Tag Archives: Canada

Reflections of a Canadian abroad as Canada turns 150

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
July 1, 2017

I never thought I would end up in rural Virginia, 40 miles outside Washington, DC. Never. I never thought I would live anywhere but Canada, or anywhere other than Nova Scotia, for that matter. But there was this girl, and for the past 25 years I’ve lived on the East Coast of the United States.

The old joke is that you can never get a Canadian to talk about Canada when he’s living in Canada, nor can you get him to shut up about it once he lives outside Canada. I think about Canada a lot more these days, living in the United States where Donald Trump is president, where there is no such thing as credible gun control, where conservative legislators use religion as a tool to undermine hard-won LGBTQ rights, where people actually say things like, “I’d rather have freedom and liberty than healthcare” (whatever the hell that means – I guess that means they want the freedom to die early).

Living in a country that is in many ways so similar to, and yet so different from Canada has helped me focus my thoughts more on what it means to be a Canadian. I am well aware that people lived in the land we now call Canada far earlier than 150 years ago, and there is more than a little justification for the idea that we stole that land from them. But I also know that 150 years ago a new political entity was formed, and while we cannot forget the sins of the past, we also can’t forget what it means to be a citizen of that 150-year-old nation.

In pondering that question, my thoughts continually return to an article written by Robertson Davies, the late, great Canadian author and playwright, for the 100th anniversary of the now-defunct Saturday Night magazine. Robertson – ever the Jungian – described Americans and Canadians in this way: Americans are extroverts, Canadians are introverts. Americans tend to act before they think, while Canadians tend to think before acting.  By and large I’d say Davies’ observations ring true.

The idea that we think before we act explains a great deal of the Canadian character to me. It’s why Canada is so often seen as a humane force for good in the world. Faced with the question of immigration, for instance, Canadians tend to think, ‘how can we help?’ As a whole (and yes I do realize there are exceptions – controversial Conservative politician Kellie Leitch proves the point) we Canadians weigh our actions before we make a decision. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Americans, it’s that they just do stuff before they think about what it means in the long run. Sometimes it works – sometimes it’s brilliant. Far too often, however, it’s a disaster not only for America, but for much of the rest of the world. (Think Iraq and Afghanistan – and that’s only recently.)

On the other hand,  Canadians do overthink. Our governments are famous for this, for taking so long to “think” about a problem that the eventual solution is often ridiculous and ineffectual.

Yet as frustrating is that can be, by and large we tend to be far more tilted to the good then to the bad.

Oh, I know there’s so much more to do. The historical treatment of First Nations people is so bad it really lacks an appropriate way to describe it. My African-Canadian friends would be the first to tell you that life is not all bouquets and roses. We must fix our messed-up electoral system.  And let’s not forget that it was a Canadian who opened fire on a mosque in Québec, something that has not happened in the United States to this point in time. (Every other damn place you can think of, yeah, for sure. Americans will slaughter each other in every conceivable manner and place you can think of.)

There are many things about Canada which I’m very proud: Canada has had gay marriage for more than a decade. Canada has gun control that, by and large, works pretty well. Canada has universal healthcare (and while it may have its problems, let me tell you, speaking from personal experience, it’s way better than what they have in the United States). The way the government selects justices for the Supreme Court. The current makeup of the federal cabinet, which also has its problems, but also sends a strong signal to the rest of the world (one that was recently cited by Pres. Macron in France when he created his 50% women, 50% men cabinet). Our stance on climate change. Canada went through a constitutional crisis that would’ve driven most countries apart. Instead we ultimately made use of that most Canadian trait, compromise, and most Québecois decided that instead of separating, hanging around in Canada was a pretty good idea after all.

These days I ‘wear’ being Canadian like a comfortable old sweatshirt and a pair of faded pair jeans. It just feels natural.  It is just the way I am. I am a Canadian.

Happy Birthday, Canada! Here’s to another 150.

Copyright Tom Regan 2017

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

~~~

Tom Regan Tom Regan is a journalist in the Washington, D.C., area. He worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92, and is a member of the advisory board of the Nieman Foundation for journalism at Harvard.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details and payment options, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

 

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Legalized weed in Canada an idea whose time has come

Brett Levin, Global Panorama, Creative Commons

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
April 15, 2017

One night, more than 30 years ago, I was working bar with a friend in downtown Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. (I tended bar several nights a week to earn spending money for college.) One of our customers had one drink, then got up and left. He had looked a little wobbly, so we figured he just wanted one shot before heading home. My fellow bartender went over to clean the table, but as he did he cried out in surprise. The customer had left behind a bag of joints.

Our waterfront bar was a tough place, and we didn’t want any trouble, so we figured he would be back for his stash. But he never returned. So when we closed up, I cooked up a scheme. In order to avoid trouble, we would turn in some of the joints to the police. That way, if he returned we could say the police had them and that would stop the search in its tracks right there.

At 3 a.m. we went down to the old Dartmouth police station. A young officer came out and asked what we wanted. I rolled 3 or 4 joints on the counter and said we had found them at the bar and wanted to turn them in. He stared at them for a moment and said (I swear this is true) “Are I sure you want to do this?”

“You mean we get a choice?” I replied. “Not anymore,” he said with a smile, and scooped up the joints. We filled out some paper work and as we left, he said, again with a smile, “Enjoy the rest.” We hadn’t fooled him for a minute.

Police attitudes towards weed were much different in the 70s, but more on that in a moment. To finish my story, my friend and I enjoyed the rest of the bag over several nights, always in a safe place. It was quite nice. But really, the only thing I remember from that experience was having the munchies.

I didn’t do a lot of weed when I was in my 20s, but I did some. Maybe once or twice a year. It never made me want to try other, more powerful drugs. It was a relatively pleasant experience, better than drinking, because when you smoke or consume marijuana, you don’t get the bad after effects of having too much liquor. By the time I hit 30, I just wasn’t that interested anymore, and so smoking weed (like having too much to drink) went the way of bell bottom pants, using a skate board, and listening to disco.

As I said above, smoking dope in the 70s invoked a completely different response from the police than it did in the 80s and 90s. If they caught you with a few joints, they would just take them from you and send you on your way. Dealers were always treated harshly, but my friends and I never fell into that category.

Things changed when U.S. President Ronald Reagan and his “Just say no to drugs” campaign started in the 80s, and police in Canada became more inclined not to look the other way, even to small amounts of dope.

~~~

For many years in the U.S. and Canada, politicians’ and law enforcment’s attitude towards marijuana did not reflect the reality of its use. Experience in countries like the Netherlands was showing that marijuana use did not lead to harder drugs, that other more complicated factors were a better predictor of increased drug use. In fact controlled use of weed cut down on illegal crime and did not lead more youth to smoke or ingest it than they would have under previous cirumstances. In recent years, two American states legalized marijuana and the experiement took a whole new direction. Now Canada, based on a campaign promise made by the Trudeau government, introduced legislation to make recreational marijuana use legal in Canada by July 2018. It’s about time.

 

I’m glad to see that Canada has chosen to take the lead on this issue. Yes, there are a handful of states in the US that have legalized weed, but Uruguay is the only other nation that has done it over the entire country. And the steps outlined in bills C-45 and C-46 – to first legalize marijuana and then to restrict its use among young people – both make sense. And taking a year to make sure that a majority of Canadians are comfortable with the change is a good idea as well.

The new legislation would make owning small amounts of marijuama legal — a few grams, or about an once. A family can also grow four plants if they so choose. The federal government will license and regulate growers, while the provinces would have the power to decide how and where it will be sold, and the legal age that it can be purchased. It will not be sold in the same place alcohol is sold. Over the next year, the federal and provincial governments will work out other details. Some have complained there are too many restrictions, but I’m willing to cut the government some slack on this one. Parents in particular want to be sure this is the right thing to do, and those those under 18 (the proposed minimm legal limit) won’t rush to get ahold it it somehow.

It’s silly, of course, to believe that weed will totally stay out of the hands of young people. It didn’t in the past and it won’t now. But as a parent of one 20-something and three teenagers, I can say with total conviction that I would far more prefer that my kids smoke weed than drink alcohol, if they ever did one or the other. And people who think that weed is a “gateway drug” are blowing so much hot air.

Factors like poverty, certain mental illnesses, or being around people who use harder drugs are more important factors in using hard drugs than smoking weed. Studies in countries that “decriminalized” drugs show that use by young people did not increase. Nor have studies in the US states that have legalized marijuana shown an increase in marijuana use among children under the age of 18.

In fact,selling weed in legal shops likely reduces any connection, if one exists, between smoking weed and harder drugs. This was the thinking behind the “Dutch coffeehouse” experiment, which sought to cut soft drug users off from harder drugs through using a coffeehouse model. Over time, studies have shown Dutch 15-16 year-olds smoke less marijuana than their American counterparts, and over time, prefer smoking dope to using harder drugs, smoking cigarettes, and drinking.

Legalizing marijuana is a much smarter way to approach the issue anyway. In our house, my wife and I started talking to kids about beer and liquor when they were in their early teens. We wanted them to respect alcohol, know how to use it, not be afraid of it or see it as some kind of forbidden fruit. I can see having the same kind of useful discussions around how they could use weed, if they ever so desired.

Legalizing marijuana is an idea whose time has come. A decade from now most countries in the Western world, and probably many others outside it, will have followed the same course. The way Canada’s Liberal government has chosen to do it makes sense to me. I hope they have the courage to follow through on their convictions, and not let the legalization of marijuana fall down the same hole as fixing the voting system in Canada.

 

Copyright Tom Regan 2017

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

Further information:

Canada takes action to legalize and strictly regulate cannabis, News Release, Canadian government: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/news/2017/04/canada_takes_actiontolegalizeandstrictlyregulatecannabis.html

Marijuana is not, repeat not, a gateway drug, by Miriam Boeri, Newsweek, 4/25/15
http://www.newsweek.com/marijuana-not-gateway-drug-325358

Medical Marijuana Laws and Teen Marijuana Use, by D. Mark Anderson, Benjamin Hansen, Daniel I. Rees, National Bureau of Economic Research, July 2014
http://www.nber.org/papers/w20332

The Impact of Marijuana Policies on Youth: Clinical, Research, and Legal Update, by Seth Ammerman, Sheryl Ryan, William P. Adelman, American Academy of Pediatrics, March 2015
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/135/3/e769.long

Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies, by Glenn Greenwald, Cato Institute, April 2009
https://www.cato.org/publications/white-paper/drug-decriminalization-portugal-lessons-creating-fair-successful-drug-policies

Is Marijuana Really a ‘Gateway Drug’? by Dave Levitan, Factcheck.org, April 2015

Is Marijuana Really a ‘Gateway Drug’?

What Can We Learn from the Dutch Cannabis Coffeeshop Experience? by Robert J. MacCoun, Rand Drug Policy Center, July 2010: https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/working_papers/2010/RAND_WR768.pdf

~~~

Tom Regan Tom Regan is a journalist in the Washington, D.C., area. He worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92, and is a member of the advisory board of the Nieman Foundation for journalism at Harvard.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details and payment options, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Canada needs ranked, not proportional, voting

by Alexandre Normand Creative Commons

Image: Alexandre Normand, Creative Commons

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
February 11, 2017

Like many Canadians (even those of us who live abroad and may have dual citizenship) who had hoped that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would follow through on his campaign promise to reform the voting system in Canada, I found myself deeply disappointed by his sudden announcement, that he had abandoned plans for reform and was sticking with the first-past-the-post system.

Canada is the only country in the OECD that still uses first-past-the-post in all elections. (England still uses it on its federal level, but uses different methods for voting on lower bodies.) It’s a dumb, dumb method. We’ve seen examples in Canadian provincial elections where a party has won the majority of the vote but lost the election – as in Québec several years ago. Under this idiotic system a party can gain five or 10% of public support and not have a single representative in parliament. This leaves a significant number of Canadians without anyone to voice their concerns. Trudeau was wrong, dead wrong, to abandon this promise in the way that he did.

He was not wrong, however, in saying that proportional representation was the wrong system for Canada. His comment to a woman who approached him in a mall – “How would you like to see Kelly Leitch with her own party?” – may seem flippant, but is absolutely on target. Proportional representation may seem like a good idea but there are too many examples of it creating problems rather than solutions.

The chance that a small right-wing party could gain enough votes to give it enough seats in the parliament to control the balance of power is a very real concern. If you want an example, just look at the state of Israel. Israel has been using proportional representation for years, and for years small right-wing religious parties have held enough seats to force whatever larger party they align with to enact often draconian anti-Palestinian legislation, even when the majority in the coalition disagrees.

The other problem with proportional representation is best seen in Italy. There are more parties in Italy than, as my mother used to say, Carter has little liver pills. This creates a parliament that looks more like a crazy quilt than a governing body. Under proportional representation the chance of an Italian party forming a majority government is almost impossible. While some people may say that is a desirable outcome, it’s also a way to guarantee governmental deadlock if you have too many parties, all clamoring for their agendas.

There is a better way to elect lawmakers and it is the ranked-choice system, which it appears Trudeau also prefers (and leaves me baffled why he would not move in this direction). It was also the system championed by third-party candidate Jill Stein in the United States. Under ranked-choice, also known as the “instant runoff” system, a voter is presented with the ballot on which he or she ranks those running for election in order of preference. When the ballots are counted the candidate with the fewest number of votes is dropped, and his or her votes are then distributed to the candidates picked as the second or third choice. This continues, until there are only two candidates for office left, with one candidate having the majority of votes and thus being declared the winner.

There are no perfect ways to run a democratic election. All systems have their flaws. For instance, one criticism of the ranked-choice method is that it could result in the election of a candidate who was only the first choice of a relatively small number of voters.

But ranked choice also offers several advantages in my view: it allows the possibility of a majority government while still offering smaller parties the chance to gain greater representation; it encourages voters to learn about candidates beyond their preferred one, reducing the “my family’s always voted this way and I’ve always voted this way” factor in elections;  it reduces the amount of negative advertising – after all if you’re trying to attract the second-place votes of Canadians who may not have chosen you first, that’s hard to do if you’ve trashed their first choice during the campaign; and it encourages coalition building.

On the one hand, I think Trudeau was wise not to move in the direction of proportional representation and I agree with him that, particularly in our current political environment, proportional representation could result in small parties on the left or the right having a disproportional influence on public policy.

However, the way he handled the decision to back away from his campaign promise was a serious mistake. Even if, as he says, the NDP was only willing to talk about proportional representation, he owed it to Canadians to do his best to sell them on the ranked-choice system if that is his preference, and to continue with reform.

Canadians need a new way to vote. The time of first-past-the-post is over, and the fact that Canada, which leads the world in so many other ways, is so behind in the way it conducts its elections, is a sad statement about its democracy.
LINKS

‘Do you think Kellie Leitch should have her own party?’ Trudeau asks woman upset over electoral reform. CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/electoral-reform-trudeau-leitch-1.3975354?cmp=rss

Ranked voting explained – CPG Grey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Y3jE3B8HsE

What is ranked-choice voting? – Jill Stein 2016: http://www.jill2016.com/ranked_choice_voting

Proportional voting explained, Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laUPeXZlPEg

Potential for odd outcomes in San Francisco mayoral election with ranked-choice voting system, says Stanford mathematician: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2011/november/devlin-ranked-voting-110711.html

Copyright Tom Regan 2017

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

 

 

~~~

Tom Regan Tom Regan is a journalist in the Washington, D.C., area. He worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92, and is a member of the advisory board of the Nieman Foundation for journalism at Harvard.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Canada, Fraudster’s Nirvana

 

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
December 9, 2016

Carlos Ugaz, Chair of the Board of Directors, Transparency International, at a World Bank even in Washington, Ocotber 7, 2016. Photo: Clarissa Villondo/World Bank

Carlos Ugaz, Chair of the Board of Directors, Transparency International, at a World Bank even in Washington, Ocotber 7, 2016. Photo: Clarissa Villondo/World Bank

There is a fine line between thinking the best of people, and being a sucker for every con artist, fraudster and runaway crook who comes along.

Canada all too often crosses that line without realising it. There is a blithe strain in Canadian culture that believes corruption is a foreign problem and that venal instincts magically vanish when exposed to Canadian values.

There was a fine example of this naivety on Friday when Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion issued a statement to mark International Anti-Corruption Day. That it was the foreign affairs minister who issued the statement underlines the Canadian view that this is a foreign problem, not a domestic one.

And Dion’s statement went on to talk about the evils of corruption in foreign terms, apart from one pro-forma inclusion of the word “domestic” in a sub clause. The eradication of corruption, according to the Ottawa doctrine, is part of Canada’s mission to bring the country’s civic values to the less fortunate.

“Corruption is a major obstacle to sustainable development and is destructive in all its forms. Whether used to seek unfair advantage, evade justice, gain power or impose hardship, corruption leaves little room for democracy to flourish and economic growth to be inclusive.”

Well, all those evils are well established in Canada, as is made clear in a report published on Friday by Transparency International Canada.

Canada, says the report, has one of the worst records among the G20 organization of leading economies for providing a host of legal but immoral ways for people to launder ill-gotten gains, hide criminal activities, or spirit wealth away out of sight and reach of Revenue Canada.

 

Canada scores low on corruption globally, but lags within the G20 leading economies for providing a host of legal but immoral ways for people to launder ill-gotten gains, hide criminal activities, or spirit wealth away out of sight and reach of Revenue Canada. Above: Transparency International Perceptions Index 2015

The report looks in some detail at investment in Vancouver real estate in recent years. It quotes a September report by the global anti-money laundering authority, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), saying the Canadian real estate sector is “highly vulnerable to money laundering.” The FATF report goes on to say a particular problem is “cases of Chinese officials laundering the (proceeds of crime) through the real estate sector, particularly in Vancouver.”

The Transparency International Canada (TIC) report puts some emphasis on the fall-out from corrupt Chinese Communist Party officials, their relatives and friends taking advantage of the open door offered by the naïve Canadian market to park their money in Vancouver, Toronto and elsewhere. But that is almost in parenthesis in a catalogue of failings in Canadian management of financial dealings that is an open invitation to criminals and tax dodgers both domestic and foreign.

At the top of the list of evils identified by TIC is the secrecy and opportunities to hide identities in the Canadian system. The report details the extraordinary and destructive lack of regulation in Canadian institutions about who owns what.

“In Canada, more rigorous identity checks are done for individuals getting library cards than for those setting up companies,” says the TIC report. However, setting up companies is only one example of the ease with which people can hide their identities alone with their wealth.

Establishing a blind trust in Canada is easy and there are estimated to be many millions here. But there is no legal requirement to register trusts, file a record of their existence, say who the beneficial owners are, or disclose when a surrogate – usually a lawyer or family member – is acting on behalf of others when dealing with banks or other businesses.

Another favourite financial instrument for hiding ownership and dealings is shell companies. The TIC report describes shell companies as “financial getaway cars that can be used to enable criminals to vanish without a trace.”

The report sets out evidence that shell companies are used to facilitate corruption, launder the profits from crime, evade taxes, commit fraud such as Ponzi schemes, and provide cover for exploits such as insider trading and market manipulation.

Trusts and shell companies are also being used to profit from the real estate market in Vancouver, Toronto and other Canadian cities. Again, there is no requirement that the real owner of property be identified or that an open public record be kept.

“Individuals can use shell companies, trusts and nominees to hide their beneficial interest in Canadian real estate,” says the TIC report. The organization’s analysis of land title records found that nearly half of the 100 most valuable residential properties in Greater Vancouver are held through structures that hide the identities of the real owners.

“Nearly one-third of the properties are owned through shell companies, while at least 11 percent have a nominee listed in the title. Trusts are also common ownership structures for luxury properties.”

Of course, the use of numbered shell companies, usually lodged in tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands, or the Isle of Man, makes a nonsense of the much ballyhooed 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers of Vancouver property. If a property is owned by a shell company with a hidden beneficial owner, all a buyer has to do is purchase the shell company and no one is the wiser there has been a transaction.

It would not be surprising if the apparent downturn in foreign purchases of Vancouver properties since the tax was introduced is an illusion. The business could still be flying high, but is being done by the sale of numbered companies registered in tax havens under the names of nominees, and no one in Canada is any the wiser.

A key result of all this officially endorsed anonymity is that the RCMP and other enforcement agencies have next to no ability to detect and prosecute financial crimes.

“The RCMP’s success rate in pursuing money laundering is a fraction of what it is for other crimes,” says the TIC report. “A suspect cannot be identified in more than 80 percent of cases, and only a third of the cases that go to trial result in a conviction. The cost to the treasury in lost tax revenues … is likely to be in the billions of dollars.”

So the odds of being caught and convicted of a financial crime in Canada are as close to zero as makes no difference.

The key recommendation of the TIC report is to end the secrecy. All companies and trusts in Canada should be required to identify their beneficial owners. This information should be publicly available through a central registry.

Further recommendations are that nominees should be required to disclose when they are acting on their principal’s behalf and those beneficial owners should be identified.

Corporate registries should be given the resources and requirement to verify information filed by companies, including the identities of directors and shareholders.

Property titles should include the names of beneficial owners, and no property deal should be allowed to proceed without that disclosure.

It should be a federal regulation requiring all financial sector professionals – including real estate agents – to identify beneficial owners before conducting a transaction.

And any company seeking a government contract – from municipal to federal – should be required to disclose its beneficial ownership.

Regular readers will know that I have consistently argued that the most effective way of dealing with the problem of foreign investment inflating Canadian real estate prices is to keep publicly available records of beneficial property ownership.

The attraction of Vancouver for foreign buyers is not, as Vancouverites like to imagine, that it is reputed to be one of the world’s “best cities,” but that it offers absolute anonymity for the buyer. If public records of beneficial ownership were available to the Mounties, Revenue Canada, and especially the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection – beside which the Spanish Inquisition was a sympathetic guidance counsellor – the problem of prices inflated by foreign buyers would end overnight.

But TIC is not optimistic. “While the world’s leading economies move toward greater transparency, Canada seems to be dragging its feet,” says the report. “The government has taken very few concrete steps, despite making strong commitments at high-profile events including recent G8 and G20 summits.”

At a G20 summit late in 2014, the Canadian government said it would adopt 10 measures to ensure transparency of beneficial ownership. All Ottawa has actually done is to conduct a risk assessment of such a move, and that assessment was completed early last year.

The government’s only step so far into ending Canada’s dangerous liking for financial anonymity has been to propose amendments to the Canadian Business Corporations Act to eliminate bearer shares. These are unregistered securities that are owned and redeemable by whoever has them in their hands at that moment. They are an obvious godsend for money laundering, the financing of terrorism, drug trafficking, or any other trans-boundary crime that can be thought of. Most other sophisticated economies, and even several tax havens, have already outlawed bearer shares.

Ottawa does not yet seem to have grasped the broader political context of the problem of hidden and unaccountable wealth.

These dodgy tricks, such as blind trusts, shell companies and anonymous accounts in tax havens, used by the wealthy and criminal classes to hide their fortunes are a key part of the perception of growing inequality that is spurring what is known as populist politics. They are part of the cause of the anger that is putting Donald Trump in the White House, is taking Britain out of the European Union, and is feeding the rise of demagogues throughout Europe and elsewhere.

Anger at the growing disparity between the grossly rich and the rest is not as evident in Canada as it is in fellow countries of North Atlantic basin culture. At least, not yet. But unless Ottawa moves to ensure that Canada’s privileged classes play by the same rules as everyone else, Canada will inevitably be hit by the same tide of outrage.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2016

Contact, including queries about syndication/republishing: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

Links:

Transparence International, Canada: http://www.transparencycanada.ca

Transparency International: http://www.transparency.org

Related stories on F&O by Jonathan Manthorpe:

Vancouver’s housing bubble inflated by China’s air pollution

Vancouver’s grossly inflated housing market, the United Nations’ climate conference in Paris and China’s catastrophic environmental degradation are all linked in a circle of cause and effect.

Vancouver: not mind-numbingly boring, but vacuously vain

The flood of vast wealth from China into Canada has not only contorted and distorted the Vancouver housing market beyond redemption, it has changed the sort of community the western Canadian metropolis is going to be for generations to come. In a bizarre piece of absence of mind and lack of attention, it has also hitched the future of Vancouver to the fate of the Chinese Communist Party. Vancouver’s low self-confidence and its destructive vanity have both played a part in these failures.

~~~

 

Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. He is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan,” and has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

~~~

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Castro and Trudeau, Kindred Spirits

Cuba's Fidel Castro with Pierre Trudeau, former Canadian Prime Minister. Duncan Cameron, Library and Archives Canada.

Cuba’s Fidel Castro with Pierre Trudeau, former Canadian Prime Minister. Duncan Cameron, Library and Archives Canada.

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
December 3, 2016

Pierre Trudeau and Fidel Castro were brothers under the skin.

It is no wonder they became life-long friends, for each could see a reflection of himself in the other. That didn’t, however, stop Castro as Cuban president lying purposefully to Canadian prime minister Trudeau if he thought it politically expedient to do so.

The similarity in the backgrounds of the two men is compelling. Both came from nouveau-riche families, and grew up in climates of privilege and entitlement. However, both had distant relationships with their fathers, which may well have contributed to the youthful rebellion and embrace of left-wing politics by both men.

Trudeau’s father came from a typical Quebec rural family that worked the farm that had been handed down for several generations. But Charles-Emile Trudeau was ambitious and hard-working; he managed to acquire a garage and then a chain of service stations in Montreal. In his memoirs, Trudeau recounts that the family became wealthy at the start of the Great Depression in the 1930s when his father sold his service-station empire and invested in mining companies, an amusement park and the Montreal Royals baseball team.

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Then Cuban President Fidel Castro acknowledges the applause of the audience while standing underneath an image of late revolutionary hero Ernesto Che Guevara, during the inauguration of games involving mainly Cuban and Venezuelan athletes in Havana in this June 17, 2005 file photo. REUTERS/Claudia Daut/File Photo

Then Cuban President Fidel Castro acknowledges the applause of the audience while standing underneath an image of late revolutionary hero Ernesto Che Guevara, during the inauguration of games involving mainly Cuban and Venezuelan athletes in Havana in this June 17, 2005 file photo. REUTERS/Claudia Daut/File Photo

Trudeau’s memories of his father are of brief encounters over the boy’s homework in the evenings before Charles-Emile returned to his office at the garage. During the long summer holidays, Pierre Trudeau, his mother and siblings would stay at the family cabin at Lac Tremblant, where his father, usually accompanied by a bevy of friends, would descend for boisterous weekends, often featuring vibrant political discussions – Charles-Emile was a devout Conservative.

Castro’s father, Angel Castro y Argiz, was an immigrant to Cuba from Galicia in northwestern Spain. He acquired a sugar-cane farm, Las Manacas, at Biran, inland from Santiago de Cuba in the island’s south, where Fidel’s ashes are to be kept. Fidel was the child of a household servant, Lina Ruz Gonzalez. After the dissolution of his marriage, Angel Castro took Lina first as his mistress and then married her.

Both Trudeau and Castro spent their formative teenage years at private Jesuit high schools. The Jesuits are primarily a missionary order, with a questing spirit wedded to a culture of discipline, austerity, and intellectual certainty that can border on arrogance among those lacking the antidote of Christian humility.

As politicians, both Castro and Trudeau displayed absolute certainty about the kind of political dispensations they considered best for the citizens of their countries. And both proceeded — though with far more bitter consequences for Cubans than for Canadians – knowing full well the rules would not apply to themselves.

Castro and Trudeau were politically active in high-school and university years. Both were rebellious, espoused left-wing causes, and took law degrees at university.

Trudeau got his law degree at the Université de Montréal. Castro started studying law in 1945 at the University of Havana, where he quickly became involved in radical and frequently violent left-wing politics. His charisma blossomed early and he was soon set on course as a revolutionary leader. He got involved in plans for a revolution in the Dominican Republic in 1947 and then attempts to overthrow the government of Colombia in 1948.

Trudeau’s rebellion was more modest. Like many Quebecois, he was unclear what the war against fascism in Europe had to do with French Canadians. He campaigned in a by-election in 1942 for the anti-conscription candidate Jean Drapeau, later mayor of Montreal. After Trudeau’s own conscription in 1943, he joined the Officer Training Corps, but got himself expelled for lack of discipline.

After the Second World War, Trudeau burnished his academic credentials with degrees from Harvard, where his master’s dissertation was on Marxism and Christianity, followed by studies at the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris. He capped his academic endeavours by starting a doctorate (which he never finished), tutored by the socialist economist Harold Laski at the London School of Economics.

Trudeau’s early political involvement in Canada was decidedly left-wing. He gained a reputation as a labour lawyer campaigning for workers’ rights and through the 1950s supported the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the precursor of the New Democratic Party. But when he decided to get involved full-time in federal politics, he opted to join the Liberal Party, arguing that the CCF had no chance of gaining power, and therefore no hope of implementing its policies.

Castro, too, was pragmatic when need be. In his book, Memoirs, Trudeau recalls an official visit to Cuba in 1976 as prime minister, accompanied by wife Margaret and baby Michel. They spent a day with Castro at a small cottage on an island and Trudeau recounts a conversation about Cuba’s military involvement in the Angolan civil war.

Trudeau put it to Castro that he was meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign country. Was this not akin to the United States’ involvement in Vietnam, Trudeau asked. Castro said his soldiers and airmen were merely supporting the legitimate government against right-wing rebels backed by South Africa and the U.S.

Castro told Trudeau how many troops he had in Angola, and said they would not be there long. When Trudeau got back to Ottawa, officials told him the Cuban military contingent in Cuba was much larger than Castro had said, and (as will be shown in the accompanying story) it was there for the long haul. As a result, Trudeau cut off all development aid to Cuba.

“I did not meet Castro again until many years later, so I don’t know what his reaction was to our tough policy. But I’m sure he didn’t like it,” Trudeau wrote.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2016

Contact, including queries about syndication/republishing: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

See alsoFidel Castro and the Defeat of South African’s Apartheid, by Jonathan Manthorpe

Many people questioned it then and continue to question it now, but Nelson Mandela had no doubt that Fidel Castro played a central and critical role in the defeat of apartheid in South Africa.

Related stories in F&O:

Fidel Castro, Dead at 90: A Life in Photos, by Marc Frank and Nelson Acosta  Report/Photo essay

Fidel Castro, the Cuban revolutionary leader who built a communist state on the doorstep of the United States and for five decades defied U.S. efforts to topple him, died Nov. 25, 2016. He was 90. A towering figure of the second half of the 20th Century, Castro stuck to his ideology beyond the collapse of Soviet communism and remained widely respected in parts of the world that had struggled against colonial rule.

Fidel Castro, The Facts, compiled by Reuters

Cuban revolutionary and its former president Fidel Castro died, age 90, on Friday November 26.  Following are some facts about former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and quotes from his friends and foes.

Fidel Castro: Anachronism and Achiever, With Tarnished Legacy, by Mark Beeson   Analysis

Twentieth-century political icons don’t get much bigger than Fidel Castro. His death will reignite debates about his place in history and the revolutionary ideas he epitomised.

Generals in mufti still control BurmaJONATHAN MANTHORPE: International AffairsApril, 2015

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Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. He is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan,” and has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

~~~

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Canada’s dark time might be closer than you think

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
November 19, 2016

After the election of 2015, Canadians probably thought they were safe from the kind of racism and bigotry that has gripped the United States after the election of Donald Trump.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau waves during a campaign rally in North Vancouver, British Columbia, October 18, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau waves during a campaign rally in North Vancouver, British Columbia, October 18, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

After all, the Stephen Harper-led Conservatives party made racism one of the key components of its re-election strategy, especially the idea of the registry where you could call and report on your neighbors if you thought they were engaged in “suspicious activities.” The election of the Liberals led by Justin Trudeau, his appointment of a cabinet composed of 50% women and visible minorities, his welcoming stance to Syrian refugees, reinforced Canadians’ smug notion that “we are above all that American stuff.”

Well, I’m sorry to break your little “we’re so great” bubble, but that’s not true. Over the past week Trump-inspired xenophobia has found a willing audience among Canadians.

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A CBC story on Facebook, that Mexicans would not need a tourist visa to visit Canada after Dec. 1, included a headine suggesting government officials are worried about an “overflow” of Mexicans into Canada. Perhaps that gave the piece a twist that opened the door to a flood of comments, few of which could be termed open-minded towards Mexicans.

In Ottawa, a teenager was charged after an Islamic mosque, a Jewish synagogue, and a Christian church with a black pastor were hit with racist graffiti. I first heard from a friend that the word “kike,” with a very large swastika, was sprayed on a synagogue in Ottawa’s Glebe area, near where I lived in the 60s when my dad was working the federal government.

Trudeau suggested he hoped to to triple Canada’s population, from about 35 million to some 100 million. That led to predictions Canada would boost, to 450,000, the number of admitted immigrants. Instead, 300,000 are now expected because, a well-connected Canadian friend told me, the government fears “a backlash.”

Canadian media are reporting an increase in incidents of racism following the US election — officials dance around Trump as the cause, but I am convinced his rise is the catalyst.

Encouraged by the victory of racially tinged politics in the United States, the tactic has been seized as a path to victory by some candidates in Canada’s upcoming Conservative leadership convention. Emboldened by evidence some Canadians think that the government is moving too fast with its Syrian refugee program,energized by the growing public profile of white supremacist and nativist groups in the United States, Canada’s own voices of racism and bigotry are growing louder.

My son, who is studying media and politics and their effects on the broader culture, has the best description I’ve heard of what is powering racial outbursts in Canada and the US: ‘white inadequacy culture,’ the fear that white culture will disappear.

“At its root,” he told me, “I think what all these white folks fear is that they are going to be forgotten about, that their ‘culture’ will be forgotten about, when it’s really just their own fear of death and the ‘alien’ finding root. It’s a complete fiction that whites are in any way vulnerable of cultural extinction.”

But in a post-truth world, fiction can have as much, or more, force than the truth. And if the problem is, as my son put it, a fear of white inadequacy, how do we as a society deal with that? How do we find a way to calm the fears of whites who feel this way, while at the same time continuing to denounce this fear’s most virulent, dangerous forms? This is our challenge.

Canadians ignore this at their own peril. It wasn’t enough to renounce this kind of open hatred in the 2015 election.

It must be done every day, every week, every month, every year. Those of us who care cannot allow ourselves to be lulled into thinking “Well, we have gay marriage, we have no abortion law, we welcome Syrian refugees into our country, we defeated the bad guys in 2015. We can just relax.”

The 2016 election in the United States showed that this is not true. The reality is, things we care deeply about can be taken away. The truth is, the struggle never ends, the battle against those who would have us go back 50 years to a different time and a different country, for whatever reason, never ends. Yes, it is tiring to think that. But it is the reality of the world that we live in.

I can assure you the other side will never give up trying to pull us backwards. We must never give up trying to prevent them from doing that

Copyright Tom Regan 2016

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

LINKS:

Teen charged after spate of racist graffiti in Ottawa, CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/arrest-racist-graffiti-ottawa-1.3858947

Is Donald Trump’s victory emboldening hate-mongers in Canada? The Globe and Mail:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/is-donald-trumps-victory-emboldening-hate-mongers-in-canada/article32941905/

Liberty moves north, the Economist:
http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21709305-it-uniquely-fortunate-many-waysbut-canada-still-holds-lessons-other-western

Prest: In the age of Trump, Canada might be the last defender of small-l liberal values. Ottawa Citizen: http://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/prest-in-the-age-of-trump-canada-might-be-the-last-defender-of-small-l-liberal-values

Meet the surgeon who hopes to be Canada’s Donald Trump. Washington Post:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/11/09/meet-the-surgeon-who-hopes-to-be-canadas-donald-trump/

~~~

 

Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92. He is based near Washington, D.C.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

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EU Bids to Seal Canada trade Pact as US Prospects Dim

Thousands of people demonstrate against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in the centre of Brussels, Belgium September 20, 2016. Reuters/Eric Vidal

Thousands of people demonstrate against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in the centre of Brussels, Belgium September 20, 2016. Reuters/Eric Vidal

By Philip Blenkinsop and Tatiana Jancarikova
September, 2016

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) – EU ministers took steps Sept. 23 to approve a contentious free trade deal with Canada, while France and Austria demanded that talks towards a similar agreement with the United States should stop.

Both deals have triggered demonstrations by unions and protest groups who say they will spark a ‘race to the bottom’ in labour, environmental and public health standards and allow big business to challenge governments across Europe.

After a first session devoted to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) struck with Canada two years ago but still awaiting approval, ministers agreed the two sides would produce a binding declaration that spelt out the limits of the pact to dispel public concerns.

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The ministers are expected to convene an extraordinary meeting on Oct. 18, allowing the deal to be signed during the visit of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Brussels on Oct. 27. It could provisionally enter force early next year.

“There was a great willingness to sign the agreement in October,” Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s economy minister and vice-chancellor, told reporters.

Gabriel on Monday overcame left-wing resistance to the deal within his Social Democrats, the junior coalition partners in government.

However, lingering doubts remain elsewhere, notably in Austria, where Chancellor Christian Kern’s Social Democrats have grave concern, and Belgium, where not all regions back the deal.

Reinhold Mitterlehner, Austria’s Christian Democrat vice chancellor, said a declaration making clear that standards were not under threat and that a special court would not allow big business to dictate public policy would help.

NO TTIP?

By contrast, Mitterlehner and his French counterpart argued that the EU-U.S. Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks, which have been going on for the past three-and-a-half years should be halted.

The Austrian told reporters they should be relaunched after the U.S. presidential elections with greater transparency, clearer goals and a different name. The current process, he said, was doomed.

Luxembourg and Slovenia also expressed strong reservations.

Washington and Brussels are officially committed to sealing this deal before President Barack Obama leaves office in January.

But their chances of doing so are remote given approaching elections on both sides of the Atlantic, with trade not a vote-winner, Britain’s June vote to leave the European Union and the calls for a fresh start.

EU trade chief Cecelia Malmstrom said all ministers had expressed doubts a deal could be struck before Obama’s departure, adding it was “increasingly unlikely”.

A next round of talks would go ahead in October and Malmstrom said talks could continue after the November election.

“If we do not conclude TTIP before January 19, then there will be a natural pause,” she said, adding it was hard to say when they might restart.

Some ministers spelt out the difference between concessions granted by Canada and what they said was U.S. intransigence.

“If the Americans are not ready to meet at least the standard of CETA, with Canada, then there will be no chance of a deal,” said Gabriel.

Finnish trade minister Kai Mykkanen said most of his peers preferred to let the Commission push on with talks, with an assessment of progress in November. He said a possible relaunch under a new president might need a new name.

“There are so many unreasonable fears and maybe they are tied to the name TTIP,” he said. The name has become synonymous in many people’s mind with the evils of globalisation and big business.

Outside the ministers’ meeting in Bratislava, around 100 local trade unions and Friends of the Earth activists held banners, mostly in English and German, denouncing CETA and TTIP. On the other side of the Danube river, Greenpeace unveiled a large banner on the top of a tower reading “No TTIP”.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Additional reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Writing by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Democracy as Laboratory

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his remarks during the signing ceremony on climate change held at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, U.S., April 22, 2016.   REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his remarks during the signing ceremony on climate change held at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, U.S., April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

JIM MCNIVEN: THOUGHTLINES
August, 2016

“It is one of the happy accidents of the federal system that a single, courageous State may, if the citizens choose, serve as a laboratory…” noted  United States Justice Louis Brandeis in a dissenting opinion from a 1932 Supreme Court decision. His statement is as applicable in any other federation, and the experiments going on in Canada with carbon emissions reduction serve to underscore the value of Brandeis’ observation.

The issue of global warming has been a contentious one in Canada for the past 20 years. In part, the Canadian economy is a petro-economy; one only has to note how the C$ sank as the world price of oil sank over the past couple of years to see the truth in this statement. Unlike countries like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, however, it is not a complete petro-state. While the price of oil dropped from $100 US to $40, the Canadian dollar dropped from par with the US$ to $0.75. Even though the Canadian economy is diversified, the importance of oil exports has made for a political wrangle over carbon emissions over these past two decades, with the governing Conservatives (until late 2015) reluctant to do much in terms of controlling them. The same can be said for coal use.

Meanwhile, Provincial governments had changed their political stripes and Brandeis’ laboratory effect kicked in. The new Liberal federal government has been trying to be environmentally correct in most all things, including doing its part to slow climate change. It wants to develop some kind of national policy in this regard, but it finds that the Provinces occupy all kinds of spots on the carbon emission control map. In large part, this is due to their experimenting while Ottawa ‘slept’.

Instead of a national policy, there are at least 5 different Provincial policies dealing with controlling carbon emissions. Much time, money and effort has been invested in these approaches and the Provinces are loath to give them up. Federal/Provincial meetings since last winter have produced little in the way of coming up with a common approach, something that is so beloved of national politicians and bureaucrats. For one, after a decade of Conservative rule, the Liberals are still finding their way amongst the levers of power; for another, the senior bureaucrats have lost the knack of negotiating with the Provinces after a decade of Tory asymmetric federalism and an attitude of ‘You do your thing and we’ll do ours’ in terms of jurisdiction. And the environment is a shared jurisdictional area.

Let’s review what the ‘lab rats’ have been up to while the cat has been tending to other things, starting in the west and going eastward. In 2008, British Columbia instituted a revenue-neutral carbon tax applied to emitters of greenhouse gases. Revenue-neutral means that the proceeds have been largely remitted to citizens and businesses or used for research and product development.

Recently, Alberta has started to follow the same path as BC, with some additions made in terms of tar sands emissions.

Neighboring Saskatchewan has not gone after emitters so much as having supported technology to capture carbon gases and then store them permanently underground. It has dreams of technological leadership in this regard.

Saskatchewan’s neighbor, Manitoba, looks to its production and export of hydro electricity as being a contributor to greenhouse gas reduction. It may have some attraction to a variant on the policies of the next two easterly Provinces, Ontario and Quebec.

Ontario is following the lead of Quebec, which has pioneered the use of a cap-and-trade system (CT). The CT mechanism consists of setting an emissions limit for the Province’s businesses, then allocating or selling permits to these businesses for the right to emit. If a business can find itself with surplus rights, it can sell them to others; if it over-emits, then it can be fined for doing so. Further, the rights can be traded across borders in a kind of emissions market. Quebec has joined the US ‘Western Alliance’, made up of the States of California, Oregon and Washington, all of whom use the CT system. Ontario has expressed its intention to join in with these partners.

Farther east, the Atlantic Provinces have, with the exception of Nova Scotia, been less interested in these different measures, being small emitters of carbon gases. Nova Scotia’s electricity traditionally has been produced by local or imported coal along with some oil. Over the past half-dozen years, the Province has been aggressive in promoting a COMFIT policy, where communities and other local groups have been allowed to construct wind generators and feed-in the power to the Provincial grid. As well, the private power company serving the Province has been constructing a major underwater hook-up to the Island of Newfoundland where the line will tap into hydro power from Labrador. One should note that this same source will also replace much of Newfoundland’s oil power generation.

With all this experimentation going on, the new interest in carbon pricing by the federal government has been met in the Provinces with a certain wariness. A national program implies a one-size-fit-all program and implies that some or maybe all of the Provinces might lose the investments and experience they have made in their chosen ‘experiments’. It might not work out that way, but, then again, this issue might become the first big constitutional/jurisdictional fight since 1995.

In truth, the key point that could be lost in any negotiation over carbon emission control is whether Approach A is more effective than Approach B, C, D, or E. The real issue is about effectiveness, not the desire for neatness in policymaking. The best thing for a national government in any federation to do is to rigorously measure performance before choosing a carbon tax solution over a technology solution over a cap-and-trade solution, to mention only three possibilities.

Keep the laboratories of democracy open until one of them comes up with the best solution.

 Copyright Jim McNiven 2016

*I must note the contributions made to this piece by my online MPA mature students in their summer 2016 Intergovernmental Affairs course given by Dalhousie University. Their federal/ provincial meeting simulations on this issue really clarified things.

Jim McNiven’s latest book is The Yankee Road: Tracing the Journey of the New England Tribe that Created Modern America. www.theyankeeroad.com

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Jim McNiven

James McNiven has a PhD from the University of Michigan. He has written widely on public policy and economic development issues and is the co-author of three books. His most recent research has been about the relationship of demographic changes to Canadian regional economic development. He also has an interest in American business history and continues to teach at Dalhousie on a part-time basis.

 

 

 

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Real journalism has value. Thank you for your support. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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‘The killing has to stop:’ Canada’s missing women’s inquiry

National Aboriginal Day and Canada's deep wounds. © Deborah Jones 2016

Each Valentine’s Day the Women’s Memorial March is held in Canadian communities. It began in the early 90s in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side to honour, remember and protest the scores of women who have gone missing from the area, including the victims of serial killer and pig farmer Robert Pickton. Above, marchers in Vancouver on Feb. 14, 2016. © Deborah Jones 2016

PENNEY KOME: OVER EASY
August, 2016

“The killing has to stop,” said Nicole Robertson, naming the most urgent goal of Canada’s inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) at a panel discussion in Calgary.

Robertson, a Cree, won the 2009 Aboriginal Woman Entrepreneur Award of Distinction for her media work, and also has a daughter old enough to attract attention from the police as well as from men she doesn’t know. “I monitor how she dresses,” she said. “I scan crowds to see if a man is paying attention to her.”

“First Amnesty fought to find out what happened to 600 Stolen Sisters, then the figure was 1,200, and now the inquiry is saying the number is more like 4,000,” said diversity strategist Deborah Green, also Cree with a strong Piapot connection. One of the missing women belongs to her family.

“Thirty-four years ago,” she said, “the police came to my house and picked up my aunt. They drove her out to the edge of the city, in the middle of winter, and threw her out of the car. She froze to death, trying to reach a farmer’s house.” Such police excursions were so common they had a nickname: “starlight tours.”

The discussion was held two short days after the August 14 shooting death of Colten Boushie in a farmyard near Biggar, Saskatchewan, in disputed circumstances. So there was some tension in the air, mainly in the discussions around who should investigate the RCMP.

While the First Nations participants recognized moderator Jill Croteau as a media ally, somebody who is interested in Indigenous stories, they also asked her some tough questions. Robertson, another media specialist, asked “Jill, do you ever question what the police tell you?”

Croteau paused and acknowledged, “You have that default trust in authority. But as journalists, we’re supposed to be critical.” She paused again. “I didn’t really feel that shred of distrust until the Robert Pickton story. Sex trade women had told police over and over about this guy, and the police did nothing. They could have saved so many lives. I guess I feel there has to be accountability, and that’s our job as journalists.”

Green added, “There are other media too. There are Aboriginal media like APTN. And social media are powerful. Think, though. If four white boys drove a tractor onto a reserve looking for help and one of them got shot, what would the coverage be like?”

“The media are who they are because of who’s at the table,” contributed the fourth person on the panel, the Hon. Richard Feehan, Alberta provincial Minister of Indigenous Relations. “The families of the murdered and missing women need to have a voice, but not only them. Every community needs to have a voice. We need to start asking Indigenous communities, ‘Who does speak for you?'”

Feehan pointed out that the MMIW inquiry is the first truly national inquiry, in that every province and territory will undertake their own inquiry at the same time. He noted that the inquiry’s mandate is quite open and sweeping, including “systemic causes” and “historical, social, economic, institutional or cultural factors.”

They’re directed to examine the impacts of policies and practices of government institutions, including “policing, child welfare, coroners and other government policies/ practices or social/economic conditions.” The inquiry also has the power to call witnesses and to compel them to testify.

Four out of five commissioners leading the inquiry are women; four out of five identify as First Nations. The Honourable Marion Buller, Chief Commissioner, is a B.C. Provincial Court Judge, from Mistawasis First Nation, Saskatchewan. Commissioner Michèle Audette is a former President of Femmes autochtones du Québec (Québec Native Women’s Association), based in Mani Utenam, Québec. Commissioner Qajaq Robinson grew up in what is now Nunavut and, as a lawyer, works with a special 70-person Team North dedicated to First Nations issues. Commissioner Marilyn Poitras teaches law at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and has shown a lifelong passion for First Nations issues. Finally, Commissioner Brian Eyolfson hails from the Couchiching First Nation (Ontario) and now serves as acting deputy director, Ontario Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, Legal Services.

Richard Feehan pointed out that the Inquiry needed so much expertise because the issue was buried for so long and only came to light after First Nations families agitated and demonstrated and raised a fuss for more than a decade. “I want to thank the First Nations women and their families for their persistence,” he said. He praised the new inquiry commissioners for agreeing to serve on such a demanding team.

Globalfest panel members spent some time discussing whether the MMIW inquiry would really make a difference. They pointed out deep-rooted stereotypes about Native women and First Nations people generally, that have proved hard to clear away. Still, as mothers, Green and Robertson said they are constantly working towards the day when their daughters can be safe walking alone after dark, regardless of why they are out walking.

“Not in my lifetime,” said Green, “and maybe not in my daughter’s lifetime, but I hope someday Indigenous women will not be at risk for simply being in Canada.”

Indigenous women can’t do the job alone, said Richard Feehan. “This is a Canadian tragedy,” he said, “and if you’re a Canadian, that’s you. The commission can’t make the past disappear. It’s the community that will make things change. So come do your part!”

Copyright Penney Kome 2016

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com   Read more F&O columns by Penney Kome here

Links:

Government of Canada Launches Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, press release: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1023999

Related on F&O:

Canada’s National Aboriginal Day, by Deborah Jones

Time, some vast and today unfathomable sweep of time, may eventually heal the wounds in the people, families and communities left by Canada’s treatment of its first peoples; of even the theft, abuse and murder of generations of children. For now, on the first day of summer each year, Canada celebrates National Aboriginal Day.

Canadian Court Expands Aboriginal Rights. By Deborah Jones (archives, 2014)

Canada’s top court greatly expanded aboriginal rights in Canada’s westernmost province, in what may stand as a landmark decision affecting control of a vast swath of land and resources, in British Columbia and beyond. The case, Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, was sparked in 1983 when the provincial government licenced a commercial company to log the Chilcotin. The licence was disputed by the Chilcotin residents who lived there long before the mid 1800s when — without their consent — England claimed the land as a colony, and named it British Columbia.

The Case of the Serial Killings: Gruesome details in Pickton pig farmer trial. By Deborah Jones. (archives, 2007)

Wedged between white-capped mountains and sparkling blue ocean, Vancouver is lauded for multicultural livability, ranked worldwide as a top travel destination and is preparing to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. But lately a grim pall has blanketed the western Canadian city of 2.2 million, for reasons far worse than the freak winter storms. The harrowing details of a grotesque serial killer case are bringing to the surface the city’s seamy underworld, usually confined to the squalid 10-block open drug and sex market known as the Downtown Eastside. The seaminess surrounds the trial of pig farmer Robert William Pickton, charged with murdering 26 drug-addicted prostitutes.

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Penney KomePenney Kome is co-editor of Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986), with a foreward by the Nobel-winning presidents of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.

Read her bio on Facts and Opinions.

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Remembrance and Refugees

 

ROD MICKLEBURGH
November, 2015
Vancouver, Canada

Kazoo Yatabe. Photo by Randy Enomoto © 2015

Kazuko Yatabe lays a wreath on behalf of her Canadian Forces veteran husband Fiji Yatabe. Photo by Randy Enomoto © 2015

Two days before the numbing atrocities of Paris, I went to the annual Remembrance Day ceremony at the Japanese-Canadian War Memorial in Stanley Park. It was a simple, almost homespun occasion, far removed from the military-like precision of the packed event at the city’s main cenotaph downtown. A black-robed priest gave a purification prayer, clapped three times and performed a spiritual cleansing by waving about a long baton festooned with white paper streamers. He then talked six minutes past the proscribed 11 a.m. time for the two minutes of silence. No one seemed to mind. Beside me, a teen-aged girl wiped away tears, while an elderly Japanese-Canadian woman in an ordinary gray kimono stood with head bowed, eyes tightly closed.

There was a pointed theme to this year’s Remembrance Day in Stanley Park, that made it more relevant today, given some of the hateful fallout in Canada to the mass murders in Paris on Friday November 13. The ceremony commemorated this year’s 70th anniversary of the formal acceptance of Japanese-Canadians into the Canadian Army.

At a time they were still branded “enemy aliens,” had been forced into internment camps and work gangs, when their families had been stripped of their possessions, 120 Nisei signed up for a special, military intelligence unit to help in the fight against, yes, Japan. And then it was only pressure from British and American military commanders that finally forced Canadian authorities to admit them into the army. In an intensely moving moment, Kazuko Yatabe, widow of veteran Eiji Yatabe shuffled forward to lay a memorial wreath on behalf of her husband.

Was it all only this month? After Paris, bowing our heads in remembrance on that sun-bathed morning feels light years away. Yet, looking back, as hearts harden towards welcoming desperate Syrian refugees to this land of relative bounty, the event seems to take on a deeper meaning. Some of the same prejudice and unwarranted fear that imposed internment on thousands of law-abiding Japanese-Canadians is sadly afoot, again. Since Paris, a mosque in Peterborough has been torched, a Muslim woman in Toronto severely assaulted, others verbally harassed and some have reported being shunned in supermarket line-ups, over worries they might be suicide bombers. Ant-Muslim graffiti is on the upswing. Meanwhile, and arguably worse, there has been a disturbing rise of opposition to Canada’s plan to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year. A sensible suggestion by British Columbia Premier Christy Clark that the northeast of B.C. might be a good place to settle some Syrians sparked an immediate online petition calling for a referendum on admitting refugees to the region. It quickly attracted more than a thousand names. Similar petitions across the country to halt the influx have also attracted widespread support.

Of course, the petitioners don’t come out and say they don’t want Muslims here. They cite security concerns. The possibility that one of the suspected nine Paris terrorists might have been among the hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming through Europe has been seized upon. No matter that the terrorist ringleaders were French and Belgian. And no matter that Canada is taking refugees from relatively-stable camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, not from the huge, heartbreaking crowds thronging to Europe. While the government’s ambitious refugee deadline might be well served by extending it a month or two to ensure the process unfolds smoothly, “security concerns” have been seized upon on as reason to keep “them” out. With proper screening in place, there is no evidence that these refugees, most of them families, pose a security threat, other than to those, perhaps, who think just being Muslim is suspect.

A Canadian naval officer confiscates a fishing boat from its Japanese Canadian owners during WWII. Photo: R.C.N. DND - Library and Archives Canada DAPDCAP 556450

A Canadian naval officer confiscates a fishing boat from its Japanese Canadian owners during WWII. Photo: R.C.N. DND – Library and Archives Canada DAPDCAP 556450

All of which brings me back to last week’s Remembrance Day in Stanley Park and the special attention paid to the internment of more than 20,000 Japanese-Canadians. As with the current hostility toward Syrian refugees and Muslims, facts and context meant nothing. After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour, Japanese-Canadians were overtaken by a tidal wave of irrational fear and prejudice that stigmatized all of them, based only on their race. In British Columbia, where almost all lived, there was wild talk everywhere about a sinister “fifth column” of Japanese, loyal to their mother country, plotting to undermine the country from within. Japanese-Canadians were looked on with suspicion, merely because of events far beyond the borders of Canada they had nothing to do with.

They were different. They might be up to something. Sound familiar? Yet not one incident of sabotage or disloyalty was ever uncovered.

It is distressing to see the same emotions whipped up all over again. Lest you think I’m stretching the comparison, I give you Roanoke, Virginia in the United States, where the anti-refugee hysteria is far more deep-seated and pronounced. Calling for an end to assisting Syrian refugees to resettle in the area, Mayor David Bowers drew a parallel to the fears Americans had about ethnic Japanese in the U.S., after Pearl Harbour. He applauded their internment, which, he said, had kept America safe. Sometimes, words fail….

There is some good news, however. In 1942, almost no one, except a few brave members of the CCF and civil libertarians, spoke out against internment. This time, many, many Canadians and others are rallying to embrace Syrian refugees and denounce those who single out Muslims, who use their prejudice to stand in the way of these unfortunate victims of a terrible war coming to Canada. If only more had spoken out 73 years ago.

“Lest we forget,” event moderator Gordon Kadota reminded us on Remembrance Day. Indeed.

Copyright Rod Mickleburgh 2015

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Rod Mickleburgh F&ORod Mickleburgh has been a journalist for more than 40 years, with stops just about everywhere, from Penticton to Paris to Peking. Managed a few awards and nominations along the way, but highlight was co-winning Canada’s Michener Award with my highly-esteemed Globe and Mail colleague, Andre Picard, for our coverage of Canada’s tainted blood scandal. Left the Globe, my reporting home for more than 22 years, in the summer of 2013. Have my name on two books: Rare Courage, containing first person-accounts from 20 veterans of World War Two, and The Art of the Impossible, a tale of the wild and wooly 39 months of British Columbia’s first New Democratic Party government led by Dave Barrett. Co-authored with Geoff Meggs, The Art of the Impossible won the Hubert Evans Prize for non-fiction at the 2013 British Columbia Book Awards. Currently investigating time management, without regular deadlines. Visit Rod Mickleburgh’s WordPress site, Mickleblog.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations.  Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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