Saturday, October 30, 2010

Finished with the G-20? Not even close.

And partly because of this wanker here.

At Wednesday's Public Safety and Security Committee meeting into the G20 fiasco, we heard testimony from two very well-spoken students from Montreal who were arrested in their pajamas at gunpoint from the University of Toronto gymnasium, where accommodation arrangements for out-of-town protesters had been made with the university.

Jacinthe Poisson, a student of International Relations at the University in Quebec, was held for 57 hours under the crowded conditions in the cages now familiar to all of us. Ms Poisson was subjected to three body searches. In her own words :
"At the Vanier Institution I had to lean over completely naked in front of these male guards."
She was released at 4am without money or clothes. All charges against the 100 or so students dormed in the gymnasium were dropped.

Ms Wissam Mansour was also arrested off the floor of the gymnasium but was interviewed separately after being recognized by a Montreal police officer who asked if she knew Fredy Villanueva, the 18 year old fatally shot by Montreal police in 2008.
After interrogation, she was released without charge onto the street in her pajamas with no money, no phone, and absolutely no idea where she was. She somehow made her way back to UofT.

So bearing all that in mind, here are the questions Con committee member Brent Rathgeber pictured above saw fit to put to them.
First they both agreed with Rathgeber that destruction of property and burning police cars was, in Rathgeber's term, "offside".

Rathgeber to Mansour and Poisson : " So what was your goal? What was your end game here?"
Poisson : "I went to peacefully protest. I disagree with some positions of this government."

Rathgeber : "But what was your ultimate goal? Did you think that somehow you would have an effect on the outcome, that the G20 leaders would be so moved by your protest that they would change their policies? Was that your goal here?"
Poisson : "My point was not to protest the G20 but to express my political opinions which I have every right to do."

Rathgeber to Mansour : "What did you hope to accomplish by taking several days out of your busy life to go to Toronto? Was your goal to somehow affect public policy? Was it to have some face time with President Obama? Or was it to cause disruption?"

Mansour : "I'm not proud of living in a Canada governed by Mr Harper. I'm not proud of that and I went to protest against political positions that the government has. I didn't go to see President Obama and I knew Mr. Harper was not going to change his mind even with 30,000 people in the streets. I didn't have a short term goal; I have a long term goal."

Rathgeber : "But what is your long term goal? To overturn the Harper government or is it to defeat capitalism generally? I suggest your goal was to get on the evening news."

Alarming, isn't it?
Rathgeber, a lawyer who also sits on the Justice and Human Rights Committee, appears to have no idea that the half dozen accusations he is making against these witnesses are all things which are perfectly legal.
It is because this government expects to get away with punishing people for legal acts that we have to keep pushing for a public inquiry into the G20 fiasco.
(edited for typos)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Privacy - Homeland Security-style

The same party that thought the Canadian government collecting info about Canadians via the mandatory census was an egregious violation of privacy and civil liberties is apparently just fine with having info about Canadians collected by the US Homeland Security. Funny old Cons, eh?

We've known this was coming since 2007. Bill C-42 , an Act to amend the Aeronautics Act, will allow Canadian airlines exemption from Canadian privacy laws in order to pass passenger info on to Homeland Security if the flight veers at all into US airspace enroute to its final destination. So even if you aren't going to actually land in the US on your way to a Mexican holiday or even a short hop from one Canadian city to another that touches US airspace at some point, Homeland Security will still have veto power over whether you get to board your flight.

"Canadian sovereignty has gone right out the window," raged Liberal transport critic Joe Volpe in June when the Cons first presented the bill. "You are going to be subject to American law."

Then on Tuesday he voted for it along with all the rest of the Libs and Cons. It passed second reading 241 to 34.

Hey, they may have had difficulty bringing themselves to vote for Canadian mining sector responsibility abroad, but when it really matters, the Libs can still get out the vote.

Fun fact : On the same day, Tony Clements' Bill C-29 - Safeguarding Canadian's Personal Information Act was debated in the House. Volpe made yet another rousing speech about privacy.

A Maclean's Conjob MP Circle Jerk

On Tuesday Michael Petrou at Maclean's reported on a controversial Peace Conference organized by two current and two former Green Party members, due to take place in Ottawa today:
"An RCMP “ethnic liaison officer” is urging his colleagues to attend a conference on a “Just and Sustainable Peace” that was organized in part by a Green Party of Canada candidate who believes the 9/11 attacks were an “inside job,” and whose participants include the director general of an NGO that endorses hate-filled stereotypes about Jews. Three academics from Iran are flying in for the event."
A bit further down he notes that Zijad Delic, head of the Canadian Islamic Congress, will also be attending, and that he was advised by organizer Paul Maillet, a retired air force colonel, that, in the group's effort to get a free Hill booking :
"Bloc Québécois MP Richard Nadeau was originally booked as a sponsor but canceled due to a scheduling conflict."

On Wednesday a new piece by the same author at Maclean's reported the following exchange in the House :
Mr. Steven Blaney (Lévis—Bellechasse, CPC):

"Mr. Speaker, we recently discovered that some Bloc members are supporting a conference that will be attended by the executive director of an NGO that sanctions hateful stereotypes about Jews. The spokesperson for the Canadian Islamic Congress claims that all Israelis over 18 are legitimate targets for Palestinians. That organization will be represented at the conference. Those remarks are unacceptable."

Can the Minister of Public Safety comment on the Maclean’s magazine article that reports that the Bloc Québécois member for Gatineau is sponsoring this hateful event?"

Six years after former CIC head Elmasry made his ill-chosen remarks about the Israeli draft system - remarks for which he apologized and resigned - a Con MP pretends those were the words of Zijad Delic, the current head of the CIC, and Maclean's duly reports the Con MP's disinformation at its "World Desk".

Back in the House on Wednesday, Bloc MP Nadeau says he has nothing to do with the Peace Conference and asks Con MP Blaney for an apology :
"I am not giving a speech anywhere tomorrow evening, nor have I given any of my own money or my member's allowance to the organization hosting the conference tomorrow. I would like the Conservative member who said that I support hate groups to explain himself and apologize."
Blaney :
"Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Gatineau for his point of order. I would just like to remind him that in my question, I was referring to the fact that it was reported in an article published in Maclean's, which is a trustworthy magazine."
And round and round it goes ...

Result : Elizabeth May made a frowny face at the four Greens; Vic Toews ordered the RCMP not to attend.

Actually the most interesting exchange occurred when the aforementioned colonel Paul Maillet showed up in the comments under the first Maclean's article, where he patiently explained to the resident ZOMGs freaking out that peace talks are, by definition, pretty much usually held with people with whom you may at first violently disagree.

It's a difficult point to grasp, I know.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Bill C-300 Walk of Shame

Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, was the attempt to provide a mechanism for dealing with environmental and human rights violations supported or perpetrated by Canadian companies abroad.

Despite being a Liberal bill, it barely passed second reading in the House on April 22, 2009 by a mere 4 votes, because 20 Libs and 7 Dippers missed the vote.

Yesterday in the House, the Bloc's Richard Nadeau quoted from Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast with an introduction written by Barack Obama, published in 2007 :
"The Sudanese regime, supported by Canadian, Malaysian and Chinese oil companies, was able to wipe out whole populations in south-central Sudan, leaving the way clear for the oil companies to start pumping the oil."
and Noir Canada: Pillage, corruption et criminalité en Afrique, 2008
"In Bulyanhulu, Tanzania, bulldozers and the national police force were used to expropriate several hundred small-scale miners and clear the way for Canada's Sutton Mining to exploit the area. Fifty-two people were buried alive in that operation. Sutton Mining was then bought by another Canadian company, Barrick Gold."

The International Trade Committee has been hearing similar testimony and much worse for the last 18 months.

Today Bill C-300 went down to defeat in the House 140 to 134 because the following 13 Liberals, 4 Bloc, and 4 NDP skipped the vote (2 Bloc and 2 Cons were paired). Those with a star beside their name also missed the vote on this bill last time, which might lead one to wonder at the coincidence.

Libs : Michael Ignatieff*, Scott Brison*, Ujjal Dosanjh*, John McCallum*, Geoff Regan*, Scott Andrews, Sukh Dhaliwal, Ruby Dhalla, Martha Hall Findlay, Jim Karygiannis, Gerard Kennedy, Keith Martin, and Anthony Rota.

NDP : Charlie Angus*, Bruce Hyer, Pat Martin, and Glen Thibeault

Bloc : Monique Guay, Francine Lalonde, Carole Lavallée, and Yves Lessard.

A special shout-out to Libs Michael Ignatieff, Scott Brison, and Scott Andrews who were all present in the House today yet somehow failed to vote for Bill C-300.
Bruce Hyer of the NDP was there to vote on the 14 amendments to this bill just prior to the vote but not for the final vote.

Cowards. Shame on you all.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ask not for whom the road tolls, it tolls for thee

Laila Yuile writes about the shadow toll on the Sea-to-Sky Highway.
What's a shadow toll?
It's the one no one told you about, the one you can't see.
But it can see you.

There's an interesting story about Macquarie, the Australian investment bank group which among things acts as transportation project managers and road toll operators all over the world, including the Sea-to-Sky Highway in BC and the Highway 407 Express Toll Route in Ontario, the first privatized toll road in Canada.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Good news for Obama! Obama gets off!

NYTimes :
The deal to avert a trial of Mr. Khadr represents a breakthrough for the Obama administration’s legal team, which had been dismayed that his case was to become the inaugural run of a new-look military commissions system — undermining their efforts to rebrand the tribunals in the eyes of the world as a fair and just forum for prosecuting terrorism suspects.
despite that bit about rewriting the rules as they went.

LATimes :

The Obama administration will be spared putting Canadian terrorism suspect Omar Ahmed Khadr, a Guantanamo Bay prisoner, on trial in relation to a firefight in Afghanistan when he was 15 and apprenticed to militant fighters.

A young Canadian terrorism suspect accepted a plea deal Monday that will make him eligible to leave Guantanamo Bay prison in a year, sparing the Obama administration the spectacle of putting the first child soldier on trial for war crimes in modern times.

So we're all good then, are we? The main thing is - Obama got off.

Question : If, as an apparently extra-judicial person, you have to plead guilty under duress to get out of a court not recognized as such anywhere in the world but Canada and the US, a court whose entire reason for existing is to be beyond the rule of established civil and military law, does it still count?

Fun fact : The only two counties left not to have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are Somalia and the United States.
Canada has ratified it but we thought it was called the UN Convention on the Rights of Children We Like.

Privatizing the Afghan adventure with the NDS

Given that the NDS, the Afghan National Directorate of Security, is "probably one of the better institutions in Afghanistan", is there anything the Canadian government could do to facilitate Canada's private sector helping them out with equipment and mentoring?

This was the question put by Parliamentary Secretary for National Defence Laurie Hawn to the Afghan Ambassador last Wednesday in the Afghan Committee Oct. 20, 2010.

Sure, answered the Afghan ambassador, there's a future role, especially since "there is already good co-operation between CSIS and the NDS".

An quick NDS refresher follows, although I recommend a much more complete one from Pogge :

Richard Colvin, at a 2007 interview in Ottawa with government officials:
"You know the NDS tortures people – that’s what they do.”

Hawn said on CBC in March : "Our detainee arrangement is the new gold standard". However the US State Dept 2009 Report on Afghan Human Rights states:
"Torture and abuse methods included ... beating by stick, scorching bar or iron bar, flogging by cable, battering by rod, electric shock, deprivation of sleep, water and food, abusive language, sexual humiliation and rape."
Despite the Con's unflagging official support for the NDS as a "security partner" since they claimed to have "fixed" the agreement under which detainees are transferred to the NDS three years ago, not to mention Airshow MacKay's constant mantra that "there isn't a single shred of evidence" to support the possibility that any prisoners transferred from Canadian custody have ever been mistreated, a secret internal government memo, courtesy of the CBC, "circulated at the highest levels of government" in 2009 tells another story :
The notoriously brutal Afghan Security Service, the NDS, did not change its ways after the new agreement. It is still "organized according to a Soviet KGB model. Considerable scope for improper methods entails a degree of risk to Canadian interests. "
G&M, Sept 20, 2010 : "A member of Afghanistan's notorious intelligence service boasted to Canadian military officers in the spring of last year that his organization was able to “torture” or “beat” prisoners during the course of its investigations, federal documents say."

Responding to a parliamentary motion to force the Cons to turn over the secret Afghan detainee documents in December 2009, the Cons boycotted the Afghan Committee and two weeks later shut down Parliament altogether. In an effort to come to some agreement in the spring to stave off an election via a non-confidence vote, the Cons, Libs, and Bloc each agreed to appoint an MP to a special panel to look into allegations of NDS torture of detainees and filter those results back to Parliament. Hawn is the Con's designated filter.

Four months later we've yet to hear word one about NDS torture from that panel but here's Hawn on the Afghan Committee shilling for private Canadian business partnerships with the NDS for after the 2011 pullout.

Edited transcript of the Oct. 20 Afghan Committee exchange between Laurie Hawn and the Afghan ambassador, beginning approximately at the 40 minute mark :

Hawn :

"Fundamental to a democracy is the justice system. We've got a huge capacity in the private sector in this country for capacity building and training and mentoring and whatever. We heard in Kabul in June from the Afghan Independant Human Rights Commission that, you know, the NDS is far from perfect but how much better they are than they used to be and the fact they are probably one of the better institutions in Afghanistan.

Could you comment on what Canada could do -you're very familiar with our private sector and how we operate - with, like, providing something for the NDS to get them to that next level where they can be a solid part of a functioning justice system?"

Afghan Ambassador Jawed Ludin responded that there was indeed a role for Canada to support the NDS because the "Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police already receive multi-billion dollar support from the US" :
"We would like Canada to focus on areas where their support can be tangible -the NDS is one such institution. There is already good co-operation between CSIS and NDS. If there is interest in pursuing any such role in the future or support to security institutions, that would definitely be one area, not just technical skills but also management support. It is important they receive support as an organization."
Hawn :
"We've had people come to us about flying training proposals and other proposals. Have you had any contact with the Canadian private sector about specific capacities or capabilities? Would there be things that you could bring to us to say look it, why don't you, Canada, Government of Canada, go and talk to these guys and maybe find a way to help?"
War is a racket.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Alex Hundert re-arrested for third time

G20 defendant AlexHundert has been re-arrested for the third time this morning on new charges according to his lawyer. Hard to imagine just what those new charges might be, given that his most recent bail conditions stipulate he is not allowed to speak to the media, attend public events, have any contact with his friends, use the internet, or express any political opinions.

Reposting this interview from Sept, back when Alex Hundert's spoken words were not yet so dangerous that no one was allowed to hear them.

Monday AM : Update from Pogge on the charges :
"According to Jonah Hundert, Alex's brother : "From what I know, two Crown attorneys are alleging that Alex tried to supposedly intimidate them during a court appearance last week."

As noted by Pogge, the Crown attorneys were so intimidated it took them three days to notice it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

On media pron and tabloid police work

It's time to pull the media off the pictures of the serial killer wearing a girl's bra and panties.

My veterinarian's guidebook advises the best strategy for separating them is to talk soothingly to them until the swelling goes down and do not throw water on them.

Well fuck that. Here's some much-needed buckets of clear analysis from Antonia Z and Mirabile Dictu on how media pron covered up tabloid police work :

Forced entry .

WTH is up with Mallick? .

Caught flat-footed .

Serial killing 101 .

Antonia wants a public inquest. I want to know why coverage and analysis like hers and Elizabeth's isn't running on the front pages of newspapers.


Taliban Steve

Today : "Canada and its allies "have always been at war with Eurasia supported attempts at reconciliation" with the Taliban.

The Canada-Jordan FTA - a licence for human trafficking

On Monday the International Trade Committee heard devastating evidence from two witnesses warning that the Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act will merely provide cover for human trafficking and primarily benefit only China and large multinationals like Walmart and Kmart.

Tim Waters, Political Director of United Steelworkers :
"The U.S.-Jordan trade deal immediately descended into the trafficking of tens of thousands of foreign workers to Jordanian factories."
Waters said he had been a champion of passing the US-Jordan FTA in the mistaken belief that it would benefit both US and Jordanian workers and level the international playing field on tarriffs. Instead, on visiting Jordan, he found almost no Jordanians working in the factories there; over 90%, some 30,000+ workers, are all imported.

Factory owners from India, Sri Lanka, and China imprison 'guest' workers from Bangladesh, China, India, Nepal, and the Philippines in compounds in Jordan where they are worked from 12 to 18 hours a day seven days a week in appalling conditions under constant threat of rape, beatings, and deportation.

Locked up after having their passports confiscated at the airport, these indentured labourers have no recourse to the law - despite Lib Scott Brison, FTA pointman for the Cons once again, echoed by Lib Martha Hall Findlay once again, laughably touting the FTA in the House as ensuring :
"following the precedent set by the U.S.-Jordan FTA ... the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, and the elimination of discrimination."
Moreover, said Waters, although human rights provisions embedded in the core of the US bill were ignored in Jordan despite the US wielding the big stick of foreign aid, the similar but weaker Canadian safeguards stand to be even less enforceable as they are only part of a side agreement to Bill C-8.

Gosh, another dubious LibroCon labour rights side agreement - just like Brison's previous precious - the Canada-Colombia FTA.

Waters begged the committee members not to make the same mistake in trusting foreign corporations based in Jordan to police their own human and labour rights standards, a decision his union "deeply regrets". It simply does not work, he said.

Charles Kernaghan, U.S. National Labor Committee executive director :

"When the workers signed their three-year contract to go to Jordan, they were told they'd get free food, free health care, free housing --all of it decent. That is not true.

We've seen that with a Canadian apparel company, the Nygard company. It was producing at a factory called International British Garments. In April, when we investigated that factory, 1,200 workers had been stripped of their passports. They were working from 7 in the morning until 11 at night: 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. For the 110 hours of time they were at the factory, they were paid less than half of the minimum wage. They faced sexual harassment, filthy dormitories, and bedbugs."

On top of all that they are charged for their food and have no access to medical attention.

The response to this testimony was about what we've come to expect from this committee.
Liberal MP and moral idiot John Cannis :
"What you're saying is that it's okay if the rest of the world goes and puts on paper firm guidelines and agrees to the wording, and it's firm and it's strong and so on, and says, “Canada, you continue being the boy scout, and we'll continue doing business”.
Waters :
"With all due respect, I don't think that argument holds, simply because you can't say that since everybody else is wrong and everybody else is doing it, then we should too. Had we [United Steelworkers] known what was going to happen, we never would have supported this, okay? We supported it only because we took the deal at face value."
He went on to say that aside from the garment-producing multinationals, the other beneficiary of slave labour in Jordan is China - where the fabric is imported from.
"The U.S.-Jordan free trade agreement actually benefited China more than anyone else: we estimate about $100 million a year in tariff breaks for their textiles to enter the United States. ... By contrast, benefits to US workers were negligible."
Con Gerald Keddy pretends to miss the point that the US-Jordan FTA labour regs are being entirely ignored along with Jordan's own labour laws, and goes with the "mistakes were made" defence :

"You can't come to us and tell us we have to change the rules. Under our agreement on labour cooperation, we have put some very strict guidelines in this agreement. This does not apply simply to Jordanian workers; it also applies to migrant workers and migrant labour. It is under the International Labour Organization's international guidelines and, quite frankly, it recognizes that some of the migrant worker regulatory regime in Jordan has been less than perfect, that there have been some abuses and some mistakes made ...

In our agreement we also have the ability to facilitate the dissemination of information--specifically labour information--to guest workers and migrant workers so that they actually do understand their rights."

Yeah, Keddy, that's the ticket. A pamphlet drop.

Kernaghan responds to Keddy :
"We asked the Jordanian government to allow NGOs in from the countries where the workers are from, from Bangladesh and from Sri Lanka--and that would be the single biggest element--so that the workers would have advocates. They flat out refused."

Con Ed Holder waxes interminably about all the wonderful benefits that will accrue for Canada, despite total trade in merchandise between Canada and Jordan standing at a measly $82 million.


"The benefit was for the garment producers in Jordan to have duty-free access into the U.S. market. 86% of the exports from Jordan to the United States are garments. They're at the table here because they want the same duty-free access to the Canadian marketplace that they have to the U.S. marketplace."

Bill C-8, the Canada-Jordan FTA, passed second reading in the House on Sept 27 and is well on its way to being blessed into law by the ConservaLiberal coalition. The International Trade Committee consists of 6 Cons, 3 Libs, 2 Bloc, and 1 NDP, with all 3 Libs having pledged to support it.

Irony Alert : Yesterday Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced proposed legislation to crack down on human trafficking in Canada.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

BC Rail trial - $6M buys a whole lot of silence

After BC Attorney-General Mike de Jong made the unprecedented offer to have taxpayers bail out their $6-million in legal bills, Dave Basi and Bob Virk quickly copped a sanitized guilty plea that sent them home on Monday to 150 hours of community service each with a fine of $75,625 to Basi, the same amount he took in bribes. Yeah, and a house arrest that doesn't preclude their trips to the gym.

Gosh, we all thought, isn't that just handy?
The AG offers to ice their legal bills, Basi and Virk change their pleas to guilty, the Crown prosecutor moves to end the trial, the prosecutor and defence agree on sentencing, the judge immediately accedes to it, and everybody goes home happy the very same day.
Just as if they were all on the same side.
And just before Gordo's Liberal cronies were due to take the stand too.

They hate us for our freedoms

Also not at all keen on how we bulldoze their villages and orchards.

NYTimes, Oct 16 2010, via Maclean's

"Three years ago, Canadian troops built a temporary post near Lora in Panjwai.
When they immediately came under fire from insurgents, they bulldozed much of the hamlet, flattening houses, water pumps and surrounding orchards, the villagers and local elders say.
“There were 10 families who had houses there that were totally destroyed, and mulberry trees were taken out by their roots,” Mr. Hamid said in a recent interview in Kandahar city. "They destroyed all these things, and we are unable to replace them."
Just one of three bulldozed villages in Panjwai, Kandahar.

Unfortunately the focus of the NYT article is on the difficulties faced by incoming US troops in overcoming the Canadian/NATO 'legacy' in Panjwai and it neglects to explain why the villages were bulldozed.

"The road that cuts through the heart of Panjwai district here tells all that is going wrong with NATO's war in Afghanistan.

To fight their way into Panjwai district and clear it of Taliban insurgents, NATO troops bulldozed through orchards, smashed down walls and even houses, and churned vineyards and melon fields to dust.
Reconstruction projects were planned, but never materialized. Now NATO countries are championing the thoroughfare as a $5 million gift to local people."

The old road, you see, "twisted and turned through the hamlets and walled farmsteads."
"The military needed a straight road", explained the acting military commander of the Provincial Reconstruction Team.

"Displaced and buffeted by fighting since May, the Afghans are homeless, fearful and far from being won over. They say the road was built for the troops’ benefit and forced on them, at the cost of their land and livelihoods.

“We are compelled to be happy about the road,” said Hajji Baran.

So now it's nearly four years later. Did we ever get around to compensating those farmers for the loss of their villages, homes, crops, and livelihood so the military could have a straight road?

"Press officers for Canadian forces, who have led operations in Kandahar Province for the past four years, and the Afghan district administration said they could not confirm the destruction.

... a public affairs officer with the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command in Ottawa wrote by e-mail that she had no information to support the allegations that Lora was bulldozed.
But she acknowledged the existence of an "austere platoon house" in the area, which Canadian forces upgraded to a substation for the Afghan police in the spring of 2008. It was dismantled in the fall of 2008 "because of changing operational priorities," she wrote.

“Should locals have concerns, we encourage them to come forward,” she wrote.

We 'found' the building, you see, and we fixed it up, and when we didn't need it anymore, we 'dismantled' it. Orchards? What orchards?
From 2007 to 2010 : Plus ça 'changing operational priorities'.

Monday, October 18, 2010

BC Rail trial permanently derailed

(updated below)
Just as former BC finance minister Gary Collins was due to take the stand in BC's biggest and longest running political corruption case, it's all over.

Defendants Dave Basi and Bob Virk, ministerial aides to Collins and former BC transport minister Judith Reid respectively, have agreed to stay home for two years and perform 150 hours of community service so that no one higher up the political ladder will be inconvenienced by charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of public trust in the $1-billion 2003 sell-off of BC Rail.

Charges of money laundering against the third defendant Aneal Basi, also with the transport ministry, appear to have disappeared completely.

After millions of dollars spent, six years of endless delays, and a change of judge this spring, the Basi Virk BC Rail trial has been legally shunted off onto a dead-end track where no one will ever find it.

CBC Radio acted real surprised just now - Gosh, what happened there!? - and quickly moved on.
BC Mary, Ross at the Gazetteer, and Laila Yuile have followed this trial much more closely than I have since its murky under-reported beginnings in 2004. They should be along with much more cogent analysis shortly. First out of the gate on this travesty : House of Infamy
7pm Update : A clearly disgusted Bruce Hutchinson from NaPo was in the gallery for what he calls the "face-saving deal" that ended the trial none of the parties involved wanted to continue.
"... at what we simpletons in the gallery thought was the resumption of the B.C. Rail trial. Rather than testimony we heard muffled guilty pleas, to mutually accepted statements of fact based on suddenly sanitized criminal counts."
Mr. Basi's $75,625 "fine" consists of paying back the money he illegally got from :
"B.C. lobbyists, in exchange for confidential bid and financial information surrounding the $1-billion sale of provincial Crown asset B.C. Rail; and from a group of Victoria developers asking the B.C. government to remove certain land from an agricultural reserve, so that they could build on it."
In addition to getting Gary Collins off the hook from testifying, the fast-tracked end to the trial also spared :

Erik Bornmann, the lobbyist with B.C.-based Pilothouse Public Affairs, who, it is now agreed, paid Mr. Basi $25,625 in exchange for B.C. Rail secrets. Court heard yesterday that Mr. Bornmann passed the illicit information along to his client, U.S.-based railway operator OmniTrax.

An aspiring lawyer, Mr. Bornmann already had his own deal worked out with the Crown, immunity from prosecution relating to his role in the Basi and Virk crimes.
Two of Mr. Bornmann’s colleagues at Pilothouse, Brian Kieran and Jamie Elmhirst, were also expected to appear for the Crown. Another potential witness was Bruce Clark, a lobbyist and once a key campaign fundraiser in B.C. for former prime minister Paul Martin.

It was agreed in court yesterday that Mr. Clark also received confidential B.C. Rail information from Basi and Virk. Mr. Clark is the brother of former provincial Liberal cabinet minister Christy Clark."

As to the entirely unspoken "remorse" Madame Justice Anne MacKenzie said she accepted from Basi and Virk, Hutchinson reports :
"when all was said and done and the courtroom had almost emptied, they laughed."
And really, why not? After years of legal bullshit, they simply pay back the bribes and go home.
A public inquiry? You're kidding, right?
Tuesday Update : Robin Mathews at BC Mary's
BC Rail Poll - currently running 96% in favour of a public inquiry
Wednesday Update : $6-million buys a whole lot of silence
Laila : Corruption is complete authority plus total monopoly, minus transparency

Paul Willcocks : Things get worse and Trial ends, scandal smell lingers on

Ian Reid : Why the BC Rail deal sucks

Robin Mathews : Outside Courtroom 54, the trial goes on

Peter Ewart : BC Rail : To all those who stood up

Norm at Northern Insights : The outrageous special deal and Friends take care of friends

RossK : Railgate's Repo Men

and of course Mary at her ongoing BC Rail digest, on whom we all depend to weave these threads together.

I hope all you intrepid citizen reporters and your anonymice can come together one fine day to write the book.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Interview with G20 defendant Alex Hundert

A guy so terrifying a Canadian court has banned him from speaking.

Well here he is, interviewed in September.


Officer Bubbles irony alert

G&M : 'Officer Bubbles' launches suit against Youtube

"A Toronto police officer whose stiff upper lip made him an inadvertent YouTube sensation and a symbol of police heavy-handedness at the G20 protests has launched a $1.2-million defamation lawsuit against the website.
Constable Adam Josephs was nicknamed “Officer Bubbles” after a video surfaced of him online admonishing a young protester during the summit for blowing bubbles."

Officer Bubbles' lawyer : "The reason we brought the lawsuit is that people have the right to protect themselves against this kind of harassment."


Officer Bubbles Statement of Claim


Alex Hundert and the criminalization of dissent

Community organizer Alex Hundert was arrested on June 26th and held for three weeks in advance of the G20 Summit for alleged involvement in organizing the protests. He was released on bail conditions which precluded participation in any public demonstrations and on Sept 13th the government lost a court challenge to his release.

Three days later he was re-arrested for a supposed breach of those bail conditions - participating in a panel discussion at Ryerson U. organized by Judy Rebick - and the Crown presented him with a new set of bail conditions which he refused to sign - no direct or indirect posting to the internet, no assisting, planning, or attending any public meeting or march, and no expressing of views on a political issue.

Toronto Media Co-op :

"On the night of Wednesday October 14th, Alex was told by the security manager at the Toronto East Detention Centre that he had to sign the bail conditions or face solitary confinement in “the hole”, without access to phone calls or writing paper. He was put in solitary confinement after an initial confrontation with correction staff where he resisted initial attempts to make him sign. He was denied the right to call his lawyer, and told that if he didn’t sign now, they would revoke the bail offer and he would be held in solitary confinement until his eventual release from prison."

Guelph Mercury :

"His lawyer, John Norris, noted Hundert couldn’t confirm details of that account himself because of the bail conditions.

Brendan Crawley, spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General, offered no comment, saying that the matter is before the courts."

Pogge :

"This is the state telling a citizen who hasn't yet been found guilty of a crime that his views are already regarded as illegitimate before he's even expressed them."

Pogge, again :

"...looks like an attempt to make an example out of Hundert — to use him to intimidate other activists. If he's truly guilty of conspiracy and incitement to commit illegal acts that should be determined at trial. But the police don't get to pass judgement and impose the sentence unilaterally which is what they appear to have done with the help of a compliant Justice of the Peace. And they certainly don't get to use the threat of solitary confinement to force someone to accept bail conditions that wouldn't survive a Charter challenge."

Dr. Dawg :

"Well, I am not an anarchist, but I'm prepared to stand with Alex Hundert against a corrupt justice system that has now torn up the Charter of Rights, and a complaisant media that is turning a blind eye to it."

The Star :

Justice of the Peace Inderpaul Chandhoke told the court the new conditions also restrict Hundert from speaking to the media.

Nathalie Des Rosiers, of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, says they plan to write the Attorney General in Hundert’s defence.
“Speaking to the media does not threaten public safety,” she said. “These bail conditions are only aimed at silencing speech.”

Clayton Ruby, constitutional lawyer, speaking not in reference to Hundert but to the broader issue :

"The targeting of activists should be of concern to all of us. The erosion of Charter rights, the trampling of civil liberties, and the criminalization of dissent is an attempt to destroy the foundation of our society. Everyone has an equal stake in this."



Thursday, October 14, 2010

Somewhere in a hot tub of lukewarm piss ...

... careful consideration of the reasons for Canada's failure to gain a seat on the UN Security Council continues among the Cons and their supporters in the media.
"Canada barely escaped with its integrity intact at the United Nations", writes Kelly McParland at NaPo, "According to reports on the voting, Canada lost because it refused to sell off bits of its principles."
McParland does not mention the Mountie made available for photo ops with UN delegates or the bottles of maple syrup delivered to them before the vote.
Just small advance tokens of our appreciation for not compromising our integrity.
Honestly, you'd think the Cons would be more grateful to Iggy and his awesome UN mind control ray.
h/t Canadian Cynic

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Canada's back on the world stage"

It would seem that such international policies as

1) unstinting support for everything Israel
2) actively undermining the Copenhagen summit climate talks
3) delaying debt relief to Africa to advance the interests of a Canadian mining company
4) flip flopping hostility to China
5) snubbing an International Aids Conference held in Canada
6) cutting funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency
7) refusal to sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and
8) blowing off UN talks on nuclear proliferation, global peace and climate change in favour of a photo op at a Tim Hortons

do not ultimately translate into votes for a seat on the Security Council at the UN after all.
Who knew?

In his UN defeat speech, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon graciously blamed the failure on Michael Ignatieff - three separate times. Wanker.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Harper hacks StatsCan budget

Who didn't see this coming? CP :
Statistics Canada is cutting five of its surveys after being told by the federal government to chop its budget by $7 million.
The surveys include environmental and business statistics, and are in addition to other belt-tightening at the troubled agency.
As Pogge blogged back in July :
"Harper does not like StatsCan, that's what we kept hearing," according to a longtime employee of the agency. "In particular, he does not like the analytical work we've done for years." The Prime Minister thinks of it as fodder for critics."
Harper especially did not like StatsCan after its head statistician, Munir Sheikh, quit rather than be shanghaied into pretending to approve the government's move to replace the long-form mandatory census with a voluntary survey.
Statscan has also been reporting a steady decrease in crime since 1991, which doesn't exactly jibe with Harper's "if you build them, they will come" bid to stock more prisons with more Canadians.

Luckily there's no need for those Statscan environmental and business statistics now anyway since Harper will be getting his advice from the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, a Suncor-sponsored Harper-appointed group of Export Development Canada guys, politicians and corporate CEOs. They have just released Climate Prosperity, your guide to, as De Smog Blog puts it : "reframing climate change as a good thing for Canada's economy."

Sure, they tell us, there will be less skiing but we'll have way more golfing and easier access to oil and gas in the far north.
See? Business and environment stats rolled into one.

Actual scientists weigh in on Climate Prosperity:
"I was surprised they'd spent one and a half years working on it. It was a complete mess," said John Stone of Ottawa's Carleton University and a prominent member of the IPCC.
Danny Harvey of U of T : "It is full of bad science and utterly downplays the serious impacts of climate change."
We will not be hearing criticism from any muzzled government-employed scientists of course as they must get cabinet minister approval before speaking in public about their own research.

There better damn well be some stink in the press today about this further gutting of Statscan.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Liberals cave "like spineless jellyfish"

"The Liberals are going to pretend that they're not caving like spineless jellyfish"

was Kady's description of the two Libs on the Ethics Committee, Wayne Easter and Carolyn Bennett, who declined yesterday to vote for an NDP/Bloc motion upholding the supremacy of parliament over the whims and contempt for parliament favoured by the Cons. Instead the Libs opted for a "study" by the Procedures Committee to be tabled some time before March 31, 2011.

Particularly galling is the fact that Easter has led the charge in this committee since May for the right of committees, as the extension of Parliament, to call what witnesses they require for their investigations. But when it came to the actual vote on it, Easter totally caved :
"Do we push this motion through to Parliament and have the Speaker rule, as has happened on the Afghanistan affair?"
No, he explained, because he didn't want to "provoke further animosity" or "inflame this issue."

"I think we here on our side, the Liberals, are willing to try one more time to see if there is good will on the part of the government to make the system work and allow committees to function as they are supposed to be able to."
and then he opted to give them till March of next year to come up with that goodwill.

"What," asked NDP Bill Siksay who tabled the motion, "will happen to all the other committees now?"

The Ethics Committee membership is a Con chair plus 5 Cons, 3 Libs, 2 Bloc, and 1 NDP.
The Proc. Committee has exactly the same balance of membership so it's quite possible come March that we will see a further demonstration of Con/Lib coalition solidarity for contempt of Parliament.
The G&M waxes ludicrous on the notion that a motion in the House in support of the supremacy of parliament would immediately lead to an election.

Far better : Eugene Forsey Liberal, Dr. Dawg, Pogge, Jurist, Boris.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The further persecution of Gary McCullough

By the time G20 arrestee Gary McCullough has his next court date in December, he will have spent six months locked up without bail for no other reason than the police and courts are unable to admit they should never have arrested him in the first place.

Picked up in a pre-G20 police sweep back in June, police admitted within hours of his media sensationalized 'terrorist' arrest that he had nothing to do with G20 but the illegal search and seizure of his vehicle turned up a crossbow, albeit properly secured in a carrying case, so he was charged with "possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose".
Toronto police Const. Hugh Smith :
"It's lawful to have them in your possession … but with close proximity to the summit, we are going to relate it, you know, to the G20 and the safety. So there was more than enough to arrest."
Exactly what "dangerous purpose" do they expect to prove here?
He has threatened no one.
He owns a crossbow because he hates guns and carries it for protection from bears on his rural property.
He was in Toronto to get his car window fixed.
He had all his remaining possessions loaded into his car because someone burnt his rural house down and he is currently rebuilding it.

At his court appearance today, the judge proclaimed the schizophrenic McCullough unfit to stand trial following his months in solitary confinement for his own protection after he was beaten up by other prisoners. The judge has ordered a third psychiatric assessment and remanded him to a psychiatric hospital.

Is this for his own good? No it isn't. At his bail hearing in August, Justice of the Peace Paul Kowarsky displayed an extraordinary lack of understanding of rural life :
"I see no sense that he had to bring all the items for the sole purpose of being in Toronto and running an errand." In denying bail, the justice added: "The inference is he carried all these items for a purpose dangerous to the public."
I fail to see how yet another psychiatric assessment of McCullough will get the just ice system off the hook for persecuting an innocent man for six months.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

McVety wants National Defence investigated

You would think that rapture raptor blowtard Charles McVety would be satisfied with his part in getting DefMin Peter Airshow MacKay to ban Executive Director of the Canadian Islamic Congress Imam Delic from speaking as planned at Defence headquarters yesterday as part of Islamic Heritage/History Month celebrations.
Banned, as Pogge put it, for : "Comments made six years ago by someone else who later apologized for them."

Hell no. McVety still wants Harper to investigate MacKay's National Defence headquarters for boogity boogities. Here he is on CTV :

"We're questioning whether it is a serious security failure. One is the wisdom of our National Defence headquarters having an Islamic Heritage celebration when our men and women are overseas fighting ...."
Um, Charles, did you miss Senator Hugh Segal introducing Imam Delic to speak at the launch of Islamic History Month in Parliament in October 2007? Back to Charles :

"You have to remember this is an internal national defence issue. Is this a security breach that has entered into other places in our government? It's a real surprise to see this happening inside our National Defence headquarters - we're talking about the internal operations of our national defence and intelligence within our defence forces."
From McVety's letter to Stephen Harper (Guess he finally got over being pissed at Steve for being a one-worlder commie):

"Circumstances surrounding this failure raise questions about our Defence headquarters’ internal security at a time when experts warn of the risk of infiltration of our security organizations. Was the Delic invitation facilitated by associates of the Canadian Islamic Congress or other radical Muslim elements operating from within National Defence headquarters itself?
Something has gone wrong, and we ask fair-minded Canadians to call upon Prime Minister Stephen Harper to fully investigate this serious security failure."

Wear it, Airshow. It's all yours. Looks good on ya.
See also Dave, Boris, Dawg, Pogge, Balbulican, and Cathie

And here is the text of Imam Delic's cancelled speech.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Librocons : Soft on corporate welfare and off-shore tax havens

A week ago Stephen Harper pledged to go after some 1,800 Canadian foreign bank accounts in Switzerland in a crackdown on off-shore tax evasion, amounting to an estimated $1 billion in lost federal tax revenues. The Cons - tough on white collar crime.

Meanwhile back in the House, Lib and Con MPs are taking turns congratulating each other for their mutual enthusiastic support for the speedy implementation of the Canada-Panama Free Trade Agreement.

Such passion for a deal covering what amounts to less than 1% of Canadian exports seems odd till you recall that according to the U.S. State Department, in addition to being the largest drug money laundering state in the hemisphere, Panama has more than 350,000 off-shore companies with accounts hidden at over 300 Panamanian banks where they face no taxes or legal trail at all.

Currently, $200-billion taxdollar corporate welfare bailout pig, AIG, is suing the U.S. government for $306 million in back taxes based in part on the fact one of its corporate ops based in Panama is AIG's largest shareholder.

So just how easy is it to set up a corporate tax dodge in Panama?
Jessica, a 20 year old intern at Public Citizen, shows you how it's done.

An emailed copy of your passport, a couple of hundred dollars, and voilà -
32 hours later you're now the proud owner of an off-shore company in a country where the president just passed a law to criminalize union activity and public protest this past June.

But no worries. Canada has included yet another "kill a trade unionist, pay a fine" provision in a side agreement to this FTA which asks each country to abide by its own labour laws and to "voluntarily practice corporate responsibility".
Last week Export Development Canada opened an office in Panama City.

The Lib MPs are all very scornful of Bloc/NDP arguments against ratifying this FTA without ensuring stronger labour rights for a country which already has one of the worst wealth distribution rates in the region.
"Just pass it through second reading and send it back to committee for revision," mock the Libs.

The committee in question - International Trade - is comprised of 6 Cons, 3 Libs, 2 Bloc, and 1 NDP. All three Lib committee members have already spoken in support of the agreement in the House.

Chalk up another one for the Librocons.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Con aide to Minister of Asbestos resigns. A question.

An aide to Christian Paradis, Minister of Asbestos, resigned last night over his own meddling in at least four access-to-information requests, one of which involved :
"the backgrounds of members of a government panel examining asbestos."
Would that be the backgrounds of the members of this government panel, by any chance? March 2010 :
The one remaining asbestos mine in Canada, second largest exporter of asbestos in the world, is in the riding of Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis.

At the last meeting of the Committee on Natural Resources, NDP Pat Martin moved to cut the $250,000 funding the department allocates to the [asbestos lobby group] Chrysotile Institute. No one supported the motion, and the other committee members - I'm looking at you, Libs - slunk away so there was no longer the quorum necessary for the vote.
At the time I wondered why, as per the Sierra Club's allegations, the Natural Resources Ministry was paying the Chrysotile asbestos lobby group to lobby its own minister.

On March 23, 2010, the motion to remove the government subsidy to Chrysotile Asbestos Institute was defeated in committee nine to one :
Geoff Regan, Liberal - NO ............ Nathan Cullen, NDP - YES
Navdeep Bains, Liberal - NO ........ Cheryl Gallant, Con - NO
Alan Tonks, Liberal - NO ............. Richard Harris, Con - NO
Paule Brunelle, Bloc - NO ............ David Anderson, Con - NO
Mauril Bélanger, Liberal - NO ...... Bernard Genereux, Con - NO

and that made me wonder why they all caved on what appears to be such an obvious conflict of interest at the very least.

In May, the minister's aide Sebastien Togneri was questioned by the Ethics Committee over his blocking of information. Shortly thereafter the Cons decided not to allow political staffers or their work/incriminating emails to appear before the committee any more and Paradis showed up in his aide's place.

As Pogge would say - things that make you go hmmm...
h/t Antonia Z.

Awol Libs defeat war resisters bill

For want of just eight more votes, Bill C-440 - the war resisters bill to give protection to US Iraq war deserters - went down to defeat on Wednesday 136 to 143. The following eighteen Libs expedited that defeat by going awol on the vote :
Michael Ignatieff, Jean-Claude D'Amours, Ruby Dhalla, Kirsty Duncan, Marc Garneau, Albina Guarnieri, Dominic LeBlanc, Keith Martin, John McCallum, Brian Murphy, Anthony Rota, Judy Sgro, Michelle Simson, Frank Valeriote, Joe Volpe, Bryon Wilfert, and Lise Zarac,
with Lib Alan Tonks voting with the Cons against it.

Special mention goes out to Lib Frank Valeriote who was there at 6:25pm for the Criminal Acts Records vote five minutes before the vote on the war resisters bill, and who was on his feet again at 6:42 making a speech in favour of "revitalizing parliamentary proceedings through reforming question period" five minutes after it. Yet somehow Frank went awol in the middle here for conscientious objectors who don't want to fight the US war on terra.

Good job, Frank. You really want to "revitalize parliamentary proceedings"? Try showing the fuck up for what were once called liberal values. It was a Liberal bill.

Also present on Wednesday for the Criminal Acts vote but MIA five minutes later for the war resisters bill were Libs Kirsty Duncan, Brian Murphy, Judy Sgro, Joe Volpe, and Lise Zarac.

L-Girl at We Move to Canada has worked fiercely on behalf of US war resisters. She cites a letter written on Sept. 19 from a former head of the Immigration and Refugee Board to Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. In it Peter Shormer criticizes the following July 22 CIC directive concerning war resisters who claim refugee status in Canada :
"Military deserters from other countries have sought refugee protection in Canada. Desertion from the Canadian military is a serious criminal offence.
Therefore these deserters may also be serious criminals and therefore inadmissible to Canada."
What utterly bizarre logic. As per Shormer's letter to Kenney, the CIC directive goes on to specifically target US war resisters for exclusion from Canada by meddling in what should be independent case reviews by the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Luckily for Kenney and the Cons and the US war on terra, this time the Leader of the Opposition and 17 more Liberals had their back.

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