Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

No Jews allowed–or is that Arabs?

July 28, 2015

Unknown In the Chicago Roman Catholic diocese in 2010, 50 priests published a letter in the local diocesan paper advising Catholics not to rent to Jews. Shocking, really unbelievable these days so I am glad it never happened. But it did happen in Israel where serious theological reflection id at a scarcity in some Orthodox communities.

This is but one of the stories Haneen Zoabi told in April at New York University, traditionally a serious Jewish centre of scholarship. The brave Palestinian Arab who sits in Israel’s Knesset spoke powerful truths to an overflowing crowd, almost all of whom are fed a diet of pap and obfuscation by different American media outlets. her performance was deszcribed as 

Ms Zoabi from Nazareth was elected in 2009 the same year right-wing MKs physically assaulted her and tried to strip her of her parliamentary rights in retaliation for her being aboard the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara en route to Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid and that bastion of democracy The Central Elections Committee tried and failed to disqualify her from running in two subsequent elections.

In a wide ranging speech Zoabi took her audience through some basic history about the lack of democracy in Israel for 1.5 million Palestinians who were not expelled in 1948 The Nakba law criminalizing public commemoration of the loss of Palestine is but one of more than 50 laws that “discriminate against us in every field of life.” she said. According to the citizenship law, any immigrant can become a citizen of Israel except a Palestinian—if Jewish, instantly, if Christian, gradually. But if an Israeli Palestinian marries a Palestinian from elsewhere, the spouse cannot live in Israel. By law, Palestinians are not allowed to study their own history.

By law, Jewish residents of 700 communities, which together control 60 percent of the land in Israel, can reject Palestinians for lack of social compatibility. “What is this if not apartheid?” Zoabi asked, wishing American politicians were more aware of these discriminatory laws. Sixty-four percent of Palestinian children live below the poverty line and only 2 percent of Palestinians are employed in the private sector. There are no Palestinian banks, insurance companies or universities, not even licenses to raise poultry. Israeli Palestinians live on only 3 percent of the land because they are denied permits to use even land they still own. Palestinians are not allowed to develop their own economy or to be equally involved in the Israeli economy.

And finally this shocker In 2010, 50 rabbis published a letter saying “do not rent to Arabs,” which elicited little debate. “Close your eyes and imagine,” Zoabi urged, “if 50 priests urged people not to rent to Jews.


Philip Weiss on his blog Mondoweiss wrote: Zoabi spoke– a woman of small stature but majestic spirit and political intelligence, exercising complete control over the crowd, even over her opponents holding the Israeli flag at the back of the room and over Theodore the student from Stuyvesant High School in the third row who rose to challenge her — I kept wondering why the New York Times has not run a huge profile of this woman, why my president and congresspeople are not meeting her, why she does not have the status that she ought to have in our discourse as a global justice figure, along the lines of a Havel, a Walesa, a Martin Luther King, a John Lewis, an Aung San Suu Kyi. And the answer of course is, Because she is Palestinian. Why have you not heard of her?

Stephen Harper: “ Don’t Indulge Non-Scientific Theories”

May 31, 2014



Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a rare interview given to his favourite media outlet the CBC, invoked the role of science when it came to the excellent initiative on maternal , newborn and child health this past week.


“It’s hard for me not to get very emotional about this because we know, we scientifically know, what vaccinations and immunizations have done for us, personally, in our generation and for generations after us.”


The World Health Organization, estimates 1.5 million children under the age of 5 die each year from diseases that could be avoided with vaccinations, including polio and pneumonia.


It turns out that some Canadians who apparently get their health info from the internet are not vaccinating their children. There has been an outbreak of measles in a few areas. An area in BC reported 400 kids affected with the disease.


The Prime Minister’s advice to fellow Canadians :


“Don’t indulge your theories, think of your children and listen to the experts,” he said.


This brought a roar of laughter around the famous Craic club in Toronto’s east end.


The reason was obvious. Harper is one of the world’s ecological scofflaws with his embarrassing support of the environmentally massively  damaging Alberta tar sands and his government’s retrograde performance in curbing CO2 emissions.The experts Harper invoked have issued repeated alarms over the looming disaster of climate change. Harper charges full speed ahead as one of the worst offenders . He appears not to be taking his own advice of “think of your children.”




In the same week as Harper’s howler, Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu appearing at a conference in Fort McMurray stated the obvious. He urged Canada to give up on industrial projects that unleash more carbon into the atmosphere, which exacerbates climate change.


“Only those who don’t want to listen, only those who want to be blind can’t see that we are sitting on a powder keg,” he said, according to the Canadian Press. “If we don’t do something urgently, quickly, we won’t have a world.”


“The oil sands are emblematic of an era of high carbon and high risk fuels that must end if we are committed to a safer climate,” he wrote. “Oil sands development not only devastates our shared climate, it is also stripping away the rights of First Nations and affected communities to protect their children, land and water from being poisoned.”


For  Bishop Tutu human stewardship of the natural world involves “a responsibility that begins with God commanding the first human inhabitants of the garden of Eden ‘to till it and keep it’. To keep it; not to abuse it, not to destroy it.”



As PM Harper said “Don’t indulge your theories, think of your children and listen to the experts,” he said.


Our sad fall from grace under Harper

May 22, 2014



At the centre for Canadian Studies at the Guandong University of Foreign Studies, Chinese academics ripped the Harper government for the sad decline of Canada in International affairs.


Their 400 page tome mirrors what many Canadians have been saying about the shameful sullying of our formerly sterling reputation.

Our PM is described as “a leader who has overseen a sullying of the country’s reputation as its national character is rewritten by the push for dirty oil sands crude.”

The academics added that “Canada once took seriously its role as defender of peace in the international community, a sincere mediator of international arguments and a good global citizen.”

Now bear in mind these are serious scholars not the Chinese government. They did get it right: We have become an international scofflaw, America lite, an outlier and a deep embarrassment to our respected position as a middle power with progressive values. Everywhere diplomats are asking: what the hell happened to Canada?

The answer is Stephen Harper the man who listens to no one and treats our foreign service as an echo chamber for his far rightist views. Hopeless on climate justice, the blinkered defender of the Alberta Tar Sands one festering suppurating wound on our wounded planet. Here is a man who does not understand the “Greater economy” of our generative Mother Earth, the basis of healthy living. You just can not be well on a sick planet

Don’t get former Tory PM Joe Clark started on this either. His latest book How We Lead (Random House) is a devastating look at our fall from grace under the ideologue Harper.

Haroon Siddiqui in the Star summed up Clark’s book like this:

It’s a damning critique of how Harper has changed Canada’s image in the world, from a nation admired for its sophistication in mediating, peacekeeping and working co-operatively in multilateral institutions to one that’s belligerent, divisive and dismissive of the United Nations and other international institutions, such as the Commonwealth, La Francophonie and the Organization of American States.

Clark mentions our pathetic macho posturing on the global stage, bellicose, madly in love with the military in which he’d never serve, sacrificing Canadian kids, pawns on a chessboard in the Afghani conflict. Renaming our roads the Highway of Heroes. Our whole peacekeeping reputation shredded.


And never consulting our diplomats on the ground. What do they know anyway? The pro-Israel ideologue Harper has blessed everything the international pariah israel has done.


Can we recover from this awful administration?

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.


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