Friday, June 30, 2006

Birthday Bash for Bush

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be in Washington Thursday, July 6th, which coincides with George W. Bush’s birthday. Join Maude Barlow and the Council of Canadians at a birthday bash for George Bush in front of the PMO, where we'll ask Stephen Harper to limit his generosity to a card and good wishes.

Our government has already handed Bush our troops for use in his "war on terror." We signed away our right to energy security in NAFTA. Harper’s letting Bush keep $1-billion worth of the lumber tariffs the U.S. government took from us illegally. And Bush knows he need only ask before we hand over our fresh water, too.

The Council of Canadians fears that Harper will further compromise Canadian sovereignty in areas of foreign policy, trade and security, and we hope to raise awareness about how much the Prime Minister has sacrificed without public consent during his short reign.
Show Harper you can be a good neighbour without giving it all away.

What: A birthday party for Dubya (free cake and loot bags!)
Where: Outside the PMO, in front of the NCC Info Centre at Wellington and Metcalfe
When: Thursday, July 6, noon to 1 p.m. (bring sunscreen, noisemakers and a party hat!)
Why: Because we can, because it’s fun, and because we’re sick of giving pieces of Canada away
Who: Come one, come all. This is a Council of Canadians party and everyone’s invited!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

When the government becomes a spy

Hello everyone,

I hope you'll forgive me for my infrequent postings. With the media speculating about another possible election some time in the fall, I suspect that this blog will heat up again soon.

But here is my latest column for Cap X -- focusing on the government's proposal to tap people's phones without their knowledge or permission. Scary stuff. The article is directed to a gay audience, but the issues that I touch on should be chilling to anyone, if I do say so myself.

You also might be interested in reading Matthew Behrens' reflections on his experiences travelling with Camp Hope. As I mention in my column, it was truly inspiring to hear him speak about his experiences as an activist on the security certificates issue.

And on a completely different issue, I was thrilled to find out that a youth-run grassroots coalition has sprung up, to fight the Tories' regressive age of consent legislation (actually they're calling it the "age of protection" now). You can find the coalition's website here.

Oh, and the new issue of This Magazine (which just hit the stands and is not online yet), features an excellent cover story about how Harper's mandatory minimum sentencing proposal would lead to growth of private prisons in Canada. And if you want to know why this is a very, very bad thing, check out this article from Mother Jones magazine written in 2000.

And despite all of this troubling news, I hope you are able to have some fun this long weekend.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Supreme Court 9-5 all this week ... be there

For those of you in Ottawa ...

The participants from the Caravan of Hope -- the people who travelled from Toronto to Ottawa to protest against security certificates -- will be holding demonstrations and vigils on the lawn of the Supreme Court of Canada, all of this week, from 9 am to 5 pm. I had the pleasure of hearing an impassioned speech by Matthew Behrens, one of the organizers of the Campaign to End Security Certificates. I also got to meet Sophie Harkat, who has cause for celebration today, because her husband has just been released on bail after over 3 years in prison. He still doesn't have access to the charges or evidence being used against him. Neither do the other members of the Secret Trial Five.

If you can drop by any time between 9 and 5 from Tuesday to Friday this week, the demonstrators would appreciate your support (address is 301 Wellington St.).

Also, the organizers are looking for volunteers to provide child care:

We are trying to line up some on-site childcare for the Jaballah and Mahjoub children on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this in Ottawa. The families will be in town to attend the Supreme Court hearings of the constitutionality of security certificates (security certificates on trial!). Childcare would involve taking a shift of four hours, between 9am and 1pm or 1 and 5pm, on any of the days and remaining with the children on the lawn of the Supreme Court building with the vigil. There are four kids: Ali, Osama, Ibrahim and Yusef, all between 8 and 10. Also Afnan, Ali and Osama's older sister, about 13, who can help look after them as well. Their mothers and older brothers will be there as well, but the childcare would allow their moms the freedom to do other stuff, as they will be busy with media and may want to go into the court. The lawn is a big open space, so lots of place for games! It might be necessary, if it is raining, to bring them back to the hotel or to the nearby Bronson centre.

Contact Mary Foster at, if you are willing/able to provide child care.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Don't panic -- injustice will not make you any safer

I wrote this column for Capital Xtra before this week's arrests of 17 people for supposedly planning to bomb federal buildings and behead the Prime Minister.

Now, I would never defend the actions of people who would resort to horrific violence, but I think we should all heed this warning from the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War -- don't panic. Take a deep breath, and remember that the suspects involved are to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Remember that many of those charged are young teenagers who may have been swayed by one charismatic leader. Their comments, posted on blogs, could be interpreted as little more than teenage frustration at the state of the world. The Globe and Mail reported this morning that the RCMP was careful to contact the media about the arrests before the suspects were arraigned so the media could have a field day, sans publication ban. And they are certainly winning the Propaganda War. If you've been reading the Globe and Mail, you'd think that we should be all be preparing for the apocalypse by stocking up on canned food and hiding under our desks "duck and cover" style.

Let's not forget the last time authorities trotted out dozens of young male Arab "terrorism" suspects (in Project Thread in 2003, later dubbed "Project Threadbare"), they later released every single one of them, due to a lack of evidence. And today, the Ottawa Citizen is reporting that RCMP civilian agents (all of whom have diplomatic immunity, therefore can't be charged with any crimes) "covertly committed a range of crimes, including firearms offences, counterfeiting and the theft over $5,000..." in 2004-05. Hmmm ... shouldn't we be as concerned about state-sponsored criminals in positions of authority as we are about supposed civilian terrorists?

We should also be worried when U.S. authorities use this string of arrests as an excuse to push Canada to further integrate our security policies to join Bush's War on Terror. I mean, if the RCMP did manage to scuttle a terrorism plot, we should applaud their success as proof that our homegrown system works. Why would we screw it up by joining forces with a government that started an illegal war in Iraq based on false intelligence about weapons of mass destruction?

And let's not forget the real scourge on our society -- domestic violence. While supposed terrorism plots have so far killed zero people in Canada, between 1994 and 2003, 630 women were murdered by a spouse. According to StatsCan, causes of death included shooting stabbing, strangulation and beating. Now that's a reason to duck and cover ....

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I don't know whether to laugh or cry ...

Federal budget passes unopposed on mix-up
Last updated Jun 7 2006 07:47 AM EDT
CBC News

Even though two federal parties had promised to vote against the Conservative government's budget, it passed Tuesday without opposition because of an apparent mix-up.

When the May 2 budget came up for its third and final reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday morning, no one stood to speak. Because there were no apparent speakers, the budget was declared passed by unanimous consent with no recorded vote.

NDP MP Libby Davies told CBC News the mix-up happened because a Conservative MP who had been scheduled to speak first was not in the chamber.

In the ensuing confusion, Davies said the opposition legislators were waiting for the Tory MP to show up and speak before they stood up. They later learned that the budget had been dealt with, at least as far as the House of Commons was concerned.

At one point, the Liberal finance critic, John McCallum, stood up to debate the budget but was told it was too late and the budget had already been passed.McCallum later admitted to feeling a little sheepish. "I think it was an honest error all around. It just got through without parliamentarians realizing quite what had happened until it had happened."

CBC Radio reporter Chris Hall said none of the two dozen or so MPs in the House of Commons at the time - and that included government members - appeared to realize that the budget had just been passed.

Finance Minister jokes about 'popular' budgetFinance Minister Jim Flaherty, who wasn't even in the House when the budget was passed, seemed to be enjoying the appearance of "unanimity" for his budget.

In the afternoon question period, he thanked the opposition for supporting the government during the budget's third reading. Earlier, he joked to reporters that the budget was "even more popular than I thought.

"The Liberals and the NDP had said their members were going to vote against the budget, which cuts the GST by one percentage point as of July 1 and brings in a child-care allowance of $1,200 a year for the parents of each child under age six.But the Bloc Québécois had indicated it would support the Conservatives. So even if the NDP and Liberals had voted against it, the budget still would have passed.

Some opposition members had spoken against the budget in earlier parliamentary debates.

The budget bill now goes to the Senate a week ahead of schedule and then will go to the Governor General for royal assent.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Fighting for your right to party

Okay, I have a good excuse for staying away from the blog for so long. I just polished off my new column for Capital Xtra, which will be published this Tuesday. I will post the link as soon as it's online, along with information about the upcoming Supreme Court case challenging the constitutionality of security certificates. For those in Ottawa, there will be a bunch of people camped out on the lawn of the Supreme Court, many of whom travelled to Ottawa in an activist caravan ... more on that later this week. But in the meantime, here's the link to the folks who are organizing the demonstrations.

But the real reason why I've been so busy this week, is that I have been acting as the spokesperson for Egale Canada, opposing the age of consent legislation that the Conservatives are about to introduce. Now, I've written about this issue before - namely why I think that this legislation is a very bad idea. But this week, I was challenged to defend Egale's position in the face of some pretty heady opposition. As many of you may have heard, Vic Toews is about to introduce a law that would change the age of consent from 14 to 16. Early indications are that the law would include a 5-year close-in-age exemption (so for example, a 20 year-old sleeping with a 15 year-old wouldn't be punished). We think that this is a good thing, but we still have serious concerns about the proposed law.

Now boys -- this is where fighting for your right to party comes in. Did you know that anal sex is still an offense in the criminal code? Yes, what used to be referred to "buggery" is illegal under section 159 of the Criminal Code, unless it takes place between a man and a woman who are married to each other, or if both partners are over 18. Oh, and it must take place "in private," and only 2 people can participate.

Did you know this? Isn't it a terrifying remnant of the age when homosexuality was illegal? And doesn't it seem INSANE that the government is prepared to introduce age of consent legislation that doesn't fix the unconstitutional and discriminatory anal sex law?

So I became the poster gal for anal sex this week. I did interviews with CTV National News, a radio station in Kitchener (that was surprisingly progressive, I must say), Canadian Press, CanWest News Service, and -- my favourite -- a live one-hour call-in show on CPAC.

When I did the CPAC gig this morning, I got to debate representatives from my two favourite religious right groups -- the REAL Women of Canada, and the Focus on the Family-funded Institute of Marriage and Family Canada. I think that I was able to get the message across that the law should be applied equally, regardless of the sexual activity that folks are engaging in. And I also stressed that fact that the arbitrary criminalization of teen sex will do little to prevent predators, and will actually put youth more at risk by driving their relationships underground.

But I will be the first to admit that this is not an easy issue to debate, and that there are many people who would disagree with Egale's position. But I shudder to image a future when people in their early 20s could end up on sex offender registries for participating in consensual sexual relationships with younger teenagers.

None of us like to think about 14 year-olds having sex. But don't we owe young people the opportunity to make good choices, to access the best possible sex education, and to discuss their relationships with trusted adults, without the fear that their partners could get thrown in jail?