Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tories head for 3 day retreat in PEI

Although the Tories refuse to make public their agenda no doubt they will discuss ad nauseam transparency and accountability.

Harper, Tory MPs head to P.E.I. for 3-day strategy retreat
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 31, 2007 | 10:30 AM AT
CBC News
Charlottetown RCMP were stepping up security Tuesday as Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his 124 Conservative MPs began arriving for their annual caucus retreat.

Protesters were expected at the three days of closed-door strategy meetings, which begin Wednesday, including a group of federal employees concerned about privatization and the provision of services to the Island from the other Maritime provinces.

"Our main mandate right here is to provide the security for the prime minister," Sgt. Denis Morin told CBC News. "We have to take care and address any situation, any events that might take place."

Harper is expected to fly into Charlottetown on Wednesday morning.

The agenda has not been released but political analysts speculate the caucus will discuss everything from tax reform and crime to Canada's role in Afghanistan.

Continue Article

Monday, July 30, 2007

Aquafina to spell out water source

I suppose the manufacturers can claim (correctly) that it is the reverse osmosis process that is significant not the source. The claim is never made that it is spring water and the process is always identified. The real problem is that people don't seem to realise that most urban water supplies are fine and the water is often safer than bottled water.
We use untreated water from a community well but it is tested for safety. It does have a distinct taste that some people do not like. I just drink it out of the tap but my wife prefers the reverse osmosis water that we buy in 18.9 liter jugs and refill. I found the water in Brampton (metro Toronto) Regina and Brandon fine just out of the tap. It always amazes me why so many insist on buying bottled water when they are paying a hefty amount to get water piped right into their houses.
One good thing about all the bottled water is that I think many people buy it rather than pop when on the road.

Aquafina labels to spell out tap water source
Water originates from public reservoirs
Last Updated: Friday, July 27, 2007 | 4:52 PM ET
CBC News
The U.S. manufacturer of Aquafina bottled water will soon revise the product's label to clearly show the drink is made with treated tap water.

Water for Aquafina made in Canada is drawn from public sources in Vancouver and Mississauga, Ont.
Aquafina bottles sold in the U.S. are now labelled "PWS," but the new labels will spell this out as "Public Water Source," the brand's owner PepsiCo said on Friday.

A bottle of Aquafina sold in Canada currently shows the source as "water from the public distribution of Mississauga [Ont.]," but the company said it also uses a public source of water in Vancouver.

The bottler of the water in Canada, Pepsi-QTG [Quaker-Tropicana-Gatorade] said on Friday that it's reviewing the U.S. label change and will be making a decision shortly as to whether the Canadian label needs to be revised.

Continue Article

The Boston-based group Corporate Accountability International had for months been pressuring the New York-based company to change its Aquafina label.

The group said PepsiCo was guilty of misleading marketing practices to "turn water from a natural resource into a pricey consumer item."

"If this helps clarify the fact that the water originates from public sources, then it's a reasonable thing to do," PepsiCo spokeswoman Michelle Naughton said on Friday.

Corporate Accountability International is also pressing for similar concessions from Coca-Cola, which owns the Dasani water brand.

"We don't believe that consumers are confused about the source of Dasani water," Coca-Cola spokeswoman Diana Garza Ciarlante told the Associated Press. "The label clearly states that it is purified water."

Both companies use reverse osmosis, a procedure that forces water through a membrane with very small holes.

People can buy their own reverse osmosis units, but the method is not water-efficient, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). A lot of the water that passes through, unless it's collected for other uses, goes down the drain.

In some cases, where water is already free of dissolved solids, two litres of water may be needed to produce one litre of finished water, the CHMC says. In other cases, four or five litres of water may be used to produce one litre of filtered water.

With files from the Associated Press

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Mulroney ordered to pay 470,000 to Schreiber

One sometimes wonders about who drafts reports such as these. Certainly Schreiber did give Mulroney the 300 thousand but for what purpose may be moot. The fifth estate verified that money was paid. This is all tied up with the Airbus Scandal. The RCMP were investigation Mulroney but somehow this was leaked out and Mulroney sued and managed to make 2 million in an out of court settlement. Mulroney always seemed to me guilty of shady dealings with Schreiber but of course both are part of the elite. Schreiber is wanted in Germany on various charges but Mulroney is comfortably retired in Canada. See the Airbus Affair.

Court orders Mulroney to pay $470,000 to Schreiber
Last Updated: Friday, July 27, 2007 | 12:16 AM ET
CBC News
An Ontario court has ordered Brian Mulroney to pay $470,000 to German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber, who sued the former prime minister, alleging he didn't follow through on his business commitments.

The judgment was made automatically by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice after Mulroney failed to respond to the lawsuit.

Karlheinz Schreiber, seen in 2004, sued Brian Mulroney for $300,000 to recoup payments he says he made to the former prime minister.
(Aaron Harris/Canadian Press) The former prime minister's lawyers didn't file a defence because they believe the case should be argued in Quebec.

"The first I heard of it was when you notified me of it, and we're going to take immediate steps to have that judgment set aside," Mulroney's lawyer Kenneth Prehogan told the Canadian Press on Thursday.

"Mr. Mulroney has challenged the Ontario court's jurisdiction because the case has nothing to do with the province of Ontario."

Schreiber alleged that after the former prime minister retired from politics in 1993, he agreed to help Schreiber build a production facility for light armoured vehicles in Quebec, with a head office in Ottawa, and a pasta business in Ontario.

The lawsuit, filed in Ontario Superior Court, alleged Mulroney reneged on that agreement.

Schreiber alleged he gave Mulroney $300,000 in cash in 1993 and 1994 as an advance, but that he never received the services he paid for, according to a statement of claim.

The statement of claim alleges that Schreiber attempted, on numerous occasions, to outline what Mulroney owed him, "demanding the services to be performed by the defendant."

Schreiber allegedly made various attempts to collect his advance but Mulroney refused to pay back the money, the document claims.

Schreiber, who lives in Toronto and Ottawa, is currently fighting extradition to Germany on charges of bribery, fraud and tax evasion.

With files from the Canadian Press

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The CBC National on Canada's Afghanistan Mission

There was a reasonably extended special segment of the National on the Afghan mission. I thought that overall it was really not very informative and that many significant issues were not even brought up. To a considerable extent this may have been due to the framing of the whole discussion.

The frame of the discussion was an alleged change in Harper's speeches from clear and resolute support of the mission to a much more muted support and even perhaps a desire to cut and run when the mission runs out in 2009. As a result of this framework there was no real discussion of why Canada was there in the first place. There was absolutely nothing about the legality of the invasion .
There was nothing about the obvious change in Canada's role from peacekeeper to active combat roles. There was nothing about our relationship to the US. In fact with a straight face people debated whether Canada would win or lose the war in Afghanistan. Huh! Where are the US, the Brits, and the others in ISAF and the NATO mission. No one even hinted that we might be in Afghanistan to help promote US policies.
No one mentioned the return of strict Sharia laws, the female legislator kicked out of the legislature for criticising her colleagues. Nothing about the convert to Christianity who had to be spirited away to Italy before he was executed. And the CBC presentation was probably far better than anything you might see on FOX news for example.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Vancouver Strike

There follows two excerpts from articles and a news release from CUPE. The first article is from the http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20070725.BCSTRIKEMAYOR25/TPStory/National.
I am not sure why Sullivan would claim that the strike is not his main priority since it will be a disaster for Vancouver. I suppose it is to show that he is standing firm under pressure! There is a difference between standing firm and being stupid. The tentative settlement in Richmond just next door should exert more pressure for Sullivan to settle. Finally there is a news release from CUPE urging the city to go back to the bargaining table.


Labour crisis compounded by a stubborn Sullivan, critics say

July 25, 2007

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan's refusal to give priority status to solving the municipal strike of more than 5,000 workers is exacerbating the city's labour crisis and making a resolution unlikely any time soon, say opposition councillors, union leaders and a former mayor.

On Monday, the mayor told The Globe and Mail that solving the civic strike was not his top priority.

From canada.com.

Richmond reaches tentative deal with workers
By Glenn Bohn, Vancouver Sun
Published: Tuesday, July 24, 2007
A five-year contract negotiated between the City of Richmond and its unionized staff will put pressure on Vancouver to find a solution to its labour situation, says an expert.

"Someone is going to have to find another rationale for not sticking to the 39 months," said Norman Ruff, a retired political science professor.

The City of Richmond and 1,250 employees represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees reached a tentative agreement today, averting the kind of civic strike now underway in Vancouver and North Vancouver district.

****Mayor Malcolm Brodie said management and union negotiators concluded the draft deal Monday but both parties are not releasing details until the proposed contract goes to union members Wednesday and Thursday for a ratification vote.

Vancouver urged to “bargain, not bully” as final offer rejected by CUPE 15
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Union calls city of Vancouver to table tomorrow –10:30 a.m. at 545 West 10th Ave

VANCOUVER – Today, the 2,500 civic workers at Vancouver City Hall, Park Board, Ray-Cam Cooperative Association and Britannia Community Services Society overwhelmingly rejected what the City of Vancouver is calling their “final offer” by 89 per cent. As a last resort, the Local representing the workers, CUPE 15, will be issuing 72-hour strike notice tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m.

CUPE 15 is also calling on the City of Vancouver to avert a city and escalating region-wide strike by going back to the table to negotiate, booking their meeting rooms at 545 West 10th Avenue in Vancouver at 10:30 a.m. for that purpose.

“We’re not surprised,” says Paul Faoro, CUPE 15 President, of the final offer vote results. “It shows the degree to which civic workers are aghast at the City of Vancouver and Bureau’s total refusal to engage in legitimate bargaining and sends a clear message to the City that they need to get back to the bargaining table.”

“We are always ready to negotiate,” says Faoro. “The difficulty is the City of Vancouver has refused to bargain from day one. They only want to impose and dictate their mandate, completely ignoring the concerns of city employees.”

Vancouver inside workers are seeking to improve treatment of part-time and auxiliary staff, address the serious concern of contracting out and privatization of public civic services, equal vacation time with non-union staff, and a fair wage proposal. None of these issues have been addressed by the employer at the bargaining table. Rather a number of invasive management rights and take-aways are being demanded of the workers.

Faoro points to a troubling pattern in Lower Mainland civic bargaining where employers with the direction of the GVRD Labour Relations Bureau (“Bureau”) refuse to make progress at municipal bargaining tables, force mediation, impose final offer votes and ultimately force workers on strike, potentially causing mass disruptions in vital civic services.

“We’re asking the City to bargain, not bully,” says Faoro. “If the City arrives at the table tomorrow with the intention to bargain, then a fair contract should be easily achievable.”

Like most Lower Mainland civic contracts, CUPE 15’s collective agreement expired over 6 months ago. Delta civic workers represented by CUPE 454 also voted down a final offer vote imposed on them by their employer along with the Bureau.

Contact: Paul Faoro, CUPE 15 President, (604) 202-1829

Diane Kalen, CUPE Communications, (778) 229-0258

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Recent Statement of Jack Layton on Afghan Mission

Layton does not mention at all the new leader of NATO forces in Afghanistan the American nicknamed "Bomber" McNeill because of his bombing policy.
Layton does not mention either why the mission is wrong in the first place. He does not question the legality of the invasion. He just claims that the mission is not working and that it is costing too many casualties both among Canadians and Afghanis.

Statement by NDP leader Jack Layton on the combat mission in Afghanistan
Wed 4 Jul 2007 |
The growing civilian death toll in Afghanistan at the hands of NATO forces is more disturbing evidence that the counter-insurgency mission is not working.

These deaths mark an escalation in the conflict. We have lost more Canadians in this - our heaviest combat, since Korea.

We support our troops and their families and it is out of the deep respect for each and everyone of them that we seek a de-escalation of this conflict.

We learned with great sadness from Afghan officials, that 45 civilians were killed this weekend by a NATO air strike.

According to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission - the organization which Prime Minister Harper and his government have entrusted to monitor detainees - over 270 civilians have been killed in military operations by international forces, so far this year.

Two-hundred and seventy.

This is unacceptable.

It is unacceptable to Canadians, and to the Afghan people.

On Monday, the Afghan ambassador to the United States asked foreign forces to limit the use of high altitude bombing in their campaigns.

Yesterday, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, responding to the surge in civilian deaths including the deaths of 7 children in a single attack, called on NATO to minimize civilian casualities.

Today I am calling on the Prime Minister to take a leadership role and add Canada’s voice in telling both the Bush administration and the North Atlantic Council of NATO that the level of Afghan civilian deaths is unacceptable and that indiscriminate and deadly airstrikes be stopped. Airstrikes which are only adding to the escalation to a war that shows no signs of ending.

The ratio of combatants versus Afghan civilians killed by NATO forces is quickly reaching the 50-50 mark. Clearly, the current strategy is not working.

Mr. Harper isn’t building the conditions for a lasting peace.

He’s fuelling the conditions for an escalating war.

That’s not what Canadians want.

And never before has the need for leadership on this issue been greater.

As Parliament rose for its summer recess, the Standing Committee on Defence, tabled its report on the current mission in Afghanistan.

Amazingly the Liberals tabled what it called a “complementary” report – simply accepting most of the government’s recommendations on the mission.

That’s not leadership.

Stephane Dion and the Bloc Quebecois seek to have Canada’s involvement in this mission continue for two more years.

We believe that two-more years is two years too long.

I call on Stephane Dion and Gilles Duceppe to answer the question – to their fellow Quebeckers and fellow Canadians - “if the mission is wrong in 2009 – why isn’t it also wrong in 2007?”

In the upcoming by-elections, voters will finally have an opportunity to have their say on Canada’s involvement in this mission.

The choice is clear.

They can vote for parties that got us into this mission, extended this mission, or who want it to go on another two years – or they can vote for the NDP.

Canadians want us to go in a different direction in Afghanistan – it’s time the Prime Minister started listening to them.

Thank you.

Illegality of Afghan War: Part II

This is an article by a US lawyer. The entire article is not included as the last sections do not deal specifically with Afghanistan. The article is from Counterpunch.CounterPunch
Most criticisms of the war in Canada stress the Canadian casualties and complain that Canada has too great a burden etc. That it was illegal to invade in the first place is never even brought up.

September 17, 2002

Is Bush's War Illegal?
Let Us Count the Ways
by Francis Boyle

The "Blowhard Zone"

On September 13, 2001 I got a call from FOX News asking me to go on the O'Reilly Factor program that night, two days after the tragic events of September 11, to debate O'Reilly on War v. Peace. It is pretty clear where I stood and where he stood. I had been on this program before. I knew what I was getting in to. But I felt it would be important for one lawyer to get up there in front of a national audience and argue against a war and for the application of domestic and international law enforcement, international procedures, and constitutional protections, which I did.

Unfortunately, O'Reilly has the highest ranked TV news program in the country. I thought someone should be on there on September 13. I think most people agree that I beat O'Reilly. By the end of the show he was agreeing with me. But the next night he was saying that we should bomb five different Arab countries and kill all their people. But let me review for you briefly some of the international law arguments that I have been making almost full time since September 13. They are set forth in the introduction in my new book, The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence.

Terrorism v. War

First, right after September 11 President Bush called these attacks an act of terrorism, which they were under the United States domestic law definition at that time. However, there is no generally accepted definition of an act of terrorism under international law, for reasons I explain in my book. Soon thereafter however and apparently after consultations with Secretary of State Powell, he proceeded to call these an act of war, ratcheting up the rhetoric and the legal and constitutional issues at stake here. They were not an act of war as traditionally defined. An act of war is a military attack by one state against another state. There is so far no evidence produced that the state of Afghanistan, at the time, either attacked the United States or authorized or approved such an attack. Indeed, just recently FBI Director Mueller and the deputy director of the CIA publically admitted that they have found no evidence in Afghanistan linked to the September 11 attacks. If you believe the government's account of what happened, which I think is highly questionable, 15 of these 19 people alleged to have committed these attacks were from Saudi Arabia and yet we went to war against Afghanistan. It does not really add up in my opinion.

But in any event this was not an act of war. Clearly these were acts of terrorism as defined by United States domestic law at the time, but not an act of war. Normally terrorism is dealt with as a matter of international and domestic law enforcement. Indeed there was a treaty directly on point at that time, the Montreal Sabotage Convention to which both the United States and Afghanistan were parties. It has an entire regime to deal with all issues in dispute here, including access to the International Court of Justice to resolve international disputes arising under the Treaty such as the extradition of Bin Laden. The Bush administration completely ignored this treaty, jettisoned it, set it aside, never even mentioned it. They paid no attention to this treaty or any of the other 12 international treaties dealing with acts of terrorism that could have been applied to handle this manner in a peaceful, lawful way.

War of Aggression Against Afghanistan

Bush, Jr. instead went to the United National Security Council to get a resolution authorizing the use of military force against Afghanistan and Al Qaeda. He failed. You have to remember that. This war has never been authorized by the United Nations Security Council. If you read the two resolutions that he got, it is very clear that what Bush, Jr. tried to do was to get the exact same type of language that Bush, Sr. got from the U.N. Security Council in the late fall of 1990 to authorize a war against Iraq to produce its expulsion from Kuwait. It is very clear if you read these resolutions, Bush, Jr. tried to get the exact same language twice and they failed. Indeed the first Security Council resolution refused to call what happened on September 11 an "armed attack"--that is by one state against another state. Rather they called it "terrorist attacks." But the critical point here is that this war has never been approved by the U.N. Security Council so technically it is illegal under international law. It constitutes an act and a war of aggression by the United States against Afghanistan.

No Declaration of War

Now in addition Bush, Jr. then went to Congress to get authorization to go to war. It appears that Bush, Jr. tried to get a formal declaration of war along the lines of December 8, 1941 after the Day of Infamy like FDR got on Pearl Harbor. Bush then began to use the rhetoric of Pearl Harbor. If he had gotten this declaration of war Bush and his lawyers knew full well he would have been a Constitutional Dictator. And I refer you here to the book by my late friend Professor Miller of George Washington University Law School, Presidential Power that with a formal declaration of war the president becomes a Constitutional Dictator. He failed to get a declaration of war. Despite all the rhetoric we have heard by the Bush, Jr. administration Congress never declared war against Afghanistan or against anyone. There is technically no state of war today against anyone as a matter of constitutional law as formally declared.

Bush, Sr. v. Bush, Jr.

Now what Bush, Jr. did get was a War Powers Resolution authorization. Very similar to what Bush, Sr. got. Again the game plan was the same here. Follow the path already pioneered by Bush, Sr. in his war against Iraq. So he did get from Congress a War Powers Resolution authorization. This is what law professors call an imperfect declaration of war. It does not have the constitutional significance of a formal declaration of war. It authorizes the use of military force in specified, limited circumstances.

That is what Bush, Sr. got in 1991. It was to carry out the Security Council resolution that he had gotten a month and one-half before to expel Iraq from Kuwait. But that is all the authority he had--either from the Security Council or from Congress. And that is what he did. I am not here to approve of what Bush, Sr. did. I do not and I did not at the time. But just to compare Bush, Jr. with Bush, Sr. So Bush, Jr. got a War Powers Resolution, which is not a declaration of war.

Indeed, Senator Byrd, the Dean of the Senate, clearly said this is only a War Powers authorization and we will give authority to the president to use military force subject to the requirements of the War Powers Resolution, which means they must inform us, there is Congressional oversight, in theory, (I do not think they are doing much of it), controlled funding, and ultimately we decide, not the Executive branch of the government--we are the ones who gave the authorization to use force.

Again very similar to what Bush, Sr. got except the Bush, Jr. War Powers Resolution is far more dangerous because it basically gives him a blank check to use military force against any state that he says was somehow involved in the attack on September 11. And as you know that list has now gone up to 60 states. So it is quite dangerous, which led me to say in interviews I gave at the time this is worse that the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. Better from our perspective than a formal Declaration of War, but worse constitutionally and politically than the Tonkin Gulf resolution. But still subject to the control of Congress and the terms of the War Powers Resolution. Indeed you might be able to use that War Powers Resolution and the authorization in litigation that might come up. Keep that in mind.

No War Against Iraq!

For example, on Iraq. Right now they cannot use that War Powers Resolution to justify a war against Iraq. There is no evidence that Iraq was involved in the events on September 11. So they are fishing around for some other justification to go to war with Iraq. They have come up now with this doctrine of preemptive attack. Quite interesting that argument, doctrine was rejected by the Nuremberg Tribunal when the lawyers for the Nazi defendants made it at Nuremberg. They rejected any doctrine of preemptive attack.

Nazi Self-Defense

Then what happened after failing to get any formal authorization from the Security Council, the U.S. Ambassador Negroponte-- who has the blood of about 35, 000 people in Nicaragua on his hands when he was U.S. Ambassador down in Honduras--sent a letter to the Security Council asserting Article 51 of the U.N. Charter to justify the war against Afghanistan. And basically saying that we reserve the right to use force in self-defense against any state we say is somehow involved in the events of September 11. Well, the San Francisco Chronicle interviewed me on that and asked what is the precedent for this? I said that the precedent again goes back to the Nuremberg Judgment of 1946 when the lawyers for the Nazi defendants argued that we, the Nazi government had a right to go to war in self-defense as we saw it, and no one could tell us any differently. Of course that preposterous argument was rejected by Nuremberg. It is very distressing to see some of the highest level of officials of our country making legal arguments that were rejected by the Nuremberg Tribunal

The Afghan War is Illegal: Part One.

The question of the legality of the Afghan war almost never comes up. Insofar as it does reference is made to a UN resolution that was passed after the fact setting up ISAF etc. This does nothing to establish the legality of the invasion in fact there is also a resolution by the UN that legitimises the US et al occupation of Iraq.
I am posting two articles. This first one is by Michael Mandel a specialist in International Law at Osgoode Hall a famous Canadian Law School. The article is from Counterpunch.

October 9, 2001

This War is Illegal

By Michael Mandel

A well-kept secret about the U.S.-U.K. attack on Afghanistan is that it is clearly illegal. It violates international law and the express words of the United Nations Charter.

Despite repeated reference to the right of self-defence under Article 51, the Charter simply does not apply here. Article 51 gives a state the right to repel an attack that is ongoing or imminent as a temporary measure until the UN Security Council can take steps necessary for international peace and security.

The Security Council has already passed two resolutions condemning the Sept. 11 attacks and announcing a host of measures aimed at combating terrorism. These include measures for the legal suppression of terrorism and its financing, and for co-operation between states in security, intelligence, criminal investigations and proceedings relating to terrorism. The Security Council has set up a committee to monitor progress on the measures in the resolution and has given all states 90 days to report back to it.

Neither resolution can remotely be said to authorize the use of military force. True, both, in their preambles, abstractly "affirm" the inherent right of self-defence, but they do so "in accordance with the Charter." They do not say military action against Afghanistan would be within the right of self-defence. Nor could they. That's because the right of unilateral self-defence does not include the right to retaliate once an attack has stopped.

The right of self-defence in international law is like the right of self-defence in our own law: It allows you to defend yourself when the law is not around, but it does not allow you to take the law into your own hands.

Since the United States and Britain have undertaken this attack without the explicit authorization of the Security Council, those who die from it will be victims of a crime against humanity, just like the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Even the Security Council is only permitted to authorize the use of force where "necessary to maintain and restore international peace and security." Now it must be clear to everyone that the military attack on Afghanistan has nothing to do with preventing terrorism. This attack will be far more likely to provoke terrorism. Even the Bush administration concedes that the real war against terrorism is long term, a combination of improved security, intelligence and a rethinking of U.S. foreign alliances.

Critics of the Bush approach have argued that any effective fight against terrorism would have to involve a re-evaluation of the way Washington conducts its affairs in the world. For example, the way it has promoted violence for short-term gain, as in Afghanistan when it supported the Taliban a decade ago, in Iraq when it supported Saddam Hussein against Iran, and Iran before that when it supported the Shah.

The attack on Afghanistan is about vengeance and about showing how tough the Americans are. It is being done on the backs of people who have far less control over their government than even the poor souls who died on Sept. 11. It will inevitably result in many deaths of civilians, both from the bombing and from the disruption of aid in a country where millions are already at risk. The 37,000 rations dropped on Sunday were pure PR, and so are the claims of "surgical" strikes and the denials of civilian casualties. We've seen them before, in Kosovo for example, followed by lame excuses for the "accidents" that killed innocents.

For all that has been said about how things have changed since Sept. 11, one thing that has not changed is U.S. disregard for international law. Its decade-long bombing campaign against Iraq and its 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia were both illegal. The U.S. does not even recognize the jurisdiction of the World Court. It withdrew from it in 1986 when the court condemned Washington for attacking Nicaragua, mining its harbours and funding the contras. In that case, the court rejected U.S. claims that it was acting under Article 51 in defence of Nicaragua's neighbours.

For its part, Canada cannot duck complicity in this lawlessness by relying on the "solidarity" clause of the NATO treaty, because that clause is made expressly subordinate to the UN Charter.

But, you might ask, does legality matter in a case like this? You bet it does. Without the law, there is no limit to international violence but the power, ruthlessness and cunning of the perpetrators. Without the international legality of the UN system, the people of the world are sidelined in matters of our most vital interests.

We are all at risk from what happens next. We must insist that Washington make the case for the necessity, rationality and proportionality of this attack in the light of day before the real international community.

The bombing of Afghanistan is the legal and moral equivalent of what was done to the Americans on Sept. 11. We may come to remember that day, not for its human tragedy, but for the beginning of a headlong plunge into a violent, lawless world.

Michael Mandel, professor of law at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, specializes in international criminal law.

Canada resumes funding to Palestinian authority

Canada falls in line with the common policy of ignoring Hamas and trying to help Abbas become a puppet by showing that he can get crumbs from the Interntional community. One of 8 millions will go to the International Red Cross and perhaps will help out in Gaza. No one mentions the unmentionable that Hamas was elected and that Abbas steps to form a new government are probably unconstitutional.
I doubt that Israel really wants a solution right now. They will be happy to drag out the process and have Tony Blair try to shape up and shore up the Abbas govt. so as to be ready to sell out if and when Israel decides to negotiate a peace deal.

Canada resumes funding to the Palestinian Authority
Last Updated: Monday, July 23, 2007 | 1:11 PM ET
CBC News
Canada has resumed its financial support of the Palestinian Authority with an immediate contribution of $8 million, the federal government announced on Monday.

"In light of the new Palestinian government's commitment to non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, and in recognition of the opportunity for a renewal of peace efforts, Canada will provide assistance to the new Palestinian government," Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said in a statement.

But MacKay added he recognizes the Palestinian government still faces "fundamental challenges" in governance and the rule of law, and said he hopes the funds will help with reforms.

Canada will make an immediate contribution of $8 million through the Canadian International Development Agency, the government said.

Minister of International Cooperation Josée Verner said an additional $1 million will go to the International Committee of the Red Cross for humanitarian assistance.

"Canada is also very concerned about the humanitarian situation of the Palestinians, especially in Gaza," she said in the release.

Continue Article

According to the Canadian government, Canada provided more than $30 million in humanitarian assistance to Palestinians, including refugees, in the last fiscal year.

Canada was one of the first Western countries to cut off funding after Hamas, considered a terrorist group by some, won the January 2006 Palestinian election.

The Western boycott was one of the factors that prompted Hamas to form a coalition government with rival Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party in March 2007.

That unity government fell apart last month after Hamas launched a six-day gun battle and seized the Gaza Strip. In response, Abbas ousted Hamas from the unity government, which still has control of the West Bank.

With files from the Canadian Press

Monday, July 23, 2007

More temporary workers than immigrants come to Alberta

No doubt both the government and employers consider the use of temporary workers where possible in a positive light and showing that the labor market is flexible. Of course from the point of view of labor it means that workers with few rights are being hired and this may lower wages and benefits for immigrant and citizen workers.

The Alberta Federation of Labour reports that more people now coming into province as temporary workers than traditional immigrants. From their press release:
Alberta has become the first province in Canadian history to bring more people into its jurisdiction under the temporary foreign worker program than through Canada’s mainline immigration system.
According to new figures from the federal department of Citizenship and Immigration, as of December 1, 2006, there were 22,392 temporary foreign workers in Alberta. That’s more than double the 11,067 temporary workers who were in the province in 2003 and more than three times the 7,286 who were in the province in 1997.
Significantly, the 2006 figure for temporary foreign workers in Alberta is greater than the 20,717 immigrants granted permanent resident status in the province that year. This marks the first time that temporary workers have overtaken traditional immigrants.
Over the past five years, other provinces - most notably B.C. and Ontario - have also experienced dramatic jumps in the use of temporary foreign workers. But in those provinces, traditional immigrants still out number temporary workers.
“Once again, Alberta seems to be leading other provinces in the race to the bottom,” says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. “If these temporary workers were on a track to becoming full citizens, it would be less of a concern - but they’re not. The vast majority will be treated like Post-It Notes - to be used, discarded and sent back to the countries of origin.”
As a result of the “exponential growth” of the temporary foreign workers program, McGowan says that “we’re in the process of creating an underclass of workers who are much more vulnerable and open to exploitation than Canadian workers and who have little hope of ever becoming full citizens.”
In response the dramatic jump in numbers, in early May the AFL established its own “Office of the Temporary Foreign Worker Advocate” to help temporary workers who are being ill-treated by employers or employment brokers.
In the seven weeks since opening the office, the AFL’s Advocate has provided assistance to dozens of workers from India, Romania, Mexico, the Philippines and other countries. Complaints have ranged from exorbitant fees charged by brokers; to substandard housing; to employers refusing to pay overtime or reneging on promises related to wages and training.

Benamar Benatta

There is deafening silence on Benatta. Harper is not about to ruffle US feathers by conducting an inquiry into this case since it involves mistreatment by the US. Who knows what the deal was when the US agreed to return Benatta to Canada. It is typical of excuses for denying people documents that they are lost. Most convenient.

The Iacobucci Inquiry by the way is mostly not public. It is even called an Internal Inquiry. The lawyers and the three Muslim Canadians involved all have standing at the inquiry but since most of the hearings are private and they are excluded from those their main role is asking questions. The inquiry has not even released progress summaries that would at least give the public an idea what is going on. It is all secret between those being investigated and the legal beagles from Torys LLP.
Iacobucci denied Benatta standing and refused to consider his case because it was outside his terms of reference. The terms of reference were deliberately narrow. The inquiry was to be mainly secret, it does not deal with clearing the three in any way.
It is a wonder that the lawyers for the three even bother to particiate. Jackman has referred the terms of reference to the courts as being too narrow.
Please share with all of your networks in Canada and internationally! (This note comes from Toronto Action for Social Change, a founding member of the Benatta Coalition for a Public Review)

Imprisoned. Tortured. Abused. Forgotten. Why?
The Case of Benamar Benatta: Canada's First 9/11 Rendition to Torture

JULY 20, 2007, TORONTO -- Today Benamar Benatta marks a bittersweet anniversary. It was one year ago that he came to Canada for the second time, continuing his effort to be accepted here as a refugee. The first time he came to Canada, September 5, 2001, his life changed forever, and he wants to find out why.

Benatta born born in Algeria, but came to North America to flee political persecution and threats to his life while serving in the Algerian Armed Forces as an aeronautical engineer. In early September 2001 Mr. Benatta crossed the border into Canada and claimed political asylum. Mr. Benatta was detained pending further inquiries into his identity.

While in Canadian custody and unbeknownst to Mr. Benatta, terrorists attacked the World Trade Centre in New York City and other targets on September 11, 2001. Canadian officials alerted the Americans to the presence of Mr. Benatta and identified him as a person who allegedly had something to do with the attacks of September 11, 2001, seemingly because he was a Muslim man who knew something about airplanes. Without a hearing, without counsel and without conducting proceedings in his first language (French), Mr. Benatta was unceremoniously driven over the border in the back of a car and handed over to the Americans on September 12, 2001. This was an illegal transfer by the Canadian government. This was against the law.

While being held in the notorious Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Centre, Benatta was assigned "high security status" and detained in solitary confinement; he was deprived of sleep; his cell was illuminated 24 hours a day; guardsregularly beat him, and kept him constantly awake by banging on his door every half hour, a door which had been spray-painted WTC (World Trade Centre).

Mr. Benatta was actually cleared of any terrorist suspicions by the FBI in November 2001; however, he was never told that he was cleared. In fact, Mr. Benatta was held incommunicado and without access to legal counsel. In all, Mr. Benatta spent nearly five years of his life in American prisons were he was abused and tortured (as documented by the United Nations and the U.S. department of justice). Indeed, according to U.S. Federal Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder Jr.,"As a result of the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, the Canadian authorities alerted United States authorities of defendant's presence and profile ... and returned him to the United States....The defendant in this case undeniably was deprived of his liberty, and held in custody under harsh conditions which can be said to be 'oppressive'....To accept the [U.S.] government's arguments "would be to join in the charade that has been perpetrated."

In an opinion adopted in September, 2004, by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, it was concluded with respect to Benatta, "Finally, the [U.S.] Government has said nothing about the high-security prison regime (involving impositions that could be described as torture), which, for no reason whatsoever, was imposed on him . . ."

After all of this hardship, Benatta came across the border a year ago, and has resumed his claim for asylum. His application is currently pending, and like many refugees, he lives in a state of limbo, unable to get on with his life, and haunted by some serious questions that have yet to be answered.

How was Canada involved in all of this? Why did Canadian officials undertake this rendition to torture?

Benatta sought intervenor status at the Iacobucci Commission investigating the cases of torture against Canadians Ahmad El-Maati, Abdullah Almalki, and Muayyed Nureddin, but was unfortunately turned down. In his request for standing, Benatta had pointed out that El-Maati, Almalki, and Nureddin "were all detained and tortured on foregin soil allegedly because of information provided to foreign governments (Syria and Egypt) by Canadian officials linking these men to terrorist activities. Mr. Benatta was also detained and tortured on foreign soil because of information provided to a foreign government (America) by Canadian officials linking Mr. Benatta to terrorist activities, in particular, the events of September 11, 2001."

But Iacobucci did not see it that way, and what was supposed to be a public inquiry is in fact being held in secret, without the presence of those three men and their lawyers.

Since his return to Canada, Benatta sought records of his earlier refugee claim held by Canadian officials, but was informed his 2001 claim has been "misplaced." The Canadian government also erroneously alleges that Benatta withdrew his claim for asylum prior to the 9/12/2001 rendition, but has produced no documentation to support this outrageous claim.

Earlier this year, Benatta and his supporters began the Benatta Coalition for a Public Review, which could certainly use the support of everyone in this country who cares about the complicity of the Canadian government and its so-called "intelligence" agencies in acts of torture.


1. Get more information by going to Benamar's website,
Once there, sign the online petition calling for a public review. There are also media clips from a press conference Benamar and his supporters held in Ottawa earlier this year.

2. Write to Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, demanding that he grant a public review of Benatta's case so that Benamar and all people in Canada can get the answers they need, and to prevent such human rights abuses from occurring.

Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety
Sir Wilfrid Laurier Building, 13th Floor
340 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0P8

VIA reaches tentative agreement. BC unions on strike

With tough negotiations but good faith bargaining can work. However, in Vancouver the city workers are on strike. It really seems as if the city wants to break the power of the unions. The strike will come in the midst of a busy tourist season. Preparations a being made to deal with the effects.Meanwhile forestry workers are also on strike.
Via Rail reaches tentative deal with CAW
Last Updated: Saturday, July 21, 2007 | 9:39 AM ET
The Canadian Press
Via Rail and its major union announced early Saturday that they have managed to avert a strike.

The passenger railway and the Canadian Auto Workers union said they reached a tentative agreement ahead of Sunday's midnight strike deadline.

Via spokesman Malcom Andrews said the three-year deal covers such issues as wages, benefits, work conditions and work rules.

"The negotiations were pretty close to around the clock for several days in succession,'' he said, adding both Via and CAW representatives "worked very hard, worked really professionally and really hammered things out.''

Paul Côté, Via's CEO and president, said in a statement that the settlement is good news for Canadian rail passengers.

"Via is very pleased with the outcome of negotiations. We believe that the settlement is good for our employees, and that it will assure the stability of our operations for the next three years,'' he said in the statement.

Continue Article

The railway and the union will not release any details of the deal until it's ratified. Union leaders will be in Montreal on Monday to begin reviewing the deal.

However, the union said in a statement that it believes "this is an excellent agreement," and said it "unanimously recommends the ratification of this agreement.''

The CAW represents 2,600 Via Rail workers across Canada, including those who supply on-board services, ticket agents and skilled trades workers.

The company and the union had disagreed on wages and benefits.

The union had been without a collective agreement since it expired in December 2006. The two parties have been negotiating with the help of two federal conciliators for several weeks.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Looming North American Union

As I recall there were considerable discussions over the European Union and some countries at first refused to join. The North American Union is really not a super political entity but simply an agreement that is in the interests of big capital on issues most important to them that involves the suppression of individual country sovereignty where the big players think that it is necessary for their interests. NAFTA has already done the same sort of thing as the article points out. We must share our natural resources with the US and at prices that are comparable to what Canadians pay.

Canadians Completely Unaware of Looming North American Union
Bush and Calderon to Visit Canada

by Kevin Parkinson

Global Research, July 17, 2007

In just over a month’s time, on August 20, the most powerful president in the world will be arriving in Montebello, Quebec for a two-day conference. President George W. Bush will be meeting with Stephen Harper and their Mexican counterpart, Felipe Calderon. So far, the silence from the Canadian and American media has been deafening.

Talk to 90% of people on the street and they won’t know about this upcoming conference, and if by a slim chance they do, they won’t know the purpose of the meeting or why the leaders of Canada, United States and Mexico are meeting in the dog days of summer under what amounts to a veil of secrecy.

So, what’s this upcoming conference all about, and why are the newspapers, radio and television keeping silent about it?

The purpose of the upcoming conference is to ratify the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, which was initiated by Bush, Martin and Fox in 2005 in Waco, Texas. Essentially, this so-called ‘partnership’ will result in what the politicians refer to as ‘continental integration’-newspeak for a North American Union- and basically a harmonization of 100’s of regulations, policies and laws.

In layman’s terms, it means that once this ‘partnership’ has been ratified which is a fait accompli; we will be following in the footsteps of the European Union. It will mean that Canada will become part of the North American Union by 2010, and that our resources, agricultural, health and environment issues, to name a few, will be controlled not by Canada, but by the government of the North American Union.

A huge ‘NAFTA’ highway, one quarter of a mile wide, is already being built in Texas, where private land is being expropriated, and will eventually reach the Manitoba border.

Water will be the ‘issue’ of this century, as more than 25 states in the U.S. are currently in desperate need. Where do you think they will get the water they need?

The United States is already guaranteed 60% of our natural gas resources from NAFTA, which mean that even during emergencies when we need energy, we will have to import it, while we are forced to export gas to the U.S. This is just one example of how Canada is being shortchanged, and it’s only going to get worse.

Why has there been absolutely NO public consultation on the biggest issue (North American Union) facing Canadians since Confederation? Why isn’t Guy Lauzon, our local MP for Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry, holding town hall meetings, bringing in cabinet ministers and explaining how the emerging North American Union will affect our Canadian way of life? Ask the citizens of Canada for their feedback. Isn’t that how democracy is supposed to work?

Folks, I suggest that Mr. Lauzon isn’t even aware of the SPP or the North American Union, which explains why the Conservative government has denied all Canadians information to which they are entitled. If he does have something to say about it, then let him raise the issue in our riding.

Furthermore, the example of the North American Union illustrates that our government claims to be democratic, but in fact, does it act like one, or does it prefer to make the big decisions at committee level behind closed doors, while masking its real intentions?

The ratification of the SPP, and the emergence of the North American Union have been organized entirely by government committees and private enterprise. I refer readers to my website at www.realitycheck.typepad.com

for further information on the North American Union.

If our citizenry allows the North American Union to come into existence, then our way of life will change drastically, for the years to come. With privatization of our resources, increased foreign ownership, and a Canadian government with less and less authority, our children and grandchildren will be come ‘North Americans’ and our quality of life will drastically decline.

The founding fathers of Canada must be rolling over in their graves.

Author's website at http://realitycheck.typepad.com/

Global Research Articles by Kevin Parkinson

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Militarizing a Continent

This is part of a much longer article on plans to integrate US, Mexico, and Canada with sections on the SPP etc. The article is by Stephen Lendman at Countercurrents. Certainly Harper is spending more money on the military and is anxious for Canada to play a role as a junior partner to the US. However, he does stress sovereignty in the Arctic. Maybe the sovereignty is only an issue when non-US ships use the northwest passage. The US does not recognise the passage as Canadian waters but as international.

Militarizing A Continent As A First Step

No nation is more militarized today than America. It spends more on national defense and homeland security than all other nations combined. Add to those budgets all others related to defense, still others for intelligence and covert actions, plus the net interest cost attributable to past debt-financed defense outlays and it totals over $1 trillion for FY 2007 according to one analyst's estimate and heading way above that in FY 2008 if current budget proposals pass and become law which is almost certain.

Canada and Mexico are expected to share the load as part of Washington's "war on terrorism" and are doing it. Supporting Washington is central for Canada's Stephen Harper conservative administration. It includes adhering to the 2002 Binational Planning Agreement allowing US military forces to enter Canada on its own discretion, set up shop, and exercise authority over Canadians in their own country. Harper's more hard line than his predecessors. He believes Canadian political and business interests depend on it, and he's committed to serving them no matter how ordinary Canadians feel about it. He's submissive to Washington and has been massively ramping up military spending with plans to increase it over 50% above 2005 levels to $21.5 billion annually by 2010.

That's chump change by US standards but a major commitment for a nation traditionally spending at far lower levels. Canada faces no outside threat so spending hugely on its military, unlike in the past, defies tradition and public consensus favoring social spending that's being cut to pay for it. It's also contrary to Canada's traditionally eschewing militarism and foreign wars unlike its southern neighbor's thriving on them since the nation's founding.

Business interests, not national security or the public welfare, drive Harper's agenda. America accounts for 87% of Canada's exports, and Canadian businesses are closely allied with US ones. In many instances, it's as subsidiaries with US corporations owning 20% of Canada's non-financial sector, 33% of its oil and gas industry, and many Canadian defense companies linked to US ones as subsidiaries or in a sub-contracting capacity. Canada's influential Department of National Defense (DND), its new Chief of Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier and defence minister Gordon O'Connor are on board with Harper as well. They're committed to ramping up the nation's military spending and linking with America's "war on terrorism." It gives them more power to lock in even more as SPP advances and outlines a plan for it across the continent.

Toronto's Got a Lot to Learn

The rest of Salutin's column is at rabble. Miller did not renew his NDP membership so that he could be "independent". It seems that he has now become ineffective as well. The city government is playing games with the provincial government hoping to get more money but the threat to close down a subway route and also increase fares drastically make the city look quite foolish at a time when public transportation needs to be better funded and better utilised. Instead Miller's disastrous policies would increase the use of private cars and cause hardships for those not able to use cars.

Toronto's got a lot to learn
>by Rick Salutin
July 20, 2007
There was a classic failure of leadership here this week: a vote by Toronto's city council not to impose taxes on land transfers and car registrations. It's a textbook case, for study by future eras and civilizations.

Take as background an example of actual leadership. Here are the words of London Mayor Ken Livingstone, in 2000, shortly before his re-election after years of attacks on himself and his city, by both Thatcher Tories and Blair Labourites. “The great shining lie of British politics is that you can have good public services without putting up taxes.” He uses the hard word, lie; he states the worthy goal, good public services, instead of shabby ones; and he portrays the route to it — more taxes — as a challenge instead of something to apologize for. Here's the response, described by a reporter: “The crack of palm on palm was thunderous.”

No guts, no glory.

It is this kind of truth-telling, along with the prize when it works, that Toronto Mayor David Miller avoided. His main argument for adding taxes, reportedly, was that other big cities do it too. That's apologetic and imitative. Nor did he try to carry the issue to the people. It seems that he and his inner circle feared he'd just provide a target for the neo-cons and tax-haters. This kind of timidity is always wrong, not because it's strategically not astute, but because it shows distrust of your fellow citizens. It's all strategy in the end; the real trick is knowing how to call on people's better, more communal instincts.

I'd say he had a winner in both new taxes. Land transfer taxes would mainly affect developers and speculators, the guys who ran City Hall during the Art Eggleton to Mel Lastman years and against whom David Miller campaigned. Downtowners (like me) who saw their taxes rise as their property value theoretically soared, but who never planned to cash in because we love our homes, would've seen some relief. The car registration tax reflects everyone's main concern: the environment.

Those opposed didn't even have the guts to vote the new taxes down. They “deferred” a decision till after the coming provincial vote in order to pressure the political parties into promising more money to the city. For years, Toronto demanded the right to raise money beyond property taxes. The current government finally granted that right, so these elected municipal geniuses don't use it — as a tactic. That's both uninspiring and stupid.

As for those who like their politics strictly in terms of the games being played: Any time you're mayor, and you lose a vote 23-22, and you didn't find a way to bribe or bully that one vote you needed, you should give it some thought

Quebec Air Base Gets 300 million for rapid deployment force

These actions may be designed to offset the negative attitudes in Quebec associated with the Afghan mission. However, it is also part of a more general policy of building up the military that also includes the re-opening of a mililtary school also in Quebec. The US wants Canada to spend more on defence. Canada can help take some of the pressure off the US and some of the cost as well. No doubt the rapid deployment force can at times be used to aid US policy wherever the US, NATO, or the UN determines there is a hot spot or situation where action is needed. Of course it could be also used for natural disasters etc. and for peacekeeping situations but Canada has virtually abandoned peacekeeping for an active role as in Afghanistan.

Bagotville airbase gets $300M rapid deployment force
Last Updated: Friday, July 20, 2007 | 4:45 PM ET
CBC News

The federal government will spend $300 million to create a rapid deployment unit at the air force base at Bagotville in Quebec's Saguenay region, the defence minister said Friday.

Ottawa will spend the money on the new self-contained unit between 2008 and 2015, said Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor at a news conference at CFB Bagotville.

Some 550 soldiers will be sent to the airbase to join the new force, which will be on call to assist in any trouble spots in Canada or abroad.

"What we are establishing now is an expeditionary wing, that is, a wing that is mobile," O'Connor said. "It will leave this base to set up an equivalent of this base in a smaller scale, either in remote areas in Canada or offshore somewhere in the world."

The force will be deployed to military operations and natural disaster sites. It will provide infrastructure, communication and logistical support, and will work with ground and naval troops, but there are no plans to send new planes to Bagotville.

The unit will increase the base's population by 50 per cent and inject new blood into the local economy, said Jean-Pierre Blackburn, the Conservative MP for the Saguenay/Lac-Saint-Jean riding, who was also at the news conference.

It is also seen as a strategic move on the Conservatives' part to soothe local concerns about the base's future.

In the runup to the January 2006 election, Blackburn campaigned on a promise to build up Bagotville's capacities.

Stephen Harper also promised his Conservatives would increase the size of the airbase, add 650 personnel and continue to upgrade the CF-18 fighter jets.

Bagotville is currently home to about 1,200 military personnel.

It was the second military announcement affecting Quebec this week, following Ottawa's decision to relaunch a francophone royal military college at St-Jean-sur-Richelieu.

Harper and his Conservatives have lost some support in Quebec in recent months over their military strategy, especially the commitments in Afghanistan.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Public suspicious of police investigating police.

Of course usually a special "independent" unit is used to investigate police however it would be better if there were some entity independent of the police entirely. No doubt the entity might have trouble getting co-operation from the police in many instances but I understand special units also have that problem because of the blue veil.
The Houston case seems to involve gross violation of norms. I wonder if anything will happen.

The public remains suspicious when police investigate police

Vancouver Sun

Friday, July 20, 2007

Edmonton Police Chief Mike Boyd did the right thing this week by reversing a departmental policy against officers testifying for the defence.

The policy was based on the notion that police and the Crown were part of the same team, so it would be a conflict of interest for a police officer to provide testimony that might undermine the Crown's case.

The policy was being used to call on to the carpet Const. Joe Slemko, the Edmonton police officer and blood-spatter expert who was asked by the family of Ian Bush to testify at the recently completed coroner's inquest into his death in Houston, B.C.

While we have no doubt that Boyd was sincere in his disavowal of the policy, which he said was a vestige of a previous administration, the fact that it was in place until the chief was called in front of the Edmonton Police Commission this week is another illustration of the fundamental problem with police being allowed to investigate their own -- the persistent notion that in a paramilitary organization loyalty trumps truth.

Slemko testified before the inquest that the blood-spatter evidence from where Bush was fatally shot in the back of the head by a rookie RCMP constable when they were alone in the detachment was not consistent with the story the officer told.

In the end, hobbled by the direction from the coroner that the conduct of the police in the case was beyond their mandate, the inquest jury was unable to answer the questions that begged for reply.

Bush's family is left with the unpalatable official response that the 22-year-old mill worker, who had been arrested for having an open beer outside a hockey arena, was essentially responsible for his own death after attacking Const. Paul Koester in the interview room of the station.

While we doubt any finding would satisfy the Bush family that justice has been served in this case, even for more detached observers there are still many troubling aspects.

One tangential tragedy is that the shoddy nature of the RCMP's internal investigation means that the young RCMP constable who pulled the trigger might never escape the cloud of suspicion that it was not such a clear case of self-defence as he has made it appear.

What is clear is that any credibility he had as a witness in his own defence was undermined by the way his colleagues and superiors treated him after the shooting.

Naturally we are not suggesting that police officers involved in fatal shootings should be treated like murderous thugs. Far from it. They always deserve our thanks, especially when their life is on the line. But certain standards of investigation still have to apply, even when the action of police is best described as heroic, even when, as Koester maintains, it is a clear case of self-defence.

In this case, Koester did not give a detailed statement until three weeks after the shooting. Three months passed before he was questioned by investigators.

Bush's body was left unrefrigerated at the Houston detachment for two days before being turned over to the pathologist.

But even without these obvious flaws, no investigation carried out by colleagues can be perceived as truly credible.

Now that the RCMP has a new civilian commissioner, William Elliott, one of his first tasks should be to work with the federal and provincial governments to establish an outside investigation unit to look into incidents like this that will inevitably occur.

Both Koester and Bush deserve better than the current practice of police investigating police.

© The Vancouver Sun 2007

Neglect, design to blame for condition of Quebec roads and bridges

This issue is not just confined to Quebec. It is nationwide as the 2003 Conference Board report shows. The difference is that Quebec has already had a serious failure of a bridge. Here in Manitoba a bridge at Portage la Prairie on the Trans-Canada is being repaired as a result of inspections after the Quebec event. While we have a 60 dollar deficit in infrastructure upkeep in Canada we are busy buying more tanks to send to Afghanistan, opening new military schools, and sending aid funds to reconstruct Afghanistan.

Neglect, design to blamefor Quebec roads
Infrastructure Issues; Potholes, Water Main Damages Plague Province

Allison Hanes
National Post

Friday, July 20, 2007

A four-lane highway tore open like a zipper causing a fiery car wreck from which a woman was plucked burned and broken but alive. A six-storey geyser of water erupted in the middle of downtown Montreal flooding cars and streets. A suburban overpass suddenly collapsed on a Saturday afternoon killing five -- including a couple expecting their first baby.

What seem like special effects in an apocalyptic action film occurred within the past two years in Quebec -- and these are but the most spectacular disasters to have befallen the province's cracked, corroded and crumbling essential infrastructure.

Quebec is literally falling apart for reasons that range from long-term neglect to fatal design flaws to human error.

Yesterday, Quebec's Transport Department restricted traffic on 135 viaducts across the province suspected of being structurally unsound, limiting the weight of all big-rig trucks and banning the heaviest vehicles altogether.

Last week, a section of Sherbrooke Street -- a major thoroughfare in downtown Montreal as vital as Bloor Street is to Toronto, Jasper Avenue is to Edmonton, or Robson Street is to Vancouver -- was suddenly closed for emergency repairs to prevent it from potentially caving in.

As a public inquiry seeks answers in the rubble of the fatal Laval overpass collapse, the emerging evidence has suggested that the toll of neglect and decay can no longer be ignored.

Almost two dozen experts from the worlds of municipal politics, business, public administration and academia recently called the level of decrepitude "a red alert."

"For many years our infrastructure and building heritage has been showing increasingly worrying signs of age," they stated in an open letter published in La Presse under the blaring banner "SOS Infrastructure."

"Water main breaks are a common occurrence. Potholes in the roads have become fodder for caricature ... But most of them are merely patched up because the money available isn't even sufficient to repair the most urgent needs."

Saeed Mirza, a professor of civil engineering at McGill University, said there are myriad reasons for the sorry state of Quebec's roads, bridges, viaducts and aqueducts.

From a construction boom in the 1950s, '60s and '70s that led to lapses in quality control, to designs that were not meant to bear the load of 21st-century traffic, to harsh weather, to the corrosive properties of sand and salt, to budget constraints that led to the deferral of maintenance, Prof. Mirza said time has not been kind to Quebec infrastructure.

"The practice that we had so far is design, build and forget," he said.

Testimony before the commission probing the de la Concorde overpass collapse last September has only heightened public anxiety with tales of stopgap patchwork, contradictory diagnoses, deferred maintenance and a repair schedule determined by budget.

It was revealed that 135 viaducts from the same era may be missing the crucial steel support rods absent in the Laval structure.

A nearby overpass built using the same design was demolished last fall.

Gord Steeves, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, said in some ways Quebec is a particular case in that its current problems stem from a prolonged period of confrontation over mergers and neglect for towns and cities during nine years of Parti Quebecois rule.

"I think Quebec is probably paying a price for a provincial government in the past that didn't really open up the door to municipalities," Mr. Steeves said.

"It's a graphic example how if you leave something for any period of time you may well pay a price at some point in the future," he continued.

A Conference Board of Canada report issued in 2003 officially pegged Canada's infrastructure deficit at $60-billion, but because of inflation, Mr. Steeves said the latest estimate is closer to $100-billion.

That report evaluated Quebec's needs at $18-billion four years ago.

But in today's dollars that amount would barely cover the costs of fixing Montreal.

Darren Becker, a spokesman for the city, said Montreal's age, coupled with successive municipal administrations that left problems to fester, resulted in the current state of disrepair, where an estimated 40% of Montreal's water supply is lost through leaks and potholes.

Mayor Gerald Tremblay has committed to tackling the urban decay he inherited, investing $500-million a year in roads and $10-billion over 20 years to overhaul the water system.

Montreal is proceeding street by street to replace water mains rather than just patching and repaving them. St. Laurent Boulevard has also been torn up this summer.

"It may not be sexy in terms of a political choice to invest in concrete or sewer pipes, but it's the foundation of the city and if it's neglected for too long you get what we've had," Mr. Becker said.

A sign of the gravity of the situation: the city announced last week that road work will continue throughout the two-week annual construction holiday -- normally unthinkable in unionized Quebec.

Zaki Ghavitian, the president of the Ordre des ingenieurs du Quebec, the professional body for engineers, said the current blitz may be unpopular with the public but it's crucial.

"It is a little like the decision faced by a homeowner to redo the roof instead of buying a high-definition television: necessary but not much fun," he stated recently.


© National Post 2007

Thursday, July 19, 2007

RCMP often rewrote critical reports!

So the RCMP was in fact a watchdog over the RCMP Commission for Public Complaints rather than the other way around! Imagine that the rules under which the Commission operated allowed the government to rewrite the reports! This is so amazing one wonders if the reporting is correct. At most one would think that the RCMP could file a rebuttal to whatever the force disagreed with as an addendum. What is the use of a commission of complaints if the RCMP can rewrite its reports!

RCMP often rewrote critical reports, watchdog says
Tim Naumetz, CanWest News Service
Published: Thursday, July 19, 2007
OTTAWA -- The past two RCMP commissioners before the recent appointment of a public servant to head the force effectively rewrote half of the rulings by a civilian watchdog agency that found Mounties used excessive force or acted improperly over a year-long period, the head of the independent agency says.

The RCMP Commission for Public Complaints issued 48 interim reports on public complaints against the RCMP between March, 2006, and last March. Half of the 184 findings in the reports went against the officers involved, the commission's annual report says.

But former commissioners Beverley Busson and Giuliano Zaccardelli challenged half of the adverse findings, questioning witness credibility, reweighing evidence, introducing new evidence and substituting their own findings of fact in the cases, said the report from commission chair Paul Kennedy.

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Font: ****The refusal of the RCMP commissioners to accept the findings of commission reviews over Mountie actions "strikes at the core of civilian accountability of the RCMP," the report said. "More than half of the commission's adverse findings have been overruled by the RCMP commissioner, enabling the RCMP, in effect, to ignore the merits of the commission's recommendations."

The report added the resistance "significantly undermines" civilian review of the RCMP and is "inherently biased" against the person who has lodged the complaint. Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day tabled the report in the Commons Thursday through a special procedure used when Parliament is not sitting.

The commission's annual report included two examples where the RCMP commissioner of the time essentially rejected adverse findings after a civilian review of incidents in which police dogs injured suspects or, in one of the cases, an unarmed suicidal young man in an argument with his father.

An RCMP dog handler unleashed his dog after the young man began running away after hiding in nearby bushes, even though the commission later found he was not threatening anyone and was not carrying a knife his father had claimed was present.

"The RCMP commissioner believes that the decision to release the dog was justified because the young man could have had a knife, was reported suicidal and was running away," the public complaints commission said in its report on the incident.

In another case, however, where an RCMP officer used a Taser stun gun on a handcuffed woman in a police station, the RCMP commissioner of the day agreed with the commission's findings that use of the Taser in that situation was "totally inappropriate" and denied the officer access to Tasers until he finished a new training course in their use.

The complaints commission -- while finding the RCMP "generally" meets high standards of professionalism investigating complaints against its members -- found "a few extremely poor" internal investigations raised public suspicion over the way the force polices itself.

A man who suffered injuries to his shoulder and a broken bone in police custody complained about his treatment, but the commission found later no notes were taken at the time by the officers involved and key witnesses were not interviewed during the internal investigation into the complaint.

The internal inquiry failed to determine how the man was injured and who injured him.

Kennedy said changes he is proposing for the law governing civilian review of the RCMP should require the police force to accept the findings of independent reviews of complaints.

"If this process is going to have any kind of credibility, once we have done our findings, we've made our findings, that should be it," he said in an interview. "There should be no discussion of what our analysis and what our findings are."

NDP MP Joe Comartin agreed, saying the lack of accountability over RCMP reaction to civilian oversight is one of the major problems the national police force faces. "If no disciplinary methods are taken, you're not going to change negative conduct. That has permeated the RCMP."

Ottawa Citizen

Gordon O'Connor on Donald Rumsfeld

This is just part of a larger article by Robert Fisk in the Independent. As a former lobbyist for the arms industry O'Connor no doubt appreciated Rumsfeld because he wanted to make full use of new technology to create a leaner and meaner armed forces that would not be leaner for sure with respect to costly high tech gadgets provided by industry.

Hands up those readers who know that Canada's Defence Minister, Gordon O'Connor, actually sent a letter to Rumsfeld two days before his departure in disgrace from the Pentagon, praising this disreputable man's "leadership". Yes, O'Connor wanted "to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your many achievements (sic) as Secretary of Defence, and to recognise the significant contribution you have made in the fight against terrorism". The world, gushed the ridiculous O'Connor, had benefited from Rumsfeld's "leadership in addressing the complex issues in play".

O'Connor tried to shrug off this grovelling note, acquired through the Canadian Access to Information Act, by claiming he merely wanted to thank Rumsfeld for the use of US medical facilities in Germany to ferry wounded Canadian soldiers home from Afghanistan. But he made no mention of this in his preposterous letter. O'Connor, it seems, is just another of the world's illusionists who believe they can ignore the facts - and laud fools - by stating the opposite of the truth. Bush, of course, is among the worst of these meretricious creatures. So is the late Tony Blair.

NUPGE opposes Colombia free trade deal

So far there does not seem too much publicity about the NUPGE opposition. I imagine some other unions probably oppose the deal as well. Harper is again following the Bush agenda. I wonder if the Liberals, Bloc, and NDP will oppose the deal as the Democrats have in the US-- at least until some conditions are met. What's next a free trade deal with Zimbabwe or Burma?

NUPGE says free trade talks legitimize violence in Colombia

Murder, threats, arbitrary detention, kidnapping, torture and disappearances associated with the Uribe government

Ottawa (18 July 2007) - Canada is putting economic considerations ahead of the well-being of the Colombian people by pursuing a free trade agreement that legitimizes the violent government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, says the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).

In a letter to Stephen Harper, NUPGE President James Clancy said the prime minister's visit to Colombia this week raises serious concerns about Canada's foreign policy priorities.
Stephen Harper and Alvaro Uribe

"We believe that in pursuing a Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, you are placing trade and investment concerns above the well-being of the people of Colombia," Clancy wrote.

"This also represents yet another example of Canada adopting the failed policy objectives of U.S. President Bush - this time in opposition to even that of the U.S. Congress."

Colombia in crisis

Clancy said the Colombian people are enduring a humanitarian crisis at the hands of the Uribe government.

"Since 1991, more than 2,245 trade union leaders and activists have been assassinated in Colombia. Furthermore, at least 8,000 have suffered threats, arbitrary detention, kidnapping, torture and disappearances," he wrote.

"The Uribe government has done little to quell the violence. Indeed, as recent reports from Colombia indicate, there is growing evidence of links between the government and right-wing paramilitary groups."

The CBC reports that two senators in Uribe's political party and one of his cousins have been closely linked to "right-wing death squads." Videotaped evidence also exists of Uribe associating with paramilitary leaders.

"Colombia's labour and civil rights movements oppose the negotiation of free trade agreements until the government takes meaningful action against the violence and intimidation," Clancy told Harper.

"It is inappropriate for the Canadian government to ignore the pleas for assistance from some of the most persecuted and embattled people in the world," he said.

"It is also surprising, and worrisome, that the Canadian government would pursue this course of action in light of the strong opposition in the U.S. Congress to a free trade agreement with Colombia."

U.S. Congress

On July 2, Nancy Pelosi and other senior leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives issued a statement saying "there must first be concrete evidence of sustained results on the ground in Colombia" before Congress could support a free trade deal with Colombia.

"It appears that your government, by pursuing a free trade agreement with Colombia, is attempting to bring us even further in line with the discredited foreign policy of U.S. President Bush," Clancy said.

He told Harper that NUPGE has joined the Canadian Labour Congress and the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia (CUT) in demanding that trade negotiations with Colombia be delayed until the Colombian government:

● completely severs all ties with paramilitary organizations and international criminal networks;
● provides meaningful and adequate protection for unions and trade unionists;
● makes significant advances in the investigation and prosecution of crimes against trade unionists;
● brings its labour laws into conformity with the International Labour Organization (ILO) core labour standards; and
● provides full support for the newly created ILO office in Colombia to monitor labour rights compliance and pursue the investigation of key cases of assassinations of trade unionists.

"The people of the Americas have traditionally looked to Canada as a voice for fair and just policies in the region," Clancy said.

"Your government, by embracing the failed foreign policies of the Bush administration, is severely eroding our reputation in our southern hemisphere. I urge you and your government to give this matter serious consideration." NUPGE

More information:
● Colombia: the struggle for justice and peace

Web posted by NUPGE: 18 July 2007

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Harper greeted by protesters in Chile

You would think that Harper would have been briefed on the issue. Perhaps he was but doesn't care about the protest. On the other hand his handlers may not have been up to date on the matter.

Protesters say 'Harper go home' on PM's last day in Chile
Last Updated: Wednesday, July 18, 2007 | 3:35 PM ET
CBC News
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was greeted with "Harper go home" and "Canada: What's HARPERing here?" signs on Wednesday morning as he spent his last day in Chile visiting a controversial Canadian mining company.

Dozens of protesters waited outside Barrick Gold's Santiago headquarters for Harper's visit, which one Chilean environmental activist called "inappropriate."

A small group of protesters demonstrate outside the offices of Barrick Gold during a visit by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Santiago on Wednesday.
(Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press) The protesters claim the company's gold and silver Pascua Lama Project in the Andes Mountains is displacing indigenous people, polluting rivers and damaging three glaciers — charges the company denies.

Harper said Tuesday that as far as he knows Barrick "follows Canadian standards of corporate social responsibility." He said that it was up to Chile and Argentina to determine whether the company was meeting environmental protection standards.

Karyn Keenan, program officer for the Halifax Initiative, an environmental coalition, said that the organization was worried Harper had not been properly informed of the issues surrounding the project.

"We're also concerned that Prime Minister Harper's visit to the Barrick offices might be viewed as a gesture of support for the project, just when the Chilean congress is considering forming a special investigatory commission to evaluate alleged irregularities with the approval process for the mine," Keenan, said.

Continue Article

Lucio Cuenca, national co-ordinator of the Latin American Observatory on Environmental Conflicts, agreed with Keenan, claiming the visit implies "tacit approval" of the project on the part of the prime minister.

Cuenca says the local defence council is considering suing Barrick for the alleged destruction of the glaciers. He adds that a human rights complaint has been lodged with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Accusations being studied
A committee of lawmakers from Chile's chamber of deputies is studying the accusations.

One 2002 environmental report by the General Water Directorship estimates the three glaciers have shrunk by 50 to 70 per cent, allegedly as a result of work done during Barrick's exploratory phase, such as road building.

Runoff from the glaciers fuels watersheds in the area, supplying water to many communities.

"There's a shortage of water in the summertime, and it's only sustained because of the glaciers," one protester told CBC News. "Because of the destruction of the glaciers, there won't be water in the short-term, there won't be water for the communities."

Barrick says the glaciers are melting due to global warming.

The company's local director of corporate affairs, Rodrigo Jimenez, says the protesters represented "a small minority."

"A lot of them, as a result of professional activism … unfortunately oppose any type of development — whether it's mining, gas or any type of project around the world," he said.

Harper was scheduled to leave Chile Wednesday for Bridgetown, Barbados.

Black's National Post: Neoconservatism with Cleavage

McQuaig was the National Post's token leftist but she was hardly just a token. The Post gave her a national platform. Black kept her in spite of claiming she should be horsewhipped! McQuaig's analysis of the Post seems right on. Even with Black long gone the Post right wing tradition carries on. The Post is no longer very flashy but it is just as right wing as under Black if not moreso.

Post was wolf in sheep's clothing
>by Linda McQuaig
July 16, 2007
Listening to Conrad Black being interviewed by Peter Gzowski on the radio a number of years ago, I was surprised to hear Black suggest that I be “horsewhipped.”

I knew he was angry about two lengthy articles I'd written about some of his business dealings, and I wouldn't have been surprised to hear him attack me, even urge that I be fired. But horsewhipped?

Of course, it was all part of Black's larger-than-life persona that included a high sense of self-drama that was always colourful in its excessiveness. Black also once described me in an article as a “not very bright, leftist reporter” — for which a number of people urged me to sue him for libel. This was an intriguing idea, especially given Black's own penchant for slapping intimidating lawsuits on journalists who took an interest in investigating some of his questionable business practices.

But there was the problem of proving his attack had damaged me. In truth, it's hard to imagine where my career as an anti-establishment author would be today without such colourful swats from Canada's most flagrant and widely detested business tycoon.

But if Conrad Black has been good for my career, his impact elsewhere has been less benign. He used his ample resources to create the National Post, a vehicle that helped him push the mainstream debate in Canada considerably to the right. Black relentlessly used the Post as a platform for himself and a host of like-minded commentators to ridicule the Canadian taste for equality and strong public programs, to denigrate what amounted to the Canadian way of doing things.

Black liked to present the Post as an irreverent, scrappy upstart of a newspaper that shook up the staid Canadian media scene and challenged the establishment with its “take-no-prisoners” approach. The only problem with that image was that, far from challenging the establishment, the Post was — and is — the establishment.

It may well have been a scrappy upstart, but from the beginning it was an attack-dog fighting on behalf of Canada's financial elite, who have never been shy about defending their own interests. Could anyone seriously argue that, before the Post came along, we had heard insufficiently from business on the subject of the need for tax cuts, free trade or deficit reduction?

Of course, before Black started the Post, the message of the financial elite had been championed relentlessly for decades by The Globe and Mail. What the Post added was a sassy new look to the staid corporate message. It offered up the same old thunderous voice of Big Business, but now cranked up to deafening levels, with even less attempt at “balance,” and with more zing, including shots of celebrities in low-cut dresses. Its pages sparkled with a new brand of ultra-right journalism: neoconservatism with cleavage.

If the Post had a target, it was never the establishment, but rather the powerless. I recall how the Post, under Black, came out guns blazing against a court decision favouring a group of secretaries, file clerks and librarians who had waged a lengthy battle against the federal government for failing to follow its own pay equity laws.

The Post fearlessly called for a total repeal of pay equity laws, to prevent this sort of fairness from ever intruding into the Canadian workplace again. That'll show those uppity girls.

So much was Black part of the Canadian establishment that he managed to escape legal problems here for years, and would have likely escaped them entirely, had the U.S. authorities not eventually caught up with him.

In Canada, Black got a soft ride at the hands of authorities. He was investigated here in connection with a 1982 takeover bid of U.S. mining firm for possible violations of our securities laws. Two staff investigators of the Ontario Securities Commission recommended the commission lay a total of 26 securities charges against Black, his firm Norcen Energy and president Edward Battle.

But the decision whether to lay the charges was in the hands of the commission's eight-member board, who were all well-connected members of the Canadian financial elite. In the end, they decided not to prosecute one of their own.

Having been cleared by the establishment, Black went on bankroll a newspaper that loudly trumpeted the rights of the affluent, while posing as a scrappy upstart taking on the establishment.

Linda McQuaig's column is originally published by The Toronto Star.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Latin America faces many choices

There are also many other forms of socialism or at least many more types of social democracy than that in Venezuela. Venezuela is hardly socialist. Most of the means of production, distribution and exchange are in private hands including the media which typically excoriates Chavez.
It is hilarious to see Harper trying to distance himself from the US when in fact he is carrying out the same basic capitalist policy as the US. Harper is a great fan of the US and thinks our relationships should be even closer. Of course he is also pushing for the integration of the US and Canada through the SPP.
It is interesting that in China Harper stresses human rights but in Colombia where the president's family is associated with extra-judicial right wing militias he stresses trade!

'Nonsense' to believe Latin America faces only 2 political choices: PM
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 | 9:05 AM ET
CBC News
Some South American countries are at a crossroads because they falsely believe their only choice is between socialism or the American style of capitalism, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday.

Speaking at the Canada-Chile Chamber of Commerce in Santiago, Chile, Harper said Canada will play a bigger role in Latin America and the Caribbean, but one that is different from what the United States plays.

"Too often some in the hemisphere are led to believe that their only choices are — if I can be so bold to say — to return to the syndrome of economic nationalism, political authoritarianism and class warfare, or to become, quote, just like the United States," Harper said, in what appeared to be a reference to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. "This is, of course, utter nonsense."

"Canada's very existence demonstrates that the choice is a false one. Canada's political structures differ substantially from those in the United States," said Harper, who is on a six-day, four-country tour of South America and the Caribbean.

"Our cultural and social models have been shaped by unique forces, and we've made our own policy choices to meet our own needs."

He said Canada and Chile are both models of free market economies that retain the independence of their social and political lives.

In attendance were President Michelle Bachelet and two former presidents, Ricardo Lagos and Patricio Aylwin, along with business executives of the Canada-Chile Chamber of Commerce.

Earlier, Harper visited a new Scotiabank branch in Santiago, where he exchanged $60 Cdn for Chilean pesos, a symbolic gesture marking the 10th anniversary of the Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, right, talks with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Santiago, Chile, on Tuesday.
(Santiago Llanquin/Associated Press) Harper arrived in the Chilean capital overnight from Colombia, where he had met with embattled Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. The pair announced the start of trilateral free trade talks with Peru.

In his speech, Harper emphasized again that he believes Canada should be more engaged in this part of the world, CBC News Keith Boag said.

"This is what Harper considers Canada's neighbourhood and that in the future, you're going to see an even more activist foreign and trade policy in this region," said Boag.

First to sign
Canada was the first country to sign a bilateral free trade agreement with Chile. Chilean exports to Canada have quintupled since the deal came into effect in July 1997, with more than 300 Canadian companies active in Chile. Canada is also the top mining investor in Chile.

In the past 10 years, trade between the two countries has increased by 325 per cent, according to Canadian government officials.

The manager of Magnotta vineyard, an Ontario winery operating in Chile's Maipo Valley, said Chileans enjoy doing business with Canada.

Canada sees Chile as a reliable and safe country to do business in, said Pedro Amunategui.

Harper has been under pressure to address the issue of human rights during his visit, a topic that came up Monday during a news conference with Colombian president Uribe.

Uribe's government has been mired in scandal, with two senators in his party and one of his cousins linked to right-wing death squads. In Colombia last year, close to 700 people were kidnapped and more than 17,000 murdered. It is widely considered the western hemisphere's most dangerous country.

Harper said it was ridiculous to wait until the country had solved all of its problems before trying to offer economic help and praised Uribe for openly addressing its social, political and economic problems.

With files from the Canadian Press