Monday, February 28, 2011

A New and Damning G20 Report

As reported in The Toronto Star, a 59-page report by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and National Union of Public and General Employees, set to be released today, calls for a full-scale enquiry into the abuse perpetrated by the authorities during last summer's G20 Summit in Toronto.

During three days of hearings last November which the police refused to take part in (no surprise there), a strong picture emerged from the testimony of dozens of witnesses who were physically abused and/or had their Charter rights taken away from them (a Kafkaesque and oxymoronic situation if there ever was one in Canada) of large-scale malfeasance on the part of the police, aided, abetted, and emboldened by both the McGuinty and Harper Governments.

Despite the damning nature of this report, despite the compelling video evidence to be found on YouTube and last Friday's fifth estate, and despite the fact that Ontario Ombudsman has said that “the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history” had occurred during the G20 weekend,
my dark suspicion is that governments will continue to deny responsibility for what they wrought, police chiefs will continue to mouth platitudes about prosecuting where evidence warrants, officers will continue to go unpunished, and the scars of that weekend will continue to haunt the Canadian psyche for a long time to come.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Fifth Estate and the Shame of the G20

While I have believed in the power of the written word my entire life, sometimes images are a more potent way to convey the outrages that frequently occur in the world. Probably the best examples of this power have been in the images we have been inundated with since the upheavals in the Middle East began.

Another example is surely to be found in last night's fifth estate program, broadcast on C.B.C., showing the horrific results of having a police force, apparently unfettered by the normal rules and expectations of behaviour in a democratic society, routinely abusing people, with absolutely no regard for their Charter Rights.

Now available on the C.B.C. website, I defy even the most inveterate supporter of the police to watch the program and tell me that the police (aided and abetted by both the McGuinty and Harper Governments) did nothing wrong.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Watch This Video To See What's Wrong With Canada's Foreign Investment Review Policy

This video, from Michael Moore's website, shows the social and economic devastation that will result from the decision by Brazilian-owned Vale to close its nickel and smelter refinery in Thompson Manitoba in 2015.

After receiving approval to buy Inco, the mine's previous owner, in 2006, and after receiving a $1 billion loan from the Harper Government last fall with the promise of increasing jobs, Vale has shown what kind of corporate citizen it is upon announcing this closure, which will result in upwards of 500 job losses.

This is the most recent in a series of disastrous decisions made by Investment Canada and Industry Minister Tony Clement, and mirrors the action taken by U.S. Steel in closing its Hamilton operations shortly after being given the green light to take over the former Steel Company of Canada.

Isn't it strange that it takes a foreign national, Michael Moore, to publicize what we Canadians should all be outraged about?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Police Response to Criticism? The Best Defence is an Offence (to all of us)

Yesterday I wrote an entry detailing the frustrations of Ian Scott, head of the Ontario's Special Investigations Unit, over his inability to get the cooperation of the majority of police forces when investigating allegations of police misconduct. Today, The Star reports on the strategy these forces use to combat such criticism.

Here is an excerpt from that story:

The association representing 33,000 front-line police officers in Ontario has accused the head of the province’s police watchdog of “destroying public confidence in the criminal justice system” with a “bias against police officers.”

In a letter of complaint to the body that regulates lawyers, the Police Association of Ontario says that Special Investigations Unit boss Ian Scott, a lawyer, committed professional misconduct by telling the Star in an interview that officers being investigated for alleged crimes “get all kinds of breaks in the (criminal justice) system.”

The Law Society quickly dismissed the December 2010 complaint without an investigation, telling the Police Association there is “insufficient evidence” of misconduct to warrant even a request for a probe.

The most ironic part of the complaint made by the police against the SIU head is found in the first paragraph, accusing Scott of destroying public confidence in the criminal justice system by his assertion that police officers are not held to the same high standard when being investigated for alleged crimes.

I agree that public confidence is being undermined, but not by the SIU. It is the refusal of the police themselves to cooperate with investigations, their refusal to bring wrongdoing of fellow officers to light (e.g., exactly how many have been charged in the G20 fiasco?), and the refusal of the police chiefs in charge of them to do anything to try to alter the 'brotherhood of the badge' mentality that appears to allow corruption and abuse of authority to exist and spread.

But then again, I'm sure, in their complaint to the Law Society of Upper Canada, that they were aware of how effective 'shooting the messenger' can be.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

And The Beat(ing) Goes On

I couldn't help but think of that old Sonny and Cher song this morning as I read in The Star about the inability of the SIU to do its job thanks to the refusal of the majority of Ontario police forces to co-operate with its investigations. At a time when citizen cynicism about the police is pervasive, a cynicism exacerbated by the many videos depicting police brutality and violation of Charter Rights during last summer's G20 Summit in Toronto, one could be forgiven for thinking that our security forces would be eager to rehabilitate their image, but such is not the case.

In the article, SIU head Ian Scott says that with the exception of the Hamilton and York forces and smaller services like South Simcoe, it is routine for police to refuse to co-operate with the SIU, even in the most serious of cases. Consider the following:

In a letter dated May 5, 2010, Scott questions why a police force waited to notify the SIU until an official medical report confirmed the severity of the injury to a civilian's head. The SIU director suggests to the police chief that it should have been immediately obvious, because “when the paramedics arrived, (the man)'s head was sitting in a pool of blood and (he) initially appeared unconscious. He was placed on a spine board and transported from the scene to the local hospital.”

In one case, an officer not responding to a call and with no emergency lights on was driving 74 km/h in a 50-km/h zone and struck a cyclist that ran a stop sign.

The civilian was propelled into the air, and the impact broke his skull and bones in his back, chest and neck. The cyclist was also scalped. Scott wrote that while the officer's speed did not justify a dangerous driving criminal charge, “the subject officer was exceeding the speed limit at the point of impact by 24 km/h and according to the accident reconstructionist could have avoided the accident but for his rate of speed ... I leave issues of charges under the Highway Traffic Act to your police service.”

In several other cases, Scott told the police force that witness officers, who are required to talk to the SIU, refused to answer questions; in a few cases, Scott said he would be “happy” to supply police with tape-recorded evidence of the refusals, and in one case he bluntly asked a force to charge two officers with neglect of duty. In another, involving the broken jaw of a civilian, the dispirited director said that he had already tried to address the issue with the police force but never got a reply.

Until the police drop this 'brotherhood of the badge' mentality, they can expect to continue to be looked upon with quite justifiable suspicion and distrust.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

G20 Special on The Fifth Estate

Just a brief post to provide a link to the preview of a Fifth Estate program this Friday (February 25th) showing people's eyewitness videos of police violence during the summit.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Paul Krugman and the Wisconsin Attack on Unions

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has some interesting insights on Wisconsin's attempts to strip the collective bargaining rights of public service unions. He sees it as an effort by the American oligarchs to destroy what little opposition is left to their assuming complete control, not only of the economy through tax policies that favour the rich, but also of the entire political agenda. Much of what Krugman says, I believe, has direct application to the Canadian scene now under the control and sway of a right-wing administration that has shown little respect for opposing views during its five years in power.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Something New from Michael Moore - A High School Newspaper

I recently received an email from Michael Moore's website describing a very interesting and timely addition: a high school newspaper, edited by Moore's 17-year-old niece, soliciting the input of young people on a wealth of issues. While the stereotype of teenagers suggests that they are simply shallow and self-absorbed, I suspect the content in this paper will demonstrate otherwise.

Access to Information and the Health of Democracies

In getting caught up on my reading of the Saturday Star this morning, I came across a column by Katy English entitled, English: Words can change the world. Referring to the recent upheavals in the Middle East, she reflects upon the vial role that access to information plays in a healthy and democratic society. While she shows restraint in making comparisons with Canada, I couldn't help but juxtapose the Middle East restrictions on information she discusses with our own limited access to information that has become something of a fetish for the Harper Government.

Whether we are talking about Afghan detainee documents, spending estimates for government bills, political ads that seek to inspire fear and loathing of 'the other,' or answers to questions about CIDA funding, we, and the people we elect to represent in Parliament, are being treated with the same contempt shown by Middle East despots who have been doing everything in their power to keep the people under their oppressive dictates.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Catherine Porter on KAIROS

In today's Star, Catherine Porter has an interesting column that helps us to understand the Harper Government's antipathy toward KAIROS. Amongst its 'sins' are its opposition to the Alberta tar sands and its concerns over the free trade agreement with Columbia due to the latter's poor human rights' record. Very insightfully, Porter also explores similarities in the Harper Government's underhanded tactics, (lying, forging and altering documents, going after perceived enemies) and those of the repressive regimes that KAIROS has traditionally fought against.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Value of the Blogosphere

For me, the greatest value of the blogosphere is the exposure it offers to stories and ideas that would otherwise often escape my attention. In writing my own blog, I am under no illusion that I am going to change society or people's thinking with whatever opinions I may have, but I do like, as so many others do, to provide links to published pieces that provoke thought and discussion.

Having just read a piece on punditman's blog, I was taken to another site called, where I came across the following video depicting yet another instance of police brutality, this time in Houston Texas. One can only hope that with the wide access to information provided by the Internet and social media, real change, as is occurring in the Middle East, is in the offing for the West as citizens, inspired by both knowledge and sterling examples, realize their collective power.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Anti-Unionism in Wisconsin

Long a favorite target of the right-wing and the envious, unions and collective bargaining are under fresh assault in the state of Wisconsin. As reported at, a bill introduced by its Republican Governor, Scott Walker, and speeding through the legislature would essentially strip public sector unions (those representing teachers, prison workers, etc.)of their collective bargaining rights, increase what they have to contribute to their pensions, and essentially make union membership optional; it would also require surviving unions to hold annual votes in order to stay organized.

It has become increasingly popular over the last few years to denigrate the notion of unions, with many of the uninformed claiming that they might have served a purpose at one time but are really unnecessary, indeed obsolete now. My answer to that has been to look at what happens in non-unionized environments, where there is no real protection against unjust dismissal, bad working conditions, or unsafe working conditions.

In additional to the ideology that drives much opposition to unions, there is the sheer envy that non-unionized workers feel. We frequently hear of the benefits enjoyed by union members that provoke howls of outrage from the non-unionized. My answer to that is, even though it can be a difficult process, these people should start a drive amongst themselves to unionize.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Bizzaro World of Stephen Harper

When I was a child, I was an avid reader of Superman comics, fascinating to me since that universe contained such an amazing array of heroes and villains. One of my favorite parts of that universe was the Bizzaro world, a planet peopled by beings whose actions and values were the complete opposite of their earthly counterparts. For example, the slowest participant was the winner of the race, clocks moved backwards, beauty was considered ugly, and the highest virtue was not truth, but lies.

Reading Thomas Walkom's column in today's Star entitled, Oda's attempt to mislead is part of Tory strategy, reminded me of that world, discussing, as it does, the Harperite propensity for making up things, i.e. lying, when the truth becomes inconvenient or gets in the way of their ideology. As Mr Walkom reports, the recent disgraceful behaviour of International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda is just one small aspect of a pattern long ago established by the secretive, paranoid, anti-democratic and ideologically-driven Conservative Party of Canada.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

An Insightful Comparison Between Egyptian Forces and G20 Security

Now that we are subscribing to the Toronto Star, I have the luxury of lingering over the paper as I finish my morning coffee. Given the many posts I have written over the months about the abuses of our Charter Rights by both the McGuinty Government and the security forces given the task of protecting the G20 politicians and dignitaries, I always keep an especially watchful eye out for stories pertaining to those abuses.

In today's edition, the Star's lead letter, written by Richard Taylor of Toronto, draws a sharp contrast between the way Egypt dealt with its protesters during the recent uprising and how our police dealt with peaceful protest last summer in Toronto. I highly recommend the letter, effectively reminding us as it does of how serious was the abuse of Canadian citizens exercising their democratic rights. As I have written before, it is one of the main reasons, given its collusion with the security forces, that I cannot support the provincial Liberals in the next election.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Tory Propensity for Secrecy

John ibbitson has a thought-provoking column in today's on-line Globe entitled, Harper keeps Canada in dark at own peril.

In it, he discusses how Scott Brison asked House Speaker Peter Miliken on Friday to rule the Haper Government in contempt of Parliament for its refusal to turn over estimates regarding projected corporate income from 2010 to 2015, and the costs of building those new prisons that will house such dangerous offenders as those who grow as few as six marijuana plants.

While it is probably understandable as to why the chronically spiritually-constipated Conservatives would fear an outbreak of mellowness across the country, what isn't understandable by either parliamentary history and custom or basic democracy is how they can withhold from us and our elected representatives the costs involved in their paranoid follies.

I eagerly await the next development in this unfolding saga of repression and suppression.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

More Brutality from the Ottawa Police

Many thanks to the blog Let Freedom Rain for providing this link to The Ottawa Citizen to yet another disturbing story involving brutality on the part of the Ottawa Police force.

Given the pattern of police abuse of our Charter Rights this past summer during the G20, it is becoming increasing evident that much stronger oversight than that provided by the SIU is needed in this country, and no longer can these incidents be dismissed as aberrations by a few 'rogue' cops.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Conservative Constipation

While most of the world celebrated the triumph of freedom over tyranny, of the will of the people over the despot in Egypt, one part of the political spectrum, at least in Canada, seemed decidedly uncomfortable.

My local television station had comments from a number of 'experts,' and while there was general satisfaction over the ouster of Mubarak one man, representing a think tank called the MacKenzie Institute, rather peevishly carped that the revolution was going to do nothing to bring down food prices in Egypt, something he seemed to feel was the impetus for what occurred. Typical of the right wing, he was looking at human motivation through the narrow lens of 'homo economicus' (economic man) which sees all human action as being prompted only by self-interest.

Similarly, Stephen Harper, in what can only be described as a bout of verbal constipation, (it seemed very hard indeed for him to get the words out), offered a very grudging and qualified endorsement of the Egyptian liberation, reminding them of the importance of adhering to their peace treaties. This, of course, was his way of reminding everyone of his unqualified, unwavering and completely uncritical support of Israel.

It has long been obvious to me that while the right wing likes to talk about the importance of human rights and democracy for the world, its support tends to be confined only to those people who make the correct choices at election time, the right choice being, of course, voting for those candidates who may not necessarily be best for the people, but rather friendly and deferential to first-world democratic interests, which are all too often synonymous with the goals of the corporate world.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Rick Salutin is Back!

One of the reasons I cancelled my over two-decade subscription to The Globe and Mail was the decision it made to drop columnist Rick Salutin, a man who always seems to have an unusual view of events and people, no doubt attributable to his formidable intellect. I'm happy to report that today marks the beginning of his weekly column in the Toronto Star. Guess we'll have to start subscribing.

The Conservatives Strike Again

A disturbing but not really surprising story appears in today's Star detailing how two well-known academic critics of the Conservative Party of Canada are being targeted, apparently for their outspokenness.

The two University of Ottawa professors, "Errol Mendes and Amir Attaran, frequently castigated as Liberal sympathizers by the Conservatives, were notified in recent weeks of two unusually massive freedom-of-information requests at the University of Ottawa, demanding details of the professors’ employment, expenses and teaching records."

While the names of requesters under Freedom of Information rules are kept anonymous, a logical inference is that it is Conservative operatives who are behind the request, given their leader's well-known propensity for targeting those who have the temerity to disagree with his stances and edicts. Even in the highly unlikely event that the Harperites have nothing to do with this intimidation tactic, Harper and his crew have only themselves to blame for being the prime suspects, having so poisoned the political landscape by their divisive and obnoxious rhetoric that rational and reasoned dialogue has become almost impossible in Canada.

I can only hope that the University of Ottawa delays the release of the information requested for as long as the Harper Government has been known to, which in many cases has been several years.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Sky is Falling (according to the Macdonald-Laurier Institute)

Described by John Ibbitson as an Ottawa-based think tank, The MacDonald-Laurier Institute insists that serious crime is on the rise, notwithstanding the fact that Statistics Canada's data show the opposite.

Claiming some sort of statistical legerdemain on the part of a venerable organization that has, at least until the abolition of the long form census, commanded world-wide respect for the integrity of its work, the Institute assures us, amongst other things, that there is widespread underreporting of crime. (Hmm, would this be similar to Donald Rumsfeld's 'known unknowns'?)

This, the latest in a series of assaults on data and logic, no doubt engineered to help the Harper Government in its wasteful expenditures of prison expansions, is once more a reminder of the danger that would accrue to our country should the electorate ever hand a majority government to the Harper buffoons.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Smart Saver Program

While I no longer subscribe to the Globe, I periodically check its online content, and this morning I read about a program intended to help poor families with the costs of post-secondary education. As described in Margaret Wente's column, the "federal government will contribute $500 for a Canada Learning Bond for any child born since Jan. 1, 2004, who lives in a low-income family. It adds another $100 every year, to a maximum of $2,000, and matches any extra family contributions by as much as 40 per cent.

Despite my antipathy toward the Harper Government, I have to give them credit for thus far not eliminating this anti-poverty measure in the name of fiscal restraint.