Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

Harper’s inactivity

October 5, 2013


Two Canadian citizens — acclaimed Toronto filmmaker John Greyson and medical doctor Tarek Loubani — have been jailed for more than a month and a half in Egypt without charge after witnessing a massacre by state forces on August 16 in Cairo. The two were traveling through Egypt en route to visit Gaza, where Greyson was to film Loubani as he trained emergency room doctors.

In a communiqué smuggled out of a Cairo jail the pair said,  “We were arrested, searched, caged, questioned, interrogated, videotaped with a ‘Syrian terrorist,’ slapped, beaten, ridiculed, hot-boxed, refused phone calls, stripped, shaved bald, accused of being foreign mercenaries.”

Loubani ,a prof at Western,  a member of the Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care. was on his way  to al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, where he trains doctors and nurses in emergency critical care procedures.

Wow, going to Gaza, not a real Canadian to the Harperites, the hopelessly pro-Israel government.

Note “en route to visit Gaza”. This may be the key to understand the pathetically tepid response of the Harper government to vigorously defend these brave innocent Canadians, held on trumped up charges.

Greyson  is a wonderfully engaged teacher-filmmaker. He is also active in Queers Against Israeli  Apartheid, the gay group which dares speak out against Israeli apartheid.

Canadians well know the embarrassing and blinkered approach of the Harper government o Israel’s Occupation of Palestinian land.

Naomi Klein phrased this well, both praising Canadian embassy officials who always are professional  with the Controller in Chief Stephen Harper.

But there has been concern, and it’s expressed very openly in the Canadian press and online, that at the highest levels, certainly at the level of the prime minister, there has not been enough pressure. As far as we know, our prime minister has yet to call his Egyptian counterpart personally and demand the men’s release. He waited until last Sunday to issue a statement calling for their release publicly, but that was, you know, a statement made to the Canadian media. Whether he has relayed that directly and explained that there are consequences, real consequences, to the Egyptian government, is another matter entirely.

August 16, 1933—then and now

August 16, 2013



The only known picture of Christie Pits riot

And what of the influx of multitudes of immigrants of the lower classes from southern and eastern Europe?—for the sturdier stocks of the northern European, the British and the Scots-Irish, are increasingly threatened,as, it is said, bad money drives out good.

from The Accursed by Joyce Carole Oates 2013

Today, August 16 is the 80th anniversary of the now notorious Christie Pits riot. This shameful antisemitic episode is well documented and detailed in the marvellous book of the same name by William Shaffir and Cyrl Levitt (1987).

The Toronto Star described it in these terms

While groups of Jewish and Gentile youths wielded fists and clubs in a series of violent scraps for possession of a white flag bearing a swastika symbol at Willowvale Park last night, a crowd of more than 10,000 citizens, excited by cries of ‘Heil Hitler’ became suddenly a disorderly mob and surged wildly about the park and surrounding streets, trying to gain a view of the actual combatants, which soon developed in violence and intensity of racial feeling into one of the worst free-for-alls ever seen in the city.

Scores were injured, many requiring medical and hospital attention… Heads were opened, eyes blackened and bodies thumped and battered as literally dozens of persons, young or old, many of them non-combatant spectators, were injured more or less seriously by a variety of ugly weapons in the hands of wild-eyed and irresponsible young hoodlums, both Jewish and Gentile”.

 This was legendary stuff for myself who literally grew up in Chrsitie Pits and often heard about the riot described above by the Toronto Star.

Levitt and Shaffir contextualize the incident by correctly placing it at the time of the rise of Hitler in Germany and one might add the barely hidden antisemitism in Orange and Protestant Toronto

It would be interesting to prepare the xenophobic Toronto Telegram’s coverage of Hitler’s rise with that of the Toronto Star which  had employed the brilliant Dutch-Canadian journalist Pierre Van Paasen  as its correspondent in Germany. While the Tely poo-poohed the rise of antsemitism, the multilingual former Unitarian minister laid out the severity of the problem. Most Jews (and Catholics as well) boycotted the Tely for its obvious bias.

The pot was ready to boil in the dog days of August that year. Antisemitism, as stated, was a fact of life in Toronto the Good but so was anti-Catholicism and anti anything but British immigration. Punks in the east end had already cavorted as members of the  Swastika Club.

The fuse that lit the tinder box in Christie Pits was the provocation of local working class Anglos who raised the swastika during a softball game between St Peter’s and Harbord. This is why ethnic Italians and Slavs joined the Jews to raise their voices in frustration over the Orange and Protestant stranglehold of civic jobs and lack of opportunity at huge stores like Eatons and Simpsons.

The good news is that Toronto had largely shucked off its xenophobic past and has become a successful city of inclusion and tolerance.

Bad money today  apparently lives side by side with good money.



A cruel Tory government

September 21, 2012

As Jim Loney so eloquently states in his Facebook posting, this is a sad day to be a Canadian. Imagine deporting a woman with her Canadian born kids, a woman who refused to fight in that awful illegal and immoral war in Iraq. The sane war that now PM  Harper and Flaherty and Mike Harris so ardently supported. We now have a compassionate deficit in this country. Under Pierre Trudeau we were an enlightened nation which   allowed both draft-dodgers and Vietnam deserters to immigrate freely. 50m,000 americans with a conscience came here.They made a great contribution to our national life

Alexis Pavlich, a spokesperson  for uber Catholic Immigration Minister dismissed Rivera’s claim  in these terms :“These unfounded claims clog up our system for genuine refugees who are actually fleeing persecution.” Rivera had applied to stay permanently on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.


Loney spoke for many of us:

It was a very sad day to be a Canadian. Saying goodbye to Kim in the playground of the school her children attend, her children running wildly about the play structure, friends gathered around her, everyone fighting back tears, one of those moments when you feel everything changing, turning, infinite momentous, when you feel like everything should just STOP but it doesn’t, it won’t, it can’t.Kimberly Rivera, a soldier who laid down her gun and said no to war. A woman of conscience, courage, open-hearted goodness. A woman getting ready to be taken into custody because Canada’s Immigration Minister was deporting her.The hard boot of the Conservative government stomping down on a witness of conscience.

We can’t let this happen again.

Former true believer disillusioned by Harper

August 16, 2012

In Peter C. Newman’s book on the Liberal demise, When the Gods Changed:The Death of Liberal Canada he quotes one Dan Veniez, a Brian Mulroney Tory who kept the faith in the Conservative party and worked under 3 ministers then went into private business as an entrepreneur. In 2006 he became a Stephen Harper supporter:

“I wanted him to succeed,” Veniez said,” he was smart, from the west…but I did not trust the Reformer crowd, their social conservative bent or their dogmatic theology on economics, social and foreign policy.Maybe they would mature.I was wrong.

Whether Harper stays or goes the base of the Conservative Party will remain a small-tent western, rural and populist base and its Christian fundamentalist core,and that’s anathema to my essential DNA. The conservative party and its leader are viscerally angry. that is an ingrained part of who they are and what they represent. They remain a protest party and a protest government. They manage by negatives and are generally incapable of inspiring hope or thinking big.

They attack, assassinate character, tell lies, lower the bar of public discourse, and engage in tactical and divisive wedge politics and governance. They tap into people’s anxieties, fears and prejudices,then seek to exploit them to the hilt for electoral advanatage. The tone,strategy and culture for this government are established by Stephen Harper, a cheap-shot artist and cynic of the highest order.


Canada’s social demolition

July 18, 2012

The Harper government continues to tear asunder the Canadian consensus, the longstanding idea that Canada was a different country than the USA, that we honoured the common good over the hyper-individualism of our neighbour to the south.

The mantra of the Harperites is plain: we can’t continue to fund the social programs which have defined our orientation as an interventionist government, one which was not afraid to challenge market mania as the arbiter of our values.

The bad news we now  see is that the formerly respected Canada ranks 22nd out 30 OECD countries in our social spending. A government has consciously decided to spend our collective wealth elsewhere—as in  the outrageous plan to purchase those jets.Who are we defending against? $25 billion for F-25 fighters? Harper so avidly wants to play with the big boys,aka the United States.

We have enough  money in this blessed land to reduce poverty, to create affordable day care etc.We choose not to.

The most shocking news is the federal corporate tax rate has been slashed from 28% in 2000 to 18% in 2010. Some of this of course  has been that of a  Liberal  government,Suffice to say Jim Flaherty,Harper’s economic acolyte has been positively evangelical about dropping the corporate rate. No jobs of course eventuated.

Read this and weep: This has cost us $745 billion in the past decade.

The Canadian dream is being eviscerated. Social needs are not being met.

On our local scene we have the man born with the silver spoon Rob Ford aiding in social demolition.

Jason Kenney, true believer

February 15, 2012

He’s at it again, the Darth Vader of Harper’s rabid pro-Israel government has struck again.His latest blatant attack on all things Palestinian is his recent decision to cut all funding for Palestine House’s immigration settlement program. A much praised immigrant settlement program, the Tory bully has now established a cutting record against all things Palestinian.

That’ll teach those damn Arabs to criticize Israe!

First it was The Canadian Arab Federation, who dared criticize the slaughter in Gaza (2009), then the embarrassing censure of George Galloway banned from canada for his humanitarian support to Gaza. Then it was KAIROS whose funding was cut by Kenney in February 2009, in response to its criticism of Harper’s support for Israel’s war on Gaza

Former British MP George Galloway, who was banned from entering Canada by Kenney in March 2009, in response to his humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza.

Then the Tories cut funding in 2010 to a small NGO Rights and Democracy, then UN relief, then refusing Mustafa Barghouti, a former palestinian presidential candidate—like Galloway, critical of Israel.

Palestine solidarity in general, which the so-called Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) attempted to equate with anti-Semitism, in its report issued in July 2011

These attacks are stunning in their obtuseness and narrowness, decidedly un-Canadian. They not only represent an egregious attack on free speech (imagine keeping people out of this democratic country because they have different opinions) but in the case of Palestine House it means the loss of 22 jobs and the excellent work of settlement it provides.,,,

Nathan Cullen makes sense

February 10, 2012


Of all the contestants for the NDP leadership British Columbia BC politician Nathan Cullen stands out as most like the deceased Layton. Cullen resurrects the former leader’s personality.He’s bright, speaks in striking sound bites and has a much needed sense of humour.

What frightens the true believers in the party is Cullen’s proposal for cooperation with the Liberals and Greens (through the holding of joint nomination contests) to defeat the Conservatives.

Makes some sense given the slow motion destruction of Canada underway under Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty. The true believers sense that they are near to the mountain top and really why should be cooperate with the Libs.

A new cybercommunity Leadnow ( describing itself as independent advocacy organization that brings generations of Canadians together to achieve progress through democracy took a poll. It showed 95% support for cooperation. They asked if you would support political cooperation between the NDP, Liberals and Greens to defeat the current government in the next election, and then pass electoral reform. Almost 10,000 responded. 95% said yes, with an astounding 72% “strongly agreeing”

This probably will not happen as good old tribalism will rear its ugly head.Divide and conquer and Harper goes up the middle destroying the Canada we used to have.Another mandate of Harper’s love of warplanes, Tar sands, Israel at all costs, tax breaks for the corporations etc.

Canada and Palestine

December 22, 2011

On Tuesday December 20 the United Nations almost unanimously voted for the Palestinian people’s right to self determination. Imagine 182 countries voting in favour of what to most of the world is just and long overdue. Longtime Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrawi thanked the assembly.

 “This overwhelming support reaffirms the international community’s commitment to the achievement of the universal principles of justice and humanity and the rights guaranteed to all peoples of the world,” she said.

And look who’s on the wrong side of history the USA, Israel, Great Britain and Canada.

 Ashrawi spoke for most of the world when she stated:

 “It is reprehensible that countries such as the United States and Canada continue to defy worldwide consensus and intensely lobby to thwart the establishment of an independent Palestinian state,” she said.“the longest occupation in modern history must end and it is time for the international community to hold Israel accountable, demand that it desist all settlement activities and actions that violate international law and support our peaceful diplomatic efforts to achieve an independent Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

How embarrassing as a Canadian to have this Harper government speaking on our behalf.

At least the British government condemned the recent Israeli announcement that their government had approved the construction of 1,000 new settlement units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Maybe before Christmas, it can score a trifecta—first Kyoto, now Palestine and what’s next?


Justifying Afghanistan

October 20, 2011

There they were—yet again in the Globe this week justifying Canada’s sad involvement in Afghanistan.Talking about Granatstein and Bercusson, the cold warriors who love to see Canada emulate the States in its propensity to stick its nose in imperial adventures.

What a waste of 190 Canadian lives no matter now you cut it. As Ray McGovern the former CIA analyst in America wrote, don’t ennoble this catastrophic incursion as noble, worthwhile.These men died in vain.Surely a hard pill to swallow. And it’s still being swallowed in the USA.

Tuned on the World Series game last night and had to endure the sight of a poor kid, now in his 20s who signed up for the Marines when he was 18, He hobbles out to cheers and tosses out the first pitch. Well, God Bless America!

As for Canada, maybe we should read Janice Stein’s tome The Unexpected War, an insider’s account how we backed into a new kind of war, fighting insurgency in a failed state. This was Chretien’s sop to the States. And he was cheered for keeping us out of Iraq! But he sure blew it in Kandahar.

Then the propaganda, the altruistic lies that we were there there to free long-suffering women from bondage. There were good,naive kids who were sent into battle—no one knows why—but spielers like Rick Hillier and other generals convinced the politicos that the US would not speak to us if we did not fight in Afghanistan. Let’s face it.Canada does not exist for the Americans and they need our stuff as much as we need theirs.

And now Harper is blowing billions on getting ready for war.

Oh say can you see…

Iggy missed the wave

July 12, 2011

There is a tide in the affairs of men.

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

So saith the Bard in Julius Caesar

And poor Michael Ignatieff fell under the tide as did other notable scriveners like Richard Gwyn of the Star. When the moment of the Iraq War arose these men for whatever reason—career usually, chummy next to power—who knows.There was no moral cente which should have steered them away from war —always a defeat for humanity—as JP ll so wisely opined. These men had never lived war nor did the cheerleaders like Cheney,Wolfowitz, so quick to send the poor to die in imperial wars.

Ignatieff totally missed the moment when great men risk their displeasure of the emperor and the craven opinion makers.They came down on the side of emperor and empire. Ignatieff never recovered.There was little to choose between him and Harper—also a cheerleader for war.We knew that of Harper, an empire lover from the beginning but Iggy was supposed to be a public intellectual, a man who should have devoted himself to peace and the common good.

In the end, he was a sad hack, content to bow to power.


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