Friday, 20 March 2015

500 Protest Bill C-51 in Ottawa

Over 500 people protested against Bill C-51 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Saturday afternoon, March 14, 2015.(1)

In freezing drizzle, hundreds gathered at noon in front of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s offices, chanted and staged speakers, then walked to the "Peace Tower" on Parliament Hill where they peacefully, but loudly proclaimed their defence of freedom, to reject fear and stop Harper’s Secret Police Bill.

Events included 10 speeches, chants, "Bill C-51 Song" by the Ottawa Raging Grannies,(9) and '"Three Traitors": a play for today' performed by The Quaker Theatre Team.(10,11,12) The rally ended at 2 pm.

This Ottawa Day of Action Against Bill C-51, organized by #StopC51, was one of 73 held across Canada.

Many who took photos and videos posted them online. Local news covered the event. See me with camera behind the lady in yellow holding the sign in The Ottawa Citizen; and see my 101 photo album and a shorter slide show in Google+ Story.(7) Also see 94 photos by Mike Gifford.(8) Dr. Qais Ghanem made a 50-minute video of the speakers and singers(9) and a 5-minute video of the Quaker Theatre Team.(11); but Jane Keeler posted her 5-minute video of the Quaker Theatre play(12) and a 2-minute video of the singing Ottawa Raging Grannies the same day.(10)

The proposed legislation is in the form of an Omnibus Bill which the Conservative government is rushing to push through without any amendments, so as to bolster its own support of this year’s federal election.

If passed, the Bill would give full access (without our knowledge or consent) to 17 federal departments and agencies about personal data of its citizens, publicly designed to identify and suppress security threats. These agencies include the RCMP and Canada’s two spy agencies, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and Communications Security Establishment (CSE). But also it includes the Canada Revenue Agency, the departments of Citizenship and Immigration, Health and Transport.

Privacy Commissioner of Canada Daniel Therrien has broader concerns about information sharing in the proposed legislation.

… Another bill, C-44, which is aimed at empowering CSIS, raises “fundamental questions for privacy,” he said, as well as U.S. whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s recent revelations about massive electronic surveillance operations.

“Is that the kind of society we want to live in, where ordinary Canadians, law-abiding individuals, are the subject of intrusive monitoring and profiling by national security agencies?” he asked. (2)

This dangerous piece of legislation opens the door to undermining the rule of law, human rights and democracy itself. It would be the first step in CSIS being turned into full secret police. The Bill threatens to stifle discussion on such issues as:
  • Questioning the right of government to go to war. (Recall the Preamble to the UN Charter: 'to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war….').
  • The right of government to expand its military efforts in the Middle East.
  • The right of government to meddle in the Ukraine.
  • Questioning army training for high school credits in Canada. (Army training for high school credit has first students, CBC News, Feb. 2, 2015.).
  • Challenging the gun lobby. (Remember that kids brought up without fear of guns and vigilantism leads to healthy citizens.).
  • Using the label of ‘terrorism’ as an excuse to arrest citizens without due process of law. This relates to the surveillance of environmentalists, indigenous peoples, and peace activists.
  • Those grassroots activists who oppose the Alberta tar sands, the TransCanada pipeline and tanker projects as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trade Promotion Authority.
  • Creating a Department of Peace in Canada.
Using the club of fear, the government claims that the state needs extra powers to counter radicalization and ISIS. However, the existing laws, many professionalists believe, are sufficient to deal with this threat in Canada. The real solution lies in prevention. In our foreign policy, we need to work for peace. We need to prevent soldiers from going abroad, being killed, injured and being affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In other words, the Prime Minister and the state ought to stop militarizing Canada and bring its troops home. Using those billions of dollars saved, Canadians can then deal with climate change and clean environment, income inequality, full free universal public health care and education, culture and sports programs accessible to all, good governance, and serious attention to upgrading public infrastructure across the country.

  1. Campanella, Emanuela. 'Hundreds gather in front of PM's offices to protest anti-terror bill. The Ottawa Citizen, March 15, 2015.
  2. Berthiaume, Lee. 'All Canadians would be trapped in anti-terror legislation's 'web', warns privacy commissioner.' The Ottawa Citizen, March 6, 2015.
  3. Nick Rose. ‘Some Kind of Monster: A Brief History of Harper’s Big Fat Omnibus Bills.’ Vice Media, March 12, 2015.
  4. Alyssa Stryker and Carmen Cheung. ‘Six Things Protesters Need to Know about Bill C-51.’ The Tyee, March 14, 2015.
  5. Russwurm, Laurel L. 'Canada is about to lose Free Speech and Civil Rights. interweb freedom, March 12, 2015.
  6. Michael Geist. 'Why Anti-Terrorism Bill is Really an Anti-Privacy Bill: Bill C-51's Evisceration of Privacy Protection.' Michael Geist's Blog, March 12, 2015.
  7. 101 images online by Koozma J. Tarasoff; and a shorter slide show in Google+ Story.
  8. Stop C-51 - Ottawa, 94 photos by Mike Gifford, flickr.
  9. 1000 Ottawa Canadians Against Harper's Draconian Bill C51, 50-minute documentary video by Dr. Qais Ghanem, Dialog with Diversity, March 16, 2015. Shows speakers Paul Champ, Yavar Hameed, Clayton Thomas-Muller, Monia Mazigh, Larry Rousseau, Jessica Squires, and Ottawa Raging Grannies singing their "Bill C-51 Song" at minute 28:55.
  10. "The C-51 Picnic" by the Raging Grannies of Ottawa, 2-minute video by Jane Keeler, March 14, 2015. Lyrics for "Bill C-51 Song" by the Ottawa Raging Grannies.
  11. Quaker Theatre Group Against Bill C51. 5 min. video by Dr. Qais Ghanem, Dialog with Diversity, March 20, 2015. Script below.
  12. Three Traitors— a play by Carl Stieren, performed by the Quaker Theatre Team. 5-min video by Jane Keeler, March 14, 2015. Script below.
  13. Script: 'Three Traitors' by Carl Stieren,, performed by the Quaker Theatre Team in Ottawa, March 14, 2015. Vidoes above. Thanks to Carl for submitting the script and links to videos.
  14. Anti-terrorism bill C-51 'dangerous' legislation, 100 academics say, CBC News, Feb 27, 2015.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Walking Across Canada for Peace

Jesse-Blue Forrest
Jesse-Blue Forrest, Chair of the Toronto Department of Peace Initiative (DPI) chapter, came to Ottawa this week to announce his 5-month Peace Walk from Victoria, British Columbia to Ottawa in support of a Department of Peace.

Beginning May 1st, 2015, he will carry a DPI flag on a 5-foot pole and petitions to gather signatures across Canada. He intends to arrive in Ottawa in time for the launch of the 9th Annual Ottawa Peace Festival on September 21st, 2015.

His project is outlined on his website: Peace Walk for the Department of Peace Initiative. His preferred path is the Trans-Canada Highway, but the exact route will be made known later.

The Ottawa DPI Chapter will support his walk and will encourage people to wait for him at Victoria Island and walk together to Parliament Hill.

I spoke to Forrest and colleague Sandra Moon Dancer on March 10th during a 4-hour coffee meeting with other supporters and an evening meeting of the DPI Ottawa Chapter.

Ottawa Chapter DPI Meeting, March 10, 2015. Jesse-Blue Forrest
(2nd bottom row left) and Sandra Moon Dancer (2nd from top left).
During our conversation, I realized that we first met in in the mid-1990s in British Columbia when he visited the Doukhobors in Brilliant, nearby Japanese internment camps and Vietnam war resisters.

Jesse-Blue Forrest is a remarkable charismatic personality with an optimistic outlook on life and an abundance of confidence. He was born in 1948 to a Cherokee mother and a Celtic father in the USA. At the age of five, he and his twin sister were separated and sent to residential schools. Eventually he was raised by his Native grandparents. Because his best friend was Black, the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in front of his home and burnt his friend’s barn.

At age 18 he clashed with the American military Draft which led him to choose a 50-year career for peace. In walking to abolish the Draft, Forrest was jailed for 18 months in solitary confinement. He read Lev N. Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is Within You, which influenced Mahatma Gandhi. Now living in Canada, he has spent 26 years and countless dollars in legal fees to clear his name and regain the right to return to the United States.

In 2013, Forrest and Moon Dancer were invited to participate in the 83rd Vedaranyam Salt Satyagraha anniversary (March 12 - April 6) retracing Gandhi’s independence “Salt March” in India. Moon Dancer is the youngest woman to have walked the Salt March, the only woman to have walked for a cause, calling for the right for women to live free from violence.

Later in 2013 (August 31-September 8) and in the summer of 2014 (July 25 - August 10), they were invited to Iceland to build medicine wheels, and hold ceremonies with the Four Winds International Peace Pipe, including a ceremony at Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace Tower. They travelled around the island with a group of Canadians, connecting Canadians and Icelanders in ceremonies for Peace.

‘I am not against the government.’ Forrest told me, ‘but I choose to work cooperatively to change and improve society.’ Positive affirmation for cooperative peace, for him, is a powerful strategy to win friends and influence people. It’s all a matter of nonviolent intent and choice to start a national conversation about the role of DPI in creating a culture of peace in Canada.

With his visionary work for peace, a concrete design (the DPI), and the courage to get things done, Jesse-Blue Forrest presents an awesome opportunity for Canadians to reclaim their country as peacemakers. As he walks across the country, talking to people and planting 'peace trees', please join him in support of the Department of Peace Initiative. Your actions may save not only you, but your children, grandchildren, and many generations to come.

Contact Forrest by email, Skype or phone; Twitter. More on the Internet.

Donate to the FundRazr for Peace Walk for the Department of Peace Initiative, by Nathan Jesse-Blue Forrest. All donations will support various elements of the Walk, including: equipment, accommodations, Peace flag, flight to B.C., food and water, and other living expenses.

  • May 4, 2015, after careful consideration and numerous conversations with a team of advisors and lawyers, we have decided to postpone the PeaceWalk across Canada until Spring 2016. It has been advised that the PeaceWalk commence after observing the impact of Bill C-51 as well as the results of the upcoming Federal election. Plan for 2016:

       Phase One – Mar 12 to Sept 21, 2016 – Victoria BC to Ottawa ON.
       Phase Two – Mar 12 – Sep 21, 2017 – St. John’s, NF to Ottawa, ON.

    In this revised vision, the same points of action exist, including the planting of peace trees across Canada.

    Our current focus is to build up the Department of Peace, Toronto Chapter to generate widespread support for the walk and spread the word. We are working collaboratively with a fundraising and organizational consultant to set up the Toronto Chapter, including securing an advisory board, and registering the PeaceWalk. Please see the three attachments included in this email to see the organizational plan for the Toronto Chapter.
    Culture of Peace and Non-Violence,
    Jesse-Blue Forrest, PeaceWalker

Monday, 9 March 2015

Film Review: American Sniper

51IiP7QgakL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg I saw a dangerous pro-war movie, not the anti-war film described by the director and producers.

American Sniper’ is a popular war movie about an actual decorated US sniper, Kyle, who claimed 255 ‘kills’ in Iraq. Kyle is a ‘good guy’ from Texas who failed as a cowboy only to find his true calling as a sniper in the Navy Seals.

The sniper kills from his rooftop perch, including a woman and a young boy who attempt to throw a bomb at the American invaders. He is a cog in a war killing machine.

Killing at times appears to trouble his conscience, but as a macho Navy Seal he is taught to do his job as a loyal patriot of his country.

The real Kyle was killed in the US by a fellow veteran whom Kyle offered to help overcome his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Both were victims of PTSD.

The movie was adapted from the best selling and controversial 2012 book: American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History (above), which netted Kyle's family $3 million.

The film is the highest-grossing war movie ever, netting $0.5 billion. The film won 9 of 30 film awards nominated.

Because American Sniper is beautifully-produced, it appears to me to be a dangerous pro-war propaganda film, supporting an old colonial strategy that might is right. It invites young people to join the military, learn a trade and make money from the killing machine — all in the name of protecting ‘our way of life.’ ‘We must kill’ them with new weapons of mass destruction, because ‘they’ threaten ‘us,’ goes the argument. This is a deadly knee-jerk reaction orchestrated by politicians, military generals, and those seeking opportunities to profit from killing.

In my opinion, director Clint Eastwood’s claim that American Sniper is an anti-war apolitical film lacks context. It depicts the Iraqi people as savages and terrorists who must be destroyed because they threaten the American way of life. Much is missing:
  • This and most military films don't mention the alternative paradigm of nonkilling peacemaking.
  • The repugnance of militarism and war as an institution with no viable future. As Mahatma Gandhi once said: ‘An eye for an eye makes everyone blind.’ The film continues the notion that war is the way of the future.
  • We are dealing with ‘blood oil,’ cheap oil for North America, taken by violent invasion if necessary, and the failure of the leadership to deal with climate change. The solution is to develop alternative sources of energy in ones own country.
  • We see the failure of the leadership to learn the basic lessons of physics: ‘For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’. The remedy: Stop poking your nose into someone else’s business. Bring your troops home.
  • The film lacks humanizing the opponents in the battle. The military model is demonizing in that it pursues ‘us against them’ solution, without any attempt at discovering friends.
  • There is no mention of why the Americans invaded Iraq in the first place. No mention is made of money, oil, and a faulty foreign policy based on ‘exceptionalism.’
  • No mention is made of the money spent on war preparations, on spying, on secrecy and war itself. Just think of how trillions of dollars could be used to solve poverty, housing, healthcare, education, and cultural enrichment in our communities and the wider world?
  • We need to discover that real heroism and real patriotism is not based on killing but on getting rid of weapons. My ancestors, the Spirit Wrestlers / Doukhobors, influenced by world writer and philosopher Lev N. Tolstoy, did this in 1895 when 7,000 of them burnt their guns in three locations of Transcaucasia, Russia.
Once a broad disarmament program gets underway, preferably with support of the United Nations, we need to rapidly develop a design for a viable world order. Presently a nonkilling paradigm is available and efforts are being made to create Departments of Peace at the government’s cabinet level. Future filmmakers ought to take note and develop scenarios with exciting films featuring the role of cooperation, respect for humanity, compassion, and love in our emerging global society.

Other Reviews
  1. Vic Thiessen. ‘The winter’s most dangerous film’. Canadian Mennonite, March 2, 2015: 32.
  2. Richard Falk. ‘Viewing American Sniper’. Transcend Media Service, February 2, 2015.
  3. Cindy Sheehan. ‘Casey vs. Kyle: On Bloodlust, Loss, and Wars of Choice’. Common Dreams, January 21, 2015.
  4. Criticisms and Eastwood’s responses, Wikipedia.
  5. Timothy Kudo. 'How We Learned to Kill.' Sunday Review, New York Times, February 27, 2015.
  6. Chris Hodges. 'Killing Ragheads for Jesus.' Truthdig, January 25, 2015.
  7. Finian Cunningham. 'American Sniper and US Doom'. Information Clearing House, March 2015.