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.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Victory: Jaballah Secret Trial Security Certificate Found Unreasonable


By Matthew Behrens
For rabble.ca           
In a major setback to a Liberal government still refusing to repeal the repressive Bill C-51, the Federal Court has found unreasonable the secret trial security certificate against the long-suffering Mahmoud Jaballah, almost 20 years to the day that the Egyptian refugee and his family arrived in Canada seeking asylum from the Mubarak dictatorship. While the written decision for this finding has yet to be released, this hopefully brings to a close an 18-year legal fight that helped spur an international campaign of condemnation against Canada’s use of secret trials, indefinite detention, deportation to torture, and the patently illegal practices conducted by Canada’s spy agency, CSIS.

            Jaballah, who was jailed without charge and tortured on many occasions in Egypt (as was his wife, Husnah, who was twice detained and tortured in front of him), was originally arrested in 1999 under the much criticized security certificate, alleging he was a threat to national security. The problem he faced? He was not allowed to see the secret case against him in a process that allowed as evidence anything not normally admissible in a court of law. CSIS had originally approached him to spy on his community, and he refused. The response of CSIS was clear: cooperate or you will be jailed and deported to torture.

            CSIS CAUGHT LYING
            Jaballah’s then 11-year-old son, Ahmad, was forced to translate through his own tears one very late night for the CSIS interrogators, whose own translator had fallen asleep and was snoring on the couch well after midnight. Young Ahmad could not sleep anyhow: their family of 8 lived in a small two bedroom Scarborough apartment where the noise of the interrogation kept everyone up. While CSIS agents confidently terrorized Jaballah, they were unaware that Ahmad and his mother had placed a tape recorder in the hallway, figuring it might come in useful. Sure enough, when CSIS was examined in open court much later on about whether they were in the business of extortion and threats, they of course denied that they could ever engage in such an odious practice. When the tape was produced, it went a long way towards obliterating any “credibility” CSIS may have had in the case, and in an almost unprecedented historical moment, the certificate was thrown out after Jaballah spent some 7 months in detention.


            Jaballah's three youngest children at the Metro West Jail Sleepout, Summer, 2002

 But the nightmare did not end there. As is standard CSIS practice, the spy agency continued asking about Jaballah in the community, putting out the word that they would get him. In August 2001, while leaving the school where he was a principal and his wife a teacher, Jaballah was surrounded by heavily armed RCMP agents whose high-risk takedown was as unnecessary as it was baseless. Once again back in jail, Jaballah was behind bars during the 9/11 attacks, and would not be able to hug his kids for another 8 years. At the first public portion of the secret trial in the fall of 2001, a CSIS agent admitted there was no new evidence against Jaballah, only a new interpretation of the old information that had already been thrown out by the Federal Court as unreliable.

Jaballah faced horrific times behind bars, with long years in solitary confinement, hunger strikes, untreated medical conditions, and the pain of a family growing up without him while fending off terror allegations that could never be disproven because they were secret.

DEPRIVATIONS OF JUSTICE
            Along the way, the severe deprivations of justice that were the core of the process – originally solidified under the Trudeau government in the 1970s – produced some remarkable zingers that were accepted at face value by a series of Federal Court of Canada judges (all of whom would later learn that they were lied to behind closed doors). In one instance, a CSIS lawyer argued that Jaballah was a terrorist communications relay expert because when he came to Canada, he not only wasted no time in setting up a Bell phone account, but also carried a cell phone with him while his wife was pregnant, “procured” a fax machine (because Arab Muslims don't simply purchase, they “procure,” usually with eerie music playing in the background), and started learning to surf the internet. Readers with such skills: beware, you may be next.

            In another instance, CSIS alleged without foundation that Jaballah was in touch with an overseas terrorist leader because some calls were allegedly made to a suspicious satellite phone from payphones within a 4 km radius of Jaballah’s home, which at the time was situated in the densely populated Toronto suburb of Scarborough.  

BIRTHING A CAMPAIGN
            I got to know the Jaballah family shortly after his second arrest, and it was here that the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada was born, still fighting 15 years later for an end to the barbaric secret trial process and deportation to torture. It has been a long journey for the men, their families, and communities that live in fear that one of their loved ones could be next. Things really began to turn around in 2003 when the secret trial families started speaking with each other and to the media about their ordeal, and the narrative changed from “terrorist threat” to “secret trial detainees who deserved due process.”


 Jaballah's two youngest sons, marching from CSIS in Toronto, 2007

 Supporters spent years in court on hard benches as heinous allegations were hurled at their loved ones in the docket, while some of Canada’s top lawyers, including Barbara Jackman, John Norris, Paul Copeland, Rocco Galati (who won the first case) and Marlys Edwardh waded through mountains of litigation trying to declare the process unconstitutional (a battle that was won with a unanimous Supreme Court decision in 2007. Celebrations were short-lived, though, as the Harper Conservatives teamed up with the Liberals to support continued use of secret trials, with some window dressing amendments). There were scores of street demonstrations, sympathy hunger strikes, long-distance walks, lobbying missions to Ottawa, jail sleepouts, and civil disobedience, all of which put a human face on one of this country’s most regressive and repressive policies. A fund started by the sons of  Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (murdered by the U.S. government as Red Scare sacrifices) to aid the children of detainees contributed to the costs of Ahmad Jaballah’s tuition. With people from coast to coast writing letters to and visiting with Jaballah and other detainees known as The Secret Trial Five, it got to the point where CSIS Director Jim Judd threw up his hands in disgust, complaining these alleged threats were being treated as folk heroes.

.           Along the way, any glimmer of hope was always dashed with an equal measure of judicial reticence and compliant media, who continually repeated allegations with no factual basis and refused to ever challenge the court when a judge would say “we’re going into closed session.” Yet the media would fight to open up the same court when one of the detainees asked for private details of their lives to be kept out of the public realm when they felt their lives or those of loved ones were at risk.  Even when two of the cases were dismissed – one case (Adil Charkaoui) withdrawn when the government refused to comply with an order to produce some classified information, the other (Hassan Almrei) a victory in which the CSIS case was found unreasonable – the government continued its campaign of selective leaks and community innuendo against the men. In the age of google, it doesn’t matter if you win against CSIS: the taint of the allegation is forever available to anyone who opens a computer screen.

            Meantime, Ottawa’s Mohamed Harkat and Toronto’s Mohammad Mahjoub, whose cases were found “reasonable” by Federal Court judges who relied in secret information that could not be challenged, are now fighting deportation to torture in Algeria and Egypt, respectively.


            Mahmoud Jaballah

While the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials was ultimately successful in stopping the use of secret trial security certificates – none have been issued in over a decade – many of the court precedents in their cases have been used to insert more secrecy into refugee proceedings and other aspects of government control of targeted communities. Indeed, the process was lifted word for word into C-51 under a number of sections. But as Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale considers a review of state security, he would do well to look at the weakness of these cases and the human damage they did to the detainees and their loved ones, all of whom will suffer the ill-effects of the past two decades long into the future.

JUDGE MAKES MISTAKE
In the spring of 2003, the second certificate (the one issued in 2001) was upheld against Jaballah on flimsy grounds as well as ON secret information neither he nor his lawyer ever got a chance to see, much less cross-examine. That set in motion the deportation process, in which the Liberal government of the day (with Immigration Minister Denis Coderre playing an odious role) found that Jaballah faced a substantial likelihood of torture or death if deported to Egypt, but recommended he be sent anyhow for the “safety” of Canadians. Coderre approved his department’s callous finding that "Mr. Jaballah has been detained apart from his children for some time; I cannot therefore conclude that Mr. Jaballah's removal from Canada would deprive his children of his emotional and financial support any more than his current detention has."
One of Jaballah’s legal challenges at the time focused on a section of the immigration act that made him and fellow detainees the only people in Canada who were prohibited from applying for bail. It made Federal Court Judge MacKay wonder aloud one day at the end of a long hearing whether Toronto had its own version of Guantanamo Bay.  
The danger of the secret trial process, in which one side sat in secret with a judge, was revealed one day in 2006. We were shocked when, sitting in court, Judge MacKay admitted: "It looks like I made a mistake," in reference to his use of a piece of "evidence" that was one of the key reasons he employed to conclude in May, 2003 that the government's second security certificate against Jaballah was "reasonable." It turns out, in fact, that this "evidence" did not exist. Three years of Jaballah’s life were spent behind bars in part due to this “mistake.”
GITMO NORTH
After the process was unanimously declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2007, the Federal Court, working with an Ottawa professor, worked diligently not to abolish the practice and raise the standards, but to introduce security-cleared “special advocates” who have some access to some of the case. But the detainees had no more more clues about the reasons for their detention. While held at the notorious Guantanamo North facility in Kingston, Jaballah and his fellow detainees remained on punishing hunger strikes of between 80 and 160 days, eventually released under some of the most draconian bail conditions in Canadian history, turning families into jailers. Children needed approval from the government to have friends over to the house; a trip to the grocery store involved applying for permission a week in advance. All of this was duly recorded by the CBSA, and shared with CSIS, both agencies admitting this was necessary to continue their investigations, including the logging of solicitor client calls.
            Jaballah is now a grandfather many times over. His remarkably resilient family has seen the worst of Egypt and of Canada. Last week, they celebrated the good news, which still felt like a dream. While it is a major stake in the heart of the secret trial process, it is not the end of the line. Mohammad Mahjoub of Toronto and Mohamed Harkat of Ottawa continue fighting deportation to torture after their cases were upheld based on secret information that is not normally admissible in a court of law that they were never allowed to see, much less contest.
            We have much work still to do on these and so many other cases, but for now, a brief pause, and a celebration. At long last.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Group Pledges Hugs and Nuremberg Principles Will Infiltrate CANSEC Weapons Bazaar

Homes not Bombs has received an interesting communique from a group calling itself The Spring Nuremberg Action Group 2 (SNAG2), which has anonymously pledged to nonviolently filter its members into the CANSEC weapons bazaar in Ottawa May 25-26. Once inside, they plan to hug merchants of death in an attempt to love them out of the bad place they must be in to sell such horrific weapons, and also to share copies of the Nuremberg Principles, among other international laws they say are violated by the CANSEC gathering.

    "On May 25 and 26, we will be well-dressed and business-like, indistinguishable from the weapons merchants and the warriors of the Liberal Trudeau government who will be perusing the massive weapons on display and hob-nobbing with some of the world's worst human rights violators," says the communique. "With an ID pass that is a virtual replica of those being used for CANSEC2016, our entry should not be a problem. We will be absolutely peaceful, engaging in dialogue about the Nuremberg Principles, which prohibit wars of aggression. Nuremberg, among many other international laws, is daily violated by the countries visiting this weapons fair, as well as the weapons dealers themselves. By sharing with the CANSEC attendees the international laws that they are violating, we hope to engage in a dialogue about how we can transform our global war economy of $1.5 trillion annually into a caring economy in which we make sure all of our needs are met while caring for the planet."

    SNAG2 members say they may also bring in the occasional banner, as well as recordings of the sounds of the victims of CANSEC products, from the crying of children and the wailing of mothers after their homes and schools have been bombed to the screams of those tortured in dungeons around the globe run by the majority  of countries represented at CANSEC.

    They call the CANSEC gathering an illegal conspiracy that contravenes the Canadian (in)Justice Dept.'s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Program, "A person is considered complicit if, while aware of the commission of war crimes or crimes against humanity, the person contributes directly or indirectly to their occurrence. Membership in an organization responsible for committing the atrocities can be sufficient to establish complicity if the organization in question is one with a single brutal purpose, e.g. a death squad." They note this applies to U.S., Israeli, Saudi, British, and other human rights violators who will be in attendance at CANSEC.

    SNAG2 also notes CANSEC is an illegal gathering because "it is being held on traditional, unceded Algonquin territory, and it appears the war show organizers have not sought permission from the Algonquin nation for this exhibit.... This is a criminal gathering, a celebration of terrorism, and we plan to be a life-affirming antidote to this disgusting display of the tools of mass murder," the communique notes. "So arms dealers and buyers should not be surprised when they turn around to see someone who looks just like them opening a suitcase with a beautiful banner celebrating peace and justice. If they're not careful, they might even get a hug. Sometimes weapons dealers just need to be loved out of the very bad place that they find themselves in to sell such horrifying machinery of murder."

    While Homes not Bombs is not familiar with who may be members of the nonviolent SNAG2, the communique states: "We are the children of The Spring Nuremberg Action Group, which in the spring of 2003 shut down Canadian Forces Base Downsview because the Canadian military, while participating in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, refused to allow copies of the Nuremberg Principles onto their base." SNAG2 notes that in 2011, an attempt to present Nuremberg principles at the CANSEC weapons fair, then held at Lansdowne Park, met with 12 foot high fences and heavy security.

    The SNAG2 communique concludes: "There may be massive delays as a result of our appearance at CANSEC, because everyone's ID will no doubt have to be double and triple checked, and there are so many ways of getting in that they may have to erect a massive fence around the perimeter. But these are minor inconveniences compared to the real, terminal damage done by CANSEC and its buyers. We believe our unarmed agents of love and compassion being onsite over those two days might change some hearts, minds, and spirits."

     While Homes not Bombs is not sure who SNAG2 might be, they wish them well in their nonviolent efforts.






Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Close the CANSEC Killer Weapons Bazaar: In the Name of the Children



 The Faces of War Will Return to the CANSEC entrance on May 25, 2016

Canada's largest annual weapons bazaar opens on May 25 in Ottawa.

The world's worst human rights violators, including the U.S., U.K., and the beheading regime of Saudi Arabia, will be there.
Will you?

In addition to welcoming the world's leading weapons manufacturers, CANSEC will also host companies that profit from border controls, militarization of police forces, refugee interdiction, the prison-industrial complex, and mass surveillance. It's a toxic gathering celebrating repression, racism, and war.

Join us for a day of nonviolent action to close the most violent annual gathering in Canada.

Wednesday, May 25, 7:30 am to 1 pm, EY Centre, 4899 Uplands Drive, Ottawa

*****Also, join us the night before at the War Criminals Welcoming Walk, May 24, 5-7 pm.

Starting at 5 pm at York and Sussex (Ottawa, Byward Market area) on Tuesday, May 24, General Chaos, the much decorated man of colonial adventure, imperial hubris, and high-priced weapons industry consultation, will lead a walk to welcome delegates to CANSEC16 (aka TerrorismFest16), one of the largest weapons bazaars in North America, and host to an international array of guests from Saudi Arabia, Israel, United Arab Emirates, the UK, the USA, and multitudes of other human rights violating nations. Won't you join the General as he welcomes his brother war-criminals-in-arms? Being a Canadian, he may allow a few speeches about human rights and ending violence, but he knows the score. As a Trudeau appointee to a new panel advising the government on how best to smooth over the unsavoury elements of sales like the $15 billion blockbuster to the world's leading beheading regime, Saudi Arabia, General Chaos "gets" that he must spout the usual euphemisms about human rights while supplying those who would violate them.

So stretch your legs, bring your noisemakers and musical instruments, and "welcome" the weapons buyers who will swarm over the CANSEC16 site at the EY Centre the following day. And if you can join us for some of the May 25 protest, running 7:30 am to 1 pm, please let us know at tasc@web.ca or (613) 267-3998.

                General Chaos, who will welcome his war criminal friends on May 24 from 5-7 pm.

Background

"We are determined to revitalize Canada’s role in peace-keeping." Justin Trudeau at the UN, March 16, 2016

"Dion quietly approved $15 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia in April." Globe and Mail, April 12, 2016

Despite a change in government, the Canadian warfare state continues undisturbed, and even better served by the Liberals, who have signed off on a $15 billion sale of killer armoured brigade vehicles to the leading beheading regime of the world, Saudi Arabia (which is also committing horrific war crimes against the people of Yemen). Meantime, the Canadian weapons industry continues to supply the world's leading sponsor of state terrorism, the U.S., to the tune of billions annually. Justin Trudeau and Stéphane Dion have sent a clear message to the death merchants of Canada: carry on as you did under Harper, and don't mind our occasional human rights rhetoric. It won't apply to Canadian weapons dealers whose bottom line relies on the overseas market of supplying the tools of torture and terrorism to dictatorships and juntas, as well as those "democracies" that support them.

And so it falls once again to people like us to say NO to the weapons trade. That NO must NOT be a call for "export controls" or "arms control" or "weapons limitations," but a clear and precise demand for the only thing that makes sense: disarmament. One way to stop mass murder, carpet bombing, and other atrocities is for Canada to stop producing the tools of terrorism. In addition, anyone concerned with climate change recognizes that one of the world's worst emissions producers are global military forces, which remain exempt from climate change agreements.

PROTESTING CANSEC: WHAT IT WILL LOOK LIKE

We will be organizing transportation to and from the site, so consider how long you can stay (with that in mind, pack a lunch, bring snacks and water)

We will be hanging lots of banners on the fences. Consider making some artwork that is representative of resistance to war.

We will read aloud the reports of human rights groups, the testimonies of the disappeared and detained, the stories of survivors who have lived in terror under the bombs that come from Canada. We will nonviolently, lovingly lay siege to CANSEC16 by telling our own stories and refusing to buy the myths of militarism and CANSEC’s glorification of terrorism and barbaric cultural practices. We will build a large graveyard to commemorate victims of CANSEC’s exhibitors, guests, and hosts. We will sing. We will speak our truth. At the same time, we will refuse to engage in any acts of violence, whether physical or verbal, and will not seek to humiliate CANSEC16 attendees or those hired hands patrolling the vicinity.

GETTING INVOLVED

1. Coming from out of town? Let us know if you need billeting.

2. Can you provide transportation to help people get to the EY Centre (next to Ottawa airport)? Can you put up out-of-town visitors in your Ottawa home? Can you help provide food and water on the day of the event? Contact tasc@web.ca or call 613-267-3998

3. Can you donate to help us meet our costs? Cheques can be made out to Homes not Bombs and mailed to PO Box 2121, 57 Foster Street, Perth, ON K7H 1R0

4. Can’t make it? Send us a poem, an essay, something that you want shared at our day-long speakers’ platform. Let us know if you would be able to organize a vigil in your community art a weapons manufacturer, a federal office, etc.

5. Consider endorsing our event.

More information: Homes not Bombs, tasc@web.ca, 613-267-3998, http://homesnotbombs.blogspot.ca/


Sponsored by: Homes not Bombs, Nowar/Paix, Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade, Raging Grannies, and Country Music Fans Against War and Repression.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Northern First Nations Declare Health Emergency


(the following story appears in the March 10 edition of NOW Magazine)
By Matthew Behrens

Last month, Norman Shewaybick trekked 17 days along 550 km of treacherous ice roads from Thunder Bay to his Webequie home, hauling a full oxygen tank to highlight the crisis afflicting Northern Ontario’s First Nations health care.

            “It’s not about being a hero, it’s about saving lives, and how our health system isn't doing its part for us,” says Shewaybick, a high school teacher and grandfather of 6. Joined by his sons and two other supporters, what Shewaybick calls “a healing journey home” was inspired by the deathbed promise he made to his wife of 26 years, Laura Jean, whose respiratory distress last October could not be properly treated because the local nursing station ran out of oxygen. Her passing at age 51 marked another casualty of what critics call a two-tiered medical system in which Indigenous people continue to suffer from inadequate health care. 

            “She was loved by so many, and many still grieve,” says Shewaybick. “I will miss her for the rest of my life. My grandkids come here and keep asking, ‘Where’s Grandma?’”

The oxygen tank Shewaybick brought home was symbolic of basic medical devices such as defibrillators, x-ray machines and other diagnostic equipment that are often in disrepair or wholly absent from northern First Nations communities. That serious problem was highlighted February 24 when leaders of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority declared a public health emergency to address “needless deaths and suffering caused by profoundly poor determinants of health” as well as “a level of health care that would be intolerable to the mainstream population of Ontario.” 


Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler personally hands a copy of the emergency declaration to Justin Trudeau, but no response yet from the PMO.

 The Sioux Lookout region is home to 33 First Nations communities, 80% accessible only by air, with a total population of 30,000. The emergency declaration was built on a litany of misery, with over 600 documented suicides since 1986 (a conservative estimate that does not include countless more serious failed attempts); “rampant” prescription drug use and opioid addiction; chronic diseases like diabetes (with the highest amputation rates in Ontario); severe obstacles to basic child health screening and, when diagnoses are produced, poor access to treatment; lack of proper diagnostic equipment and depleted stocks of basic medications; staff who are not fully trained; and jurisdictional spats over which level of government covers what service.

Shibogama Health Authority director Sol Mamakwa likens his 8 years of work in northern communities to a war zone in which multigenerational trauma and the debilitating legacies of residential schools – combined with alarmingly high rates of substance abuse, mental health issues, and physical disease – have become a toxic mix with severe consequences. He finds  “the status quo has become acceptable and normalized. We have 10-year-old children committing suicide, and our people are living week to week with these serious issues.”

            While he does not begrudge them, Mamakwa notes “we are a community about the same size as the number of Syrians who just came to Canada, and it would be great to receive the same sympathy and the same access to health care, to housing, to education.” Instead, the communities he serves are caught in a “jurisdictional black hole” between the federal government and Queen’s Park which, instead of providing desperately needed services, “play ping pong over the health of our people.”

            Mamakwa points out health care bureaucracies appear more interested in cost-cutting, noting that despite the vulnerabilities faced by young people, these northern communities can access a resident pediatrician only 5 days per month.

 The plight of Sioux Lookout children was highlighted last October by Canadian Family Physician’s peer-reviewed study on incidences of acute rheumatic fever (ARF), long considered a disease of the past. Physicians documented the role of inadequate and crowded housing as well as health care system deficiencies in contributing to at least 8 ARF cases, with an average age of 9 years. Two 4-year-old children died, and the remainder were left with rheumatic heart disease. Despite determining the ARF rate was more than 75 times higher than in the non-Indigenous population, the report barely caused a ripple on the federal election campaign trail.

One of the authors of that report, physician Michael Kirlew, has worked in the north for 9 years. Speaking to NOW just after he gets a patient on a Medevac, he’s furious at the conditions he sees on a daily basis, noting federally-run nursing stations are “providing a standard of care that is far, far inferior to what other Canadians receive in almost every single respect. There’s no checks and balances, and mechanisms for accountability are virtually non-existent. Care is being routinely denied to people, under the non-insured benefits system, which really serves as a gatekeeper to care to decide which patient is or isn't going to get what they need. It’s just egregious. And we also have bacteria that take advantage of social determinants like lack of housing and clean water, so it’s a recipe for disaster.”

Kirlew has also worked in Haiti, Guyana and other overseas locations, and “people’s jaws drop when they hear about these types of situations in Canada. So we need a fundamentally different way forward that is not based on the dynamics of an unequal system that is steeped in 350 years of colonialism. The patient, the community, and its values need to be at the centre, and the system we have right now fails on all three of those points.”

Despite the obstacles, some health care practitioners and community leaders are cautiously hopeful that political rhetoric about a respectful nation-to-nation relationship will translate into concrete action. At last week’s First Ministers meeting in Vancouver, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler personally handed a copy of the emergency declaration to Justin Trudeau, reminding the PM of the urgency to address the crisis. While Fiddler hopes to chat soon with federal health minister Jane Philpott, he’s already heard from provincial minister Eric Hoskins, in addition to receiving offers of support from a number of corporate players as well as the Red Cross and Heart & Stroke Foundation.

“I think they’re starting to realize the gravity of the situation,” he says, noting that symptoms of the crisis were further documented in a damning 2015 federal Auditor General’s report. “They found Health Canada does not take into consideration the needs of our communities when allocating their resources. Right now, the funding we get is based on the Indian Health Policy from 1979.”

The Auditor General also found that only one of 45 nurses working in the area had completed all five mandatory training courses, while some 30 separate deficiencies identified by Health Canada itself had not been addressed. In addition, even though Health Canada had defined the scope of essential services necessary for remote nursing stations, there was no proper assessment to ascertain whether they could be provided under existing infrastructure.

 One of the residences at a nursing station that we visited had been unusable for more than two years because the septic system had not been repaired,” the AG report found.  “Consequently, health specialists cancelled their visits to the community.”

Indigenous leaders point out that solving the current crisis in Northern Ontario, as well as other communities across the country suffering similar health care challenges, goes beyond possible funding increases in the federal Liberals’ upcoming budget. Indeed, it will require modernizing outdated policies, community-based consultations, and a holistic approach that, for example, considers colonial legacies, implements the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, respects Indigenous cultures, and tackles racism.

That was the finding of a landmark 2015 Wellesley Institute report, “First Peoples, Second Class Treatment,” which concluded that “Indigenous peoples experience the worst health outcomes of any population group in Canada, underscoring the urgency and importance of understanding and addressing racism as a determinant of Indigenous health.”

That rings true for Mamakwa, who says “cultural safety is really important, and it doesn’t mean putting a piece of woodland art in your doctor’s office. People need to learn who we are, our history, and how institutions like education, health care and prison can sometimes be very racist. People also need to recognize that we are Ontarians, Canadians, First Nations people who are a part of this country. Right now, we don't just need health care. We need care.”