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Svend Robinson returns to politics with plans to tackle climate change, housing affordability and Big Pharma

Mon, 2019-01-21 22:48
Alex Cosh

The Burnaby North—Seymour NDP Riding Association acclaimed former MP and veteran progressive Svend Robinson on Saturday as its candidate for the federal election.

Addressing a packed room of activists and constituents at the Confederation Seniors Centre in north Burnaby, Robinson, who represented various federal ridings in Burnaby from 1979 until 2004, said he was returning to public life to fight climate change and the housing affordability crisis.

“I am running to put climate change and global warming at the top of our political agenda, and to demand that we mobilize the same way we mobilize nationally to fight a war,” Robinson said. “It means we must listen to and respect the voices of indigenous leaders, both hereditary and elected councils.”

Robinson spoke of the need for a “massive transition to green energy and green jobs,” and said “the market has failed” at delivering affordable housing for working-class families.

“I am running to call for a massive program of non-profit, non-market housing construction: energy efficient and affordable,” he explained.

“We need to transform our economic system, to put people and the environment before profit,” he summarized with thunderous applause from the room.

During his speech, Robinson also stressed his lifelong commitments to fighting anti-Semitism, standing in solidarity with the people in Palestine, and supporting the right to medically-assisted dying.

Also speaking at the event, scientist and activist David Suzuki criticized the Liberal government’s failure to deliver on its promises to alter the environmentally destructive course of the Stephen Harper era, and called for transformative policies to meet the challenges set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 report.

“We’ve got to shut down the industry of fossil fuels: this is the challenge of our time,” Suzuki said, before praising Robinson’s commitment to putting “principle over party politics.”

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who also attended the event, reiterated Robinson’s call to fight climate change “in a bold way.”

Peter Julian, the MP for New Westminster—Burnaby, said Robinson will make an “extraordinary MP,” and called for a government “investing in people, not corporate tax cuts.”

Speaking to rabble after his nomination, Robinson said the next election would be a matter of “life or death” in tackling climate change and economic inequality, but said he believes the left is energized and capable of pushing back against climate reactionaries and right-wing xenophobia.

“As we look around at growing inequality, the rise in racism and attacks on migrants, the rise of appalling leaders like Bolsanaro in Brazil, Trump in the U.S., and Orbán in Hungary, this is a time when we have to push back,” he explained.

“We’ve got to do it in away that working people can relate to,” he added.

According to Robinson, a proposal that has resonated particularly well with constituents and activists has been his call to establish a publicly-owned pharmaceutical company.

“I’ve had a number of people emailing me saying they’re very excited about that idea,” Robinson explained.

“I think it has huge potential. Canada should be a global leader in recognizing that access to medicine is a fundamental human right. We should recognize that this is an area in which the public sector can play an incredibly valuable role: taking on Big Pharma head on,” he said.

After stepping aside from politics in 2004, Robinson spent a decade working on health issues in Switzerland where he said he witnessed first hand the destructive impact of private pharmaceutical corporations.

“Big Pharma, globally, has one fundamental objective, and that’s maximizing global profit,” he said. “That means they don’t give a damn about the diseases of the poor.”

While Robinson said he would fully support the implementation of a universal pharmaceutical coverage plan, he argued this policy doesn’t go far enough.

“That policy alone, to some extent, is a gift to pharmaceutical companies, because they’re going to make a lot of bucks form it,” he explained.

The first openly gay MP in Canadian history, Robinson also stressed his ongoing support for LGBTI causes.

“We’ve made incredible progress,” he explained, “but there are outstanding issues that we have to address.”

“There’s the continuing concern of high levels of suicide and homelessness among young LGBTI people,” he said.

“The other issue is the blood ban, which remains in force despite the Liberals’ promise to get rid of it,” he added.

Although Robinson faces a formidable challenge in flipping the Burnaby North—Seymour riding from Liberal incumbent Terry Beech, the NDP candidate’s bold policies and reputation as a dedicated MP are sure to tighten the race come the general election this fall.


Alex Cosh is a journalist and PhD student based in Powell River, B.C. His work has appeared on PressProgress, Left Foot Forward and in several local publications in B.C.

Photo: Kim Elliott/rabble.ca


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Categories: News for progressives

Alberta's Derek Fildebrandt wades into gun control debate with defiant Tweet

Sun, 2019-01-20 10:40
David J.Climenhaga

It shouldn't be a surprise, I suppose, that Derek Fildebrandt has publicly gone all Charlton Heston on us.

I speak, of course, of Alberta's recently rebranded Freedom Conservative Party leader's Hestonesque Twitter outburst Friday in response to talk the federal Liberal government might actually make an election issue out of banning handguns.

The handgun ban balloon was floated by federal Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair during the Trudeau government's cabinet retreat in Sherbrooke, Que. This suggests the Liberals have done some polling and concluded the eminently sensible idea is one on which they could campaign and win in Canada's big cities, if not in rural settings like Fildebrandt's Strathmore-Brooks provincial riding.

In addition to being a famous American actor who played both John the Baptist and Ben Hur in his long screen career, Heston led the National Rifle Association for six years before stepping down and succumbing to Alzheimer's disease. When he announced his retirement from the NRA in 2003, he famously concluded with a cry of "from my cold dead hands." Everyone in the room knew what he meant.

Fildebrandt -- a shrewd if not a careful politician, once a rising star in the Wildrose and United Conservative parties before exchanging fire with two leaders, one of whom turned out to be a better shot than he was -- didn't go quite as far as the late NRA president.

But if the Liberals dare to ban handguns, he tweeted defiantly, "no matter what the feds do, they will never get their hands on mine."

This set off a predictable Twitter storm over gun control, which no doubt pleased Fildebrandt, who faces the daunting task of seeking re-election in a rural riding without the support of the well-financed Conservative party he was once part of -- having been sent packing a year ago by UCP leader Jason Kenney after a series of unfortunate events.

The gun debate, of course, is a bore, no pun intended. It works for the advocates of unrestricted U.S.-style gun ownership since any reasonable person succumbs to weariness as they go on and on with their fatuous statistics.

What's interesting to me about Fildebrandt's latest outburst, though, is its inconsistency with other things he has said in the past.

After all, it's perfectly reasonable for a law-abiding gun owner, particularly one who is an elected lawmaker, to strenuously oppose any piece of legislation, no matter how sensible. What is not so reasonable is to vow in advance to defy the law if it's passed as if the rules simply don’t apply to him, either because he just doesn't feel like obeying them, or because he doesn't think they apply to libertarian conservatives.

Fildebrandt, clearly, doesn't feel this way about all law-breaking.

Last fall, when tout le monde political Alberta was deeply obsessed with pipeline protesters in British Columbia, Fildebrandt excoriated what he called "a cowardly political elite that is not willing to use the police force necessary to protect private property and the rule of law."

In an interview with a local news website in Strathmore, he went on to call on Premier Rachel Notley to "use appropriate police force necessary to clear out illegal protesters who are squatting on private land and making a mockery of the rule of law."

It was not immediately clear how she was supposed to do this, as she is the premier of Alberta and the illegal squatters, since departed, were in British Columbia. But his key point was that, under the rule of law, all citizens must obey the law, or be dealt with accordingly.

Now we see, on a matter dear to his heart or the hearts of his constituents, the rule of law is of no consequence whatsoever. Indeed, he could be said to be advocating making a mockery of the law.

Of course, there is a pattern here. Among the things that got Fildebrandt in trouble with his former friend Kenney was his failure to remain at the scene of an accident as required by law and his act of shooting a deer on private land as forbidden by law.

This suggests a lack of concern for the rule of law -- except when enforcement of a law is in what Fildebrandt views as being his interests. It is reasonable, given this evidence, not to take him very seriously.

On the other hand, as has been observed here before, it rather puts him in the mainstream as utopian market fundamentalist ideologues go when it comes to questions of the rule of law -- to wit, it’s for you, and not for them.

As for the likelihood of the Liberals actually moving forward on a handgun ban, I am sorry to say I suspect their enthusiasm for this idea will wane once they have been successfully reelected. But if handguns are by some miracle banned, one hopes for his own safety that Fildebrandt reconsiders his defiance!

It is ironic that the success of the pro-gun lobby in attacking and undermining the so-called long-gun registry really created the political conditions that make it possible to talk now of outright bans.

In the meantime, should he lose to the UCP as expected in the forthcoming spring Alberta provincial election, the renegade MLA will have already auditioned for a local production of one of Heston's most famous roles, that of Moses leading the Children of Alberta into the wilderness as a candidate for Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada.

After that, I suppose, the former Canadian Taxpayers Federation agitator will have to return to his native Ontario and seek work with a right-wing think tank or Astro-Turf group.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: Facebook

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Categories: News for progressives

NDP’s Singh can prove his critics wrong, but must up his game

Sat, 2019-01-19 00:32
January 18, 2019Politics in CanadaNDP’s Singh can prove his critics wrong, but must up his gameWith polls now showing Singh ahead in by-election race, he still has to position the NDP as distinctive alternative to the Liberals.CA
Categories: News for progressives

NDP’s Singh can prove his critics wrong, but must up his game

Sat, 2019-01-19 00:28
Karl Nerenberg

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s chances of winning the February 25 byelection in the British Columbia riding of Burnaby South look better by the day. But if he wins, he still has a long road in front of him heading into the fall general election.

About a month ago, before the prime minister called the byelection for Burnaby South and two other ridings, the media were reporting polls that showed the NDP trailing badly in the B.C. riding. More recently, however, a new poll showed Singh quite comfortably in the lead.

That newer poll came after the by-election call, but before the Liberal candidate was forced to step aside. Former candidate Karen Wang’s offence was telling voters they should support her because she is Chinese, while Singh is Indian.

Until the most recent developments, there had been a lot of chatter about what would happen if Singh were to lose the by-election.

Former NDP leader Tom Mulcair said openly what others were thinking: Singh would have to quit, and the party would get itself a new leader before October’s vote. That prospect, apparently, worried the Liberals. At least, that has been the conventional Ottawa insider opinion.

Liberals need a weak NDP to win again

The chattering class view is that the NDP is in trouble, what with poor fundraising results and mediocre poll numbers. And they lay the blame for that trouble at the leader’s door. Singh has been weak and ineffective, they say. He is largely absent from Ottawa, and has been unable to articulate a clear, progressive message much at variance with that of the Liberals.  

If the Liberals have any hope for a second majority, the argument goes, they need the NDP to stay weak. Liberal and NDP votes are like a teeter-totter. When one side goes up, the other goes down.

And so -- again, according to Ottawa insiders -- the Liberals have been not-so-secretly hoping for Singh to win the Burnaby seat and then lead his party to a dismal showing in the next election.

Well, the Liberals might get their wish, or, at least, part of it. Singh is now an odds-on favourite to get himself a seat in the House of Commons on February 25.

The second part of the Liberal wish list might not, however, be such a foregone conclusion.

The next election will present very polarized options to the voters.

There is a Conservative Party that, in effect, denies climate change, wants to radically tighten immigration and refugee rules, and lower taxes for the wealthy. In other words, it wants to return to the Harper era. Further to the right, there is Maxime Bernier’s party that openly appeals to bigotry, while advocating a radical, Ayn-Rand-style reduction of the state, which would include ending Canada’s supply-management system for agriculture.

Meanwhile, the Trudeau Liberals, commentators say, have been offering the most progressive government Canada has seen in many decades. The Liberals have left little room on their port side for the NDP. In such a polarized environment, say the experts, potential NDP voters will flock to the Liberals -- especially given the fact that Singh has not done much to differentiate himself from Trudeau.

Singh is in favour of electoral reform, while Trudeau betrayed his promise on that. But changing the electoral system is an arcane matter for most Canadians, not likely to sway many voters.

Singh also opposes the Trans Mountain pipeline, which Trudeau’s government now owns. But the NDP, as a party, is not united on that issue. Alberta’s NDP government is 1,000 per cent for the pipeline.

Charisma and charm are not enough

When they chose Singh as leader, many NDPers seemed to be seeking the magical and ineffable quality of charisma Trudeau brought to the Liberals. They wanted someone very different from the cerebral, tough-talking, prosecutorial Mulcair -- a candidate who had the indefinable ability to “connect,” to use Singh’s own word.

The view of Ottawa insiders is that what the NDP got, in the end, was someone who had all of Trudeau’s flaws -- like a tendency to be vague on policy and a preoccupation with image to the detriment of substance -- and none of his strengths.

The chattering class should not count its chickens, however, be they free market fowl or marketing-board hens.

Singh has stumbled a few times since becoming leader. But those missteps have been the inevitable growing pains of a new leader. Many tend to forget that the late NDP leader Jack Layton made a few serious blunders of his own early in his tenure.

In 2004, for instance, commentators excoriated Layton for suggesting that Liberal finance minister Paul Martin’s austerity policies had caused the deaths of homeless people. The Liberals had, in fact, cut funds for affordable housing, but the commentariat faulted Layton because housing is largely a provincial, not federal, responsibility.

The late NDP leader also alienated many potential supporters when he seemed to suggest his party would recognize the legitimacy of a Quebec vote to secede, even if carried only by a single vote. Layton’s failure of leadership was not necessarily the party’s nuanced and reasonable policy on the federal government’s duty to negotiate in the event of a yes vote. It was his inability, at least at first, to convincingly explain that policy.

In the end, Layton gained his political sea legs, and the NDP went on to increase its seat count in each of his four elections, culminating in the orange wave of 2011.

A clear vision and bold policies

Singh is still, by and large, an unknown and untested quantity, but he does bring a lot to the table. He has an accomplished career as a criminal defence and human rights lawyer and deputy leader of the Ontario NDP. He also has a compelling personal life story.

In addition, when the next election rolls around, the Liberals will be running on their record, not merely on the prospect of getting rid of the nasty and negative Harper regime. They will have to answer not only for the promises they kept, but also for those they failed to keep.

There are, for a start, the Liberals’ failures to fully live up to their promises on both democratic reform and Indigenous rights. Those failures might matter to a lot of people to whom Ottawa insiders rarely speak. 

In addition, the gulf between the top and bottom ends of the economic spectrum in Canada continues to grow, despite a bit of Liberal tinkering. That, too, could weigh in the balance for many voters who supported the Trudeau team last time. The Trudeau government’s main measure to deal with poverty, to date, is a late-mandate, on-paper strategy they might or might not ever implement. Economic inequality could provide an obvious issue for Singh and the NDP.

And finally, while the current government talks a good game on the environment and climate change, it has not significantly delivered results in the form of reduced emissions, as Canada’s Environment Commissioner has reminded it more than once.

All of this could provide ammunition for a reinvigorated Singh, if and when he wins a seat and enters the House of Commons as party leader.

The NDP leader’s big challenge will be to go beyond a critique, however trenchant, of the failures of the Trudeau government.

In addition to tearing a strip off the Liberals for their many betrayals and failures, Singh will have to communicate a clear and compelling vision for his party. Even more important, he will need to articulate a muscular and tangible set of policies that would give life to that vision.

Photo: Wayne Polk/Flickr

Karl Nerenberg has been a journalist and filmmaker for more than 25 years. He is rabble's politics reporter.


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Categories: News for progressives

Trudeau bold on pipeline investment, but timid when it comes to electric cars

Fri, 2019-01-18 02:56
January 17, 2019Trudeau bold on pipeline investment, but timid when it comes to electric cars Prime Minister Justin Trudeau jumped on buying an aging, climate-destroying pipeline, but has shrugged and shown no interest in using taxpayer dollars to create a Canadian-owned automaker.CA
Categories: News for progressives

Council of Canadians: We stand in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en

Thu, 2019-01-17 21:28
January 17, 2019Council of Canadians: We stand in solidarity with Wet'suwet'enThe fight against the Coastal GasLink pipeline is not over, and Council of Canadians chapters continue to stand in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en.
Categories: News for progressives

Saving Robert Schellenberg will be a daunting task for Trudeau government

Wed, 2019-01-16 23:29
January 16, 2019Saving Robert Schellenberg will be a daunting task for Trudeau governmentThe most effective method would be to find a way to end the extradition proceedings against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.CA
Categories: News for progressives

Saving Robert Schellenberg will be a daunting task for Trudeau government

Wed, 2019-01-16 23:26
Karl Nerenberg

A Chinese court has sentenced Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to death for the crime of drug smuggling, and the Canadian government is taking two tracks in its efforts to save his life.

Even before a regional Chinese court imposed the death sentence, the Trudeau government had asked Chinese authorities to exercise clemency in this case. So far, the response has been anything but favourable. The Chinese have reacted more in resentful and offended anger than in sorrow.

The Canadian government is also taking another tack – by putting pressure on the Chinese by rallying international support for Schellenberg and against the practice of execution.

 As Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland put it: "Canada's position when it comes to the death penalty is consistent and very long-standing. We believe it is inhumane and inappropriate. And wherever the death penalty is considered with regard to a Canadian, we speak out against it."

In this sentiment, the minister can expect to find sympathy and support from member states of the European Union, from most Latin American countries, from Australia and New Zealand, and from South Africa and a number of other African countries which have recently banned executions.

However, Freeland’s statement of principle will not find much resonance immediately in the U.S., where even Democratic party politicians who privately oppose capital punishment fear the political consequences of saying so publicly.

The last time a U.S. presidential candidate stated openly that he was against executions was in 1988, and it did not work out too well. During a televised debate, Democrat Michael Dukakis stated coolly and dispassionately that even if his own wife were brutally murdered, he would be opposed to the state exacting revenge and killing the perpetrator.

That candour, combined with the vicious negative attacks George H.W. Bush’s campaign waged against him, cost Dukakis the election.

Public support for executions in the U.S. and in Asia is high

These days, U.S. death penalty opponents like to point to some hopeful signs in their country. The rate of executions seems to be on the decline, at least somewhat. But a good many U.S. states still impose executions in arbitrary, unfair and cruel ways.

Texas, for instance, has what it calls the “law of parties,” which means a person who is “party” to a criminal offence that results in murder – for instance, the driver of the getaway vehicle – can be condemned to death. There are also significant controversies surrounding the use of the most popular current method of killing prisoners, lethal injection. Over the past couple of years, there has been a horrific series of botched executions using the big needle, which amount to nothing less than torture.

Despite these grisly truths, and the fact that the U.S. is the only country in the Americas that persists in employing the death penalty, American support for executions remains high, at well over 60 per cent, according to polls.

For China, all available public opinion research indicates overwhelming support for the death penalty, especially for violent crimes. And, according to Amnesty International, China is the world champion of executions, although it is impossible to know the exact number of executions carried out annually by Chinese authorities. That information is kept secret, but Amnesty estimates it to be in the thousands.

To date, Freeland has only been able to tout support for Canada’s efforts to save Schellenberg from a number of Western countries, such as Germany.

As yet, she has not been able to convince a single Asian country to take Canada’s side in this effort. That might be because most of those countries -- including Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines -- still have the death penalty on their books. And most still use it, as does China, against convicted drug dealers. 

The cruel fact is that the Canadian argument that the death penalty is barbaric and never justified has little resonance in much of the world. Even the more nuanced argument that, in the case of a crime not involving murder, such as Schellenberg’s, imposing the death penalty is excessive, is likely to fall on deaf ears.

The Chinese can reason: If the U.S. can blithely put to death mentally handicapped people and others only tangentially associated with the act of murder, as well as defendants who had manifestly incompetent defences, why shouldn’t we, the Chinese will ask, use capital punishment to deter crimes we consider to be a grave threat to our social well being?

In the final analysis, Canada’s best chance of saving Schellenberg will not likely be moral suasion. Nor will appeals for mercy or pressure from a handful of other countries have much chance of success.

It appears, at this stage, that the most effective way for the Trudeau government to save this Canadian’s life would be to, somehow, find a way to end the extradition proceedings against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

Photo: U.S. Department of State/Flickr

Karl Nerenberg has been a journalist and filmmaker for more than 25 years. He is rabble's politics reporter.


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Categories: News for progressives

Will 2019 be the year of white backlash in Canada?

Tue, 2019-01-15 22:56
January 15, 2019Will 2019 be the year of white backlash in Canada?How to deal with climate change, could take a back seat to an ugly debate that seems to be emerging – that of race and migrants.
Categories: News for progressives

Will 2019 be the year of white backlash in Canada?

Tue, 2019-01-15 01:34
Karl Nerenberg

This is an election year in Canada, federally and in Alberta. Climate change -- and what to do or not do about it -- will be one unavoidable issue in the campaigns to come. The sniping on that has already started in earnest. The federal Conservative leader stands shoulder-to-shoulder with four provincial premiers promising to resist the carbon tax with all the force they can muster.

But the climate and the environment will not be the only big issue.

Identity and its twin, migration, are also shaping up to be major sources of political dispute in 2019. Again, it is the Conservatives who are on the attack, evoking the spectre of a flood of what they call illegal migrants into the country.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has even tried to sow panic about an innocuous United Nations agreement Canada just signed.

The Global Pact on Migration engages us to the not-very-radical idea that the nations of the world should treat all migrants humanely. As Sheer sees it, however, this bland, motherhood document, which affirms the need to respect migrants’ human rights while discouraging xenophobia “could open the door to foreign bureaucrats telling Canada how to manage our borders.”

Such tactics are not new.

The Harper Conservatives made an art form of trolling for votes by scapegoating targeted groups of migrants. They proudly and truculently cancelled funds for a small-budget refugee health program – since restored by the Liberals – and almost daily lashed out at “queue-jumpers” who supposedly abuse Canada’s refugee system to gain backdoor entry into the country.

White Christians fight back

There is, however, a newer and more disturbing noise we can expect to hear this coming year, and it is unabashedly and openly focused on race, quite specifically the white Christian race.

The man who went to a Justin Trudeau town hall in Regina to tell the prime minister that “Christianity and Islam don’t mix” and that Muslims are “coming here to kill us, yet you let them in” might represent nobody but himself. But there are plenty of others, with substantial followings, who are ready to stir the pot of white resentment.

Maxime Bernier, leader of the breakaway right-wing Peoples’ Party of Canada, is one of those.

Bernier does not merely take issue with the UN Migration Compact; he dismisses the UN itself as a “useless joke.” The world body, he says, and tweets repeatedly, seeks to impose a “world government on Canada.”

Earlier, as Bernier prepared to exit the Conservative party and found his own, he made his position on Canada’s multicultural personality clear, when he said: “Why should we promote ever more diversity? More diversity will not be our strength. It will destroy what has made us a great country.”

The most fully elaborated statement of white backlash, of late, has come from veteran Quebec journalist and broadcaster Denise Bombardier, who is currently a columnist for the popular tabloid daily, Le Journal de Montréal.

Bombardier has had a long and distinguished career in Quebec media, but of late she has taken to expressing anger and angst over foreign-born critics of white, North American -- and, in particular, Québécois -- society.

Most recently, Bombardier reacted with fury and contempt to an open letter to the premier of Quebec penned by the anti-racist activist and supporter of the progressive Québec Solidaire party, Amel Zaazaa. In that letter, published in the newspaper Le Devoir, Zaazaa says the current and fashionable Quebec notions of the neutrality of the state and of secularism are, in truth, the guises in which a racist system cloaks itself.

Zaazaa talks about racial profiling by police services, which count pitiably few racial minorities among their members, of the lack of diversity in Quebec media, and of the fact that the Quebec National Assembly is almost entirely white.

In particular, the activist points to prejudices and practices that exclude Muslims, especially Muslim women, from many positions.  A large number of veiled Muslim women find work in daycare centres, Zaazaa writes, even though they are over-qualified, because they can find no other job. Now, she adds, the new Quebec government wants to deny them even that employment, simply because they choose to cover their faces.

Go out and discover ‘white’ Québec

In her column of January 4, Bombardier goes after Zaazaa hammer and tong. Bombardier tells her readers that Zaazaa’s narrow focus on the “multicultural Québec” minority community in which she lives prevents her from realizing that Quebec, as a whole, is very much “in the majority white.”  

The columnist then offers a little history lesson to the immigrant activist.

“Quebec was discovered by white French people,” she writes, “and, in 1759, conquered by the white British.” (She makes no mention of the Indigenous people who lived in Quebec when it was ‘discovered’.)

Bombardier accuses Zaazaa, who is of Tunisian origin, of behaving like many members of the “bourgeoisie” of ex-French colonies, who claim to be “implacable anti-colonialists,” while having benefited from the “advantages of the colonizer.” She never specifies what those advantages are.

Zaazaa, Bombardier says, should be careful not to impose “foreign models” on the society that has welcomed her. The Tunisian immigrant should broaden her knowledge of that society beyond her own ethnically diverse urban enclave to “Quebec outside of Montreal” – in other words, to “white” Quebec.

In her next column, of January 5, entitled “The Québécophobes,” Bombardier broadens her attack to all minority groups that “demand rights for themselves” while they “denigrate white Québécois” who are, in their eyes, “ill educated in the realities of the world.” 

These “trouble makers,” Bombardier writes, are “dangerous … social pyromaniacs.” The Muslims among them, she says, give a bad name to the “majority of Muslims in Quebec who behave like respectful and grateful citizens.” There is an “urgent need,” Bombardier concludes, to “extinguish” the “intolerance” promulgated by these “minority groups” who “howl like wolves.” 

Whites will soon be minorities in the countries they ‘discovered’

Less than a week later, Bombardier offers yet another column in the same general theme. This one is starkly entitled “The Decline of the whites.” 

The veteran journalist opens by noting the demographic fact that in many U.S. cities whites are already in the minority, and that by 2050, in such countries as Canada, New Zealand and the U.S., whites could become a minority group.

She then quotes Canadian-raised and educated political scientist Eric Kaufman, author of Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration and the Future of White Majorities, who recently told the Radio-Canada television program Le Point that “white identity must be considered an identity like the others, not an invention designed to maintain power. It is a set of myths and symbols with which whites identify.”

Bombardier concludes this polemic by castigating “those who denounce the whites and refuse to recognize the whites’ legitimate worries about their own identity.” Those unnamed denouncers, says Bombardier, affirm their own “black” or “yellow” or “Indigenous” identities, which they call “racialized,” while they inevitably characterize whites as “colonizers, slave-owners, racists, Islamophobes and other hurtful epithets.”

There you have it. Virulent white backlash is alive and well and living in Canada.

The year 2019 has barely begun, but in Bombardier’s multiple expressions of anger and resentment, and in her wild and scattershot ad hominem attacks and condescending generalities about minority commentators, we can see the beginnings of a very uncivil and explosive political debate to come. 

Fasten you seat belts.

Karl Nerenberg has been a journalist and filmmaker for more than 25 years. He is rabble's politics reporter.

Photo: proacguy1/Flickr


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Categories: News for progressives

People’s Party candidate in B.C. by-election risks shifting discourse of public debate, observers say

Tue, 2019-01-15 00:03
January 14, 2019People’s Party candidate in B.C. by-election risks shifting discourse of public debate, observers sayMaxime Bernier’s choice of an anti-LGBTQ activist to run against NDP leader Jagmeet Singh in Burnaby South is being viewed as having a wide range of implications.
Categories: News for progressives

People’s Party candidate in B.C. by-election risks shifting discourse of public debate, observers say

Mon, 2019-01-14 23:50
Alex Cosh

Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada announced this week its nomination of anti-LGBTQ activist Laura Lynn Tyler Thompson as its candidate in the Burnaby South by-election.

According to reports, Thompson said Bernier had “bravely declared the death of political correctness,” and praised her party’s leader for being “willing to take the heat to do politics a different way.”

Thompson claimed she had originally wanted to run for Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives, but said she was rejected on the grounds her views on transgender rights would “ruffle feathers” in the Tory leadership.

When the CBC’s Vassy Kapelos quizzed Bernier about Thompson’s hardline views on transgender rights, the PPC leader said he thought his party’s candidate “has a point,” but added he didn’t “want to go in deep in that debate.”

Thompson will face NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, the Liberal party’s Karen Wang and the Conservative party’s Jay Shin in the by-election on February 25.

British Columbia NDP vice-president and LGBTQ community organizer Morgane Oger said she believes Thompson’s nomination for the PPC is a “positive outcome” for the left.

“I think that bigotry, discrimination and hatred wither in direct sunlight. I think the more these candidates have to speak to what they actually believe, the less likely they are to get elected,” she explained.

“It will make xenophobia louder, but the truth is, the louder xenophobia is, the more self-destructive it is,” she added.

However, while the PPC’s candidate is likely to take some votes away from Scheer’s Conservatives, Dr. David Laycock, a political scientist at Simon Fraser University, thinks the left has reasons to be concerned about the PPC’s broader ideological influence.

“The NDP has reasons to hope that Bernier does reasonably well, but that’s a short- to medium-term calculation,” he said.

“Outside of the NDP, the left won’t be happy, to the extent that Bernier’s party stirs up a lot of latent opposition to multiculturalism in Canada,” he added.

Thompson is a former televangelist and staunch anti-LGBTQ advocate who has steadily gained notoriety in B.C. politics over the last couple of years by leading the charge against SOGI 123 -- an initiative designed to protect LGBTQ youth from homophobic and transphobic bullying.

Teaming up with Culture Guard -- a fringe Christian-right organization that promotes, among other things, pamphlets decrying the ‘Health Hazards of Homosexuality’ -- Thompson has claimed B.C.’s anti-bullying initiative is a secret ploy by “puberty blockers” to indoctrinate children with “gender ideology.”

She has also condemned a petition calling for a ban on gay conversion therapy (which is still legal in British Columbia and most of Canada) and campaigned on behalf of Chilliwack school-trustee Barry Neufeld, who called B.C.’s initiative against anti-LGBTQ bullying a “form of child abuse” and has suggested SOGI is a program engineered by elites who want to “destroy gay kids” by “culling them from the gene pool.” Neufeld’s comments about SOGI have triggered a lawsuit by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.

Thompson’s ally has also been caught sharing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories (he shared an article claiming Jews are responsible for instigating conflicts in Russia) and quack science (he claimed male semen can be used as an anti-depressant for women) on social media.

Thompson tested the political viability of her views with Burnaby voters in last year’s local elections, running for school-trustee in the city’s school district on an openly anti-SOGI platform.

She finished third from last place; a less than impressive performance, especially given the media hullabaloo that surrounded her campaign and platform. As Burnaby Now editor Chris Campbell remarked: “I don't see how someone who lost running for school trustee will be able to win a federal riding.”

However, despite Thompson being unlikely to win the Burnaby by-election, her presence on the federal political stage might indicate the PPC’s willingness to give more ultra-conservative voices a national platform come the general election this fall.

Glen Hansman, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and an advocate for SOGI, said: “Mr. Bernier frames himself as a kind of libertarian, and somebody who speaks for Canadian values, and yet he’s choosing to lead with someone who has a detailed track record making some pretty heinous comments about trans people specifically.”

“If this is the first impression that the public is going to get, it could be that (The PPC) will be looking for more of the same across Canada: people who under the banner of free speech will make hateful statements about any number of groups,” he added.

In addition to campaigning for a progressive victory in the Burnaby by-election, the left must be alert to the longer term implications of people like Thompson being given a national platform.

Alex Cosh is a journalist and PhD student based in Powell River, B.C. His work has appeared on PressProgress, Left Foot Forward and in several local publications in B.C.

Photo: Laura Lynn Tyler Thompson/Facebook


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Categories: News for progressives

Defining poverty in Canada as a social disease is first step to healing it

Sat, 2019-01-12 00:50
January 11, 2019Defining poverty in Canada as a social disease first step to healing itMembers of the new federal Advisory Committee on Canada's Poverty Reduction Strategy all have personal experience of poverty, and they are working to build resilient communities across the country.
Categories: News for progressives

Say their names: There were at least 59 police-involved deaths in Canada in 2018

Thu, 2019-01-10 23:01
January 10, 2019Say their names: There were at least 59 police-involved deaths in Canada in 2018There is no formal process to record incidents of police-involved deaths of civilians in Canada. Much of the information surrounding these events is never reported. The public needs to know more.CA
Categories: News for progressives

Say their names: There were at least 59 police-involved deaths in Canada in 2018

Thu, 2019-01-10 22:57
Jeff Shantz

In Canada, there is still no formal, systematic process for documenting and recording the police-involved deaths of civilians. Also, there is no systematic method for reporting publicly on civilian deaths through police encounters. Much information is left unreported, including race, ethnicity, age and gender. Often, crucial details like mental health issues are not reported. There is no central registry of victims and victims are not named publicly except in cases where family members come forward to name a loved one killed during a police encounter.

And, perhaps most importantly, little is reported about the officers involved when civilians die through police contact. Officers are not named unless they are criminally charged, which rarely happens, or if there is an inquiry or coroner’s inquest some time well after the fact. This means that the public does not know if officers who have killed are still on the streets, if some officers are repeat offenders or whether officers involved in a killing have personal or professional histories of prejudice or racism. Naming cops who kill is crucial for public knowledge and safety and must become regular practice.

Typically, accounts of police-involved deaths are controlled by police, who may be the only witnesses to a lethal encounter, and who, thus, frame the public reporting of the event. Added to this is the fact that not all provinces have police oversight agencies in place. In Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, police forces from other provinces investigate incidents of death involving police officers. This is an unacceptable situation. More than this, the oversight agencies that do exist have no legal mechanism to compel officers to cooperate with an investigation. Forces routinely interfere with, obstruct and harass investigations.

The main source to track, document and analyze the police killings of civilians in Canada remains the critical criminology project Killer Cops Canada. A baseline or minimum number of people who died through police encounters can be arrived at by a review of oversight agency reports, coroners’ inquest reports, and a close following of media articles. Based on this, we can say that in 2018 there were at least 59 deaths of people in Canada through encounters with police officers. Of these, the majority, 26, were shot and killed by police. Here is some of the very limited information of what we know based on the information reported publicly. We need to know so much more.

Police-involved deaths in Canada in 2018


1. Jan. 1: Unnamed male, 59, Peterborough, Ont. Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). In distress.

2. Jan. 2: Brandon Stephen, 24, Cree male, Waskaganish, Que. Sûreté du Québec (SQ). In-custody.

3. Jan. 3: Unnamed male, 63, Laurentians, Que. SQ. Police vehicle collision.

4. Jan. 3: Unnamed female, 58, Laurentians, Que. SQ. Police vehicle collision.

5. Jan. 13: Unnamed female, 49, Tichborne, Ont. OPP.

6. Jan. 16: Unnamed male, 34, Regina, Sask., Regina police. In distress.

7. Jan. 27/28: Unnamed male, Calgary. Calgary police. Shot.

8. Jan. 27: Unnamed male, 27, St. Catharines, Ont. Niagara Regional Police Service. No cause given.

9. Jan. 26-28: Unnamed, St. John, N.B. No other details provided.


10. Feb. 3: Joey Knapaysweet, Cree male, 21, (Fort Albany First Nation), Timmins, Ont. Timmins police. Shot.

11. Feb. 4: Agnes Sutherland, Cree female, 62, (Fort Albany First Nation). Timmins, Ont. Timmins Police. In-custody.

12. Feb. 22: Unnamed female, 28, Mississauga, Ont. Peel Regional Police. Fall.

13. Feb. 22: Gordon Couvrette, 43, North Bay, Ont. North Bay police. In distress. Taser.

14. Feb. 24: Unnamed male, Chilliwack, B.C. RCMP. Taser.

15. Feb. 25: Unnamed male, 25, Ottawa, Ont. Ottawa police. Shot.

16. Feb. 26: Unnamed individual, Markham, Ont. York Regional Police. Struck by police vehicle.


17. March 6: Unnamed female, 88, Napanee, Ont. OPP. Vehicle collision during police chase.

18. March 19: Unnamed male, South Surrey, B.C. RCMP. Vancouver police. In distress.

19. March 21: Matthew Mahoney, 33, Windsor, Ont. Windsor police. Shot.

20. March 27: Unnamed male, Calgary, Alta. Calgary police.

21. March 29: Abderrahmane (Adam) Bettahar, 21, Edmonton, Alta. Edmonton police. Shot.

22. March 29: Unnamed male, 36, Montreal, Que. Montreal police. Fall.


23. April 2: Unnamed male, 62, Thunder Bay, Ont. Thunder Bay police. Fall.

24. April 3: Quinn MacDougall, 19, Hamilton, Ont. Hamilton police. Shot.

25. April 9: Unnamed male, Calgary, Alta. Calgary police. Shot.


26. May 8: Unnamed male, Nanaimo, B.C. RCMP. Shot.

27. May 17: Unnamed male, 22, Saguenay, Que. Crash during police chase.

28. May 17: Unnamed Cree female, 33, Calgary, Alta. Calgary police. Shot.

29. May 26: Bradley Thomas Clattenburg, 24, Dartmouth, N.S. RCMP. Shot.

30. May 27: Unnamed male, 32, Summerside, P.E.I. Shot.


31. June 7: Unnamed male, Toronto, Ont. Toronto police. Shot.

32. June 21: Zachary Fairbairn, 28, Gatineau, Que. Gatineau police. Struck by vehicle during police chase.

33. June 22: Orlando Brown, black male, 32, Barrie, Ont. Barrie police. Taser.


34. July 3: Unnamed male, Whitecourt, Alta. RCMP. Shot.

35. July 19: Unnamed male, 63, Trois-Rivières, Que. Police chase.

36. July 20: Unnamed male (Frog Lake First Nation), Frog Lake First Nation, Alta. RCMP. Shot.

37. July 23: Unnamed male, 43, Caledon, Ont. OPP. During arrest.

38. July 25: Unnamed male, 17, Montreal, Que. SQ. Shot.


39. Aug. 7: Bolante Idowu Alo, 49-year-old black male, Calgary, Alta. Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Calgary police. Deportation.

40. Aug. 18: Sterling Ross Cardinal, 29-year-old Indigenous male, Calling Lake First Nation, Edmonton, Alta. Edmonton police. Shot.

41. Aug. 21: Nicholas Gibbs, 23-year-old black male, Montreal, Que. Montreal police. Shot.

42. Aug. 31: Unnamed male, Calgary, Alta. Calgary police. Shot. In mental crisis.


43. Sept. 5: Unnamed 40-year-old Inuit male, Inukjuak, Que. Kativik Regional Police. Shot.

44. Sept. 14: Unnamed male, Kamloops, B.C. RCMP. Shot.

45. Sept. 22: Unnamed male, 32, Burlington, Ont. Halton Regional Police. OPP. Shot.

46. Sept. 16: Unnamed male, 32, Lindsay, Ont. Kawartha Lakes police. Chase.

47. Sept. 18: Unnamed male, Toronto, Ont. OPP. Fall.

48. Sept. 19: Unnamed male, 22, Kugluktuk, Nunavut. RCMP. In-custody.

49. Sept. 29: Unnamed female, Victoria, B.C. Victoria police. Taser.


50. Oct. 11: Unnamed male, 55, London, Ont. London police. In-custody.

51. Oct. 20: Unnamed female, 30, Hamilton, Ont. Hamilton police. Shot.

52. Oct. 30: Unnamed male, 20, Sorel, Que. SQ. Chase.


53. Nov. 10: Unnamed male, Shawnigan Lake, B.C. RCMP. Shot.

54. Nov. 29: Jorden McKay, 27, Corner Brook, Nfld. Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. Shot.

55. Nov. 30: Unnamed male, 23, London, Ont. London Police. In-custody.


56. Dec. 22: Unnamed male, 27, Saskatoon, Sask. Saskatoon police. Shot. In crisis.

57. Dec. 25: Stacey Perry, 29, Calgary, Alta. Calgary police. Shot while in crisis and following police chase.

58. Dec. 26: Buck Evans, 34, Edmonton, Alta. Edmonton police. Shot.

59. Dec. 27: Unnamed male, 29, London, Ont. London police. In-custody.

Jeff Shantz is a full-time faculty member in the Department of Criminology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University on Coast Salish territories in Metro Vancouver. He is the founder of the Critical Criminology Working Group www.radicalcriminology.org and co-founding member of the Social Justice Centre at KPU, where he is lead researcher on the Anti-Poverty/Criminalization/Social War Policing project.

Photo:  Tony Webster/Flickr


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Categories: News for progressives

Global day of action planned in solidarity with embattled Wet'suwet'en

Tue, 2019-01-08 08:28
January 7, 2019Indigenous RightsActions across globe planned in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en clansThe five united clans of the Wet'suwet'en have called for a solidarity day of action against the Trudeau government and the RCMP on Tuesday January 8.CA
Categories: News for progressives

Global day of action planned in solidarity with embattled Wet'suwet'en

Tue, 2019-01-08 08:27
January 7, 2019Indigenous RightsActions across globe planned in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en clansThe five united clans of the Wet'suwet'en have called for a solidarity day of action against the Trudeau government and the RCMP on Tuesday January 8.Wet'suwet'en NationGidimt’en check pointTransCanadapipelinesCA
Categories: News for progressives

In 2019, Canada can act with courage in global affairs

Fri, 2019-01-04 22:18
January 4, 2019In 2019, Canada can act with courage in global affairsAs Canada heads into a federal election year, the Trudeau government has the opportunity to show moral conviction in global politics by supporting peace and democracy abroad.
Categories: News for progressives

Message from Notley signals departure of former cabinet minister Stephanie McLean

Fri, 2019-01-04 01:08
January 3, 2019Message from Notley signals departure of former cabinet minister Stephanie McLeanStephanie McLean played a historic role as the first Alberta MLA to give birth while in office. Her son was born on February 12, 2016.AB
Categories: News for progressives

Why is CRTC chair repeating Big Telecom's talking points against net neutrality?

Wed, 2019-01-02 23:18
January 2, 2019Why is CRTC chair repeating Big Telecom's talking points against net neutrality?If Canada is to remain at the forefront of innovation and freedom, we need a robust net neutrality framework that doesn't benefit those with deep pockets and vested interests.CA
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