Category Archives: First Nations

Endorsing Alnoor Gova for the Burnaby-Douglas Federal NDP

I am supporting Alnoor Gova to be the next federal NDP candidate in Burnaby-Douglas, and that riding’s next MP.

Seven-year NDP MP Bill Siksay announced in December that he will not run in the next election, which could be called as early as this spring.

So the Burnaby-Douglas NDP is having a nomination convention on February 25 to find a replacement.

The party has approved three candidates to compete for the right to maintain the NDP legacy in that riding: Alnoor GovaSam Schechter and Kennedy Stewart.

Here are the reasons why I am endorsing Alnoor Gova and helping his campaign win the nomination and the general election.

  1. Alnoor’s creativity, insight and policy depth are compelling. Though I have known about Alnoor for quite some time in the COOP Radio circle and through progressive politics around town, I only met him in person last Thursday night at the “Canadian Occupation from Here to Haiti and Afghanistan” event he helped produce. I found him to have a keen mind. He also has a creative way of engaging in policy issues linking idealism and philosophy to practical ways of addressing national security, citizenship and immigration and basic human rights like universal public healthcare.
  2. Alnoor’s analysis of the political realm is rich. It’s one thing to support the NDP and be appalled with Stephen Harper and quite put off by Michael Ignatieff, but I heartily agree with Alnoor’s sense of how the federal Conservatives and Liberals are working in a de facto coalition to pursue regressive goals that work against the interests of the poorest 95% of Canadians.
  3. Alnoor is a 21st century politician. Despite it actually being the 21st century, not all candidates seem to understand that the post-9/11 world is profoundly different from the 20th century. The highest profile endorser for each of his opponents is a provincial NDP cabinet minister/leader whose greatest political successes were in the 1990s. Today’s world is global, with permeable, dotted-line borders and multi-faceted citizenship. The Burnaby-Douglas riding is emblematic of Canada. It is ethnically diverse with recent immigrants and children and grandchildren of immigrants, of whom many consider Canada to be but one of their homes. People come from all over. They relate to more than one place. They have global sensibilities. Despite this cosmopolitan reality, Canada is becoming a more closed place through divisive policies. Alnoor understands this. He understands what is dangerous about these policies and he will be a powerful voice for opening up Canada to the 21st century world to recover our global reputation as a progressive nation.
  4. Alnoor personally understands the necessity of universal healthcare. A topic dear to my heart is the corporate attack on universal healthcare, and the gaping policy hole from the absence of a national pharmacare and seniors’ care component of medicare. Canadians are being gouged and bankrupted because they have to pay Big Pharma for medicine and cynical real estate speculators for elder care. With our aging population, we cannot abide this attack. Alnoor’s personal commitment to be a part of his parents’ healthcare reflects how he honours our elders. At a time when we are increasingly reminded of the path our elders have carved for us, more of us need to recognize our multi-generational commitments.
  5. Kennedy Stewart’s campaign is not compelling. Not only is his campaign website free of any federal policy priorities, the most compelling argument he seems to be making about why he should be the NDP’s candidate in Burnaby-Douglas is that he was asked to run by the riding executive. His campaign material also states that he will work hard and that he has big shoes to fill. That’s fine, but I can’t see what he would bring to the federal political arena. He also has a healthy body of academic work on municipal politics, but that makes me wonder why he isn’t running to be a municipal politician since that is his academic specialty.
  6. Sam Schechter’s lacks experience in federal political issues. Also a candidate from a municipal background, he was a city councillor in North Vancouver before he moved to Burnaby, while Alnoor has lived in Burnaby for 25 years. And while Sam Schechter does a reasonable job reviewing some key federal NDP party platform ideas on his website, he does not offer much in terms of his own insight into how he would address these federal policy issues.

I have lived in Burnaby-Douglas twice in the last 20 years, having only left several months ago. I found the community to be warm, richly personal, compassionate and progressive. That is much of the reason the NDP has held that seat federally for so long. Another reason has been the high quality of MPs who have served the community so well.

I also know the riding needs a vibrant, passionate advocate for issues that resonate with the people of the riding and all Canadians.

Members of the Burnaby-Douglas NDP will receive candidate information this week and have a chance to see the three candidates at a meeting on February 22 before voting on February 25. I strongly recommend members visit the three candidates’ websites above to learn about what they have to offer and how they plan to be a public servant in the tradition the riding is used to.

Alnoor Gova impresses me most, so I am supporting his campaign and I encourage you to become informed and support him as well.

Live-Blogging “Canadian Occupation from Here to Haiti and Afghanistan” 2.10.11

Live-blogging Canadian Occupation from Here to Haiti and Afghanistan starts in a few minutes, below.

Canadian Occupation from Here to Haiti and Afghanistan

Time: February 10, 2011 from 7pm to 10pm

Location: W2 Storyeum

Website or Map: here

Event Description

Siraat and W2 Community Media Arts Society present a forum on

Canadian Occupation from Here to Haiti and Afghanistan

• Will pulling Out of Afghanistan end our Occupation?

• What is our Role in Haiti?

• What about our history of Colonialism?

Panel will include:

Yves Engler – Writer and critic on Canada’s Foreign Policy

Wafi Gran – Afghan Political Scientist

Kat Norris – Coast Salish, Nez Perce and Musqueam Elder

Kaye Kerlande – Haitian Community Organizer

Pay what you can • Refreshments served

-Kat Norris, is Coast Salish and Nez Perce & her maternal great great grandmother was from Musqueum. As survivor of the Kuper Island Residential School, she learned to be ashamed of her color and ancestry. At 19 years of age, she became involved with the American Indian Movement Leonard Peltier Defense committee where she learned not only pride but how to organize.

-Yves Engler has been dubbed “one of the most important voices on the Canadian Left today” (Briarpatch magazine) and “in the mould of I. F. Stone” (Globe and Mail). His books have been praised by Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Rick Salutin and many others.

-Wafi Gran is from Afghanistan, he has grown up there, worked for the Afghan Government and the United Nations as well as other non profit organizations.

via Canadian Occupation from Here to Haiti and Afghanistan – W2: Community Media Arts Vancouver BC.

Live-blog here:

Harper + Aung San Suu Kyi + G20 Protesters = Hypocrisy

On Saturday, Stephen Harper issued a fantastic statement explaining why Canada is happy that the Burmese totalitarian regime released Aung San Suu Kyi.

The amazing thing is how many of his criticisms of the despotic regime apply to him and his treatment of G20 protesters. The DFAIT/PMO bureaucrats must have had an awesome time crafting this statement. Let’s track the similarities:

Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on the release of Aung San Suu Kyi

13 November 2010

Yokohama, Japan

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today issued the following statement on the release of Nobel peace laureate and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi:

“I am pleased that Aung San Suu Kyi has finally been released from house arrest in Burma. She is an unwavering champion of peace, democracy and respect for human rights in Burma, despite being held in detention for 15 of the past 21 years.

via Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on the release of Aung San Suu Kyi – Prime Minister of Canada.

Peace: the G20 featured thousands of peaceful protesters who consistently argue that the neoliberal capitalist agenda of the G20 undermines peace around the world by exacerbating material disparities and preventable poverty and despair. Hundreds of peaceful protesters were rounded up in terrifying fashion, then detained and charged with either NOTHING or non-existent breaches of the criminal code.

Democracy: the G20 is a patently anti-democratic body that sets the global economic agenda from the perspective of…take a breath here…the 20 richest nations in the world. Protesters oppose this kind of wealth totalitarianism.

Respect for Human Rights: the beatings and Charter violations of G20 protesters in Toronto are widely documented and a stain on Canada’s reputation as a nation that respects human rights. Mind you, this is not surprising when the Harper government “endorses” the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but with this disclaimer: “in a manner fully consistent with Canada’s Constitution and laws” which means the government will nod happily at what it likes and ignore the rest if it contravenes our current despotic relationship with indigenous peoples of Canada…much like Bush’s signing statements.

“Neither her trial nor appeal process were conducted in line with international standards. She was not granted due process and should never have been detained.

Due process: I laughed out loud when I read this when I considered the absolute lack of due process afforded to hundreds of detainees at the G20 in Toronto. The Canadian regime that enforced the draconian response to peaceful protest in Toronto failed to meet Canadian standards, let alone international standards.

“Canada has long supported Ms. Suu Kyi in her efforts to bring genuine democracy to Burma. In recognition of her struggle to promote fundamental freedoms and democratic principles, she was granted honourary Canadian citizenship by the Parliament of Canada in 2007.

Genuine democracy: we have no democracy when people have legitimate fears of being rounded up and detained for dozens of hours, perhaps beaten and intimidated, certainly abused for peacefully protesting, partaking of a “free speech zone” or merely walking in public near a protest. The chill factor created by the G20 abuses is designed to discourage future protests/demonstrations. The Orwellian bail conditions foisted upon Alex Hundert and many others undermine fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and democratic principles.

“Canada stands resolutely with Burma’s democratic forces and like-minded members of the international community in the quest to restore civilian government to the Burmese people. We continue to call on the Burmese authorities to release all political prisoners and allow the meaningful political participation of all Burma’s opposition and ethnic groups.

Restoring civilian government: I would like to see a return to civil government that respects the Charter pro-actively, rather than gambles that it can violate the Charter and our rule of law, then hope it avoids/delays sufficient scrutiny until the psychological trauma has been fully embedded in the population.

Release all political prisoners: I call on Stephen Harper to release the G20 protesters still held, initiate a non-partisan public inquiry into G20 security abuses, and initiate judicial review of all charges and bail conditions.

Meaningful political participation: I call on the prime minister to apologize for G20 security excesses and abuses and enact restorative measures towards the protesters and the public at large to affirm for Canadians that his regime is not designed to undermine meaningful political participation in Canada.

“In December 2007, Canada imposed the toughest sanctions in the world against the Burmese regime to indicate its condemnation of the regime’s complete disregard for human rights and its repression of the country’s democratic movement. Those sanctions will remain in place.”

Toughest sanctions in the world: I call on the global community to condemn the behaviour of the Harper government’s G20 security abuses. Harper likes to spin “tough on crime” rhetoric, in this case championing our sanctions on Burma, but he clearly refuses to permit democratic expression at home. His “complete disregard for human rights and…repression of the country’s democratic movement” stemming from the G20 abuses demand that the world community act in whatever way they deem suitable to pressure the Harper regime to acknowledge and actually champion the rule of law, for the sake of democracy in Canada.

The delusion/arrogance that Stephen Harper must now be carrying to have the gall to release this statement condemning the Burmese totalitarian regime and its treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi that also apply to his treatment of G20 protesters is unfathomable.

As long as Canadians permit this kind of abuse of our democracy, Harper will continue to beat us, in full irony, with the text of our Charter.

Please, feel free to forward this post to our irony-loving prime minister at so you can let him know that he needs to live up the standard he demands of…of all places…Burma!

“Enlightened Sovereignty” Nonsense Killed Harper’s UNSC Seat

Harper's demeaning speech to the UN General Assembly, who largely left before having to listen to his abuse.

The harbinger of Stephen Harper’s failure yesterday to fulfill his neo-conservative and neoliberal destiny at the UN Security Council came on September 23, 2010 when he delivered a cynical speech to a nearly empty UN General Assembly hall.

Harper himself is the reason Canada has a black eye in the world. At the General Assembly he kept talking about “enlightened sovereignty” which symbolized his anti-social perspective on how the world works:

Nations that do not consider the effects of their economic choices on others, may not only hurt their trading partners, but themselves as well. Those who succumb to the lure of protectionism, soon find that trading partners denied a market also lack the means to be a customer.

To recognize that is to understand the need for enlightened sovereignty, the idea that what’s good for others may well be the best way to pursue one’s own interests.

In business, it is called win-win.

And it is good for business.

In international affairs, it is good for development and for justice.

It didn’t matter that most of the representatives of the UN’s 192 member states left the hall long before Harper spoke last month. Everyone knew his words would be irrelevant. Harper has shown himself to the world as cynical, demeaning, intolerant and uncooperative, just like his speech to the empty hall.

In this small excerpt above, Harper uses the chamber as a bully pulpit to push the neoliberal agenda by framing it as enlightened sovereignty. Free trade and abrogating domestic economic integrity is enlightened. Thus, nationalism is unenlightened and backward.

Neoliberals like Harper are sometimes so deluded that they forget that the vast majority of the 192 UN members are quite poor and not in love with their World Bank and IMF neoliberal overlords.

This excerpt contains a bald threat as well: open your borders or we will punish you with the special kind of economic warfare that only the developed world can visit upon you.

Then, in a fine Orwellian twist, he argued that countries need to realize that what is good for others is best for them. “Others,” of course, are global corporations and their comprador nations who push their agenda in political circles like the UN.

Most governments of the world are largely concerned with keeping their populations from dying. What’s good for the global businesses whose annual revenue dwarf that of most nations is simply the wrong message to present to the world.

But the world did its homework.

They didn’t need to rush back into the General Assembly hall after filling the hall to hear Obama several speakers earlier to hear what kind of exquisite vision Harper would bestow on the backward world. They already knew that Harper thinks the rest of the world is unenlightened because they won’t easily open their doors to corporate rape and pillaging.

They also knew what the Council of Canadians faxed to the missions of every member state of the UN: Harper’s abysmal record on water, the climate and indigenous rights.

So yesterday we lost the election for a spare seat on the grandly undemocratic Security Council. In fact, we withdrew before we could lose, to save face.

But Harper knew he was going to lose the vote, or else why would he schedule a fiscal update to occur yesterday just after the voting. Message control means shifting the story on the domestic front quickly.

But at the top, I wrote about neo-conservativism and neoliberalism in Harper’s agenda. His neoliberal agenda is to open everyone’s borders to rich countries and rich corporations to have their way.

And while many use neo-conservatism as a synonym, I define it differently. I see neoliberalism as forced economic deregulation. I see neo-conservatism as more of a political tool of hard political empire building, informed by whatever extremist, empire-loving agenda a group may possess.

Harper’s social conservatism is well-known throughout the world:

  1. He supports prosecuting child soldiers, Israeli piracy in open seas and oppression of Palestinians.
  2. He opposes women’s reproductive freedom.
  3. He deports foreigners and assaults our refugee commitments.
  4. He is a climate change denier and a tarsands cheerleader.
  5. He is no friend to indigenous freedom or self-determination.
  6. He criminalizes domestic political dissent.
  7. He spins Tamil migrants as terrorists and incarcerates children.

He is, in effect, a dangerous man who cannot be let loose on the international stage.

John Ivison’s excellent analytical piece in the National Post last night captured much of this dynamic, calling Harper attached to principle over populism. But that’s too narrow and binary a view.

Sure, Harper is principled, but he isn’t principled just because he doesn’t want to pander to populist elements to get elected to the Security Council. There is something in the middle: the arrogance of neo-conservatism.

The opposite of being principled isn’t being popular. In the case of the UN General Assembly, where, I repeat, most of the member nations are mostly concerned about the survival of their population, what would be a compelling, and popular, view would be one that most of the world share. This is not the imperialism of social conservatism.

So who got “our” seat? Germany got one despite our existence, but we lost to Portugal. Who is Portugal? This can best be summed up by the best Twitter commentary of the day by Paul Wells of Mclean’s:

True fact: Portugal is run by socialists. They have a coalition of socialists, socialists and Portuguese socialist socialists.

It seems the majority world knows that a nation can be principled and popular enough to deserve a seat on the UN Security Council.

Stephen Harper’s enlightened sovereignty nonsense was the final failure in his deluded campaign for a seat.

And Canada is better for it, black eye and all.

Back to School Activism: Wake Up, Parents!

From BC's Kindergarten English-Language Arts Curriculum Guide

I’ve already begun with A Back-To-School Wishlist for Society and now that school is finally starting this morning it’s time to talk about parental advocacy and activism.

Parents: you are the most fundamental advocate for your students. The BC Minister of Education, for instance, is not.

Do not forget that this year, and not just because tomorrow is World Literacy Day.

Why? Her open letter to you [below] is perfectly reasonable, arguing about why we matter so critically to our children’s success. But when we compare its contents to some basic facts of how the BC Liberal government is undermining our social institutions and other trends in society, we really see what kind of manipulation is going on and why we need to be vigilant against the BC Liberals’ gruesome plans for education.

This is going to be a long 10 months. You need to stay frosty.

While the minister is correct in asserting the value of parents in a child’s education, the BC Liberals have done the following to support an anti-Robin Hood wealth transfer from the poor and middle class to tax cuts for the rich and large and mostly foreign corporations:

  1. closed over 200 schools
  2. laid off thousands of teachers and support staff
  3. refused to fund K-12 pay increases or carbon offsets they legislated themselves, meaning boards of education must make cuts to fund those costs
  4. attacked working people with a decade-long minimum wage stall, privatization, contracting out and legislated wage roll-backs, all of which impoverish workers, forcing them to take on extra work…all of which erodes parents’ and caregivers’ ability to spend precious moments with their students
  5. enhanced the high stakes testing regime and industrial warehousing of students which undermine individualized education
  6. forced budget cuts that erode supports for vulnerable students
  7. threatened the democratic legitimacy of boards of education who question the minister’s “wisdom”

Years ago I described the BC Liberal government’s political philosophy as sado-masochistic. They keep abusing us, we seem to keep electing them. I used to characterize it as forced sado-masochism, but since we have re-elected them twice, I’m not sure how forced it is. This is clearly an unhealthy relationship that feeds on feelings of apathy and powerlessness.

When you read the minister’s words below, you will surely see that time is of the essence. We must have free time to engage in all the positive support we can provide our children.

If the minister really wants to acknowledge the important role parents play in education and the solid research that supports that goal, the rest of her government wouldn’t be doing so much to undermine that relationship for the sake of tax cuts to the rich and global corporate shareholders.

The minister’s advice is still useful, though, assuming we can create the time to engage in political activism. In fact, the BC School Act’s fundamental purpose is to “enable all learners to become literate, to develop their individual potential and to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy, democratic and pluralistic society and a prosperous and sustainable economy.”

The BC Liberal party’s goal is the economic focus, since so far this decade we’ve seen a constant erosion in our healthy, democratic and pluralistic society. But let’s look at how we can re-frame the minister’s advice to restore our society:

  • join your schools PAC [parent advisory committee]…to stay informed of parent and community action to protect our students and education system from further government cuts
  • get to know the teachers…to keep up with what kind of decimation is occurring in classrooms this year so you can mobilize to fight the government
  • learning truly is an active social process…that is currently being undermined by the government, so parental involvement in community action to protect public education is an essential civics lesson

And we need to keep up with our neighbours to see signs of things to come.

  1. We must be vigilant to make sure the government doesn’t engage in creative initiatives like attaching RFID chips to students to cut down on the time and expense of tracking attendance, so we can lay off some more support staff and help teachers focus more on weightier tasks. California is experimenting with this. Just because technology lets us do something doesn’t mean it’s right.
  2. Let’s avoid the thrust of academic inflation, cramming more and more knowledge and homework into the system at earlier grades because of some insane notion that the more students memorize before graduation, the smarter they will be. This comes from a lack of understanding of lower and higher order thinking. Learning is about learning how to learn, finding information, and improving analytical skills more than memorizing the dysfunction of Charlemagne, his heirs and the Carolingian dynasty. In fact, wise teachers have realized those addicted to the policy of increased homework are off the mark: “Once it leaves this building, we’re not using it for report card marks,” he said. “Once it leaves here, we don’t know who’s been working on it.”
  3. And in the same category as treating our children like RFID carriers, we need to avoid early streaming and its clones. At one Calgary school, despite their ineffective anti-streaming spin, they are streaming 7-year-olds into visual and performing arts, humanitarian and environmental issues, scientific inquiry and innovation, or sports and athletics streams. Streaming is wrong. It is particularly wrong with 7 year-olds who are far from able to pick or be assessed in one area. And more fundamentally, it perverts notions like Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory [which argues for enhancing students experiences in ALL intelligences] by picking a subset and ignoring the rest. But it can be quite cost effective to inject some Brave New World class juice into our culture. We must resist this.

Honestly. Happy first day of school!

It will definitely be a long 10 months. The system is more handicapped than last year. Our resources and time are strained further. But the need for our vigilance, advocacy and activism has never been higher. And it doesn’t hurt to read BC’s curriculum guides to find out what should be going on…and if you don’t see how they translate into real things in the classroom, ask your children’s teachers, who would be thrilled to see parents that engaged in learning.

But we are not along. Even the minister thinks we should get involved with the PAC, for instance.

Let’s make sure that’s the worst advice for her political career she ever issued, and I’ll see you at the other end in June.

Words from the minister:

As your child heads back to school this year, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the important role you, as parents, play in the success of all the children and young people in our education system.

Research has shown that when parents are involved and engaged, it not only helps their own child, it helps other children in the school. The evidence is consistent and convincing: parent engagement is one of the key factors identified by researchers in high-performing schools, and families have a major influence on their child’s achievement in school and through life.

I really encourage parents, when thinking about back to school, to talk to their child’s teacher. Really get to know your child’s teacher. Offer to volunteer. Become part of the parent advisory committee. You need to know what’s happening in the classroom to support your child.

Keep in touch with your school and discuss your child’s education. The close co-operation between home and school contributes significantly to creating a positive learning environment for children.

Learning is an active social process. You are your child’s first and most important teacher. Your role in their education remains as important today as it was when they were saying their first words or learning to walk.

As your child heads back to school, please get engaged to ensure all our children have a successful education experience. We can’t do it without you.

Margaret MacDiarmid
Minister of Education
Government of British Columbia

A Fine Collection of Canada Day Racism

First Nations propose changing Stanley Park’s name to Xwayxway.

What an interesting story about changing the name of Stanley Park to remove the colonialism. We now have Haida Gwaii and the Salish Sea. Removing colonial markers is about us as it is about the First Nations.

But I am thoroughly astonished, but sadly not surprised, at the degree of racism in the comments to this story. There are 16 comments now, only one in favour of the name change and many of those opposed spouting such racist bunk that it truly sours Canada Day.

More shame.

Libby Davies, Israel, Spin and Chill

Hot on the heals of “The Thing About Israel” from the other day, I see a campaign against Libby Davies because of a video of her comments at a rally and the spin around it.

Today I despin and respin aspects of the event.

  1. I found out about the Libby Davies YouTube video the other night when someone called AnonymousProgressive emailed their link to me with a “wtf?”. The video was part of that person’s YouTube account. The video seems to be a re-edit of a video by katzd314, with a link to this blog piece. I emailed a second time to AnonymousProgressive [] asking for their background in relation to the video and why they’re anonymous.
  2. People often comment anonymously about Israel for many reasons including because they are afraid of vitriolic retribution and a myriad of other things, whether their fear is credible or not. This is the chill atmosphere that pervades dialogue about Israel, and many other highly controversial topics. Other times, people are anonymous because they’re up to no good. It’s hard to say for sure here, but so far it looks like entrapment/gotcha journalism, blogger style. There are lots of opinions about how legitimate/useful that is. Regarding the real intentions of the poster, I still haven’t received a reply to AnonymousProgressive’s anonymity. I’ll send them this piece to see if they wish to comment, anonymously or openly.
  3. Let’s respin the video:
    1. The first question asked of Davies from the questioner is when did the “occupation in Israel” start, 1948 or 1967? Davies answers 1948. She stated that was an error here and apologized for any confusion that caused. Many actually wouldn’t see her 1948 answer as an error though.
    2. AnonymousProgressive then intersperses a defense that stating 1948 necessarily denies Israel’s right to exist. It might be a bit of a leap to say that stating that the occupation began in 1948 means a belief Israel should not exist. The UN Security Council is seen by many, like me, as far from a democratically legitimate body. The UN General Assembly’s votes are non-binding, while the 5 permanent members of the Security Council have vetoes on Security Council resolutions, which are binding. The creation of Israel has been under a cloud of illegitimacy since before 1948. Was there a forced expulsion of Palestinians, for instance? I think the same can be said for the settlement, creation and growth of Canada. At the same time, many people see no illegitimacy at all in the UN’s actions regarding Israel, or indeed Canada’s origins.
    3. Judy Rebick describes it far better here: “It is a matter of debate whether the occupation started in 1948 or 1967.  If you are of the view that the expulsion of the Palestinians from their homes when Israel was founded was unacceptable than [sic] the occupation began there.  If you agree with the foundation of state of Israel whatever the costs to the Palestinian people then you think the occupation started in 1967.  Believing that the foundation  of the state of Israel was unjust does not mean that you think the state of Israel should not continue to exist.   I believe that the foundation of Canada was unjust but I don’t call for the dissolution of Canada; although I am starting to consider it.” I happen to think that since about 96% of BC is on unceded First Nations land, we are in a similar place of occupation. Look up the Royal Proclamation of 1763 on that one.
    4. Davies then explained that in Gaza, people are suffering and that you can’t get basic necessities there. AnonymousProgressive inserted a statement from a Hamas official saying that because of bread, there is no starvation in Gaza. That may be true. But there are other necessities than bread and other ways to suffer. The International Red Cross released an unusually bold statement on Monday calling for an end to the illegal closure of Gaza. They explain suffering circumstances beyond just the presence/absence of bread.
    5. The next question in the video is whether she supports the Boycott, Divest, Sanction [BDS] campaign against Israel. The textual commentary explains she is wrong, which is logically absurd because the question was whether she supports the BDS campaign. Her opinion is her opinion. An example of an unhelpful merging of fact/opinion/vitriol that muddies clear discourse. The textual commentary explains that BDS targets all Israelis “to isolate and delegitimize the Jewish state.” That could be one goal of many who support BDS. I remember a Boycott Brand America campaign several years ago. Many who supported it wanted to delegitimize the USA, many simply wanted President Bush to get out of Iraq: a political policy choice. Do all who support BDS necessarily wish to delegitimize the Jewish state? No. To say they all do is unprovable and a bullying tactic because it puts a chill on discourse.

In the end, what comes from all this? Some discussion, some facts, some opinions, a mis-stated year, an apology, some analogies, and some unfounded logical leaps. This seems to be standard in my observation of dialogue about Israel over the last quarter century.

So then other Canadian federal politicians start condemning Libby Davies for her views. Again, Judy Rebick notes that the vast majority of Canadians do not have a positive view of Israel and just over half have a negative view. So who is offended by criticism of Israel?

I won’t put on my tin foil hat and try to list them all. But here’s the answer: those who have a stake in supporting the status quo. That includes Canada, Israel’s “best friend,” regardless of whether that’s a Conservative or Liberal government in Canada.

But we learn more when we see Murray Dobbins’ accounting of how Jack Layton reacted to Davies’ comments, apologizing to the Israeli ambassador and forcing her to make a public apology. This perpetuates the chill that there is something untouchable about talking about Israel…to the point of avoiding commentary on Israel’s killing of flotilla travelers in international waters; how is that not an international crime?

Virtually the same thing happened the week after BC NDP candidate Mable Elmore won her nomination in Vancouver-Kensington in March 2009. Using the word Zionist in an interview she gave years earlier came back into the public eye. BC NDP leader Carole James forced Elmore to apologize.

And if you’ve heard of the hitherto great journalist Helen Thomas, you can read two perspectives about the price she paid for carelessly weighing in on issues around Israel, along with a defense of her. Clearly, the stakes are high for engaging about Israel.

There is clearly a minefield around Israel discourse. There are inferences, presumed implications, assumed emotions, leaps to conclusions, fear of bad political spin, confusion around who exactly are politicians’ constituents, fear of perhaps offending a group regardless of how logical or reasonable it may be.

All these add up to a chill. A chill that I have felt victim to if you look at the very little I have written in 6 years about Israel, out of a reluctance to deal with the [at least chill-induced perceived] onslaught of opposition. That is, until recent weeks when the absence of political action in the world to address human rights violations motivated a flotilla of civilians with aid to attempt to break a blockade that violates “international humanitarian law“. Then the Rachel Corrie was kept from landing in Gaza.

Now there is a ship of German Jews readying to sail to Gaza. This should help cut the Gordian knot of simplistic manipulation and intellectual abuse that is the all-spin zone around Israeli issues and the machinery of the chill over so many who should feel free to speak their minds.

And here’s your test for today. Take a look at this classic editorial cartoon and see if you can engage with it on rational, emotional and political levels without sliding into a reactionary place. You are, of course, fee to like or dislike, respect or oppose it

And a final test, if you are still unsure of whether Zionism is a necessarily offensive word in North America, read its use and context here and try to separate the definition and use of “Zionism” and the writer’s opinions about Zionism. This should clear/muddle things up for various people. How about you?

Finally, I intentionally waited until I finished writing this before reading most of this piece by Paul Burrows to avoid restating everything that resonates with me.

So, I want to live in a community where we have open dialogue about controversial issues. When events are spun and a chill sets in, we all suffer fron this. I think our job is to not settle for simplistic answers and to be critical of the spin and “follow the money” to see who benefits from each position on the table.

The truth wants to be free. We all need to practice how to hear it and cut through the impediments.

The Sick Government BCers Just Re-Elected

$2m is less than 50 cents/resident of BC.

Matt Good’s profound review of contradictions in, around, during and after Woodlands will pummel your soul, but in a good way, unless you’re a heartless misanthropist. And this first bit is just emblematic of how this government views its social responsibilities:

In 2005, Stan Hagen, BC’s Children and Family Development Minister, claimed that the Provincial government did not subscribe to the view that systematic abuse took place at Woodlands despite the fact that in 2002 the Provincial government issued an official apology to some 1,500 survivors of Woodlands, Essondale, Valleyview, and Tranquille. Unfortunately, the $2 million dollars promised to provide counseling for them has never materialized.

Decades ago, as families picnicked across the highway in Queen’s Park, children were being tortured within view of it. The headstones of those unclaimed victims of Woodlands were, over the years, thrown in the nearby ravine, used to build a staff barbecue patio and stairs, and 1,800 of them were ripped out of the ground in late 70’s so that a park could be built. All that is left now is a small memorial that some believe to be enough to mark their passing, a small park in which local residents allow their dogs to defecate and urinate, were graffiti defames shattered headstones.

via » Archive » A Cannon In My Chest.

Bill Bennett: King of Plausible Deniability!

The ad reads, “You want someone who pays taxes and is concerned about how the money is being spent,” underneath a photo of Bennett and his family and a slogan that reads, “He’s one of us.”

So Kootenay East Liberal Party candidate Bill Bennett did it again. First his campaign planned to host a beer night at a pub, advertising free beer. Bennett claims it was not his idea, but some over-zealous person on his campaign. Plausible deniability. Have a seat in your throne, Mr. Bennett!

Now he runs an ad talking about how voters want to elect someone who pays taxes BLAH BLAH BLAH. I’m trying to think of a provincial politician in a scandal about not paying taxes. Maybe that’s why he mentioned that idea.

Tom Daschle lost his chance at a cabinet post because of tax problems. Oh, wait. He was looking for a spot in Obama’s cabinet.

Ok, there appears to be no obvious context for him to make that comment, unless not living in Kootenay East means I’m missing out on some local controversy.

It is only when you look at the heredity and policies of his opponents do we see value in the statement.

NDP candidate Troy Sebastian belongs to the Ktunaxa First Nation and lives on an Indian Reserve so is exempt from federal and provincial taxes under the Indian Act. Wilf Hanni, leader of the BC Conservatives, and one of his party’s top contenders for winning a riding, is opposed to the governing Liberals’ Recognition and Reconciliation Act.

Bennett has recently broken with party policy to also oppose the new relationship, all to remove one of Wilf Hanni’s greatest wedge issues. He has also run ads recently that neglected to include the Liberal Party branding, since it carries such a stink to it these days.

So, if Bennett is more crafty than daft, his tax comment is all about continuing to remove Hanni’s wedge and play the race card against his NDP opponent. Plausible deniability exists again. Here is your scepter, Mr. Bennett!

And while daft and clueless [and arrogant and out of touch, the quite accurate NDP mantra against the Liberals] are possibilities, my money is on Bennett being crafty, sneaking free beer and racism against First Nations in because he is desperate to keep a seat he only barely won.

And in the end, he’s in trouble either way. If he’s too daft and clueless to see how free beer and a comment about paying taxes might be spun badly, why would anyone vote for him as their MLA?

And if he’s crafty, then he’s a lying, scheming, opportunist who will flip on party policy and attack an opponent by pandering to racists, and that is not a person worthy of representing any British Columbians, except of course for Liberal voters who happen to be bigots.

But then again, the BC Liberal Party has a convicted drunk driving for a premier, a former mayor under criminal investigation, a now-resigned cabinet member with a suspended driver’s license, a few others with drunk driving or a plethora of moving violations and a homophobe. And don’t get me started on the sick and disgusting things I heard come out of Harry Bloy’s mouth during question period while I was sitting in the gallery several years ago when there were two female NDP MLAs in the house. That vitriol steams me to this day.

And while the NDP has its share of candidates with some speeding tickets, the trophy with the headless bowler goes to the Liberals for either criminal or madly anti-social behaviour–and don’t get me started either on how anti-social their policies have been for 8 years.

So in the end, Bennett seems more crafty than daft to me, in part because he would fit right in with his party.

So when you go vote tomorrow, Saturday and Tuesday, if you live in Kootenay East, ask yourself if Bill Bennett is just stupid or a lying racist. Whichever answer you get, make sure you don’t vote for him.

Gordon Campbell Fires Himself During the Leaders Debate

I was thoroughly astonished at how effectively Gordon Campbell maimed his political career during the leaders debate. But really, I shouldn’t be because of his utter inability to have any meaningful breadth of vision as a leader.

I can understand why the Liberals are hiding out and not attending all candidates meetings. Their record is so bad, that being perceived as arrogant and dismissive by not showing up is less damaging than having to answer to–or actually not answer to–their record.

But while Campbell is clearly afraid of having his empathy-free personality exposed in a debate with his NDP opponent Mel Lehan, he couldn’t hide from the leaders debate.

And since his no-contest plea to drunk driving in Maui in 2003, after spending years hiding in an undisclosed location with his ego-inflating RCMP security detail, he has clearly lost whatever populist appeal he had in the 1990s as an opposition MLA. I’ve recently looked at the leaders debates going back into the 1990s and he’s certainly lost even that edge. Unfortunately he hasn’t lost that nervous hand thing where he holds his hands in front of his belly, palms facing forward, holding a non-existent soccer ball. In the 1990s, a friend suggested his hands looked like they wanted to strangle someone, but I have always believed Campbell thinks it makes him look pensive.

And tonight he showed us all some of the worst elements of his character while Jane Sterk took adequate shots at the front-running parties and Carole James calmly and empathetically addressed issues, asked fact-based questions of Campbell and showed real maturity in the face of Campbell’s addiction to all things economic, and his chauvinism and condescension.

“It’s the Economy, Stupid!”

One of Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign epiphanies was all about getting elected on this: “it’s the economy, stupid.” Gordon Campbell, being obsessed with neoliberal economics, privatization, and reducing regulation, taxes, the government and all things public, spent much of the debate talking about how an issue or question affects the economy, no matter how far he had to drag the idea over.

Sure the Liberals have polled well on the economy, but he has drunk the neoliberal Kool-Aid so deeply that he still sees the global recession as a means to actually continue advancing his neoliberal agenda! It’s like Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine is his play book.

He knows that the recession is caused by neoliberalism and he loves it. It means more of the same.

What he isn’t hearing is that actual human beings enslaved by this global neoliberal economy are suffering under it since the economy doesn’t currently exist for them. And it scares them. So every time Campbell talks about how everything has to do with the economy, he just names their fear even more. Fear-mongerers like Campbell hopes this translates into votes. But hope and optimism and positive suggestions for a better province and world negate that negativity.

There were plenty of examples of Campbell’s obsession with economics. During the debate moderated by Russ Froese, he criticized Carole James for not having business experience. The assumption is that government is a business. That’s actually an ideology skulking around inside neoliberalism called New Public Management. But there are other more philosophically sound ideas of what a government is than that, the Social Contract, for one.

The pathetic thing about Campbell’s criticism is that elsewhere in the debate he reinforces what is commonly known about him, but seldom analyzed with his claim of being a businessman: he has spent the last 25 years in political life in municipal and provincial politics, so he himself has very little business experience. Whoops. George W. Bush may actually have more than him!

But to get a true sense of how economistic Gordon Campbell is, we only need to listen to the easiest softball question any politician could hope for, in the leadership category: what are three reasons why we should vote for you–and please answer without attacking or referring to your opponents. Sounds awesome. First, Carole James waxed eloquently about her resume and skill sets. To wrap up the trio, Jane Sterk did an good job of explaining sometimes vague experience, but right in the middle, Gordon Campbell failed his job interview:

“Well, Katy, that’s one of the more difficult questions I’m sure all three of us have had to try and answer. First let me say this, I think this is a very critical time in our economy. I think it’s important for us to have people with some business experience who can help deal with that. I think it’s important to have real leadership as we move forward and take advantage of the Pacific Century. That excites me. I also think that it’s important for us to have a government that’s willing to deal up front with the hard decisions we have to make with regard to climate change.”

Beyond the fluff of this nebulous Pacific Century, he went on talking about how the NDP did nothing to stop the pine beetle in the 1990s and why a new relationship with First Nations is important. 

But the beginning of his answer showed just how rarely he thinks about what public service really means–and he’s the premier! And he clearly wasn’t listening to Carole James inadvertently yet utterly destroy his lack of imagination, insight and breadth of personality just before him as he claimed that all three leaders couldn’t answer that question easily.

Still, if we are to take his current dubious First Nations policy seriously as a reflection of his leadership self-concept, we need to also remember that he stormed into office in 2001 and promptly embarked on a province-wide treaty referendum that was panned as purely racist and horribly worded to ensure the government could do whatever it wanted. Now that’s a sign of a special kind of horrible leadership!

Later, in responding to his neglect of the poor by not increasing the minimum wage for 8 years, Campbell again dragged out how the average wage in BC is $22/hour. My eyeballs swell with pressure every time he says this because he assumes we will all think we’re ok with that so we don’t need to care about the poor. But I wrote about that annoyance more here and I can’t go into it again or else I’d have to vomit.

And during his closing comment of the entire debate, the very first thing he said was that this election is about the economy and leadership. It’s clear that he doesn’t even have a vision of his own leadership and the issue around the economy is not whether the neoliberal government should continue to maim us during the recession, but whether we’re fed up with an economy that abuses people so that we can build an economy that actually serves people.

And to close, from the economy he invokes his fear-mongering hobby by threatening thousands of jobs that are at stake if the NDP forms government. Sure, BC is leading Canada by thousands in jobs lost in the last several months, but he’s hoping we’re not paying attention to that right now.

The trouble is, we are paying attention to that right now.

Chauvinism and Condescension

Aside from his reframing of everything into an economic lens, Gordon Campbell’s dark and dirty side came out during the debate as well.

Gordon Campbell’s first slip into condescension–or rather, insight into his character–came when Carole James asked him to justify his tough on crime stance with the cuts to prosecution and corrections officers in his February budget.

Campbell: “I think, Ms. James, you should understand...I know this is a big job and it’s hard to get it–a handle on it, but the fact of the matter is we’ve added additional prosecutors to fight crime and fight the gansters, BLAH BLAH BLAH,” and at that point nothing else he said mattered.

He just called her stupid!

And it wasn’t like she said anything stupid. She was just asking about line items in his own budget. Of course he had no answer, so he just verbally slapped her on the top of the head. Eight years of bullying policies seem to fit nicely with his personality.

The second condescending gouge came when the three leaders were talking about addressing crime. Campbell was all about the variety of retributive justice and policing interventions. Carole James was talking about policing as well as the prevention programs while Jane Sterk spoke against a policing-only strategy, supporting prevention programs and decriminalizing illegal drugs. 

To this, Campbell mumbles in response to the alternative perspectives, “it is a multi-faceted approach that is required of us.” 

This is one of those phrases people use to let their audience know that they are, again, too stupid to understand the complexities of it all. Yet Cambpell has only a single-faceted policing/prosecution strategy, while both of the other leaders have a multi-faceted approach. So on top of his habit of insulting people to get them to shut up, he wasn’t listening to what multiple approaches actually sound like.

It also means that Campbell is either unaware of the social determinants of crime, or he doesn’t care about them. It’s all about the hammer for him.

The next example of Campbell’s chauvinism and condescension came when Carole James asked him whether he’d fund his pet hammer projects by transferring money from other areas like auto safety or community safety. After the question, the moderator, Russ Froese, said open debate time was up and Campbell would have to answer the question during his rebuttal time.

Campbell laughed.

Sure it could have been the nervous laughter of a child unable to adapt to a tense situation. Or more likely it’s the typical behaviour of someone who enjoys demeaning others in the legislature. Unfortunately, he let that slip during a debate that more than a few people would be watching. It simply made him sound like someone who doesn’t have the time for this nonsense.

It is also at this point that Campbell starts answering questions and issues by speaking to “Russ” by name. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but with two female leaders attacking him, it sure looked like he was seeking a connection with the other male on the stage. It might be out of insecurity. It might be because he is playing to a male voter demographic that happens to dominate his party’s base. It might be to marginalize the women on the stage by establishing the dialogue as a male-to-male context, thereby making the women interrupters. 

Then, in a flagrant violation of the respectful tone of the debate so far, when talking about healthcare, Gordon Campbell got truly ugly.

His government pledged to build 5,000 new long-term care beds for seniors. It turns out they built almost 5,000 assisted living beds, which are useful but are far from the same level of intensive service of long-term care. Then George Abbott, in one of his first public bids to distance himself from the Campbell regime for a leadership run coming soon, ultimately agreed that they didn’t actoually build 5,000 beds, instead it was about 800.

So Carole James asks, “I’d like to ask Mr. Campbell, is his health minister telling the truth or are you?”

It was a classic catch-22. Campbell was screwed. So he did the best thing he could think of, attacking Carole James by saying, “no, you’re not.” And if you saw it, you’d know it was as transparent an attempt at dodging a tough question as Campbell could provide. And it had the added bonus of petulance and absurdity as her question was based on Campbell’s own health minister’s admission of facts.

Then on the environment, Campbell tried to spin his woefully inadequate climate change program with airy nonsense and unicorn tears by saying our grandchildren will thank us for making the hard choices and “building a bridge to the future,” whatever that means, when the climate intervention program will fail miserably based on what scientists say is required. 

Then Carole James replied to his nonsense by saying he is inconsistent on the environment with a pathetic carbon tax along with pushing for offshore oil and gas drilling, irresponsible fish farms, firing park wardens and reducing environmental protection. And during this description of Campbell’s duplicity, a man with a microphone turned on just laughed. 

I doubt it was Russ Froese. If it was Campbell, such a laugh is useful for dismissing the legitimacy of someone’s criticism. But in stating those blatant hypocrisies in Campbell’s approach to all of the environment, there’s nothing illegitimate about the criticism. The laugh just sounds like a desperate attempt to avoid the reality.

So, in an era where electoral reform will likely sweep BC’s electoral system out of the 19th century, it is stunning that the leader of the governing party would allow himself to exhibit such despicable behaviour in public. But then again, for someone who has been in hiding since Maui, he seems to have forgotten that the soon-to-be passe rude and dishonourable behaviour in the legislature is part of the reason why people will vote for change this month.

And it’s not useful to let that nasty behaviour show up in public!

It made him look even more misanthropic than he already is, especially when Jane Sterk was attacking the polarized blame game of BC politics and Carole James was presenting an enlightened, human-centred vision for what the BC government should make the economy do for people.

So in just over 59 minutes, Gordon Campbell’s failure to relate to human beings, his obsession with the economy, and his rudeness, condescension and chauvinism will be a strong likely explanation for significantly increased voter turnout, a new electoral system, and an end to his days as premier.