CWF), that is, while you still can. Because Monday, City Council will vote on Ald. Druh Farrell’s regressive motion to scrap Calgary’s water fluoridation program.

Armed with unsubstantiated claims and assertions gleaned from sources such as the discredited Fluoride Action Network, (or perhaps from the uninformed, and poorly researched, editorial in the Calgary Herald), Farrell and other luddites on city council are on the verge of rescinding an effective program based entirely on conspiracy theories and misinformation.

Claim: It’s not cost effective / other sources of fluoride do a better job at protecting teeth.

Fact: Despite the increase exposure to other sources of fluoride, “particularly from fluoride-containing dentifrices,” water fluoridation “continues to be the most far-reaching preventive [dental health] measure, [offering] an unmatched return on investment – saving $38 in dental treatment costs for every dollar spent.”

The U.S. Surgeon general reports that savings provided by CWF are “a rare characteristic for community-based disease prevention strategies. The mean annual per capita cost of fluoridation systems serving populations greater than 50,000 is [a mere]$0.68.”

Claim: The overall downward trend in cavity rates is due factors such as better oral hygiene, not water fluoridation / It doesn’t benefit adults.

Fact: Children living in communities with water fluoridation experience an 18% cavity reduction compared to those in communities without access to fluoridated water. Adolescents and adults in communities with fluoridated water experience an average of 25.6% and 20-40% respectively, than their counterparts living in communities without access to fluoridated water.

The U.S. Surgeon General reports “other evidence of the benefits of fluoridation comes from studies of populations where fluoridation has ceased … In Wick, Scotland, which began water fluoridation in 1969 but stopped it in 1979, the [cavity] prevalence in 5- to 6-year-olds … increased by 27 percent between 1979 and 1984. This was despite a national decline in [cavities] and increased availability of fluoride-containing [dental products].”

Claim: Studies show the risks of fluoridation outweigh the benefits / there is growing credible research demonstrating the dangers of ingesting fluoride.

Fact: Research into the effects of fluoridated drinking water “predates the first community field trials. Since 1950, opponents of water fluoridation have claimed it increased the risk for cancer, Down syndrome, heart disease, osteoporosis and bone fracture, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, low intelligence, Alzheimer disease, allergic reactions, and other health conditions. The safety and effectiveness of water fluoridation [is regularly] re-evaluated, and no credible evidence supports an association between fluoridation and any of these conditions.”

Specifically, from a study done by Dr. David Locker, Community Dental Health Services Research Unit – Faculty of Dentistry, University of Toronto:

Regarding acute toxicity: “Fluoride is a poison in large doses but toxic levels cannot be achieved by drinking fluoridated water.”

Regarding bone health (osteoporosis; weak, brittle bones): “…the studies conducted to date do not provide systemic and compelling evidence of an adverse effect on bone.”

Regarding cancer: “… there is no reason to believe that exposure to fluoridated water increases rates of cancer either of bone or other body tissues.”

Regarding immune function: “…a review paper examined studies of fluoride and immune response … and found no support for the suggestion that fluoride affects immunity.”

Regarding mental development: “Recent studies emanating from China have claimed that children exposed to high levels of fluoride have lower IQ’s than children exposed to low levels. The two studies claiming such an effect are deeply flawed and provide no credible evidence that fluoride obtained from water or industrial pollution affects the intellectual development of children.”

The merits of water fluoridation are unmatched, and undeniable. Endorsed by Medical and Dental Associations worldwide, CWF is considered an investment in the future health and overall wellbeing of a given population.

Perhaps the most important, and overlooked, aspect of CWF is the extent to which it benefits the underprivileged members of society. As outlined in a 2009 report from the European Archives of Pediatric Dentistry, “water fluoridation is unmatched in its ability to reach all sectors of society, including those who are least likely to avail of other sources of fluoride or to access regular dental care … water fluoridation seems to reduce inequalities in children’s dental health across social classes in 5 and 12 year olds. Further research in this area has shown that water fluoridation benefits all social strata, and supports the finding that it may reduce inequalities in oral health, which is seen as one of fluoridation’s greatest strengths.”

This counteracts recent claims from Tea Party/Libertarians that CWF somehow deprives them of their choice to consume un-fluoridated water; that it violates their ‘personal freedoms‘.

Unlike the disadvantaged who have neither the money for, nor the access to, expensive dental procedures, those demanding ‘freedom’ and ‘choice’ are the very one who have the opportunity to exercise it.

If Calgarians are unsatisfied by the water provided by the city, they can opt to invest in a water filtration system, or chose to consume bottled water. It really is that simple.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi, a fellow fan of scientific research and hard evidence, has expressed his desire for input from the scientific community, medical experts, and the general public, regarding the future of Calgary’s water fluoridation program.

It’s my hope that the medical, dental, and scientific communities heed the Mayor’s call for expert, and informed, opinion. Whether City Council votes to end Calgary’s fluoridation program or not, it’s important that votes are based on accurate information and conclusive evidence.

Three months ago, Calgarians opted for progress and advancement when they elected Nenshi as mayor; let’s hope the 14 Aldermen chosen to represent the will of the people will continue to do just that, and keep the much beneficial water fluoridation program.

Cross-posted at rabble.ca

Child Soldiers: The Other Taliban and Al-Qaeda Militants

A poignant reality of contemporary conflicts is that increasingly children are being used as cheap and readily available weapons of war. From Colombia to Sri Lanka, from Sierra Leone to Uganda, thousands of children have been used in armed conflict situations. In Afghanistan, our forces are seeing the increasing use of children in combat operations, including as suicide bombers.” ~  Senator Roméo A. Dallaire – Retired Lieutenant General and former commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) & Ishmael Beah – Former child soldier, author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier and a UNICEF representative from Sierra Leone, August 18, 2010.

In the city of Peshawar, situated along Northwest Pakistan’s tribal area, lies Kachegori – one of the makeshift camps erected to house nearly one million citizens displaced by warring between the Taliban and the Pakistani Army.

More than 15,000 children call Kachegori Camp home, including Wasifullah and Abdurrahman who, in an interview with Frontline correspondent Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, call themselves best friends.

However, despite their shared interests and deep camaraderie, the boys hold opposing views on who’s to blame for the bombings and missile attacks that destroyed their village.

Wasifullah describes finding his 12 year old cousin among the 80 civilians who were killed by an American missile attack.

“His body was being eaten by dogs,” Wasifullah says, his face void of any emotion. “We brought his remains home in bags, [but] we could only find his legs, so we buried [his legs] in our village.”

Obaid-Chinoy notes that although American missile strikes “target the Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders,” they inevitably kill civilians, adding that militants “are quick to make use of the destruction [which] becomes recruitment rally for the Taliban.”

When asked what he aspires to become in the future, Wasifullah replies “God willing, I will join the Taliban.”

In what some ways represents the burgeoning civil war within Pakistan, Wasifullah’s best friend Abdurrahman believes it’s the Taliban who are responsible for the destruction.

When asked what he believes the future hold for him, Abdurrahman replies he’d like “to be a Captain … in the Pakistani Army and kill all the terrorists in Pakistan.”

When confronted with the notion of the two boys meeting in battle, Obaid-Chinoy inquires whether each youngster would be willing to take the life of his best friend.

“Yes,” replies Abdurrahman, the future captain of the Pakistani Army. “If [Wasifullah] is attacking the army, I will retaliate fiercely.”

“Definitely,” counters Wasifullah, the prospective Taliban militant. “If [Abdurrahman] does wrong, I will fight him.”

Displaced, discontented and disconcerted, Wasifullah and Abdurrahman are eager to take up arms and fight against those whom they perceive to be the cause of the growing strife within Pakistan.

Which side of the fight each boy finds himself on, however, largely depends on which side of the battle is first to recruit him.

Looking South to Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, where the slums have become “a recruiting ground for the next generation of Taliban fighters,” it’s easy to see what becomes of boys like Wasifullah and Abdurrahman.

With nowhere else to go, impoverished children are invited to study at talibanized madrassas. They receive free food and shelter in exchange for their unwavering commitment to learning a bastardized interpretation of the Koran – spending hours rocking back and forth ‘reading’ from a book “written in Arabic, a language they don’t understand.”

It is here they are indoctrinated with the teachings of the Taliban, and of Sharia Law.

“Women are meant for domestic care, and that’s what they should do,” explains Shaheed, a 14 year old madrassa student whose name literally translates as ‘martyr’.

“Sharia Law says it, so why are women wandering around? The government should forbid women and girls from wandering around outside. Just like the government banned plastic bags – no one uses them anymore – we should do the same with women.”

When asked by Obaid-Chinoy what he’ll do after he graduates, Shaheed says he’ll join the Taliban and fully intends to “support them in their war.”

Taking it one step further, Shaheed says he’d ‘love to’ become a suicide bomber, “[because] when I look at suicide bombers younger than me, or my age, I get so inspired by their terrific attacks.”

This sentiment is echoed by Shaheed’s teacher, who jovially tells the Frontline reporter that war is “in our blood.”

“No matter how many Muslims die, we will never run out of sacrificial lambs [children] … [who] consider this an opportunity to achieve martyrdom. Someone who sees death as a blessing — who can defeat him?”

Qari Abdullah is the Taliban leader personally responsible for recruiting children to carry out suicide bombing operations. Abdullah was himself educated in a radicalized madrassa, and as a child was recruited to fight in Afghanistan.

Explaining in detail how he grooms children – some as young as 5 years of age – for a future with the Taliban, Abdullah tells Obaid-Chinoy:

“The kids want to join us because they like our weapons. They don’t use weapons to begin with, they just carry them for us – and off we go. They follow us because they’re just small kids.”

When asked if he thinks it’s wrong to use children for suicide attacks, Abdullah doesn’t flinch.

“If you are fighting, then God provides you with the means. Children are tools to achieve Gods will, and whatever comes your way, you sacrifice it. So it’s fine”

Youngsters who’ve been ‘sacrificed’ often appear in Taliban recruitment videos; Their loyalties are showcased, their final deeds glorified, their pledge to martyrdom chanted in a disturbing lullaby:

If you try to find me / after I have died / you will never find my whole body. / You will find me in tiny little pieces.

Three boys featured in a Taliban propaganda video are Zenola, Sadic, and Mehsud; all three recruits became child suicide bombers who killed six, twenty-two, and twenty-eight respectively.

Wasifullah, Abdurrahman, Shaheed, Zenola, Sadic, and Mehsud – these are The Children of the Taliban: Youngsters who are impoverished from birth, displaced by war, plucked from obscurity, indoctrinated by militants, and ultimately, recruited for terrorism.

They are brought up to believe they’ll be carrying out Gods will; that martyrdom will deliver them eternal salvation.

The indoctrination and recruitment of the Children of the Taliban, in many ways, mirrors the indoctrination and recruitment of Omar Khadr – the Child of Al-Qaeda.

Khadr, a Canadian citizen who, at 15 years of age, was seized by U.S. forces in Afghanistan following an intense firefight, was by every definition a child soldier.

Indoctrinated by his father Ahmed Said Khadr, a senior member of Al-Qaeda, and raised along side the Bin Laden family, Khadr was quite literally Al-Qaeda’s child; a “sacrificial lamb;” a “tool to achieve God’s will.”

Following his capture, however, Khadr became a tool to achieve the Bush Administration’s will; a sacrificial lamb for the Bush/Cheney ‘War on Terror.’

In a 2010 episode of Doc Zone entitled The U.S. vs Omar Khadr, CBC documents the questionable case against, and unjust prosecution of, Khadr; a situation Senator Roméo Dallaire (Lieutenant General, Ret’d) warned of three years earlier:

Canadians must realize by now that the [Harper] government’s cynicism toward Omar Khadr’s tragic predicament reflects an unacceptable moral position. We are permitting the United States to try a Canadian child soldier using a military tribunal whose procedures violate basic principles of justice [...]

In recent years, we have heard troubling facts about Guantanamo Bay and incontrovertible evidence of U.S. malfeasance.

In July, 2006, the United Nations called for the closure of Guantanamo Bay, terming the indefinite detention of individuals without a charge “a violation of the convention against torture.” Two months later, more than 600 U.S. legal scholars and jurists called on Congress not to enact the Military Commissions Act of 2006, as it would rob detainees of fundamental protections provided by domestic and international law.

This act allows prosecutors to use evidence gleaned from abusive interrogations, including coercion and torture. The commissions also sabotage individuals’ ability to defend themselves by barring access to exculpatory evidence known to the U.S. government. In Mr. Khadr’s case, documents to be used as evidence for war-crimes charges, laid in February, 2007, have been altered.

Furthermore, Dallaire detailed the global ramifications of prosecuting Khadr, a child soldier, as an adult:

Within the international community, Canada is viewed as gullible for allowing one its citizens to be processed by an illegal tribunal system at Guantanamo, and as hypocritical for quietly acceding to the first ever child-soldier war-crimes prosecution.

Canada’s inaction has profound ramifications. The UN Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, says Khadr’s prosecution sets a hazardous precedent in international law, which will endanger child soldiers in conflict zones. The impunity enjoyed by the real criminals – those who have recruited child soldiers – continues to the detriment of real victims: the thousands of child soldiers around the world.

Militants throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan are recruiting child soldiers at record pace, using them to monitor the movement of NATO forces to ensure the insurgents’ attacks have maximum impact; Relegating to them the risky assignment of assembling and planting IED’s and land-mines; Arming them with high-tech weaponry and sending them into battle.

As the NATO mission in Afghanistan extends to 2014 and beyond, it’s only a matter of time before soldiers are faced with another ‘Omar Khadr;’ a child in the heart of the battle fighting alongside the either the Taliban or Al-Qaeda.

When that time comes, what will NATO’s response be? Will soldiers turn a blind eye to the thousands of youngsters planting IED’s and land-mines? Will child soldiers who engage in armed combat simply be slaughtered alongside those who recruited them? If apprehended, will adolescents follow theprecedent set by the Khadr prosecution, and be arrested, tried, and convicted of war crimes?

It’s time for NATO to live up to it’s international obligations and adhere to the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and “[recognize] the special needs of those children who are particularly vulnerable to recruitment or use in hostilities … [and] of the need [for] the physical and psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration of children who are victims of armed conflict.”

NATO cannot expect to achieve any lasting progress against either the Taliban or Al-Qaeda unless they’re fully prepared to focus, not on the prosecution, but the treatment and rehabilitation of the youngest generation of militant recruits.

Because ultimately, it’s with this generation of children in the Middle East on which the future stability of the entire region rests.

Cross-posted at rabble.ca

Watch the documentary, Children of the Taliban.

Ezra Levant vs Reality – A Prelude To Fox News North

The battle between supporters and opponents of Sun TV News – the Fox News style channel headed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former communications director Kory Teneycke – reached new heights when members of the ‘Fox News North’ team took issue with a growing online petition urging the CRTC to reject Quebecor’s (QMI) request to “make it mandatory for cable and satellite networks to provide access to the channel ‘for a maximum period of three years to effectively expose and promote its programming to viewers across Canada’.”

In an article entitled Anti-Sun TV News campaign in U.S., Sun Media (QMI)’s Brian Lilley alleges the petition is the work of “a group of left-wing Americans supporting interests in Canada that don’t want to see competition in news broadcasting … backed by MoveOn.org a lobby group that has taken millions of dollars from currency speculator George Soros.”

What followed is known as the “saga of the Great Sun TV Petition,” in which Teneycke, fellow Sun Media (QMI) personality Ezra Levant, and Conservative blogger/activist and founder of the BloggingTories.ca Stephen Taylor, took to twitter to express their ‘outrage’, as ‘someone‘ spammed the petition with the names of journalists, actors, and fictional characters, and simultaneously penned an editorial about “why Canada needs Sun TV News.”

In their co-ordinated effort, Teneycke, Levant, and Taylor not only attacked Avaaz.org - a global online advocacy community whose co-founder and Executive Director, Ricken Patel, happens to be Canadian – as a foreign operation, but specifically, and repeatedly, refer to George Soros – a progressive philanthropist who is despised by Right Wing America.

By connecting Soros to the Avaaz petition, Lilley, Levant, Taylor, and Tenycke aim to stoke fear in their followers who, more often than not, are avid consumers of extreme Right Wing media such as Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, Andrew Breitbart (BigGovernment.com), Pamela Gellar (AtlasShrugs.com), WorldNetDaily.com, and Judi McLeod (Canadafreepress.com).

Soros can be found at the centre of nearly every conspiracy concocted by the aforementioned, widely discredited media sources, who’ve alleged:

Soros is a Nazi Collaborator
Move over, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. There’s a new kid on the block: Soros
Obama-Soros Blueprint For US Surrender To Islam
Soros’ New World Order
Soros is Obama’s Secret Boss
The Oil Spill Was An Obama-Soros Act Of War Against The United States
Soros Is The Anti-Christ
Soros is The Biggest Enemy Of Freedom
Soros And Obama: Crime Inc.

As if on cue, Levant – who spent the summer of 1994 in Washington, D.C., in an internship arranged by the Right Wing Charles G. Koch Foundation Summer Fellow Program – used his Sunday Sun column to import the ‘Soros is scary’ propaganda from his conspiracy theorist counterparts in the U.S.

In his piece Moral hollowness at work, Levant claims Soros, a Hungarian Jew born in 1930, survived the holocaust by ‘collaborating with the Nazis.’

“First he worked for the Judenrat,” writes Levant. “That was the Jewish council set up by the Nazis to do their dirty work for them. Instead of the Nazis rounding up Jews every day for the trains, they delegated that murderous task to Jews who were willing to do it to survive another day at the expense of their neighbours.”

This oft repeated ‘nazi collaborator’ smear is taken from the pages of The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party, a thoroughly discredited book written by right-wing pundits David Horowitz and Richard Poe.

Levant’s fictitious claim that Soros “collaborated with the nazis” and “worked for the Judenrat,” is based wholly on unsourced allegations, originating in The Shadow Party, and echoed by Right Wing pundits.

Moving on, Levant writes:

“(Soros’ father) hatched a better plan for his son. He bribed a non-Jewish official at the agriculture ministry to let (Soros) live with him. (Soros) helped the official confiscate property from Jews.

By collaborating with the Nazis, (Soros) survived the Holocaust. He turned on other Jews to spare himself.

How does Soros feel about what he did as a teenager? Has it kept him up at night?

Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes asked him that. Was it difficult? ‘Not at all,’ Soros answered.

‘No feeling of guilt?’ asked Kroft. ‘No,’ said Soros. ‘There was no sense that I shouldn’t be there. If I wasn’t doing it, somebody else would be taking it away anyhow. Whether I was there or not. So I had no sense of guilt.’

A Nazi would steal the Jews’ property anyways. So why not him?”

The assertion that Soros confiscated property of other Jews – including the imaginary interview Levant creates by cropping and rearranging portions of the actual 60 Minutes Soros interview – was debunked years ago, when the 60 Minutes interview was first selectively edited by conservative columnist Martin Peretz.

As evidenced by the unedited portion of the interview, the conversation between Kroft and Soros bears little semblance to the version scribed by Levant:

Kroft: You’re a Hungarian Jew …

Soros:Mm-hmm.

Kroft: … who escaped the Holocaust …

Soros: Mm-hmm.

Kroft: … by posing as a Christian.

Soros: Right.

Kroft: And you watched lots of people get shipped off to the death camps.

Soros: Right. I was 14 years old. And I would say that that’s when my character was made.

Kroft: In what way?

Soros: That one should think ahead. One should understand that — and anticipate events and when, when one is threatened. It was a tremendous threat of evil. I mean, it was a — a very personal threat of evil.

KROFT: My understanding is that you went out with this protector of yours who swore that you were his adopted godson.

SOROS: Yes. Yes.

KROFT: Went out, in fact, and helped in the confiscation of property from the Jews.

SOROS: Yes. That’s right. Yes.

Kroft: I mean, that’s — that sounds like an experience that would send lots of people to the psychiatric couch for many, many years. Was it difficult?

Soros: Not, not at all. Not at all. Maybe as a child you don’t … you don’t see the connection. But it was — it created no — no problem at all.

Kroft: No feeling of guilt?

Soros: No.

Kroft: For example, that, ‘I’m Jewish, and here I am, watching these people go. I could just as easily be these, I should be there.’ None of that?

Soros: Well, of course, … I could be on the other side or I could be the one from whom the thing is being taken away. But there was no sense that I shouldn’t be there, because that was — well, actually, in a funny way, it’s just like in the markets — that is I weren’t there — of course, I wasn’t doing it, but somebody else would – would — would be taking it away anyhow. And it was the — whether I was there or not, I was only a spectator, the property was being taken away. So the — I had no role in taking away that property. So I had no sense of guilt.

As they say, context is everything.

Soros had ‘no feeling of guilt’ because the property was going to be taken whether he was standing by watching, pretending to be the Christian Godson of an employee of Hungary’s Ministry of Agriculture, or whether he was among the Jews apprehended by the Nazis.

He did not, himself, take any property, nor did he condone it. He was an adolescent who watched it happen; who was powerless in the face of certain death; who could have done nothing to stop what he witnessed.

The remainder of Levant’s article plays out in the same fashion; inaccurate claims, misattributed quotes, baseless allegations.

Borrowing again from the Right Wing blogosphere, Levant claims “(Soros) called the world’s financial crisis ‘the culmination of my life’s work’.”

Had Levant bothered to locate the original source of this claim, he’d have learned the entire article has since been pulled, and replaced with a statement acknowledging that Soros “in fact made no such comment.”

The article reaches an ultimate low, however, when Levant invokes Soros’ dead mother, stating “he is a man who boasted he offered to help his mother commit suicide. Apparently he didn’t see enough death in Hungary.”

This repulsive attack reveals far more about Levant than it does Soros; Especially given that, in full context, Soros in no way ‘boasts’ about offering to help his mother end her life.

In 1994 at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, Soros reflected on the experience of dying and bereavement in America while endorsing the Oregon Death With Dignity Act.

In his address, Soros explained how he “chose the problem of dying” as an area promote a better understanding “because of some very personal experiences in connection with the death of my parents, both of whom I was very devoted to and loved dearly.”

“My father died at home in 1963. He was terminally ill. Although he agreed to an operation, he didn’t particularly want to survive it because he was afraid that the combination of the illness and the operation would invade and destroy his autonomy as a human being. Unfortunately, that in fact is what happened. After the operation he had very little time left. I’m afraid I kind of wrote him off at that point. I was there when he died, yet I let him die alone. I could see him, but I wasn’t at his bedside. The day after he died I went into the office. I didn’t talk about my fathers death. So I kind of denied his dying, I certainly didn’t participate in it. Afterwards, I read Kubler-Ross and learned that I might have maintained contact with him if I tried. Had I read Kubler-Ross earlier I would have probably held his hand, because I did love him. I just didn’t know that it might make a difference. I forgave myself because I did not know any better

My mothers death was more recent. She had joined the Hemlock Society and had at hand a means of doing away with herself. I asked her if she needed my help; I offered it, although I wasn’t particularly keen to do it. But I would have helped her because I felt that I owed it to her. At the point of decision, however, she did not want to take her own life, and I’m glad she didn’t. Her decision gave the family a chance to rally around and be there as she prepared to die. And this time we did maintain good contact right to the end.”

Hooray for context.

Before ending this piece of fiction disguised as an article, Levant labels Soros as a “sociopath” who “has turned his attention to Canada” using “one of his front groups, called Avaaz” to petition the CRTC to reject “Sun Media’s license for a TV news channel.”

“The petition is a fraud!” Levant rages. “And the whole campaign is run out of New York.”

Cue the scary music for Levant’s grand finale:

“Do you think Soros should determine what you can watch on TV? Do you think that decision should be made in New York? Is our freedom of speech just another trinket for him to buy and sell? Hasn’t Soros silenced enough voices in his life?”

Really, Ezra?  “Hasn’t Soros silenced enough voices in his life?”

Classy.

As stated earlier, Avaaz is a global operation. Launched in 2007 with the intent to “organize citizens everywhere to help close the gap between the world we have and the world most people want,” Avaaz “has grown to 5.5 million members from every country on earth, becoming the largest global web movement in history.”

Being a global operation, Canadians are able to launch petitions for Canadian interests; Decisions “made in New York?” Not at all.

So where exactly does Soros factor into this debate?

He doesn’t.

Despite the repeated assertions of the contrary, Avaaz is not a “front group” for Soros, and by all accounts (excluding the unproven claims saturating conservative websites), Soros is, in no way, involved with this organization.

But why let facts get in the way of a good story, eh Levant?

After all, it helps draw attention away from reports of last year’s New York lunch date between Prime Minister Harper, Teneycke (driving force behind Sun TV News, who was still Harper’s director of communications at the time), News Corp. (parent company of Fox News) chairman Rupert Murdoch, and Fox News president Roger Ailes.

Though they’re (now) claiming not to be a Canadian version of Fox News, the ‘journalism‘ exhibited future Sun TV News host Ezra Levant provides a clear example of what Canadians can expect from Teneycke’s tabloid news organization, post ideological purge.

Fair and Balanced.” “We Report, You Decide.” “Hard NewsStraight Talk.”

They distort, you comply.

The CRTC wants to hear from the public regarding Sun TV News’ application. Make your voice heard in a single click!

You can also weigh in by signing the Avaaz.org petition.

Cross-posted at rabble.ca

—-

Two updates:

First, Kory Teneycke has resigned from Sun Media (QMI) as an RCMP investigation into the spamming of the Avaaz.org petition edges closer to him. (Replacing Teneycke is former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s spokesman, Luc Lavoie — so it’s one Tory insider for another.

*Note – as of January 2011, Teneycke is officially back in the saddle at Sun Media (QMI) *

Second, George Soros is threatening to sue Sun Media (QMI) - which includes Levant.

HERE is a snippet of Levant’s twitter attacks on Soros, and HERE is a snippet of Levant’s attacks on me following the publication of this article.

—–

Update – Saturday September 18, 1:00 am

Sun Media (QMI) and Levant issue a retraction and apology for Levant’s column:

On September 5, 2010, a column by Ezra Levant contained false statements about George Soros and his conduct as a young teenager in Nazi-occupied Hungary.

Upon receiving a letter of complaint from Mr. Soros’s legal counsel on September 13, 2010, Sun Media Corporation always intended to publish a retraction and apology for this column. Despite constant efforts on both sides, Sun Media and Mr. Soros’s counsel were unable to reach agreement on the content of a retraction.

The management of Sun Media wishes to state that there is no basis for the statements in the column and they should not have been made.

Sun Media, this newspaper and Ezra Levant retract the statements made in the column and unreservedly apologize to Mr. Soros for the distress and harm this column may have caused to him.

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.