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The Conservatives’ treatment of veterans is hypocritical November 24, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Roger’s note: Support Our Troops (by screwing them after they have killed, been shot at in a place they have not business being,  and come home)!

“Even more shockingly, Mr. Stogran stated, ‘I was told by a senior Treasury Board analyst… that it is in the government’s best interest to have soldiers killed overseas rather than wounded because the liability is shorter term.’”

As the doctor said to my father when he announced my gender to him on the day of my birth in 1941: “CANNON FODDER.”

Gerald Caplan

If the politics of contempt is the hallmark of Stephen Harper’s governing style – for Parliament, for accountability, for critics, for science, for journalists – nothing is more shameful than its contempt for Canada’s veterans. It’s not merely that vets have won the right to so much better. It’s also the flat-out hypocrisy, the unbridgeable chasm between the Harper government’s rapturous rhetoric and its actual policies.

Besides the usual Remembrance Day platitudes, there was the PM at the recent Conservative Convention in Calgary shamelessly boasting that only his party cared about Canada’s “brave men and women in uniform.” Yet precisely one week earlier, Corporal David Hawkins from London, Ont., injured in the field and suffering from post-traumatic stress, was booted out of the military before he was eligible to collect an indexed pension – one of many wounded vets who are being treated so callously.

The ugly truth is that Mr. Hawkins is only one example of the many “brave men and women in uniform” who have been betrayed by the Harper government. And refusing veterans their rightful pensions is only one example of the many heartless ways it has actually treated so many of them.

Indeed, just in the weeks around Remembrance Day 2013, the media has been replete with examples of this absolutely inexplicable phenomenon. In the typical words of Corporal Shane Jones, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in Afghanistan, “We go overseas, we fight for our country, we do what we’re asked and when we come home it’s like we have to start another war all over again just to get the help we need.” That was three days after Mr. Harper’s Calgary speech and exactly one week before November 11.

And on Remembrance Day itself, in B.C., retired Air Force captain Claude Latulippe was among other vets who chose to turn their backs on their Conservative MP at the local cenotaph, “just like the Conservatives are turning their backs on veterans.” This attitude hardly surprises Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent, appointed by the Harper government, who angrily points out that the Harper government’s New Veterans Charter will relegate hundreds of the most severely disabled vets to poverty in their old age.

But lest we forget, Remembrance Day 2013 was no aberration on this front. Remembrance Day 2010, for example, was marked by a farewell J’Accuse! from Patrick Stogran, a 30-year vet and Canada’s first Veterans Ombudsman, also appointed by Stephen Harper but pointedly not reappointed.

“What I am here to do,” Mr. Stogran said, “is to expose to Canadians what I perceive as a system that for a long time has denied veterans not just what they deserve, but what they earned with their blood and sacrifice.”

“It is beyond my comprehension,” he later added, “how the system could knowingly deny so many of our veterans the services and benefits that the people and the Government of Canada recognized a long, long time ago as being their obligation to provide.”

Even more shockingly, Mr. Stogran stated, “I was told by a senior Treasury Board analyst… that it is in the government’s best interest to have soldiers killed overseas rather than wounded because the liability is shorter term.”

Mr. Stogran’s cri de coeur did not come as a surprise to veterans. Over the 2010 Remembrance Day weekend they hit the streets in an unprecedented series of nation-wide demonstrations to publicize their long list of grievances against a government that has made a fetish of its devotion to Canada’s veterans.

Remembrance Day 2012 once again saw a series of public protests by vets against their own government. As reported by Canadian Press, disabled veterans and military widows assembled on Parliament Hill “to paint a stark picture of bureaucratic indifference and red tape that flies in the face of reassurances from the government, which says the care of military families is a top priority….Few of the government’s touted programs meant to help combat veterans find civilian jobs actually help the disabled.”

What does it take for the Harper government to be shamed into action? This Remembrance Day, 2013, many media finally gave the vets’ grievances significant coverage. Besides several news stories, The Globe, for example, published an editorial, two pieces by its own columnists and an editorial cartoon all harshly critical of the government.

There are some indications that the government is finally paying attention, though Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino insists, in quintessential Harperland style, that “a majority of Canada’s veterans receive the support and care they need.” At about the same time, 3,000 to 4,000 citizens took to the streets of Sydney, N.S., (population: 31,597) to support local veterans in protesting the government’s decision to close nine Veterans Affairs Department district offices across the country, including theirs.

Some Opposition MPs have been pressing the vets’ case for some time; Peter Stoffer has been an especially tireless advocate. But surely the Opposition must go further and make this just cause an absolute priority. Shaming Stephen Harper is not an easy task, as years of protest by vets have sadly proved. But surely his betrayal of Canada’s veterans cannot be allowed to continue.

Is Omar Khadr a pawn in a cynical political game by the Harper Government? November 19, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: I have written and posted before about Omar Khadr, and it is important that he should not be forgotten.  I refer you again to the documentary: “You Don’t Like the Truth: Four Days Inside Guantanamo,” which depicts the torturous interrogation this child was put through by Canadian spooks, and the torture he suffered at the hands of the Americans at the same time as he was wounded to the near point of death.  This photo shows the condition he was in when the CIA interrogated him.

omar_battlefield

 

| November 19, 2013, http://www.rabble.ca 

 

edney

 

Is the continued imprisonment of Omar Khadr actually a question of principle for the Harper Government, or has it become such an embarrassment that our Conservative leaders in Ottawa have concluded he must be kept under wraps as long as possible for reasons of political expediency?

The hatred and hysteria with which the supporters of this government attack the former child soldier, who is now 27 and resides in a federal penitentiary here in Edmonton after pleading guilty to a variety of war crimes charges before a “military commission” run by the U.S. armed forces, suggests the latter.

Either way, though, the explanation hardly shows our federal government in a good light. And perhaps not the rest of us Canadians either, given the sorry tale of what happened to our fellow citizen when he was still a child, abandoned  by his father in a war zone, pressed into service as a child soldier and put on trial after being grievously injured in a battle with American forces.

The question Canadians who believe in common decency and the rule of law need to ask themselves now, though, is what can we do about it?

Various legal challenges are in the works, as regular readers of the news columns surely know. Khadr’s Canadian lawyer, Dennis Edney, has launched an appeal of an Alberta court decision that denied his request to be transferred from the maximum-security Edmonton Institution to a provincial jail.

Khadr’s American attorney, Samuel Morison of the United States Department of Defense, has challenged his conviction for war crimes by a military commission inside the extra-territorial U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay in occupied Cuban territory.

But the wheels of justice grind slowly, when they grind at all. And the Canadian government, which never lifted a finger to help this young man and which resisted his return to Canada until the embarrassed Americans put him on a plane and sent him home, has now adopted a strategy of doing anything it can to prevent his release.

“The government is going to run the clock out on Omar Khadr,” said Edney, who spoke a week ago today at a packed forum on the case at Edmonton’s King’s University College, a private university founded by the Christian Reformed Church that has taken up Khadr’s case with increasing vigour.

The Harper government, Edney explained, has the legal power to do the right thing, “but it can’t, because it’s put its reputation at stake” by supporting the prosecution of a 15-year-old boy in a judicial proceeding, that while not quite a kangaroo court, hardly lives up to the standards of Canadian justice.

Even that explanation may be a generous one, it is said here, because the passions aroused by Canada’s enthusiastic participation in the war in Afghanistan obviously made Khadr’s fate an effective wedge issue for the relentlessly cynical Harper Tories. Is it beyond the pale they would care more about their own electoral fate than justice for a young man caught in the meat-grinder of a war he didn’t choose?

Surely it is not that hard to imagine that the Harper Government risking even a constitutional crisis to prevent Khadr’s release before the next election if actually ordered to do so by a court.

Adherents of the Harper government’s line are bound to angrily assert that Khadr pleaded guilty to the charges. Indeed, Steven Blaney, the minister of Public Safety, said just that, telling the CBC: “Omar Khadr pleaded guilty to very serious crimes… The government of Canada will vigorously defend against any attempted court action to lessen his punishment for these crimes.”

But as Morison pointed out to the crowd at King’s last week, “If he had been tried by the standards that prevailed here in Canada, he would never have been convicted.”

What’s more, the American lawyer explained, given the Kafkaesque inversion of justice in the Guantanamo commissions, “the only way to win at Gitmo is to lose … the only way to get off the island was to plead guilty.” For a prisoner to insist he is innocent is to sentence himself to life in prison: “That drains the trial process of any real meaning.”

Indeed, last Friday, Canadian lawyers representing Khadr filed civil arguments claiming the Canadian government conspired with U.S. authorities to abuse the prisoner to ensure he pleaded guilty.

Morison, perhaps with the hyperbole of a good trial lawyer, insists the principal crime to which Khadr pleaded guilty — killing a U.S. soldier with a hand grenade — could never have happened the way prosecutors claimed. Indeed, he said, not only did Khadr not perpetrate a war crime, “he was himself the victim of a war crime!” You can click here to see a video of Morison’s illuminating remarks.

This case was the first time in modern history, Morison added, that a 15-year-old was prosecuted for war crimes.

But what can Canadians do now?

“There’s no great big fix in the world,” Edney told the approximately 300 people who attended the forum at King’s. “There’s steps, little steps.”

“You can’t speak in the Supreme Court, but you can speak to your friends,” he explained. “You can go to your local politician…” But nothing will happen, he advised, “without you, without you getting angry, without you saying you will work night and day … only then will you get a result.”

And you must have faith in the rule of law, Edney counselled, as has King’s – “the rule of law is applying here today.”

King’s, he said, “this little Christian university,” has “advocated far more strongly than any other university in Canada, for a Muslim boy.”

So what are the rest of us going to do?

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. His 1995 book, A Poke in the Public Eye, explores the relationships among Canadian journalists, public relations people and politicians. He left journalism after the strike at the Calgary Herald in 1999 and 2000 to work for the trade union movement. Alberta Diary focuses on Alberta politics and social issues.

 

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

Feathers Versus Guns: The Throne Speech and Canada’s War With Mi’kmaw Nation October 19, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
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As I write this blog, Canada is at war with the Mi’kmaw Nation — again — this time in Elsipogtog (Big Cove First Nation) in New Brunswick. The Mi’kmaw have spoken out against hydro-fracking on their territory for many months now. They have tried to get the attention of governments to no avail. Now the Mi’kmaware in a battle of drums and feathers versus tanks and assault rifles — not the rosy picture painted by Canada to the international community.

The failure by the federal and provincial governments, as well as the Houston-based fracking company, Southwestern Energy, to consult with the Mi’kmaw and obtain their consent is what led to the protests all summer. According to their web page: “In March 2010, the company announced that the Department of Energy and Mines of the Province of New Brunswick, Canada accepted its bids for exclusive licenses to search and conduct an exploration program covering 2,518,518 net acres in the province in order to test new hydrocarbon basins.”

In response, the Mi’kmaw have led peaceful protests at hydro-fracking sites to demonstrate their opposition and protect their lands and resources. They have always asserted their sovereignty, ownership and jurisdiction over their territory. There has been relatively little coverage of their actions, but they have been active for months now. More recently, the company obtained an injunction to stop the protest and it was served on protesters today.

It is more than coincidental timing — it was obviously strategically calculated with the completion of the Governor General’s speech from the throne and the end of the United Nations Special Rapporteur James Anaya’s visit to Canada. Yesterday morning, we awoke to reports from the Mi’kmaw of swarms of RCMP dispatched to Elsipogtog to enforce Harper’s aggressive natural resource agenda. He has effectively declared war on the Mi’kmaw.

This is not the first time Canada has declared war on the Mi’kmaw. In 1981, law enforcement led an attack on the Mi’kmaw at Restigouche to stop them from controlling their own Aboriginal fishery. During this attack, Mi’kmaw suffered multiple injuries, some severe and numerous arrests.

In 1998, the government intervened in Listuguj because the traditional Mi’kmaw government shut down the logging company that was stealing timber from Mi’kmaw lands and because the Mi’kmaw started to harvest their own timber.

Between 1999 and 2001, Canada once again declared war on the Mi’kmaw Nation at Esgenoopitij (Burnt Church First Nation) in NB to stop them from fishing lobster. This was despite the fact the Mi’kmaw had proven their treaty right to fish lobster at the Supreme Court of Canada. Law enforcement rammed Mi’kmaw fishing boats, injured fisherman and issued numerous arrests.

All of these actions were done in violation of the numerous treaties between the Mi’kmaw and the Crown which were peace and friendship treaties intended to once and for all end hostilities and work together as Nation to Nation partners. Given that our treaties are constitutionally protected, Canada’s actions are not only tyrannical and oppressive, but also illegal.

Today, in 2013, the government has once again decided that brute force is the way to handle The Mi’kmaw women, elders, and children drumming and singing in peaceful protest against hydro-fracking at Elsipogtog. Media reports 200 RCMP officers were dispatched, some of them from the riot squad, armed with shields, assault rifles, batons, tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and snipers. Some of the RCMP, in full camo, hid in the woods, while the others formed a large barricade on the highway blocking any movement by protesters.

The Chief and Council were arrested, as well as numerous other protesters all while scrambling cell phone signals, cutting live video feeds and blocking media access to the site. Reports of RCMP pointing their assault rifles at elders and snipers aiming their scopes at children led to the burning of several RCMP cruisers. Yet, so far, the mainstream media has focused on the burning cars and not the acts of violation and intimidation by RCMP on the Mi’kmaw.

This heavy-handed deployment of heavily armed RCMP cops against women and children shows Canada’s complete disregard for our fundamental human rights and freedoms, and their ongoing disdain for Indigenous peoples. One RCMP officer’s comments summarized government position perfectly: “Crown land belongs to government, not to fucking natives.” The RCMP have it wrong — Mi’kmaw treaties never surrendered our lands and we are still the rightful owners.

Of course, this sounds eerily similar to the words of former Ontario Premier Mike Harris who was reported to have said of the protest at Ipperwash “I want the fucking Indians out of the park.”

And we all know what happened there — law enforcement killed a peaceful unarmed protester named Dudley George. One might wonder if history is going to repeat itself. If we look to the speech from the throne as any indication, Harper has sent Canada on a direct collision course with First Nations — all in the name of resource development.

Contrary to the Governor General’s introductory comments about Canada using its military force sparingly and that Canada responds “swiftly and resiliently to aid those in need”, the strategic wording indicates a much more ominous plan. Canada’s position vis-à-vis First Nations and natural resources is laid out as follows:

- First Nations are incapable of managing their own affairs and Canada will control them and make them accountable via legislation;

- Canada owns the natural resources and will sell them;

- Canada will make major investments in infrastructure to protect these natural resources;

- Canada will increase military strength to protect Canadian sovereignty; and

- Increased military will protect Canada’s economy from terrorism.

In other words, Canada does not recognize the ownership or rights of First Nations to their lands, waters and natural resources and will expend billions to ensure that no First Nations prevent the extraction of those resources. Canada and its military have referred to First Nations as terrorists before, and will no doubt be labeled as such when they defend their right to say no to mines or hydro-fracking, like in Elsipogtog for example.

This aggressive display of power and intimidation in Elsipogtog was not met with an equal display of violence. Instead, the women, elders and children continued to drum and chant and pray for the health and safety of their peoples, their Nation and the lands and waters for all Canadians. Instead of scaring people away, this unconstitutional show of force is being met with solidarity blockades all over Canada and the United States.

Listuguj in Quebec has blocked a bridge; Six Nations in Ontario has shut down a highway, there are protests outside Canadian embassies in New York City and Washington; and hundreds of rallies, marches, protests and blockades planned for later today and tomorrow. The horrific images of police violence at Elsipogtog inspired First Nations peoples all over Canada to collect supplies, send warriors and advocate for justice. Harper has inspired Indigenous resistance and action on the ground. There will be more First Nation protests and blockades in the coming days as well.

The Idle No More flame that he lit last year has never faded — it was just waiting to be fanned once again. The solution has always been there:

1. Respect the Nation to Nation relationship (our sovereignty and jurisdiction over our governments, lands and peoples);

2. Address the current injustices (crises in housing, education, food, water, child and family services, murdered and missing Indigenous women); and

3. Share the benefits and responsibility to protect the lands, water and natural resources like the treaties envisioned.

It’s Harper’s move now — more tanks and RCMP violence or a negotiating table?

Pamela Palmater

Dr. Pamela D. Palmater is a Mi’kmaw lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. She teaches Indigenous law, politics and governance at Ryerson University and heads their Centre for Indigenous Governance.

 

 

 

Protests Sweep Canada Following Paramilitary Assault on Indigenous Fracking Blockade

 

‘Indigenous communities like the Elsipogtog First Nation are on the frontlines of defending water and the land for everyone’

 

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Police raid on New Brunswick fracking blockade (Photo: APTN reporter Ossie Michelin, via Twitter)

Protests are sweeping Canada following Thursday’s assault by paramilitary-style police on members of indigenous Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq First Nation and local residents as they blockaded a New Brunswick fracking exploration site.

The group had barricaded a road near the town of Rexton in rural New Brunswick since September 30 to block shale gas exploration by SWN Resources Canada, a subsidiary of the Houston-based Southwestern Energy Co, that is moving forward without the community’s consent or consultation.

Thursday morning, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stormed the protest, donning camouflage uniforms, wielding rifles, and bringing police dogs to the site. Kathleen Martens with Aboriginal Peoples Television Network reports, “[a]t least four RCMP cruisers were burned” in the events following the raid.

The RCMP announced that 40 people had been arrested, citing a court injunction against the protest.

“The RCMP is coming in here with their tear gas – they even had dogs on us,” Susan Levi-Peters, the former chief of the nearby Elsipogtog aboriginal reserve, told Reuters. “They were acting like we’re standing there with weapons, while we are standing there, as women, with drums and eagle feathers. This is crazy.” The media is reporting that some protesters threw molotov cocktails at the police, who reportedly tear gassed the crowd.

In the immediate aftermath of the violence, people across Canada mobilized to show solidarity for the besieged blockade, with APTN reporting that First Nations people across the country are putting a call out for an immediate show of support for the Elsipogtog members.

APTN reports that solidarity activists blocked a bridge in Listuguj, and supporters from Six Nations blocked part of a highway near Caledonia on Thursday. Organizers with IdleNoMore in Lethbridge, Alberta held a march through the city immediately following the raid. Solidarity demonstrations also took place in Washington, DC and New York on the doorstep of the Canadian consulates.

PowerShift.ca lists over two dozen actions across the country, including solidarity flash mobs and mass marches.

“Protesters in Rexton are standing up to a Texas company that wants to profit on the backs of New Brunswickers while placing the water and the environment at risk,” stated Emma Lui, water campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “Indigenous communities like the Elsipogtog First Nation are on the frontlines of defending water and the land for everyone, and this should not be criminalized.”

As events continue to unfold, people are using Twitter to post news updates, photos and commentary:

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Canada’s Energy Juggernaut Hits a Native Roadblock January 15, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
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Published on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 by The Star

by Linda McQuaig

Those who believe we can freely trash the environment in our quest to make ourselves richer suffer from a serious delusion — a delusion that doesn’t appear to afflict aboriginal people.

A Vancouver protester highlights the environment on Jan. 11. (Photograph: Ben Nelms / Reuters)

Aboriginals tend to live in harmony with Mother Earth. Their approach has long baffled and irritated Canada’s white establishment, which regards it as a needless impediment to unbridled economic growth.

Nowhere is this irritation more palpable than inside Stephen Harper’s government, with its fierce determination to turn Canada into an “energy superpower,” regardless of the environmental consequences.

So it’s hardly surprising that the Harper government has ended up in a confrontation with Canada’s First Nations.

Certainly the prime minister has shown a ruthlessness in pursuing his goal of energy superpowerdom.

He has gutted long-standing Canadian laws protecting the environment, ramming changes through Parliament last December as part of his controversial omnibus bill. He has thumbed his nose at global efforts to tackle climate change, revoking Canada’s commitment to Kyoto.

And he’s launched a series of witch-hunt audits of environmental groups that dared to challenge the rampant development of Alberta’s oilsands — one of the world’s biggest sources of climate-changing emissions — as well as plans for pipelines through environmentally sensitive areas.

But, while there’s been some resistance from provincial governments, opposition parties, and environmentalists, Ottawa’s energy juggernaut has continued to surge ahead.

At least until now. With the First Nations, Harper may have met his Waterloo.

Among other things, Harper’s attack on Canada’s environmental laws included rewriting parts of the Indian Act, thereby removing safeguards for native land and waters that are protected in the Constitution.

Of course, even with the Constitution on the side of aboriginals, it’s hard to imagine a group consisting of some of the poorest people on the continent taking on the federal government, backed up by corporate Canada, and winning.

After all, the First Nations are divided, and the government has deftly exploited these divisions. Furthermore, many influential media commentators side with the government, helping it portray aboriginals as impractical dreamers unable to understand the dictates of the global economy.

And restless natives have been a permanent political backdrop in Canada, unable to even ensure clean drinking water for themselves, let alone shape the government’s agenda.

But what’s new and potentially game-changing is Idle No More, the youth-based native initiative that, suddenly and unpredictably, has grown into a feisty grassroots movement — one that has shown the potential to attract activists from Occupy Wall Street, the Quebec student movement and even middle-class Canadians starting to wonder if barbecuing weather in mid-January suggests we’re playing too fast and loose with the environment.

Idle No More grew directly out of the resistance to Harper’s energy juggernaut. Pam Palmater, a Mi’kmaq and spokesperson for Idle No More, notes that changes in the omnibus bill make it easier to overcome native resistance to energy projects. For instance, the changes would enable a handful of natives, without support from the band majority, to surrender reserve land to Enbridge, enabling it to build a pipeline.

The Harper government will undoubtedly mobilize resources and cunning against Idle No More.

Whatever happens, it’s hard not to be inspired by this gutsy, earthy band that has asserted itself in the tradition pioneered by native-influenced governments in Ecuador and Bolivia, both of which have passed laws giving Mother Earth legal protections.

Canadians have reason to be ashamed of our treatment of aboriginals — from residential schools to the continuing failure to provide basic necessities like water, housing and education to people whose ancestors were here long before ours arrived.

Ironically, their insistence on their constitutional rights, as Palmater notes, may be the last best hope of Canadians to reverse our own culture’s reckless disregard for the dictates of Mother Earth, who ultimately is more demanding and unforgiving even than the global economy. Rising GDP levels won’t mean much if we’re swamped by rising sea levels.

The very least we can do is to get behind this ragtag group that has, in a few short weeks, shown more wisdom than our “advanced” society has mustered in decades.

Linda McQuaig’s column appears monthly. lmcquaig@sympatico.ca

© 2013 The Star
Linda McQuaig

Linda McQuaig is a columnist for the Toronto Star. She first came to national prominence in 1989 for uncovering the Patti Starr Affair, where a community leader was found to have used charitable funds for the purpose of making illegal donations to lobby the government. McQuaig was awarded the National Newspaper Award for her work on this story. The National Post has called her “Canada’s Michael Moore”. Linda is the author (with Neil Brooks) of Billionaires’ Ball: Gluttony and Hubris in an Age of Epic Inequality, published by Beacon Press.

Idle No More: Women Rising to Lead When it’s Needed Most December 24, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, First Nations, Occupy Wall Street Movement, Women.
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Published on Monday, December 24, 2012 by rabble.ca

Idle No More: Women Rising to Lead When it’s Needed Most

  by Muna Mire

Chief Theresa Spence is now on Day 13 of her hunger strike. Too weak to leave the teepee she is living in on Victoria Island, a mere stone’s throw from Parliament, she called for a round dance yesterday at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa, Prime Minister Harper’s residence.

rabble

Image: Aaron Paquette

Throughout the duration of her hunger strike, Harper has maintained a chilly silence around the grassroots Indigenous movement now widely known as Idle No More, taking to Twitter instead to share his jokes about bacon with the Canadian electorate. What started as a string of emails between four Saskatchewan women back in November in protest of Bill C-45 eventually became a hashtag on social media, snowballing over time into a global movement for Indigenous rights.

Chief Spence is starving herself for her home community of Attawapiskat where there is a dire housing crisis, but more broadly for all Indigenous peoples in Canada, many of whom have rallied around her. Spence is asking for a meeting with the Prime Minister, Governor General and other leaders, and will fast until she gets it.

Spence began her fast just as the grassroots movement began to gather steam, and has said that she is “not afraid to die” for her people, taking their lead on non-violent direct action. In turn, Indigenous people have taken their lead from her. Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike have started hunger strikes in solidarity. Across Canada and throughout the world, peaceful demonstrations have disrupted the normal order of things this winter.

On Friday, the winter solstice saw unprecedented protest action. Supporters of the movement staged solidarity demonstrations from as far away as London, England, Los Angeles and Egypt. In Canada, major thoroughfares were shut down and flash mobs took over malls and public spaces as protestors performed traditional round dances in support of the movement.

In Edmonton, protestors blocked downtown streets as they marched from Walterdale Bridge over to Canada Place, holding round dances in the middle of Jasper Avenue and in Churchill Square. Organizers at the rally in Churchill Square lauded protestors for showing up to march despite -20 C temperatures, noting that “this was nothing compared to what the ancestors went through.”

“That’s what this is about. Our treaties and the lack of recognition that Canada and the Harper government is giving to our treaties. Our treaties are strong, they have international recognition and we have to remember that. They aren’t just written documents, they are a living spirit. We have to stand strong, this is the time for us to set our agenda, for us to stand proud. For us to say no. Enough is enough. We will not let this government unilaterally impose legislation on us, especially when it affects our lands, our waters and all the living things that give us life and that we use to sustain ourselves as indigenous people,” said one of the organizers of yesterday’s rally, Janice Makokis, a lawyer from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation.

“We’re here to also support Chief Theresa Spence as she has gone on a hunger strike, this is her eleventh day. And she’s not only doing that for her community, she’s doing that for us. As a woman, and as women who started this movement, we must continue to recognize women and stand proud with them,” she added.

The role played by women leaders and organizers of the movement was underscored many times during the rally. Speakers called on women to continue leading the movement they started in the name of Indigenous self determination and climate justice.

“There is an old prophecy that said when the world needed it most, the women would rise to lead us. I see that happening right now. This is a woman initiated movement and you can feel the difference in it,” says Aaron Paquette, a First Nations artist and writer, who has been involved with the movement since its inception. Paquette is responsible for much of the art that has come to graphically represent the movement, especially through social media.

Art has also played an important role in the movement, inspiring people to join a growing collective of protestors and allowing those protestors to imagine a different future for indigenous peoples in Canada.

“I feel that being an artist as an Indigenous person is different from the common understanding. While I create for the joy of it, I also feel a responsibility to use my art to benefit my community, to speak to them, to share, so that we can grow together,” says Paquette.

Paquette sees the timing of the movement as representative of its character. For him, the solstice day of action was reflective of what indigenous people have been through, in Canada and across the globe.

“This is an organic movement. There was no grand strategy, it just happened. It has come now because it’s necessary. Symbolically, the winter solstice marks the end of a long night and the welcoming of light [and] renewal. There is a long road ahead before the spring. The days will get colder, the struggle will not be easy. But the sun gets stronger and so do we,” Paquette said.

Paquette’s vision for the future of the movement includes solidarity from settlers on Turtle Island. Many nonindigenous people have already joined the movement, which is growing by the day.

“Our nations are rising. We are extending our hand to everyone to join us. Enter the hoop and be welcome. Finally do something that makes you happy instead of afraid, that empowers you instead of making you feel impotent, that feels right and makes you proud to be human,” Paquette offers.

Paquette imagines the future of the movement as one of joyful resistance leading to genuine change at the community level. He believes the time has come to transform the way we think about climate justice and the environment.

“Ultimately, I would like to see Idle No More fundamentally transform the way we look at Mother Earth and our role in our communities. I would like to see the maturing of the human race. I would like to see all the people discard their anger and their fear and be happy.”

Organizers at yesterday’s rally announced that Mikisew Cree First Nation Chief Steve Courtoreille told Parliament earlier that same day his nation would be launching a legal challenge to Bill C-45. He invited other First Nations leaders to join him in doing so. The Prime Minister’s silence has not deterred Spence, Paquette and other movement leaders, who are determined to see their goals met.

“Sounds like a long shot, but we’re used to that. We don’t think in quarterly statements and yearly projections. We think in terms of generations,” Paquette said.

© 2012 Muna Mire

Muna Mire recently completed an internship with rabble’s podcast network and is a student in her final year at the University of Toronto where she is currently completing an Honours B.A. in English, Political Science and Sociology.

An update on Kimberly Rivera and other U.S. Iraq War resisters November 23, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
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From: War Resisters Support Campaign Sent: 23 Nov 2012 21:45:35 GMT Subject: An update on Kimberly Rivera and other U.S. Iraq War resisters
    – please forward to all supporters! – Dear friends,

It has been a period of intensive work on many fronts since the Harper government told Kimberly Rivera and her family they had to leave Canada.

In spite of a national mobilization with events in 8 cities, an op-ed in the Globe and Mail by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in support of Kim, and tens of thousands of people writing letters, faxing, sending emails and phoning Immigration Minister Jason Kenney calling on him to let the Riveras stay in Canada, the Conservative government forced Kim and her family – including two children born in Canada – to leave this country.

But Kim’s case confirmed once again that there is a broad and deep support for the stand that Kim and other U.S. war resisters have taken in refusing to participate in an illegal and immoral war. And we are more determined than ever to build on the support for Kim to give voice to that majority of Canadians who opposed the Iraq War and who want a provision made for US war resisters to stay in Canada.
Below is a brief update on Kim’s situation, and an APPEAL to help the War Resisters Support Campaign continue to mobilize in support of the many other U.S. war resisters who still face the threat of deportation.
On September 17th, Harper government representatives argued in Federal Court that the possibility of Kim being arrested by U.S. authorities was “merely speculative”. The Federal Court took the government lawyer’s argument at face value and denied a stay of removal on the basis that it was ‘speculative’ that she would be arrested and subject to court-martial. On September 20th, Kim and her family voluntarily left Canada, and Kim was immediately arrested at the border to the U.S. She is currently awaiting court martial on charges of desertion. As Kim’s lawyer Alyssa Manning had clearly stated, there was abundant evidence that Kim faced arrest and harsh punishment if returned to U.S. authorities.

Following her arrest, Kim was taken to Fort Drum, N.Y. and shortly after, to a county jail. After several days she was transported to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is separated from her husband and four young children who are in Texas and are missing Kim terribly. In a recent interview, Kim’s husband Mario Rivera explained how difficult it has been for himself and, especially, for the children to be separated from their mother.

“I explained to them that Mommy is away for a while and she will come back as soon as she can. Katie thinks she’s lost and wants to go rescue her. She is anxious and nervous about it. She closes herself off from people as she’s missing her mom real bad… Gabriel too. He misses his mom real bad. He holds a picture of her and kisses it and tries to reach through the picture to grab her.”

Kim and her family are receiving support from the U.S.-based organization Courage to Resist as well as the War Resisters Support Campaign, and there is a dedicated group of supporters in Colorado Springs who visit her regularly at Fort Carson. James Branum, who has worked on many U.S. war resister cases, is Kim’s civilian lawyer. Supporters in the U.S. have been working hard to facilitate Kim’s family visiting her in Colorado Springs.


• There are still many other U.S. war resisters and their families in Canada who are facing the threat of deportation, and we urgently need to continue to build support for them. The Harper government’s attack on the Rivera family has produced a groundswell of support for war resisters in Canada. Many people were disgusted and angered by the scene of Conservative MPs applauding the news that Kim and her family had been forced to leave the country on September 20th. In their push for increasing militarization of Canada, the Conservative government is criminalizing war resisters and silencing anti-war voices. Millions of Canadians disagree with this. The outpouring of support for Kim has shown once again that people care deeply about this issue, and many are prepared to take action for war resisters. We need to keep up the pressure to achieve what two votes in Parliament and a majority of Canadians have demanded: that Canada should enact a provision to allow U.S. war resisters to stay in Canada.

Over the next weeks and months, the War Resisters Support Campaign will be initiating a broad outreach campaign to build on the mobilization of the past few weeks. A signature ad by prominent Canadians including Andy Barrie, Alexandre Trudeau, John Polanyi and many others will publicly call on the Canadian government to stop deporting U.S. war resisters. And we will continue to build the campaign to repeal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s discriminatory Operational Bulletin 202: http://resisters.ca/resources/
To do all of this, WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT! Please consider making a contribution to the War Resisters Defense Fund, which will allow us to carry out this work. To donate on-line please click on this link: http://resisters.chipin.com

Or you can send a cheque to:

War Resisters Support Campaign 427 Bloor Street West, Box 13 Toronto, ON M5S 1X7

The stakes are high for those US soldiers who have risked their futures by refusing to participate in a war Canadians rejected. The Harper government threatens to rip apart their families and facilitate their ‘rendition’ to harsh punishment, as they did to Kim Rivera. The Conservatives are determined to close the door on the tradition of Canadian asylum for US war resisters, and to override the overwhelming opposition to the Iraq War, by driving Iraq War resisters out of Canada. But they have NOT succeeded in changing public opinion on either front. That is because of war resisters’ voices, and the movement of people who support them. We need to make sure those voices continue to be heard in the period ahead.

War Resisters Support Campaign – www. resisters.ca416.598.1222wrsctoronto@gmail.com Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s op-ed in The Globe and Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/dont-deport-war-resister-kimberly-rivera/article4544856/

——-

War Resisters Support Campaign
Web: http://www.resisters.ca/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WarResisters
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/WarResisters

Canada-China FIPPA agreement may be unconstitutional, treaty law expert says October 25, 2012

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The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act(FIPPA), Canada’s biggest foreign trade treaty since NAFTA, will come into effect at the end of October and bind both the federal and provincial governments of Canada to its clauses for the next 31 years until 2043. International investment law expert and Canadian citizen Gus Van Harten says provinces have a strong case for challenging the treaty on constitutional grounds.

Beth Hong
Posted: Oct 17th, 2012
Vancouver Observer

 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper shakes hands with Wen Jiabao, Premier of the People’s Republic of China, in the Great Hall of The People in Beijing, China. PMO photo by Jason Ransom.

With two weeks remaining before the controversial Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA) is ratified, international investment law and treaty expert Gus Van Harten says BC has the option of delaying the treaty’s ratification through the courts.

“The province can call for an injunction in the BC Superior Court, requesting the courts to order the federal government not to ratify the treaty until the constitutional issues are resolved,” Van Harten told The Vancouver Observer.

The other option, Van Harten added, was an upswelling of public opinion against the treaty that will pressure elected officials in Parliament as well as provincial legislatures.

According to international law, a foreign investment protection agreement (FIPA) treaty binds the state regardless of changes in federal or provincial governments.

“It’s a done deal between the two countries—by signing a treaty, the Harper government can bind future governments and bind the Canadian electorate for 31 years,” Van Harten said.

Van Harten—who has a PhD in international law from the London School of Economics, and teaches law at Osgoode Law School—is one of five internationally recognized experts in Canada on international investment and treaty law and how they work on a practical basis. He said that he is an outlier for speaking out, based on his experience.

“The difference between me and many others is that a lot of academics work in the system as lawyers or arbitrators or experts, and they’re much more cautious about saying things that are critical of the system,” he said.

He noted that FIPPA is a good news for lawyers, who stand to profit off potentially multi-million dollar lawsuits.

“The lawyers who work in this field will like that—their business is to sue,” he said. “It’s not good for Canadian taxpayers.”

Any province with Chinese investors in natural assets over the next 31 years has right to challenge constitutionality of FIPPA

BC isn’t the only province that has a strong case in courts against the federal government over FIPPA because they face potentially serious fiscal risk if Chinese companies invest in major assets.
“It could be Ontario down the road, it could be the ring of fire—which is a strip of mineral rich land in Northern Ontario. In the north, there could be development of mines in northern Canada,” Van Harten said. “Same with Saskatchewan, with the mineral right there.”
“In Alberta, the Alberta economy is going to have a significant portion of Chinese ownership in its resource sector, and if Alberta was concerned for a long time about not having control over its resources vis-à-vis the federal government, how does it feel not having control over its resources vis-à-vis Chinese investors?”

The only provincial governments that shouldn’t be concerned about FIPPA are the ones which won’t expect to be getting any significant Chinese ownership of assets, Van Harten said.

“I don’t think any responsible government can assume that that’s going to be the case. In fact, they should be assuming the opposite and asking the questions now before the 31-year commitments are finalized on October 31 In fact, they should be assuming the opposite and asking the questions now before the 31 years kicks into effect on October 31.”

Van Harten’s concerns “speculative”: BC Environment Minister Terry Lake

Van Harten also sent letters to premiers of all across Canada, including BC Premier Christy Clark. He did this to help the provinces understand the scope of the fiscal risks this treaty will have on them and taxpayers.

Clark’s Press Secretary Michael Morton confirmed that Clark’s correspondence branch received the letter. Clark did not respond to questions from The Vancouver Observer about her reaction to any of the concerns it raised.

BC Minister of Environment Terry Lake responded to Van Harten’s letter to the Premier and concerns about FIPPA in a written statement, calling the letter “speculative”:

“We are intervenors in the hearing and examining  issues that are critical to our five conditions that must be met on all pipeline projects in BC. At the same time we are working with our federal counterparts on [Northern Gateway Proposal] related issues where BC’s interests are at stake.”

“As this is ongoing work and international treaties are the purview of the federal government I am not going to comment on speculative comments by Mr. Van Harten.”

No response from feds about concerns over FIPPA

FIPPA is the biggest foreign trade agreement since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). FIPPA is an agreement with provisions to protect Chinese investors in Canada, and vice-versa. However, it also contains many clauses that have alarmed Van Harten and opposition MPs such as Green Party MP Elizabeth May. May requested an emergency debate on the treaty at the beginning of October to the House Speaker. Her request was denied.

Van Harten wrote a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of International Trade Ed Fast last week outlining his concerns as a legal expert and Canadian citizen, but has yet to get any confirmation on whether his letter has been recieved.

A spokesperson for Minister Fast responded to questions from The Vancouver Observer  about Van Harten’s letter and concerns with the following written statement:

“With regards to investor-state dispute settlement, it is Canada’s long-standing policy to permit public access to such proceedings. Canada’s FIPA with China is no different. As we do with all other investor-to-state disputes, this FIPA allows Canada to make all documents submitted to an arbitral tribunal available to the public (subject to the redaction of confidential information).

It is also important to note that under this treaty, both Canada and China have the right to regulate in the public interest. Chinese investors in Canada must obey the laws and regulations of Canada just as any Canadian investor must.

We’ve been clear that Canada wants to continue to expand its relationship with China, but we want to see it expand in a way that produces clear benefits for both sides. By ensuring greater protection against discriminatory and arbitrary practices, and enhancing predictability of a market’s policy framework, this FIPA will allow Canadians to invest in China with greater confidence.”

Harper government rushing FIPPA, not allowing enough debate

However, Van Harten disagrees on with the Minister on various points.

“Why it is being concluded now in a form that is not advantageous to Canada is perhaps because the Harper government wants to pass it quickly while it has a majority in Parliament, and has been prepared to give away things that it would not have given away presumably as a minority government because it would not have been able to pass it through Parliament”

He added that the bulk of the responsibility for FIPPA lies at the majority Conservative government.

“To be honest, the provinces didn’t start this. It’s the federal government which has taken this reckless step,” he said.

NDP MP Don Davies proposed a motion in the Standing Committee on International Trade to debate, study, and recommend amendments to FIPPA on October 2.

After the majority Conservative committee voted for a confidential, in-camera meeting, the motion was removed from the Committee’s agenda.

International Trade committee member and Liberal MP Wayne Easter decried the killing of the motion, saying it was hindering Parliament from doing due diligence.

“We should be doing what Parliament is supposed to do and hold a consultation so that we know just exactly what is happening under the investment agreement, and so that we can look at the implications,” Easter said.

Two weeks won’t be enough time to fully debate and study the implications for all provinces, hence Van Harten’s recommendation for provinces to request a delay, and then the courts for an injunction based on constitutional grounds.

“I just want to emphasize to you the actor who is to blame at the moment is the federal government,” he said.

“The provinces would be to blame if they sat on their hands despite the implications of this treaty.”

Why I did it: Senate page explains her throne speech protest June 9, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Democracy.
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Published On Wed Jun 8 2011, Toronto Star
Senate page Brigette DePape, holding a sign reading "Stop Harper," is led from the Senate chamber during the reading of the throne speech last week. (June 3, 2011)Senate page Brigette DePape, holding a sign reading “Stop Harper,” is led from the Senate chamber during the reading of the throne speech last week. (June 3, 2011)CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS

Brigette DePape

I am moved by the excitement and energy with which people from all walks of life across this country greeted my action in the Senate.

One person alone cannot accomplish much, but they must at least do what they can. So I held out my “Stop Harper” sign during the throne speech because I felt I had a responsibility to use my position to oppose a government whose values go against the majority of Canadians.

The thousands of positive comments shared online, the printing of “Stop Harper” buttons and stickers and lawn signs, and the many calls for further action convinced me that this is not merely a country of people dissatisfied with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s vision for Canada.

It is a country of people burning with desire for change.

If I was able to do what I did, I know that there are thousands of others capable of equal, or far more courageous, acts.

I think those who reacted with excitement realize that politics should not be left to the politicians, and that democracy is not just about marking a ballot every few years. It is about ensuring, with daily engagement and resistance, that the vision we have for our society is reflected in the decision-making of our government.

Our views are not represented by our political system. How else could we have a government that 60 per cent of the people voted against? A broken system is what has left us with a Conservative government ready to spend billions on fighter jets we don’t need, to pollute the environment we want protected, to degrade a health-care system we want improved, and to cut social programs and public sector jobs we value. As a page, I witnessed one irresponsible bill after another pass through the Senate, and wanted to scream “Stop.”

Such a system leads us to feel isolated, powerless and hopeless — thousands of Canadians made that clear in their responses to my action. We need a reminder that there are alternatives. We need a reminder that we have both the capacity to create change, and an obligation to. If my action has been that reminder, it was a success.

Media and politicians have argued that I tarnished the throne speech, a solemn Canadian tradition. I now believe more in another tradition — the tradition of ordinary people in this country fighting to create a more just and sustainable world, using peaceful direct action and civil disobedience.

On occasion, that tradition has found an inspiring home within Parliament: In 1970, for instance, a group of young women chained themselves to the parliamentary gallery seats to protest the Canadian law that criminalized abortion. Their action won national attention, and helped propel a movement that eventually achieved abortion’s legalization.

Was such an action “appropriate”? Not in the conventional sense. But those women were driven by insights known to every social movement in history: that the ending of injustices or the winning of human rights are never gifts from rulers or from parliaments, but the fruit of struggle and of people power in the streets.

Actions like these provide the answer to the Harper government. When Harper tries to push through policies and legislation that hurt our communities and country, we all need to find our inner activist, and flow into the streets. And what is a stop sign after all, but a nod to the symbol of the street where a people amassed can put the brakes on the Harper government?

I’ve been inspired by Canadians taking action, and inspired too by my peers rising up in North Africa and the Middle East. I am honoured to have since received a message from young activists there, saying that we need not just an Arab spring but a “world spring,” using people power to combat whatever ills exists in each country.

I have been inspired most of all by Asmaa Mahfouz, the 26-year-old woman who issued a video calling for Egyptians to join her in Tahrir Square. People did, and they together made the Egyptian revolution. Her words will always stay with me: “As long as you say there is no hope, then there will be no hope, but if you go and take a stand, then there will be hope.”

Brigette DePape is a recent graduate of the University of Ottawa. She has started a fund to support peaceful direct action and civil disobedience against the Harper agenda: www.stopharperfund.ca

Restraint for Everything but Sports February 23, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Economic Crisis, Sports.
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Published on Tuesday, February 23, 2010 by The Toronto Starby Linda McQuaig

No cost has been spared in mounting a giant spectacle of spandex-clad athletes performing dazzling feats in massive public venues.

Certainly, nobody seems to be letting the $6 billion price tag for Vancouver’s Olympic extravaganza get in the way.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against sports. I appreciate the nuances of a fine skeleton performance as much as the next person.

My point is simply to question why goals other than mounting gala sports events are routinely dismissed on the grounds that we can’t afford them.

Of course, sports extravaganzas often have side benefits. We’re told that with the 2015 Pan Am Games coming here, Toronto may finally get its public transit system upgraded.

How’s that? Are the Pan Am countries – an assortment of mostly poverty-stricken Latin American nations – going to chip in to improve Toronto’s subway system?

No. We’re going to pay. So why don’t we just decide to do it without the Games, given the need and the looming climate change disaster?

The conventional explanation is that the public won’t pay otherwise. But is the public the real obstacle here?

We’ve been exhorted to believe in the magic of sports, in the transformative power of the Olympic torch – that no dream is too big to dream, that guts and willpower will bring us glory.

But next week, when Ottawa brings down its budget, all that big-thinking and sky-high believing is to be shelved. We’ll be advised to think small, think restraint, focus on the impossibility of things. Deficits will own the podium.

That’s not because the public only cares about sports. It’s because the corporate world only supports public investments when it comes to sports and war, from which it makes money. But it wants to hold the line on public investment in health care, education, child care, social supports, etc.

So it’s tried to convince us these things aren’t affordable, or that we don’t want to pay for them – as we did in the past.

From the end of World War II, federal spending was almost always above 15 per cent of GDP, until the massive Liberal spending cuts of the mid-1990s brought it way down to about 12 per cent, notes economist Armine Yalnizyan.

Those cuts – made to reduce deficits caused by recession and overly tight monetary policy – became permanent, even after balanced budgets were quickly restored in the late 1990s.

Despite a decade of huge federal surpluses since then, the Liberals and the Conservatives failed to restore spending levels that prevailed during the prosperous early postwar decades, cutting taxes in response to corporate pressure instead.

The Harper government has made clear that once the stimulus package expires, federal spending will return to the historically low levels of the past decade.

But this is disastrous policy. Given the severity of the ongoing recession, what is needed now is massive public investment to put the country back to work and rebuild our crumbling social and physical infrastructure.

For millions of young people, holding a job is a dream just as surely as competing before the hometown crowd.

But we’re supposed to believe that, beyond sports, we can’t afford to meet our needs, no matter how pressing.

Perhaps we could finally get some serious action on climate change if it were a curling bonspiel – rather than simply a crisis that threatens life as we know it on this planet.

© Copyright Toronto Star 1996-2010

Linda McQuaig’s column appears in The Star every other week.

Why a Resister Chose Canada Over the War in Iraq December 24, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Published on Thursday, December 24, 2009 by The Toronto Star

by Rodney Watson

I am from Kansas City, Kansas, and I joined the U.S. Army for financial reasons in 2004 after my steady job of seven years ended.

I enlisted for a three-year contract with the intention of being a cook and not in a combat role. I wanted to support the troops in some way without being involved in any combat operations.

A recruiter promised that I could do this.

In 2005 I was deployed to Iraq just north of Mosul where I was told that my duties as a cook would be to supervise and ensure that the local nationals in the dining facility were preparing meals according to military standards.

But instead of supervising in the dining facility, I was performing vehicle searches for explosives, contraband and weapons. I also operated a mobile X-ray machine that scanned vehicles and civilians for any possible explosives that could enter the base.

I had to keep the peace within an area that held 100 to 200 Iraqi civilian men who would be waiting for security clearances, and shoot warning shots at Iraqi children who were trying to set up mortars to fire at the base.

In Iraq I witnessed racism and physical abuse from soldiers toward the civilians.

On one occasion a soldier was beating an Iraqi civilian, called him a “sand nigger,” threw his Qur’an on the ground and spat on it. The civilian man was unarmed and was just looking for work on our base. He posed no type of threat and was beaten because soldiers brought their personal racist hatred to Iraq.

This was not what I had signed up for.

After all the wrongs I witnessed in Iraq, I decided that once my one-year tour of duty was over I would never again be part of this unnecessary war.

When I returned home, my unit was informed that we would be redeployed within four months. This would put me beyond the term I signed up for. I was going to be stop-lossed and forced to serve past my contract.

While on two-week leave I made my decision to come to Canada and not return to my base at Fort Hood, Texas.

I have been here in Vancouver since early 2007. I have been self-sufficient. I have fathered a beautiful son whose mother is Canadian. I plan to marry her and to provide our son with a loving and caring family unit.

I have made many friends and I have built a peaceful life here.

My son and my wife-to-be are my heart and soul and it would be a great tragedy for my family and for me personally if I were deported and torn away from them.

I think being punished as a prisoner of conscience for doing what I felt morally obligated to do is a great injustice.

This Christmas I hope and pray that people will open their hearts and minds to give peace and love a chance.

I appeal to the Canadian government to honour your country’s great traditions of being a place of refuge from militarism and a place that respects human rights by supporting my decision, and the decisions taken by my fellow resisters to refuse any further participation in this unjust war.

I ask that you urge your government to respect the will of the majority of Canadians by acting on the direction it has been given twice by Parliament to immediately stop deporting Iraq War resisters like me and to let us become permanent residents here.

My heart goes out to the families who have lost loved ones in this unnecessary war.

© Copyright Toronto Star 1996-2009
Rodney Watson is an Iraq War veteran who was ordered deported by the Harper government this fall. On Sept. 18 he took refuge in Vancouver’s First United Church. Dec. 27 will be his 100th day in sanctuary. Watson’s request to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds remains outstanding.
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