Category Archives: Federal Politics

Canadian families and the military shut out of the budget

The following are Joyce Murray’s thoughts on today’s federal budget;

“The Harper Government’s 2014 Budget fails Canadian families trying to make ends meet, and continues to starve our military of the equipment and support it needs,” said Joyce Murray, Liberal Critic for National Defence and Member of Parliament for Vancouver Quadra.

“The Conservative shell game fools no-one—Canadian families know they are being short-changed by this government and they expect more than a failed job creation programme and increased tariffs on necessities,” said Murray.

To pay off the debt created by the Conservative government—beginning even before the 2008 economic downturn—this budget cuts $3.1 billion from the military equipment budget. This is in addition to $7 billion in spending that had already been allowed to lapse. “That’s money announced, approved by Parliament, but not spent. That’s tens of thousands of jobs lost due to mismanagement by the Conservatives,” said Murray.

Murray added: “This government is choosing to balance the budget at the expense of injured soldiers and veterans. They have broken the covenant to support Canadian soldiers, made by Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden in 1917, ironically during this 100th anniversary of World War I. The Conservatives have closed Veterans support centres across Canada and have failed to provide adequate support for injured soldiers, particularly those suffering from mental injuries,” said Murray.

Murray also noted that, through incompetence, the Conservatives have delivered hardly any replacement military equipment since they took office. “This budget really makes swiss cheese out of the government’s so-called Defence Strategy,” said Murray.

“Every day of delay and every day of budget trickery puts members of the Canadian Armed Forces at risk,” said Murray. “Our men and women in uniform deserve better.”

FCC recognized for driving away hunger

With 10 years of food collection under its belt, Farm Credit Canada (FCC) was recognized today as a leading organization in the fight against hunger in Canada.

FCC President and CEO Greg Stewart accepted the 2013 Award of Excellence from Food Banks Canada on behalf of the more than 1,600 FCC employees and numerous community groups and businesses that have participated in FCC Drive Away Hunger over the past 10 years.

FCC Drive Away Hunger is the largest employee-led food drive in Canada. It involves driving a tractor and trailer through communities to collect food and cash donations for food banks across the country. Since 2004, FCC employees and community partners have collected over 17 million pounds of food.

“FCC Drive Away Hunger is our flagship community investment program,” Stewart said. “It demonstrates our commitment to agriculture by helping bring together our communities to share food with those who need it. FCC is honoured by this recognition. This award allows us to once again reflect on the issue of hunger and ways we can help solve it. We’re humbled by this award and are committed to the ongoing fight against hunger.”

The 2013 Award of Excellence recognizes a corporate partner of Food Banks Canada that has demonstrated long-term support of the organization and made a measurable, positive impact on the issue of hunger or food banking in Canada.

“As a long-time supporter of food banking across the country, FCC’s Drive Away Hunger program has grown to become one of the largest employee-led annual food drives in support of our network. Year after year FCC has continued to demonstrate its commitment to hunger relief. It’s exciting to see how a partnership like this has grown and strengthened over the last 10 years and we are excited about what the next 10 years will bring,” said Brian Fraser, chair of Food Banks Canada’s Board of Directors. “Food Banks Canada is proud to recognize FCC for this accomplishment.”

Justin Trudeau’s Senate Reform Action

Today, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced that:

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau

  • Effective immediately only elected Members of the House of Commons will serve as members of the Liberal Caucus.
  • Effective immediately all 32 Liberal Senators are released from their partisan responsibilities, making them Independent Senators.
  • A commitment to implement an open, transparent and public process for appointing and confirming Senators.
  • A commitment that appointed Senators will also be Independent.

“When a public institution like the Senate loses the confidence of the Canadian public, a leader must take bold steps to change it,” noted Joyce Murray, MP for Vancouver Quadra. “Today Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Caucus have done more to reform the Senate in one day, than Mr. Harper has in the past 8 years. The NDP and Conservative proposals for the senate would require opening the Canadian Constitution and seeking agreement from the Provinces, a costly and divisive distraction, and not a priority for most Canadians.”

In response to Trudeau’s comments, Prime Minister Stephen Harper replied, “I gather the change announced by the Liberal Leader today is that unelected Liberal senators will become unelected senators who happen to be Liberal.”

Harper Conservatives bury another evaluation report

Yet another report highlighting the gaps in support to military families—this time from the Department of National Defence’s Chief Review Services—has been hidden from public scrutiny, according to Joyce Murray, Liberal Critic for National Defence and Member of Parliament for Vancouver Quadra.

Joyce Murray

Joyce Murray

The report, Evaluation of Military Family Support Programs and Services, was completed in January 2013, but was suppressed until a year later when it was quietly buried in an obscure online location.

“This is yet another example of government mismanagement and lack of transparency,” said Murray. “Instead of trying to fix the very real problems facing military families—such as a lack of available childcare and difficulty accessing medical services— this government chose to bury the report and hope the problem goes away.”

In spite of the Conservative government’s claims of support for military service members and their families, DND’s own internal audit has found that “current spending does not adequately address key gaps in support to military families.” The audit also notes that the available services do not explicitly address “high need areas and/or do not address them to a depth that will effect a significant reduction in support gaps in these key areas.”

According to Murray, “Stress on families increases stress on Forces members, which is especially harmful when members themselves struggle with operations-related stress and mental injuries. When the government knows about specific problems that need to be addressed, they have a duty to act. Instead, they appear to have chosen to delay acknowledging problems and to hope they escape notice. This neglect is simply unacceptable.”

One question about Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline

I only have one question about the proposal to build the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline from the tar sands in Alberta across the province of British Columbia to the coastal community of Kitimat and that question;

Is there no market within North America for the oil products that will be created from the bitumen that they are proposing to export to the emerging Asian markets? 

And a follow up question; why the desire to ship more of our raw resources out of the country?

Justin Trudeau at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Justin Trudeau was in Vancouver today to deliver a keynote address to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference. In that speech he was clearly defining himself as the defender of the middle-class Canadian.

After his speech, Trudeau was made available to the local press for a very brief question and answer period. During that time I managed to get in one question. Have a listen…

If you are listening very closely, when he is asked about Premier Christy Clark’s rejection of the Northern Enbridge pipeline proposal, you can hear him begin to say “Alison” before smiling and saying “Christy…”

Peter Mansbridge with Justin Trudeau

On Monday, April 22nd, Peter Mansbridge, host of CBC’s “Mansbridge One on One”, asked Justin Trudeau what he would do if he were prime minister. Below is a snippet of that conversation.

Peter Mansbridge;

“Let me try to ask this as fairly as I can, because it’s only a couple of hours after something has happened that clearly was not an accident, in Boston. People have died, many people are injured. You’re the Canadian prime minister, what do you do?”

Justin Trudeau’s response;

“First thing, you offer support and sympathy and condolences and, you know, can we send down, you know, EMTs or, I mean, as we contributed after 9-11? I mean, is there any material immediate support we have we can offer? And then at the same time, you know, over the coming days, we have to look at the root causes. Now we don’t know now whether it was, you know, terrorism or a single crazy or, you know, a domestic issue or a foreign issue, I mean, all of those questions. But there is no question that this happened because there is someone who feels completely excluded, completely at war with innocents, at war with a society. I mean, yes, we need to make sure that we’re promoting security and we’re, you know, keeping our borders safe and, you know, monitoring the kinds of, you know, violent subgroups that happen around.”

To read more of the article that this is taken from, you can visit the Huffington Post.

Guest post; Should Canada bring back the death penalty?

And we are back from our short sabbatical with a guest post from our contributor William Perry. As always, I do NOT necessarily agree with our contributor, I simply add his ideas to the conversation.

Now, what are your thoughts on this rather controversial issue? Comments are welcome…keep them civil and intelligent.

From our contributor;

Luka Rocco Magnotta will most likely join [Editor’s note; Luka Rocco Magnotta has NOT been convicted of any criminal act or acts and is considered innocent until proven guilty] the ranks of convicted killers Robert Pickton, Russell Williams, Kruse Wellwood and Cameron Moffat. These individuals are arguably not reformable. Many believe they should receive a punishment fitting their heinous crimes. With every murder, more and more Canadians call for the death penalty.

The tragic and horrific death of eight-year-old Victoria ‘Tori’ Stafford has caused many Canadians to question whether Canada should reinstate the death penalty.

On May 11, a jury of nine women and three men convicted Michael Rafferty of first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping in the death of the Grade 3 student.

Tori vanished outside her school in Woodstock, Ontario in April 2009. Her remains were found three months later under piles of rocks.

According to Amnesty International’s 2011 death penalty report, death sentences were pardoned or commuted in 33 countries, compared to just 19 in 2010.

Canada abolished the death penalty for murder in 1976. The last execution in Canada was at Toronto’s Don Jail on December 11, 1962.

In the wake of Rafferty’s trial, several petitions were set up online urging the death penalty be reinstated for violent crimes against children. Outside the courtroom in London shortly after Rafferty’s verdict was handed down, motorists drove by yelling, “hang him.”

In 2010, Rafferty’s ex-girlfriend Terri-Lynne McClintic pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Tori’s death and is currently serving a life sentence. During Rafferty’s trial, McClintic described the gruesome details of Tori’s kidnapping and death and testified that she killed the young girl using a hammer.

Rafferty was formally sentenced to life in prison, with no chance of parole for 25 years. He was also sentenced to 10 years to be served concurrently for sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping.

Aubrey Harris, co-ordinator of the Canadian Amnesty International Campaign to Abolish the Death Penalty was interviewed about whether or not Canada should reinstate the death penalty:

What is your definition of capital punishment or the death penalty?

Capital punishment, also called the death penalty, is the deliberate killing of someone (execution) as part of a sentence following a judicial procedure in response to an offence under the law. This can be differentiated from extrajudicial executions, which lack a judicial process (e.g., armed forces are sometimes accused of extrajudicial executions when executing prisoners of war without trial).

Why do you think such highly-publicized cases like the Rafferty trial cause Canadians to question whether the death penalty should be reinstated? 

As with any violent description of a crime, it is quite normal for us to be angry and repulsed by the suggestion that a young person could have been treated in such a way. Public opinion polls taken at such times don’t usually ask what sort of justice system do you want to have, but whether it’s OK to execute someone convicted of a violent crime. These are really distinct questions. The distinction becomes clearer when presented with alternative punishments. Support for the death penalty plummets when given the option of life imprisonment, though death penalty proponents are unlikely to offer that when they claim to be seeking public opinion. The difference was also highlighted in the Abacus poll last year that claimed a majority support of the death penalty but also a majority of Canadians opposed to reinstatement.

There is another dimension to this question in Canada also – Canada cannot legally reinstate the death penalty without violating international law and destroying Canada’s trustworthiness for international treaties and agreements. It is also extremely unlikely that it could survive a Constitutional challenge today given that the grounds used in the Burns decision ten years ago have strengthened even more.

Today more than two thirds of the countries in the world have abandoned the death penalty in use or law. There is an international consensus that the death penalty is now a minority practice in the world with only a handful of countries regularly executing prisoners.

Overall, do you think Canadians would like to see the death penalty reinstated? Why or why not?

The result of a reinstatement of the death penalty, even if it were legally possible, would be detrimental to Canada. Foreign relations would be grossly affected by the destruction of our reputation in trustworthiness, in the giant step backwards in human rights and the cost of implementing a death penalty system would put our domestic finances in peril. The cost of the death penalty has been cited as one of the driving forces behind the gradual abolition of the death penalty in the United States.

Fortunately I don’t think it would get to this point. Not only do the legal prohibitions make it unlikely, but public opinion generally moves against the death penalty once the population becomes more informed on the facts, in particular: it is costly, does not reduce crime and there is no way to guarantee an innocent person will not be executed.

Are there cases where the death penalty would be suitable? For example, in a case where a child is the murder victim or in a case where the jury concludes that, after examining all of the evidence, they believe that without a doubt the accused is guilty of first or second degree murder?

The death penalty corrupts justice. Sacrificing human rights to obtain a sense of vengeance is no way to achieve a just society. Even for the worst of crimes, the International Criminal Court, which hears the cases of those charged with crimes such as genocide, does not have the death penalty.

There is also an argument to be made that the most violent cases are also those where the greatest care must be taken over evidence. The pressure to find ‘the killer’ is going to be heaviest on the authorities and in some cases on the jury as well to convict. This is especially the case, for example, in the United States where many positions such as District Attorney or Sherriff are elected.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases on the grounds that it is a violation of the most fundamental human rights: the right to life and the right to be free from cruel or inhumane treatment or punishment. These rights are enshrined in founding documents of the United Nations and are rights that were agreed to by all nations. Even the largest executing nations in the world acknowledge that there will be a day when they too will abolish the death penalty.

Advocates tend to argue that the death penalty acts as a deterrent for criminals yet some studies show that threat of execution is no more effective as a deterrent to murder than the punishment of life in jail. Why could that be?

Advocates making that claim have been proven wrong time and again. There have been countless studies on whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent. Nearly all come to the conclusion that the death penalty does not deter violent crime. The few that have made the claim that it does deter have all been shown to be seriously flawed. Some studies have even suggested that the death penalty may increase the rate of violent crime.

Part of the reason the death penalty does not reduce violent crime is that violent crime is not typically planned-out. The action is not a rational one and it is hard to expect that someone in the midst of irrational thinking would have the ability to stop and think rationally about consequences until after. Having the death penalty may also increase the risk of violent crime against authorities. Once a person has reason to fear being executed it is quite rational for them to do everything possible to avoid being caught.

There is a contradiction in the system when capital punishment is at play. Put simply, it is contradictory to say killing is wrong and to prove it, we are going to kill someone.

Does a death penalty sentence tend to provide more closure for families of murdered victims than a life in prison sentence?

No – there is no indication that a family actually gets “closure” through an execution.  In fact there is a growing number of organizations in the United States and around the world, of survivors of violent crime and the families of victims of violent crime, that oppose the death penalty. Murder Victims Families for Human Rights is one such organization. In some cases also, because of the mandatory appeals processes built into the death penalty system, many families feel re-traumatized during each hearing. In the end family members are subjected to watching a human being be strapped down and killed. Afterwards the public often expects them to feel healed when in fact they have gained nothing.

In examining the question of closure, psychiatrists have come to the conclusion that witnessing an execution is highly traumatic and not healing. Dr. David Spiegel studied the witnesses of several high-profile executions in recent years and concluded “the theory that execution provides ‘closure’ is a ‘naïve, unfounded, pop psychology idea’ perpetuated by politicians and the media.”

I had the privilege of meeting and hearing the testimonies of several members of Murder Victims Families for Human Rights in 2010. One of the key points they made was that for healing to really work, they needed to be able to reach out and understand from the perpetrator why they did the crime. In many cases this would not be possible with a death penalty. Others noted that they felt that having someone executed was no way to honour the life of their loved one.

What are the consequences and benefits of reinstating the death penalty back into our society? Into our legal system?

There really is no benefit to reinstating the death penalty. There will be no reduction in the rate of violent crime, costs on the justice system will skyrocket and Canada’s international reputation will be ruined.

We are bound by the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights not to reinstate the death penalty. There is no mechanism to withdraw from the protocol (unlike with the Kyoto Protocol). We would not only be violating the protocol, but also the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

What state is likely to want to sign into any agreement with Canada when we have demonstrated our word is no good on such agreements? A treaty on arctic sovereignty? Forget it. Extraditing people from other countries for crimes they committed here? Not without diplomatic assurances that the death penalty will not be applied – but what value would those diplomatic assurances be with our ruined reputation for agreements? Trade agreements with European Union countries? Still no good.

Pleas with other countries not to execute Canadian citizens? On what grounds if we have decided that our government can have the ability to execute their citizens?

Should the debate regarding reinstating the death penalty be reopened? Should Canadians even care about this debate?

The death penalty cannot be reinstated in Canada. One day people will look back on the question of the death penalty the same way today we look back on slavery and wonder how we ever let it happen anywhere in the world.

There is still room for debate in Canada but the frame of the argument is wrong when we argue about whether to bring it back in Canada. We should be asking is Canada doing enough to help other countries advance their human rights. Canada was once a world leader in the abolition movement. This not only helped to protect citizens in other countries from facing execution, but also helped to protect Canadians.

Today there are at least six Canadians facing execution in other countries, many of whom face execution on incredibly weak cases and questionable charges. When we ask Iran not to execute Saeed Malekpour, sentenced to death for writing internet coding to allow photos to be uploaded, or with Saudi Arabia not to execute Mohamed Kohail, sentenced to death after he went to help his little brother get safely away from a crowd of armed youths at school, we argue most convincingly when we demonstrate that Canada opposes capital punishment always and are not just selective about whose justice system we recognize.

We must argue from principle not by special request.

Life Imprisonment fails to deter heinous crimes. Capital punishment is an appropriate penalty for murder, because murder is the worst crime anyone can commit. Perpetrators of such crimes will know that, if they kill someone in Canada, then the state will kill them right back.

With every murder, more and more Canadians call for the death penalty. Eventually the government will need to hear them and allow the debate.

What do you think?

 

Canada to Replicate American F-35 Boondoggle?

What is the name of those new jets the Harper Conservatives are purchasing? Are they the same as the F-35s as described in the following article?

The United States is making a gigantic investment in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, billed by its advocates as the next — by their count the fifth — generation of air-to-air and air-to-ground combat aircraft. Claimed to be near invisible to radar and able to dominate any future battlefield, the F-35 will replace most of the air-combat aircraft in the inventories of the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and at least nine foreign allies, and it will be in those inventories for the next 55 years. It’s no secret, however, that the program — the most expensive in American history — is a calamity.

To read the rest of this very interesting article, visit the Foreign Policy.