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  • November 24th, 2015

“Unfinished business of the most serious kind. ” – Peggy Mason


Describing it as “unfinished business of the most serious kind”, Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason, in an interview on CBC Radio’s The Current, renews the call for an independent public inquiry into allegations of Canadian complicity in the transfer-to-torture of Afghan detainees (see Fighting ISIS: Canada’s role renews calls for Afghan detainee inquiry, CBC Radio, The Current, 19 November 2015).

Mason was on the program to discuss a recent report of the Rideau Institute, Torture of Afghan Detainees: Canadian Complicity and the Need for a Public Inquiry, which catalogues the great lengths to which the Harper government went to stymie any meaningful investigation into this grave matter.

In the interview Mason reminded listeners that then Liberal Foreign Affairs critic Bob Rae had himself called for an independent public inquiry into the handling of Afghan detainees when his party was the Official Opposition.

For the full interview, click on Fighting ISIS: Canada’s role renews calls for Afghan detainee inquiry (CBC Radio, The Current, 19 November 2015).

Photo credit: Dene Moore/The Canadian Press

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  • November 17th, 2015

Trudeau must have the courage of his convictions


Despite Paris’ misery, Trudeau mustn’t fall into Harper’s old traps (Michael Harris, iPolitics, 15 November 2015).

In the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris, the Canadian neocons are out in full force, baying for Prime Minister Trudeau to renege on his promise to withdraw Canada from the bombing mission in Iraq and Syria. But Trudeau made this decision not because he discounted the threat that the Islamic State poses, but in the belief that there is a better, more effective role for Canada.

In place of the bombs, Trudeau offered three other ways Canada could contribute to the coalition effort: take in 25,000 Syrian refugees by year’s end; increase humanitarian aid to those displaced by the bitter civil war; and to train Kurds in Northern Iraq so that they could defeat the terrorists who have annexed other peoples’ lands to create their self-declared caliphate.

Michael Harris also examines a second challenge to the new government’s agenda, in particular its welcome commitment to open government – the call for a public inquiry in a recent report on Canada’s alleged complicity in the torture of Afghan detainees:

Why are the folks over at the Rideau Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives asking for a public inquiry into this issue? For starters, because it has never been resolved. Despite the parliamentary testimony of diplomat Richard Colvin, the Harper government smothered every investigation into whether Canadian forces had committed war crimes by turning detainees over to Afghan authorities who then tortured them. Only 4,000 out of 40,000 documents Harper was ordered to hand over by the Speaker of the House of Commons were ever produced. That is called unfinished business.

But there is another reason. The Military Police Complaints Commission is investigating a new case to determine if Canadian soldiers abused and terrorized detainees at their Kandahar base. Accordingly, the Rideau Institute is asking for a judicial commission of inquiry into the detainee affair “into the actions of Canadian officials, including ministers of the crown…” The head of the Rideau Institute, Peggy Mason, a former UN diplomat, says that if Justin Trudeau is truly committed to transparency and accountability, this is the file to prove it on.

For the full article, click on: Despite Paris’ misery, Trudeau mustn’t fall into Harper’s old traps (Michael Harris, iPolitics, 15 November, 2015).

And for more discussion on Canada’s intended withdrawal from the anti-Islamic State bombing mission, listen to Peggy Mason and Tony Battista debating the issue on CBC Ottawa Morning. Click on Air strikes Against ISIS? (CBC Ottawa Morning, 16 November 2015).

Photo credit: ShawGlobalNews

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  • November 11th, 2015

“This Remembrance Day I’ll wear two poppies: one red and one white”


First posted on Ceasefire.ca on 11 November 2014, we are grateful to share this poignant commentary again this year.

Malcolm French, a veteran who served for 25 years with the Royal Canadian Navy, discusses on CBC Radio why he wears both a red and a white poppy on  Remembrance Day:

Last year I wore two poppies: one red and one white. This year, I intend to do it again. Some claim the white poppy is disrespectful to veterans and to the fallen. It’s a trumped-up controversy designed to have citizens outraged over trifles to divert attention away from the real disrespect meted out to veterans every day.

Under the new Veterans Charter, ongoing pensions for wounded soldiers have been replaced with lump-sum payments. Veterans Affairs offices have been closed. We have now lost more Afghanistan veterans to suicide than were lost to enemy action.

So why did I wear two poppies, and why will I do it again?

For me, the red poppy represents the sacrifice of the fallen; the white poppy represents the hope for a better future where young soldiers, sailors, and air crew do not have to die.

I’ll wear two poppies because I believe that the two sides of the Remembrance Day narrative need to be balanced, because I honour the sacrifice of veterans and their fallen comrades. I believe that the lives of young Canadian service folk should not be sacrificed lightly.

I’ll wear two poppies because I reject the antics of the professional rage artists who deflect our attention from real issues. But mostly, I’ll wear two poppies to take a stand against the phony outrage intended to shame those who would wear a white poppy. If not for that, I doubt I’d have gone to the trouble of tracking down a white poppy.


As we approach Remembrance Day, we will be reminded again and again that those who served and those who never came home were defending our freedom. I agree. And I can think of no greater disrespect to veterans and to their fallen comrades than to self-censor on Remembrance Day of all days. I will not dishonour the sacrifice of the fallen by fearfully laying aside the freedom they won at such cost.

That’s why this Remembrance Day I’ll wear two poppies: one red and one white.”

Listen to the full statement on CBC Radio’s The 180, Tuesday October 28, 2014: Do red and white poppies contradict each other?


Photo credit: CC BY 2.0 image “Rememberence [sic] Day 2007” by Douglas O’Brien on Flickr

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  • November 10th, 2015

CBC’s Michael Enright on doing business with Saudi Arabia

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In his opening essay for the November 8th episode of CBC Sunday Edition Michael Enright asks whether or not Canada should be doing business with one of the world’s most repressive regimes.  The essay is reproduced below in its entirety.

Should Canada do business with Saudi Arabia? Michael’s essay (Michael Enright, CBC Sunday Edition, 8 November 2015).

In the last convulsive days of Election 2015, two clearly embarrassed Harper ministers stood nervously before television cameras to unveil a “barbaric cultural practices” snitch line. The idea, I think, was this: if one of your neighbours or perhaps your boss or school principal was engaging in barbaric cultural practices, you would call the snitch line and something — nobody knows what — would happen.

I’m sorry the snitch line didn’t happen. I wanted to use it to report on the Canadian government’s great good friend and wartime ally — Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia and barbaric cultural practices go together like peanut butter and strawberry jam.

It has long been clear that various regimes of The Kingdom persecute women, dissidents, non-Muslims, so-called blasphemers. At the same time, it finances and sponsors terrorist cells all over the Middle East with its propagation of violent Wahhabism.

The latest outrage proposed by the Saudis was ably reported last week in his New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof. A young man named Ali al-Nimr has been sentenced to be beheaded, and then to be crucified in a public place, to deter others from committing his crime. Which was participating in anti-government protests. As Kristof pointed out, this backward, barbaric regime also executes witches, and publicly flogs and imprisons gay people.

Western governments have historically sucked up to the Saud family and its thousands of princes, because of what lies beneath the country’s sands. Oil, and the fatuous idea that Saudi Arabia is a stabilizing force in the area, fuel the relationship.

In turn, Western countries, including Canada, have benefited from huge trade deals with the Saudis, trade deals involving military equipment and arms. In 2012 and 2013, Saudi Arabia was the largest purchaser of Canadian military goods, with sales of more than $575-million over those two years. Ground vehicles and military components account for about 92 per cent of all our exports to The Kingdom.

It is quite possible that Saudi Arabia will soon replace the United States as Canada’s largest arms customer, with deals over the next few years running into the billions. Under Canadian law, the Department of Foreign Affairs is supposed to carry out a human rights assessment of any country with a dubious record before trade deals are concluded. But according to the Globe and Mail, no such assessment of Saudi Arabia has been done over the past two years, even while the multi-billion dollar trade deal was being negotiated. Foreign affairs officials apparently could offer no reason as to why they were issuing export permits without the human rights assessment. Stephen Harper’s government called the Saudi contract a major success which over the next decade or so would provide three thousand manufacturing jobs.

Saudi Arabia is a country where forced marriage of girls under 15 is permissible. Where a woman may not wear a car seat belt because it might outline her body. Where conversion to another religion is punishable by death.

So far this year, the regime has beheaded more than 102 people. It is now advertising for more executioners to deal with the increasing workload.

Perhaps someone in our new government could slip our new Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion a piece of paper with a question on it:

Do we really want to do business with these  people?

For a direct link to the essay, click on Should Canada do business with Saudi Arabia? Michael’s essay (Michael Enright, CBC Sunday Edition, 8 November 2015).

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  • November 6th, 2015

A new approach to foreign policy begins!











On the same day that he was sworn in as Canada’s Foreign Minister, Stéphane Dion penned an article for iPolitics where he took on the thorny issue of Canada’s relations with Israel. He argued that Canada can help Israel more by returning to its honest broker role and improving its relations with other Middle East nations than by continuing the policies of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government. For the full article, see Dion: Canada to return to ‘honest broker’ role in Middle East,” iPolitics, 4 November 2015.



“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has unshackled his top diplomats.”

So begins an article by Mike Blanchfield entitled “Trudeau relaxes Conservative control of diplomats, urges them to engage” (Canadian Press, 5 November 2015). In a letter sent Wednesday to Canada’s top diplomats around the world, PM Trudeau describes a “new era” for Canada’s international engagement in which they have a “critical role” to play. This represents a stark reversal of the strict message control that the Harper Conservative government imposed on even its most seasoned diplomats over much of the past decade.

For the full article, see “Trudeau relaxes Conservative control of diplomats, urges them to engage.” (Canadian Press, 5 November 2015).

To read more about the Liberal Party platform on foreign, defence, and security policy, click here and go to Chapter V: Security and Opporunity.

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