Targeting Child Soldiers: When, If Ever?

In 2001, in Sierra Leone, a number of soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment were taken prisoner by a group comprised mostly by armed children called the West Side Boys, as the Irish Regiment had been reluctant to open fire. They were held hostage for two weeks, when an assault was launched by an SAS unit supported by helicopters, resulting in estimates of 25 to 150 dead among the West Side Boys. During the Sri Lankan civil war, government aircraft bombed what was allegedly an LTTE training camp, killing a reported 61 children and youth many of whom were girls. The LTTE were known to use child soldiers and the Sri Lankan government took the position that if a child took up arms, then he or she could be targeted and killed.

The use of child soldiers remains widespread, including direct participation in hostilities. This raises two legal questions: firstly, whether a child soldier is a combatant like any other combatant, and secondly, if so whether the means or response used to target them follow the same rules as for an adult combatant.

Imagine a child soldier storing arms and provisions, at a nearby camp, with a rifle near to him, but not in hand. Alternatively, imagine a child soldier in civilian clothing charging towards government troops firing an automatic weapon (think of Uganda’s civil war). Can the government troops target the child soldiers as if he or she is an adult?

We know children can become ruthless fighters and commit harm, same as adults. The International Criminal Court and Ad-Hoc Tribunal for Sierra Leone decisions have confirmed the crime of recruiting and using child soldiers. The Geneva Conventions [Article 4 (A), 1949] provide definitions of what a combatant is under international law. One might surmise that gaps in law, might not make any apparent distinction to characterize a child soldier as anything other than as a combatant.

There is a generalized legal duty to respect and protect children in armed conflicts and to not use children in hostilities. Clearly, there is a moral basis that children remain children even if they participate in hostilities. Even in war, the right to injure an enemy is not unlimited. International law prohibits unnecessary injury and suffering. It is limited by what is necessary to achieve a legitimate military objective. For example, this principle has resulted in the prohibition of a certain weapons such as poison or anti-personnel mines.

International humanitarian and human rights law have norms that demand special protection for children against harm. War might be a necessary evil, but there are may be unnecessary evils in the pursuit of war. Direct targeting of children may be permissible to the extent that it is a necessary evil, when there is no viable alternative and there is necessity for the attack to prevent serious harm to others or self. Otherwise, it ought to violate treaty and customary prohibitions of unnecessary harm or injury.

A child with the LRA in Uganda charging toward government or international troops while firing a rifle can be targeted using force. It seems unlikely there is any other way of stopping the attack such as wounding or capturing the child soldier. On the other hand, spotting a child soldier, by drone, working or asleep at an arms depot with a rifle nearby, warrants that the targeting of this child be clearly demonstrated and that there is no alternative that would be less harmful. Otherwise, it would be unjustifiable and prohibited.

This is the sad reality of modern hostilities and it challenges, not only our morality, but also the imperative of creating legal norms that minimize harm to children – who themselves are terrible victims of conflict and war.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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P.K. Subban trade and the fracture with Les Canadiens

PK

 

July 2, 2016

Mr. Geoff Molson,President & CEO – Club de Hockey Canadiens

Dear Mr. Molson:

P.K Subban trade and the fracture with Les Canadiens

After 49 years as a devoted and passionate fan (religiously) of the Montreal Canadiens, I write to advise that I am disassociating myself from my beloved “Les Canadiens”. I am broken-hearted by the decision to trade P.K. Subban. It is an egregious and narrow-minded decision.

My love and devotion for the Montreal Canadiens is deep and personal. I grew up in a small town in central British Columbia (Williams Lake). My parents were immigrants from India and I discovered Jean Beliveau at 9 years of age. He and Bobby Rousseau were my first favourite players. My father was severely disabled when I was 10 years old, we experienced many hardships – but, through it all I found excitement, wonder and joy, and hope through my devotion to the Canadiens. I read every book about Les Canadiens: Georges Vezina, Howie Morenz, Maurice Richard, Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson were among the heroes of my childhood and youth. I could recite every statistic, draft pick and prospect. My favourite Habs team was the 1971 edition, the incredible way they won the Stanley Cup (rookie Dryden in goal, Beliveau’s final season, Mahovlich’s 14 goals, and Henri Richard’s tying and gaming winning goals in game 7 in Chicago). I used to pray for the team, and even cry with bad defeats. Those were the beliefs and dreams of a young boy.

Then came youth and adulthood. Through it all, no matter where I found myself in the world, I managed to find a radio, newspaper or internet connection – staying up all night to catch a game, news of the draft, or of UFA signings.   I became a father and among my son’s first words were “Saku”. My family are huge fans, immersed in the Montreal Canadiens. We speak French. We have the jersey’s, action figures, go to watch and cheer our Habs in visiting arena’s, belong to the fan club, buy the books (Yes, we also read Roch Carrier’s books every night to our kids) and we subscribe to the French hockey broadcasts.

The Montreal Canadiens were not just any traditional hockey team. They represented my vision of my country – French and English working and winning together, grace, fire-wagon hockey, progressive, worldly, classy.

P.K. Subban is much more than a dynamic, highly talented, elite hockey player. He grew up a Habs fan, realized his dream to play for the team he loved, he embraced the tradition and legendary history, he loved the fans and they loved him. He knew and respected what the uniform and team meant, to millions around the world.

Subban represented what I wanted to see as the captain of the Montreal Canadiens. He represents team progress, the new Canada. He is “urban, the son of immigrant parents and black – all demographic categories underrepresented in the world of hockey.”[1] He was transcendent – articulate, passionate, artistic in play, connected to the legendary players and tradition of the bleu, blanc et rouge, the soul of the team – a torch-bearer.

PK is refreshing and authentic in an era of clichéd, boring, millionaire athletes. The traditionalists, “old stock” Canadians, and old-boys network of hockey do not like difference and they engaged in their propaganda and prejudices. You had a unique and remarkable young man, the kind of personality and symbol the game needs to grow and for your legendary franchise to yet again be at the forefront, a leader for the game of hockey and the face of the Montreal Canadiens. This week he was sent away in a “hockey trade”?  What nonsense. Nor, is this akin to the Chelios or Roy trade. Nashville got the better player, and you lost much more than a hockey player.

This feels different; it is not the same for me anymore. The light burns much less brightly; it is a fracture. I am sad, it feels like I have lost a part of myself, something I love and believed in has become something else and I don’t like it. You have become like the rest, just a business, not a symbol or a something we can believe in. You let your GM and coach run a remarkable young man, great hockey player and symbol out of town.

It is over for me with Les Canadiens. Adieu.

Yours sincerely,

Bill Sundhu.

 

[1] Jonathon Montpetit, CBC News, “P.K. Subban, Ron Maclean and hockey’s culture wars”, Jul 01, 2016.

Official website of P.K. Subban: http://www.pksubban.com/

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(Part II): Arusha & the ICC: What’s going on?

Part II:

This is a follow-up the my Blog posting on having attended the Regional Seminar of the International Criminal Court (ICC) held in Arusha, Tanzania.

As is often the case, the most interesting and captivating discussions are those that take place informally during breaks and after hours. In Arusha, the discussions included the recent unveiling of charges against Daniel Ongwen, a notorious Lord’s Resistance Army Commander, the war crimes prosecution of Ahmed Al Faqi Al-Mahdi for attacking historic monuments and buildings in Mali, and the impending judgment in the long running trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former VP of the DRC, accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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The al-Mahdi case is historically significant as it focuses solely on the war crime of intentionally directing attacks against “cultural property”. The deliberate and wanton destruction of historic mausoleums and buildings dedicated to religion caused severe harm to the religious practices, historical heritage, and cultural identity of the people of Timbuktu, Mali, and African heritage. The Prosecutor claimed “the loss of such irreplaceable physical embodiment of history and culture was felt by the whole of humanity, and at the expense of future generations. This case underscores the seriousness of such crimes, and the necessity to hold perpetrators accountable.”

The ICC Prosecutor has subsequently revealed that on March 1, 2016, Mr al-Mahdi explicitly expressed before ICC Judges and in the presence of his lawyers, his wish to plead guilty. He did so during the course of the confirmation of charges proceedings, at a point where the proceedings were in closed session. This has now been made public.

The al-Mahdi case is also the first time that a suspect has expressed his intention to plead guilty to criminal conduct for which he is being prosecuted by the ICC; an admission of guilt, provided for in article 65 of the Rome Statute.

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In the days following the Arusha meetings, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has found Jean-Pierre Bemba guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Central African Republic more than a decade ago. The verdicts focused on the responsibility of a military commander for the actions of his troops, as Bemba commanded a private army of 1,500 men who went on a spree of murder, rape and pillage. The charges – two of crimes against humanity and three of war crimes – stem from his militia’s intervention on the side of CAR’s then-president Ange-Felix Patasse in the neighbouring country’s civil war.

Bemba’s long-running trial was the first at the ICC to feature allegations of systematic sexual abuse by soldiers in a conflict. I am proud to say that I played a tiny part in the court eventually accepting gender and sexual violence (rape) as a component of the crimes against humanity. I contributed to an amicus brief submitted to the court on behalf of the Women’s Gender Initiative in 2009. The court proceedings and trial dragged on for years. It is gratifying to see the development of law in recognizing the particularly heinous use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and conflict. Summing up the case against Bemba in November 2014, prosecution lawyer Horejah Bala-Gaye told judges that Bemba’s forces “raped their victims at gunpoint anywhere and at any time”. In preparing the brief, I recall, the allegations included that men, women and children were all raped – in one case three generations of the same family were gang-raped by MLC soldiers who held them at gunpoint and forced relatives to watch.

The ICC’s governing “Rome Treaty” is based in the core principle of ending impunity for the worst kinds of crimes that shock the conscience of humanity.

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(Above: I’m joined by legal colleagues from Kenya.)

Another case that is attracting much interest and chatter, in international criminal law and human rights circles, is the unveiling of 70 charges of war crimes against Dominic Ongwen of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). They include keeping sex slaves and recruiting child soldiers. Ongwen was himself abducted by the LRA when he was just 10, and joined the ranks of thousands of other child soldiers. However, over time he managed to rise through the ranks of the LRA, to carry out multiple attacks and working his way to the top of the group.

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Julius Nyerere, father of modern Tanzania

Ongwen was the former deputy to rebel leader Joseph Kony who remains on the run despite a massive international manhunt. Ongwen unexpectedly surrendered to US special forces in the Central African Republic. An intriguing feature of this case is that Ongwen was himself taken as a child and indoctrinated into the LRA cult and ideology. That surely presents the defence the opportunity to argue this, as perhaps a mitigating factor at sentencing, if he is eventually convicted. The moral and philosophical aspects of Ongwen’s abduction at tender age of 10, and the impact on his subsequent conduct,  will no doubt generate interesting discussion and scholarly analysis.

What is significant about these cases is not so much the development of the law or jurisprudence but rather the sense that international criminal justice seems to be on the march in its task of speaking truth to power. We have the prosecution of parts of the leadership of non-state groups that have wreaked significant destruction and misery, a judgment against a former Vice President of a state, and against a leader of an entity claiming to be a state.

More in the next Blog, including the targeting of child soldiers and the distinct legal and moral issues that arise with child soldiers.

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Of course, a Safari is a must do!

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Arusha Cultural Centre – Beautiful painting.

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On Visiting Arusha for Seminar of ICC

I recently travelled to Arusha, Tanzania for a Regional Seminar of List Counsel of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The International Criminal Court became operational in 2002 and has jurisdiction over the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, that shock the conscience of humanity: war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The crime of aggression will be added to its jurisdiction in 2017.

I am on the Court’s List of Counsel and was invited to a Regional Seminar of the ICC held in February at Arusha, Tanzania. The Arusha Seminar was intended to improve the visibility of the court, particularly in light of the background politics, and to improve accessibility for African based List of ICC Counsel and prominent members of the legal profession. Arusha is also the where the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is based.

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The ICC has come under criticism, led by the African Union. They argue that the court is biased against Africans, who account for all the cases tried by the court thus far. Supporters of the Court point out that several of the cases were referred to the court by African states themselves or the UN Security Council in the cases of Darfur and Libya.

In 2011, after Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, his deputy were put on trial, the African Union, in a direct swipe at the ICC, declared immunity for sitting heads of state. Nairobi accused the ICC of being neocolonial and targeting Africans. Charges against Kenyatta and Ruto have since dissipated due to witness recanting or disappearance.

This was the background in which the Arusha ICC Seminar occurred. Here are a few random musings from my attendance:

Most Counsel, including the African lawyers, expressed strong support for the ICC and a universal, independent legal institution to prosecute individual crimes of responsibility committed in leadership capacity. A small minority, that one suspected might be politically connected to governing regimes in their home countries, led the criticism.

There was discussion of the Malabo Protocol that contains an extensive and ambitious list of crimes. It establishes the African Court of Justice and Human Rights and to extend the jurisdiction of the court to try 14 different crimes: the four crimes contemplated under the jurisdiction of the ICC and also crimes such as corruption, trafficking in drugs or persons, terrorism, mercenarism, and unconstitutional change of government. Thus far, there are only five ratifications of the Protocol.

The ICC statute is predicated on a core principle of Complementarity, recognizing that individual states have primary responsibility for prosecuting mass crimes of violence, including the crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC. It is only if a state is unable or unwilling to investigate or prosecute, that the ICC will accept jurisdiction and prosecute. Accordingly, the Malabo Protocol need not necessarily be viewed as undermining the ICC, so much as consistent with the principle of Complimentarity.

Attendees included prominent actors such as an ICC judge, Chief Justices, Ministers of Justice, representatives of Regional Systems such as the African Court of Peoples and Human Rights, the Pan-African Legal Union, and civil society such as Amnesty International, and media. The Seminar was heavily focused on education and training, enhancing legal skills and knowledge, and a mock trial. I played the role of defence counsel assigned to cross-examine a child witness and victim in a factual scenario similar to events in DRC or Cote d’Ivoire.

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The best part of any such gatherings is meeting people. In this case, it was an honour and privilege to meet fellow legal counsel from across Africa, conversing in English and French, sharing legal experiences, and making new friends. I was impressed with the quality, dedication and courage of the counsel from Africa. At the end, I gave myself a couple of extra days to explore and sight-see, including a visit to a national park and a walkabout with a park ranger. It was an enriching experience and I felt I barely scratched the surface of what Arusha and Tanzania had to offer.

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More musings to follow on the ICC and international criminal law in a subsequent blog.

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KTC-NDP Elexn42, Volunteer Appreciation – Speech

Let me begin by saying Thanks to all of you, to those who have traveled to join us tonight and to those volunteers who were unable to make it tonight.

We all made this journey for a reason. It was an honour, a humbling and inspiring experience to be your candidate, but in my heart I know we came together because you believe in what this country can be.

You believe in hope, you believe that we can be one people, that we can do better. That’s the journey we’ve been on, and are on together.

Tonight we break bread together, share laughter and stories, friendships, and we’re going to have some fun too!

 

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The 2015 federal ballot was a very high stakes election. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives engaged in cynical politics, wedge politics, and made it the most mean-spirited and racist election campaign in memory. Voter turnout confirmed that Canadians wanted change. According to Ekos research, almost 1/3 of voters decided which party to support only in the final week – a third of them only on Election Day. Overwhelmingly, Trudeau’s Liberals emerged as the safest and traditional route to achieving Harper’s defeat.

Locally, we did so much right, yet we fell short of votes. We ran a strong and positive campaign, it was the envy of many a campaign, a “model campaign”. I received a call from Tom Mulcair commending us for our campaign and commitment to work for a better Canada.  I conveyed how inspired and honoured I was by the dedication and passion of hundreds of volunteers that worked on the campaign.

We demonstrated the most inclusive campaign and strength of diversity ever seen in this region. The campaign staff coordinated a campaign that was well-run: we knocked on at over 22,000 doors (5,872 on one day alone) through two seasons (in heat, wind and rain), had to order signs three times, phoned tens of thousands, fundraised impressively, cleaned and cooked to keep the office running, and we shared a passion for change that matters. We hosted a fantastic rally with Tom Mulcair that few of us will ever forget. We engaged so many people on a personal level, from the heart and soul. Its hard to imagine that we could have done anything more. We did get rid of Harper and I believe Tom Mulcair and the NDP did the heavy lifting nationally to make that happen.

We were well positioned to win in Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo had it not been for the Trudeau “wave”. Our message of hope, optimism, generosity and caring does not fade away. I am touched by your commitment and wish deeply that we could have rewarded your very hard work, passion, and endless drive for victory into more votes. We will analyze the national and local campaign and build on your good work to further strengthen us for next time. I urge first time volunteers to join us and remain actively involved in working for a common vision of a fairer and better future. I saw the tremendous potential of new leaders and great campaigners emerging through the experience of this election.

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This campaign was the vehicle of your hopes, and your dreams…about reclaiming the meaning of citizenship, restoring our sense of common purpose.

We want to win that next battle – for better schools, and better jobs, and better health care…to confront a growing inequality, to address an overheating planet, for a democracy fed by justice and opportunity…of how we see ourselves as citizens, how minorities are treated, how we think of immigrants and refugees, how we look after each other, how we imagine ourselves as a people…a society structured so that people can make life better for one another.

The country feels liberated. The new government is committed to change. We must work with it to make things better – for change – and to hold it to account for its many promises and contradictions.

As we reflect on our journey, I am reminded of a quote I heard recently: ‘One day when the time comes, God will ask to see your wounds. If you don’t have any, he will ask you “was there nothing worth fighting for?”

There are those among us who bear many wounds. There will still be days of struggle and heartache. But, the rains will come and the winds will still blow. We have the gift of hope, to leave our children – all our children – and grandchildren – a better world. Even, if its difficult.  Especially, if its difficult. That’s our hope, for our country in the years ahead.

Thank you. It’s my honour to be with you tonight.

 

 

 

 

 

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Bill Sundhu: Speech Accepting Federal NDP Nomination, KTC Riding

 

Bill Sundhu: Nomination Speech, Federal NDP Candidate:

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, August 9, 2014.

 

It is with humility and my deepest gratitude that I stand on the traditional territory of the (Te Secwepemc)) people and have the privilege of addressing you today.

It is an honour for me to stand here today. This day began with the nomination meeting in the Cariboo. It feels appropriate and right that we began there.

My father was the first South Asian to permanently settle in the central Cariboo. He was raised in small village in Punjab, his family was poor. My mother lost her entire family in the violence that engulfed the partition of India and Pakistan, at independence. My parents shared a love and a dream that life could be better.

They immigrated to Canada at a time when our country restricted immigration from India to 150 persons annually. But, they had a dream – that by hard work and perseverance, that Canada was a land for a better life – of peace, freedom and opportunity.

They worked in farms in the Fraser Valley, but when my mother was expectant with me, they knew they needed a more secure future. My father went in search of work, first in Clinton and then Williams Lake. He slept outside, alongside the PGE railway tracks for three days, before he got a job at a small lumber mill. My parents was so proud, when they could afford to buy a house, with running water and indoor plumbing.   Every second Saturday, we would go into town and he would proudly deposit his pay cheque at the bank. They believed in hard work and had a deep faith in the possibilities of this country.

They were uneducated and experienced the disadvantage of illiteracy. They imagined me and my younger sister going to good schools – even though they were not well-off, because they believed in a fair and generous Canada, that you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential.

And then, in one of those accidents were hear about too often, my father took a fall on some icy stairs. He was permanently incapacitated with serious brain injury. We did not have any disability plan or family income. My mother took up manual jobs as a dishwasher and cook to support the family. I was ten years old. Those were hard times. My father passed on after 10 years.

I stand here today, because my family was not crushed by the burden of medical bills, because of medicare. I had an education second to none – because of a good public education system. And, because post-secondary education was affordable and accessible, not because of the size of our bank account, but because I was prepared to work hard, because of a Canada where I could pursue my dreams.

In the summers between classes, I did not have the luxury to go work at a fellowship or institute, like some other law students – I piled boards in the lumber mill, and it paid well. You could get those jobs then; not anymore.  Back then and you could graduate without incurring crippling student debts.

After law school, I returned to practice in the Cariboo, making the law work for those in need and understanding that our cherished rights and freedoms depend on an informed public. It is here in Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, working in the law over the past 30 years, that I am reminded of the essential decency of the Canadian people.

I stand before you today, having attended the best universities at home and abroad. I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage and knowing that the dreams of my parents live in my daughter and son. I stand here knowing that my story is part of the Canadian story – that I owe a debt to those before me.   It is the story of so many of us. It is etched into the soul of the Canada. There are few places on earth where my, our story is possible.

That is the greatness of Canada, that if you come from a poor family or working family, are an immigrant, that if you get sick or lose your job, you and your loved ones too can realize your dreams and contribute to your country, and keep the dream alive for those who come after us. Where each and everyone has a fair chance to get ahead, do their fair share and play by fair rules.

It is a story of the sacrifices and choices made by previous generations of Canadians to build a society based in fairness and equality of opportunity. Where our children are safe, fed, clothed, live in harmony, realize their full potential, and know that they can speak without fear, exercise freedom of conscience and vote freely.   Although, Harper did get some of the “Unfair” Elections Act through! As someone said, “That man is made of twisted steel, and no sex appeal”!

 

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In the post-war years, a short, Baptist minister, named Tommy Douglas, had emerged on the national scene as leader of the New Democratic Party. He had led North America’s first social democratic government, that had uplifted and transformed Saskatchewan. They campaigned on a platform that came to be the next chapter in Canadian history. Their proposals included universal health care, old-age pensions, employment insurance, a Bill of Rights, bilingual civil service, progressive income tax that favoured low-income earners, a central bank, and foreign aid.

Tommy Douglas and the NDP stood alone in opposing the War Measures Act and the suspension of the civil liberties, just as the CCF had stood alone in opposing the war-time internment of the Japanese-Canadians.   New Democrats have been at the forefront in the struggle for equality: for women, minorities, and First Nations.   Other political parties either come to it late, resist, or engage in tokenism. Justice is not convenient; it is indispensable.

Tommy Douglas believed “Canadians should control their own policies regarding resources, finance, foreign affairs, and trade if the nation was to define its own identity.”[1] The rest is history, the NDP policies migrated into mainstream consciousness.

Douglas and the NDP were on the cutting edge; they blended the practical with the principle.   “They changed how we came to see ourselves as citizens, how minorities are treated, how we think of immigrants, how we look after each other, how we imagine ourselves as a people. They believed, that society should be structured so that people could make life better for one another.”[2]   And, that’s why he was voted the greatest Canadian in history. I am able to stand here today because of leaders like Tommy Douglas and the New Democratic Party of Canada!

Much has been accomplished, much remains to be done, and much is at risk – in the struggle for a fairer and just society.

 

All of us know what the challenges are today:

–      Factories and sawmills closed, minimum wages, families struggling paycheck to paycheck despite working hard as they can;

–      lack of affordable child care;

–      Young people burdened with student debt and having a hard time getting their foot in the door to a steady and good paying job. We risk becoming the first generation in our country’s history where our children’s economic opportunities are worse today than we were growing up;

–      Canadians worry about aging parents in declining health and struggling to keep them in dignity; and about inadequate retirement and pensions;

–      Corporations have hoarded savings from tax cuts rather than reinvesting in the economy to create good jobs;

–      Lower union membership makes good jobs harder to find; it has weakened the middle class;

–      Turning workers against workers, the private sector against the public sector, distracts from the real abuses and misuse of power at the top;

–      After all these years, women still only make 77% of men – that has to change!

–      Minorities and First Nations are unrepresented and excluded from the benefits and opportunities to realize their full potential and contribute to their country;

–      We face a changing climate that threatens the planet and future generations;

–      A growing inequality;

–      And, an “all eggs in one basket” approach to resources and the economy that makes us vulnerable and jeopardizes the future economic well-being of Canada.   The most significant infrastructure program of the Harper Conservatives is the creation of a pipeline – that pipeline flows directly from the offices of the Calgary Oil Barons rights into the Prime Ministers Office!   They roll back environmental protection, attack and spy on those who disagree, they create a narrative of – jobs OR the environment.   They’re wrong. We saw that with the disaster at Mt. Polley – jobs and the environment, go together.

We have talked about the many challenges for years. There is not an absence of sound policies and sensible plans. What has stopped us is the failure of leadership.

The Conservatives are dismantling the Canada we have come to know and love.   They are motivated by the politics of resentment.   A political culture and ideology that borrows from the US Republican playbook, by the federal Conservatives, has brought cynicism and a meanness that diminishes parliament, and democratic governance – one that divides Canadians into “us and them”, of attack ads, and contempt of parliament.

They are eroding our democracy and rights – the checks and balances that are indispensable to a healthy and vibrant democracy – from disrespect of veterans to attacks on the judiciary, the manipulating the elections laws, omnibus bills and muzzling scientists.

They use the Canada Revenue Agency to harass Canadian charities and humanitarian agencies; instead of going after tax loopholes and the billions stashed in off shore tax havens. A Conservative MP accuses the Charter of Rights & Freedoms of “taking rights away from the majority to protect the minority” citing opposition to the Charter as one of the reasons that he became a Conservative.   Watch out, folks – for our hard fought freedoms and human rights.

They are ruthless and arrogant. They engage in an Orwellian assault on reason, of wedge politics, where anything goes. They are disempowering citizens.   It is about control. The lessons of history are clear – you don’t know what you’ve got til’ its gone.

The real needs and problems of Canadians are ignored or trivialized.

We stand at a crossroads.   We risk squandering the legacy – the sacrifices and choices of previous generations to build a country based on fairness and opportunity. With the right choices and leadership, we can be – the most prosperous country in the world, with good jobs and a fair economy, the first truly global and universal country, strong in diversity – showing the world a way forward out of old prejudices based on religion, ethnicity or colour – using our bountiful resources wisely and responsibly for future generations, helping to save the planet from overheating and the conflicts and suffering that will flow from a failure to deal with the reality of climate change, being a force for universal human rights, restoring our international reputation for fairness, balance, and peace in the world.

The alternative is unthinkable.   Inequality and the diminishment of the middle class, attack on unions and working people is a grave threat to the stability of our democracy.   Let’s be clear, we believe it is not enough that just some prosper.

We’re all connected…a child that can’t read or goes to bed hungry, it’s about me. A senior having to decide between food on the table or prescription meds, it’s about me.   The over-incarceration of aboriginal or poor persons, it’s about my human rights too. We choose to build child-care spaces, instead of wasting billions on prisons.

We care for each other; we are in this together. Our country and future is too important for those games. They are amassing big money, planning to divide us, with fear and scapegoating. That is not the Canadian way.   We have an answer for them: We are one people.   That is what the next election is about.   We will offer hope in the face of cynicism.

We are not naïve idealists. We can turn the crisis of global warming into an opportunity for innovation and job creation. It is a not just a moral imperative; it is good business.   Despite all the concessions and tax cuts for big business, where are the leading world-class Canadian companies?   Canadian workers and families have been asked to make sacrifices, tighten their belts and do with less. It’s time for Canadian business to show us the results and step forward – to meet the challenge of the times. Canadians are ready for a new kind of leadership; and a fair economy that serves all Canadians.

Let’s be clear. It is unacceptable and disgraceful that a country as rich as Canada has child poverty. There are children in our midst that go to bed or to school hungry. Charity is a virtue, but it is not a substitute for responsible government policy. Conservative Minister James Moore said, a neighbour’s hungry child was not his responsibility. Conservatives are waging a war on the poor and vulnerable.

Liberals and Conservative government’s have paid lip service and a quarter century has gone by since parliament promised to do something about child poverty.   It is time, now – not some vague time down the road – to eliminate hunger and child poverty.   We, New Democrats will put an end to child poverty – once and for all!

And, we will bring in universal child care so that children and families can get ahead, women can enter the workforce and earn more, help their families, and contribute to national wealth.

I wish to address Canada’s treatment and history of its First Nations peoples. We would not occupy this land and enjoy the opportunities we have had were it not for the generosity and assistance of the First Nations.   Canada will not be a truly complete country until there is reconciliation and justice for our First Nations.   I am proud to say that some of the most meaningful work in my life has been the honour to stand with and work with First Nations.  We Canadians must step forward and be just, for a better future together.

I am not running to hold a seat in parliament; I am running to serve and help transform our country – for justice and opportunity.

We are all in this together. In the words of the poets, “My humanity is in feeling we are all voices of the same poverty.”[3]

“Let the promises and hopes, the deeds and words of my country be true…

Let the lives and hearts of the sons and daughters of my country be one…”[4]

“Give us the strength never to disown the poor or bend our knees before insolent might.”[5]

That we are our brother and sisters keeper;

“That is our purpose here today, and that is why I am in this race.”[6]

Stephen Harper and the Conservatives do not respect history, how this country works. They do not respect cooperation and conciliation. Je suis fierte de Quebec et notre histoire ensemble. Sans Quebec, nous ne aurient pas notre pays (“na-tre payee”). Mon Canada compris Quebec! Ensemble, nous gagnerons notre vision et le gouvernment.

We will reach back into the “can do” spirit, the big dreams, the audacious ones that built this country; a national dream of the type that built the national railway. The spirit and beliefs that built a great country, one that punches above its weight and is a force for good in the world.

Oh yes, the naysayers will be there, the skeptics.   And, we will slay the negative politics and propaganda, of “can’t do”, the ones that always shoot down ideas, including the ones who say, “how are you going to pay for that.”  We will pay for it the same way we paid for the railway, for health care – and we will modernize and reform health care.

We will do it the same way we paid for a world-class public education system – the great leveler and bedrock of democracy and equality. Tommy Douglas, used to say, Dream No Little Dreams. And, that’s why I am running for parliament!

I have a great belief in the Canadian people, in their decency, fairness and hopes. We will go beyond the elites and take our campaign directly to the people. This campaign will be about us – what we can do together. Of our common hopes and dreams.

It will require your time, efforts, resources and advice – to move us forward. It is about reclaiming citizenship, faith in each other, and a unity of purpose!

We will stand up against the dimming of our common humanity, and shine the light on the hard issues, inspire others, and move the country forward.

We will be the gatekeepers of rights and justice.   That is what progressives have always stood for. We will be our brothers and sisters keepers.

As Canadians, we can make it happen. Together, we can make it right.

That is our vision.

Thank you. Let’s go win an election!

 

[1]Tommy Douglas, by Vincent Lam, Penguin Canada, 2013, p. 204.

[2]ibid, p. 212.

[3]Jorge Luis Borges, “Boast of Quietness”, form Selected Poems, Viking Penguin 1999.

[4]Rabindranath Tagore, My Country, The Heart of God, ed. by Herbert Vetter, Tuttle Publishing 1997, p.42

[5]ibid, Strike At The Root, p. 56.

[6]Barack Obama, “Change We Can Believe In”, Three Rivers Press, 2008. p. 201.

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Today’s ISIL: What is the legal definition of Terrorist?

What is the legal definition of a terrorist?  This is pertinent because of urgent international action being sought against groups like ISIL, that invoke “terror” and crimes against humanity and international norms.  International criminal acts are defined in treaties such as the Rome Treaty creating the International Criminal Court.  Nuremberg punished Nazi leaders for mass crimes – the use of terrorist is rhetorical and not sufficiently defined.

This post is reproduced from EJIL/Talk:

The United Nations Security Council urges states to combat “foreign terrorist fighters”, but does not define “terrorism”’ The aim of Resolution 2178 of the UN Security Council, which was passed unanimously on 24 September, is laudable in principle: to combat the growing jihadi “terror tourism”, coming from France, Germany, the UK and other Western states, in a comprehensive manner, not just through criminal and police laws. In its preamble, the eight-page Resolution explicitly recognises that international terrorism cannot be defeated through military and other repressive measures alone.

However, it does not define terrorism, its key object of reference, instead speaking vaguely of “terrorism in all forms and manifestations”. Its operative paragraphs (paras. 2 ff.) refer to “terrorists”, “terrorist groups”, “individuals” and “person[s]” travelling abroad to fulfil a terrorist “purpose”, making no distinction between them. This terrorist purpose supposedly consists of the perpetration or preparation of terrorist acts, or the participation in terrorist acts or terrorist training. UN member states must prosecute the persons in question. Furthermore, they must make any financing of such journeys and assistance in carrying them out, including the recruitment of “terrorist” fighters, subject to criminal sanctions and prosecution.

Finally, the listing of the persons in question – famously called a ‘civil death penalty’ by Dick Marty, the former chairman of the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee of the Council of Europe – is also provided for (para. 7). But how is all of this to work under the rule of law if the phenomenon to be combatted is not defined? The Resolution remains silent on this issue, referring only to fighters belonging to ISIL, ANF and other groups deriving from Al-Qaida (para. 10), without, of course, presenting this as a definitive list.

One wonders why the Resolution did not adopt para. 3 of Security Council Resolution 1566. This paragraph defines terrorist acts as acts (1) committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, (2) with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act, which (3) constitute offences within the scope of and as defined in the international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism. This is, in essence, the definition of international terrorism recognised by customary international law, which also forms the basis for a UN draft treaty of 2010 and is referred to in international jurisprudence, such as the famous jurisdictional decision (15 Feb. 2011) of the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon, mainly authored by the late Antonio Casesse.

Unfortunately, Resolution 2178 ignores all of these definitions and thus ultimately leaves it up to each UN member state to apply the measures called for to those individuals defined as “terrorist” by that respective state itself. You may view the full text of the latest post at http://www.ejiltalk.org/our-terrorists-your-terrorists-the-united-nations-security-council-urges-states-to-combat-foreign-terrorist-fighters-but-does-not-define-terrorism.

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A New Deal For Young People

One of the key emerging issues is about the direction our country is headed in and what Canadian millenials and baby boomers had to say in a national poll.

Precarious Work, Low Benefits:

92% of boomers know at least one person with a workplace pension.

20% of millenials don’t know anyone with a workplace pension.

52%, Over half of millenials think their generation will work on contract – either mixed with permanent jobs, or contracts alone. Only 14% of their parents’ generation had a work life similar to the one their children expect for themselves.

Lowered Expectations

60% of millenials think the gap between the rich and poor will only grow during their lifetime.

49% of baby boomers think their children’s economic opportunities are worse today than when they were growing up.

An economy tilted towards corporations

Do people trust that corporations work hard to create good jobs? Nope. 85%

Baby boomers (85%) and millenials (79%) overwhelmingly agree that corporations put a higher priority on profits than they do in creating good Canadian jobs.

Corporations have hoarded savings from tax cuts rather than reinvesting in the economy to create good jobs. Millenials 48% agree. Boomers 60% agree.

Lower union membership makes good jobs harder to find

Harder: Millenials 59%, Boomers 55% Easier: Millenials 8%, Boomers 11%

It’s time for a new deal!

 

There is a lot of talk about high levels of youth unemployment and under-employment.  But talk is cheap, and governments and employers are still coming up short.

The federal government has shown scant interest or leadership. Despite a sharp rise in youth unemployment since the recession, the Conservatives have actually reduced spending on the Youth Employment Strategy (YES), $335.7 million in 2013-14, down from the $397.9 million it spent in 2010-11.

 

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND CORPORATE CANADA MUST STEP UP

Youth Job Guarantee – a promise for every person under age 25 of a quality job offer, apprenticeship, or place in a training course within 4 months of leaving formal education or becoming unemployed. The guarantee is inspired by a similar principle endorsed by the Council of the European Union in 2013.

To kick-start the Youth Job Guarantee, the Broadbent Institute is calling on Canadian businesses to invest $670 million per year to fund an initial youth employment initiative. These funds would be matched by an equal annual injection from the federal government (boosting what they currently spend on the Youth Employment Strategy to $1 billion). The large employer contribution would come in the form of job placements, while the federal government’s portion would support placements with small private sector employers as well as with public sector and not-for-profit organizations.

This modest investment, a combined total of $1.34 billion, could create 186,000 full-time co-op positions, paid internships or summer job placements that pay $15 per hour. The price tag for employers is but a tiny fraction of the $630 billion in “dead money” corporate Canada is currently sitting on. The federal contribution of $670 million would be only about a quarter of the $3 billion price tag of the Conservatives’ controversial income splitting proposal.

The contextThere are significantly more young people looking for work today than there are available jobs. As of May 2014, one in seven (13.3%) young people aged 15 to 24, or 380,600 young Canadians, are out of work. Many more are under-employed or have given up looking for work altogether.

Young workers bore much of the brunt of the 2008-09 recession, and despite talk of recovery, their employment situation today remains much worse than it was beforehand.

The unemployment rate for youth is typically about double that of so-called “core age” workers aged 25 to 54. In Canada, this ratio jumped to a much higher level of 2.4 in the post-recession recovery, and stood at 2.3 as of May

The ImpactAn initial Youth Job Guarantee initiative could have a significant impact on youth unemployment and help address some of the key challenges hampering young Canadians in the labour market. The initiative would target specific groups of youth at risk of long-term unemployment and students leaving the post-secondary educational system. At $15 per hour, a 12-week full-time paid co-op position, paid internship or summer job placement would cost employers $7,200 in terms of wages, assuming a 40 hour work week. Thus, an additional $1.34 billion per year would fund 186,000 such placements. This is more than double the current number of paid co-op placements, and three times the current number of Youth Employment Strategy participants.

Offered on an annual basis (four rounds of positions lasting for three months), the number of unemployed youth in any given month would fall by 46,500 or by about one in eight (12.2%) — enough to reduce the current youth unemployment rate from 13.3% to 11.7%. Importantly, in the long term it could also be scaled up into a more far-reaching program.

This is one of the most important issues we face – a responsibility to our young people and future generations.  With an aging demographic, our country’s future depends on it!

I am confident – together – we can create a new deal for our young people and our country.  I look forward to working for a New Deal For Young People.

Download the full report on the Broadbent Institute’s Youth Job Guarantee at www.broadbentinstitute.ca.

 

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Canada’s Tarnished International Reputation

MP Cathy McLeod was on CBC Kamloops this morning (Sept. 2, 2014) promoting a “Roundtable” meeting today, on the federal Conservatives program on “Maternal Health”, at the Kamloops offices of the Canadian Red Cross.

Canada’s commitment to address the issue of maternal health is laudable.   Certainly, the need is pressing. The world has cut maternal, infant and child mortality in half in the past 25 years, a huge advance. Yet much of that came before the Muskoka Initiative (2010). Today, some 6.6 million children under age five, half of them newborns, still die every year from preventable or treatable causes. At present, the UN is falling short of its goal to cut maternal deaths by three-quarters by next year, and those of children under five by two-thirds.

But, despite the federal Conservatives commitment, the Initiative lacks transparency, as a recent critique in the Lancet reported. An accounting of how and where the funds are being invested, the respected journal reported, is all but impossible to get.

Canada has also avoided or sent confusing messages on the critical issue of contraception and abortion, which experts say is part of the full range of maternal health. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 120 million women around the world want access to family planning. But contraception is not properly on the table with this government. Fewer women and girls will be saved if a full range of sexual and reproductive health services are not provided to those most in need.

Unsafe abortion kills tens of thousands of women a year, but many more are maimed and affected for the rest of their lives.   We need to offer a full range of maternal health services like other partner countries do.

The Conservative government’s record on foreign aid is flawed. On their watch, Canada’s aid program, currently $5.6 billion, has declined by more than $800 million in real terms, slipping to a meager 0.27 percent of our GDP. That’s well below the donor country average and target of 0.7 percent.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have unleashed the Canada Revenue Agency to audit, some would say harass, organizations such as Oxfam because they do not always agree with the government.  This impedes the ability of humanitarian and human rights agencies to advocate on issues such as poverty prevention and to help those in need around the globe.

More broadly, Canada’s International Reputation has been tarnished, by the federal Conservatives.   Canada has been recipient of the International “Fossil of the Year” several years running. We failed to win a seat on the UN Security Council.  Multilateralism and our hard-earned reputation as a balanced, credible voice and power-broker has suffered hugely. Bellicose rhetoric is not a responsible form of foreign policy for a middle power like Canada.

On Gaza, it is hard to comprehend why the Conservative government ignored an appeal to bring injured and maimed children from Gaza to Canada for medical treatment.   In a letter to the PM, the Leader of the Official Opposition, Thomas Mulcair, wrote:

I am confident that any action by your government to help enable the humanitarian initiative will receive support among all federal political parties Many Canadians are asking themselves what can we do to help…to achieve peace, we must refuse to hate. Only in that spirit can we hope to bring people together to forge a just, secure and lasting peace.”

More urgently, children of Gaza are desperately in need of help, they are innocent victims, of a long-standing conflict.

Canada was once a highly respected and credible voice in international affairs. It is increasingly marginalized and not taken seriously.   That has to change if we are to be a truly global and serious player.

 

Bill Sundhu, Federal Candidate (Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo), The New Democratic Party of Canada.

 
 

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SAS v France: Le Droit a manifester religion, Est-ce que l’existe en France?

Cette semaine, La Cour Europeenne des Droits Humaines (ECtDH) en SAS v France a decide que la Loi 2010-1192 interdisant la dissimulation du visage dans l’espace publique ne viole pas la Convention Europeenne des Droits Humaines. Le jugement continue les developpements et changements de la jurisprudence historique avoir besoin de plus consideration. En particulier, la conclusion que le droit de pratiquer une religion pourrait restreindre ou limiter la justification de “vivre ensemble” est le developpement s’inquieter si ce droit d’avoir signification.

Le loi etait la reaction du gouvernment Francais sur la “laicite”, le principe de societe seculaire. La Loi etait d’interdit la dissimulation du visage en public. Le jugement est different des decisions precedentes de la Cour Europeenne au sujet du droit des femmes Islamiques de pratiquer leur religion en portent son vetements religieu parce que cette loi en France imposer totallement et entier prohibition de s’entendre aussi a la sphere sociale.

En general le jugement est equilibre, raisonnable et pourvoit au besoin des considerations du gouvernement Francais que les justification pour interdit les droit des femmes Islamiques a pratiquer leur religion etait raisonnable pour la surete et laprotection publique et respecte pour les valeur de societe c’ etait l’ouvre et democratique.   Ce principe compris respecte pour le minimum assortiment necessites a vivre en societe ou vivre ensemble.

Les juges ont decide qu’ils n’acceptent pas que l’interdiction de la“burqa” ou du “hijab” etait fondee sur les objectives de protection des droits et libertes des autres. Specifiquement, dans le context d’ egalite de genre ou de sexe, la Cour a dit, que ce n’est pas possible d’interdire une practique defendue par les femmes, compris le applicant. C’est la meme chose les valeurs de la dignite humaine. Alors, le jugement n’ acceptait pas que les droits egalite des femmes ou dignite humaine etaient violes. Cette raison etait differente des decisions de la Cour historique avec la Turquie et Suisse que cette practique etait etablir dans Coran et etaient en conflit avec le droit d’egalite des femmes.

Mais, le jugement de Cour en SAS v France, a accepte que la practique de porter la “burqa” ou le “niqab” juger n’est pas compatible avec societe Francaise, avec les idees de communication sociale et la necessite de vivre ensemble. Donc, l’ interdiction de la “burqa” etait proportionnel aspirer et l’objectif de la France. Ils ont trouve que le droit n’etait pas viole et ils donnaient le “marge d’appreciation” a France.

C’est difficile de reconcilier la raison, en particilier que la practique religieuse ou d’un religion, que c’etait negatif ou une denonciation.   Le jugement crees le risqué le majorite voudraient dicter que les minorite assimilee pour “vivre ensemble” contre les aspirations de pluralism, tolerance et a la esprit large.

Est-ce que possible de passer le jugement de signification de porter echarpe sur la tete ou imposer leurs opinion sur le applicant?   La Loi interdite du porter les vetements religieuxe comme la “burqa” ou le “hijab” dans la sphere sociale et peut-etre quelques des contextes et facons de vivre sont prives. Ou est les droits des femmes Islamique pour manifester leur religion?

Est-ce que le jugement a risqué assimilation contre diversite et ouverture de societe democratiques? Donc, est-ce que le droit de religion existe, du tout?   Le droit de religion peut-etre etait erode? Ce sont les problemes pour la loi dans le futur. Ces questions sont difficile et ne sont pas finies.

 

 

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