Thursday, September 29, 2011

To highlight some of the critical work being done at the Goodman Cancer Research Centre, we gathered some of our top scientists, students, lab techs and dedicated volunteers, who turned on the music - and danced!

To highlight some of the critical work being done at the Goodman Cancer Research Centre, we gathered some of our top scientists, students, lab techs and dedicated volunteers, who turned on the music - and danced!

Thanks to our proud sponsor, Medicom, a donation will be made for each hit to support advances in cancer research at the Goodman Cancer Research Centre.


 To make a direct gift,

1) Click on the Donations tab at the top then

2) Go to "online giving" in the middle of the page.

Thank you for your tremendous interest and support!

Mike Harris Ernie Eves now Tim Hudak we have seen this before!

Mike Harris and the "Common Sense Revolution"

 Harris catapulted his party from third place to an election victory, running on a neoliberal platform known as the "Common Sense Revolution" that highlighted a number of "wedge issues" and promised significant tax cuts, cuts to welfare, the introduction of workfare, and privatization of social services. Harris went on to win a second majority in 1999 despite the strikes and protests that plagued his first term in office.

The Harris government was criticized on issues such as health care, the environment, education, and its tax policies, though it remained generally popular until Harris's departure as party leader.

The slide in Conservative support began in early 2000, according to the Ipsos-Reid polling company (Ipsos-Reid website), when the Tories fell behind the Liberals in the public opinion polls for the first time since the 1999 election, with 36% support of those polled, compared to 42% for the Liberals and 17% for the NDP. Later in 2000, Liberal support rose to about half of those polled, while Conservative support remained in the low 30s. This pattern held through to the 2002 leadership campaign, when Conservative support rose to 37%, while the Liberals retained the support of about half of those polled.

 Ernie Eves: distancing the party from the "Common Sense Revolution"With the resignation of Mike Harris in 2002, the PCs held a leadership election. Ernie Eves, who had been Harris' Minister of Finance, and who had the backing of almost all PC MPPs, won the campaign, defeating his successor as Minister of Finance, Jim Flaherty.

Eves was a Red Tory, unlike Harris. He'd tried to blunt some of the edges of the more radical elements of Harris' platform while in Cabinet. His rejection of the "Common Sense Revolution" continued after he became premier. He killed plans to sell off Hydro One when deregulation of energy prices resulted in a dramatic increase in energy rates and threatened a consumer revolt. This led him to re-impose retail price controls on electricity, capping the price at 4.3 cents per kilowatt/hour, and vowing to keep it capped until at least 2006. The result was a quickly escalating public debt that made up for shortfalls in the price of electricity.

During the summer after Eves’ election as leader, the Conservatives closed the gap in popular support considerably, placing only two percentage points behind the Liberals in two summer public opinion polls. By the autumn of 2002, however, Eves’ ‘honeymoon’ with the voters was over, and the party fell back in the polls, hovering in the mid-to-high 30s, while the Liberals scored in the mid-to-high 40s.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

CSIS Canadian spies teamed up with the Gadhafi regime to question a Canadian jailed in Libya, a prominent human-rights group says.

Canadian spies teamed up with the Gadhafi regime to question a Canadian jailed in Libya, a prominent human-rights group says.

Canadian Security Intelligence Service officers travelled to Libya several times to interview the prisoner between 2002 and 2005, Human Rights Watch says. The New York-based group will circulate a statement on Wednesday revealing that it has obtained documents on this obscure case from an abandoned intelligence complex in Tripoli.

Mustafa Krer, 56, immigrated to Canada from Libya in the 1990s. He was jailed as a terrorism suspect when he returned to his homeland almost a decade ago. Released only last year, he hopes to return to Canada in coming months.

He maintains that Western intelligence agencies, including CSIS, came to put questions to him after the Libyans locked him up in 2002. “Seven Canadians and seven Libyans – I was there, and they did it together,” he is quoted as saying in a Human Rights Watch statement. He says he was tortured by Libyan guards when no outsiders were looking.

This account is “deeply troubling,” said Andrea Prasow, a lawyer for the group. “CSIS did not torture Krer, but they must have known the Libyans probably did.”

CSIS has long insisted it neither arranges arrests nor condones torture. It defends its partnerships with foreign spy services, even ones controlled by repressive dictators, as necessary to save Canadian lives.

The Globe and Mail reported this week that a Conservative government minister thanked Libya for putting its “extensive intelligence networks” to work for Ottawa in 2009.

Federal agents, including CSIS, had been in Africa earlier that year working their contacts in hopes of rescuing two captive Canadian diplomats. The two hostages were released after 130 days in the Sahara. Yet U.S. envoys cabled Washington to complain that Canadian officials facilitated a secret ransom deal that enriched terrorists and jeopardized West African security.

Canadian court documents alleged that Mr. Krer was a Libyan Islamic Fighting Group member and was spotted meeting some al-Qaeda-linked suspects in Canada.

CSIS spokeswoman Tahera Mufti said in an e-mail on Tuesday that she couldn’t address specifics, but pointed out the LIFG “is an organization listed as an entity associated with al-Qaeda” by the United Nations.

Mr. Krer doesn’t deny that he has LIFG ties – in fact, he recently told a reporter he was a fundraiser for the group in its nascent phases.

While several of his former comrades became al-Qaeda militants, others are leading the rebel militias that NATO warplanes are backing in the effort to rid Libya of Moammar Gadhafi.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, several Arab-Canadians were put under CSIS or RCMP surveillance and accused of having ties to al-Qaeda. Many were jailed when they flew to their homelands.

Some are suing Ottawa for complicity in torture.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Opposition MPs seized on newly released documents to blast the Harper government Monday for not providing more information on last year’s G8 summit in Muskoka.

OTTAWA—Opposition MPs seized on newly released documents to blast the Harper government Monday for not providing more information on last year’s G8 summit in Muskoka.

The confidential documents unveiled by the NDP reignited charges that then auditor general Sheila Fraser was misled about how $50 million in taxpayers’ money was disbursed.

“Canadians look to the auditor general to protect their interests,” said New Democrat MP Charlie Angus. But “we have a government that appears to have misled the auditor general and thinks they can get away with it.”

In a scathing report released in June just after Fraser retired, interim auditor general John Wiersema painted a disturbing picture of how Conservative MP Tony Clement and several confidants hand-picked the G8 legacy projects that ultimately got $45.7 million in federal funding. The report said there was no evidence federal government officials took part in the normal vetting process to determine which projects qualified for grants.

But confidential emails from Muskoka-area townships, including a fresh batch disclosed by the NDP Monday, indicate high-level involvement by federal officials along with Clement in the disbursal of the G8 money.

Angus told reporters that Wiersema’s staffers told him their conclusions were based solely on information from senior government officials in various federal departments. Angus said the auditors appeared frustrated.

Based on the emails uncovered since June by NDP researchers, he said, “the auditor general’s report is meaningless” because it lacks detail on how the millions in federal cash was handed out.

“Clearly, a lot of people went out of their way to steer the auditor general down the wrong path,” Angus said.

He said it’s clear that Clement and other government officials “did not pass on the documents (to the auditor general) that showed their direct involvement” in the decision-making for funding grants.

As well, he says federal auditors were told there was no paper trail for the projects when in fact written funding requests were funnelled through Clement’s constituency office.

“The auditor general was lied to,” Angus said.

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said the new information should prompt the auditor general to reopen the probe of summit spending.

“The auditor general unwittingly gave information to the House which was not entirely correct and the reason that she did so was because she got false information from government officials — or from somebody,” Rae said.

Ghislain Desjardins, a spokesperson for the auditor general, said there are no plans to reopen their audit, calling it a “one-time” report.

However, Wiersema is scheduled to appear before a Commons committee Wednesday and is certain to get asked about the new revelations about how the summit cash was handled.

Angus said the emails indicate Clement had little use for the normal government checks and balances on spending when Ottawa was disbursing millions into the Muskoka region in advance of the 2010 G8 summit in Huntsville.

The NDP said one of the emails suggests Clement (then federal industry minister) concurred with Huntsville Mayor Claude Doughty that bureaucrats at Infrastructure Canada were getting in the way by conducting a review of planned G8 spending.

Doughty wrote to Clement, saying “this is totally unacceptable — I am sure you agree,” according to the email. Clement responded, “I agree. I’m working on it.”

The New Democrats have accused the Conservatives of setting up a “parallel” funding process deliberately organized to skirt normal government oversights when Ottawa handed out the G8 legacy fund in Clement’s Parry Sound-Muskoka riding last year. Clement is now Treasury Board president.

Clement has denied any wrongdoing in connection to the $50 million fund. The Conservatives have acknowledged that the federal auditor general was right to conclude in June that the funding process lacked transparency and accountability.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

CSIS notes reveal how Canadian was kept in exile : the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has a big problem.

In the summer of 2004, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was suddenly faced with a big problem. Abousfian Abdelrazik, the Canadian they suspected of having links to terrorists, was about to be set free after more than a year in prison in Sudan. Worse, from CSIS’s standpoint, he was headed home to Canada and the agency had no legitimate means to stop him.

Hours after Sudanese security forces hauled Mr. Abdelrazik out of his Khartoum prison cell on July 20 and drove him to a police house to await a prearranged flight leaving on July 22, CSIS’s top counterterrorist chief in Ottawa was on the phone with the head of security at Transport Canada to discuss the matter.

Margin notes on CSIS documents related to the conversation, marked “Secret” and now in the possession of The Globe and Mail, highlight the fact that Mr. Abdelrazik was only on a U.S. no-fly list – insufficient to keep him from returning to Canada. It’s unclear what transpired during the conversation, but soon afterward both Air Canada and Lufthansa abruptly cancelled Mr. Abdelrazik’s ticket home. He would spend another five years in forced exile.

The “Canadian Eyes Only” documents also reveal for the first time officially that U.S. security agents wanted Mr. Abdelrazik shipped to Guantanamo Bay. If CSIS managed to delay Mr. Abdelrazik’s return in 2004, it had the effect of buying time while U.S. agents worked to render him to the notorious camp for suspected terrorists.

The Central Intelligence Agency “from the very beginning … have made it known that their preferred option, and one which they will attempt to negotiate with the Sudanese, is to transfer Abdelrazik to the Guantanamo Bay military facility in Cuba,” according to the CSIS document.

The revelations raise new questions about the scope and legality of CSIS operations abroad and its treatment of Canadian citizens. In the summer of 2004, Maher Arar had only recently returned to Canada after more than a year of torture and abuse in Syria. His $10-million compensation package, a public apology from a humiliated government and the resignation of the RCMP commissioner were still to come, but if there was one lesson Canada’s security services had learned from the Arar fiasco it was that getting caught helping the United States render people for torture abroad was a monstrous mistake and ruinous to their reputations.

The newly obtained documents could bolster Mr. Abdelrazik’s $27-million lawsuit against the Canadian government if CSIS is found to have actively thwarted Mr. Abdelrazik’s return or tried to help the CIA’s effort to achieve its “preferred option” of sending him to Guantanamo Bay.

Other government documents have already implicated CSIS in Mr. Abdelrazik’s arrest and imprisonment in Sudan in 2003 after he left Montreal for Khartoum, ostensibly to visit his sick mother. In a 2009 decision, Mr. Justice Russel Zinn of the Federal Court of Canada ruled Mr. Abdelrazik’s imprisonment in Khartoum resulted “either directly or indirectly from CSIS,” a finding the agency stridently denies, but opted not to challenge under oath in court.

In a series of written questions, CSIS was asked whether it blocked or attempted to delay Mr. Abdelrazik’s return in 2004 or at any other time, and if doing so would violate its mandate and Canadian law. The agency declined to reply. “CSIS does not publicly discuss specific operational interests or activities, including investigative methodology,” said Tahera Mufti, the agency’s spokeswoman. Unlike CSIS’s blunt\and repeated claim that it has never arranged for the arrest or imprisonment of Canadian citizens, including Mr. Abdelrazik, overseas, CSIS would offer no such assurance about blocking their return home.

After his 2004 flights were mysteriously cancelled, Mr. Abdelrazik ended up spending another five years in forced exile – more than two in prison and more than a year in the lobby of the Canadian embassy in Khartoum – while the Canadian government refused to give him a passport to fly home. Only after a court ruling did he return in 2009 to his children in Montreal.

The new documents, coupled with thousands of previously disclosed papers, reveal a nasty, long-running battle between CSIS and consular officials. In the spring and summer of that year, a bitter bureaucratic struggle was waged between Canadian diplomats and Canadian spies. “Cda speaks [out] of both sides of mouth” is the frank, handwritten margin note on one of the documents.

At the time of the flurry of activity between CSIS and Transport Canada, Canadian diplomats backed by the Foreign Affairs Department in Ottawa were helping Mr. Abdelrazik. They regarded it as their consular duty to assist a citizen imprisoned aboard. They knew Mr. Abdelrazik had never been charged with a crime, although he had been a target of CSIS surveillance for years. They knew his wife had bought him a ticket home via Frankfurt on Lufthansa and Air Canada. And they were getting ready to issue the temporary passport so he could return home, as is the constitutional right of every citizen. They had even assigned a diplomat to fly home with him as an escort – a strong hint that they knew just how badly Canadian and U.S. counterterrorism agencies wanted to spirit him off to Guantanamo.

But if Mr. Abdelrazik made it back to Canada, there was no chance the CIA could talk the Sudanese into handing him over or spirit him off to Guantanamo, so the problem facing CSIS in July of 2004 was both urgent and delicate. Mr. Abdelrazik was on the verge of release, he had a paid-for airline ticket for July 23 from Khartoum to Frankfurt on Lufthansa, connecting to an Air Canada flight home.

There’s no public record of the July 20, 2004, conversation between Charles Coghlin, then CSIS’s acting director-general of counterterrorism, and Transport’s Canada’s top security official at the time, David Guimond. But a careful reading of the CSIS documents confirms the basic points. Mr. Coghlin provided a lurid case that Mr. Abdelrazik posed a danger. Handwritten margin notes make clear that the U.S. no-fly list wasn’t enough to block Mr. Abdelrazik’s return.

But over the next 24 hours, both airlines suddenly decided to cancel Mr. Abdelrazik’s reservation. Lufthansa’s station manager in Khartoum unexpectedly called the Canadian embassy and said the airline wouldn’t carry him. Air Canada followed. Air Canada declined to respond to written questions, saying it doesn’t comment on security issues. Lufthansa has not responded to the same questions.

The raft of CSIS allegations against Mr. Abdelrazik remain unproven and untested in court. He has never been charged, in either Canada or Sudan. By November, 2007, CSIS admitted in a formal letter to cabinet that it had no objection to Mr. Abdelrazik’s ongoing attempts to be removed from the UN terrorist blacklist. By then, CSIS said it had “no current substantial information regarding Mr. Abdelrazik.” The RCMP delivered a similar letter. Those admissions of an empty file stand in stark contrast to the unproven but damning descriptions CSIS was circulating in the 2004 documents as they apparently sought to prevent his return. Then CSIS disparaged Mr. Abdelrazik as an al-Qaeda operative “completely devoted to Islamic extremism” seeking “to die a martyr’s death.” It said he had plotted to blow up airliners and claimed to have found traces of powerful plastic explosives in his car, but didn’t explain why that hadn’t led to an arrest.

Not until 2009, after the Federal Court ruled that Ottawa had violated Mr. Abdelrazik’s right to return, did Ottawa finally issue him a temporary passport and send an RCMP officer to escort him home from Khartoum. Even then, there were fears at the highest political levels in Ottawa that U.S. counterterrorism agencies might attempt to intercept the plane and divert Mr. Abdelrazik to Guantanamo.

Washington was alerted to “Canada’s intense interest in knowing whether the U.S. would actively or passively obstruct Abdelrazik’s boarding in Sudan or in subsequent connecting flights,” according to secret U.S. diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks dated only days before his return in June, 2009.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wrongly deported, Albanian family returns to Toronto after more than two years in hiding and fearing for their lives

Wrongly deported, Albanian family returns to Toronto after more than two years in hiding and fearing for their lives

Tabaj family returns. The Tabaj family arrives at Pearson Airport’s Terminal 3 yesterday after being allowed back in the country following a judge’s ruling that they were wrongfully deported. Seen here are parents Arjan and Anilda with daughter Maria and twin sons Kristian and Vincenzo. Staff Photo/IAN KELSO Timeline

November 1998 - The Tabaj family flees to Canada from their native Albania and file a refugee claim, fearing political violence in their home country.

May 1999 - The family abandons their refugee claim and return to Albania, thinking the unrest had died down and that they would be safe.

April 7, 2000 - Arjan Tabaj becomes the victim of an assassination attempt in Tirana, Albania - one that kills his best friend and brother-in-law and costs him his left leg (he now wears a prosthetic limb) and the use of his left arm.

January 2001 - The family returns to Canada using fake passports. They are repeatedly denied refugee claimant status due to their previously abandoned claim.

January 6, 2006 - Twins Kristian and Vincenco are born in Toronto.

November 2007 - Arjan and Anilda are each taken into custody and held in detention pending their deportation.

December 2007 - Wrzesnewskyj, then-Etobicoke Centre MP, pledges $5,000 out-of pocket to secure Anilda's release, so that she can spend Christmas with her children.

February 2008 - Arjan Tabaj is also released from detention, but the family's fight to not be deported continues. A petition is filed on the Tabaj family's behalf, urging Diane Finley, then minister of Citizenship and Immigration, to use discretion in deciding the family's fate under section 25(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

February 2009 - With their deportation date scheduled for March 2009, the Tabaj's daughter Maria writes a plea to Stephen Harper to allow her family to stay in Canada

- On Feb. 27 the Tabaj family's deportation order is indefinitely postponed to allow them to complete several immigration applications. The family's status hinges largely upon the ministry's decision on a humanitarian application and a pre-removal risk assessment.

June 8, 2009 - The Tabaj family is deported to Albania, where they quickly go into hiding.

January 2010 - Tabaj family receive several death threats.

February 2010 - Arjan and Vincenco escape a drive-by shooting on the entire family with only minor facial scrapes following yet another assassination attempt on the family in Tirana, Albania. In a letter to Kenney later that week, Wrzesnewskyj once again pleads the family's case in light of recent events, asking the minister to allow temporary visitor permits to bring the Tabaj family to Canada and "remove them from harm's way and potential assassination."

May 2010 - Two applications (one a pre-removal risk assessment and the other a humanitarian and compassionate one) filed to Citizenship and Immigration Canada before the Tabaj family's June 8, 2009 deportation, get approved - more than a year after the family were forcibly flown back to Albania.

The process of bringing the family back to Canada, lawyers said at the time, should take no longer than a month to complete.

September 2010 - After CItizenship and Immigration Canada announces it is vacating the pre-removal risk assessment decision, Wrzesnewskyj makes the potentially dangerous call to go public with their plight yet again. He continues to demand answers as to why the government seems intent to continuing exposing the family to "unnecessary yet significant lethal risk."

August 30, 2011 - Justice Sandra J. Simpson orders that the Tabaj family be issued two-year Temporary Resident Permits (TRPs), and that the family's applications for permanent residence as protected persons be completed soon after their return to Canada.

Sept. 22, 2011 - The Tabaj family makes their safe return to Canada.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Public Prosecution Service of Canada Drug Prosecutions data PPSC Annual Report 2010-2011.

Drug Prosecutions

Drug prosecution files represent a significant proportion of the PPSC’s total caseload. In 2010-2011, the PPSC handled 58,117 prosecution files related to offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Of those, 24,245 files were carried over from previous years, and 33,872 files were new. These prosecutions vary greatly in complexity; some are simple cases of possession of a few grams of marihuana, while others involve complex schemes to import quantities of cocaine or to make methamphetamine in a suburban neighbourhood for export.

PPSC prosecutors are often involved early in investigations to ensure that investigators receive timely advice on the techniques they are using and to ensure that the evidence is marshalled to permit a prosecution on the merits of the case.

Cases targeting criminal organizations have increased as a result of police forces focusing more of their efforts on investigations of such organizations. Trafficking in drugs is one of the primary activities of most organized crime groups.

In part because of changes in enforcement in recent years, the PPSC has seen an increase in the number and size of drug cases in certain parts of the country. In British Columbia, for example, a single case involved a seizure of over 1,000 kilograms of cocaine, and another involved a seizure of over 1,000 kilograms of ketamine. Taken together, eight other cases involved over 420 kilograms of cocaine, 75 kilograms of methamphetamine, 88 kilograms of opium, and 55,000 hits of ecstasy. The wholesale value of the drugs seized in these ten cases exceeds $75 million. The street value would be many times more.

Drug prosecutions can become time-consuming and complex. Lately, prosecutions that would have been relatively straightforward in the past have been prolonged as a result of motions focusing on the legality of the investigation, the constitutionality of the legislation or of the investigation, disclosure issues, allegations of abuse of process, or unreasonable delay.

High-complexity drug cases require a significant amount of PPSC resources. While such cases represented only 2.13% of staff counsel’s drug caseload in 2010-2011, they took up 35.38% of the litigation time dedicated to drug prosecutions.

Drug offences are often revenue-generating crimes, and thus continue to represent the majority of offences that lead to the forfeiture of proceeds of crime and property used to commit crime (“offence-related property”). In 2010-2011, the PPSC handled 2,176 cases involving either proceeds of crime or offence-related property (1,296 were carried over from previous years, and 880 were new). The proceeds or property at issue ranged from money used to buy drugs from an undercover officer to real estate bought with the proceeds of crime or used to produce drugs. A total of $35.6 million of proceeds of crime and offence-related property was forfeited during 2010-2011.

Addiction-motivated crime presents particular challenges. To try to reduce the revolving door of crime committed to feed an addiction, federally funded Drug Treatment Courts have been established in Vancouver, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Ottawa. As well, a community-funded Drug Treatment Court operates in Calgary. These courts focus on the supervised treatment of the offender. Prosecutors work with judges, defence counsel, treatment providers, and other personnel to cooperatively but accountably deal with the issues raised by the conduct of offenders diverted to these specialized courts.

PPSC prosecutors currently staff all of Canada’s Drug Treatment Courts with the exception of the Regina Drug Treatment Court, which is staffed by prosecutors from the Ministry of the Attorney General of Saskatchewan.

Project E-Pandora

Following a two-year investigation into the East End Charter of the Hells Angels (EEHA), 18 people were arrested and charged with a variety of offences connected to the production and trafficking of methamphetamine in association with a criminal organization.

The last of the trial matters concluded in the spring of 2010 with Randall Potts and John Punko (both EEHA members) pleading guilty to conspiracy to produce and traffic methamphetamine and trafficking cocaine. The trial judge ruled that the federal Crown was estopped (prevented) from proceeding on the criminal organization charges. The PPSC appealed the sentences and the estoppel ruling. In February 2011, the B.C. Court of Appeal increased both sentences and ordered a new trial for Mr. Punko and Mr. Potts on the criminal organization offences.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Minister for Trade Ewa Björling to visit Canada and United States on 19-23 September Ottawa Toronto

Minister for Trade Ewa Björling to visit Canada and United States on 19-23 September


Minister for Trade Ewa Björling will visit Ottawa on 19-20 September, where she will meet Canada's Minister of International Trade Edward Fast to discuss the current negotiations on an ambitious free trade agreement between the EU and Canada.

Dr Björling will also take part in a trade policy seminar together with politicians, business representatives and journalists, to talk about the challenges of globalisation for trade policy.

One of Dr Björling's priorities is the Kosmopolit project, which aims to harness the experience and knowledge that entrepreneurs with foreign backgrounds can contribute. Canada is a leader in this area and Dr Björling will therefore be visiting the Ministry for Citizenship and Immigration.


Dr Björling will visit Toronto on 21 September to take part in the seminar Innovative, Sustainable and Profitable Mining, which is being organised by the Swedish Trade Council. Mining is a very important industry in both Sweden and Canada, and Sweden is at the forefront in developing methods for sustainable mining. A large number of leading representatives of the Swedish and Canadian mining industries will be present.


In Washington the Minister for Trade will meet US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Deputy Trade Representative Miriam E. Sapiro.

Dr Björling will also give a speech at House of Sweden in connection with the launch of increased support for the Swedish American Green Alliance (SAGA), a cooperative project between Sweden and the United States in the area of environmental technology. This initiative includes activities in green architecture, sustainable transport and sustainable infrastructure, in line with the SymbioCity platform that the Government has developed in cooperation with industry to market Swedish knowledge and Swedish enterprises in green urban development.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Swissair 111: The Untold Story the fifth estate CBC.

At 10:31 p.m. on Sept. 2, 1998, Nova Scotians felt their homes shake as Swissair flight 111 slammed into the waters off Peggy's Cove, killing all on board. There were 229 passengers and crew, including a Saudi Prince and a relative of the late Shah of Iran. In the cargo hold, a half a billion dollars worth of gold, diamonds and cash.

Early into the crash investigation, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada made a preliminary finding that the tragedy was the result of an accident. The TSB would ultimately point to a fire in the cockpit, likely sparked by an electrical fault. But there remained many unanswered questions and mysteries.

Years later, the crash remains one of Canada's greatest tragedies. Now new disturbing information from one of the crash investigators raises chilling questions about the official cause of the disaster.

On Friday, Sept. 16, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), the fifth estate investigates the crash of Flight 111 and reveals stunning allegations, meticulously documented by former RCMP officer -- Tom Juby -- the veteran crime scene investigator who suspects it might have been murder.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Embattled Conservative MP Bob Dechert should ask the federal ethics commissioner to review his relationship with a Chinese journalist, New Democrats say.

OTTAWA—Embattled Conservative MP Bob Dechert should ask the federal ethics commissioner to review his relationship with a Chinese journalist, New Democrats say.

If he doesn’t, they say they may appeal to Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson for an independent review of the controversy that has thrust the Mississauga-Erindale politician into the spotlight.

“There should be an inquiry because there are all these threads loosely hanging out there,” NDP Paul Dewar said Thursday.

“I think that would do him good stead . . . to ensure there are no question marks left on his reputation and his conduct,” Dewar said in an interview.

Dechert has gone quiet since admitting a week ago that he had sent “flirtatious” emails to Shi Rong, a Toronto-based reporter with the Chinese news agency Xinhua.

The Ottawa Citizen reported Thursday that Shi has left Toronto and returned to China on a “scheduled vacation.”

The emails were allegedly hacked from Shi’s personal account and forwarded to more than 200 of her contacts.

The revelation of the amorous emails is not only embarrassing for Dechert but a potential security headache as well.

Intelligence experts say that Xinhua journalists often double as intelligence agents, raising questions about Shi’s dealings with Dechert, who serves as parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

“The key thing is to make sure that there was no security breach,” Liberal MP Ralph Goodale said.

He said this incident also drives home the need for cabinet ministers and the MPs tapped to be their helpers to be better educated about the “responsibilities and risks” that go with the posts.

“A lot of these folks come into office, regardless of political party, keen as mustard and green as grass,” Goodale said.

“They are actually vulnerable. If they are vulnerable, then the country is potentially vulnerable,” he said.

Historian Jack Granatstein said it’s too early to assess the impact of a “foolishly indiscreet” Dechert and his dealings with the journalist.

“We don’t know yet. Do we know that this woman is not an agent? That’s the key thing,” he said Thursday.

“We do know that Chinese journalists often are agents. The emails make her sound inept if she is a spy, but maybe the emails are fake, too. Who knows?” Granatstein said

A call to Dechert’s Mississauga office was not returned Thursday.

While the government has struck a dismissive tone publicly, Granatstein said he’s certain that, behind the scenes, security probes are underway to assess the ties between the pair.

“I cannot believe that something like this would be left unchecked,” he said.

Indeed, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Thursday that the Prime Minister’s Office had done its own investigation of Dechert.

“I understand that the Prime Minister’s Office has looked into this and there’s no indication that there’s anything untoward that has occurred here. I have no information or evidence to the contrary,” Toews said on CBC’s Power and Politics.

“I’m not involved in this investigation,” Toews added.

The PMO has stood by Dechert since the scandal broke, saying it has no evidence that the married Conservative MP, first elected in 2008, had engaged in “inappropriate” behaviour.

But since taking power in 2006, Harper’s style has been to resist political or public pressure to demote MPs or cabinet ministers who have slipped up. Instead, he has preferred to wait out the furor, using a cabinet shuffle down the road to make his move.

Dewar suspects Harper is following a similar “stubborn” strategy with Dechert, hoping the fuss “blows over.”

“No question, he’ll try to weather the storm,” Dewar said. “As a Prime Minister, he has to decide what is acceptable conduct and what is responsible.”

Dechert’s flirty emails promise to be in the spotlight again next week when Parliament returns and, with it, question period, when opposition MPs are expected to press the government for an explanation of Dechert’s relationship with the reporter.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Old Fox’ more than friends in e-mail .

Bob Dechert calls “flirtatious” messages he sent to a journalist with China’s state media part of an innocent friendship but among the cache of leaked e-mails that brought this to light is an especially personal letter about an entanglement gone sour – one that raises more questions.

The Harper government treated this missive, written in Chinese, seriously enough that it went to the trouble of translating it while investigating what transpired between Mr. Dechert, 53, and Xinhua News Agency correspondent Shi Rong.

Mr. Dechert is a Conservative MP with special duties to assist the Minister of Foreign Affairs, while Ms. Shi is the Toronto correspondent for Xinhua, an organization that Western counter-intelligence agencies consider a tool of the Chinese state. Both are married.

The e-mail, titled “Old Fox,” was part of the same bundle of e-mails hacked from Ms. Shi’s inbox last week and sent without her consent to more than 240 business, academic and political contacts. She blames her husband for the leak.

Mr. Dechert is never mentioned by name in this note, a fact Tory government officials cite when defending their decision to stand by the MP.

This e-mail, however, appears to be counselling Ms. Shi on a relationship she’s having with an older man – something that was more than a friendship and is now on the rocks.

Dated June 26, 2010, it was purportedly sent to Ms. Shi by fellow Xinhua correspondent Qu Jing.

“About the old man, tune him out,” reads the e-mail from Ms. Qu, which then goes into a lengthy diatribe about how men treat their girlfriends as “clothes” that they can wear or discard as they see fit.

“About the sad tales you told me about him keeping you waiting for a long time, put it out of your mind. I have experienced the same,” Ms. Qu writes to Ms. Shi. “Sweep him into dust bin, he is not good enough for you.”

Members of the Harper government, which has refused to fire Mr. Dechert from his parliamentary secretary post, keep repeating that the MP has denied any “inappropriate behaviour” and that it has “no information to suggest otherwise.”

In e-mails that that Mr. Dechert has already admitted writing – and are widely circulated in the media – he professes his love for Ms. Shi and fawns over a picture of her.

The Mississauga Erindale MP did not respond to a request for an interview Tuesday and Ms. Shi has avoided answering media calls since the story broke.

University of Toronto political scientist Nelson Wiseman, who has been interviewed by Ms. Shi in the past, said he is surprised Mr. Dechert hasn’t been removed from his duties.

“It’s really bad judgment,” he said of Mr. Dechert’s conduct. “There’s no doubt Xinhua is strictly under the thumb of the Chinese authorities.”

Little is known about Ms. Shi. Mr. Wiseman said she told him she’d previously studied in England and was especially interested in the works of Oscar Wilde.

He said during past interviews he pressed Ms. Shi on how Xinhua works.

It is taken as a given by those who study China and its security apparatuses that correspondents sent abroad by the Xinhua newswire are agents of the state, and journalists only on the side.

“I explicitly asked her whether she belongs to the Communist Party,” Mr. Wiseman said.

“And she danced around it and said no.”

And I said ‘Well, hold it, how can you work for them without being a member?’ So she said she was just very good [at her job], as if her other qualities had made up for that.”

He said he didn’t give this much credence.

Xinhua colleagues of Ms. Shi described her as a “naive” rookie foreign correspondent and denied that the newswire’s reporters engage in espionage.

A long-time Xinhua correspondent, retired after 40 years with the newswire and two postings abroad, said he and his colleagues were too busy trying to appease editors in Beijing to do espionage on the side. He said demands on correspondents are even higher since Xinhua – like media companies worldwide – expanded operations in recent years to include broadcast and online media..

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Baird ducks questions

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Tuesday that he has already commented on the flirtatious emails his parliamentary secretary Bob Dechert sent to a Chinese journalist and that he has nothing to add.

Baird was asked about Dechert by reporters on Parliament Hill following an update on Libya. The foreign affairs minister was asked to explain how the government can be sure that national security wasn't compromised by Dechert's relationship with Shi Rong, a journalist working in Toronto for China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua.

Baird's response was that he's already made a statement on the matter but he didn't acknowledge the security concerns that have been raised by some analysts who say Xinhua is tied to China's intelligence agencies and by opposition party critics who accuse Dechert of exercising poor judgment.

“The government has spoken to this, Mr. Dechert has spoken to this, I have spoken to this, I have nothing really additional,” Baird said. To other questions on Dechert, Baird said he's known the MP a long time and trusts him, and that he had nothing to say about Dechert accompanying Prime Minister Stephen Harper on a trip to China in 2009. Then the foreign affairs minister quickly ended the news conference and took no more questions.

Dechert, who is married, confirmed last Friday that he sent flirtatious emails to Shi, and apologized for "any harm caused to anyone by this situation.” Over the weekend, Baird called the attention to the story "ridiculous" and described Dechert as a "mild-mannered" man.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday that Dechert "denied any inappropriate behaviour. We have no information to suggest otherwise."

Dechert, who was appointed parliamentary secretary for Foreign Affairs in May, said he met Shi while doing interviews for Chinese-language media and she became a friend. He said the emails, sent in April 2010, were nothing more than a flirtation but the relationship has raised questions given Shi’s employer.

NDP MP Peter Julian, meeting with his party's caucus in Quebec City, called it a spectacular lapse in judgment and inappropriate on a professional level. He added he's confident Dechert will "make the right decision." Paul Dewar, the NDP's Foreign Affairs critic, called for Dechert's resignation Monday.

A Canadian-based Chinese-language newspaper is reporting that Shi will be leaving Toronto, if she hasn't already.

Emails sent in 2010

At the time the emails were sent, Dechert had just been made parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice.

In one email sent about midnight on April 17, 2010, Dechert thanked Shi for sending a photo of herself from seven years earlier. "You are so beautiful. I really like the picture of you by the water with your cheeks puffed. That look is so cute, I love it when you do that. Now, I miss you even more."

In another 2010 email, Dechert tells Shi to watch CPAC because he will smile for her as he stands to vote in the House of Commons that night. She replies that she will watch for him.

The correspondence was revealed last week in a mass email sent from Shi's account. Dechert said her account was hacked as part of a domestic dispute.

Dechert also serves on the Canada China Legislative Association, a parliamentary forum established in 1998 that "promotes the exchange of information between Canadian parliamentarians and representatives of the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China in order to encourage better understanding and closer ties between the two countries."

Tom Flanagan, a former advisor to Harper, said MPs should be warned about Xinhua. "Everybody who works for the Chinese news agency is basically a member of their intelligence agency. And this should have been explained to ministers when they got their jobs, that you can't deal with reporters, Chinese reporters, as you might with a Western reporter," Flanagan said during an appearance on CBC's Power & Politics with Evan Solomon on Monday.

"So it is more serious than just a simple flirty letter, or middle-aged silliness on the part of an aging guy," said Flanagan, a political scientist at the University of Calgary. "I'm not saying he should resign, but I don't know whether the briefings were inadequate."

A former senior intelligence official with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said Tuesday that Harper should be asking for Dechert's resignation and that the RCMP should do an investigation to determine the extent of his relationship with Shi and if she made any demands for information from him.

Michel Juneau-Katsuya said the reputation of Shi's news agency is well-known. "This particular news agency is well-known, well-documented as being part of the Chinese intelligence service. Every journalist is considered as an intelligence officer when they are posted abroad and all the Western agencies usually keep track of what these people are doing because we know their affiliation,” he told CBC News.

Juneau-Katsuya said he thinks Dechert probably didn't understand the seriousness of who he was dealing with, and that the connection between him and Shi should be considered a security risk.

Liberal Senator Jim Munson, a former journalist who worked in China and now serves with Dechert on the executive of the Canada-China Legislative Association, told CBC News the incident shows "poor judgment" and that Dechert should have known better.

"If you're talking to anyone [at Xinhua] it should have raised a flag that you are talking to the mouthpiece of the [Chinese] government, and it should be obvious that any kind of relationship could lead you to a place you don't want to be," said Munson.

Munson said he takes Dechert at his word that the relationship was limited to flirtatious emails, but still questions their appropriateness.

"As a parliamentary secretary why would he be involved with her in the first place? That's not the kind of mistake he should make as an adult," he said.

Munson said he would leave questions about Dechert's future to elected officials, but added, "It would be more honourable and less embarrassing for the government if he were to consider stepping out of the [parliamentary secretary] position."

Dechert's Conservative colleague on the China committee, MP Michael Chong, disagrees and called the controversy "much ado about nothing," adding it might be the case of an innocent mistake that media coverage is blowing out of proportion.

"Other people's sex lives aren't anybody's business," Chong said.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Minister for Children and the Elderly Maria Larsson will travel to New York today to chair the fourth session of the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Swedish delegation consists of representatives of the Riksdag, government ministries and agencies and disability interest groups.

Maria Larsson to chair UN Conference of States Parties

Minister for Children and the Elderly Maria Larsson will travel to New York today to chair the fourth session of the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Swedish delegation consists of representatives of the Riksdag, government ministries and agencies and disability interest groups.

Sweden was one of the driving forces at the inception of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and high hopes are being pinned on Sweden in future work.

"We want to be at the vanguard of global developments to ensure that people with disabilities are afforded equal rights. It is important that as many countries as possible ratify the Convention and that the rights contained in it also have an impact in those countries," says Ms Larsson.

Sweden, which is a world leader in assistive technology, wants to inspire other countries and contribute its experiences.

Sweden is also organising two seminars during the Conference of States Parties:

- The Swedish Institute of Assistive Technology on the theme of rights and welfare for older people with disabilities in which welfare technology plays an important role;

- The Swedish Agency for Disability Policy Coordination on the theme of increased knowledge and changing attitudes to people with disabilities on the labour market.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Yakovlev Yak-42 Accidents and incidentsAs of 7 September 2011, nine Yak-42 fatal accidents occurred with total of 591 casualties.

Accidents and incidentsAs of 7 September 2011, nine Yak-42 fatal accidents occurred with total of 591 casualties.

Date Aircraft registration Location Fatalities Brief description

Jun 28, 1982 СССР-42529 near Mazyr, south central Belarus 132/132 Flight Leningrad-Kiev, damage to stabilizer due to mechanical deterioration, diving and disintegrating in mid-air. All Yak-42 flights were suspended until the design error was fixed.

Sep 14, 1990 СССР-42351 Koltsovo, southeast of Yekaterinburg 4/128 Flight Volgograd-Sverdlovsk, crew error on final approach.

Jul 31, 1992 B-2755 Nanjing, west of Shanghai 108/126 Crashed on take-off due to mechanical failure. (see China General Aviation Flight 7552)

Nov 21, 1993 RA-42390 near Ohrid, southwestern Macedonia 115/116 Flight Geneva-Skopje, which had diverted to Ohrid, crashed into a mountain in difficult weather conditions, near Ohrid, Republic of Macedonia.

Dec 17, 1997 UR-42334 Mount Pieria, southwest of Thessaloniki 70/70 Flight Odessa-Saloniki, crew error on going around, crashed into a mountain. (see Aerosvit Flight 241)

Dec 25, 1999 CU-T1285 Bejuma, west of Caracas 22/22 Havana, Cuba - Valencia, Venezuela the aircraft impacted a hill on approach. (see Cubana de Aviación Flight 310 )

May 26, 2003 UR-42352 near Trabzon, north-eastern Turkey 75/75 Flight Bishkek-Trabzon-Saragosa, crashed into a mountain on the final approach in fog.

Sep 7, 2011 RA-42434 near Yaroslavl, 250 km northeast of Moscow 43/45 Yak-Service flight en route to Minsk from Yaroslavl carrying the KHL Russian hockey team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. Collided with an antenna mast shortly after taking off from Tunoshna Airport and crashed, killing 43 people[4] (see Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

More than a dozen Canadians have told the Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office in Toronto within the past year that they were blocked from entering the United States after their records of mental illness were shared with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

More than a dozen Canadians have told the Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office in Toronto within the past year that they were blocked from entering the United States after their records of mental illness were shared with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Lois Kamenitz, 65, of Toronto contacted the office last fall, after U.S. customs officials at Pearson International Airport prevented her from boarding a flight to Los Angeles on the basis of her suicide attempt four years earlier.

“I was really perturbed,” Kamenitz says. “I couldn’t figure out what he meant. And then it dawned on me that he was referring to the 911 call my partner made when I attempted suicide.”

Kamenitz says she asked the officer how he had obtained her medical records.

A document completed by a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer says that at a secondary inspection at Pearson airport in Toronto, it was ascertained that Lois Kamenitz had 'attempted suicide in 2006,' and a medical clearance would be required for a further attempt to enter the United States. That was the only thing I could think of,” she says. “But he said, no, he didn’t have my medical records but he did have a contact note from the police that [they] had attended my home.”

Stanley Stylianos, program manager at the Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office, says his organization has heard more than a dozen stories similar to Kamenitz’s.

The office has also received phone calls from numerous Canadians who have not yet had encounters with U.S. customs officers, but are worried that their own mental health histories may cause security delays while travelling south of the border for business or family trips.

'This is an issue'

“We get calls from people who have concerns about being stopped because they know this is an issue,” Stylianos says.

So far, the RCMP hasn’t provided the office with clear answers about how or why police records of non-violent mental health incidents are passed across the border.

Brad Benson from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says medical records aren't shared between countries. However, "if you have an arrest record, Canada would share that with us," he says.

If a police encounter includes information about mental health, Benson says front-line officers can use it.

"Mental illness is actually under our law as a reason that you may not get admitted," he says. "The issue is always going to be: could someone be a danger to someone [else]?"

According to diplomatic cables released earlier this year by WikiLeaks, any information entered into the national Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database is accessible to American authorities.

Local police officers take notes whenever they apprehend an individual or respond to a 911 call, and some of this information is then entered into the CPIC database, says Stylianos. He says that occasionally this can include non-violent mental health incidents in which police are involved.

In Kamenitz’s case, this could explain how U.S. officials had a record of the police response to the 911 call her partner made in 2006, after Kamenitz took an overdose of pills.

RCMP Insp. Denis St. Pierre says information on CPIC not only contains a person's criminal record, but also outstanding warrants, missing persons reports and information about stolen property, along with information regarding persons of interest in ongoing cases. It also can contain individuals' history of mental illness, including suicide attempts.

The database contains anything that could alert authorities to a potential threat to public safety and security, and all CPIC information is available to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, St. Pierre says. There are a few exceptions, including information regarding young offenders, which is not available to American authorities.

“If a person is a danger to themselves and the police are dealing with that person in another jurisdiction … it's valuable information, knowing that perhaps this person may harm themselves," St. Pierre says.

9.6 million records

According to an RCMP website, the CPIC database stores 9.6 million records in its investigative databanks.

The RCMP and U.S. law enforcement agencies provide reciprocal direct access to each other’s criminal databases in order to stem the flow of narcotics and criminal dealings into North America, according to the WikiLeaks cable.

When asked about the sharing of police information for security purposes, Kamenitz says the government is “obviously not considering what the impact of that can be and how much that can alter a person’s life.”

Stanley Stylianos, program manager for the Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office, says Canadians should be outraged that people’s mental health information is shared across the border. Sarah Bridge/CBC“Police may have attended my home,” says Kamenitz, “but it was not for a criminal matter; it was a medical emergency.”

Kamenitz notes that suicide isn’t a criminal offence in either country.

“It speaks to the myth we still hold,” Kamenitz says, “that people with a mental illness are violent criminals.”

At less than five feet tall, with a debilitating form of arthritis that makes it impossible for her to complete daily tasks like cooking and dressing without assistance, Kamenitz says she is hardly a threat to U.S. Homeland Security.

'I am not a criminal'

“I’ve been battling not only anxiety and depression but also chronic pain since my teen years,” Kamenitz explains. “I am not a criminal.”

Kamenitz was eventually allowed to board a plane to Los Angeles, four days after missing her initial flight. But in order to do so, she had to submit her medical records to the U.S. and get clearance from a Homeland Security-approved doctor in Toronto, who charged her $250 for the service.

Benson says the response from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers in Kamenitz's case was fairly typical. "Now that the note from her doctor is on her records," he says, "I wouldn't expect her to have any more problems."

Included in the Homeland Security forms Kamenitz was required to fill out were questions about whether she had a history of substance abuse and whether she had diseases, such as AIDS or tuberculosis.

“These are private and personal medical records that I’m now handing over to a foreign government,” she says.

After years of private therapy and help from doctors at St. Michael’s Hospital and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Kamenitz says the border incident felt unjust.

“It was discrediting all the efforts that [I had] made to recover.”

Stylianos says Canadians should be outraged that people’s mental health information is shared across the border.

“It is an intensely private matter for many individuals,” he says.

'You can't control it'

Stylianos says his organization is lobbying for this information not to be included in the CPIC database or shared with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as part of a routine border screening process.

“Once that information gets into the American system, you can’t control it,” he says.

According to the same diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, which included data from 2004 and 2005, Americans believed that despite the open database sharing, “Canada’s strict privacy laws” have limited the timely exchange of information between the two nations.

In the 10 years since the Sept. 11 attacks, the two countries have struggled to come to an agreement on how best to police the border.

The administrations of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama are in talks over a perimeter security deal that would include further cross-border intelligence-sharing as part of a joint border security strategy.

In an Aug. 29 news conference in Toronto, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told reporters that the privacy rights of Canadians remain top-of-mind during discussions about cross-border law enforcement programs.

“Our sovereignty cannot and will not be compromised,” he said.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Opposition members demanded Wednesday that Prime Minster Stephen Harper explain why he thought anti-terrorism laws that were scrapped in 2007 are once again necessary.

Opposition members demanded Wednesday that Prime Minster Stephen Harper explain why he thought anti-terrorism laws that were scrapped in 2007 are once again necessary.

In an interview with CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge, Harper said he plans to reinstate two anti-terrorism laws. One allowed police to arrest suspects without a warrant and detain them for three days without charges if police believed a terrorist act may have been committed.

The other allowed a judge to compel a witness to testify in secret about past associations or pending terrorist acts under penalty of going to jail if the witness didn't comply.

Police and prosecutors used neither law in the five years before they expired.

"We think those measures are necessary. We think they've been useful," Harper said. "And as you know ... they're applied rarely, but there are times where they're needed."

"The prime minister has to explain to us why, if these measures are so important and so necessary, they were not in place for four years," interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said.

"Stephen Harper's plan to reintroduce these draconian provisions simply isn't backed up by the facts," said NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar. "Security is obviously important to Canadians, and we can make Canada secure without resorting to measures like these."

Tell me what you think

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Canada may have committed a war crimes because of detainee tranfers

Faced with new evidence of torture by Afghan police and security forces, NATO’s top commander has ordered an immediate halt to detainee transfers, a controversial practice for Canadian and other foreign contingents for years.

The order – only days before the publication of another report, this one from the United Nations, which is expected to detail brutal and systemic torture in Afghan prisons – comes after years of denials from Canada and other Western governments that they were complicit in subjecting detainees to torture.

Tuesday’s order from U.S. General John Allen blacklists a half-dozen prisons run by Afghan police and the country’s notorious NDS, the National Directorate of Security. NATO had already banned transfers in July to Afghan authorities in Kandahar, the strife-torn province where Canadian troops captured scores of detainees during the years they were deployed.

“With appropriate caution, ISAF [NATO’s International Security and Assistance Force] has taken the prudent measure to suspend detainee transfer to certain facilities until we can verify the observations of a pending UNAMA [UN Mission in Afghanistan] report,” a NATO official told the BBC, which first reported the transfer halt.

Canada was first faced with evidence that its transfer policy put prisoners at risk of torture in a series of Globe and Mail articles in 2007. Ottawa belatedly added follow-up inspections which – in at least one case – resulted in a transferred detainee showing inspectors the torture implements hidden in his cell. Transfers were temporarily stopped and later limited to certain prisons.

Under a revised transfer agreement and subsequent revelations by Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin, Ottawa limited transfers to selected NDS prisons in Kabul and Kandahar but insisted throughout that detainees it turned over to Afghan authorities weren’t tortured or abused.

The Harper government censored reports by its own diplomats detailing torture and abuse in Afghan prisons, even though the findings matched those of other governments, the UN and human rights organizations.

Afghan “military, intelligence and police forces have been accused of involvement in arbitrary arrest, kidnapping extortion, torture and extrajudicial killing” was the censored assessment of Canadian diplomats in 2006, the first full year of Canadian detainee handovers in Kandahar.

Ottawa also fought for years to limit and censor release of documents detailing follow-up inspections and initially denied that – on at least one occasion – Canadian soldiers had rescued a transferred detainee after they discovered him being tortured.

Although the government pulled Canadian soldiers out of fighting roles in Kandahar in July, prisoners captured by the Canadian contingent were transferred in the period covered by the forthcoming UN report.

Various human rights groups have issued horrific accounts of the torture of detainees transferred by Western armies.

“By transferring individuals to locations where they are at grave risk of torture and other ill-treatment, ISAF states may be complicit in this treatment, and are breaching their international legal obligations,” warned an Amnesty International report in 2007. It called then for a halt to all transfers.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It’s good to see the Toronto Police Services Board showing some spunk. For the first time, the civilian oversight body has denied promotions to nine constables. All were involved in last year’s G20 fiasco.

It’s good to see the Toronto Police Services Board showing some spunk. For the first time, the civilian oversight body has denied promotions to nine constables. All were involved in last year’s G20 fiasco. Chief Bill Blair recommended they be “reclassified” — awarded a higher rank and a salary increase — despite removing their name tags so they could not be identified or held responsible for their actions.

This is the kind of accountability Torontonians have been waiting to see. It is a welcome departure from the board’s past practice of rubber-stamping promotions put forward by the chief.

The union representing the officers is outraged. It has filed a grievance against the police board, contending that it is not the civilian oversight agency’s job to interfere with police promotions. “Through the collective agreement and past practices, if the chief recommends you go up, you go up,” says union president Mike McCormack.

This is nonsense. The board is under no obligation to accept the chief’s recommendations. Its job is to assess the merits of the proposal and make a reasoned decision. As its chair Alok Mukherjee pointed out, a promotion is a reward, not an entitlement.

Other critics of the police board have raised more substantive arguments. They point out that it is contrary to police policy to punish an officer twice for the same offence. The officers in question were handed a one-day suspension without pay for removing their name tags during the G20 summit. They also submit that it is contrary to the Ontario Police Services Act to withhold promotions as a disciplinary measure.

An arbitrator will have to decide these matters. But from the public’s point of view, it is essential to have a civilian oversight body that can say no to the chief, no to the police union and no to the promotion of police officers it believes have shown questionable judgment or character.

City hall insiders have tried to portray the board’s move as a vote of non-confidence in Blair. It is certainly a rare public disagreement. But the G20 was a rare event: demonstrators were beaten, bystanders were arrested, and protesters were denied their constitutional rights. Hundreds of people were detained for hours without being charged.

Fifteen months later — with half a dozen inquiries still underway — Torontonians are no closer to knowing who authorized this kind of policing and who is responsible for what happened.

The police board’s action, though small, sends the right signal to the public and the police.

Monday, September 5, 2011

People with disabilities have fewer opportunities,

Earlier this year, a groundswell of public pressure persuaded Ottawa to reverse an order that would have deported a Montreal family because their 8-year-old daughter has cerebral palsy. Immigration officials had ruled Rachel Barlagne would be a burden on Canada’s health-care system even though her family volunteered to cover the extra $5,259 a year her care was estimated to cost.

The feel-good moment of reprieve allowed us to collectively pat ourselves on the back for our trademark Canadian compassion. But it also subliminally reinforced the belief that our gatekeeping is secure.

“The general impression is that Canada doesn’t let in families that include anyone with a disability;” says Ayshia Musleh of the Ethno Racial People with Disabilities Coalition of Ontario ( “But the reality is different.” That’s why ERDCO is joining forces with the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants ( to improve services for newcomers who move or communicate or process information differently from what society has decreed to be the norm.

Some may have undiagnosed conditions, such as learning disabilities, that aren’t immediately apparent even to themselves. Some are refugees who have sustained physical disabilities before fleeing for their lives. All meet the requirements of the point system used to determine who qualifies to come to Canada.

More than 106,000 immigrants arrived in Ontario in 2009, some 50,000 of them ending up in the Toronto area. There are no hard numbers on disabilities but Musleh and project co-ordinator Martha Viveros of OCASI, which encompasses more than 200 community-based organizations in Ontario, already know from a series of focus groups that more help is needed.

How does a young man whose hearing may have been damaged learn English as a second language? Where does someone with low vision go? What services are available? Where are they offered? Where do front-line workers find out how to recognize needs and offer solutions?

It’s hard enough for anyone to get one of the so-called “survivor jobs” — washing cars or dishes or driving a cab — while they study to requalify because their credentials aren’t recognized in this country. But those with disabilities have even fewer opportunities because employers aren’t always willing to make accommodations.

The idea of the accessibility project is to give everyone the chance to contribute to and participate in their new communities. “It’s about inclusion and building bridges and looking at the whole person — something the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act (AODA) has brought into focus,” says Viveros.

Currently, the two-year project is finishing up focus groups. From there, it plans to develop training sessions designed to pull together ways of accessing information and bringing it all together.

These are tough times for all service agencies coping with chronic underfunding. But Viveros and Musleh believe the accessibility project will pay off in helping newcomers with disabilities contribute to their communities.

Meanwhile disability advocacy groups continue to lobby for changes in immigration policy to build a more inclusive and accessible country. “Canada’s immigration policy is based upon a negative and outdated understanding of disability that fails to recognize the contribution that people with disabilities can, and do, make,” the Council of Canadians with Disabilities argued in a brief to the federal government supporting the Barlagne family. (

The actions of Immigration Canada violate the spirit of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Canada ratified last year, CCD said.

“Canadians with disabilities are left wondering why a country that celebrates the contribution of people like Rick Hansen, Ontario Lt. Gov. David Onley and others with a disability would deport a family seeking to build a life here in Canada simply because their child has a disability,” it added.

Why indeed?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A group whose mission is to fight against "Canadian francophobia" says it will file a complaint with Canada's human rights commission over the nomination of a unilingual anglophone as communications director for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

MONTREAL — A group whose mission is to fight against "Canadian francophobia" says it will file a complaint with Canada's human rights commission over the nomination of a unilingual anglophone as communications director for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The nomination of newspaper columnist Angelo Perschilli to the post has already raised eyebrows in Quebec after it was reported he wrote a column in the Toronto Star last year criticizing the number of francophones in Ottawa's corridors of power.

Perschilli has since said he intends to treat Quebecers with the "utmost respect." But that hasn't stopped the Ligue quebecoise contre la francophobie canadienne from announcing on Saturday it would file a complaint against Perschilli's nomination, saying his assuming the post would subject "all francophones" to "a patent and illegal discrimination."

Read more:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ontario Cancer Institute

Ontario Cancer Institute

The Ontario Cancer Institute (OCI) is the research division of Princess Margaret Hospital, part of the University Health Network of the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine. As Canada's first dedicated cancer hospital, it opened officially and began to receive patients in 1958, although its research divisions had begun work a year earlier. Because, at that time, a stigma was associated with the word 'cancer', the hospital was soon renamed the Princess Margaret Hospital, although the whole operation was called the Ontario Cancer Institute incorporating the Princess Margaret Hospital, or OCI/PMH. Clinicians usually preferred the hospital name, while the scientists used OCI.

The original location of the OCI/PMH was at 500 Sherbourne Street in Toronto. In 1995, the whole operation moved to a new building at 610 University Avenue, and the new PMH became part of the University Health Network. The OCI continued as the research arm of the PMH.