Archive for August, 2007
We always suspected it was happening, and now we may have proof: behind the face-covering bandanas of those rock-throwing demonstrators are members of the police!
In this video taken this week at demonstrations in Montebello, Quebec, during the visit of Bush and Mexican president Calderon, one of the protest organizers realizes that three guys carrying rocks in the crowd are actually police officers. The three – who refuse to take off their face coverings, appear to seek safety behind police lines after their cover has been blown.
The guy confronting the rock-throwers is Dave Coles, president of one of Canada’s largest unions: the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers Union.
SPP is built around secrecy and US military command
By Michael Byers
OTTAWA, August 20, 2007: The agreement’s title is classic framing: “Security and Prosperity Partnership” (SPP) conjures up comfortable images. Michael Byers says the agreement under discussion this week by Canadian, US and Mexican leaders Harper, Bush and Calderon should more properly be framed as a secret agreement to hand sweeping military, immigration and border control of all three countries over to the US. On Sunday, Byers, the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia told a standing-room-only forum in Ottawa about the politics and persuasion connected with the agreement under discussion behind the barricades this week at Montebello, Quebec. – Murray Dobbin
I want to begin by welcoming the civil servants who have been sent to keep track of what’s going on here. Like you, we love our country; unlike the people who are gathering in Montebello this week, we have nothing to hide.
The Security and Prosperity Partnership did not begin as a phenomenon after September 11, 2001. It was part of a trend that predates that time. But the proponents of North American integration seized upon 9/11 as an opportunity to advance their cause. And some of those proponents in Canada were very overt about their aspirations in the weeks and months after the terrorist atrocities in New York City and Washington, DC.
David O’Brien, the CEO of Canadian Pacific and now Chairman of the Board of Royal Bank of Canada, argued Canada would have to adopt US-style immigration policies to keep the border open. He said that we have to make North Americans secure from the outside. ‘We’re going to lose increasingly our sovereignty but it’s necessarily so.’ Mr. O’Brien is an influential man. Within months, the Canadian government had signed the Safe Third Country agreement with the United States whereby Canadian refugee policy was essentially assimilated into the refugee policy of the United States. The rights of human beings to asylum when they’re being persecuted for their religious or political opinions or ethnic identities is one of the most fundamental rights of all.
Then there was Nancy Hughes Anthony, the President of the Canadian Chambers of Commerce who said that we’re not going to get anywhere with our American friends unless we can show we have good strong anti-terrorist legislation and we intend to enforce it. The result was the 2001 Anti- terrorism Act, which, of course was modelled on the [US] Patriot Act.
And then there was Patrick E. Daniels, the President of Enbridge, the big energy company based in Calgary, who complained that Canada pushed its sovereignty ‘a little too far.’ He said it would be realistic for Canada to either get onside with US foreign policy or ‘accept some change in our relationship.’
I was asked to speak about one aspect of the Security and Prosperity Partnership, namely security, or more specifically, the military. In the immediate aftermath of September 2001, plans were devised within the American and Canadian governments to put the entire Canadian Forces under the umbrella of the US Northern Command. To put all our soldiers, sailors and pilots and all their equipment under the operational control of the United States, in a much- expanded version of the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD). Fortunately some sunshine was let in upon that thinking before it could be taken too far. Some serious credit needs to be given here to a former Canadian foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy, who took advantage of being out of Cabinet to let the rest of us know what his former colleagues were up to.
So those who wanted to pursue the efforts of further integration of the Canadian and US military decided to take their efforts underground in arrangements that bear striking similarity to the SPP. And the SPP is part of a larger process. The Bi-National Planning Group was the military sister or brother of the SPP. Essentially it was a transborder committee of unelected bureaucrats, military officers and consultants who were given task of studying and then reporting on the options for improving the efficacy of the North American defensive system. The goal was simply to allow us to respond faster and better to the various kinds of threats that might arise.
The military officers worked away quietly in Colorado Springs, Colorado, headquarters of NORAD, as well as the US space command…. Canadian military leaders quite liked playing with the big boys and using the best military equipment in the world…
The proponents of closer military integration could not believe their luck when Stephen Harper was elected. And very shortly after Mr. Harper came to power, they released their final report… which sets out four different options for the closer integration of the Canadian and US military. Most of the report is concerned with public relations, noting that Canadians are particularly attached to sovereignty.
Imagine how you might actually explain that closer military cooperation enhances sovereignty because giving up sovereignty is an exercise in sovereignty! You actually affirm your sovereignty by giving some of it away..
The report was very very clear that its preferred option was full integration, the option that had been floated internally in 2002, the assignment of Canadian Forces to what looked like an expanded NORAD, to an umbrella command where operational control would ultimately rest with the US military.
Some steps have been taken in that direction, including, last year, the NORAD agreement to expand the sharing of maritime surveillance including within the Northwest Passage. It wasn’t much noticed at the time. Only one party opposed it in Parliament, the New Democratic Party of Canada.
When the report actually came out and was put up on the website of the Bi-National Planning Group, some smart people, including possibly the Prime Minister of Canada, decided that you were not yet ready for this. That somehow it wasn’t the time to make the public case for the full integration of Canadian and US forces because Mr. Harper didn’t get that majority he so desperately desired. And so it was shuffled away once again, it disappeared off the website, and the Bi-National Planning Group was shut down, and who knows what they’re talking about in Montebello.
But something did happen, and I’m talking about Afghanistan…. We are seeing the implementation in theatre of precisely the kind of planning that was going into the Bi-National Planning Group. We are seeing the Canadian Forces being given more and more equipment. We’re even buying new tanks. We’re seeing the integration of attitudes and rules of engagement with respect to issues like the treatment of detainees. Why did we not adopt the Western European approach to detainee transfer rights, following models that were provided to us by the British, the Dutch and the Danish? Because Washington wanted to do it another way. And why should we volunteer for the most dangerous mission in Afghanistan, a forward-leaning, war- fighting search and kill mission supported by US airstrikes and working in tandem with a US-led and -commanded mission that is not part of the NATO command?
Why have 67 Canadian soldiers died in Afghanistan? Why did Private Simon Longtin die today? The simple explanation, and it’s only a partial explanation, is that there are people who want to transform the Canadian Forces into a miniature version of the US Marine Corps and want Canada to only choose missions that involve fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States; that want us to acquire equipment that integrates seamlessly with the US military, including in the relatively near future new F35 fighters. The same people who will tell you that peace-keeping is dead, that we really don’t need new search-and-rescue aircraft in the second largest country on Earth, and who will tell you that those who stand up for the rights of detainees are expressing disrespect and a lack of support for the brave young Canadian men and women who serve this country in whatever mission they’re given because they love this country just as much as you and I.
The integration of the Canadian and US military is not officially part of the SPP, but the SPP and the integration of the Canadian and US military are part of a larger project, and we need to address that larger project, and understand that what we’re up against here does not involve the existence of an independent Canada. But as we saw with the Bi-National Planning Group, a little bit of sunshine can chase these plans away. When I look at this room I see a whole lot of sunshine.
You can send a letter calling on Stephen Harper to disclose the SPP on our sister web site, RightonCanada.ca.
I was asked by CTV Newsnet to comment on today’s sad news that another soldier has been killed in Afghanistan. Here is a link to the CTV.ca news story and my interview that aired this morning. It includes our thinking on some of the political implications of the death in light of the new Cabinet.
I gave a brief interview to CBC TV today, a snippet of which was included in this report by Susan Bonner on The National.
Gordon O’Connor’s failure to convince Canadians to support the flagging war in Afghanistan, and his repeated missteps such as on the potential torture of Afghan detainees, meant that he had to be replaced.
But will Peter MacKay and Maxime Bernier save the sinking Conservatives on the unpopular war in Afghanistan?
In MacKay’s appointment, Stephen Harper has chosen someone who has shown he will toe the party line at any cost.
For instance Peter MacKay, whose riding is in Nova Scotia, supported the federal government’s controversial position on the Atlantic Accord at a time when the region’s Conservative Premiers were urging him to vote against the federal budget.
And as the new Minister for Foreign Affairs, Maxime Bernier’s job will be to sell the war to Quebeckers.
Together, the appointments to National Defence and Foreign Affairs indicate that the Harper government does not intend to alter its policy on the unpopular war.
By passing up an opportunity to change direction on Afghanistan to increase public support, the appointments of MacKay and Bernier show that Stephen Harper is climbing out of the lifeboat and back onto the deck of the Titanic.
Today is the 62nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. I wanted to share with you this op-ed which appears in the Halifax Daily News, written by one of my freinds in the Halifax Peace Initiative.
Nuclear weapons greater threat than global warming
The Daily News (Halifax)
Monday, August 6, 2007
Byline: Heidi Verheul
Despite the overwhelming evidence and popular knowledge that nuclear weapons and global warming threaten life on the planet as we know it, little has been done by our elected leaders to protect and lead us away from these very serious threats.
Are we really still talking about flicking off lights?
There is a very important distinction to be made between these threats. The loss of life and the devastating changes to environments around the world due to global warming will have serious and tragic implications that will create more political instability. But global warming on its own will not end life on Earth. Nuclear weapons have the capacity to render this planet completely uninhabitable. It is the difference between life-changing versus life- obliterating.
While discussion about climate chaos and its solutions are a hot topic, the spectre of mushroom clouds and radiation sickness has faded from public consciousness.
Yet at this very moment, there are 27,000 nuclear weapons in the world. There are approximately 4,000 nuclear weapons that can be launched within minutes by the United States and Russia. There are also 480 nuclear weapons controlled by the United States that are stationed in Europe as part of NATO’s outdated Cold War policies.
The United States is hypocritical in its stance against North Korea and Iran’s nuclear pursuits, as the U.S. is developing new nuclear weapons in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
During the 50th Anniversary of the Pugwash Peace Conference in Nova Scotia last month, Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba of Hiroshima described the unique role that cities can play to help eliminate nuclear weapons.
Mayors for Peace is an initiative that was started in 1982, and offers cities a way to transcend national borders and work together to press for nuclear abolition. As of July 30, membership stood at 1,698 cities in 122 countries and regions. In Canada, the mayors of Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Montreal are members of Mayors for Peace. Currently, no mayor in Nova Scotia has joined Mayors for Peace.
As Nova Scotians, we need to urge our mayors to join this critical campaign to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world by 2020. In his speech for the Pugwash Peace Exchange last month, Akiba challenged people to answer this question: Are you doing everything in your power to pursue nuclear disarmament?
As long as nuclear weapons exist, they will one day be used. This year, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists adjusted the Doomsday Clock to five minutes to midnight and stated that the greatest threats to humankind are climate change and the prospect of nuclear annihilation.
We must do all we can to stop these threats.
Today, shadows will appear on sidewalks of Halifax and Dartmouth to commemorate the people who were vaporized by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Take a moment and consider how a nuclear attack would devastate our community. Rain date is Aug. 9.
During the afternoon, we invite people to join us for the third Annual Peace Day in HRM at the Peace Pavilion on the Dartmouth Waterfront near Alderney Landing from 3 to 4:30 p.m. for a special youth performance of the play A Thousand Cranes, paper-crane folding and songs by the Raging Grannies. In case of rain, it will be held inside Alderney Landing.
Please, flick off the lights when you leave a room. But do not remain in the dark about the nuclear threat to the survival of the only planet we can call home.
Heidi Verheul is a member of the Halifax Peace Coalition and the organizer of the Shadow Project. She has a bachelor of science degree in biology, and is completing her bachelor of education degree.
News reports are predicting that Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor will be shuffled out of the cabinet in the coming days. While many people have been calling for him to be removed, myself included, ironically the timing is very bad. The military (i.e. General Hillier) has been openly challenging O’Connor and the government on defence policy. Will this embolden the generals to keep on undermining Parliament by openly trying to influence Canadian policy – something that a military should never do in a democracy?
I think it is worth reading Eugene Lang’s op-ed from the Globe and Mail on this topic, reprinted below:
Commander in chief?
Hillier v. O’Connor: The confusion about who’s in command can’t continue
From Friday’s Globe and Mail
August 3, 2007 at 3:29 AM EDT
The Minister of National Defence, Gordon O’Connor, and the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier, are publicly at odds on at least three key files: the readiness of the Afghan National Army to replace the Canadian Forces in Kandahar in 2009, the appropriate level of funeral coverage for fallen soldiers, and whether Canada should establish “territorial defence units” across Canada. These issues fall into both the realms of military operations (the responsibility of the CDS) and defence policy (the purview of the minister). A public rift between the chief military officer and the civilian authority is unprecedented. It is also untenable. The disputes send mixed messages to Canadians, to Parliament, to our allies, to our enemies and to troops in the field. It is not clear who is in charge.
The confusion cannot be allowed to continue.
To be sure, previous defence ministers and chiefs of the defence staff have been on different sides of key issues. John McCallum, Jean Chrétien’s last defence minister, disagreed with the day’s chief of the defence staff on several files – notably on some major military procurements and the scope for eliminating inefficiencies in the Defence Department. Yet, not once did their disagreements spill over into the public domain. Paul Martin’s last defence minister, Bill Graham, saw eye to eye with Gen. Hillier on most issues. However, there were two or three occasions when the general’s public utterances, on the subjects of military funding and the nature of the Afghanistan mission, made life awkward for Mr. Graham and Mr. Martin. Not once, however, did this result in a public dispute or even an acrimonious exchange behind closed doors.
Had any of these tensions produced open divides between the minister and the CDS, their relationship, and those of their staffs, would have been compromised, to the detriment of the functioning of the defence portfolio. All parties understood this and conducted themselves accordingly. Disputes were sorted out behind closed doors, not unlike how a cabinet functions.
While public rows between military leaders and civilian authorities are rare in Canada, they are common in the United States, where senior generals often act like politicians, creating their own personas through the media. Gen. Hillier has embraced the American model. He speaks out bluntly and loudly on a wide range of issues. Indeed, Rick Hillier is better known than any CDS this country has ever had. He has a higher profile than virtually any member of Stephen Harper’s cabinet, and he is a superior communicator. Any defence minister would find it challenging to establish his or her dominance while standing next to the formidable and talented Gen. Hillier. But the serial missteps of Gordon O’Connor – particularly his failure to understand and communicate accurately the government’s policy on detainees taken in Afghanistan – has made his task of emerging from the Hillier shadow that much harder. Mr. O’Connor lacks the confidence of Parliament, the Canadian public and the military rank and file.
Gen. Hillier, at a minimum, retains the solid confidence of the latter, which is his main responsibility.
The two men are tripping over one another. Mr. O’Connor, a retired brigadier-general, is out of step with the military leadership on a key operational matter – the Afghan National Army’s readiness to replace the Canadian Forces in Kandahar. And Gen. Hillier, who was given unprecedented influence over defence policy in the Martin government, still treads heavily in that domain. The lines of authority between the minister and the CDS are blurred and conflicted. They need clarifying – fast. Many believe the Prime Minister can solve the problems in the defence portfolio by replacing Mr. O’Connor. That is a necessary, but probably insufficient, condition to get things back on track at this point.
The central objective must be nothing short of re-establishing competent civilian control over defence policy, oversight of the military, and effective ministerial communications with the public, all of which are woefully lacking.
Unfortunately, the Prime Minister’s failure to replace Mr. O’Connor earlier, when it was clear he was out of his depth, has resulted in these public contradictions between the general and the minister. This situation has made the Prime Minister’s challenge greater, and might put Gen. Hillier’s tenure at risk – which would undermine the military transformation agenda the general has spearheaded.
Given the public rift between the minister and the CDS, the dismissal of Mr. O’Connor at this late stage would be attributed to Gen. Hillier taking him on in public and winning. That perception would hamstring any incoming minister. The new minister would have, in the back of his or her mind, the fact that the CDS publicly challenged the minister – a retired general and author of the government’s defence platform – resulting in the minister’s dismissal. The subliminal message would be: “Hillier is in charge and getting offside the general is career limiting.”
These circumstances present a serious dilemma for the Prime Minister.
Eugene Lang was chief of staff to two Liberal defence ministers, 2002-2006