Canadian Senate Blues

They call it “the Red Chamber” but it sure seems like Canadians have been singing the Senate Blues for most of my life.

In the dying days of the Harper Government, the misadventures of Senator Mike Duffy proved to be a major embarrassment for the Canadian Government.  By the time the dust settled, Duffy had resigned from the Conservative Caucus, the criminal charges against him were dropped, and Duffy, now an un-aligned independent, resumed his seat as Senator for PEI (even though he still doesn’t actually seem to live there). Then Prime Minister Stephen Harper was certainly mixed up in Mr. Duffy’s case, but was never properly investigated or held to account.

But Duffy’s case was just the tip of the iceberg. The Auditor General report identified thirty (THIRTY!) past and present Canadian senators or former senators as having “made inappropriate or ineligible expense claims.”  In addition to being implicated in the expense scandal, 39 year old Senator Patrick Brazeau had a host of still unresolved other problems.   About a year ago Press Progress shared an Angus Reid Opinion Poll that suggested only 6% of Canadians were happy with the Senate as is.

Senate Thrones

Real or Imagined?

Canada’s new Trudeau Government had ostentatiously promised, ahem, real change.

And yet, once again, there are Senators making news in ways that reflect very poorly on Canada’s Upper House.

Interim Conservative Party Leader Rona Ambrose has called for the resignation of Stephen Harper appointee Senator Don Meredith after Senate Ethics Officer Lyse Ricard’s investigation exposed his inappropriate sexual relationship with a teen.

Senator Meredith has made it abundantly clear he has no intention of going quietly, even though the other Senators are determined to expel Don Meredith after his relationship with teenage girl.

It has become increasingly clear that a code of conduct that hopes miscreants will quietly resign in the face of exposure is simply not sufficient. Real change requires a framework that allows for summary suspensions of Senators (and MPs) accused of impropriety and/or lawbreaking, removing them from office if such charges proven. Our Westminster System of government was designed for a feudal society that allowed the nobility to get away with a great deal.  But in a society that aspires to citizen equality there is no place for such abuses of power.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, now we learn Senator Lynn Beyak, member of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples  has spoken up in defence of the “abundance of good” in Residential Schools.

I speak partly for the record, but mostly in memory of the kindly and well-intentioned men and women and their descendants — perhaps some of us here in this chamber — whose remarkable works, good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part and are overshadowed by negative reports. Obviously, the negative issues must be addressed, but it is unfortunate that they are sometimes magnified and considered more newsworthy than the abundance of good.

Honourable Lynn Beyak, Senate Debates: Increasing Over-representation of Indigenous Women in Canadian Prisons

As might be expected, Senator Beyak’s attitude has not gone over well.  CBC reports Senator’s residential school comment ‘hurts the integrity of the Canadian system,’ survivor says.  The Liberal Indigenous Caucus issued a statement asking Senator Beyak to “resign from the Senate as her views are inconsistent with the spirit of reconciliation that is required in both chambers of Parliament.”  Committee Chair Senator Lillian Eva Dyck agrees Senator Bayek’s should resign after her ill-informed and insensitive comments.

Even the United Church had some strong words for the Hon. Ms. Beyak:

“Indigenous peoples and organizations have responded to Senator Beyak’s comments. As one of the parties responsible for the operation of residential schools, The United Church of Canada also feels a responsibility to respond.

“Senator Beyak spoke of the “good intentions” behind the residential schools system. Thirty years ago, The United Church of Canada apologized to First Nations Peoples for our role in colonization and the destruction of their cultures and spiritualties. In the process of preparing, delivering, and attempting to live out that Apology, we have learned that “good intentions” are never enough, and that to offer such words in explanation is damaging and hurtful.

“The United Church of Canada participated in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission not just as part of a legal agreement but also as part of a moral and ethical commitment to understand the impact of our role in the residential schools system, to atone for it, and to participate in healing and building of a new relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.”

— Moderator: Senator Beyak’s Comments on Residential Schools

Not everyone is right for every job, and it’s pretty clear to everyone but Senator Beyak that she is not a good fit for the Senate of Canada.  Again, there doesn’t seem to be any provision to remove her in spite of the growing outcry.  The longer this goes on, the worse the Senate, and, indeed the Government of Canada looks.

Canadians need a government capable of governing itself with decorum and accountability.

As often happens in Canada’s unrepresentative democracy, there is a Petition:

SIGN THE PETITION:
We demand the resignation of Senator Lynn Beyak and issuance of a formal apology

It seems Canada’s unfair First Past The Post electoral system continues to engender a political culture of shameless entitlement even (especially?) in our un-elected Senate. A democratic government that fails to answer to its citizens is seriously dysfunctional.


Image Credits

Senate photos by Makaristos have been dedicated to the public domain.  Click the images to find the originals on Wikimedia Commons.

International Women’s Day 2017 ~ #IWD

Women in Politics

In 2015 twelve members of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet (approximately 30%) were women.

The Harper Government: 77 female MPs ~ 25%.

The Trudeau Government: 88 female MPs ~ 26%.

More women in Cabinet is undoubtedly better for women than under-representation.  Government Ministers are more influential than back bench MPs, which is why these figures are tracked by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

But we need to remember the reason Prime Minister Trudeau’s gender balanced cabinet was newsworthy —  it did not happen naturally.  Although Canadian women make up about half the population, electing 25% women to the House of Commons was a record when Mr. Harper’s government managed it, just as electing 26% was a record for Mr. Trudeau’s government.

Whoop de doo.

That’s not exactly fair representation, but that is what you get with a First Past The Post electoral system.

That’s why Canada is way down the list “at 63rd internationally when it comes to women’s political representation.

While Mr. Trudeau is to be commended for attempting to redress that wrong, implementing a gender quota is an artificial fix.  One side effect is that such a policy severely limits the pool of cabinet choices when half the cabinet must be chosen from a quarter of the MPs.  Whether true or not, whenever a quota system is used, there are always mutterings asking if those who are chosen may not in fact be qualified for the job.

Cabinet Ministers are chosen entirely at the discretion of the Prime Minister.  Any MP can be quickly scooped up for a Cabinet position, and just as easily turfed out again, all at the discretion of one man: the Prime Minister.

In Mr. Trudeau’s Cabinet, however, the male members are being chosen from three quarters of the MPs, so there will be no doubt they are worthy of the power and authority they’ve been given.   But female members are being chosen from a mere quarter of the MPs.   This certainly can be easily used to undermine the public perception of the value of female Cabinet Ministers.  The optics of this combined with a quota certainly undermines the idea that Ministers are chosen purely on merit.

The very existence of this quota is entirely at the Prime Minister’s discretion.  Which means it us not a permanent fix: it can be discarded at any time.  This Prime Minister could easily change his mind about gender parity (just as he did with his Electoral Reform promise).  Or the next Prime Minister may as easily choose to exclude female MPs from his Cabinet altogether.  Like any policy developed under First Past The Post, this could become a pendulum issue swinging back and forth between Liberals and Conservatives.

Women chosen to serve as Ministers are well aware they owe the PM a debt of gratitude for bestowing this honour on them.  When the man with the power tells the Minister of Democratic Institutions that Proportional Representation is not an option, what can she do but go along.   Because female Cabinet Ministers surely know the prize can be peremptorily withdrawn at his discretion for any reason.  Or none.  Such context will most certainly guarantee that some (if not all) women Ministers will be very careful to do as they are told.  Will they fight for what they know is right or will they toe the party line to protect their status and position?

On the other hand, if Canada elected women in more proportional numbers in a more natural way, such a quota would hardly be necessary.  There would be a reasonably large pool of women MPs from which Ministers can be chosen on merit.  If they share a level playing field, women and men could assert themselves with confidence (and hopefully do what’s right). Wouldn’t that be something!

Diversity

It also seems the claims that Prime Minister Trudeau’s Cabinet is “the country’s most diverse” need also be taken with a grain of salt.

AS Rachel Décoste points out, “The previous Harper cabinet included women, Aboriginals, South Asians, East Asians, Quebecers and a person with a disability. If that’s not diversity, I don’t know what is.”  Ms. Décoste goes on to explain:

“For visible minorities, PM Trudeau’s inaugural cabinet is decidedly less diverse than PM Harper’s. The absence of East Asians (Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, etc.) is jarring.

“The presence of black Canadians, the third largest racial demographic, is also deficient. Despite a record four Afro-Canadian MPs elected from a voter base blindly loyal to the Liberals, PM Trudeau shut them out of cabinet.

“Harper did not name any African-Canadians to cabinet. He had no black MPs to choose from. Despite a record four Afro-Canadian MPs elected, Trudeau shut them out of cabinet.”

Trudeau’s Cabinet Isn’t As Diverse As You Think

Kathleen Wynn, Elizabeth May, Andrea Horwath, Catherine Fife, Bardish Chagger, Lorraine Rekmans
Canadian Politicians:  Kathleen Wynne, Elizabeth May, Andrea Horwath, Catherine Fife, Bardish Chagger, Lorraine Rekmans

Electoral Reform

Instead of relying on the temporary fix of patchwork quotas, the Canadian Government’s continuing failure to reflect the diversity of Canadians in the House of Commons could be addressed in a more stable and balanced manner through adoption of some form of Proportional Representation. As demonstrated in my graph, as a rule it is the countries using Proportional Representation that outperform Canada in both gender parity and overall citizen representation.

Equal Voice thinks it could take the Canadian Government 90 years to achieve gender parity naturally if we continue on as we are.  Frankly, if we keep First Past The Post I think that’s wildly optimistic.  Any way you slice it, this is simply unacceptable in a representative democracy.

It’s great that the suffragettes fought for our right to vote; but it’s too bad they didn’t win effective votes for Canadian women.  On this International Women’s Day, it is important for all Canadian women to understand:  if the Canadian Government is serious about gender parity it must begin with Proportional Representation.

Canadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag backgroundThis is the thirty-first article in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

#ProportionalRepresentation Spin Cycle ~ #ERRE

Proportional Representation Series So Far:• Proportional Representation for Canada
• What’s so bad about First Past The Post
• Democracy Primer
• Working for Democracy
• The Popular Vote
• Why Don’t We Have PR Already?
• Stability
• Why No Referendum?
• Electoral System Roundup
• When Canadians Learn about PR with CGP Grey
• Entitlement
• Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote
• #ERRÉ #Q Committee
• #ERRÉ #Q Meetings & Transcripts
• Take The Poll ~ #ERRÉ #Q
Proportionality #ERRÉ #Q 
• The Poll’s The Thing 
• DIY Electoral Reform Info Sessions
• What WE Can Do for ERRÉ
• #ERRÉ today and Gone Tomorrow (…er, Friday)
• Redistricting Roulette 
• #ERRÉ submission Deadline TONIGHT!
#ERRÉ Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm
• The Promise: “We will make every vote count” #ERRÉ
FVC: Consultations Provide Strong Mandate for Proportional Representation #ERRÉ
PEI picks Proportional Representation
There is only one way to make every vote count #ERRÉ
Canada is Ready 4 Proportional Representation
Sign the Petition e-616
#ProportionalRepresentation Spin Cycle ~ #ERRÉ
International Women’s Day 2017 ~ #IWD

and don’t forget to check out the PR4Canada Resources page!

#ProportionalRepresentation Spin Cycle ~ #ERRE

Shortly after the ERRE Committee submitted its report, the Honourable Maryam Monsef was relieved of her position as Minister of Democratic Institutions in a cabinet shuffle.  An even younger rookie MP was elevated to the Minister of Democratic Institutions position.  Ms. Gould made the following statement… the words in green are my response.

Old and new Ministers of Democratic Institutions, Maryam Monsef and Karina Gould

Our electoral system is foundational to our democracy. At its core, is the question of how we, as Canadians, govern ourselves.

Our government believes that time was needed to consult Canadians about this complex issue.  [Why, then, with such a clear timeline (18 months) established in Mr. Trudeau’s election promise, was so much time squandered before setting up the ERRE Committee?]

Our view has always been clear. Major reforms to the electoral system, changes of this magnitude, should not be made if they lack the broad support of Canadians.
[No such caveat was mentioned at all during the election campaign; in fact Mr. Trudeau clearly promised that if elected, 2015 would be the last First Past the Post election.]

Public consultations came in many forms.  Members of Parliament were encouraged to hold Town Halls, to hear the views of their constituents.
[Many Canadians had no access to any such consultation.  Locally the last remaining Conservative MP declined to host a live consultation, instead limitinh his efforts to a mail out householder questionaire.  There were regional events put on by the Greens and NDP, whose constituents currently have no representation in Parliament.  Additionally Fair Vote Waterloo put on a number of events, and partnered with the Waterloo Region Library and Kitchener Library systems to host information events.]

My predecessor travelled throughout the country visiting every province and territory, to host similar Town Halls on behalf of the government.
[In Waterloo Region, where 4 of 5 Conservative MPs had been replaced by 4 Liberal MPs in the 2015 election, not one of the newly minted LPC MPs conducted their own Town Hall consultation.  Instead, all four piggybacked with Ms. Monsef’s visit for a single rushed event.  Had each MP held their own Town Hall prior to (or even after) Ms. Monsef’s Tour stop, a much better quality of consultation would have been possible.]

An All Party Special Committee of the House of Commons worked long hours and in December produced a thorough report that documents the many complexities of electoral reform.

[The All Party Committee achieved a consensus report recommending some form of Proportional Representation within specific parameters and a referendum.]  

In recent weeks, more than 360,000 Canadians participated in mydemocracy.ca to provide their insight into our democratic values.
[It seemed to me the ERRE consultation was grossly underfunded.   Not only were the itineraries of the cross Canada consultations undertaken by Minister Monsef and the ERRE Committee very last minute with very little lead time, and certainly no advertising to allow better attendance by citizens, apparently the budget didn’t allow very many consultation stops at all.  Ontario, the most populous province in Canada got only a single ERRE Committee stop, and that in Toronto.  Minister Monsef’s travels took up some of the slack, but large swathes of Canadians (notably those under-represented in sparsely populated areas like northern Ontario) were never consulted.   Apparently the budget for the entire process, from weeks of expert testimony and cross country tours, was less than what was spent on the dubious MyDemocracy survey. Had postcards informing Canadians of the ERRE Consultation Tours been sent our, the real ERRE consultation would have benefited enormously.]

Now, following all of these consultations, it has become clear that Canadians have a range of views about whether to continue using the current First Past The Post system to elect MPs to the House of Commons.
[Anyone who participated in any of the public consultations will understand that an important component of each was the education piece.  Many of those Canadians in attendance required a civics refresher to help understand the First Past The Post system we use now, as well as an introduction to other potential electoral systems of which most of us have no experience at all.]

We respect and thank all those who have come forward to participate in these discussions. It has informed our decision.
[The Liberal Party didn’t say anything about making a decision, you promised Canadians an electoral reform process. There is no need of any decision at this point in the electoral reform process Prime Minister Trudeau promised in the election.  As yet there has been no electoral reform legislation drafted; neither MPs or Senators have had an opportunity to debate it.  ]

And it has become evident the broad support needed among Canadians for a change of this magnitude does not exist.
[In spite of the near invisibility of the un advertised underfunded cross country ERRE Consultation, Canadians came out, and more than 80% of the Canadians at Consultations expressed support for some form of Proportional Representation electoral reform — is a clear demonstration of broad support.  Certainly more than the 39% of the votes that elevated the Liberal Party to majority government status.]

[en francais]

The Honourable Karina Gould buries Proportional Representation
The Honourable Karina Gould buries Proportional Representation

Therefore, my mandate letter states a clear preference for a new electoral system, let alone a consensus, has not emerged.
[Your mandate letter could state the Earth is flat, but that wouldn’t be right, either.  Canadians — more than the 39% who voted Liberal — Canadians voting NDP, Bloc and Green  —  voted for a party supporting electoral reform.  This has not changed.]

Furthermore, without a clear preference or clear question a referendum would not be in Canada’s Interest.
[A clear majority — 88% of expert witnesses at the ERRE committee hearings in Ottawa advocated for some form of Proportional Representation.]

Changing the electoral system is not in my mandate.
[So?  The Liberals were elected on this promise.  The promised electoral reform process was begun.  We expect it to continue.  This is a democracy, right?]

We have listened to all Canadians in this debate.
[And yet you have not heard the clear message we have sent.  An overwhelming majority of expert witnesses and citizens who engaged in the process want some form of Proportional Representation.]

To Canadians who cherish their democracy and who value the direct connection they have with their Member of Parliament.
[You say that as though you believe Proportional Representration precludes a direct connection with our MP.   This is not true, which suggests you need to do your homework.  Maybe even read the ERRE report.  Because the Canadians who cherish their democracy and who value the direct connection they have with their Member of Parliament are the ones who are telling you we want Proportional Representation.]

Canadians want their Parliamentarians to work with each other and to cooperate on policy.
[Absolutely.  That is precisely why we want Proportional Representation.  Such cooperation is, at best, a rarity with winner take all politics.  You’ve watched Question Period, right?  Oddly enough, now that your government holds a phony majority QP is as much a joke as it was under the previous administration.]

They want their government to be accountable.
[Absolutely.  That is precisely why we want Proportional Representation.  Accountable means you take responsibility for your words.  That when you promise 2015 would be the last FPTP election that you actually go through with it.  But you know what they say about absolute power.  Canadians are tired of phony majority governments that flip us the bird.]

They want their MPs to act in the interest of their constituents.
[We want you to listen to us.  We want you to represent us.  Which means following through on your promises.]

We agree.
[Then act like it.]

My job is to strengthen and protect our democratic institutions and ensure they represent the values of Canadians. We are moving to accomplish that mandate.
[No, you are not.  The only way to strengthen and protect our democratic institutions is to implement Proportional Representation so our Parliament will actually represent as many of its constituents as possible.  This isn’t that.]

— CPAC: Karina Gould, the new Minister of Democratic Institutions, announcing government decision to break its campaign pledge to change Canada’s voting system.

This is unacceptable.

2011-canadian-election-pie-22011-canadian-election-pie-power22015-canadian-election-pie-22015-canadian-election-pie-power2

Electoral reform it isn’t just going to go away.  Too many ordinary Canadians just know too much about it.   I think we’re at the tipping point.

Canadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag backgroundThis is the thirtieth article in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

Canada is Ready 4 Proportional Representation

Proportional Representation Series So Far:• Proportional Representation for Canada
• What’s so bad about First Past The Post
• Democracy Primer
• Working for Democracy
• The Popular Vote
• Why Don’t We Have PR Already?
• Stability
• Why No Referendum?
• Electoral System Roundup
• When Canadians Learn about PR with CGP Grey
• Entitlement
• Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote
• #ERRÉ #Q Committee
• #ERRÉ #Q Meetings & Transcripts
• Take The Poll ~ #ERRÉ #Q
Proportionality #ERRÉ #Q 
• The Poll’s The Thing 
• DIY Electoral Reform Info Sessions
• What WE Can Do for ERRÉ
• #ERRÉ today and Gone Tomorrow (…er, Friday)
• Redistricting Roulette 
• #ERRÉ submission Deadline TONIGHT!
#ERRÉ Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm
• The Promise: “We will make every vote count” #ERRÉ
FVC: Consultations Provide Strong Mandate for Proportional Representation #ERRÉ
PEI picks Proportional Representation
There is only one way to make every vote count #ERRÉ
Canada is Ready 4 Proportional Representation
Sign the Petition e-616
#ProportionalRepresentation Spin Cycle ~ #ERRÉ

and don’t forget to check out the PR4Canada Resources page!

Canadian Dog Whistle Politics or #ProportionalRepresentation?

 

quebec_conference_1943framed

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.

Had Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie King implemented some form of Proportional Representation in Canada, Canadians would not see be seeing a rise in dog whistle politics. My brother wrote about this phenomenon before either of us knew the term.

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.

Dog Whistling Islamaphobia

MP Iqra Khalid’s Private Member’s Motion is not the first to reference House of Commons e-petition (e-411).

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.

The Honourable Thomas Mulcair, Hansard, House of Commons, October 26th, 2016

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair's Islamaphobia motion received unanimous assent in the House of Commons on Oct. 26, 2016
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s Islamaphobia motion received unanimous assent in the House of Commons on Oct. 26, 2016

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.

Now.

Sign The Electoral Reform Petition

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.

 

 

 

 

A Motion is not a Law

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.

Ms. Khalid’s Motion 103 will not make it illegal to criticise Islam.  It does not herald the coming of Sharia law to Canada.  Nor does it make racism illegal.  Canadians will still be able to be racists if they wish to be.  A motion is not a law: only a law can make something illegal.

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:

Iqra Khalid – Private Members’ Motion

http://www.parl.gc.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members/Iqra-Khalid%2888849%29/Motions?sessionId=152&documentId=8661986

Motion 103

Systemic racism and religious discrimination

Text of the Motion

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.”

After a young man murdered half a dozen Muslim men at prayer in their Quebec City mosque, is it not reasonable to condemn discrimination and hatred toward the Muslim community?  Especially when such flames of extremism have been fanned by politicians?

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.

Cross Cultures commemoration of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (2016)
Cross Cultures commemoration of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (Kitchener City Hall, 2016)

 

Canada is Ready 4 Proportional Representation

back to FVC: There is only one way to make every vote count #ERRE

Canadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag background
This is the twenty-eighth article in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

During the 2015 election, Mr. Trudeau unequivocally promised to make 2015 the last First Past The Post election.  If elected,

“We will make every vote count.”

It’s no secret Fair Vote Canada has been using the catchphrase “make every vote count” to describe Proportional Representation for years.  In fact, they launched their “Make Every Vote Count Campaign” in 2013.  If you follow the link you’ll see the Hon. Stéphane Dion on the podium for the announcement.  Another LPC cabinet minister, the Hon. Carolyn Bennett is on the Fair Vote Canada Board. Certainly my Liberals For Fair Voting friends were aware of this when I helped them make a little video we called “The Foundation” to help them sell Resolution 31 at their 2014 Policy Convention.  Resolution 31 was duly adopted by the Liberal Party and in fact formed the basis of Mr. Trudeau’s electoral reform campaign promise.

Mr. Trudeau confirmed his electoral reform promise in the Throne Speech, and (although it took a little nudging) an all party Electoral Reform Parliamentary Committee was formed. Because of the tight time frame, the committee worked through the summer, taking evidence from experts in Canada and around the world. And the Committee, like Minister Monsef, travelled across Canada in a whirlwind tour.

No doubt because the ERRE Consultation was woefully underfunded, the Committee only managed a single stop in Ontario. No money was spent on advertising, and there was little advance notice, but in spite of the main stream media’s absolute failure to cover it, all the Electoral Reform events were full of citizens. A preponderance of citizens and experts supported some form of Proportional Representation. Then the ERRE Committee submitted a consensus report calling for some form of Proportional Representation and a Referendum. But the government was not wildly happy to see such an impossible outcome.

And so mydemocracy.ca was born. Do you know, the government spent more money sending postcards telling people to participate in a seriously problematic survey that inspired more parody than response than it did on the entire #ERRE Consultation?   While the Honourable Ms. Gould’s talking points are intended to make us believe the postcard survey was a big success, the reality is that a return of 360,000 Canadians is a ridiculously low response rate for a country with upward of 15 million voters.

But the Liberal Party holds a majority in Parliament, and we all know a majority government can pass (or kill) any law it wants. No consensus is required, even when the “majority” is based on the votes of only 39%. That is, after all, how the system we currently use works.  (Part of why it so badly needs modernization.)

The Liberal Party hasn’t managed to articulate a single good reason for a Prime Minister elected on promises of transparency and more democratic governance to squash the promised democratic process this way.   Even if Prime Minister Trudeau decided he doesn’t want electoral reform, he could still have allowed the process to run its democratic course to the finish.   The same power that allows the plug to be pulled prematurely now could have been used to whip the vote the way he wanted at the eleventh hour.

The only reason for breaking this promise in such an odious way that I can imagine is that the Prime Minister (and the Liberal powers that be) have noticed the growing interest, support and commitment Canadians are developing in electoral reform, in spite of everything.

I understand the PM was grilled about electoral reform at every single stop on his recent cross country tour.  Were those in the Liberal power structure getting nervous that enough public backing might just get Proportional Representation legislation through Parliament and into Law?

For those Canadians who value fairness and democracy, now is not the time to give up on Electoral Reform.

With all the Liberal talk of values for electoral reform, the one value that never seemed to come up was fairness.

No system that assigns 100% of the power to a party winning 39% (or less) votes can be considered fair.

And in my experience, Canadians value fairness.  My Liberals for Fair Voting friends know know very well they benefit from the proportionality inherent in our existing winner-take-all system.  Yet they don’t think it’s fair that so many other Canadians get little or no democratic representation.

There is still time to draft electoral reform legislation (the ERRE Committee could surely manage it) and get it through with enough time for Elections Canada to implement a new system in 2019.  Canadians don’t need to understand the electoral math to know our First Past The Post system is not working for a majority of Canadians.  How can a nation that prides itself on fairness continue to cling to a winner-take-all system that’s inherently unfair?

What We Can Do?

EVENTS

Sunday February 5th, 2017
GUELPH Rally for Proportional Representation
Guelph City Hall   1PM

Rally organised by Fair Vote Guelph
https://www.facebook.com/events/1852627561618419/
MP Longfield acknowledges that recent poll results in Guelph in support of
Proportional Representation are valid.
We need visible support at the rally to show our government that we want PR.
Please come to the Rally for PR  on Sunday at Guelph City Hall at to support  a fair open and transparent Democratic process .

National Week of Action on Electoral Reform

https://www.facebook.com/events/885031191552272/

Sunday February 5th, 2017
Parliament Hill Protest and Photo-Stunt
12:00 – 1:00pm

  • Ottawa residents to gather on Parliament Hill for Rally
  • Canvassing Materials distributed, Photo-stunt for social media presence

Wednesday February 8th, 2017
Call-Blitz and Tweet-Storm
* All Day *

Contact:

  • your local MP,
  • the Prime Minister’s Office and
  • Karina Gould

Respectfully express your opinion, tell them we’ll #seeyousaturday


Saturday February 11, 2017
NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION
Canada Wide Protest
Be LOUD ~ Be HEARD.

Cross Canada Protest Times

Atlantic           15:00
Eastern           14:00
Central           13:00
Mountain/SK 12:00
Pacific           11:00
@JustinTrudeau and the #LPC promised that 2015 would be our last #FPTP election. #PerformOnReform
https://www.facebook.com/events/885031191552272/



Sign Government of Canada Electoral Reform petitions

e-600 (Electoral system) 
Lower the voting age to 16
The Petition is open for signature until February 8, 2017, at 12:34 p.m. (EDT)

e-613 (Electoral system)
Achieving gender balance in Parliament
The Petition is open for signature until February 16, 2017, at 11:34 a.m. (EDT)

e-616 (Electoral system)
Encouraging the Liberal Government to get ERRE back on track (Nathan Cullen)
The Petition is open for signature until March 2, 2017, at 11:20 a.m. (EDT)

e-678 (Electoral system)
Implement Mixed Member Proportional Representation (Kennedy Stewart)
The Petition is open for signature until March 24, 2017, at 9:26 a.m. (EDT)

Use the Green Party of Canada tool to send a message:
A Broken Promise to Canada

Change.org: Open Letter to Liberal MPs Re: Electoral Reform


Read More:

STRENGTHENING DEMOCRACY IN CANADA: PRINCIPLES, PROCESS AND PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT FOR ELECTORAL REFORM: Report of the Standing Committee on Electoral Reform
Read the ERRE Report online here, or download the PDF

Read the Liberal Electoral Reform Report from 1921:
SPECIAL COMMITTEE APPOINTED TO CONSIDER THE SUBJECT OF
Proportional Representation AND THE SUBJECT OF THE SINGLE TRANSFERABLE OR PREFERENTIAL VOTE (pdf)


Write Letters to:

your Member of Parliament
Mailing letters via postal mail to our MPs is free, and these days they are getting used to receiving email from us as well. You can find your representative:

Cabinet Ministers (members of the Privy Council)
Prime Minister Trudeau


Local & national newspapers, Magazines, MSM news websites

Get an idea of what you might right from perusing these published Letters

Independent Media

404 System Error
APTN
Behind The Numbers
Canadaland
Canadian Civil Liberties Assoc
Canadian Privacy Blog
Canadian SIGINT Summaries
Canadian Tribune
Christopher Parsons
Council of Canadians
Desmog Canada
Digital Copyright Canada
The Dominion
Dr. Dawg’s Blawg
The Elmira Advocate ….Woolwich Enviro-News
Excess Copyright
Huffington Post
The Independent
iPolitics
Island Tides
Jason Koblovsky ….. Digital Policy
Knet
The Media Co-op
Michael Geist  …..Law & Technology
Michael Harris …..Canadian Politics
Narrative Resistence
National Security Law
Nunatsiaq Online
Paul Beckwith …..climate
Press Progress
The Public Record …..Joey Coleman – Hamilton
rabble
The Georgia Straight
This Magazine
The Tyee
Vancouver Observer
Wilf Day …..electoral reform
ZeroPaid

Mainstream (MSM)
Canadian Press
CBC
CTV
Globe and Mail
The Hill Times
National Post
Toronto Star

News Directories
enewspaper Canada list
independent media.ca
Online Newspapers: Canada

Press Release & Media Distribution Service
Wire Service Media

back to There is only one way to make every vote count #ERRE

Proportional Representation Series So Far:• Proportional Representation for Canada
• What’s so bad about First Past The Post
• Democracy Primer
• Working for Democracy
• The Popular Vote
• Why Don’t We Have PR Already?
• Stability
• Why No Referendum?
• Electoral System Roundup
• When Canadians Learn about PR with CGP Grey
• Entitlement
• Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote
• #ERRÉ #Q Committee
• #ERRÉ #Q Meetings & Transcripts
• Take The Poll ~ #ERRÉ #Q
Proportionality #ERRÉ #Q 
• The Poll’s The Thing 
• DIY Electoral Reform Info Sessions
• What WE Can Do for ERRÉ
• #ERRÉ today and Gone Tomorrow (…er, Friday)
• Redistricting Roulette 
• #ERRÉ submission Deadline TONIGHT!
#ERRÉ Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm
• The Promise: “We will make every vote count” #ERRÉ
FVC: Consultations Provide Strong Mandate for Proportional Representation #ERRÉ
PEI picks Proportional Representation
There is only one way to make every vote count #ERRÉ
Canada is Ready 4 Proportional Representation

 and don’t forget to check out the PR4Canada Resources page!

Canadian Policy on Key Issues in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Under the Harper Government, on November 29, 2012 Canada was one of only nine countries to vote against ‘symbolic’ Palestinian statehood.

On November 8th, 2016, Canada’s new Trudeau Government was one of just 6 countries to vote against the 1949 Geneva Conventions applying to Occupied Palestine
UNWAtch: Today: UN condemned Israel 10 times

The Government of Canada’s own website says:

Canadian Policy on Key Issues in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Support for the Palestinians

Canada recognizes the Palestinian right to self-determination and supports the creation of a sovereign, independent, viable, democratic and territorially contiguous Palestinian state, as part of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace settlement.

Canada recognizes the Palestinian Authority (PA) as the governmental entity in the West Bank and Gaza. Canada also recognizes the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the principal representative of the Palestinian people Canada continues to support Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and is working with the government led by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in terms of much needed reform.

Working with its partners and through the United Nations, its agencies and other organizations, Canada continues to support and respond to the humanitarian and development needs of the Palestinian people. At the Paris Donors Conference in December 2007, Canada announced a commitment of $300 million over 5 years towards improving Palestinian security, governance and prosperity.

Canadian Policy on Key Issues in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Occupied Territories and Settlements

Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over territories occupied in 1967 (the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip). The Fourth Geneva Convention applies in the occupied territories and establishes Israel’s obligations as an occupying power, in particular with respect to the humane treatment of the inhabitants of the occupied territories. As referred to in UN Security Council Resolutions 446 and 465, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The settlements also constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.

Canada believes that both Israel and the Palestinian Authority must fully respect international human rights and humanitarian law which is key to ensuring the protection of civilians, and can contribute to the creation of a climate conducive to achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement.

The Canadian Government speaks for Canada.  As a part of the International Community, a member of the UN, as a high contracting signatory of the Geneva Conventions, Canada has the duty to stay within International Law, but to hold other nations to account when they fail to do so.

When Canada fails to live up to its obligations, it falls to Canada’s opposition parties to hold the government of the day to account.  And yet, in spite of Canada’s published policy on Isreal and Palestine, we have Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal government policy to be indistinguishable from Mr. Harper’s Conservative Government.  Compounding matters, the NDP under Tom Mulcair seems to have the very same policy objectives.

Unlike these three parties, the Green Party of Canada has taken a different view.  A view in tune with Canada’s published policy and with International Law.

The Green Party of Canada adopted the Palestinian Self-Determination and the Movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions resolution at its August 2016 Policy Convention. In December a more comprehensive consensus resolution was put forward by the GPC Shadow Cabinet and adopted by a strong majority (85%) at a Special General meeting in Calgary. Assuming this resolution is ratified, it will replace the August resolution; if not, the original will stand as GPC policy.

Although there it took some negotiation to bring it to a vote, on Friday December 23rd, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2334

@UN tweets

President elect Donald Trump was less than pleased; perhaps he expects to be able to overturn the resolution after his inauguration. (It doesn’t work that way.)  And it seems former Prime Minister Stephen Harper continues to oppose the established Canadian policy of conforming to International Law, and actually tweeted in support of the American President Elect.

@StephenHarper tweets Thank you President-elect @realDonaldTrump for being a principled voice on Israel at the #UN

My hope for the new year is a proper peace between Israel and Palestine.

The resolution adopted this afternoon is pro-Israel in the deepest sense of the term, supporting Israel’s existence and security, and standing against those who would sacrifice both at the altar of settlements, for an ideological, expansionist agenda.

This resolution reiterates international consensus, grounded in previous Security Council resolutions and international law, dating back nearly five decades, regarding the illegitimacy of settlements and rejecting settlement-related policies of successive Israeli governments.

APN commends the Obama Administration’s decision to stand with all past U.S. president since 1967 in maintaining U.S. opposition to settlements, and to reaffirm longstanding U.S. positioning and language in the Security Council on this issue.

— Americans for Peace Now (APN) Welcomes UNSC Vote on Israeli-Palestinian Peace

peace_dove
Peace on earth, good will toward men.