The Electric Pencil

Posts Tagged ‘Conservatives

Does Canada filter journalists, Rendon-style?

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Normally a piece like this wouldn’t make me think twice: of course, as Canadian Press reports, the Canadian government keeps a close eye on what is being written out of Afghanistan by Canadian journalists. The extent of it may seem excessive, but we already know that this government is incredibly tight when it comes to media relations.

What I wonder, though, is what they are doing with all this information once they filter it through six different government bodies? Is there some kind of Rendon-style ranking system carried out by the government? How does it impact who gets embedded, who gets leaks, who’s invited to sensitive press briefings, etc? The article notes that the Privy Office has directly approved or nixed interviews, but doesn’t go so far as to link type of coverage with access.

CP says it got its information through an Access to Information request; hopefully they’ll be digging a little bit deeper…


Written by Tim McSorley

September 14, 2009 at 12:22 am

Welcome back, Abdelrazik

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Abousfian Abdlerazik (right) and his lawyer Yavar Hameed wait to board a plane for Canada in Khartoum. From

Abousfian Abdlerazik (right) and his lawyer Yavar Hameed wait to board a plane for Canada in Khartoum. From

Finally. After six long years, Abousfian Abdelrazik is returning to Canada.

A Canadian citizen, Abdelrazik went to Sudan in 2003 to visit his mother; he had no idea what awaited him. He would be arrested twice – and alledgedly tortured – by Sudanese police who accused him of having links to terrorists, supported by information they received from Canadian officials. No charges were brought either time, and he was eventually let go. But Abdelrazik was not able to return home. He had been placed on a UN no-fly list so no commercial airline would take him.

And despite the fact that Canadian Security and Intellignece Services eventually cleared him of any links to terrorists, the Conservative government refused to find a way to bring him home. They could have allowed him passage on government-chartered planes leaving with Canadian officials from Sudan, but they did not grant him access. Instead, he has been living in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum while waiting for a court case in Canada to play out.

It finally did recently, with a federal court judge ordering the Canadian government to bring Abdelrazik home. Officials were mum until the appeal deadline (last Friday), but finally announced they would allow him to return.

And today is the day: people are invited to gather at the corner of Ste-Catherine and St-Hubert tonight at midnight to greet Abdelrazik after his 6-year-long forced exile. According to supporters:

One of the few things that he indicated he would like is to greet some of his supporters upon his
arrival. It’s the least we can do.

You can find out more information about his plight (and double-check that his flight is coming in on time) at

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Written by Tim McSorley

June 27, 2009 at 5:03 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

Parliament Passes Bill C-50: Tories continue to remake Canada in their own image

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When I started up this blog, I had little intention to post so much about what bill the government happened to be passing when. But then again, I didn’t expect the Conservatives to be pushing through so many controversial pieces of legislation, particularly as a minority government.

It began in 2006, when the Tories, flush with a $13.2 billion surplus, eliminated funding for the Court Challenges Program, the Medical Marijuana Research Program and cut drastically from the Status of Women commission, among other programs. Because these were part of the budget implementation bill, it was a confidence vote. The Liberals, smarting from their election loss and unwilling to campaign on issues they believed could pigeonhole them as left-wingers, let it all pass. They made sure to voice exactly how much they disagreed with the changes, but stated they would fight the Tories another day. (IMAGE: Immigration Minister Diane Finley smiles as she votes in favour of Bill C-50. Image from

Two years later, the Conservatives have fine-tuned their strategy and are continuing to carve out their version of what Canadian society should look like – despite public outcry to the contrary. From Bill C-10, which would allow the government to withhold much needed tax credits from already produced film and TV shows for being ‘contrary to public policy’ (this being decided by the Heritage Minister), to Bill C-484, which could very likely result in challenges to the right of a woman to chose to have an abortion: the Tories are playing hardball with a Liberal opposition unwilling to take its chances at the polls.

Tonight, though, must be the icing on the cake for Stephen Harper and his government: in a 120-90 vote, the House of Commons passed the final reading of Bill C-50, this year’s budget implementation bill (see the pattern?). Buried not so deep within it though was the real prize: a radical transformation of Canada’s immigration policy that, among other things, will allow the government to place a quota on certain types of immigration applicants, place a priority on economic immigration (limiting the possibility of families being re-united), and grant the Minister of Immigration drastic powers to decide on individual immigration cases.

It’s true that our immigration system is severely flawed, starting with the atrocious waiting times immigrants face due to backlog. But few people outside the Conservative Party and organisations closely linked to the party see this as being an adequate solution – including the Canadian Bar Association. While it may allow for limits to be placed on the number of would-be immigrants waiting for an answer, it is clearly at the expense of who is allowed to immigrate.

I have never been one to believe that Canada’s immigration or refugee system are nearly as utopic and open-hearted as some characterize it. Migrant workers, refugees and immigrants from the Global South have long faced unnecessary hurdles when applying to Canada for residency, but there are other ways to fix this than to impose sweeping changes to how we decides who gets in, particularly when this is based on purely economic grounds. One solution would have been for the Conservatives to actually fill the inordinately high number of vancancies on the Immigration and Refugee board. According to Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, 57 out of 164 positions on the IRB are unfilled – that’s 35 per cent. These are the people who, according to Kurland, oversee refugee claims, determine eligibility for claimants, preside over detention reviews and hear immigration appeals. The Conservatives have pointed out that the backlog for immigration application is currently 42,300 and will rise to 84,300 in 2010-2011. But what they avoid saying is that the IRB’s own report chalks this drastic increase up to these vacancies.

The bill is now off to the Senate, where it will be rubber stamped. For the record, the NDP and Bloc Quebecois voted against the bill, while the Liberals flapped their arms and and squawked opposition, but still allowed it to pass by disappearing from the parliament floor before the vote took place.

More on Bill C-50:

Written by Tim McSorley

June 9, 2008 at 11:49 pm