MPs don blue ties and scarves for prostate cancer

Bob Rae and Blue Tie - Prostate Cancer Awareness

If you're watching Question Period today, you'll notice Liberal MP Bob Rae (left) and plenty of other MPs from all parties are wearing blue ties and scarves as they try to support NDP Leader Jack Layton and raise awareness of prostate cancer. Here's a blurb from Prostate Cancer Canada, who are organizing this event today:

In a show of united support for Jack Layton and all Canadians whose lives have been affected by prostate cancer, parliamentarians from both Houses of Parliament will demonstrate their support for a Prostate Cancer Canada (PCC) initiative on Parliament Hill, Wednesday March 31, 2010.

On that day, MPs and Senators will wear the Prostate Cancer Canada tie or scarf and representatives from each party will deliver member statements prior to their respective Question Periods.

Prostate Cancer Facts:

1 in 6 Canadian men will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer to afflict Canadian men.

Rates of prostate cancer in men are comparable to rates of breast cancer in women.

More than 90% of prostate cancer cases are curable if detected and treated in their earliest stages.

It is a far greater threat for those with a family history of prostate cancer, or those of African or Caribbean descent.

You can help out by buying a tie yourself in support of prostate cancer research.

Prostate Cancer Tie

Refugee reform; Clinton spanks Canada; and an all-out war on the HST: Wednesday's A1 headlines and Parliamentary daybook

Refugee reform; Clinton spanks Canada; and all-out war on the HST; Listen to my four -minute audio roundup of what's on the front pages of the country's newspapers plus highlights from Wednesday's Parliamentary daybook by clicking on the link below.


You can also get these audio summaries automatically every day via podcast from iTunes or via an RSS feed by subscribing to my AudioBoo stream. Both the iTunes link and the RSS link are at my profile at Lookin the top right corner of the "Boos" box.

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Harper needs another new communications director

Woke up to the surprising news that John Williamson, the prime minister's director of communications, is to leave that post after only a few months to seek a chance to become a member of Parliament. The Telegraph-Journal's Chris Morris reports today that Williamson is leaving the PMO to seek the Conservative nomination in New Brunswick Southwest, a riding that's been held forever by Greg Thompson, the former cabinet minister who last fall announced he would not seek re-election.

Williamson was appointed to the PMO in only in August and started a short while after that. He succeeded Kory Teneycke, who spent about a year in that job. Teneycke was preceded by Sandra Buckler who held the job from shortly after the 2006 election until the summer of 2008. Buckler is now chief of staff to trade minister Peter Van Loan.

Harper's other "d-comms" as either prime minister or leader of the opposition include William Stairs (recently returned to the PMO as director of issues management), Geoff Norquay (now at Earnscliffe Strategy Group), and Jim Armour (at the Canadian Medical Association).

The one constant on Harper's communications team all through those various directors of communication has been Dimitri Soudas, who currently holds the title of Associate Director, Communications, and Press Secretary.  Soudas and Harper's principal secretary Ray Novak are the two Harper aides who have been with him longest.

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Senator Finley rages: "The tyrannical instinct to censor still exists"

Senator Doug Finley led a call Tuesday to scrap a section of Canada’s Human Rights Act that he and other Conservative senators say is being used to stifle free speech in Canada.

Finley was one of a quartet of Tory senators to lead a senate inquiry into free speech rights in Canada, rights they felt had come under attack when the speech by a controversial American pundit at an Ottawa university was cancelled and again when a woman in Vancouver sued a comedian because she didn’t like jokes aimed at her.

“Despite our 400 year tradition of free speech, the tyrannical instinct to censor still exists,” Finley said.

We saw it on a university campus last week. And we see it every week in Canada’s misleadingly-named human rights commissions.

Here is the speech he gave in the Senate. I was there and can say that the following texts differs only slightly from what he actually said. (And Finley, a Scotsman, did, in fact, gamely get through the the French parts of the text):

Honourable Senators,

I rise to call the attention of the Senate to the erosion of freedom of speech in Canada.

There could scarcely be a more important issue than this.

Freedom of speech is, and always has been, the bedrock of our Canadian democracy.

The great Alan Borovoy, who was the head of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association for more than forty years, calls freedom of speech a strategic freedom”.

Because it is the freedom upon which all of our other freedoms are built.

For example, how could we exercise our democratic right to hold elections, without free speech?

How could we have a fair trial, without free speech?

And what would be the point of freedom of assembly, if we couldn’t talk freely at a public meeting?

It is the most important freedom. Indeed, if you had all of your other rights taken away, you could still win them back with freedom of speech.

Benjamin Franklin once said that Without Freedom of thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such thing as public Liberty, without Freedom of speech”

Freedom of speech is embedded in Parliament’s DNA. The word Parliament itself comes from the French word, parler – to speak.

And as Parliamentarians, we guard our freedom jealously. No Member of Parliament or the Senate may be sued for anything he says in here. Our freedom of speech is absolute.

And yet just last week, only a few miles from here, censorship reared its ugly head.

Ann Coulter, an American political commentator, had been invited to speak at the University of Ottawa.

But before she even said a word, she was served with a letter from Francois Houle, the university’s vice-president, containing a thinly-veiled threat that she could face criminal charges if she proceeded with her speech.

And on the night of her speech, an unruly mob of nearly 1,000 people, some of whom had publicly mused about assaulting her, succeeded in shutting down her lecture, after overwhelmed police said they could not guarantee her safety.

Colleagues, it was the most un-Canadian display I have seen in years.

It was so shocking that hundreds of foreign news media covered the fiasco, from the BBC to the New York Times to CNN.

It was an embarrassing moment for Canada, because it besmirched our reputation as a bastion of human rights, a reputation hard-won in places like Vimy Ridge, Juno Beach, and Kandahar.

More important than international embarrassment is the truth those ugly news stories revealed.

Too many Canadians, especially those in positions of authority, have replaced the real human right of freedom of speech with a counterfeit human right not to be offended.

An angry mob is bad enough. That might be written off as misguided youths, overcome by their enthusiasm.

But such excuses are not available to a university vice president who obviously wrote his warning letter to Ms. Coulter after careful thought.

Ann Coulter is controversial. She is not to everyone’s taste. But that is irrelevant.

Because freedom of speech means nothing if it only applies to people with whom we agree. To quote George Orwell,

Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

In a pluralistic society like Canada, we must protect our right to peacefully disagree with each other. We must allow a diversity of opinion – even if we find some opinions offensive.

Unless someone actually counsels violence or other crimes, we must never use the law to silence them.

Freedom of speech is as Canadian as maple syrup, hockey and the Northern Lights. It’s part of our national identity, our history and our culture.

It is section two of our 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms, listed as one of our fundamental freedoms”.

And it’s in the very first section of Canada’s 1960 Bill of Rights.

But our Canadian tradition of liberty goes much farther back than that.

In 1835, a 30-year-old newspaper publisher in Nova Scotia was charged with seditious libel for exposing corruption amongst Halifax politicians.

The judge instructed the jury to convict him. At the time, truth was not a defence.

But the publisher passionately called on the jury to, quote “leave an unshackled press as a legacy to your children”, unquote. After just ten minutes of deliberations, the jury acquitted him.

That young man, of course, was Joseph Howe, who would go on to become the Premier of Nova Scotia.

Our Canadian tradition of free speech is even older than that. It is part of our inheritance from Great Britain and France.

Les Québécois sont les héritiers de l’article 11 de la Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen de 1789.

L’article stipule que : « La libre communication des pensées et des opinions est un des droits les plus précieux de l’homme; tout citoyen peut donc parler, écrire [et] imprimer librement … »

La France a produit le défenseur de la libre expression le plus réputé dans le monde, François-Marie Arouet, mieux connu sous son nom de plume, Voltaire.

Voltaire était un provocateur, qui usait de la satire et de la critique pour faire pression en faveur de réformes politiques et religieuses. Il en a payé le prix personnel, face aux censeurs et aux menaces de poursuites.

Voltaire put it best when he wrote

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

His passionate advocacy helped shape liberty on both sides of the Atlantic.

English Canada has an impressive legacy of free speech, too. Like Voltaire, John Milton, the great poet who wrote Paradise Lost, was constantly hounded for his political views.

His 1644 pamphlet on free speech, called Areopagitica, is perhaps the greatest defence of free speech ever written, and it is as relevant today as it was 350 years ago.

In it, Milton wrote, quote,

let [truth] and falsehood grapple; who ever knew truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?” and

Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature… but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself.”

Yet, despite our 400 year tradition of free speech, the tyrannical instinct to censor still exists.

We saw it on a university campus last week. And we see it every week in Canada’s misleadingly-named human rights commissions.

This week, in Vancouver, a stand-up comedian named Guy Earle goes on trial before the B.C. human rights tribunal for the crime of telling jokes that someone didn’t find funny.

An audience member who heckled him is suing him for $20,000 because she found his retorts offensive.

They may have been offensive. But what’s more offensive is that a government agency would be the arbiter of good taste or humour.

Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was sentenced to eight years of hard labour for telling a joke about Stalin’s moustache. It’s a disgrace that Canada is now putting comedians on trial, too. Earle has already spent $20,000 defending himself.

There is not a lot that the Senate can do about the B.C. human rights tribunal. But our own Canadian Human Rights Commission has egregiously violated freedom of speech – without any shame.

In a censorship trial in 2007, a CHRC investigator named Dean Steacy testified[1] <#_ftn1> that, quote

freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value.”

He actually said that. The Canadian Human Rights Commission actually admits they don’t give free speech any value.

That’s totally unacceptable.

Freedom of speech is the great non-partisan principle that every member of Parliament can agree on – that every Canadian can agree on.

I will never tire of quoting the great Liberal prime minister, Wilfred Laurier, when he said

Canada is free, and freedom is its nationality.”

And I will readily give credit to Keith Martin, the Liberal MP from British Columbia, who, two years ago, introduced a private member’s motion to repeal the censorship provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Fellow Senators, I called for this inquiry to accomplish five things:

  1. To reaffirm that freedom of speech is a great Canadian principle, that goes back hundreds of years;
  2. To put Canada’s censors on notice that their days of infringing upon our freedoms with impunity are over;
  3. To show moral support for those who are battling censors;
  4. To inquire into the details of what went so desperately wrong at the University of Ottawa, to ensure those awful events never happen again;
  5. To inspire a debate that may lead to a re-definition of Section 13.1 of the Human Rights Act;

Colleagues, there are times for partisan debate, when the parties must naturally be at odds with one another. This is not one of those times.

Freedom of speech, and respect for differing views, is the foundational principle of our entire Parliamentary system – indeed for our entire legal system as well.

I look forward to the constructive comments of my friends on both sides of the aisle, to build on the bi-partisan history that Canadian free speech enjoys.

If we can rededicate our parliament to protecting this most important right, we will have done our country a great service.

But if we fail to stop and indeed reverse this erosion of freedom, we will have failed our most basic duty – the duty to uphold our Constitution and the rights it guarantees for all Canadians.

I know that, like so many generations of Canadians before us, we will meet the challenges of our time, and live up to our responsibility to pass on to our children the same freedoms that we inherited from our parents.

God keep our land, glorious and free.”

Putin vows revenge; Toronto traffic worst; and Saskatchewan turns to private health care: Tuesday's A1 headlines and Parliamentary daybook

Putin vows revenge; Toronto traffic judged the worst; and Saskatchewan – where medicare was born – turns to the private sector for health care. Listen to my four -minute audio roundup of what's on the front pages of the country's newspapers plus highlights from Tuesday's Parliamentary daybook by clicking on the link below.


You can also get these audio summaries automatically every day via podcast from iTunes or via an RSS feed by subscribing to my AudioBoo stream. Both the iTunes link and the RSS link are at my profile at Lookin the top right corner of the "Boos" box.

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Clinton asks Canada: Stay in Afghanistan after 2011

My old friends at CTV had a great 'get' this evening: A one-on-one interview of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton by CTV's Tom Clark. Clinton is in Ottawa for a meeting of G8 foreign ministers. The Prime Minister's Office has just announced that Clinton and Prime Minister Stephen Harper will have their own one-on-one meeting Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m.
It appears that Sec'y Clinton may ask Harper to keep Canadian troops in Afghanistan after 2011, the date that, by a motion of Parliament, Canada has indicated it will withdraw its troops. Here's the interview between Clark and Clinton:

Tom Clark, CTV: Can I move on to Afghanistan? It occurs to me that our two countries haven't been this close in this sort of alliance really since World War II. Strictly and purely from an American perspective, how important is it that that connection between the two countries continue, and perhaps continue beyond our pullout date of 2011?
Hillary Rodham Clinton: Well, we're very grateful for the Canadian Forces, the Canadian government and most of all the Canadian people with the support and solidarity that they have shown with us in this mission in Afghanistan. We would obviously like to see  some form of support continue because the Canadian forces have a great reputation. They work really well with our American troops and the other members of our coalition. There's a lot of commonality. … I think our militaries have become even closer because of this deployment. Obviously it's up for Canada to decide the way forward. but we certainly hope there will be some continuing connection and visible support because we have all learned so much. And we believe, in the United States, with the new strategy, that President Obama has set forth, we're making progress. … We have made a lot of progress and we would very much look forward to having Canada involved in any way that thank you think appropriate.

Clark: Aand by saying that, just to clarify, are you talking about maybe a non-combat and the role but a Canadian military role continuing on past 2011?

Clinton: There are all kinds of things that are possible. The military could switch more into a training role instead of a combat role, a logistics support role instead of the front-line combat. Certainly the non-military functions of working to encourage development, better governance, the rule of law – all the pieces of the strategy that have to be married with the military. And Canada has a particular commitment to and experience with that kind of development work that would be very useful.

So the United States would “like to see some form of support continue because the Canadian Forces have a great reputation.”

Harper, too, thinks the CF has a great reputation but, in an interview I and my colleague John Ivison had with Harper in January, he seemed pretty clear that, in his meeting with Clinton tomorrow, he's going to have to say no (I have marked in bold the key passage here:

Ivison: Afghanistan — can you elaborate on what a military pullout in 2011 actually means? Are we still going to have a Provincial Reconstruction Team? How is CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) going to operate? Do we have any of those answers yet?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper: We have been working on those answers but the bottom line is that the military mission will end in 2011. There will be a phased withdrawal, beginning in the middle of the year. We hope to have that concluded by the end of that year. As you know the Obama administration, not coincidentally, is talking about beginning its withdrawal in 2011, at the same time we are. We will continue to maintain humanitarian and development missions, as well as important diplomatic activity in Afghanistan. But we will not be undertaking any activities that require any kind of military presence, other than the odd guard guarding an embassy. We will not be undertaking any kind activity that requires a significant military force protection, so it will become a strictly civilian mission. It will be a significantly smaller mission than it is today.

Ivison: Do you still believe in a state-building strategy in Afghanistan? Some people think we should have a much less ambitious game-plan because foreigners can't give the gift of a state to Afghans.

Harper: I think the reality is that all actors over the past few years have been downgrading their expectations of what can be achieved in Afghanistan. But it is still important that we have a viable, functioning state in Afghanistan that has some acceptable democratic and rule of law norms. If we don't, we run the serious risk of returning in Afghanistan to what we had before. No matter what differences people have on the mission, everybody agrees that the mission has the purpose to ensure that Afghanistan does not return to being a failed state that is an incubator of terrorism.

Fowler: Read the whole speech right here

Robert Fowler, arguably Canada's most respected diplomat, delivered a speech in Montreal Sunday at the Liberal Party's Canada 150 conference that Fowler himself described as “blunt and rude”.

It's a remarkable speech and I've put up a PDF of the speech he read from. (I believe he departed hardly at all from the prepared text)

I'd previously transcribed and posted excerpts in which he indicted the Liberal Party of Canada for failing to stand for anything and then indicted Conservatives and Liberals for pandering to ethnic voters — particularly Jewish voters — with their foreign policies.
Here's one more excerpt (The capitalization is as it appears in the text Fowler read from:

One of the great political myths about Canada, is that Canadians do not care about Foreign Policy. I don't believe it – never have – but I do believe that Politicians need to explain their foreign policy vision to their voters; accepting that such a vision can never be all things to all people. Some will like it – some won't.

But if such a vision is grounded in Canadian values and enhances rather than diminishes Canada's international reputation, more will like it.

Jean Chretien explained the African imperative, and two years after the 2002 Kananaskis Summit, 32% of Canadians thought Africa should be the most important priority for our country – second only to the Americas, at 34%. So, it is about LEADERSHIP.

When Canadians are given the facts; when they are exposed to a clear and articulated Foreign Policy Vision, they respond with enthusiasm, commitment and support. However, when the only option they are given is a small-minded, mean-spirited, me-first, Iittle Canada, whatever-the-Americans-want foreign policy, many will buy it.

But offer Canadians an up-lifting, generous spirited, fair-minded, constructive option; One which appeals to their better nature and social conscience, impacts their lives and engages the future well-being oftheir children, and gives them something they can be proud of; that's, the option they will prefer.

Liberals think no tax cuts; Tories need jail money; SaskNDP meet in Prince Albert: Monday's A1 headlines and Parliamentary daybook

Liberals think no more tax cuts; Tories need jail money; and the NDP meet in Prince Albert; Listen to my four -minute audio roundup of what's on the front pages of the country's newspapers plus highlights from Monday's Parliamentary daybook by clicking on the link below.


You can also get these audio summaries automatically every day via podcast from iTunes or via an RSS feed by subscribing to my AudioBoo stream. Both the iTunes link and the RSS link are at my profile at Lookin the top right corner of the "Boos" box.

Liberal think no tax cuts; Tories need jail money; SaskNDP meet in Prince Albert: Monday's A1 headlines and Parliamentary daybook

Liberals think no more tax cuts; Tories need jail money; and the NDP meet in Prince Albert; Listen to my four -minute audio roundup of what's on the front pages of the country's newspapers plus highlights from Monday's Parliamentary daybook by clicking on the link below.


You can also get these audio summaries automatically every day via podcast from iTunes or via an RSS feed by subscribing to my AudioBoo stream. Both the iTunes link and the RSS link are at my profile at Lookin the top right corner of the "Boos" box.

Fowler: On Harper's "reckless" Middle East posturing; and political pandering to ethnic voters

Here is the section of Robert Fowler's incendiary speech, given this morning at the Liberal-organized Canada 150 conference, in which he takes on the Harper government's approach to the Middle East and its overall foreign policy stance. This is my transcription:

When will we come to accept the reality and importance of the iron clad link between non-peace and continuing turmoil and volatility in the Middle East and the rise and growing strength of international terrorism, terrorism which is inflaming fundamentalist Islamic diasporas throughout the world, very much including Canada and very directly threatening Canadians.

What does it take to get that to sink in? It is there for all to see but apparently politically incorrect to draw attention to it. It seems that anybody who presumes to acknowledge this blindingly obvious linkage is immediately labelled anti-Semitic, somewhat akin to anyone criticzing the Afghan folly facing accusations of being disloyal to our troops.

I guess we are supposed to presume that the allure of jihad will inexorably dim as Israel builds more settlements in illegally occupied territories in contravention of a myriad of international judgements. And hope that 10 million Palestinians will just forget about it, and decide that being homeless and stateless and living for a fourth generation in impossibly squalid refugee camps is an outcome that they'd just better suck down and accept.

Where is the measure which for so long characterized Canada's policy towards the region? Before, that is, Canadian politicians began using foreign policy exclusively for domestic purposes? Before the scramble to lock up the Jewish vote in Canada, meant selling out our widely admired and long-established reputation for fairness and justice in this most volatile and dangerous region of the world. And before such wanton squandering of Canada's reputation disqualified us from being able to use Canadian diplomatic skills to offer the long-suffering Israelis and Palestinians the prospect of a durable peace.

I have no reason to love Islamic extremism or indeed terrorism of any stripe, jihadi or political, but I do deplore the abandonment of our hard-won reputation for objective analysis and decency as a result of our reckless Middle East posturing and I have to acknowledge here that it did not being with our present government even if the extent to which radical voices within domestic constituencies are being indulged has, over the past few years, been taken to a whole new level.

Of course, the endorsement of an 'Israel: right-or-wrong' foreign policy stance is not so very different from the other forms of courting special interests so favoured these days by politicians of every stripe in Canada as they compete to corner the ethnic vote.

Look only at Liberal politicians falling over themselves to celebrate supporters in Toronto of the Tamil Tigers, one of the world's more unpleasant terrorist organizations. Or consider the ethical and international implications of politicians of all parties attending the Surrey, B.C. spring parades to mark the anniversary of the Sikh religion, where photographs of Sikh terrorists, like the leaders of the Air India bomb plot and Free Khalistan separatists, are prominently displayed and venerated.

Does anybody wonder why I suggested that the Liberal party was losing, or perhaps selling, its soul?