Monday, February 28, 2011

Federal Court of Canada overturns 5 IRB decisions, orders new hearings

OTTAWA — The parallels in the five refugee cases are striking. All feature women seeking to remain in Canada because of well-founded fears for their safety in their home countries.

All had their applications rejected by the Immigration and Refugee Board or officers of Citizenship and Immigration Canada even though, in 1993, Canada became the first country in the world to establish formal guidelines for refugee claims by women facing gender-related persecution.

And in the past month, the Federal Court has overturned all five decisions and ordered new hearings.

Four of the recent cases involve women — two from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, one from Brazil and one from Mexico — who are victims of spousal abuse. The other is a woman from Guyana who was raped in front of her children during a brutal home invasion.

In only one case was the applicant’s credibility an issue. In the others, the officials either ruled that adequate state protection exists in their home countries or found that deporting them would not cause “unusual, undeserved or disproportionate hardship.”

Three of the cases involved decisions by the IRB’s refugee protection division. The other two were rejections by Citizenship and Immigration officers of applications for permanent-resident status on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, known as H&C applications.

One of the women, 30-year-old Keisha Paul, fled to Canada in 2002 after her partner in St. Vincent beat her so badly she was hospitalized. Her son, now nine, joined his mother four years later.

In 2008, the IRB rejected her refugee claim because it said Paul had not availed herself of state protection in her home country.

Then, about a year ago, an immigration officer rejected her H&C application as well as her pre-removal risk assessment (PRRA) application. The officer adopted the IRB’s findings that state protection in St. Vincent was available and observed that Paul had failed to demonstrate steady employment or financial independence during her eight years in Canada.

Federal Court Justice Richard Boivin overturned the officer’s finding for failing to assess whether the risk to Paul would give rise to unusual, undeserved or disproportionate hardship — the required legal test.

The other St. Vincent woman, Anthea Cato, claimed refugee protection in 2008 after years of abuse by her husband. Cato, who has a three-year-old son, testified that she repeatedly reported the abuse to the island’s police authorities, who failed to act.

In rejecting her refugee claim, the IRB said Cato’s testimony lacked credibility and dismissed her argument that her memory problems resulted from post-traumatic stress disorder.

But Federal Court Justice André Scott said the board “misconstrued some key facts, and more importantly, ignored some key evidence” in concluding that Cato wasn’t credible.

In another IRB case, the board rejected a refugee claim from Rocio Angelica Flores Alcazar, finding that she didn’t make use of the available state protection in Mexico. Alcazar feared persecution from her former partner, a police officer in Mexico, who beat and raped her, twice sending her to hospital.

Justice Leonard Mandamin found the board failed to consider important aspects of Alcazar’s personal circumstances or properly evaluate contrary evidence about the adequacy of state protection in Mexico.

The third IRB case is that of Thatata Sousa, a Brazilian woman who came to Canada to escape her former spouse, a man described as “violent and in prey to psychiatric issues and substance abuse problems.”

After she was attacked and called police, her father-in-law hung up the phone and later told police the matter was nothing more than a couple’s quarrel. He threatened Sousa and told her he had connections within the police.

Again, the IRB found that Sousa didn’t present sufficient evidence that she couldn’t be protected in Brazil. Judge Simon Noël found that assessment was flawed and overturned the decision.

The final case is that of Estardi Beharry, who fled Guyana with her family for Canada in 2002 after she was beaten and raped in front of her two young children.

The family’s H&C submission described the ongoing trauma suffered by Beharry’s children — now in their teens — as a result of witnessing the vicious attack, and their fear of returning to the country where it occurred.

The officer rejected their application, saying Beharry hadn’t shown that returning to Guyana would have a “significantly negative impact” on the children.

But Judge Anne Mactavish said the officer failed to even address the impact that witnessing the attack has had on them, rendering the rest of the officer’s analysis unreasonable.

The disposition of the cases could suggest that the IRB and immigration officials are putting less weight on the 1993 gender guidelines than they once did. If so, however, the trend is not yet apparent to those who work with or study refugee cases.

“I don’t know that it shows a shift. I hope not,” said Joan Simalchik, a former director of the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture who now co-ordinates the University of Toronto’s Study of Women and Gender Program.

But the recent cases warrant attention to ensure that the “very important provisions” in the gender guidelines remain intact, she said.

Mitchell Goldberg, a prominent Montreal immigration lawyer and refugee advocate, didn’t want to “leap from individual cases to make a generalization. My experience is that the Immigration and Refugee Board is very sensitive to these issues. There’s obviously exceptions.”

The disposition of refugee claims depends in part on who hears the case, he said. “When you walk into the Immigration and Refugee Board hearing room, to a great extent you know whether your client’s going to be accepted or refused depending on who walks into the room.”

The question of whether applicants can be adequately protected in their home countries “is an area of great controversy” in Federal Court case law, Goldberg said.

Making that assessment isn’t easy, said Toronto immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman. “I think it’s one of the most difficult questions that confronts the IRB,” he said.

The Federal Court is generally more “scrupulous” in reviewing the documentation than the IRB or Citizenship and Immigration officers, Waldman said. “It doesn’t surprise me that on issues such as state protection, there are a lot of decisions getting overturned.”

The court has been especially robust in overturning decisions involving applicants from St. Vincent, a country where violence against women is a major problem. In many instances, according to the U.S. State Department, domestic violence goes unpunished there.

Under the Harper government, acceptance of refugee claims from applicants already in Canada has fallen sharply, from nearly 16,000 in 2006 to just more than 9,000 last year. The number of successful applicants on compassionate and humanitarian grounds, which had been averaging between 10,000 and 11,000 a year, fell to 8,848 in 2010.

Those numbers may reflect Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s publicly expressed concerns about fraudulent refugee claimants, illegal migrants or other abusers of the system, said Audrey Macklin, a University of Toronto professor who specializes in immigration, refugee and citizenship law.

Kenney appoints IRB members, while those who assess H&C applications work for his ministry, Macklin noted. Given his message of “hostility and skepticism toward asylum-seekers,” she said, “one should be concerned that this may exert an illegitimate influence on decision makers.”

Earlier this month, Kenney accused the courts of “intrusive and heavy-handed” interference in decisions made by immigration officials. “The integrity of decisions made by my department is being questioned too often without sufficient justification.”

Read more:

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Many Canadians believe International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda should resign from the federal cabinet over the controversy related to a document that appeared to recommend a grant to faith-based overseas human-rights group Kairos, a new Vision Critical / Angus Reid poll has found.
The controversy began in October 2010, when bureaucrats in the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) approved a $7-million grant to Kairos. The original document—which shows the word “NOT” inserted in the recommendation to provide the grant—was shown to respondents of this online survey.
In December 2010, Oda appeared before a House of Commons foreign affairs committee, and denied knowing who inserted the word “NOT” on the document. Earlier this week, Oda acknowledged that the word “NOT” was inserted into the document on her order.
In the online survey of a representative sample of 1,011 Canadian adults, 58 per cent of respondents believe that Oda should resign from cabinet for her actions, while 12 per cent of respondents believe the International Co-operation Minister has apologized and the matter has been dealt with appropriately.
One third of respondents (33%) think Oda was instructed by the Prime Minister to alter the document, while one-in-four (24%) think she acted on her own.
Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The CRTC has withdrawn a proposal would have considerably narrowed the scope of the current ban to cover only false or misleading news .

The CRTC has withdrawn a controversial proposal that would have given TV and radio stations more leeway to broadcast false or misleading news.

Indeed, the broadcast regulator now says it never wanted the regulatory change in the first place and was only responding to orders from a parliamentary committee.

The committee last week quietly withdrew its request for regulatory amendments in the face of a public backlash.

With that, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission was only too happy to drop the idea altogether.

The proposed change would have considerably narrowed the scope of the current ban to cover only false or misleading news that could endanger the lives, health or safety of the public.

"All I can say is, 'Thank you, committee,"' CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein told the specialty publication The Wire Report last week.

"I will withdraw this proposal tomorrow. This is the end of this issue."

The proposed change sparked concerns that the CRTC was about to allow into Canada the more toxic — often grossly distorted — political discourse that pervades the American airwaves. Those suspicions were fuelled by the timing of the proposal, only weeks before next month's launch of a new, right-leaning all-news network, Sun TV.

However, Von Finckenstein said the CRTC "never wanted to touch this thing" and had, in fact, dragged its feet for 10 years until "we ran out of stalling devices." He said the CRTC finally proposed the change this year "because we were ordered to do it."

He added that he was always "perfectly happy" with the current ban on false news, which has never been invoked against any broadcaster.

Liberal MP Andrew Kania, co-chairman of the joint parliamentary committee on scrutiny of regulations, challenged von Finckenstein's interpretation of what happened.

He said the committee never ordered the CRTC to do anything. It only asked, 10 years ago, that the CRTC consider whether the blanket ban on false news might violate freedom of speech guarantees in the Charter of Rights. The request was prompted by a Supreme Court ruling in the case of Holocaust-denier Ernst Zundel.

Over the past two years, the committee reminded the CRTC that it still hadn't responded on the matter but did not push for any particular regulatory change, Kania said.

Only last week, in the wake of the public outcry over the CRTC's proposed change, did the committee consider the substance of the issue. Kania said committee members concluded that free speech guarantees don't apply to broadcast licence holders in the same way as they do to individuals.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Opposition MPs say they're going to try to force the prime minister to produce evidence about an altered document at a House of Commons committee.: Oda emails

Opposition MPs say they're going to try to force the prime minister to produce evidence about an altered document at a House of Commons committee.

Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae says the opposition will table motions next week at committee to force the offices of Stephen Harper and International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda to table documents about the infamous "not" inserted on a memo that otherwise would have okayed $7 million in funding for aid organization Kairos.

Rae says the opposition won't drop the issue and vowed to track down whoever inserted the three-letter word, changing the meaning of the typed document.

"Is there an email that says 'do this'?" he asked.

"Who are all the people who received the email? Governments operate with records and with paper. There is a paper trail, there's an email trail. This thing is not going to go away."

International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda in the Commons last week. Oda says it was someone on her staff who inserted the "not" at her instruction. She says the memo reflects her decision.

"We intend to pursue this and I can just say to the government that it's going to be in the dentist chair for weeks to come," Rae said.

"We are not going to allow a minister to mislead the House of Commons and not tell the truth to Canadians about an issue of significance in her department, and simply get away with it."

"If they're refusing to come forward with the information, then the only alternative is root canal. And that's what it's going to be," he said.

Parliamentary privilege

The opposition lodged a formal complaint with House Speaker Peter Milliken last Thursday, arguing Oda breached parliamentary privilege by misleading the House over who recommended denying funds to Kairos.

(CBC) What is the Autopen? The Conservatives officially responded Friday, arguing the facts don’t support the allegation that Oda broke the rules.

MP Tom Lukiwski said the document with the “not” inserted was meant only to communicate the minister’s decision. He said it wasn’t intended to be made public.

The next day, the party reportedly distributed a memo that said Oda was out of town when the decision was due. The memo said her staff inserted the "not" at her instruction and used a machine called an Autopen — that mimics her signature — to sign the document.

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar says Canadians don't like being lied to. He says the story resonates with voters.

"They care about people not doing their job. They care about when people say they're going to be different and they're not," Dewar said.

"It's about hypocrisy ... (Canadians) don't like when people don't tell the truth and when people try and play them."

Conservatives respond

The opposition has tabled a foreign affairs committee report in the House of Commons that opens the door to possible sanctions against Oda over her responses to the committee last year. Milliken isn't expected to rule on the matter until next week at the earliest.

Conservative MPs filed a supplementary report, saying they don't agree Oda is in breach of privilege or that she intended to mislead the committee.

"The minister does understand that she could have more clearly communicated the purpose and intent of why and how her office implemented her direction, and she has apologized to the House of Commons for how this issue has been handled. In that statement, she clearly said that it was never her intention to mislead either the House of Commons or the committee," the Conservative response read.

If Milliken were to decide Oda's actions constituted a breach, the matter would then go back to a committee to decide whether a vote should be held in the House on the breach question.

If Oda became the first sitting minister to be held in contempt of Parliament, that would put pressure on Harper to remove her from the cabinet.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Far more Canadians than Americans believe climate change is real, according to a report there's a message there for the federal government.

Far more Canadians than Americans believe climate change is real, according to a report produced by U.S. and Canadian think tanks.

The report, based on the results of two national surveys of public opinion on climate change, was to be released Wednesday by the Public Policy Forum and Sustainable Prosperity and their project partners.

Respondents on both sides of the border were asked their opinion on a range of issues on climate change, starting with whether they believed it was real.

In Canada, 80 per cent believe in the science behind climate change, compared with 58 per cent in the United States.

Alex Wood of Sustainable Prosperity, a research and policy network at the University of Ottawa, says there's a message there for the federal government.

"Canadians continue to believe in very high numbers that climate change is a significant issue," Wood said. "They want to see federal leadership on the issue in terms of a policy regime that will set the course for Canada."

Government responsibility

That sentiment points to another difference discovered by the survey: Just 43 per cent of Americans believe their national government has a great deal of responsibility to address climate change. In Canada, 65 per cent of respondents believe the government has a role to play.

In fact, the poll suggests Canadians want to see all levels of government —from Parliament Hill to provincial capitals to city hall — do something about climate change.

And unlike Americans, Wood says, Canadians are willing to pay for it.

"They believe carbon pricing is part of the necessary policy and they're not scared of it," Wood said.

The poll shows about twice as many Canadians as Americans support both a cap-and-trade system for industry and the idea of paying a carbon tax of up to $50 a month.

The Harper government has said it won't set up a cap-and-trade system without the United States, but Wood says the poll clearly shows Ottawa should reconsider.

The telephone survey was conducted using 916 randomly selected Americans from Nov. 15 to Dec. 9, 2010, and 1,214 Canadian respondents from Jan. 15 to Feb. 4, 2011. The survey's American findings are accurate to within three percentage points and the Canadian survey to within 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The NDP’s national campaign director is warning his troops to be ready to fight an election “in the coming weeks,”

The NDP’s national campaign director is warning his troops to be ready to fight an election “in the coming weeks,” ramping up already overheated speculation that a federal campaign is imminent.

“Stephen Harper has shown little indication that he’s willing to stop the political games,” Brad Lavigne writes in an internal memo to NDP candidates and organizers obtained by The Globe. “He’s shown little indication that he’ll stop the [corporate tax-cut] giveaways to the well-connected.”

The Sunday night missive comes just two days after a meetingbetween Jack Layton and Prime Minister Stephen Harper over the NDP’s demands for next month’s federal budget. It also comes amid a new Nanos poll showing improvements in the national horserace numbers for the NDP.

Clearly, the meeting, in which Mr. Layton presented his budget shopping list, did not go that well – at least not well enough for the NDP to muse about supporting the Harper government’s budget.

Mr. Harper and his team need the support of at least one of the three opposition parties in order for their budget to pass. If the fiscal plan – expected March 22 – is defeated the country will be plunged into a general election.

In his memo, Mr. Lavigne focuses on the issue of the corporate tax cuts – perhaps doing a bit of damage control after weekend stories that the NDP had taken the corporate tax cut issue off the table.

“On Friday, Jack Layton met with Stephen Harper at the Prime Minister’s request,” Mr. Lavigne writes. “Jack Layton’s message to Mr. Harper was clear – it’s time to put the games aside. And it’s time to help Canadian families struggling to get ahead.”

In the meeting, Mr. Layton “stressed that the Liberal/Conservative across-the-board corporate giveaway are wrong for Canada.”

Though Michael Ignatieff has supported tax relief for business in the past, the Liberals now say they cannot support the budget if the government does not roll back this latest round of cuts to corporations.

The NDP opposes the cuts as well, but this was not clear after Mr. Layton’s meeting with Mr. Harper since they were not part of the New Democratic budget wish list. The Liberals jumped on this over the weekend.

“It’s sad to see the NDP abandon the fight for tax fairness without a whimper,” Liberal MP Bob Rae told The Globe. “NDP figures it is losing tax cuts issue to the Liberals, and so needs its own territory. As the Tom Lehrer song says, ‘playing second fiddle’s a hard part, I know, when they won’t give you the bow’.”

Mr. Rae, a former NDP premier of Ontario, believes Mr. Layton’s caucus is divided on whether to try to take down the government over the budget. “If they do join in to the opposition to the budget – because the Tories don’t play ball – they see a small victory. If the Tories play ball – they ‘win’ (according to their theory). People will reward them for gaining concessions.”

The Liberal MP warns, however, that there is a “fatal weakness” to this strategy.

“The first is that everyone can see through it – it simply papers over the split in their caucus, they’ve ceded the tax cut issue to the Liberals (big mistake) and if they support the Tories they’re done for because their base is fiercely anti-Harper. If they don’t support them no one will notice. They are playing a bad hand of cards.”

Mr. Lavigne, meanwhile, told his troops that being ready to fight an election at any time puts the party in a position of strength. “And if Stephen Harper wants to head into an election showing that he is unable to put the needs of Canadians ahead of his own political goals, New Democrats will be ready to fight that election – and win.”

Monday, February 21, 2011

International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda was out of town when her office handled the KAIROS funding memo, leaving an aide to stamp it with her signature and write “not” on it to reverse the advice of bureaucrats, the Conservative government says.

OTTAWA—International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda was out of town when her office handled the KAIROS funding memo, leaving an aide to stamp it with her signature and write “not” on it to reverse the advice of bureaucrats, the Conservative government says.

Fighting back against opposition allegations that Oda “doctored” the memo, government officials are supplying new details that portray the handling of the now controversial funding recommendation as routine and a simple use of ministerial powers.

In a briefing note distributed to Conservative MPs over the weekend, they said, “Hundreds of these internal memos cross ministers’ desks every day.”

“This is how elected officials transmit their decisions to the public service in our system of government,” they said. “The Minister had reviewed the memo, made her decision not to approve the funding application, and asked her staff to follow through on it.”

The issue has emerged as a flashpoint after it was revealed last fall that someone had written “not” across the 2009 department memo from senior officials at the Canadian International Development Agency recommending $7 million for KAIROS, a church-based aid group. The insertion overturned their recommendation.

Last December Oda told a Commons committee she didn’t know who had scribbled the word. But in a surprise admission last week, she told the Commons that it was she who had directed a staff member to make the change to reflect her decision not to fund the agency.

That admission prompted all three opposition parties to demand Oda’s resignation and call for a formal parliamentary probe into whether she should be found in breach of privilege for misleading MPs.

The Conservatives are standing behind Oda. To help her defence, they circulated additional details over the weekend about what transpired.

According to new information, senior CIDA staff sent a memo to Oda, recommending the government provide funding for KAIROS. However, Oda did not agree with the decision. But because she was not in Ottawa that day, it was left to her aides to handle the paperwork.

“They, with the minister’s authority, applied her automated signature, which is used when required because a Minister is unable to personally sign a document, and indicated her decision on the memo by clearly indicating that she did NOT approve the funding application,” government officials said in their memo.

They said the altered recommendation was then returned to the very officials who had sent it to Oda for a decision — and whose signatures were still on the document, even though their advice had been overruled.

“By definition, those who received the returned memo could not have been misled, and were not misled, by the manner in which the Minister’s decision was communicated in the document,” officials said.

They pointed to testimony by CIDA president Margaret Biggs before a Commons committee last December, who said the entire process was “quite normal.

“The inclusion of the word ‘not’ is just a simple reflection of what her decision was, and she has been clear. So that’s quite normal,” Biggs said at the time.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Don Newman Sorry, prime minister, two wrongs don't make a right!

It seems to happen with amazing regularity.

Every time the Conservatives start inching towards the possibility of a majority government, something happens within their own ranks.

Just look at this week. Two public opinion polls showed support for Stephen Harper's Conservatives edging into the 40 per cent range, which is what is usually needed to secure a majority in this country.

More importantly, they showed voter support for Michael Ignatieff's Liberals sliding to 24 per cent, four points lower than the party had in the 2008 election under then leader Stéphane Dion.

With a budget coming, ostensibly on March 22, along with its two confidence votes, it would not seem to be too difficult for a party as wily as the Conservatives to have themselves defeated while blaming the opposition for forcing an election

They would then hope to capitalize on the momentum they have been building in the polls to help them cross the line into political utopia.

But then along came Bev Oda and the memo.


A personal disclaimer here. I like Bev Oda. I have always found her easy to deal with, perhaps because her late husband gave me my first job in network television at CTV many years ago.

Bev Oda, fielding questions in the Commons on Feb. 17, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Having said that, mind you, I have to ask: What was she thinking!

Or was she not thinking?

In case you have been in a cave somewhere these past several days, let me recap: Last fall two officials at the Canadian International Development Agency, which Oda oversees, recommended in a memo that the Canadian government continue funding an organization call Kairos.

Kairos is a long-standing church-sponsored organization that works in Third World countries, and part of the money it uses for its projects comes from CIDA, and has for the past 35 years.

Well, make that came from CIDA. That is because, despite a CIDA memo recommending the funding be continued, someone clumsily wrote in what appears to be ballpoint ink the word NOT in front of the typed word recommended.

When first challenged in front of a parliamentary committee about the insertion, Oda said she didn't know who had inserted the NOT, changing the recommendation.

She wasn't unduly concerned, she said at the time, because she agreed the funding should be stopped.

Fast forward to this week. Under pressure Oda conceded that it was she who wrote in the word NOT.

And that has brought down a storm of opposition protest about being misled by the minister, which has sent Oda running for cover.

It also left Harper and Conservative House Leader John Baird to advance the spurious argument that, as the minister responsible, Oda did no wrong because the decision to cut the funding was the correct one.

No right

Frankly, I don't have enough detail about the appropriate distribution of aid money by CIDA to weigh in on that aspect of the argument.

But the Harper-Baird defence doesn't pass muster on a couple of levels.

What they are trying to get Canadians to swallow is a curious twist on the old adage that two wrongs don't make a right.

By their reasoning, if the funding decision on Kairos was right, it cancels out two wrongs.

They want Canadians to believe that reversing a recommendation in a memo signed by two senior public servants, without getting them to initial or otherwise acknowledge the change, is all right.

(Would either Harper or Baird feel that way if the situation was somehow reversed? I think even to ask the question here is to answer it.)

And what about misleading a parliamentary committee?

For someone in authority to lie or purposely mislead at any time is clearly wrong.

But in the House of Commons, which a parliamentary committee is by extension, it is as grave an offence as there can be. The whole system is based on "honourable" men and women going about the public's business.

Harper and Baird are trying to blow this off as though it is no big deal.

But you would think that, more than anyone, Conservatives would want to support and maintain the traditions and regulations of Parliament.

After all, it is abiding by the rules that is behind the party's law and order agenda, and so much else that they stand for.

Terribly rude

But we probably shouldn't be surprised by the behaviour of John Baird.

Think back to the end of November 2008 when the newly elected Conservatives tried to cancel, out of the blue, public funding for political parties, and the Liberals and NDP came together to plan a coalition alternative.

Harper was forced to go to Rideau Hall to ask then Governor General Michaëlle Jean to suspend Parliament for a time, to avoid the impending confidence vote he would surely have lost.

While he was there, Baird was stalking the foyer of the House of Commons threatening that if there was no prorogation, the Conservatives would "go over the heads of Parliament, go over the head of the Governor General" to get their way.

It was never entirely clear what he meant by that, other than perhaps hoping that bombast and time would help make the problem go away.

But once again it feels like the Conservatives are playing fast and loose with the conventions of an institution that should be above these kind of games.

In the process they are also ignoring that old limerick from the British Parliament at Westminster: "To lie in the nude isn't terribly rude, but to lie in the House is obscene!" What's more, it is an obscenity, I am sure, that will send those polls sliding out of majority territory.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Two-thirds of Canadians fear Prime Minister Stephen Harper will "compromise" by giving up too much power over immigration, privacy and security to get a deal with the United States on border controls, a new poll has found.

OTTAWA — Two-thirds of Canadians fear Prime Minister Stephen Harper will "compromise" by giving up too much power over immigration, privacy and security to get a deal with the United States on border controls, a new poll has found.

The national survey, conducted exclusively for Postmedia News and Global Television, also finds Canadians are split over whether they "trust" Harper to craft a deal that maintains this country's independence.

Moreover, the poll by Ipsos Reid reveals Canadians want Harper to adopt a much more transparent approach to the "perimeter security" negotiations which are being held in total secrecy.

An overwhelming 91 per cent of Canadians say the negotiations should take place in public so that they can see what is on the table.

The online poll was conducted Feb. 15-17 — nearly two weeks after Harper travelled to Washington to announce with U.S. President Barack Obama that negotiations were being launched for a potentially historic and wide-ranging agreement.

Under the proposal, Canada and the U.S. would adopt common border-security controls that could lead to joint government facilities, sophisticated tracking of travellers, better cyber-security protection and improved oversight of overseas cargo shipped to both countries.

In exchange for greater co-operation and increased U.S. influence over security, the two governments hope to ease the flow of cross-border traffic and boost Canada-U.S. trade.

Critics have accused the Conservative government of negotiating the deal under a shroud of secrecy and contend that Harper is poised to give up too much at the bargaining table.

Ipsos Reid senior vice-president John Wright said Friday the new poll sheds light on the political dynamics that lie ahead.

Wright said he's not surprised at the level of public anxiety: Canadians were worried initially about a proposed free-trade deal proposed by Brian Mulroney, but then gave him a majority mandate in 1988 to implement the agreement.

"I think that when anything crosses the border with the prospect of integration, many Canadians are at the beginning very wary of it," said Wright.

The poll found that 68 per cent of Canadians believe Canada "will compromise too much power over decisions about immigration, privacy and security to get a perimeter security agreement." Thirty-two per cent disagreed.

Wright said the findings about the degree of trust Canadians give the prime minister aren't as troubling for the government as some might think.

The pollster asked Canadians if they "trust Stephen Harper to negotiate a deal that improves border access but doesn't give up powers that are important to Canada maintaining its own independence." Forty-nine per cent trust him, while 51 per cent don't.

Wright said the distrust is most prominent in Quebec and Atlantic Canada, which drags down the national figures. Trust for him is more pronounced in some of the western provinces, particularly Alberta.

"He still gets half the public trusting him. For any political observer, half the public trusting this prime minister is quite a victory."

Wright said that if the security-perimeter deal becomes an election issue, it's clear the opposition parties will attempt to "stoke fears" and capitalize on the public's thirst for more transparency.

"So what do you have to do as a government? You recognize that there is going to be anxiety around this and that the opposition is going to attack you. So you come out with a communications strategy that gets enough information out so that people are satisfied you are going to do the right thing."

In announcing the negotiations earlier this month, Harper and Obama released a generally-worded declaration of intent.

They want both countries to develop programs to better verify the identities of travellers, through common standards for the use of biometrics and through sharing information on travellers in real time.

The plan also envisions far greater co-operation between the military, police forces and intelligences services of both nations.

One of the proposals being negotiated is an "entry-exit" system to track cross-border traffic. Under this system, it is possible that when a Canadian enters the U.S., the Canadian government would be informed of the movement across the border.

The poll found that 63 per cent believe the proposal is "an acceptable measure to enhance border security," while 37 per cent disagreed.

For its survey, Ipsos Reid sampled 1,097 adults from its online panel. The margin of error is three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bev" Oda, Wikipedia info.

Beverley Joan "Bev" OdaPCMP (born July 27, 1944 in Thunder BayOntario)[1] is a Canadian politician. She is a current member of the Canadian House of Commons, as well as the first Japanese-Canadian MP and Cabinet Minister in Canadian history. She represents the riding of Durham for the Conservative Party of Canada. She was appointed Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women on February 6, 2006. On August 14, 2007, she was appointed to a new portfolio:Minister for International Cooperation.




Oda, a sansei, was born in Thunder Bay. Her mother was interned at Bay Farm in 1942 and her father went to southwestern Ontario to work on a sugar beet farm. He moved to Fort William to do millwork where he met his wife.[2]
Oda has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto.[3] She began her broadcasting career at TV Ontario in 1973, and later worked for Citytv and the Global Television Network. Oda was an Ontario Film Review Board Member in 1986-87, and a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Commissioner from 1987 to 1993. She became the Chair of FUND (now The Harold Greenberg Fund) in 1994. From 1995 to 1999, she was a Senior Vice-President of CTV and Baton Broadcasting. She was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame in November 2003, and was awarded The Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal in recognition of work in broadcasting. She has also worked as a policy adviser to three Secretaries of State.


Oda was for many years a volunteer with the Progressive Conservative Party. She ran as a Conservative in Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge in the 2004 federal election, and won a narrow victory over Liberal Tim Lang.
Following her election, Oda was named as the Conservative Party critic for the Ministry of Heritage. She has recently argued in favour of allowing more Canadian and foreign programming options in the country.
On November 15, 2004, she reintroduced Bill C-333, the Chinese Canadian Recognition and Redress Act, which calls on parliament to recognize the contribution of Chinese immigrants to Canada, and acknowledge the unjust past treatments of Chinese Canadians as a result of racist legislation. Oda is not herself Chinese, but is Canada's first parliamentarian of Japanese heritage.
In the 2006 election, she successfully defended her seat in Durham with 47% of the vote in the riding, despite controversy over campaign funding by US copyright proponents.[4] On February 6, 2006, Oda was sworn in as Heritage Minister in the cabinet of the newly elected Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. She is the first Japanese-Canadian cabinet minister in Canadian history.
Oda was re-elected by a significant margin in the 2008 federal election.

[edit]2006 fundraising controversy

In November 2006, Oda planned on holding a fundraising dinner for broadcasting executives, just weeks before a major review of broadcasting rules. The event was cancelled, but a number of donations were still made.[5]

[edit]2006/2008 limo controversy

In 2006, Oda paid back $2,200 to taxpayers after the Liberals found that she had incurred nearly $5,500 in limo rides at the 2006 Juno awards in Halifax.[6] In 2008, she was accused of hiding over $17,000 dollars of limo expenses billed to tax payers.[6]

[edit]2011 CIDA memo controversy

In February 2011, Bev Oda admitted to doctoring an already signed CIDA memo in 2009 that resulted in a funding recommendation for KAIROS being ignored.[7] The memo was altered by the addition of 'not' into the recommendation line of the document.[8] For more than a year, Oda had represented this change as an action taken by CIDA staff, when in fact it was a political decision made at her direction. KAIROS is a faith-based human rights organization, and has been attacked by Conservatives for an allegedly anti-Israel stance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.[7]
Opposition MPs in the House Foreign Affairs committee have initiated proceedings which could lead to a contempt of parliament finding against Oda; this would be the first time in Canadian history that a sitting cabinet minister would be found in contempt. Prime Minister Harper has continued to support Oda.[9]




Thursday, February 17, 2011

48 hours to save Canadian journalism Sign the petitionTo the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission:

48 hours to save Canadian journalismSign the petitionTo the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission:

As concerned Canadians who value journalistic integrity, we urge the CRTC to protect, not weaken, Canada's standards for journalism by refusing to change the "fair and balanced" rule for news networks and distributors. Open and honest media is vital to our democracy. We urge you to keep Canada's news honest. will protect your privacy and keep you posted about this and similar campaigns. 70,00067,45967,459 have signed the petition! Help us get to 70,000

In 48 hours, public protections against false news coverage could be destroyed. The CRTC may pass a huge loophole to the “fair and balanced” rule that currently prevents media from outright lying to the public.

Canada's broadcast journalism standards are an impediment to the new "Fox News North" (Sun TV) network being set up by Prime Minister Harper's cronies, which promises to mimic Fox News -- the poisonous US propaganda network. The CRTC rule change, which allows false news to be blasted across Canadian airwaves, comes just as SunTV is about to launch. We can stop this -- last year, we prevented Harper cronies from pressing the CRTC to fund "Fox News North" with public money. Now, we have just two days to raise another national outcry to save the standards of Canadian journalism, and our democracy. Sign the petition, and then tell everyone about this campaign: