Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Friday, May 04, 2012

France’s Turn for the Worse

On Sunday, France will elect a new president. But Europe’s far right has already won.

On Sunday, by almost every indication, François Hollande, who has been leading in the polls for months, will defeat Nicolas Sarkozy and become France’s next president. Hollande’s Socialist Party, which hasn’t ousted an incumbent president in over three decades, has every reason to celebrate. But the true winner of this election isn’t France’s left; it’s Europe’s far right.

The reason is simple. In this election, France’s establishment has embraced Islamophobic ideas to an unprecedented degree. Right-wing populism, once a fringe phenomenon, has been conquering the bastions of Europe’s political mainstream with frightening speed; even so, most observers failed to predict the extent to which anti-immigrant themes would shape this campaign. It’s difficult to know whether Europe’s populists are approaching the zenith of their power or will continue their steady rise. But one thing is certain: At no point in Europe’s postwar history has the far right’s influence been as pervasive as it is now.

IKEA May Have Used East German Political Prisoners To Build Furniture, According To Swedish News Report

IKEA has been accused of allegedly using East German political prisoners to build furniture in the 1970s and 1980s, Agence France-Presse reports.

The news that the world's largest furniture retailer cozied up to East Germany’s Stasi secret police came from a trailer for an investigative news report by a Swedish broadcaster set to premiere this week, according to the Independent. The retailer is also facing allegations that it used Cuban prisoners to build its furniture in the 1980s, the Guardian reported Thursday.

The report, which will air Wednesday evening, will include an interview with IKEA's Jeanette Skjelmose, the company's social and environmental manager.

This post has been updated to include additional allegations.

According to the Daily Mail, IKEA is also launching its own internal investigation.

"'So far there are no indications that we would have asked that prisoners be used in manufacturing or known about it," Skjelmose told the Mail. "What we're looking into now is whether it could have happened anyway, without our knowledge."

This isn't the first time IKEA's relationship with East Germany has grabbed the spotlight. Just last year, a documentary by the German public television channel WDR revealed IKEA developed a strong manufacturing presence in the German Democratic Republic in the 1970s, establishing operations in 65 locations to produce parts and furniture, according to the Independent.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: Tara Kelly

Proponents Of Euthanasia, Nazi Genocide Use Same Arguments According To L'Osservatore Romano

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Proponents of euthanasia and aborting chronically ill fetuses use the same arguments that were once used by the Nazis to promote their eugenics program of mass extermination, according to the Vatican's semiofficial newspaper.

The article appears on the front page of Saturday's (May 5) issue of L'Osservatore Romano and is signed by Lucetta Scaraffia, an Italian historian who is a frequent contributor to the Vatican paper.

Scaraffia's article comes in the wake of the Italian translation of a 1920 book by two German scholars, Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche, that set the ideological foundations for the Nazi program of extermination of disabled and incurably sick people.

The authors of the 1920 book ("Allowing the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Living") proposed that the lives of the chronically ill or of the mentally and physically disabled were "unworthy of being lived," and should be given a "charitable death."

Scaraffia argues that this mentality can still be seen in the "writings of many contemporary bioethicists, and of many politicians who support legislative proposals of a euthanasic type."

According to the historian, the book is "sinisterly" relevant to contemporary debates, and should "strongly embarrass those who champion euthanasia in the belief that it has nothing to do with Nazism."

"Contempt for imperfect human life, over estimation of the abilities of science" are "still firmly present in our time," she concludes, and this shows that "eugenics is still alive and has not been wiped out together with the Nazi past."

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: Alessandro Speciale Religion News Service

Corporate Profits Return To Prerecession Levels, But Job Growth And Investment Remain Weak

It's a good time to be an American corporate executive, but not such a great time to be a job seeker.

That's because U.S. corporate profits have returned to prerecession levels, but hiring and investment have not, according to a report by the International Institute for Labour Studies released on Friday. Corporate profits, which keep hitting all-time highs, are back to their prerecession levels of about 15 percent of gross domestic product, according to the report.

Record company profits have come at the expense of investment and hiring, according to the report. Business investment is now hovering at about 16.5 percent of GDP -- far below the prerecession average of 20 percent, according to the institute. Corporations are holding onto an "unprecedented" amount of cash because of lingering concerns about the economy's weakness, the report stated.

U.S. employers added just 115,000 jobs in April, the Labor Department reported on Friday. These additions are keeping up with the population's growth but not making up for the 11.6 million jobs lost as a result of the recession, according to economists. The labor force participation rate plunged to its lowest level since 1981: 63.6 percent.

GOP's Violence Against Women Act Would Open Up Undocumented Victims To More Abuse

WASHINGTON -- The House Republican version of the new Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) would dramatically rollback confidentiality protections for abused immigrant women, make it more difficult for undocumented witnesses to work with law enforcement officials, and eliminate a pathway to citizenship for witnesses who cooperate with police on criminal cases.

The provisions are tucked into a bill that reauthorizes the act, and have received scant media attention. But the legislation is picking up steam in the House. The bill, officially sponsored by freshman Rep. Sandy Adams (R-Fla.), has the backing of the full House leadership, and is headed for a vote in the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act is typically a bipartisan affair lacking in contention. This year, however, Republicans are pressing for significant changes that would weaken protections for victims of domestic violence, arguing that the current law is being taken advantage of by undocumented immigrants looking for legal citizenship.

The author of the rollback, Adams, was herself a victim of domestic violence, which House Republicans hope will inoculate it from attacks by groups who work with abused immigrant women.

Bill C-31: 'Gypsy Fiction' Being Fanned By Conservative Refugee Legislation, Roma Advocate Says

OTTAWA - An advocate for Roma refugee claimants says "Gypsy fiction" is fanning the same kind of discrimination in Canada that her ancestors have faced for centuries in Europe.

Gina Csany-Robah, the executive director of the Roma Community Centre in Toronto — the only one of its kind in Canada — gave an impassioned critique of proposed Conservative changes to the refugee system.

"It is very important to be able to depict what is the Gypsy fiction from the Roma reality," Csany-Robah told a parliamentary committee while denouncing Conservative efforts to address "bogus" refugee claims.

"The problem is that the fiction here influences peoples' thought process, even at schools ... and when they hear the discourse that's often in our media, it just compiles the problem."

She said the nomadic, crime-riddled, crystal-ball gazing Gypsies of lore are a fiction created by societies that have marginalized the Roma since the 13th century — including the death of some two million Roma in the Holocaust.

Csany-Robah, a Canadian-born Roma who says she is the first Roma ever to testify before a parliamentary committee, said "Apartheid-like conditions" continue in some parts of Europe.

Drones Over Canada: Air Force To Conduct More Test flights As Legal Expert Warns Of Implications

OTTAWA - The air force will expand testing of drones over Canadian soil this year, giving itself — and potentially law-enforcement agencies — more eyes in the sky.

But a legal expert warns the emerging technology needs close study and clear restrictions when it's not being used to wage war.

Unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs have become the weapon of choice for the U.S. in strikes against al-Qaida, and the Americans are stepping up their use along the Canadian border.

Errol Mendes, a University of Ottawa law professor and former adviser to Paul Martin's government, says parliamentarians should have a close look at the emerging technology and consider the implications of their civilian use.

Mendes says lawmakers also need to consider whether drones should be armed.

Although the Canadian military used Israeli-made drones in Afghanistan for at least three years, their first use at home came last summer during an annual exercise in the Arctic.

The head of the country's domestic command, Lt.-Gen. Walter Semianiw, recently told a Senate committee more flights are scheduled for this year in the areas around Inuvik, N.W.T., and Churchill, Man.

Climate change, the Arctic and the colonial imagination

There is a certain North American arrogance that our 'first world' privilege will buffer us from the effects of climate change, that ‘other' countries such as Bangladesh or small island nations such as the Marshall Islands will take the brunt of such climate change consequences such as a warming planet or rising sea levels.

In this way, we have 'othered' the experience of climate change. Here in Toronto, we joke about our new mild winters and lament that children no longer get to skip class because of snow days.

Outside of North America, it is Indigenous, non-white and non-Western other that will burn or drown, to the point that effected nations are seeking to use the law to get the attention of the developing world.

Small island nations plead for world's attention

On February 3, 2012, at the United Nations, small island states such as Grenada and Palau joined together to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice regarding the potential damages resulting from climate change.

Stuart Beck, Palau's Permanent Representative to UN, in response to concerns from members about the differing awareness levels regarding climate change and the discrepancies in concern between developing and developed nations, described the effects already seen in Palau. He went on to question the response from the United States if flooding was occurring in Manhattan instead.

What the rest of Canada doesn't understand about Quebec's student movement

As 180,000 students continue their 12-week strike against tuition increases, and police respond with concussion grenades, pepper spray, batons, kettling and mass arrests, Quebec's major city is becoming ungovernable.

What was a fairly routine student strike has turned into what many are calling the Maple Spring.

Day after day, protesters wearing signature swatches of red cloth clog the streets of Montreal's downtown chanting anti-capitalist slogans. A minority has responded to police aggression by trashing government offices and corporate windows, building barricades and ripping up concrete to heave onto police lines.

This week, CLASSE, the main coalition of student unions, rejected Premier Jean Charest's attempt to defang the surging movement by spreading the tuition increase over seven years instead of five. Hours after the offer, thousands of protesters in a boisterous nighttime demo condemned it as an "insult."

Outsiders, it seems, are having trouble grasping why students with the lowest post-secondary tuition in the country (generally around $2,600 yearly) would be so exercised about the Charest government's increase of $1,625 over five years.

Do we need to buy the F-35? Does anyone speak for the Canadian public?

By now we all know that there has been a big cock up in Ottawa since the Department of National Defence decided to purchase the F-35 Lightning II fighter-bomber from the United States. The Auditor General has issued a scathing report. The Liberal and NDP opposition in the House of Commons has had a field day attacking the Harper government. But absent from all the political hype is any discussion of the central issue: where is the need for this aircraft within Canada's broad military policy? On this question we can see that the position of all three of our major political parties is at variance with that of the general public.

Public opinion and Canadian defence policy

There is no question that the events of 9/11 had a dramatic impact on Canadians and their views on national security and defence. But an even greater impact has been the history of Canada's participation in the U.S.-led and directed war in Afghanistan.

Canada's mass media has consistently been a strong supporter of Canada's role as the loyal ally of the United States in foreign policy and its military activities. Thus it is even more surprising to discover that over the past ten years Canadian public opinion polls on foreign and defence policy have found that a majority of Canadians are not comfortable with Canada's role as an aggressive NATO military power and would much prefer to see our country to be committed once again to United Nations peacekeeping. They would rather Canada act through the UN to provide relief for famine than to drop bombs on less developed countries.

Quebec students meeting with province's negotiator

MONTREAL – The Kentucky Derby will not be the only interesting race held this weekend. In Quebec, a last-minute invitation from the provincial government has kicked off what can be referred to as the Victoriaville Stakes.

A phone call Friday morning from Pierre Pilote, chief negotiator for the Charest government on the issue on tuition fee increases, has been the starting gun that sent representatives of Quebec’s three student federations speeding from Montreal to Quebec City to attend what appears to be a Friday-afternoon, last-ditch attempt by the government to end a three-month impasse over the issue that has seen Montreal turned into the site of nearly 200 protest marches over the past 11 weeks.

While federation officials are not reacting publicly to the timing of government’s invitation, there’s no denying Friday’s meeting – and whatever results it may produce – will have an impact on the scale and duration of demonstrations planned to coincide with the Quebec Liberal Party’s convention scheduled to begin Friday evening in Victoriaville.

Originally scheduled to take place in Montreal, the convention was moved to Victoriaville in an effort to avoid demonstrators.

PS cuts really shouldn’t be so confusing

Reducing the size of the public service is a prudent response to the federal deficit, but the way it is being done seems calculated to produce the maximum chaos and confusion for public servants and the public themselves.

A combination of arcane contract provisions, long time lines and inadequate description of the changes is creating a prolonged period of uncertainty that is going to hurt Ottawa’s economy and produce an unnecessary level of angst in the workplace.

As the graphic below illustrates, the procedures for reducing the size of the public service are complex. Those of us in the private sector are used to something a little more straightforward. The surplus employee is handed a cardboard box for his belongings, given a final cheque and escorted to the door.

In the public service, people are notified that their job might be affected, triggering a series of options. The really time-consuming one is where a group of employees must compete for a reduced number of jobs remaining in their section. Merit is supposed to determine who stays on, but the Public Service Alliance of Canada argues that what constitutes merit is ill-defined.

Robocalls IP address same as one used by Conservative candidate campaign worker, Elections Canada alleges

OTTAWA — The digital trail left by the suspect behind misleading robocalls to Guelph voters on election day 2011 has sharply narrowed, with Internet records linking the mysterious “Pierre Poutine” to an account held by a worker from the campaign of local Conservative candidate Marty Burke.

Newly-released court documents also show that a Conservative Party staffer told Elections Canada that he been asked by another Burke campaign worker in the days before the vote about making disinformation calls.

The documents strongly suggest links between the Guelph campaign and the phony calls, which Conservatives seized on to cast the robocalls scandal as the work of rogue elements working at the riding level, not a coordinated campaign.

The sworn statement filed by Elections Canada investigator Al Mathews and released Friday makes a crucial link between the calls and the Internet Protocol address (IP) used to arrange the fraudulent calls made through Edmonton voice-broadcasting company RackNine.

The IP address was used both by Burke campaign worker Andrew Prescott to arrange legitimate calls with the company and by whoever placed the fraudulent calls that sent hundreds of electors to the wrong polling stations, Mathews alleges.

This Week in Poverty: The Philly Alliance

Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane is devoting a full hour to poverty this morning at 10 am, and I have the pleasure of being one of her three guests. So just a quick post on the excellent conference I’m attending this week in Philadelphia—I’ll write more about it over the weekend or early next week.

The promise of Beyond Hunger: Real People, Real Solutions was that it wouldn’t be a gathering of just the usual suspects—academics, advocates, government people, journalists, etc. Sure, that crowd would be there with very important contributions, but really this conference would include and largely be led by “the true experts—those who know hunger and poverty first hand.”

It has lived up to that billing.

Out of 350 participants, one-third are people for whom poverty and hunger are not abstract; it’s their struggle. They have traveled here from as far as San Diego and Sacramento, Denver, Oklahoma, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Nebraska, Texas and from up and down the East Coast. They were able to do that because people who could afford it paid just a little more than one might typically pay to attend a conference—so that scholarships could be provided. (A novel idea these days—those who can afford it paying a little more so that others might have better opportunities.)

Dr. Mariana Chilton, director of Center for Hunger Free Communities at Drexel University, which hosted the event, set a high bar for the gathering: “We aspire to create strong friendships, alliances and collaborations that break down the usual boundaries between us.”

Polls Suggest Stephen Harper And Tories May Have Peaked Too Soon

One year after Stephen Harper finally won a majority government, his party is down in the polls and plagued by allegations of scandal, mismanagement and misrepresentation. Did the prime minister hit his peak in May 2011?

There is some indication that he did. The latest survey from Harris-Decima puts his Conservatives at only 30 per cent support, down ten points from the last election and three points behind Thomas Mulcair's New Democrats.

In fact, the Conservatives have tied or trailed the NDP in half the polls conducted since Mulcair's leadership win. In the half that gave the Tories the lead, the margins were small enough to be virtually insignificant.

The Conservative victory in May 2011 marked the zenith for the Tories not only in achievement but also in support. The party took 40 per cent of the vote in that election, a level of support they've seen in only only four polls since, three of which were taken within two months of the election. That's out of approximately 50 polls released in the last 12 months.

New cellblock abuse allegations levelled against Ottawa police

OTTAWA — Ottawa police are facing new allegations of cellblock abuse from a man who alleges he was put in a chokehold, punched in the face and beaten to unconsciousness as he lay in the fetal position on the floor of his cell.

Michael Larocque also alleges the Ottawa police officer who initially arrested him tried to cover up his injuries by reporting that Larocque voluntarily slammed his head off the glass partition of the police cruiser, even though surveillance video allegedly shows him without any injuries until after the incident in the cellblock.

Larocque is asking a judge to stay charges of assault, mischief, resisting arrest and breaching his probation, alleging that his Charter Rights were violated following his arrest on Sept. 12, 2010.

According to a stay application filed earlier this week, Larocque had been in the cellblock following his arrest in relation to a disturbance with a woman.

Larocque alleges he had been compliant with officers after turning himself in. Surveillance video allegedly shows Larocque getting out of the police car, having his handcuffs removed as he is searched and going into a private room to call a lawyer.

It isn’t until 5:46 a.m., as Larocque walks in front of Ottawa police Const. Thanh Tran and special constables Mark Johnson and Sebastien Castonguay, that the situation changes.

Ontario to retain gun ledgers despite 'contempt' accusation

A letter from Ontario's chief firearms officer to gun vendors, outlining their responsibilities to collect personal information about legal purchases, continues to draw fire from firearms groups concerned the province wants to implement its own "back-door" firearms registry.

But Ontario Provincial Police Supt. Chris Wyatt says the request in his letter creates no new requirement.

"Ledgers existed for decades before the long-gun registry. This is nothing new," Wyatt told host Evan Solomon on CBC's Power & Politics Thursday.

Any person who purchases firearms in Canada must hold a valid firearms licence. Gun vendors are required by federal law to maintain ledgers of all the weapons they have sold. Those rules did not change with the passage of the Harper government's legislation to abolish the federal long-gun registry last month.

"It's in the interests of public safety to ensure that firearms aren't being sold to criminals or persons who are prohibited from having firearms," Wyatt told Solomon.

The ledgers list the make, model and serial number of the gun sold, as well as the name and firearms licence number of the purchaser.

There was also a column to record the registration certificate number from the federal firearms registry, but this information will no longer exist with the end of the registry.

Justin Trudeau should be the next leader of the Liberal Party. No, seriously

The only time Justin Trudeau had for an interview on a recent Thursday was over breakfast at his Ottawa hotel. Under his suit jacket, the sleeve buttons on his dress shirt were undone. His necktie was knotted, but left loose over an open top button. His mane of black hair was tousled. Even in genteel disarray, even dressed more or less like a couple hundred of his parliamentary colleagues, the 40-year-old Liberal MP for the Montreal riding of Papineau looked like a million bucks.

I showed up late, slumped into a seat, ordered an omelette. I’ve known Trudeau for nine years, never well. Trudeau wondered why I’d convened this little meeting. “Your first note to me said you’d need three minutes to chat. Now it’s breakfast and your photo department is calling my office looking to take pictures. What’s up?”

There was no point beating around the bush. It’s not as though he hadn’t heard the question before.

“We’re preparing two stories. John Geddes is going to do a reported piece on the current state of the Liberal party. And I’m gonna write a piece wondering why Justin Trudeau isn’t running for the Liberal leadership.”

Trudeau’s eyes rolled and he half-smiled—here we go again. And then his face changed. He stared past the tabletop into the middle distance. His expression darkened. He looked stricken.

How Stephen Harper learned to love the omnibus bill

Stephen Harper must wish all his old speeches had been burned. A lament from his opposition days about the former Liberal government’s use of omnibus bills was cast up by NDP House leader, Nathan Cullen, Thursday, in protest at the government’s decision to pile everything but the kitchen sink into its 421 page budget implementation bill.

At that time, the Prime Minister considered the use of omnibus bills undemocratic and “a contradiction to the conventions and practices of the House.”

Now the 2005 Liberal omnibus is a model of governance to be admired and aped.

Such is the Harper government’s contempt for normal process, it announced Thursday that it will limit debate on the bill to six more sitting days before it is sent to committee. There is simply no way that MPs will be able to give the budget bill the scrutiny it deserves.

It makes you wonder: What is the point of Parliament? Why not have one whopper of a bill once a year, allow MPs to give it a cursory skim and then send them back to their constituencies to do the ceremonial work of opening supermarkets and attending Rotary barbecues?

“Lumping it together in an omnibus bill like this is undermining the very institution that we all represent, and our ability to hold government to account,” said Mr. Cullen in the House.

Mitt Romney Homeland Security Record In Massachusetts: Domestic Spying, Wiretapping

Mitt Romney ran for governor of Massachusetts as the man who saved the 2002 winter Olympics. While much of his focus had been on righting the games in Salt Lake City after its organizing committee became mired in a U.S. bribery scandal, security was also a top priority. These were the first U.S. Olympic games since the bombing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and, taking place just five months after the 9/11 attacks, they presented an enticing and high-profile target for terrorists.

Dealing with those threats in Salt Lake City led Romney not only to overhaul homeland security in the Bay State, but to shape policy on the national level. When he was sworn in as governor on Jan. 2, 2003, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was less than six weeks old, and President George W. Bush's administration was still looking for people who could help it make sense of the new post-9/11 world. Romney stood out.

"Of all the governors that we worked with, he was by far one of the most proactive and engaged in the country," said Joshua Filler, the Homeland Security director of the Office of State and Local Government Coordination from 2003 to 2005. "The Olympics experience exposed him to some of the very real threats faced by the United States in a post 9/11 world. It was clear that experience played a role in his involvement and thinking on homeland security issues."

Unemployment Rate Falls To 8.1 Percent As People Give Up On Looking For Work

While the U.S. unemployment rate in April was the lowest it's been in more than three years, the unemployed may simply be falling off the government's radar as they give up looking for work.

Meanwhile, job growth has slowed sharply after a fast start to the year, suggesting another bump in what has been an agonizingly long road to recovery for the job market.

Unemployment fell to 8.1 percent in April, the lowest since January 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday morning. But the decline was mainly due to 342,000 people leaving the labor force, meaning the BLS had stopped counting them as unemployed. The number of employed people in the nation actually fell by 169,000.

Nonfarm employers added 115,000 jobs to their payrolls in April, according to a survey of businesses that is different than the household survey that generates the unemployment rate. That job growth was lower than the 170,000 or so economists had expected, though the BLS revised upward the number of jobs that were created in February and March, adding about 53,000 additional jobs to payrolls.

About 12.5 million people are still unemployed, and a record 88.4 million people are considered "not in the labor force," according to the BLS. The labor-force participation rate -- the percentage of the work-age population either working or looking for work -- dropped to 63.6 percent, the lowest since December 1981.

Quebec Student Underwear Protests: Anti-Tuition Hike Fight Gets Bare

MONTREAL — Some Quebec students were baring it all – or close to it – in their anti-tuition fight.

A few took to the streets of Montreal wearing nothing but their underwear Thursday night in the latest protest against fee hikes.

One Facebook group cited several reasons for the unique protest. They included: catching the government's attention; the mayor not wanting protesters to wear masks; distracting police officers; and also because it's spring, they said.

However, with a low of 14°C, it wasn't exactly balmy spring weather in Montreal.

Protest organizers asked students to arrive at a downtown park fully clothed but carrying backpacks. From there, they planned to disrobe and march across the Plateau neighbourhood.

They encouraged students to carry signs and wear body paint, but insisted that full-frontal nudity would “NOT be tolerated.”

Public nakedness is illegal – something the Montreal police force felt compelled to warn people on its Twitter feed.

The Consequences of A Delay in the Halifax-class Frigate Modernization

DND’s Chief of Review Services has warned that a $2.8 billion dollar modernization effort for the navy’s Halifax-class frigates could be running into trouble.

The audit found the project to modernize the Halifax-class frigates, the backbone of the RCN’s surface fleet, is sailing into troubled waters. “Planned delivery of 12 modernized frigates within 75 months could be at risk,” noted the audit.

The Defence Department hopes to have work on the ships completed by December 2016.

The CRS noted:

“The navy intends to complete the refit of the 12 Halifax-class frigates within 75 months from October 2010 to December 2016. There are indicators that suggest schedule slippage within the planned 75-month time frame will likely occur.”

Claiming Conrad Black as our own

Whether the politicians like it or not, we in the media have declared Conrad Black to be Canadian. Love him or hate him, he is our own.

In the media, it actually doesn't take much. Nobel prize winners and movie stars only have to spend a few years of their lives here to qualify.

Every editor knows Alexander Graham Bell was Canadian. We dismiss absurd counterclaims by Scotland and the United States.

Elon Musk, of SpaceX and Tesla fame is ours, having attended Queen's University and pitched bales on his uncle's Saskatchewan farm. And don't try to tell me the acting Sutherland clan isn't ours, offspring or in-law of the Founder of Medicare.

Compared to all those, Black is definitely and absolutely ours.

'The skunk in the room'

Black's case, though stronger, is touchy, having generated tirades from the leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons. I mean, I don't like to alienate my friends on the left.

Dismantling the CSIS inspector-general’s office is dumb

It is the job of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to unravel dark mysteries that threaten the well-being of Canadians. That’s what spooks do; sometimes they’re even tempted to break the law doing it.

Well, here is a mystery that desperately needs unravelling: Why is the government dismantling the most effective instrument it has to prevent CSIS operatives from taking the law into their own hands?

I have spent almost three decades poking my nose into senseless government decisions. Usually you can find a clear, self-serving motive behind them. But I confess that the Harper government’s sneaky little announcement buried in the budget papers that it has decided to scupper the office of the inspector-general of CSIS leaves me baffled.

Yes, we know that this government is extremely thin-skinned. But the inspector-general for CSIS isn’t an office that criticizes government. It critiques CSIS behaviour on behalf of the government. Its role is to ensure that the government doesn’t get blindsided by shady behaviour on the part of its intelligence agents.

If you’re not a target already, you will be soon enough

Within the frame of the robocall scandal, pundits across Canada seem to be talking a lot about “microtargeting.” Political parties are compiling information about us and using this information to segment their political markets and surgically deliver their communications and organization. They know what kind of cars we drive and therefore they know how we’re going to vote. This – the pundits say – is standard operating procedure, these days.

This description, while eerily familiar, is actually about one part truth and two parts fiction. Although research and sociodemographic selection are hallmarks of American political campaigns, the principles of research-based campaigning are not always applied, applied inconsistently, or applied with varying degrees of success in Canada, especially at the riding level. This is due, in part, to the limited resources available to our local teams. Riding-level campaigns generally have less capacity than their central command centres. Holding a clear recognition of this challenge, political parties have pushed to empower campaigners with new and innovative tools to deliver higher performance campaigns. One highly effective solution that has become a standard tool in the Canadian campaign toolkit is a locally accessible, centrally integrated and managed database. Data is information and information is becoming the foundation of today’s increasingly intelligent campaigns.

Making Canada's past a slave to power

Citizens can be almost certain that, when governments use public money to write history, the result will be a deformed version of the past. So it has proved to be with the Harper government, with more rewriting to come.

The Conservatives display two-facedness in the telling of history, systematically reducing the role of the informed and the neutral in explaining the country to Canadians, while enhancing the capacity of the government to cherry-pick what it chooses to highlight.

In the last budget, for example, funding was reduced for Library and Archives Canada, the CBC, Telefilm Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Parks Canada by a government that had already scrapped plans for a National Portrait Gallery. (The government also is eliminating support for scholars in other countries who study Canada.)

The government spared the National Gallery, the national museums in Ottawa and the Canada Council, but the net effect on the ability to explain history in an unfiltered way through people and projects funded by public institutions was reduced by the cuts.

By contrast, the government found money in a “restraint” budget for projects that will allow it to highlight those scattered and fading (or faded) remnants of our history that suit the government’s political agenda: recreations of the War of 1812 (a political civil war on each side and a cross-border military conflict), medals commemorating the Queen, and yet another royal visit, this one offering Canadians (or at least the handful of them who will care) the emotional surge of seeing their future king and queen: Charles and Camilla.

Parks Canada carnage sideswipes Jasper with nary a peep from local Tory MP

Where's Rob Merrifield, the Conservative MP for Yellowhead, the huge western Alberta riding that includes the town of Jasper?

I ask only because the massive job cuts at Parks Canada by the radical neo-Cons in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's misnamed Conservative government are really kicking the snot out of Jasper and have long-term implications for the wellbeing of the park.

So you'd think that the local Member of Parliament would have something to say about this. But, as far as I can see, Merrifield is nowhere to be seen or heard.

This is actually pretty typical of Alberta's vast army of Conservative MPs. They're all for "keeping taxes low," getting rid of the gun registry, fighting crime (usually in ways that actually assist crime, but never mind) and signing a free-trade agreement with Europe.

But when the going gets tough and the brainiacs in the Prime Minister's Office come up with a scheme like this one that really hurts their own constituents, these tough Tory MPs get gone … shopping maybe. Anyhoo, they're usually absent without leave from any local discussion of the topic.

So it's hardly surprising that there's nothing on Merrifield's website about the effects of the Parks Canada cutbacks on Jasper National Park or the Jasper townsite -- although all of the topics noted above were featured prominently there yesterday in a stream of news-free news bites.

TransCanada reapplies for Keystone XL permit

TransCanada Corp. has applied for a presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

The original pipeline route, which aims to double the amount of Canadian oil that can be transported from Hardisty, Alta., to the U.S. Gulf Coast, was rejected by U.S. legislators in 2011.

The new application announced Friday includes the already reviewed route in Montana and South Dakota, but a section leading to Steele City, Neb., that goes through the Sand Hills region is still in question.

In its application Friday, TransCanada said a route for the contentious Nebraska section will be submitted as part of the application once a new route is finalized.

The company is already pushing ahead with construction on the section leading from the oil hub of Cushing, Okla., to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, because those sections do not require presidential approval.

Defence department to cut mental health staff despite spike in suicides

OTTAWA—The Defence Department is looking at closing a unit that monitors the mental health of soldiers and works on suicide prevention just days after the military revealed a sharp spike in the number of those who took their own lives in 2011.

Amid thousands of layoff notices delivered to public servants last month, two federal unions say staff in the Department of National Defence’s deployment health section have received warnings that their positions may be eliminated.

In addition, the union says the department wants to get rid of another eight positions currently staffed by epidemiologists and researchers who work on mental health, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide within the Canadian Forces.

Officials in the office of Defence Minister Peter MacKay said “no decisions have been taken yet.”

But the military will be moving an Ottawa clinic that treats soldiers with psychological problems to CFB Petawawa, a two-hour drive from the capital. The bulk of the soldiers being treated at that clinic are currently forced to make that drive in order to receive treatment, spokesman Jay Paxton said.

“Our government believes CF members are better treated where they work, train and live,” MacKay said in a statement.

Air Canada’s loss widens due to labour disruptions, Aveos bankruptcy

MONTREAL—Air Canada’s first-quarter loss was 11 times higher this year than in 2011 as the airline weathered higher fuel prices, work stoppages by some of its employees and the bankruptcy of the company that formerly overhauled its planes.

The Montreal company said Friday its net loss for the three months ended March 31 was $210 million, including $55 million attributed to discontinued operations at Aveos.

Air Canada’s continuing operations also lost more, as they felt the impact of substantially higher fuel prices and labour disruptions. Its loss from continuing operations rose to $93 million from $66 million in the first quarter of 2011.

A year earlier, the total first-quarter loss was $19 million.

“The quarter was marked by a challenging environment, with persistently high fuel prices and volatility which resulted in a significant increase in fuel expense of $147 million, or 20 per cent, from the previous year’s quarter,” Calin Rovinescu, Air Canada president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

JT Ready, Arizona Border Vigilante Blamed for Mass Murder, Had State Republican Party Ties

A border vigilante and avowed white supremacist who police believe killed four people and himself in a suburban Phoenix home on Wednesday was once allied with the Republican Senate majority leader who pushed through Arizona's harsh anti-illegal immigration bill in 2010.

Police in Gilbert, Ariz. said evidence at the scene indicated that Jason Todd Ready, 39, shot and killed his girlfriend, the woman's daughter and her boyfriend, and her 15-month-old granddaughter before turning the gun on himself. Hazardous chemicals and "military grade munitions" were found at the home, police said.

Ready, a former Marine known as "J.T.," founded and led the U.S Border Guard, a vigilante group that conducted heavily armed patrols of the Arizona-Mexico border with the aim of disrupting the flow of illegal immigration and drug smuggling.

Ready served for several years as a Republican precinct committeeman in Mesa, a Phoenix suburb, and Russell Pearce, a Mesa Republican and former Arizona Senate majority leader, endorsed Ready's run for Mesa City Council in 2006, which he lost. The two were linked over their shared opposition to illegal immigration.

Plutocracy, Paralysis, Perplexity

Before the Great Recession, I would sometimes give public lectures in which I would talk about rising inequality, making the point that the concentration of income at the top had reached levels not seen since 1929. Often, someone in the audience would ask whether this meant that another depression was imminent.

Well, whaddya know?

Did the rise of the 1 percent (or, better yet, the 0.01 percent) cause the Lesser Depression we’re now living through? It probably contributed. But the more important point is that inequality is a major reason the economy is still so depressed and unemployment so high. For we have responded to crisis with a mix of paralysis and confusion — both of which have a lot to do with the distorting effects of great wealth on our society.

Put it this way: If something like the financial crisis of 2008 had occurred in, say, 1971 — the year Richard Nixon declared that “I am now a Keynesian in economic policy” — Washington would probably have responded fairly effectively. There would have been a broad bipartisan consensus in favor of strong action, and there would also have been wide agreement about what kind of action was needed.

But that was then. Today, Washington is marked by a combination of bitter partisanship and intellectual confusion — and both are, I would argue, largely the result of extreme income inequality.

End Student Debt!

The student loan crisis finally reached center stage in Washington after the House GOP budget called for letting interest rates double on government-subsidized loans (and for deep cuts in Pell grants and other student support). If it passes, students who borrow the maximum will end up paying as much as $1,000 a year in added interest. President Obama sensibly called for extending the lower rate, stumping at colleges and on talk-shows to enlist students and others in the cause.

Republican leaders quickly realized the perils of angering young voters. In another flip-flop, Mitt Romney decided to support extending the lower rate, while the House GOP passed an extension but taunted the president by stipulating that it be paid for with money taken from the preventive health fund created by the Affordable Care Act. Senate Democrats propose paying for it by closing a loophole that doctors, lawyers and small businesses use to avoid payroll taxes.

Ignored in the standoff is that even at the lower rates, more and more students can’t afford the college education or advanced training everyone but Rick Santorum believes they need. Since 1982 the cost of living has doubled and healthcare costs have tripled; college tuition and fees have exploded more than four times. All this comes amid revelations about the hundreds of billions in loans—at below-market rates—ladled out to the banks by the Federal Reserve and Treasury during the financial crisis.

Tony Tomassi Quits: Former Quebec Cabinet Minister Facing Fraud Trial

QUEBEC - An embattled former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister, charged with fraud and awaiting trial, announced Thursday that he is quitting politics.

Tony Tomassi said in a statement that his departure is effective immediately. The former Liberal minister has been seldom seen in Quebec City since criminal charges were laid last year.

The former family minister was forced to resign in 2010 after allegations surfaced he had been using a credit card provided by a company that had received millions in government contracts.

Tomassi, 41, faces charges of fraud and breach of trust stemming from the accusation that he accepted material rewards from a security company that gained lucrative government contracts.

Tomassi was ejected from the Liberal caucus in May 2010 and had been sitting as an independent until Thursday. But he had been best known in recent months for not showing up at the provincial legislature since being charged.

"Throughout the years I have proudly served the voters of LaFontaine and I am grateful for the confidence they have repeatedly shown me on three occasions since 2003," Tomassi said in a statement.

Canada Income Gap: Richard Wilkinson, Inequality Guru, Says Canada Risks Becoming 'Anti-Social,' Violent

Canada risks becoming a more violent and anti-social place if it allows income inequality to worsen, one of the world’s leading experts on the subject says.

Richard Wilkinson, author of The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, told The Huffington Post Canada’s editorial board Thursday that Canada is bound to become a society where “people are more out for themselves” if differences between the rich and poor continue to grow.

“I expect if your income differences keep rising, as I think they have been since the early 1990s, you will become a more anti-social society, people will be more out for themselves,” Wilkinson, a retired professor of social epidemiology at the University of Nottingham in the U.K., said in response to a reader question.

He also said he expected Canada’s violent crime rate to become more comparable to the rate seen in the U.S. if inequality continues to grow.

The Huffington Post chose four of the best questions readers asked to put to Wilkinson. Read the complete Q&A below.

Information is key to carbon education

The Harper government is doing enormous damage to Canada’s international reputation by refusing to show any leadership on the global warming issue. Fortunately, around the world there are already hundreds (if not thousands) of non-governmental projects under way to help cut carbon emissions. Everyone, from scientists to schoolchildren, is participating. As government foot-dragging continues, amplifying grassroots energies offer the best short-term hope for meaningful action.

The British Columbia government, already a leader in addressing climate change, lit a fire under Canadian software developers by open-sourcing hundreds of its best climate datasets. The government challenged programmers to create innovative Web-based and mobile apps that would raise awareness of climate change and inspire action. As an incentive, $40,000 in prize money was offered.

One of the winning apps helps students manage their carbon footprints. Users can track their bathing, eating, transportation and entertainment habits, and the app spits out an impact statement showing the annualized kilogram of CO2 equivalents generated by their actions. Another app, aimed at small- and medium-sized businesses, lets business owners measure their company’s emissions and benchmark its score against industry peers.

The B.C. government believes that collaborations such as these provide a low-cost way to tap new ideas and skills in pursuit of the province’s climate goals. The government contributed its data; private-sector partners contributed the prize money. Software coders and local businesses provided their labour and ingenuity. And none of the initiatives spurred on by the contest require new rules or new legislation to move forward.

The Curse of the Perfect Mother

Women once again need to start talking frankly to each other about what it means to be a woman. Contrary to a coalescing body of opinion, it does not mean being a mother. If we don’t have an open discussion, the dream of gender equality will remain exactly that – a dream.

The gains of the feminist revolution that empowered women to make independent, personal choices about the kinds of lives they want to lead are being quietly eroded on several fronts.

The “return to nature” movement and its not-so-distant cousin, the “green” movement, propose that being a mother is the essence of womanhood. Meanwhile, any number of child-rearing experts – whose opinions, incidentally, seem to swing opposingly in 30-year cycles – are telling women that anything less than total dedication to their child’s physical and emotional needs means that they are not being good mothers. The child reigns supreme. The mother obediently serves.

Add to this the unstable economic times that make balancing work and motherhood ever more challenging – and a retreat to home and cradle more alluring – and you have a perfect storm of circumstances that are pressuring women to abandon their quest for gender equality and instead become almost competitive in their urge to be seen as perfect mothers.

Global needs trump domestic concerns on F-35, DND says

National Defence is touting F-35 fighter jets as a key tool against overseas threats for decades to come, stating the military can’t pick an aircraft based solely on Canada’s domestic needs.

But government insiders, opposition critics and military experts are arguing that National Defence needs to reopen the debate over mandatory requirements for the new fighter jets. At this point, Canada’s defence policy calls for the purchase of stealth fighter jets, which is a characteristic that will be of use in international missions – but doesn’t necessarily serve Canada’s needs on the home front.

“For missions in Canada, it’s not the ideal aircraft,” University of Ottawa professor Philippe Lagassé said of the F-35.

He said the F-35 is relatively costly, slower that some competitors and hampered by the fact that it has a single engine, instead of being a twin-engine jet like the current fleet of CF-18s. However, based on current requirements for overseas missions, the Lockheed-Martin aircraft is Canada’s only option.

“The only stealth aircraft that Canada can buy, apart from those being developed in Russia and China, is the F-35,” Prof. Lagassé said.

The situation is opening up an interesting political debate over the Conservative government’s insistence on the need for fighter jets that can be part of allied operations in combat zones overseas.

Raising OAS hurts those who most need help

Seventy is the new 60. Sixty is the new 50. If you believe everything you read, increasing the age for OAS eligibility from age 65 to 67 might make sense. But the fact is that not everyone feels ten years younger or has a well-paying full-time job so they can postpone retirement and work longer.

In a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, economist Angella MacEwan reports that a 2008 Statistics Canada survey of older workers (55+) found that only 30 per cent retired because they were financially ready.

One in four fully-retired workers over 55 listed poor health as their reason for retirement, and 89 per cent of older workers who were unemployed and not looking for work cited long-term disability or short-term disability as a barrier to paid work. A further 7 per cent of retirees left the workforce to care for a partner.

Furthermore, another one in five retired because they were displaced by layoffs or plant closures. Older workers who are displaced  because of plant-closure or layoff often face longer periods of unemployment than younger workers and end up in lower paying jobs.

Taseko rejects aboriginal spirituality in mine review

The president of Taseko Mines has asked the Ministry of the Environment not to give aboriginal interests special consideration at an upcoming federal environmental review panel for the company's Prosperity Mine project.

In a letter dated Nov. 23, Russell Hallbauer makes several suggestions on how to ensure the panel appears fair and balanced as it considers Taseko's gold and copper mine proposal near Williams Lake, B.C.

Those suggestions include:

    Not appointing an aboriginal member to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency review panel.
    Not starting hearings with drumming or aboriginal prayer ceremonies, something Taseko says is inappropriate.
    Not considering spirituality of a place as an aboriginal right.

SFU professor willing to be arrested to make greenhouse gas statement

METRO VANCOUVER -- A Simon Fraser University professor with a long and distinguished academic career said Thursday he is tired of political inaction on greenhouse gases and is prepared to be arrested in an act of civil disobedience scheduled for this weekend on the White Rock waterfront.

Mark Jaccard, a 57-year-old professor of sustainable energy, said in an interview he plans to participate in a protest Saturday near the White Rock pier, stopping Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) trains from delivering U.S. coal into B.C. for export.

He said he is fully prepared to get arrested for trespassing onto railway property, but stressed his actions would be peaceful and non-violent.

"I feel absolutely sick to volunteer for something like this," he said in an interview. "It is not how I see myself."

Jaccard, who joined SFU in 1987, said his expertise is designing computer models that show how policies can be implemented to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, be it through a carbon tax, regulations, or subsidies.

Peter Kent is a big fat liar! Response to “money laundering” allegations

This week Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent has made repeated allegations that environmental groups are “laundering money”. This is a serious charge because according to the federal government’s own website: Money laundering is the process used to disguise the source of money or assets derived from criminal activity.

This is beyond anything in my experience and is absolutely irresponsible. A cabinet minister is going around spouting serious allegations without proof and the media is repeating them without doing anything to investigate the validity of his statements.

This is McCarthyism. Period. Back in the late 40s and early 50s Senator Joe McCarthy made a career out of unfounded accusations of communism against innocent people who he didn’t like (back then the media also scrambled to report the unfounded accusations). Careers and lives were destroyed – remember, people were being told Communist bombs could fall on them any day!

Conservatives defend cuts to Archives Canada

Responding to criticism that budget cuts are undermining the ability of Library and Archives Canada to preserve Canada's documentary heritage, a spokesman for Heritage Minister James Moore said Thursday that efforts to digitize the collection will give Canadian taxpayers greater access while saving them money.

James Maunder, director of communications for the Heritage Minister said in an email the Library "has the money necessary to fulfil its mandate," despite cries from Canada's librarians that cuts will create a black hole where Canada's documentary history should be.

The Canadian Library Association and the Canadian Association of University Teachers said this week a more than 10 per cent budget cut has left Canada's main library-of-record struggling to maintain — and grow — its collection, a feat they say was already difficult due to targeted cuts over the past six years.

The library, which despite the cuts remains Canada's largest single employer of librarians and archivists in Canada, has a mandate to acquire, preserve and make available the documentary heritage of Canada.

It is also responsible for managing the archival records of government.

MacKay not standing by soldiers in face of mental health cuts, opposition charges

OTTAWA — The Conservative government doesn’t appear to be backing down from the plan to cut the jobs of Defence Department medical professionals involved in suicide prevention and monitoring of post-traumatic stress disorders, even as the number of suicides in the Canadian Forces has increased.

Opposition MPs and the unions representing the employees providing such services called on Defence Minister Peter MacKay to intervene and reverse the decision.

The Citizen broke the story on Wednesday that the Defence Department was cutting the jobs of medical professionals involved in suicide prevention and PTSD monitoring despite claims by DND and the Canadian Forces that dealing with such health issues is a priority.

Two unions have been informed by DND of the job cuts. DND has not commented on the cuts but sources confirmed the positions will be eliminated.

At the same time, the newspaper obtained an internal report for senior military officers at CFB Petawawa warning that emotionally-damaged Afghanistan war veterans at the base are being neglected by a mental health treatment system that is in “crisis.”

The report, obtained by the Citizen, was written a group of civilian clinicians who provide much of the care to hundreds of mentally ill soldiers from the base.

The Commons: The case of the $10-billion typo

The Scene. Megan Leslie sought clarity. The government side, she explained, had retroactively changed a report to Parliament. In the first version of the report, the cabinet had approved the purchase of the F-35. In the second version, the cabinet had not approved the purchase of the F-35. What, she essentially asked, gives?

In response, the Prime Minister offered clarity. Or at least the word “clear.” “Mr. Speaker, again, the government has not signed a contract for the purchase of these aircraft,” he said. “We have been clear,” he added, that the government will wait for the results of further investigation before making a decision.

Ms. Leslie, with the withering tone of her generation, tried to clarify the situation. “Mr. Speaker, the official excuse is it was a typographical error,” she mocked. “The Conservatives want us to believe that someone typed the word ‘definitions’ when they actually meant to type two words ‘options analysis.’ Are there any other typographical errors about the F-35s that the government would like to make the House aware of? For example, when it told Parliament that the plane would cost $14.7 billion but cabinet thought the plane would cost $10 billion more, was that just a typing error?”

“Sarcasm,” moaned a voice from the Conservative side.

The Prime Minister stood and pronounced the matter not just clear, but very clear.

"They Can’t Just Kill Us": Kenneth Chamberlain’s Neighbors Speak Out as Police Avoid Charges

We get reaction from residents of the White Plains public housing complex, where Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. lived, to the news that the police officers who killed him in his own apartment will not be indicted. In the early hours of November 19, 2011, officers tasered Chamberlain and then shot him after they were called to his house when he mistakenly set off his LifeAid medical alert pendant. "Those cops that did this were wrong," says neighbor Denis Grant. "[They] need to be accountable for what [they] did ... You cannot kill us like this — white, black, whoever. You can’t kill us and get away with it."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Kevin Page says defence purchasing 'broken' and 'wrong'

Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page says National Defence's process to buy equipment is broken if the way it handled the F-35 fighter jet program is normal.

In an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CBC's Power & Politics, Page pointed to committee testimony by top department officials who said the way they handled the process to buy the F-35 is the way they usually do it.

If that process is normal, Page said, then it's "broken. Completely broken. And wrong."

Officials gave one estimate to cabinet, he said, that included the full costs of the plane for the complete lifespan, but gave another estimate to MPs.

"To tell Parliament, effectively, to tell Canadians, that, well, actually it's a much smaller number, that's wrong," Page said.

Earlier in the day, Page testified at a committee that National Defence withheld information when he was preparing his controversial report on the costs of the F-35s, and he later indicated he thinks Canadians were misled about the true costs of buying the fighter jets.

New EI rules could force unemployed into jobs they don’t want

Conservative legislation restricting access to EI benefits risks forcing people into jobs they don’t want, but a national business group says employers will accept those headaches if it means fewer labour shortages.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is praising measures contained in the federal budget implementation bill that removes long-standing legal reasons for Canadians on Employment Insurance to reject certain jobs.

“We think it’s completely appropriate for government to give employees a bit of a nudge to get back into the labour force,” said Dan Kelly, the CFIB’s vice-president of legislative affairs.

The government’s sweeping budget implementation bill contains changes to EI that have never been formally announced or explained by the government. The budget bill would remove provisions of the Employment Insurance Act that allow EI recipients to turn down an available job if it is not in the claimant’s usual occupation, is at a lower rate of pay or involves “conditions less favourable than those … recognized by good employers.”

A spokesperson for Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said Thursday these conditions are being moved “from legislation to regulation.” That means cabinet can define the rules later without parliamentary approval.

Ottawa man wrongfully imprisoned for 31 years files $14-million lawsuit

An Ottawa man who languished behind bars for more than three decades on a wrongful murder conviction is seeking millions of dollars in compensation from the institutions he believes were behind his ordeal.

Lawyers for Romeo Phillion announced the 73-year-old was launching a lawsuit on Thursday in an effort to gain some compensation for his incarceration.

The $14 million lawsuit names the Ontario Attorney General, the Ottawa Police Services Board and two former police officers as defendants.

Mr. Phillion's co-counsel David Robins alleged the targets of the suit collaborated to suppress key evidence, which resulted in Mr. Phillion's prolonged stay in prison.

The substantial damages, Mr. Robins added, would provide only partial relief for his elderly client.

“No amount of monetary compensation is going to turn back the hands of time and necessarily correct the wrong that was caused to Mr. Phillion and the miscarriage of justice that he suffered,” Mr. Robins said in a telephone interview.

Changes to immigration policy could transform society

Have you noticed how common it has become to talk about replacing workers with even cheaper workers? If you’re looking over your shoulder, you’re not paranoid; you’re paying attention. There’s probably a cheaper you out there. And in Canada, the feds are helping your boss find them.

This week, the International Labour Organization noted there are 50 million fewer jobs in the global economy than before the financial crisis began in 2008. Some 200 million people are now looking for work.

People around the world are on the move, leaving their homes in search of opportunity. Many of them have landed here.

Canada has welcomed newcomers in record numbers throughout the recession, even as unemployment rates spiked. But our policies are shifting, and with it the type of labour market and society we are creating. Today, the preferential nod is being given to a soaring number of temporary foreign workers, or “guest” workers. These are people who are brought here at the pleasure of employers, and stay at the pleasure of employers.

The GM chief and his $90-million pay cut

Spare a thought for Daniel Akerson. The chief executive of General Motors (GM-N21.92-0.45-2.01%) just delivered another decent quarter on Thursday. On the same day, however, his former employer, Carlyle Group (CG-Q22.05----%), went public. The private equity firm’s initial public offering wasn’t great, pricing below its original range. But Mr. Akerson nevertheless left about $100-million (U.S.) on the table to head to Detroit in 2010.

He’s not doing a bad job. Profits are chugging along, hitting $1.6-billion (U.S.) in the first three months of the year. The company has more than $30-billion in cash, a solid business in China and April’s U.S. sales make the slight first-quarter dip in market share look like a blip. Mr. Akerson is honest about how far GM’s operational restructuring still has to go. And his experience at Carlyle should come in handy for turning around GM’s European business, which lost $300-million last quarter.

For his efforts, Mr. Akerson was paid $7.7-million in cash and stock last year. And he cannot earn more than $9-million this year because the U.S Treasury still owns a 32-per-cent stake in GM and so sets the parameters for his compensation. That leaves Mr. Akerson earning barely a quarter of what Ford’s Alan Mulally took home in 2011.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is the king of the omnibus bill

OTTAWA—For all the noise and high dudgeon belatedly coming from the opposition side of the House of Commons this week you would think Stephen Harper had invented the omnibus bill.

He hasn’t.

But he has pushed the envelope like no one ever before on a process that many believe is contemptuous of the role of Parliament.

More remarkably, he has been doing it for years, blatantly, right under the nose of successive oppositions that chose to look the other way and are only now crying foul.

His budget implementation bill may be, as Liberal MP Irwin Cotler called it “ a sad chapter in Canadian Parliamentary history,’’ but it really is just a chapter in the Harper book.

Under the guise of implementing its budget, the Conservatives have dumped 425 pages of legislation on the Commons and allowed 28 1/2 hours to debate everything from an overhaul of environmental regulations, to changes in employment equity, to the elimination of an oversight position in Canada’s spy agency to provisions that give cabinet more power over employment insurance rules.

It will then send the bill to a committee and a specially struck subcommittee and have the provisions passed before Parliament recesses for the summer.

Daniel Dale’s story: Responding to Mayor Rob Ford

In the interest of balance, I should start with the things Mayor Rob Ford has been fully truthful about.

He is absolutely right that he had me “like a cornered rat” on the land behind his backyard. He is absolutely right that I shouted for help repeatedly. He is absolutely right that I repeatedly asked him not to punch me. He is absolutely right that I dropped my phone and digital recorder on the ground. And he is absolutely right that I eventually took off running.

Right, right, right, right, right. And yet, in its big omission, his story is wrong.

Ford’s account omits the reason why I was cornered, why I shouted for help, why I thought he might punch me, why I dropped my trusty digital devices, and why I ran.

Disclosure: as Ford has strongly suggested, I am, uh, somewhat inexperienced in the art of mano-a-mano physical confrontation. The one and only “fight” of my life was a feeble five-second shoving match with Evan Sadofsky on a Grade 7 recess basketball court. I am a documentary-attending, Boyz II Men-singing former valedictorian devoid of identifiable muscle tone. Sources suggest I’m “soft-spoken” and “mild-mannered.”

At the same time, I’m well-versed in the confrontational verbal exchanges that are part and parcel of covering politics. I’ve had several with the mayor. I’d never once felt anything approaching fright during any of them. Part of the job, part of this big-boy game, and something I enjoy.

Human rights panel probes firing of native OPP officer

Fired native officers ‘vulnerable,' rights hearing told

First Nations officers can be arbitrarily fired by the Ontario Provincial Police, but don’t enjoy the full benefits of non-aboriginal officers, an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal hearing has been told.

“I feel vulnerable,” said Const. Marcel Maracle, who joined the Tyendinaga force in Eastern Ontario 20 years ago.

Maracle was testifying at the hearing for Larry Hay, a former Mohawk police chief who was fired in 2008 by former OPP commissioner Julian Fantino.

Maracle said his pension is less than that of maintream OPP officers and that he can’t directly apply for non-aboriginal policing units in the OPP. He said he also still hasn’t heard whether he can join the Ontario Provincial Police Association, which represents officers.

Maracle said the abrupt firing of Hay, his former chief, over comments he made to a student journalist has made him conscious that he’s subject to OPP discipline, but lacks the association’s protection.

Maracle credited Hay with introducing culturally sensitive policing methods, like encouraging officers to take Mohawk language lessons and get involved in the community of 1,500.

Hay accuses Fantino, now a member of Parliament, of discrimination and not consulting with the Mohawk band before terminating his employment after nine years as police chief.