Kathleen Ruff, Rideau Institute Board Member and long-time human rights activist, was awarded the inaugural “activist” award by the Collegium Ramazzini and the Town of Carpi, Italy. The special award was given at the annual meeting on October 25 in Italy to honour “her steadfast and effective advocacy in the international effort to ban the ongoing use of asbestos and for promoting better occupational and environmental health protections throughout the world.” Kathleen Ruff’s public work on asbestos began in 2007, when she organized a social movement to close the asbestos mines in Canada. Her report, Exporting Harm: How Canada markets asbestos to the developing world, focused on the damage done by Canada’s export of asbestos, mostly to developing countries. Kathleen Ruff’s hard work, in conjunction with activists in Canada, led the government to eventually change the asbestos policy. Kathleen led the fight against the attempt to reopen the Quebec asbestos mines in 2012.
Kathleen also founded the Rotterdam Convention Alliance, a group aimed at promoting the full implementation of the Rotterdam Convention and working against the nations attempting to block the addition of asbestos to the Convention. She’s worked with a number of associates of the Collegium Ramazzini to have asbestos banned globally. Collegium Ramazzini is honouring her activism and dedication to the anti-abestos campaign, and the lives she has saved in doing so:
Kathleen Ruff’s efforts on asbestos have been recognized by the Canadian Public Health Association in presenting her with their National Public Health Hero Award in 2011. The Collegium Ramazzini is proud to present this special award to someone who has partnered with us and has done so much to ban the further use of this deadly material. In bringing the perspective of human rights to the global asbestos struggle, her advocacy efforts have already helped to save countless lives and exemplify the mission of the Collegium to be a bridge between scientific work and the social and political efforts to protect public health.
The Collegium Ramazzini is an independent, international acadamy working towards solutions of occupational and environmental health problems.
October 23, 2013
Steven Staples and Mathew Tomlinson
Canada’s chief of defence staff, General Tom Lawson, paid a visit to his old stomping grounds at NORAD headquarters this month. In a release, NORAD said he was there “to gain additional insight into and appreciation of the commands’ unique missions, capabilities and advancement in the previous year and understand critical issues facing NORAD and USNORTHCOM in today’s security environment.”
Of course, General Lawson knows NORAD well, since he was the top Canadian soldier at the joint Canada-United States command for a year before being appointed Canada’s top general last summer.
No need to brief him on the fact that for more than 50 years NORAD has used its rings of radar installations across the Arctic and satellites to watch for enemy attacks against North America by waves of Soviet bombers or civilization-ending nuclear strikes from thousands of missiles crossing through space on their way to obliterate American (and Canadian) cities.
He also likely knows that this mission is looking as outdated as those rusting DEW Line/North Warning System radar stations.
The threat posed by nuclear weapons has not disappeared, but in the post-9/11 era attacks are more likely to come from terrorist plots aimed at striking deadly high-profile targets in North America, whether it is by hijacking aircraft, constructing crude bombs, or hacking sensitive computers controlling critical infrastructure—like, say, a nuclear power station.
In the last decade governments have developed a largely unheard of ability to intercept, monitor and track what happens within the cyber domain, the online equivalent of the aerospace domain monitored for all those decades by NORAD.
The recent revelations from whistle-blower Edward Snowden have provided everyone with a glimpse of how powerful these monitoring missions and technologies have become.
According to Brigadier-General James Cox (Retired), writing for the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, a group with a close relationship to the Department of National Defence, “In the post 9/11 era cyber security concerns have pushed this mission to new heights of interest.” As a result, a group of five allies comprising Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States have developed an unprecedented ability to monitor, and take action within the digital realm.
“Cyberspace is now an accepted domain of warfare and Five Eyes sigint [signals intelligence] agencies are the principal ‘warfighters’, engaged in a simmering campaign of cyber defence against persistent transnational cyber threats,” said General Cox, whose career included overseeing NATO’s intelligence activities in the 1990s.
What’s remarkable is that, with hardly anyone noticing, the national security establishments of Canada and the United States have erected a new digital DEW line around, and within, North America.
John Forster, chief of Communications Security Establishment Canada, explained to a committee of senators that “threat actors targeting Canada are increasingly using the Internet as a medium of choice, and threat actors online range in sophistication from the amateur and the curious, to organized criminals, to foreign states that can and do use the Internet for a wide variety of malicious purposes.”
He added, “the demand for information in the government is growing, both getting it and protecting it, and it is our mission to do both. Information is our business. We continue to gather intelligence to help decision makers safeguard Canadians and promote Canadian interests, while at the same time protecting information entrusted to government from cyber threats.”
Senator Grant Mitchell, attending that meeting, remarked, “you start to imagine a new Cold War era where you have mutual virtual deterrents, because they are afraid of what we could do to their cyber configuration as much as we are afraid of what they could do to ours.”
Recent media revelations from the information provided by Edward Snowden have awakened Canadians to organizations like CSEC and its links to the much larger and more ominous US National Security Agency. The potential reach of these agencies into our personal lives through our online activities might leave Canadians wondering whether online privacy is obsolete while North American security agencies are out there fighting a neo Cold War over the Internet.
For decades NORAD kept watch for targets over the distant horizon, but today government surveillance has the potential to reach right into North American homes and personal mobile devices—nothing seems off limits. The target is us.
To some, the tradeoff between personal privacy and domestic security is worth it, but what is evident is that the government’s online surveillance powers have developed far beyond what was understood previously. It is crucial that democratic decision makers ensure that in the name of national security, not one more email is read than is absolutely necessary.
Steven Staples is the president of the Rideau Institute. Mathew Tomlinson is a graduate of the University of Waterloo Legal Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies programs.
For Immediate Release
October 1, 2013
US defence expert warns Canada about Lockheed Martin; defence industry
OTTAWA – Canada should be wary of its relationship to the defence industry, especially in regard to the American defence firm Lockheed Martin, U.S. expert William Hartung warns.
Lockheed Martin, the large and powerful weapons manufacturer and creator of the F-35, receives more than $36 billion per year in military contracts, the vast majority from Washington. The company is currently seeking to secure new contracts from the Harper government, especially for the F-35 stealth fighter and Canada’s warship program. The government is currently reviewing their previous commitment to purchasing a fleet of F-35s as the costs of the program have come into question.
William D. Hartung is the Director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, and author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.
Hartung notes that while firms like Lockheed Martin lobby government officials under the guise of improving the Canadian economy, they can have the opposite effect, taking billions of public dollars for costly contracts while providing little benefit to Canadians or the economy.
“Lockheed Martin may make bold promises of Canadian job creation with products like the F-35,” said Hartung, “but the fact remains, their priority will be keeping their main customer – the U.S. Department of Defense – happy by providing American jobs – even if they are supported by Canadian weapons purchases.”
Rather than supporting a large defence industry in Canada and companies like Lockheed Martin, as the Harper government is intending, Hartung suggests the government should focus on supporting disarmament efforts on the international stage, like the Arms Trade Treaty. The Arms Trade Treaty has been signed by over 100 countries, many of which are Canadian allies. Yet the Treaty is still unsigned by Canada, even though Canada voting in favour of the introduction of the treaty in April 2013.
“The recession cut funds across the board, and the defence industry felt this, too,” Mr. Hartung noted. “Defence spending has decreased globally – this is a failing industry. The government would be well advisedto aim at controlling the arms industry, rather than investing in defence firms.”
“Stuck in a Rut: Harper government overrides Canadian Army, insists on buying outdated equipment,” is the most recent report written by Michael Byers and Stewart Webb, and produced by the Rideau Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
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For Immediate Release
September 18, 2013
Army procurement mired in Cold War thinking, report finds
OTTAWA – A report on the planned procurement of Close Combat Vehicles has just been released by the Rideau Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
“Stuck in a Rut: Harper government overrides Canadian Army, insists on buying outdated equipment” was written by University of British Columbia political science professor Michael Byers and defence analyst Stewart Webb (a visiting research fellow at the Rideau Institute and research associate at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives).
The government intends to buy 108 new heavily armoured “Close Combat Vehicles” (CCVs) to accompany Canada’s Cold War–era Leopard tanks into battle. In 2013, the need for these vehicles must be questioned. Modern counterinsurgency doctrine emphasizes the winning of “hearts and minds,” which is difficult to do with heavy armour.
The CCV procurement is also redundant – because 550 of Canada’s LAV IIIs are currently undergoing comprehensive upgrades that will improve their survivability and manoeuvrability while extending their lifespan to 2035. The upgraded LAV IIIs are, in fact, nearly as heavily armed and armoured as the proposed CCVs.
Estimated cost of the CCV project is $2 billion. Reportedly, the Canadian Army has told the government that it does not need or want the vehicles and would rather use the money for other purposes, such as maintaining training levels during a time of deep budget cuts.
As Professor Byers explains, “By spending $2 billion on vehicles the Canadian Army neither wants nor needs, the Harper government is abdicating its responsibility to equip and train our soldiers properly, and to provide fiscal accountability.”
The Treasury Board is meeting tomorrow, September 19, to make a final decision on the CCV project.
For more information contact:
Professor Michael Byers, University of British Columbia
c. 1-250-526-3001 e. firstname.lastname@example.org (Note: Dr. Byers is in Ottawa today and tomorrow, September 18 & 19)
Stewart Webb, Visiting Research Fellow, Rideau Institute
o. 613-565-9449 ext 26 c. 613-914-1534 e. email@example.com