Introducing shunpiking online

Welcome to our first online publication!

 

August 6 / Revised August 18 – Since the launching of shunpiking on 3 December 1995 our magazine has matured and developed to become a vibrant news and quality information source for Nova Scotians, readers across Canada and not a few readers around the globe.

Now we are launching shunpiking online to complement and extend the reach, topicality and timeliness of shunpiking magazine.

This initiative is being taken at a time when any serious discussion of the concerns of the people is absent in the media. The mass media in Canada is increasingly concentrated into a few powerful hands, intertwined with powerful Anglo-American giants that dominate the flow of information, culture and debate on the world scale. This same colossi dominate the electronic media, including cyberspace, the so-called great information superhighway or Global Village, for whom every traveler and resident is a consumer and everything one could desire is for sale. The effect is dramatic. Instead of offering information and knowledge as an inseparable part of a culture vital for human beings to function as informed citizens, to comprehend and establish themselves in the world, people are on the receiving end of an avalanche of disinformation, diversion, demonisation and cultural aggression, especially from "down south", often disguised as "entertainment". Stenography and stereotypes, half-truths and lies, gossip and rumors, toxic "dumbing down", morbid cynicism and self-censorship -- proceeding from a preconceived political, financial and ideological agenda -- have replaced objective and serious journalism. Any notion of a "free press", cultural sovereignty, and social conscience and responsibility to the public and the education of young people has been thrown out. The national media monopolies based in Central Canada effectively marginalizes Maritimers and other "have not" regions of Canada, as they do with working people, the poor and dispossessed.

Ordinary journalists and other media workers in Canada and on the world scale themselves face layoffs, declining salaries, the entry of part-timers without the guarantee of steady jobs, police and administrative reprisals, homicide, censorship and restrictions over the right of association.

The need for an enlightened media that is healthy and positive, that seeks to address the concerns of Nova Scotians without fear or indifference and upholds their rights, exists more than ever. This remains our constant aim – to make a contribution towards developing a new media and a new journalism in Canada – an independent media that is of assistance to people and part of the movement for enlightenment, progress, empowerment/democratic renewal and nation-building.

The demand for shunpiking online is clear. In the month of February alone — not only Black History Month in Nova Scotia but the period when people around the globe were striving to avert the war against Iraq with one of the most profound upsurges of humanity in recent times — shunpiking.org received 6,000 unique visitors, that is, at a web site which had only been hinted at, which did not actually exist, and which we have only been able to develop now. Shunpiking online is very much a response to this demand.

Beginning in September, shunpiking online will be updated regularly as an original source of news, information and commentaries, including items of interest from public affairs, labour, social justice, culture, natural history, amateur sport and recreation, tourism, business and the economy and other fields of interest.

For us the media is a social property and has a social function. We aim to provide greater space for the different collectives of Nova Scotians – from fishermen to Gaelic language speakers – to bring their voice and concerns to the mainstream of the society. We want to develop a journalism and writing that truly reflects the reality of living today, as well as much of that which is beautiful that is taking place in society.

We aim to serve the growing needs for in-depth information, context and analysis of provincial, national and world affairs, explaining developments in their proper context. The new and complex phenomena of the globalized world demands information and a different point of view that has not been manipulated by the monopoly media. Internet publishing gives us this opportunity and space to expand this coverage. Thus, rather than news, much of our material initially will be news analysis and commentaries.

Much of the e-mail reaching shunpiking from as far away as Asia and Scotland and many of the visitors to our office express an interest in obtaining back issues and in-depth articles about Nova Scotia and the Maritimes. We will be steadily posting hundreds of pages from the excellent content of back editions of shunpiking magazine to make the texts more accessible, especially for students and teachers.

We will be able to offer visitors who use our web site unrivaled depth on many topics of interest; the fisheries, our in-depth historical timelines and supplements on Black & African Nova Scotian History, Mi’kmaq and First Nations and Gaelic Nova Scotia (Mac-talla), “Discovering Nova Scotia’s Natural Heritage”, reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre especially community theatre, and so forth. The timelines and resource lists will assist the visitor with immediate reference points to gather other information online. Important works, such as the Dossier on Palestine: A Land, A People and other New Media Publications such as the best-seller The Kids’ Baseball Book by Curtis Coward and Tony Seed, will be featured as sub-sites with the prominence and accessibility they deserve.

The popular Hikes, Rambles & Outings will commence in September and be updated monthly. It will soon feature an interactive form for event organizers to update their listings online. It will complement and reinforce our forthcoming and long overdue Outdoor Resources Directory. The ORD will also be available online, with a searchable data bank of over 2,200 outdoor providers and links to the entire system of land and water trails in the province.

We hope you will find this website useful and practical, interesting and informative. We hope that shunpiking.org will eventually become one of the most comprehensive, varied and useful resource and general reference archives in Atlantic Canada.

The next edition of shunpiking magazine will feature our third annual Mi’kmaq / First Nations Supplement as part of October’s Mi'kmaq History Month.

Some are concerned that internet publishing will adversely affect the magazine, but our conviction is that shunpiking online can only strengthen it. Rather than simplifying our work, it will no doubt complicate our lives!

Throughout the twists and turns of the past eight years, we strove to extend our magazine and writing deeper amongst Nova Scotians, as a reality which lives amongst people, as the main guarantee of our publication's future. Shunpiking is now distributed free through some 820 locations from Yarmouth to Bay St. Lawrence and read by an estimated 100,00 people.

Many people ask who writes for shunpiking. An incredible amount of articles, ideas and suggestions emanate from our readers -- and literally hundreds are received over the phone, through the mail and the Internet over the course of several months -- or just walk in the door. They are a vital and important element in our approach. Our contributors, including some nationally known writers, write with knowledge, passion and a social conscience, and are bound by a unique understanding of the popular and political culture of their community and the region around them. Many actively distribute and discuss the magazine on a broad basis. Our hard work has inspired others to develop this own voices. Our modest growth parallels the striking panorama of independent media and its expansion on the world scale.

Shunpiking online is written and developed solely by volunteers from various places around Nova Scotia. Tony Seed, who has an experienced professional background in the media and is an award-winning journalist and editor, will head up our staff. Shunpiking online is an independent, self-reliant internet publication which does not speak on behalf of any political or religious party or special interest group.

We would again like to warmly thank not only all the participants but also all those friends and colleagues who have generously contributed their valued opinions and insights over the past few years on how to develop shunpiking.org. But now we are venturing down this road, we want and need more of your help, from more of you in more of the areas in which we would expand our work! If the stockbrokers, bankers and lawyers take care of their media to look after their interests, why shouldn't the rest of us? To sit back and be indifferent is not an option.

We are open to all those forces who have the same interests. We are open to those wishing to work with us as editorial interns in an honourable and ennobling profession. Through our hands-on program, interns gain experience unlike that found at any journalism school; in addition to fundamental research and investigative techniques, we try and foster the humane values, critical thinking and independent perspectives vital to a free press. In turn, they assist to further professionalize our work. Please consult our submission guidelines which will be posted in September but do not wait to send us your material or queries. Just e-mail us at shunpike@shunpiking.org

We are beginning with as much fanfare as our first number in 1995: none. We will rely on hard work, clear writing, honest reporting and you the reader to become known. You, the reader, will be the judge.

Our door is mostly always open, and the coffee’s mostly always on. Please drop by at 6211 North Street when you’re in Halifax. We sincerely welcome your opinions.

The shunpiking online team

Article Index

 

The Nova Scotia Elections

By Tony Seed

August 6 – The provincial elections have once more concluded without a solution. The John Hamm Conservatives retained power with 25 seats on August 4th while the New Democratic Party and the Liberals increased their total to 15 and 12 seats respectively. The Tories lost five seats. For the second time in the past three elections, there is a minority government. More significantly, thiry six per cent of the registered electorate did not vote (some reported it as forty per cent), the highest in 43 years. The media and the parties are already attributing this to the fact that the election was held in mid-summer, conveniently overlooking that in the preceding provincial election, held in the summer of 1999, thirty two per cent of the electorate did not vote. In fact, there were four parties participating in the elections, including the Nova Scotia Party (qua Canadian Alliance), but the media portrayed only the first three as serious and it was impossible to find out through the media what the fourth party stood for.

Even the media had to acknowledge the “surliness” and “anger” of the electorate at a political process that set itself above the electorate. A barrage of so-called public opinion polls and horse race journalism seemed to barbecue the agenda and anoint first this, then that party over another in a process in which people and their concerns were noticeably absent.

But how did you know?

What is also immediately clear is that tens of thousands of people were effectively disenfranchised. Enumeration workers no longer go door to door to register electors and, as with the case with other provinces, a list of electors has been created which relies on a list from Elections Canada. It becomes the task and responsibility of the individual elector to enumerate themselves.

Since the last election many people have moved their residences within the city, many of them as many as four times, or moved into the city (or, with students, to a summer job or back with their families) and hence were not enumerated. A large number of people this writer spoke with simply did not know the new procedure either for getting on the list for the first time, if they had moved, or if they had been left out. Thus if you did not receive a notice to confirm that you are an elector, how did you know? In this way, large numbers of people lost their right either to support a candidate or even to vote. Even some candidates were not enumerated. Health Minister Jane Purves herself was not enumerated; she had moved three times in the past 17 months. Furthermore, stories are emerging of enumerators who refused to register voters at polling stations who wouldn't swear on the Bible, or of voters who missed voting because they were sent to other polling stations despite the fact they were properly registered. The failure to register voters provincially before each election also reduces an electoral campaign to a mere four week affair – rather like an advertising blitzkrieg which swamps the consumer – during which it is impossible to have any serious discussion or go into any of the central issues and problems of the society in depth in the midst of the heat, smoke and noise. Citizens are reduced to a vote and the human being who has rights is not taken into consideration.

In terms of the vote, the three parties were virtually tied, at 36.24% (PCs), 30.95% (NDP) and 31.56% (Grits) respectively of the 64 per cent who voted – further illustrating the unrepresentative nature of the archaic, first-past-the-post-parliamentary system.

These percentages have no meaning until one knows the actual figures about eligible voters as opposed to registered voters.

Comparing these party votes as a percentage of the registered electorate, we discover that the Conservatives received only 23 per cent, the NDP only 20 per cent and the Liberals only 20 per cent (percentages are rounded off).

If you want to draw any conclusion, the majority of the people rejected the whole process, or had no choice. In this regard, according to Joan Jessome, president, Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, she preferred “the devil we know, rather than the devil we did not know”. Whether the electorate preferred it, or the special interests pushed it, strategic voting for the different parties of capitalists – the kiss of death for independent politics – was systemmatically encouraged.

Deep regional splits also emerged within the province, with the Conservatives receiving the bulk of rural mainland ridings, the Liberals most of Cape Breton and the NDP most of the urban ridings of Halifax-Dartmouth.

While the Liberal campaign seemed lavishly funded, it was based on proposals and bluffs to get elected but nobody could say what the party would do if it actually formed the government. Its new un-elected leader, Danny Graham, was seconded from the federal Justice Department. This party drew its main support from industrial Cape Breton which has become largely dependent on the federal state and where job creation is a crying need. His opposition to “tax cuts” clearly aroused fears that he would slash and burn like the Campbell Liberals in British Columbia.

"You Deserve A Break Today" – McDonald's commercial

As for the NDP, the media expressed happiness that not much separated it from the two “old line” parties. Commentators pointed out that, with one or two differences, it was hard to tell where one party left off and the other began.

Far from achieiving an electoral breakthrough, it matched its count of 1997. Its euphoric oscillations remind one of Brownian motion.

The NDP (which was the official opposition) accused the Conservative government of failing the people in its financial promises (a balanced budget, etc.) and offered to “give ordinary families a break”. This party has thus gone from representing the “working class”, (as some CCFer was probably fired for using once in a pamphlet 60 years back) to “working people” (which was tolerated until David Lewis snuffed it), to “ordinary people” (which was de rigeur until Ed Broadbent moved on), to “ordinary families”. At the same time it applauded the “tax cuts” of the Conservatives, who have converted to spending and infrastructure development, and away from the debt reduction mantras of the early 1990s, with the distinction of advocating some minor reductions in the HST taxes for consumers.

“Issues” without context

This unity can be seen in all the “issues” cited which served as a smoke screen to justify an anti social offensive, in which governments at all levels are refusing to fulfil their duty as the representatives of society to provide the rights of the people with a guarantee. The neo-liberal agenda is to make the people pay for a deepening economic crisis, with the end of expanding private capital, all the while obscuring where all the money has gone in the first place.

Take the question of the soaring costs of auto insurance.

Whether “public” or “private”, whether promising 50%, 20% or 15% reductions in insurance premiums, the basic wealth gathered would still be diverted to the rich, the very reason for the dramatic escalations in the first place.

Instead of being set aside for their intended social purposes, these funds, along with pension and employment insurance funds, are being diverted and squandered by the financial trusts for lubricating international mega mergers in the financial sector, gambling on the stock market, paying exorbitant executive compensation, paying stock dividends, diverted to general government or company expenditures, and so forth.

Furthermore, the insurance sector is increasing controlled by big foreign capital. At the end of 2002, the direct investment positions of foreign investors were mainly in the finance and insurance sector (19.2 per cent) and the energy sector (16.2 per cent). (U.S. investors alone held a total of $224.3 billion in direct investments in Canada at the end of 2002!) (1)

And how will the reduction in premiums be paid? They would be offset by clawing back on liability payments such as soft tissue injuries when accidents occur, rather than the surplus being used for social programs and guaranteeing the welfare of all Nova Scotians. Nova Scotians “save” at the front end, but pay through the nose at the back end, especially those unable to afford lawyers to pursue claims. Nova Scotians need more than public auto insurance, or public funding of the insurance industry, they need public delivery of all insurance.

Moreover, any changes in auto insurance costs will hardly offset the real decline in real incomes of Nova Scotians.

Despite the so-called economic boom of the 1990s, the average worker now works longer hours for lower wages than 30 years ago. From 1976 to 2000, the decline in the real minimum wage alone was such that there was a $2.27 gap between the actual legislated minimum wage and what the minimum wage would have been if it had been adjusted to the actual increase in the cost of living. That wage was $5.70 an hour in 2000 – which is below the poverty line – and it would have been $7.97 in 1976 dollars.

The mass of impoverished Nova Scotians has also increased. in 1990 13.4 per cent of Nova Scotians were below the official poverty line which had increased to 17.9 per cent in 1998. (2) This objective trend of the rich getter richer and the poor poorer is never addressed let alone discussed or even mentioned.

An issue of rights, or a problem of money?

While the parties brawled over 50-20-15 not one took into account the costs of the auto culture and economy, including roads and transportation, public transit, urban design, environmental damage, and the control of the auto sector by foreign multinationals who have sucked billions out of Canada.

Or the problems with the health care system. Is the “issue” primarily a financial problem as the parties and media portrayed, or one of public health care insurance? Many Nova Scotians want public delivery of all health services. No party recognized it as a right, but presented as a problem of money.

The same attitude is taken to the natural environment as to the social environment. But there is no problem of money. For the rich, reforms and restructuring are always presented in a self-serving manner to eliminate the cost of the human factor – both the health care workers and professionals and the population. They have created this mess because they wanted to seize our tax monies to pay the rich. If the government stopped paying the rich and selling out the economy to foreign capital, there will be plenty of money to provide for the needs of the people.

Similarly, the parties and their representatives, with their “simplified” PR programs and sound bytes, “forgot” about the devastation of the fisheries and its monopolization, the closing of the small shipyards following the collapse of the fisheries, the out-migration of the youth and the emergence of ghost towns, the continuing decline in the population of the province, the buying up and concentration of land including the coastal lands and islands by foreign capital, the massive failures of TAGS and other “retraining” and “community development” programs where the funds went mainly to the capitalists. The objective developments in the capitalist economy, the deepening of regional disparities and the so-called rural-urban divide, and the glossing over these phenomena by the parties and the media, indicate a lack of seriousness and genuine concerns for the future and well-being of Nova Scotians.

The parties also disgraced themselves on the question of democratic rights for all, making unprincipled promises to secure the votes of African Nova Scotians in such a manner as to promote grudges amongst other minorities such as the Acadian French- and Gaelic-speaking communities. Racism in the name of anti-racism is a despicable ploy and shows utter disregard for the needs of the people, especially the most vulnerable.

When you get to the fork in the road

No sooner that the results were announced than the media started pawing over the party leaders as to their plans to “make the legislature work”. We don’t want to sound like a Cassandra but we should be very attentive to how seriously either the minority government led by the John Hamm Conservatives or some NDP-Liberal combo will actually be to the problems of Nova Scotia and the needs of the people.

We are at the fork in the road. It would seem that the political parties of the rich in Nova Scotia are following the advice of Yogi Berra: Take it.

In April, 1997 on the occasion of the resignation of Dr. John Savage as the-then Liberal premier, shunpiking editorialized: “Should Nova Scotians resign ourselves to this state of affairs? Not at all! The concerns and needs of Nova Scotians are objective; they are not the “popularity’ of this or that individual politician or political party. If people actively pursue their own programs and overcome their differences, the situation can change.”

That is the human factor that must take the high road for democratic renewal.

Notes
(1) “Foreign Direct Investments Into and Out of Canada - 2002”, TML Daily No. 136, 7 July 2003
(2) Thom Workman, Social Torment: The Globalization in Atlantic Canada. Halifax: fernwood Publishers, 2003, p. 83
Updated 11 August 2003

Article Index

 

Hiroshima and Halifax

 

By Charles Spurr

August 5—The 58th Anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and the 50th Anniversary of the Korean Armistice signed July 27, 1953 are two historic events with profound immediate significance to present international relations, the danger of war and even nuclear war.

For Haligonians, the nuclear devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 August 1944 has a special meaning. On 6 December 1917 the largest man-made explosion prior to Hiroshima took place here, when the munitions ship Mont Blanc and the Belgian relief ship Imo collided in the narrows of the harbour, adjacent to densely populated civilian quarters. Over 1,900 people were killed immediately; within a year the figure had climbed to well over 2,000. Another 9,000 were injured, many permanently, and 6,000 left homeless out of a total population of less than 50,000. Much of the city was completely demolished, especially in the working class North End and Africville, and in the Tufts Cove area in Dartmouth where a small Mi’kmaq settlement used to be.

The force of this explosion was so great that people in Truro, over 100 kilometres away, had felt the tremor. The anchor from one of the ships, the Mont Blanc, blew over the peninsula to land on the other side of the North West Arm where fragments remain to this day. Aside from the absolute force of the explosion and the devastation, the Halifax Explosion is distinguished by the lack of nuclear fall out, contamination and greater loss of life.

As different as the explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki may be from the earlier Halifax explosion, they share some things in common. The Halifax Explosion occurred in the context of unbridled drive for war profiteering in which all safety precautions were ignored. Far from being an "accident" or "an act of God" or manslaughter caused by the negligence of a ship’s captain or pilot, this tragedy was entirely preventable. The federal cabinet of Sir Robert Borden, the US authorities who consciously diverted the badly-loaded Mont Blanc with its 2,652 tonnes of munitions from New York to Halifax, and the Halifax port authorities, were all aware of the threat. It was a war crime.

In Hiroshima and Nagasaki we saw an unjustified and naked demonstration of the might of the United States empire. Some may argue that these cities were legitimate military targets, but this view ignores the reality of the wholesale slaughter of the civilian population, an act which is supposed to be a violation of international law. It was a war crime.

When the people of Halifax commemorate the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we keep these similarities in mind. We are also mindful of the dangers posed by imperialism today, especially in light of the wars of aggression which are being launched by the United States, the restrictions on civil liberties since the eleventh of September 2001, and the unfolding threat of war and even nuclear war on the Korean peninsula 50 years after the Korean Truce (but no peace treaty) was signed. 

Article Index

One Humanity, One Struggle!
Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Never Again!

 

We are posting an editorial commemorating the bombing of Hiroshima published online by TML Daily on August 6, 2003:

•••

At 8:15 on the morning of August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an Atomic bomb that exploded 580 metres above the Japanese city of Hiroshima. It contained a small amount of uranium-235 and produced the energy equivalent of 15,000 tons (15 kilotons) of TNT. On August 6, there were approximately 350,000 people in Hiroshima. Some 140,000 of them were dead by the end of December 1945.

Three days after the Hiroshima attack, an American bomber abandoned its primary target of Kokura because of poor visibility and flew to its secondary target, Nagasaki. The United States dropped a second atomic bomb, containing plutonium which instantly killed 8,500 people in the Urakami district of Nagasaki. Four months after the atomic bombing, 74,000 people were dead and 75,000 had suffered injuries, that is, two-thirds of the city population.

August 6 has now become a day to commemorate those who were killed in these horrendous crimes and express the determination of the peoples of the world to never again permit such crimes against humanity. Today this call takes on even greater urgency and immediacy as a result of the U.S. policy of launching "pre-emptive strikes," including nuclear strikes, and the collaboration of all the big powers in facilitating its ability to do so by refusing to take a principled stand. Fifty-eight years ago when the U.S. unleashed the atomic bomb on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, its aim was to send a message to the entire world that the post-war period would be oneof acceptance of U.S. imperialist hegemony, or else... This was a deliberate attempt to halt the floodgates of the anti-fascist, anti-imperialist and anti-colonial struggles of the peoples of the world that were a great threat to the Anglo-American imperialists in the war they launched against communism and an obstruction to their ambition to smash humanity's path to progress.

Today the United States has arrogantly adopted the policy of "pre-emptive"nuclear strikes against what it calls the "axis of evil" in complete violation of the Charter of the United Nations, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and all norms of civilized behaviour. At a time the call of history is for the peoples of the entire world to affirm their right to self-determination, the U.S. and other big powers have concocted the propaganda about weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists and so-called rogue states as a pretext to attack countries which refuse to submit to their dictate. They also give themselves licence to armthemselves to the teeth and fill the world with their weapons. Canada is participating in this nuclear blackmail while it too pays lip-service to non-proliferation. But the crimes committed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki will not go away by threatening the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran and other countries for allegedly posing the "nuclear threat". It is a crime that those who used nuclear weapons in the past on an already defeated foe in order to threaten the entire world and those that today threaten their use through pre-emptive strikes try to claim that they are only acting in the interests of peace and human security.

Today the U.S. imperialists want the world to believe that they have the interests of humanity at heart while they threaten allthose who resist aggression, occupation and plunder. They and their allies in Canada and around the world want to divide the world between "civilized nations" and "rogue", "failed", "messy’ or "ill-intentioned" states in order to justify their drive to dominate all of humanity with the aim of plundering the world's human and natural resources. The current occupation of Iraq by the U.S. and the disastrous situation in Afghanistan show that their main aim is to humiliate and defeat all those who affirm theirright to decide their own fate without interference. The peoples of the world cannot be suppressed through force in this manner.

Humanity's fight to rid the world of the nuclear weapons in the hands of the big powers and defeat the U.S. imperialist "new world order" requires stepping up the struggle to uphold the sovereignty and independence of all nations, big and small, and eliminate the threat or use of force to settle conflicts.

On this occasion, TML Daily pays its deepest respects to the Japanese victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and to all peoples the world over who suffered and continue to suffer as a result of the U.S. imperialist dictate. The imperialist regime is criminal and must be ended if peace is to prevail.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Never Again!

One Humanity, One Struggle!

 

Article Index

 

For Your Information
US scraps nuclear weapons watchdog

"A US department of energy panel of experts which provided independent oversight of the development of the US nuclear arsenal has been quietly disbanded by the Bush administration, it emerged yesterday...." reports Julian Borger from Washington, in The Guardian, Thursday July 31, 2003

http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1009497,00.html

The decision to close down the national nuclear security administration advisory committee - required by law to hold public hearings and issue public reports on nuclear weapons issues has come just days before a closed-door meeting at a US air force base in Nebraska to discuss the development of a new generation of tactical "mini nukes" and "bunker buster" bombs, as well as an eventual resumption of nuclear testing.

Ed Markey, a Democratic congressman and co-chairman of a congressional taskforce on non-proliferation, said: "Instead of seeking balanced expert advice and analysis about this important topic, the department of energy has disbanded the one forum for honest, unbiased external review of its nuclear weapons policies."

Neither the NNSA - part of the department of energy - nor the 15 panel members returned calls seeking comment yesterday. The NNSA advisory panel is made up of academics, retired officials and business leaders. Although federal law requires regular open meetings and publication of its reports, the energy department has not convened the panel since May 2002. Its reports have not been released. The statute establishing federal advisory committees requires their dissolution to be officially gazetted in the federal register but, according to Mr Markey, the NNSA panel was disbanded by a simple e-mail to its members.

Daryl Kimball, the head of the independent, Washington-based Arms Control Association, said: "This will make the department of energy and the NNSA even more opaque. It will be all the more difficult to understand what they are planning to do." Hawks in the Pentagon and the energy department are pushing for the development of tactical nuclear weapons with yields of less than five kilotons and hardened "bunker buster" nuclear bombs, designed to penetrate deeply buried targets, where enemy leaders or weaponsmay be hidden.

According to the leaked agenda for the Omaha meeting in early August, Pentagon and energy department officials will discuss how to test small numbers of these new weapons, and whether this will require a break from the moratorium on nuclear tests. Criticsargue that the new weapons will blur the distinction between conventional and nuclear arms, and trigger a new arms race.

"The Bush administration is considering policy changes that will alter the role of nuclear weapons in national defence," Mr Markey said. "Given the importance and sheer complexity of the issues raised ... why was the only independent contemplative body studying nuclear weapons disbanded - and disbanded in such a surreptitious fashion?"

 

Article Index

 

‘Family Entertainment’?
Fredericton Residents ‘Shocked and Awed’ by Armed Forces Day

NEWS COMMENT BY TONY SEED

August 1 -- A growing number of Fredericton residents are voicing concern over the use of public space for the fourth annual Armed Forces Day in Fredericton. Fredericton residents plan to respond to what they refer to as “celebration of aggression and militarism” with an all-ages Picnic For Peace on the Green, according to a news release from F.R.E.E.D.O.M. (Fredericton Residents for Education on the Economically-Motivated Deployment Of the Military).

“The annual military occupation of Fredericton’s largest common space is unacceptable and must stop,” says Asaf Rashid, a PHD candidate with the department of Forestry and Environmental Management at the University of New Brunswick. “To present militarism as family entertainment is a gross educational failure to which we must respond as a community.”

During last year’s Armed Forces Day on the Green in Fredericton, children were encouraged to play with assault rifles, have their faces painted in camouflage, ride in tanks and military helicopters and walk through a make-believe mine field (pictured).

“Young people’s lives are saturated with glorified images of war, so to actually see young children playing with machine guns and laughing as they ride on an LAV is really chilling,” says Andrea Markey, who lives downtown. “The future of our planet depends on this generation understanding that war means death and pain for children all over the world -- and not a sunny day in the park with lots of flags.”

The experience of Halifax with such spectacles bears attention. Throughout the 1970s Armed Forces Day was the singular military, tri-service spectacle staged by the Department of National Defence (DND) each year.

But in 1979, DND created the Nova Scotia Tattoo aimed at promoting "military-civilian co-operation" and “Nova Scotia’s military heritage”, the U.S. Marine and NATO units amongst other themes. It was twinned with the International Gathering of the Clans, promoting a lowland Scottish culture, and inaugurated by the Queen Mother.

One after the other, dramatic new military spectacles – such as “freedom of the city” ceremonies for army regiments, the Shearwater Air Show for the Canadian and U.S. air forces, and “open house” ceremonies and “dial-a-sailor” programmes for visiting U.S. and British warships – were systematically invented and choreographed in Halifax throughout the 1980s.

Massive expenditures of tax-dollars and military man hours were devoted to these spectacles, with accompanying accolades by the media. Although a DND initiative, the NS Tattoo became the largest single recipient of cultural funds from the provincial government.

Inevitably they served to camouflage heightened physical preparations for war on the ground, in the strategic harbour and along the coasts. The "visits" of U.S. warships and Soviet para-military "scientific" and "oceanographic" vessels into the port of Halifax tripled during this period. The naval infrastructure of the port was modernized and expanded. U.S. tactical operations were carried out within Canadian waters and the harbour: the mining of Nicaraguan harbours was, in part, perfected by "Operation Minex" carried out in Halifax Harbour. They constituted a necessary pyschological preparation for war.

As such, they were vigorously and publicly opposed by the anti war, anti-imperialist forces of the city through innumerable pickets, demonstrations, sit-ins, mass petitions, teach-ins, leaflets and pamphlets, film and video, and such slogans as “No Harbour for War!”.

In the same vein today, the creation of a military theme park in Fredericton through the device of the fourth annual Armed Forces celebrations is not an isolated affair.

The troops are being drawn from Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, halfway between Fredericton and the port of Saint John, whose vast expaneses are being groomed as the largest military base in the Commonwealth. Motorized army regiments based there were requested by the Pentagon earlier this year to spearhead its invasion of Iraq. British and U.S. Special Forces also conduct specialized training at the base. The U.S. National Guard have conducted so many training operations at CFB Gagetown since the Sixties that it is difficult at times to distinguish it from a regular overseas U.S. military base. In fact, the Office of the Secretary of Defense considers an American military base as any installation “routinely used” by its military forces. (1) In other words, though the flag, the base commander and the soil may be Canadian, if American troops “routinely use” it, the United States considers the base theirs.

This becomes quite dangerous to New Brunswickans and Canadians, as shown by the fact that it was here at CFB Gagetown that the chemical warfare Agent Orange was secretly tested in the Sixties and then covered up by the Department of National Defence until 1983.

The United States is now in the process of expanding its base presence and staging areas in the Americas, all in the interests of expanding its political and economic hegemony.(2) This includes North as well as South America and the Caribbean, and the border spheres between the United States and Canada. CFB Gagetown is strategically located in this regard, lying very near to the U.S.-Canadian border, on terrain that is low in altitude compared to northwestern New Brunswick, and the Saint John River, rising near the border of northern Maine

According to the revelations of Dr. Floyd Rudmin, then of Queens University, who conducted an extensive historical study of American military operations along this border, such bases, troop deployments and exercises on both sides of the New England/Canadian border were considered vital as spheres or spearheads for the “War Plan Red” -- officially authorized by the US cabinet and drafted by the U.S. Army War College -- for a motorized invasion of Canada as recently as 1935. (3)

Rudmin pointed out: “Canada is a fragile country, despite its size and apparent wealth. Like the Dutch relentlessly repairing their dikes, Canadians must relentlessly repair their national political structure. Canada is not robust. When Canadians refuse to examine evidence of U.S. hostile actions, then they needlessly imperil the nation. That is a difference that weighs against hand-me-down history and quick dismissals of facts. That is a difference that favours doubt and favours a history that is conscious of its cognitive faults.”

In this regard, related plans for a new billion-dollar, four-lane, limited access turnpike (called the East-West Highway) to bisect Maine (4), running from St. Stephen to New Hampshire and then connecting with Quebec are as fortuitous as the first military roads over the Green Mountains built between 1776-79. (5)

As a consequence, increased attention is being made to divert and hoodwink opinion and stage sunny military spectacles in nearby urban population areas such as Fredericton.

And, in the same spirit as the 1980s, people are increasingly activating themselves to oppose such nefarious spectacles.

Concerned Fredericton residents plan to present a petition to Mayor Les Hull requesting that Armed Forces Day be staged on Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, in Oromocto, rather than in downtown Fredericton.

Fredericton residents protested at City Hall at 1pm on August 4th. A teach-in “Militarism, War and Resistance” also took place at Wilmot United Church on August 3rd. Hiroshima Day will be commemorated in Fredericton on August 6 from 11:30am-2pm at the Christ Church Cathedral on Brunswick Street. For information about Hiroshima Day events, contact the Fredericton chapter of Project Ploughshares.

Notes
1 James R. Blaker, United States Overseas Basing (New York: Praeger, 1990), 9, 37
2 “The Bases of Empire”, Monthly Review, Vol 53, No. 10, April 2002
3 “Supplement No. 3 To Report Of Committee No. 8, Subject: Critical Areas Of Canada And Approaches Thereto” Prepared by: Subcommittee No. 3 / Major Charles H. Jones, Infantry, Chairman. Lt. Col. H.W. Crawford, Engineers. Reproduced on the Internet at http://www.glasnost.de/hist/usa/1935invasion.html
4 See www.east-westhighway.com
5 See http://www.uvm.edu/~vhnet/hertour/hthome05.html

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A Letter to The Daily Gleaner

As published on page A6 on August 7, 2002

Uncomfortable with talk of young tanker

Dear Editor: On a Monday morning, Aug. 5, I was walking along the St. John River. As I crossed under the Westmorland Street Bridge and headed towards railway footbridge I saw a lot of military personnel, tanks and other military items.

I wondered why they have landed on the beaches of the St. John River. Then I realized it was just some kind of military exhibition. As I weaved through tanks and other vehicles, I saw a group of three or four people listening to this young military gentleman.

First, to look at this gentleman one would think that he couldn’t hurt a fly.

But here he was elatedly explaining the capability of a tank, which I assumed he operated.

He was saying how the tank could kill people by the dozens if he was protecting the Sheraton, for example.

He was talking about killing people as if he was in a bowling alley and knocking down bowling pins. Yes, I have respect for the military. These young men and women sacrifice their lives so that others can be safe.

Yet I wish that there was a way that these sacrifices can be avoided altogether through peace. I know it is not easy. I also wish that I would win $1 million in the lottery some day. However, for the lottery one can only wish, but for peace one can work towards it and reduce the chances of conflicts.

I should not be misunderstood. I am not a total peacenik. I used to get into brawls all the time when I was growing up. I provoked quite a few of them myself.

I got mostly beaten up and other times I barely escaped. I learned my lesson the hard way. I also believe that one must fight injustice until one can overcome it no matter how big the hurdles are.

However, I do not believe fighting with weapons, but using other means, including raising awareness about the injustice, exposing the perpetrator, arranging and participating in peaceful demonstrations and writing letters to the editor.

Back to the military exhibition, as I moved further away from it I saw these posters "Tank you, but no tank you." I said to myself: "Thank you whoever you are who put these posters up."

No, I did not get a chance to join the actual peace demonstration but I am glad someone was arranging it.

Muhammad Arif

Fredericton

 

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25 Maritimers arrested at WTO protests in Montreal

 

Some 25 Maritimers were amongst hundreds of people – mainly youth – brutally arrested in mass protests during the holding of the mini-ministerial meeting of the WTO, from July 28 to July 30. During the Monday, July 28 protest alone, the number arrested was just over 340, including 22 medics and a doctor, more than half the number of demonstrators. Earlier demonstrations in the five days of actions involved some2-3,000 participants from over fifty organizations.

The WTO mini-ministerial taking place in Montreal was hosted by the Canadian government, with invited representatives of 25 countries (out of the WTO’s 146 member countries) getting together behind closed doors to co-ordinate how, in the views of the protesters, to better plunder the resources of the peoples of the world to benefit multinational corporations.

Most of the Maritimers have been released, and charged with "unlawful assembly." People at the courthouse had to put up bail money ($200 each) so that the people could return to the region on previously chartered buses.

According to Aaron Koleszar, F.R.E.E.D.O.M. PEI, the police used the actions of a very few individuals (who engaged in property destruction) as an pretext for police and special security forces, including the SuretŽ du QuŽbec, the Tactical Squad and undercover police, to arbitrarily arrest hundreds of people through fabricated charges, and in this way criminalize increasingly popular demands and activities of people as that of "zealots". These demands were expressed in such slogans as "No One Is Illegal", "End the Deportations Now", "No to the WTO", "Sovereignty Yes, Annexation No!" which echoed through the streets of the downtown core.

Recounting what happened, he stated. "These roughly 200 people had left the conference site and had gathered in what was known as ‘The Green Zone’ – a space that was organized and billed as a place for ‘three days of workshops, art, music, poetry, theatre IN A NON-CONFRONTATIONAL SETTING’ .... It is on private property, with the permission of the property owner, and was supposed to be a safe ‘chill" zone. Police chased people to this area and surrounded them and the others who were there, and arrested them despite the fact that they were on private property, with permission, and NOT unlawfully protesting."

Another activist reported that "many shopkeepers who had been chatting with the protesters were outraged by this mass arrest. Construction workers shouted to the police that they had better treat the youth properly. Despite a huge deployment of forces, the police were concerned with the reactions from a crowd which had gathered and tried continuously to push them away from the demonstration site."

According to Mr. Koleszar, "Other organizers and ‘street medics’ were targeted for arrest by police ‘snatch squads’, despite not committing any crime. These arrests and the subsequent court proceedings are punishing hundreds of people who committed no crime other than attending a protest, which is allegedly legal in this country."

A dozen or so police arrested well-known activist Jaggi Singh at the corner of Peel and Ste-Catherine Street for allegedly violating his court conditions by participating in an unlawful assembly, even though he had not been involved in the march.

Another activist told shunpiking online something quite different from that what we read in the media: "The pretexts invoked to arrest those participating in the actions cannot hide the fact that the Canadian government had already given the order authorizing the attack on the youth, the workers and the people. The Canadian government has shown its criminal intentions and must be condemned for its actions. Only cowards behave this way. It is our youth who are the heroes."

Scott Weinstein reported in an op-ed article in The Montreal Gazette: "The police also act suspiciously. They assisted the window breaking by pushing Monday’s WTO protesters onto commercial Ste. Catherine St. Their deposition against those arrested stated that police were near the stores when a half dozen people shatteredwindows, yet not one moved to prevent any damage. The large mobile riot squad was kept away for political reasons to allow the property destruction to characterize the protests and the protesters. (This is not unusual. Police videos of the G-20 protest in 2000 showed undercover agents throwing objects at the riot squad.)"

Aaron Koleszar stated that it’s unfortunate that the media has used the arbitrary mass arrests to overshadow the reasons for the protest.

"The World Trade Organization works in secret, without public consultation, and puts business interests ahead of community interests. It overrides national laws which are intended to protect human health and the environment, workers or local businesses. It is an undemocratic institution whose policies make the world free for money, corporations, and the rich to cross borders while making it harder and harder for the poor, refugees, and immigrants.

"People don't need to have done anything wrong or illegal to be arrested by police," Mr. Koleszar pointed out.

"Mass arrests are frequently used as a means to get people off the street, with additional effects of documenting their names, photos, etc., intimidating protesters and others who might join protests, arbitrary punishment of protesters through the arrest, jail, court, legal costs, costs of returning to court, time and effort of returning to court and so on. Some call it a tax on activism."

Shunpikine online also condemns the role that the media is continuing to play by portraying the youth as "violent". A few windows were smashed and broken, and as our reports show, it is not clear by whom. But this then becomes the reason to take away the right to conscience and freedom of expression, and cover up who is really responsible and who instigated violence in the first place.

We recall our own firsthand observations and reporting of both the spectacular Halifax meeting of G-7 Finance Ministers on June 14-15, 2002, and again during the March, 2003 demonstrations against the Iraqi war which occurred in downtown Halifax.

Our journalists documented the experience of the police at the highest levels, fully armed, as the ones who were looking for confrontation and who then used tear gas, tazer guns and clubs against defenceless youth.

It is also well-known that agent provocateurs are used to carry out vandalism in order to justify police intervention.

 

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Press Release of the Council of Canadians

July 28—The Council of Canadians strongly condemns the use of police force to shut down the expression of dissent at the WTO mini-ministerial, which is taking place at the Montreal Sheraton Hotel. Over a hundred protesters were rounded up and arrested for"unlawful assembly".

Most of these protesters had not been engaged in the destruction of property that was witnessed around the hotel earlier that day and reports indicate that they were peacefully assembled, with permission, on private property at the time of their roundup by police.

Montreal activist Jaggi Singh has been arrested for the same charge while yards away from any group of protesters. Mr. Singh, who is consistently arrested at protests but never convicted, was giving interviews to the media at a good distance from where the regrettable incidents were taking place.

"This repression of dissent is very alarming in a democratic society," says Jean-Yves Lefort, trade campaigner for the 100,000-member Council of Canadians. "Freedom of expression and assembly are fundamental Charter rights. The Council of Canadians’ position is, and always has been, one of non-violence, but it clear that these arrests have not been made in relation to the violent actions. ‘Unlawful assembly’ is a trumped-up charge, pure and simple. They arrested anyone in the area who seemed to be disapproving of the WTO meeting."

 

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For Your Information: The World Trade Organization

In light of the recent Mini-Ministerial of the World Trade Organization in Montreal and the 5th WTO Ministerial in Cancun, shunpiking online is posting below reference material which explain some of the issues involved in the next round of trade negotiations. The following item is Part One of a report by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke of the Council of Canadians entitled Making the Links: A Citizen’s Guide to the WTO and the FTAA. Part Two, which we will post online at a later date, examines the Freed Trade Agreement of the Americas.

* * *

What is the WTO?

The World Trade Organization was formed in 1995 at the conclusion of the "Uruguay Round" of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) negotiations. It did not cancel out the GATT; rather, the WTO began to enforce that agreement and others, using its status asa permanent institution with a huge secretariat. The WTO is a global trade institution with teeth. It is responsible for administering dozens of international trade agreements and declarations on a range of issues from agriculture to intellectual propertyrights. It also handles trade disputes, monitors national trade policies, and operates as the overarching forum for global trade negotiations, called "rounds."

Since the creation of the GATT in 1948, there have been eight rounds of trade negotiations, each consisting of a series of meetings spread out over several years to negotiate a fixed agenda of issues. The first six rounds concentrated exclusively on tariff reductions on goods. But the seventh, the "Tokyo Round" (1973-1979), coincided with the emergence of a strong market-driven ideology in Washington and the rise of giant transnational corporations. Almost exclusively based in the industrialized countries of the North, these companies wanted more access to unregulated labour and consumer markets andan expanded supply of natural resources.

So trade negotiations started to deal with "non-tariff barriers" — the rules, policies and practices of governments, other than those pertaining to tariffs, that can have an impact on trade. Since non-tariff barriers can potentially apply to everything governments do, including social services and protecting health and the environment, citizens’ groups, particularly in the Third World, began to monitor the GATT for the first time.

The Uruguay Round of negotiations(1986-1994) expanded the scope of the discussions dramatically, tabling issues concerning agriculture and services and covering areas not until that time associated with trade. It was during these years that Canada, the United States and Mexico negotiatedNAFTA, which introduced many issues, such as services and investment, which would be taken up by the newly minted WTO.

Operating out of Geneva, Switzerland, with an administrative staff of five hundred, the WTO enforces more than twenty separate international agreements, using international trade tribunals that adjudicate disputes. Although on paper all countries are equal under the WTO, in reality, the larger countries have the economic power to withstand trade sanctions from smaller countries, whereas smaller countries are always at a disadvantage in any dispute.

How does the WTO Work?

The WTO is crafted like no other international agency. Unlike the GATT, which was effectively a business contract between nations, the WTO has a "legal personality" and the power to enforce its rulings. It has an international status equivalent to the United Nations, but unlike the UN, it carries the powers and tools of a global government. WTO rulings are so powerful, they take precedence over Multilateral Environment Agreements (MEAs) such as the Convention on Biological Diversity; human rights agreements like the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and international labour codes, such as those of the International Labour Organization (ILO). WTO rulings also apply to laws at every level of domestic governance — federal, provincial, state and municipal.

Levers of Power

Under the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism, member countries, often acting on behalf of their business sector, can challenge the laws, policies and programs of any other country as being in violation of WTO rules. Panels of un-elected experts have the power to adjudicate claims of alleged violations of these rules and to hand out punishments. The losing country has three choices: change its law toconform to the WTO ruling; face harsh, permanent economic sanctions; or pay permanent compensation to the winning country. Because their only task is to judge whether or not a country’s policy is a "barrier to trade," the panels do not have to consider other factors such as public health, economic justice or democratic sovereignty. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other non-commercial interests are entirely excluded from the process.

These powerful tribunals have the authority to strike down domestic laws, policies, and programs of other countries and require them to establish new rules more favourable to business interests. The vast majority of WTO tribunal rulings to date have favoured the interests of corporations over the rights of nations andtheir social and environmental standards. Panel decisions can be appealed, but only a unanimous vote of all member nations can overturn a WTO ruling.

Although official WTO decisions are made by vote or by consensus of the 146-member General Council, real decision-making powers are now increasingly vested in what is known as "the QUAD" — the U.S., the European Union (EU), Japan and Canada. The QUAD convenes several times a year, making key decisions on WTO priorities. These meetings take place behind closed doors without the participation of other countries, and although the QUAD is not formally structured as the WTO executive, it is by nature of its power, able, in fact, to exercise executive powers. If a smaller country balks at QUAD decisions or priorities, it can be threatened with investor boycotts and reduced access to World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) aid.

WTO Agreements

The major agreements administered by the WTO include the following:

- The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), whose mandate is to eliminate all remaining tariff and non-tariff barriers to the movement of capital and goods across nation-state borders;

- The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), the first multilateral, legally enforceable agreement covering trade in services. Negotiations are now underway to expand the scope of the GATS to potentially cover all services;

- Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which sets enforceable global rules on patents, copyrights, and trademarks, and permits the patenting of many plant and animal forms, as well as seeds;

- Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMS), which dictate what governments can and cannot do in regulating foreign investment;

- The Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards (SPS), which sets constraints on government policies relating to food safety and animal and plant health, ranging from those governing pesticide use and biological contaminants to policies related to food inspection, product labelling, and genetically engineered foods;

- The Financial Services Agreement (FSA), which was established to remove obstacles to the free movement of financial services corporations, including banks and insurance companies. This opens the door to mega-mergers in the financial sector and the loss of local economic control;

- The Agreement on Agriculture (AOA), which sets rules on the international food trade and restricts domestic agriculture policy, including government support for farmers, maintaining emergency food stocks, and ensuring that citizens have an adequate food supply;

- The Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM), which sets limits on what governments may and may not subsidize and contains many loopholes favouring wealthy countries and agribusiness;

- The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), set up to limit national regulations (non-tariff barriers) that interfere with trade;

- The Agreement on Government Procurement (AGP), which sets limits on government purchasing, including "domestic content" or community development.

Corporate Influence

The WTO is set up to serve the interests of big business and promote economic globalization in a world increasingly dominated by transnational corporations. (Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 53 are now corporations.) What they want is to operate across borders under common rules and with little interference. For this to happen, governments must lose their power to set rules and standards. The essential goal ofWTO rules is to deregulate international trade. The WTO agreements provide extensive lists of things that governments can no longer do. So it is not surprising that transnational corporations and their domestic and international associations have had a direct voice in shaping the entire structure of the WTO from the beginning.

In the United States, more than five hundred corporations and business representatives have been officially credentialed as "security-clear" trade advisors, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, numerous Fortune 500 companies, The Business Roundtable (BRT, representing the country’s two hundred largest corporations), and a host of industry-specific lobby groups. (The BRT has just launched a multi-million-dollar campaign to ensure the success of the Cancun meeting and is co-ordinating its work with its QUAD counterparts, including in Canada.) The U.S. Trade Representative works closely with the Coalition of Service Industries, whose members include the major energy, insurance, and financial giants, as well as major pharmaceutical companies and the newer players in the field, like HMOs, who were instrumental in creating the list of services the U.S. is seeking in the GATS.

The powerful U.S.-based Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association spent U.S. $197 million to elect Republicans to office in the November 2000 presidential election in order to protect their patent monopolies. This wasthe most money ever spent by any corporate sector on a presidential election in Americanhistory. And Ambassador Allen Johnson, the Chief Agriculture Negotiator for the U.S. government in all international trade negotiations, was formerly the President of the National Oilseed Processors Association, whose members represent every major factoryfarm and biotechnology corporation in the world, including ConAgra, Cargill, Unilever and Procter & Gamble.

It is the same in the other QUAD countries. In Japan, it is the industry lobby group, the Keidanren. In Europe, the Commissioner of the European Union on WTO Policies and Administration maintains direct links with the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT), which is composed of representatives of the fifty largest European-based corporations. The European Services Forum has lobbied forcefully to remove exemptions for public services from the GATS. In fact, in a May 2002 letter to the CEOs of Europe’s three largest water corporations — Vivendi, Suez and RWE Thames - EU Director General of Trade, Ulrike Hauer, thanked them for their contribution in negotiations to reduce trade barriers in water services.

In Canada, large corporations have been deeply involved in the creation of trade agreements since the first Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, signed on January 1, 1988. Former deputy chief negotiator Gordon Ritchie set up a series of advisory groups to government whose membership was a "who’s who of the elite of Canadian business"; this practice he says "forever changed the way that government managed trade policies." Once established, this link was never broken.

The Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) — formerly the Business Council on National Issues (BCNI) — representing the 150 largest corporations in Canada works closely with the Chretien government to promote both the WTO and FTAA negotiations. Another powerful Canadian business lobby that has influenced trade policy in its interest is Canada’s Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx&D) — formerly the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of Canada. Rx&D worked very hard to get the former government of Brian Mulroney to grant its members (many of whom are foreign-based transnationals) 20- year patent monopolies and subsequently convinced the Chretien Liberals to break their 1993 election promise to repeal this legislation. This lobby group has deep ties with the governing Liberals.

None of these privileges are given to not-for-profit non-governmental organizations. As a senior WTO official told the Financial Times, the WTO "is the place where governments collude in private against their domestic pressure groups."

How do WTO rules affect our lives?

Since it was created in 1995, the WTO has already become a major influence in the lives of the world’s citizens. Using both the fundamental rules of most WTO-enforced agreements combined with WTOenforcement mechanisms, the major power blocks and their big business sectors are forcing many countries to weaken their regulatory frameworks in several important areas.

Social Security

The WTO threat to the social security of the citizens of all member countries comes from the new services talks — the GATS. The aim of these negotiations is to radically restructure the role of government worldwide by subjecting an ever-greater degree of governmental decision making to the discipline of the WTO. The GATSapplies to all levels of government, including domestic policy governing a huge array of services. These include: health care; hospital care; home care; dental care; child care; education — primary, secondary, and post-secondary; museums; libraries; law; social assistance; architecture; energy; water services; environmental protection services; tourism; postal services; publishing and broadcasting — among many others. The ultimate goal of the GATS is to "progressively liberalize" until all these services are fully commercialized. This means that all these areas, once delivered by governments as fundamental rights on a not-for-profit basis, could eventually be offered by corporations to those who can afford them on a for-profit basis.

The potential fall-out on the social security of the world’s citizens is enormous. Global annual expenditures on education now exceed U.S. $2 trillion and on health care U.S. $3.5 trillion. Public education, health care, welfare, and water services have been targeted by predatory and powerful transnational corporations who want to use the WTO/GATS process to dismantle domestic public systems. The strategy is to subject governments who run these services to WTO rules — the same type of rules that have knocked down domestic standards in the areas of culture, the environment, and fair trade.

Technically, governments are allowed to exempt certain services from GATS discipline; however, these measures have to be totally free from commercial influence to qualify. There are very few countries in the world who do not have some measure of privatization in education, health care or the delivery of water. Once privatization has been established in a sector, the exemption becomes essentially null and void. The current talks are putting heavypressure on all governments to expand the type and number of services covered by the GATS and to get governments to agree to further constraints on their regulatory structures. They also want to add "National Treatment" to the services sector, which would allow foreign corporations to set up a "commercial presence" in other countries and apply for public subsidies now restricted to domestic, not-for-profit services, like schools and hospitals.

The massive privatization —which is both the goal and the logical outcome of the GATS — will have a devastating impact on public sector workers and working standards in general. Deregulation of government structures includes labour standards. In order to compete in the global, WTO-ruled world, domestic companies have to seek the same level playing fields as transnationals by lowering working conditions and wages.

Environmental Security

Two key free trade provisions — "National Treatment" and "Most Favoured Nation" — negatively affect the environment by preventing governments from setting standards to favour goods that have been produced or harvested in an environmentally sustainable way. These clauses stipulate that countries must treat "like" products from one country as favourably as those from another, that no distinction can be made between foreign and domestic "like" products, and that quotas or bans imposed for environmental reasons can be challenged as forms of protection. Hence, objections to methods of production cannot be used to ban a product. This suddenly legalizes a whole host of terrible and inhumane environmental practices. (The same provisions can be used to challenge domestic standards that ban products from countries with poor human rights records or sub- standard labour practices.)

For example, these clauses of the GATT were successfully used to strike down the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act and to override the U.S. Endangered Species Act, which were designed to protect dolphins and turtles. The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade forces nations to prove that their environmental laws are "necessary" and have been established in the "least trade restrictive" way. This means that a country bears the burden of proving a negative, rather than having the right to adopt the "Precautionary Principle," acting in the case of doubt on the side of caution. The "least trade restrictive" test has created a "chill effect,"causing smaller countries to avoid enacting standards, such as eco-labelling, in the first place for fear they will be exposed to a WTO challenge.

The WTO also undermines progress in Multilateral Environmental Agreements by building "WTO Superiority Clauses" into them, so that, in a case of conflict, WTO rules take precedence. Even when an MEA appears compatible with the WTO, other rulescan interfere. For instance, the rules of the Convention on Biological Diversity are being undermined by the WTO with its enforceable rules promoting industrial agriculture and the patenting of Indigenous knowledge. (The U.S. didn’t sign the Convention and maintains the WTO’s supremacy over it.)

Food Security

The main goal of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture is to reduce or eliminate agricultural import tariffs and Quantitative Restrictions (QRs). However, while most of the South (and Canada) has alreadyended QRs as well as farm export and domestic subsidies, the U.S. and Europe have in fact stepped up agriculture subsidies — the U.S. with its 2001 Farm Bill which injected huge new funds into American food production, and the EU with its Common Agriculture Policy which will expand funding until 2013. This has allowed cheap, subsidized products from the North to flood the Third World. Subsidized meat imports from Europe, for example, have helped to wipe out the pastoral economies and cultures of West Africa.

Family farms and small agricultural operations all over the world have been destroyed by free trade in agriculture. Even in the North, it is almost impossible to guarantee a fair return at the farm gate because of the global flood of cheap imported products produced under deteriorating conditions and declining standards. When small farm operations lose profits because of worldwide fluctuations in commodity prices, they can be wiped right off the map. Only huge operations, with investment support from megacorporations, can survive.

AOA rules also mean that sovereign nations are now in the ludicrous position of not being able to maintain food stocks in anticipation of drought, crop failure, or war. They are forced to buy everything they need on the open market. "Food self-sufficiency" now means having the money to buy food, not the domestic ability to produce it. Food is grown, not by farmers for local consumers, but by corporations for global markets. The WTO sets the backdrop for the spread of biotechnology in the form of genetically engineered foods, as well as the control of seeds by life sciences corporations who contractually force farmers to buy their seed every year, or face sanctions and fines.

The WTO SPS agreement reduces the ability of governments to maintain safe food standards. Canada and the United States, for example, successfully used the SPS to strike down a European Union ban on North American beef containing harmful, possibly cancer-causing hormones. The WTO panel said that the EU did not have "scientific certainty" of the harm of these hormones.

What happened in Seattle?

The World Trade Organization has had four ministerial meetings since its founding: Singapore in December 1996; Geneva in May 1998; Seattle inDecember 1999; and Doha in November 2001. Most of the world’s citizens first heard about the WTO at the Seattle "Millennium Round" (popularly known as the "Battle of Seattle"), when talks ended in failure amid massive street demonstrations.

The agenda for Seattle was ambitious: agriculture; services; intellectual property rights; government procurement (contracts) and competition rules, to name a few. Seattle was chosen as the site because the meeting was to be fully funded by the private sector (for the first time) and the city is home to Bill Gates of Microsoft and Phil Condit of Boeing, who co-hosted the Ministerial and put together a "who’s who" of corporate sponsors. With over 3,000 journalists from all over the world attending, President Bill Clinton saw the meeting as an opportunity to showcase American economic strength; his Trade Representative, Charlene Barshefsky and co-chair, WTO Director General Michael Moore, ran the meeting with an iron fist.

Three factors caused the breakdown of this Ministerial. The first was the massive global coalition of influential labour, environmental, human rights, cultural diversity, Indigenous, farmer, consumer, and social justice organizations who came together both before and during the meeting to put enormous pressure on their governments not to sign on to the new round. The famous pitched street battles that accompanied this meeting all but prevented serious negotiations from taking place.

The second was the deep and unbridgeable schism between the United States and the European Union over the issue of food safety. The EU was adamant in its refusal to relinquish its right to ban or control imports of GE foods and hormones it considered dangerous to the health of its citizens. The United States (and several other countries, including Canada) was equally adamant that it would use the WTO talks to break down domestic rights to ban such imports.

Finally, delegates from the Third World, who almost unanimously believed that the WTO had failed to deliver on previous promises to the South, came together in an unprecedented show of solidarity against the might of the QUAD and its agenda of new issues.Each Ministerial Meeting tables a working Declaration, which all nations have worked on for months preceding and which forms the basis of negotiations. In Seattle, the 80-page text had been deeply controversial and was highly bracketed, showing a lack of consensus going into the meeting. Despite intensive browbeating from the U.S. and other QUAD countries, the delegates from developing countries stoodfirm. The Millennium round ended in complete failure.

What happened in Doha?

The QUAD countries and the WTO powers decided this would never happen again. For their next Ministerial Meeting, the so-called "Development Round," they chose the oil- rich Gulf state of Qatar where free speech is forbidden, rendering any show of visible opposition by civil society impossible. As well, Europe and the U.S. worked feverishly behind the scenes in advance to ensure solidarity or at least the appearance of solidarityon the issue of food safety.

Most important, the WTO powers decided not to table another bracketed text over which North and South would fight. Instead, in an arbitrary move, the WTO Secretariat tabled a short Declaration at the opening of the meeting which favoured the QUAD agenda of aggressively moving on a host of "new issues," instead of the South’s agenda of implementing past development promises. This one-sided text became the blueprint of negotiations. Third World countries had been trumped before they even began negotiations and they were furious.

But the political moment worked against a united Southern front as much as these tricks. The Doha negotiations were held just two months after the terrorist attacks on the United States and the U.S. openly linked the fight against terrorism to a new round of world trade talks and an ambitious agenda of new items of interest to U.S. corporations. In this highly-charged political environment, it became very difficult for any country to say no to the U.S. which was putting intense pressure on smaller countries to sign on to a new round.

Six "friends of the Chair" — trade ministers from countries supportive of a new round, including Canada’s International Trade Minister, Pierre Pettigrew — were sent out to promote the contentious issues such as investment and market access to reluctant Third World delegates. In intense all- night closed door sessions, and in calls back to their capitals, the QUAD exploited the vulnerability of poor countries. At the last minute (and a day late), a text was produced containing the complete QUAD agenda and weary Third World delegates signed on.

The Doha program is an ambitious agenda of at least 19 multilateral negotiations including: accelerated pressure in ongoing sectors suchas agriculture and services; new pressure for Third World countries to open up the last of their industries to foreign take-overs; and now clear sailing for the so-called "new issues"— investment, government procurement, and competition policy. For good measure, the EU threw in a provision on the last day, taking down tariff and non- tariff barriers to trade in environmental services such as water. Weary negotiators didn’t even notice it.

In a widely endorsed "Joint Statement," civil society roundly condemned the Doha process and outcome as illegitimate, profoundly undemocratic and a "development disaster," and committed itself to fighting to defeat it in Cancun.

What are the issues in Cancun?

Over the months since Doha, the WTO Secretariat has worked feverishly to further negotiations on all these fronts so that as many of these deals can be locked down before the 5th WTO Ministerial. Although the new Director General, Thai economist Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, is the first WTO leader from the South, he will be expected to deliver the developing world when the delegates arrive in the Mexican resort town of Cancun.

Already the battle lines have been drawn up. Intensive pre-negotiations take place at the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC), a powerful new body of the WTO co- ordinating the Doha work program in preparation for Cancun. There, Third World countries have already staked out their strong stand against the introduction of the QUAD’s "new issues" until the long-promised issues of development are dealt with. They had tabled 85 measures for "special and differential treatment" that would recognize their vulnerable status and set up an agenda for redress before the Doha meeting. These demands are central to their position in Cancun and there appears to be a renewal of the consensus and determination that characterized this block in Seattle.

The QUAD, on the other hand, is insisting on a "single undertaking" deal, which means that it won’t address development issues unless all countries agree to put everything on the table together, including issues meeting strong opposition in the South, such as investment.

There will be several major areas of contention:

Services

The GATS negotiations are done in secret. All governments have submitted their requests to other countries and have received requests made of them. As of March 31, 2003, some countries have given their "initial offers" and the hard negotiation is now on. While little is known about the requests of most nations, the entire European Union set of requests was leaked to civil society and put on the Internet. They are indeed ambitious. The European Union is demanding that most countries (including Canada) offer up water, energy, transport, postal, tourism, broadcasting, municipal, publishing and financial services among others to the discipline of the WTO. The EU is seeking the elimination across-the-board of rules and laws in every service sector. Particularly targeted are developing countries - already deeply vulnerable to the corporations of the North.

Agriculture

Agriculture is a potential deal breaker. Countries with totally different economies and food production systems have only months to come up with binding commitments. Many Third World countries are seeking protection from market fluctuations in commodity prices, what they call "security crops," as well as rural development programs, while trying to get the EU and the U.S. to cut back on the heavy subsidization of their food exports. It is highly unlikely that the South will be successfulin either case. Europe shows no signs of reducing its high subsidization of its food exports, and the EU and the U.S. are openly sparring again over GE foods, having lost some of the will to look like a united front in the aftermath of the Iraq war. In fact, in May 2003 the United States (joined by Canada, Argentina and Egypt) launched a challenge at the WTO of the European Union’s moratorium on the import of GE foods. Cancun appears to be destined, once again, to really only be about more market access by the North to the South.

TRIPS

In Doha, much was made of a "new" deal called the "TRIPS and Health Declaration," which clarified that the TRIPS Agreement does not prevent member countries from using their own generic drugs to protect public health (for catastrophic illnesses like AIDS)instead of the more expensive brand name drugs. As well, a committee was set up to find agreement on how to allow poor countries with little or no manufacturing capacity of their own to import generic drugs from other countries. A solution to this was to be found by the end of 2002. However, U.S. brand-name pharmaceutical companies strongly oppose these moves and have pressured the American negotiators to limit both the number and kinds of diseases that can be considered a public health crisis, as well as the conditions under which countries could import generic drugs. In the November 2002 Congressional elections, the industry lobby targeted key Republicans for re-election in order to have the U.S. remain firm in its opposition to any easing of the TRIPS deal.

The refusal of the U.S. government to renegotiate the TRIPS agreement will have other impacts on Canada. Canadians will continue to live with the outrageous drug prices caused by the WTO/ NAFTA enforced 20-year monopoly rights of the big pharmaceutical companies. One result of this regime is that prescription drug prices in Canada rose 342 per cent in the 15 years since these companies obtained these monopolies. To add insult, the U.S. is seeking to extend the patent protection of these drug giants to 25 years.

Investment

At the heart of the QUAD demands for Cancun is the revival of the failed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), which was abandoned in the face of massive civil society resistance. Powerful corporations and investors are seeking binding protection for foreign direct investment around the world, and want WTO rules that would drastically limit the right of national governments to set any conditions whatsoever on this money. Developing countries have turned proposals around investment rights away before, calling it a form of "neo- colonialism." They and many NGOs around the world fear that what the big countries really want is a NAFTA-like investment agreement which would give corporations the right tosue governments. The European Union dismisses such fears, promising to limit dispute resolution rights to nations. But the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), responsible for drafting the original MAI, has recently published a report calling for a full MAI at the WTO, including corporate "investor-state" rights.

Other Issues

The other "new issues" are government procurement and competition rules. "Government Procurement" in the WTO would prevent governments from fostering domestic economic development, such as favouring local or national suppliers, setting domestic content standards or implementing community investment rules. "Competition Rules" would end the right of national governments to protect domestic monopolies. The real goal is to give foreign transnationals access to domestic markets now in the hands of local companies. Taken together, these provisions will spell the demise of government control over natural resources and economic policy and give transnational corporations formidable new powers.

 

Article Index

 

Featured Book

Take a walk on the natural side with Clarence Barrett

By Paul MacDougall

Cape Breton Highlands National Park: A Park Lover’s Companion

By Clarence Barrett

Breton Books, 2002 ISBN 1-895415-62-4

176 pages. $16.95

Well-known Cape Breton outdoors person Clarence Barrett’s long awaited book, Cape Breton Highlands National Park, is now available. Barrett is a slight man with extraordinary stamina, determination and an ability to make friends with whomever he meets, especially if they enjoy the outdoors. Barrett’s book was the literary event of Cape Breton last fall with over 100 people attending his book launch that was broadcast live on CBC radio from the Cape Breton Regional Library.

Aptly sub-titled A Park Lover’s Companion Barrett’s work ranks with the best nature writing written in Canada today. Far from the typical yet useful and informative guidebooks that are common in the Maritimes, Barrett has written an elegy to the wonders of mother earth and all that she gives us. He writes from a lifetime of experiencing the wild, not just from occasional jaunts to the forest.

Barrett met his wife in 1972 and they were married the following year. "Lucy hadn’t any real interest in the outdoors before I showed up, but she quickly became attached to it from our first outing," he recently told me. "We were gone every weekend: hiking, backpacking, skiing, canoeing, rock climbing. There was no end of new places to explore on the Island, and it was always nice to go back to some places again and again. We always felt really privileged to live in a place like this, so close to such a diverse natural environment."

When their two children were born it was natural for them to go along on the Barretts’ outdoor adventures. "We toted them in various contrivances. The first backpack-style kiddie carrier we stuffed with foam to keep the child upright and from falling through the leg holes. When they outgrew that I carried them on a regular external frame backpack onto which I had built a seat."

Over the years Barrett became legendary. There is nowhere in Cape Breton he hasn’t biked, hiked, swam, canoed, or skied across. He’s come across moose, faced down bobcats, met up with bears and once was outwitted by a fox. He’s identified birds, discovered a rare plant, studied the native geology and shot an array of beautiful photographs of Cape Breton. Maximizing every weekend and vacation period from his work at the Sydney Steel Plant laboratory Barrett’s family spent more time in the outdoors then most other families in Cape Breton. The place that always drew their greatest attention though was the Highlands Park.

Barrett amassed hundreds of stunning photographs and slides of places very few people every get up enough ambition to see in the Park. One of his favourite activities is traversing the Cheticamp River on the western side of the Park. Pictures of the river canyon highlight the slide show and presentations he occasionally gives at meetings of the Cape Breton Naturalists or other like-minded groups in the local area. His slides are accompanied by reminisces, quotes from naturalists and philosophers and music to suit the mood.

In a relaxed, soft-spoken manner Barrett talks about scaling cliffs, sleeping in sub-zero weather in an icehouse and going off into the woodsto deliberately see a bear in the same way someone else would describe a round of golf. His enthusiasm for the Highlands Park and all it offers knows no bounds and he’s single-handedly inspired many people to explore the Park that may not have otherwise.

Barrett began physically writing the book in 1999 but said he had most of the basic material in his head, in personal notes, and within a collection of reference material that included many photographs. "There was no trouble to be comprehensive about the various topics in the book – part of the problem was to decide what to omit." Barrett credits his publisher Ron Caplan (Breton Books) and Ron’s aide-de-camp, the tireless Bonnie Thompson as "invaluable in helping to set the tone of the book."

The product of Barrett’s passion came to life this past September. The narrative begins with different ways to discover the park; on foot, via car, canoe, kayak, bicycle or on a pair of skis. Chapter two is a short history of the park with notes on the Mi’Kmaq, early European settlers, transportation routes, and the building of the Cabot Trail and the Park itself.

For people living north of Smokey Mountain, Barrett writes it is "a kind of geographical divide between the region – and the rest of the world," the building of the park was not a rosy period for all of its residents. Some families had land expropriated in return for guaranteed jobs in the park, though at a cost. Quoting one resident the author writes, "a lot of residents hauled their boats up on the beach, and they rotted there – they lost the independence that they had."

A notable section in the book concerns "the park’s landscape and how it got that way." The author’s interest in geology came about when he wondered why there were pink rocks on one side of the Park but not on the other. This turned into years of observing the Park’s rocks, formations, mountains and river valleys.

Every trail in the park is described and the descriptions and asides are like taking a walk with the author. Barrett’s style flows with a narrative grace and genuine regard for the word and the deed that it is hard to put down. His flair for description makes you want to see what he sees and hear what he hears. Birds to listen for, such as the slurring down asthmatic squeal of the red-tailed hawk, where to search for a Gaspe shrew, rocks and plants, such as the orchids growing along the bog trail, are just some examples of what this book has to offer. No stone is left unturned when you’re out with Clarence Barrett. You’ll learn how to see a spring peeper, where to find a starfish and what poison ivy looks like.

In addition to the wonderful colour photographs the book also contains the author’s own illustrations of animal tracks that accompany a chapter on the park’s fauna, plus whale silhouettes in an appendix. In addition old black and white photos of the building of the Cabot Trail, the highway that defines the outer boundaries of the park, give one a sense of the history steeped in this area of northern Cape Breton.

Clarence Barrett left his job at Sydney Steel in 1992, at age 45. He moved to PEI and graduated from Holland College in 1994 with a Diploma in Renewable Resource Management Technology. Since then he’s been a Park Warden with the CB Highlands Park. In some ways Clarence Barrett is the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. His book is the rare type that will survive a long time, inspire many newcomers to the park, and give regular and occasional visitors to the area more places and things to explore.

The Cape Breton Highlands National Park is nature literature at its best, and above all the book pays tribute to a wonderful area of natural beauty, bounded by sea, mountains, rivers, valley and trails, that only people who explore it truly realize.

Paul MacDougall teaches at The University College of Cape Breton, is a regular contributor to shunpiking and Pottersfield Portfolio, and loves the Park too.

 

 

Article Index

 

The Medals That Endure: National Youth Basketball Championships

By Tony Seed

The Men’s National Basketball Championships Midget and Juvenile divisions concluded at St. Mary’s University Tower yesterday August 2nd with two finely played games before over 1,200 fans. Ontario’s two teams withstood early pressure from upstart Nova Scotia and Alberta respectively to pull away and win both divisions in a commanding fashion.

The Men’s National Basketball Championships Midget and Juvenile divisions concluded at St. Mary’s University Tower yesterday August 2nd with two finely played games before over 1,200 fans. Ontario’s two teams withstood early pressure from upstart Nova Scotia and Alberta respectively to pull away and win both divisions in a commanding fashion.

Yet judging from the boisterous appreciation of the enthusiasts, it was the superb level of play by some 240 youth who hailed from 89 communities across Canada which won over their allegiances, rather than loyalty to this or that province.

Attendance at the evening venues was always more than 800 people during the tournament which officially kicked off on July 29th and the Tower itself was packed for the final two championship games during a long holiday weekend.

Looking at such provinces as Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, it is hard to fathom how the “have not” provinces can ever compete on a level playing field. The fact that Yukon drew its ten player, Under-15 Midget team from sixteen prospective players drawn from just three schools, and Ontario from a pool of 13,000 players only serves to illustrate the disparities.

The competition was as much mental as physical and athletic. In its first half, despite some slashing penetrating drives and dishing off Gary Gray from East Preston to his cutting forwards in the early minutes, Ontario pressed, pressured and press ganged -- and swarmed -- the indecisive Nova Scotia into turnover after turnover. Steals, interceptions of hasty passes, over and back the centre line, together with bad fouls plagued the Bluenosers, leading to repeated and uncontested layups. Ontario’s lead lengthened.

Nevertheless the smaller Nova Scotia midget team finally got over their anxiety and nervousness and set out in the second half to slay David; they played a smarter and heartfelt basketball all-out, but were unable to close the gap on the smooth squad from Upper Canada.

Many of the earlier, qualifying games were superior and more evenly played, thought volunteer Peter Ross, pitting teams together that were closer in talent. New Brunswick won the bronze in the midget division and British Columbia the juvenile.

The organization, participation and hospitality of Nova Scotians once again cemented the city’s claim to be the basketball capital of Canada. The tournament was superbly hosted by Basketball Nova Scotia (BNS) and a hardworking tournament committee of over fifty volunteers ably chaired by Mark McGrath and Karen Ross. Probably more than 100 volunteers pitched in by the last whistle.

Ed McHugh, BNS president, told shunpiking that, in terms of quality, this tournament distinguished itself on several fronts: for the first time, utilizing 15 vans, all teams were picked up at the airport and ferried to their billets, rather than having to make their own way in; for the first time, all teams were ferried from their residences to their practice gyms and competition venues, rather than having to make their own way; for the first time, the tournament was webcast across Canada; for the first time, game states were made available instantaneously across the country on www.basketball.ns.ca ( a step away from web-casting); and, for the first time, the tournament featured a professional progam worthy of the calibre of play. (Shunpiking helped design it!). Then there was Dalhousie sports photographer Rick Pearce who did an active business printing out amazing game action and team photographs on the spot. Players could view and select pictures digitally from his website (at www.123photo.ca) and for the economical price of $7.50 for a 5x7 take home an enduring momento of their nationals.

“Every tournament has its story,” Mr. McHugh told the audience during a half time break, and for this tournament the story was that of the Lister family from Watson Lake somewhere in the Yukon. He publicly hailed young Ryan Lister, 14, during one break and his mother and sister during yet another break. The twosome had first travelled by car 1,000 kilometres to Whitehorse in the Yukon just to catch the bus all the way across Canada to Nova Scotia. In Montreal, 62 hours later, having to wait 12 hours for their next connection, they finally took a plane to Halifax where Nova Scotians helped them with a car rental and accommodations.

Ontario took the gold but one hopes that all the players also took home the message and thoughts of Ross Quackenbush, the St. Mary’s Varsity coach and former member of the national team and the professional Halifax Windjammers. He addressed all the teams at the opening banquet on July 29th. In a well spoken tribute to the recently deceased Jack Donahue, the transplanted New Yorker and coach who came to Canada to get the national team program off the ground in the 1970s, Mr. Quackenbush stressed that one leads by example, by positive action but that, whatever the result, be first or last, one takes with one the friends and people you meet through sport, at different tournaments, in different cities. These are the links that one cherishes, the medals that endure.

Tony Seed is a certified Level 2 basketball coach, Masters’ player and president of the Nova Scotia Cricket Association

 

Article Index

Canjet Adds Flights

Starting September 8, CanJet Airlines will offer daily non-stop flights between Halifax and Montreal and Halifax and Ottawa. The airline is also adding a second daily flight between Moncton and Toronto.

 

 

Article Index

 

Cow Bay Beach Sweep

Clean Nova Scotia (CNS), Kerr-McGee, and the Surfriders Association of Nova Scotia (SANS) are sponsoring a beach clean-up this Sunday, August 10 in Cow Bay. They’ll be tackling a large area of coast-from"the moose’ to Rainbow Haven Beach-and they are calling for volunteers! If you would like to join-in, please contact either Justin Huston (SANS) justinelias@hotmail.com or Shannon Betts (CNS) sbetts@clean.ns.ca or call CNS @ 420-3474 to register.

Sweepers will meet at 9:45-10am at "the moose" on Cow Bay Rd. Bring work gloves if you have them, and as the coastline is almost exclusively cobblestone/boulders, please wear appropriate footwear. Those that arrive early will receive T-shirts, and following the clean-up there will be a free bar-b-que for everyone at approximately 1pm.

 

 

Article Index

 

Desecration of Democracy

Threats to prosecute witness and defence attorneys at public portion of secret trial dominate Court Hearing for security certificate target Mohamed Harkat

By Matthew Behrens* -

GATINEAU, QUEBEC —Ottawa in summer is a bustling, energetic tourist town, a political Disneyland, a massive set piece for a potboiler called "Canadian Democracy, Love It or Leave It."

But as with any Hollywood North epic, a visit to the set reveals that much is faŤade, much is myth and make-believe. While the most pressing issue of debate on the morning drivetime CBC radio show is whether the "Canada and the World" Pavilion is boring, tourists and bureaucrats alike nightly gather for a jazz festival in Confederation Park, watched over by the towers of the War Department.

As music fans quaff beers under postcard-perfect sunsets, it seems almost impossible to believe that in those towers, high-level War Department. officials, along with "just doin’ my job" bureaucrats, are guiding the illegal occupation of Afghanistan, an occupation for which one commander immediately resigned upon its announcement, and for which War Minister John McCallum confidently concedes at least 10 Canadian soldiers will not return alive.

These officials are also pressing for the expansion of the Joint Task Force 2 (JTF-2) training area in Dwyer Hill over the objections of the community and a beleaguered farmer, Ron Mayhew, whose 36 hectares borders the site. He has been harassed by military security while on his own property, and part of his property was flooded when the military trespassed on his property to dig two ditches. JTF-2 is infamous for pictures of its commandos handing over Afghan prisoners to the U.S. for the illegal detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.

It might equally seem impossible to believe that in a building many jazz fans will stroll past later that evening — Citizenship and Immigration Canada — a man, minister Denis Coderre, signs papers that can have you declared a threat to national security, without telling you why. He is also behind a bill whichwill allow him to rescind the citizenship of permanent residents, using secret evidence, with no right of appeal.

But wait. The tour guides keep telling us that this is Canada, true north strong and free. Sure, we have our problems (okay, so over 5 million Canadians do go to bed hungry every night and hundreds of homeless die each year for lack of housing; sure, 5,000 people will die prematurely from air pollution while others will die from poor water treatment; sure, lots ofwar veterans still cannot access benefits from their government). But at least we have national security (whatever that means), and are onside in the war on terrorism (whatever that means).

For those who peek behind the happy faŤade that is carefree Ottawa in summer, though, something sinister can be found. A short stroll across the river to Hull (aka Gatineau) and a trip through the ridiculous security into one of the Gatineau courthouse’s airless, windowless chambers (no shorts, no water, no throat lozenges), and one is suddenly on the wrong end of the rainbow.

It is here that the public portion of a secret trial is taking place. It sounds odd that a secret trial can have a public portion, but this is Canada, which is always short of the courage to do things straight up, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

Indeed, just as close to 1,000 Canadian troops took part in the recent slaughter of Iraqi people — all, mind you, in the name of standing up to the Americans (who says irony died with 9/11?) — Canada likes to have it both ways when it comes to secret trials. If we must be repressive, let us at least appear to be democratic about it. If we are to enact a procedure in which someone in the prisoner’s dock has absolutely no rights and zero chance of success, let’s at least try to make it look fair with some fancy words and pretty window dressing.

And so, in this mid-July set piece, the latest players are gathered for a security certificate hearing for Mohamed Harkat, a sweet-faced man who seems almost embarrassed to be the subject of so much attention. Mo, as he is affectionately known to family and friends, is an Algerian refugee who represents the face of Canada’s economic apartheid: he is part of that refugee and immigrant class of folks who do much of the low-paying, thankless hard work in this country. Until his arrest on International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2002, he was pumping gas and delivering pizzas on average 20 hours a day. He no doubt would have driven a taxi as well if the constraints of a 24-hour day and the requirement for some sleep did not exist.

Since December 10, Mo has been in solitary confinement at the Ottawa Detention Centre, held without charge or bail, on the vague assertion by Canada’s scandal-ridden Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) that he may have in the past, could at present, or may at some point in the future be associated with an organization whose allegedly terrorist activities might make Mo a member of a class of persons who would be "inadmissible" to Canada.

Of course, in this game of smoke and mirrors, no one is actually saying Harkat has actually done anything wrong (though press reports noted with horror that he had taken pictures of Parliament Hill upon his arrival in Ottawa, a crime committed by postcardcompanies and thousands of tourists annually).

In a hearing earlier this year, Harkat lawyer Bruce Engel requested additional disclosure when all he received was a mandated "public summary" of a secret security intelligence report that outlines the foggy allegations against his client, allegations which are a collection of meandering reasons to believe, suppositions and theories which are not explained, for to do so would be "injurious" to national security and the safety of persons.

Of course, this concern about the safety of persons does not extend to the likes of Harkat who, if returned to Algeria, would be in mortal risk. If things were bad when he left as a refugee, they can only be worse upon a return stamped with "alleged terrorist" by the Canadian government.

Engel’s spring request for additional disclosure was turned down by Federal Court Judge Eleanor Dawson. (One hesitates to use her official title of "Justice," for she presides over a hearing in which there is none.)

And so, Harkat, his lawyers, friends and family, are literally searching in a dark room to find a light switch that does not exist. They will not be told why this young man cannot see the "evidence," if such exists, against him.

But for anyone just peering in for the first time, the optics are intimidating. A judge is handed a 1,500-page dossier on terrorism-related news clippings, none of which mentions Harkat, but CSIS says it has "reasonable grounds to believe" he is somehow in the past, at present, or perhaps in the future associated with that dossier.

Nowhere in the public summary does it say that Harkat has broken any law or harmed any individual. But nonetheless, he still sits in solitary confinement, without charge or bail, for the protection of Canada and the preservation of Canadian democracy.

The court is full of security. On the left, in the centre near the judge, and on the right stand three expressionless RCMP tactical squad members, POLICE written across their bullet-proof vests and wires going into their ears. They are joined by three of their brethren who sit behind Harkat in the prisoner’s box. Another crew of court security make sure no one puts their elbow on the back of their seat, chews gum, sips water or does anything to interfere with the demeanour of the court or the administration of justice.

A series of six microphones hang down from the ceiling, allegedly to capture the words of the judge, the lawyers, the Crowns, and the witnesses, but, as is appropriate in the public portion of a secret trial, they don’t appear to work very well, so those in the gallery must strain to hear what is being said.

The two government lawyers —Michael Dale and Jim Mathieson, to be joined on the second day by a Donald Rennie, forming a menage of miserable men — are among the most unhappy men you are unlikely to see. One wonders if this sort of illegal proceeding eatsaway at the souls of those who prosecute them in the same way that it must have somehow, at some point, eaten at the conscience of those southern prosecutors who enforced segregation laws or Nazi lawyers who pursued Aryanization laws.

It’s worth noting that Mathieson worked on the only case since 1991 that CSIS lost big time when it was impossible to lose — that of Mahmoud Jaballah. So he’s likely going to be quite sensitive, especially when the lawyer who bested him, Rocco Galati, is also on the Harkat defence team. But just to be sure, Mathieson has added a megaton of overkill to his "case." He has written to Engel and Galati, threatening both them and a potential witness with prosecution under the Security of Information Act, the revised Official Secrets Act, with potential jail terms of 5 to 14 years. Why would such a threat be necessary? When you rely on secret evidence which neither the accused nor the defence lawyer can see, you can never be too sure!

It is this threatening letter and the intimidation of a witness, former CSIS agent Jean-Luc Marchessault, which forms the bulk of the second day of the hearing. But before that begins, the private lives of Sophie and Mohamed Harkat must be aired as part of a defence to show that the government’s contention that Mo is a sleeper cell is about as accurate as claiming that the world is flat.

Day 1

At first, it appears that this is like any other court hearing in Canada. Robed lawyers stand about, cracking knuckles and jokes, the prisoner in the box does not enjoy white skin privilege, and court security makes sure no one is wearing a hat. Then a doorbell rings, and a "quiet on the set!" order is enforced as the judge, Eleanor Dawson, walks in.

After the standard reading into the record of why we are gathered here, CSIS lawyer Jim Mathieson announces there is new information regarding contacts between CSIS and Harkat, but it cannot be released to Harkat’s lawyer until an in camera (behind closed doors) meeting occurs with the judge and CSIS, without defence counsel present. After this meeting, a "public summary" of information will be given to Harkat. Although the "new" information, received the previous Friday, was from a 1998 interview, Mathieson says it was "overlooked" and just found. This is typical CSIS sloppiness (anyone interested in a 20-year history of incompetence, sloppiness and illegality on the part of Canada’s national spy agency can wade through the voluminous reports on thewebsite of the Security Intelligence Review Committee).

Meanwhile, Engel reveals that he received a phone call late Friday from defence witness Marchessault, the former CSIS agent, who expressed a reluctance to attend because of the threatening letter which was sent by CSIS attorney Mathieson. Citing a fear of civil and criminal repercussions, Marchessault has sought legal counsel and the once cooperative witness is now afraid. As a result, an abuse of process motion will be brought forward due to this intimidation of a witness.

Following an hour break, the judge returns, satisfied that the "new" information is relevant, and that some of the information contained would be injurious to national security if revealed. She is"satisfied" that the summary provided is sufficient for the defence.

At this point, the judge and lawyers discuss how best to proceed. Dawson says she wants the hearing to go as quickly as possible for the sake of Harkat, given his ongoing detention, but the irony is lost here on those unfamiliar with Dawson’s recent history (she is also the judge for the bail hearing of Muhammad Mahjoub, held since June of 2000 on a security certificate. She promised a decision from his May 11 bail hearing in "a few weeks," but almost three months later,he is still in detention, unable to hug and kiss his little children).

Things get sorted out, and Sophie Harkat takes the stand. She discusses her January 2001 marriage to Mo, and the courtship they undertook beforehand, begun when she was struck by the cute guy with the beautiful smile at the PetroCanada gas outlet. So cutethat she found excuses to go and buy diet Pepsi during his shifts, so cute that she even sent her mother over to check the guy out.

A good portion of Sophie’s testimony focuses on Mo’s former gambling addiction. On their first date, they went to the casino in Hull and he won $16,000. She says they didn’t talk much about politics, and Mo’s main interest was going to the casino when he was not working crazy hours at three jobs.

Like any couple, they had discussed having children, buying a house, settling down for a life together. The only major crisis in their lives was confronting Harkat about his gambling, and Sophie’s persistent efforts to get him to stop, especially as his gambling debts went through the roof, eventually paid off, and things were getting better by the time he was arrested.

Sophie relates that although Mo does not talk much, he did tell her a bit about his past, when as a teenager, his family’s house was used as a membership office for the Algerian FIS, a legal political organization which was brutally repressed when it appeared they would win an election in Algeria almost 15 years ago. As his friends were arrested, Harkat felt threatened and went to Pakistan, where heworked in a refugee camp distributing food and blankets. He eventually went to Malaysia for a week and then came to Canada. Mo told her he wanted to come here "because it’s supposed to be a free country," a comment which draws laughter from the gallery.

Engel asks Sophie Harkat if Mo was ever evasive or inconsistent in discussing this with her, to which she firmly replies, "No." She says the only time he ever lied about his whereabouts was when he went to the casino, and she usually found out about this when she went through his receipts. It is clear through the testimony that Mo and Sophie were in almost constant contact with one another — he would call her five or six times during his shifts (she could tell where he was calling from on her call display), and in their free time they hung around their apartment or went to movies or out to dinner.

Was there ever a time when you did not know where Mo was, apart from his trips to the casino, Engel asks. No, Sophie replies, noting Mo is a bad liar, and she could always tell when he went to the casino even if he said he hadn’t.

Sophie says the only time Mo gets emotional is in discussing how much his misses his mother in Algeria. He often sent money to his family, including one lump sum of $10,000 which he won gambling. He last saw her in 1990.

"He always said he wanted landed status so he could go and see his mom," Sophie says.

She also says Harkat is very disorganized, leaving his bills everywhere. "He used his car as a filing cabinet, and we lost some bills when our car was stolen in 2001." She found the stealing of the car strange, as it was a "crappy old Buick," but when they found the car a few blocks away the next day, those bills and receipts were missing. (Sophie later learned that CSIS often undertooksuch car thefts in looking for information.)

Establishing herself as the boss of the house, Sophie notes she took care of all the bills, even depositing Mo’s cheques, so if she had seen anything suspicious — a long distance call, a weird transaction— she would have noted it.

Sophie details the process of trying to get Mo his landed status, and how it was taking incredibly long. This was difficult, as for refugees, healthcare is not as accessible as it is for landed immigrants. "I wanted his leg checked out, because he has a limp from when he was a young kid and dropped a propane tank on his foot. The bones in his foot were never operated on so one foot is larger than the other." Every time Sophie called to inquire about his status, they would tell her his file was with CSIS, or with Immigration. She was never interviewed by either organization with respect to his status.

She discusses how she and Mo watched in horror the events of September 11, 2001. "He was genuinely upset, we couldn’t believe it was happening." She says she was more protective of him after that day. "It was obvious when we went grocery shopping that people looked funny at him because of his nationality. I could see he was being looked at in a different way."

On September 14, CSIS visited Mo while Sophie was at work. She was furious. Since Mo is not the type of guy who likes to argue or be disagreeable, she says, he spoke with them. They had asked him if he knew anyone connected to the events of the previous three days. "I was furious that they could come over like he was part of this event. We should have been brought to an office with a lawyer present. I felt this was an invasion of our privacy."

But Mo wasn’t too offended. "He has the sweetness of a five year old child, he doesn’t get into arguments, he’s a bit too compliant sometimes."

Engel asks how Mo is when it comes to providing consistent information.

"He sucks,"Sophie says. "His English is terrible. He does not use complete sentences. He would say "This thing there, the thing there, that’s how he speaks’ (a real contrast to the perfectly formed English sentences that comprise his answers in CSIS interviews, interviews which were not tape recorded, but transcribed from written notes.)

"One question he was asked is what is the definition of discrimination," Sophie relates. "He didn’t even know what it meant, he thought it was an appliance. Now that he’s in jail he knows what it means."

Sophie says Mo doesn’t remember names or dates, that it took him six months to remember her sister’s name, and that he simply calls Sophie’s mother "Mom" because he could never get her name right.

"He’s an open book. He leaves everything lying around, he relies on me to do everything, his resumes, his bills, everything."

Sophie recounts how she consistently received strange calls every night at 11:30 pm. There was never any voice, just the sound of someone picking up on the other end. This happened for about six months until she finally called police. It stopped immediately. She thinks it was CSIS tapping her line.

She then describes the arrest. "It was like a horror movie." She didn’t see Mo until almost two days later, at the detention centre. "We didn’t really talk. We just looked at each other and said, ‘what the...’ We said we’ll be strong. He didn’t understand why he was there. It took two months to explain to him the difference between an allegation and a charge. He kept thinking he was there for ‘tourism,’ not ‘terrorism.’ He couldn’t even get that straight."

Does Sophie have any doubts about the allegations against Mo? "None." Are you concerned for your safety if he returned home, she’s asked. No. Has anyone ever come to protect you from Mo? Never. Did anyone warn Sophie about marrying him? No.

"You’ve seen the summary and the allegations. Are those allegations consistent with the man you know?" Engel asks.

"No."

"Do you love Mo?" Engel asks.

"I love him a million timers more," Sophie replies.

"What happens if he’s deported?"

"If he goes to Algeria, he’d be going back to his death. I married him for better or worse, so I would go with him. I’m ashamed of the hell the government of Canada has put me through. I’m only asking the government to give us a fair trial. The more CSIS comes up against him the more I will support him. I love him more every day for his strength."

After lunch, Sophie is cross examined by CSIS attorney Michael Dale. His tone drips with contempt. He seems disturbed that Sophie has been so much in the media talking about the case. He quotes from some of the articles in which she has appeared and a Canada AM program in which she mistook Pakistan for Afghanistan. She explains she was called at 4:30 am to do the interview, was tired and stressed, and made the error, correcting it afterwards. His questions are short and designed to trip her up. He asks how Mo can see his mother if he feels threatened by return to Algeria. She explains no plans have been made, and they might have chosen to go to a third country for such a visit. Afterwards, she gets to sit with Mo for fiveminutes. She jokes, "I’m paying far too much for five minutes with my husband."

Day 2

It’s Wednesday morning, and a former CSIS agent has come to court to explain why he is afraid to testify.

Jean-Luc Marchessault was a rising star at CSIS who, disturbed by the corrupt workings of the agency, raised some questions and, as a result, was, as documented in Andrew Mitrovica’s book Covert Entry,"the victim of a well coordinated campaign by CSIS to destroy his reputation, raise doubts about his allegiance and force him out of the service he loved."

As Mitrovica documents, Marchessault "saw some senior officers routinely return from lunch unsteady on their feet, while others didn’t return at all. ‘Some supervisors that I worked with would go out for two- to three-hour lunches and come back smelling like a brewery,’ he says. ‘And by four o’clock, the office was a ghost town.’ He learned of senior officers who were involved in serious car crashes with CSIS vehicles. The accidents were covered up to protect reputations and careers. He saw officers embellish their reports with information from questionable sources to curry favour with their superiors. He learned that some money from intelligence operations had been used to buy stereo equipment instead. He saw safe houses used by officers for nightly trysts or weekend getaways. He learned that an officer had invited his mother along to a debriefing with a source....’There is an understanding, a culture at CSIS that says that to get along, you have to belong,’ Marchessault says. ‘The drinking, the laziness, the vices were all secrets of that fraternity.’"

Marchessault was eventually forced out of CSIS.

"They wanted to break me, but they couldn’t," he told Mitrovica. "The service said I couldn’t do my job, but it was a lie. They believe they are above the law, but they are not. They play by their own rules, and they make them up as they go along. They have absolutely no respect for the law, and it’s time that CSIS was held to account. It may sound naive, but I truly believe that the rule of law is at stake here."

Marchessault’s concerns about the rule of law are certainly on the minds of many in the courtroom that morning. After all, this is the second day of a hearing in which we are supposed to accept at face value the secret, uncontested word of CSIS, which, 20 years after its creation, is still criticized by its generally lap-dog oversight committee for not getting basic facts correct in writing affidavits.

Marchessault is here to discuss why he is afraid to testify. "If I answer [certain questions] I’m fearful of prosecution," he explains.

He explains that he is concerned that even if he provides truthful evidence, "for example, if I alluded to the fact that some of my colleagues play computer games all day," thathe could still be prosecuted. "It was my intention to speak in general terms," but not to reveal the nature of CSIS operations. But the penalty of 5 to 14 years in prison is a heavy one, and "even by providing the truth I could be prosecuted. I have two young children who are dear to me." He says if he were provided with some form of protection he would feel better.

The problem, it appears, is that Marchessault could inadvertently "cross the line,"even though he would not discuss operational methods. Theproblem is exacerbated by the fact that even if it is clear he does not cross that line, CSIS, being a vengeful organization, would say he had.

Galati asks whether CSIS agents have the capacity to make judgment calls on whether they are crossing the line while in court. Marchessault answers yes.

"Do you fear CSIS would have you prosecuted even if you didn’t cross the line?"

"Yes, based on my experience with CSIS. I didn’t intend to [cross the line], but I consider it a very powerful organization and I am fearful."

At the heart of this matter is a letter from CSIS lawyer Jim Mathieson to Harkat attorney Bruce Engel (and by extension to Rocco Galati, who joined the case later), written April 29, 2003. Without even knowing what Marchessault will testify to, Mathieson writes that nevertheless, provisions of the Security of Information Act (the revised Official Secrets Act) "apply to the testimony of M. Marchessault as an expert for Mr. Harkat. It also applies to any discussions he has with you as Counsel forMr. Harkat in preparation for his testimony." The letter further threatens the attorneys that, even in the process of preparing the witness, lawyers asking certain questions "could be construed to be an act by you counselling M. Marchessault to commit an offence contrary to sections 13 and 14 of the Security of Information Act."

In other words, even a discussion of potential testimony could wind all three — Marchessault, Galati and Engel — in the slammer for many years.

In a response, Galati wrote that the letter is "indigestively threatening and arrogant in its tone which, in its reference to already deliberated assertions of fact and law, orbits on the extortive with its threat that the calling of this expert and even talking to him could lead to criminal charges against counsel."

With respect to CSIS concerns about testimony regarding the means by which it gathers evidence, Galati points out "as the Supreme Court of Canada has already stated, in this context, there is only so many ways any investigative agency can collect information and/or evidence which is known to the Courts, and any illegal, or unconstitutional actions by your service agents cannot be blanketed by any non-disclosure privilege."

Galati concludes that he and Engel should not be subject to "in limine threats of criminal prosecution" in "an already oppressive and questionable procedure not yet reviewed, on its substance, by the Supreme Court of Canada."

"This threat by the CSIS counsel to criminally prosecute any potential witness and Mr. Harkat’s counsel, if evidence to contradict the analysis or the assumptions in the CSIS summary were called, is medievally oppressive,"Galati explains. "That hasn’t happened since the Middle Ages. You can’t have the king in a sense telling the witnesses and the jury what to do... or else. How are we supposed to work under the threat of 5 to 14 years in prison for simply calling evidence?

"How would you feel if you sat there as a witness with the lawyer looking at you who’s threatened to prosecute you depending on what you say, and how would you feel as the lawyer calling the witness with a lawyer sitting there who’s threatened to prosecute you depending on what you lead into court? How do you conduct a fair, independent hearing with that kind of oppressive stench in the courtroom?"

Galati points out that no notice has been given to indicate Mr. Marchessault is permanently bound to secrecy. Galati says that a question can be asked and, if Mathieson objects on national security grounds, it goes to the judge for determination.

"CSIS agents regularly testify at these proceedings without fear of prosecution, because they are empowered to determine when they cross the line,"Galati explains.

As a result of this threatening atmosphere, an abuse of process motion has been brought forward calling for the certificate against Harkat to be quashed.

"This is an issue which pierces the integrity of the administration of justice and the independence of the judiciary," Galati points out. "We have threats of prosecution which have had the effect of chilling a witness. How does Mr. Harkat have a right to be heard if his lawyers are under threat of prosecution if they call evidence on the analysis in the public summary itself?"

Galati says Mathieson "as CSIS Counsel, is sitting as finder of fact, judge and jury," and that his letter threatens prosecution "without a hint about what the evidence is about." Galati says the letter is akin to a crown attorney sending a letter to all defence witnesses in a case threatening them with perjury if they provide testimony. "You wouldn’t have too many witnesses" in that situation.

Once an operation is complete, the Supreme Court has ruled that the methods employed by police cannot remain secret. "It’s no secret there are limited means of covert actions, from informants, surveillance, seizure of property, break and enter, but the threat of charges for me to speak of operational methods?" Galati asks. "To speak that the world is round is heresy — that’s what is sounds like. If we cannot do this then my client cannot be heard. We have severe prejudice in undermining and removing his reasonable opportunity to be heard. It’s an oppressive, abusive threat, especially in these post 9/11 times. Even if it’s not designed to be, it doesn’t matter, the effect is the same.

"In our view, Mr. Marchessault’s responses to our questions would not cross the line, but if the respondents (CSIS) feel they do cross the line, then Mr. Engel and I will have to mortgage our houses. We don’t have the information to make that judgment call, only the CSIS officer is in that position. We shouldn’t have to be put into this position in a courtroom. It’s a bad way to run the railroad. It taints the entire judicial proceeding."

Galati clarifies that at the least, for Mr. Marchessault to speak, an order would be needed that he can testify without fear of charges.

"It’s common knowledge that Mr. Engel and I are under wiretap," Galati says. "I don’t want to be prosecuted for preparing a witness. Without a blanket prohibition [regarding prosecutorial charges], the air of suppression lingers like smog on a summer day. We’re not only uneasy for ourselves but, more important, it ties our hands in representing our client."

Galati then moves to the issue of calling a current CSIS officer, whose name no one except the CSIS lawyers knows, to clarify the broad allegations in the public summary.

"The summary is the only, and I put this word in quotes, ‘disclosure,’ for lack of a better word.... At the end of the day it’s the only glimpse we have. Under the barest notions of natural justice, Mr. Harkat is entitled to have a witness speak to the nature of those allegations. We need someone who put this together for clarifying and focusing on what the statement is so Mr. Harkat can have a reasonable opportunity to respond and be heard."

Galati points out, for example, a reference made to Afghanistan (a country Harkat denies visiting). It does not say whether Harkat was alleged to be there when the U.S. supported those resisting Russian occupation, or at sometime later. The distinction, in defending Harkat, would obviously be a crucial one, and answering the question could in no way endanger national security.

At paragraph 65 of the summary, it says Harkat supports individuals and groups involved in political violence and terrorism, a broad allegation. Are these two terms to be equated as the same?

"Without clarification," Galati concludes, "this summary says if you’re a Muslim touching on any conflict anywhere, anytime, you’re an extremist."

Dawson suggests written questions could be put to a CSIS officer behind closed doors, without Galati there to hear the responses. Any responses would then be filtered for "national security" and returned to Galati and Engel, who would then provide additional written questions for follow-up. Galati insists in-person questioning is easier and more effective.

The CSIS attorneys respond to the abuse of process motion and request for a CSIS agent to testify by essentially pooh-poohing the whole thing. Attorney Rennie actually stoops to the point of suggesting things would go a lot smoother if Galati and Engel actually worked on a close level together with the CSIS lawyers, cooperating to present the case to the judge in a collegial, friendly spirit.

It is a disturbing, Kafka-esque idea which Galati dismisses. "To say it is our job to work with the crown is nonsensical, absurd. It’s our job to make sure our client gets a fair hearing, that’s our only job, to make sure we uphold the rules of the court and the laws of our country. It’s not our job to help the crown prosecute our client."

Rennie says the threatening letter is in fact "measured in tone, informative in content," and dismisses the notion that any prosecution is intended.

CSIS lawyer Mathieson says that to allow a CSIS witness to testify would be to seek additional disclosure, and that matter was already dealt with in the spring. Galati has said on half a dozen occasions that he does not seek additional disclosure, but clarification of what is a minestrone of allegations that reads like "around the world in 80 minutes."

Mathieson counters that "we all know" how Mr. Galati operates (as if to defend your client as best as you can is a crime) and that "I can only assume answers (to Galati’s questions) would be injurious to national security."Mathieson asserts this not knowing what questions will be asked, or why.

He says in terms of clarification from Galati, "it would not end there, it could not end there. It would force the witness to go behindthe summary and tread on ground covered in the [secret] security intelligence report [which neither Harkat nor his lawyers can see]."

Both Mathieson and Rennie refer to the Ahani security certificate case in a disturbingly detached manner. They do not explain what eventually happened to this Iranian refugee who spent nine years in Canadian prison on secret "evidence," without charges or bail, before he was deported back to Iran last year against the objections of the UN Human Rights Committee. He has disappeared.

Galati responds that he does not see how his questioning the service’s view that the FIS (Islamic group in Algeria) constitutes a terrorist group would injure national security.

As we leave the court that afternoon, a critical question remains unresolved. It is unclear how a defence can be mounted without a judicial order preventing the attorney general from taking legal action against Harkat’s lawyers or their expert witness.

Dawson says she needs a day to figure this all out and will return on Friday morning with a decision.

Day 3

It’s Friday morning, and Dawson’s answers are not positive at all. Like a southern judge throwing Rosa Parks in jail because the law is the law, and the law says black people can’t sit in the whites-only area of the bus, Dawson adheres to the unfair security certificate law, explaining what her role is and how she has been "careful" in the process. "Throughout, I am mindful that the openness of court proceedings is one of the important protections of our free and democratic society. At the same time, our free and democratic society depends upon the protection of our nation’s security."

She then says Harkat may submit written questions, and "to the extent that the Ministers have any concerns that the answer to any question may be injurious to national security or the safety of any person, they may request that the Court hear such information in the absence of Mr. Harkat and his counsel."

So much for an open court proceeding.

Dawson then dismisses the abuse of process motion, quoting Rennie as saying the letter is informative and measured. She also says, with respect to protecting Marchessault, that "it would be a matter of significant surprise to me if truthful testimony given in this Court in this proceeding could result in prosecution."

Afterwards, Engel says the "language" of her ruling doesn’t go far enough to make anyone "comfortable" with testifying or questioning a witness about CSIS methods.

"I still have some very strong concerns and some reservations about continuing in this manner," Engel says, as "none of us still have the protection we want and that’s a problem."

He calls the decision "a brick wall" which ties his hands and which could lead to a long, drawn-out process.

And so it was handcuffs and another trip back to the Ottawa Detention Centre and the solitary confinement cell for Mohamed Harkat. With his fellow Muslim security certificate detainees Muhammad Mahjoub (jailed since June 2000), Mahmoud Jaballah (August 2001), Hassan Almrei (October 2001) and Adil Charkaoui (May 2003), he awaits a more enlightened time both in the courts and in the legislature, when the use of secret evidence by an organization with a shoddy record when it comes to truthtelling, will be a nightmare in our collective past.

In the meantime, four upcoming events will provide folks concerned about this desecration of democracy an opportunity to be heard. In Toronto on Thursday, August 14, friends and families of the detainees will be in front of the CSIS headquarters at 277 Front Street from 12 noon to 1:30 pm, handing our flyers and gathering signatures on a petition that will be presented to the Prime Minister’s office in Ottawa on Monday, August 25. There will also be a Festival of Rights in Grange Park in Toronto on Saturday, August 23.

On Friday, October 31, friends and supporters are organizing a national day of actions against secret trials in Canada, with a nonviolent civil disobedience at CSIS headquarters in Ottawa. If you would like to organize a vigil or public eventin your community on that day, please get in touch with us. The greatest threat to CSIS’ bulldozing of civil rights is exposure. Join us in that campaign of exposure, and demand an end to the security certificate and use of secret evidence.

You can contact us at Homes Not Bombs, PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0, tasc@web.ca, (416) 651-5800.

* Matthew Behrens is a founding member of Homes Not Bombs.

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