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Christchurch happens every day in the war of terror

Tue, 2019-03-19 23:21
March 19, 2019Christchurch happens every day in the war of terrorWhat happened at Christchurch -- mass murder produced as the logical result of a long-running political epoch defined by the dehumanization and demonization of Muslims -- happens every day.
Categories: News for progressives

Mexican ambassador promises 'increased scrutiny' of Canadian mining in Mexico

Tue, 2019-03-19 22:55
Brent Patterson

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has appointed Juan Jose Gomez Camacho as the new Mexican ambassador to Canada.

Gomez Camacho's first comments, even before he arrives in Ottawa, were reported by The Globe and Mail's Latin America Bureau Chief Stephanie Nolen.

"Canadian mining companies operating in Mexico should be on notice that the sector is going to face increased scrutiny on its environmental practices and treatment of Indigenous people, according to the country's new ambassador to Ottawa," writes Nolen.

Nolen's article also quotes Gomez Camacho stating, "We really want a strong, profitable mining sector -- and Canadian mining companies are large investors in Mexico -- but we expect them to operate in this country with exactly the same standards as they do in Canada."

That sounds less than promising given the "standards" for industrial projects in Canada do not respect the Indigenous right to free, prior and informed consent -- witness the Trans Mountain pipeline on Secwepemc territory and the Coastal GasLink pipeline on Wet'suwet'en territory.

The Mexican government is also facing its own controversies over its support for two mega-projects that lack the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous people, namely the Proyecto Integral Morelos gas pipeline and thermoelectric plant and the Tren Maya tourist and commerical freight railroad that would result in deforestation and water contamination.

As Peace Brigades International-Mexico Project has commented, "The organizations that we accompany continue to be concerned for AMLO's position on the rights of Indigenous populations, given that his public discourse seems to respect their autonomy, but he continues to propose initiatives of megaprojects such as the Mayan Train or new mining investments."

Canadian capital is massively invested in mining in Mexico.

"Of the 293 mining companies operating in Mexico, 205 are backed by Canadian capital," reports NOW Magazine.

And that capital has resulted in damage done and lives lost.

Vancouver-based Fortuna Silver operates the mine in the community of San José del Progreso where two of its outspoken opponents -- local resident Bernardo Méndez Vásquez and Indigenous Zapotec land defender Bernardo Vasquez Sánchez -- have been killed.

One can also look at how the water supply of the community of Cerro San Pedro has been impacted by the cyanide used by the Vancouver-based mining company New Gold.

It may sound promising that the new Mexican ambassador to Canada talks about "increasing the role of the state in making sure that the standards of operation in Mexico from foreign companies in this or any other sector are sustainable."

But he also alludes to the concept of corporate social responsibility when he adds, "It's also a self-discipline, it's a question of companies' values on how they operate."

The Globe and Mail's Report on Business editor Duncan Hood has written, "Most of us don't associate Canadian businesses with assault and murder. But between 2000 and 2015, 44 people died as a result of violence surrounding Canadian-owned mines in Latin America."

This fact does not suggest that there's a lot of the needed "values" or "self-discipline" in how the Canadian extractavist sector mines for profit.

Important first steps from the new Mexican government could include a definitive cancellation of La Parota dam and a reversal of the granting of large parts of territory in Oaxaca to Fortuna Silver that was done without the consent of local Indigenous and farming communities.

Likewise, after sitting on the appointment of a Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, we'll see how much longer the Trudeau government waits to move forward on this and whether that position will have the power to compel documents and testimony.

Indigenous peoples in both Canada and Mexico are experiencing more rhetoric, rather than genuine recognition and reconciliation. It's well past time for that to change.

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Photo by Peace Brigades International.

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Categories: News for progressives

How the violence of white supremacy becomes white noise

Tue, 2019-03-19 22:38
Azeezah Kanji

In the Christchurch mosque massacre and its aftermath, two forms of racism have been put on display: a far-right Islamophobia that kills Muslims and a mainstream Islamophobia that normalizes the deaths.

Initially, the mass killings barely made the front page of The Globe and Mail: the news was relegated to page four the first day after the atrocity, and the day following confined to a small black box at the top of the front page (which was dominated by a picture of Finance Minister Bill Morneau, not connected to any pressing news story). Even the car advertisement at the bottom was given more space on the front page than the planned and targeted gunning down of Muslims in prayer (the death toll at the time was 49 and has since risen to 50).

While the shootings were allocated greater prominence in the paper following widespread criticism of The Globe's coverage, they have primarily been framed as a problem of gun control -- not the white supremacist ideology of the man wielding the weapon.

On the CBC's website, the top story the morning after the massacre was about corruption in American college admissions, and two days later about "three Montrealers who choose to wash dishes for a living."

What a marked and devastating contrast to the wall-to-wall coverage dedicated to far less fatal acts of violence committed by Muslims abroad. By three days after the mosque attacks, they had already virtually disappeared from the online homepages of Canada's two national mainstream newspapers, The Globe and Mail and National Post. While the Boston Marathon bombing (which killed three people) was memorialized in Canadian media on its one-year anniversary, will anyone in Canada remember the carnage at Christchurch one year from now?

As the eminent American historian Howard Zinn observed in A People's History of the United States:

"Outright lying or quiet omission takes the risk of discovery which, when made, might arouse the reader to rebel against the writer. To state the facts, however, and then to bury them in a mass of other information is to say to the reader with a certain infectious calm: yes, mass murder took place, but it's not that important."

Media devaluations have no power to diminish Muslims' inherent humanity -- but they unquestionably imperil our safety.     

The marginalization of the anti-Muslim killings in New Zealand is part of a Canadian public discourse that consistently serves to minimize the presence and extent of racism and white supremacy.

In its Christchurch coverage, for instance, The Globe and Mail included a piece about threats made against an Alberta mosque in a Yellow Vests Canada Facebook group, but conveyed the impression that this was a one-off incident. It completely neglected to mention that racist diatribes, conspiracy theories, and death threats are pervasive in Yellow Vests Canada's social media platforms and protests -- and that the group itself is not simply an "advocate for free speech and Canadian sovereignty," as it was described, but a vehicle for extreme-right organizations like the Three Percenters militia, Soldiers of Odin, and World Coalition Against Islam.

Such erasures have enabled Conservative leader Andrew Scheer to be elevated as Canada's potential "moral leader" by opinion commentators, and to outstrip Justin Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh as the "most ethical federal party leader" in recent opinion polls -- even as Scheer continues to brazenly pander to the far-right by tweeting support for the yellow vests' United We Roll convoy, and then speaking at their Ottawa rally alongside white supremacist Faith Goldy.

The obscuring of racist ideology sustains the popular fiction that acts of white supremacist violence, like those at Christchurch, are "senseless." In fact, they are a manifestation of a prevailing common sense depicting Muslims and other racialized communities as inherently dangerous and therefore disposable.

This deeply entrenched and highly toxic common sense is propagated by state agencies like Public Safety Canada, which insists that "the principal terrorist threat to Canada continues to stem from … violent Sunni Islamist ideology" and that far-right "racism, bigotry, and misogyny … ultimately do not usually result in criminal behaviour or threats to national security" -- even though far-right and white-supremacist ideologues have been responsible for more than nine times as many deaths as Muslim extremists have in Canada since 2001 (at least 19, as compared to two).    

While Muslims are stigmatized as a source of regular violence by terroristic freaks, acts of racist violence are explained away as freak occurrences by regular Canadians.

Alexandre Bissonnette's 2017 Quebec mosque mass shooting, for example, was deemed "strictly personal and non-ideological," and so not "terrorism," by the Quebec Superior Court last month.

And Toronto lawyer Mark Phillips was spared criminal punishment last April for his baseball bat attack on a Latino family he accused of being "ISIS"; although Phillips cracked the ribs of one of his victims, his behaviour was dismissed by the judge as "marijuana-induced psychosis."

Contrast this with the treatment of Syrian immigrant Rehab Dughmosh, who swung a golf club and a knife at Canadian Tire employees while suffering psychotic delusions. She caused no significant injury, but was charged with 14 terrorism offences and sentenced to seven years' imprisonment in February.

Through such disparities, the racist violence of white men comes to be treated like white noise: a random, meaningless nuisance that blends into the background; a fact of life not to be eradicated but endured, perhaps by blocking our ears to the disturbance.

The persistent, willful refusal to hear it is itself a form of complicity.

Azeezah Kanji is a legal researcher and writer based in Toronto.

Photo: Mark McGuire/Flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Christchurch happens every day in the war of terror

Tue, 2019-03-19 22:11
Anti-RacismCivil Liberties WatchWorld

As we mourn the victims of the terrorist atrocity in New Zealand -- where at least 50 Muslim worshippers were mowed down by a white supremacist partially "inspired" by Donald Trump -- many are looking for answers to the inevitable questions of why and how.

To answer those questions, and explore how we might prevent such terrorist acts, it may be helpful to recognize that what happened at Christchurch -- mass murder produced as the logical result of a long-running political epoch that is almost singularly defined by the dehumanization and demonization of Muslims, Arabs, and anyone perceived as such -- happens every day.

As in any war, atrocities are the norm, not the aberration. In the war of terror that has been waged by so-called Western democracies for decades -- long before 9/11 -- governments and militaries, their compliant media partners, the so-called entertainment industry, and a host of others have played the role of initiators, accomplices, and accelerants to a fiery hatred of all things perceived as Muslim.

Occasionally, there is official shock and grief at large-scale massacres like Christchurch, the images of tortured bodies at Abu Ghraib, or the front-page picture of a drowned Syrian refugee child washed up on a beach. But our attention too often turns elsewhere because our status quo is defined by indifference to the daily suffering inflicted on large groups of people without white skin privilege who are targeted directly -- or who are too easily dismissed as indirect "collateral damage" -- because they are perceived to have no human value whatsoever.

Normalizing hatred

Most of the time, Christchurch-style atrocities in which the victims' humanity is reduced to a mere statistic barely make the news or draw condemnation. When such atrocities do generate headlines, sanctimonious leaders in charge of countries built on racism and genocide try to calm the rage in our hearts by claiming "this is not who we are," even as their regimes' policies contribute to such unspeakable acts.

Others, like Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the point where they are forced to acknowledge the terrorist targeting of Muslims that Christchurch represented. And then there are those like People's Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier, who do not feel such atrocities warrant his condemnation. Notably, both Bernier and Scheer are unapologetic for speaking at an Ottawa rally that hosted white supremacist Faith Goldy and racist yellow-vest members in February. As Bernie Farber of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network explained, that rally's organizers and backers -- the climax of a truck convoy from Alberta -- were infused with overt racism, and "had engaged in online death threats including calls for the arrest and death of the prime minister, [and] supported anti-Muslim hate groups including Canadian Combat Coalition, Soldiers of Odin, and Worldwide Coalition Against Islam."

Canada's national public broadcaster, the CBC, devoted an incredible amount of free publicity to the extremely problematic truck convoy and its two days of tiny rallies, which drew tens of people to Parliament Hill. The CBC's blanket coverage helped normalize the people behind a very dangerous discourse that blames immigrants, and, specifically, Muslims, for everything that's wrong in the world. (This almost fawning coverage was in stark contrast to CBC's utter refusal to provide any substantive space to some of the largest student-led mobilizations ever seen in this country during the global climate strike on March 15, including the 150,000 marchers in Montreal that most would not have heard of had it not been for Facebook and other social media.)

And while some so-called progressives cheered the formation of Bernier's white supremacist party as a perfect "divide the right" moment, they neglected to remember that the very communities who will be hurt by the existence and media normalization of this very dangerous xenophobic grouping are the ones in line for the next Christchurch. Indeed, Bernier sings from the same songbook as the Christchurch terrorist, right down to Bernier's 2018 tweet that "More diversity will not be our strength, it will destroy what has made us such a great country…. Why should we promote ever more diversity? If anything and everything is Canadian, does being Canadian mean something?"

While leaders like Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump did tweet about Christchurch, their government's policies nevertheless contribute to Christchurch-style massacres everyday, whether by aerial bombardment, through economic sanctions, or the approval of their state security services continuing to racially profile and scaremonger about the threat allegedly posed by Muslims, even though study after study shows that white supremacist violence is the leading cause of extremist killings in both leaders' countries.

Notably, neither Trump nor Trudeau found it in themselves to tweet last summer when the same number of those killed in Christchurch were murdered in a Saudi air strike against a Yemeni school bus, killing 40 children and 11 adults and injuring 79. The laser-guided bomb used in the attack was sold to the Saudis by Lockheed Martin, the military contractor Canada has chosen to lead its $105-billion warship contract. That is the same Saudi coalition that is still being supplied with $15 billion of Canadian weaponry with the full approval of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Trudeau, further bolstering a slaughter and sanctions regime that kills a Yemeni child every 10 minutes and threatens up to 20 million with death by starvation and disease.

Dismissing Muslim lives as state policy

In Afghanistan, NATO air strikes -- in which Canadian intelligence and logistical support no doubt always played a role -- have notoriously and callously hit wedding parties, markets, and other clearly civilian sites with a sickening consistency that blatantly disregards human life in the same hateful manner as the Christchurch terrorist. Among far too many to recount is the bombing of the Haska Meyna wedding party in Nangarhar province in July 2008, that murdered 47 civilians, largely children and women. In November 2008, another wedding party at Wech Baghtu resulted in 63 killed by NATO air strike. In May 2009, a U.S. B1 bomber massacred at least 140 civilians in the heart of the village of Granai.

Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Libya, and far too many other countries are viewed as "target-rich" environments by the Pentagon and its allied military forces in which the illegal killing by drone or other means is the assumed right of those who wage this 21st-century white supremacist crusade (recalling, of course, George W. Bush's statement that "this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take awhile.") It is no accident that the Christchurch terrorist used the exact same language -- "target rich" -- to describe the New Zealand worshippers he intended to obliterate.

Similarly "target rich" were the peaceful protests last year against the apartheid wall that became an Israeli military-sponsored bloodbath, found by the United Nations to possibly constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.

"More than 6,000 unarmed demonstrators were shot by military snipers, week after week at the protest sites by the separation fence," the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 Gaza protests concluded in its February 28 report, which drew not a single banner headline in this country. The commission went on to report that:

"189 Palestinians were killed during the demonstrations inside this period. The Commission found that Israeli Security Forces killed 183 of these protesters with live ammunition. Thirty-five of these fatalities were children, while three were clearly marked paramedics, and two were clearly marked journalists. According to the Commission's data analysis, the Israeli Security Forces injured 6,106 Palestinians with live ammunition at the protest sites during this period. Another 3,098 Palestinians were injured by bullet fragmentation, rubber-coated metal bullets or by hits from tear gas canisters."

While it is important that world leaders condemn the Christchurch massacre, their thoughts and prayers are meaningless unless they get to the root cause of Christchurch, a root cause most of them contribute to, by, among other things, their silence on Palestine. As UN Commissions chair Sara Hossain said, "There can be no justification for killing and injuring journalists, medics, and persons who pose no imminent threat of death or serious injury to those around them. Particularly alarming is the targeting of children and persons with disabilities. Many young persons' lives have been altered forever. 122 people have had a limb amputated since 30 March last year. Twenty of these amputees are children."

Daily disappearing

The daily disappearing of the suffering endured by those who are targets of white supremacy will likely resume its normal pattern this week as our attention turns away from Christchurch. What will take its place is the daily background white noise -- if it makes any sound at all -- of the ongoing war against the majority of the world's population on behalf of a small, privileged group of countries whose leadership acts as proxies for corporations looking to exploit what's left of the world's treasure. Those who call out and resist the daily violence of corporate rule by companies heavily invested in tarsands, overseas mines, and engineering megaprojects -- often Indigenous women on the front lines of land and water defence struggles -- are criminalized, demonized, cast aside, and detained, tortured, and murdered.

It's that normalcy of daily war that will soon make names like Christchurch mere asterisks in our historical memory. Indeed, the casual and careless enforced disappearance of these horrible moments was no better represented than in last week's National Public Radio Morning Edition interview with Jonathan Greenblatt, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League, which in January released a report finding that every single act of extremist violence committed in the U.S. during 2018 was undertaken by far-right, white supremacist groups and individuals.

Asked how common such incidents as Christchurch are, Greenblatt remarkably replied: "Well, I think this act of violence really doesn't have a precedent as far as we know, murdering people in a mosque like this, and the social media dimension is something new." That the head of an organization which documents such horrific crimes could so readily disappear the January 2017 mosque massacre in Quebec City -- one that most media actually did report was cited by the Christchurch terrorist as an inspiration -- speaks to the potent racism and Islamophobia that underlies both white supremacist violence and a liberal culture that refuses to face its own complicity in and tacit acceptance of this racism.

Indeed, there is an extensive history of attacks against Muslims at prayer. As the group Fairness and Accuracy in Media (FAIR) reminded readers last week, Israeli army reservist Baruch Goldstein entered the Cave of the Patriarchs in 1994 and slaughtered 29 praying Muslims, and the Israeli newspaper Haaretz recently reported that, "The killer's grave has become over the years a pilgrimage site for extremist Jews who support him, and a shrine to his memory was set up next to his tomb." FAIR also points to other anti-Muslim attacks "that include the 25 worshipers killed on October 11, 2017, at a mosque in Kembe, Central African Republic; the 20 people slaughtered at the Han Tha mosque in Taungoo, Myanmar, in May 2001; and the 147 victims of the Kattankudy mosque massacre in Sri Lanka on August 3, 1990," as well as the 1974 massacre of some 1,500 Moro people killed in a mosque by the Philippine army in the village of Malisbong.

As the editors of FAIR concluded: "That none of this was recalled, either by the host of Morning Edition or the director of a group that presents itself as a 'global leader in exposing extremism' with a mission 'to secure justice and fair treatment for all,' is a testament to the failure of our information systems to give due weight to violence against Muslims -- and the consequent dangerous impoverishment of our collective memory."

A thousand-year crusade

Of course, this is nothing new. One can go as far back as Pope Urban II's call for a crusade in 1095 that resulted in the indiscriminate slaughter of Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem four years later. Launching this bloody era, Urban railed against those he labeled "infidels," "pagans," and "barbarians," and in the same manner that the U.S., Canada, U.K., and other imperial powers provide a shield of impunity for those who take part in modern-day state-sponsored crimes, Urban cried, "All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins."

According to Fulcher of Chartres, a priest who took part in and wrote an account of that first crusade, "In this temple almost ten thousand were killed. Indeed, if you had been there you would have seen our feet coloured to our ankles with the blood of the slain. But what more shall I relate? None of them were left alive; neither women nor children were spared." The Crusaders also set fire to a full synagogue and then encircled "the screaming, flame-tortured humanity singing 'Christ We Adore Thee!'"

The fear and hatred of Muslims and Arabs is of course but one subset of a worldwide white supremacy whose vile rationalizations have been used to enact genocides against Indigenous peoples; drop chemical weapons on human beings (Winston Churchill famously declared in one secret memo his disgust at the "squeamishness" of those opposed to its use, noting in bulldog fashion that "I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes"); and drop nuclear weapons on the people of Japan (prime minister Mackenzie King crowned a career based on promoting Canada as "white man's country" when he wrote approvingly in his diary of the nuclear incineration of 100,000 people at Hiroshima: "It is fortunate that the use of the bomb should have been upon the Japanese rather than upon the white races of Europe.")

While the luxury of having communism as an "enemy" provided state security agencies with a 20th-century raison d'etre until the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is no coincidence that they had old-fashioned and time-tested hatred of Arabs and Muslims to fall back on to save the military-industrial complex from the dread peace dividend that many demanded at the end of the Cold War. Thus, Saddam Hussein, who went from being a close U.S. ally who received tons of American weaponry, including chemical weapons, suddenly became the butcher of Baghdad and a global threat. As Canadian troops went overseas for Desert Storm, Canadian Arabs and Muslims saw a sharp uptick in visits to their homes by CSIS and the RCMP.

Racist tropes

The ease with which so many people got into the genocidal spirit of Desert Storm in 1991 was attributable to many facets of white supremacy, not least of which was a century of racist tropes courtesy of Hollywood. The late historian Jack Shaheen documented this in Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People, an analysis of over 900 films in which moviegoers were told that "all Arabs are Muslims and all Muslims are Arabs…The moviemakers' distorted lenses have shown Arabs as heartless, brutal, uncivilized, religious fanatics through common depictions of Arabs kidnapping or raping a fair maiden; expressing hatred against the Jews and Christians; and demonstrating a wealth for love and power."

After the slaughter unleashed during Desert Storm, there was the daily, 12-year-long bombing campaign over Iraq and the most brutal sanctions ever enacted in human history, enforced with a $1-billion investment by the Canadian navy. In concert with other military forces, Canada was complicit in the killing of over 1.5 million Iraqi civilians who desperately needed the medical supplies, water purification systems, and other necessities that were daily turned away.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright -- a shero to Chrystia Freeland -- was famously asked about the effects of U.S. sanctions: "We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?" Albright's reply was perfectly in line with the sickening manifesto left behind by the terrorist in New Zealand: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it."

On what moral plane was Albright's justification for such cruelty any different than the distorted thinking that went into the Christchurch terrorist's manifesto? How were either of these different from that moment when the U.S., Canada, and a few other nations launched their illegal invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and U.S. general Tommy Franks, asked about the numbers of dead, replied: "'You know, we don't do body counts.'' The British approach was similar, with Group Captain Al Lockwood telling reporters: ''We don't do head counts, and we certainly don't publicize them.''

Meanwhile, our own indifference and silence erases the fact that the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp is still in operation, with plans to build wheelchair accessible cells because Muslim men who have never been charged with or tried for any offence will likely grow old and die there, forgotten by the world. That same indifference means we fail to protest every time the word "Islamic terrorism" is irresponsibly used by the CBC, yet no other religion is thusly described when attacks are carried out in these faiths' names (indeed, Buddhists have committed large-scale atrocities against Rohingya Muslims, yet Buddhist terrorism is a word yet to be heard on the national airwaves). Media representatives either fail to grasp or simply don't seem to care that each use of that vile term conflates 1.3 billon practitioners of Islam with the acts of a few who certainly have no understanding of the religion, and also feeds the fire and fury of those who would act "pre-emptively" to make their white supremacist world "safer" by eliminating whatever Muslims they can, as at Christchurch.

Presidential enjoyment of killing

While former U.S. president Barack Obama rightly condemned the Christchurch massacre, he has yet to apologize for his role in the enthusiastic development and execution of his notorious kill lists and the Christchurch-like bloodlust they inspired. As the New York Times famously reported, Obama refused to believe that anyone living in Muslim-majority countries could be viewed as a potential civilian casualty of his hellfire missiles. In setting hugely dangerous precedents that have since been gladly followed by his successor, Obama developed his own racist calculus that "counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants… unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent."

Obama's 542 drone strikes killed over 4,000 people, and, like the terrorist of Christchurch, he reportedly confided to his aides: "Turns out I'm really good at killing people. Didn't know that was gonna be a strong suit of mine."

In Canada, the acceptance of white supremacy is a given in all of this country's state institutions. We see that everywhere from the global campaign by Chrystia Freeland to release two white Canadians in China (ignoring the case of Canadian Uighur Huseyin Celil) to the ongoing creation of national sacrifice zones where Indigenous people will suffer in the name of "green" energy (Site C, Muskrat Falls, Coastal Gas Link) and the refusal to end racist discrimination against 165,000 Indigenous children despite seven compliance orders to do so from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

When Ottawa's Abdullah Almalki was wrongfully targeted for torture in Syria by agents of the RCMP, CSIS, Justice Department, and Foreign Affairs Canada (DFAIT), internal Mountie documents complained that they had nothing on him "other than the fact he is an arab running around." The racism at the heart of desperate attempts to pin something on Almalki led them to nonetheless conclude that he was an "imminent threat" to national security. Almalki's right to be viewed as a full human being was tossed aside, in the same manner lives at Christchurch were, by those same Canadian agencies when the question arose of what would happen to him should they send questions to Almalki's Syrian torturers.

An infamous memo from Foreign Affairs concluded, "if such questioning is carried out by the Syrian security services, there is a credible risk that it would involve torture." Nonetheless, the RCMP sent those questions. As the O'Connor Inquiry into the torture of Canadian Maher Arar found (here also referencing the torture of Canadian Ahmad Abou Elmaati), "On January 10, Staff Sergeant Callaghan advised Staff Sergeant Fiorido that in an interview held in Egypt, Mr. El Maati had stated that the Syrians had tortured him. These allegations did not raise a red flag for Staff Sergeant Fiorido with respect to the questions being sent for Mr. Almalki. '[I]t was never a concern because it was never considered.'"

The inquiry into the torture of Almalki, Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin also found that:

"Some of the RCMP members involved in the decision to send questions for Mr. Almalki displayed a dismissive attitude towards the issue of human rights and the possibility of torture. When torture was raised at the September 10, 2002 meeting, some of the RCMP members present disregarded it as merely a one-off comment from a junior DFAIT official. Another RCMP member, who did not attend the September 10 meeting, but played a critical role in facilitating the preparation and sending of questions, told the inquiry that the issue of mistreatment was not on his radar screen."

Notably, no one has been held legally accountable for their role in the torture of Almalki, Arar, Elmaati, and Nureddin, and most went on to promotions, including Michel Cabana, who became an RCMP Assistant Commissioner. When the victims are Muslims, there is always an aggravating factor to explain away and water down the white people's crimes; in these cases, former Supreme Court Judge Frank Iacobucci (who does the same dirty work for SNC-Lavalin) called what happened to these men a "mistake" and added that we must be "grateful" to the people who do the ugly work of state security and employ "their best judgment," even though the record clearly tells a different story.

When it comes to people who are not direct beneficiaries of white supremacy, they never get on the proverbial radar screen of human concern because, as in Christchurch, their lives simply do not matter to the powers that be. In fact, the only time they are on anybody's radar screen is when they are trying to board planes or live otherwise normal lives. The insistence on continuing to racially profile such large groups of people based on their faith or heritage helps explain why so many white terrorists are able to get away with their massacres, even ones that are advertised well in advance on social media. When all the resources are directed against false bogeymen, it's easy for the real terrorists to express themselves and act in plain sight.

What Trudeau could do

As the reverberations from Christchurch continued to evolve over the weekend, Justin Trudeau issued a declaration that "we must all confront Islamophobia and work to create a world in which all people -- no matter their faith, where they live, or where they were born -- can feel safe and secure." Heartfelt as that sentiment must have been, it needs to be matched by actions that show his government does value Muslim lives and that words like "safe and secure" are not mere rhetorical flourish.

For starters, he could cancel the deportation order that has hung over the head of Ottawa refugee Mohamed Harkat for years. If sent back to Algeria, Harkat faces torture; the very existence of that threat is a torturous limbo itself. You can sign this petition to support Harkat. A similar pending order against Toronto's Mohammad Mahjoub should also be cancelled, and all those who spent years detained under Islamophobic "security certificates" should be compensated for lives and reputations destroyed.  

Similarly, the Trudeau government must stop fighting Montreal's Abousfian Abdelrazik and provide him with an apology and compensation for the torture he endured in Sudan with very clear CSIS complicity.

Trudeau could also order a public inquiry into the role of his War Minister Harjit Sajjan -- as well as other Canadian military officials -- into their commission of or participation in activities that could be construed as war crimes. While the U.S. has refused entry to investigators of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Trudeau and Sajjan have spent their whole term in office sweeping under the rug Canada's bloody legacy in Afghanistan, where hundreds were knowingly transferred to torture. Former MP Craig Scott has sent a voluminous petition to the ICC, and awaits word on whether they will follow up. Trudeau could hasten that process by demanding transparency and full disclosure.

Trudeau and Freeland could make good on their word that they respect rule of law and an international rules-based order by calling for the immediate closure of the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp and also provide compensation to those who wound up there as a result of Canadian "intelligence," such as Mohamedou Slahi and Djamel Ameziane.

Trudeau could play a stronger role in condemning the ongoing Islamophobic attacks in Quebec, where as usual attempts to legislate what Muslim women wear by the "Ministry of Diversity" are ongoing.

Trudeau must repeal C-51 (the Harper anti-terrorism act that he supported while in opposition) as well as C-59, the extension of C-51 currently in the Senate that continues to further unleash the state security agencies whose racist mandates are used as an excuse to harass Muslims simply because of their faith while ignoring the real threat posed by white supremacists.

Trudeau should intervene in the case of Canadian Muslim Huseyin Celil, still detained 13 years after his arrest and illegal extradition to China. Similarly, Trudeau and Freeland could speak up on behalf of the over 1 million Muslims (a.k.a. Uyghurs) illegally detained in Chinese concentration camps. When called upon to do so, Trudeau refused, declaring: "We recognize nobody is perfect." Freeland spouted similar rhetoric, claiming, "We who live in freedom do have an obligation to stand up for people who don't," but she would not extend that obligation to over 1 million Muslims under lock and key in China.

Trudeau should speak out against the brutal human rights violations of the Egyptian regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, which has jailed upwards of 100,000 political prisoners, and also demand the immediate release of recently detained Canadian Yasser Ahmed Albaz.

Trudeau could follow up on Parliament's Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage recommendation that January 29 be designated as a "National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia and other forms of religious discrimination."

Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale could issue very strict guidelines to end racial profiling at mosques and airports alike, stop the dangerous CSIS practice of paying office, mosque, and home visits to those of Muslim faith, end the role of RCMP and CSIS informants creating sinister plots designed to entrap vulnerable Muslims, and also pull the Harper-era torture memos that greenlight state security agencies in this country from trading information with overseas torturers (a policy that disproportionately affects Muslims as well).

What we could do

These are just a few of the things Trudeau and his crew could be doing. While he chooses to do the photogenic thing -- visiting a mosque -- his fine words must be matched with actions if he is serious about preventing the next Christchurch. The same goes for the rest of us who, once the shock dies down, tend to move on to "other things" while forgetting that the structures of white supremacy that enable and promote Christchurch are functioning at full speed. Ultimately, we need to throw many a monkey wrench into the operations of white supremacy and dismantle it as part of our daily work, and not only think about it when one of the system's true believers goes on a rampage.

The late, much-missed peace activist and priest Daniel Berrigan once wrote about a different kind of war, in words that are as sharp and concise as they are challenging. They provide us something to think about and act upon as we resist the white supremacist crusades of our time:

"We have assumed the name of peacemakers, but we have been, by and large, unwilling to pay any significant price. And because we want the peace with half a heart and half a life and will, the war, of course, continues, because the waging of war, by its nature, is total -- but the waging of peace, by our own cowardice, is partial. So a whole will and a whole heart and a whole national life bent toward war prevail over the velleities of peace. 'Of course, let us have the peace,' we cry, 'but at the same time let us have normalcy, let us lose nothing, let our lives stand intact, let us know neither prison nor ill repute nor disruption of ties.' And because we must encompass this and protect that, and because at all costs -- at all costs -- our hopes must march on schedule, and because it is unheard of that in the name of peace a sword should fall, disjoining that fine and cunning web that our lives have woven, because it is unheard of that good men and women should suffer injustice or families be sundered or good repute be lost -- because of this we cry peace, peace, and there is no peace. There is no peace because the making of peace is at least as costly as the making of war -- at least as exigent, at least as disruptive, at least as liable to bring disgrace and prison and death in its wake."

Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who co-ordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. He has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. 'national security' profiling for many years.

Photo: julian meehan/Flickr

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new zealandislamophobiaJustin Trudeauterrorismforeign policyMatthew BehrensMarch 19, 2019Canada's Saudi weapons sales a moral race to the bottomWith each new reported Saudi atrocity, Canadian leaders dig in their heels and issue earnest statements about "troubling" revelations, and respect for human rights and the rule of law.Kingston arrest shows terrorism charges are exclusively for MuslimsThere is a double standard in the application of terrorism legislation in cases of Muslims versus non-Muslims in Canada.Trudeau following Harper's lead in denying justice to illegally imprisoned Muslim menf the Liberal government is serious about combating Islamophobia, they should award long-denied justice to those in Canada's Muslim communities whose freedoms were sacrificed for the "war on terror."
Categories: News for progressives

Massive democracy movement challenges a dictator in Algeria

Tue, 2019-03-19 20:08
Political ActionWorld

A political uprising in Algeria has caught the attention of much of the world. Massive street demonstrations have succeeded in forcing ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to withdraw his candidacy for re-election. What has not been settled is when he will step down, and what will happen next.

The 82-year-old president suffered a stroke in 2013 and has not spoken in public since 2014. While his campaign for a fifth term was underway, Bouteflika was getting medical treatment in Switzerland. Though he is back in Algeria, there is much speculation about the current state of his health.

Elections are scheduled for April 18. Demonstrators want assurances that Bouteflika will leave office when his current term ends on that date.

In his March 11 statement withdrawing his candidacy, Bouteflika indicated a national conference was needed before setting a date for new presidential elections. This was widely interpreted as a ruse by the president to hold onto power for at least the rest of the year.

It remains to be seen if elections will be as scheduled but it appears unlikely. Having a committee of "sages" set up an interim government and form a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution is a viable option -- so long as it does not have the imprint of Bouteflika.

The oligarchy around the president and "the process" it has used to govern Algeria have been discredited by the democratic protests. The army has distanced itself from the regime but remains a powerful political force.

For some 130 years Algeria was ruled by France. Post-Napoleonic ambitions for territory on the other side of the Mediterranean led France to annex the country in 1842, carve up the land, and send colonizers to occupy it.

Of the 20th-century anti-colonial movements, the eight-year (1954-62) armed struggle in Algeria was one of the most violent and troubled.

Franz Fanon, drawing on the Algerian revolution (which he witnessed as a psychiatrist treating French soldiers involved as torturers), wrote The Wretched of the Earth, giving the world one of the most powerful accounts of the impact of colonization on the human spirit.

The Fourth French Republic ended in 1958, when Charles de Gaulle took power, promising to restore order after military force deployed under the French Socialists had failed to quell the uprising for Algerian independence.

A de Gaulle-led Fifth Republic government negotiated the 1962 Evian Accords with the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic established by the National Liberation Front (FLN) revolutionaries. De Gaulle then initiated a referendum vote that formally ended French rule and provoked a revolt within the French army by the Secret Army Organization (OAS).

The anti-imperialist forces in Algeria coalesced around the FLN, which established one-party rule after independence.

Subsequent FLN-inspired governments built the Algerian secular nationalist model: socialization of resources, redistribution of revenues, import substitution industrialization, and urbanization through housing construction.

Algerians witnessed the gathering of power in fewer and fewer hands, but the population also experienced a widening of education -- from 15 per cent literacy at independence from the French to 65 per cent (female) and 75 per cent (male) by 2000 -- a rising standard of living and a population explosion.

Today the population of Algeria is over 42 million and one-half are under the age of 30. It is the youth of Algeria who have provided the energy and determination to carry the democracy movement into the streets, widening to include up to 4 million demonstrators on the last successive four Fridays.

Teachers, journalists, judges, lawyers, and the police have joined the demonstrators singing to one, two, three, Viva Algeria.

The demonstrations have been peaceful, with virtually no incidents of violence other than in the capital city of Algiers, and this in a country that throughout the 1990s was undergoing a vicious civil war.

The army entered politics to deny Islamist fundamentalists -- winners of 1991 legislative elections -- the right to govern, fearing they would turn Algeria into a theocracy.

It was in 1999 that Bouteflika, a former foreign minister who had been forced into exile, came back to take power with the backing of the army.

Regime stress in Algeria goes up when the price of oil goes down, as it did in 1998. There is no other source of external revenue other than oil and other resource revenue.

In response to difficulties providing employment for the growing population, Bouteflika modified the constitution by decree, taking more power.

Seeing him become virtually president-for-life prompted a group of women in central Algeria to mount a campaign to stop Bouteflika from seeking a fifth term in another rigged election. The demonstrations now take place in all the cities along the coast and throughout central Algeria.

Will the Algerian democracy movement, which invokes memories of the Arab Spring, its hopes, but also its failures to produce meaningful change, complete its task of replacing a dictatorship with an electoral regime?

Watching the crowds mass every Friday and seeing the support generated by the action in the streets, there is good reason to think Algerians will finish the job and overthrow the current regime.

Duncan Cameron is president emeritus of rabble.ca and writes a weekly column on politics and current affairs.

Photo: Becker1999/Flickr

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algeriasocial movementDuncan CameronMarch 19, 2019Questions and answers about the yellow vest uprising in FranceWhy are tens of thousands of regular people, citizens of the French Republic, staging a democratic revolt against tax increases?Has the Arab Spring given way to a Dark Fall?A year after the uprising that toppled Ben Ali, Tunisia's government is controlled by forces that are not only neo-liberal but quite conservative and even reactionary.The Arab Spring, a Canadian perspectiveAdam Bemma speaks to Canadian journalist Ali Mustafa in Cairo, Egypt about the situation post-Arab Spring in the Middle East.
Categories: News for progressives

Never mind the throne speech, yesterday's excitement was about the Kamikaze Campaign

Tue, 2019-03-19 13:01
David J. Climenhaga

Never mind the throne speech. Yesterday's excitement all took place in the basement media room of the Alberta legislature building an hour afterward.

The afternoon Speech from the Throne by Alberta's NDP government was pretty much what you'd expect under the circumstances, which are that Premier Rachel Notley is expected to call an election any day now.

That is to say, the speech read by Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell was more of a campaign document with an emphasis on the past successes of Premier Notley's NDP government from the perspective of potential supporters than a policy roadmap of the government's next term in office, which is the traditional function of such a speech in a parliamentary democracy.

Accordingly, the speech's tone was generally upbeat: "Restoring trust in government," with digs at past and potential future misconduct by Conservative insiders; "creating good jobs in a more diversified economy," outlining the NDP response to recession and low oil prices; and "a province that works for everyone," how this government resisted the traditional Alberta remedy for a downturn, austerity that makes things generally worse. ("Together, we have done away with the entitled, broken politics of the past.")

That done, the media barely hung around their usual post-throne-speech haunts in the legislative building's rotunda as the entire opposition United Conservative Party Caucus ignored the grand marble staircase and slipped furtively out the back exit of the Chamber and the side door of the building -- a maneuver that surely must be unique in parliamentary history!

Instead, the representatives of the Fourth Estate were waiting impatiently in the basement where Opposition Leader Jason Kenney had promised to show up at 5 p.m. to rattle off a pro forma denunciation of the throne speech. No surprises there either. ("Today's throne speech reveals an NDP government that is completely out of touch with the economic reality facing Albertans," yadda-yadda.) Everything the NDP said they did right, Kenney said they did wrong. Almost no one quoted him about that when they sat down at their laptops, either.

Those metaphorical media pencils were sharpened and poised, though, but not for that. Their attention was focused on the metastasizing "Kamikaze mission" story of how Kenney captured the UCP leadership from his rival Brian Jean in 2017, which mainstream media are now beginning to refer to as a scandal without quotation marks.

Kenney, freshly barbered and looking slim and natty in a nice dark suit, denied everything. Everything.

His 2017 leadership campaign did nothing wrong, he insisted. If anything wrong happened, his campaign had nothing to do with it. If it did have anything to do with it, he knew nothing about it. The sources for the media stories that break seemingly daily now, sometimes more often, are disappointed losers and people with sketchy histories. I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea.

The general outlines of the Jeff Callaway Kamikaze Campaign are getting to be well known, of course, as is the suggestion there were some significant flow-through donations to keep it afloat. But yesterday's revelations about a specific $60,000 contribution, described as a loan, from a well-heeled Friend of Kenney (FoK) was new.

But you have to give the man his due. Peppered with questions for the better part of an hour, he never gave an inch. No contrition, no admission; an explanation for everything.

Despite a phalanx of reporters flinging hardball questions, with no spin, reminiscent of a better day in Canadian journalism, Kenney had given up nothing by the time your self-invited blogger slipped out the back door as quietly as a UCP MLA on his way back to his office underneath the Sky Palace.

No need to take my word for it. You can read the accounts of the professionals here, and here, and here, and here.

My guess is there are still more revelations to come in this affair. I bet Kenney denies them too.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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Categories: News for progressives

Christchurch should serve as a kick in the pants to Trudeau government

Mon, 2019-03-18 20:05
March 18, 2019Following Christchurch, Trudeau government must address Islamophobia nowThe tragic mosque attack in Christchurch, New Zealand should serve as a kick in the pants for the Trudeau government to take action to combat Islamophobia in Canada.
Categories: News for progressives

Forget Julius Caesar, we're watching the Perils of Jason Kenney

Fri, 2019-03-15 13:08
David J. Climenhaga

It may be the Ides of March, but on the Alberta political stage, today's production seems to be the Perils of Pauline, not Julius Caesar.

For those of you hoping to see Brian Jean strike back at Jason Kenney and take up the leadership of the Freedom Conservative Party, the Alberta Party, or, hell, maybe even the Alberta Greens, you're going to have to wait a little longer.

Having gotten plenty of attention from overly credulous Albertans yesterday -- including from the puppet-master himself, former prime minister Stephen Harper, who basically told the former Wildrose leader to shaddup, siddown and let his former rival run the United Conservative Party -- Jean tweeted cutely that this had nothing to do with him.

"Wow," he extemporized. "I too have heard crazy rumours about something coming Friday but NONE of it involves me." Nudge-nudge, wink-wink.

Well, remember where you heard it first. Surely by now Jean has used up his diminished supply of credibility. The baby announced the last time the former Wildrose Party leader was involved in a stunt like this arrived on Valentine's Day, and Jean now has an opportunity to concentrate on being an indulgent daddy. Twice burned, I imagine media will now leave the man alone.

Nevertheless, mainstream media seemed determined yesterday to somehow keep this pot of cold water boiling, dropping hints that Something Is Up Just The Same.

According to a Source not identified by the CBC "as he wasn't authorized to speak on the topic" -- surely the most annoying phrase in modern journalism -- "we have reason to believe that there will be some sort of announcements and things done tomorrow, that they're a big deal, but they don't involve Brian."

We'll get back to you if something actually happens.

Meanwhile, former UCP MLA Prab Gill, who has been repeatedly poking a stick in the spokes of Kenney's tricycle, has written a letter to Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson arguing that when UCP staffers were making creepy videos of the folks coming and going from his office they were in fact trying to obstruct investigations into fraud allegations in the UCP leadership race.

"This targeted harassment campaign is directly linked to my knowledge and disclosure of the questionable machinations of the UCP leadership race 'kamikaze campaign' and irregular voting practices," Gill wrote. He argued the intent was "to dissuade me from further revealing what I have witnessed and from further testifying."

The effect of all this hoo-haw on the right has been to keep everyone from doing what they really ought to be doing, to wit, speculating idly about the date of Premier Notley's election call.

The conventional wisdom has been for weeks that the premier would call the election days, if not hours, after Monday's throne speech at the Alberta legislature.

Nothing would suit the UCP and its media allies better, of course, since it would quickly move the allegations of electoral skullduggery, the appearance of fissures re-emerging on the right, and whatever the election commissioner is going to come up with all to the back burner.

So, it is said here, there is every reason for Premier Notley to tarry a little and let the opposition stew in its own juices as long as possible.

This would give her the opportunity to properly set a trap for Kenney's party -- one of the yawning pit variety, which is perfectly obvious to its intended victim but nevertheless difficult to avoid.

This is the purpose, it is said here, of the conveniently leaked health-care bill that the government intends to bring before the legislature soonest, banning extra billing at fee-based medical clinics.

The practice of extra billing -- openly encouraged by utopian market fundamentalists on the ideological right -- would be deeply subversive to Canada's system of public health care and unpopular with significant numbers of voters who are not necessarily New Democrats.

What will Kenney do if this comes before the Assembly before the election is called? He can't very well make this problem go away by signing another Coroplast health-care pledge.

He could support the government, alienating a significant sector of his base. He could vote no, and thereby be officially smoked out by the government on health-care privatization. Or he could lead his troops out of the legislature in another humiliating retreat as he did over the NDP's abortion clinic bubble-zone law.

None of these are good options from Kenney's perspective. Therein lies the trap.

Tune in tomorrow for the next episode of Perils of Pauline (Jason).

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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Categories: News for progressives

Billionaire claims about capitalism's benefits are wrong

Fri, 2019-03-15 00:05

In the future, people will probably continue to marvel at how creatures with tiny brains once stalked the Earth unchallenged.

For now, however, billionaires reign supreme, with only a small stirring of dissent, led by the impressive U.S. congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC.

Still, that small stirring is noteworthy. It could catch on.

The notion that it is somehow legitimate for a tiny group of humans to cordon off the bulk of the world's bounty for themselves -- leaving billions of people begging on the street or scrounging through garbage dumps -- is fairly astonishing, on the face of it.

The unfairness is compounded by the fact there's no evidence billionaires are particularly smart or talented, given that some 60 to 70 per cent of them inherited their wealth, according to the French economist Thomas Piketty.

Today's extreme concentration of wealth is so palpably unfair -- the richest 26 individuals have as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity -- that it cries out for a powerful justification.

Mega-billionaire Bill Gates seemed to produce a pretty powerful justification last month at the annual elite gathering in Davos -- a spectacular infographic showing that the world poverty rate had plummeted over the past two centuries, from 94 per cent to just 10 per cent today.

This stunning finding, developed by economist Max Roser of Our World in Data, certainly casts billionaires in a more sympathetic light, as mere byproducts of an economic system that has significantly helped the world's people, lifting most of humanity out of poverty.

The finding has been keenly promoted by the Davos crowd as well as by high-profile commentators like New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

An upbeat Gates tweeted the infographic to his 46 million followers, adding: "A lot of people underestimate just how much life has improved over the past two centuries."

Easy for him to say. In fact, the claim that life has improved for most people collapses pretty quickly under scrutiny.

Jason Hickel, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics, points out that poverty data before 1981 is sketchy, and data going as far back as the 1820s is meaningless. That's because in earlier times, most people lived in subsistence economies; they had little or no money but had access to the rich natural resources of the common lands.

But over time people were forced off the land by wealthy interests, and obliged to work for wages in mines and factories. Hickel notes that "the new income people earned from wages didn't come anywhere close to compensating for their loss of land and resources."

In other words, far from being a great boon, the arrival of modern capitalism has resulted in vast numbers of people being forced to give up a self-supporting existence and ending up as impoverished labourers, often malnourished and housed in grim, toiletless shacks. (Some 2.4 billion people lack a decent toilet, according to the World Health Organization.)

Even in the four decades since 1981, there's been no decline in global poverty, Hickel insists. On the contrary, he says if we use a more meaningful poverty measure -- US$7.40 a day, rather than the absurdly low US$1.90 a day used by Roser -- the number of people living in poverty has dramatically increased, to 4.2 billion today, more than half the world's population.

The real story of today's global capitalism is better captured by Piketty. In his epic 577-page treatise, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, he makes the case that capitalism leads to ever-increasing inequality.

Depressing as Piketty's case is, it also includes a ray of hope. He notes that an exception occurred in the period following the Second World War (1945 to 1975) when equality actually increased. This was particularly true in the Anglo-American countries, largely due to the very progressive tax systems enacted by governments, notably in the Anglo-American countries, including Canada.

So the campaign stirred up by AOC -- calling for a tax system similar to the early postwar years -- could actually make a difference, if the public started paying attention.

Certainly, billionaire claims about capitalism heroically lifting humankind out of poverty turn out to be easily debunked. Imagine if that news got out.

Linda McQuaig is a journalist and author. Her book Shooting the Hippo: Death by Deficit and Other Canadian Myths was among the books selected by the Literary Review of Canada as the "25 most influential Canadian books of the past 25 years." This column originally appeared in the Toronto Star.

Photo: Red Maxwell/Flickr

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CapitalismbillionairespovertyLinda McQuaigMarch 14, 2019Getting a grip on greedThe impulse to resist unbridled capitalism -- with its resulting extreme inequality and economic domination by the rich -- is basic and has persisted throughout the centuries.A number is never just a number: BillionairesThe number of billionaires in the world in 2014 reached 2,325 -- a 7 per cent increase since last year and it represents an all-time record high. They control nearly 4 per cent of the world's wealth.The Trouble With BillionairesIn this excerpt from their new book Linda McQuaig and Neil Brooks propose solutions to the trouble with billionaires.
Categories: News for progressives

U.S. struggle for universal health care has reached a tipping point

Thu, 2019-03-14 23:22
Food & HealthUS Politics

Last week, as the media focused on U.S. President Donald Trump's North Korea summit in Vietnam and the congressional testimony of his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, a largely overlooked news conference took place, announcing legislation that could save millions of lives. Seattle Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal introduced the Medicare For All Act of 2019, the latest attempt to pass single-payer health care. Jayapal's bill has 106 co-sponsors, close to half of the Democrats in the House.

Jayapal is the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the largest caucus in the House. Among the bill's co-sponsors was Michigan Democrat Debbie Dingell. She replaced her late husband, John Dingell Jr., who was the longest-serving member of Congress in history, holding the seat since 1955. John Dingell, who died in February at the age of 92, was a stalwart backer of single-payer health care, introducing legislation yearly during his 60-year tenure. He was inspired by his father, John Dingell Sr., who held that same congressional seat for the 18 years before his son. Dingell Sr. first proposed single-payer health care in 1943.

With the new Congress this year, the most diverse in history, the 75-plus-year-long effort to secure universal health care may be at a tipping point. Whether or not it passes -- considered unlikely with the Senate and White House under Republican control -- single-payer health care will undoubtedly be a central issue in the 2020 presidential race.

"Is this a bold and ambitious plan? Damn straight it is, because it has to be," Jayapal said as she announced the single-payer bill at a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol, standing in the cold, surrounded by colleagues and supporters. "The scale of our health-care crisis is enormous, and our plan has to tackle the deep sickness within our for-profit system. … If we can end slavery, if we can give women the right to vote, if we can send a man to the moon, then, God, we can do universal health care for every American."

Medicare, passed in 1965, is a single-payer national insurance program that pays medical costs for people age 65 and older. Poll after poll confirms its popularity. Simply expanding eligibility from age 65 and over to the day we are born would create a single-payer system comparable to those in most other industrialized countries in the world.

On the rare occasions when "Medicare-for-all" advocates are interviewed on television, they are asked how much it costs. Fair enough, but what about the enormous costs of the current system? Speaking on the Democracy Now! news hour Wednesday, Jayapal said: "Our health-care system today costs 18 per cent of our GDP. In [the next] 10 years, we're going to be spending $50 trillion on our current health-care system. … It's not like we're spending all this money and we have better outcomes than the rest of the world. The United States is last among all of our peers in infant mortality rates, in maternal mortality rates, in terms of our life expectancy."

Economist Robert Pollin at the University of Massachusetts and his colleagues recently released a comprehensive analysis of "Medicare-for-all," confirming that not only would it not be too expensive, but would actually deliver better outcomes for less money. "Overall U.S. health-care costs could fall by about 19 percent relative to the existing system," they write. The cost savings factor in the increase in demand for health care, as close to 30 per cent of people in the U.S. are either uninsured or underinsured and, as a result, simply don't seek medical treatment when they need it, or preventive care.

Jayapal and her co-sponsors may have an unexpected ally in their quest for Medicare-for-all. In his book titled The America We Deserve, published in the year 2000, American businessman Donald J. Trump wrote: "I'm a conservative on most issues but a liberal on this one. We should not hear so many stories of families ruined by health-care expenses. We must not allow citizens with medical problems to go untreated because of financial problems or red tape. The Canadian plan also helps Canadians live longer and healthier than America. We need, as a nation, to reexamine the single-payer plan, as many individual states are doing."

The president endorsed single payer in 2000, but opposes it now. Whether or not he can be pushed to support it again, Jayapal is moving forward. She has support from Republican business owners and hospital executives, all who know the current for-profit health insurance system costs too much and fails the people of this country. For the increasingly large field of Democratic presidential hopefuls, "Medicare-for-all" has become a defining issue, embraced by many of the announced candidates.

After 75 years of debate, with health-care costs spiraling out of control and the quality of medical care falling short of that in single-payer countries, the time is right for Medicare-for-all. It's a matter of life and death.

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan, of The Silenced Majority, a New York Times bestseller. This column originally appeared on Truthdig.

Photo: Molly Adams/Flickr

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health caremedicareAmy GoodmanDenis MoynihanMarch 14, 2019There is no rational reason why Medicare couldn't be expanded to cover all AmericansAs Trumpcare versus Obamacare dominates the cable news, the unreported movement for single-payer health care grows. As with all great shifts in history, when the people lead, the leaders follow.Trump is lowering the bar for Canada's health-care system tooIt's easy to laugh off the absurdity of Trump and his supporters' sentiments about the Canadian health-care system. But their ridiculousness doesn't make their impact any less dangerous. Jimmy Kimmel deplores 'pay-or-die' U.S. health-care system, but Canada's is also lacking"If your baby doesn’t have to die, it shouldn't matter how much money you make," Jimmy Kimmel argued.
Categories: News for progressives

Students prepare to strike for the climate on March 15

Thu, 2019-03-14 22:58
March 14, 2019Students in Canada prepare to strike for the climateIn Canada from Inuvik to St. John's, in cities and towns in every province, students are striking on March 15 for the global student strike for the climate.
Categories: News for progressives

The return of liberalism in the U.S.

Thu, 2019-03-14 21:47
EconomyUS Politics

In 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, the historian Yuval Noah Harari describes the ideological history of the past 80 years. In 1938 we had three stories, three grand metanarratives, to choose from: liberalism, communism, and fascism. In 1968 we had two stories to choose from: liberalism and communism. In 1998 we had one story to choose from: liberalism. In 2018, Harari argues that we have no stories to choose from: the Trump moment is a nihilistic one that possesses no grand metanarrative, no plan to aid humanity, but simply one that helps the United States and more specifically one that assists Trump's political base. Meanwhile liberalism, the ideological winner for most of the 20th century, is, in Harari's view, now collapsing because its historically successful solutions are producing two of our era's biggest challenges: climate change and the replacement of the workforce by robots. How then can liberalism, at least in the United States, return?

Harari's assessment is in fact inaccurate. Today, we do not have just one story to choose from but once again, as in 1938, three. The "Trump Moment" is transitional. The U.S. constitution was designed to prevent the takeover of the country by a tyrant. The U.S. midterm elections -- in which the Democrats gained at least 40 congressional seats -- demonstrated that the current president's appeal is limited. In fact, Donald Trump, centrists like Beto O'Rourke, and Bernie Sanders, represent the three political positions that will be available to U.S. voters in the 2020 presidential election. Various degrees of fascism, liberalism, and socialism are back precisely because we are again confronted with problems that traditional liberalism cannot solve.

Liberalism's ability to return depends on its capacity to confront economic inequality and environmental rupture. In the 1930s, many liberals assumed that economic growth and redistributive mechanisms -- depending on the ideological story one's society was working with -- would solve the problem of inequality. Today economic growth is doing the opposite: it is producing the automation and biotechnology that are un-employing workers and inciting climate change.

The success of an ideology and its proponents in our time depends on its ability to put forward an economic model that will not only produce jobs but also lead to less inequality while protecting our natural environment. In the past liberalism prevailed because at each crisis it adopted key socialist ideas, for example, a 40-hour work week, a commitment to full employment, and the alleviation of poverty. Today, democratic socialists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are the heralds of a new vision of justice, as with their proposal for a Green New Deal. Liberalism's return to the throne, sooner or later, will depend on how quickly it again looks to the left.

Thomas Ponniah, PhD, is an Affiliate of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, and the co-editor of Another World is Possible: Popular Alternatives to Globalization at the World Social Forum (Zed Books 2003), and the co-editor of The Revolution in Venezuela: Social and Political Change Under (Harvard University Press 2011).

Photo: The White House/Flickr

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liberalismeconomic inequalityThomas PonniahMarch 14, 2019Time for a paradigm revolution: Seeking an alternative to neoliberalismWe need to focus research on our generation's most pressing question: what is a persuasive, sustainable, socially just, employment-producing, alternative to the neoliberal economic model?Embodying the values of a new progressive economyA new progressive economics has to contest not only the policies that deregulate the market but also the asocial individualist code that has accompanied it.Democratic hegemony in the United States?Did we slay the old king? Have the Democrats consolidated political hegemony in the U.S.? Perry Anderson lays out the key economic, social, cultural and political determinants of American politics.
Categories: News for progressives

Richard Allen explored role of faith in Canadian political history

Thu, 2019-03-14 21:03
Politics in Canada

I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of former Ontario MPP Richard Allen. It was only in mid-February when I last talked to him about his latest book, Beyond the Noise of Your Solemn Assemblies: The Protestant Ethic and the Quest for Social Justice in Canada, a collection of his essays that further explore the life of the "social gospel" in Canada.

I say further because Allen first did this in his 1971 book, The Social Passion: Religion and Social Reform in Canada 1914-1928, which became a landmark in Canadian social and political history.

In a subsequent exchange of emails that fell silent with his passing we were discussing the chapter in his new book that dealt extensively with the Fellowship for a Christian Social Order (FCSO) in the 1930s. These days a group with such a name might be assumed to have a right-wing political orientation, but not then. In fact the FCSO membership overlapped with many in the trade union movement, the co-operative movement, and the League for Social Reconstruction (LSR), which produced Social Planning for Canada in 1936. A further overlap occurred between the FCSO, the LSR, and the CCF. Three out of the seven-member CCF caucus -- Woodsworth, Coldwell, and Douglas -- were members of the FCSO, as was King Gordon who had had a hand in writing the Regina Manifesto, and who many years later was the eulogist at Tommy Douglas's funeral.

Allen told the stories of these times in a way that helped many people of faith to see a place for themselves in the struggle for an alternative to capitalism, both because others had gone before and because the battle had not yet been won. He wrote a biography of Salem Bland, a theology professor at Wesley College, now the University of Winnipeg. Bland was a major influence on J.S. Woodsworth.

Allen was the NDP MPP for Hamilton West in the Ontario legislature from 1982 to 1995, and a cabinet minister in the Rae government. When I talked to him recently he said he had one more story to tell. He was going to write a reflective memoir about that time. That we may now never see such a memoir is a great tragedy, as I am confident it would have helped to shed light on this controversial era of left-wing politics in Canada. That he could talk enthusiastically about such a project, just days after his 90th birthday, is testimony to the strength of his intellect and his dedication to helping all of us sort out important aspects of our political history.

It seems fitting to end this column with the biblical passage, from the prophet Amos, that so many on the Christian left in Canada have been inspired by over the years, and which Allen himself highlighted at the beginning of his last book.

"I hate, I despise your feasts,

And I take no pride in your solemn assemblies

Take away from me the noise of your songs

To the melody of your harp I will not listen

But let justice roll down like a river,

And righteousness like an ever flowing stream."

Bill Blaikie, former MP and MLA, writes on Canadian politics, political parties, and Parliament.

Photo: C.C.F. / Library and Archives Canada / C-000314 via Wikimedia Commons

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social justiceobituaryCanadian LeftBill BlaikieMarch 14, 2019Ironies and lessons in Canada's diplomatic crisis with ChinaAt the moment there is much irony to be found in the crisis in Canada-China relations, precipitated by the arrest and detainment of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.Remembering Canadian politician and humanitarian Flora MacDonaldCanadian politician and humanitarian Flora MacDonald died July 26, 2015 at the age of 89. MacDonald was Canada's first female foreign minister.Paul Dewar's motto was 'faith is political'Former Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar, who died of cancer in February 2019, was known to say that all religious faith is political.
Categories: News for progressives

Students in Canada prepare to strike for the climate

Thu, 2019-03-14 20:03
Maya Bhullar

For decades many of us have protested, marched, and written innumerable papers (killing our fair share of trees) to say that the actions governments are taking to protect the environment are not enough. As politicians and the powerful keep watering down what is necessary to protect the environment and trying to placate opposition with weak accords, we are seeing the impacts of climate change become increasingly devasting. Young people around the world are absolutely right to ask why go to school if we may well have destroyed the planet by the time they are finished being "educated," and what good is education if no one is listening to the educated anyway.

This is where the global student strikes for climate come in. Greta Thunberg started the actions in 2018 by striking in front of the Swedish parliament, eventually protesting every Friday to demand that the Swedish government reduce carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement. The movement has grown and now, on March 15, there will be sister strikes around the world as students around the world strike for the climate.

In Canada from Inuvik to St. John's, in cities and towns in every province, students are joining the global student strike for the climate on March 15. Click here to find a map which lays out many of the March 15 actions. Find out about the action near you and get involved. 

In Canada, the first climate strike action was in Sudbury in November 2018, when 11-year-old Sophia Mathur joined #FridaysfortheFuture and went on a climate strike. Then for the second strike, on December 7, 2018, youth in nine Canadian cities joined Greta Thunberg and went on strike from school. The strikes continued to grow and the Canadian Fridays for the Future group has announced that May 3, 2019 will be the national Canadian student strike for the climate. In the lead up to the Canadian student strike, the Activist Toolkit has contacted student organizers across the country and will be amplifying what they are doing.

Maya Bhullar is rabble's Activist Toolkit Coordinator. The Activist Toolkit Blog is the place to catch up on what's new with the Toolkit. With roundups of newly added tools, highlights of featured tools and extra multimedia content, you'll get up to date info on grassroots organizing.

Image Credit: Rise and Resist/Facebook

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Categories: News for progressives

Jason Kenney would do well to beware the Ides of March in Alberta politics

Thu, 2019-03-14 12:45
David J. Climenhaga

I suppose today, the day before the date in 44 BC made famous by the demise of Julius Caesar, would be an appropriate moment to remind all potential victims of political plots … beware the Ides of March!

It says something for both the ruthlessness and absent likeability of United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney that I'm sitting here at my typewriter taking seriously a rumour that Brian Jean, his formal rival for the top UCP job, may be about to run for the Alberta Party.

Here's what my colleague Dave Cournoyer, author of the excellent Daveberta.ca political blog, wrote yesterday: "Just over a year since he resigned as the MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin, former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean is said to be making a big announcement later this week -- and the rumour mill is churning hard with news that Jean could jump back into Alberta politics as the Alberta Party candidate in the new Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche district in the upcoming election."

If that comes to pass, though, it will be one of the more bizarre developments in Alberta political history.

Jean spent most of the life of Premier Rachel Notley's NDP government working very hard to unite the right under a single banner, the better to crush the orange wave that unexpectedly swamped Alberta in 2015.

Who can forget the photo of Jean, up-thrust thumb raised in jubilation, taken the night members of the Wildrose Party he led and the Progressive Conservative Party led by Kenney voted to become a single entity, soon to be known as the UCP?

Of course, back then Jean had a reasonable expectation the work he'd done would be rewarded with the UCP leadership, and perhaps the premiership of Alberta after that. It was before the "Kamikaze Mission," the UCP voting scandal that has grabbed international attention, and other unsavoury activities provided some hints of how far Kenney is prepared to go to win.

Were Jean to proceed with this most unlikely venture, he would find himself running alongside former Wildrose MLA Joe Anglin, a man who holds a record of sorts for political affiliations.

Anglin was leader of the Alberta Greens in the mid-00s. He was elected in 2012 as Wildrose MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre. He left the Wildrose Party in 2014, before Jean took over, to sit as an Independent after he lost the Wildrose nomination to Jason Nixon, now Kenney's UCP House Leader. He sought the Progressive Conservative nomination in 2015 but was disallowed by the party. Last year, he announced he would run for the Freedom Conservative Party led by Derek Fildebrandt -- who was pushed out of the UCP by Kenney. Now Anglin sits as an Alberta Party candidate.

"My detractors will claim I jumped from party to party," Anglin said in a recent email. "There is some truth to this, but the allegation is misleading. … Since 2008, I have been a candidate for two political parties; in both situations, both parties collapsed after they abandoned their principles for the pursuit … of power. I didn't collapse with them, and I have never abandoned my principles. I do not plan to start now!"

Moreover, he observed, unlike some, "I never stabbed Brian Jean in the back!"

Jean is no Joe Anglin. Despite the buzz, I'd be surprised if he runs for another party -- even the Alberta Party.

Still, under leader Stephen Mandel the Alberta Party seems to be trying to take its political evolution full circle, back to the far-right fringe where it started out. And that wouldn't actually be all that different from the Wildrose Party Jean improbably saved in 2014, not long after he had quit as a Conservative MP for Fort Mac.

Readers will recall that happened in the wake of Danielle Smith's attempt to lead her permanently discontented caucus back to the Progressive Conservative mother ship, with only partial success.

We'll see what Jean has to say, if anything. Once bitten, I for one am twice shy. Having been fooled by Jean's last big political announcement -- which turned out to be, "Kim and I are having a baby!" -- I'm not about to get worked up about more supposedly earth-shattering Brian Jean news.

But if it turns out Kenney, the man who successfully united Alberta's right, is so disliked by his former rivals that right-uniters like Jean can become reconstituted vote-splitters, well, surely that says something about the man, does it not?

Beware the Ides of March?

He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.

Exeunt all except BRUTUS and CASSIUS.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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Categories: News for progressives

What would Elizabeth May do in Rachel Notley's shoes?

Wed, 2019-03-13 21:00
March 13, 2019Elizabeth May talks fossil fuels, pipelines and selling out the climate in Alberta The leader of the Green Party of Canada says she would have summoned up the memory of Peter Lougheed, Alberta's first Conservative dynasty, but not the way the province's first NDP premier has.
Categories: News for progressives

Elizabeth May talks fossil fuels, pipelines and selling out the climate in Alberta

Wed, 2019-03-13 12:33
David J. Climenhaga

What would have Elizabeth May have done in Rachel Notley's shoes? 

The leader of the Green Party of Canada says she would have summoned up the memory of Peter Lougheed, founder of Alberta's 44-year Progressive Conservative dynasty, but not the way the province's first NDP premier has.

"I think that Albertans are reasonable," May said during a short, 15-minute interview before she gave a talk with students and faculty at The King's University in Edmonton Friday. "If you present the facts, and say, 'Look, we had this plan from Peter Lougheed, let's revisit it," she argued, Albertans and other Canadians could find common ground. 

Notley took a different road, with which the member of Parliament for Saanich and the Islands disagrees profoundly, describing Alberta's approach "an abdication of responsibility."

To the right of Ralph Klein on oil?

"If I had been her adviser, and I certainly tried to communicate this to her, given the political landscape, I would have sought out reclaiming the moral high ground of Peter Lougheed," May told me. "I would have distanced myself from trying to be to the right of Ralph Klein on oil and gas, which is where I think she's placed herself."

Premier Notley, in the Green Party leader's view, should have asked Albertans to look back at what Lougheed advised, to wit, developing processing infrastructure in Alberta. "Let's look at taking a business case to the rest of Canada that we'd like to see them stop importing all foreign oil, and use Canadian product," she said.

She recalled how, the only time she met Alberta's premier, she told her: "You should brand it Fort Mac Strong and sell it across Canada as a branded Alberta product. And I don't think there's a Canadian who wouldn't prefer, as long as we are using fossil fuels, to use Fort Mac Strong than Saudi or Nigerian."

No expansion of the oilsands

"We could say, well, on a declining basis, in exchange for no expansion of the oil sands, this is a good way to go forward. And I think she could have sold that." But "it's too late now," May lamented. 

Well, maybe Albertans would have listened, maybe not. But they certainly deserve to hear what May has to say. She may only lead a Parliamentary caucus of one, but she speaks for many more Canadians -- leastways, outside Alberta, and this debate isn't going away. 

So it should concern Albertans that May's two days in our province -- Thursday in Calgary and Friday in Edmonton, with a long bus ride in between because that was the lowest-carbon travel option -- were all but ignored by mainstream media. This has certainly not been the case elsewhere on her cross-Canada "community matters tour."

In Alberta May was accompanied by Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes, leader of the provincial Green Party. And, yes, despite heavy snow last Friday, they showed up at the King's campus in a small electric car. 

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Like most serious environmentalists, May puts carbon emissions and climate change at the heart of the debate over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, although she is highly critical of economic arguments for the project. 

Neither the Alberta NDP nor Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberals really have a carbon reduction plan, she asserted. "She has a carbon expansion policy," May said of Premier Notley. "The goal of the Alberta government is to increase greenhouse gases. She wants to go to 100 megatonnes of carbon a year, from 70 megatonnes of carbon a year."

"The cap is way above where we are right now, and we're in a climate emergency," she stated. "We can't afford to expand greenhouse gases!"

But what about other aspects of Alberta's carbon reduction plan? "Well, 'We're going to go off coal for Alberta's electricity,'" she said, paraphrasing part of the Alberta government's position. "Which would be fantastic if we were going to 100 per cent renewables. But she wants to go to fracked natural gas, burned in the same plants that were once burning coal. Which means it will be inefficient. … So, in the end, there won't be much reduction."

Selling out the climate? 

"To me it was a political trade-off, but not one that was relevant to climate science," May said. "That's a condemnation of both Justin Trudeau and Rachel Notley for being willing to sell out climate in the interests of a papered-over political win."

As for the economic case made by the two governments for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, May was scornful. "The National Energy Board … said that on the list of issues (it) was supposed to investigate during this hearing, jobs and the economy weren't included. Then how on earth can it be that the National Energy Board tells the Trudeau administration, as they did in the first instance and now the second instance, 'We've looked at all these harms that will occur, but the benefits for the economy outweigh the harms'?"

'I'm very happy if I can fight the … pipeline solely on the basis of economics, because it loses on the economics," she stated. 

A 'targeted attack' on the people of B.C.

May is angered by the Alberta NDP's $23-million national advertising campaign. "Rachel Notley's ad campaign, which we now know from access to information requests was premised on the idea of getting people to be angry at B.C., it was a very targeted attack at the people of British Columbia and our government."

She praised B.C.'s NDP premier, John Horgan, for not responding in kind. But, she added, "I really regret that he hasn't taken on the lies in the ad campaign, clearly, so that people can see that they're lies."

Did she have an example of a lie? Consider the claim Canada is, or at least was, losing $80 million a day because of the price differential between Alberta crude and Texas oil. "That's not true! And it doesn't take more than 15 minutes of Google searches for economists who've crunched the numbers to know that isn't true." Claims the pipeline expansion will generate permanent jobs? She calls them "bogus." 

Faint sympathy for Rachel Notley

So does May have any sympathy for Premier Notley's political predicament? "Yes. But I think she'd done the absolutely worst thing for her own self, strategically. I don't think the NDP can win an election in Alberta by being more pro-oil than Jason Kenney. It's a political miscalculation." She continued, with a certain tone: "Do I feel sorry for her? Sure. I'm a charitable person. But she's done something that is essentially unforgivable in that she is fighting, hard, to eliminate a viable future for our children. And that is not acceptable. She has to know better."

Opponents of the NDP will take May's comments as more evidence the NDP's efforts to win "social license" for expansion of Alberta's oil industry have failed. As has been said here before, though, the opposite is probably true. 

But as angry rhetoric toward other parts of Canada escalates among both Alberta New Democrats and their Conservative challengers, this inter-provincial dispute may get harder, not easier, to resolve. May characterized Notley's remarks about British Columbia as "vicious" and "divisive." 

"Of course she does better things on the social justice side of the ledger for Albertans," May observed. "But on climate change, she's led the charge toward extinction. And it's not a good record."

And don't count on this approach to pipeline building ever being effective on the West Coast, the Green leader added. "Opposition in British Columbia isn't going away." 

Greens in the next Parliament

Nor is the Green Party of Canada, she vowed. Indeed, with a little vote-splitting from Maxime Bernier's People's Party of Canada, the Greens could end up able "to exercise a balance of responsibility in Parliament," she mused. 

"We're going to have lots of seats," she predicted. "I'm more than happy to work with New Democrats, or Liberals, or responsible Conservatives. Wherever we find people who want to think about the issues, and come to a consensus of what do we need to do now really."

"Let's take this seriously and find the solutions that advance the interests of Albertans, and the interests of British Columbians, and of people from Ontario," she concludes. "We're a country, not warring factions."

Click here to read a transcript of the audio recording of the interview, which I have edited lightly to eliminate pauses and repetitions. DJC

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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Categories: News for progressives

Be careful what you wish for, Conservatives: Canadians may like a tougher Trudeau

Wed, 2019-03-13 00:34
David J. Climenhaga

Memo to Conservatives, New Democrats and others who are crowing about how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appears to have been revealed as a harsher and less cuddly politician than he has been thought to be till now: Be careful what you wish for.

If Trudeau is revealed as a tough guy who is not particularly nice to his MPs, under a mere veneer of sensitivity, Canadians, who have a history of liking tough leaders like the current PM's Dear Ole Dad, may like him better.

It's certainly true that the version of Trudeau now emerging from the wreckage of the SNC-Lavalin affair shows him as not quite the warm and fuzzy high school drama teacher we were all so keen on when we were justifiably hell bent on getting rid of Stephen Harper. This is true even if Trudeau can still summon up a tear when circumstances warrant.

But the fact is, the recent record suggests Canadians don't mind tough leaders. In fact, they may prefer them. Consider Harper himself, and Jean Chrétien, two of the more obvious electoral successes in recent Canadian political history.

Nor do Canadians seem to mind politicians switching their narrative from idealistic to tough -- consider the old block himself, whence Justin Trudeau was chipped.

As a youth, I heard Pierre Trudeau speak before he had yet won the Liberal leadership. He sounded coolly intellectual and warmly idealistic, but he had not yet revealed the steel at his core. However, if any of us had really been paying attention we might have sensed it there.

What's more, despite claims to the contrary, Canadian voters apparently don't mind serial liars, an extreme lack of diplomacy or even an apparent degree of corruption in their politicians, as long as they give the impression of being tough enough. Consider the recent success of Doug Ford in Ontario and the apparent popularity of Jason Kenney here in Alberta, if the latest poll touted by the Calgary Herald, which acts as Kenney's personal publicity department, is anything to go by.

As for leaders who are self evidently not so tough -- Joe Clark, Kim Campbell and John Turner, the latter's old-style male jockery notwithstanding, spring to mind -- they seem not to have been so successful in the same epoch. (Brian Mulroney? I'm of two minds about him. More conniving than tough, methinks.)

Consider the late Jim Prentice, premier of Alberta, who, among other things, didn't appear to be as tough as the NDP's Rachel Notley as election day neared in May 2015. Andrew Scheer, do you hear the wind whispering your name?

So don't be too surprised if Canadians don't mind all that much if Trudeau lets a new, steelier persona more like his late father's emerge.

Right now, we are told, Trudeau's personal popularity has taken a hit. But if I were a Liberal strategist, I would not panic about that, driven as it is by nearly hysterical tweeting by Conservative operatives -- the inspiration for which Scheer's Conservative Party strategic advisers take from their Trumpian Republican mentors south of the imaginary line, and perhaps others.

More than one side can tweet, after all, and having the National Post and Rebel Media in his corner is probably worth less to Scheer than he imagines. I guess if things get desperate for him, there's always the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg.

But if I were the Liberals, I'd wait to see how the public adapts to the emerging new narrative, reasonably confident things would work out just fine for their guy's electoral chances next fall. If necessary they can remind them what Senator Patrick Brazeau discovered about Trudeau's right hook.

So don't be surprised if we soon hear Trudeau uttering, as another tough old pol once did: "Just watch me!"

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also apears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: Chiloa/Wikimedia Commons

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Categories: News for progressives

The evolution of women's marches into broad social movements

Tue, 2019-03-12 21:00
Judy Rebick

Despite the cold of Toronto's first snowy day of the winter, I, along with about 2,000 others, took to the streets on January 19 for the Women's March on: Toronto -- one of hundreds of similar marches across the U.S. and Canada.

It was the most spirited march I've been on in years, in part because of the cold, in part because of a great group of passionate speakers, and in part, I hope, because people are getting the idea that radical women are the best way out of this mess.

The first Women's March on Washington in 2016 was held to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. president. The success of women's marches led to a significant number of young, kick-ass women of colour being elected to the U.S. Congress this fall.

One of the newly elected, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, spoke at the New York Women's March this year. Justice is not just about identity, she said, "It's about the water we drink, the air we breathe, how much ladies are being paid, whether we can stay with our children after their birth." Ocasio-Cortez is outlining a full program for social change that includes economic as well as environmental justice.

Her focus on broad policy is mirrored in the policy platform put out by the U.S. Women's March. The organization's platform covers a wide range of issues, including stopping violence against women and femmes, ending state violence, securing reproductive rights and justice, racial justice, LGBTYQIA rights, immigrant rights, economic justice and workers' rights, civil rights, disability rights and environmental justice. It also highlights three overarching objectives -- universal health care, passing the Equal Rights Amendment and ending U.S. involvement in wars.

The platform is a vision, not only of an intersectional women's movement, but of a highly political, progressive social movement. What emerges here is women fighting for not only gender-specific issues. What we're seeing is a movement poised to also lead the fight for social, racial, economic and environmental justice, as well as for peace.

In Toronto, the focus was on the policies of the Doug Ford provincial government. Kavita Dogra, one of the event organizers, told me that policies "that disproportionately impact vulnerable and marginalized communities" were central. The slogan of the march was, "We won't go back!" with an emphasis on Ford's attempt to turn back advances in sex education and on his cutbacks to women's centres and sexual assault centres. In other Canadian cities, the focus was also on local issues.

There are differences both in Canada and the U.S. The group in Toronto, like groups in some other cities, see themselves as grassroots local organizers and have dissociated from Women's March Canada, a group they see as a top-down, corporate group. In the U.S. there are two national organizations whose differences are much bigger.

The attacks against the U.S. Women's March for anti-Semitism are not surprising given the radical politics emerging from what initially looked like a Democratic Party operation. The only legitimate concern here is the support of one of the Women's March leaders, Tamika Mallory, for Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader known for anti-Semitism, sexism and homophobia.

Mallory has apologized and the march has placed the fight against anti-Semitism front and centre in its policy statement, alongside racism and Islamaphobia. Yet the media continues to repeat the charges of anti-Semitism against the organizers.

The original marches in both U.S. and Canada in 2016 were criticized as being white-dominated and for excluding other marginalized communities. Today, organizers and speakers at the Women's March on: Toronto, as well as those in many other cities, are making efforts to be more inclusive.

The politics of the women's march are increasingly embracing this diversity. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, the author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, has analyzed the changes in the U.S. women's movement.

"Indeed, if our objective is to build a multiracial women's movement that is truly representative," Taylor wrote in The Nation in January, "then there is much to be embraced in the model that the Women's March has painstakingly begun to build."

Taylor, an assistant professor of African American studies at Princeton University, continued, "While some critics argue that this model involves taking on too many issues, this betrays an old and stagnant view that helped to marginalize Black and Latina women from feminism in an earlier age."

Seeing a major U.S. social movement adopt such broad progressive feminist politics can only be seen a sign of hope in what so often appears to be a dismal political time.

Judy Rebick is one of Canada's most celebrated and well-known feminist thinkers, critics and writers. She is the founder of rabble.ca. This article was first published in Herizons Winter 2019 and is reprinted here with permission.

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Categories: News for progressives

Dear Justin Trudeau: What about democratic government?

Tue, 2019-03-12 20:33
March 12, 2019What happened to Trudeau's promise of democratic government?Despite his campaign promises, Justin Trudeau has been unable to abandon centralized power. His chosen style of governance is through emphasizing public relations, which is wearing thin.
Categories: News for progressives



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