The Electric Pencil

Archive for September 2008

All out: No more C-484s

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The federal election means that all legislation that was on the table in the last session of parliament is gone and will need to be re-introduced. That includes Bill C-484, the Unborn Victims of Crime Act, a controversial proposed legislation introduced by MP Ken Epps as a private members bill. You can read more about it here and here (read the actual bill here). Essentially, under the guise of ensuring greater protection of ‘unborn children’ there are serious concerns any such bill would also be used to attack women’s right to chose to have an abortion. Epps has denied this is his intent, but comments from his supporters point otherwise.

While C-484 has attracted so much negative attention that the Conservatives have essentially axed it, as you can see on the image to the right, there are other bills following in the footsteps of C-484: C-543, C-537, C-338. They will all need to be re-introduced, and the Conservatives plan to follow through.

That’s why – along with the Harper government’s terrible track record on women’s rights so far – people will be gathering on the streets across the country this weekend to make sure that women’s rights are heard during this election campaign and the remind politicians that while the economy and environment are at the forefront, there are more than two issues that people are voting on.

Montreal: No More C-484s!

Sunday September 28th
Meeting point: Parc Lahaie (corner of St-Joseph and St-Laurent)
Rally at 1:30pm
March at 2:00pm

Written by Tim McSorley

September 27, 2008 at 6:26 pm

Be afraid…

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Carole Goar has a strong piece in the Toronto Star today about Harper’s politics of fear, where Canada is a “country whose citizens worry about teenage killers; oil-hungry foreigners prowling their Arctic waters; terrorists lurking in their cities; and economic shock waves rolling toward them.”

She does a particularly good job taking on the Conservative promise to crack down on young offenders:

Those unregenerate 14-year-old criminals he proposes to lock up for a decade were troubled kids when he came to power. Their teachers had spotted the danger signals. So had welfare caseworkers, community activists and beat cops. They had tried to help, but were hampered by too few resources and too little political support.

Written by Tim McSorley

September 26, 2008 at 6:00 pm

Arts Cuts: Lying liars, and the reporters who don’t call them on it

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On Saturday the Globe and Mail published a story deflating the myth that the Conservatives actually increased arts funding. The story was taken up yesterday in La Presse and then today in Le Devoir. Now I’m listening to CBC radio, and there is Tory candidate on the show repeating the lie and no one is calling him on it.

The back story? As a  report from the Canadian Conference of the Arts points out, the Conservatives increased funding for culture, but it went to sports, citizenship and youth programs, and not to the actual arts and culture programs. The Globe’s article lays it out the best, and I’ll link to the actual report once I can find it.

Written by Tim McSorley

September 23, 2008 at 7:59 pm

We’ll sue, and then sue ya some more…

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More news on the lawsuit launched by Barrick Gold against Écosociété and the authors of Noir Canada , a book outlining Barrick’s (and other mining companies’) dirty business practices in Africa.

Seems like a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) of $6 million dollars isn’t enough – the world’s largest gold mining company has now sent the small publishing firm and the writers a cease and desist order that they refrain from referring to the lawsuit as a SLAPP, since, it would seem, the company feels that this in itself is defamatory.

From the Solidarity with Écosociété website:

La lettre avise les auteurs et l’éditeur de Noir Canada qu’ils s’exposent ce faisant à « davantage de dommages punitifs » et que leur « comportement rendra d’éventuelles rétractations, excuses publiques, ou actions réparatrices encore plus difficiles et embarrassantes ».

[The letter advises the authors and editor of Noir Canada that by doing so [saying they are facing a SLAPP] they are exposing themselves to “further punitive damages” and that their “actions will on make any eventual retractions, public apologies or reparative actions even more difficult and embarassing.”]

As they go on to point out, it was only last week that the member of Barrick’s board of directors responsible for legal affairs published an open letter in Le Devoir calling for an open and public debate on the issue.

Apparently the debate will go something like this:

You can’t say we do anything wrong, or we’ll sue you. You can’t say we’re doing anything wrong in suing you, or we’ll sue you some more.

Seems fair.

Written by Tim McSorley

September 23, 2008 at 7:05 pm

Posted in Legal

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Immigration reversal?

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Would a Liberal government spell the end of the changes brought in by Bill C-50?

The controversial law changing the rules of the immigration game in Canada was enacted over the spring. Roundly criticised by all opposition parties and immigration rights advocates, the bill passed when the Liberal party abstained rather than bring down the government over the bill.

Today, the Liberal leader Stephane Dion, speaking at a breakfast with the Chinese community in Richmond, B.C., said that a Liberal government could do away with those changes.

From La Presse:

«Au printemps dernier, le gouvernement conservateur a donné des pouvoirs discrétionnaires très importants au ministre de l’Immigration, ce qui lui permet de rejeter d’office toute une catégorie de demandes, a rappelé M. Dion. Quand je serai premier ministre, je reviendrai immédiatement sur ces décisions injustes et dangereuses pour notre système d’immigration.»

[My translation: Last spring, the Conservative government gave the Immigration Ministry significant discretionary powers, allowing it to reject and entire category of requests,” Dion reminded the crowd. “When I am Prime Minister, I will immediately revisit these decisions, which are unjust and dangerous for our immigration system]

It is good to see that the Liberals have not forgotten the fact that they allowed these tighter and discriminatory laws go through. Even better would be to have voted against them in the first place, so that those who have already been affected by the government’s new rules would not have had to go through the process of finding their applications facing arbitrary rejection (although passed in May, the new laws apply to all applications since Feb. 27 2008).

An earlier post explaining Bill C-50, which granted the Immigration Ministry sweeping discretionary powers to reject or accept potential new immigrants based primarily on economic reasons.

Dion also took the opportunity to announce $800 million in promised funding for immigration and new immigrants. A detailed list of the proposal can be found in the La Presse article linked to above.

Written by Tim McSorley

September 13, 2008 at 5:11 pm

Posted in politics

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A Babord 1, Masculinists 0

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A large cloud has been lifted from over the head of Quebec’s largest alternative magazine and one of their contributors.

After over a year, the case brought by Andy Srougi from Fathers-4-Justice against A Babord magazine and feminist activist and writer Babara Legault has been dismissed.

Srougi sued the magazine and Legault for defamation after Legault metioned Srougi by name in an article entitled “Des hommes contre le féminisme” (Men Against Feminism). Legault’s piece dealt with the rising problem of ‘masculinist‘ movements in Quebec, which blames women for taking too much place in society and, as an effect, discriminating agains the needs of men and boys. Srougi’s group Fathers-4-Justice is known for their protests against what they say is a tendency of the courts to grant custody to mothers over fathers – which is a common complaint among masculinist groups.

The victory is an important one because a lawsuit of $25,000 could very well have sunk the magazine which relies premarily on volunteers and a very small budget. Even more so, it’s a vindication of Legault and the magazine in their fight against sexism and to bring to light troubling trends in society at large.

Written by Tim McSorley

September 13, 2008 at 2:29 pm

Challenging the media shouldn’t stop with debate

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Elizabeth May has made it into the debates. The media consortium running the debates changed their tune after Jack Layton and Stpehen Harper, one after the other, backed down in their opposition to May participating. While political hay will be made that it was the party leaders’ fault that May was originally blocked from the debate, it points to a deeper issue that pervades our elections no matter who is running, and that’s the complicity of the media in maintaining the political status quo.

As details came out about how the decision to not invite May to the debates was made, it became clear that this was a pretty clear cut case of blackmail (as Joe Clarke puts it in today’s Globe): Stephen Harper essentially told the debate consortium that if May shows up, I’m taking my ball, or speaking points, or whatever, and going home. Layton then chimed in that since he is only running against Stephen Harper, that if the outgoing prime minister wouldn’t be there neither would he.

Now a debate with only three of five leaders wouldn’t be that great a debate, to be sure. But if the media had said they would go ahead anyway, we could be almost certain that the hold-outs would have caved in. Former CBC news chief and past head honcho of the consortium Tony Burman acknowledges this in a sideways glance kind of way in the Globe today too, but is still content to mostly blame this whole debacle on Harper rather than a media that is two worried about access than about broadening election coverage.

It was heartening to see that this debate about a debate brought up questions over the role of the media in setting the election agenda, but it shouldn’t stop there. As Dru Oja Jay points out over at the Dominion Blog, the media creates the news of the day in the morning and then reports on it as the news of the day in their evening wrap ups.

So when they claim that the major issue in the election is leadership, we have to wonder if that is what the gatekeepers have simply decided will be the major issue. And when they say that campaigns were thrown off track or got negative because of certain campaign ads or candidate missteps, we need to wonder if it’s simply easier to talk about that than whether cutting the tax on diesel or if we should be staying in Afghanistan until 2011.

We need campaigns to be held accountable over going negative or making a campaign about attacks instead of issues, but we need a media that will go beyond that and actually dig into the issues that matter.

Written by Tim McSorley

September 10, 2008 at 6:22 pm

Posted in media, politics

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