Saturday, December 7, 2013

Edmonton police approve newly designed uniform hijab for female officers


DECEMBER 6, 2013

Edmonton Police Services has designed and approved a hijab for female Muslim police officers, as depicted in this photo.

EDMONTON - Edmonton Police Services has designed and approved a new hijab female police officers can wear as part of their uniform.

A hijab tailor worked with the police tactics training unit, as well as the police equity, diversity and human rights team, to design a head scarf that covers the head and neck of an officer without covering the face.

“After rigorous testing, it was determined that the head scarf did not pose any risk to the officer wearing it, or reduce officer effectiveness, nor interfere with police duties or public interactions,” reads a statement from Edmonton Police Services.

Changes to the uniform policy for police have been approved by various police committees and people in the Muslim community.

“EPS respects a Muslim woman’s choice to wear the head scarf,” the statement reads. “The Edmonton Police Service continues to change with the times, as have a number of police, justice and military organizations in western nations that have already modified their uniforms to accommodate the hijab.”

The police service doesn’t currently have any members or applicants requesting the hijab, but Soraya Zaki Hafez, president of the Edmonton chapter of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, believes some women may now consider being a police officer, where before they did not.

“This makes Muslim women part and parcel of that community,” Hafez said. “To be accepted, I think it’s a great feeling.”

Hafez said some Muslim women wear a head scarf as a way to identify themselves as devout Muslims. It is mentioned in the Qur’an, Hafez said.

“It means that they are following their religion closely,” she said. “Islam is a religion of, we submit to God and they feel that God wants them to be this way, cover up.”

Hafez said the uniform hijab has no excess material, but is tailored to the woman’s head. It’s also tied with a snap button, which means it will come off quickly and safely should someone pull it. Regular hijabs are usually tied with pins or sewn stitches, Hafez said.

“I think we are a pioneer,” Hafez said of the Edmonton police force. “I think other provinces will follow suit and ask to follow the design.”

Edmonton Sikh officers can already wear turbans.

If adopted, the proposed Quebec Charter of Values will forbid public servants from wearing religious symbols, including hijabs, turbans and large crucifixes, among other symbols.

On Twitter: @jodiesinnema

Friday, December 6, 2013

West-end mayors vow to defy values charter

David Lazarus, Staff Reporter, Friday, December 6, 2013

Cote St. Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather addresses the Rally for Religious Freedom in front of CSL City Hall.

MONTREAL — West-end mayors vowed at a Dec. 2 rally in mostly Jewish Cote St. Luc (CSL) that their municipalities would invoke civil disobedience by defying Bill 60 – the Quebec charter of values – and fight it in court if it became law.

In so doing, they joined the Jewish General Hospital, the English Montreal School Board and other groups in pledging to defy the bill.

They also promised to participate in public hearings on the secular charter, slated to start mid-January in Quebec City.

“This is an odious, loathsome law,” CSL Mayor Anthony Housefather said to the enthusiastic applause of several hundred gathered on the plaza in front of the city’s city hall.

“Pierre Elliott Trudeau said the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation. Well, Quebec has no business in the wardrobes of the nation,” Housefather said, alluding to Bill 60’s plan to ban public employees from wearing kippot, turbans and indiscreet crucifixes.

The supper-hour Rally for Religious Freedom took place between the illumination of a Christmas tree by Father Pierre Laviolette of CSL’s St. Richard’s church – who also criticized the secular charter – and the lighting of the sixth Chanukah candle by Rabbi Mendel Raskin of CSL Chabad.

Housefather noted to the crowd that the tree and menorah were on public property as if that was also a gesture of defiance – even though nothing in the charter refers to this.

Despite the relatively mild weather and festive spirit, speakers, who included Hampstead Mayor Bill Steinberg, Montreal West Mayor Beny Masella and rabbis Chaim Steinmetz and Reuben Poupko, were angry and indignant as they denounced the proposed law as a breach of basic individual religious rights and “racist,” “intolerant” and “divisive” in pitting Quebecer against Quebecer.

Like Housefather, Steinberg called the law “odious” and, although both are secular Jews, they donned kippot to show solidarity with more observant confreres. Steinberg called Bill 60 a “charter of shame.”

Rabbi Steinmetz, of Congregation Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem, described it as a “charter of darkness” that’s undermining democracy, a “solution for a problem that does not exist” and a “ploy for better poll numbers” for the governing Parti Québécois through the use of “cheap demagoguery.”

Rabbi Steinmetz said that since the controversy over the charter erupted and apparently triggered acts of intolerance against some Muslim women, he has become, for the first time, self-conscious about wearing his kippah outside the friendly confines of Cote St. Luc and the west end.

“I’d be nervous about it now,” he said.

Rabbi Poupko, of Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation, termed the charter a “repudiation of Canadian and Quebec history” that seeks to “divert attention” away from the real issues facing the province.

The Quebec government “is trying to exploit the worst instincts of its citizens,” he said, “for xenophobia, nativism against minority religions,” using “coded words” for the legislation’s true apparent targets, Muslims.

“We’re told in whispers by our wonderful friends in the French community that the Jewish community is only ‘collateral damage.’ You’ve heard that a hundred times.

“Well, let’s be honest,” Rabbi Poupko said. “If you’re worried about religious fundamentalism, it’s not going to be solved by altering people’s fashion choices. Religious fundamentalism is solved through education, not by excluding people from the workplace. It’s undermined by it.

“Be honest about what you want, about what you think the problem is, but come up with a solution that doesn’t infringe on personal freedom and personal religious choice.”

Those at the rally included virtually all CSL officials as well as representatives from the other municipalities involved.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Gaza Returns to Donkey Days

By Mohammed Omer

Palestinian child on donkey cart next to garbage container in Gaza City. Credit: Mohammed Omer/IPS
Palestinian child on donkey cart next to garbage container in Gaza City. Credit: Mohammed Omer/IPS

GAZA CITY , Dec 5 2013 (IPS) - The garbage trucks of Gaza city are at a standstill due to an ongoing fuel shortage affecting all aspects of daily life, including garbage collection, sewage and waste disposal and other vital services. But the local donkeys are here to help.

Abu Hesham on his donkey cart won’t be able to clear all the streets of garbage. In Gaza’s Barcelona neighbourhood, trash bins are overflowing – a common sight since fuel for motor vehicles became scarce – and as the 33-year-old donkey cart owner approaches the garbage dump, there is no space left and no option but to throw the trash out on the side of the road.

“What else can I do?” he tells IPS as he carries sacks of waste at 7:00 AM through Gaza’s misty weather.

The smell of rotting garbage is getting worse and worse. The people in Gaza attempt to burn the garbage to reduce the quantity and minimise the risk of infection, so the air is filled with black smoke too. Right now, breathing fresh air is not an option for most people in Gaza, whether children or adults.

The municipality, administered by Gaza’s de facto government, is stuck between the ongoing Israeli siege, the ruling Hamas’ rival Fatah, and Egypt’s new military regime.

Mahmoud Abu Jabal, 55, travels on his donkey through Gaza’s city streets. His barefoot son, 10-year-old Ala’a Abu Jabal, follows behind between piles of garbage scattered across the streets.

The Gaza municipality announced that fuel supplies for their trucks had run out and they couldn’t afford the more expensive fuel.

In the past few years, the war-torn Gaza Strip relied on Egyptian fuel at 3.5 Israeli shekels (one dollar) per litre. Then in July, Egypt closed down all supply tunnels to Gaza in an attempt to crush the Hamas Islamic movement for being an ally to overthrown Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (2012-2013). The municipality says that fuel coming through Israel is heavily taxed, forcing them to pay double, at 7.0 Israeli shekels per litre.

Abu Jabal’s work has become more demanding in the last two weeks. His previous route was around one of Gaza’s main hospitals, but now he and his donkey and his son must collect garbage from throughout Gaza City.

“This is my only source of income to feed my 12 children and the donkey,” he says.

Abu Jabal is sick, and can find no other job when the garbage trucks are up and running. He earns about 700 Israeli shekels (200 dollars), although it doesn’t cover all his family’s needs.

The minister of local government in Gaza, Mohammed Al-Farra, standing alongside one of Gaza’s largest garbage dumps close to the Yarmouk soccer field in central Gaza City, told a press conference, “All of the garbage trucks, which collect about 1,700 tonnes of waste a day, have stopped.”

In order to keep Gaza’s streets clean, it takes 150,000 litres of fuel a month to run the garbage trucks. Not to mention the 7,000 litres of diesel to provide clean water and sanitation.

Between the villages and camps, Palestinians can find nowhere else to put their garbage except along the roads or at random garbage sites in residential areas. According to Al-Farra, this could lead to the spread of bacteria, diseases and epidemics.

But the fuel shortage is not only causing the garbage overflow. Gaza’s main power plant has no fuel, leaving all Gazans in an energy blackout for up to 18 hours a day. Families have no heat, light or cooking facilities and are surrounded by rotting garbage.

Further north in the Gaza Strip, in Beit Lahia, health officials warned that a potential environmental disaster is imminent if flooding occurs due to the power outages, says Mayor Khalil Matar.

Almost 30,000 cups of wastewater are being dumped into Beit Lahia’s sewage tank and power cuts of 18 hours per day could well cause the sewage to flood into neighbouring areas, where clinics are threatened too. The ministry is no longer able to afford to pay its workers wages due to financial difficulties, Matar says.

In 2007, the sewage-disposal pool collapsed, and residential areas were flooded, killing four Palestinians and destroying crops.

Matar has appealed to Arab and international groups to urgently intervene and help his city overcome the crisis and prevent further suffering.

Local and international human rights groups have expressed concern about potential environmental disasters. United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry told a news conference in northern Gaza that Turkey would donate fuel as a temporary solution.

The municipal authorities in Gaza City received 16,700 litres of fuel. Officials say the amount is only enough for a few days.

Dozens of homes of Palestinian refugees have been flooded in Gaza due to heavy rain. Rescue teams have been evacuating families in different locations after sewage systems flooded Wednesday morning.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said that 19 of its 20 construction projects in Gaza had ground to a halt because of an Israeli block on building materials.

Gaza’s de facto government announced it would deduct from the wages of its staff members in order to employ 430 workers to collect garbage using 250 extra donkey carts, one of which is driven by Abu Jabal.

The workers’ job begins at 4:00 AM, when the noise of donkeys pulling carts begins to echo through the streets – and by noon they have collected all they can find.

Abdel Rahim Abu al-Komboz, general director of health and environment in Gaza municipality, says “We are experiencing a crisis.” He said the problem has been aggravated as people are using undesignated locations for dumping waste in the crowded Gaza Strip, which is home to 1.8 million Palestinians.

“When the economy comes to a halt, unemployment rates increase, which means people cannot pay their bills for services, leaving only 10-15 percent of the population who can pay,” Abu al-Komboz says.

When the supply tunnels were active, bringing in tuck-tucks (three-wheel motorcycles), many Palestinians joked about the tasks of donkey carts being replaced by tuck-tucks, which need limited care. However, the tuck-tucks are out of fuel now and the donkeys with their cart owners are back on the streets of Gaza, to help as best they can.

The garbage collector may only earn around 200 dollars to feed a whole family, but at least he can open a bag of garbage on his cart and pull out discarded food to feed his donkey.

But the potential health threats to Gaza are still unaddressed, including the contamination of groundwater, scavengers, stray dogs and rodents.

Lawful access: The comeback? Breaking down the federal government’s cyberbullying bill

BY JUSTIN LING December 05, 2013

It's baaack. Or is it? The federal government is promoting Bill C-13 –The Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act – as legislation to prevent online bullying. But in no time after its introduction in the House of Commons last month, critics lambasted it for reviving lawful access provisions from the unpopular “cyber-snooping bill” – or Bill C-30 – which the government promised, a mere nine months ago, was dead and buried.

Opponents call C-13 an omnibus bill because it addresses much more than cyberbullying. Bill C-13 does indeed criminalize the non-consensual publication or distribution of “intimate images.” But the bulk of the bill’s other provisions cover everything from hate speech to increased penalties for stealing internet and cable, and new enforcement tools to fight terrorism.

The government rejects the labelling and arguing that its aim is to modernize the Criminal Code to make it fit for the 21st Century.

Regardless, the bill brings back many of the changes around production orders and search warrants that sank along with C-30 that would allow police to collect personal data and track Canadians' whereabouts.


David Fraser, a partner with McInnes Cooper in Halifax, and expert on digital law is "deeply disappointed" with the bill’s drafting, he says the Criminal Code provision on distributing images is a good thing. "It gives police and prosecutors an additional thing they can use in order to pursue cyberbullying, without having to go so far as charging somebody for child pornography offence," he says.

But there is a problem: it is not simply illegal to distribute the image where there is a lack of consent, but also where there is “recklessness in respect to a lack of consent," he says.

That could mean that, anyone wishing to forward one of these images would be required first to show due diligence of sorts to obtain consent. "You do want to punish blameworthy behaviour, but you need to find where the line of blameworthy behaviour is," says Fraser.

In the case of Rehtaeh Parsons, which Justice Minister Peter MacKay singled out when he introduced the bill, the intimate images were forwarded throughout her high school. Depending on the courts interpret the bill, every person who forwarded the images along the line could be liable under the act.

Asked about this, a spokesperson for the department confirmed that the bill was designed such that there would be no consideration for motive or malice in spreading the images. "This offence, much like the existing voyeurism offence, protects the privacy interest a person has in his or her nudity, and does not concern itself with whether the accused wanted to embarrass or harass the victim by distributing the image," the spokesperson said.

What constitutes “knowledge” versus “recklessness” – proven beyond a reasonable doubt – in distributing the image would be largely left up to the courts, the spokesperson added, “Recklessness is included as a mental state to ensure that the offence would capture situations where the accused appreciated that there was a substantial risk that the person did not consent to the distribution of the image – but was not absolutely certain of it – and proceeded to share the image anyway."

The problem, Fraser says, is that a lot of internet pornography is amateur. If a 15 year-old boy came across one of these videos, and forwarded it to a friend without knowing that it was distributed wilfully, would it be reckless?

According to Edward Prutschi, partner at Adler Bytensky Prutschi Shikhman in Toronto, much of the problem lies in how images and videos spread on the internet. The threshold for what constitutes recklessness could be so high that the law is rarely used, or it could be so low so as to charge numerous offenders – especially minors. "It's hard to predict what direction a law will go to once it's in the wild," says Prutschi.

"Maybe they got it right," says Fraser. "Maybe prosecutors are going to exercise discretion and judges are going to be nuanced." We won't know until the bill passes and police begin to lay charges.

His real concern lies with the “slew of unrelated stuff that they threw in.”

Hate speech and cable theft

"Modernizing these investigative tools for all cyber-related offences will enable the police to more effectively address cyberbullying," the Justice Department spokesperson said in an email statement. But even the government acknowledges that Bill C-13 contains a fair bit that has nothing to do with cyberbullying, not least of which is making telecommunication theft an offence that can be prosecuted either summarily or as indictment. It now carries a two-year maximum sentence.

Of all the changes in Bill C-13, says Prutschi, "it's one thing that sticks out as a sore thumb."

It has been suggested that the amendment was a hat-tip to industry. Shaw Communications met representatives from the government a half-dozen times in 2013, meetings which involved conversations about the theft of satellite signals.

Still, the telecommunications changes haven't raised too much ire. Other amendments, however, on broadening the classes protected against hate propaganda, have sown some confusion.

C-13 adds national origin, age, sex, mental and physical disability to the classes protected by s. 320(1) of theCriminal Code, which makes hate propaganda illegal.

The department says the additions were intended to cover a soon-to-be-created gap in the Criminal Code. Whereas previously s. 13 criminalized hate speech against an individual on the basis of age, sex and disability, those provisions will be deleted in the new year, thanks to a private member's bill from the Conservative backbenches.

But it's the inclusion of “national origin” that has aroused suspicions. The spokesperson for the department underlined that it's merely widening the scope to its logical place. Others see a political reason behind it that could have a very real impact for freedom of speech.

"Israel is the obvious choice that comes to mind,” Prutschi says.

If passed, it's possible that the law could be used to crack down on anything from neo-nazis to radical Islamic groups.

The department said the provision would apply even if one's national identity isn't a recognized nation state – for example, if one were Kurdish. A spokesperson says the move was to bring Canadian law in line with European conventions against cyber-hate crimes.

Production orders

The section of the bill raising the most red flags are the amendments to how police are required to get production orders for digital evidence, if they are required to get them at all.

The bill implements sweeping changes to the way police officers will be able to conduct investigations. If the bill passes as-is, as it appears likely to do, police officers will need only a "reasonable ground to suspect that an offence has been or will be committed" to obtain production orders to trace a communication, track data, and obtain financial information.

“Reasonable suspicion” carries a far lower burden of proof than the previous standard, “reasonable grounds for belief.” Fraser calls the new threshold “so low so to almost be meaningless.” If the bill passes, he says, “the information they can get from production orders, in this day and age, is staggering,” particularly when one considers how rich in information metadata is compared to a decade ago. Metadata is a catch-all term for the secondary information stored in users' cellphones, email accounts, social media profiles, web browsers and computers.

The Justice Department is adamant that collecting this information is not an invasion of Canadians' privacy. Setting the lower standard for obtaining production orders for metadata, they say, is merely bringing the requirement to its logical level. The criteria to obtain a warrant for digital fingerprints like metadata, they argue, shouldn't require the higher standard that emails or DNA require.

The department further argues that the bill increases the evidentiary threshold required to track individuals. While technically true, the new legislation in fact raises the standard for putting tracking devices on individuals while maintaining the lower standards for placing tracking devices on things, including vehicles. What’s more, these changes make the need to put tracking devices on people almost obsolete, as police could more readily receive GPS coordinates relayed by someone's cellphone, email address, and bank account.

Also, the changes ensure that a tracking warrant is valid for an entire year, up from the current 60 days, if the suspect is believed to be involved with terrorist activity or organized crime. That change is repeated throughout the bill for a variety of different production orders and warrants, including those used to obtain metadata.

Michael Geist, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa, where he’s the Canada Research Chair of Internet and e-Commerce law, is amongst those concerned. He says that while C-13 is not as bad as C-30, it still presents enormous challenges.

"There were so many problematic parts of C-30," he told National. "It's true that they excluded a couple of the issues. But that exclusion may be more of a function of the fact that people chose to focus on the most problematic provisions. That's why there was a lot of attention on mandatory warrantless disclosure and ISP surveillance capabilities, and there was less attention on the standards on warrants for metadata and immunity for voluntary disclosure. Now that those parts of the bill are still there, unsurprisingly, people are concerned."

A Supreme Court ruling last month meant that at least one element of C-30 couldn’t be transferred to C-13 even if the government had wanted to. Provisions allowing police access to any computer found during the execution of a search warrant would run contrary to a Supreme Court decision in R. v. Vu , which ruled that police need a specific search warrant to access personal computers.

In a “facts and myths” information sheet provided to journalists, the Justice Department writes that the lawful access changes are intended to help police enforce the provisions on the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.

"Bill C-13 does not include the former Bill C-30’s controversial amendments relating to warrantless access to subscriber information and telecommunication infrastructure modification. It simply aims to provide police with the necessary means to fight crime in today’s high-tech environment while maintaining the judicial checks and balances needed to protect Canadians’ privacy. There would still be a requirement for appropriate judicial oversight."

"That is, unfortunately, wrong," says Geist. C-13 provides civil and criminal immunity from prosecution for any institution that voluntary surrenders users' data to police. "No production order is necessary for a peace officer or public officer enforcing or administering this or any other Act of Parliament to ask a person to voluntarily provide to the officer documents, data or information that the person is not prohibited by law from disclosing," the Bill says.

The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) first established the information-sharing relationship between the data-collectors and investigators 13 years ago. C-13 brings that much farther while shielding corporations from any legal blowback.

"PIPEDA already opened the door to that occurring as part of an investigation. [C-13] kicks that door down by providing full immunity to organizations that provide that information," says Geist.

Because warrantless, voluntary disclosure requires no intervention by a judge, Geist figures that the new standard will be for police to vigorously employ that route, and for corporations, including email and cellphone providers, to comply with the requests.

Police shouldn't have their hands tied, Prutschi says, but they already have ample tools available. "I'm not at all comfortable as a defence lawyer to see more reliance on simple production orders that don't have judicial oversight on them," he says. "Giving police the easiest route to evidence isn't always the best thing to do in a free and democratic society."

Former Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, who stepped down this week, has also expressed concerns for the bill, particularly regarding “the potentially large number of ‘public officers’ who would be able to use these significant new powers; and a lack of accountability and reporting mechanisms to shed light on the use of new investigative powers.”

Stoddart has asked the Justice Department for clarifying information as to what oversight will be provided for the new changes, which public officers will have the power to exercise these new powers, and what limitations will be placed on the use of these new production orders.

Tell Peter everything?

While C-30 was opposed by a broad coalition of opponents – everyone from the Canadian Bar Association to hacker group Anonymous – which created the #TellVicEveryhing hashtag to sardonically mock the then-public safety minister who introduced the bill – the same degree of opposition hasn’t yet materialized this time around.

While the bill is still in early stages, it’s possible that being wrapped up in legislation around cyberbullying has softened the opposition.

Prutschi says it’s a favoured play of the government, “to take a laudable purpose and wrap it around things that are a little more controversial and a little less need, and kind of throw it at Parliament.”

Geist calls it “cover” to re-introduce the unpopular elements.

Still, the government is showing a willingness to bend on some of the more controversial aspects of the bill. MacKay told the House that he looks forward to hearing from the Privacy Commissioner in committee. It’s unclear, however, whether that will be Stoddart, who finished her tenure on Dec. 2, or interim commissioner Chantal Bernier.

The bill will be before committee in the coming weeks.

Justin Ling is a regular contributor based in Ottawa.

Nelson Mandela: 1918-2013

Diversity of media ownership literally non-existent in Canada

Dec 5, 2013

By Paul Fontaine

Diversity of media ownership is literally non-existent in Canada, according to a recent post by the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project (CMCRP).

The fewer the media outlets, the fewer choices Canadian journalists have in terms of full-time, part-time and freelance employment. Dwayne Winseck, CMCRP director and Carleton University journalism professor, said the content produced by journalists is being undervalued as consolidation through acquisition puts media companies in debt.

“Companies that were not saddled under debt are now saddled under debt and they’re torn between paying their journalists and paying the bankers,” Winseck said. “Some of the most highly leveraged entities in the economy are media companies and that means resources are being funneled into the banker’s pockets. The production of things—and here we are talking about the production of culture, news, knowledge, insight, entertainment, fun—is being sacrificed and I think that is a huge problem.”

In terms of who has control over Canada’s English-language mediascape, the two biggest companies, Bell and Rogers, account for 43 per cent of all revenues. Add in Shaw and Telus, and these big four account for 70 per cent of the media landscape. All of these companies, with the exception of Telus, are vertically integrated in that they produce and distribute content across a range of media. In Quebec, Bell is the largest player, with an even larger share of one-third of the French-language mediascape.

The high level of concentration is most striking in Canada’s television ownership. Bell and Shaw hold what could be considered a duopoly in the country’s television market, followed by Rogers and CBC and then a number of small-scale broadcasters including APTN, Blue Ant, CHEK TV, Pelmorex and Fairchild. Canadian media regulators, including the Competition Bureau and the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), have not done much to stem the tide of consolidation, as the CMCRP findings state: “In sum, the wave of consolidation blessed by the Competition Bureau and the CRTC stand as testaments to diversity denied. Canadians and the future evolution of the network media ecology in this country will labour under these conditions for years, probably decades, to come (CMCRP study).”

The concentration of media ownership has drawn criticism from the Canadian public in the past 10 years over concerns that “media concentration is compromising the potential contributions of the media to public life” (Winseck, 2008: 35). In a 2012 paper, Winseck argued that Bell and other vertically integrated conglomerates have “curbed the emergence of new services they perceive as being a threat to their interests” (Winseck, 2012: 28).

While drawing attention to the high degree of media ownership concentration, the CMCRP study also notes the rapid growth of mobile wireless, Internet access and cable, satellite and IPTV (where television services are delivered via the Internet) “are leading to an ever more Internet‐ and mobile wireless‐centric media ecology” (CMCRP study). These trends hold true in the French‐speaking regions of Canada as well.

The study also mentions that newspaper and magazine revenues peaked in 2008 and have fallen since then from $4.9 billion to $4.3 billion last year. With regard to newspaper revenue, while only two out of the 10 French-language dailies—Quebecor’s Le Journal de Montréal and Le Journal de Québec—have put up paywalls, 24 English-language dailies accounting for two‐thirds of average daily circulation are now behind paywalls. 

CBC’s role in the Canadian media market is diminishing as the country’s public broadcaster has seen its television revenue market share cut in half since 2000 (from 30 per cent to 15 per cent). The study states: “Today, Bell and Shaw stand where the CBC stood a dozen years ago, with revenues and market shares nearly double those of the CBC” (CMCRP study).

While Canadian television is characterized by a few players dominating the market, in the newspaper industry, “as the big players stumble, they are losing market share and, in some cases, being broken up, with significant divestitures leading to the emergence of a stronger second tier of daily newspaper publishers” (CMCRP study). The big players are Torstar, Postmedia, Quebecor,and The Globe and Mail, while the second-tier publishers include Transcontinental, Glacier and Black Press.

To find out more about the research project, go to


Winseck, D. (2012). Assessing the Effects of the Bell – Astral Acquisition on Media Ownership and Concentration in Canada. Prepared on behalf of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Consumers' Association of Canada, Canada Without Poverty, and Council of Senior Citizens' Organizations of British Columbia for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s Hearings on the proposed acquisition of Astral Media Inc. by Bell Canada: 1-36.

Winseck, D. (2008). The State of Media Ownership and Media Markets: Competition or Concentration and Why Should We Care?, Sociology Compass 2/1: 34–47.

Paul Fontaine is a PhD communication studies student at McGill University in Montreal.

Anti-Drone Protests In Pakistan Force US Military To Halt Cargo Shipments

by Rania Khalek on December 4, 2013

Supporters of Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party protest in Karachi against drone strikes in late November. (Fareed Khan / AP)
Supporters of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party protest in Karachi against drone strikes in late November. (Fareed Khan / AP)
The US military has suspended all cargo shipments out of Afghanistan due to a non-violent blockade imposed by activists protesting the US drone program in neighboring Pakistan.

On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright announced a temporary halt to military shipments from Torkham Gate through Karachi, a primary commercial transit route between Pakistan and Afghanistan, ”to ensure the safety of the drivers contracted to move our equipment.”

Pakistan’s opposition Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which organized the action, hailed the shipment suspension as a “tactical success.” Protests have been ongoing since November 24 and PTI leader and former cricket player Imran Kahn says they will continue until US drone strikes on Pakistan cease. The News International reports:

Imran Khan said Nato trucks would not be allowed to pass through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa until drone attacks were stopped. He said if anyone thought that the PTI would lift the blockade, they were mistaken. “If anyone thinks the PTI workers would be exhausted, they are making a mistake. The workers would continue this protest for an indefinite period,” he said amid cheers of approval from the protesters.

The PTI workers, along with some from the party’s coalition partner, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), have imposed a blockade on Nato supplies by camping at five points in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. For the last 10 days, they have been disallowing trucks taking goods for Western troops in Afghanistan. They stop vehicles, check their shipment documents and send back those suspected of taking supplies for Nato forces. As hundreds of containers have been stalled by the protest, over a dozen were forced to go back at the Ring Road sit-in.

US news outlets have rushed to point out that protesters checking the vehicles have beenarmed with clubs even though there have been no reports of violence. Meanwhile, threats faced by protesters have been overlooked.

Last week, oil tanker companies expressed frustration at not being able to use the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa route and threatened to “cut off” oil shipments to the region if the demonstrations didn’t stop within 72 hours. As Antiwar’s Jason Ditz explained, an oil shutdown “could be devastating for major cities like Peshawar, but could also inflame resentments against the drone strikes and fuel speculation that the US is trying to punish them for their opposition.”

It’s also been reported that Pakistan’s very first fleet of domestic drones would be deployed in the crackdown against anti-drone protesters.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Physicians blast MUHC’s ‘pathetic’ charter response


Two physicians have blasted the leadership of the McGill University Health Centre for its “pathetic” response to Bill 60, the proposed Charter of Quebec Values that would prohibit health workers from wearing religious headgear on the job.

At Tuesday evening’s annual general meeting of the MUHC, CEO Normand Rinfret alluded to Bill 60 in his remarks to more than 200 people, warning that the ban on “conspicuous” religious symbols would make it harder to keep talented staff at the hospital network.

“I can assure you that the MUHC will be heard in loud volumes about the great needs that we have as an academic health-sciences centre to be able to retain our people and to be able to continue to recruit people across all faiths, all religions and all languages,” Rinfret said.

But two physicians — one currently practising at the MUHC and another who just retired — took Rinfret to task for not wording his opposition to Bill 60 more strongly.

“I find your remarks pathetic,” Dr. David Morris, an endocrinologist at the Royal Victoria Hospital, told Rinfret during question period.

“We have to be much clearer to the government about the impact of the application of such a restrictive bill would have on our functions.”

Michael Rasminsky, a neurologist who used to practise at the Montreal General Hospital, urged the MUHC to follow the lead of the Jewish General Hospital in openly defying Bill 60. On Nov. 13, Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, executive director of the Jewish General, said his hospital would not use the exemption clause in Bill 60 that would permit health-care workers to wear religious symbols during a “transition period.”

“Since the bill is inherently prejudicial, there is no point in taking advantage of any clause that would grant us temporary, short-term relief,” Rosenberg said in a statement that was endorsed by the JGH board of directors.

The Jewish General’s position is in contrast with a statement released by the MUHC the day Bill 60 was tabled. In that statement, Rinfret said the MUHC “appreciates the exemption procedure” in the bill and “intends to use it to its fullest.”

“I can’t see why the MUHC hasn’t done what the Jewish has done,” Rasminsky told Rinfret. “We’re a major public institution. It shouldn’t take weeks and weeks to get together to say this law is an obscenity, and we want no part of it; that we will simply ignore it as the Jewish has said is the only appropriate response to this cynical policy.”

Rinfret responded that the MUHC must first “take the pulse” of its staff, then draft a position, which would be submitted to the board for ratification. The MUHC’s position will ultimately be presented as a brief to the National Assembly, he explained.

“We’re trying to complement the strategies of the McGill academic health network — of St-Mary’s Hospital, of the Jewish General Hospital — in order to make sure that we’re well heard with different messages,” Rinfret said. “Our message is clear: We want to attract talent, we want to keep talent, this is what our history and tradition have been and it needs to continue this way.”

Twitter: Aaron_Derfel

Stephen Harper to Undertake First Official Visit to Israel

- Nathan J. Freeman - Dec 3, 2013

Toronto protest against Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visit to Toronto for Zionist fundraising dinner, December 1, 2013.

Flying in the face of international opinion and the Canadian people, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has chosen this moment in history and contemporary international relations to honour the State of Israel with his first official visit as Canadian head of government.

This development was announced in connection with Harper's appearance Sunday evening, December 1, as guest of honour at the Toronto Negev Dinner, a Zionist fundraiser.[1]

According to a report filed on the website of CBC News, his Zionist hosts sang Harper's praises as a bird-loving environmentalist. On this basis they are going to be naming the Hula bird sanctuary in northern Israel after Harper.

The gesture is pathetic, calculated to deny's Canada's negative role in international climate talks and the widespread rejection of the negative environmental and political consequences of the resource rape being committed all over Canada but specifically across northern Alberta in the Athabasca tar sands by U.S. and Canadian energy resource development monopolies.

The Hula Conservancy Sanctuary is built on lands belonging to dispossessed Palestinian fishermen and their families, who are banned from ever returning. It is less than five miles west of the Golan Heights, a parcel of Syrian territory occupied by Israeli forces since the June 1967 war. In line with the mandate of the United Nations Truce Services Organization (UNTSO), Canadian Forces stand on the Golan Heights supposedly to separate the armed forces of both countries, who remain officially at war having signed no peace agreement or official truce since June 1967.

The proposal to name the Hula Bird Sanctuary after Harper richly illustrates how desperate the Harper gang and its Zionist fellow-travelers are becoming. They are determined to push the discreted direction the Harper government is taking Canada in all fields while they can.

Clearly, it's high time Canadians gave Stephen Harper the bird.

The Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu is especially enamoured with the Harper government's parroting of every one of Tel Aviv's unsupported allegations against the government and people of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Indeed, on this front, Stephen Harper is further entrenching the Canadian government in the same circle of hell reserved for and occupied not only by Tel Aviv and Washington but also by the absolute monarchy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Ottawa, Tel Aviv and Riyadh remain the only world capitals openly supporting the lunatic notion of unleashing acts of aggression against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Not in Our Name! 
It is Time to Give Harper the Bird!


1. The Toronto Negev Dinner is a major annual fundraiser for the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Canadian tax laws treat the JNF as a "charity." This is despite the fact that, within Israel, the JNF is an NGO that exists to violate -- "legally" in the sense of no formal government approval nor disapproval -- the specific proscription of the Fourth Geneva Convention against the involuntary transfer of the Palestinian populations of the Occupied West Bank and the transfer of their lands to Jewish citizen-settlers from the Israeli occupier.

This dispossession carries on despite the fact that both Israel and Canada formally recognize the Fourth Geneva Conventions as part of international humanitarian law applicable to all the Convention's signatories. Notably in this particular regard, the JNF has also financed Canada Park.

The Canada Park war crime is JNF's true face. Albeit with decreasing effectiveness, this remains hidden behind the JNF's semi-official posture as a humanitarian charity. In that context, it raised money to finance the planting of trees, and also teamed with some other Israeli-dominated Jewish community charities involved in attending to the health needs of aging and retired Israeli survivors of the World War Two Nazi judeocide.

The particular zone of Canada Park was developed by the JNF as a "family recreation area" for Israeli Jewish families. It was carved out of the Latrun Salient inside the occupied West Bank literally on the bones and stones of three Palestinian villages razed by the Israeli Army at the start of the Six-Day War in June 1967. This outrage was actually inflicted deliberately by the Israeli Army on the Palestinians of that area. Heroically, and denied ammunition resupply, the Palestinians of the Latrun Salient kept the main road between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem out of the Zionists' hands up until three weeks before the end of the British Mandate (and final withdrawal of the last colonial police and other British armed forces from the area). Under the "Not In Our Name" banner, progressive Canadians since the June 1967 war have been repudiating this Canada Park outrage.

One of the JNF's latest crimes involves the forcible displacement of a Bedouin community of 30,000 to 70,000 people from 35 villages in the Negev region to make room for settlers transplanted from Canada. This and other Zionist crimes and the Harper government's collaboration were vigorously opposed by protestors at the December 1 Negev Dinner.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The curse of a foreign-sounding name in today’s job market

It’s common for hiring managers to skip over resumes with ethnic names, preferring to interview candidates with names they recognize.

By: Priya Ramsingh Published on Sat Nov 30 2013

I learned the meaning of my name when I was in my early 20s while waitressing at a United Nations event in university. I presented a tray of cheese to an attendee who peered at my name tag and asked if I knew what it meant.

I didn’t, I confessed.

He was all too keen to impart the knowledge that the origin of my name was Sanskrit and it meant “my beloved.” I remember blushing at the translation and wondered if it was just a pick-up line. But later, after some research, I realized it was true. My Trinidadian, English-speaking parents had given me a name from their ancestry, as tradition suggested.

Back then, my name was not common. In fact, before the Big Bang Theory outed it to the masses by introducing a South Asian female character, most people had never heard of it before.

Growing up, I got used to repeating it a few times before it stuck with people. Even when a popular restaurant in Bloor West Village refused my reservation because I questioned the manager’s inability to understand my ethnic name, I wasn’t bothered. His sigh of relief and comment about my friend’s common English name being “better” to secure the table was rude but I shrugged it off as a one-off incident. Maybe my name wasn’t good enough at this particular restaurant, but it was fine everywhere else.

Or so I thought. Only recently did I discover that his behaviour wasn’t the exception. Doing some research on the job market, I found an article in the Star that revealed what really happens when organizations recruit. Apparently, it’s common for many hiring managers to skip over resumes with ethnic names, preferring to interview candidates with names they recognize.

After reading that article, I met a friend for a drink and was keen to relay what I’d learned, believing she would be as shocked as I was. But she smiled and nodded and said, “I hire people all the time. And I do that.”

I stared into her blue eyes as she told me that she passed over resumes with ethnic names because she assumed the candidates didn’t speak English or would be too difficult to understand. Besides, there were so many resumes it was easier to just pick the ones with simple names.

This was reality, she said. While there were minorities in her company, most of them were hired based on referrals and none were in leadership positions.

Curious, I decided to ask around. Interestingly some recruiters admitted off the record that this practice was common where they worked. While they screened applicants based on their experience and skills, many of the hiring managers couldn’t get past the names. They weren’t common enough to be comfortable.

These recruiters said that while ethnic people worked at their organization, very few, if any, held leadership positions. So it was rare that they had responsibilities for hiring staff.

The GTA has the highest percentage of visible minorities in the country — 47 per cent. But this number is nowhere near reflected in the leadership positions in most organizations.

Although I’ve never been part of the senior leadership in an organization, I’ve screened resumes and in some cases, hired staff. I’ve always looked at the career experience first, and if I’m impressed with the content, I look at the name.

But let’s give my friend the benefit of the doubt and assume that in today’s competitive market, employers are simply in a rush. If that’s the case, then is the key to a successful career in the GTA simply a common name?

In Quebec, the government decided to be transparent with their lack of comfort when they created a so-called values charter outlawing public employees from adorning hijabs, kippahs or turbans. Maybe it would be easier for potential employees in the GTA to understand company requirements up front, to eliminate the countless hours spent on resume creation. Use John and Mary instead of Harpreet and Ayisha.

Perhaps employers could simply ask that resumes don’t include names. A simple file number and contact information would be sufficient, and the name revealed upon interview — if the employer can handle it.

But I’m really not sure what the answer is because I don’t know the motivation behind this strange form of discrimination. All I know is that changing my name is not an option because it’s who I am. It would simply be dishonest.

Priya Ramsingh is the principal of Arka Communications, a communications consulting company.

CJPME cancels Elizabeth May's speaking engagement at Ottawa fundraiser

For Immediate Release

Montreal, Dec. 2, 2013 - Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) has withdrawn its invitation to Green Party leader Elizabeth May to speak at its Ottawa fundraiser Dec. 5th. The decision was taken following the release of the full transcript of an interview May gave to the Jewish Tribune. "When we invited May, we had assumed that she would present a position that was closely aligned to the official Green Party position on the Middle East and Israel-Palestine," stated CJPME President Thomas Woodley. The Green Party's 'Vision Green' policy document on Israel-Palestine is clear in its intent to uphold international law, to promote the creation of a Palestinian state, and to seek to end the blockade of Gaza. "Unfortunately, May's comments to the Jewish Tribune indicated that she intended to stray surprisingly far from the 'Vision Green' platform in her speech at our event," continued Woodley. "As such, we felt it would be inappropriate to host her as a keynote speaker."

May had accepted CJPME's invitation to speak at its fundraiser earlier in the fall, and had not indicated any discomfort with CJPME's policy focus on upholding international law in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Nevertheless, the Jewish Tribune article published November 19 - following an interview with May - quoted her as stating that CJPME maintained an "anti-Israel stance" that she wanted to distance herself from. CJPME immediately contacted May and asked her to correct the article if it misrepresented her stances. In response, May issued a statement on the Green Party website November 27th denying, among other things, that she had called CJPME "anti-Israel." Nevertheless, two days later the Jewish Tribune published the full transcript and audio recording of the interview, which reveals that May's "correction" was actually false.

The full transcript of the interview also revealed several other things, among them 1) that May was taking all her cues about CJPME from CJPME's political opponents; 2) that May berated and belittled CJPME's work for justice, peace, international law and human rights, and 3) that May had planned to use her speech to publicly oppose "a lot of the policies" of CJPME. "Naturally," stated Woodley, "seeing the full transcript of the interview gave us pause for many reasons."

CJPME has many friends within the Green Party, and fully recognizes that many of May's comments were not representative of official Green Party policy on Israel-Palestine. CJPME's policy work of the past eight years directly or indirectly is in alignment with every one of the Green Party's seven policy points on Israel-Palestine. This extensive common ground was also reflected in CJPME's highly positive review of Green Party Middle East policy in CJPME's 2011 pre-election guide.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Canada Votes Against United Nations Anti-Nazi Resolution

CPCML -- Dec 1, 2013

The Harper government has again revealed its subservience to U.S. interests and support for those who would glorify the Nazis and their collaborators by voting against an anti-Nazi resolution at the UN on November 21. The final tally was 126 votes in support of the resolution and three votes against -- the U.S., its tiny Micronesian protectorate Palau and Canada; 50 countries, including the EU member states, abstained.

The resolution condemns the glorification of Nazism and "modern forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia." It was prepared by Russia and a group of more than 40 other countries and submitted to the UN General Assembly's Social Third Committee, the Humanitarian Cultural Affairs Committee on November 12. Russia's Ambassador to the UN Grigory Lukyantsev explained that it is aimed at addressing "concern over the escalation of extreme groups, like neo-Nazi and skinheads using violence."

A statement posted on the official Russian Foreign Ministry website following the vote stated, "It's beyond our understanding and we're disappointed that the U.S., Canada and Palau voted against the document while EU member countries' delegations abstained from voting on the draft resolution supported by the majority of UN member countries."

The UN General Assembly last year adopted a separate resolution submitted by Russia condemning the construction of memorials in honour of former Nazis and the holding of public pro-Nazi demonstrations. Russia has frequently expressed its dismay at annual rallies of Waffen-SS veterans in Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

Last year's resolution was approved by the majority of the UN member states, but was rejected by a number of countries, notably the United States and Canada, while 54 countries abstained from voting.

In the U.S., under the First Amendment of the Constitution, the right to freedom of expression has been used in the past by white supremacists to legally justify the public expression of extremist political views, RIA Novosti points out.

A previous UN resolution on holding public pro-Nazi demonstrations was opposed by, among other countries, the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

In related news, a petition is underway in Latvia to have authorities dismantle a monument in the capital Riga which commemorates the Red Army soldiers who liberated the country in World War II. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Luashevich said on November 20 that the petition is further evidence of "Latvia's policy of falsifying the results of World War II." He criticized Latvia's "obsessive wish to rehabilitate the Nazis."

Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Bombrovskis said Latvia is bound by agreements with Russia to tend to such war memorials.

In 2007, Estonia relocated a memorial known as the "Bronze Soldier," which honours the Soviet soldiers who liberated the country during the war. Following pressure from anti-Soviet forces, it was moved from its place of honour in central Tallinn and put in an out of the way military cemetery.

An attempt to rewrite history and glorify the Nazis is also taking place in Canada. Reactionary elements known as Tribute to Liberty are attempting to build an anti-communist monument in Ottawa to win sympathy for those who fought on the side of the Nazis. This project has been unable to find any popular support amongst Canadians and thus the Harper government has stepped in to provide it public funds.

(With files from RIA Novosti, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)