Remembering to Action

 remembrance_day

Every year, on this day, we remember the women and men who have served our country valiantly through two world wars, a police action, many peacekeeping missions and, most recently, in Afghanistan. We honour them by wearing poppies and attending ceremonies. Once the day is over most of us go about our business and put the sentiment away until the next November 11 rolls around. And this, my friends, is exactly what Stephen Harper and the Conservatives want you to do.

The Stephen Harper government is doing its utmost to make sure that our veterans are screwed, literally. They recruit young people to join the military and then deploy them to foreign countries to fight other people’s wars or clean up other countries[1] and try to instill democratic values.[2] In the course of their duties many suffer injuries. The war in Afghanistan has been particularly brutal on our soldiers where they are unsure of the face of the enemy and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are a regular occurrence. Post traumatic stress disorder is rife in our troops and many of our veterans come home disabled. Once back in Canada home, lifetimes of rehabilitation and healing become the new normal.

Many of us assume, incorrectly, that our injured veterans will be supported financially for as long as needed by the government. Some veterans may never be able to fully support themselves and their families as a direct result of their time in the military. It is a sacred covenant between a soldier and her/his country that in exchange for their service they will be assisted once they return home. Instead our government is denying services, financial and otherwise, to our veterans. They have closed many veteran affairs offices and sharply reduced staff who administer veterans programs. The government has made accessing veterans services a nightmare and what exists is not adequate. When the Conservatives came to power they changed the system of pensions to one similar to worker’s compensation systems run by the provinces. But soldiers are not ‘employees’ who have been injured on the ‘job;’ they are people who fight and die for their country.

As if cutting services was not enough, Harper has gone one step further. The Conservatives are now discharging injured soldiers from the military just prior to the ten-year service window. Arguing that injured vets are not ‘fit for deployment’ they are unceremoniously dumped from the Royal Canadian Forces. The reason for this is simple: at 10 years of service, veterans are eligible for a fully indexed pension. So, not only are we denying veterans services, making what services are available difficult to get through lack of personnel, now we are taking everything they are entitled to and kicking them to the curb just when they are eligible for a pension.

As a Canadian, it is my expectation that we support our veterans financially. Full stop. I don’t want our veterans being dicked around by a government who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the people they ship overseas to fight for Canada. I want a country where veterans are respected and properly compensated for the work they do. And when they are injured, I don’t want them to have to worry about anything but getting well. I want them and their families supported financially for as long as it takes.

It’s time to turn our remembering into action. We must let the Harper Conservatives know that this policy is completely unacceptable and antithetical to Canadian values. We must tell our government that we expect more. And when the next federal election rolls around in 2015, we must not elect the Conservatives again. One of my favourite history professors used to say: “Every generation must suffer a Conservative government.” My only hope is that we are done with the Conservatives for another 20 years otherwise I am not sure our country will survive.

 


[1] The efficacy of which is debatable.

[2] Which is a dubious goal.

Advertisements
Published in: on November 11, 2013 at 2:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

A little quiet around here…

I know it has been a little quiet around here lately. Could be the winter blahs. So many current events have left me so disgusted that I just don’t have the energy to engage enough to write about them. Being a social activist or even a human with a pulse has been difficult lately with so much corruption, collusion and crap going on. While I could devote an entire blog with well-reasoned arguments and some research thrown in, I will instead give you my uncensored gut reaction.

Patrick Brazeau – Until now his main claim to fame as a Canadian Senator was losing a boxing match to Justin Trudeau. Now, he has been charged with sexual assault. Brazeau didn’t even have the common sense to put himself on leave from Red Chamber. No, instead, Brazeau is such an entitled prick that his peers had to vote to put him on a forced leave. Of course he will get full pay. I think in cases like this people should not be paid and if they are found not guilty they can receive retroactive pay. It galls me that a senator who has been charged with sexual assault should still be paid! Of course, I am sure he thinks he is totes innocent and all.

Mike Duffy – Another poster boy for why the Senate needs to be abolished. It seems that Mr. Duffy lives in Ottawa. But not wanting to miss a feeding at the trough he has declared his vacation cottage in PEI to be his primary residence. This means that us Canadian taxpayers get to pick up the $30,000 or so he is collecting to support his ‘secondary’ residence in Ottawa. Harper has so few ethics that he is not even forcing Duffy to reimburse tax payers. Entitled assholes all of them.

Juxtaposition of jackboots and flowers. (from a FEMEN protest)

Juxtaposition of jackboots and flowers.
(from a FEMEN protest)

Missing and Murdered Women March – Valentines Day marked the annual Missing and Murdered Women March in Vancouver. This march is an opportunity for us to collectively remember and grieve for the women who have died on the Downtown Eastside. The survival sex trade and extreme poverty in the DTES takes women down. Of course, the conditions in the DTES receive some assistance from serial killers and other women haters who go there to find victims. Violence against women is so ubiquitous in our society that marches like this are not even questioned. Being a feminist who works for social justice in 2013 is heartbreaking.

Truth about the reality for women living in a patriarchal society.

Truth about the reality for women living in a patriarchal society.

The Pope – So the biggest hypocrite walking the face of the earth has resigned as pontiff. Really who gives a rat’s ass? He is only going to be replaced by another white, European man who has no idea what is going on in the world. Yes, there will be talk of electing a man from Africa or Latin America but it won’t happen. Hell, they have even talked about a Canadian taking the prize. Rest assured everyone,  it will be yet another white man who will continue to keep women in their place and maintain the status quo. Oh and have you ever noticed how people sometimes reflect their names? Joseph RATzinger has really lived up to his name.

Sums it up well.

Sums it up well.

Christy Clark – I don’t know about you but I am fucking sick of seeing Christy Clark’s face EVERYWHERE. It seems like you can’t go more than ½ an hour without seeing some ad telling us how great she and her merry band of liars and thieves was the best thing ever for BC. She has sponsored ads on Facebook and Twitter. My evenings are filled with Clark and her ‘jobs’ plan for BC. I don’t give a shit about business and jobs; I want to know what she is going to do for our poor and disadvantaged citizens. She is trying so hard to be sincere but honestly she looks smarmy. I wouldn’t trust her to manage our petty cash at work let alone the province’s finances. Sadly for Clark, making herself so fucking omnipresent means I am going to take so much pleasure in voting for the NDP come election day. In other news because so many Liberal rats have jumped ship, the Liberal’s once healthy majority is down to just 4 seats. There are also rumours of some Liberals breaking ranks and voting against the government’s budget. Bring it on Adrian Dix!

 

Stephen Harper is killing Canada

So, apparently, our federal government is using Chinese-made counterfeit parts in our military’s Hercules planes. They have known this since July and have done nothing about it. Even the US has issued warnings about grave consequences to pilots with these parts. Little things, you know, like navigational instruments going blank. I fucking hate the Stephen Harper government. Every day there is a new thing to hate about him and his minions.

Read the other instalments: here, here, here, and here.

Published in: on January 10, 2013 at 10:46 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: ,

Stephen Harper is Killing Canada – the ‘we only serve some Canadians’ edition

It seems like the Harpercons are on fire recently. Hot on the heels of the demise of Motion 312[1] we have Rob Anders infering that all transwomen are pedophiles. Oh and then the lovely gem from our Minister of Non-Public Safety cancelling all the contracts for non-Christian religious personnel in Canada’s prisons. Yup, if you are white, cisgendered, straight and Christian you will love Harper’s Canada.

Even though Harper pledged that he was not interested in re-opening the abortion debate in Canada, we have a second motion concerning abortion in 2012. Now, either Harper has lost control of his caucus or he is giving these motions his blessing. He knew he would never get his majority if he appeared like a whack-job who wanted to role back reproductive rights to the 1960s. Instead I suspect he mollified his Christian socially backward MPs by telling them they would deal with it one he got his majority. He is trying to do through the backdoor what he couldn’t do through the front door. We need to tell him to shut the fucking door – that it is over and decided and we will not stand idly by while he tries to criminalize control over our bodies. We also cannot let the Liberal Party of Canada off the hook either. They allowed a free vote on this issue rather than enforcing party discipline. Newly minted leadership candidate, Justin Trudeau, tweeted how proud he was of his party’s ‘enlightened’ decision. Someone had better school Justin quickly on women’s issues! The NDP are to be commended, even with their large Quebec, some Catholic for sure, they all voted against the motion. Oh, and last time I checked, it is usually female fetuses aborted in favour of sons. I wonder who is really making that decision?

Now on to the clusterfuck that is Rob Anders. In 1990, I sat behind him and one of his minions in Poli Sci 201 at the University of Calgary. They were not big fans of Professor Dickerson. They were rude and obnoxious. Then there was the incident where threats were posted on the door of the GLASS (Gay, Lesbian Association for Staff and Students) office in Mac Hall. So it is not surprising that Mr. Anders still does not understand anything outside of his sphere of straight[2], white privilege. A private member’s bill, Bill C279, which seeks to amend to amend Canada’s Human Rights Act to include gender identity. It would also add gender identity and gender expression as grounds as areas where hate crime charges could be pursued. Anders has now dubbed this the ‘bathroom bill’ and states that giving men (which transwomen are not) access to women’s bathroom facilities puts children in danger. Anders is an expert at pandering to the lowest common denominator. I have news for Mr. Anders: almost all pedophiles are straight men.

Even worse, Anders also accused current NDP leader Thomas Mulcair of hastening Jack Layton’s death. One doesn’t even know where to begin and nor should we. Harper needs to kick this idiot from caucus. He has no business representing any Canadians. Even when the riding Association tried to replace him as their candidate through a nomination vote, the party intervened and Anders was the Conservative candidate. I am beginning to think that he has something on Stephen Harper. At least Olivia Chow, ever the calm, professional, chose to not react. Good for her.

Next up we have Vic Toews who seems to have decided that all inmates in Canadian federal prisons are Christian. Citing the fact that the military uses non-denominational chaplains, he argues if it is good enough for the military then it is good enough for Corrections Canada. A one-size fits all approach to spirituality, and to be sure it is Christian, gave us things like residential schools. We have all seen how devastated our First Nations people are as a result of losing their culture, language and religion. In fact, great strides have been made with First Nations inmates through elders reintroducing these very important cultural touchstones. First Nations are overrepresented in Canadian prisons, however they are not the only other religious groups represented in Canada’s prison population. What are the Jews, Hindus, and Muslims supposed to do for spiritual guidance? And, if there is ever a time someone needs the support of their religion, it is when they are in prison.

In Harper’s Canada, life is good as long as you can check off certain boxes. If you are a person of colour, a woman, gender-variant, non-Christian, gay or lesbian, you are a second-class citizen. You will not be afforded basic human rights and you will be mocked viciously should you dare to stand up and complain. I fear for my Canada under this regime.

Stephen Harper is Killing Canada: Part One


[1] Although it now has a cousin – a motion to criminalize sex-selective abortion.

[2] Presumably although 40-something unmarried…

Democracy is for Sissies

Is it just me or does it seem that our politicians are ruling via subterfuge? It seems like most government made decisions are one big shell game: ‘quick, look over there, shiny’ while a new tax is shoved down our throats. We can’t even count on them to maintain the integrity of their own values and ethics throughout the course of their time in power. Democracy has become code for bait and switch.

This week in politics in BC, our Premier, Christy Clark, has decided that the culture at the BC Legislature is ‘sick’ and that she tries to stay away from it as much as possible. She likened it to the complaints made about the ‘beltway’ in Washington, DC. These comments, originally made in May, were released when it was announced that the legislature would not sit this fall. Clark clearly has an overblown sense of her importance. To compare BC politics to what happens in Washington, DC is like talking about your acne problem when you have a little zit.[1] All of senior civil servants, you know those people who provide crucial factual information to government politicians, all sit in Victoria. If she is not there, she can’t get all the information to make policy decisions. If her ministers behave as she does, they will also not be getting crucial information with which to make decisions.

Cancelling the fall sitting of the legislature is hubris at its worst. The provincial government just announced that revenues are $1 billion dollars below projections. If the legislature does not sit, then the opposition does not get access to this information to ask questions. I actually think there is a more sinister reason for not having a fall sitting. The timing of this supposed deficit announcement is curious. It is a little more than 6 months before the next election. I predict the BC Liberals will have a feel-good budget delivered in February and the shortfall will become a windfall. Everyone in government will slap each other on the back and congratulate themselves on their uber-financial management skills. They will then start the dog and pony show as they hand out the pre-election goodies. Personally, I am tired of being bought with my own money.

We can’t even count on politicians to stay true to their own beliefs in values. Apparently, once upon a time, Stephen Harper was against omnibus bills yet his government has passed one and has another one planned for the fall. Whoops! There goes your democracy right down the omnibus toilet.

All of this begs a much bigger question: when did democracy become a game of collusion and subterfuge? When did political parties abandon ideology and brokerage politics?[2] I used to think brokerage politics was a horrible development, now I long for those days where you could still tease a little bit of ideology from party platforms. Politics is now a game of confuse the voter, say whatever you need to so you are elected then do whatever the hell you want. Re-election campaigns start right after an election. We used to get a measure of peace in the first 2 years after an election, now the attack ads start almost immediately.

Leadership seems to be something that is missing from all politicians modus operandi. Real leaders build consensus, they answer tough questions and they lay out a vision for the future. We are so short on any kind of vision as everyone is focused on the next election. If you are an effective leader, you don’t have to resort to confusion and downright lies to convince people to follow you. If you want to lead effectively you have to be accountable; people watch your every move; you are a role model. I see no role models amongst the current crop of politicians. Instead they are all focused on maintaining their positions of authority even when they can’t stand to work at their place of employment.

 


[1] Primarily this is due to structural differences. In the US there is no party discipline to speak of so every vote is up for grabs. That means lobbyists are trying to convince 535 people of their position each time there is a vote.

[2] Brokerage politics saw the reduced reliance on ideology for policy decisions. Parties tended to move towards the centre so they had a better chance of getting elected.

Canada and Iran – an oily standoff

Last Friday, the Canadian government severed all diplomatic ties with Iran. Usually when countries take this step there have been increasing tensions and perhaps a series of escalating incidents. One might fairly ask what precipitated this event. The answer is, well, nothing. To be fair, diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran have not been great since the revolution in 1979. Iran has always been a little pissed that Canada smuggled 6 Americans out during the hostage crisis. Factor in the death of Zahra Kazemi and relations have been strained. So the question is why now? Why would we take such a drastic step in the absence of any kind of simmering diplomatic feud?

I have a theory. Stephen Harper is from Calgary. I have blogged before about how American Calgary is in its view of the world. Although born in Toronto, Harper’s education was at the University of Calgary. Particularly in the 1990s, the University of Calgary was a hotbed of a pro-American brand of conservatism.[1] Both the economics and political science departments were rife with these politically motivated students and faculty.[2] Who knows how or why this started; did Calgary create them or did they impact Calgary? Regardless, this is the school of thought that informs our prime minister’s policies.

Now, what does all of this have to do with us severing diplomatic ties with Iran? If you were to listen to Vic Toews[3] you would have heard him say that Iran is the biggest threat to global security.[4] Iran’s threat to global security was no different last Friday than it was the Friday before or the year before that, so why now?

As an historian, I have been trained to look for broad conceptual contexts in which to situate events. When an event does not make sense, historians are trained to tease out what may actually be going on. Given how American Calgary is, I began to think about why Americans might take this kind of action. Pretty much all American foreign policy has to do with money, and it’s compatriot, oil. Iran is a major oil producer and a competitor to Canada. As we all know, Harper and Alberta have been trying to find a way to move Alberta’s bitumen to China. Harper has his eye set on China and moving bitumen there as a means to diversify our exports and take advantage of China’s huge economy. What does all this have to do with Iran? Well, if Harper can isolate Iran even more than it already is or provoke some time of military strike, Iran will be further isolated in the international community. UN sanctions will follow and China will be looking for a new source of oil.

I don’t think my theory is wrong. The drums to war have been beating for quite a while with regard to Iran. While I believe the Iranian regime and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are reprehensible, the rights of sovereign nations are still paramount. Invading Iran because they supposedly have nuclear weapons sounds a whole lot like Iraq having ‘weapons of mass destruction.’  Any action that impacts Iran’s ability to sell its oil on the open market benefits Canada.

As a British Columbian all of this really concerns me. It seems that Harper is willing to squander our hard earned, though somewhat tarnished now, international reputation to sell Alberta’s bitumen. He is also willing to put our province at risk to do it. The Gateway pipeline is almost universally opposed in BC. I fear this pipeline is going to be shoved down our throats whether we want it or not.

The pipeline is not good for Canada. It will ship unprocessed bitumen out of the country leaving us in our familiar ‘hewer of wood, drawer of water’ role. Like lumber, why would we ship this stuff out of the country without processing it and creating more jobs in Canada? I wonder if we might feel better about the pipeline if there was to be a refinery in BC that would process the bitumen before it shipped out to China? The reason we are not doing this is because it would make it more expensive and the Chinese would rather process it there for cheaper. So Harper is willing to sell out Canada to benefit is buddies in the tar sands.[5] Now there’s a surprise.


[1] I was at the U of C at this time as well. Some TAs in the political science department were caught trying to sell Reform Party memberships to undergrads.

[2] Tom Flanagan comes to mind.

[3] Who listens to him anyway?

[4] Clearly if we were to believe Vic we should be severing diplomatic ties with the US, but I digress.

[5] Make no mistake it is the tar sands. It has been called the tar sand for decades. Only recently did some PR schmuk come up with ‘oil sands’ to try to convince people it is not dirty oil. One is not against the tar sands by calling it the tar sands; one is simply being precise.

Stephen Harper is Killing Canada – the ‘what is wrong with collective bargaining’ edition

Seriously, what does Stephen Harper have against collective bargaining? Why do they keep bringing in back to work legislation without letting the process take its natural course? I can see why governments might want to do this after a prolonged strike or lock out situation but less than a week? Give me a break!

The CP Rail workers have been legislated back to work today. Apparently their strike was costing the Canadian economy $540 million dollars a week. How could the government know this less than 3 days into the strike? The union was even letting commuter rail traffic that uses its infrastructure clear passage. No one was really being inconvenienced all that much.

Contrast the recent CP Rail back to work legislation with the Caterpillar strike in London earlier this year. The American management of Caterpillar wanted employees to take a 50% wage cut. When the union would not capitulate, Caterpillar then decided to close the plant and move the jobs to the US. Where was Stephen Harper then?

Stephen Harper is killing Canada is a new series here at The Swamp. Here is the first entry.

Published in: on June 1, 2012 at 9:57 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , ,