Monday, April 9, 2012

[socialactionfoundationforequity:15161 Canadian social justice icon Stephen Lewis to speak in Squamish

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Canadian social justice icon Stephen Lewis to speak in Squamish 


Pique's second instalment of a wide-ranging interview as the Howe Sound Women's Centre get ready to host Lewis as part of its 30th anniversary celebration.

Canadian social justice icon Stephen Lewis is speaking at the 30th Anniversary Gala for the Howe Sound Women's Centre taking place at the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish on Saturday, April 14.

Lewis, a politician, broadcaster, author, educator and diplomat, is perhaps best known recently for his work as United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, and for the work of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which supports dozens of projects in Africa. He is the former leader of the Ontario New Democrats and gave the eloquent eulogy at the funeral of federal NDP leader Jack Layton in August 2011. He is currently the Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Lewis granted Pique an interview, which ran last week and today. Tickets for the gala, which also includes Katrina Pacey of the Pivot Legal Society, may be purchased atwww.womeninfluenceourworld.eventbrite.ca

An overview of a 2011 study of conditions for women in the Sea to Sky corridor carried out by the Howe Sound Women's Centre can be read on page 52.

Pique: Was there anything in particular that put you on the political path you've been on?

Stephen Lewis: Yeah, birth! It's a DNA thing, there's no question about it. In my family, if I'd deviated, I would have been disinherited (He laughs).

I lived in a democratic socialist family and I invite the ideology; in my teens I went out to Saskatchewan to see Tommy Douglas and the CCF (Cooperative Commonwealth Federation) at work so I could get a sense of how what I believed in actually got applied.

All my life I've been a socialist. I smile when I read the desperate effort to use only 'social democrat' lest you be impaled by the word 'socialism' — It does not frighten me, I use it proudly. On every platform I've used democratic socialist, particularly in the United States where they have a momentary cardiac arrest.

Pique: Looking at your biography and your work over many decades, how do you maintain momentum? Do you ever have down time?

SL: Michele (Landsburg, Lewis's wife and an author and journalist) and I have three grandsons. (Our oldest daughter) Illana has two little boys and our younger daughter, Jenny, has a little boy who has lived with us from the day he was born. Jenny and Zimri, that's his name, are here at home, and he's now two-years-old. The three boys are Zev, Yoav, and Zimri — all Old Testament names, so I'm told. I'm a Biblical philistine so I don't know (laughing).

...I'm so smitten it's ridiculous. I'm completely crazy about him and we're good friends, and I miss him so much when I'm away that I notice that I'm beginning to curtail my trips so that I have evenings and mornings when I'm at home and can play with him either before he leaves for daycare or comes back.

It's just totally the perfect age, oh my God, it's wonderful.

That's the down time, you know, having some family time. I must say it's a very legitimate question that I ask myself constantly because I continue a pretty intense schedule and I am 74, the travel — it tells — I get kind of sore and tired.

But on the other hand, the issues, they energize one. The sense that there are occasional breakthroughs in the midst of everything else; in the midst of despair you can move things forward, or at least be a participant in the process. It can be exciting.

Pique: I imagine a lifetime of experience and knowledge of the things you have seen and been through brings a lot to the table as well.

SL: I hope so. I don't overstate that stuff because sometimes it tends to be. I'm lucky. ...This is just an incidental, but last Friday (March 23) Jim Kim was appointed president of the World Bank, well that's just glorious. It's a magnificent, brilliant appointment — I can almost forgive (U.S. President Barack) Obama for a whole lot of other things I'm sad about. I know Jim well and we've worked together and it is wonderful to see that the World Bank may finally become a development agency that cares about poverty instead of neoliberalism.

You watch those moments happen and it makes you feel like there's hope in the world.

Pique: Do you believe Canadians will become more politically engaged in the next few years?

SL: Yeah, I do. I do. I think that the presence of the NDP as the Official Opposition is such a novelty in Canada, and will create so much that is fascinating around the issues that Canadians will become engaged. The great problem with a Liberal opposition was, or even a Liberal government and a Tory opposition, was that there was far too much overlap. The so-called differences were more posturing than they were real, but here they're real.

Here, the differences run right to the viscera and I think there will be more interest, not just because we're there, but because of the Internet, because of the Occupy Movement, because of the sense of the One (per cent) and the 99.

I was just reading that in 2011, the United States generated... I think it was $338 billion in additional income, personal income, in 2011, 93 per cent of which went to the 'one per cent.' The average income increase for the other 99 per cent was $80 over the course of the year. For the one per cent, the increase was over 11 per cent in each instance to their income. The cut off was $350,000.

It just strikes me that intensifying inequality of North American society in income and other respects, there will be more and more interest politically and I hope that the NDP voice not only won't it be stilled, but it will be vigorous and aggressive.

Pique: I wanted to know what your upcoming plans are with the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

SL: With the foundation, I think we will continue to grow and continue to expand out work. The lovely thing about the Foundation is that it has two or three dimensions, which I really love. I say this as someone who is on the outside looking in, it bears my name, I nominally chair the board, but all the work is done by the staff.

When Illana and I were talking about it at the outset we said to each other, 'Let's not do what every foundation does, which is to have a board that makes a decision on which grants are authorized, so you meet every three or six months while people wait to find out.' We wanted a foundation where staff makes the day-to-day decisions and if there's a desperate urgency on Monday and we can appraise it in the field and we have people in the field in Africa, then we can get the money out by the following Monday. We're not going to fool around, this is a life-or-death issue. So the staff will make the decisions and move quickly.

Pique: Have you found that to be really effective?

SL: Oh, it's amazing. The board makes no decisions about where the money goes. In broad terms we have the general sense of things, but the individual projects, the staff makes the decisions. We also wanted to establish to a degree almost a family project, so that the writing to the projects would be respectful and inclusive and they would feel that they were an organic extension of the foundation, rather than recipients and a donor.

I think Illana and her colleagues have achieved that. It's wonderful.

Then we looked at a number of things that foundations normally don't get involved in. We established an institute for the prevention of sexual violence, which isn't so much resident in one place as it is a kind of moving institute, which brings together frontline workers who are familiar with rape and sexual violence. They will visit areas on the continent, which are desperately in need of counselling, or therapy, or assistance ,or direction or support. It's beginning to work very well.

We very early on adopted the principal that community health workers, the women, should not be seen as voluntary because they are really doing conscripted labour, so they should be paid. We brought many of them together from around the continent and have fashioned an approach to community work that is novel, not only in the fact that we insist that they be paid, but also — protocols is a lousy word — that there is an understanding of how things should be approached.

We're doing it similarly with orphan care and so it is not merely a foundation sending a grant to a bank account in Tanzania and hoping it gets out, everything is carefully monitored on the ground, visited regularly. New proposals, which are overwhelming in number, where we see something particularly needy or appropriate, it's appraised carefully and we're broadening out from the simple designation of money to the principles of the way in which a foundation should perform in these circumstances. I like it. It's very unusual.

And the grandmothers! Oh my God, the grandmothers are sensational. You know, the grandmothers groups in Canada, I have to be careful about numbers, I think it's close to raising $13 million over the few years. Just astonishing. And in Africa, the grandmothers can barely believe what's going on.

Pique: I remember that you brought some African grandmothers here to Canada in the past.

SL: Yes, yes. It started with a grandmothers' gathering where we brought 100 African grandmothers from 15 countries and now we're bringing them to Canada regularly, and they crisscross the country and visit small communities, rotary clubs and trade unions and community centres, high schools, primary schools and churches. It's just incredible.

There have now been grandmothers gatherings in Africa, the most recent being one in Swaziland, 1,500 grandmothers from different parts of Africa and we had 40 or 50 Canadian grandmothers who went over to be a part of it, so there is a back and forth now.


--
Truth resides in every human heart, and one has to search for it there, and to be guided by truth as one sees it. But no one has a right to coerce others to act according to his own view of truth. - Mohandas Gandhi
 
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[socialactionfoundationforequity:15161 Abortion issue slows action on trafficking bill

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Abortion issue slows action on trafficking bill

6:13 PM, Apr 9, 2012  


By ELIZABETH BEWLEY, Gannett Washington Bureau 

WASHINGTON - Two Republican lawmakers from Tennessee say they're concerned that advertising policies at certain Internet companies may contribute to sex trafficking, even as advocates blame Republicans for delaying action on an anti-trafficking law.

Sen. Bob Corker and 18 other senators wrote Jim Larkin, chief executive of Village Voice Media Holdings, last month asking him to shut down the "adult services" section of the company's classified advertising site, Backpage.com.

"It took only minutes on Backpage.com's adult services section for us to find posts that present clear advertisements for prostitution of young girls," the senators wrote.

And last week, Rep. Marsha Blackburn co-wrote a letter asking Google chief executive Larry Page to explain how Google prevents "sexually exploitative advertisements" from appearing on its websites. She and her co-author, Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, called themselves "members of Congress committed to combating all forms of human trafficking."

But advocates say some Republicans in Congress are putting partisan politics ahead of the needs of trafficking victims by delaying reauthorization of the nation's anti-trafficking law - which expired late last year - because of an ideological opposition to abortion.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act was first passed in 2000 and has been reauthorized three times with bipartisan support. It provides grants to organizations that fight trafficking, aids law enforcement efforts, and funds a hotline that officials say received more than 11,000 calls in fiscal 2010.

House and Senate reauthorization bills were introduced last summer, each with about 40 co-sponsors from both parties.

Trouble for the bills began in September, when the Department of Health and Human Services denied an anti-trafficking grant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops because the church group refused to refer victims for contraceptive or abortion services.

HHS officials said trafficking victims - who are often forced into sex - need access to the "full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care," including birth control and abortion.

Republicans called the decision discriminatory. Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, lead sponsor of the House reauthorization bill, rewrote it to include a "conscience clause" - which would prevent the government from denying a grant based on an organization's moral or religious beliefs - and to reroute funding for victims' services from HHS to the Justice Department.

"That, unfortunately, has led to the bill being stalled," said Cory Smith, senior policy counsel for the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking. "It doesn't have a lot of momentum compared to what it had."

He and other advocates, as well as some congressional Democrats, say HHS has more experience and expertise running victims' services programs, which help provide shelter, medical care, legal assistance and social services. Smith's new bill has no Democratic co-sponsors and has not received a committee vote.

Steven Wagner, who ran the HHS anti-trafficking program for three years during President George W. Bush's administration, said he opposes shifting the funding to the Justice Department, which focuses more on prosecuting traffickers than on helping victims.

But he said congressional Republicans aren't to blame for the delay in reauthorizing the anti-trafficking law. Rather, he said the responsibility lies with HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who "destroyed the bipartisan consensus."

"I don't think the role of the federal government in helping a victim regain control over their lives is to help them get an abortion or contraception," he said, adding that other organizations can guide victims to those services if that's what a victim wants.

No Tennessee lawmaker has signed on to a bill to reauthorize the anti-trafficking program, which is still being funded under a temporary extension. Corker and Blackburn say they're still examining the legislation.

"I do not know why (the bill) has stalled," Blackburn said. "Something needs to be done that is going to provide the protection that is needed. Exactly what it's going to look like, I can't define right now."

In the meantime, Blackburn said Internet giants like Google have an important role to play.

"The issue is about a lot more than just Google," she said. "But what we do have to realize is they... have the biggest footprint in the online ecosystem and they have a truly unique ability to help thwart what is a modern-day form of human slavery, and we need them to do that."

Google spokeswoman Diana Adair said Google has invested millions monitoring its sites for sex trafficking, child pornography and prostitution.

"But it's a constant battle against these bad actors so we are always looking at ways to improve our systems and practices - including by working with leading anti-trafficking organizations," she wrote in an email.

The State Department estimates that nearly 300,000 American children are at risk for sex trafficking. Internationally, at least 12.3 million adults and children are in forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation, according to the International Labor Organization at the United Nations. 

Contact Elizabeth Bewley at ebewley@gannett.com or follow her on Twitter @ebewley.

--
Truth resides in every human heart, and one has to search for it there, and to be guided by truth as one sees it. But no one has a right to coerce others to act according to his own view of truth. - Mohandas Gandhi
 
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Ask Your Questions: Live Interviews During Spring Meetings, and other updates...

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April 9, 2012
Worldbank.org Weekly Update
 
Spring Meetings - 5 Questions Ask Your Questions: Live Interviews During Spring Meetings

Take part in this year's World Bank & IMF Spring Meetings, as global leaders and experts on development, gender, philanthropy, education and more answer your questions in live interviews.

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Highlights
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Ask Now: Kristalina Georgieva   Ask Now: Carol Civita   Ask Now: Betty Mwangi   Ask Now: Mirza Jahani
Submit questions on humanitarian aid, crisis and disaster response.   Submit questions on regulatory mechanisms for philanthropy, education.   Submit questions on gender equality, mobile phone banking.   Submit questions on community philanthropy, rural development.
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anti corruption Asset disclosure and the fight against corruption
"Yes, a disclosure system can make a meaningful contribution to corruption prevention and enforcement. But it cannot do so if expected to tackle and apply sanctions for all forms of graft and corruption in public administration."— Alexandra Habershon, March 27
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News: Universal Car Audio Cassette Adapter, Black

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  • Cassette-shaped Interface inserts into your car’s tape deck. Mini-plug inserts into your iPod / CD Player / MiniDisk Player headphone jack.
  • Silent mechanism reduces mechanical noise on the road. Spring-loaded cassette head helps maintain contact with cassette player’s head for clear sound.
  • 40″ cord so you can rest your Player / iPod where you want it. Adapter: 3.5mm audio adapter. Color: Black.
  • Now whether you are going down the block or cross-country, you will have plenty of music for the whole trip with this adapter.
  • Suggested Applications: iPhone 3Gs 16GB / 32GB decks that make you insert the cassette with the tape opening facing the side.

Cassette Car Audio Adapter for you to listen to your music through your car’s stereo system. Simply insert the cassette adapter into your car’s cassette player and plug into your muic player. Suitable for Apple iPod, iPod classic, iPod touch, iPod photo, iPod nano, iPod mini, iPod shuffle, iPhone (requires iPhone Headphone Adapter – sold separately), Sony PSP and other MP3 and media players with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack.

Universal Car Audio Cassette Adapter, Black

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[socialactionfoundationforequity:15160 Sexual reproductive health services are human rights – WLSA April 7, 2012

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Sexual reproductive health services are human rights 

– WLSA April 7, 2012

By MWAPE MWENYA

WOMEN and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) says sexual reproductive health services and information are fundamental human rights for all persons regardless of physical condition and social status.
WLSA national co-ordinator Maimbo Ziela said sexual reproductive health services should be priorities in communities to reduce maternal mortality rate.
Ms Ziela said the services are especially for women and girls who are sexually active.
She said those denied such services end up with unwanted pregnancies or conduct unsafe abortions.
Ms Ziela said her organisation is sensitising communities on the importance of knowing their reproductive health rights and when to acquire services for the betterment of their families.
She was speaking during the launch of the Happy Life Campaign at Matero Community Hall in Lusaka on Thursday.
Ms Ziela said the programme is designed to uplift the living standards of women and girls in communities by providing the necessary information that would improve their lives.
She said the Happy Life campaign project is being spearheaded by her organisation in partnership with its coalition members who include Society for Women and AIDS in Zambia, Network of ARV users of people living with HIV.
Ms Ziela said the coalition identified access to family planning information and services as a major concern as most women and girls are denied the chance to access them freely.
She called on Government to ensure that the services and information are offered freely by service providers so that women and girls could make informed decisions on sexual matters.
"Our aim as a consortium is to ensure that all women access information on sexual and reproductive health so that they are not forced by their sexual partners to do things that would violate their rights," Ms Ziela said.
She said the project has been designed to reach out to all women in the country.
And AMANITARE Sexual Rights Network project manager Ms Silvia Shekede said the Happy Life Campaign is being implemented in six countries which include Mozambique, Uganda, Zambia, South Africa, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.
She said the campaign started in 2010 in South Africa under the auspices of the European Union and OXFARM. 

--
Truth resides in every human heart, and one has to search for it there, and to be guided by truth as one sees it. But no one has a right to coerce others to act according to his own view of truth. - Mohandas Gandhi
 
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[socialactionfoundationforequity:15159 Canadian Hunger Striker’s Appeal to the Government and Parliament of Canada

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Canadian Hunger Striker's Appeal to the Government and Parliament of Canada




On Wednesday, March 14, I started an indefinite hunger strike to protest Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper new draconian crime law, deceptively christened Safe Streets and Communities Act (formerly omnibus crime Bill C10). I'm an Ottawa-based activist and progressive political blogger. My five demands include the immediate repeal of the backward-looking, ideology-driven law. Today is day 25 of my peaceful act of civil disobedience.


 
During the debates in Parliament, experts and witnesses warned Harperabout the law's inevitable retrogressive impact on Canadian society, democratic institutions and core values. The Safe Streets and Communities Act will violate Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, particularly: the right to equal protection before the law; the right to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment; the right to liberty; and the rights of Canadians convicted overseas. The law's mandatory minimum sentence requirements will weaken and undermine the Canadian judiciary.
 
America's New Jim Crow is coming to Canada. The majority of those who will face tougher sentences and violation of civil liberties are historically disadvantaged racialized groups who are already over-represented in our prison system: blacks and aboriginals. The law's sweeping changes to Canada's youth justice system will victimize and punish young and first time offenders with stiffer sentences that potentially turn them into hardened criminals, instead of rehabilitating and reintegrating them into society.
 
The Safe Streets and Communities Act will: break up families; divide society; expand state power; impose a huge financial burden on provinces and future generation; will introduce the so-called "war on drugs", which has devastated the US and Mexico; and make Canada's streets less safe.
 
Harper used his acquiescing majorities in the House of Commons and Senate to pass the backward-looking law. From the first reading of Bill C-10 in the House of Commons, through to the final vote in both houses, a one-party-state tyrannical abuse of Canadian parliamentary process and democratic practice prevailed. The Act was also birthed in an environment of tyranny where those opposed to official policy were targeted and labeled enemies of the state.
 
Harper and the Conservatives are determined to shake up Canadian society and impose an oppressive petro-state and right-wing worldview. They are laying the foundations for Canada's future prison industrial complex. The GEO Group Inc., a major player in the private correctional services in the US, lobbied for the new law.
 
The company has profited from 9/11, the economic meltdown and recent anti-immigrant crackdowns. It has profited from privatized corrections and detention operations in Australia, UK and South Africa, where it is also connected with the African country's unveiling massive prison privatization efforts. In Glasgow, Scotland, the company is involved in an Immigration Removal Center. In the late 1990s, GEO was involved with Australia's notorious Woomera Immigration Detention Center, once described by UN officials as a "great human tragedy" and likened to a "Nazi concentration camp".
 
This is not democracy. My conscience and lived experience has compelled me to engage in this act of civil disobedience and resist our elected dictator, Stephen Harper. The hunger strike is a last stand on behalf of the progressive voice that the Conservatives showed nothing but disdain for during the making of the Act.
 
I've written to every Canadian MP and Senator, and now await the official response from the Harper and the Parliament of Canada. I published this letter and my cause on my personal blog,www.canadianprogressiveworld.com, which I also update with journal entries, etc.
 
I need your help to spread the word. Let's unleash the potent power of the social media and tell Harper and the Conservatives that the Safe Streets and Communities Act has no place in Canada. Together, we can do it! My YouTube video can be viewed athttp://youtu.be/V-mcaeD16ro.
 
Please share the video as widely as possible. Via our Facebook Profiles, Pages and Groups. Through Twitter. Via our email contacts. Post the video to your blog. Share it with your blogging and activist friends. Journalists too. MPs and Senators even. And ask your friends to share it with their contacts. You can also connect with me on FacebookTwitter andLinkedIn. And I can be reached at: ronrich22@gmail.com
 
Obert Madondo
312 Cumberland Street, Apt 610
Ottawa, ON K1N 1B3
 
March 27, 2012
 
Dear: 
·         Prime Minister Stephan Harper, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada
·         Thomas Mulcair, Leader of the Official Opposition New Democratic Party 
·         Bob Rae, Leader of Liberal Party of Canada
·         Louis Plamondon Leader of the bloc Québécois
·         Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party
·         All Members of the House of Commons
·         All Members of the Senate of Canada
 
Re: Open Letter to Members of the Parliament of Canada Regarding my Indefinite Crime Bill C-10 Hunger Strike
 
Honourable Members, what are you doing to Canada?
 
I am an activist, progressive political blogger and permanent resident of Canada. On Wednesday, March 14, I embarked on an indefinite hunger strike to protest the new Safe Streets and Communities Act (omnibus crime Bill C-10). My five demands include the repeal of the Act, and the immediate resignation of newly appointed senator Vernon White.
 
On March 13, I had appealed to Governor General David Johnston, to use the Crown's reserve powers to either withhold or reserve Royal Assent to Bill C-10. But Prime Minister Stephen Harper's tyrannical will prevailed, just as it did when the Conservative majorities in the House of Commons and Senate brushed aside the diverse input of the opposition, experts and future victims, and passed crime Bill C-10.
 
Today is the thirteenth day of my peaceful action. I'm undertaking the action from my apartment here in Ottawa and also engage in public actions. I humbly submit the following demands:
 
1. The Parliament of Canada should repeal the Safe Streets and Communities Act in its entirety.
 
2. Former Ottawa Police chief and newly-appointed Senator, Vernon White, should immediately resign.
 
3. The federal government should make a commitment to invest 100 times the cost of monitoring and dismantling Occupy encampments across Canada last fall to institute a national inquiry into the case of 600+ missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls.
 
4. The House of Commons should immediately institute measures to improve accountability and transparency. The measures should include limitations on the governing party's power to a) manipulate Standing Orders; b) evade opposition scrutiny; c) shut down debate d) silence critics; and e) run committees behind closed doors and prevent Canadians from participating.
 
5. The Conservative government must immediately stop its campaign against Canadians and Canadian democracy. This campaign currently manifests through a) the criminalization of dissent; b) promotion of a divisive agenda and attitude; c) whipping up of unnecessary moral panic; and d) using incendiary labels to stifle debate and criticism on its actions.
 
My conscience and lived experience has compelled me to engage in this act of civil disobedience. The hunger strike is a last stand on behalf of the progressive voice that the Conservatives showed nothing but disdain for during the making of the Act.
 
I was nothing when I arrived in Canada. I'm an offspring of these unparalleled Canadian values: compassion, multiculturalism, inclusion, diversity, fairness, democratic governance, respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law, and accommodation of difference.
 
In the summer of 2003, I washed up on Canada's shores as a political refugee from Zimbabwe. The violence I'd experienced and witnessed in the Southern African country had mutilated me, physically and emotionally. But Canada embraced, nursed and healed me. Canada restored that which Zimbabwe and the US denied me for the first thirty-two years of my life – human dignity.
Canada believed in me as an equal member of the human race. She encouraged me to unleash my passions in the service of my adopted country.
 
In 2004, I volunteered for the late NDP leader Jack Layton's successful run for Parliamentary office.  Over the years, I've carved a unique Canadian identity as a globally-conscious, activism-oriented progressive political blogger. I've honed a passion for social justice, federal politics, diversity, progressive politics and Canadian foreign policy.
 
Canada believed in my non-Canadian experience. I December of 2003, I signed up to volunteers for the Canada Africa Partnership on AIDS (CAP AIDS), a CIDA-funded and registered Canadian charity that supports HIV/AIDS work in Africa. From May 2008 to August 2010, I served as the charity's executive director. Through these seven years of loyal service, I added value to Canada's contribution to the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.
 
The Act now carries the preamble: NOW, THEREFORE, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows. In essence, Parliament is telling us that Queen Elizabeth II and the Great Seal of Canada approve: the tyrannical environment that prevailed during the creation of the Act; the undemocratic manner through which the Conservatives bulldozed Bill C-10 through Parliament; and the Act's retrogressive impact on society and our core values.
 
The inconvenient truth is that, since 2006, our parliamentary democracy has been hurtling toward the Intensive Care Unit. Our democratic institutions, traditions and values are under attack. Harper prorogued Parliament twice, in 2008 and 2009. He is the first prime minister to be found in contempt of parliament. Additionally, thousands of Canadians were deprived of their right to vote during the May 2, 2011, federal election.
 
In fact, the Conservatives are manipulating and misrepresenting the election's key message. That day, Canada experienced a thing of extraordinary beauty. The election validated our multiculturalism both in fact and its official commitment. Canadians extracted our politics from the octopus grip of the privileged class, and delivered them into the progressive arms of our youth, women and minorities. They set Canada on a path to a politics that embraces our diversity. That day, 39,9 percent of the electorate voted for a Conservative majority to continue on that path and to serve all Canadians.
 
But the Conservatives interpreted their electoral mandate as an opportunity to implement a grant project of both social and political engineering. They see it as an opportunity to shake up our institutions, traditions and value systems, and impose an insidious right-wing worldview that is: divisive, pro-punishment, poverty-ignoring and minority-bashing. On March 13, the Conservative majorities in the House of Commons and Senate made a giant leap towards this anti-democratic worldview when they passed the omnibus crime Bill C-10 into law.  
 
The Act was birthed in an environment of tyranny where all Canadians and others were treated as potential enemies of the state. We're already living our own Nixonian moment. All kinds of dirty tricks, including Gobbels-style propaganda, McCarthyism and cold-war-style red–baiting, are party of the political game.
 
Dissenters, aboriginal groups, activists and civil society organizations opposed to official policy or dedicated to issues are targeted, demonized, marginalized, dehumanized and labeled "enemies of the state". In the House of Commons, the Official Opposition is accused of being "anti-Canada". Gun-control advocates are compared to Nazis. Opponents of the long gun registry are likened to Adolf Hitler. MPs opposed to the Conservatives' new online surveillance bill are "with the child pornographers".
 
A few weeks ago, the Harper government confirmed that it supports torture as a way to gather intelligence. Potential targets will include Canadian citizens and residents. The Conservatives new anti-terrorism strategy labels Canadians dedicated to causes such as animal rights, environmentalism and anti-capitalism "issue-based terrorists", implacable adversaries to be monitored and battled.
 
Every day, the Conservatives stalk the public's irrational fear of terrorists, radicals, people who look different, criminals, pedophiles and foreigners. They seek to create a society that is cowed, uncritical, fearful, divided and susceptible to propaganda. They're trying to force us into a state of permanent fear; a place from where we'll clamour for protection from the state. Fear and terror create an intellectual and moral void. It disarms society of its power to question. And the moment the state takes away civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism or crime, the terrorists and criminals have won without shedding a single drop of sweat.
 
To cap the Conservatives' war on Canadians, now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment officers on Parliament Hill will start carrying the rapid-and-accurate-fire Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns as "secondary weapons" to their standard-issue semi-automatic 9mm pistols.
 
On November 23, 2011, I tasted the wrath of the Canada the Safe Streets and Communities Act proposes. That day, Canada turned into a police state. I was part of eight unarmed and peaceful Occupy Ottawa protesters resisting the movement's politically-motivated eviction from Confederation Park. Just after 2am, between 150 and 200 Ottawa Police officers descended on us.
 
During the eviction, the police applied disproportionate and unnecessary force. I was subjected to cruel and unusual treatment. The police hurt my back, legs and left arm. I ended up in hospital.
 
Why did the four police officers who carried me to the makeshift detention centre drop me three times during the trip? Why was I treated differently than my two white colleagues? One was also carried by police officers but was not hurt. The other was driven to the centre in a police cruiser. At the centre why did the officers drop me onto the floor and leave me lying my stomach, a position that further acerbated my injured back and arm? Why did they ignore my plea for immediate medical attention?
 
One key test of any society is how it treats the marginalized and most vulnerable. For the three-hour duration of the operation, the Ottawa Police Services spent $16 000 of Canadian taxpayers' money. The police blew $16 000 to deliver eight $65 trespass tickets and evict protesters from a public park which, at the time, had no contesting use. At the same time, 600-plus Aboriginal women and girls are missing or murdered and the federal government remains unwilling to act. This is not how a fair and compassionate society treat its own?
 
Newly-appointed Conservative Senator Vernon White was in charge of the Ottawa Police that morning. That's why I'm demanding his resignation. I've nothing personal against the senator as a fellow human being, but that morning, a failure of judgment and Canadian leadership occurred. I strongly question the senator's judgment in a situation that demanded the utmost in sobriety and a quick glance at the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
 
Both crime Bill C-10 and the Safe Streets and Communities Act are the epitome of state abuse of power, democracy, the law and resources.
 
From the first reading of Bill C-10 in the House of Commons, through to the final vote in both houses, a one-party-state tyrannical abuse of Canadian parliamentary process and democratic practice prevailed. The process was a triumph of spin over substance and deliberative democracy. Rather than explaining the straight facts to Canadians, the Harper government took a propaganda approach. It showed neither respected nor accommodated difference as is required in a democracy. At every turn, opposition MPs, elected by 60% of Canadians, and expert witnesses who attempted to input into the bills' 208 clauses and hundreds of amendments, were shown the political middle finger.
 
The Conservatives' manipulated the Standing Orders. They shut down debate. They ran committees behind closed doors.
 
In the Senate, senators chose to abandon their role as providers of the sober second thought that Bill C-10 deserved. Instead, they mounted an expensive, taxpayer-funded charade; they invited hundreds of witnesses and collected mountains of evidence, but made only a few terrorism-related changes to the bill. They simply rubber-stamped the bill.
 
The Safe Streets and Communities is anti-democratic. It will expand state power.  It weakens and undermines the judiciary. Mandatory minimum sentences take away judges' discretion. They sent the wrong message to society. They give the impression that judges do not know how to do their job, and so they need political direction and oversight.
 
Changes to the youth criminal justice system impose harsh punitive measures for crimes rooted in poverty, and drug addictions. The changes replace prevention and restorative measures that have proven to be more humane, effective and cheaper.
 
The Act violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, particularly: the right to equal protection before the law; the right to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment; the right to liberty; and the rights of Canadians convicted overseas.  Young offenders will now spend months in custodial centres before trial and if convicted, longer and tougher sentences. Stiffer sentences will turn them into hardened criminals, instead of rehabilitating. The lifting of publication ban on young offenders convicted of violent crimes stigmatizes them for life.
 
We do not discuss race as much as we should in Canada. I wish I'm wrong to suggest that the Conservatives are taking full advantage to practice a covert racism. The Act will send to jail more racialized minorities, especially Aboriginals, who are already over-represented in our jails. During Bill C-10 hearings in the House of Commons and Senate, First Nations leaders crawled before Parliament and begged you to understand that the Act would "punish" their communities. As demonstrated by Attawapiskat, most of them already live under 4th World and colonialism conditions. It would perpetuate the legacy of residential schools, they said.
 
But Parliament ignored them.
 
The Act will cost Canadian taxpayers at least $13 billion. Surely, how can we agree to partake in the daylight robbery our education, healthcare and other social services to finance a law that will oppress us all and turn our jails into training schools for hardcore criminals?
 
A government that rules through whipping up unnecessary moral panic fosters societal resentment of the groups it targets and demonizes. It divides society. A tyrannical government creates a society that is hostile to accountability. I've tasted the wrath of such a society.
 
At CAP AIDS, I worked a punishing 60-80 hours a week. In May, 2010, I attempted to pursue accountability for part of the more than $130 000 in Canadians' donations the charity misused. The charity's board harassed me, and tossed me under the bus. It blocked my access to employment insurance and torpedoed my support systems as a new immigrant. I lost most of what I'd worked for all these years and ended up on the streets of Toronto.
 
From June 15 to June 23, 2011, I walked almost 400 km from Toronto to Ottawa in protest. I demanded that the charity account for its misleading messaging and misused donations as required under the Income Tax Act. But I learned that when those of us on the margins of society challenge the wrongdoings of the privileged, it takes more than a 400km solitary walk to be heard.
 
In Ottawa, I ended up on the streets. From June 23 to October 14, 2011, I slept in a crevice at Laurier and Bank Street. I ate from soup kitchens. I bathed and did my laundry on the Ottawa River. On October 15, 2011, Occupy Ottawa showed up in town and rescued me from the streets. The movement gave me a tent, a family and a platform to discuss, in the spirit of equality and deliberative democracy, the issues of our time. The movement helped me to overcome my immigrant innocence. It gave me the courage to stand up for Canada and her unparalleled values.
 
On the night of the Bill C-10 vote, MPs from the Official Opposition New Democrats, Liberal Party, Bloc Quebecois and Green Party united against the bill. Many wore "Safer, not meaner" buttons. I applaud them! And yet, democracy demands that we continue to fight for a safe, not meaner, Canada. 
 
My hunger strike is a call on the Parliament of Canada to defend Canadian democracy at its greatest hour of need. Democracy should never yield to tyranny, especially not to elected tyranny. Our democratic institutions, values and freedoms must be defended by any peaceful and democratic means necessary.
 
The fulfillment of my five demands would be a giant step back to sanity and respect for our democratic and legislative processes.
 
Canada is fast becoming an inverted totalitarianism presided over by a tyrannical petro-prime minister. Harper is slowly handing Canada over to corporations which: ravage our environment and First Nations communities; exploit and abuse Canadian workers; demand more and more tax cuts; and hoard billions of dollars in profits without creating jobs. In the search for markets for these corporations, the Conservatives are negating our moral fabric and hard earned values. Recently, Harper crawled before authoritarian China, the new colonizer, without questioning the country's appalling human rights record.
 
In fact, I'm demanding only the minimum of what Canadians should rightly be demanding of their leaders right now. Canada today faces a situation that calls on Parliament to reign in an authoritarian and dangerous prime minister. Harper's undemocratic actions – from proroguing parliament, through last year's contempt of parliament, to draconian measures, bills and laws – are impeachable.
 
Now is the hour for Canadian leadership. It's the hour for the Prime Minister, MPs and Senators to listen to and value the concerns of all Canadians. Giving up the fight against Bill C10 is a betrayal of those in our society who need protection from the excesses of state power.
 
Now is the hour to build a society that nurtures hope instead of extinguishing it. An injustice visited upon a single Canadian or community, is an injustice visited upon all of us. We must insist on a united and caring Canada that without apology encourages all to set aside differences and prescribed labels, and come together to create a strong national identity based on these Canadian values: compassion, respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law, multiculturalism, inclusion, diversity, fairness, democratic governance and accommodation of difference.
 
Therein, not the Safe Streets and Communities Act, lies our collective security.
 
I do not underestimate the odds I face. I'm a self-identified anti-capitalism activist in a moment the distinction between terrorist and legitimate protester is more than more than ever before blurred in Canada. Nevertheless, I'll fight for a Canada I believe in.
 
I leave you with the words of Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, whose voice, like many others, was ignored during the crime Bill C-10 hearings: "Are we going to be a compassionate Canada and look out for one another, or are we going to criminalize one another and send each other to jail? That's the fundamental question that has to be answered."
 
We must love and look after each other.
 
Respectfully,
 
Obert Madondo
Activist and Progressive Political Blogger
Tel: 
(613) 265 4295
Email: 
ronrich22@gmail.com
Website: 
www.canadianprogressiveworld.com

--
Truth resides in every human heart, and one has to search for it there, and to be guided by truth as one sees it. But no one has a right to coerce others to act according to his own view of truth. - Mohandas Gandhi
 
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