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laurel l. russwurm's political musings

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?

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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

Here’s hoping the House of Commons will reject Bill C-51

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Bill C-51 will deepen and widen Canada’s democratic deficit into an abyss. Is it possible to stop it?

postcard design #2 - Preserve the canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Stop Bill C-51From the beginning, Green Party leader Elizabeth May has led the opposition against Bill C-51. Happily she has been joined by the NDP and every other party in voicing serious concerns, although the Liberal Party has fewer concerns than any other, and say they will actually vote for it. (No, I don’t get it, either.)

From the very beginning, the Harper Government made it clear it would fast track Bill C-51.

Bill C-51 was even presented to the Senate before it even cleared the House of Commons, something that is certainly unusual, and possibly even unprecedented. Even there, an MI5 intelligence expert (one of Canada’s “Five Eyes” intelligence ally) condemned Bill C-51 roundly before at the Senate hearings. In the past, Canadians have seen the Senate’s reluctance to provide sober second thought, so we really can’t expect anything more than it’s usual rubber stamp of Harper Government Policy.

The Parliamentary Committee meant to study Bill C-51 was severely limited in the number of submissions the Government would allow. An NDP filibuster made it possible to slightly expand the scope of the presentations, but it still fell very short of the mark. Nevertheless, most of the experts on the array of issues covered by this omnibus bill were not allowed to even speak to the committee.

Rather than silencing opposition, this policy had the opposite affect: the experts made an effort to wade through and dissect this law in a way seldom seen any more. Since the committee couldn’t hear their opposition on this incredibly important issue, the experts have presented their findings to us, the Canadian public.

The Parliament Buildings drawn by Roger Duhamel, from the Canadian Bill of Rights (public domain)

Legal scholars Craig Forcese (University of Ottawa) and Kent Roach (University of Toronto) began by presenting their findings online, as they found them. Former Prime Ministers, Supreme Court Justices and finally the entire Canadian legal community rose up against this dreadful draft legislation. Canadian Privacy Commissioners — past and present — spoke strongly against Bill C-51. Civil Liberty groups, Conrad Black, Rex Murphy, the Communist Party of Canada and even a group of business owners have all come out against Bill C-51 in the strongest terms.

In the beginning, ordinary Canadians were told this law would make us safe from terrorism, when in fact this claim has failed to rise above the rhetoric. Instead of being supported with evidence, the expert evidence demonstrating that stripping Canadians of Charter protections will in fact make us less safe. As a result, ordinary Canadians held rallies and Days of Action across Canada to raise awareness. When Canadians learn the import of Bill C-51, we oppose it. Now that ordinary people have the facts, support for the bill has plummeted and the vast majority of Canadians are in opposition to this bill.

Because Bill C-51 is not a partisan issue, it’s a Canadian issue. This law would be un-Canadian.
Stop Bill C-51

And yet none of this seems to have dampened the Harper Government’s determination to fast-track the Bill. The deepest flaw in our electoral system is that a party with 39% of the vote can gain 100% of the power. When a party has 100% of the power, it can pass any law it likes. (This is why we need Proportional Representation.)

Rather than scrapping the bill outright, the Harper Government’s domination of the parliamentary committee instead flexed it’s dictatorial muscles by defeating every amendment presented by every other Canadian political party with representation in Parliament. The only amendments to the law have been the three 3 cosmetic changes in an unconvincing effort to demonstrate the Government had in fact noticed public opinion opposes the bill.

At the Report Stage, Ms. May delivered an excellent speech on Bill C-51 in Parliament. Everything she said is born out by experts.

And yet The Harper Government continues to spread misinformation about this bill through its response made by the West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast – Sea to Sky Country MP. John Weston claimed Bill C-51 made “modest changes” which would “bring our government up to the level of other western democracies” without providing a scrap of substantiation. Then he attempted to discredit Ms. May with an ad hominem attack, then he concluded with a false claim that Bill C-51 would provide “judicial overview.”

This was Ms. May’s response.

Mr. Speaker, let’s be clear, this bill does not contain a single element of judicial oversight.

It does allow a CSIS agent to go to a judge and obtain a warrant–  but does that judge have the overview and the oversight to continue to monitor the way that warrant is used?

And no other modern democracy — NONE — anywhere — would allow a judge in a secret hearing to give a warrant to violate the constitution.

It is unheard of in the democratic world.

It’s unheard of, period

and this parliament should not stand for it.

Elizabeth May, Speech on Bill C-51

Although I am not a lawyer, my reading of the Charter suggests this is all that will remain of our rights and freedoms if Bill C-51 becomes law.

Canadian Charter After They pass Bill C-51

For this reason, I sincerely hope that Bill C-51 is withdrawn by the Harper Government. To this end, I sincerely hope Canadians will continue to call or write or email our MPs (you can print your own post card here) — even Conservative MPs — or sign the petition or petitions of your choice, and encourage others to do so as well. If we keep silent, our Charter will become a ghost of itself, our civil rights a sham.

For this reason I lend my own voice to Ms. May’s plea that her colleagues in the House of Commons will reject this bad law.

I’m only an ordinary citizen, maybe I’ve gotten it wrong.  But the experts have out the evidence out there.  Because the experts know why Bill C-51 must be scrapped.  Please watch the video (it’s only ten minutes) and hear for yourself.


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Image Credits:

My flag photo is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License;

My post card designs are CC0 (in the public domain)

Roger Duhamel‘s rendering of the Canadian Parliament Buildings is Public Domain.  The image is from the Canadian Bill of Rights, which was originally under Crown Copyright, which expires 50 years after publication.

My graphic “the Canadian Charter after they Pass Bill C-51” was used under the fair dealing exemption to Canadian copyright law, and I’ve dedicated my resultant work to the Public Domain.

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