21 November 2015

Space and Time (and Fate)

Lest Carly Simon write a song about me, let me first say that I already know that this whole thing is NOT about me. Very aware of that.

As it happens, I was in Paris a week before the recent attacks and ate at a restaurant with friends just down the street from one of the attacks. In fact, we finished dinner and walked right past the café Cosa Nostra at about the same time as the attack took place, but we were there a week earlier.

Just something to mull over in my head.

28 October 2015


There is something deeply dissatisfying about the results of our federal election last week. Oh, it isn’t that after more than two months of plugging away at my 78 Tory Wrongs series I suddenly fell silent. It also isn’t that the party I wanted to win didn’t, and actually lost ground.

No, the thing that frustrated me the most is the manner in which our almost-former Prime Minister vacated the stage. He stood up on election night and delivered his final address to his supporters in the room in Calgary and to the country via the live TV coverage, but he didn’t say that thing many of us were waiting to hear. He didn’t announce his resignation, but instead sent that in a letter to a Conservative Party official. A whimper if there ever was one.

At least (grasping for straws) the Conservatives just missed out on triple digit representation, with just 99 MPs elected.

Now I’m not so petty as to have only that reaction to the election results. I still have a healthy skepticism about the progressiveness of the Liberal Party, which has a lot of historical baggage to overcome, including a fair amount of running as progressives and governing from the right, but I am willing to give them a chance to follow through in their promises, or at least the ones I feel okay about. After all, anyone would look left wing next to Darth Vader and a pack of parroting storm troopers, right?

I will admit that I am rather disappointed in the outcome in Québec, with more Tories and more Bloc MPs elected, largely on a wave of intolerance on the issue of the niqab. Not since Bernard Landry made his famous remark about the federal branding on everything to which it had contributed — « les petits bouts de chiffon rouge » — has a small piece of cloth that is relatively rare to find covering an actual face had such political repercussions. It was probably a smaller vote shift than it might have been a couple of weeks earlier, but that plus the fact that so many of the races were three- or four-way contests led to the defeat of a number of those Orange Wave NDP MPs from 2011.

So what about the NDP? Yes, going from 103 seats in 2011 to 44 in 2015 is quite a blow. I would point out a couple of things about that 44 number (neither of them having anything to do with Chinese superstitions about the number 4). First, that’s ten more seats than the Liberals had after the 2011 election. Second, that’s the second best result ever for the NDP. Little consolation, I know, but let me add the fact that the NDP candidates in Québec won in 16 ridings and came second in 32 ridings, third in 29 ridings and fourth only in one, while the first, second, third and fourth numbers for the Conservatives were 12, 5, 11 and 50 and for the Bloc were 10, 11, 30 and 25. The Bloc also came fifth in two ridings. Not bad for a party that had only one MP from Québec before 2011.

And here comes that schadenfreude again — the Conservative candidate in my riding barely squeaked into fourth place with a whopping 4.1% of the vote.

18 October 2015

#78 Welcome Back, Felon

How did this guy get back into the country? Was it some kind of secret approval by our law and order government?

You might remember the little spat between Conrad Black and Jean Chretien. Mr. Black wanted very much to take a title in Britain, something that Canadian law has not permitted for quite some time (since 1919). To become Lord Black of Crossharbour, he renounced his Canadian citizenship, moved to England and took up his title and a seat in the House of Lords.

In the meantime, things were happening in his business life that would bite him right in the…US. He was charged with a number of counts of fraud and with obstruction of justice. These charges and the sentences related to them were reduced on appeal and he eventually served 37 months in prison in the US for one count of fraud and one of obstruction of justice. Upon his release, he was deported from the US and cannot return there for 30 years.

He returned to Toronto, where he had lived before, and I am wondering just how that might have happened. We have a federal government that gleefully deports people who are not citizens who are found guilty of criminal offences, even when those people have lived in Canada for most of their lives and have little connection to the country of their citizenship. They now do the same for anyone who has refugee status and who commits a crime while in Canada. Believe me, they would have difficulty re-entering the country.

Not so Lord Black of Crossharbour? He has been stripped of his membership in the Order of Canada and the Privy Council because of his criminal conviction, has renounced his Canadian citizenship, but seems to be living long term in Toronto.

Tough on crime indeed.

Let’s be clear that I don’t think Conrad Black is a danger to Canadian society (well…not that way, anyway…and his experiences seem to have helped him develop some very pertinent insight into the justice system that more people should listen to). I do, however, think there is a glaringly obvious double standard when someone who has renounced his citizenship and served time for a felony abroad seems to be able to come back without question while we are spouting zero tolerance and deporting permanent residents for smaller crimes.

Let’s also note that the non-citizen in question seems to have endorsed the leader of the Liberal Party, telling his old Bay Street buddies that they have nothing to fear from Justin Trudeau. Not sure if I would be welcoming that vote of confidence if I considered myself a “progressive” party.

Further reading here and here

Very tough on crime
but the enemy of our
enemy is home

17 October 2015

#77 “Queue-jumping” for Their Lives

The substantive things that the outgoing federal government has been doing to attack the rights of refugee claimants who somehow make it to Canada (we’re a little far for thousands arriving on boats) pale in comparison to the tactics used to try to turn Canadians against these people.

“Illegal” “Queue-jumpers” “Bogus refugee claimants” are just some of the terms that have come out of the mouths of government ministers, including Ministers of Immigration. If you think about how the government will clam up when one of its own is accused of fraud or influence peddling (the issue is “before the courts”), you have to wonder how it can be that a Minister of Immigration and Citizenship can describe people whose cases are waiting to be heard by the Immigration and Refugee Board can be described in such terms.

It’s all a part of the political game that tries to stir up fear of the other to unify those who feel afraid of differences. The queue-jumping accusation is meant to appeal to people who might be immigrants who are waiting for family members to be able to join them here. It’s clever, really, to be able to play the “stranger among us” card to people who may have arrived here relatively recently. It strikes me as not very credible that a process that unfolds here with a very specific system of hearings has anything to do with the giant backlog of applications for family reunification from around the world.

I guess the only way to really get in first and not be demonized is to buy your way in as an “entrepreneur” class immigrant. That sounds fair.

Further reading here

If I call you names
I can distract from my own
incompetence, right?

16 October 2015

#76 Safer Persecution

A couple of days ago, this list referred to the abbreviated process for refugees from “Designated Countries of Origin”, also know as the “Safe Countries List”. The courts have ruled that differential procedural fairness to be unfair, as we saw then.

But what are these safe countries and why might they produce any legitimate refugee claimants? Let’s pick out a couple of situations and explore them a little further.

Mexico. Not only is there a lot of violence in Mexico, an ongoing was between the police and drug lords, but outside of certain cities, it can be very dangerous to be a gay man or a lesbian…any sexual minority, in fact. And sometimes the officials who are supposed to be protecting you are part of the problem. Surely these cases merit hearing?

Romani people in Hungary, the Czech Republic or Romania. All three of these countries are on the safe countries list, but all of them have some serious problems with the treatment of their Romani citizens. Rampant discrimination, poor living conditions and little recourse to better their prospects because of widespread negative attitudes that are not effectively countered — and are sometimes propagated — by these countries’ governments. These, too, are worthy of hearing, I should think.

It’s all well and good to want to streamline the process and to try to “weed out” the people you think are making false claims, but you really can’t do that without listening to their stories.

Further reading here and here

We don’t believe you
because of our own story
about your country

15 October 2015

#75 Some Citizens Are More Equal

Let’s see if you can guess from its name what the “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act” does. If you guessed “weakens Canadian citizenship for those judged unworthy", you’d be right!

This clever ruse by the outgoing government is going to have its judicial test sometime soon, but not before the election. The move to strip one young man who was born in Canada and then did something that he himself describes now as having been stupid has come conveniently near the end of the election campaign, after the government has whipped up a lot of fear of “those people”, however you might want to define that.

Whether or not the law withstands the coming Charter challenge, you would have to say that its application in the current case is a bit of a stretch. This young man’s parents immigrated from Pakistan more than three decades ago. In order to become Canadian citizens, they were obliged to renounce their Pakistani citizenship, as that country did not allow dual citizenship at the time. Their son, now convicted of participating in the “Toronto 18” plot and sentenced to eighteen years in prison, was born and raised in Canada.

The federal authorities seem to have decided that he has access to Pakistani citizenship because Pakistan has changed its laws on dual citizens and now permits the practice. There is no suggestion in any of the reports I have seen that his parents have, or that he has, sought to gain this supposedly accessible Pakistani citizenship. Just someone’s interpretation that it is available, so he can be stripped of his Canadian citizenship.

And before we all jump to the conclusion that this is another “old stock” / “new stock” problem, let’s just point out that a Canadian born in Canada without dual citizenship who dares to marry a foreigner and thereby gains the possibility of a second citizenship should watch his or her back. (Old Stock, stick to your own, I guess.)

I’m waiting for them to try to deport a first nations person married to a former foreigner — that would be the ultimate in political colonial theatre, no?

Further reading here and here

Our theory is that
you could go elsewhere, so we
will make you do it

14 October 2015

#74 Due Process Lite

The outgoing government must be getting a little tired of this whole “constitution” thing. Unconstitutional this, overbroad that…will it never end? Not even defunding the Court Challenges Program brought it to a stop.

The Tories have tried for quite some time to demonize refugees as “queue jumpers “ (more about that later), but they tried to “streamline” the rejection process — er, the adjudication process — by depriving some refugee claimants of the right to appeal. Needless to say, the two classes of refugee claimants thing, each with a different level of procedural rights, didn’t go over very well in the courts.

So those darned “activist” judges gave back a right of appeal to people claiming refugee status from countries the government and the partisan-appointed adjudicators consider to be safe. Foiled again!

Further reading here

Surprise! You can’t take
all the rights to appeal from
a class of people