The City of Montreal has purchased 24 drones to help law enforcement tackle crime as authorities look to cut back the police force over the next 15 years. The UAVs, equipped with facial recognition technology, will be armed to ‘neutralize suspects’.
“It’s very exciting,” the chief of police for the borough where the drones will be deployed, Montreal North, told the Montreal Journal.
“The drones with facial recognition will patrol the streets 24 hours a day. Officers will interrogate individuals suspected of criminal acts or searched directly through speakers and microphones installed in the drones, but soon they can be provided with equipment capable of neutralizing on-site suspects pending the intervention of the law enforcement officers. It will mainly make our work less dangerous, especially in an area where there is a lot of social tension,” he said.
When asked to clarify what intermediate weapons would be used to neutralize suspects, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) spokesman told the Journal the “UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] will carry persuasive technologies, but non-lethal types, such as electric shock, blinding or paralyzing gases.”
He added that despite the seemingly limitless possibilities, only non-lethal weapons are “intended for the moment.”
The drones are set to be deployed in early 2014.
Despite the $400-million- plus price tag, the drones are intended to facilitate cutbacks to the city’s police force in line with nationwide efforts to curb RCMP expenditures, which have doubled over the last 15 years.
Employing new technology to create leaner, more effective law enforcements agencies, however, remains highly contentious.
A late 2012 poll conducted by Jennifer Stoddart, the privacy commissioner of Canada, found the public remains ambivalent about the use of UAVs in policing.
While 80 percent of those surveyed were comfortable with police use of drones for search-and-rescue missions, only 40 percent of respondents felt comfortable with their use in monitoring public events or protests.
“Considering the capacity of UAVs for surreptitious operation, the potential for the technology to be used for general surveillance purposes, and their increasing prevalence — including for civilian purposes — our office will be closely following their expanded use,” the report read.
“We will also continue to engage federal government institutions to ensure that any planned operation of UAVs is done in accordance with privacy requirements.”
The RCMP national drone is thus far in its infancy, with Mounties promising they will not be used to conduct general surveillance against the public.
A study released last month – Unmanned Eyes in the Sky – found that despite drones’ potential benefits for police, law enforcement had not “sought feedback from the public on how UAVs should or should not be adopted as a tool to serve the public interest,” the Canadian Press reported.
The study concluded that in light of the “potential for intrusive and massive surveillance,” Canadians needed reassurances that they would not be spied on once the drone program goes into full swing.
- Facial recognition, once a battlefield tool, lands in San Diego County (backcountryvoices.wordpress.com)
- Montreal buys 24 drones with facial recognition that will interrogate suspected criminals (blacklistednews.com)
Honduras’ elections on November 24 had the potential of reversing some of the worst pro-market, anti-people policies put forward by the government of Porfirio Lobo, who was the direct beneficiary of the 2009 coup that ousted the left-of-center Manuel Zelaya. Instead, the elections have been fraught with irregularities and violent intimidation, threatening to throw the embattled nation into further political disarray.
These elections were regarded as pivotal for Honduras, as the administration of the ruling National Party has done little to combat the country’s poverty rate which stands at over 60 percent. Instead the National Party has been focused on opening up the country to multinational corporations. This is best demonstrated by the National Party’s passage of a new mining law that would remove the moratorium on the granting of new mining concessions put in place by former president Zelaya in 2008. The new mining law, which was passed earlier this year, was drafted with the help of the Canadian International Development Agency. The law effectively allows for a return to destructive open-pit mining practices that have been linked to numerous human rights abuses and widespread environmental destruction.
In addition to revising the mining laws, as detailed last year by NACLA’s Keane Bhatt, the Lobo administration was also busy luring developers and investors to build highly problematic “charter cities.” Bhatt described these charter cities as “privately owned municipalities that would be managed autonomously, complete with their own police forces, tax codes, and legal systems. These cities would develop industries for export-oriented growth, like textile manufacturing; they would also sign onto international trade agreements independently, and manage their own immigration policies.”
Standing in opposition to these pro-multinational corporation policies, the LIBRE (Liberty and Refoundation) Party is led by Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, the wife of former president Manuel Zelaya—who, under the constitution, was barred from running for a second term. The LIBRE party emerged from the post-coup resistance movement and seeks to build a Honduras in which self-determination and social justice—not the rule of the oligarchs—prevail. Due to the strength and wealth of those they oppose, the LIBRE party has been systematically attacked by the military police and paramilitary forces associated with the various landowners and business figures.
Rights Action has extensively documented the violent intimidation of LIBRE party members and progressive journalists in the run-up to the November 24 elections. Rights Action recently released a report that revealed since May 2012, at least 18 LIBRE party activists have been killed, with 15 others falling victim to armed attacks.
Despite the presence of hundreds of international observers, the state-sanctioned violence and intimidation did not cease. As reported by members of the Canadian NGO Common Frontiers who were part of the official delegation, the day before the election armed groups entered hotels in Tegucigalpa in order to intimidate election observers. With the passage of time, it is becoming increasingly apparent that examples of armed intimidation were crucial to the victory of the National Party’s candidate Juan Orlando Hernández.
Soon after the contested results were announced, Canadian electoral observers released a statement on November 25, stating that “After careful consideration of our own observations of the electoral process in Honduras we find the presidential elections to be inconsistent with democratic principles and rife with fraudulent practices.”
Their statement concluded with their recommendations: “We urge the Canadian government not to recognize the results of the Honduran elections. There must be an opportunity to do a full, transparent, accurate count, and fully investigate the many reports of irregularities, intimidation and threats by authorities.” (The entire statement from the Canadian delegation can be read here).
Following the statement by the Canadian delegation, on November 26, the National Lawyers Guild published a press release which declared that “The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) delegation of 17 credentialed international observers seriously question the validity of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal’s (TSE) preliminary results of Sunday’s national elections in Honduras. The NLG takes issue with the United States government’s characterization of the electoral process as transparent, given the country’s recent and pervasive human rights violations… The NLG noted a strong will and enthusiasm among Hondurans to participate in the electoral process despite a pervasive climate of fear and intimidation surrounding opposition party members and observers. Over the weekend, two LIBRE party activists were murdered, while two other deaths and three injuries were reported near a voting center in the Moskitia region. In addition, international observers reported multiple incidents of intimidation by state actors in the days leading up to the elections.”
It is predictable that the United States and Canada will support the contested results of the election, as irregularities are only important when their favoured candidate does not win. One only has to look at their support for the electoral process in Haiti in 2010—a situation in which 14 political parties were banned and observers witnessed widespread fraud and irregularities. Both countries have a great deal invested in Honduras, financially and geopolitically. Indeed the entire process was summed up brilliantly by Canales Vásquez, a LIBRE activist, who remarked to Upside Down World’s Sandra Cuffe: “They don’t want an example to be set in Honduras where the people kick the oligarchy out at the ballot box and where the system changes in favor of the people. That’s what we’re struggling for in Honduras, and that’s the reason for this repression against the people and against the LIBRE party.”
- Reports of vote buying, intimidation, violence in Honduras (voiceofrussia.com)
The National Security Agency conducted widespread surveillance during the 2010 G8 and G20 summits with the blessing of host country Canada’s government.
Documents supplied by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show the US converted its Ottawa embassy into a security command for six days in June 2010 as world leaders met in Toronto. The covert operation was known to Canadian authorities, CBC News reported.
The documents do not reveal targets of the espionage by the NSA – and possibly by its counterpart, the Communications Security Establishment of Canada (CSEC). The NSA briefing notes say the operation was “closely co-ordinated with the Canadian partner.”
Ultimately, the documents obtained by the CBC do not give exact specifications of CSEC’s role, if any, in the Toronto spying. Former Guardian reporter and Snowden’s chosen journalist to receive the NSA documents, Glenn Greenwald, co-wrote the story for CBC.
But the documents do spell out that CSEC’s cooperation in the venture was crucial to ensuring access to telecommunications systems needed to spy on targets during the summits.
Both NSA and CSEC were implicated, along with British counterpart GCHQ, for monitoring phone calls and email of foreign leaders and diplomats at the 2009 G20 summit in London. In addition, it was recently reported that CSEC hacked into phones and computers at the Brazilian government’s department of mines. These revelations also came via documents from Snowden, who has received asylum in Russia.
The revelations also contradict a statement made by an NSA spokesman to The Washington Post on August 30, which said that the US Department of Defense – of which the NSA is is part of – “does not engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber.”
The NSA briefing document says the operational plan at the 2010 summit included “providing support to policymakers.”
The Toronto summit was chock full of major economic issues following the 2008 recession. Measures like the eventually-nixed global bank tax were strongly opposed by the US and Canadian governments. Further banking reform, international development, countering trade protectionism and other issues were on the docket – and on NSA’s list of main agenda items in the aim of supporting “US policy goals.”
The partnerships by some Western spying arms at the Toronto and London summits, not to mention other stories that have come out based on the Snowden documents, call attention once again to the “Five Eyes” surveillance coalition among Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US.
“Make the corporations pay!”
It is a slogan that sounds good, and with which I would fully agree, under conditions where “corporations,” or, more accurately, those who control them, were actually paying. But this is not the case in the debate in Canada today where many on the left are falsely proclaiming corporate taxes as an alternative to increasing personal taxes, even on the wealthy, and seem to display little understanding that corporate tax rates have nothing at all to do with inequality socially and are not at all a tax on wealth or the wealthy.
When Thomas Mulcair juxtaposes his “plan” to increase corporate taxes as a “progressive” alternative to Toronto-Centre candidate Linda McQuaig’s previously stated notion that taxes should be increased as well on Canada’s wealthiest individuals, he is fundamentally juxtaposing McQuaig’s plan that might accomplish something to a plan that will accomplish absolutely nothing.
The essential fallacy of mythologizing corporate taxes in the present context lies in the fact that, unless you agree with the U.S. Supreme Court, corporations are not people. By definition, if government taxes a corporation, ultimately some individuals, somewhere, pay the bill. Corporations cannot pay anything, any more than a house you own pays its own property tax. Given that corporations can, will and must extract the money to pay their tax bills any number of ways, from increasing prices, to attempting to force down worker wages and benefits, to finding creative ways to reduce nominal profit (which includes actually increasing CEO salaries or privileges, which are a “cost”), in the absence of a campaign to dramatically increase personal taxes on the managerial and CEO class of corporations or to re-adjust social power relations through the threat of socialization of assets and/or price controls, the net effect of corporate taxes, in terms of income levelling, will often be either zero or regressive.
It sounds radical, and is therefore appealing to centrists who wish to nominally appear radical, but its impact on inequality is essentially non-existent for the very simple reason that inequality is driven by disparities in the incomes that exist between individuals. Inequality is facilitated by corporations and corporate actions, but it is manifested in the difference between people and people alone.
This exact inequality exists within corporations themselves. Corporations are comprised, as a general rule, of workers, managers and upper management. Given the nature of the capitalist economy, the way corporations will seek to lessen the impact of higher taxation will not be at the expense of their CEOs.
It is not corporations who own multiple mansions, live lavish lifestyles or indulge in tremendous decadence, it is wealthy people who do so. The disparity between rich and poor is not between rich and poor companies, but rather between rich people and those living working-class lifestyles or those actually living in poverty.
Taxes on corporations, in isolation, separated from higher tax rates on the wealthy individuals who own, profit from and run the corporations, act as little more than waypoints to collecting taxes on corporate workers or customers.
“Progressive” politicians, New Democrats, Liberals and Democrats alike, like the corporate tax narrative when it suits them precisely because it does not threaten any actual people at all, whether it is Galen Weston or one of his Loblaws cashiers. They can claim to be holding the banner of redistributive justice high. To be defending the mythical “99 percent.”
Yet these taxes can only have an impact on inequality if you assume, barring personal tax increases, that corporations will pass the “costs” of higher taxes along, out of a sense of social justice, to their corporate boardrooms. This is, frankly, a counterintuitive and bizarre assumption for leftists to make.
They will not. They will, as they always do, make their workers pay.
We need to move beyond the false narrative of so-called “corporate taxes” as a solution under capitalism and, instead, to advocate for both a dramatic increase in personal taxes on the wealthy and the upper middle class with a corresponding fight to socialize corporate assets. We need to tie this to an entrenchment of union and workers’ rights and democratization of the economy.
It is time to actually make those who benefit from the corporations pay. By higher taxes on capital gains, by higher income taxes on the wealthy and managerial class, by inheritance taxes, by expanding the legal rights and powers of workers.
By advancing expropriation and radically new ownership models.
Until then, when it comes to understanding how to tackle income inequality and its consequences, it is the pre-by-election Linda McQuaig who was right and it is the desperate-for-power NDP leader Thomas Mulcair who is wrong.
Canada and Honduras inked a bilateral free trade agreement on November 5, amid political repression, increasing militarization, and controversial Canadian investment in the Central American nation.
Ed Fast, Canada’s Minister of International Trade, and Honduran Minister of Industry and Commerce Adonis Lavaire signed the deal in Ottawa, less than three weeks before general elections are expected to change the political landscape in Honduras.
“It’s really uncertain what’s going to happen with the elections,” said Karen Spring, a Canadian human rights activist living in Honduras. “It’s a lot less likely for [Canada] to have a government – and the political conditions and the economic conditions – in [Honduras] that would approve the free trade agreement or would allow it to be approved.”
Recent polls show two leading presidential candidates: LIBRE candidate Xiomara Castro, the wife of Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted as President in a coup d’état in June 2009 and the ruling National Party’s Juan Orlando Hernández, former President of the National Congress who resigned in order to run for office.
The November 24 general elections are expected to mark the end of a longstanding two-party system. Nine political parties are participating, and it is unlikely that any one party will hold a majority of seats in Congress.
“Because of the strong political force of the LIBRE party and its bases, the National Front of Popular Resistance, there’s a really good chance they can either gain a lot of seats in Congress or they can win the presidency,” Spring told Upside Down World. Whether or not LIBRE congressional representatives would pass the free trade agreement or not is uncertain, but the political landscape will undoubtedly change. “I think the Canadian government knows very well that after the elections on November 24, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to pass any free trade agreements,” she added.
Negotiations leading to the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement (FTA) began back in 2001, though they were initially for a deal between Canada and the C4 countries: Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. After nearly a decade of multilateral talks and a number of impasses, Canada and Honduras decided to pursue a bilateral agreement in 2010, the year following the coup d’état.
Before it comes into effect, the Canada-Honduras FTA must be approved by both Canadian Parliament and Honduran Congress. Current representatives of the latter will sit until a few days before the new administration assumes power on January 27, 2014.
Canada exported $38 million in goods to Honduras in 2012, and imported $218 million. Top Honduran exports to Canada are agricultural products and apparel, and the leading product Canadian exports to Honduras is fertilizers. Recent government figures on Canadian direct foreign investment are unavailable.
In its official press release announcing the signing of the FTA, the Canadian government focused on the elimination of tariffs and improved access for the export of Canadian pork and beef. However, controversial Canadian mining, sweatshop, and tourism sectors also stand to benefit from investment protection measures contained in Chapter 10 of the bilateral free trade agreement.
“In a country like Honduras, using free trade agreements to open the domestic economy to competition with countries with asymmetrical economies has only attracted transnational companies which operate and implement work systems that exploit Honduran women workers,” wrote the Honduran Women’s Collective (CODEMUH), in a statement in response to the signing of the Canada-Honduras FTA.
The organization is currently dealing with more than 100 textile factory workers who are suffering from work-related injuries and health conditions related to their employment by Gildan Activewear, a Montreal-based clothing manufacturer. The company operates several sewing and manufacturing facilities in northwestern Honduras, as well as others in Nicaragua, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Bangladesh. Gildan’s gross profits in 2012 were just shy of $400 million, while net earnings reached $148.5 million.
“Exploitative and enslaving working conditions – such as those which exist in Gildan Activewear headquartered in Canada and promoted by nation states and trade agreements – involve normal work days of an illegal 11 and a half hours, with obligatory overtime, bringing the work week to up to 69 hours,” according to the statement by CODEMUH.
Canadian companies and investors in Honduras have not only come under fire for their treatment of workers, but also for their impacts on communities.
“We have come to see that Canadian tourism has been the most aggressive in Garifuna communities in recent years,” said Miriam Miranda, General Coordinator of OFRANEH, an indigenous Garifuna federation. The lands and traditional territories of the 46 Garifuna communities spread up and down the Caribbean coast of Honduras are prime targets for tourism and real estate development projects. “There’s no respect whatsoever for the rights of Indigenous peoples,” said Miranda.
Canadian investor Randy Jorgensen’s Banana Coast project near the coastal city of Trujillo took off after the 2009 coup. Dubbed the “Porn King” for amassing a fortune from his Canadian porn chain, Jorgenson pressured Rio Negro residents to sell parcels of land they inhabited in order to secure coastal property in Trujillo for the construction of a Panamax cruise ship pier and massive commercial center.
“They used the Law of Forced Expropriation in the case of Trujillo, but it was used to impact Garifuna communities. They never use it to return land to Garifuna communities,” Miranda told Upside Down World. “The last people who refused to sell [their land] were told ‘if you don’t sell, we’ll take your land away.’”
The first phase of the Banana Coast pier was inaugurated in June 2013. Jorgensen has also invested in a mountainside gated community of villas in the traditional territories of the Garifuna communities of Santa Fe, Barrio Cristales and Rio Negro. They’re not the only Canadian projects in the area, said Miranda. There have been incursions by Canadian investors into Garifuna territory in and between the Garifuna communities of Rio Esteban, Guadalupe, San Antonio, Santa Fe, Rio Negro and Barrio Cristales, linking a stretch of coast from Rio Esteban to Trujillo. And it’s a phenomenon that’s not limited to the coast.
“All of the territories are kind of on the table right now to see how they can be exploited – not just mining, not just tourism, but anything where public goods, resources can be exploited,” said Miranda. There’s currently an unparalleled exploitation of resources by transnational foreign capital in Honduras, she said, and the post-coup government has gone out of its way to protect foreign investment.
“These days, Canadians – together with the Taiwanese and Chinese – are the ones with the most aggression towards the territories,” said Miranda.
As with many FTAs, the Canada-Honduras agreement is accompanied by parallel agreements on labor and the environment, but Common Frontiers Program Director Raul Burbano and Americas Policy Group Coordinator Stacey Gomez maintain they’re just for show. “The labor and environmental side agreements are mere window dressing given that they are not accompanied by any real enforcement mechanism to ensure they are adhered to,” they wrote in a November 5 Open Letter.
Chapter 10 of FTA itself includes a brief mention of labour, environmental and human rights, but – unlike the investment protection measures – there are no enforcement measures. “Each Party should encourage enterprises operating within its territory, or entreprises [sic] subject to its jurisdiction, to voluntarily incorporate internationally recognized standards of corporate social responsibility in their internal policies,” according to Article 10:16. The full text of the agreement was only made public after it was signed.
While the FTA was signed in Ottawa, the reality on the ground in Honduras remained one of increasing militarization and ongoing repression.
Murders of journalists, lawyers, and Indigenous and campesino people involved in land and resource struggles continue in the country, which has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world. People involved with the LIBRE party have also become targets. Rights Action’s Spring has been researching pre-electoral political violence and compiled a list of murders and armed attacks on political party-affiliated candidates, campaigners, and activists between May 2012 and October 19, 2013.
“The list shows that the LIBRE party has suffered more armed attacks and killings in the last year and a half than all other eight political parties combined,” said Spring. “Those are just armed attacks and killings. That doesn’t include political persecution, death threats, disappearances, and then killings and armed attacks of people that aren’t part of the political campaigning process but that are really important in the social movement.”
Militarization has increased hand-in-hand with repression since the 2009 coup. Not only are soldiers patrolling the streets alongside the national police force, but a new military police force hit the streets in October 2013. Legal challenges to the constitutionality of the new security force, operating directly under military command, are currently underway. In response, on November 6 the National Party’s presidential candidate Hernández introduced a proposal to Congress to reform Article 274 of the Constitution in order to grant constitutional standing to the military police force. This has become a cornerstone of his electoral campaign.
The controversy surrounding the military police has been subject to recent media coverage in Honduras, but the involvement of mining companies and other private sector corporations in financing public security forces no longer makes headlines. The General Mining and Hydrocarbons Law ratified in January 2013, after a review by advisors paid by the Canadian government, includes as part of its royalty regime a two percent payment to the Security Tax (Tasa de Seguridad) fund. The fund is helping to finance the increasing militarization of Honduran streets.
Who will win the November 24 elections is uncertain at this point. But no matter which political party comes out on top, if the Honduran Congress passes the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement into law, it will be a win for Canadian companies.
Sandra Cuffe is a vagabond freelance journalist currently based in Honduras.
Here I sit, in West Virginia, staring down at January 1, 2014.
That’s when my health insurance policy expires and I have a decision to make — renew or not renew?
Right now, I’m paying about $7,000 a year in premiums for a monster deductible and yearly out of pocket of about $15,000 for myself and my family.
My health insurance company informed me yesterday that my premium will be doubled to $14,000 on January 1.
I’ve been trying to get onto the Obamacare web site now for ten days to search for an alternative. No luck. I made it through four pages yesterday — then got a message saying I’d have to wait because there was too much traffic. When I clicked the continue button, it wiped out the information I had typed into the first three pages.
But even if I do get onto the exchanges, it’s probably not going to matter.
I read in a newspaper that Highmark is the only health insurance company on the exchange in West Virginia. Yesterday, I called Highmark and spent an hour on the phone with a nice young man — but the results were not good. The skimpiest plan is going to cost me more than I’m paying now for a higher deductible and out of pocket result.
Thank you Obamacare.
My insurance agent told me yesterday I had only one alternative — wait for six years until Medicare kicks in and keep fighting for single payer.
Obviously, the Democrats and anyone who defends them are not going to be of any help in the next round. They are irrevocably tied to President Obama and Obamacare and even those Democrats nominally in favor of single payer refuse to criticize it for the industry written law that it is.
I agree with Dr. Quentin Young of Physicians for a National Health Program when he says that Obamacare should have been defeated because it enshrines and solidifies corporate domination of the health care system.
But what to do next? Well, first thing is to watch a movie called Healthcare — The Movie. It’s a short documentary — 62 minutes — but packs a big punch. The movie was produced by a husband wife team — the wife Canadian — Laurie Simons — and the husband American — Terry Sterrenberg.
The movie toggles back and forth between the USA and Canada — with Americans struggling with bankruptcy, death from lack of health insurance and the dark cloud of health insurance armageddon menacing their lives from cradle to an often early grave.
The Canadians, by contrast, are living in a relative health care nirvana, thanks in large part to Tommy Douglas, a boxer and Premier of Saskatchewan who stood up to the red baiting being dished out at the time by the Canadian medical establishment. Douglas emerged victorious and his efforts resulted in the creation of Canada’s single payer Medicare for all. The movie is narrated by actor Kiefer Sutherland — Tommy Douglas’ grandson.
The film features great historic clips — including a remarkable scene where a CBC television show host asks the question — who is the greatest Canadian? And then, in reality show format, puts it up to a vote.
“After six weeks, ten finalists, and more than a million votes,” the CBC host says, “it ended tonight with one name. And I have the envelope here. The greatest Canadian as decided by you is — Tommy Douglas.”
Imagine that — the country says that Tommy Douglas, the father of single payer in Canada, is greater than its greatest hockey player — Wayne Gretzky.
Tommy Douglas’ courageous act — standing up for the people of Canada against the vicious attacks of the powers that be — has resulted in a system that delivers health care for all Canadians — no complex bills, no deductibles, no deaths from lack of health insurance, no medical bankruptcies — all funded by a progressive tax system.
The movie profiles Canadians with serious medical illness — who come out financially unscathed — no bills, no bankruptcy, no health related financial worries.
And then compares those Canadians to the suffering human beings south of the border.
The movie does a good job of making us Americans feel like crap compared to our cousins up north.
Check out this sequence, for example:
How many people in the United States die each year because they have no health insurance?
How many people in Canada die each year because they have no health insurance?
How many people go bankrupt each year in the United States because of medical expenses?
How many people go bankrupt each year in Canada because of medical expenses?
How many Americans do not have health insurance?
How many Canadians do not have health insurance?
How many Americans go without medical care because of costs?
How many Canadians go without medical care because of costs?
One of the stars of this film is a young American from Portland, Oregon named Lindsay Caron.
“I was a free-lance artist for a long time,” Caron says. “I gave that up to go sit in an office and file papers so that I could have health care. And it amazed me that other people in other countries never had to think about that. I kept hearing that Canada’s system was broken, and that Canadians were flocking over the border to get US care. And so I wanted to go to Canada with a camera and ask a couple hundred people. I bought a ticket up to Vancouver, Canada. I rented camera equipment. And I took my bicycle. I thought maybe I would stay in Vancouver for a couple of days and cycle on back to Portland. I ended staying there the whole week. I got up in the morning, set up a camera on the street and just start asking people questions.”
Caron finds out what polls in Canada consistently confirm — that the vast majority of Canadians would never in a thousand years give up their Medicare coverage for the nightmare south of the border.
It all came about because Tommy Douglas had the guts to stand up to the political and medical establishment and do what is right for the Canadian people.
Canada did it.
There is no reason we can’t do it.
It’s simply a matter of reordering our priorities.
Let’s put aside, for a moment, our millions of copies of Grand Theft Auto 5 and start playing a new game — Grand Theft — Health Insurance.
The goal of the game is to become a boxer, like Tommy Douglas — and fight back against the insurance industry and its Frankenstein monster — Obamacare.
Replace it with single payer.
Russell Mokhiber edits Single Payer Action.
Canada, as well as the US, infiltrated and spied on the Brazilian Energy Ministry, a new leak by Edward Snowden has revealed. The leaked documents show how the data gleaned through espionage was shared with international spy network the ‘Five Eyes.’
Newly-released documents handed over to Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald by former CIA employee Edward Snowden describe in detail how Canadian intelligence infiltrated Brazil’s Energy and Mines Ministry.
“I was overwhelmed by the power of the tools used. The Ministry of Energy and Mines was totally dissected,” security expert Paulo Pagliusi told Brazilian program Fantastico, which first reported on the leak.
The program showed documents from a meeting of the ‘Five Eyes’ spy network, comprising the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, in June of last year. In a presentation the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSRC) – the Canadian version of the NSA – outlined how they used a program called Olympia to break through the Brazilian ministry’s encryption.
The information gleaned from the ministry was then shared with all of the members of the ‘Five Eyes.’
“They [Five Eyes] are sharing all the information, handing over documents to let other countries know exactly what they are doing,” said Glen Greenwald.
As a result of the infiltration of the ministry over an unspecified period, the CSCE developed a detailed map of the institution’s communications. As well as monitoring email and electronic communications, the CSCE also eavesdropped on telephone conversations. Able to identify mobile numbers, SIM card registrations and the make of a phone, Olympia even snooped on former Brazilian ambassador to Canada Paulo Cordeiro.
Canada has so far refused to comment on the reports of its spy program. Brazil’s Minister of Mines and Energy Edison Lobao told Fantastico that the reports were “serious” and should be condemned.
Canada is one of the world’s leading energy producers and has significant economic interests in Brazil.
“Canada has interests in Brazil, especially in the mining sector. Does this spying serve the commercial interests of select groups? I cannot say,” observed Lobao.
‘No economic espionage’
Previously, Brazilian newspaper Globo News reported that the NSA was monitoring Brazil’s state oil giant Petrobras. Washington reacted to the allegations, stating that the US “does not engage in economic espionage.” The Obama administration has said on a number of occasions that US covert surveillance is in the interests of protecting US national security.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has condemned the reports of the NSA’s surveillance of Brazil and demanded the US account for its actions.
As a consequence, the Brazilian head of state postponed an official visit to Washington in October. Rousseff has also taken measures to tighten Brazilian internet security.
“I have sent an internet draft bill to Congress, an initiative that will protect the privacy of Brazilians,” Rousseff wrote on Twitter on Sunday. The government is expected to vote on the bill in the coming weeks.
Back in September, Rousseff slammed the US for “economic espionage,” dismissing US claims the NSA spying is a preventative measure to ensure national security. Addressing the UN General Assembly, President Rousseff stated that state-run Petrobras is “no threat to the security of any country. Rather, it represents one of the greatest assets of the world’s oil and the heritage of the Brazilian people.”
Once again Conservative ideology has trumped what’s right.
Prominent Toronto filmmaker/professor John Greyson and London, Ontario, physician/professor Tarek Loubani have been locked up in an Egyptian jail for nearly 40 days.
After a prosecutor recently extended their detention by 15 days, these two courageous individuals launched a hunger strike demanding their release or to at least be allowed two hours a day in the fenced-in prison yard.
Some 140,000 people, including filmmakers Ben Affleck, Danny Glover and Atom Egoyan, have called on Egypt’s military rulers to release the two men. Despite this outpouring of support, the Conservatives have done as little to win their release as a Canadian government could possibly do in the circumstances. While Canadian officials have summoned Egypt’s chargé d’affaires in Ottawa and called it “a case of two people being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” they’ve failed to demand their immediate release, criticize the arbitrary process or condemn the dictatorial regime responsible.
Under the emergency legal system currently in place in Egypt, Greyson and Loubani can be kept in jail for up to two years without charge or trial. But Ottawa has refused to even comment on these highly arbitrary rules.
Canadian officials have also ignored the rise of anti-Palestinian sentiment that partly explains Greyson and Loubani’s incarceration. Greyson and Loubani flew to Cairo en route to do humanitarian and political work in Gaza, which would displease Egypt’s military rulers who associate the Hamas government in Gaza with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Since taking power on July 3 the military regime has deepened the brutal blockade of Gaza. Before the coup some 1,200 people a day crossed through the Rafah terminal in Egypt, Gaza’s main window to the world (Israel is blocking most other access points). Now about 250 make it through every day and the Egyptian authorities have shut the Rafah crossing entirely in recent days.
Ottawa has long supported efforts to punish Palestinians in Gaza. After Hamas won legislative elections in January 2006, Harper’s Conservatives made Canada the first country (after Israel) to cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority and Ottawa has cheered on Israel’s blockade and repeated bombings of Gaza.
More significantly from Greyson and Loubani’s standpoint, the Conservatives support the Egyptian military’s overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi and its brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests. Foreign Minister John Baird initially called the military’s overthrow of Morsi a “coup” but he’s explicitly rejected calls for the elected President to be restored. On August 22 Baird said “We’re certainly not calling for them [Egypt's elected government] to be restored to power.” This is in contrast to the U.S., France and UK, which have at least nominally called for Morsi’s restoration to power.
Ottawa has also justified the military’s brutal repression of largely peaceful demonstrations. “We think the interim government is dealing with some terrorist elements in the country,” Baird told reporters a month ago. “A lot of this is being led by senior officials in the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Baird is simply parroting the military regime, which has killed over 1,000 democracy protesters and incarcerated at least 3,000 more since overthrowing Morsi. They’ve also imposed martial law, a curfew and banned the Muslim Brotherhood.
In a bid to control the flow of information the military regime has shuttered a number of TV stations, including Al Jazeera, and stripped tens of thousands of imams — Muslim clerics — of their preaching licenses. The goal is to better control the political messages emanating from mosques.
Greyson and Loubani have had the misfortune of being caught up in this repressive climate. They are two, among many, victims of an out of control military regime desperately trying to reverse the democratic space opened up two and a half years ago with the fall of Hosni Mubarak.
While Greyson and Loubani’s incarceration is an irritant for the Conservatives, they are decidedly antagonistic to democracy struggles in Egypt. On January 25, 2011, Egyptians began 18 days of protest, including widespread labour actions, which would topple the 30-year presidency of Hosni Mubarak. The Conservatives stuck with Mubarak until literally the last possible minute. On February 10, 2011, Foreign Affairs called for “restraint from all parties to settle the crisis” and about three hours before Mubarak’s resignation was announced on February 11 Harper told a Newfoundland audience: “Our strong recommendations to those in power would be to lead change. To be part of it and to make a bright future happen for the people of Egypt.” The Prime Minister failed to call for Mubarak’s immediate departure.
Most of Canada’s traditional allies abandoned Mubarak before the Conservatives. The day after he stepped down Alec Castonguay explained in Le Devoir: “Canada was the only Western country to not call for an ‘immediate transition’ in Egypt. While Washington, London, Paris, Madrid and Rome openly called for an end to Mubarak’s rule and the transfer of power to a provisional government, Ottawa sided with Israel in refusing to condemn the old dictator.”
The Conservatives lackluster support for Loubani and Greyson reflects their support for Egypt’s military rulers, which is tied to an extreme pro-Israel outlook. If these two courageous individuals are further harmed blame the pro-Israel/anti-Egyptian democracy forces in this country.
Even if it now seems likely that Linus Torvalds wasn’t approached to add a backdoor to Linux, there are plenty of others that were asked and acquiesced, as this story from The Globe and Mail in Canada makes clear:
For nearly two decades, Ottawa officials have told telecommunications companies that one of the conditions of obtaining a licence to use wireless spectrum is to provide government with the capability to monitor the devices that use the spectrum. The Sept. 17 kickoff of the auction-countdown process will underscore that commitment, made out of sight of most Canadians because it is deemed too sensitive by the government.
The secret agreement apparently contains specific details of what telecom companies must provide:
“Real-time, full-time” eavesdropping on conversations is just one of the capabilities sought by police, according to the standards. Authorities also want records of call logs, texts, keystrokes and other data, including “the most accurate geographical location known.”
Communications made with encryption provided by the carrier must be decrypted:
Carriers that help their customers scramble communications must decrypt them. “Law enforcement requires that any type of encryption algorithm that is initiated by the service provider must be provided to the law-enforcement agency unencrypted.”
No doubt, many people might think phone companies should provide this kind of information, provided a properly executed court warrant is presented. What’s problematic here is that this has been going secretly on for 20 years, with no public oversight and with no debate about where to draw the line for such surveillance. That discussion would hardly compromise police operations, but would provide vital transparency and legitimacy. The fact that two decades after the practice started the Canadian people are finally hearing about this capability now is probably yet another beneficial knock-on effect of Edward Snowden’s leaks.
Harper’s Conservatives have a thing for monarchy, the more absolute the better, it seems.
At home they’ve put up portraits of Queen Elizabeth II and added the moniker “royal” to the Canadian Navy and Air Force while in the Middle East they’ve strengthened Canada’s ties to kingdoms from Morocco to Saudi Arabia.
Jordan’s pro-US/pro-Israel King Abdullah II has been the focus of significant attention with the Conservatives signing a free trade and military cooperation agreement with that country last year. Now the Conservatives are strengthening Canada’s ties to a monarchy confronted by an influx of Syrian refugees, volatile regional geopolitics and popular protests. Even the aid the Conservatives are sending to Jordan for Syrian refugees is largely designed to bolster the country’s monarchy.
Over the past year Jordan has become a central staging ground for Syrian rebel groups. Weapons from the Gulf monarchies and the US are flowing through Jordan and the CIA is training Syrian rebels there. According to France’s Le Figaro, Jordan has opened its airspace to armed Israeli drones monitoring Syria while the Financial Times reports that the US has 1,000 troops and a number of F-16 fighter jets in the country.
While Jordanian officials say they will not let their country be used as a launchpad for any Western military intervention against Syria, they recently allowed the US (and others) to conduct war games near that country’s border. And three weeks ago Jordan hosted the military chiefs from the main opponents of Bashar al-Assad — the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, France, Canada etc. — to discuss the conflict.
Not surprisingly, the Syrian regime is unhappy with its southern neighbour. Syrian officials have said Jordan was “playing with fire” in allowing the US and others to train and arm its opponents, which includes many jihadists who could end up turning on Jordan’s regime. While King Abdullah II likely doesn’t trust the Syrian rebels and is fearful of retaliation from his larger neighbour, Jordan is under significant pressure from Ryadh and Washington to back Syria’s opposition.
As it contributes to instability in Syria, Jordan is also a victim of the conflict. At least 600,000 Syrian refugees have crossed into the country of 6.3 million people. This has added to the pressure on a Jordanian monarchy that’s faced a series of pro-democracy protests over the past two years. Additionally, the US military’s growing presence in the country is not popular.
Worried about the Jordanian monarchy’s ability to survive this volatile political climate, Canada has worked to bolster the regime. Under the guise of helping Syrian refugees, Ottawa (alongside Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the US) has made a series of major aid announcements over the past year. $6.5 million for Syrian refugees in Jordan in August 2012, then another $13 million in March and in June Ottawa announced a three-year $100-million aid package to Jordan.
Buried in Ottawa’s announcements about the Syrian refugee crisis is the fact that much of the money on offer is for “security programming”. Foreign Affairs explains: “Canada is providing equipment and vehicles to the Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF) to assist in their efforts to transport Syrian refugees from the border to registration centres. Canada will also provide equipment and infrastructure support to the Public Security Directorate (PSD), the Gendarmerie Forces (GF) and the Civil Defence Directorate, which provide security and other essential services within new and expanding refugee camps.
“This [$25 million in] support builds upon a previous Canadian contribution … $9.5 million in material support was provided to the JAF to respond to initial transportation needs of Syrian refugees coming across the border, and $2 million in material support was provided to the PSD and the GF in their efforts to manage security within Zaatari refugee camp.”
On top of this $36.5 million in support for Jordan’s security forces, Ottawa is working “to mitigate the threat posed by Syria’s stockpile of weapons of mass destruction”, which will include more “equipment, infrastructure, technology and training to the JAF, the Civil Defence Directorate, the Ministry of Health and other relevant ministries.”
Ottawa isn’t openly admitting that its aid to Jordan for Syrian refugees is designed to prop up the monarchy, but it’s obvious. In June the Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson noted, “Ottawa is concerned that Syrian violence could infect and endanger neighbouring countries, especially the Hashemite Kingdom [Jordan], with which Canada has good relations.”
But there isn’t equal concern for “neighbouring countries”. For instance, there is a striking incongruence in the amount of aid Ottawa has allotted to Jordan versus Lebanon. Though it hosts 20% more Syrian refugees and is only 65% of Jordan’s population, Lebanon has received much less Canadian aid for Syrian refugees. (It should be noted that Lebanon is wealthier than Jordan, but nonetheless the World Bank is estimating that “Syria’s conflict will cost Lebanon $7.5 billion in cumulative economic losses by the end” of 2014)
Ottawa’s aid to Jordan is part of a series of efforts to back the monarchy. In 2012 the Conservatives voted into law a free-trade accord, which Foreign Affairs noted “shows Canada’s support for Jordan as a moderate Arab state that promotes peace and security in the Middle East.”
In addition to the trade accord, the Jordanian military has benefited from Canadian military support. Canada and Jordan signed a defence co-operation memorandum of understanding in the spring of 2012. At the end of last month the Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen. Tom Lawson, met his Jordanian counterpart and, according to the Jordan Times, “discussed ways to boost cooperation and coordination between the two countries’ armed forces.” This meeting followed on the heels of another meeting between the heads of the two countries militaries in April and Canada’s participation in a military exercise with 17 other “friendly” countries, Eager Lion 2013, hosted by Jordan’s armed forces.
Foreign minister John Baird has visited Jordan three times since last August to discuss “the ongoing turmoil in Syria” among other issues. What Baird and Jordanian officials almost certainly don’t talk about is the country’s pro-democracy struggles, which have flared up over the past two and a half years. The Conservatives were silent when thousands of Jordanians marched against the monarchy and for better social conditions in March and April 2011. A handful of protesters were killed and hundreds arrested in a country that prosecutes individuals for “extending one’s tongue” (having a big mouth) against the King.
A few months after the “Arab Spring” protests Foreign minister Baird claimed: “King Abdullah II in Jordan has really expedited reforms they were already working on.” But Baird’s positive portrayal of Jordan’s reforms doesn’t withstand scrutiny. Labour unions and independent media are heavily restricted while elections mean little. In short, Jordan remains an absolute monarchy with power concentrated in the hands of a ruling clique.
Just the way Harper’s Conservatives like it.
Yves Engler is the author of Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: The Truth May Hurt. His latest book is The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s foreign policy.
The Canadian Armed Forces requires physically and mentally wounded service members to sign a form agreeing to not criticize senior officers or demoralize other troops on social media sites.
The form is given to wounded soldiers transferred to the Joint Personnel Support Unit (JPSU), which oversees support centers for troops across Canada. The JPSU has received public scrutiny in recent months, as soldiers and staff have been vocal about the lack of resources and dysfunctional support centers.
Service members gave the social media policy form to the Ottawa Citizen, expressing dissatisfaction over what they saw as a threat to their right to voice criticism of the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) for lackluster care.
The JPSU told the Ottawa Citizen that the policy was not made to defer criticism of officials, but rather “to educate our members and personnel on what constitutes the appropriate and inappropriate use of social media and the possible ramifications for a CAF member.”
The “policy on proper comments on social media” forbids posting secret information on websites or forums, but also advises military personnel to avoid disparaging senior officers or CAF members.
In addition, the policy tells service members not to “write anything that might discourage others or make them dissatisfied with their conditions or their employment,” nor to offer “your views on any military subject.”
The policy form indicates that violating the social media rules could damage public trust in the CAF and “destroy team cohesion.”
The form, only six months old, mentions that soldiers in the JPSU can also be held responsible for social media content of friends they have “tagged” on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and other sites.
While the CAF has a general social media policy for all service members, the Ottawa Citizen said that all personnel they interviewed were never made to sign a form like the one given to JPSU soldiers.
The CAF responded to questions about the form, saying the policy is issued to all JPSU members. However, the spokesperson could not offer specific examples of improper social media use.
“It is important for all CAF members to understand and follow the policies, rules, regulations and standards of conduct that apply to members of the CAF, including the policy on the use of social media,” public affairs officer Navy Lt. Michèle Tremblay wrote to the Ottawa Citizen.
Members of the Canadian military “are encouraged to communicate publicly about their own experiences and expertise, in accordance with the Government of Canada and DND/CAF policy,” Tremblay noted.
If a service member refuses to sign, JPSU staff will note that the individual has been briefed about the unit’s social media policy. Various units have their own way of notifying personnel about CAF protocols, Tremblay said.
“The difference being that the JPSU is asking members to indicate that they have read and understood the policy by signing the form,” she said.
Former CAF officers see the form as a way to intimidate members who were injured for speaking up about substandard treatment.
“It’s not illegal but it’s obviously a threat,” said Ottawa lawyer and former military officer Michel Drapeau, who has represented injured soldiers seeking benefits from the Canadian government. “The criticism about the leadership’s failure to take care of the wounded is obviously hitting home.”
He said that personnel likely feel compelled to sign, and that it would certainly be used against them if they violated the policy.
Retired air force officer Sean Bruyea said the CAF has the right to steer service members’ behavior on social media, but says the JPSU effort goes too far.
“This is right out of something you would see during the Soviet era,” said Bruyea, a critic of how the military and government assists wounded personnel. “This is way over the top.”