Whoa! Canada

laurel l. russwurm's political musings

Posts Tagged ‘Canada

No More NAFTA ~ ACTA ~ Stop the TPP

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Canadian Flag Superimposed on American Flag

Do you remember NAFTA?

Canadians exercised our democratic right to fire Brian Mulroney and his entire political party (save 2) for inflicting NAFTA on Canada. We said NO to NAFTA.

In decimating the Progressive Conservative Party, we replaced Mulroney with a new Liberal Prime Minister.  PM Jean Chrétien took office with a decisive majority, because he had:

“…campaigned on a promise to renegotiate or abrogate NAFTA; however, Chrétien subsequently negotiated two supplemental agreements with the new US president.”

Wikipedia: NAFTA

No one doubted that the majority of Canadians emphatically said NO.  We did what we are supposed to: we changed the government to make our point.  Yet it didn’t help.  NAFTA is alive and well in Canada.

[And people wonder why so many Canadians don't vote.]

Casseroles Protest

It’s no wonder governments seek to negotiate trade agreements in secret; citizens might vote them out if we knew what they were doing. Even our protests might slow them down.

In spite of onerous non-disclosure agreements, information about the dreadful secret trade agreement ACTA (the so-called “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement”) kept leaking out. I blogged extensively about ACTA in my interweb freedom blog. Enough was known about it to frighten Europeans into taking to the streets. The result was that ACTA was rejected emphatically after European citizens took to the streets to tell their governments “NO!”

The ACTA agreement crumbled, or so the world thought . . .

The agreement was signed in October 2011 by Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States.[6] In 2012, Mexico, the European Union and 22 countries which are member states of the European Union signed as well.[7] One signatory (Japan) has ratified (formally approved) the agreement, which would come into force in countries that ratified it after ratification by six countries.

Wikipedia: Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement

Casseroles demonstration

Although many people believe the world rejected ACTA, Canada has not. Some of the worst of the laws that erode civil rights that are being forged by Canada’s “majority government” are in service of the ACTA trade agreement. ACTA is alive and well in Canada.

And now the The TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership is coming.

Governments and special interests  pursue these treaties in secret because the terms are detrimental to citizen interests. They then use the existence of such “trade treaties” to justify draconian changes they then make to our domestic laws. We are told they “have to do it” because of the treaty commitment. Funny how the Harper Government doesn’t “have to” live up to Canada’s Kyoto commitment.

Make A Difference

The Inter-Continental Day of Action, 31 January 2013 is gearing up across Canada, the United States and Mexico to protest the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement (TPP), the latest in the dizzying proliferation of “trade agreements” that sacrifice the public good in the interests of servicing the objectives of corporations.

Find your local event, or start your own!

Canadians Demonstrating

Canadians are getting better at demonstrating because we have to.

Preserve Canada’s Past

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Last weekend I attended the Tiger Boys Fly-In at the Guelph airport. Named for the famed “Tiger Moth” biplane, the Tiger Boys are a flying club;  pilots and warplane enthusiasts who maintain, repair and fly warplanes which are relics of Canadian history.  They hold an annual “Fly Day,” where ordinary people can come out and see these machines and even pay to go up for a ride in them. What an amazing way to bring our history to life.

Historical societies across Canada toil to preserve our heritage because it is important to Canadians. Yet while ordinary people like these care enough to preserve our history, I was stunned to learn that our government can’t seem to manage to spend less than ten million dollars to preserve our documentary heritage.

Ten million dollars is more than we can easily manage at the local level, so it may sound like a lot. Until you look at other budget entries. How much does the Federal government spend on, say, advertising?  Or maybe a submarine. Or a helicopters.  How much does every day our troops are at war cost us?   How much did they spend on the Toronto G20?

How much did they spend ~ of our tax money ~ to quietly bail out the banks and the bankers? Hmmm.

And when all is said and done, who will have the money to be able to afford these priceless Canadian historical artifacts. Artifacts that rightly belong to all Canadians?

Photographs and heirlooms, some bought by Canadian governments with our tax dollars, and some donated, like the world famous Yousuf Karsh photographic legacy.

This is our heritage.

This is not only incredibly short sighted, but much worse, this is a crime against our children. And our children’s children. Canada’s shared history is our national photo album.

The story of where we’ve come from, and why we are where we are.  I am really lucky that my family has some of our own heritage photographs, but not every family does.   I’ve begun creating my own little heritage project, The Russwurm Family website.

I’ve put some of my family’s priceless, irreplacable family heirlooms online at http://russwurm.org

The contents of Library and Archives Canada belong to all Canadians, past and future.

I don’t believe that any government should have the right to sell it off.   Yet this is the kind of tragedy that can happen with an antiquated electoral system like ours.   Still, there isn’t time to change that in time, this must be stopped,

Now.

Because these artifacts that our government plans to sell off to private collectors — our heritage — are unique.

These artifacts are irreplacable.

There is a petition:

Make it Better – Help save Canada’s National Archival Development Program.

Or you can write a letter on the Save Library and Archives Canada website, where you can use their system to write a letter to the man who has been entrusted with preserving Canada’s heritage, Heritage Minister James Moore.

Of course, you can write your own letter:

The Hon. James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6 James Moore:
email:  james.moore@parl.gc.ca

You can ~ and should ~ also write a letter to your own MP [Find your MP.]   Under our “winner-take-all” electoral system, our MP is supposed to represent our interests in Ottawa. Whether she/he is a back bencher or Minister. Whether or not we voted for him/her.

And of course, you can send a copy to the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper  ~ email: stephen.harper@parl.gc.ca

Watch the video appeal from the Documentary Organization of Canada.

Please share this with every Canadian you know.

And thank you for your help.
a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

September 23, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Co-operate for Canada

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The Cooperate for Canada panel discussion was quite interesting. I’ll blog more about it when I’m a little more awake :)

From left to right:

David Merner, prospective Liberal Party of Canada cooperation leadership candidate, former President of the B.C. Liberal Part

Cathy Maclellan, Energy Critic for the Green Party of Canada, past Green Party federal candidate for Kitchener-Waterloo

James Gordon, past provincial Guelph NDP candidate, well known singer-songwriter, entrepreneur and community activist

The fourth member of the panel, Stuart Parker,  attended via Skype from Vancouver


Check the Poliblog for further information on the Democracy Week events in Waterloo Region.

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

September 16, 2012 at 1:15 am

Going Dark in defence of Canada

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OH! Canada http://whoacanada.wordpress.com/ is Blacked Out today,  JUNE 4th to protest Bill C-38 in defense of NATURE and DEMOCRACY ... Our land, water and climate are threatened by the  federal budget; proposed changes will weaken environmental laws and silence the Voices of those who seek to defend the Environment. SILENCE IS NOT AN OPTION. Stand up for Democracy CANADA must protect our ENVIRONMENT and our DEMOCRACY

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

June 4, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Of Masks and Freedom

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child in Zorro costume outside theatre

Arrested for wearing a mask?

As a child, I spent many an hour watching shows like “The Lone Ranger” and “Zorro” with my dad. My father made sure we were all grounded in super hero lore, where you will find ample justification for secret identities.

When I progressed from comics to real books I continued on in the same vein, reading the Scarlet Pimpernel books when I could get hold of them in high school. Maybe that’s why I have never questioned the validity of the idea that anonymity is so important for freedom.

Anonymity offers protection; we can say what needs to be said Without anonymity, fear of repercussion can silence the truth. Without a shield of anonymity, people must first weigh the harm speaking out can cause themselves and their families. For many the risk is too great.

It is the goal of repressive government to silence dissent, but it is positively disturbing to find this in our democratic governments.

Whistle blowing is an act of valour undertaken for the public good. Yet today we see Bradley Manning incarcerated and WikiLeaks under unremitting attack from nations that used to trumpet freedom.

Byron Sonne

Yellow Square bearing the words Free Byron in black text

Meanwhile, in Canada, our own Byron Sonne goes to court again this week. Byron was the Toronto G20 protester arrested before the G20, and held without bail for nearly a year.

In case you’re new to Byron’s story, he was a young man who had everything: a beautiful wife, a beautiful home, and a challenging security business. He lost all those things, along with his liberty for nearly a year, because he chose to protest the G20. Byron is fortunate, however, because he hasn’t lost everything, he still has the trust and strong support of his friends and family. The crown has dropped almost all the charges against him. Yet although the remaining charges appear dubious, they keep the sword of Damocles hanging over his head, with the possibility of possible further incarceration. As well the charges provide the basis for keeping Byron restrained under onerous bail conditions which compromise Byron’s ability to work in his chosen profession to earn needed funds to pay for his defence, among other things. And making things harder still, PayPal summarily closed Byron’s donation account, but it is still possible to make donations.

Byron Sonne did not wear a mask. He went about his business openly, broadcasting words and images on publicly accessible Internet venues like Flickr and Twitter. I very much doubt Byron was trying to hide his identity online; he certainly had the technical expertise to do so had that been his intent. He wouldn’t have lasted two minutes in the computer security business without the ability to cover his digital tracks online. I believe that it is telling that he made no real effort to do so.

The way our legal system has dealt with Byron Sonne raises disturbing questions:

  • Is justice blind, or are some Canadian citizens treated differently under the law?
  • Are Canadian citizens allowed to question what our government does?
  • Are we allowed to observe the actions our government and its representatives?
  • If we take photographs of police will we be arrested?
  • Are citizens allowed anonymity or can we be compelled to provide identity papers without cause?
  • Are we allowed to hold our government accountable?
  • Do citizens still have any civil liberties?
  • Are Canadians even allowed to discuss such things?

wooden African mask

Masks

In Canada Private Member’s Bill 309 seeks to criminalize the act of covering your face. There are many legitimate reasons to cover a human face. Hallowe’en masks are common today, but human beings have found cause to wear masks much longer, over centuries, religions and cultures.

Sometimes actors wear masks.

Allergy sufferers often wear masks to protect themselves from airborne allergens.

There are many cultures and religions requiring the covering of various parts of the human head.

Let us not forget, this is Canada. Many Canadians have had cause to wear hoods, hats and scarves to protect our heads from the elements.

All of these are excellent reasons for this Private Member’s bill to fail. After all, how often do Private Member’s Bill’s get passed, anyway? But Canada currently has a majority government, so it is very likely that this law will be passed.

If the wearing of a mask ~ or more telling, the covering of a face ~ in itself becomes a crime, it will be a horrendous blow to free speech in Canada. Some might feel that this law isn’t so bad, because Bill 309 would only make it illegal in certain circumstances. Except that the definition is broad enough it can be applied to any circumstance.

And the government gets to decide. The result of such legislation will make it far more dangerous for citizens to attend any sort of political protest at all. Even if you attend a peaceful protest without wearing a mask, things might get out of hand. You might not even be attending such a protest, but walking along the public streets minding your own business, yet may find yourself swept up and kettled by the police. This happened to many uninvolved Toronto residents during the G20.

If Bill 309 becomes law, the simple act of covering your face with your sleeve against tear gas in the air could lead to criminal charges.

Ironically there have been far too many instances of police officers removing their badges – and thus, choosing anonymity – prior to exceeding the scope of their legal authority and behaving in a criminal manner. Yet this far more dangerous behaviour (and evidence of premeditation)  has resulted in little if any repercussion and is not covered in this bill.

It isn’t possible to have a healthy democracy unless citizens have the right to free speech and peaceful protest.

gold masks from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival

Bad News: Canada Passed Bill C-10

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LegisInfo: House Government Bill 41st Parliament, 1st Session June 2, 2011 – Present Text of the Bill Latest Publication: As passed by the House of Commons: 

C-10 An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts

You can read Bill C10 here.

I had hoped the Senate would fulfil its legislative function and provide oversight by preventing the passage of this law that hasn’t even been properly costed out, let alone justified.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Union calls Bill C-10, The Omnibus Crime Bill Unwise, Unjust, Unconstitutional

What I don’t understand is why our government would spend money we don’t have on jails we don’t need.

Razor wire and bars

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

March 14, 2012 at 1:43 am

Waterloo Region Walk-In Clinics (Ontario)

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Today a friend asked me if I knew of more walk-in clinics in Waterloo Region.

I have the dubious distinction of being an expert on this issue, having spent far too many years without a family doctor in this land of supposed universal health care. When you don’t have an MD, there are only two options: Walk-In Clinics, or Emergency Rooms.

It isn’t an issue if you’re healthy; and so, by and large, most people don’t really understand, because it doesn’t directly affect them. But it is a terrible thing when you’re ill; but it is far far worse when your child is sick.

This issue is destined to become much worse, very soon. Even if you have a family doctor, ask yourself when your MD will be retiring. Presently the largest demographic of MDs is the same as it is in every other part of society: most of Ontario’s doctors are baby boomers.

waiting list blues

When I moved here the waiting list I wanted to sign with was a year.  They had 2.5 doctors, with the “half” doctor practising half the time here, and half in another municipality.  But he was getting tired of commuting, and so gave both clinics the option of employing him full time.  Our clinic lost.  And after 10 years on the waiting list, they called to ask if I wanted to remain on it.

When I first moved to Waterloo Region more than a decade ago, it wasn’t that big a deal. We could go to the walk-in clinic near Fairview Mall.  They had a really cool set up of plexiglass display cases where model trains would chug along the tracks between the waiting room and though the examination rooms.  Back then, they were open 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.  These days the hours have been cut back.  If you arrive after 1:00pm on a weekend, chances are they will have closed the day’s intake.  Not because they want to, but because they don’t have enough doctors.   Oh, and sad to say, I haven’t seen the trains run in years, either.

In Canada,  Health Care is a provincial responsibility, but the money comes from the federal government.  Federal funding was cut dramatically several governments ago, and although the funding has since increased,  I suspect levels are still well below where they were.

Flying against a blue sky with a few wisps of coud.

doctor shortage: bad to worse

Doctors all over are retiring much faster than they can be replaced.  It used to be hospitals had waiting lists for family doctors. Not any more.   You can search the Ontario College of Physicians Website, but if you find an MD anywhere close, chances are they have stopped accepting patients by the time you call.

Over the years I’ve watched  our once great health system get starved into the shell we have today.  The example of Canada’s health care success has long been a thorn in the side of the private insurance lobby in the United States… and look what damage that caused.  Now the American Government has had to step in and implement their own public system.   The big insurance companies don’t like government meddling,  because they only get a fraction of the profit they do with private health care.  Canada’s health care system – covering every citizen – costs less per capita than the American system that only covered a small fraction of their population.

Canadians only got universal health care due to minority government horse trading.  My theory is that the ruling parties (and their corporate backers) don’t actually want universal health care, but they know citizens do,  so they don’t dare dismantle it.  Instead of attacking it head on, they have let it waste away.

Some years ago Ontario capped the amount of money any single doctor could make from OHIP in a year.  From a budgetary standpoint, that limits the amount of money the province has to pay to doctors.   Doctors near the US border have been known to go south after they hit their Ontario cap.  In under serviced areas, some doctors have even been known to tend patients without OHIP remuneration.   Other doctors have taken to charging patients for things not covered by OHIP.   And many stay on past the time when they would have retired because there is no one to take over their patient load.

We have a serious doctor shortage right now, but only a trickle of new doctors coming in.  I think this is because the government prefers it this way.  If there were enough doctors, the total amount of money the Provincial Government would be paying out would increase dramatically.

In the meantime, if you don’t have a family doctor, chances are good you don’t see a doctor until you’re good and sick, and probably have been for a long time. Sitting for hours in ER or a clinic is a last resort. Of course, this means there’s less chance of catching things early. And prevention? Forget it. Which means that many of us are less productive, and when we do go in, the procedures often cost much more.

Since so many of us are without an MD, we have no choice but to go to a walk-in clinic. Finding a walk-in clinic in the very under serviced Waterloo Region can be a challenge. And when you need one, you need one NOW.

Yet the yellow pages aren’t a big help, nor is the government website Walk-In Clinics – The Ministry of Health Can Help You: Find The Closest Walk In Clinic that popped up at the top of the Google Search.

The most comprehensive list of walk-in clinics is from the Region of Waterloo Public Health department:

Walk-in Clinics

Cambridge
Cambridge Walk-in Clinic
980 Franklin Blvd.
519-654-2260

Waterloo
The Doctor’s Office
170 University Ave West
519-725-1514

Kitchener
Weber Street Medical Centre
5A-1400 Weber Street East
519-748-6933

Kitchener
Laurentian Walk-in Clinic
750 Ottawa Street South
519-570-3174

Kitchener
Canadian Medical Clinic
100 The Boardwalk
519-279-4098

Kitchener
Urgent Care Clinic
385 Fairway Road S.
519-748-2327

Kitchener
Urgent Care Clinic
751 Victoria Street S.
519-745-2273

This is the list today, 13 March, 2012.  For the most current version check the Public Health Department’s page.

[note: edited for clarity.]

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