Remembrance at Korea's War Memorial

For the first time since he's become prime minister, Stephen Harper will not be in Canada for Remembrance Day. He and other G20 leaders are in Seoul, Korea to talk about the world's economy. But, before the G20 summit begins, (at about 9 am Toronto time) Harper, along with UK PM David Cameron and Australian PM Julia Gillard will participate in a Remembrance Day ceremony at the War Memorial of Korea.

Korea's national war memorial is different than Canada's national war memorial in Ottawa in that it serves as a museum and a memorial and, in that sense, has both a commemorative objective as well as an educational one.

The PMO just provided reporters travelling with Harper (I'm one of them) with some background on the Korean memorial:

The War Memorial of Korea in Seoul, South Korea, serves as Korea’s war history museum, highlighting 5,000 years of military history and honouring the soldiers who served and sacrificed their lives during various conflicts which occurred in Korea, including the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Composed of both indoor and outdoor exhibition space, the Memorial follows Korea’s war history from prehistoric times to the modern period, and houses a stunning display of sculptures, artifacts and information.  Six indoor exhibition rooms display over 9,000 exhibits under the following themes: Memorial Hall, War History, Korean War, Expeditionary Forces Room, Republic of Korea Armed Forces Room, and Large Equipment Room.

The Memorial’s impressive outdoor exhibit displays large military equipment used during the Korean War and monuments which depict the human impact of the most tragic war in South Korea’s history.  A memorial pays tribute to fallen soldiers, accompanied by plaques which express gratitude towards the soldiers from participating UN countries, including Canada, who served during the Korean War.

For an interactive experience, the museum includes the Combat Experience Room where visitors can simulate life and death situations in night combat similar to those experienced by soldiers during the Korean War.  Realistic effects such as audiovisual effects, lighting, vibration, and gunpowder make for a high-paced, vivid and more comprehensive experience.  The War Memorial of Korea has been welcoming local and international visitors since it opened in 1994.


7-day Remembrance Vigil; Israel and Canada; and Where's Your Poppy?


Afghanistan front page

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7-day Remembrance Vigil; Israel and Canada; and Where's Your Poppy? Get a four-minute audio summary of what's topping the front pages of Tuesday's papers across the country by clicking on the “AudioBoo” link (left).

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New Af'stan mission; Vancouver's popular mayor; Star Academie winners

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Afghanistan front page

New Af'stan mission; Vancouver's popular mayor; Star Academie winners; get a four-minute audio summary of what's topping the front pages of Monday's papers across the country by clicking on the “AudioBoo” link (left).

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 Look in the top right corner of the “Boos” box.

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Laureen Harper: "gravely concerned about .. women in Iran"

The Prime Minister's Office has just released the text of a letter sent to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad signed by Mrs. Laureen Harper and Heather Reisman, president of bookstore chain Indigo.

Earlier Mrs. Harper had signed a petition in support of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, accused and convicted of adultery by an Iranian court and sentenced to death by stoning. Now, the PMO says, “she faces murder charges, which carries a death sentence by hanging, a fate that has marshalled women around the world to defend her rights and take up her cause.”

Here is the text of that letter:

President Ahmadinejad,

As women who enjoy the benefits and protections of a democratic society that values and promotes the rights and freedoms of all its citizens—female and male—we are deeply troubled by the flagrant disregard of women’s rights in Iran. In particular, the most recent and public case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, is an affront to any sense of moral or human decency and is symbolic of the plight of Iranian women.

We urge you to take a progressive step towards improving the lives of Iranian women, mothers, daughters and sisters by unconditionally releasing Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. There remains an unparalleled coalition of support around the world to keep the spotlight on the actions of the Iranian government and the status of women in Iran. We will continue to be vigilant to highlight this case and all other similar cases in Iran.

As mothers, sisters and daughters, we are gravely concerned about the unfair, undue legal processes faced by women in Iran. Repugnant sentences, such as death by stoning, are routinely rendered against women in Iran.

In Canada, women enjoy all the same benefits, rights and freedoms as men. But with these rights also comes responsibilities; and as such we are morally obligated to speak out publically in defence of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and indeed all women in Iran.

Once again, we strongly urge you to take the first step towards progress and unconditionally release Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. Certainly, this would be welcomed by women around the world as seen as a deeply symbolic gesture toward the betterment of all Iranian women.

Few care about Potash Corp. but those who do say takeover should be spiked

Pollster Angus Reid is out, right on cue, with a new poll that says just one-in-four Canadians are paying much attention to the sage involving Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan. An Australian firm, BHP Billiton, wants to buy Potash Corp, a former provincial Crown corporation, for about $40 billion. Potash Corp. controls about half of the world's potash, a widely used fertilizer.

BHP Billiton needs the approval of Investment Canada, a federal agency, which reports to Industry Minister Tony Clement. Clement has said that he expects a decision on BHP's bid and whether it represents a “net benefit” for Canada by Nov. 3 but everyone in Ottawa is expecting Clement to make that announcement after the 4 p.m. (EDT) close of stock markets here.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is dead set against the deal and has called on Harper's government to block BHP's bid.

In wades Angus Reid with the following findings, after surveying 1,014 Canadians:

  • Only 25 per cent of all Canadians say they have been following this story “very closely” or “moderately closely”. But in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, interest is high with 48 per cent of respondents in that provine saying they've been following the story.
  • Nationally, one-third support Wall's call to spike the deal. But a healthy majority – 58 per cent — have no opinion. Just nine per cent disagree with Wall. But in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and B.C., respondents were overwhelmingly onside with Wall.

Welcome Back Khadr: The Conservative record on international prison transfers

My colleague Brian Lilley reports on some discord — a polite way of saying yelling and screaming — within the federal cabinet about Canada's acquiescence to the U.S. request that convicted Canadian terrorist Omar Khadr be allowed to serve most of his 8-year sentence in Canada. He'll serve at least a year in the U.S., likely at his current facility at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Station. (That's me, by the way, left, standing outside Camp 4, the facility Khadr was being held in when I toured the camp earlier this year.)

Khadr will have to apply to Canada's public safety minister, Vic Toews, for a transfer to Canada.

I wondered about the Conservative record on these applications.

The received wisdom in Ottawa's political and journalism circles is that since the Conservatives formed the government in early 2006, they planned to differentiate themselves from their predecessors — and demonstrate just how tough on crime they could be — by declining applications from Canadians sentenced to jail times in other countries who wanted to do their time in a Canadian facility. “If you do the crime there, you'll do the time there,” was the prevailing attitude.

But I've just crunched the stats, found in the most recent annual report international prison transfers, and it's not so clear that the Conservatives have, in fact, declined that many.

In other words: They appear to be as tough/soft on crime, in this respect at least, as many other governments.

Certainly, for the first three years of the Conservative administration the overall number of transferred from prisoners are down compared to the last three years of the previous Liberal administration. Meanwhile the new applications for transfer has remained fairly steady over the last five years (more on this below).  That said: The Tory record on approved transfers for the last three years seems to be roughly comparable to the Liberal administrations of Jean Chretien in the 1990s. Here's the bar chart showing the total number of Canadians transferred from a jail in  another country to a Canadian jail and the total of number of Canadians transferred from a U.S. jail to a Canadian jail:

Transfers to Canada Chart

It's difficult to say precisely, from the statistics Corrections Canada compiles, exactly how many applications for transfer were approved by the public safety minister in any of Stephen Harper's cabinets. (The fiscal years used for reporting purposes here end on March 31 and the Harper government was sworn in on January 26, 2006.) But let's say that the Harper government's tenure really began in fiscal 2007 (the year from April 1, 2006 to March 31, 2007). That means that, since taking office, Conservative public safety ministers (Vic Toews currently has that job but it has been  Stockwell Day's and Peter Van Loan's) have approved the transfer of 359 Canadians jailed in the U.S. and abroad to do their time in Canada.

Corrections Canada reports that it can take between 6-9 months from the date an inmate applies for transfer to the decision by the minister to approve the transfer. Canada and the U.S. have four set “transfers” each year so, presumably, after the transfer is approved, the inmate waits until the next batch of inmates are transferred.

Also of some note: The efficiency with which applications for transfer are disposed of seems to have improved under the Conservatives.

Corrections Canada reports that, since 2004-05, there were between 262 and 274 applications each year from a Canadian jailed abroad to come home. Under the last two years of Liberal Paul Martin's government, nearly 350 applications were still outstanding at the end of the fiscal year and had to be carried over to the following year. The Conservatives, in their first year, have done much better clearing the paperwork with just 306 cases carried over to the next year in 2008-2009 and a low of 242 cases carried over in their first year of office.


Khadr's sentence; deadly Hallowe'en; cute Panda Pix

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Khadr's sentence; a deadly Hallowe'en; and cute Panda pix; get a four-minute audio summary of what's topping the front pages of Monday's papers across the country by clicking on the “AudioBoo” link (left).

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 Look in the top right corner of the “Boos” box.

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