Category Archives: Media

United Church Moderator expresses “strong concern” to Trudeau re BDS motion

The Moderator of The United Church of Canada sent the following letter to The Hon. Justin Trudeau

re: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions).

The Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
In this season of discernment and reflection we call Lent, I bring you greetings from The United Church of Canada. It has come to my attention that the following motion is before the House of Commons:

“That, given Canada and Israel share a long history of friendship as well as economic and diplomatic relations, the House reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel, and call upon the government to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.”

On behalf of The United Church of Canada, I am writing to express strong concern about this motion. During your campaign, you expressed your vigilance to uphold and protect Canada’s fundamental commitment to democracy. We ask that your government defeat this motion and uphold the fundamental freedoms of “thought, belief, opinion, and expression” as enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. Continue reading

CBC: Liberals denounce and agree with Tory motion condemning Israel boycotters

CBC.ca By Neil MacDonald

So, the Trudeau government intends to join with the Conservatives next week and condemn the United Church of Canada and the Quakers, along with every other organization and individual participating to any degree in a boycott of Israeli goods and services.

Blanket government condemnation is not a very sunny thing to do, and the Liberals, quivering with outrage, are making it clear they really don’t want to do it.

But they are going ahead because, apparently, they’re being bullied, the poor daisies.

It’s just not fair, the things you can be forced to do when you have a parliamentary majority.

There is no doubt, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion declared in the House of Commons Thursday, that most of the organizations and individuals supporting the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement are doing so in good faith, believing it will somehow force an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and its control over Gaza, and maybe some sort of peace deal.

But BDS, said Dion, is not government policy. And “those people, of good faith, we will not convince them of their error by banging them on the head, by hitting them with condemnations of all types, by intimidation, or by invectives. We have to speak to them with respect.”

There is also, added the minister, the small matter of freedom of speech and debate. Continue reading

The intercept: Criminalizing Activism Against Israeli Occupation

Greatest Threat to Free Speech in the West: Criminalizing Activism Against Israeli Occupation
The Intercept By Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman

THE U.K. GOVERNMENT today announced that it is will be illegal for “local [city] councils, public bodies, and even some university student unions … to refuse to buy goods and services from companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco products, or Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.” Thus, any entities that support or participate in the global boycott of Israeli settlements will face “severe penalties.”

This may sound like an extreme infringement of free speech and political activism — and, of course, it is — but it is far from unusual in the West. The opposite is now true. There is a very coordinated and well-financed campaign led by Israel and its supporters literally to criminalize political activism against Israeli occupation, based on the particular fear that the worldwide campaign of Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment, or BDS — modeled after the 1980s campaign that brought down the Israel-allied apartheid regime in South Africa — is succeeding. Continue reading

Environmental Defence: Victory! Ontario citizens freed from the risk of being SLAPPed when speaking out to protect their communities

Ontario citizens will now be able to participate in public debates without fear of being slapped with a lawsuit.

Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) silence public debate and put a chill on free speech. Today the Protection of Public Participation Act passed third reading and will now become law in the Ontario legislature. The new law promises to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits without restricting legitimate legal recourse by anyone who is legitimately slandered or libelled. Continue reading

Vancouver Sun: Award-winning library director calls terrorism bill this generation’s ‘most repressive’ legislation

By Brian Morton, Vancouver Sun

Brian Campbell, former director of the Vancouver Public Library, has been named recipient of 2015 Award for the Advancement of Intellectual Freedom in Canada from the Canadian Library Association.

The retired 71-year-old former systems and planning director has defended free speech and promoted free and equal access to information both inside and outside of libraries throughout his career.

During Campbell’s 25-year B.C. library career, he played a leading role in library association campaigns against federal government plans to reduce statistics gathering programs, raise fees for government information, and eliminate the government depository program. He also chaired library committees that campaigned for passage of provincial freedom of information and protection of privacy laws.

In his acceptance speech on May 21, Campbell, who helped found and run Vancouver FreeNet (now Vancouver Community Network), described the Harper government’s anti-terrorism bill (C-51) as the “most repressive piece of legislation introduced in this generation.” He warned that libraries could be put at risk by the bill’s broad definition of terrorist. Continue reading

CBC: Bill C-51 – First Nation chief warns labour activists about jail time

RCMP spied on Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug Chief Donny Morris during
2008 mining dispute
By Jody Porter, CBC News

A First Nation leader, who went to jail defending his community’s
traditional territory in northern Ontario, is warning other activists
about the risks of government spying posed by Bill C-51.

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug Chief Donny Morris already has the
documents to show that the RCMP and government officials were spying on
his community during a mining dispute in 2008.

He filed an access to information request on Thursday to discover the
extent of the surveillance and called on other First Nations to do the same.

“Eventually if you’re categorized as a terrorist, you’re going to be
spending the rest of your life in prison and for myself, spending time
in jail for our action, I didn’t really appreciated that,” Morris told
CBC News. “It was humilating.” Continue reading

BCCLA: Freedom of expression and criticism of Israel

BC Civil Liberties Association

The BC Civil Liberties Association is deeply concerned about the effects on freedom of expression of recent changes to hate speech laws and the 2015 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel regarding Public Diplomacy Cooperation.

Section 318 of the Criminal Code prohibits advocating or promoting “genocide.” Genocide is defined as intending to destroy, in whole or in part, any “identifiable group” by killing members of the group or deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction. The “identifiable groups” covered by this provision were expanded in 2014 in the misnamed “cyber-bullying bill.” Identifiable groups now include sections of the public not only distinguishable by ethnic origin, but also by national origin.

Whatever other subjects the government intended to capture by expanding the hate speech laws to include “national origin,” it surely had a view to Israel, given that shortly after the passing of the Bill, the government issued an MOU with Israel in which it claims “that the selective targeting of Israel reflects the new face of anti-Semitism.” Continue reading

Globe and Mail: The government has not made its case for C-51

KENT ROACH and CRAIG FORCESE, The Globe and Mail

Kent Roach teaches at the University of Toronto law faculty and worked with both the Arar and Air India commissions. Craig Forcese is a law professor teaching national security law at the University of Ottawa and a participant in the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society. Their analysis of C-51 is at antiterrorlaw.ca.

We must exercise caution in judging the government’s amendments to its security law, C-51. We have received what appears to be the official government language. There is some good, some bad and much that remains ugly.

First the good: it is helpful that the proposed changes will now exclude from the national security information sharing regime protests of all sort, and not just protest complying with each and every regulatory law. The amendments will also temper language that might have authorized further sharing of information to “anyone”, including in disregard of security caveats attached to that information.

But in all other respects the government has disregarded warnings of the Privacy Commissioner (and many others) about the reach and potentially ungovernable nature of this vast privacy-limiting power. Downstream sharing can still take place so long as it is “in accordance with law”, which include many exceptions to privacy. Continue reading

Huffington Post: CSIS Records On Northern Gateway Pipeline Show Spies Went Too Far says BCCLA

Huffington Post – A civil liberties group says newly disclosed Canadian Security Intelligence Service records on protest surveillance bolster its formal complaint that spies went too far in eyeing environmental activists.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association has asked the Security Intelligence Review Committee to consider the documents — which reveal CSIS deliberations on the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline — as it investigates the spying allegations.

The association filed a complaint with the review committee in February 2014 after media reports suggested that CSIS and other government agencies consider opposition to the petroleum industry a threat to national security.

The complaint also cited reports that CSIS had shared information with the National Energy Board about “radicalized environmentalist” groups seeking to participate in the board’s hearings on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project, which would see Alberta crude flow to westward to Kitimat, B.C.

The groups included Leadnow, ForestEthics Advocacy Association, the Council of Canadians, the Dogwood Initiative, EcoSociety, the Sierra Club of British Columbia, and the aboriginal rights movement Idle No More.

The civil liberties association said it expected the investigation to address why CSIS monitors the groups, the length of time it has been doing so, and the authority or law allowing such surveillance.

The association also wants to know why the spy service has shared intelligence with the petroleum industry, as well as copies of any notes, transcripts or recordings it has made available. Continue reading

Forum Research: Less support now for stiffer terrorism legislation

Forum Research: One half of those aware of it disapprove of Bill C51

TORONTO March 14th, 2015 – In a random sampling of public opinion taken by the Forum Poll™ among 1370 Canadian voters, just more than half now agree Canada needs stiffer anti-terrorism legislation (56%) compared to 7-in-10 who took this position in November, when the Iraqi mission was in its infancy (70%). Agreement stiffer legislation is needed is common to the oldest (62%), the wealthy ($80K to $100K – 62%), in Quebec (72%), among Conservative voters (84%), Bloquistes (76%), the least educated (74%), mothers of children under 18 (65%), Catholics (72%) and Evangelicals (82%).

More than two thirds aware of Bill C51
More than two thirds of Canadian voters are aware of the anti-terrorism Bill C51 (69%), and this is especially common to boomers (55 to 64 – 78%), males (77%), the very wealthiest ($100K to $250K – 79%), in Alberta (80%), among New Democrats (74%), the best educated (post grad – 84%), Protestants (76%) and the non-religious (74%).

One half disapprove of Bill C51
One half of Canadian voters disapprove of Bill C51 (50%) when they are asked without being prompted on any of the details of the bill, and just more than a third approve (38%). One tenth have no view (12%). Disapproval of the bill is characteristic of the youngest (64%), in Atlantic Canada (60%), the prairies (58%) and BC (61%), among Liberals (66%) and New Democrats (77%), the best educated (65%) and the non-religious (70%).

Most disapprove of tracking environmentalists, etc, lack of parliamentary oversight
When asked their approval of a number of specific provisions of bill C51, the majority disapprove of the Bill allowing security services to infiltrate and track environmentalists, First Nations and pipeline protesters (61%), and the lack of parliamentary oversight included in the bill (52%). In each of these cases, about one quarter approve (28% and 27%, respectively), and this is especially common in Alberta (32% and 34%, respectively) and among federal Conservatives (56% and 46%, respectively). Continue reading