Thursday, April 29, 2010

Making criminals pay by charging the taxpayer more!

2 Billion is a small price to pay to have the Harper Conservatives look to be hard on crime and criminals. The money can be made up by cutting back on expenditures on the social safety net. The worse off should show more responsibility and not depend on the government so the 2 billion can be cut from benefits. This will build character as will double bunking of criminals .This is from the Toronto Sun.

Crime bill cost $2B: Toews

OTTAWA - Legislation that prevents criminals from getting extra credit for time served will cost the federal government about $2 billion over five years, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Wednesday.

Reacting to news reports that the Parliamentary Budget Office has estimated the cost at up to $10 billion, Toews said, “Our government understands that there will be a cost to this.” But he said Budget Officer Kevin Page’s estimates were flawed.

The government bill, which is now law, eliminates so-called two-for-one sentencing that lets criminals claim double credit for time spent in detention prior to being sentenced. Two-for-one was meant to acknowledge that the conditions in which they are often held are not on par with those available to sentenced prisoners.

Toews said the government would save the costs of the added incarceration its legislation will bring, in part, by having prisoners bunk together in the same cell.

“Many western democracies do that; there’s nothing inappropriate about that,” he said. “The Conservative party stands behind the idea that individuals should

in fact serve the time they’ve been sentenced to.”

Double bunking, he said, is “an appropriate solution, it can be done in an appropriate and constitutionally acceptable manner.”

Toews was not able to say what the costs would be for other crime bills the Conservatives have reintroduced since prorogation.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Blackwater (Xe) trained Canadian troops

Apparently legal problems and human rights issues count for nothing when awarding contracts. If Canadian troops learned from Blackwater then they learned that all that counts is protection of your client. The citizens of the country you are occupying don't count. If they don't scatter fast enough just shoot them because that makes sure your clients are safe.
It seems this company has enough connections and cheerleaders that it does not matter much about its legal and human rights problems. Canada has done its bit to support the profits of private contractors that are part of the military industrial complex. This is from the National Post.

Blackwater trained our troops
Defence spent more than $6M at controversial U.S. security firm

Tom Blackwell, National Post

The department sent a succession of personnel to Blackwater's Moyock, N.C., training compound from 2005 to as recently as April 2009, some of them learning tactics for working in dangerous settings, records obtained through access-to-information legislation indicate.

The work continued even after the U.S. State Department cancelled its pricey security contract with the company in Iraq amid mounting criticism of Blackwater's actions.

The training courses included defensive driving and "close protection" in hostile environments, as well as specialized weapons use, a DND spokesman said.

The U.S. firm was judged to be the best bidder in tenders put out for the work, and controversy associated with other aspects of its business would not have come into play, Major Vance White said.

"We require some sort of specialized training ... and if that company wins the contract, then they've obviously proven they can provide the training we need," he said. "What they might do in another part of their company doesn't detract from the fact that they have capacity to provide excellent training."

Despite its notoriety, in fact, Blackwater, recently renamed Xe Services, has been called the "Cadillac" of security training outfits.

One critic, however, called the contracts "appalling" and said the government should be prohibited from doing business with the company, or any others accused of serious human-rights abuses.

"This group is akin to a bunch of gangsters or mercenaries," charged Steven Staples, president for the liberal-minded Rideau Institute. "I would have to really question what the military thinks it can learn from an organization like Blackwater: How to kill civilians? How to operate outside the law? How to bilk taxpayers?"

Blackwater is the most contentious example of a recent trend in many countries to contract out services traditionally performed by military and other government security forces.

Though it started as a training centre for police officers and soldiers, the firm earned more than a billion dollars in the past several years by providing protection to U.S. diplomats in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some detractors portray its overseas staff as a de facto private army, while others praise the guards' aggressive safeguarding of American officials.

Blackwater employees eventually were accused of indiscriminately harming civilians in the course of that work, allegations that came to the fore with the killing of 17 Iraqis during a 2007 incident in Baghdad. U.S. authorities charged five of the guards involved with manslaughter in 2008, though a judge threw out the charges this past December. Days later, however, the Justice Department charged two employees for a Blackwater subsidiary with murder in a 2009 Kabul shooting that left two Afghans dead.

The State Department cancelled the Iraq close-protection contract in January 2009.

Four senior Blackwater executives were charged this month with weapons offences. Two former employees accused Blackwater in court documents of chronic billing fraud; a U.S. government auditor concluded last year the firm had been overpaid $55-million by the State Department.

An access-to-information request submitted last fall to Canada's National Defence Department for the previous five years of "call-ups" -- contracts under a standing order for services -- elicited a string of transactions from late 2005 until April 2009.

Maj. White said he did not know if the department was continuing to deal with Blackwater today. The censored documents contained little information about the services provided, other than references to training and accommodation at the Blackwater headquarters.

There were also small contracts for equipment, such as rental of pistols and "carbines" and purchase of ammunition for the guns. Individual call-ups ranged from less than $100 to just over $1-million, totalling about US $6-million.

In 2007, an official with the U.S. Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association told The Washington Post that Blackwater was considered the Cadillac of training services. "You've got the best of the best teaching close-quarter-combat tactics," he said.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ex-CSIS chief rejects new anti-terror powers

The Tories are bound and determined to throw tid bits to their right wing base and show that they are tough on terror. You would think it would be embarrassing to ask for powers that a former intelligence chief says are not necessary. But being necessary and being politically advantageous are not the same. Harper is depending upon the fear developed by the war on terror to help moves such as this boost his political fortunes. The opposition should call him out on this one and perhaps he will change his mind. This is from the montrealgazette.

Ex-CSIS chief rejects new anti-terror powers

Tories try to revive 'preventative arrest'


Two contentious anti-terrorism powers the government intends to revive are unnecessary, potentially dangerous and cross the line between state security and individual rights, Canada's former spymaster says.

"We should think very carefully before we take that step," Reid Morden said of the government's proposed Combating Terrorism Act, unveiled Friday by federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.

Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service have "perfectly sufficient powers to do their jobs," said the former director of CSIS. "If they're properly resourced ... they don't need more powers."

The bill would re-introduce two lapsed laws to the Criminal Code giving police extraordinary powers to apprehend imminent terrorist threats.

"Preventive arrest" would allow individuals to be arrested without warrants in the belief that the arrest will disrupt terrorist activity and prevent a looming attack. Those arrested need not have committed any crime and can be detained for up to 72 hours. A judge can also impose conditions on their release and violators can spend up to a year in jail.

The other exceptional power, investigative judicial hearings, would allow police and prosecutors to bring a person before a court and compel them to disclose information related to possible terrorism. Self-incriminating evidence they might give cannot directly be used against them in any subsequent legal action. Judges also could order the hearings be held in secret.

The powers were originally introduced by Jean Chrétien's Liberals in November, 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Criticism from civil libertarians and others forced the government to water down the provisions with a five-year sunset clause.

But when the Harper government proposed a three-year extension in February 2007, the Commons was engulfed in days of bitter debate, with MPs finally voting 159 to 124 against the resolution.

The Justice Department said the proposed legislation would add "safeguards" to those in the original legislation to protect individuals snared by the laws. No specifics were given.

That neither power was used in their first five years is proof, the government has argued, that the measures were not abused.

Morden takes a different perspective. "I honestly don't see that we have either suffered, or that (police) would have been able to do anything more if they'd actually had these powers."

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Winnipeg Journalist Val Werier honored.

I knew Val personally as we served on the Manitoba Law Reform Commission long ago. I always admired him as a journalist and he contributed a great deal to the work of the Commission. He was always urging the members who were mostly lawyers to use simple straightforward language in our reports. He is 93 already, means I must be a few years older too since that was back in the days when Ed Schreyer was premier. This is from winnipegfreepres.

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Werier honoured for Lake Winnipeg columns

VAL Werier's relationship with Lake Winnipeg has lasted a lifetime.
That's part of the reason why the Lake Winnipeg Foundation has awarded the longtime journalist the Alexander Bajkov Award for his writings on the massive body of water and its importance to the makeup of Manitoba.
"I've won a few awards in my time but this one is special," Werier said Friday.
For over 70 years, Werier has served as a reporter and story-teller in this province. Lake Winnipeg has been his focus for most of that time, from the days of camping up in Boundary Park as a teenager to present-day cottage ownership in the region.
Werier, who turns 93 in June, is as passionate as ever about the lake.
"I've written about that lake going back 50 years," said Werier, who still works as a freelance columnist for the Free Press. "I feel it is the most important thing in our province; it's a source of our power, it's a source of beauty and it's a source of our great heritage."
The Alexander Bajkov award is presented to a person or group who has contributed to the health of Lake Winnipeg.
"(Werier's) legacy of many impassioned columns has stirred citizen awareness and activism as well as focused public policy issues," LWF president Bruce Smith said in a release.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Former Ambassador: Diplomats knew detainees could be tortured by Afghan government.

This is just part of the dirt that goes on and goes on without anything ever being done about it because no one wants anything done about it. In fact the dirt might be useful in getting intelligence from detainees as the result of torture. Or it may be that it is done just because there is hardly any alternative. Perhaps they could give them to the US to be tortured in Bagram on occasion!
Of course diplomats cover their ass with nonsense toilet paper they get from the Afghan government that assures them that no one will be tortured. The same sort of crap wipe was given by the Syrian government in the case of Canadians such as Arar who were tortured there. Organisations such as Amnesty have consistently documented torture in both countries. But for the diplomats all that is required is the proper ass wipe to show that you have made certain there will be no torture. This is from the TorontoSun.

Former ambassador: Diplomats knew detainees could be tortured

OTTAWA — Diplomats knew detainees could be tortured but the Afghan government assured Canada they would be treated humanely, a former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan testified Wednesday.

“Our reports for several years indicated that there was a high likelihood that torture was going on in Afghanistan detention facilities. However, we were confident that, based on information we had, that no Canadian transfer detainees had been abused or mistreated,” said David Sproule, Canada’s ambassador in Kabul from October, 2005, to April, 2007.

Sproule was testifying before the committee investigating allegations that Canadian Forces knowingly transferred detainees to Afghan authorities knowing they faced the risk of possible torture.

Diplomats obtained assurances “from the highest levels” of the Afghan government that detainees would be treated in accordance with international legal standards, he told .

“Just because the Afghanistan government provides those assurances, it doesn’t absolve Canada of its obligation if torture happens in Afghan facilities,” said Liberal defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh.

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said diplomats couldn’t have known if any detainees were being tortured because they didn’t have the monitoring in place to know if did.

“They weren’t looking for Canadian detainees and they weren’t looking for abuse, it seems, so guess what? They didn’t find any,” he said.

Detainees who are tortured are probably reluctant to come forward because Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, where they are held, is also responsible for investigating their claims, he said.

“No wonder they don’t have many facts or proof that there is torture going on,” Dewar said. “The people alleged to have taken part in the torture, are investigating it.”

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Issue of release of documents on detainees could end up in Supreme Court.

It remains to be seen whether the parties can sort this issue out or if Milliken can give a ruling that will satisfy the opposition. In any event I expect that any Supreme Court ruling would be in favor or some restrictions on the release of documents in the name of National Security. That is a sacred cow which must be kept so that governments can always have a way of avoiding scrutiny or accountability. This is from the Star.

Struggle between Parliament and government could reach Supreme Court
April 21, 2010

Susan Delacourt

OTTAWA–Will the Supreme Court of Canada have to step in to sort out the power struggle between the House of Commons and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government?

It’s a solution that some parliamentary experts and observers believe is possible after Commons Speaker Peter Milliken issues his historic ruling on whether Parliament or the government have the right to control the documents in the Afghan detainee controversy.

“On this one, I think that’s something the government certainly could do,” said Ned Franks, professor emeritus at Queen’s University and one of the country’s leading parliamentary scholars.

Milliken is expected to announce as early as Thursday his verdict in a serious, five-month-old standoff between the Harper government and the opposition in the Commons, which forms a majority. Milliken’s ruling could have significant implications for how power is exercised in parliamentary democracies – not just in Canada, but beyond.

In December, the three opposition parties banded together and passed a parliamentary order, compelling the government to produce all documents related to Canada’s treatment of detainees captured by Canadian forces in Afghanistan. The order has the force of law, but the government has argued that other laws, protecting national security for instance, weigh against wholesale compliance with the parliamentary dictate.

In many ways, this is a sequel to another constitutional crisis – specifically, the standoff immediately after the 2008 election, when the opposition parties banded together in a coalition that threatened to unseat Harper’s government.

The Liberals and New Democrats put together a coalition-government proposal, with tacit agreement from the Bloc Quebecois. But the Conservative government, in a massive public-relations campaign, argued that the coalition was undemocratic and a sop to separatists.

Governor General Michaelle Jean granted Harper a request to prorogue Parliament, but reportedly made clear, in a two-hour discussion with the Prime Minister, that the government was being granted the stay of execution on condition that it co-operate better with the majority opposition in the Commons.

Now, a little more than a year later, Harper’s refusal to co-operate with this parliamentary order could be viewed as defiance of the Governor General’s instructions. In that case, if this dispute lands in front of Jean again, she may have no choice but to dissolve Parliament, recognizing that it has become dysfunctional.

The Supreme Court, however, could represent a compromise of sorts. If Milliken sides with the argument that Parliament prevails over government, the Justice Department may well draft a formal reference to the Supreme Court – in the form of a constitutional, not a political question — about which laws have precedence in the case of a dispute.

In other words, rather than going to the Governor General, and almost certainly an election, the problem would head to the Supreme Court, where everyone could buy some time.

It’s not unheard of – former prime minister Jean Chretien asked the Supreme Court to sort out the rules of secession in the late 1990s and the current, Conservative government is asking the Supreme Court to issue an opinion on whether the federal government has the authority to establish a national securities regulator. The provinces and Liberal senators have also been urging Harper to put his Senate-reform ideas to the Supreme Court.

Franks said this isn’t an ideal situation in the current standoff – in a perfect world, Parliament wouldn’t defer to the Supreme Court to sort out its own powers. Franks suspects and hopes that Milliken is able to issue a ruling that treads somewhere down the middle, allowing the government and the Commons to sit down and solve this standoff themselves.

“I would far rather see the two sides in Parliament sort this out than have it go to the Supreme Court,” Franks said.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Canada's Senior Commander in Afghanistan investigated for accidental rifle discharge.

Although the general orders himself investigated to be transparent he was helped along by the fact that a reporter had already heard about the incident. It will be interesting to see how much detail if any emerges from the investigation. Somehow I doubt he will face court martial. The general is not alone as the article points out there have been hundreds of cases of accidental weapon discharges among Canadian troops in Afghanistan. This is from the Telegraph

Canada's military chief in Afghanistan 'fired rifle in air base'
Canad's senior military commander in Afghanistan has ordered an investigation into himself after he accidentally fired his rifle while loading it at an air base.

By Toby Harnden in Washington

Brigadier-General Daniel Ménard, who commands the Canadian and American troops who make up Task Force Kandahar, approached the media on Saturday, citing a need for openness, to say that his C8 carbine had fired unexpectedly at Kandahar air base on March 25th.
His disclosure followed inquiries from the independent war reporter Michael Yon. If an investigation concludes that the incident was a negligent discharge, then Brig-Gen Ménard, who once served as an exchange officer with the Royal Welch Fusiliers, could face a court martial under Canada's National Defence Act or a fine or reprimand.

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Two Canadian sources suggested to Mr Yon that Brig-Gen Ménard had fired his rifle inside an American helicopter and that he had nearly hit a Canadian official.
Brig-Gen Ménard stated that no property was damaged but declined to discuss further details because of the ongoing investigation. It is unusual for such a senior officer to carry a rifle.
In the past 18 months, more than 600 Canadian Forces soldiers have been convicted of negligently discharging their weapons. Most of those incidents involve junior soldiers or recruits and many of them an instance of pulling the trigger prematurely during firing range practice.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Canada has most prisoner transfers in Afghanistan

As usual the Harper government is secretive about everything refusing to release figures about how many detainees are transferred even though other countries do so. As is done ad nauseam security reasons are given. Apparently other countries do not share these concerns. Not only that but the Human Rights organisation has trouble gaining access to these detainees. This is from the CBC.

Canada tops allies in Afghan prisoner transfers

Canada outstripped its NATO allies almost two-to-one in the number of prisoners it turned over to Afghan authorities in the first nine months of last year, figures prepared for the Afghan government show.

The statistics were compiled by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and made available to The Canadian Press. The federal government does not disclose them.

Furthermore, the commission complained in its latest annual report that it is still frustrated in attempts to check on prisoners handed over to the country's notorious intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security.

The commission, which relies heavily on Canadian government funding and mentorship, said between January and the end of September 2009, it was notified that 267 suspected insurgents had been transferred to NDS by Canada, Britain, the Netherlands and Denmark. The United States has its own system for dealing with captured Taliban.

Among NATO allies, the Canadian army was way out in front with 163 prisoners. Britain followed with 93 confirmed transfers; the Netherlands 10 and Denmark 1.

Unlike those countries, who make these numbers publicly available, Ottawa refuses to release its figures, citing operational security and the safety of troops as the reason. Before the U.S. surge, the explanation was that giving away the number of captured with so small a Canadian force on the ground would help the Taliban track where their people might be.

Read more:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Michel Chartrand Quebec Labour leader dead at 93.

Chartrand fought all his life for working people and also for the Quebec separatist cause. He was known for his fiery speeches and salty language. He was jailed by several different Quebec regimes for his activities most famously during the War Measures Act. More is available at this site.

Memories of Michel

Michel Chartrand, an outstanding leader of the Quebec labour, nationalist, socialist and social justice movements, died on April 12 at the age of 93.

A multitude of Québécois worked with Michel in the causes that marked his long life, and the Quebec media this week are full of tributes to his contributions. Translated below is an older tribute by 110 well-known activists, published on the occasion of his 90th birthday, that summarizes some of the key events of his life. It is followed by some personal memories of my own.

— Richard Fidler.

In Praise of a Passionate Defender of the Workers

Le Devoir, November 18, 2006

Next December 20, Michel Chartrand will celebrate his 90th birthday. One of the very few public personalities to have never deviated from his ideals, this exceptional fighter has for 70 years participated in all the memorable events in Quebec's history. He has become an integral part of those events since he has been on the line of fire in all the major social and political battles, starting in the mid-1930s. For example, during the Fifties, in the “Grande Noirceur” [the dark days of Duplessis], he acted as a spearhead of the trade-union movement, which was the real opposition to Duplessism and opened the way to the Quiet Revolution. Chartrand personally paid the price, being jailed no fewer than seven times in the course of the hard-fought conflicts that marked that period, the best known of which were those in Asbestos and Murdochville.

The fate he suffered then gave a foretaste of the troubles he would later have with the legal system and the many further jailings – including his detention for four months under the War Measures Act decreed by the Trudeau government during the October Crisis of 1970. His trial – like that of all the 300 or so other persons unjustly jailed at that time – ended in a dismissal of the charges.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin says detainee monitoring program broke down..

There is much clear evidence of cover up given in this testimony. Information was deliberately as a matter of policy kept from people who should have been able to receive the information. Of course there has been a complete stonewalling on this. No doubt it will simply fade into the black hole of forgotten misdeeds and no one will be held accountable. This is from the National Post.

Diplomat says detainee monitoring program broke down

Juliet O’Neill, Canwest News Service

OTTAWA -- A monitoring program aimed at protecting Canadian-transferred detainees from torture by Afghanistan authorities "broke down" not long after it was established in May 2007, diplomat Richard Colvin testified Tuesday at a public hearing by the Military Police Complaints Commission.

Mr. Colvin said very few of the more than 100 detainees captured by the Canadian military and transferred to Afghanistan control were visited by Foreign Affairs officials. And he said the reports of their interviews with detainees, recounting abuse, were circulated to "a handful of carefully selected" senior officials, mostly in Ottawa, who jealously guarded the information.

"The conclusion I came to was this was not a serious effort at monitoring," he said. "Torture continued."

Mr. Colvin, who served in Afghanistan as a diplomat from April 2006 to October 2007, is now deputy head of intelligence at the Canadian Embassy in Washington.

He provoked a political storm last fall when he testified on Parliament Hill that the government and military officials turned a blind eye to the likely torture of detainees transferred to Afghan custody by members of the Canadian Forces.

Mr. Colvin testified that the officer in charge of Canadian military police in Kandahar in 2006 had "explicit instructions" not to provide information about Afghan detainees captured by Canadians to the NATO-led military command.

He recounted how a contact from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force had complained that "getting information from the Canadians is like getting blood out of a stone" and the ISAF official had been told to "mind your own business" when he sought information from Canadians about their captives and transfers.

He said Provost Marshal Maj. Jim Fraser, the officer in charge of military police at the time, told him he would be pleased to share the information but had received explicit instructions from Defence headquarters in Ottawa not to pass on such information.

He also testified that the Canadian Forces were "blocking" the International Committee of the Red Cross from checking detainees transferred to Afghan authorities when he arrived in Afghanistan in 2006.

He brought the problem to the attention of military and other officials, including Maj. Erik Liebert, the deputy commander of Canada's Provincial Reconstruction Team. Liebert was surprised and, after trying to get some guidance, told Mr. Colvin "no one wants to touch this, it's a hot potato."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ignatieff changes tune on health user fees.

The great Harvard human rights prof. thinks its OK to force a dress code on Muslim women for them to get provincial services and then he also applauds a move by Quebec Premier Jean Charest to impose a 25 dollar medical visit charge which would presumably violate the Canada Health Act that prohibits user fees. Perhaps he read the Act or perhaps his party read him the riot act. In any case he repented but did not apologize of course. Maybe the Liberals should bring Dion back or at least send Iggy to join Dion. This is from

Ignatieff thinks again on health user fees
Facing Liberal revolt, he now opposes Quebec’s proposal

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has been quick lately to show he’s on-side with moves by Quebec’s provincial Liberal government. When Premier Jean Charest moved to force fully veiled Muslim women to remove their niqabs to get some provincial services, Ignatieff quickly voiced his approval. Similarly, he was fast to say he thought a Quebec plan to study imposing a $25 per medical visit charge, to be implemented through the income tax system, didn’t violate the Canada Health Act. But after a grassroots revolt in his party, Ignatieff now says, wait a minute, the Quebec idea would break the federal law against user fees.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lawyers: Taser tried to intimidate consultants.

Taser is extremely aggressive in defending the safety of the Taser in spite of many cases where it seems that the instrument was at least a contributing factor in deaths. It publishes reams of studies funded by itself showing how safe the instrument is and hires many experts who of course come up with findings that Taser approves. As in this case those who testify that there may be some dangers in Taser use and that there is a risk of death are villified and subject to character what almost amounts to character assassination. There is lots of money at stake for Taser and so this type of legal boxing is well worth the high pay of their legal tag team.

Taser International tried to intimidate consultants, lawyers say

Company launched a 'scurrilous attack' to discredit professionals by saying they are guilty of bias and dishonesty, judge told


Taser International was accused Monday of trying to intimidate consultants and lawyers hired by the Thomas Braidwood commission, which looked into how conducted-energy weapons should be used in B.C.

The company launched a "scurrilous attack" on two respected professionals involved in the inquiry, accusing both of bias and one of dishonesty, as part of an aggressive ploy to intimidate anyone who questions the safety and efficacy of Tasers, a B.C. Supreme Court judge was told.

Lawyers for the provincial government and the two men made the accusations in court as they sought to dismiss Taser's application for a judicial review of Braidwood's report into the use of Tasers in B.C.

But the company, whose weapons are widely used by police departments, prisons and security forces around the world, says it is only arguing that it wasn't given fair warning to respond to any adverse findings the Braidwood inquiry might make and that his findings harm its reputation.

In its application, Taser argued the study commission's process was flawed and that scientific and professional studies it provided to the commission were not included when Braidwood issued his final report, Restoring Public Confidence -- Restricting the Use of Conducted Energy Weapons in British Columbia last year.

But Craig Jones, a lawyer for the Attorney-General's Ministry, said Taser is trying to dictate matters simply because it doesn't like Braidwood's findings.

"It continues to dispute that there is a risk, however small, associated with Taser use," he said. "Taser's assertion of harm to its reputation remains without any evidence whatsoever."

Braidwood was appointed by the government in 2008 to conduct two commissions: the first, a study commission, looked only into how Tasers and other conducted-energy weapons are used. The second was a formal hearing of inquiry into the circumstances around the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, 2007 after he was repeatedly shocked by a Taser wielded by an RCMP officer.


Braidwood issued the study commission's findings on June 18, 2009. His report on the inquiry is expected in June or July.

Taser has asked for a number of declarations, including the quashing of several sections of Braidwood's first report where he concluded that conductedenergy weapons, in some circumstances, could cause death or severe injury. It also asked for declarations that Art Vertlieb, the commission's counsel, and Dr. Keith Chambers, a medical consultant, were guilty of "dereliction of duty" that led to a "reasonable apprehension of bias" against Taser. They also alleged that Chambers was guilty of "dereliction of duty to be honest."

Those words angered the lawyers for the two men. They charged that Taser was trying to intimidate the commission as a way of discouraging future witnesses or consultants in cases against the maker of the conducted-energy weapon.

"This is pure intimidation. This is an attempt by a large company that manufactures these weapons to try and silence anybody who would speak out against them by suing them in a manner that cannot possibly succeed," John Hunter, the lawyer for Chambers, told Justice Robert Sewell.

"In my submission, that is an improper purpose and should be subject to being visited with the chastisement of special costs by this court."

Both Hunter and Thomas Berger, who is representing Vertlieb, told the judge Taser's unfounded allegations against their clients -- in which the company offered no evidence -- were so outrageous that he should also award special court costs.

"This case is the very definition of abuse of process," Berger told the judge.

Jones said the two men only provided assistance in collecting or collating documents for Braidwood and made no submissions or findings themselves. As such, the two men didn't do anything wrong, he said.

Taser International is known for aggressively challenging anyone who says its weapons can cause death. It argues its guns, which deliver a high-voltage shock to incapacitate the victims, are a safer alternative to deadly use of force by police.

But in recent years the company has come under scrutiny for a rash of deaths at the hands of officers deploying Tasers, sometimes operated in multiples. Taser worries that having its weapons declared killers would likely damage its sales.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Monday, April 12, 2010

Federal Conservatives have ten point lead over Liberals.

This lead will probably not hold up after the recent problems in the Conservative cabinet. That the NDP dropped three points seems rather anomalous. Perhaps this poll is a bit anomalous. It will be interesting to see what the next polls show. At least the lead is not enough to give Harper a majority so he is not likely to try to provoke an election. Ignatieff will do the same as Dion and support the Conservatives but without the Green Shift! This is from MacLeans.

Tories build up double-digit lead
New poll suggests a snap election would return nearly identical Parliament

The federal Conservatives have built up a 10-point lead over their Liberal party challengers thanks in part to a 3-point jump in the last month alone. The latest survey by Ipsos Reid Public Affairs has the Conservatives in a comfortable lead at 37 per cent to the Liberals’ 27 per cent. While the Liberals lost one point since March, the NDP dropped three to land at 15 per cent support. The Greens and the Bloc were tied for fourth at 10 per cent. The results are largely identical to those of the last election, says Ipsos president and CEO Darrell Bricker, “and we already know the results of that.”

Sunday, April 11, 2010

McKay wants to extend the Afghan Mission

No doubt at the urging of his US imperialist comrades the junior partner will take on an extended but non-combat role to make up for the demise of our combat role. At the very least any extension should be debated in parliament. But then the defender of U.S. humanistic imperialism Michael Ignatieff will no doubt support the Conservatives in extending the mission because after all it is not a combat role. As no doubt military experts will point out they could still be involved in combat because they need to defend themselves! This is from CBC.

Afghan deployment past 2011 possible: MacKay

CBC News
Defence Minister Peter MacKay leaves the Canadian HQ in Kandahar on Saturday with Brig.-Gen. Daniel Ménard. MacKay said keeping Canadian police mentors in Afghanistan to train police officers is an option Ottawa is mulling for when the combat mission ends in 2011. (Murray Brewster/Canadian Press)
Defence Minister Peter MacKay on Saturday repeated the government's official line that the country's soldiers would be withdrawn from combat in Afghanistan next year, but he also suggested some Canadians might stay.

Canada is willing to continue mentoring Afghan police after the troop disengagement begins in summer 2011, MacKay said as he wrapped up a three-day trip to the Central Asian country.

Canada currently has 48 civilian police — RCMP and municipal officers — and 40 military police mentoring Afghan police officers in Kandahar. On Thursday, MacKay announced 90 more troops would be sent to help train local police and the national army, but at the time he said those new trainers would be brought home in 2011.

"After 2011, the military mission will end," MacKay said Saturday. "What we will do beyond that point in the area of training will predominantly be in the area of policing."

Keeping up the police-training role might alleviate pressure from the United States, which has pressed Ottawa to extend its military commitment.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CBC last month that "I'm not going to sit here and tell you we're happy" with Canada's plans to bring its forces home next year. But she also said the Afghan mission needs countries willing to commit to non-combat work.

"We do need non-combat forces, for example, for training and logistical work," Clinton said.

MacKay wouldn't unequivocally say Saturday whether troops might remain deployed past the withdrawal deadline to train the Afghan National Army — in addition to whatever civilians or soldiers stay behind to instruct police — but he strongly intimated it was unlikely.

"Let's be clear, it's speculation at this point. We're talking over a year before Canada's military mission will end," the defence minister said.

A parliamentary motion passed March 13, 2008, calls for Canada to "end its presence in Kandahar as of July 2011" and for all forces to have left by the following December. Prime Minister Stephen Harper subsequently said that the vast majority of troops would be out of Afghanistan, and not just Kandahar, by the deadline.

About 2,830 Canadian troops are deployed in Afghanistan, mostly in the southern province of Kandahar, as part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force. Since 2002, when the mission began, 141 Canadian soldiers have been killed. Four Canadian civilians have also been killed.

Read more:

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Illegal smoke sales at all time high.

One obvious issue that is overlooked is the huge differential between the cost of legal and illegal cigarettes because of the high taxes on the product. If there were less taxes the differential would come down and fewer would take the risk of peddling the contraband cigarettes. However given the amount of revenue governments get from these taxes and given the power of the anti-smoking lobbies this situation is not likely to change in the near future. Just think of it positively as a giant stimulus incentive to create employment in strategically located aboriginal communities. This is from the Globe and Mail.

Illegal smokes hit all-time high: group

From Friday's Globe and Mail

Parents, teachers and public health campaigns all tell teenagers the same thing: Don't smoke. But that message is facing increasingly fierce competition from an influx of cheap, readily available cigarettes sold in school yards, on street corners or on native reserves without proof-of-age requirements.

The availability of contraband cigarettes in Canada is widely considered to be at an all-time high, and represents one of the biggest threats to anti-smoking efforts, particularly among young people, according to a coalition of health organizations calling for immediate action from governments and police forces to get the problem under control.

“There are no excuses. The health of Canadian youth is significantly jeopardized here,” Marco Di Buono, director of research at the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, said at a press conference yesterday. “The government must act now and protect our children before it's too late.”

By definition, contraband tobacco products include those sold outside provincial and federal rules and taxes. While there are several types of contraband cigarettes sold in Canada, the biggest supply is considered to be those manufactured directly on native reserves. Health groups are also concerned about the growing prevalence of counterfeit cigarettes, which come into Canada illegally, usually through China.

Sgt. Jean-Marc Piché, a policy analyst with the national office for the excise and customs branch of the RCMP, said that in 2008, the RCMP seized 965,000 cartons of contraband tobacco – the highest year on record. That number crept even higher last year, with 975,000 cartons seized. Those numbers don't include contraband cigarettes seized by provincial police.

Sgt. Piché added that even though the bulk of the contraband tobacco originates in central Canada, it's often sold in the Atlantic provinces and in the western part of the country.

Although the problem of contraband tobacco is most pronounced in Ontario and Quebec, where the population concentration and strategic location of some reserves on the U.S. border makes product manufacturing and distribution easier, it's an issue that affects all Canadians. The RCMP says that a significant portion of the profits from contraband tobacco are used to fund illegal drug and firearms smuggling by organized crime.

But the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco, a coalition of health organizations including the Canadian Cancer Society's Ontario branch, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario and the Non-Smokers' Rights Association, say not enough is being done to address this problem. Political inaction is fuelling growth of the contraband market, which is posing a growing risk to young people, who make up the prime market for illegal cigarettes.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Majority of Canadians oppose extending Afghan mission.

Opposition to extending the mission even extends to a majority of Conservatives. Of course New Democrats and Green Party members and the Bloc Quebecois strongly disapprove of extension. In European countries with Afghan missions majorities are opposed as well. Soon the same thing may happen in the U.S. as casualties continue. This is from the CBC.

Don't extend Afghan mission, Canadians say: poll

CBC News
A majority of Canadians oppose prolonging the country's military mission in Afghanistan, a new EKOS poll suggests. (EKOS)
Half of Canadians do not support the country's military being deployed to Afghanistan, and 60 per cent oppose extending the mission past its current end date of July 2011, a new poll suggests.

The poll, conducted by research firm EKOS and released Thursday exclusively to the CBC, found 36 per cent of respondents supported the mission, though only 28 per cent would be amenable to prolonging it.

The survey, which also inquired about federal voter intentions, asked two questions on the Afghan deployment: "Do you support or oppose Canadian military participation in Afghanistan?" and "Do you oppose or support Canada extending its mission in Afghanistan?"

Opposition to the mission echoes results from last summer, when an EKOS poll found 54 per cent of respondents didn't want Canadian troops in the central Asian country. Since then, the federal government has been embroiled in questions about whether it knew that many detainees captured by the Canadian Forces were being tortured once handed over to Afghan troops.

The staunchest aversion to the current mission came from respondents who also signalled voter support for the Green Party, the New Democrats and the Bloc Québécois, while Conservative backers were the firmest proponents of the military's presence in Afghanistan.

Regionally, opposition to the mission was most intense in Quebec and Ontario, with support strongest in the Prairies.

As for extending the Canadian military's deployment, more than half of respondents of all political leanings disliked the idea, with even a majority of Tory sympathizers opposing it.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Grassy Narrows aboriginals protest Ontario govt. inaction on mercury poisoning.

The poisoning actually happened back in the sixties and seventies but the natives are demanding more action by the Ontario government. Recent tests by a Japanese doctor show that the population is still suffering from the effects of the poisoning even though the level of mercury in the waterways are now much reduced and within allowable limits. The federal government claims the situation is under control but the medical study shows there are still health problems.

Protesters demand action on Grassy Narrows

Brendan Kennedy



Grassy Narrows First Nation is a community of nearly 1,000 people about an hour's drive northeast of Kenora.

"We still have a long journey to go to make the water clean again, to make the land alive again," Da Silva said.

The protestors accuse the McGuinty government of not taking responsibility for allowing the Dryden Pulp & Paper Co. to dump 9,000 kg of mercury into the Wabigoon River between 1962 and 1970.

They called on the provincial government to acknowledge the long-term effects of mercury poisoning on the community, and demanded the federal government strengthen mercury regulations.

The protest comes a day after a newly translated study of Grassy Narrows by Japanese scientist Dr. Masazumi Harada showed 79 per cent of 187 people tested in 2002 and 2004 had or may have had Minimata disease, a condition arising from exposure to methyl-mercury. Tremors, tunnel vision, impaired hearing and speech and loss of muscular co-ordination and sensation in the extremities are hallmarks of the condition.

Harada first tested community members in 1975. He found people with mercury levels over three times the Health Canada limit in Grassy Narrows and seven times the limit in White Dog. When Harada returned in 2004, the people he tested in 1975 with mercury levels in their bodies considered above health guidelines were dead.

While the federal and provincial governments say contamination is no longer a problem, Harada's research indicates the possibility of congenital Minamata disease is high, said Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse. Children are being born with neurological problems, mental deficiency and cerebral palsy, he said.

Premier Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday the province has a "heavy responsibility" to study Harada's findings, because they conflict with the federal government's claim that mercury poisoning at Grassy Narrows is under control.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Lawyer wants human rights tribunal cited for contempt of court.

The lawyer seems to have a point. It is rather strange to hear evidence before determining whether one has jurisdiction in the case, especially when a court has ruled that the jurisdiction matter should be dealt with first. Sometimes human rights tribunals are rather overbearing and arrogant filled with their own self importance and not even aware that they themselves may be involved in violating rights! This is from the Montreal Gazette.

Comic's lawyer wants human rights tribunal cited for contempt of court


A lawyer for standup comedian Guy Earle, who has been accused of making homophobic remarks, has filed a motion in B.C. Supreme Court asking that the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal be cited for contempt.

Jim Millar’s motion also asks that the section of the Human Rights Code being applied in the case be declared unconstitutional because it violates Earle’s right to freedom of expression.

The move comes after Millar walked out of a tribunal hearing earlier this week after protesting that the tribunal lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter.

In his Supreme Court motion, Millar says that a prior court ruling by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Peter Willcock called for the issue of jurisdiction to be dealt with before any hearing proceeds.

He said the decision by the tribunal to hear the jurisdictional issue after hearing the evidence puts it in contempt of court.

Earle was accused of subjecting Lorna Pardy and her same-sex partner to a tirade of homophobic and sexist comments during a performance by Earle at Zesty’s restaurant in Vancouver on May 22, 2007.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Many protest bad news Quebec budget.

Raising taxes is probably much better than cutting services although increased fees often are regressive in that they are not related to income and may impact those with low incomes most. What we will likely see soon are more cuts to the social safety net plus an increase in income inequality as high post recession unemployment results in lower wages. This is from the Toronto Sun.

Thousands protest Quebec budget

MONTREAL - It was a sign of the coming fiscal storm: thousands of people poured into the streets of Montreal to protest Quebec's bad-news provincial budget and prompted a police intervention.

As governments everywhere try to tackle deficits after an era of heavy stimulus spending, Thursday's demonstration could be a warning of what's ahead in the post-recession era.

Police in riot gear fended off a crowd outside the Quebec finance minister's office.

Old Montreal's business district was awash in chanting, placard-waving demonstrators against a budget that will pile new costs on Quebecers, including a sales-tax hike and a historic health fee.

But Finance Minister Raymond Bachand was unapologetic in defending his budget, saying it's time Quebecers accepted that public services aren't free.

"Every adult benefits from the health system, perhaps every adult should pay for the health system," Bachand said Thursday after giving a speech to the Montreal Chamber of Commerce.

"Nothing is free."

The finance minister said he understands the public outrage, but predicted it will soon dissipate.

Bachand hopes his budget will impel a cultural revolution in the province, a change he insists Quebec taxpayers had better get used to.

The debt-ridden province is banking on new fees to pull its books out of the red.

Tuesday's budget hit Quebec's already tax-weary residents with increases to the provincial sales tax, fuel tax, electricity rates, and tuition.

The province will have the country's highest sales tax, jumping to 9.5 per cent in 2012 following another hike of one percentage point set for January 2011. That doesn't include the federal GST of five per cent.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Walkom: What would Iggy do on Afghanistan?

A good question. On questions such as these the great humanitarian imperialist is probably more reactionary than the conservative Harper. Harper seems to worry about political fallout and losing support if he does not pull out. He has been firm on finishing the combat mission in 2011. Of course he will no doubt try to mount some other mission to keep Canadian taxpayers busy funding corruption and warlords in Afghanistan. Iggy wants a debate but he supported the Conservative motion to extend the war. He and some other Liberals saved the day for Harper. Iggy should be dumped unceremoniously, the sooner the better. He can join Dion and the Green Shift. This is from the Star.

What would Iggy do on Afghanistan?

By Thomas Walkom
National Affairs Columnist
The opposition Liberals want Prime Minister Stephen Harper to clarify what he plans for Afghanistan. But he is clear. He says he’s bringing Canada’s troops home.

The real puzzle is: What would the Liberals do?

This is not an academic question. By the time Canada’s scheduled troop withdrawal begins next July, we may well have had another election. Should Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals win, it will be up to them to decide how to proceed.

Yet, what exactly do the Liberals have planned for Afghanistan after 2011? We don’t know.

We do know, however, what Harper says he’ll do.

“Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan will end in 2011,” he told the Commons Tuesday. “We will continue ... with a mission on governance, on development and on humanitarian assistance.”

Or, as Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon put it: “After 2011, we’re out.”

Note that the Prime Minister has gone well beyond the resolution passed by the Commons in 2008. That specified only that Canadian troops would be removed from Afghanistan’s Kandahar province by the end of 2011 — which left open the possibility that they might be deployed elsewhere in the country.

The Prime Minister now says the entire Afghan military mission will be terminated.

If he’s sincere, that means Canadian troops won’t be staying on as trainers or advisors — which, to a large extent, is what they are doing now. Nor will they provide security for reconstruction.

It is possible that Harper isn’t sincere. Politicians can be economical with the truth.

Still, the Prime Minister — once an ardent cheerleader for the war — has been remarkably consistent over the past year.

He has said he believes the war is unwinnable. He has said that after 10 years of fighting, Canada will have done its bit. He has said he is firmly committed to the 2011 timetable.

He has said all of this at home and on American television. Earlier this week, he reportedly said it straight to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, after she publicly pressed Ottawa to change its mind.

As Defence Minister Peter MacKay has signalled, the Conservative government has not ruled out helping America fight its wars somewhere else in the world.

Indeed, it remains committed to building a strong Canadian military that can do just that.

But — unless Harper is lying — he’s finished militarily with Afghanistan. He has read the polls and knows that most Canadians want the troops to come home.

He’ll send aid workers and governance experts to Afghanistan. But another country will have to provide the soldiers that protect them.

The Liberals on the other hand, remain vague. It was their government that initiated the troop commitment to Afghanistan. But since Canadian casualties began to mount in 2006, they’ve been deeply divided over the war.

In an embarrassing Commons vote that year, the Liberal caucus itself split on whether to support Harper’s move to extend the Afghan mission. The Conservative motion passed only because it was supported by Ignatieff and 23 other Liberal MPs

Another Commons motion two years later managed to paper over the divisions within the Liberal party.

In that vote, and over the objections of the New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois, Liberals and Conservatives joined forces to extend the mission yet again — with the proviso that all Canadian troops be pulled from Kandahar by the end of 2011.

So what do the Liberals think now?

Like Harper, Ignatieff is by instinct a hawk. As an academic, he approved of America’s 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, calling it a form of justified imperialism.

As a candidate for the Liberal leadership in 2006, he supported Canadian involvement in the war, noting that: “We should be willing to do things that are tough and difficult once in a while.”

A vigorous supporter of the idea that Canada needs to regain its place in the world, he has argued — like Harper — that this country must be willing to take part in not just peacekeeping but full-scale foreign wars.

“Canadians want a foreign policy that involves projection of moral influence,” he told the National Post in 2002. “But without combat-capable, lethal-power projection, we are just beating our gums.”

In this Ignatieff represents a strain of liberal hawkishness that says the country must be willing to wage war if it hopes to be taken seriously by big powers like the U.S.

It’s a point of view found particularly among foreign policy elites who know they’ll never have to do the fighting.

And it crosses party lines. This week, Conservative Senator Hugh Segal, another liberal hawk, called the decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan an “avoidance of international responsibility.” Expect more such talk from those unnerved by Washington’s decision to signal its displeasure.

Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae argues that Clinton’s undiplomatic remarks are evidence that Harper has not been clear enough about his post-2011 plans in Afghanistan.

The reality is quite the reverse. We know what the Conservatives say they’d do. We have virtually no idea what the Liberals intend.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Well over 50 per cent of people in some areas of Winnipeg below poverty line.

In Lord Selkirk Part 68 per cent of resident are below the poverty line. Not surprisingly unemployment is far above the provincial average, almost 19 per cent. Many are children, have little education, and are aboriginal. Much needs to be done to help these people out of poverty but with budgets being slashed there is not all that much room for optimism. This is from the CBC.

Poverty by Area
Most of Manitoba's poor live in Winnipeg. The city’s poorest neighbourhood is Lord Selkirk Park where 68 percent of the people in the community live below the LICOs-IAT poverty line. Two-thirds of Lord Selkirk Park’s residents are Aboriginal and more than a third of them are nine-years-old or younger. More than half of Lord Selkirk Park’s residents age 15 years and older have no educational certificate, diploma or degree and the unemployment rate is 18.7 percent. The median household income is $15,552 and most people rent their homes for an average of $436 a month. Many residents of this community have moved here within the past decade - a typical pattern for those who move frequently in hopes of finding better accommodations, because of evictions, and changing circumstances.