Monday, May 29, 2006

The TTC Wildcat Strike

I have just got to work. What is usually a 40 minutes carefree drive listening to my favourite CDs became a nightmare 2 hour drive. Yes, the Toronto Transit Commission, a slow, cumbersome way to travel at the best of times, decided to go on a wildcat strike.

This was an illegal strike. In Canada, when your work contract is up, your union is allowed to on strike if there is no new deal. However, while in the middle of the duration of your contract, you CANNOT go on strike. The transit workers decided to cherry pick an issue and stage a strike. They should all be fired AND jailed.

This is the time for some tough action. In Canada it seems our elected officials have no spine. Aboriginal protestors dig up a road in Caledonia and all the government can do is urge everyone to be nice. The TTC union went on strike because they knew there would be no consequences for their actions, except causing an inconvenience to millions of people (but what do they care). The government should arrest the union leaders, as well as every third driver or worker on strike (since you cannot arrest everyone). And they should stick to their guns and remain firm, and throw those guys in jail for a month or two. And repeat for other illegal strikes.

If they do that, the next time a union decides to hold a city hostage by an illegal strike, they will think again.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The New Citizenship Act

Monty Solberg, our new Citizenship and Immigration Minister from Medicine Hat (a place that is almost devoid of immigrants - only 98 foreign students as of 2004, compared to 32,908 from Toronto alone) was recently asked about a plan to revise the Citizenship Act (something the Conservatives supported previously). Peter Worthington of the Toronto Sun (a 'right'-leaning writer who I would hardly claim to be Liberal-biased) comments, "Solberg seemed a bit out of his depth".

One of the factors of the issue was the following:

Naturalized Canadians are somehow "secondary Canadians" because their citizenship can be revoked by a secret cabinet committee and they can be deported without getting a fair trial, as guaranteed under the Charter of Rights. The new Citizenship Act would have removed that clause, taking the powers away from the Cabinet and granting them to a judge (a non-partisan). As Waterloo-Kitchener Liberal MP Andrew Telegdi, former chair of the committee, mentioned, the Citizenship Act has been on the order paper for years and was adopted unanimously by the House of Commons last fall.

And what does Solberg now claim? That there is no consensus across the country on them. That is blatantly unjust, in my opinion.

"Judging from presentations heard coast to coast," Telegdi had replied [I am quoting the Sun column], "and in all my years in Parliament, I have never (seen) anything closer to a virtual unanimous consensus."

The only groups opposing the Act are a few associations that want to punish some Nazi collaborators who are now here, as citizens, having lied on their application to Canada some 50 years ago. They want those guys (some are allegedly mere camp guards or conscripts and are now over 80 years old) to be instantly deported from Canada without a trial. Well, just because some citizens may have lied on their application form 50 years ago is no reason to deny NEW Canadians their basic rights as Canadians, in my opinion.

Support the new Citizenship Act, Mr. Solberg.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

David Orchard on Afghanistan

I received a newsletter today containing David Orchard's latest article on Afghanistan. Let me post the article first [all emphasis mine], and then discuss a bit.
We are wrong in Afghanistan
By David Orchard

Canadians are fighting and dying in an undeclared war in Afghanistan. Prime Minister Harper has stated that Canada will not "cut and run" in the face of increasing casualties. Foreign Affairs Minister MacKay says Canada will "finish the job." Chief of Defence Staff, Rick Hillier, is quoted as saying "Canada needs to be in Afghanistan for the long haul… at least a decade -- and probably a lot longer."

But why is Canada in Afghanistan?

We’ve been told that Afghanistan was a haven for terrorists and therefore its government needed to be overthrown to protect the rest of the world.

However, in international law, labelling a country a haven for terrorists is not sufficient grounds to justify an invasion of, or an attack on, that country. A long list could be compiled of nations that have harboured, willingly or otherwise, those who could be called terrorists. International law allows the use of military force only if one’s nation is under direct and ongoing attack itself or if it is authorized by the Security Council of the United Nations.

Canada has not experienced an attack by Afghanistan.

As for the Security Council, the U.N. resolutions on Afghanistan prior to the U.S. invasion in October 2001, contained not even an implied authorization of military force. Today Canada is not in Afghanistan under UN command. Our soldiers are not wearing blue helmets. We are operating in Afghanistan under U.S. command, as part of U.S. "Operation Enduring Freedom."

Ah, but at least we are there to do good things, our government replies. To help a war-torn nation stabilize itself, to bring democracy to a country badly in need of such and to help liberate women and girls who suffered under the iron heel of the Taliban.

Yet history shows that "democracy" is rarely imposed on a country by the barrel of a gun. Nations that attempt to force their system of government on others invariably create resistance. Many colonial wars can be cited as examples, including those in Afghanistan’s own past.

As for the west’s influence on Afghan society, a report by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) stated shortly after the invasion that conditions in Afghanistan for women were worse under the control of our allies, the Northern Alliance, than previously under the Taliban. According to the RAWA, "These [the Northern Alliance] are the very people who immediately upon usurping power… proclaimed -- amongst other sordid restrictions -- the compulsory veiling of all women. The people of the world need to know that in terms of widespread raping of girls and women from ages 7 to 70, the track record of the Taliban can in no way stand up against that of these very same ‘Northern Alliance’ associates…" It should be noted that these are women who opposed the Taliban and were lauded in the U.S. media prior to the invasion for having done so.

Canada is now in Afghanistan as part of a foreign occupation and a very real, hot war that took, by conservative estimates, 20,000 Afghan lives within the first six months alone.

With its 1991 war on Iraq the U.S., for the first time in history, began using depleted uranium munitions. It has since used large amounts of DU weaponry in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan. The contamination from depleted uranium remains deadly for hundreds of thousands of years. Dr. Rosalie Bertell states in her Update on Depleted Uranium and Gulf War Syndrome, the use of DU in war is a "a clear violation of the Geneva Protocol on the Use of Gas in War." She writes: "DU generates a poison gas, known commonly as a metal fume, which is highly toxic when inhaled. It can also be classed as a radiological weapon of indiscriminate destruction which does not respect national boundaries, and which persists long after a conflict is over." The effect of DU on both Afghan citizens and returning Canadian and American soldiers has been almost completely ignored.

Perhaps it’s worth looking beyond the official reasons given for this war. Prominent American writer Gore Vidal in his book Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace writes: "We need Afghanistan because it is the gateway to Central Asia, which is full of oil and natural gas… That’s what it’s all about. We are establishing our control over Central Asia."

It’s time for some serious questions about Canada’s deepening Afghan involvement. If Canada wished to undertake a role in Afghanistan as a peace keeper, the U.S. would first have to pull out. Then Canada could, if asked by the U.N., perhaps consider a role in stabilizing the country. Being part of a U.S. military operation to subdue the country is by definition the opposite of peacekeeping.

The ongoing threats by the U.S. to attack Iran speak clearly of an escalating scenario ahead -- one in which Canada may well be drawn further into a vortex of events which cannot be justified legally, morally or practically.

David Orchard is the author of The Fight for Canada -- Four Centuries of American Expansionism and farms in Borden, SK. He ran twice for the leadership of the former Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and is now a member of the Liberal Party.

I almost agree fully with the above comments. I read now that Harper, facing the very real threat of his 'give us two more years' bill failing (due to the Bloc, NDP and some Liberals) saying he will ignore the vote.

A defiant Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday he would ignore his minority opponents, extend Canada's military mission in Afghanistan by one year and ask Canadian voters to back a two-year extension in an election.

Basically, it comes down to what I said in the last post - grant 1 year extension only. The Liberals should vote to support the mission for one year and then examine whether we are achieving our objectives.

Afghanistan is not Serbia, where we can overthrow the regime and expect the new government to take over and keep things hunky dory. Afghanistan does not have a culture of democracy. It has high levels of poverty, illiteracy and corruption - besides having armed warlords ruling the countryside.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

We Cannot Be In Afghanistan Forever

What is our mission in Afghanistan? Is it to eradicate the remnants of local militants and insurgents, to train and strengthen the local security forces, and to leave once democracy takes root? Sounds an awful lot like another country in the news.

We have been there since 2001. What have we been doing till now, that while it cannot be finished by February, will be done in two more years? We cannot remain there indefinitely, everyone agrees. The government of Canada should provide a timetable to Members of Parliament as to what the military has accomplished so far and what we hope to do in two years, as well as what will be our benchmark for exiting the country.

We cannot just say "we have to be there until the job is done". How do we measure if the 'job' is 'done'? What are the benchmarks, the qualifiers, the indicators that our job is being done?

The Liberal Party of Canada should not vote to extend the mission for two years carte blanche. We should extend it for a year only, and another year provisionally. We cannot be in Afghanistan for 'decades'.

UPDATE: Joe Volpe is the first to officially state his views on our Afghan mission. (h/t: TLLC)


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Discussing Joe Volpe

I have been following the reports of the LPC(O) AGM on Liblogs, as well as reading up on Cerberus's blogger endorsements of the various candidates. At this stage, I am not ready to commit to anyone, but will probably decide near the end who to vote for (or whose delegate to vote for). No one has yet given very specific policies they would like to implement, so it is tough to judge.

Let me talk about Joe Volpe. While he was Minister of Citizenship and Immigration for Canada, he did one very good thing. He tabled legislation that allowed international students to work anywhere in Canada (not just their campuses) while they were students, and eased the path to their working in Canada after graduation, provided they stay away from the big cities.

He didn't have to do this. International students don't vote and are a cash cow for universities. I had a few friends who were international students, and I can tell you that obtaining money for tuition was always a concern. Many had to work under the table (gas stations, bus boys etc. for $4/hr). This law helped fight those illegal jobs, genuinely helped students (which in turn helps universities) and provided a way for Canada to harvest the talents of the brightest of them. The law was common sense, yet such a law had not been passed before. Besides, targetting smaller cities helped spread the wealth (and congestion) away from Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

Why am I wary of him?

"We don't need to re-invent the Party. We just need to give it back to the people who are its rightful owners. We need to take it back from the backroom players who hide behind new faces." - from his website.

Yet according to Carolyn Parrish, ex-Liberal MP, on CTS a few days back, it was Mr. Volpe who campaigned to not allow her back into the party, who was a core Martinite, and who was always a key player behind the scenes. I don't know if that is true, but I remember another incident about Mr. Volpe.

He was asked, on a visit to our mosque, by a young kid whose father was held by the government of Canada for years without a trial, on a security certificate. He detailed his life without his father, and asked Mr. Volpe when he could see his father again, and why Canada does not charge him or let him go. As Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, I felt Mr. Volpe had no answer.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Darfur Rally At Queen's Park

I had to come downtown yesterday, and on my way back I walked by Queen's Park, where a large gathering was rallying to decry the 'genocide' at Darfur. Led by turncoat MP David Kilgour, many in the crowd urged the government to stop what he called the "21st century's first genocide".

As it is when I attend rallies, I observe the makeup of the crowd. Last year's anti-Sharia rallies contained few Muslims who were concerned about their rights being falsely interpreted by some culturally biased clerics, and was primarily, to what appeared to me, led by Iranian pro-Shah monarchists. Even though I did not want Sharia in Canada, for the reasons I wrote in the blogpost, none of that was discussed, rather, the crowd (with a few 'confused' NDP-ers), I thought, were most intent on bashing Islam and Muslims.

This year, the same can be said about the Darfur rally. With a few exceptions (notably some of the speakers who lost their loved ones in the conflict), the crowd was anglo, young, and probably had no deeper understanding of the conflict than what was mentioned in the national media.

"It's the Arabs," one latte-sipping student sporting a hippie look told me. "They are killing the native Sudanese. It's like Bosnia."

I see. Where did the Arabs come from, I asked him. He didn't know. Another said the minority Arabs formed the government and were killing the Christian black majority.

Never mind its Muslim-on-Muslim violence, Arab-on-Arab violence, black-on-black violence. Most people never heard of Sudan before. They won't know where Darfur is in Sudan. All they want is the Canadian army there to do 'something'. To go where we are not wanted to do what we are not meant to do and to pick sides in a conflict we don't have a stake in.

To read an 'Arab' take on the situation, read Abu Sinan.

My position: we must strongly encourage the local and neighbouring countries (including Gulf and other Muslim countries) to send their troops in and try to mediate the dispute. We can put some social programs to support a few refugees. But when Mr. Harper is cutting our social programs and environmental programs to pay for tax cuts, we cannot fund any more unnecessary foreign military adventures.