I went to hear George Monbiot speak on Saturday in Toronto, and was excited to see that he was there in person. Monbiot is one of the best (and best-known) climate change journalists in the world. A few years ago he swore off flying because of its impact on our planet, and since then has made most of his appearances via video conference. He is physically in Canada this week, however, because our “government’s behaviour in the (UN climate) talks is so destructive and the development of the oil sands is so damaging to global efforts to prevent climate breakdown” that he felt compelled to pay us a visit.
Monbiot’s message for us is blunt. He emphasizes that he really likes the Canadians he’s met and that he finds us to be very sensible, but that “the distance between ordinary Canadians and those who define your reputation on an international stage is an enormous gulf.” Our government’s actions are causing so much “shock and revulsion” internationally that “Stephen Harper and Jim Prentice threaten to do as much damage to your international standing as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney did to that of the United States.”
His concern is both regarding our behaviour at UN climate talks and our increasing production of dirty oil. The “oil curse” is not only bad for our ecology, he says, but our democracy. International examples show that dependence on oil “brutalizes a nation…it creates a political class that owes its existence to a primitive and destructive industry.” The process has already started, Monbiot says. “No one can quite believe that this prosperous country is treating its aboriginal peoples like Nigeria treats the Ogoni of the Niger Delta.”
ps. I will add that all of this has a flip side. If we do clean up our act and provide leadership, we can, as Stephen Lewis says, quickly restore our reputation on the international stage while simultaneously strengthening our domestic economy by becoming more efficient and competitive. That’s our choice: lead of follow, help or hurt, become renowned or repudiated.
According to this Toronto immigration lawyer, both Stephen Harper and Bob Rae are making a very “simple” mistake when it comes to the question of if Omar Khadr can return to Canada.
I have never dealt in this space with the right of Canadian citizens to enter Canada. The simple reason for this is that the law on this point is crystal clear and rarely in dispute.
This right is considered a â€œfundamentalâ€ one and so it is entrenched in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which was signed by Queen Elizabeth in 1982.
Our Charter describes this right as follows:
â€œEvery citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.â€
…Pretty simple, huh?
Not when it comes to Omar Khadr.
This fundamental right seems to have somehow been ignored during most of the debate, and some of the rhetoric, that surrounds this Canadian citizenâ€™s controversial set of circumstances.
…Prime Minister Stephen Harper has publicly stated that he will not allow Khadr back here unless the charges against him are dropped for good. Of course, Harper has not explained what legal authority he has to prevent Khadr, a Canadian citizen, from exercising his right to return to Canada.
Even the Canadian opposition has it wrong. Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae suggested that Harper appoint a panel of experts to advise the Canadian government on how to deal with Khadr. Any expert, in my view, would agree that Khadr has a constitutional right to return to Canadian soil. What happens to him after that is a matter of domestic criminal law which is unrelated to his right to enter Canada.
The thousand or so senior judges who together form the Canadian Superior Court Judges Association describe our justice system as follows: â€œWe are said to be ruled by law, not by those who enforce the law or wield government power.â€
President Obamaâ€™s actions have signaled a swift and firm return to the rule of law.
I hope that we will follow not only the American lead but also our own legal tradition.
Pretty serious stuff. Bob, on what grounds do you and the prime minister presume to be able to ignore the Charter?
Jane Taber reports in today’s Globe and Mail that Bob Rae is urging Dion not to force an election until after Rae is done with our March 17th by-election.
Listen, I get that Bob wants to get to Parliament as soon as possible. And I understand, as previously discussed, that having our by-election cancelled to make way for a general election would be a huge administrative pain, and also an extremely tiring and exhausting experience. My legs and my knuckles are sore too, and my family isn’t getting nearly the attention it deserves either.
But this is bigger than us. Stephen Harper is a dangerous prime minister, and his government is causing more and more damage by the day. There is no reason to believe that the House can continue to have confidence in this government. Meanwhile, our economy and our environment are in desperate need of new leadership. This isn’t about convenience, it’s about integrity and doing what’s right. We need to take a principled stand: if not now, then when?