Saturday, October 24, 2015

Reprieve has just released a report on executions in Saudi Arabia.

Reprieve, a UK based human rights group, has just released a report on executions in Saudi Arabia. Read the report at the following link:

When a Majority Is Not a Majority

by Ehab Lotayef (Montreal)

"...old habits die hard, and if we wait for those who benefited and are benefiting from a system to change it, our wait will be very long."

We woke up on Tuesday to the news that the Liberals have won a majority in a landslide victory. This left me wondering how we have grown accepting of certain terms which do not reflect reality.

It is true that the Liberals have won the majority of seats in the House of Commons, 184 out of 338 (about 54 per cent), but only 39 per cent of those who voted chose Liberal candidates. How can this be called a landslide eludes me. More so, how and why do we use the word "majority" so freely without qualifying it?

This is not a partisan question. Four years ago the Conservatives took 39 per cent of the popular vote and were also a "majority."

The "majority" before that was another Liberal one in 2000 (the 2004, 2006 and 2008 elections produced minority governments since no party won over 50 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons). This 2000 "majority" was won with 41 per cent of the popular vote. And the "majority" before that, in 1997, was won with 38 per cent of the popular vote.

Do you know when was the last time we had a real majority government in Canada? It was back in 1984 when the Mulroney Conservatives got 50.03 per cent of the popular vote.

Using the term "majority" gives the impression that the party obtained the support of over half those who voted and thus is entitled to run the country with a free hand. There is no example that depicts this better than how the Harper government, chosen by 39 per cent, changed the Canada we knew so much as if it enjoyed the support of 70 per cent or more of the people.

And the ills of our current electoral system do not end there. On the other side of the spectrum, it denies a relevant presence in Parliament to parties that may enjoy up to 10 per cent of the popular vote. In 2008, the Green party took 6.8 per cent of the popular vote but won zero (no) seats in the Parliament.

In addition to giving too much power to those who should not have it and denying the smaller voices a chance to be heard, it discourages many from voting when they know that there is no hope for a candidate of the party they support in their riding. This forces people to chose candidates belonging to parties that may be their second or third choice to make their vote meaningful, rather than support the party and candidate whose ideas and ideals they believe in.

This is a faulty system which we should not sit quietly till it is again abused by another government, regardless of which party will be in power at that time.

What is the solution?

There is an electoral system usually referred to as Proportional Representation (PR) that has many variants and that is practiced in the vast majority of functional democracies around the world (including most European countries). Also, most countries newly introducing a democratic system adopt one of the variants of a PR system to ensure that the will of the people and their choices are truly reflected in parliament.

The result of any variant of the PR system is a parliament that reflects the choices of the population. No vote is lost and no vote is worth more than another.

The problem is that old habits die hard, and if we wait for those who benefited and are benefiting from a system to change it, our wait will be very long.

What Canada needs is a grassroots movement to demand that Canada adopt a PR system rather than ask the members of parliament who have enjoyed, are enjoying or hope to enjoy power in the future because of the current system, to change it.

There is enough time for a movement to organize and grow effective to ensure that the October 2019 election will be fought under a fair, equitable and truly representative electoral system.

Friday, October 23, 2015

CBC radio panel discusses Justin Trudeau's decision to pull Canada out of the US-led bombing campaign against Islamic State.

Oct 23, 2015

Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason participated in a CBC radio panel discussion this morning on the decision of Prime Minister Elect Justin Trudeau to pull Canada out of the US-led bombing campaign against Islamic State (The Current, CBC, 23 October 2015).

The other panelists were Bessma Momani, a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo, and Chris Sands, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington.

Here are some points to consider when listening to the discussion:

In the civil wars waged in the last 25 years, only 7% have ended with government forces defeating the rebels.

85% of civil wars come to a hurting stalemate, after untold bloodshed and suffering, with all of the political problems underlying the conflict made even more difficult to address.

In short, peace cannot be won on the battlefield.

Despite the massive amount of bombs dropped by the American-led coalition in Iraq and Syria, Islamic State has continued to gain territory in Syria and is well–entrenched in Anbar province, the Sunni heartland in Iraq. Only Iranian-backed Shia militias, greatly feared by the Sunnis, are preventing Islamic State from making further headway in Iraq. Turkey, a member of the western coalition, is spending more time bombing Kurdish separatists in Iraq than going after Islamic State, and now Russia has entered the military fray.

Putin wants to preserve Russian influence (and military bases) in Syria, but the Russians also quite rightly fear that a collapse of the Assad government would leave Islamic State in control and able to directly threaten Russia in the Caucuses.

However brutal the Assad government has been in this horrific civil war, there is simply no alternative ‘strong man’ who can hold the country together and stave off a far worse regime. This is the hard, hard lesson of Libya.

It is time to get behind UN-led negotiations for a national unity government in Syria, bringing together everyone but the hardest of hardliners. With the backing of the West and Saudi Arabia on one side and Iran and Russia on the other, this is the only hope of stopping the bombing by Assad of his own people AND a complete takeover of Syria by Islamic State.

Click here for the complete panel discussion.

Amnesty's open letter to PM Justin Trudeau

An opportunity for stronger action and renewed leadership to protect human rights at home and abroad

OCTOBER 23, 2015

Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister Designate of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario

Dear Mr. Trudeau,

On behalf of the more than 300,000 Canadians who are supporters of Amnesty International we are writing this Open Letter to congratulate you on your election victory this week and to share our initial recommendations for what we hope will be a significantly strengthened approach by your government to respecting and upholding human rights, domestically and globally. 

We are heartened by many of the specific commitments you have made and general positions you have offered, both before and during the recent campaign, with respect to numerous pressing human rights challenges. We look forward to engaging with you and your government as you move to implement the legal and policy reforms that are sorely needed to end violations, address longstanding injustices in the country and position Canada for human rights leadership on the world stage.

In recent years Amnesty International has, in our yearly Human Rights Agenda for Canada as well as numerous submissions to various UN human rights bodies and experts, drawn frequent attention to our growing concern that Canada’s record and reputation as a reliable human rights champion has deteriorated sharply.

We have pointed to obstructive and often polarizing positions taken internationally on such human rights concerns as Indigenous peoples, conflict in the Middle East, women’s rights and the death penalty. We have expressed regret that the attention and assistance given to addressing human rights challenges in Africa has diminished considerably and that Canadian foreign policy has become increasingly, often singularly, dominated by trade and economic considerations. We have highlighted troubling domestic developments in such areas as the rights of Indigenous peoples, refugee protection, gender equality, national security, corporate accountability and shrinking space for advocacy and dissent in the country. 

We make this approach to you with a sense of urgency and great expectation. We see considerable need but also tremendous opportunity. As such, we urge that from the outset, as you begin to set priorities, develop programs and set the tone for your government, you commit to a number of essential core values and principles aimed at advancing a strong human rights agenda.

  • Unwavering respect for the universality of all human rights 
  • Gender equality leadership in words and action 
  • A strong commitment to global cooperation and international mechanisms and standards to ensure human rights protection 
  • Determination consistently to put human rights first in responding constructively to international crises.
  • Unhindered space for robust advocacy and dissent 
  • A new collaborative relationship with Indigenous peoples, grounded in full recognition of and respect for their inherent rights
  • Active and engaged dialogue with civil society 
  • Decision-making grounded in fairness, justice and access to information
  • Consistency between domestic action and global advocacy
As a clear indication of change and a new approach we urge you to move forward quickly on a number of commitments you have already made and to take other steps that will send an early signal that your government will be adopting a different approach to human rights, in Canada and abroad. Our suggestions involve measures which do not necessitate law reform or require action by Parliament. 

We offer the following twelve steps that can be taken immediately, even before the 42nd session of Parliament opens.

Work with Indigenous peoples to convene an independent public inquiry into the alarming levels of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls in Canada, and do so in a way that lays the ground for development of a comprehensive national action plan to address this shameful national human rights crisis.

Take a new approach to government dealings with Indigenous peoples – including decisions regarding pipelines, mines, dams and other development projects and levels of funding provided for such essential programs as child protection, safe water, education and adequate housing – by applying the framework of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and upholding crucial rights with respect to meaningful consultation and free, prior and informed consent.

Take immediate steps to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of 2015 through government sponsorship and chosen on a non-discriminatory basis. Build on that domestic action by actively working for a coordinated, generous and rights-based global response to the Syrian refugee crisis. 
Restore the cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program that provideshealth care for refugees and refugee claimants, including by withdrawing the current appeal pending before the Federal Court of Appeal.

Ensure that policies and programs currently underway to promote maternal, newborn and child health and to end early and forced marriage include funding and other support for the full range of sexual and reproductive rights services.

Draw on your influence and stature as Prime Minister in advocating directly and personally for the rights of Canadians and individuals with close Canadian connections who are experiencing grave human rights violations in other countries including Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia (whose wife, Ensaf Haidar, you met in January of this year), Huseyin Celil in China, Bashir Makhtal in Ethiopia and Salim Alaradi in the United Arab Emirates

Right past wrongs that have been committed in the name of national security, beginning by redressing the serious human rights violations, including torture and ill-treatment, which the Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed in the case of Omar Khadr and a judicial inquiry has catalogued in the cases of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaatiand Muayyed Nureddin.

Launch a process of public consultation with experts to identify reforms needed to ensure that the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 is consistent with Canada’s international human rights obligations and that national security agencies are subject to meaningful review and oversight.

As you assess the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership and formulate Canada’s position on this major new trade deal, take steps recently recommended by UN experts to ensure that the agreement does not negatively impact on the enjoyment of human rights as enshrined in legally binding instruments, or constrain the ability of Canada and other parties to the TPP to meet their human rights obligations. One step in that direction would be to establish an Extractives Sector Ombudsperson with the power to investigate and recommend sanctions for companies that fail to respect human rights in their business relationships.

Announce an early intention to ratify two important UN human rights treaties, the Arms Trade Treaty and the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and initiate consultations with respect to other UN and regional human rights treaties and Optional Protocols that Canada has not ratified.

Set clear and concrete human rights goals associated with your participation in upcoming international meetings including the G20 Summit in Turkey, the APEC Summit in the Philippines, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta and the United Nations Climate Change Conference in France.

Signal a commitment to convene the first federal, provincial and territorial ministerial meeting to discuss human rights since 1988.

We do, of course, have other concerns which we hope will receive early attention and action once the next session of Parliament is underway. 

We will, for instance, be bringing recommendations to your government regarding legislative reform in the areas of corporate accountability, national security and human rights, citizenship laws, refugee protection, the rights of transgender individuals, state immunity and consular assistance. 

We also look forward to engaging with you as foreign policy priorities are set, including with respect to countries where economic interests clearly currently take precedence over human rights, and entire regions, particularly in Africa, where human rights concerns receive very little high level political attention.

Mr. Trudeau, Amnesty International believes that regard for human rights should be at the heart of government, any government. Earlier this week the Canadian Human Rights Commission looked forward to an end to the “erosion of human rights” in Canada. That erosion has been all the more lamentable as Canada has very often led the world in human rights, both through measures implemented at home and positions advanced abroad. We look forward to working with you to reverse the erosion and restore the leadership.


Alex Neve 
Secretary General
Amnesty International Canada 
(English branch)

Béatrice Vaugrante
Directrice Générale
Amnistie internationale Canada
(Francophone branch)


The appeal of narcissistic leaders is also their downfall

October 21, 2015

From the sports field to the battlefield, from business to politics, ineffective leaders often shoulder the blame when things go wrong. Perhaps we should be more careful about who we put in charge. Our research has found that your personality – and how narcissistic you are – is linked to how effective you are as a leader. We found that narcissists may appear to be good leaders early on, but they soon fall out of favour.

As we choose the leaders around us, we often think we are making informed choices about who is most effective. But our research suggests that this is not always the case. In fact, we are more likely to select as leaders those people who display narcissistic traits.

Those who score highly in narcissism tests believe they are special people who are superior. They also report high levels of confidence, are focused on themselves at the expense of others, and are vain. These overly positive views of themselves help narcissists to perform very well in situations that offer them an opportunity for personal glory, such as performing under pressure, performing tasks that are difficult, and doing things in the presence of others.

But when they perceive that there is no such opportunity, narcissists withdraw their effort and perform poorly. Because narcissists are so focused on personal glory they can be difficult team members; yet they might make good leaders. Positions of leadership provide an opportunity to gain glory from others and so are likely to be attractive to the narcissist.
The leader ship is sinking

Others have researched and written about the idea of narcissists as leaders, but until now there has been no evidence of whether or not narcissists actually do make effective leaders in the long term.In two studies, we assessed people’s narcissism using the Narcissistic Personality Inventory – a standard narcissism questionnaire used in psychology research. Example items include: “If I ruled the world it would be a much better place” and “I am an extraordinary person”. People were asked to score themselves against these items on a scale of 0 to 40, with higher scores indicating higher levels of narcissism. Our mean scores were just under 14 for both the studies which is consistent with most research using similar participants.

We then asked people to work in small groups, completing weekly tasks for 12 weeks. Examples of tasks included naming all the Team GB medallists at the 2012 London Olympics and identifying the states of the USA on a blank map. In the first study (using 112 first-year students, 71 men and 41 women, working in 24 groups in their first semester at university) we deliberately allocated people to groups so that they would be unlikely to know each other. In the second study, we used individuals who knew each other reasonably well (152 final year students, 96 men and 56 women, working as part of 29 groups) and let them choose their own groups.

Both during and at the end of the 12 weeks, the participants rated each other on their leadership effectiveness. The results were striking. Initially, the people who had scored highest on the narcissism test were rated as highly effective, but as time went on these positive perceptions waned until eventually narcissists were seen as very ineffective leaders. Although we expected narcissists not to last long as leaders, we were amazed by how rapidly they lost favour with their group, and how negatively they were viewed by the end. Over time, the narcissistic leaders’ ships sank.
Are narcissistic leaders doomed to fail?

Our results showed that the group was initially attracted to the narcissist’s charisma and vision, which allowed the narcissists to rise as the “natural” leaders. But over a very short time, narcissistic leaders failed to provide their followers with appropriate levels of challenge or support. This ultimately led to their downfall.

Although our data painted a rather negative picture for narcissists in the long run, it is not all doom and gloom for the narcissistic leader. The challenge for them is to be able to harness their charisma and combine it with other factors such as humility or empathy, which should enable them to be seen as effective leaders over time. An extreme narcissist may not care what others think of them and may be doomed to fail in leadership roles. But there are other narcissism traits that may be more effective and even necessary, in some forms of diplomacy for example – such as narcissistic charm.

Being able to choose between leaders who we “like” in the short term and those who we believe will get the job done and be effective over time is not necessarily an easy task. Dealing with this paradox is vital to be able to ensure effective leadership in the long term.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


Students congratulate new government, vow to hold accountable

OTTAWA, Oct. 22, 2015 /CNW/ - Students across Canada congratulate the newly elected Liberal Government led by Justin Trudeau, and are eager to see their substantial commitments to students and youth realised.

"The Canadian Federation of Students has been calling for investment in up-front grants for post-secondary education for many years," said Bilan Arte, National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. "The Liberals have promised to deliver $3.3 billion in increases to federal student grants."

Additional Liberal commitments to Canada's students and youth included:

* $1.3 billion over three years to create 40,000 youth jobs each year
* $50 million annually in additional Post-Secondary Student Support Program spending to remove the funding cap increase
* Expand the Repayment Assistance Program to ensure no graduate with student loans will be required to make repayments until they are earning an income of at least $25,000 per year

"Burdened by record levels of debt and troubling employment outcomes, students voted for change in this election and we will work to see this change actualized," said Arte. "Students will continue to work towards accessible post-secondary education for all."

The Canadian Federation of Students led a national movement to empower students and youth to vote through the It's No Secret campaign. Canada's students celebrated a staggering 70,000 students voting in early on-campus polls, and extraordinary turnout on campuses at advanced polling and Election Day.  

The Canadian Federation of Students is Canada's largest student organization, uniting more than one-half million students across Canada. The Canadian Federation of Students and its predecessor organizations have represented students in Canada since 1927 in their call for fully accessible public post-secondary education.

For further information: Sarah McCue, Communications Coordinator at 613-797-6626 or


Defend Our Dissent: Preserving Palestinian rights activism on campus

On the walls of a central building on my university campus, displayed prominently and with pride, is a historic image of student activists boldly confronting university administration over the school’s complicity in the larger project of U.S. support for the violence and injustice of apartheid South Africa. Those admirable students, likely reprimanded in their own time, today benefit a school that builds its image on the incredible idealism and activism of its students, and a society that has built a better future on the blood, sweat, and tears of ordinary people surviving, thriving, and agitating against an unjust status quo.

Over the last decade, the movement for Palestinian freedom and equality in opposition to continuing illegal settlement and military occupation, devastating assaults on Gaza, and a profoundly unequal political system has increasingly become the focus of coalitional social justice work, especially on college campuses. Like prior movements fighting a status quo of structural violence, this movement faces heavy-handed repression designed to silence marginalized voices and stifle progressive ideas that might chart the path to a better tomorrow. Two recently released reports, one by Jewish Voice for Peace and the other by Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights, document this widespread and systematic suppression.


With election over, Canadian Medical Association looking for action on national seniors strategy


The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has pledged to work closely with the new Liberal government and Justin Trudeau to follow through on the need for a national seniors strategy.

“I congratulate Justin Trudeau on his recent election win,” said CMA President Cindy Forbes. “This historic election campaign must now be followed by concrete action to build a national seniors strategy for Canada.”

The election campaign saw one of the most successful advocacy efforts ever conducted by the CMA to push for development of a national seniors strategy.

The CMA created, which invited Canadians to show their support for the CMA’s call for a comprehensive seniors care plan from Canada’s political parties. The website also provided a “promise tracker” tool where visitors could compare the policy statements of the different parties.

“Thanks to a concerted effort on the part of the CMA and the more than 28,000 Canadians who joined our ‘Demand a Plan’ campaign, all the major parties talked about their plans for seniors in this year’s election campaign, and 3 of the 4 main parties presented detailed strategies,” said Forbes.

Of the more than 28,000 Canadians who signed up and took action on the site, many shared their personal stories and put pressure on local candidates to commit to supporting better seniors care in Canada. Over 3,000 Canadians sent almost 25,000 letters to candidates across the country, asking where they stood on a national seniors strategy.

“I was deeply impressed by the interest and the support of Canadians in the CMA’s work during this election campaign,” added Forbes.

CMA advocacy efforts continued right up until election day with the use of a social media tactic to have Canadians endorse the importance of seniors care in deciding how to vote.

In addition, the CMA’s MD-MP Contact Program has grown by more than 160 physicians this year, laying the groundwork for an ongoing, close relationship with members of Parliament in almost every riding in Canada.

Forbes said the CMA would continue to advocate for a seniors strategy and lobby the new government and the provinces to schedule a meeting to discuss the issue together.

“With the new reality, Canadians are looking for true leadership and collaboration to ensure that their health care system will be able to meet their needs now and into the future,” said Forbes.

In the election campaign, Trudeau wrote to the Premier of Quebec and pledged to keep a focus on health care issues such as wait times, the affordability of prescription drugs, availability of home care and community-based services, and coping with the aging population.

Trudeau also stated that his government would negotiate a new Health Accord with the provinces and territories.

“The end of the election is really only the beginning of the critical work needed to ensure that those elected follow through and honour the commitments they have made to Canadians,” said Forbes. “The CMA will continue to work with the over 28,000 Canadians who have supported our call for action and others as we seek to ensure that elderly Canadians get the care they need, when and where they need it.”

Repair the erosion of human rights in Canada: Canadian Human Rights Commission

OTTAWA, Oct. 20, 2015 /CNW/ - Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, congratulates Prime Minister designate Justin Trudeau along with all members of Canada's new Parliament, and issues the following statement:

"I call on our newly elected Parliament to begin repairing the erosion of human rights in Canada, and to move swiftly to repeal legislation and reverse policies that promote discrimination and prejudice. No one should live in fear because of who they are or because they have a belief that is not shared by the majority.

"Specifically, Parliament should:

- rewrite and rename the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, to remove any insinuation that certain religions are a threat to Canadian society;

- accelerate the process for bringing in refugees and asylum seekers fleeing war, persecution and environmental devastation, and ensure that the selection process is not discriminatory;

- ensure that the arbitrary detention and imprisonment of thousands of undocumented people seeking asylum - in Canada, many of whom are suffering from mental illness, is brought to an end;

- immediately convene a national inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, and develop a national action plan;

- ensure that all people in Canada have access to safe drinking water and adequate housing;

- end the inequitable funding of child welfare services and schools on First Nations reserves;

- amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to explicitly protect transgender people from discrimination;

- stop the overuse of prolonged periods of solitary confinement to manage offenders, a practice disproportionally applied to Black and Aboriginal inmates, and offenders with mental illness; and protect the rights of all women to express their religion.

"Canadians have rejected the divisive rhetoric that became prominent in the latter days of the election campaign. Difficult as it was, the Canadian Human Rights Commission remained silent in deference to the electoral process. With the election now behind us, it's time for all Canadians to work together to restore the values of mutual respect and dignity that have for so long defined this country. My Canada includes everyone."

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Turkmenistan, the horrific, brutal US ally gets a cozy meeting with the State Department

By Ben Horton

“Turkmenistan remains one of the world’s most repressive countries,” reports leading rights organization Human Rights Watch. “The country is virtually closed to independent scrutiny, media and religious freedoms are subject to draconian restrictions, and human rights defenders and other activists face the constant threat of government reprisal.”

Despite the country’s horrific human rights record, the U.S. considers Turkmenistan an important ally. The State Department met with a delegation of Turkmen government officials last week, stating that the “United States looks forward to broadening and deepening its relationship with Turkmenistan.”

The meeting was the fourth Annual Bilateral Consultation with Turkmenistan. The department’s official Twitter account shared a photo of Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal welcoming Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov. It also created a Flickr album with photos from the meeting.

Full article here....

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Smart Justice Network of Canada special by retired judge Barry Stuart

Barry Stuart


by Barry Stuart -- Oct 22, 2015 (re-posted with permission)

(Today, Smart Justice Network of Canada is delighted to offer a post-election reflection from its chair Barry Stuart, retired judge and life-long advocate for a better way in the justice system, on the Canada we have missed and a few thoughts on how to restore what we have lost while moving resolutely to what Stuart describes as neighborliness.  SJNC has an excellent e-mail distribution list which you can subscribe to by writing:

My gosh… as I drove home late last night from serving as a polling station scrutineer,    the emotional, physical, spiritual and mental stress of the past several months drifted away, sending a wave of bliss through me …I never want to forget how worried I was about my country; I never want to forget how easy it had been for me to take for granted the unique blessings we have as Canadians. The greatest threat our democracy faces is not foreign invasion but apathy, failing to carry out our responsibilities as citizens. I had been apathetic. Content to let others engage in politics, I turned to my interests.   This election woke me up. Jolted me awake.

Driven by a combination of fear over this election returning Conservatives to power, and my personal shame for abandoning any significant political engagement, I threw myself into this election. I engaged in every way possible, investing heart and soul into supporting candidates in different ridings representing all parties but Conservatives. 

My primary opposition focused not on Conservatives, but on Prime Minister Harper.   I recognize and respect the many contributions conservatives have made to Canada. The conservative voice is an essential part of a healthy inclusive dialogue in Canada. In the past I voted for the best candidate in my riding every time. Over the years, that included voting conservative for the likes of the amazing John Fraser. This time I was able to vote for the best candidate in my riding, and support Greens, NDP and Liberal candidates in other ridings. My support for candidates in other ridings was driven by two factors; they were great candidates and they had a good chance to beat incumbent conservatives.

My obsession to defeat Prime Minister Harper did not sit easy on my mind. I knew better than to place all the blame at these feet … but I wanted my country back.  He dominated Conservative parliamentarians and Parliament in ways that distressed me.  Perhaps unfortunately and even undeservedly in many respects, he became the symbol of what had to change.  My fight was not so much against conservatives but for change.

I respect anyone who devotes their life to our political process and for that I respected Prime Minister Harper, but I have never been able to understand why he so aggressively undermined our essential democratic principles and stripped away the practices that made me fervently proud to be Canadian.

In this election, from knocking on doors to counting ballots as a scrutineer and every- thing in between, I became acutely aware of the indispensable contributions and sacrifices so many have made in wars, in their daily participation in communities, and in  serving as  public servants in multiple capacities to make our  country unique . Collectively, large and small, each contribution and sacrifice established, nurtured and sustained the legacy we inherit as Canadians. . Now each of us are called on to honour and respect our legacy, and make our sacrifices to pass our legacy onto future generations.

As important, our legacy generates hope around the world that a political process respecting all voices, fiercely protecting freedom and creating peaceful ways to work through our differences is a viable option for their country.  

In Canada we have built processes to work through our differences in ways that uphold individual and collective freedoms and rights and reinforce our connections to our values and to each other.

Last night was a powerful example of our legacy, of our blessings.

If only we had thought of those opposed to our views as neighbours with different views and not as enemies, the election process might have been a perfect example of democracy in action…and I may not have so readily focused my opposition on a Prime Minister.

May we now restore respect for different voices, turn back to the values of democracy and work together to meet the dire challenges we face locally, nationally and internationally. 

So neighbours, where can we find common ground, where can we work together to honour our legacy? We have much to do .We need to do this work together. Let us work to inspire and attract the very best from all Canadians in rolling up their sleeves as good neighbours to sustain our legacy.

In the very least we need change, not in the underlying principles of democracy, but change in our practices and processes to enhance  mutual understanding and respect, to open governing to all Canadians, and  to work through the complex issues we face in ways that bring us together as good neighbours sharing the gifts all can contribute . The health of any democracy depends on participation and on honouring our civic responsibilities to share the hard moral work of community. On so many levels we cannot afford to dial in experts or government every time difficult problems confront the lives of our families and communities. Good neighbours, not just good governments, are the fundamental building blocks of strong families and communities.

This election demonstrated the need to shift from a first past the post to a priority voting process. Championed by all other parties, and successfully used in many other democracies, a priority voting process significantly enhances the ability of each voter to accurately express their views and for all Canadians to create an inclusive parliament reflecting the rich diversity of Canadian cultures and perspectives. Above all other promises this change has the potential to motivate every voter to recognize their vote counts, and carefully consider how each party reflects their views.  I have faith our new government will retain this crucial promise of priority voting and even though now armed with a majority by first past the post.

In the very least I need to thank Prime Minister Harper for the sacrifices he and his family made, for his gracious departure from office to becoming my neighbour, and certainly for waking me up.  

Reaction from Glenn Sigurdson, practioner, writer, and teacher (adjunct professor SFU Beedie School of Business), is a longtime colleague and once, a “very long time ago” student of Barry

Well said, Barry ... And resonated with my own state of mind to a great extent. 

What will be Stephen Harper's greatest legacy? What was said so powerfully by many voices through votes last night is one.  He energized many in many places and generations to defend what we thought we were at risk of losing. Curiously the impact is to have restored democratic vibrancy across geography and demographics. That must be nurtured to endure. What will it take? That is the challenge.

But I believe he leaves a greater legacy.  He has revealed deep weaknesses in our democratic structures, far too many to recite here. Suffice to say the  " what will it take" challenge on this front is wide and deep - from roles and responsibilities of MPs, protagonist theater in the Commons, goofing around in the Senate, committee effectiveness, protocols around legislative " bundling", connecting the dots between public policy and giving it effect, jurisdictional turf wars, federal provincial structures, and dismantling old think with new think in ways that indigenous communities and people are engaged in governance structures.

It is a big list but we must go beyond  (" peace, order and ) "good government " to good governance - the structures that determine how we make decisions and resolve differences, and live and work together in spite of our differences 

People "play by the rules of the game" - we must change the "game" - the governance game - if we are going to change how we are motivated to behave. 

Barry, your eloquent inspirational words are appreciated.  Now we must ask what will it take to make a difference and contribute to this effort on which our dynamic and optimistic new leader has set as his course - and that of his government.  To succeed it will need more than "government." 

Reaction from fellow SJNC board member Eva Marszewski, O.Ont, of Peacebuilders: 

We have a lot of work ahead of us - by working together both locally and globally - to rebuild, to engage the public, to address  ‎massive inequities, to build public civility, to instill respect for differences, to empower collaborative models of decision-making and problem-solving,  and to enable this country to really be the welcoming, caring and equitable place that we believe it to be -  searching for and shining a light on the difficult path going forward in the belief that humans will find ways to ensure their collective survival on this planet. Where do we begin?

American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World

In his book "American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World," American historian David Stannard estimates that approximately 95 percent of indigenous Americans died after the beginning of European settler colonialism. “The destruction of the Indians of the Americas was, far and away, the most massive act of genocide in the history of the world,” writes Prof. Stannard. “Within no more than a handful of generations following their first encounters with Europeans, the vast majority of the Western Hemisphere’s native peoples had been exterminated.”

Still Think White Privilege Isn’t Real? These 6 Lessons Will Erase All Doubt

by Leah R. Kyaio

The idea of white privilege showed up in my life long before I recognized it. That’s true for most of us, really.

Before any of us knows it, we’ve benefitted – or not – from the color skin we were born into. No greater gift. No greater sin. 

Then some of us become aware, before others, that something is different, that something sets us apart.

It’s hard to put your finger on it as a young child. The words are there, the thoughts, the looks, the attitudes. But our innocent minds are still being formed, can’t yet grasp what it all means.

Later, looking back, it becomes more obvious. The words we overheard, the actions we witnessed, the pain we experienced. It all begins to make sense as our lens of prejudice and privilege comes into focus.

That was my experience.

You see, I look white. By society’s perspective, I am white. It’s true that I am half white; my father was a white man. But I am also half Native American; my mother was a Native woman.

In the end, it’s what I look like, not what I think like.

Because of what I look like – white – I experience privilege. I experience “white-passing privilege.” I have no choice, no voice. It just is.

And once I realized it, I started to see it – everywhere.

Read full article here.....

Some people's burdens

See more work from the cartoonist, Barry Deutsch, here

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Where Is The Right on Radical Christian Extremism?

"Every time there is a terror attack perpetrated by a Muslim, Americans (especially on the right) decry the alleged silence of moderate Muslim voices. "Moderate Muslims should speak out against this kind of thing," they whine.

"First of all, they do. Every. Single. Time."

Read more here.....

Peacock -- what a spectacular bird!

Intifada or Not: Occupation Remains Intact?

Dr. Hatem Bazian -- October 21st, 2015

News outlets are on an overdrive asking the question whether this is the 3rd Intifada we are witnessing in Palestine or something else.  Immediately, the comparisons with the 1st or 2nd Intifada took center stage with a heavy focus on fear, and the psychological condition of the Israeli society that is facing again “random” acts of Palestinian violence.  Commentators spent the time on how intense the fear experienced by individual Israelis having to face the possibility of a Palestinian knife or the anxiety of being run over by a car.  The fear is real and would not pretend that it is not the case for any individual or group, but what was erased and structurally absent from the coverage, are the feelings and the daily horror Palestinians face before, during, and will continue, after this new violent filled period passes.  Palestinians are an occupied population for anyone who has missed the news in the past 67 years.

Let us break it down simply to Israelis and their supporters:  you cannot expect to occupy and dehumanize a whole people for over 67 years by dispossessing and expelling a whole population without consequences or response.   Have you thought of the response when building and expanding settlements, demolishing homes, cutting trees, stealing water, and building walls?  

Occupation is the highest form of violence, for it is committed against each and every individual, 24/7, year-round.  Occupation eats up the insides of each and every Palestinian and acts like the alien that is seeping into the bloodstream and working to destroy hope and aspiration of the young, the old, the sick, and the well alike.

The 3rd Intifada dates back to the first one back in 1876, when Palestinians understood the meaning of Zionist colonization effort, and the western powers that incubated it from the beginning.   The treacheries committed against the Palestinian people are legendary and have made for careers and diplomatic posts in far and near places.   But the people continue to resist and aspire for freedom, dignity, and justice, which will come sooner or later no matter the walls or impediments. 

You see, Palestinians have the misfortune of knowing the name of every US Secretary of State all the way back to President Wilson’s administration, and up to the current one serving under Obama.  All without exception are sent to Palestine to try to work on a “peace process”.  However, one must understand that the proposals are intended to bestow upon Israel an “Iron Wall” security structure at the expense of the occupied and dispossessed Palestinians.  Whenever one of these otherwise intelligent secretaries of state arrives in the region, it is a sure sign that Palestinians will end up losing something, either directly or indirectly.  

Lo and behold, US Secretary of State John Kerry will be arriving to the region and my recommendations for the Palestinians is to immediately head toward the exits.  Let us be assured that Kerry has no power or leverage to make Israel do anything different than what Netanyahu wants and has decided with his cabinet.  For anyone with an ounce of intelligence would have to know that Kerry could not even persuade Israel to freeze settlement expansion for a few months despite the US being the sugar daddy for the spoiled Zionist State.  Netanyahu has more influence and power in DC than President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry for he could count of a solid majority in both the Senate and House. What will Kerry do when he visits Palestine?  

I am sure that Kerry will pressure Abbas to crack down and stop the Palestinian violence.  I am sure that he will inform Abbas of his responsibilities and obligations under Oslo and the need to protect the settlers and the occupying power.  I am sure that he will share with Abbas some Israeli and American intelligence of conversations by some PA members, or even Abu Mazen himself, that implicates them for looking the other way during the protests: thus, are to be held responsible by their employer and funders, the US and Israel.  I am sure that Abbas and PA will go through high-level security briefing about the threats and loss of power if this resistance persists.  I am sure that Abbas and PA will be threatened (assuming it is still needed) of a loss of privileges and pending lucrative contracts.

What John Kerry will carry will be the long and torturous American diplomatic stick, and it will be used once again to put the Palestinians back in their place: an occupied population assigned the humiliation of remaining responsible to protect and defend their occupier while being tormented daily by its power.  Kerry will arrive to rescue Israel once more by preventing any alternatives to the existing framework of the occupier, determining the methods by which the occupied is to be punished for refusing to cooperate in its own erasure.  Intifada or not, Israel’s occupation remains intact and John Kerry is coming to rescue the occupier and blame the occupied for resisting.  The sooner the Palestinians understand this reality about American diplomacy, the better it will be for bringing change to Palestine. 

Hatem Bazian, PhD is co-editor and founder of the Islamophobia Studies Journal and director of the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project, and a senior lecturer in the Departments of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at University of California, Berkeley.

Some of my comments on the movie "Boulevard"

by S N Smith -- Oct 21st, 2014

"The central message of the movie is the sad consequences of living one's life as a lie and not being true to oneself or to those around you."

Today I watched the 2014 movie "Boulevard" starring Robin Williams in his final on-screen role before his tragic passing. Williams stars as a moderately successful banker, Nolan Mack, who has worked at the same bank for 26 years. His marriage to his wife Joy (Kather Baker) is one of convenience which acts as a distraction from the lie he has been living since he was 12 years old. Nolan and Joy live in the same house but essentially lead separate lives. They don't even sleep in the same bed even though they generally get along with one another. 

In the movie Nolan is now 60 and has to confront the truth about himself that he has not revealed to anyone in the past 48 years. He sees his time slipping away and he feels compelled to confront his secret. The way he goes about doing this is not always the wisest course of action and he hurts himself and others along the way, but it is essential if he is to gain redemption.

I will not ruin the plot for you as the suspense is part of the appeal of the movie but, at least for me, the central message of the movie is the sad consequences of living one's life as a lie and not being true to oneself or to those around you. After watching this movie one is left with a sense that one's life is wasted and sad if lived with a lack of authenticity and the chances of embracing one's real truth is not always an easy path to take.

Fair Vote Canada: Trudeau must fix the voting system

For immediate release -- Sept 20, 2015

After an election in which 9,093,630 (51.8%) votes went nowhere, Justin Trudeau has a golden opportunity to bring a more democratic voting system to Canada.

Liberals won a majority with 39.5% of the popular vote and more than half of all voters were unable to cast an effective ballot. They now will wait another four years to have the opportunity to elect a representative aligned with their values – or not.

Fair Vote Canada’s Executive Director declares “Given the distortion of the popular vote, Trudeau must ensure Canadians will have equal and effective votes in future elections. Never again should we face a one-party, one-man government elected by a minority of voters. We urge you to work with all Parties and enact voting rules for a true and modern representative democracy in time for the next election.” 

Canadians voted for change. This election was a referendum on the last false-majority government. They coalesced their votes around a promise to end first-past-the-post voting and an opportunity to have a truly democratic voting system that will make all our votes count — only proportional representation can deliver on that promise.

“We urge you, as a top priority for the new government, to establish right away a multi-partisan task force bringing together pro-reform citizens and experts. We are calling on you to design a voting system for Canada in which every ballot delivers equal representation, and trust that this process will not seize on a quick fix that favours only centrist parties”, says Jennifer Ross, FVC Caucus Chair for Liberals for Fair Voting.

In total, 51.8% per cent of Canadian voters cast votes for losing candidates – with the riding of Pierre-Boucher-Les Patriotes-Verchères casting the most ineffective votes: 71.3% ( A system of proportional representation could reduce that number to as low as 5 per cent.

All parties are hurt by the outcome of Winner-Take-All elections.

Across the Country:

93.88 % of Green Party Voters couldn’t elect a representative
76.78% of Bloc Voters couldn’t elect a representative
74.5% of NDP voters couldn’t elect a representative
50.98 % of Conservative Voters couldn’t elect a representative
And, 33.49% of Liberal Voters couldn’t elect a representative

Under a Proportional system the seat count would be:
Lib-135, Con-109, NDP-68, GPC-11, Bloc-15

Last month, over 500 Canadian academics, including several Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada, 29 Canada Research Chairs and two Professors with the Order of Canada, called on all political parties to work together to bring in a proportional electoral system.

Fair Vote Canada and its supporters are asking Justin Trudeau to be brave. We are asking him to lead and put the country and its citizens before his Party and build a representative democracy where all Canadians have the opportunity to equally participate in the governance and policy making of our country. We hope he will seize this opportunity to build a country where every citizen is heard, where diversity is respected, and where representatives of a popular majority rule — a democratic country. A country that we can all proudly call Canada.

Fair Vote Canada is a multi-partisan, citizen’s campaign representing of 62,000 Canadians advocating for voting system reform. FVC promotes an introduction of an element of proportional representation in elections at all levels of government and in civil society.