Liberals Largely Insincere On Arms Trade Treaty Bill

This article was originally published on April 25, 2017 on Ricochet.

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When the Trudeau government introduced Bill C-47 earlier this month to accede to the international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), it was one of those situations where you didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  You could be thankful that the government is finally stepping up to international standards for arms control.  But then you could cry too, as the Trudeau government seems intent on maintaining existing loopholes in Canada’s international arms dealings.

Looking at the positive side, Canada is finally taking steps to align its existing arms export control mechanisms with a higher UN standard.  Despite Canadians’ mythological self-image as a peace-loving nation, Canadawill be the last of its G7 and NATO allies to sign on to the ATT. 

 

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Dysfunction at the UN: The Saudis aren’t the only ones to blame

This article was originally published on May 3, 2017 in Ricochet.

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The UN has once again managed to dumbfound the world: last week the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was elected to the organization’s Commission on the Status of Women.  In Canada, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel led the parade of outraged politicians – and rightfully so.  With its laws circumscribing the rights of its women, Saudi Arabia is in no position to lead a UN organization “dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.”

The rights of Saudi women are inevitably subordinated to the men in their lives.  Among other things, Saudi men have dominant rights in regards to marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance.  Under Saudi Arabia’s guardianship laws, women cannot seek higher education, take a job or travel without permission from their male guardian.  Read Ensaf Haidar’s biography Raif Badawi, The Voice of Freedom for a vivid example of how such laws engender hopelessness, depression and fear among the Kingdom’s women.  Suffice it to say that Saudi Arabia is not in a position to promote women’s rights or shape global standards on gender equality, as the Commission intends.

 

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50 Years Of Israeli Occupation Is Far Too Long

This article was originally published on April 24, 2017 in the Huffington Post.

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In just a few weeks, the world will witness a remarkable and sobering milestone.  By June, 2017, Israel will have been a military occupying power in the Palestinian territories for 50 years.  Given the West’s blasé attitude, you might think this anniversary were inconsequential, but for millions in the Middle East, their hope and future depend on a shift from the status quo

Some Canadians take a fatalistic attitude to the occupation and associated strife, making comments like, “the conflict will never end,” or, “they’ve been fighting for thousands of years” – neither of which is true.  But regardless of the myths and the cynicism, 50 years of military occupation is far too long, and international players – including Canada – need to get serious about bringing it to an end.  This crippling standoff between Israelis and Palestinians represents a ongoing failure in international diplomacy, and remains a source of ongoing strife in the broader Middle East.

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Trudeau’s Simplistic Approach Won’t Work In Syria

This article was originally published on April 17, 2017 in the Huffington Post.

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If only it were so easy.  The leader of a war-torn Middle Eastern country commits an atrocity; the West removes him; problem solved.  At least, that’s the way Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems to see the future in Syria.  Last week, Trudeau asserted that Syrian president Bachar al-Assad must be excluded from any final peace agreement for that worn torn country.  Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland put it more bluntly, “Assad must go.” 

The only problem is, in addition to the support that al-Assad enjoys among certain groups within Syria, Trudeau has also forgotten about Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Kurds, and the many other players who have a stake in what happens in Syria.  What began with a boy writing anti-government graffiti in Daraa in 2011 is a full blown global crisis today.

 

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Canadian Zionists Join World Wide Campaign to Mark Centenary of Balfour Declaration

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This article was originally published on April 13, 2017 on Canada Talks Israel Palestine.

To Zionists, the “Balfour Declaration” has an almost mythical status – like the Magna Carta or the US Declaration of Independence. One hundred years ago, on November 2nd 1917, Britain’s Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour sent a letter to British Zionist Lord Rothschild, promising that Britain would help establish a “national home” for the Jewish people” in Palestine, which at that time was under the Ottoman Empire.

The 1917 “Balfour Declaration” promised British support for the creation of a “national home for the Jewish people” but to the disappointment of Zionists did not call for a “Jewish state”

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Trudeau Must Not Rubber Stamp Trump’s Military Interventions

This article was originally published on April 10, 2017 in the Huffington Post.

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Nobody would argue that the gas attack last week on the Syrian town of Khan Sheykhoun was anything but horrific and inhumane. But it’s hard to see how Trump’s recent missile strikes on an airfield of the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad will do anything but aggravate an already intractable situation. Worse, the Trudeau government’s acquiescence to Trump’s belligerence weakens our own position as a country, and the checks and balances of the UN system. Some proponents of Trump’s strike argue that it will handicap al-Assad’s ability to carry out more strikes. Others argue that the strike has symbolic value, demonstrating to al-Assad and his opponents that the international community is watching, and has the will to act. But far more sustained intervention will be required before there will be any real dent in al-Assad’s military capability, as evidenced by yet another strike on Khan Sheykhun on Saturday.

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NDP Leaders Race Should Be About Who Can Beat Trudeau

This article was originally published on May 4, 2017 in the Huffington Post.

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Three things are clear coming out of the second NDP leadership debate in Montreal.  First, there’s a clear sense of where the party is headed.  Second, the field of leadership candidates is extremely strong. And finally, the candidates will need to try harder to distinguish themselves.

This is in strong contrast to 2012, when last the NDP had to choose a leader.  The task of replacing Jack Layton in 2012 forced the party to make many tough decisions, foremost over whether to bring the party closer to the political centre under Thomas Mulcair.  But the current race has four candidates all of whom push a strong social democrat vision. They each refer frequently and favourably to Jack Layton’s legacy, but rarely to Thomas Mulcair’s.  Regardless of which candidate prevails in the end, the party will be pushing a solidly progressive vision.

 

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How To Move Forward From The M-103 Islamophobia Debate

This article was originally published on March 28, 2017 in the Huffington Post.

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If you’re like me, Canada’s debate around Islamophobia has left you drained and disillusioned.  Both the Liberals and Conservatives treated this important social issue as if it were political football, seeking to gain cheap yardage with seemingly little concern for the lives involved. Muslim Canadians deserve better.

Many Canadians might be surprised to learn that back in October, Canada passed an anti-Islamophobia motion by unanimous consent.  House of Common petition e411, sponsored by Liberal MP Frank Baylis was the basis for this motion.  Sadly, at the time, Liberals didn’t have the political courage to propose a motion on Islamophobia before the House.  Instead, it was NDP leader Thomas Mulcair who showed the sensitivity and political resolve to present this motion, and did so successfully on October 26. 

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Why Has Israel Arrested The Leading Spokesperson for the BDS Movement?

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This article was originally published on March 27, 2017 on Canada Talks Israel Palestine.

On the morning of Sunday, March 19, Israeli tax authorities barged into the home of Omar Barghouti, the prominent Palestinian human rights defender and co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for the freedom, justice and equality of the Palestinian people. They detained and interrogated Omar and his wife Safa for 16 hours that first day. Omar has subsequently undergone at least four more days of interrogation.

The charge against him is “tax evasion”. Israeli authorities claim he has accumulated over $700,000 over the last decade and “hidden it in a Ramallah” bank. It’s hard for an outsider to know whether there is any basis for this, although it would seem surprising that Ramallah banks are not under close surveillance by Israeli authorities. Some commentators have suggested that arresting Barghouti for tax evasion is a safer route for Israel than an outright arrest for political activity.

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To Sanction or Not To Sanction

This article was originally published on March 7, 2017 in the Huffington Post.

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Most Canadians have no idea, but our government currently sanctions 21 different countries around the world.  Perhaps most well-known, Canada maintains sanctions against Iran because of Canadian government suspicions around Iran’s nuclear weapons intents.   But Canada also has a general export ban on Belarus for the abuses of President Alexander Lukashenko, as well as various sanctions on 19 other countries.

Government leaders might be reassured by the results of an EKOS poll last week which indicated that 91 percent of Canadians believe that sanctions are a reasonable way for Canada to censure countries for violations of international law or human rights.  But such “support” for sanctions may also obfuscate some problematic aspects of Canada’s sanctions policies.

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