Ed Broadbent for Canada

From the Globe and Mail:

Since first being elected to the House of Commons in 1968, at a time of great national unity, I have never witnessed a Canadian prime minister consciously decide to disunite the nation. Until now.

After failing to bring forth an essential stimulus package last week, Stephen Harper has betrayed the fundamental obligation of a prime minister: to build and strengthen national unity in possibly the world’s most difficult federation to govern.

Beginning last week, Mr. Harper has sought to avoid a legitimate vote of confidence and its unpleasant consequences not by sober or even merely partisan constitutional arguments but, culminating in Wednesday’s television address, by a barrage of deliberately gross distortions. He is turning a serious dispute over the need for immediate economic stimulus into an unrelated and dangerous matter of national unity.

In the 1980s, Pierre Trudeau made a mistake in key elements of the national energy program that negatively affected the attitude of many in Alberta and Saskatchewan not only toward him but to Central Canada in general. Although his policy had that effect, no one, including myself, who was critical of parts of the program accused Mr. Trudeau of deliberately alienating Western Canada.

Now, for the first time in our history, we have a prime minister prepared to set a fire that we may not be able to put out, for the paltry purpose of saving himself from a confidence vote on Monday. In almost every sentence, paragraph and page coming from Mr. Harper, his ministers and Conservative MPs, we’re getting distortions intended to delegitimize a democratically formed coalition, proposed in accordance with normal parliamentary practices, between the Liberals and the NDP.

The Conservatives have tried to link the coalition with a demonized Bloc Québécois and Quebec. Mr. Harper wants to buy time in order to stir up support from a majority in English Canada. He is turning a serious constitutional and legal issue, on which he knows he cannot win a confidence vote, into a political battle of national unity, calculating that the numbers are on his side.   [more]

Burnt Bridges

Chantal Hebert at The Star:

The bridges Stephen Harper’s minority government burnt last week will not be rebuilt easily, if ever.

The abrupt withdrawal of the plan to end direct public political financing Saturday does not change the fact that the Prime Minister wanted to use the cover of an economic crisis to financially strangle the other parties.

Nor can yesterday’s about-face on suspending the right to strike of civil servants diminish the fact that last week’s fiscal update sent a powerful signal that the government sees the ongoing economic storm as an opportunity to settle ideological scores.

From the perspective of the opposition parties, there is no guarantee that the Conservatives will not be back with more of the same as soon as the threat of instant dismissal from government is removed. The window to replace the Harper government without plunging the country into an election will not remain open beyond the next couple of months.

Against this backdrop, even a full-fledged bouquet of olive branches might not bring some semblance of peace to the House of Commons.

As the government looks to neutralize at least one party in the lead-up to a Dec. 8 confidence vote, the Bloc Québécois – because it would not be part of an eventual governing coalition – theoretically should be the weak link in the opposition line-up.

But there are early signs that the prospect of a progressive coalition in power in Ottawa is popular in Quebec. Few Quebecers would mourn the demise of a government whose re-election most of them did not support and whose intentions toward their province are not necessarily benevolent.

Read the rest here

NDP Surge?

From the Angus Reid Global Monitor:

Many adults in Canada would be satisfied with the New Democratic Party (NDP) becoming the largest opposition party in the country, according to a poll by Angus Reid Strategies. 62 per cent of respondents think the NDP would do a good job as the official opposition in Ottawa.

Conversely, 51 per cent of respondents think the NDP would not do a good job as the next federal government.

The polling data:

Polling Data

Do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

  Agree Disagree Not sure
The NDP would do a good job as the official opposition in Ottawa 62% 29% 10%
The NDP would do a good job as the next federal government 38% 51% 11%

Source: Angus Reid Strategies
Methodology: Online interviews with 1,007 Canadian adults, conducted on Sept. 8 and Sept. 9, 2008. Margin of error is 3.1 per cent.

Complete poll (download pdf)

It surprises me little that the Liberals aren’t looking strong.  Stéphane Dion has been compromising Liberal politics for years now, giving in to Harper policy and legislation in order to avoid going to the polls.  As has been mentioned on this blog before, Dion’s inability to forge a respectable opposition to the Conservative government has not led to confidence in his own leadership abilities or in the party itself.  Can he change that in a month’s time?  Who knows, but my prediction is, no he can’t.

It’s very early days yet, but when larger numbers of people head over to the NDP, even seeing them as providing a more effective opposition rather than a government, it has to be a terrible sign for Stephen Harper – a sign of a profound lack of confidence in his abilities.  And if that keeps up, I’ll be a happy political camper.  Layton’s NDP by no means embodies my political aspirations, but it comes a helluva lot closer than anything else.

At Accidental Deliberations, you’ll find a post covering the possibility that the NDP may pick up more seats than its hoping for in la belle province.

I’m also one of those who is pleased that Layton is running for Prime Minister, rather than as Leader of the Opposition.  Go for gold!  I think his confidence inspires confidence in the voters and allows Layton to engage with the issues against the man he really wants to get.  The decision to run against the Liberals in the last campaign drove me nuts.

Canadian Woman Studies

Canadian Woman Studies/les cahiers de la femme
Call for Papers cws/cf
Women and Canadian Multiculturalism
(Vol. 27, Nos. 2,3)

CWS/cf’s Fall/Winter 2008 is committed to an exploration of women and Canadian multiculturalism. Twenty years after the Canadian Multicultural Act was passed in 1988, this journal issue aims to provide a space to reflect critically on the issues related to
Canadian multiculturalism for the last two decades in specifically feminist terms. Given the xenophobic, nationalist, and protectionist oppositions to multiculturalism currently proliferating in Canada and in Québec, what might it mean, in this context, to critique
multiculturalism from an antiracist feminist perspective? While multiculturalism is often touted as reason to celebrate Canadian identity, our approach is premised on the understanding that
multiculturalism is in fact a contentious concept. As a policy, multiculturalism is embedded within gendered-racialized discourses of national identity, that variously urge tolerance or assimilation in response to deep anxieties about the “loss” of national identity. The
goal of this special issue is to open up dialogue in ways that move beyond these dominant discourses.

To this end, we aim to provide a space for potential contributions from across the country. We are particularly interested in contributions that make connections across time and space,
synthesizing different historical moments in the construction of Canadian multiculturalism, and/or flash-points and crises in different parts of Canada.

We invite artists, poets, researchers, scholars and activists to contribute submissions in French or in English. We believe that this theme issue will serve as an important resource for community organizations and classrooms seeking to critically address the effects
Canadian multiculturalism and to subvert the unequal relations of power to which it gives rise.

Possible topics include:

•muticulturalism and sexual diversity
•multiculturalism, colonial discourses and decolonization
•Indigenous peoples, self-determination, and official multiculturalism
•discourses surrounding immigration and their relationship to lived
experiences and material realities (e.g., labour and employment,
racism, state violence, etc.)
•immigration policy and patriarchalization of immigrant communities/families
•first generation, second generation, and 1.5-generation experiences
of cultural and social “integration”
•State feminist responses to multiculturalism and to issues of race,
religion, and cultural difference
•Québec versus federal policies (interculturalism versus multiculturalism)
•conversations around the “reasonable accommodation” consultation
commission in Quebec
•constructions of national identity, “home,” and “threat”
•new policies and laws concerning immigration, e.g., Bill C-50
•cultural difference and the law, e.g., the debates surrounding
Shari’a Law in Ontario
•official state-based discourses of multiculturalism versus everyday
multiculturalism from below
•artistic and cultural interventions into multicultural discourses
•multiculturalism and education

Your ideas for additional topics are welcome. Invited are essays, research reports, true stories, poetry, drawings, and other art works that illuminate these issues.

DEADLINE: September 30th, 2008

Articles should be typed, double-spaced, and a maximum of 12 pages long (3000 words). A short (50-word) abstract of the article and a brief biographical note must accompany each submission. We give preference to previously unpublished material. If possible, please
submit graphics or photographs to accompany your article. Please note CWS/cf reserves the right to edit manuscripts with respect to length and clarity, and in conformity with our house-style. To encourage use of the material published, CWS/cf has granted electronic rights to
Gale Group, Micromedia Proquest and the H. W. Wilson. Any royalties received will be used by CWS/cf to assist the publication in disseminating its message.

Write or call as soon as possible indicating your intention to submit your work.
Canadian Woman Studies/les cahiers de la femme
212 Founders, York University, 4700 Keele St. Toronto, ON M3J 1P3
Telephone: (416) 736-5356 Fax: (416) 736-5765 E-mail: cwscf@yorku.ca

The Beauty of Balconies

From Newfoundland writer Kathleen Winter’s  “Montreal Journal” at the St. John’s Telegram:

I once watched a bird making a nest, and understood how the circle (and by extension, the half circle, the spiral, the curlicue, and all the variations visible in wrought iron and other decoration) comes not from whimsy but from tender toil and a lust for survival. The bird stands in the chaotic mess of leaf and fibre, and it turns, standing in the same spot, its body a compass and its beak the point of that compass. The circle arrives though the bird does not think about making a circle. The circle is an unconscious result of standing in one place and turning around, just trying to make a sympathetic space to bring up your young.There is something tender about the delicateness with which Montreal staircases cling to the sides of the triplexes of St. Denis and Papineau and all the other streets of the city: if you look at them from even a short distance, the stairs and balconies appear very fragile and slender, which adds to the feeling that the whole story of the street is about ascension. The whole street points toward the sky; the city wants you to rise up off the pavement and float in the air.

And there’s another thing: a likeness, in the calligraphy of wrought iron, to the alphabet itself, as if the balconies and staircases were trying to write a letter to the person who is cycling or walking on the street below.”Dear one,” says the letter, “can you count the stairs, the balconies, of Montreal? There is no counting them, because they are part illusion. Do you really think a city needs this many balconies, this number of stairs? If you look away from the staircase above the patisserie on Rue Belanger, it disappears. Do you know who put it there, and why?”

The letter is torn here. A person can’t read the last part, because on this kind of calligraphy you have to walk to get the meaning. You have to walk on the lines and curl your fingers around the ribbons and tails of the lettering. You have to become part of the text; fragile, ascending. Like the bird who draws her circle, you help create the beauty.


Read the whole thing here

or at Kathleen’s blog, we drank cachaca and smoked the green cheroot

Taser Co. Hosts Police Chiefs

Oh gimme a wtf break:

Taser International is a major sponsor of an upcoming police chiefs conference at which new research into electronic stun gun safety will be presented.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police commissioned a review into conducted energy weapons last fall after Robert Dziekanski of Poland died at Vancouver International Airport after being hit with the device by RCMP. At least five other Canadians have since died after being tasered by police.

Steve Palmer, executive director of the Canadian Police Research Centre, said he will present an overview of the report at the conference later this month in Montreal, but said the full review into the weapons commonly known as tasers is not yet complete.

“It’s an update,” said Mr. Palmer, who declined to give details. A final report is expected by next year after a full and independent peer review.

Called RESTRAINT, Risk of Death in Subjects That Resist, the review compares tasers with other methods police use to subdue difficult people.

It also looks at the characteristics of those who have been zapped, including excited delirium, a condition in which suspects are in a heart-pounding state of agitation. Excited delirium has been repeatedly cited to explain the sudden deaths of people after being tasered.

Taser International is one of the platinum sponsors of the conference that runs Aug. 24-27. The corporation has sponsored similar events in Canada and around the world.

For a minimum $25,000 fee, platinum sponsors can display their name on banners and signs, provide promotional items in delegate kits, be given an advance list of participants and attend conference sessions.

Steve Tuttle, vice-president of Arizona-based Taser International, said the company’s presence is important.

“You have to be there. It is a major sales event. It is advertising,” said Mr. Tuttle, who will be at the conference to answer questions about his company’s products.

Mr. Tuttle said while the new Canadian research is important, he has DVDs that contain 130 studies that have found the devices to be safe.

“You want to be there to be a conduit for information because clearly we have controversial issues in Canada, and the last thing that we want to be is shy. We stand behind our technology.”

Hilary Homes of Amnesty International Canada, which has called for a moratorium on stun guns, said having Taser as a sponsor and exhibitor sends a mixed message.

“It is very troubling,” Ms. Homes said from Ottawa. “What we need now is an objective discussion and accountability and this doesn’t seem to be creating the proper context for what needs to be a very frank and open debate.”

Officials with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police were not available for comment.

Taser staff will be on hand to exhibit the company’s trademark X26 model used by the RCMP and other Canadian police forces. Taser is not listed as an exhibitor under its own name, but under its Canadian distributor, M.D. Charlton Co. Ltd.

The company will also be promoting new products such as a wireless taser round that is fired from a shotgun and has a range of 20 metres, he said. There will also be information on new products being developed, including a system called Shockwave that fires multiple taser rounds that can incapacitate a number of people in an area up to 100 metres.

A special video camera and audio device that police can wear to show what happens when an officer restrains someone is also in the works. Cellphone video of Mr. Dziekanski’s death that was shot by a member of the public made headlines around the world, but there was no police video of the encounter.

“Right now we have officers that are being called into question because of controversial uses,” Mr. Tuttle said. “The rage right now is that people are recording police officers with their cellphones.”

A total of 22 people have died in Canada after being hit with tasers, which can deliver a shock of up to 50,000 volts.

I’m not sure that I can say anything you’re not already thinking.  It horrifies me that tasers that can affect more than one person are in the works, though why wouldn’t that be the case?  Taser use for crowd control is a pretty scarey thought though, given the tendency of the police to overreact in such circumstances.  To say nothing of the fact that there is less ability to make any judgments about the meaning of the behaviours of more than one person.  Freedom of speech and the right to demonstrate are more and more at risk.

Given the fact that the police have often shown little insight into the meaning of the behaviour of one person, that’s not exactly comforting.  This is an issue for the rights of the mentally ill as well.

Mirlande Demers RIP

From The Gazette, via No One Is Illegal – Montréal:

Mirlande Demers never fully recovered from the trauma she experienced while volunteering in Senegal in 2003, but she continued to help others until her sudden death two weeks ago at the age of 26 in Indonesia.

Her mysterious death, which happened aboard a ferry, has shocked the Canadian development community, with many calling it a great loss.

“She had the ability to fight and you don’t see that very often in life,” said Alexandra Simard, a friend who had been travelling with Demers in Indonesia but returned to Canada before her death.

A defender of women’s rights, outspoken advocate for the disabled and anti-racism activist, Demers was wise beyond her years, say those who worked with her.

“She could bring people together, listened and was able to manage people very well,” said Estella Muyinda, executive-director of the National Anti-racism Council of Canada, an umbrella organization of 120 groups.

Muyinda described Demers, who was chairperson of the organization’s governing board, as a very “determined lady.”

“She was one of those spirits or souls who, when focused on something important, gave it their all,” she said.

The Gazette first wrote about Demers in 2004, after she’d returned from volunteering in Senegal for a Victoriaville-based organization called Solidarité nord-sud des Bois Franc.

Still suffering from being gang-raped in the African country, she was in a wheelchair, had been taking drugs for what turned out to be a false-positive HIV test, and was in a bureaucratic struggle with Quebec’s workplace health and safety board.

She also contracted mononucleosis, hepatitis, malaria and typhoid fever.

Friends say that, despite her physical restrictions, which never seemed to improve, Demers never complained and her positive attitude was contagious.

“She held herself with such dignity that you’d never think of her as poor or in need,” Muyinda said in an interview from Toronto.

While in Senegal, Demers was supervising a group of volunteers working to advance women and youth rights. She also volunteered with Canada World Youth in Indonesia, as well as other work in El Salvador, and Haiti, her birth country from which she was adopted by a Quebec couple at the age of 6 months.

She had recently started her own non-governmental organization, the Quebec Coalition Against Discrimination, and tried to get groups outside of Quebec interested in the reasonable accommodation debate.

“Despite her short life, she had a lifetime of impact,” said Suzanne Cooper, policy director with Status of Women Canada. “She was a dedicated and passionate young woman.’

Demers played a pivotal role in getting the issue of women with disabilities in the United Nations resolution on HIV/AIDS at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March, Cooper said.

The circumstances of her death remain a mystery, but what is known so far is that she died suddenly on a ferry travelling from Pontianak on the island of Borneo to the capital Jakarta, on Java Island. Foul play is not suspected.

From the Globe and Mail:

Quebec is no more a racist society than other jurisdictions in the Western world, but it faces problems integrating immigrants which it will need to tackle immediately, says a report on the reasonable accommodation of the province’s minorities.

The report by sociologist Gérard Bouchard and philosopher Charles Taylor says there is no chaos in Quebec but rather a serious problem of perception. The academics insist that both the francophone and immigrant communities must come together in a moral contract where both have a responsibility in ensuring social harmony.

Jacob Levy on reasonable accomodation, also at The Globe:

Identity questions in Quebec are more sensitive than in other provinces, for two separate reasons. One is the language question. The other is the Quiet Revolution, and ongoing tensions between secular and Catholic Quebeckers about the place of religion in the public sphere.

“Multiculturalism” in particular is a dirty word in Quebec, because it’s associated with Trudeau-era views that seemed to reduce French Quebec (and First Nations, too) to the status of just another cultural group like any recent immigrant group. So there’s also a hostility to anything called multiculturalism, but that’s about words, not policies.

The commission report basically sidesteps questions of language. It says, rightly, that French isn’t endangered in Quebec anymore, that whatever happens with immigrant accommodation and religious accommodation is going to happen against the background of a French public language and public culture. But it also stresses, rightly, that questions of bilingualism and the status of the English minority in the province are quite distinct questions from those of immigrant communities and religious minorities. I think it accepts as a background assumption that French will receive its special status and special protection in Quebec.