Omar Khadr

… explanation needed.

July 7, 2017

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau,
Office of the Prime Minister,
80 Wellington Street,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Re: Thank you

Dear Prime Minister:

If I’m prone to be quick to criticize, a common characteristic, I should also promptly applaud when credit is due.

Thank you and your government for settling the claim Omar Khadr made against Canada. Yes, it can be argued the courts would have awarded him a more substantial compensation, but you did the right thing, nonetheless.

It’s only a shame your Conservative opposition can’t shake their medievalist mindset.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

…….and further…..

July 7, 2017

Andrew Sheer,
House of Commons,
Parliament Building,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Re: Omar Khadr

Mr. Sheer:

Just how poorly informed do you want to make yourself out to be?

You know very well how shamefully Canada treated Omar Khadr. You know very well there wasn’t a court in this country that would support the position you and the other troglodytes in the last government held on the question. You know very well you’re now simply playing politics to arouse the worst among us, when you should be contrite and remorseful. And, you know very well Canada can pay Mr. Khadr $10million now or a lot more at trial.

But, then I suppose we should expect nothing better from the intransigent medievalist thinking of the conservative mind.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen.

The same letter went to Tony Clement, Peter Kent, and Jason Kenny.

Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial governments routinely ignore their own policies and procedures, and violate both the law and Charter rights. Yes, sometimes it’s done clandestinely, sometimes with a rationalized good purpose, but most often unintentionally…. innocent mistakes.

No matter the cause, a government must accept responsibility and exact a punitive consequence. We need to ensure that happens.

On Trump…….a word……or two.

There are better things to do than comment on Donald Trump. There are a lot better things deserving of comment than Donald Trump. Unfortunately, it seems de rigueur today for anyone who has something to say about anything to pause long enough to take a position. And so, yielding to convention, and interrupting important work, here are a few words on the subject.

Our youthful and energetic prime minister congratulated Mr. Trump on his election victory, on his inauguration, and then invited him to Ottawa. It’s become a recent tradition for newly elected American presidents to make Ottawa their first foreign trip, and Mr. Trudeau was simply following a familiar precedent, as if all was right in the world of politics.

All is not right, and Canadians cannot be complacent and silent. A short letter to the PM offered a blunt perspective rooted in this unfortunate reality:-

January 23, 2017

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau,
Prime Minister of Canada,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Re: Donald Trump

Dear Prime Minister:

I am a Liberal Party supporter and a Justin Trudeau booster.

The position you have taken on the result of the U.S. presidential election, and the interaction with Mr. Trump to this point is understandable and politic. That you can hold your nose with one hand and extend the other in welcome makes you a martyr.

The rest of us, however, do not have to follow suit. Donald Trump is a parasitic fascist, a sorry excuse for a human being, a pathological liar, and an emotional basket case. One can hope you would prefer a trip to Washington to meet with him, and save the rest of us travel to Ottawa to make him feel unwelcome, should he come to this country.

In the end, I wish you the very best of good fortune with this uncertain venture.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

On a personal note, I was a part of the Niagara District High School’s United Nations Club a way back in the mid-1950s. It was a large, lively group where each participant was assigned the role of representing a United Nations member state.

I took on the USSR, and to ensure authenticity, the Soviet Union’s Ottawa embassy put me on its mailing list. Each week a package arrived with the latest English translations of news of the accomplishments and successes of the revolution, and the leaders’ speeches celebrating the merits of the communist movement toward world domination.

Outlandish, outrageous, and offensive as it was, the Soviet propaganda…..that’s what it’s called….of the 1950s cannot hold a candle to what the world has heard and seen from Donald Trump in the last eighteen months. Why waste resources to protest his assault on intelligent life; a short note to the man’s comments on the size of the inauguration crowds is all this writer can justify:-

January 23, 2017

Mr. Donald Trump,
The White House,
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW,
Washington, DC,

Mr. Trump:

The live feed of the pictures around the U.S. Capitol on January 20 are clear.

If you take issue with what is obvious to even the casual observer, then I suggest you release your own photographic records.

Mr. Trump, it’s a matter of put up or shut up.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

With this, we hope not to feel the need to bring up the topic again. There is a plentitude who recognize the danger and can rally for right.

Torture? Yes, we are complicit!

Posted in Montreal

Check back to March 23rd’s “Canada complicit with torture? Really?”

Canadian citizens Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin each filed $100-million lawsuits against the Canadian government ten years ago after they were tortured in a Syrian prison (and in the case of Elmaati, in Egypt also), claiming Canada was complicit in their treatment.

Turns out, it seems they were correct.

Lawyers for the three men fought and eventually won a lengthy legal battle with the RCMP and CSIS, gaining access to thousands of heavily redacted files, totaling hundreds of thousands of pages. CBC News obtained access to about 18,000 of those pages which will be used when the civil trials begin early in 2017.

Documented by CBC Investigates, and reported in mid-September on The National, and the fifth estate, “Thousands of pages of secret files obtained by CBC reveal how Canada’s police and intelligence service not only knew three Canadians were being tortured in Syrian jails in a post-Sept. 11 crackdown, but co-operated with Syrian officials in their interrogations.
The files also show a Canadian ambassador helped deliver questions the RCMP and CSIS wanted put to the Canadians imprisoned in Syria, a country with a dismal human rights record.”

Two commissions of inquiry have already concluded that Almalki, Elmaati and Nureddin were wrongly targeted by CSIS and the RCMP.

As we recorded in March, unfortunately, our new “sunny days” Liberal government is taking up the fight against an apology and compensation. They’re even going further than the Harper government to protect CSIS sources, and the Toronto Star noted in the spring that the three men’s lawyers were “stunned” by the Trudeau government’s position.

It should be no surprise that our elected representatives may be repulsed by the evidence, but feel compelled all the same to cover the butts of the civil service bureaucrats who are responsible.

The probable and best outcome for Almalki, Elmaati and Nureddin says Ottawa realizes its vulnerability to adverse public opinion, faces certain defeat in court, and settles. That avoids years of litigation, but does nothing to repair the damage to Canada’s reputation, or prevent similar misadventures in the future. And, the three men don’t get the satisfaction of a public apology.

Hey, maybe they won’t settle. Bottom line: CSIS and the RCMP will cost us.

Just whose back does Ottawa have?

Are you sure you’re in the picture?

Brennan Guigue is a product of the ‘system’…..the child welfare system, the juvenile justice system, the adult penal system. This triad doesn’t prepare anyone for a life in the community free of constraints, ready and able to engage the world in the ways most of us usually take for granted and handle by rote. As one example, coping with money can be a mystery.

Brennan visited his local Royal Bank branch recently during one of his brief respites from prison to take care of some business. His account there was opened in 2008 on another stay in the community when he strode confidently into the branch, announced his intention to a teller, and then spent some time with the manager who was intrigued by an intelligent and articulate ex-con only too willing to share his prison experience with the uninitiated. Here was the consummate bank robber looking to be an upstanding citizen.

There had never been an account balance of more than a few dollars through the years but it was active even while he was incarcerated. On this particular occasion in 2015, he was told he qualified for a Visa card with a $2000 spending limit! What? A man of 45 with no credit history, no assets, a lengthy criminal record and no experience at managing money, qualified for a Visa card? Albeit unknown to the bank, a man saddled too with emotional and mental health issues, but those didn’t matter given that he shouldn’t have been offered the service in the first place. Or should he?

Brennan wanted to do well. Brennan wanted to belong. He eventually accepted the Visa card, promising he would spend only what he could repay each month. The balance reached $1500 in about three weeks. To show the bank he was serious about his responsibilities he paid half of the $1500 using his Ontario Works cheque, leaving almost nothing for the rest of that month. The balance again ballooned to about $1500. This time, a Good Samaritan paid his bill.

By the time the stressors of contending with life outside prison walls overwhelmed him and he once again ran afoul of the law, the Visa card balance was $2100. He accepts the debt; he wants to pay it off; he hopes Visa will bide its time. Truthfully though, it’s a long shot. It’s a hole-in-one on a par five.

But, the $2100 will be repaid. You and I will cover it in the various ways an organization like Visa employs to recoup its losses. And, it does so with our government’s blessing. This is not about Visa. This is not about the Royal Bank of Canada. All banks and all credit vendors are the same. This is about our government allowing these businesses to operate in the ways they do to our detriment.

Here’s one more brief tale of government complicity with big business.

A friend in Toronto is a long-time Bell Canada customer. He has a land line with two phones in his home. His only “feature” is voice mail. He has no need for more, and no need to spend beyond the minimum.

Unusual for him, he called a sister in Oshawa for her birthday. She wasn’t home; he left a short message. When the bill arrived later in the month, he saw an 80 cent charge for the one minute long distance call, but a further $2.95 ‘ld’ charge, both amounts plus tax. Curious, he called Bell. The $2.95, plus tax, was a charge for the use of the long distance (ld) service, since he didn’t have a plan.

Are you kidding us, Bell Canada?

And finally, as an “oh, by the way”, it’s not news that the Toronto Police Service executed raids on dozens of marijuana medical dispensaries in the city a short few weeks ago. Some of these stores apparently would sell to anyone of age. Operators and staff were handcuffed, money and product seized, and many, many charges were laid. Now, not all marijuana businesses were affected, but the dozens that were was a message to all that the illegal trafficking in marijuana would not be tolerated…….until the law was actually changed.

The news conference on the action held by the chief of police was disrupted by noisy protesters. No one doubts most if not all charges will be dropped, dismissed or resolved summarily with minor fines. So why was such a major and expensive effort launched for such a meager return in the end?

Was there a legitimate reason to act in the best interest of the people? Or, did the multi-million dollar corporations expecting to control the billions of dollars in legal marijuana trade prompt the move? How many of these organizations have ex-political figures on their boards?

Food for thought. Maybe Bernie Sanders should spend some time with us?

Canada complicit with torture? Really?

Following a judicial inquiry, the government of Stephen Harper apologized to Maher Arar in January of 2007, and paid him $10.5 million in compensation plus $1 million in legal fees to settle his civil lawsuit for its role in Arar’s rendition to a Syrian military prison where he was tortured in 2002/2003. While the Conservative government of the day could have been more aggressive in protecting a Canadian citizen, it was the shameful behaviour of our public servants at CSIS and the RCMP that left Mr. Arar traumatized, and cost Canadian taxpayers unnecessarily.

This infrequent mid-week post links with our March 20 “Human rights issues… Canada?”, and a February 7 Toronto Star Ottawa bureau’s Tonda MacCharles’ article, “Liberals back CSIS in torture lawsuit”.

Ahmad El Maati, Muayyed Nureddin, and Abdullah Almaiki were arrested upon arrival in Syria at about the same time Maher Arar was transferred there from the United States and all were tortured in the same prison. El Maati was later moved from Syria to Egypt where he was also tortured. A second Canadian judicial inquiry headed by former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci confirmed El Maati, Nureddin, and Almaiki were tortured in Syria, and Canadian officials played a role. The three men in turn filed claims against our government.

The Liberals have picked up the Harper government’s legal fight against an apology and compensation, even though they voted in favour while in opposition. What’s more, the Liberals are going further than their predecessors to protect CSIS sources. According to the Star story, the legal team representing El Maati, Nureddin and Alaiki are “stunned” by the Trudeau government’s position.

We had written Ralph Goodale on this early in February (copy below). Considering Justin Trudeau’s recent New York trip, we sent off a note to him, too:

February 9, 2016

The Honourable Ralph Goodale,
Minister of Public Safety,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Re: Liberals back CSIS in torture lawsuit
Toronto Star, Sunday, February 7, 2016

Dear Minister Goodale:

To understate this, what a shame!

The last government was prepared to be unreasonable, unfair and obstinate in dealing with these three men. We would have expected that from it, but to have the government of which you are a part go even further is a disappointment. Guess this is at least one black mark on your record.

What was all this about accountability for national security agencies anyway?

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

March 23, 2016

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau,
Prime Minister of Canada,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Re: Human rights in Canada

Dear Prime Minister:

Your remarks during your recent and successful New York trip included a reference to Canada as a leader in human rights.

The record says otherwise. Consider the attached postings, “Human rights issues….in Canada?” and “Canada complicit with torture? Really?”

You promised better than this.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

Human rights issues… Canada?

We’re all aware of the impending sale of military equipment to Saudi Arabia, and the questions and criticisms over how this might be used by the Saudis, given their human rights record. Recently, the Saudi embassy in Ottawa suggested that the Kingdom could have purchased what was needed elsewhere, and in so many words, said we should mind our own business.

They have a point.

Canada is a long way removed from conditions in many countries, but we are not a paradigm of human rights’ virtues either, in spite of what the prime minister said last week in New York. Amnesty International’s secretary-general Alex Neve, and Indigenous Bar Association and University of Manitoba associate professor Brenda Gunn’s perspective of a United Nations’ committee’s findings was published on February 26 in Toronto’s Globe and Mail.

The UN’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights had just carried out the first review of Canada since the Liberals formed a new government last fall. With Ottawa’s fresh air at their backs, about 40 indigenous leaders and activists, and human rights and equality advocates from across the country traveled to Geneva the last week in February. They were anticipating a positive outcome, given the federal government’s renewed relationship with the UN, and the welcome developments under way in Canada.

Unfortunately, and in spite of the upcoming inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women, the restoration of health care cuts for refugees, and a proposed national poverty strategy, Canada remains at loggerheads with the UN committee over our shortcomings in complying with human rights. In the face of international law, our country continues to insist that economic, social and cultural rights aren’t fully protected by the Charter, and do not need to be.

Individuals and communities who believe their rights are disregarded have no remedy. Until federal and provincial governments come together to guarantee human rights in more effective ways, and until their approach promotes economic and social rights, Canada remains a country in a rights limbo.

Just as an aside, has any country’s government ever confessed a lousy human rights record to the world?

Tax accountability…it’s your money.

It’s a hallmark of most lives to complain about taxes….there’s too many, they’re too high, our politicians are misspending. So common at the municipal level, as perhaps these levies hit closer to home, and our civic public servants are more accessible. There’s an opposing argument too, claiming we want city services……as long as we don’t have to pay for them.

No matter where our opinions fall, accountability, or the lack of it, underscores much public angst. There is at least one area impacting all three levels of government where our tax dollars get spent, and we are entitled to know almost nothing about where that money is going.

We’ll use the City of Toronto as an example. Toronto is self-insured for up to five million dollars for successful liability actions taken against it. David Miller, a former mayor of the city, at one point during his tenure called for a review of the cost of police litigation. It had been revealed that the city had spent more than $30-million on over 8,000 lawsuits against the police during one seven year period.

Keep in mind that all or almost all successful actions against the police include non-disclosure clauses. These are our tax dollars, but we cannot know who, how much, or what for. This is not only about policing, as circumstances are the same no matter which part of our city government is a target.

So, the next time you have a problem with what you’re turning over to a government, why not complain about this secret spending of your money, and ask why our politicians fear disclosure?

Gotta Minute? (18)

“First they arrested the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did nothing. Then they came for the Social Democrats, but I was not a Social Democrat so I did nothing. Then they arrested the trade unionists and I did nothing because I was not one. And then they came for the Jews and Catholics, but I was neither a Jew nor a Catholic and I did nothing. At last they came and arrested me – and there was no one left to do anything about it.”
Reverend Marin Niemollor (Nazi prison survivor)

This is what can happen when we don’t pay attention.  Remember…..

….no vigilance, no democracy….

Never stop watching, talking, walking.

Omar Khadr: The pendulum swings…..finally.

Justin Trudeau has asked new justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to review the government’s litigation strategy. Included on her agenda is the previous government’s appeal of the decision to release Omar Khadr on bail pending the action to have his U.S. conviction reversed. At this point, she has simply asked for a delay in the process but the smart money and ‘common sense’, as Khadr lawyer Dennis Edney puts it, says the Liberal government will drop the matter.

Staff reporter Ben Spurr’s Toronto Star November 29 “Ottawa delays decision on Khadr appeal” is a quick overview on the subject, and strikes a decidedly sympathetic chord. As well, CBC television’s Firsthand at 9pm on Thursday, December 3, ran Omar Khadr: Out of the Shadows, a shorter version of Guantanamo’s Child: Omar Khadr, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival.

Is sanity really creeping back into Ottawa? We sent a letter off to Minister Wilson-Raybould:

December 4, 2015

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould,
Minister of Justice,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Re: Ottawa delays decision on Khadr appeal
Toronto Star, Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dear Minister:

Finally, finally, the sun begins to shine in Ottawa!

The previous government’s shameful treatment of one human being for the sake of questionable ‘heinous’ political gain forever damns it to the sewer of gutter opportunism. And, how blatantly obvious the leaders of that government made their intentions, too.

I propose that Stephen Harper be compelled to hand Canada’s settlement cheque to Omar Khadr during a July 1st celebration on Parliament Hill once the claim against his homeland has been resolved.

In the meantime, I encourage you to withdraw any objection to his parole status, and to support the action to have his conviction in the United States overturned.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen
cc Stephen Harper – House of Commons
Steven Blaney – House of Commons
Ben Spurr – The Toronto Star

Given a better effort to locate a mailing address, we would have preferred to also send a copy of this letter to a previous justice minister, now The Honourable Mr. Justice Victor E. Toews of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench. His was a federal appointment under Harper’s government so we commiserate with Manitoba’s burden. It has been a pleasure to read, though, that Justice Toews’ salary is being garnisheed by Quebec for unpaid rent on accommodation in Gatineau while he was still in Ottawa.