Archive for the ‘human-rights’ Tag

HOW WE TREAT NEW IMMIGRANTS DEFINES US   Leave a comment

By Jim Taylor – Sunday March 5, 2017

During the depth of winter, when snow lay deep on the ground and arctic winds sucked warmth from bare skin, small groups of people from countries where snow is as unknown as poutine struggled across the world’s longest undefended border into Canada.

Illegally, of course.
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Night after night, TV news showed video of these asylum seekers. Stumbling through snowdrifts, burdened by baby strollers or car seats. Dragging plastic suitcases. Huddled at a roadside, too numbed by bitter cold to go any farther.

They were greeted by police officers. Who led them gently to a warm car. Who helped carry their children. Who delivered them to a border immigration station, where kindly officials helped them fill out their applications to stay in Canada.

This is the Canada we imagine it to be. Compassionate. Decent. Hospitable.

NOT SO WELCOMING
But at the same time, there’s another side. A recent Angus Reid poll found that 25 per cent of Canadians want to impose travel restrictions; over 40 per cent feel we’re being overrun by too many refugees.

As Scott Gilmore wrote in Macleans magazine, “As of last month, Canada has accepted 40,081 Syrian refugees. That’s one refugee for every 857 Canadians.”

Let’s put that statistic another way. Kelowna’s largest arena holds around 6,800 people for a hockey game. Would eight Syrian refugees — yes, just eight — somehow subvert the local culture?

But political parties still foment fears of being overrun. Leadership hopefuls want to grill immigrants to make sure their “values” (whatever that means) won’t conflict with ours (whatever they are).

There are also legitimate concerns. Such as that it’s not fair for some refugees to get a free pass into Canada, while others wait for years in refugee camps.

LEGAL COMPLICATIONS
For the last 15 years, too, Canada and the U.S. have shared a legal agreement to treat each other as a “safe” countries. Essentially, that means we trust the other country’s justice systems to process asylum claims fairly. Refugee claimants must request protection in the first “safe” country they reach. So if they come to Canada through the U.S., we should return them to the U.S. for processing.

So far, the U.S. is the only country considered “safe.” But what happens when a new administration’s xenophobia makes the country no longer feel “safe”?

It’s not as if all of these border-crossers are helpless indigents. Some take taxis to the nearest border point. A few admit coming a long and expensive route: from the Middle East or Asia to South America, up through Central America and the U.S. to the Canadian border.

Legally, we should send them back. But turning away a family with shivering youngsters just doesn’t feel like us.

Gilmore again: “There is nothing we can do to stop asylum seekers from walking into Canada, Samsonite in hand. We aren’t building a wall, or even a fence. Our armed forces don’t even have enough drones to take a group selfie on the parade ground, let alone patrol over 8,000 kilometres of frontier.”

ESSENTIAL DISCONTINUITY
There are no simple answers. Because there is a discontinuity between micro and macro perspectives. You cannot always extrapolate from the small scale to the larger, and vice versa.

Physicists tell me that, at the ultimate micro level, my chair isn’t really there. Neither am I. We both consist of quarks and gluons, which are not things at all but packets of energy measurable only as probabilities.
But I still need a chair to sit on.

If a shopper at the grocery cashier’s lineup can’t find a few missing coins, I will gladly give her what she needs. But I won’t extend the same privilege to every other shopper.

Macro reasoning says that we can’t just throw our borders open, take anyone who shows up, anywhere. Micro says that we can’t callously turn people away.

So what should we do about this discontinuity? Again, Gilmore offers good advice: “We can help them settle into our communities, reducing tensions with those who are less welcoming. We can find ways to help the small towns along the border who are suddenly rattled by refugee families walking over the stubble. We can publicize that crime rates among refugees are lower than among native-born Canadians.

“And we can ignore the bigoted leeches on the fringes of our political system, people cynically turning reasonable concerns into wide-eyed panic….”

Most of all, I suggest, we can make the way we welcome asylum seekers a model for the kind of country that they — and we — want to belong to.

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Copyright © 2017 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write jimt@quixotic.ca
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Game Changer ?   Leave a comment

“Please tell the world there is no such thing as a just war. I say this as a daughter of war.”

That’s a quotation from Sister Nazik Matty, an Iraqi Dominican.

IMG_0940The “Just War Theory” is apparently undergoing a review within the Roman Catholic church. With approximately 1.2 billion members worldwide, what this church decides on war and peace can have an effect on many other people.

The December, 2016 edition of Sojourners magazine has an extensive analysis of the theology of war and peace. The story, written by Rose Marie Berger, can be accessed at:

https://sojo.net/magazine/december-2016/game-changer

 

A Testament of Hope   Leave a comment

Take Responsibility

Take Responsibility

” Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his Letter from Birmingham City Jail (April, 1963)

Reflections on a violent day in Ottawa (7)   Leave a comment

Four Prime Questions about Harper’s Response to Ottawa Shooting

PM’s moves at home and abroad demand closer scrutiny.

By Murray Dobbin, November 3, 2014, TheTyee.ca

HarperFranken_600px.jpg

Cartoon by Greg Perry.

Two weeks after the senseless murder of a soldier on Parliament Hill (and another earlier in Montreal) there are several things we know and many we don’t. Obvious questions have been asked and inconvenient ones have been left aside.

We know — and indeed could predict one second after the shooting — that Stephen Harper would use it as an excuse to expand the security and surveillance state he has been constructing.

We know that the shooting was not a terrorist act, but a criminal one, regardless of what the RCMP and CSIS, eager to enhance their political role and resources, are saying. (Within an hour of the shooting an over-eager CSIS official was declaring hopefully, “this will change everything.”)

We know that the enhanced security measures and police powers will do nothing to help us understand, let alone deal with, the root causes of what the Harper government claims is an existential threat to Canada and the West (but is content to deal with symptoms).

We know that there will be no additional resources from governments to deal with mental illness as Mr. Harper plans to cut billions from medicare. There will be no revisiting of the issue of gun registration in spite of its obvious importance in dealing with such incidents. And there will be no effort on the part of our Christian fundamentalist PM to counter the anti-Muslim backlash he knows he is contributing to by hyping the terrorist threat.

The bigger questions remain to be asked and so they won’t likely be answered. They include:

1. What freedoms must we now erode and why? Mr. Harper, who eagerly adheres to the (simplistic) idea that jihadists “hate our freedoms,” might reasonably be asked to explain why he is so eager to destroy those freedoms in response to the jihadists’ “war” against the West. Isn’t that exactly what they want — or does Harper want to rid us of freedoms so the jihadists won’t hate us so much? Wouldn’t a genuine response be to celebrate and enhance our freedoms even more (perhaps by ending the auditing of groups critical of the government)?

2. What is producing Canada’s homegrown jihadists? This is another question the government seems decidedly uninterested in: what is it about our Western societies — supposedly the model for the entire world, morally, culturally and socially superior — that alienates some young people so much that they can suddenly decide it’s all right to kill innocents and it’s worth dying for a cause so remote and alien to their lived experience that it is scarcely possible to believe they can understand it let alone truly embrace it? Could it possibly have anything to do with 35 years of neoliberal assault on community and consumer capitalism’s failure to provide meaning to their lives beyond purchasing the next electronic gadget?

3. What is the most effective response to Islamists? Yet one more question not being asked is what would a rational, enlightened (we are enlightened, right?), effective response to so-called “radical” Islam look like? The “this changes everything” gang certainly don’t intend to change Canada’s foreign policy or recommend a change to its allies. Yet it is key to any long-term solution.

There are countless experts and historians who are eager to address the issue. And we know what they would say about Stephen Harper’s efforts to transform Canada from a moderate, middle power with a history of virtually inventing UN peacekeeping, into a shrill, warmongering nation ever ready to rattle its (insignificant) sabre at any opportunity.

The fact that these two unconnected killings were not terrorist acts doesn’t mean such acts cannot or will not happen. And while Mr. Harper puts on his warrior’s armour and militarizes the government’s response, he ignores the impact of his reckless Middle East foreign policy on escalating such threats. Canada’s ham-handed policies actually do put us at risk.

According to a report in the National Post, on Sept. 21, ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani “urged ISIS supporters to kill Canadians, Americans, Australians, French and other Europeans…. Rely upon Allah…. Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s verdict.”

This threat is clearly connected directly to Canada’s policies and its determination to join the war against ISIS. Harper, in what has become his standard adolescent response to events in the Middle East, bravely declared he would not be “cowed by threats while innocent children, women, men and religious minorities live in fear of these terrorists.” Yet Canada’s contribution is laughably minuscule — but just big enough, perhaps, to put us at risk of a future attack. And all, as usual, for domestic political consumption as evidenced by the total inability of the government to explain its mission.

To their credit the opposition parties in Parliament, the NDP and the Liberals, voted against the ISIS mission for most of the right reasons: what exactly was the mission, what were the government’s expectations, how was success being defined, what Canadian interests are being served and why six months? Not one of these questions was answered and instead the questioners were treated to the usual contempt from the prime minister.

4. Can we learn from how we got here? We are supposed to learn as children that actions have consequences so I suppose we are left to conclude that current leaders of the Anglo-industrialized countries (in particular) were badly neglected by their parents. A catastrophic failure of imagination on the part of the West has led us to this point. It’s worth tracing back to its origins. The first failure belonged to Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, and the key architect of the mujahedeen war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Before the U.S. began arming, financing and training the original handful of religious zealots opposed to the godless Soviets, they were a threat to no one.

In an interview that appeared in 1998, Brzezinski revealed his impoverished imagination when asked if he regretted creating Islamic terrorists: “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

ISIS would not exist had the U.S. not created its predecessors. And this failure of imagination is replicated year after year in the White House, in the Strangelovian world of NATO and now in Ottawa. Imperial hubris, wilful ignorance, political opportunism and sheer incompetence still determine Middle East policy. Harper enthusiastically bombed Libya, with the unintended but predictable consequence of handing over thousands of tonnes of sophisticated weapons to another branch of radical Islamists. He gives Israel absolute carte blanche in its savaging of Palestinians, alienating even moderate Arabs throughout the region, and now he pointlessly tweaks the tail of the ISIS tiger.

His every act in the name of Canada creates more jihadists. We are just lucky that an attack on Canada initiated by ISIS is extremely unlikely.  [Tyee]

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Reflections on a violent day in Ottawa (3)   Leave a comment

DISTORTED STATISTICS FOMENT HATRED

By Jim Taylor – Sunday October 26, 2014

Wednesday morning, a man with a gun killed a soldier on ceremonial duty at the national cenotaph in Ottawa. Minutes later, the man ran into the parliament buildings. Where, in a flurry of gunshots, he died. A recording by a Globe and Mail reporter caught the gunfire. It was over in seconds. But the sounds echoed through parliament’s old stone hallways much longer.

Echoes do that.

A thunderclap actually lasts only as long as the lightning flash; the echoes rumble around the hills for minutes. Echoes reverberate even longer in memory. Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is, basically, an echo that refuses to fade away.

Listening to eight hours of news coverage from Ottawa, I felt that I was hearing more echoes than insight.
Apparently no one saw it coming. Not CSIS, the Canadian security Intelligence Service. Not the police. Not the government.

The government had planned to introduce new anti-terrorist legislation in parliament that same day.
CSIS told a parliamentary committee that it had some 130 “radicalized” young men under surveillance, including the driver who ran down two armed forces personnel on Monday in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. But it lacked funds to track every potential terrorist.

Echoes… after the act….

VENOMOUS E-MAIL
By some coincidence, the day before the Ottawa attack, I received an e-mail that seemed to anticipate events. It listed 16 violent acts, from the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in 1968, through both bombings of the World Trade Centre, to the bombing at the Boston Marathon last year. All committed by Muslim males.

I suspect that e-mail had circulated on the Internet for some time, because it didn’t include the ritual beheadings in Iraq.

The unidentified writer — like the assassins in the desert, such persons prefer to hide behind the balaclava of anonymity – thought his litany justified racial profiling. To solve the problem; go after young male Muslims.
Statistics can be so easily distorted to suit one’s own prejudices.

One could equally argue that 80 per cent of all U.S. murders, about 12,000 a year, are committed by Christians. That 100 per cent of institutional torture in the U.S. was done by federal employees. That most U.S. neonaticides – killing or abandoning babies during their first 24 hours after birth – come from mothers under the age of 25.

Would those statistics justify surveillance of all Christians? Monitoring all federal employees? Banning pregnancies in women under 25?

The writer of the anti-Muslim e-mail also chose not to mention 190 incidents of violence during the 1990s by right-wing militias like Timothy McVeigh’s. Or that lynch mobs such as the Ku Klux Klan were 100 per cent non-Muslim.

Because that wouldn’t suit his biases.

Essentially, the e-mail invited security services to treat young Muslim males the way many U.S. police forces have treated young black males. And we know how well that has worked to reduce tensions. Even President Obama has told of experiencing harassment simply because he was black and male.

THUGS WHO SHOOT EACH OTHER
I am very much afraid that anti-Muslim sentiments will flourish in the aftermath of last week’s attacks. Both men were described as recent converts to Islam, and therefore suspect. I think Crawford Killian described them more accurately, in The Tyee, as “nutcases, choosing Islam as a flag of convenience for their internal demons…alienated for whatever reason from their society, with no more political significance than the thugs who shoot each other for control of the B.C. drug trade.”

Indeed, these deaths appear to be just as targeted as gangland killings. The St-Jean-sur-Richelieu driver waited two hours for his victims to come out. The Ottawa gunman picked a reservist at a symbolic site, the War Memorial.

Perhaps there’s a reason soldiers were picked. As international journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote, “If you want to be a country that spends more than a decade proclaiming itself at war and bringing violence to others, then you should expect that violence will sometimes be directed at you as well.”

I’m afraid Stephen Harper will toughen his proposed anti-terrorist legislation to permit, even encourage, intelligence forces to set up databases and sting operations to trap “radicalized” Muslims. Police will start shooting Muslims on sight, as they have young blacks. CSIS agents will lurk in grocery stores to observe who buys Halal foods – an actual suggestion from a “radicalization” conference a few years ago.

And we, the citizens of Canada, will find ourselves giving up more and more of our rights and freedoms – of speech, of religion, of movement – as we chase the U.S. into the Homeland Security quagmire.

As Green party leader Elizabeth May wrote, while still locked-down in the parliament buildings, “We must ensure that this appalling act of violence is not used to justify a disproportionate response. … These kinds of events open the door to a loss of democracy. … Once we surrender rights it is very difficult to restore them.”
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Copyright © 2014 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write jimt@quixotic.ca
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Reflections on a violent day in Ottawa   Leave a comment

 The following post was created by Matthew Behrens, a freelance writer and social justice advocate who co-ordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. He has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. ‘national security’ profiling for many years.

Photo: Ashwin Kumar/flickr

I often find it hard to feel empathy for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. But when I saw the grim picture of him talking on the phone following the end of his confinement in the locked down House of Commons yesterday, I sensed in him a vulnerability he rarely exhibits. Harper, like his fellow MPs, Parliamentary staff, media, visitors and children in the downstairs daycare, had likely hunkered down behind locked doors, no doubt traumatized by uncertainty when an armed gunman entered the building. Because no one knew who the gunman was after, all were potential targets. For half a day, everyone on lockdown no doubt felt the fear, despair, sadness and fragile sense of mortality that people in Iraq and Syria have experienced daily for decades, an extra punch of which they will soon receive at the hands of Canadian CF-18 bombers.

It’s the kind of trauma not to be wished upon anyone, and I hope all affected will get the kind of counselling and therapeutic support necessary to deal with what may emerge as multiple cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), otherwise known as the condition that you get denied proper treatment for when you are a returning Canadian military veteran.

 

The full column concludes with these words:

By day’s end, Harper addressed the nation, his discourse unchanged from the bellicose rumblings of last week as he rammed through a Parliamentary vote to bomb Iraq and Syria: “Canada will never be intimidated…redouble our efforts…savagery…no safe haven…”

After a long day focused on these gripping events in the nation’s capital, I have to wonder if this direct experience of fear and trauma will force us to examine our own addiction to violence as the solution to conflict. Yesterday provides us with an opportunity to reflect on our insidious contribution to the climate of hate, and the chance to disengage from our increasingly militarized culture.

 

It can be accessed at: http://rabble.ca/columnists/2014/10/reflections-on-violent-day-ottawa

Water for people in Detroit   Leave a comment

Emma Lui tells her story of bringing water to people in Detroit

NaEmma Lui and Maude Barlowtional Water Campaigner Emma Lui joined Maude Barlow and members of the Windsor chapter of the Council of Canadians to bring 1,000 litres of water – in an act of solidarity – across the Canada-U.S. border into Detroit where thousands of people have had their water shut off. The Council’s Blue Planet Project has been working with several U.S.-based groups to draw international attention to the ongoing violations to the human right to water that are happening in the city.

Read Emma’s story about the water convoy. It is a story that will warm your heart.

http://www.canadians.org/blog/my-trip-canadian-water-convoy-detroit-0