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Canada’s real international shame — and it’s not Ford November 23, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Canada petroleum, Canadian Mining, Environment.
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Roger’s note: the author ends this article by lamenting the damage done by the Harper government to “Canada’s global reputation.”  What needs to be added to this are the damages themselves done not only to our environment but to the thousands of human beings who suffer at the policies of this mean-spirited and imperious government.

 

Canada has become the target of unprecedented international condemnation as one of the world’s worst polluters.

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The international community is unimpressed with Canada’s environmental record, which for some includes the oilsands industry in Alberta.

 

Jeff McIntosh / THE CANADIAN PRESS

 

 

When will this horrid scandal end? Can someone please turn the channel? Shamed on the world stage and ridiculed by many, Canada has been exposed in recent days as a country with political leadership that is greedy, self-indulgent, incompetent and dismissive of our children, as well as woefully captive of special interests.

And I’m not referring to Rob Ford. His 15 seconds of fame — as “The Crack-smoking Mayor Who Knocked Down Granny,” as London’s tabloids described him — will end one day. Just keep breathing deeply.

 

I mean, in tabloid terms, another story: “The Short-Sighted Canadian Government That Robbed Our Children.” And, sadly, its legacy may never end.

 

What makes it worse is that this comes at a time when the government of Stephen Harper faces criticism for blackening Canada’s reputation in foreign policy in other areas as well.

 

Although it hasn’t received the media attention of the Ford soap opera, Canada in the past week has been the target of unprecedented international condemnation as one of the world’s worst polluters. These reports have coincided with a major UN climate change conference in Warsaw, Poland.

 

One after another, accusations have been directed at the Harper government for being an international deadbeat when it comes to climate change and the environment.

 

The Washington-based Center for Global Development ranked Canada dead last among the 27 wealthy nations it assessed in terms of environmental protection. Every other country has made progress except Canada, according to the group.

 

A report issued this week by the Europe-based Germanwatch and Climate Action Network placed Canada at the bottom of an international list of countries in tackling greenhouse-gas emissions, ahead of only Iran, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia.

 

By any measurement, this is not how most Canadians want their country to be seen internationally in an area so crucial to Canada as the environment. This challenges the conventional wisdom — often reflected in current political debate and media coverage — that Canadians have tired of the environment and climate change as public policy issues.

 

According to a new survey released last Monday, Canadians increasingly believe — six in 10 — that climate change is real and caused by human activity, which is the highest level since 2007. But they are losing faith in government to address the issue. The survey was conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research and the David Suzuki Foundation.

 

These results were broadly consistent with another national survey released in early November that showed that three out of four Canadians were concerned about climate change but many were critical of how the federal government handled the issue. The poll was sponsored by the Canada 2020 think tank and the University of Montreal, and was conducted by Leger Marketing.

 

The Canadian government’s handling of climate change is part of a pattern. Domestic political calculations here in Canada — rather than any high-minded sense of Canada’s international obligations — seem to drive the Harper government’s foreign policy decisions.

 

How else to explain Canada’s unquestioning support of the Israeli government? The price of that has been to relegate Canada to irrelevance in the Middle East.

 

How else to explain Canada’s abrupt decision a year ago to pull its embassy out of Iran? The price of that has been to eliminate any possibility Canada can be a factor in the current nuclear negotiations. Even Britain is now taking steps to reconcile with Iran.

 

How else to explain Harper’s decision to boycott the recent Commonwealth conference in Sri Lanka in response to pressure from Canada’s Tamil community? The price of that was to sideline Canada from the human rights debate at the conference. In contrast, British Prime Minister David Cameron, who attended the conference, was able to challenge directly the Sri Lankan government for its handling of the Tamil minority.

 

The Rob Ford scandal has been a genuine black eye for Canada. His continuing presence on the political scene is as mystifying to foreigners as it is embarrassing to Canadians. But one day, thankfully, Ford will be gone.

 

In a variety of areas including climate change, the damage being done by the Harper government to Canada’s global reputation is a stain that will stay with us for much longer.

 

Tony Burman, former head of Al Jazeera English and CBC News, teaches journalism at Ryerson University. (tony.burman@gmail.com )

Law legalizing rape in marriage prompts outcry April 2, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Women.
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From Thursday’s Globe and Mail

OTTAWA — It used to be a mission to give a future to little girls. Now the government is scrambling to explain why Canadian troops are fighting for an Afghanistan that legalizes rape within marriage.

The new Afghan law, apparently approved by President Hamid Karzai, led Western diplomats in Kabul to call an emergency meeting and hammer out a concerted response, pressuring the Karzai administration to back down.

Canadian officials insisted that Mr. Karzai still has some “wiggle room” before the law is implemented, and waited impatiently for the President’s first public comments on the law.

The Conservative government expressed outrage, and opposition politicians said Canadian soldiers did not fight and die for an Afghanistan that would pass such a law.

But the thorny question of whether Canada might withdraw support – cut some of its aid, for instance – left cabinet ministers at a loss.

“We haven’t had a chance yet to talk with the other ministers, so we haven’t made any decisions or had any discussions on next steps,” International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said. “It’s very problematic. It’s a great concern and it is going to be a difficulty for Canada.”

As the United States, Canada and allies moved to lower expectations about whether they will leave Afghanistan a democracy that respects human rights – and as they increasingly back reconciliation with elements of the Taliban insurgency – the outcry over the new law may foreshadow painful tradeoffs to come.

For the Conservative government, which has emphasized advances for women and the ability of girls to go to school in Afghanistan, the law presents an immediate political quandary. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said the government must make it clear to Mr. Karzai that the law is unacceptable, while the NDP said Afghanistan should not expect Canadian troops and aid if it passes such laws.

“How can the government say our soldiers have died to protect the rights of women when Hamid Karzai passes this law?” NDP Leader Jack Layton asked in the Commons.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in an interview with the CBC from the G20 summit in London, called the move “antithetical” to Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.

“The concept that women are full human beings with human rights is very, very central to the reason the international community is engaged in this country…” he said. “It’s a significant change we want to see from the bad, old days of the Taliban.”

Canadian government officials said yesterday they still aren’t certain if the law had been fully passed or signed by Mr. Karzai. But Alexandra Gilbert, a women’s-rights project co-ordinator for the Canadian agency Rights and Democracy, said from Kabul she understands through women MPs that the law has been passed and signed.

It is a new family-law code for Afghanistan’s Shia minority, and while it does not apply to all, women’s groups in Afghanistan fear the precedent, Ms. Gilbert said.

“Women don’t have access to public life. To education, to health care, they can’t leave the house without the approval of their husband … and [wives] cannot refuse sexual relations,” she said.

Many believe Mr. Karzai is backing the law to build support for the presidential election he faces in August. University of Toronto foreign-policy expert Janice Stein said she’s hoping it will win votes from Shiites and also resonates with Pashtun Afghan elders in the south.

She and other analysts believe that Western allies are still caught between competing visions of the Afghan mission, even though U.S. President Barack Obama has moved the goals from democratic nation-building to preventing the re-establishment of a staging ground for terrorists.

University of Ottawa professor Roland Paris said the new law is so egregious that Western nations had an easy choice to oppose it, but as they scale back emphasis on democracy and support reconciliation with Taliban elements, other hard choices will come.