Whoa! Canada

laurel l. russwurm's political musings

Kitchener Stop Bill C-51 March TODAY

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Keep Canada free - STOP Bill C-51

Today there will be a Stop Bill C-51 march in Kitchener [here’s a map]

Concerned citizens will leave Montgomery Park at 5:00pm and march to Victoria Park.

The march will be followed by discussion and a barbeque in Victoria Park.

march route

On Saturday there will be a STOP BILL C-51 CONVERGENCE at Parliament Hill, fittingly at the Human Rights Monument, where concerned citizens will protest this dreadful proposed legislation (currently before the Senate) that will render Canadian civil rights protections meaningless.  Protests will again be held in a Canada Wide DAY OF ACTION.  There are buses being arranged to take concerned citizens from Toronto to Ottawa.

Canadian civil rights are supposed to be protected by the Canadian Bill of Rights introduced by Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, part of the Canadian Constitution repatriated by Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.  These rights we have are based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This is NOT a partisan issue, this is a Canadian issue: we ALL need civil rights.

It is legally unconstitutional to breach these rights, and yet Mr. Harper plans to do it anyway (and has been so far been shamefully supported by the Liberal Party.)   Kind of tells you what the Harper Government thinks of our Constitution.

The Senators are indeed partisan which has been proven time and again as Prime Ministers from Brian Mulroney to Jean Chrétien to Stephen Harper have proven by stacking the Senate again and again and again as the Senate provides its rubber stamp to increasingly bad legislation.

Stripping Canadians of civil and human rights protections will not make us safe; that is the Big Lie.

Civil rights protect us.

If the Senate follows along like sheep on an issue of this magnitude, an issue that strikes at the heart of every Canadian, it would resoundingly prove that there is no hope for this body to ever provide Canadians with sober second thought, and I will finally come to agree with Mr. Mulcair’s intention to remove it from the Canadian political landscape when his NDP forms government this fall.

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Voters can use Talking Points too

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Harold Albrecht, my MP

Harold Albrecht

When a candidate (or her canvasser) shows up at your door, or when you get an opportunity to chat at the local Canada Day celebration, or maybe at a Fund Raiser, or on social media, or at the debates, isn’t it high time we start letting them know what is really important to us?  This is supposed to be a democracy, right?  That means they are supposed to be working for us.

But instead of actually conversing with us, very often candidates or elected representative use well rehearsed “talking points,” which are really just a prearranged script provided by the party to inform us of their party line.  Isn’t it hight time we turned the tables?

If my MP were to appear at my door, I might ask Harold, “Why are you sending your advertisements monthly when we both know you are only allowed to mail out 4 a year?”

The trick is to take a few minutes and think of what you want to ask before you actually see them.  Or maybe wait until you are inspired by their political ads.  Write your concerns down in point form and you’ll have your own set of “talking points.”

You might want to ask, “What do you think about outlawing political ads and giving Elections Canada the teeth to enforce it?”

The single most important issue for me is meaningful electoral reform.  I think the growing list of unsolved problems facing us are largely unsolved because there is no incentive to actually solve our problems under a winner-take-all system.  And I don’t think any party should have 100% of the power unless 100% of the population voted for it.  If even 51% voted for them, that still means 49% didn’t.  In 2011 14,720,580 Canadians voted. But the reality is that a mere 6,201 votes in 14 hotly contested electoral districts gave the Harper Government a majority.  So my own talking points are all about PR.

The thing to remember is that you don’t have to be a Proportional Representation expert to ask:

  • Should elections be about a few swing voters in a few swing ridings leaving most voters unrepresented or ignored?
  • Do you think a party gets 39% of the vote should get 39% of the seats?
  • Do you think some votes should be worth more than others, while some are worth nothing at all?
  • What will you do to make every vote will count, and count equally?
Fair Vote booth at the Kitchener Multicultural Festival

Fair Vote Canada’s Bob Jonkman and Sharon Sommerville discuss Proportional Representation at the Kitchener Multicultural Festival.

I want 2015 to be the last unfair election.  Don’t you?

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(Maybe we should all be writing to CBC to encourage them to air the Danish political series “Borgen” a political series like “House of Cards” set in a nation that successfully uses Proportional Representation.   But then, we should also be writing to tell them to air the “The Secret Trial 5” too.)

Image Credit:

Photos by me released under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License 

 

 

Robocalls: The Movie

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The movie trailer you have just seen ^ is for what looks to be a stunning Canadian documentary:

Election Day In Canada: The Rise of Voter Suppression

Documentary film maker Peter Smoczynski is on a road trip to promote and incidentally raise funds to complete this film in time for it to bee seen by as many Canadians as possible before the 2015 election.

Are you concerned about Canada’s democratic deficit?  if so, come to the Boardroom in the city of Waterloo’s historic Huether Hotel
come on out and meet the filmmaker:
TONIGHT
May 21st, 2015
at 7:00pm

Fair Vote Canada WRC asks: Is Voter Suppression Here To Stay?  

Jim Harris at the Duke of Wellington

Jim Harris spoke about the Robocalls scandal to a Fair Vote Canada WRC gathering at the Duke of Wellington, on January 14th, 2013

Jim Harris

Jim Harris in Waterloo

Fair Vote Canada WRC hosted a Robocalls talk with Jim Harris in January 2013.

This year Fair Vote Canada Guelph hosted a Robocalls Town Hall where people reported on the “resolution” of this issue.

And yet the Federal Government response has been to pass the unfair “Fair Elections Act” which ultimately makes it easier to commit electoral fraud with impunity.

What is amazing to me is the deafening silence about this topic in the mainstream media.

I wonder how much that has to do with the vast sums of advertising dollars pouring in their coffers in an election year.

If not for the internet, in the form of blogs like the one in which Jim Harris helped break the Robocalls Scandal, alongside alternate media and social media that have helped inform Canadians, most of us would have no clue this had even happened.

Robocalls Town Hall in Guelph

FVC Guelph Robocalls Town Hall

And those who did know something about this egregious case of voter suppression would suffer under the mistaken belief that it only happened in Guelph and that Michael Sona was the only one involved

If you care about the future of democracy in Canada, please start talking about politics with your friends and neighbors.

Especially if you are reasonably sure they don’t vote.

Or even worse, if they do vote, but make all their decisions based on the information fed to them by the “mainstream.”

And if you’ve a few bucks to spare, perhaps you’ll kick in to support this very important documentary.  And help share this message on your social media.

Follow @EDayFilm on Twitter.

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Could the Senate actually stop Bill C-51?

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Canadian FlagBill C-51 passed through the House of Commons after a mere two days of debate (if you can call it that.)

Currently the law that will effectively remove our civil rights that are supposed to be guaranteed by the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is before the Senate, where it seems to be getting better presented than it was in the House of Commons Parliamentary committee.

It appears that Liberal Senators are planning to vote against it, so there may yet be hope for Canadian Civil Rights.  You can follow the progress of the bill (as you can any Canadian legislation) at LegisInfo.

Leadnow has a nifty online tool to make it easy to write to your senator to let them know where you stand on Bill C-51.

The Senate has served as a rubber stamp for the house of Commons for so long that it’s hard to even imagine that it might provide sober second thought.   But maybe it will.

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Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

May 14, 2015 at 2:05 pm

Stop Bill C-51 the Musical (updated)

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The Harper Government has fast tracked Bill C-51 in another dramatic demonstration of how little scrutiny the Harper Government is willing to accord Bill C-51.

The same can’t be said for the rest of us, because Bill C-51 is actually getting a great deal of scrutiny outside the Parliament Buildings. There are a lot of terrible things in this draft legislation, but as a writer I am especially concerned about its assault on Free Speech.  

Ordinarily I only blog about Canadian Politics sporadically, but this incredible danger Bill C-51 poses to Canadian culture and freedoms,  I have been doing everything I can think of to try to stop this assault on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


Okay, well, I have to admit  there isn’t really a musical… not yet, anyway.   Maybe that will be James Gordon’s next project?

But in the mean time, concerned Canadians across this wonderful land have been engaging in peaceful protest in many ways, including the making of Stop Bill C-51 protest songs.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

The Raging Grannies

SolidariGLEE

Canadians at the First Stop Bill C-51 Day of Action Sing “Oh Canada”

Bill C-51 Song (Dennis Jones 2015)

Bill C-51 a song by Ian Patton

This last one isn’t really a protest song, but it beautifully demonstrates why Bill C-51 must be withdrawn.

‘Choosing Love Over Fear’ ~ London Stop Bill C-51 Demonstration

Please share!


BONUS TRACK:

Stevie and the Conservicats: A Little Help from Big Fear

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Our Kids Deserve to Have Civil Rights

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New Brunswick native John Peters Humphrey was the principal drafter of the United Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Adopted unanimously by the General Assembly on December 10, 1948, this document established the importance of Human Rights through out the world.

On March 16, 1950, Conservative Saskatchewan MP John Diefenbaker proposed a National Bill of Rights for Canada. This law protects freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and the freedoms of speech and association. The Conservative Government adopted Prime Minister Diefenbaker’s final version of The Canadian Bill of Rights in 1960.
The Canadian Bill of Rights

Children holding a No C-51 sign

Imagine growing up in a world without civil rights.

In 1982 the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms forms the first part of the Constitution Act passed in 1982. The Charter incorporated many elements of the Bill of Rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to equality, life, liberty and the security of the person, as well as the right to counsel. In spite of incorporation of the Charter into the Canadian Constitution, The Bill of Rights is still in force and continues to protect the right of enjoyment of property, something that did not become part of the Charter.

Why We Need Civil Rights

The state is big and powerful with the deepest of pockets; you and I are small and weak and our pockets are shallow in comparison.  Most of us never even think about civil rights, unless we’re tweeting on MLK Day.  Some think only criminals need civil rights, but nothing could be further from the truth.

People don’t need privacy and human rights because we’re criminals, we need privacy and human rights because we are innocent.  We need to be legally innocent until proven guilty because the immensely powerful government has all the resources while we puny citizens have few.  This is why democratic nations place the burden of proof on the state before granting it the power to deprive us of our liberty.

Without civil rights, most people still won’t come under the direct scrutiny of the state;  none of us will know if we are next, so we will all live in fear.  We will all need to watch what we say anywhere we go.  At work.  At home.  On social media.  In our living rooms. And even our bed rooms.  Today’s technology makes it possible for all of us to be monitored by the government 24/7.  They can monitor us through our cell phones (unless we remove the battery), and our television sets, tablets and computers (unless they are firewalled) and our email (unless it is encrypted).

The most incredible thing is that Vic Toews famously lumped people who want privacy with child pornographers.  I always thought that ridiculous… giving the government the power to watch us all anywhere gives the government the power to watch and record our children in their bedrooms.  What guarantee is there that there are no child pornographers in CSIS?  You’ll never know, even if your kids appear on some porn site somewhere.

CSIS has no oversight

They tell us that it does, but the reality is that all there is is SIRC — the Security Intelligence Review Committee.

There is is a review board that looks at what CSIS has done after it has done it.  But it’s an underfunded part time review board, that only looks at a tiny fraction of what CSIS has done.  Even if SIRC was properly funded and expanded enough that it could examine every operation CSIS took, it still wouldn’t be oversight, it would be after thought.

Oversight is supervision.  It’s there before and during to make it possible to stop bad things before they happen.

All a review board can do is determine that bad things have already happened, tsk, tsk.

Former Security Information Review Committee (SIRC) chair Ron Atkey warned MPs that the provision to allow CSIS agents to apply for federal court authorization for measures that could potentially contravene a charter right is a “major flaw” in the proposed legislation.

“That provision, in my view, is clearly unconstitutional, and will be struck down by the courts,” he told the committee.

Ron Atkey, former MP who served as the first Chairman of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, says Bill C-51 is unconstitutional and should be amended.

CSIS used to have oversight in the form of the office of the Inspector General, but that was dismantled as part of the Bill C-38 Ominbudget (The “Black Mark Budget”).

Inspector General of CSIS

Created by the CSIS Act, the Office of the Inspector General of CSIS is independent of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and, for administrative purposes, is part of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC). The Inspector General, who is appointed by the Governor in Council, is responsible to the Deputy Minister of PSEPC.

The Inspector General serves as the Minister’s internal auditor for CSIS, and supplements the Deputy Minister’s advice with an independent means to monitor CSIS compliance with its operational policies, review CSIS operational activities, and conduct reviews of specific CSIS activities as directed by the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC).

Click here to visit the Inspector General of CSIS official website.

Canadian Intelligence Resource Centre

The Inspector General was eliminated before Edward Snowden revealed the reality of government surveillance of citizens to the world.  We now know our own government intelligence services have been spying on us.  And worse, when such surveillance was known to infringe our Charter Rights, they got around that pesky detail by getting the Five Eyes allies to spy on us for them. Surveillance of blameless Canadian citizens has happened and is most likely ongoing (hence Bill C-51 to make it all legal after the fact.)

Even when there was oversight, there were egregious breaches of Canadian civil liberties.  Under Bill C-51 Maher Arar would likely still be locked up.  Or dead.  Byron Sonne’s Charter rights were breached when there was oversight.  Miscarriages of justice happen, even with the best of intentions and oversight.    This is why we need the rule of law.

All of which tells me that if such abuses can occur when we are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, what will it be like when we are not?

photographer

Bill C-51 will deprive all Canadians of privacy and free speech protections, it will put all Canadians at risk of unreasonable search and seizure, it will make all Canadians guilty unless proven innocent.   When all it takes is an accusation, any of us can lose our liberty, and there is no defence.   Any of us might find ourselves facing Madame Guillotine.

Although I’m one of the radicals who thinks free speech and free association and freedom of choice and freedom to protest peacefully are necessary for a free country, all the experts agree there will be problems even without deliberate bad actions from the Government.

Without oversight, accountability or restraint, citizens will be abused in error.  Blameless citizens.

people dancing

Not terrorists.

Not criminals.

Not rabble rousers.

Not even protesters.

The ones who keep their noses down.  The ones who are doing everything right.  People who even the government would agree are ideal citizens, those who don’t make waves and follow all the rules.  Even these people are at risk if they are unprotected by civil rights. All it takes is a typo on an arrest warrant.  The terrorist next door could get away clean while the perfect citizen is whisked away in a secret arrest and locked away indefinitely.  When people can be imprisoned without charge, when trials are secret, when evidence is secret — even from the accused — how is it possible for even a perfect citizen to defend their liberty from a typo?  The Security Certificate regime is like a pilot project that demonstrates what might happen to any of us under Bill C-51.

The essential reason that no one should trust the government is that the government is made of people, and people are not perfect.  The James Moore sexting scandal that broke this weekend is simply another in a long line of goverment scandals that has occurred throughout history.  It is precisely because people are not perfect that Canadians can’t afford to give any goverment a blank check.  This is why we need our Charter of Rights and Freedoms intact.

Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker gave Canada our Canadian Bill of Rights.

Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau gave Canada the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Why are the Conservative and Liberal Parties willing to sacrifice them today?

Bill C-51 isn’t a partisan issue, it’s a Canadian Issue.  It must not pass.

SAVE THE CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS

Call or write or tweet your MP, Justin Trudeau and Prime Minister Harper to tell them #StopBillC51

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Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

May 4, 2015 at 6:18 pm

An afternoon with Michael Harris

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I’ve heard it said that journalist Michael Harris* is one of the few Canadian journalists actually doing the job.

Last month Fair Vote Canada’s Waterloo Region Chapter and the awesome indie book seller Words Worth Books brought the iPolitics journalist and author of Party of One: Stephen Harper And Canada’s Radical Makeover to Waterloo Region for a talk about democracy in Canada.

Michael Harris consider's Jason Kenny's logic:  My goodness, Jason Kenny out there beating the

One of the topics Harris touched on in his talk at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener was the mainstream media.  He suggested there is a greater concern for protecting access to the government than reporting on it.

Although Michael has had a long and impressive career, I’d only begun reading his political commentary and reportage fairly recently. Like many Canadians, once I began to realize how unrepresentative Canadian government actually is, having been one of Canadians unrepresented on Parliament for my entire life, I’d pretty much given up on politics in frustration.

But that all changed when I began to learn about Proportional Representation.  Once I discovered there was a way Canada’s democratic deficit might finally be addressed, I started paying attention again.  Sadly, it seems I left it a little late.

But not Michael Harris.  He’s been in the political trenches for years, not just reporting on miscarriages of justice but writing books that work to fix the the things that are broken.  Michael’s clear eyed ability to get to the heart of things is a big part of why he does such a great job of illuminating the murky corners of the Canadian political system.   Not only does he provide valuable insight, he’s got a lot of “war stories” and flair for telling them.

I was able to record Michael’s talk, and today Michael Harris at the Registry Theatre is edited and online.  Those who were there and want to hear it again and those who weren’t able to attend on the day are in for a treat– enjoy.

Thanks so much, Michael.


*not to be confused with former Ontario Premier Mike Harris, or current Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris
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Image Credit: Michael Harris on Bill C-51 by Laurel Russwurm is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) License. You’ll find more images in the Flickr Album

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