Thursday, 29 March 2012

Far right’s amplified web of deception


Part 2 in a series (more posts to follow)

by Bobbie Saga

An amplified voice of the evangelical far right is leading the charge on Alberta’s education and human rights debate.

To give this more clarity and context, the Alberta Home Education Association (AHEA) first organized a rally on the steps of the Alberta Legislature March 5, which drew hundreds of protestors. It was reported the parents’ concern is Section 16 of Bill 2 "that enshrines the Alberta Human Rights Act into the Education Act" and infringes "on their right to teach their children what they want."

Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, addressed the protestors (the writ was dropped Monday triggering the provincial election).

"What you do at home, your values, you will not be asked to develop any particular curriculum," Lukaszuk said according to Global TV Edmonton. "There is no reason to believe that you will be required to do anything differently than you have up to now. Not only the minister of education, but no ministry of this government will ever, ever venture into interfering with what we do at home, with what we practice at home, and what we believe in that home. That is our private lives and that will be respected."

Not appeased by Lukaszuk’s comments, the AHEA, which openly works in cooperation with another group, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), turned up the political heat. The two followed up by organizing a second rally March 19, set to work lobbying with a letter writing campaign, plus put out calls for people to contact the government.

But the AHEA and the HSLDA are supported in their lobbying efforts by other far right leaning and evangelical groups, including Concerned Christians Canada (CCC) that, for example, put out an e-alert (last updated February 23) about the first protest entitled Political Correctness Gone Mad (Alberta Alrt – Calls Needed Immediately). The alert states:

"The new Education Act (Bill 2) proposed in Alberta will force political correctness on parents in their own homes when teaching their children. Under this powerful new legislation, all homeschooling, including all material and teaching, must meet these requirements. It essentially makes parents subject to the Alberta Human Rights Act when they interact with their own children in their own homes. Furthermore, it requires this communication to promote understanding and respect as set out in the Alberta Human Rights Act: the same Act that has been responsible for repressing virtually all forms of religious expression that have come before the Human Rights Tribunal. How then, is a parent to read the bible to their child, or pray with them, or share any of their own religious beliefs without fearing the political correctness police."

Not by coincidence, no information is given on the CCC site clearly explaining its US roots or its affiliation with Progressive Group for Independent Business (PGIB). And most references to the infamous PGIB founder and CEO Craig Chandler were removed from the CCC site. His Wiki profile doesn’t do him justice!

Chandler, who founded the CCC, was replaced as National Chairman by Jim Blake who hails from Balzac. What is stated on the CCC site, however, and located on its "Christian Politics" page, is the following (direct quote with an archaic notation of "rhelm" included):

"Christians for too long have bought the lie from secular media and secular education, in short secular propaganda, that Christians should not take their Christian worldview to the rhelm of politics, but the time has come that Christians push back, that Christians understand that we are called to be overcommers in all the world. We are called to be salt and light in all the world. We are called to preach the gospel to all creation, not all creation but the world of politics. Check out these news items for updates on Christians who are not afraid to be involved in politics, as Christians, not by stealth, but unashamedly Christian all the time…"

Further, the CCC also boasts feeds to 20 other groups with evangelical orientations and is often quoted in LifeSite news that has ties to a site calling itself Concerned Christians Canada | No Apologies. And No Apologies is directly linked to another site Stand up for Freedom Canada (SFC), which appears to be a stand-alone "grassroots" lobby against Human Rights Commissions.

The content of Stand up for Freedom Canada is pure propaganda (more on that in my next post), without religious context or content. But as stated implicity on the site – without clarification, including the full name or a link to the affiliated organization – it is connected to the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada. That site has the caption, "Sharing the light of God’s word across our nation." And this group is connected to another group called ChristianGovernance.

But getting back to the Alberta debate, the AHEA and the HSLDA are working in stride with an umbrella group called Association and Citizens for Diversity in Education (ACDE). And this group sent a letter to the provincial government March 19 with an interesting list of 14 evangelical signatories. They include:

Association of Christian Schools International (or the Wikipedia version)
Strathcona Christian Academy Society
MCS Foundation (a registered name)
Millwoods Christian School Society (Calvary Community Church)
REAL Women of Canada (Or the Wikipedia version)
Congregations of the Living Church of God
Grace Point Church of God
Mill Woods Pentecostal Assembly
Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church
Olive Tree Fellowship
The Empty Tomb Ministries
Living Waters Christian Academy
Logos Society of Edmonton
Lighthouse Pentecostal Church

Although the Association claims representation of about 80,000, the above list is a fraction of churches in Alberta and represents a very small portion of Alberta’s voting population (3,653,840 latest statistics on total population). The Catholic Church, however, has weighed into the debate.

More problematic is the caption above the letter on the AHEA site. It states "Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association and Citizens for Diversity in Education write Letters." But all links to the supposed letter from the school board are broken or people are redirected to another page on the AHEA site. And the letter is not a feature on the school board’s site. This is not to say, however, the school board has not made its views known to the Alberta government.

Nor do the numbers game and alleged representation negate potential political influence in real and present in ways.

The request appearing on the AHEA site entitled Response from Education Minister and Education Critics has a link on the title that also goes nowhere. It, however, states, "ACDE would welcome a statement from the Ministry of Education and Education Critics from all political parties as to your position on parent’s roles in the education of their children, rationale for the votes you made. Your responses will be posted on our website. If you would like to provide a response, please address it to myself, and I will be sure to have it posted on our website."

The post appeared on the site March 26 – and the initial post was accompanied by a single, prominently featured partisan response from Rob Anderson, Wildrose Party education critic. At the time of this post, no other political party comments were posted to the site.

Again, it gets a little confusing with all the sites and names, but that is not without purpose. (see Part 1 in the series).

See related story on the federal level and the environment:
See article posted by the Alberta Teachers Association
See press release from the Public School Boards Assoication of Alberta

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The religious right hijacks Alberta’s education and human rights policy

Part One (more postings to follow)

by Bobbie Saga

What appears to be a small group of several hundred homeschooling parents framing the debate on Alberta’s education policy succeeded in delaying a key bill Thursday. And the group, which is embedded with the religious right and backed by the Wildrose Party, vow to make it an election issue.

The Alberta Education Act (Bill 2) went into limbo March 22, leading some media pundits to speculate opposition to it may cost Alberta Premier Alison Redford an important platform piece as the provincial election looms.

Ms. Redford, who casts herself as a health-and-education premier, inherited the bill from the previous provincial Tory government. Now, however, she could go into the campaign without the law that was years in the making, and one supported by major stakeholders like teachers and school boards.

Bill 2, intended to get tough on bullying, pulls together outdated and pre-Internet legislation. It also aims to improve graduation rates by raising the dropout age to 17 from 16, plus allows students to stay in school for free until age 21, up from age 19. And if passed, the act would allow for local decision making by granting broader powers to school boards, including the power to direct how education is provided, close schools, set the school calendar and dismiss trustees who breach codes of conduct.

But Section 16 of the bill ties the legislation to Canadian human rights laws, a move that riled a small number of people engaging in vitriolic discourse, including death threats against Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, which promptly pushed the issue into the pre-election spotlight.

Ms. Redford’s Progressive Conservatives, who hold a majority, didn’t invoke closure on the bill but criticized chief rival, the Wildrose Party, for tabling amendments that delayed its passage. The PCs, under political pressure, then delayed it further by canceling a legislative session Wednesday evening, returning Thursday afternoon with four amendments. Wildrose, with four MLAs, to the PCs’ 66, balked at the move, equating it to a filibuster and an attempt to "railroad four last-minute omnibus amendments through the Legislature." As such, they refused unanimous consent to extend the session past a 4:30 p.m. deadline. Time ran out, with the Legislature adjourning until April 2.

Meanwhile, and according to comments published in the National Post, the Wildrose Party will take the issue to Alberta voters.

"This is definitely going to be an election issue," said Wildrose House leader and education critic Rob Anderson. "The PCs have failed to listen to Albertans on this issue," he continued, adding the party supports passage of the act, but if elected, Wildrose would restore its original language. "There are conflicts between people’s personal beliefs and the interpretation of the Charter of Rights," he said. "What we’re saying is, let’s let those parents teach their children according to their personal beliefs."

Optics v. Reality

But in the midst of political posturing and finger pointing, scratch the surface of the debate and something more insidious emerges. Indeed, the brouhaha over the proposed education act – and Alberta’s education policy – is a lesson in hypocrisy. Moreover, the optics and the arguments being put forward by spokespeople for some parents – and carefully crafted remarks by the Wildrose – are deceitful.

The optics shows a vocal group of homeschooling parents taking issue with a section of the proposed Alberta Education Act (The actual head count is subject to dispute). Paul van den Bosch, a spokesperson for the protesting parents and treasurer of a group calling itself the Alberta Home Education Association (AHEA – an innocuous sounding name) says the proposed legislation amounts to "social engineering." That sounds rather nasty, at least if the term is used in a negative context!

Peeling back layers of the protest, however, one finds an
echo chamber with deep theo-conservative roots and fundamentalist Christian social values. All are sporting the same talking points in various incantations and for similar reasons. Most notably, they take exception to the secularization of Canadian society. It’s the latest fiasco playing out over human rights in Canada and in a chain of events dating back a few years (more on that in my next post).

Not by coincidence, the AHEA limits itself to only taking issue with the Alberta Human Rights Act. Conveniently, they leave out details that can put a negative twist on their spin.

a statement posted on the AHEA’s site, for example, "The focal point of the peaceful rally was the last six words of Section 16 of Bill 2 – ‘and the Alberta Human Rights Act’ – which need to be removed in order to protect the rights and freedoms of all parents, all home educators, and indeed all Albertans."

It went further by advising members, "There is a provincial election coming soon. While AHEA and HSLDA won’t tell you how to vote in that election, we would ask that you carefully consider who to vote for. If your elected representative – or a candidate for that position – won’t stand up for parental freedoms and your human rights, then [sic] why would you vote for them?"

To put this in perspective, spokespeople for the AHEA say parents worry they’ll face complaints that they’re not necessarily teaching their children according to what’s in the human rights code. More specifically, this group is concerned with Section 16 of the education act (under the heading ‘Diversity’), which says all academic materials must respect the
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Human Rights Act.

But Alberta’s Human Rights Act was amended in 2009 via the highly controversial and arguably unconstitutional Bill 44, enshrining parental rights into that legislation. It gives all parents a right to exempt their children from any instruction relating to sexuality, sexual orientation or religion. This is what the PCs want to change. Last summer Ms. Redford committed to
repealing Section 3 but the issue was stalled pending a review.

For opponents, however, they now worry that due to Section 16 of the proposed education bill, decisions and interpretations of Alberta Human Rights Commission might become a mandatory part of the provincial curriculum, including for students educated in Catholic schools, faith-based private schools and for those students who are homeschooled. They, therefore, centre concern on the controversial Section 3 of human rights legislation, which has gained oxymoronic notoriety. They say it’s a clause used by the Alberta Human Rights Commission to "attack the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion."

Of course the AHEA does not want to openly discuss the Charter, and with very good reason. On one hand, they don’t want to be restricted by human rights legislation promoting diversity and tolerance within acceptable norms of a
civil society, while on other hand, they take a very libertarian approach, wanting absolute rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and their ‘God given’ parental rights. And they refer to them as if they are absolute rights, which they are not.

It can be a little confusing, but that’s exactly the point. Neither the AHEA, nor the Wildrose bring up pesky little facts like Section 1 of the Charter, or a recent Supreme Court challenge that failed. One can’t allow facts to get in the way of ideology!

Rather, they stick to provisions of the Alberta Human Rights Act (AHRA) that was subject to much scorn and negative media attention over the past few years. Incidentally, but not in any small way and in a legal sense, the AHRA – other than amendments made by Bill 44 – mirrors Section 1 and Section 2 of the Charter.

They don’t want clarity because, in essence, the protest is, in fact, part of a larger and complicated issue: a back-door attack against Canadian Charter rights and, in particular, a Christian fundamentalist war being waged on the secularization of our society.

Indeed, one omitted fact is a February 17th
ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada, (SCC) that was very specific on the issues being twisted in the Alberta debate (S.L. v. Commission scolaire des Chênes).

The case began when in 2008 the Ethics and Religious Culture ("ERC") Program became mandatory in Quebec schools, replacing Catholic and Protestant programs of religious and moral instruction. The parents, (court documents refer to S.L.), requested the school board exempt their children from the ERC course putting forward the argument there was an existence of serious harm to the children. S.L. sought a declaration the ERC Program infringed on their and their children’s right to freedom of conscience and religion, claiming that decisions were made at the dictate of the Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport ("Ministère"). The case was appealed up to the SCC, which dismissed the parents’ case.

The SCC held that although the parents sincerely believe they have an obligation to pass on the precepts of the Catholic religion to their children (A.F., at para. 66), the sincerity of their belief in this practice is not challenged.[Ref 26]. The parents had alleged the ERC course was liable to cause the following harm [Ref 28]:

1. Losing the right to choose an education consistent with one’s own moral and religious principles; interfering with the fundamental freedom of religion, conscience, opinion and expression of children and their parents by forcing children to take a course that does not reflect the religious and philosophical beliefs with which their parents have the right and duty to bring them up.
2. Being put in the situation of learning from a teacher who is not adequately trained in the subject matter and who has been deprived of freedom of conscience by being forced to perform this task.
3. Upsetting children by exposing them at too young an age to convictions and beliefs that differ from the ones favoured by their parents.
4. Dealing with the phenomenon of religion in a course that claims to be "neutral".
5. Being exposed, through this mandatory course, to the philosophical trend advocated by the state, namely relativism.
6. Interfering with children’s faith.
With respect to the arguments put forward to the court, the judgement stated (highlights):

The principal argument that emerges from the reasons given by the appellants in their requests for an exemption is that the obligation they believe they have, namely to pass on their faith to their children, has been interfered with. In this regard, the freedom of religion asserted by the appellants is their own freedom, not that of the children. The common theme that runs through the appellants’ objections is that the ERC Program is not in fact neutral. According to the appellants, students following the ERC course would be exposed to a form of relativism, which would interfere with the appellants’ ability to pass their faith on to their children. Insofar as certain of the appellants’ complaints focus on the children’s freedom of religion by referring to the "disruption" that would result from exposing them to different religious facts, I will discuss this in my analysis of the alleged infringement of the appellants’ freedom of religion [Ref. 29].

We must also accept that, from a philosophical standpoint, absolute neutrality does not exist. Be that as it may, absolutes hardly have any place in the law. In administrative law, for example, the concept of impartiality calls for an assessment that takes account of the context and the intervention of human actors (Baker v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), [1999] 2 S.C.R. 817, at para. 47). Moreover, in analysing infringements of rights protected by the Charters, this Court has often repeated that no right is absolute (Thomson Newspapers Ltd. v. Canada (Director of Investigation and Research, Restrictive Trade Practices Commission), [1990] 1 S.C.R. 425, at p. 596). "This is so because we live in a society of individuals in which we must always take the rights of others into account" (Amselem, at para. 61) [Ref. 31].

Therefore, following a realistic and non-absolutist approach, state neutrality is assured when the state neither favours nor hinders any particular religious belief, that is, when it shows respect for all postures towards religion, including that of having no religious beliefs whatsoever, while taking into account the competing constitutional rights of the affected individuals affected [Ref. 32].

Parents are free to pass their personal beliefs on to their children if they so wish. However, the early exposure of children to realities that differ from those in their immediate family environment is a fact of life in society. The suggestion that exposing children to a variety of religious facts in itself infringes their religious freedom or that of their parents amounts to a rejection of the multicultural reality of Canadian society and ignores the Quebec government’s obligations with regard to public education. Although such exposure can be a source of friction, it does not in itself constitute an infringement of s. 2(a) of the Canadian Charter and of s. 3 of the Quebec Charter [Ref. 40].

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Tell the Senate to stop silencing environmental groups

Action Alert:

The following was posted on the Suzuki Foundation site yesterday:

With their insulting and uninformed statements during an inquiry into international funding for Canadian charitable organizations that are standing up for our country’s rich natural environment, senators are doing a disservice to all Canadians.

The government has already labelled Canadians who question the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal as "radicals" and potential terrorists, but its appointed senators recently kicked things up a notch.

Senator Don Plett, former president of the federal Conservative Party, asked his fellow senators during the inquiry, "If environmentalists are willing to accept money from Martians, where would they draw the line on where they receive money from? Would they take money from Al Qaeda, the Hamas or the Taliban?"

Senator Percy Mockler referred to the David Suzuki Foundation and others as "qualified bad, not to mention ugly, foundations."

Such statements from senators are an affront to the democratic principles of this country. We expect more from our government and Senate leaders. We expect rational discussion of issues of national and global importance.

Environmental organizations have often stepped in where government and industry have failed to protect the air, water, and land that we all depend on – from raising the issue of acid rain, which led to a successful treaty to address the problem, to protecting valuable habitat and natural areas. The issue of relatively small amounts of international funding is a distraction and effort to silence environmental organizations. Trying to stifle those who don’t agree with the government's positions is undemocratic and goes against the values and traditions that Canadians of all political stripes have worked for many years to establish.

The David Suzuki Foundation is transparent about its funding. We received 94 per cent of our funding from Canadians last year and six per cent from international sources. We're proud of all our donors, wherever they are from. After all, we share one biosphere.

If you support our work and the work of other environmental organizations, please send the government and the senators a message. Tell them that democracy requires listening to what all Canadians have to say and not trying to demonize or silence those with differing points of view.

Take action at:

Related Article:
David Suzuki letter writing campaign aims for 10,000 messages to reach Sen. Nicole Eaton on funding charities debate in Senate

Wednesday, 21 March 2012’s hypocritical Katheryn Marshall requires a lesson in logic

by Bobbie Saga

A recent post on by Katheryn Marshall entitled This can’t be what charitable tax breaks were meant for is so wonderfully hypocritical and illogical.

Ms. Marshall – whose best before date expired during her CBC meltdown just over two months ago – reveals a distinct inability to answer a simple question: does take money from Enbridge?

Along with Sun Media's Ezra Levant, Ms. Marshall was lampooned Friday by the BC publication The Tyee in the brilliant satirical video Ethical Oil The Puppet Rap – when the original interview showed her incompetence in spinning talking points. It must hurt!

She continues, however, to blather on about tax credits for organizations with charitable status, but does not do a great job of that either.

Ms. Marshall, who is currently a law student, should possibly take a class in logic. Every point she makes in her article compounds a couple of problems she has – that is, a failure to be transparent about funding, and an inability to present a well thought out case for her point of view that can be backed by facts.

This time, Ms. Marshall begins her article by making reference to charities, such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation. She then switches to the federal government having "the right to at least insist that this is the kind of good and helpful work that’s being done: that’s why it has rules about how much money groups that get those subsidies are allowed to put towards fighting political campaigns."

Most people would agree. Hence, the rules for charitable status in the first place.

Yet without making reference to the political purpose of the organization she works for, Ms. Marshall turns her illogical pen against registered charities she claims "spend all day long hollering attacks against the oil sands."

She rightly points out that under charitable status, an organization is limited in the time spent on what can be considered lobbying for a particular cause. But her unsubstantiated claims against environmental groups can, legitimately, be turned on It certainly begs a question of what exactly this organization is all about.

Based on its own mandate, not to mention its shameless flogging of Levant’s book of the same name, or its political connections, "encourages people, businesses and governments to choose Ethical Oil from Canada, its oil sands and other liberal democracies. Unlike Conflict Oil from some of the world’s most politically oppressive and environmentally reckless regimes, Ethical Oil is the ‘Fair Trade’ choice in oil."

And that begs the question: what else does this organization do?

Well, according to’s own statements posted on its site, it "began as a blog created by Alykhan Velshi to promote the ideas in Ezra Levant’s bestselling book Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada’s Oil Sands."

The statement continues with, "The blog, in addition to rebutting inaccurate and unfair criticisms of the oilsands, also sought to engage its readers: inviting them to write letters to their local newspapers, call talk radio stations and suggest ideas for Access to Information requests to expose the network of anti-oilsands lobbyists who meet regularly with senior Environment Canada officials."

It then goes on to say, "Within a month, based on the generosity of its readers, has become an online community that empowers people to become grassroots community activists on the front-lines of the campaign for ethical oil."

Okay! If that’s not "fighting a political campaign," it’s difficult to discern what is. And that begs the question: how did get charitable tax status?

In Marshall’s own words, it’s "a free country: any group that wants to can go out and raise money and spend all day long hollering about… that industry; it just shouldn’t expect taxpayers to help pay for it with those write-off subsidies."

Ms. Marshall either ignores or pretends – and the industry it supports – doesn’t get tax subsidies. But in the process, the article is also another thinly veiled attack on those "radical foreigners." It is an organization that does not engage with, nor give credit to Canadians, including First Nations, that might not support the claims of Levant in his book, and by extension, the tar sands, or the Enbridge pipeline project.

The wind-up doll routine of reiterating, ad nauseam, tired talking points does little to mask the roots and connections of this so-called "grassroots" organization. Here, the optics don't look good. It is suspect that big oil’s multinationals aren't trying – at all – to influence Canada's energy policies with millions being poured into a public relations war.

So now it comes back to the original question posed over two months ago: does take money from Enbridge?

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Green Party leader Elizabeth May's short list of election irregularities and crimes

Green Party leader Elizabeth May shows refreshing intellectual alacrity as she cuts through robo rhetoric and ops for a little clarity on election irregularities and crime. The following appeared on her blog yesterday.
By Elizabeth May on 19 March 2012

Lately, a lot of allegations have been made that there were election irregularities and some outright crimes committed in the 2011 election. What we do not know is who was responsible.

But we may be dealing with a serial offender, or offenders. When one thinks about the election skulduggery of the last six years, it is clear that Canada does a poor job of getting to the bottom of some serious crimes.

Here’s a short list of the ones that still bother me. They remain unsolved.
  1. RCMP interference in the 2006 election. (Remember Zaccardelli issuing a press release about looking into NDP charges that the Liberals had leaked details about the income trust taxation issue? There was nothing to it, but it arguably changed the outcome of the election. Issuing a press release in an election campaign was a violation of RCMP normal practice.) Naming a Finance Minister in the release was unheard of. The Public Complaints Commission for the RCMP, under its director Paul Kennedy, tried to question former RCMP Commissioner Guiliano Zaccardelli. Zaccardelli refused to be questioned and Kennedy lacked subpoena powers. No one knows if there was any political involvement, inducement or pay-off involved. Zaccardelli is now a senior Interpol officer in Lyon, France.
  2. How hard did the Conservatives try to bring down the Martin government in spring 2005? Did the effort include the offer of a million dollar life insurance policy to Chuck Cadman?? It was alleged, there was a tape. What happened to the investigation? If it happened, it was illegal.
  3. The Conservative campaign in the Nova Scotia riding of Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley in 2008. Courageous MP Bill Casey had been expelled from the Conservative caucus for voting against the 2008 budget which violated the contract with NS, known as the "Atlantic Accord." In 2008, Casey ran as an Independent. The Conservative Candidate Joel Bernard left Stockwell Day’s office to challenge him. (In an interesting side-bar, the entire Conservative riding association insisted that Bill Casey was their candidate. The Conservative Party fired the whole of the local executive and appointed a secret group to chose their candidate.) Casey was re-elected handily. After the election, Casey learned that Bernard’s campaign had gone to the RCMP and alleged that Casey had embezzled funds from the Conservative riding association. There was no truth to such charges, but it also emerged that efforts had been made to peddle the story to the local media during the election. Media did not cover it because Casey’s reputation for integrity made it too implausible to treat seriously. But making unsubstantiated allegations and wasting RCMP resources were themselves possibly criminal acts. According to Wikipedia, Bernard is now in Industry Minister Tony Clement’s office.
  4. In 2008, well-documented robocalls were made into the riding I now hold -- Saanich-Gulf Islands. There are many details of this case in my previous blogs. It was clearly illegal. The automated calls claimed to be from the NDP and demonstrably were not. The home fax line of the NDP riding association president had been "spoofed." (So that his number appeared to be the source of the calls.) Calls were made that urged citizens to vote for the NDP candidate who had withdrawn from the race. The robocalls may well have changed the outcome of the election. Yet, Elections Canada dropped the case and ruled no laws had been broken.
  5. Were Larry Smith and Fabian Manning given any promises that if they left the Senate to run for a Commons seat in 2011, and were to lose, they would be re-appointed to the Senate? Both Conservative Senators vied for a seat, one in Montreal, the other in Newfoundland. Both lost and were re-appointed to the Senate within weeks of the May 2, 2011 election. Democracy Watch demanded an investigation as, if such a promise was made, it violated the Criminal Code.
Add these to the spate of calls in 2011 designed to misdirect voters to non-existent polling places, the allegations of a secret Conservative bank account in Vaughn. Add to that the legal, but unethical, use of "voter suppression" techniques – attack ads, writ periods at the legal minimum length, disgusting behaviour in the House of Commons – and you have a toxic recipe for poisoning democracy.

Canadians must not allow allegations of serious election crimes to be swept under the carpet once again. It may that the guilty party is a "win at all costs" attitude; an acceptance of the morally bankrupt idea that anything goes and the only sin is getting caught.

We need to know and we need to stop it.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Just a bit of BC humour aimed at Alberta tar sands supporters - LMAO

Ethical Oil: The Puppet Rap

K-Mart and Easy-E drop some oil sands science. Your Friday satire.
By Various Contributors, Yesterday,

Click on the following link to view video:

Or view it on Youtube (it deserves to go viral):

See original interview at:


Ezra Levant fires back at Tyee over puppet rap satire

Ezra Levant is firing back at The Tyee after a satirical video featuring a puppet version of the Sun News Network host and Ethical Oil spokesperson Kathryn Marshall rapping was published today.

Click here to view Tyee's response:

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Tories' crime bill passes in House

By Meagan Fitzpatrick, CBC News Posted: Mar 12, 2012
The Conservative government's controversial crime bill has passed a final vote in the House of Commons, a few days later than the government expected.

The Tories had planned to pass Bill C-10 last Wednesday, but the NDP was able to delay the last day of debate until Friday and push the final vote to Monday. Read Full Article Here

Lobbyists Behind Omnibus Crime Bill Aimed at Privatizing Prisons

By Min Reyes Posted: January 30, 2012

In a period of declining crime rate and supposedly out of hand national deficit, Canadians are beginning to wonder why our government is so intent on passing such a costly legislation that challenges the most basic reasoning. There has not been one reasonable justification for the Harper Government’s Omnibus Crime Bill. That is until one connects the dots…
the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) released a report chronicling the political strategies of private prison companies "working to make money through harsh policies and longer sentences." The report’s authors note that while the total number of people in prison increased less than 16 percent, the number of people held in private federal and state facilities increased by 120 and 33 percent, correspondingly. Government spending on corrections has soared since 1997 by 72 percent, up to $74 billion in 2007. And the private prison industry has raked in tremendous profits. Last year the two largest private prison companies — Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group — made over $2.9 billion in revenue. [ source ]
According the Justice Policy Institute, there are two major corporations at play in the political sphere of private correctional services: Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group Inc. What you do not know is that GEO Group Inc. is an active registered lobbyist that deals with the following branches of the Canadian Federal Government:
  • Correctional Service of Canada (CSC)
  • Public Safety Canada (PS)
  • Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC)
  • Public-Private Partnerships Canada, Solicitor General Canada (SGC)

We urge you read through the reports and articles below and put the Omnibus Crime Bill in perspective. What is the relation between GEO Group Inc. and the Harper Government’s unreasonable, unjustifiable Bill C-10? Read Full Article Here

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Commons: The yellow piece of paper

by Aaron Wherry on, Wednesday, March 7, 2012
The Scene. Immediately after Question Period, Dean Del Mastro stood to complain that the phrase "exaggerated prevarications," which had been directed at him by the NDP’s Charlie Angus, was unparliamentary.

Regardless of whether this was inbounds—Mr. Angus argued it was and offered to produce a dictionary definition to prove it—it was most certainly an attack, though perhaps not one that Mr. Del Mastro can claim to take personally.

At least so long as he seems to be merely the conduit for what is written on a yellow piece of paper.

On the yellow piece of paper that sat atop Mr. Del Mastro’s desk this day seemed to be written something like the following.

"These outrageous and exaggerated allegations made by the member opposite demean millions of voters who cast legitimate votes in the last election. The opposition paid millions of dollars to make hundreds of thousands of phone calls … Before continuing these baseless smears, they should prove their own callers are not behind these reports." Read full story here

Social engagement is key to potential and power this International Women's Day

by Bobbie Saga

Women across the globe are using the power of social media to call for equality this International Women's Day.

And what’s being said is that International Women’s Day is much more than just another day of celebration. Online women are using Twitter, facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn to focus global attention on areas where inequalities still prevail.

For a vast majority of those who can, and much more important to many, is that today is an opportunity to connect on very important issues. Overwhelmingly, girls and women are using the world-wide web to say this is an occasion to reflect on past struggles, as well as to engage, to inspire, to learn and to discuss what more needs to be done for the sake of future generations of girls and women.

Unfortunately, part of that dialogue is the horrifying fact that some people think women already have equality.
Nothing could be further from the truth.

Across the globe, and for a sobering example, gender-based violence causes more deaths and disabilities among women of childbearing age than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.

Feminism shouldn’t be an F-word

As an ambassador for Oxfam, and working to raise awareness about Aids and women’s issues, singer songwriter Annie Lennox put it into perspective during last year’s International Woman’s day celebration and 100th anniversary.

"Despite the fact that half of the world’s population is female, women’s rights have become marginalized as a ‘minority issue’. Many young women feel that the label of ‘feminist’ is, at best, irrelevant to their lives and, at worst, a stigma to be avoided at all costs," Lennox said.

"Sullied by stereotypes of hairy arm-pitted man haters, the concept of feminism and its principles of equality and anti-sexism need to be refreshed and reclaimed by a new generation. Feminism shouldn’t be an F-word. We should embrace it."

Lennox went on to say, "From Milwaukee to Malawi, women are being short-changed on life chances. From India to Illinois, women face violence just for being female. Of the 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty worldwide, the vast majority are female. For many, just getting an education is a real struggle, major decisions such as who to marry and when to have children are made for them by others, and without economic independence or a say in their own future the chances of women escaping the poverty trap are virtually non-existent."

The result of her work, along with many other very dedicated people, is the EQUALS coalition, a group of 30 leading charities and arts organizations that together, aim to re-open debate and discussion about equality, plus act as a catalyst for positive change.

A global hub for sharing International Women's Day

As such, and this year, there is much more information available online. Of particular note is the global online hub for sharing International Women’s Day news, events and resources. And the site’s theme says it all – Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures.

The IWD site highlights the power of women on a global scale. It recognizes achievements, regardless of divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. And it is a place to go for looking back on past struggles, or for looking ahead to the unrealized potential for all girls and women.

A Little Herstory

In 1910, Clara Zetkin, the leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. The proposal received unanimous assent from over one hundred women representing seventeen countries.

The first International Women’s day was held March 19 the following year. Meetings and protests were held across Europe, with the largest street demonstration attracting 30,000 women. The day sparked great public debate, and advocates drew attention to the absolute necessity of extending the right of women to vote and to make governments more accountable and democratic. In 1913, IWD was changed to March 8th, and has been held on this day ever since.

The Canadian Connection

In Canada, this year's theme for International Women's Day and International Women's Week celebrates women's roles in the economic prosperity of rural, remote and Northern regions.

Canada is home to 17.4 million women and girls and contains more than 5,400 communities —of which, approximately 5,200 are rural, remote or Northern.

During the week of March 8, 2012, Canadians are celebrating the three million women and girls across every province and territory that are integral to life in these rural, remote and Northern communities.

In rural and remote areas, women make up approximately 45 per cent of the labour force, but significant gaps still exist between women and men in labour participation rates, employment rates and income. These trends are more pronounced for Aboriginal women, who make up a large part of the rural, remote and Northern population.

Women and girls are contributing to economic prosperity in these regions through innovative projects such as business networks and training in non-traditional occupations. Leadership initiatives for women and girls in rural and remote areas can also be found across the country.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Canadians want an independent investigation into robocalls, Angus Reid survey suggests

by Bobbie Saga

Most Canadians are calling for an independent investigation into robocalls, with a majority believing they are not isolated incidents limited to the riding of Guelph, a new Angus Reid poll shows.

The online survey, released today, reveals that most Canadians think Robocalls were used broadly in the last federal election, with four-in-five respondents calling for an independent investigation.

The survey shows respondents are divided on what impact robocalls may have had on the last federal ballot, with slightly less than half, or 44 per cent, agreeing that misleading messages definitely changed the outcome of the May 2011 federal election. Only 36 per cent of those polled disagreed that robocalls changed the outcome.


But half of those polled, or 50 per cent – including 61 per cent of Quebecers – believe every riding subjected to misleading robocalls should have a by-election as soon as possible. Moreover, four-in-five, or 81 per cent, want an independent investigation to find out exactly who was behind any misleading calls.

A breakdown of the poll, conducted from March 1 to 3, shows most opposition voters believe that robocalls definitely changed the outcome of the last federal ballot, a view shared by just 17 per cent of Conservative voters.

The survey also suggests almost two thirds of Canadians, or 64 per cent of those polled, think the Guelph occurrence is "probably" or "definitely" one of many that took place and where robocalls were a method used widely in the last federal campaign.

As well, 80 per cent of Canadians who voted for the Green Party, 78 per cent for the New Democratic Party, and 77 per cent for both the Liberal Party and the Bloc Québécois believe the robocalls extend beyond Guelph. Only 47 per cent of Conservative Party voters stated they believed the calls are an isolated incident.

Respondents were also asked which of the five major federal parties are likely to provide false and misleading information to voters through telephone calls with pre-recorded messages.


Only a third of respondents, or 32 per cent, think the Green Party and 33 per cent the New Democratic Party are "very likely" or "moderately likely" to rely on this tactic. In Quebec, 32 per cent of respondents think the Bloc Québécois is likely to use robocalls with misleading information.

A majority of Canadians, however, believe the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party are most likely to provide false and misleading information to voters through telephone calls. The Liberal Party chalked up 55 per cent on this question, while the Conservative Party came in at 63 per cent. Indeed, two-in-five Canadians, or 39 per cent, think the Tories are "very likely" to rely on this tactic.

Another question put to respondents is that of holding by-elections in affected ridings. At least three-in-five Canadians who voted for any of the four opposition parties currently want to hold by-elections in the ridings that were subjected to misleading robocalls. Only 31 per cent of Tory voters concur.

The survey also shows half of respondents say they have followed stories related to robocalls made during the last federal election campaign "very closely" or "moderately closely."

Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted the online survey among 1,001 randomly selected Canadian adults. The margin of error is 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Calls for action increases amid Conservative denials, deflections and blame games

Action Alert: has posted the following to encourage Canadians to ask the Commissioner of Canada Elections and the Commissioner of the RCMP for an expanded investigation into election fraud:

"As concerned citizens we urge you to expand your investigation to seek court orders for all the correspondence, directions, and orders placed between customers and Racknine and RMG for calling services on election day and the 5 days leading up to May 2, 2011 to help restore Canada’s democracy."

Over 58,000 people have put their names forward on . Click here to Sign the petition please!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Council of Canadians willing to take legal action to defend democratic rights

Reference: The Council of Canadians
Ottawa - The Council of Canadians announced today that it is canvassing its members and other Canadians to determine the extent to which the "robo-calls" and other dirty tricks during the May 2011 federal election may have undermined basic democratic principles in ridings across the country.

"We are deeply concerned about the recent media reports that many voters were misled, harassed or otherwise subjected to dirty tricks that may have impaired their ability to freely cast their ballots. While we applaud the fact that all parties are urging Elections Canada to investigate these serious allegations, we believe the victims here are the electors. We intend to find out from them the full extent of the nefarious campaigns," said Garry Neil, Executive Director of the Council of Canadians.

Members of the Council of Canadians are committed to preserving Canadian democracy. Being able to participate freely in elections is at the very heart of that democracy. To ensure the widest possible input, the Council is partnering with other social justice groups, including Leadnow and others, and thus the survey questionnaire will be made available to a significant number of Canadians in each of the affected ridings.

"The Council is committed to ensuring that victims of electoral dirty tricks understand their right to defend their democratic franchise, including by making an application to the Court to have the election in their riding declared null and void under the Canada Elections Act" said Steven Shrybman, a public interest lawyer who is legal counsel to the Council of Canadians in this matter.

"All Canadians should be concerned if the rights of any of them to freely participate in an election have been impaired. We invite Canadians who were affected by any of these dirty tricks to contact us immediately," concluded Mr. Neil.

The Council of Canadians is Canada’s largest social justice organization, with 75,000 supporters from coast to coast.


For more information:
Dylan Penner, media officer, Council of Canadians, 613-795-8685,
@CouncilOfCDNs, Facebook

Action Alert:

Mounting evidence of fraudulent robo-calls, impersonations of Elections Canada staff and other deliberate attempts to deceive voters in the 2011 federal election have struck at the very heart of our democracy and shaken Canadians to the core. Click below to learn more.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of misleading or harassing actions around the 2011 federal election, we want to hear from you now.

Conservatives foster a culture of secrecy with more committee meetings going in camera

iPolitics analysis: Behind closed doors?
Posted on Mon, Mar 5, 2012, 5:00 am by Elizabeth Thompson

"The opposition points fingers at the Conservatives. The Conservatives point fingers at previous Liberal governments. They each accuse the other of fostering a culture of secrecy that takes committee meetings in camera and leaves Canadians to wonder what is going on behind closed doors." Click here for more.

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Leading journal demands Harper set Canada’s scientists free

HELEN BRANSWELL-TORONTO— The Canadian Press/Globe and Mail-Mar 1'12
"One of the world's leading scientific journals has criticized the federal government for policies that limit its scientists from speaking publicly about their research." Full story here.

Nature criticized the government's approach to openness in the past and argues that strict control on what federal researchers can reveal about their work is a disservice to science and the public.

For more information:
Nature | Canada's government should free its scientists to speak to the press
Webcast of panel discussion
Open letter on
Canadian Science Writers' Association open letter

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