Monday, May 22, 2017

The Problem is Civil Obedience



1970, from the Zinn Reader, Seven Stories Press



By Howard Zinn

Transcript of my opening statement in the debate at Johns Hopkins. It was included in a book published by Johns Hopkins Press in 1972, entitled Violence: The Crisis of American Confidence. - Howard Zinn



I start from the supposition that the world is topsy-turvy, that things are all wrong, that the wrong people are in jail and the wrong people are out of jail, that the wrong people are in power and the wrong people are out of power, that the wealth is distributed in this country and the world in such a way as not simply to require small reform but to require a drastic reallocation of wealth. I start from the supposition that we don't have to say too much about this because all we have to do is think about the state of the world today and realize that things are all upside down. Daniel Berrigan is in jail-A Catholic priest, a poet who opposes the war-and J. Edgar Hoover is free, you see. David Dellinger, who has opposed war ever since he was this high and who has used all of his energy and passion against it, is in danger of going to jail. The men who are responsible for the My Lai massacre are not on trial; they are in Washington serving various functions, primary and subordinate, that have to do with the unleashing of massacres, which surprise them when they occur. At Kent State University four students were killed by the National Guard and students were indicted. In every city in this country, when demonstrations take place, the protesters, whether they have demonstrated or not, whatever they have done, are assaulted and clubbed by police, and then they are arrested for assaulting a police officer.

Now, I have been studying very closely what happens every day in the courts in Boston, Massachusetts. You would be astounded-maybe you wouldn't, maybe you have been around, maybe you have lived, maybe you have thought, maybe you have been hit-at how the daily rounds of injustice make their way through this marvelous thing that we call due process. Well, that is my premise.

All you have to do is read the Soledad letters of George Jackson, who was sentenced to one year to life, of which he spent ten years, for a seventy-dollar robbery of a filling station. And then there is the U.S. Senator who is alleged to keep 185,000 dollars a year, or something like that, on the oil depletion allowance. One is theft; the other is legislation. something is wrong, something is terribly wrong when we ship 10,000 bombs full of nerve gas across the country, and drop them in somebody else's swimming pool so as not to trouble our own. So you lose your perspective after a while. If you don't think, if you just listen to TV and read scholarly things, you actually begin to think that things are not so bad, or that just little things are wrong. But you have to get a little detached, and then come back and look at the world, and you are horrified. So we have to start from that supposition-that things are really topsy-turvy.

And our topic is topsy-turvy: civil disobedience. As soon as you say the topic is civil disobedience, you are saying our problem is civil disobedience. That is not our problem.... Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. And our problem is that scene in All Quiet on the Western Front where the schoolboys march off dutifully in a line to war. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world, in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem. We recognize this for Nazi Germany. We know that the problem there was obedience, that the people obeyed Hitler. People obeyed; that was wrong. They should have challenged, and they should have resisted; and if we were only there, we would have showed them. Even in Stalin's Russia we can understand that; people are obedient, all these herdlike people.

But America is different. That is what we've all been brought up on. From the time we are this high and I still hear it resounding in Mr. Frankel's statement-you tick off, one, two, three, four, five lovely things .~ about America that we don't want disturbed very much. But if we have learned anything in the past ten years, it is that these lovely things about America were never lovely. We have been expansionist and aggressive and mean to other people from the beginning. And we've been aggressive and mean to people in this country, and we've allocated the wealth of this country in a very unjust way. We've never had justice in the courts for the poor people, for black people, for radicals. Now how can we boast that America is a very special place? It is not that special. It really isn't.

Well, that is our topic, that is our problem: civil obedience. Law is very important. We are talking about obedience to law-law, this marvelous invention of modern times, which we attribute to Western civilization, and which we talk about proudly. The rule of law, oh, how wonderful, all these courses in Western civilization all over the land. Remember those bad old days when people were exploited by feudalism? Everything was terrible in the Middle Ages-but now we have Western civilization, the rule of law. The rule of law has regularized and maximized the injustice that existed before the rule of law, that is what the rule of law has done. Let us start looking at the rule of law realistically, not with that metaphysical complacency with which we always examined it before.

When in all the nations of the world the rule of law is the darling of the leaders and the plague of the people, we ought to begin to recognize this. We have to transcend these national boundaries in our thinking. Nixon and Brezhnev have much more in common with one another than - we have with Nixon. J. Edgar Hoover has far more in common with the head of the Soviet secret police than he has with us. It's the international dedication to law and order that binds the leaders of all countries in a comradely bond. That's why we are always surprised when they get together -- they smile, they shake hands, they smoke cigars, they really like one another no matter what they say. It's like the Republican and Democratic parties, who claim that it's going to make a terrible difference if one or the other wins, yet they are all the same. Basically, it is us against them.

Yossarian was right, remember, in Catch-22? He had been accused of giving aid and comfort to the enemy, which nobody should ever be accused of, and Yossarian said to his friend Clevinger: "The enemy is whoever is going to get you killed, whichever side they are on." But that didn't sink in, so he said to Clevinger: "Now you remember that, or one of these days you'll be dead." And remember? Clevinger, after a while, was dead. And we must remember that our enemies are not divided along national lines, that enemies are not just people who speak different languages and occupy different territories. Enemies are people who want to get us killed.

We are asked, "What if everyone disobeyed the law?" But a better question is, "What if everyone obeyed the law?" And the answer to that question is much easier to come by, because we have a lot of empirical evidence about what happens if everyone obeys the law, or if even most people obey the law. What happens is what has happened, what is happening. Why do people revere the law? And we all do; even I have to fight it, for it was put into my bones at an early age when I was a Cub Scout. One reason we revere the law is its ambivalence. In the modern world we deal with phrases and words that have multiple meanings, like "national security." Oh, yes, we must do this for national security! Well, what does that mean? Whose national security? Where? When? Why? We don't bother to answer those questions, or even to ask them.

The law conceals many things. The law is the Bill of Rights. ;'~ fact, that is what we think of when we develop our reverence for the law. The law is something that protects us; the law is our right-the law is the Constitution. Bill of Rights Day, essay contests sponsored by the American Legion on our Bill of Rights, that is the law. And that is good.

But there is another part of the law that doesn't get ballyhooed- the legislation that has gone through month after month, year after year, from the beginning of the Republic, which allocates the resources of the country in such a way as to leave some people very rich and other people very poor, and still others scrambling like mad for what little is left. That is the law. If you go to law school you will see this. You can quantify it by counting the big, heavy law books that people carry around with them and see how many law books you count that say "Constitutional Rights" on them and how many that say "Property," "Contracts," "Torts," "Corporation Law." That is what the law is mostly about. The law is the oil depletion allowance-although we don't have Oil Depletion Allowance Day, we don't have essays written on behalf of the oil depletion allowance. So there are parts of the law that are publicized and played up to us-oh, this is the law, the Bill of Rights. And there are other parts of the law that just do their quiet work, and nobody says anything about them.

It started way back. When the Bill of Rights was first passed, remember, in the first administration of Washington? Great thing. Bill of Rights passed! Big ballyhoo. At the same time Hamilton's economic pro gram was passed. Nice, quiet, money to the rich-I'm simplifying it a little, but not too much. Hamilton's economic program started it off. You can draw a straight line from Hamilton's economic program to the oil depletion allowance to the tax write-offs for corporations. All the way through-that is the history. The Bill of Rights publicized; economic legislation unpublicized.

You know the enforcement of different parts of the law is as important as the publicity attached to the different parts of the law. The Bill of Rights, is it enforced? Not very well. You'll find that freedom of speech in constitutional law is a very difficult, ambiguous, troubled concept. Nobody really knows when you can get up and speak and when you can't. Just check all of the Supreme Court decisions. Talk about predictability in a system-you can't predict what will happen to you when you get up on the street corner and speak. See if you can tell the difference between the Terminiello case and the Feiner case, and see if you can figure out what is going to happen. By the way, there is one part of the law that is not very vague, and that involves the right to distribute leaflets on the street. The Supreme Court has been very clear on that. In decision after decision we are affirmed an absolute right to distribute leaflets on the street. Try it. Just go out on the street and start distributing leaflets. And a policeman comes up to you and he says, "Get out of here." And you say, "Aha! Do you know Marsh v. Alabama, 1946?" That is the reality of the Bill of Rights. That's the reality of the Constitution, that part of the law which is portrayed to us as a beautiful and marvelous thing. And seven years after the Bill of Rights was passed, which said that "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech," Congress made a law abridging the freedom of speech. Remember? The Sedition Act of 1798.

So the Bill of Rights was not enforced. Hamilton's program was enforced, because when the whisky farmers went out and rebelled you remember, in 1794 in Pennsylvania, Hamilton himself got on his horse and went out there to suppress the rebellion to make sure that the revenue tax was enforced. And you can trace the story right down to the present day, what laws are enforced, what laws are not enforced. So you have to be careful when you say, "I'm for the law, I revere the law." What part of the law are you talking about? I'm not against all law. But I think we ought to begin to make very important distinctions about what laws do what things to what people.

And there are other problems with the law. It's a strange thing, we think that law brings order. Law doesn't. How do we know that law does not bring order? Look around us. We live under the rules of law. Notice how much order we have? People say we have to worry about civil disobedience because it will lead to anarchy. Take a look at the present world in which the rule of law obtains. This is the closest to what is called anarchy in the popular mind-confusion, chaos, international banditry. The only order that is really worth anything does not come through the enforcement ... of law, it comes through the establishment of a society which is just and in which harmonious relationships are established and in which you need a minimum of regulation to create decent sets of arrangements among people. But the order based on law and on the force of law is the order of the totalitarian state, and it inevitably leads either to total injustice or to rebel lion-eventually, in other words, to very great disorder.

We all grow up with the notion that the law is holy. They asked Daniel Berrigan's mother what she thought of her son's breaking the law. He burned draft records-one of the most violent acts of this century- to protest the war, for which he was sentenced to prison, as criminals should be. They asked his mother who is in her eighties, what she thought of her son's breaking the law. And she looked straight into the interviewer's face, and she said, "It's not God's law." Now we forget that. There is nothing sacred about the law. Think of who makes laws. The law is not made by God, it is made by Strom Thurmond. If you nave any notion about the sanctity and loveliness and reverence for the law, look at the legislators around the country who make the laws. Sit in on the sessions of the state legislatures. Sit in on Congress, for these are the people who make the laws which we are then supposed to revere.

All of this is done with such propriety as to fool us. This is the problem. In the old days, things were confused; you didn't know. Now you know. It is all down there in the books. Now we go through due process. Now the same things happen as happened before, except that we've gone through the right procedures. In Boston a policeman walked into a hospital ward and fired five times at a black man who had snapped a towel at his arm-and killed him. A hearing was held. The judge decided that the policeman was justified because if he didn't do it, he would lose the respect of his fellow officers. Well, that is what is known as due process-that is, the guy didn't get away with it. We went through the proper procedures, and everything was set up. The decorum, the propriety of the law fools us.

The nation then, was founded on disrespect for the law, and then came the Constitution and the notion of stability which Madison and Hamilton liked. But then we found in certain crucial times in our history that the legal framework did not suffice, and in order to end slavery we had to go outside the legal framework, as we had to do at the time of the American Revolution or the Civil War. The union had to go outside the legal framework in order to establish certain rights in the 1930s. And in this time, which may be more critical than the Revolution or the Civil War, the problems are so horrendous as to require us to go outside the legal framework in order to make a statement, to resist, to begin to establish the kind of institutions and relationships which a decent society should have. No, not just tearing things down; building things up. But even if you build things up that you are not supposed to build up-you try to build up a people's park, that's not tearing down a system; you are building something up, but you are doing it illegally-the militia comes in and drives you out. That is the form that civil disobedience is going to take more and more, people trying to build a new society in the midst of the old.

But what about voting and elections? Civil disobedience-we don't need that much of it, we are told, because we can go through the electoral system. And by now we should have learned, but maybe we haven't, for we grew up with the notion that the voting booth is a sacred place, almost like a confessional. You walk into the voting booth and you come out and they snap your picture and then put it in the papers with a beatific smile on your face. You've just voted; that is democracy. But if you even read what the political scientists say-although who can?-about the voting process, you find that the voting process is a sham. Totalitarian states love voting. You get people to the polls and they register their approval. I know there is a difference-they have one party and we have two parties. We have one more party than they have, you see.

What we are trying to do, I assume, is really to get back to the principles and aims and spirit of the Declaration of Independence. This spirit is resistance to illegitimate authority and to forces that deprive people of their life and liberty and right to pursue happiness, and therefore under these conditions, it urges the right to alter or abolish their current form of government-and the stress had been on abolish. But to establish the principles of the Declaration of Independence, we are going to need to go outside the law, to stop obeying the laws that demand killing or that allocate wealth the way it has been done, or that put people in jail for petty technical offenses and keep other people out of jail for enormous crimes. My hope is that this kind of spirit will take place not just in this country but in other countries because they all need it. People in all countries need the spirit of disobedience to the state, which is not a metaphysical thing but a thing of force and wealth. And we need a kind of declaration of interdependence among people in all countries of the world who are striving for the same thing.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Our Beautiful Land, and the Poisoning of Muskrat Falls


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October, 2016 Muskrat Falls solidarity rally at Ottawa's Human Rights Monument includes (sitting) Mitzi Wall and hunger strikers Billy Gauthier, Delilah Miriam Saunders and Jerry Kohlmeister. Kelly Morrissey, standing holding banner, left, wrote this speech below for the Walk the Talk Indigenous Rights Rally in Ottawa on May 13, 2017.


BY KELLY MORRISSEY

(This speech was delivered at the May 13 Walk the Talk Rally in Ottawa in support of Bill C-262 to adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples)

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Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge this gathering is taking place on unceded territory of the Algonquin nation. Welcome and thank you to all in attendance. To you – from closer locales and others whose passion to stand for what is right has led them here today. And to the walkers – who plainly have so much conviction for this cause. You are truly appreciated for your work. My name is Kelly Morrissey, and I’m an Inuit woman from Labrador. Our traditional territory is called Nunatsiavut, which, in Inuttut means ‘Our Beautiful Land’ – and indeed, it is beautiful.



Nearly half of residents in Labrador identify as a member of one of the 3 Indigenous groups there. These are comprised of the northern Inuit of Nunatsiavut (new-NAHT-see-ahh-vuht), the southern Inuit of NunatuKavut (new-nah-TOO-kah-voot), and the Innu Nation. Although I could wax poetic about the warm-natured people, remote vistas and subarctic splendor, I must spend my time wisely here today to tell you about the ongoing nature of Colonialism in my home. In recent decades, Labrador’s untouched nature has been changing with mining projects and hydroelectric development.



Most recently, the ongoing construction of the Muskrat Falls dam has been at the forefront of concern. In 2016, Indigenous groups and settlers alike were asking the Provincial and Federal government to take heed of a recent study done with Harvard University. It projected a marked increase in toxic methyl-mercury downstream from the project. This would affect the harvesting of traditional foods for locals, Innu and Inuit as the fish would then be polluted and could only be consumed in limited amounts. There were also concerns about a leaking cofferdam and the potential for flooding in the area.



In October 2016, after countless unanswered attempts at communication with government, dozens of Indigenous and settlers cut the gate lock to the Muskrat Falls construction site and walked several kilometers down a dirt road to peacefully occupy it. Hundreds of supporters stayed outside the gate while simultaneously, 4 people went on hunger strike to get the government to come to the table. 1 hunger striker occupied the camp, while 3 came here to Ottawa – at this very human rights monument – to appeal to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. All of this culminated in the Premier of the province flying back from Florida (finally!) to meet with the leaders of the Indigenous community. A deal was struck after a marathon 11 hour meeting, where Premier Ball agreed to mandate the energy company Nalcor, clear some vegetation in the spring.



In many ways, this demonstrates the strength of Indigenous people and Settlers united in the face of extreme colonial forces. However, I can’t help but ask why it’s okay to disregard the concerns of Indigenous people affected by a hydroelectric dam. I can’t help but wonder why it’s okay for the government to complain more about the ballooning costs of this mega-project than the human health effects – about my Indigenous sisters and brothers who’ll wonder if their children, and grandchildren will be born with developmental concerns, about those who wonder if the dam – built on clay and sand – will hold. How often will Inuit and Innu turn away from eating their traditional foods? How will they afford to purchase exorbitantly-priced store-bought foods in the north to replace these poisoned fish and animals? And even if they can, how will this affect their ties to the land? In turn, how will this affect the culture? How many days do my friends have to hunger strike before the government will listen to their concerns about their own land? How many of my fellow Inuk, Innu and settlers have to face criminal trespassing and mischief charges in order to get the government to listen to them?



In fact, 37 Labrador Land Protectors, and one journalist have been charged criminally for peacefully occupying the Muskrat Falls site. Yes, the one reporter – Justin Brake - who initially was covering this story in a secluded area, has also been charged criminally. Without his coverage, this story may not have been heard on a national stage – and the police who stated violence was occurring on the Muskrat Falls site may not have been proven false, as they were through live streams showing peace and even camaraderie with workers on the site. This smacks of censorship to me, and of a government and provincial energy corporation that exploits the seclusion of an area to do their dirty deeds, unchecked.



This is why implementing UNDRIP is important. Canada has signed off on this declaration, but just in the past year with Muskrat falls, the Provincial and Federal bodies have violated at least a dozen of these recommendations, paying particular attention to Article 32, which states Indigenous people have the right to determine strategies for use of their land, and that consultation should be done in good faith. I think its clear through my brief synopsis of this complicated scenario, the government did not wish to communicate with the Indigenous communities of Labrador.



And while the fight for the mighty Muskrat Falls continues, I do wish to make this a cautionary tale. Other hydroelectric and resource extraction projects are on the horizon in Canada. In fact, Harvard expanded on their original research, citing 21 more hydroelectric projects that will be affected by mercury levels even higher than those in the Muskrat Falls area. All of these dams are within a 100 km vicinity of secluded Indigenous communities.



It is essential that government be held accountable to their agreements, and if UNDRIP is not adopted into Canadian law, then you can clearly see that governments and corporations will easily disregard it and do what best suits their political agendas or pocket books. I join you all in taking a stand and telling the government – we need to adopt Bill C-262, ensuring Canadian law is in harmony with the tenets of UNDRIP, in order to promote the rights of Indigenous persons in Canada, and to indeed, walk the talk.



Thank you, Nakkumek.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Join the Chain Fast for Freedom for Hassan Diab, May 19 to June 18

Urgent Actions re Hassan Diab:

1. Wednesday, May 17 Rally at Prime Minister's Office, 12 noon, Ottawa

2. Chain Fast for Freedom for Hassan Diab, May 19 to June 18 (see details below)


Friends,

As many of you have know, Dr. Hassan Diab of Ottawa, Ontario was extradited to France and has been jailed there for 30 months based on allegations his lawyer calls the classic recipe for a wrongful conviction. French investigating judges have ordered him released six times, and, in a move that is seen as unprecedented, each time the French Court of Appeal overturned all release orders at the prosecutor's behest. (see https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/monitor/no-evidence-no-problem)



Supporters of Dr. Diab will rally at the Prime Minister’s office in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 17 at 12 noon, calling on Justin Trudeau to do exactly what he demanded of Prime Minister Harper when journalist Mohamed Fahmy was wrongfully detained in Egypt. In 2015, Trudeau said Harper "has an obligation to use the full force of the Prime Minister’s Office to help Canadian citizens when they are unjustly imprisoned abroad. His inaction must end today.”



We agree. And so, in addition to the May 17 rally in Ottawa, we invite you to join the Chain fast for Freedom for Hassan Diab, running May 19 to June 18, each day representing a full month Dr. Diab has spent behind bars. We invite you to fast for one or more days according to your own traditions and protocol (sunup to sundown, with or without liquids, 24 hours, etc.).



On the day you fast, we invite you to explain why you are fasting to friends and family, in a letter to the editor, and with MPs, including your own and those referred to below.



To sign up to fast, email your name, town, and date(s) to tasc@web.ca, and we will post this information publicly at http://www.justiceforhassandiab.org/



In addition to fasting (and for those who would like to help but cannot fast), we invite all of you to write to Prime Minister Trudeau calling on him to use the full force of his office to bring Dr. Diab home. You can write to Trudeau directly online at https://pm.gc.ca/eng/connect



Please also email justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca, Chrystia.Freeland@parl.gc.ca, chrystia.freeland@international.gc.ca, Omar.Alghabra@parl.gc.ca, Jody.Wilson-Raybould@parl.gc.ca



Thanks for your support.



Matthew Behrens

Member, Justice for Hassan Diab

http://www.justiceforhassandiab.org/





Chain Fast for Freedom for Hassan Diab

May 19 to June 18, 2017



For the next 30 days – each day representing a month of being wrongfully detained in a French jail cell – we will be sharing a chain fast calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to undertake all possible efforts to return Canadian citizen Dr. Hasan Diab to his family in Ottawa.



Dr. Diab is an Ottawa university professor and father of two young Canadian children who has been jailed for over two and a half years in France as a result of a controversial and legally questionable extradition proceeding commenced by the previous Conservative government.



Dr. Diab was sought by the French for a crime he did not commit. Dr. Diab’s finger prints, palm prints, physical description, and handwriting do not match those of the French suspect sought for a 1980 bombing in Paris that tragically killed four people. Dr. Diab has consistently denied involvement and condemned the violence, while French investigating judges have confirmed he was in Lebanon at the time of the bombing.



Of critical concern is the fact that Dr. Diab has been ordered released on bail six times over the past year by investigating judges in charge of his case, but on each occasion, the Court of Appeal overturned all release orders at the prosecutor's behest. French lawyers have called this situation unprecedented, a political maneuver to look tough on terror even though a vast body of evidence shows Dr. Diab did not commit the crime.



The inability of Dr. Diab to obtain release from a cell in which he is confined 22 hours a day – even while two investigative judges have called for such a judicially-sanctioned release  recalls the frustrations of other Canadians wrongfully held overseas, such as journalist Mohamed Fahmy.



In 2015, Prime Minister Trudeau issued a powerful statement on Mr. Fahmy’s behalf while in opposition, saying then Prime Minister Stephen Harper  "has an obligation to use the full force of the Prime Minister’s Office to help Canadian citizens when they are unjustly imprisoned abroad. His inaction must end today.”



We undertake this chain fast because we believe it is time for Justin Trudeau to consider how to employ the same forceful use of his office in Dr. Diab’s case as well.



Each of us will fast for a day, during which we will write to the Prime Minister, The Global Affairs Minister, the Justice Minister, our member of Parliament; write a letter to the editor; and discuss Dr. Diab’s case with family and friends.



This modest sacrifice is the least we can do to support Dr. Diab and his loved ones as they truly hunger for justice and for their family to be reunited.


May 19, Ria Heynen, Ottawa
May 20, Lyn Adamson, Toronto
May 21, Matthew Behrens, Perth
May 22, Mohammad Al-Rayyan, Ottawa
May 23, Amani Khalfan, Ottawa
May 24, Dima Siam, Ottawa
May 25, Ria Heynen, Ottawa
May 26, Mary Ann Higgs, Kingston
May 27, Jo Wood, Ottawa
May 28
May 29, Cym Gomery, Montreal
May 30, Rabea Murtaza, Toronto
May 31, Don Pratt, Berkeley, CA
June 1, Tyler Levitan, Ottawa
June 2, Ria Heynen, Ottawa
June 3
June 4, Linda Green, Ottawa
June 5
June 6, Roger Clark, Ottawa
June 7, Don Pratt, Berkeley, CA
June 8, Ria Heynen, Ottawa
June 9, Mary Ann Higgs, Kingston
June 10
June 11, Linda Green, Ottawa
June 12
June 13
June 14
June 15
June 16
June 17
June 18



 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Anti-Torture Advocates Welcome Resolution of Trio of Canada's Torture Cases Abdullah Almalki Issues Public Statement

Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture
PO Box 2121, 57 Foster Street
Perth, ON K7H 1R0
(613) 267-3998, tasc@web.ca

March 19, 2017  

The advocacy group Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture, which for over a decade has advocated alongside of three Canadians who were tortured with Canadian complicity in Syrian and Egyptian prisons – as well as on behalf of their families, who also suffered the fallout of being falsely labelled threats to national security – welcomes the long-sought settlement of a legal case against the government of Canada. The Canadian government issued a statement at 4:58 pm on Friday afternoon, March 17 (see https://www.canada.ca/content/canadasite/en/public-safety-canada/news/2017/03/statement_of_apologytomralmalkimrabou-elmaatimrnureddin.html)

In addition, the group is pleased to share the moving, gracious statement of Abdullah Almalki (pasted below) which was posted on his facebook page.





Abdullah Almalki is an Ottawa engineer who was detained, interrogated, and tortured for 22 months in Syria as a result of Canadian government actions. Prior to this overseas torture by proxy – in which Syrian torturers demanded answers from Almalki to questions provided to them by the RCMP via Canadian consular officials in Damascus – Mr. Almalki and his family were the subject of an intense campaign of harassment and surveillance by Canadian state security agencies, including CSIS and the RCMP.

Mr. Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin – the latter two also subjected to Canadian torture-by-proxy in Syria and, in the case of Abou-Elmaati, in Egypt as well –  were found by two separate judicial inquiries (O'Connor, Iacobucci) to have been the wrongful targets of false and inflammatory accusations by agencies of the Canadian government. Those inquiries also illustrated how actions and "deficiencies" of the Canadian government led to their torture.

The three men were the subject of a majority Parliamentary motion in 2009 calling on the Government of Canada to apologize, provide compensation, correct misinformation that may exist in records administered by state security agencies in Canada or abroad, and to issue a ministerial direction against torture and the use of information obtained from torture.

A failure by successive Canadian governments to act led to a lawsuit that was finally settled this week, over a dozen years after the men returned home from overseas detention and torture.

"While we are pleased to see the resolution of these cases, we remain committed to ending ongoing Canadian involvement in torture, whether that is  deportation of refugees to situations where they face a substantial likelihood of torture, the Liberals continuing to operate under the Harper-era torture memos that allow Canadian state security agencies to trade information that comes from or could lead to torture, ongoing support for regimes that regularly commit torture against their citizens, and the refusal to repeal the 2015 Anti-terrorism Act (C51), whose troubling provisions open the door to further complicity in torture,"  says group spokesperson Matthew Behrens.

"Keep in mind that those Canadian officials who knowingly took actions that led to the torture in these cases have never been charged or demoted. In fact, many received promotions, continue to work in high-level government positions, or enjoy a retirement in which they now act as media 'consultants' on state security issues."

Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture has organized cross-Ontario Caravans in support of redress for the men and their families, as well as countless educational events focused on Canadian government complicity in the torture not only of these men, but in other cases as well. The group also thanks RAMZ Media for producing the very first film about their cases, Ghosts (preview at https://player.vimeo.com/video/101724396)

For further information, contact Matthew Behrens at tasc@web.ca or (613) 267-3998. Details on contacting Mr. Almalki are available at the end of his statement.


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Statement of Abdullah Almalki

I am very pleased to see the long-awaited government apology.

My family and I are grateful  to finally have closure.

In 2004, I was exonerated by the Syrian Security Court. Four years later, I was exonerated by the Iacobucci Inquiry here at home in Canada. The recent  government apology brings the matter to rest.

This is a victory for Canada and every Canadian who holds dear the Charter of Right and Freedoms, the rule of law, freedom, equality, and dignity. It is also a victory for those who abhor torture, arbitrary detention, bigotry and racism.

This long fought for result will hopefully give hope to everyone who has been wronged. Hopefully, it will also boost their resilience, strengthen their resolve, allow them to have more patience and persistence, and help them to keep on keeping on,  as a victory for justice is a victory for all of us.
 I hope my struggle, and that of many others over the years for truth, justice and reforms, will not be wasted. I hope that we as a country learn from such injustices and work to better our country by strengthening our human rights laws rather than weakening them. We must strengthen laws and institutions to preserve our liberties and freedoms, rather than compromising them. We must also hold government officials and government agencies accountable by demanding powerful, effective, real-time oversight of their activities, especially when human rights can so easily be abused in the name of national security.

It is difficult to reconcile the injustice my family and I have endured over the last 15 years. However, we look forward to a better future, and as much of a normal, quiet, and productive life as we can possibly have under the circumstances.

Throughout  the last 15 years, I have seen a very ugly side of humanity, but I also have seen a very bright, hopeful, loving side of it. I would like to sincerely thank every person and organization in Canada and around the world who has supported my family and myself in many different ways over the years.

I would like to thank my family and friends for their unconditional and continuous support over the years. Your love and support is unquantifiable (to use an engineering term). 

Abdullah Almalki, March 19, 2017. For media inquiries, please call (613) 713-9500 or email almalkimedia@gmail.com.  For more information please visit: www.abdullahalmalki.com

Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Valentine for Dima Siam: Grant this Syrian Refugee Permanent Resident Status in Canada


(Take action on February 14 to end an immigration nightmare for Ottawa-based refugee and mother of four facing deportation to Syria, details below) 

BACKGROUND
Maria Al-Rayyan is one of Canada's newest citizens, born in Ottawa in December, 2016. But Maria and her 3 Canadian brothers live in a world of fear and uncertainty. Their mother Dima Siam, a Syrian refugee, is still under deportation order from Canada to Syria, based on a simple paperwork era. Dima's house in Syria was destroyed by shelling in 2012; in 2013, her sister-in-law was kidnapped and disappeared in Syria.
 Maria Al-Rayyan. Her mother is under deportation order from Canada to Syria.

Since her arrival in Canada in 2012, Dima Siam has lived in a virtual prison without status. Dima cannot visit her parents overseas, and her mother was denied a visa to visit Canada and be with her during the birth of Maria in December. In addition, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada's own errors have caused unnecessary delays in the case as well.

A Traumatized Family
While her husband and four children are all Canadian citizens, Dima remains under deportation order to Syria because of a simple paperwork error. She has applauded as some 35,000 Syrian refugees have been welcomed to Canada, but wonders why, despite having all of the proper checks in place – security, health, income – she has not been landed. The effect on her and her family has been devastating. The children are afraid to go to school for fear their mom might not be home at the end of the day. The stress has led to anxiety attacks that have landed Dima and her husband in Ottawa emergency rooms.

We are calling on Justin Trudeau, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, and Parliamentary Secretary Serge Cormier to finally do the right thing, end this psychological torture begun under the Harper government (and, unfortunately, continued under the Trudeau government), and grant Dima Siam IMMEDIATE permanent resident status.

Please email or call Trudeau, Hussen and Cormier on Tuesday, February 14, and demand that they deliver the ultimate Valentine gift: a release from the indefinite imprisonment of living under a deportation order to Syria, and permanent resident status for Dima Siam.

Why Valentine's Day? 
Because it is a day based on a saint who was himself imprisoned.

In the ancient Roman Empire, Emperor Claudius II banned rituals leading to love and marriage, as young men in love or who married were reluctant to join the army, for which Claudius was having recruitment troubles. Although the Emperor declared engagements and marriages to be illegal, a priest called St. Valentine felt the Emperor's dictates were unjust and started to conduct marriages in secret. Once his activities became known he was jailed and later executed, in part for helping prisoners escape.

TAKING ACTION:
1. Send emails with Permanent Residency for Dima Siam in the subject line and a short note explaining why Dima should be granted status in Canada. Send  to minister@cic.gc.caAhmed.Hussen@parl.gc.caSerge.Cormier@parl.gc.ca, and justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca


2. If you have a moment, please call with the same message: Ahmed Hussen (613) 995-0777; Serge Cormier (613) 992-2165, Justin Trudeau,
(613) 992-4211


Thanks!

The Rural Refugee Rights Network
(613) 267-3998

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Support Homes not Bombs in 2017 and Celebrating 2016 Victories

Friends,

While many people cannot wait to see the end of 2016 – and with good reason – Homes not Bombs would like to share some highlights of the past year, and ask that you support our upcoming work in whatever way you can (details on how to support are at the bottom of this post).



Homes not Bombs is a nonviolent direct action network that engages in campaigns of education and training workshops, solidarity and accompaniment, and public action resisting interpersonal and structural violence. We work on a variety of issues, from refugee rights, prisoner support and ending the secret trial regime to stopping Canadian complicity in torture and supporting Women Who Choose to Live (women who have run afoul of the law for defending themselves against abuse).



The year began with two major victories:

A simple paperwork error kept an Ottawa couple apart from their 1-year-old baby for the 3 years. Following a year-long campaign, our working group Rural Refugee Rights Network gathered some 12,000 signatures, countless letters of support, and a visit from Santa Claus who personally appealed to Immigration Minister John McCallum to issue a temporary resident permit for Daksh Sood. In January, that holiday miracle came through, and the family is finally together. See video of Santa and McCallum at http://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/adami-immigration-minister-calls-mother-of-four-year-old-boy-to-say-that-son-can-come-to-canada



MM is a Canadian abuse survivor fighting extradition to the USA for the "crime" of saving her kids from an abusive father. After MM's intensive two-week prison hunger strike and the cross-country campaign initiated by our working group, Women Who Choose to Live, we convinced Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to reconsider the case (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-woman-m-minister-jody-wilson-raybould-1.3378517). While this was a significant victory, with bail granted so MM could spend Christmas with her kids, the Justice Minister refused her case in August, and we are again headed to the courts to review the decision. In the meantime, we ask that you sign and share this petition in support of MM: https://www.change.org/p/justin-trudeau-stop-illegal-extradition-of-abuse-survivor-and-single-mom-mm



Ongoing Campaigns

As part of our ongoing work with immigrants and refugees, we remain focused on ending the limbo in which over 700 Syrian refugees currently live in Canada. They are faced with deportation to a horrific war zone when they should instead be granted status in Canada on humanitarian grounds. One such refugee is Dima Siam, who because of a simple paperwork error is still fighting deportation to Syria. She is traumatized by this threat, as are her three Canadian children and husband. Over 22,000 people have petitioned the Trudeau government to end her nightmarish limbo (https://www.change.org/p/john-mccallum-grant-syrian-refugee-and-ottawa-resident-dima-siam-permanent-residency-in-canada), and we conducted a three-week chain fast and letter-writing campaign in her support. Dima is planning to give birth later this month, and while her child will be a Canadian citizen, Dima remains in limbo.



The Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada, which we initiated and have led since August, 2001, celebrated the victory of secret trial detainee Mahmoud Jaballah, when the 20-year-old "case" against him was dismissed by the Federal Court last summer. http://rabble.ca/columnists/2016/05/victory-jaballah-secret-trial-security-certificate-found-unreasonable



Our Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture working group currently has a petition campaign on the go as three Canadian survivors of overseas torture by proxy face a possible court date in 2017 as they seek accountability and justice from a Trudeau government which voted to support them in opposition, but which is now fighting them in court, defending the torturers. https://www.change.org/p/justin-trudeau-settle-the-canadian-torture-by-proxy-cases-now



Homes not Bombs led organizing for two days of protests against the massive CANSEC weapons bazaar, including the first-ever sit-in against the $15 billion Saudi weapons deal, with three individuals arrested for unveiling a banner in the Ottawa Global Affairs lobby. http://homesnotbombs.blogspot.ca/2016/06/failure-to-comply-with-merchants-of.html



Our Anne Frank Sanctuary Committee continues to work with refugees at risk of torture and other violations if deported, seeking out church sanctuary as a means of forcing reconsideration of cases.



2017

Homes not Bombs plans to expand its solidarity campaign working with Indigenous land and water protectors and their settler allies at Muskrat Falls in Labrador. We worked to organize a number of Ottawa rallies, including Santa's visit to the Prime Minister’s office last week: http://aptn.ca/news/2016/12/09/santa-and-his-carolers-send-trudeau-a-holiday-message-about-muskrat-falls/



We are also continuing a daily social media campaign pointing out that the Trudeau government has been in contempt of a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Order, issued in January, requiring the government to end its racial discrimination against 163,000 Indigenous children.



In addition to the abovementioned campaigns and our ongoing casework with those who fall though the cracks of a withered social safety net, we will also be busy in 2017 with nonviolent direct action trainings with communities engaged in a variety of resistance campaigns.



This is work we have done on a bare bones budget for a number of decades, and hope you can support us meet our expenses with either a cheque (To Homes not Bombs, PO Box 2121, 57 Foster Street, Perth, ON K7H 1R0) or an electronic funds transfer to tasc@web.ca (if doing this, please send us an email with the security question we should answer).



Looking forward to resisting injustice with you in the year ahead.


Peace



Matthew Behrens

Homes not Bombs

PO Box 2121, 57 Foster Street, Perth, ON K7H 1R0

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Failure to Comply with the Merchants of Death


Homes Not Bombs occupies Global Affairs and protests against CANSEC weapons show

By Kevin Shimmin
It began with a welcome by Elder Evelyn Commanda, to the unceded and unconquered territory of the Algonquin nation. Her powerful statement reminded us why we were gathered: “We walk on our ancestors. And the dust of my ancestors is being used for war.” Her protection gave us courage to resist the purveyors of war: “I will be laying down tobacco for you today and tomorrow to welcome you to our territory.”

On May 24 to 25, 2016, members of Homes Not Bombs – along with the Ottawa Raging Grannies, Christian Peacemaker Teams, NoWar/Paix, and Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade – utilized a variety of creative means to protest against CANSEC, the annual war and weapons show in Ottawa. CANSEC has been a blight on Mother Earth for 16 years running, bringing together the world’s worst human rights violators with the producers of today’s deadliest weaponry. The return of a Liberal government has in no way altered the wholehearted support of the PMO for CANSEC. No less than six members of Justin Trudeau’s cabinet enthusiastically participated in this year’s glorification of death and destruction. Having recently signed the export permits on Canada’s $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, Trudeau has signalled he is ready to do business with some of the world’s most brutal regimes.   

            Kevin Shimmin is arrested and charged after occupying Global Affairs on May 25.


 

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Indigenous elders teach us that the key to protecting our peoples and our planet from war and annihilation is to wake up. To wake up to the fact that the production of arms is what makes war possible. To wake up to the fact that millions of people are displaced by wars that are fought with weapons made in Canada. To wake up to the fact that the ongoing history of Canada is one of colonialism, imperialism and militarism. From chemical warfare in Vietnam to helicopter gunships in Sri Lanka to cruise missiles in Iraq, it is weapons made in Canada that have continued to make death and destruction possible. Elder Commanda asks us never to forget that it was uranium taken from Algonquin, Dene, Navajo and Hopi lands that was used for the nuclear bombs that killed hundreds of thousands in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and left millions permanently maimed by radiation.  

Waking up to the fact that Canada is not a peace-keeping nation, and never has been, can be a hard reality for many to face. To see clearly that our nation was created out of violence and continues to spread violence around the world, is indeed a bitter pill to swallow. The alternative, however, is to continue walking around in a dangerous delusion that actively condones war, torture, insecurity and destruction of the natural environment. Healing is urgently needed. For healing to begin, the practice which continues the trauma must be stopped.


On the second day of protests, eight members of the Homes Not Bombs and Christian Peacemaker Teams crew entered the Office of Global Affairs in Ottawa to demand an immediate end to Canada’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia. We asked for a meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, who signed the export permits for Trudeau. Acknowledging that Dion was with Trudeau in Japan for a G7 meeting that day, we felt it was imperative for him to board the next flight back to Ottawa to address the life-threatening situation posed by the arms deal.

                                    Holding the banner inside Global Affairs created quite a stir
With weapons purchased from its Western partners, Saudi Arabia commits some of the most heinous atrocities in the world today, including torture, beheadings, murder of unarmed demonstrators, and bombings of civilians. The United Nations has condemned the House of Saud for its ongoing war in Yemen, where aerial bombings have targeted civilian neighbourhoods and marketplaces, killing thousands of children, women and men. Video evidence and testimony from dissidents in Saudi Arabia have confirmed that the regime uses LAVs (light armoured vehicles) mounted with machine guns to kill demonstrators – the same type of LAVs that have long been purchased from Canada and a new generation of which is slated to roll off the assembly line in London, Ontario by year’s end. Some of these Western partners, notably Sweden, have been so sickened by Saudi Arabia’s flagrant disregard for human rights that they have halted arms sales to the regime indefinitely.

But not Canada. A few years back, to avoid the scrutiny of congressional oversight in its home country, American weapons giant General Dynamics began lobbying the Canadian government for a lucrative deal with Saudi Arabia. Former war-mongers Stephen Harper and John Baird gleefully obliged. Then, having rid itself of the Harper-Baird brigade in 2015, Canada simply replaced old Conservative war-mongers with new Liberal ones. While the deal was sealed by the previous government, it was the Trudeau-Dion administration that gave the green light to start delivering the next round of LAVs to Saudi Arabia.

A few months back, Dion had a choice. With pen in hand, he stared ominously at three little boxes on the export permits – Yes, No, or Call for Review. Since everyone and their mother seem to know about the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, one would assume Dion would check the No box, or, perhaps having a temporary lapse of reason, at least call for a review. Yet, defying all assumptions, defying all of the Liberals’ “sunny ways” proclamations about feminism and gender-parity, the foreign minister checked the yes box for an arms deal with one of the most misogynist regimes in the world. All in a day’s work for Canada’s new leading spokesmen for the arms industry.

So now on this sunny day in May, we were more than willing to wait it out until Dion arrived back in his office, and get this arms deal canceled once and for all. In doing so, Dion could perhaps salvage his own reputation, as he now found himself in the company of war criminals. The opening line of our letter to him offered this olive branch: “we request to meet with you immediately to bring about an end to your complicity in war crimes”. While waiting for Dion, we proceeded to hand out copies of the letter to the hundreds of office workers streaming through the enormous lobby of Global Affairs. Many took the letter with a smile, saying “I know why you’re here” in an unmistakable tone of agreement that the arms deal was an abomination.
General Chaos welcoming his friends from the arms industry, as survivors of war zones try to transform his way of thinking

Noticing that many more workers were looking on curiously from behind glassed-in security areas, we unfurled our homemade banner with the direct and concise demand: No More Arms Deals. You see, the deal with Saudi Arabia is a flashpoint, an example of a deeper, underlying problem. No matter which country Canada chooses to sell weapons to – whether it’s the United States or Saudi Arabia – we know that weapons and armoured vehicles are used for one thing and one thing only: to suppress dissent and to kill people. Within Canada itself, the situation offers little difference. Terradyne, a weapons manufacturer in Richmond Hill destined to be a benefactor of the deal with Saudi Arabia, boasts of selling LAVs to the police in Mexico, Colombia...and Winnipeg. Infamous for human rights crimes against Indigenous peoples, it is more than likely the Winnipeg police will use their shiny new armoured vehicle to exclusively oppress poor, racialized communities.


So, selling arms to countries which purportedly abide by human rights law was a non-starter for us. Our demand for an end to the arms deal with Saudi Arabia represented a beginning, not an end. The cancellation would be an important step towards transforming Canada from a militarized economy to a green and sustainable one. It is a vision of society which most people undoubtedly want for themselves and future generations. As the RCMP and Ottawa police descended on the three of us who were holding our banner of peace and handing out letters, even the guy from Dion’s office appeared to be experiencing a bit of a moral dilemma. While calling on the police for our immediate removal, he quietly whispered to us something quite revealing: “I understand why you are here. It’s a horrible deal. What can I do though? I have to do my job”.

No – you don’t have to do your job. You don’t have to condone and actively participate in the blood-soaked arms industry. You don’t have to repeat the lies of your government. It is not about jobs. It is not about foreign relations. It’s about merchants of death and our active complicity in allowing them to profit from the murder of people at home and around the world. The weapons industry can indeed be stopped – by the act of non-cooperation. It took only three people being arrested and five people supporting us to shut down the Department of Global Affairs and jam the system on May 25. A small committed group of people posed a threat so serious to the government that the lobby was sealed shut after only 45 minutes of us conversing with the department’s workers.
                 Kirsten Romaine, arrested and charged after occupying Global Affairs on May 25.

As this goes to press, we are learning that Boeing has met with Global Affairs no less than 10 times this year, in an effort to help the government buy new fighter jets to the tune of $75 million apiece. This, despite the fact that such a purchase is entirely unnecessary for the next decade, according to even the staunchest military analysts. This, despite the fact that new fighter jets would be used for one solitary purpose, as anyone in Syria, Libya, Iraq or Afghanistan can attest to – murdering people from above. By ejecting peace activists, yet welcoming weapons manufacturers with open arms (and behind closed doors), it is clear where the government stands: the demand for peace is simply unbearable to the Trudeau arms brigade. And it demonstrates what can lead to a world that is ultimately free from the clutches of the merchants of death – consistent and spirited nonviolent civil disobedience!

Kevin Shimmin is a union organizer and a founding member of Homes not Bombs.      

                 David Milne, arrested and charged after occupying Global Affairs on May 25.