OTTAWA — Criminal charges have been laid against 14 individuals and seven companies accused of rigging bids to obtain Government of Canada contracts for information technology services, the Competition Bureau announced Tuesday.
The Bureau says in a release that it has found evidence indicating that several IT services companies in the National Capital Region secretly co-ordinated their bids in an illegal scheme to defraud the government by winning and dividing contracts, while blocking out honest competitors. The investigation is said to have found evidence of criminal activity in 10 competitive bidding processes from 2005, for contracts worth about $67 million.
The contracts related to IT professional services provided to the Canada Border Services Agency, Public Works and Government Services Canada, and Transport Canada.
"Bid-rigging is a serious criminal offence that harms buyers of products and services, competing businesses, and ordinary Canadians who ultimately pay the bills,” said Melanie Aitken, Interim Commissioner of Competition in a written statement. “The Bureau will not hesitate to take action against bid-riggers when it uncovers evidence that the law has been broken."
Bid-rigging is a criminal offence where bidders secretly agree not to compete or to submit bids that have been pre-arranged among themselves, the bureau says.
The investigation included co-operation secured under its Immunity and Leniency Programs. Under the immunity program, the first party to disclose to the bureau an offence not yet detected, or to provide evidence leading to the filing of charges, may receive immunity from the director of public prosecutions, the bureau said in its release.
The Competition Bureau is an independent agency that contributes to the prosperity of Canadians by protecting and promoting competitive markets and enabling informed consumer choice.
In 2005, Public Works officials contacted the Competition Bureau about certain bids starting the bureau investigation, the release stated. In the investigation, the bureau says it found evidence indicating that bidders, in response to calls for bids for the supply of Information Technology services to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), PWGSC and Transport Canada, secretly agreed in advance on the technical and financial proposals they would submit. The investigation focused on 10 contracts. Eight, worth $62 million, relate to IT services for CBSA. The other two contracts are for IT services for Transport Canada (worth $4 million) and Public Works (worth $1 million).
In the course of its investigation, the bureau conducted searches at 10 locations and seized more than 125,000 paper and elecronic records.
The evidence indicates that the bidders’ objective was to collectively win and divide the contracts awarded, while blocking competitors who were not part of the alleged conspiracy. As a result of the agreement, the bidders were allegedly able to maximize the rates at which services were to be provided to the various departments.
A woman walks by the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec head office in Quebec City. Canadian pension fund Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec said on Wednesday it lost $39.8-billion in 2008.
Caisse takes a 25% haircut in total assets
They were chasing alpha; now they are eating crow.
Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Canada's largest pension fund, reported a record loss of $39.8-billion as of Dec. 31, 2008. As a result, total assets under allocation fell to $120.1-billion from $155.4-billion in 2007. The balance was made up for $4.6-billion in new deposits.
The 25% haircut in total assets, which represents the biggest loss ever reported by a Canadian pension fund, has raised concerns about the security of Quebec pensioners. It also has people in the financial sector calling for a re-evaluation of risk models adopted by the Canadian institutions.
"It's clearly a staggering loss in absolute dollars," says Tawfik Hammoud, partner and managing director of The Boston Consulting Group in Toronto. "The government should mandate a bottom up review of their asset model, risk strategy and organization" he says. He adds: They also need a strong full-time CEO who can develop a credible path to recovery and deal with the various stakeholders."
With its risk strategy under attack, it seems certain that the Caisse will take a more conservative approach in the future. Already, Quebec's Finance Minister has announced an overhaul of the organization, and has requested a National Assembly committee hold special hearings to examine the issue of losses.
All asset classes -- with the exception of the best government securities - recorded steep losses at the pension plan. In addition to a significant writedown due to hedging its foreign exchange risk on assets outside the country, the Caisse took a huge financial blow investing in asset-backed commercial paper (ABCP). The Caisse was forced to write down 43% ($5.6-billion) of its $12.8-billion investment in the toxic paper.
In a statement to the press, Fernand Perreault, president and chief executive of the Caisse, did a mea culpa: "The risk management policy had not set overall limits on the amount of AAA-rated money market instruments that could be held. In hindsight, we placed too much confidence in these securities."
Speaking to the issue of the Caisse's ABCP loss, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was quick to point out that had the government not come to the rescue, the losses "would have been much worse." But for pension watchers like Keith Ambachtsheer, director of the Rotman International Centre for Pension Management at the Rotman School of Management, the losses only speak to poor oversight.
"These institutions need to do their own due diligence," he said. "Just because the agencies rate them as AAA doesn't mean they are," he says.
Not all the Caisse's $40-billion losses were real. While the pension plan realized losses on the sale of its investments of $23.2-billion, over 56% of its losses were unrealized decreases in value, otherwise known as paper losses. While the real estate portfolio generated more net rental income in 2008 than the previous year, the fund estimated that the mark-to-market value of real estate declined 22%.
So far the Caisse's losses stand in dramatic relief to losses at the other pension funds and calls into question the performance of the managers. The Caisse had a benchmark portfolio of a 18.5% loss, but posted a 25% loss. That's 650 points below its benchmark and a shortfall that is considered disastrous by pension fund managers. By contrast, Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) declared a negative 15.3% return for 2008 compared with a benchmark of negative 13.2% which represents 210 basis points below benchmark.
Despite Wednesday's bad news, "the Caisse continues to have a strong liquidity position and they still have a massive amount of capital," said Huston Loke, co-president of DBRS Ltd. While the rating agency looks at how funds do in relation to their peers, Mr. Loke likes the fact that the Caisse appears to be recalibrating its risk models and focussing on assets that "are more understood." The Caisse announced it has suspended its "asset allocation operations" a risky portfolio (although non-transparent portfolio) that contributed to $2-billion in losses last year.
At the end of the day, pension insiders don't think the province is going to throw the Caisse out with the bathwater.
"The province is so proud of the Caisse," said one analyst. "They put them through the ringer in front of the General Assembly, but at the end of the day they will simply ask them to strengthen internal controls and make some changes," he said.
OTTAWA, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- Canadian fighter jets intercepted aRussian bomber near its airspace in the Arctic three days before U.S. President Barack Obama visited Ottawa last week, officials said Friday.
Defense Minister Peter MacKay said the bomber never entered Canadian airspace.
"Canadian pilots sent a strong signal they should back off and stay out of our airspace," MacKay said at a press conference with the chief of the defense staff and the commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
The CF-18s took off from their base in Alberta on Feb.16 after NORAD detected the bomber headed toward Canadian airspace, the officials said.
The incident was sensitive as it happened as Canada was preparing to host Obama on his first international trip after weeks of preparation that included some of the tightest security ever. Airspace over Canada's capital was closed to all planes but Obama's own Air Force One during the president's visit, MacKay said.
MacKay said he was not accusing Russia of deliberately timing the flight to coincide with the visit, but it was a "strong coincidence."
"It was a strong coincidence which we met with ... CF-18 fighter planes and world-class pilots that know their business," he said.
He also said Canada has recently seen "increased activity" of this kind.
Russian aircraft regularly probed into North American airspace during the Cold War. Such flights resumed in recent years as Russia pushed its claim on the Arctic and its oil wealth, according to Canadian media reports.
Last summer, then Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson said recent actions of Russia were of "great concern" to the government.
I really struggle with why in a global: financial, environmental, and social collapse, the 'kids' find time to piss in each others corn flakes and how the media handles the story, as if to distract us from what is really happening in the world around us.
National Post : Tuesday, February 24, 2009 Editorial: Tell Quebec where to get off
Each July at the annual re-enactment of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg in southern Pennsylvania, the Union soldiers always win. Gen. George Pickett's forces are always decimated in their futile charge up Cemetery Ridge and the Confederates are always forced to slink off south with their tails between their legs. Yet there are no petitions among Southerners to ban the historical staging -- which takes place on a designated national battlefield -- just because it "rubs the noses" of modern-day sons and daughters of the Confederacy "in their ancestors' defeat." At the annual re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium, the French always lose to the British and Prussians, but France never files a complaint with the United Nations. Each October's recreation of the Battle of Hastings in 1066 is even hosted by the English Heritage Society, the heirs of the losers.
It's too bad Quebec's nationalists lack such maturity. If they did, then plans to re-enact the 250th anniversary of the 1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham wouldn't be the subject of violent threats by aggrieved separatists seeking -- successfully, as it happens -- to shut down the event.
It was not the only time in recent months, of course, that Quebec had stomped its collective foot and spineless federal politicians had trembled. During last fall's federal election, Quebecers' overreaction to a joke by Prime Minister Stephen Harper about cuts to arts funding caused the Tories to promise to restore the grants -- some $47-million -- if only Quebec voters would support them. They didn't, but the grant monies were reinstated anyway.
Every prime minister since John Diefenbaker has believed he has discovered a magic incantation unknown to any of his predecessors that he might invoke to charm Quebec into satisfaction with Confederation and, ultimately, each has failed to placate la belle province.
Lester Pearson had his Three Wise Men, Pierre Trudeau had bilingualism and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Brian Mulroney had both the Meech Lake and the Charlottetown accords.
The current PM, Stephen Harper, has even declared the Quebecois a nation within a nation -- as close are they are ever likely to come to a declaration of special constitutional status -- and given the provincial government something of an official presence at international summits of French-speaking nations. Yet one off-the-mark quip about artists' propensity for pleading poverty while attending gala dinners -- a quip Quebecers mistakenly perceived as a slight against their culture-- and all of Mr. Harper's efforts to build bridges with Quebec voters vanished in a puff of smoke.
Enough of the decades of appeasement; it's time for Ottawa to adopt a tough-love attitude toward Quebec. And who better to do that than Mr. Harper and his Tories? They've got nothing to lose.
Since October's national campaign, Conservative support in Quebec has nearly halved. Where eights months ago the Tories rivalled the Bloc Quebecois for first place in popular support, now they stand at third or even fourth in most polls. Last week, a CROP poll found the Tories with 16% support -- equal to that of the NDP -- and Mr. Harper's personal popularity below 20%.
That means the Prime Minister and Cabinet can do the right thing without risking their popularity: They have none.
They can start by reinstating the Plains of Abraham re-enactment and, if need be, providing federal security for the event. They also can end the unofficial federal policy that as near to half as possible of all federal defence spending must go to manufacturers in Quebec.
While they're at it, they should tell the truth about equalization. Quebec annually receives the most money -- nearly 50% of total equalization, despite the fact that for decades now, Quebec's per capita provincial GDP has been just 3% to 8% below the national average. There is no "fiscal imbalance," at least not between Ottawa and Quebec. Most federal leaders know the stats, they have merely been too frightened about the prospect of Quebec leaving to give it voice.
Let's also take away the Quebec chair at the Francophonie. Defend vigorously in court any challenges filed that seek to uphold the minority-language rights of English-speaking residents in Quebec.
And stop jumping out of your skin every time Quebec says boo-hoo.
Such an approach won't make any friends in Quebec. But at least everyone in the rest of the country won't keep feeling like suckers.
Parks Canada's decision to cancel the re-enactment of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham is a worrying sign that Canadians' deep-seated compulsion to whitewash the country's past is very much alive and well.
It is remarkable to think that in little more than a generation, we succeeded in all but erasing our country's colonial past. The Red Ensign was replaced by the Maple Leaf flag. The Dominion government became the federal government, and later, Dominion Day was replaced by Canada Day. The word "Royal" in the names of Crown agencies was replaced by "Canada." And, the notion of Canada as a compact of French and English has been replaced by a multicultural doctrine that sees the country as made up of minority groups that define themselves as different and wish to remain so.
This rebranding of our national symbols is driven not simply by a desire to assert the country's cultural and political independence; its goal, as evidenced in the Plains of Abraham anniversary fiasco, is to sever the identity of modern Canada from its historical moorings, a past perceived to be made up mostly of wars, colonialism and interracial and regional conflict.
First and foremost, the blotting out of our colonial origins supposedly allows national governments to avoid unduly provoking the country's various regional groups, especially Quebec nationalists.
From Pearson onwards, the imperatives of Canadian unity have been excuse enough to sweep the likes of Wolfe, Lord Durham and the symbols and traditions of the Crown into the proverbial blue bin of history.
The desire to liberate Canada from the political and cultural encumbrances of its colonial past was also fuelled, in no small part, by the elites' view that the different ethnic groups immigrating to Canada would feel unconnected to this history. Allegedly, the country would do a better job of settling newcomers if the Canadian state promoted the notion that Canada was made up of many equivalent identities rather than an overarching civic creed.
As I assert in my soon to be released book, Who We Are: A Citizen's Manifesto, jettisoning the symbols and institutions associated with our colonial past has served to undermine the cause of Canadian unity.
As thinkers such as George Grant and Charles Taylor have correctly observed, an English-Canadian political culture weakened by the denial of its own unique history has contributed to, rather than eased, French Canadians' worries that the rest of Canada is still committed to building a bicultural society along non-republican and non-assimilative lines.
Obscuring Canada's colonial past has also made it more difficult for an increasingly diverse country to forge those essential bonds of citizenship and community that all nations depend upon.
Newcomers to Canada, if they are exposed to Canadian history and civics at all, are fed a watered-down version that focuses on the country's recent past --primarily post-Second-World-War history -- and the rights and privileges of citizenship.
To this day the history of Canada as told through provincial history curricula and in much of our popular culture remains bereft of the unifying and inspiring civics lessons that past generations derived from the stories associated with the country's journey from colony to nation-state: its military triumphs, its struggle for democracy and its bicultural foundations.
Indeed, I would argue that the absence of the traditions that evoke the civic legacy of past generations haunts us like a lost limb. We know from certain periods in our history that Canada is a nation that is greater than the sum of its regions and linguistic groups. We know that the totality of who we are is larger than the programs and institutions of the government of the day.
But thanks to an intentionally induced amnesia surrounding the colonial origins and symbols of our civic culture, including the primordial drama that unfolded on the Plains of Abraham 250 years ago this summer, the path back to a shared understanding of the country's nature and purpose is as uncertain as ever.
Rudyard Griffiths' forthcoming book Who We Are: A Citizen's Manifesto will be published this March by Douglas & Macintyre.
National Post : Tuesday, February 24, 2009
A loss Quebecers should celebrate
Re: Waving White Flag Over The Plains, Feb. 18.
The decision by the National Battlefields Commission to cancel this summer's planned 250th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham is regrettable. It is sad that the fundamentalist outcry of a few embittered separatists would cause the cancellation of what would have been an educational and entertaining spectacle.
It is especially sad because the Battle of the Plains of Abraham should be celebrated, not for who won the short skirmish but for its aftermath. The enlightened articles of the "capitulation" agreement after the cessation of hostilities led to the 1763 Treaty of Paris that gave New France the guarantees that preserved its culture. The treaty broke with common practice (think of the Acadian expulsion in the years before) and granted unprecedented rights of religion, language and education that reinforced and protected the culture of the former French subjects who now found themselves by happenstance under British rule. Without this pivotal point in history, French in Quebec today would probably be like it is in Louisiana -- a quaint Cajun cultural tourist attraction and possibly not even an official language.
All Canadians should be celebrating this anniversary, but perhaps none more so than les Quebecois.
Peter Goldring, MP for Edmonton East, Ottawa.
National Post : Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Is it time to say goodbye to la belle province?
Re: The Cure For Credit Crisis? La Separation, Bien Sur, Feb. 24.
It is not often that I turn to your front page for my daily dose of humour, but today's cover did it for me. That Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois could publicly propose, let alone think, that independence for Quebec would solve the economic woes of our time made me laugh hysterically.
It is offensive to me, and to many Quebecers, I am sure, that she could insult us with such nonsense. I am sick of hearing how much better off the province of Quebec would be without the rest of us. The people hurt most by this type of rhetoric are hard-working Quebecers who have been held economic hostage by these people for decades.
Here's a magic recipe for the separatists: Come up with something better than lies and inflammatory rhetoric and you might get us all listening instead of laughing.
Kevin Bougher, Vancouver.
Bravo! A voice long overdue. Quebec, please leave.
Ted Roberts, Victoria.
Re: Tell Quebec Where To Get Off, editorial, Feb. 24.
Although separation would hardly benefit Quebec's economy, it would do wonders for Canada's. It's time we had a referendum asking all Canadians if Quebec should stay or go. It brings a smile to think about it.
Scott Gardiner, Toronto.
Growing up in wartime England with our parents billeting two Canadian ambulance attendants, and with Canadian troops camped on the Downs around us, there was never any doubt that Canada was a country. Having now lived in Canada as a citizen for some 40 years, I can only suggest that if Quebec finds all that is good and worthwhile about the country an unacceptable way of life, then it would seem that the time for parting has come.
If this is so, let us part as friends, with good wishes for Quebec's success and with the assurance of the fullest co-operation for the future of this new country.
Jim Vennell, Burlington, Ont.
Re: A Loss Quebecers Should Celebrate, letter to the editor, Feb. 24.
Letter-writer and MP Peter Goldring omitted one vital comment from his succinct summary of what Quebecers owe to the 1763 Treaty of Paris. While he is correct to state that had the Battle of the Plains not happened, Quebec would be a "quaint Cajun cultural tourist attraction," he should have added that many Canadians feel that if that had occurred, then today we would not remain encumbered with the albatross that is Quebec.
How do you say, "Get over it, already," in French?
Or, how about, "no sense in crying over spilled milk"? Or, "what's done is done". Or, "you can't change history."
Oops. Well, apparently in Canada you can change history, or at least quell the retelling of it simply by threatening violence.
That's what's happened with the National Battlefields Commission, that was planning on re-enacting the Plains of Abraham battle on July 1 -- the 250th anniversary of the 1759 battle on the small chunk of land outside the walls of Quebec City.
Never mind that this battle, in which both Wolfe and Montcalm were famously killed, is key to the history of our great country. It appears it causes great anxiety to Quebec separatists and so now a rather innocent but accurate re-enactment of our history that would have had history buffs and those people who like playing with soldiers spending some of their increasingly shrinking tourist dollars in la belle province, the commission surrendered.
Actually, the lead paragraph of Graeme Hamilton's story in the National Post Tuesday, February 17 edition said it so well:
"A ragtag army of Quebec separatists, armed only with Internet petitions and menacing e-mails, appears to have triumphed where the French army failed 250 years ago, preventing another British victory of the Plains of Abraham."
Apparently, the separatists threatened to attack tourists attending the re-enactment with paint-ball guns!
Pretty soon some people will be demanding that their kids not sing the Canadian national anthem and schools will accommodate them! Oh, wait! That's too has happened.
You know, there's a saying that says, those who stand for nothing will fall for anything!
What will this country stand for 250 years from now? At this rate, the separatists, the whiners, the anthem haters, the flag despisers will all have won out and the vast majority of us will have accommodated them and us out of a country.
Well the Senate passed the Bill C-10 last week ! I guess the Canadian government feels if North America is going to share Canada's water we will piss in it before it flows south and they will never have to ask the house or the Canadian people again since the absolute power has been delegated to the Ministerial Level.
I hope Harper jiggles the handle, so the toilet does keep running.
BC Wildlife Federation Concerned With Amendments To Navigable Waters Protection
The BC Wildlife Federation adamantly opposes amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) as included in the Budget Implementation Act, Bill C-10.
Canada’s Navigable Waters Protection Act was originally passed in 1882 with the intent of recognizing the common right of access to and free passage on public waterways. Bill C-10 makes unacceptable changes to that legislation.
The proposed changes will:
1. Eliminate environmental assessments, with few exceptions, for development projects on Canadian waterways. 2. Allow Canada’s rivers to be separated into those that are worth protecting and those that can be exploited. 3. Those classifications can be determined secretly within cabinet with no public consultation, no basis in science and no opportunity for any appeal. 4. Ensure that these decisions will most certainly be made based on political expediency rather than on scientific or long-term social and environmental considerations.
Enabling the government to declare previously protected waterways as non-navigable also has other ramifications for the resource.
If a waterway is designated as navigable the bed of the waterway is considered to be crown property. Designating the waterway as non-navigable will enable the bed to pass to private ownership. From this flows the further concern that private ownership of the waterways bed implies private ownership of the fishery.
If the federal government honestly believes that the NWPA needs updating, the BCWF urges Prime Minister Harper to remove the amendments from Bill C-10 and hold transparent and meaningful public discussions on the legislation across Canada.
Regardless, the government must:
1. Restore the existing environmental assessment requirements, 2. Remove the Minister’s discretion on major construction projects as listed in the legislation, specifically dams, causeways, bridges and booms. 3. Remove the power of government to arbitrarily divide Canada’s rivers into those considered ‘worthwhile’ and those that are somehow less valuable.
The public right to free passage on public waterways goes directly back to the signing in 1215 of the Magna Carta and it has been the federal government’s mandate to protect that right.
With their intent to amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the federal government appears to be putting Canadians on notice that they are now willing to abrogate that responsibility. The Federation cannot believe this government is prepared to destroy the birthright of all Canadians under the pretext of a stimulus package.
The amendments to the Navigable Water Protection Act, as included in Bill C-10, ensures the loss of adequate environmental protection and public access to navigable waterways that is a part of our Canadian heritage.
The BCWF urges all Canadians to contact their MPs and Senators and demand they remove the Navigable Waters Protection amendments from Bill C-10.
Prentice confirms cuts planned to environment reviews
OTTAWA — The Conservative government plans dramatic cuts to the number of projects that require federal environmental assessments, triggering accusations that Ottawa is abandoning its environmental duties under the banner of economic stimulus.
A leaked government document outlining the proposed changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act indicates Environment Minister Jim Prentice has asked for a bill “overhauling” the legislation as soon as possible.
Under the new system, the government should “expect to capture 200-300 projects per year,” the document states. That would represent a more than 95 per cent drop from the roughly 6,000 federal environmental assessments that currently take place each year.
Environmentalists who released the document Friday at a press conference on Parliament Hill said they expect the bill will be introduced later this month or in April. Internet Links
In an interview with The Globe following the press conference, Mr. Prentice confirmed he wants the legislation reviewed soon but added he has yet to decide what process the review will take.
He said the proposed changes are in response to the provinces, who recently told Prime Minister Stephen Harper that overlapping environmental rules will delay public stimulus spending from creating jobs.
“The [provincial] ministers of environment have been quite outspoken with me about it, that this legislation is very concerning and that in some cases it is slowing down projects with no consequential environmental benefits,” Mr. Prentice said. “There will be a process that is followed to examine the legislation and discuss any possible changes to it.”
Throughout the Conservatives' three years in power, Mr. Prentice has been the government's point man responsible for environmental negotiations with oil sands companies and the Mackenzie gas pipeline project, which has been bogged down in environmental hearings.
Environmentalists say provincial rules are often weaker than federal environmental laws and accuse Mr. Prentice of putting the need of industries like oil, mining and nuclear power ahead of the environment.
“This is no coincidence. It's been clear since minister Prentice was appointed Environment Minister that he really still is the minister of industry,” said Stephen Hazell, the executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, an environmental advocacy group. “He's pushing an old-style economy and not moving toward the clean energy economy that President [Barack] Obama has indicated that he wants to take his country towards.”
Mr. Prentice rejects that criticism, saying the proposed changes would not affect large projects like the oil sands or pipelines. He said the changes are aimed at weeding out reviews of smaller projects that do not impact the environment or are already reviewed by the provinces.
The minister's comments represent the first detailed confirmation that the government wants to reform Canada's environmental assessment legislation, which was brought in by the Brian Mulroney government in 1992.
The issue surfaced in January when the NDP released an internal government e-mail indicating Ottawa wanted to do away with environmental assessments for projects that cost less than $10-million.
The changes would come on the heels of a similar change included in the budget legislation that passed this week, which reduced the ability to trigger environmental assessments through the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis said the proposed legislation would represent a much bigger change than the controversial measures passed in the budget.
“It's not acceptable,” she said. “They really are using the economic recession to advance their agenda, which is disregard for the environment.”
Looks like the great white north is going down the road France has taken and Great Britain is heading down as well. I am certainly not against copyright and protection of intellectual property, but the consequences or punishment must fit the crime. To date a proposed consequence might be removal of internet access for life for an individual. This would by effect remove household and limit the individual's ability to function the the post Internet universe that has as an example all government access on the Internet.
Time to dust off those PGP programs and encrypt your hard drives.
SUMMARY This enactment amends the Copyright Act in order to (a) update the rights and protections of copyright owners to better address the Internet, in line with international standards; (b) clarify the liability of Internet service providers; (c) permit certain uses for educational and research purposes of Internet and other digital technologies to facilitate technology-enhanced learning, inter-library loans, the delivery of educational material and access to publicly available material on the Internet; (d) permit certain uses of copyright material for private purposes; and (e) amend provisions of the Act relating to photographs to give photographers the same rights as other creators.
<snip>Proposed fines for breaking the law are (per each instance, personal use):
* A new statutory damage award of $500 for music downloads. * Since the $500 limit does not apply to all cases, fines up to $20,000 (defined in previous bills) may be incurred (per instance) for: o Circumventing digital locks or DRM regardless of reason/intent. o Uploading regardless of awareness, including uploading to YouTube or peer-to-peer networks. Note that peer-to-peer programs generally allow files to be both uploaded and downloaded by default. o "Making available" of copyrighted material (regardless if it was actually uploaded).
In the case of commercial circumvention of DRM, Clause 32 of the Bill specifies penalties of $1,000,000 and/or five years imprisonment on conviction on indictment, or $25,000 and/or six months imprisonment on summary conviction. <snip>
Worth remembering how recent the ideas of IP protection, copyright protection and the patenting of ideas really is. This is not something defined in common law, Blacks Law contained not a hint of it, and there is no proof whatsoever that any of it has contributed one iota to human happiness or the amount of material available to us.
For those who wondered, the British and French succumbed to US pressure. This might be driven by the fact that the US no longer exports anything else the rest of the world - or many in the USA - want to pay for or can afford.
It might be interesting to note that if you can read Russian, Chinese or Korean, all the material the West previously enjoyed trivial access to is still available and easily found, and if you don't, many entrepreneurs in those countries now sell access to either usenet or password protected sites, both providing access (in English) to vast quantities of copywronged material with no logging and little chance of interception. Of course, these "solutions" are non-ideal in that the originators fail to benefit from their work, but then, the originators tend not to benefit much from their work after it has been "taxed" by their distributors, promoters, packagers, associations, antipiracy lawyers and everyone else feeding at the trough.
At the end of the day, it remains interesting to ask who exactly benefits from the fire sale of the commons being perpetrated in the name of the same "freedoms" that enabled the rape of the global financial system.
'Thatcher's death' sparks diplomatic flurry in Canada
Source: AFP Author: Date: 2009.11.12 (AFP) – 2 hours ago
OTTAWA — "Thatcher has died," read the short text message that kicked off a brief diplomatic flurry among members of Canada's parliament and their advisors at a black tie dinner this week, said local media Thursday.
Upon learning the "news" via mobile or Blackberry at a soiree honoring Canadian military families Tuesday, some 2,000 shocked Conservatives, said to revere the Iron Lady of British politics, and their advisors reportedly huddled to discuss a reaction.
The prime minister's office called Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street to confirm that Margaret Thatcher had indeed passed away -- baffling British officials, CanWest News Service said.
It turned out the message was sent by Canadian Transport Minister John Baird from his home in Toronto to a person at the gala dinner to say his beloved 16-year-old gray tabby cat, named for Margaret Thatcher, 84, had died.
The recipient then forwarded it to others.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office was not immediately available for comment.
I apologize for the lengthy post but the comments are intrinsic to the post. As we are unable to fund health care and education in this country, the luxury of enforced bilingualism is as a commentator says; "as useful as a tailor in a nudist colony". It cripples new immigrants employment in the civil service and is creating a linguistic based mono culture in the infrastructure that is running Canada, that no longer reflects the needs and wishes of the vast majority if Canadians.
The Citizen has called for a renewed discussion on language. According to last Saturday’s editorial, “Bilingualism revisited,” the question raised at the University of Ottawa is a larger one: “whether the time has come to give unilingual anglophones a break and free them from the burden of learning French.”
The Citizen assumes that language requirements are a burden for anglophones alone, and that the time has come to give them a break, to liberate them. But learning French is no more of a burden for anglophones than learning English is, for francophones. Language policies do not exist to impose a burden. They represent a value: the ability to serve people in the official language of their choice.
Lester B. Pearson wanted a climate that would allow English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians to work together, using their own language and cultural values but with each fully appreciating and understanding those of the other. This reflected Canadian values: respect, democracy, public service, inclusiveness and generosity. And in 1969, those values were translated into legislation; this year marks the 40th anniversary of the Official Languages Act.
Until 1969, the only language requirements were for French-speaking Canadians, who had to function in English. Every prime minister since, including Stephen Harper, has worked to ensure that bilingualism is a two-way street. Over 90 per cent of positions in the federal government that are designated bilingual are filled by people who meet the language requirements.
Unfortunately, most Canadian universities have been slow to respond to this reality. Even though the federal government is Canada’s largest employer and needs bilingual supervisors and executives, most universities treat French as a foreign language to be taught in the literature department rather than as a key to understanding Canadian history, journalism, political science, public administration or law.
The University of Ottawa, Canada’s largest bilingual university, is one of the great and honourable exceptions. Making bilingualism a value rather than a burden has attracted students as varied as Senator Hugh Segal, Premier Dalton McGuinty, former Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache, and current rector Allan Rock.
In order to attract immersion graduates, the university has a program that supports English-speaking students who choose to take some of their courses in French. Canada has never required bilingualism of its citizens. Similarly, one does not have to be bilingual to be a student or a professor at the University of Ottawa. Some study or teach in English; others study or teach in French. Many are unilingual — a reflection of the country, where 20 million speak no French and four million speak no English.
It is only natural that the university administration should be able to serve professors and students in either English or French. When it was suggested that a similar requirement was a burden on the union, there was no quorum to debate the policy. Does this mean, as the editorial suggests, that the language policies had discouraged participation and weakened the union? This is unlikely. Nothing generates dissent like injustice, real or perceived.
It is disappointing that the largest daily newspaper in Canada’s capital sees language policy only through the narrow perspective of a debate on how unilingual anglophones could be “freed.”
The issue is how the value of linguistic duality can be better understood, so that all Canadians can feel represented and be served by their government, whatever official language they speak.
Graham Fraser is Canada’s Commissioner of Official Languages.
November 15, 2009 - 10:43 AM Flag this as Inappropriate
I find it interesting to see, beyond the anger and bitterness radiating from many of the anti-bilingualism commenters, the poor spelling, grammar, and command of facts shown in their letters. I've always thought of bilingualism or multilingualism as a type of highly practical intelligence test. Such posters are not doing much to change my mind...
Francophone Canadians were present in this country in significant numbers from New Brunswick to Manitoba before Confederation. The cost of keeping bilingualism viable across this country is a reasonable and relatively small price to pay for a tolerant Canada that includes Quebec.
As far as the alleged poor quality of spoken English on the part of francophones? Almost every meeting I attended (working in the private sector, mind you) with a mix of anglophone and francophone participants defaulted automatically to English, because the anglophones' command of French, in general, was poor to nil.
November 15, 2009 - 3:11 AM Flag this as Inappropriate
"The Citizen assumes that language requirements are a burden for anglophones alone, and that the time has come to give them a break, to liberate them. But learning French is no more of a burden for anglophones than learning English is, for francophones."
First of all, I hope you take the time to read the responses. Here are some facts: 40% of the population of Quebec is French/English bilingual. 4% of the rest of Canada is English/French bilingual. What is happening here is what the field of Linguistics has observed happening to many cultures in history, at many points in history. There's no getting around the fact that English is, at this point in time, the 'world language'. It wasn't always, and it won't be forever, but it currently is. That's indisputable. What has been observed is that people from less dominant languages (in this case and at this point in history---French) are far more likely to effortlessly pick up the more dominant language (in this case and at this point in history---English) due to immersion/bombardment/natural advantage. Those who already speak the dominant language are far less likely to naturally pick up the less dominant language because it is far less relevant to them than when situations are reversed. The statistics I quoted earlier clearly back this proven, tested, and well-documented phenomenon, and I must tell you, therefore, that the burden placed upon English speakers is not at all the same as the 'burden' placed on French speakers.
Ben Samuel Patrick
November 14, 2009 - 10:51 PM Flag this as Inappropriate
English Canada is tired of saving the French from obscurity. The French could save their own language, if they choose too. Certainly, shouldn't need the English majority to do it for them. While, their (French) are at it...they can pay the tab for that, as well. Especially, since they (the French) are so special and distinct...better or superior to the rest of us.
Official Bilingualism serves the French minority and discriminates against the English majority, in Canada. Time to reverse that trend and restore English/British rights, language, history, heritage, symbols and prominence to all Canadians.
G. Fraser is a moron who is bought and paid for by the Liberal Party of Toronto and the French. His only duty is to enslave English Canada while promoting, protecting, and empowering the French minority in Canada.
He, like his Liberal cohorts, are pretending to serve all Canadians while trying to trick us (majority of Canadians) into thinking that OB Policies and Agendas serve some noble cause.
Saving the whales/bears, feeding our children/elderly, physically cleaning up our air, water and eco system are all noble causes, worthy of the effort, time, and money. Official Bilingualism is not worth it...it only serves the French.
Canada should be majority governed instead of having Quebec rule the roost.
November 14, 2009 - 10:30 PM Flag this as Inappropriate
Mr. Fraser and his Department should be representing, all Canadians across Canada, in whatever language (English or French) they choose to utilize. Point in fact, why even have his services or Offices, as Canadians should have the right to choose the language of their choice for their: homes, communities, businesses, organizations, and cities/towns/provinces.
Have never seen him, his predecessors or his offices/Department ever speak out against the language discrimination that the English majority endures, daily. Nor, have I ever seen them advocate for the English minority in Quebec who have been stripped of their rights, language, history and culture. In fact, he/they have never even promoted official bilingualism in Quebec (which is unilingually French and actually forbades it's citizens to be bilingual, officially).
Canadians are English, outside of Quebec, and it's time that the Government and Liberal Courts System stay out of the language issue, altogether. French language and culture are dying, as evidenced by the billions or trillions of dollars infused into this Liberal Party Boondoogle, over the last 40 or so years without any success.
Clearly, Canadians have not embraced the notion of OB and that is evidenced by the complete failure of it's Policies/Agendas. If, forty years of constant brainwashing, propaganda, legislation, harassment and discrimination haven't resulted in the frenchification of Canada...it never will! Restore Canada to English status and relieve Canadians of the financial burden of trying to "save" the French from assimilation.
Afterall, why should English Canada care...we won the war, it's time we started acting like it!
November 14, 2009 - 9:46 PM Flag this as Inappropriate
No more of this nonsense, ROC is tired of hearing and paying for this bulls*&%. Official Bilingualism serves only the French minority in Canada.
Canadians are overwhelmingly English with 96% of the population, outside of Quebec. We are English and not French. Our communities, businesses, homes, neighbourhoods, culture, history and language are English.
Why should the English embrace the French language and culture when Quebec and the Liberal Party of Toronto are erasing and completely eradicating all English language, rights, culture, heritage, symbols and history.
ROC doesn't want or need the services of Official Languages, it's officers or it's language Nazi's, and we certainly are tired of paying for the discrimination endured by English Canadians, across this great Country.
Majority of Canadians are English and we wish to be majority ruled and not minority governed!!! Restore ROC to officially, unilingually English status, once and for all!
November 14, 2009 - 9:32 PM Flag this as Inappropriate
Official Bilingualism Policies and Agendas serve as a French Affirmative Hiring Policy that discriminates against the English majority in Canada. OB policies have sucked Canadian taxpayers dry, for the last 40 years. It is a failed social engineering project that the Liberal Party forced upon English Canada to further their agenda of "frenchifying" Canada.
Interesting that Mr. Graham doesn't feel the need to ensure that Quebec follows the same OB policies and instead: allows, protects, funds, and encourages it's (Quebec) unilingual status while demanding that the rest of Canada be and have enforced bilingual status.
Long overdue to fire this loser, his offices, employees, and his services, as an another massive Liberal boondoogle that has sucked on Canada's teat for far too long.
Imagine if the time, money and efforts that has been wasted on this foolishness had remained with our social safety net of programs that would benefit all Canadians and not just a linguistic minority. Programs, such as: health care, military, children, elderly and even the environment.
Time for English Canada to stand up and demand a restoration of English rights, language, culture, heritage and symbols in Canada (ROC). Let ROC be unilingually English and Quebec can remain unilingually French.
I mean really, Quebec hasn't even signed onto Canada, why are we continuing to pander to French demands or interests. Let them be Canadians, same as all other citizens or time to put up and shut up!!! Basically, s*(%$ or get off the pot.
Let's let Quebec save it's own language and culture, at their own expense for a real change of pace! Afterall, it's already a dead language when you have to force it's useage into ""being artificially through legislation. ROC is tired of paying the tab for Quebec and it's language, special status, privileges, people and culture.
November 14, 2009 - 5:51 PM Flag this as Inappropriate
Graham Fraser has zero crediability on this issue in that he has an obvious professional interests in the status quo. I don't know what parallel universe he lives in, but as a unilingual English civil servant working in Gatineau, I can tell him that the door doesn't swing both ways very often. Bilingualism seems to be an overwhelming raison d'etre of most of the hiring done where I work at a non-professional level. In fact, if I were suddenly declare tomorrow to all and sundry, a deep and abiding desire to learn French, I suspect that I could spend the majority of the next 3 years or so, at full salary, doing just that thing. Laughable? I have seen it happen, and am seeing it happen everyday. Is that why people are hired in the public service, to learn French at taxpayer's expense.
November 14, 2009 - 3:50 PM Flag this as Inappropriate
2.26 Appointments to the public service by first official language group for bilingual imperative positions only — The number of Anglophones and Francophones being appointed to bilingual imperative positions in organizations under the PSEA has also remained stable over the past four years, with 35.2% of the appointees being Anglophone and 64.8% being Francophone.
November 14, 2009 - 2:51 PM Flag this as Inappropriate
I am interested in the percentage of francophones who hold bilingual positions, and the proportion of positions that are designated bilingual. This will provide factual evidence of the unfairness to anglos.
November 14, 2009 - 11:52 AM Flag this as Inappropriate
Graham Fraser, Language Commissar, is very quick to conclude that Official Bilingualism is no burden to Canadians. Of course it is no burden for him – he’s getting a few hundred thousand dollars to keep spewing this garbage about the policy reflecting “democracy, public service, inclusiveness and generosity”. To the thousands of linguistically challenged English-speakers (which only happens to be more than 80% of the Canadian population), this is a burden of incalculable proportion. From the loss of job opportunities, promotion opportunities and yes, even participation in an institution like the Ottawa University, most English-speakers are excluded. This is not even taking into account the financial cost to the country that is taking money from far more important services that serve more people than the policy of Official Bilingualism which essentially only benefits a small group of people (according to Jack Jedwab of Canadian Studies, only 12% of Canadians can be classified as “truly bilingual”).
Voluntary bilingualism is one thing but forced official bilingualism is a policy that is discriminatory and divisive and works against the country’s majority. It is also a failed policy because Quebec is allowed to be officially unilingual, free to prosecute its own citizens for attempting to be bilingual. Is Graham Fraser aware of the fact that Quebec might use the notwithstanding clause again so that the recent ruling by the Supreme Court that Bill 104 is unconstitutional can be side-stepped? I wonder why French Quebec can ignore him & his preaching for Official Bilingualism with impunity – why doesn’t he tell Quebec that bilingualism is no burden? Answer: Quebec knows that having to run the province in two languages is a financial burden & having to do and say everything in two languages is a waste of time and money and that province is desperately doing everything it can to be unilingual French. While we’re at it, can we ask New Brunswick why it has to be sell NB Power to Quebec? Is it because having to operate in two languages is breaking that province? On top of being economically challenged due to the lack of natural resources, N.B. has to spend money to appease it’s French-speaking minority and disadvantage it’s English-speaking majority.
November 14, 2009 - 10:53 AM Flag this as Inappropriate
This is not, and never will be a true bilingual country (other than officially), and that is fine....so what??? Knowing french in Nunavut or Prince George is effectively useless, as is knowing english in some of the small towns in the Saguenay. Its like being an expert tailor in a nudest colony...what is the point?? The biggest farce is the huge, and I mean EMMENSE cost placed on the taxpayers in attempt to bilingualize the federal public service, with the additional cost of lost productiveity, true job skills underutilized due to priority given to language requirements, and destroyed careers of some people who are very competant in their field but lack the language skills demanded (not needed). This is very much a burden....and burdens are fine....IF the resulting benefit warrants the burden. I ask....what is the resulting benefit and is the value of the benefit greater than the cost of the burden?!
November 14, 2009 - 10:00 AM Flag this as Inappropriate
Mr.Fraser says, "Over 90 per cent of positions in the federal government that are designated bilingual are filled by people who meet the language requirements." On one hand this opinion is correct but on the other hand this is absolute nonsense and borders highly on blissful ignorance. Almost 100% of the positions in the government are bilingual imperative (NCR) and yes 90% of those positions are filled with so-called bilingual people leaving 10% mainly anglophones. However, meeting the language requirement is nonsense.Yes English speaking people need to meet the requirement but those French first just barely have to be audible in English. Mr. Fraser if you don't believe this, do an independent audit of French first people who are designated bilingual just to see how many actually meet the bilingual requirement for reading, writing and speaking English. You would find that the majority DO NOT meet the same requirements as those imposed on English speaking persons seeking bilingual designations. Better yet, just look at the percentages of English speaking people enrolled in second language training as opposed to their French counterparts in English training. Something like 95% to 5% respectively. Are we to assume 95% of the French in the government are letter perfect in the English language? And if this is news to Mr.Fraser, then he should satisfy his role as Official Language(s) Commissioner and do an audit as suggested. But I sense Mr.Fraser knows this which is why an independent audit will never see the light of day.
November 14, 2009 - 9:45 AM Flag this as Inappropriate
Unless and until the province of Quebec declares it is officially bilingual, and pursues it with the same zeal with their language police, this exercise is an expensive farce which has done more to divide this coutry than anything else.
Mr. Fraser, to believe anything else is dreaming or maybe a nightmare is closer to the truth
November 14, 2009 - 8:31 AM Flag this as Inappropriate
Thank you, Mr. Graham, to have exposed the Citizen's editorial board members for what they are: a bunch of whiners.
November 14, 2009 - 5:35 AM Flag this as Inappropriate
Hey Mr. Frazer, why don't you have language tresting for English. I am fed up with poor service in poor English.
The testing of French is too rigid. My 'french immersion Son cant pass these tests, and I bet most French couldn't either.
The testing is a way of keeping us nasty non French out of their world.
If you let us English test for the English language, we would have a more level playing field.
Canadian media has been laden with Afghanistan 'rhetoric'. The "Mother ship" CBC has a drama radio series depicting how bad things are going for Canadian soldiers: Afghanada. Bureaucrats are coming out of the wood work with horror stories.
I suspect we are being softened up; Canada is getting ready to pull out .... not very manly ehh.
OTTAWA — The International Red Cross met twice with senior Canadian officials in Kandahar to deliver veiled but insistent warnings about torture in Afghan jails a year before Canada acted to protect detainees.
Details of the face-to-face meetings in 2006, outlined in uncensored memos examined by The Canadian Press, undermine the federal government's claims that diplomat Richard Colvin was a lone voice raising vague concerns about torture.
The Red Cross is prevented by international rules from using the term "torture" and from commenting on one country's behaviour to another.
But the risks were so dire that detainees might be tortured in Afghan jails that the agency felt compelled to alert senior Canadian diplomats and officers in person, say memos made available on a confidential basis to The Canadian Press.
At one of the meetings, on June 2, 2006, at Kandahar Airfield, a military lawyer, the RCMP officer in charge of training Afghan police and some of Canada's diplomatic staff were all advised about potential torture at the hands of Afghan prison officials.
A Red Cross representative "made a point of raising a the issue of treatment of Afghan detainees, including some who had been transferred to the Afghan authorities by Canadian forces," Colvin reports in parts of a previously censored memo.
The Red Cross complained about the "lack of judicial safeguards" and warned: "All kinds of things are going on."
The wording is clear diplomatic code for torture, says a University of Ottawa law professor, and was as explicit as the Red Cross could be given diplomatic constraints.
Errol Mendes describes the meeting as the seminal moment when Canadian officials and commanders had the duty under international law to launch their own investigation into the conditions in Afghan prisons.
"When you have a statement like that, which is coded language for torture and everything else, you have a duty to link it to the more general allegations of abuse that were all over the place at that time," Mendes said.
A spokesman for the International Red Cross played down the face-to-face sessions with Canadian officials.
The agency would "never share confidential information," and the memo and Mendes' comments are "someone's interpretation of the meeting," Bernard Barrett, Red Cross spokesman in Washington, D.C., said in an interview.
Canadian government officials and Conservative MPs have repeatedly indicated that Colvin alone dealt with the Red Cross, and funnelled the humanitarian agency's concerns to Ottawa.
"Out of 5,000 Canadians who have travelled through there, at least in that period of time, you were the one single person who is coming forward with this information. So you will forgive me if I am skeptical," Tory MP Jim Abbott said on Nov. 18, the day Colvin testified before a Parliamentary committee.
Senior government officials and generals in Ottawa have also said they either didn't read Colvin's warnings or considered them too vague to be of concern.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay last week acknowledged the government had heard "concerns about the state of prisons" in Afghanistan from the moment the Conservatives took office in early 2006.
His statement did not indicate the origin of those concerns, whether from general reports issued by the U.S. State Department or from broad warnings by human-rights agencies to all forces operating in the region.
But the new memos show that the insistent concerns were specific to Canada's military mission in Afghanistan and made directly to senior Canadian officials, not transmitted through a single diplomat.
Two further high-level Red Cross meetings about torture took place in Ottawa and Geneva around the same time with Canadian officials.
To date, Colvin has been pilloried by cabinet ministers, military leaders and some Tory MPs as gullible and easily manipulated by Taliban propaganda. Some have also claimed there is no hard evidence for his claims.
Three high-ranking generals, including former general Rick Hillier, described his allegations last week as "ludicrous."
But the new memos show that Colvin's concerns were in fact shared by a respected humanitarian agency that pushed the diplomatic envelope to get the ear of Canadian officials. The International Red Cross by convention is allowed to raise specific concerns about torture only with the national government of a country.
At the first face-to-face meeting, Maj. Erik Liebert, deputy commander of the provincial reconstruction base, was told by the Red Cross that no one in the Canadian military would take their telephone calls. He also heard Canada was too slow to report that it captured prisoners -- sometimes taking 60 days -- and that "a lot can happen in two months."
That meeting spawned a second more detailed discussion at Kandahar Airfield on June 2.
Apart from delivering their warnings, Red Cross officials, who are duty-bound to protect prisoners in conflict zones, also complained about "unsatisfactory" conditions at Kandahar's medieval Sarpoza prison.
The Kandahar meeting was followed by a more high-level meeting on June 12, 2006, in Ottawa involving the head of the Red Cross mission in Kandahar as well as the international agency's delegation head for the U.S. and Canada.
The memos show there was also a fourth meeting in Geneva.
The intent of those meetings was for the Red Cross "to communicate its legal read of the situation in Afghanistan, as it has done with NATO in April 2006."
A spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs confirmed the Ottawa meeting did take place, but Katherine Heath-Eves declined to discuss the substance.
"In recognition of the confidential nature of the relationship between the ICRC and the government of Canada, we are not in a position to comment on either the meeting or the participants or our reporting of the meeting," she said in an emailed response.
Dan Dugas, a spokesman for MacKay who was foreign affairs minister at the time, said the minister was never briefed on any of the meetings.
After torture allegations surfaced in the Canadian media in the spring of 2007, Canada's embassy staff in Kabul went to the Red Cross in Afghanistan, hoping to gauge the extent of abuse throughout the Afghan prison system.
But by that time the relationship with the spurned Red Cross had become strained, the memos indicate.
"They therefore declined to provide us with their assessment of the prevalence of abuse -- whether 'two per cent, 20 per cent, 200 per cent' -- but twice said we should not be surprised by the story in the Globe and Mail," said the June 9, 2007, memo examined by The Canadian Press.
Officials were told that by the Red Cross that Canada and the ICRC "have a joint interest in ensuring proper treatment of detainees," said the report by Colvin.
However, the Red Cross apparently told Colvin that it was reluctant to share information "because of Canadian political pressure, there is the risk that information we provide would crop up in a public forum."
Earlier that year, former defence minister Gordon O'Connor was forced into an embarrassing public retreat after assuring the House of Commons that the Red Cross was keeping an eye on Canadian-captured prisoners, only to be reminded that it wasn't the agency's role.
Nice to see we are in lock step with our brothers to the south.
Source: Toronto Sun Author: Althia Raj - Parliamentary Bureau Date: 22nd December 2009, 8:01pm
Experts: Afghan detainee transfer agreement still weak
OTTAWA — The federal government’s transfer agreement on Afghan detainees is still too weak and members of the Canadian Forces risk being prosecuted for war crimes, two experts said Tuesday.
“The risk of torture remains,” Paul Champ, a lawyer for Amnesty International and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, told a meeting of opposition MPs. “Any transfers that continue today are still unlawful under our international obligations.”
Retired Canadian ambassador Gar Pardy warned rank-and-file soldiers would suffer if charges were ever laid.
“Every time these types of cases come up, the generals and the ministers disappear over the horizons and it is the poor buggers in the trenches that are going to get it,” he said.
For the second week in a row, Conservative MPs failed to attend an emergency committee meeting examining Canada’s treatment of Afghan detainees.
Laurie Hawn, Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s parliamentary secretary, said the Tories are at home with friends and family for the holidays.
“One would hope that only the most serious of emergencies should interfere with these moments,” Hawn wrote. “There is presently nothing urgent needing study on the subject of Taleban (sic) prisoners.”
Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae said Prime Minister Stephen Harper hopes MPs will go from Christmas to the Winter Olympics and forget the issue.
After being called Canada's news maker of the year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is hanging on to his title by proroguing parliament until 2010.
Ottawa - Canadians might be forgiven for thinking that proroguing is a new Conservative tradition with the news that Stephen Harper has asked the Governor General to prorogue parliament again. Rumours had swirled through Ottawa earlier in December, saying Harper might prorogue parliament in an effort to shut down a House Committee meeting into the torture of Afghan detainees. After a spokesman from Prime Minister's office confirmed the news that Harper was seeking to prorogue Parliament Wednesday, opposition parties reacted by saying Harper was shutting down democracy. According to Dimitri Soudas, Harper did not meet with Michaelle Jean in person to request the prorogue of parliament, instead making the request via telephone. Parliament will convene on March 3, 2010. After the Speech from the Throne on March 3rd, the first order of business will be the budget. Parliament was to resume after a Christmas break on January 25th. Liberal Ralph Goodale said Harper's move was "... a shocking insult to democracy." NDP representative Libby Davies called the move a “political scam.” The Liberal Party has responded by issuing a statement denouncing the Prime Minister. Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff accused Stephen Harper of having "... derailed the nation’s business in order to protect his own partisan interests." Ignatieff went on to say "Mr. Harper is showing his disregard for the democratic institutions of our country. The decision to prorogue is about one thing and one thing only – avoiding the scrutiny of Parliament at a time when this government is facing tough questions about their conduct in covering up the detainee scandal." Last December, when Harper prorogued Parliament shortly after winning an election he had called, Professor Christopher Dassios told the Toronto Star "It’s almost entirely within the prime minister’s discretion to request a proroguing, but it would be highly unusual to ask for one when a session really hasn’t begun. In essence, proroguing means the session is over - that we’ve completed the proposed business for this session. Which is different from an adjournment, which is just not sitting for a period of time - either overnight or for a weekend or for a holiday period. And so, it would be highly unusual and may extend into that really narrow band (of activity) that the GG is expected to exercise - of granting what is appropriate. And there’s just very little discretion. " Until Harper, and aside from the normal proroguing of Parliament at the end of each session, the practice has not been used to temporarily suspend Parliamentary business since Prime Minister MacKenzie King in 1926. Like MacKenzie King, when Harper asked Michaelle Jean to prorogue parliament in December 2008, he was seeking to duck a confidence vote that threatened to end Harper's term as Canada's leader. This year, however, there has been no such crisis to avert and the only reasons Harper's spokesperson has provided for the proroguing has been for the purpose of allowing Harper and the Conservative Party to consult with Canadians about setting the agenda for the upcoming political year. The move to suspend Parliament for two months means that all business before Parliament has been scotched, meaning bills and committee meetings. A decision on whether or not to renew Employment Insurance Benefits is one of those items that will have to be revisited when parliament resumes in March. The move means that Harper will gain control over the senate. Harper also prorogued Parliament in 2007.
Harper's dark democracy creates dangerous legacy
Source: The Star Author: James Travers Date: 2010.01.02
No one should be more concerned about this Prime Minister's controlling methods than Conservatives. Power so expediently abused in high office becomes a cruel constraint when an election is inevitably lost.
Stephen Harper understood that in opposition. As a Reformer he preached the gospel of parliamentary primacy. As a Conservative leader using memories of ethical failures from the Chrétien era to defeat Paul Martin, Harper promised, hand over heart, to restore accountability.
That, of course, was then. Now the Prime Minister is singularly dominating national affairs. As a new year begins, there will be no one here to ask annoying questions about war and spending or distract attention from the modern Roman circus of Olympic Games.
No watchdogs will howl at how Canadians are being denied the right to know what the ruling party is doing in their name and with their money; what generals and ministers aren't saying about Afghanistan prisoner torture or how an unreformed RCMP polices much of the country without civilian oversight.
If there is a zone, a sweet spot, in federal politics, Harper is at its epicentre. Cabinet is a rubber stamp, party principles are sacrificed to pragmatism without much protest, and there's no credible alternative to threaten Harper's hegemony or test a Conservative agenda.
Other prime ministers have explored the open space created by Parliament's shrinkage. Pierre Trudeau, who began the concentration of power among whispering loyalists, snapped "just watch me" when asked how far he would go to control the 1970 October Crisis. Brian Mulroney Tories created the wink-and-nudge contracting system that Liberals elevated into the Quebec sponsorship scheme. Jean Chrétien became known as a more or less friendly dictator during three consecutive majorities.
Harper is still pursuing a first majority. Meanwhile he's constructing a bold new edifice on his predecessor's suspect foundations.
Systematically, and without explanation, the Prime Minister is testing every limit on his power. Along with successfully shuttering Parliament for the second time, he's neutering committees charged with the primary democratic responsibilities of safeguarding the treasury and forcing the government to explain its actions. He's challenging independent rulings against how Conservatives funded their 2006 election and how this government treats Canadians in trouble abroad.
Politics is an uncompromising blood sport played to win within loose rules. By learning Liberal dirty tricks, adapting to changing circumstances and reinterpreting every regulation in his favour, Harper is proving to be a shrewd and accomplished contestant.
Far less clear is what he accepts as legitimate constraint, the line in the democratic sand not to be crossed.
Last year ministers threatened to go over the head of the de facto head of state if Governor General Michaëlle Jean allowed a coalition of "Liberals, socialists and separatist" to use their Commons majority to topple his minority. This winter Harper is essentially making the argument that Parliament is getting in the way of his government governing.
Come spring or fall, there will likely be another election, one that might well interfere with what the Prime Minister has in mind and could, if experience is a prognosticator, lead to yet another response outside the boundaries of shared Canadian experience.
Whatever happens in the coming months, one reality is inescapable. In taking politics to a different, hyper-controlling and partisan level, the Prime Minister is creating a dangerous legacy his successors will gratefully accept before turning it to their benefit.
Even if Conservatives are more comfortable than other Canadians with Harper's dark democracy, they along with the rest of us should be very afraid of what will happen when, as it will, the political worm turns.[Fritz]Interesting to see that all politicians are created equal, is underscored
James Travers' column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Even if humans have a tiny effect, on climate change, the carbon industry (oil, coal, gas) has given governments their marching order. Burn as much carbon as fast as possible and don't let anything replace coal, oil, or gas as the primary sources of energy. Our only hope now is for the Sun to cool off for the next 100 years. May God have mercy on or souls, because the sociopaths running this world are determined to kill us all.
Oh one last comment about climate change. Don't worry about melting ice, the more immediate concern is falling crop yields. How much do crop yields need to drop before you see food riots in the western world? 2, 5,10 percent drop? Also remember that in 2008 when oil prices rose there were food riots around the world. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007%E2%80%932008_world_food_price_crisis Don't worry there will always be plenty of food for those with enough money and who cares about poor people starving? It is not like it is somebody rich who really matters. I am being sarcastic in case you could not guess.
I wish I could find a more reliable link but I have heard that women living downwind of sour gas wells have five times as many miscarriages as women who do not. I guess human lives come a distance second to carbon industry. http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=10328
Sigh ... even in this kinder gentler frozen North we can't play nicely with each other.
Source: The Register Author: Austin Modine in San Francisco Date: 2010.01.12
Canada quashes Yes Men hoax with phishing claim
Too many boys crying wolf
Those online pranksters known as The Yes Men may be called many things for their spoofing antics - satirists, provocateurs, major-league assholes - but phishers they're not.
Ah, but that's exactly the excuse Canada's department of the environment used to shut down two of the organization's parody website's created last month to thumb noses at the government's environmental policy during the Copenhagen climate conference. The Yes Men created the websites December 14, which mimicked real Canadian government sites and issued fake news releases that claimed Canada had reversed its climate-change policy and set stricter goals on CO2 emissions.
It's the usual M.O. for the loosely-knit online group — which last October gave the US Chamber of Commerce a similar work-over with a faux environmental release announcement that fooled even stalwart publications like The Washington Post and The New York Times. The US government took a tack of claiming The Yes Men violated the country's copyright laws by "directly copying the images, logos, design and layout" of the Chamber of Commerce's official website.
Up north, Environment Canada convinced web service provider Serverloft to take down two fake Yes Men websites - enviro-canada.ca and ec-gc.ca - by referring to them as phishing scams.
"Environment Canada asked a German Internet service provider to take down two hoax (Environment Canada) websites because those websites infringe Environment Canada's Intellectual Property and act as phishing sites to the official department website," the department confirmed to Canada.com.
The term phishing, of course, refers to creating websites designed to look like they are from well-known, legitimate businesses for the purpose of stealing personal information, like passwords, bank account information, or credit card numbers.
The Yes Men claim Canada's government is unjustified in taking down the website without a warrant. According to the group, Serverloft responded to the government's request by blocking a range of IP-addresses used by the host PiWeb, which resulted in unplugging 4,500 web sites that were unrelated to the hoax. (Take the latter accusation with a shovel of salt, however, as the Yes Men aren't exactly above making things up to make a point).
Whether the Canadian and US government have a case against the Yes Men for violating trademark law by mimicking their websites has yet to be seen. But accusing the group of phishing to get a swifter reaction from a service provider is a trouble tactic indeed. ®