Friday, August 15, 2008

Blame Canada

Hey Canada! What's up? It used to be that the only complaints people had from up north focused on Celine Dion. Lately, I can't seem to look at the news without seeing a negative, disturbing or simply ridiculous story coming out of my homeland. Could it have been the federal election in 2006 bringing Stephen Harper and his Conservatives into power? Is it the unknown addictive substance that Tim Horton's must put in their coffee? Whatever the reason you can't deny that the stream of news flowing out of Canada of late has ranged from the bizarre to the tragic. Regardless of the cause for the shift, the world's view of Canada is undergoing a transformation from an idyllic, if frozen, land of peacekeepers and natural beauty to one more in line with it's neighbour to the south.

The easiest line of attack is the environmental angle. While much of the world thinks of green spaces, majestic mountains and lush forests, the truth is Canadian government has possibly done more harm to the environmental effort than the Bush administration. While it could be expected that the US in their greed and lust for profits wouldn't ratify the Kyoto Protocol, Canada could have been a shining example to the world. They were one of the first countries to sign the Kyoto Protocol. Since that time however, led by the Conservative party, both federally and provincially, they have taken the low road. In typical wild west fashion, the governments have turned a blind eye to the developing disaster of the Albertan oil sands. The ecological damage is mind-boggling, while the environmental disaster has forced the government to change the definitions of pollution emissions. Congratulations Canada, while only making up 1/2% of the world's population, you´re the world's eighth largest producer of carbon dioxide.

We could talk about immigration if you'd prefer, Canada is a land of immigrants, where the term multiculturalism was born. A land where many have dreamt of starting a new life. Well, hopefully you´re not a confused Polish immigrant landing at the Vancouver International Airport with those dreams. Yes, the world watched in horror as some of those fine young men in powerful uniforms, RCMP officers, tasered Robert Dziekanski to death. If you're looking to come to Canada to avoid fighting in an illegal war, don't bother either. Last month Canada expelled the first US army deserter to have arrived since the Iraq invasion, and now Jeremy Hinzman is set to join Robin Long. Both face court martial and five years in prison for refusing to serve in Iraq. It is estimated that there are about 200 deserters in Canada.

If you're looking for the low point, you need look no further than the current governments support of the US "war on terror". After the previous government's refusal to join "the coalition of the willing" in an illegal invasion of a sovereign nation, the biggest worry that most Canadians had was that relations with their southern neighbour would be soured. Fear not, the new Conservative government led by Stephen Harper has saved the day. Just ask Maher Arar, a Syrian born Canadian university graduate who tried to return his home in Canada from vacation in Tunisia on September 26, 2002 and wound up in a Syrian prison, a victim of the US' secret rendition program. There he was repeatedly tortured. His family had no idea of his whereabouts for days and he didn't see them for 376 days. If you have time, here's the link to the official Arar Commission report, basically Judge O'Connor blasts the RCMP for providing U.S. authorities with inaccurate intelligence that resulted in Mr. Arar, and his wife Monia Mazigh, being put on a border watch list as dangerous al-Qaeda terrorist suspects. That same report confirmed their complete innocence. Oh yeah, there are a few more cases just like this.

It gets worse, friends. Maybe you somehow missed the video of Omar Khadr that was released in July. We'd all like to think that if our government and country knew that I was being held without charges and tortured they would do something about it. Well, according the the footage, Omar told the Canadian interviewers what was happening to him and yet nothing was done. Being only 15 when he was seized by US forces after a firefight in Afghanistan in July of 2002, he was thrown into prison on a Caribbean island with no rights and no charges. The cold indifference of his Canadian interrogators about seven months later is truly shocking, if you haven't seen it, you should, here:

Prime Minister Harper said in July that he would not interfere in Mr Khadr's military tribunal, due to begin at Guantanamo on 8 October. “Mr. Khadr is accused of very serious things. There is a legal process in the United States … Frankly, we do not have a real alternative to that process to get to the truth about those accusations.” Even Khadr’s American military lawyer, Lt.-Cmdr. William Kuebler, found that “preposterous.” Harper, he said, should “stand up as the Prime Minister of Canada and protect the rights of a Canadian citizen, and stop taking his orders from the Bush administration and stop being the last leader of a Western country to support a failed process in Guantanamo Bay.”

Of course I shouldn't lose my head over all this, not much has changed, has it? I guess that's another point, Canadians seem to be losing theirs, literally. Whether sitting on a dreary bus journey across the prairies or in prison in Saudi Arabia, heads seem to be rolling. In case you missed it, 40-year-old Vince Weiguang Li was charged with second degree murder for decapitating a 22-year-old fellow passenger Tim McLean on July 30th. After pulling out a hunting knife and stabbing McLean as many as 40 or 50 times, witnesses said, Li displayed the victim's severed head to horrified passengers who had already fled the bus. What the? It's not even hockey season yet, so I've no idea what could have pissed him off so much. Meanwhile one Canadian as already been sentenced to death and another still awaits trial in Saudi Arabia, and the punishment is beheading. The 18 and 23-year-old brothers both face death by sword for their role in the death of a 19-year-old Syrian in a schoolyard incident last year.

Heads are rolling while feet are washing up on shore. The west coast has seen at least five unidentified solo feet wash up on its shore over the course of the past year. It's a mystery that has the police, media and locals scratching their heads. The fifth foot, and first left foot, was found on June 16th near Ladner, B.C. No leads have been found, but there are enough missing people and serial killers around if the past is any indication; from Clifford Olson (killed 11 children) to Paul Bernardo and his wife Karla Homolka who killed three teenage girls, including Homolka’s sister to the biggest monster of all Robert Pickton. Pickton is alleged to have killed and dismembered the bodies of his victims, possibly as many as 49, on his pig farm in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. Don't forget the Canadian pedophile, that swirly face picture guy, who was convicted yesterday in Thailand to 39-months in prison.

Of course none of this really matters to the Canadian psyche. What's really important is that we haven't won any medals at the Olympics yet. You'll find more outrage on the internet about the medal drought being experienced by the Canadian team than any of the above stories. The Canadian news story of the year for 2007 was the rise of the Canadian dollar versus the US buck. Woohoo! Way to go Canada, your dollar did what every other currency in the world did, appreciate versus the US dollar. Wake up Canada, there's more to life than Tim Horton's.