Category Archives: foreign affairs

U.S. Army And RCMP Derail Public Forum

There’s a very disturbing news article in yesterday’s Ottawa Citizen:

Police have derailed plans for a public forum on the Security and Prosperity Partnership that was to take place six kilometres from where the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. will gather next month for a summit.

Several weeks ago, the Council of Canadians put down a $100 deposit to rent the community centre in Papineauville, not far from the summit site in Montebello, for the public forum.

The forum was scheduled for Aug. 19, the day before Prime Minister Stephen Harper, U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon are due to start two days of meetings on the security partnership, a controversial initiative aimed at more closely aligning the three countries in a variety of areas.

But Brent Patterson, the council’s director of organizing, said a Papineauville official called late Tuesday to say the RCMP, the Surete du Quebec and the U.S. army would not allow the municipality to rent the facility to the council for the planned forum.

A citizens group isn’t allowed to meet a day before the conference in a community centre six kilometres away. For security reasons. *cough*

Would a pro-SPP group have also been denied the space? Not likely. Guy Cote of the Quebec police force in Montreal reportedly explained the move by saying the Council of Canadians “is an activist organization opposed to the summit and that it would not be wise to have [them] set up in the community centre.”

What kind of security-hating radicals were planning on attending this public forum? Writers, academics, parliamentarians. You know, your usual group of hoodlums.

In other words, the U.S. Army is now giving orders to working with the RCMP to frustrate freedom of speech in Canada, by Canadians. Hopefully the Council of Canadians will be able to find another venue, though how far away they have to go before the U.S. Army will let them meet (10km? 20km? 100km?) is unclear.

Canadian Sovereignty at Risk

A few months ago I wrote about a secret meeting that had taken place between high-ranking officials of the Canadian and American governments, with a view to creating a more integrated continent. This stealth North American union project (known as the Security and Prosperity Partnership, or SPP) is heating up again, though more attention is being paid in the States than here in Canada. Some American legislators are speaking up about the plan’s threat to national sovereignty, as well as the fact that it’s being negotiated undemocratically, in secret.

If the United States government is concerned about a loss of national sovereignty, we should be even more so.

This issue is receiving renewed attention now because of a planned visit to Ottawa by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff this Friday, along with Mexican officials. That visit will be followed up with a trip to Canada by George Bush in June.

Canadians should be paying far more attention to the prospects of deep integration with the United States. This is a country that no longer believes in the right to a fair trial, and that has still not apologized for deporting one of us — Maher Arar — to be tortured. There are things on which we can cooperate, but for the sake of human rights and national sovereignty, the US version of “security” is not one of them.

Or, if there’s nothing to worry about, then there’s no reason to keep having these discussions and meetings in secret.

Public Safety

The headline on my free Metro newspaper this morning was dramatic and to the point: “Terrorists threaten Canada.” The story stems from an internet post made by an al Qaeda group that said “cutting oil supplies to the United States, or at least curtailing it, would contribute to the ending of the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan,” and called for attacks on Canadian petroleum facilities as one way of accomplishing that.

Of course, this isn’t really new news. Canada’s been a target of al Qaeda and similar groups since before 9/11. All the same, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day reacted by saying, “we’ve always said that Canada is not immune to threats. We take this threat seriously.” (Between the lines, it sounds like he’s almost excited to get his first real threat as Public Safety Minister, but hopefully that’s just my over-active cynicism.)

Day also added that it’s possible to protect “all of our assets, both human and structural.” (Nice to know that the protection of human life and the protection of oil drilling operations are of equal priority.)

One of the more interesting quotes, however, came from Stephen Harper, who told MPs that “the most important responsibility of government is the preservation of order and the protection of its citizens.” (And its structures. Don’t forget its structures.)

I’m not the first to point this out, but we’re currently facing an even greater threat to order and our protection. We now know that even if Harper and Bush see the light (or, say, a bunch of Green MPs get elected) and start enacting plans to actually reduce our greenhouse gas emissions dramatically, the planet will continue to get hotter for centuries. It’s past time to start thinking not just about preventing further climate change, but about how we’ll manage with the changes we’ve already set in motion.

For example, where, and how, will we grow our food? Where will our water come from? How will we deal with increased pressure from the United States and China for the freshwater in our boarders? How will we prepare against new diseases? What plan do we have for replacing all of the infrastructure we’ve built on the now-melting permafrost? How might rising ocean levels affect our coastal provinces? How can we build secure, local economies as international ones become less stable and viable? How will we keep our national economy strong as more jurisdictions like California refuse to buy our tar-sands oil because it’s too dirty?

There are answers, but there’s also much work to be done. Terrorism is a real threat that needs to be guarded against, but if our government really cares about public safety, order, and the protection of its citizens, there are other threats that deserve more of their attention.

Wrath of Khan

Back in August, I supported Bill Graham’s decision to allow Wajid Khan to serve as a special adviser to Stephen Harper on the Middle East and Afghanistan, arguing that “we need more cross-party cooperation and dialogue, not less — especially in a minority government situation.”

In the wake of Khan’s defection to the Conservatives, I stand by that principal. In fact, the CBC reports that it was Stéphane Dion’s insistence that Khan pick a side that forced the move. Dion also made a statement to the Liberal website, saying, “I was never comfortable with Mr. Khan serving as an adviser to a Conservative Prime Minister, as Mr. Khan has done since August of last year.” Other Liberal MPs had “questioned how Khan would balance his allegiance to the party with his new role as an adviser to the prime minister.”

The fact that the obvious answer, “he’ll do whatever he thinks is best for the country,” didn’t seem obvious doesn’t speak well to our MPs’ assessments of each other’s motives. (Nor, unfortunately, of Dion’s.)

That being said, Khan’s assessment that “the best leader for Canada is the man who now has the job” isn’t doing much for my opinion of him either.