When a 15 year old Canadian child named Omar Khadr was dug out of the rubble on July 27, 2002 he was so badly wounded he was not expected to survive.
At the age of ten he was uprooted from his life in Canada by his father and taken away to Afghanistan.
The UN Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict establishes that children younger than 18 who are involved in armed conflicts are Child Soldiers. This protocol was written in 2000, but it came into force on into force on 12 February 2002. This is an “optional” protocol, meaning there is no obligation for any nation to sign it. But Canada is a signatory to this. By signing and ratifying this protocol, the Canadian Government voluntarily chose to place Canada under its terms, so it it is no longer “optional.”
This protocol recognizes the fact that child soldiers are children, and children are not entirely responsible for themselves or their decisions. This is hardly a stretch: Canadian Law recognizes this too. We have a special set of criminal laws for children. Children are not allowed to sign legal contracts or legally able to consent for themselves; a parent or guardian is required to decide whether or not to consent on their behalf.
Omar Khadr was only 15 years old when the compound he was in in Afghanistan was attacked by the American military. Under Canadian Law he was a Child Soldier.
Our American friends are debating whether Health Care is a human right, but Canadians decided that it was long ago. Which is why it is bizarre that, of all the countries with Universal Health Care, Canada is the only country that doesn’t have Universal Pharmacare!
For those who don’t know, at the end of Second World War the victorious Allies governments imposed Mixed Member Proportional Representation on West Germany.
They did this specifically to prevent the rise of another Hitler. Although these powerful government leaders clearly understood this, they chose not to follow the same path for their own nations. Presumably they believed such limitation on their own power wasn’t necessary. Just as Canada’s current Prime Minister doesn’t feel his power needs limitation.
Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter if there is a good Prime Minister or a bad one. It doesn’t matter if there’s a bad government in place or not.
What matters in a representative democracy is that voters secure representation in Parliament. All Canadians need representation, period. Just as Canadians need the Charter, in times of good or bad. Like the Charter, representation provides citizens with security.
Had Harry Truman implemented such a change on the USA, the likelihood of a Trump presidency would be nil.
Winston Churchill knew Proportional Representation was a defence against fascism.
Here’s the thing: fear and dog whistle politics are a powerful tools used over and over again in winner-take-all systems because they work. One of the things so dreadfully wrong with winner-take-all politics is that the governments we elect are so unaccountable to voters, it isn’t a question of whether they will keep all their promises, it is a question of which promises they will keep. And, incredibly, we accept that. We have been conditioned to understand they won’t keep all their promises. No doubt this is a major reason the young and the idealistic don’t engage in politics: they see it for a sham, and choose to invest their energies elsewhere.
The Canadian MSM is now reminding us that all the MPs in Parliament — including those Conservative Leadership Candidates seeking to ride a wave of prejudice to 100% power in Parliament — voted in support of Mr. Mulcair’s October Petition. This was long before 6 Quebec Muslims were murdered at prayer.
Mr. Speaker, following discussions with all parties in the House, I hope you will find consent for the following motion. I move:
That the House join the 69,742 Canadian supporters of House of Commons e-petition (e-411) in condemning all forms of Islamophobia.
So what has happened? Do these Conservative Leadership Candidates feel a majority of their constituents approve of gunning down Muslims at prayer?
I don’t believe that for a minute.
But our winner-take-all political system allows for the distribution of a disproportional amount of power.
In a winner-take-all system like ours, Ms. Leitch doesn’t need a majority of Conservative Party Members to support Islamaphobia in order to win her party’s leadership crown. Nor does she even need to attract a majority of voters to become the Prime Minister of Canada.
So long as we continue to use this First Past the Post Electoral System, the right dog whistle can win a 39% (or less) majority.
It doesn’t matter if we have a few women or minority MPs in the House of Commons.
We are staring in the face of the polarization inherent in FPTP. This whole hullaballoo starkly contrasts what happens when a powerful old white male MP puts forward a Motion condemning Islamaphobia with what happens when a young ethnic woman MP does.
And it is a not pretty picture.
But it happens. And it will keep on happening so long as we retain an electoral system that rewards dog whistle politicians with more than their fair share of power.
Canada needs real Real Change.
It does not have to be this way. In spite of his totally specious arguments to the contrary, Prime Minister Trudeau’s disavowal of his electoral reform promise not only paves the way for institutional racism, it fuels Islamaphobia. If Ms. Khalid (and other Liberal MPs) want to change this dreadful FPTP side effect, it is time they told their leader he must restore the Electoral Reform process and show leadership to get Proportional Representation legislation through Parliament by October.
Because if Canada wants to be a healthy multicultural democracy, we must have Proportional Representation.
At this time of writing, Petition e-616 is up to 120,651 signatures. If everyone who has already signed it can convince 2 Canadians to sign it our chance of having Proportional Representation implemented by 2019 will be greatly improved.
Last year the Canadian Government passed a motion that condemned the BDS movement. This motion didn’t make it illegal for the United Church of Canada, Quakers, organizations, university students and human rights activists and ordinary people like your Aunt Mabel who boycott Israeli companies like SodaStream because they operate (or used to?) in illegal settlements on what is supposed to be Palestinian land.
When the Canadian Government passed that motion, it was just a document that said the Government deplores BDS and those who do it.
This year, Liberal back bencher Iqra Khalid’s Motion 103 has raised a ruckus.
Once again it becomes clear Canadians need to improve our civic literacy. Our politicians have entirely too easy a time manipulating us.
A motion is not a law. A government motion that condemns X simply says the government thinks X is bad. It is not a law, but an attempt to lead by example.
As a writer, I am a firm believer in free speech. If you are concerned about Canadian law interfering with our free speech, there is plenty to talk about with our hate speech laws and the law Canadians know as C-51. But this motion does not do anything to inhibit free speech. Even if it wanted to it couldn’t. A motion is not a law.
Motion 103 just says the Government of Canada doesn’t approve of Islamophobia, systemic racism and religious discrimination, and tasks the government with studying it in hopes of finding a soluition. But you don’t have to take my word for it. If you’re still worried, you can read it (like every motion or legislation considered by the Canadian Government) online. But to make it even easier, I’ve reproduced it for you here:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should:
(a) recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear;
(b) condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and take note of House of Commons’ petition e-411 and the issues raised by it; and
(c) request that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage undertake a study on how the government could
(i) develop a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia, in Canada, while ensuring a community-centered focus with a holistic response through evidence-based policy-making,
(ii) collect data to contextualize hate crime reports and to conduct needs assessments for impacted communities, and that the Committee should present its findings and recommendations to the House no later than 240 calendar days from the adoption of this motion, provided that in its report, the Committee should make recommendations that the government may use to better reflect the enshrined rights and freedoms in the Constitution Acts, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
This motion does not single out Islam for special consideration, it “condemns Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.”
All citizens are supposed to be protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Of course, in a democracy that relies on an electoral system that fails to represent its citizens proportionally, citizens can only hope we will get governments that will uphold our Charter protections.
Watching the live stream of the Commission of Inquiry Respecting the Death of Donald Dunphy is, well, disconcerting.
Today RNC Constable Smyth told the Inquiry he spent an hour scanning a years worth of Don Dunphy’s twitter stream before going to see Don Dunphy. Of course we can’t actually see Don Dunphy’s twitter stream because it’s been taken down. But the tweets still exist (there was a time when Twitter said all tweets would eventually end up in the Libary of Congress). We are talking about *thousands* of tweets, here, tweets that law enforcement and lawyers have access to.
The Inquiry is told Don Dunphy tweeted an a wide variety of subjects across many issues, including human rights and social justice. Don Dunphy routinely tweeted or retweeted inspirational quotations from the likes of the Dali Lama and Albert Einstein. Mr. Dunphy also talked about issues that directly concerned him. An injured worker who felt ill served by government, with particular grievances with the Workplace Health, Safety & Compensation Commission of Newfoundland and Labrador, he talked about government failure.
Dunphy, 59, was a former truck driver who battled for years with workers’ compensation after being crushed at 28 by a backhoe on a construction site. The frequent Twitter user called himself “a crucified injured worker from NL Canada where employers treat (the) injured like criminals.” Inquiry to ask: Why did Newfoundland police officer shoot Don Dunphy?
When apprised of a “disconcerting” tweet, Constable Joe Smyth, a member of the RNC protective detail for then Premier Davis, today told the Inquiry he made an assumption Don Dunphy would react badly if he had he had gone to Mr. Dunphy’s house accompanied by a uniformed RNC officer. Instead Constable Smyth went alone, driving an unmarked vehicle, dressed in plainclothes. And when he got there, it seems he was deliberately cagey about why he was there. And Don Dunphy ended up dead.
Today, Dunphy family lawyer, Bob Simmonds tried to find out the basis for the officer’s assumption, since Smyth agreed Don Dunphy had neither advocated or promoted violence in his tweets. In answer, Constable Smyth characterized Don Dunphy’s stated belief — that death of his wife and others were due to institutional failure — as “ideation”
“Ideation is the creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas, where an idea is understood as a basic element of thought that can be either visual, concrete, or abstract. Ideation comprises all stages of a thought cycle, from innovation, to development, to actualization. As such, it is an essential part of the design process, both in education and practice.“
But clearly that is not the definition Constable Smyth intended. “Ideation” is his reason for believing Don Dunphy needed “threat assessment” ASAP. Which indicates his meaning is more likely “Paranoid Ideation.”
As Mr. Simmonds questions the officer about the urgency or appropriateness of interrupting Don Dunphy in his home, unannounced, at meal time on Easter Sunday:
“There is a duty and an expectation when you identify certain behaviours and follow up on those behaviors… an unresolved grievance that may or may not be grounded in reality.”
When the officer says “may or may not be grounded in reality,” he implies Mr. Dunphy may suffer an inability to differentiate between reality and unreality.
This sounds to me as though the entire series of events culminating in this tragic death of Don Dunphy was built on the RNC Officer’s mistaken belief he was somehow competent to render a medical diagnosis of Mr. Dunphy based entirely on a superficial reading of the dead man’s Twitter feed. What a frightening assumption for a law officer to make. While I imagine there are folks at Workplace NL or elected officials in the government of Newfoundland and Labrador who might have disliked or disagreed with him, it seems the only person insinuating Don Dunphy was imagining things is the RNC Officer who shot and killed him on that Easter Sunday afternoon.
Constable Smyth’s subsequent ill advised email takes this hubris even further, as he wrote about being “too late” to “help” Mr Dunphy, or that the tragedy is “an opportunity to educate” the public about proactive “Intelligence based policing,” Constable Smyth even drew an outrageous comparison to the Ottawa shooting, explaining public officials need protection from “individuals and groups who will be disgruntled, and when desperation and instability is added to the mix you will have security concerns.” Perhaps the worst of it was in the closing paragraph:
“Although I cannot regret my actions last Sunday, I unequivocally wish I could have visited Mr. Dunphy at a point in his life where another level of intervention may have been possible. Our lives can change or end in the blink of an eye. Please seize any opportunity to help those who need it.”
Mr. Dunphy’s “behavior” had been exclusively verbal. And the only evidence of”escalation” seems to be in Constable Smyth’s perceptions. Yet even he admits that, before he himself went out to Mitchells Brook, N.L., there was no foundation to suggest Don Dunphy posed an imminent threat. Constable Smyth says he went to Don Dunphy’s home as part of his “threat assessment” process, to afford Mr. Dunphy an opportunity to explain his Twitter comments.
As Mr. Simmonds points out, Mr. Dunphy was simply exercising his right to free speech. His right to express his dissatisfaction with government. Why should Mr. Dunphy have to account to law enforcement for free speech in a free country?
And yet Constable Smyth goes on to describe Don Dunphy’s Twitter feed as “following a pathway to violence.”
As it happens, Constable Smyth is not a psychiatrist or even a psychologist, but a police officer who has taken some courses. A police officer who continues to believe himself competent to unilaterally make such assessments of citizens. This is seriously problematic.
After establishing Constable Smyth had no legal right to be in Don Dunphy’s home without Mr. Dunphy’s permission, Mr. Simmonds asked the constable why, when it became clear Don Dunphy no longer wanted him there — when Mr. Dunphy was, according to Constable Smyth’s words, “frothing at the mouth” — why didn’t the officer just leave?
Constable Smyth explained he didn’t leave because Don Dunphy didn’t explicitly tell him to leave. And Don Dunphy died.
Even if you are willing to assume everything Constable Smyth believes everything he has testified to be true, how can any officer incapable of recognizing when an interview subject wants him to leave possibly be competent to make mental assessments of citizens?
Civil Rights Exist To Protect Citizens
The Don Dunphy Inquiry is bigger than Newfoundland and Labrador; this tragedy shines a light on a danger facing all of Canada.
When people are afraid someone is listening, free speech is no longer a right, but a dangerous practice. When law enforcement monitors innocent law abiding citizens on social media platforms like Twitter, citizens whose only “crime” is the exercise our Charter rights to free speech, our Charter rights are under attack.
Tom Mahoney, Executive Director, WorkplaceNL told police Constable Smyth said:
“The worst thing about these situations is these guys you know tend to be in their house, they tend to feel free to say what they like, but they don’t realize there are consequences.“
Mr. Simmonds questioned Constable Smyth as to the “consequences for free speech.” He also wanted to know why, absent any other evidence, did he decide Don Dunphy was a person of interest requiring ASAP investigation based solely on the fact he spoke his mind about politics and politicians online. But Constable Smyth repeatedly denied infringing Don Dunphy’s right to free speech. But what else can you call it when an agent of law enforcement takes what you say on social media and uses it to unilaterally judge you?
Privacy– freedom from having to worry that the government is not watching and listening to us without good reason (what the law calls probable cause) is an important part of how citizens stay safe from government over reach and injustice in a democracy. That’s why an Injured workers group asks why WorkplaceNL gave Don Dunphy information to police. Injured citizens are among society’s most vulnerable, so when injured workers are obliged to turn over personal information to government agencies that are supposed to help them, they don’t expect that information to be handed over to police at the drop of a hat. And they are right to be concerned, as the Don Dunphy tragedy clearly illustrates. Surely Don Dunphy isn’t the only injured worker venting about their frustrations on social media. Social media networks exist because human beings create community, not to make it easier for police to judge our every word. Apparently Constable Smyth failed to learn that in his social media course.
If Canadians are not free to say what we like in our house, even if we are talking online, where do we have free speech? Canadian democracy is Built on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Now I’m not a lawyer, but it certainly seems to me as if Don Dunphy’s Charter rights were breached twice:
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
… (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
~ and ~
Life, liberty and security of person
7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.
On the national front, the Federal Government’s failure to amend or repeal the law that gives federal law enforcement “lawful access” to monitor innocent Canadians online (formerly known as Bill C-51) is a virtual guarantee that such miscarriages of justice, and indeed similar tragedies, will undoubtedly happen again as a matter of course. Is this acceptable to you? It isn’t to me.
Don Dunphy spoke up for what he believed is right, but the man was silenced forever. Perhaps even worse, to me, as both a writer and a believer in free speech, is that the words he wrote on Twitter have been silenced as well.
All Canadians need the full protection of the Charter. Otherwise the Charter isn’t worth the paper its written on.
The Inquiry continues tomorrow ~ January 24th, 2017 ~ with what will probably be the final cross-examination of Constable Smyth.
Bill C-51, now known as the Anti-terrorism Act, allows Canada’s spy agency, CSIS, to disrupt real and perceived terrorist threats. It allows intelligence agencies to share Canadians’ personal information more widely. Authorities can detain someone for up to seven days if it’s believed a terrorist event may occur.
And the exercise of these new powers can take place without meaningful parliamentary oversight.
The idea was to separate the intelligence gathering and security operations into two discrete branches of the service. Giving CSIS the power to act on the intelligence it gathers, to make the sort of disruptions it was created to prevent the RCMP from undertaking makes no sense at all. From all reports, Canadian security ~ and Canadians ~ have suffered serious consequences because the two branches of the service don’t communicate with each other. Instead of rectifying such serious problems that have come to light through the Air India Inquiry (2010) and the Arar Inquiry (2006), C-51 compounds them by granting the security service unprecedented “lawful access” to the personal information of all Canadian citizens. What it does *not* do is compell CSIS to share information about imminent attacks. This does not make Canadians safer.
Although I am no lawyer, my understanding is that C-51 legalized a host of activities that were formerly illegal under Canadian law because they jeopardize or contravene the civil rights Canadians are supposed to be guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As near as I can tell, nothing at all is being done to end CSE’s bulk data collection — effectively spying on the digital activities of all Canadians 24/7.
Currently the only supervision of the activities of the security services are after-the-fact reviews, which means any and all improper Charter breaches will only come to light long after they have occurred, which is like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped.
Perhaps the most chilling part of all of this is the incredible lack of oversight to the services that have been given these incredible powers over our lives. At least in the early part of the 21st Century the CSIS Inspector General provided actual supervision, to ensure Canadian spies don’t break the law.
I wrote about this all in March of last year, before C-51 became law, in Liberal Leader Gets Bill C-51 Wrong. Unfortunately it looks as though our Liberal Government has no intention of dismantling this dreadful law. It seems the best we can hope for is some sort of parliamentary oversight.
Unfortunately that is more likely to end up being a rubber stamp than anything else.
Today is the last day for Canadians to make submissions to the Federal Government’s National Security Consultation. Although there was a component of This is an online consultation, and they’ve provided plenty of reading material, which naturally supports the idea this legislation is a good thing. It’s not. At least not if you think the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is important.
The government has broken the consultation down into categories spread out over multiple web pages, asking for our input on any or all of the 10 topic areas for the consultation. Each page also asks us to identify ourselves, although, unlike the electoral reform consultation, it is not explicitly necessary.
I’ll say it again: Today ~ December 15th, 2016 ~ is the LAST DAY to participate in the consultation. Please do. Even if all you do is go to any or all of the Consultation web pages and comment “Repeal C-51” you will help. Anonymous comments won’t be taken as seriously as comments connected with our real names, so I strongly recommend filling in the contact info. The reality is that, so long as C-51 is in place, there is no way for Canadians to enjoy online anonymity. (Even encrypted activity is being recorded and stored against the day the security services can break the encryption.)
Even if you read this after the consultation deadline, you can still call your MP to account for this. Canadians used to have civil rights. We used to have privacy. Law enforcement agents were required to produce some evidence of probable cause that would convince a judge to issue a warrant before our Charter protections of our privacy could be legally breached. Privacy is the citizen’s only protection from potential over-reach of the powerful state. This is why the UHDR and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms seek to protect our privacy. Sacrificing citizen privacy does not make us safer, it puts us at risk.
C-51 ushered in a powers and laws that threaten Canadian privacy, freedom of speech and other Charter protections without actually substantively dealing with problems of prosecution of terrorism, and without any meaningful oversight of Canada’s booming national security industry.
After you make your submission, you can Sign the Petition:
We are at a disheartening moment in federal politics. Despite all the powerful and thoughtful critiques of the government’s anti-terrorism bill, it has now become law.”
– Ed Broadbent
This is the fourth in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series
Canada’s government is chosen with a “First Past the Post” electoral system where some votes are worth more than others, but most don’t count at all. This effectively divides Canadians into those that have representation and those who have none.
With such disproportionate representation, the best hope for in such a polarized electorate is a minority government, because no laws can be passed without the support of more than one party. Unfortunately there is no “minority government” box to mark on the ballot. This is especially difficult for citizens when our winner-take-all electoral system delivers a majority government to a single party that earned far less than a majority of votes.
Our current Liberal majority government was elected by just 39.5% of the voters, excluding a majority of Canadians from representation in Government. When a “majority” government (like most First Past the Post (FPTP) governments) is elected by a minority of voters, the majority of voters are unrepresented. The idea is that whoever is elected, is expected to represent the interests of all their constituents. This sounds good in theory, but hasn’t worked so well in practice.
What citizens are left with is a serious democratic deficit. The problem becomes even bigger when well funded corporate and ideological special interest groups can successfully lobby for what their employers want. Powerful insiders and professional lobbyists know how the system works and they how to get what their employers want. Not only do these people know who to talk to, they have access to the decision makers ordinary citizens don’t. These pros can make backroom deals and convince the right people to put forth legislation and trade agreements beneficial to the special interests groups who hire them — even when it’s detrimental to the public good.
Since we are saddled with a system that usually leaves most voters without representatives who will speak for us in Parliament, the only recourse left to the majority of Canadians without representation is to lobby the government ourselves when our MPs consider issues important to us. If we don’t, we have no hope of discouraging our MPs from supporting:
legislation, policy or dangerous trade agreements Canadians oppose,
making and voting for laws that undermine the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and/or
otherwise jeopardize the public good,
That’s why the majority of voters have to work very hard just to get the government’s attention. We must try to educate the government about the issues that are important to us, and work even harder to try to convince the government not to pass laws or make policy detrimental to our interests.
If we used a different kind of electoral system — one that provided citizens with some form of Proportional Representation — we wouldn’t have to work so hard because we would actually have representation in Ottawa.
But we aren’t there yet. In the here and now, it is very important you let your MP know where you stand on issues that matter to you.
It doesn’t matter which party your MP is in, if you oppose Canada’s ratification of the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) you need to let your MP know you do not want the TPP.
Or Bill C-51.
Or even a motion to condemning the BSD movement (our right to dissent!).
Whenever the government is going to do things we don’t want it to, it’s up to us to let the government know or the only side they will hear is the other one. If you can’t convince your MP and/or their party disagrees with you, s/he isn’t likely to do you much good at all. So our only hope is that a lot of other Canadians will contact their MPs about the issues that matter to you as well.
We would be much better off with Proportional Representation, but even without it, if enough of us speak up, (strongly enough, loudly enough) there is a slim chance we might persuade the Government to back away from bad policy. Public opinion didn’t seem to have much weight with the previous Government, but public opinion does matter to the Liberal Government. Our chance of being heard is better than it was with 39.6% majority government the Liberals replaced.
You can contact your MP in a variety of ways:
by meeting with your MP in person,
speaking to your MP on the phone,
sending your MP postal mail (Mail may be sent postage-free to any Member of Parliament)
writing your MP an email,
sending your MP a fax
speaking to your MP on social media, or
Meeting with your MP in person is probably the single most effective strategy while signing a petition (especially a digital petition) is probably the least effective. To make it easier for the folks in the Waterloo Region area to contact your MP, I’ve put together contact information for our new crop of Members of Parliament.
MP Raj Saini (Liberal)
209 Frederick Street (Main Office)
This part of the website seems a little bit broken just now, as I’m finding it is providing links to incomplete draft contact pages. It might be easier to simply type in the correct URL by typing it into the URL address bar (or search bar) in your browser: