Niki Ashton represents new breed of Canadian leader

This article was originally published on May 26, 2017 in the Toronto Sun.


Earlier this week, the Toronto Sun published an op-ed entitled, “NDP MP Niki Ashton has made her priorities clear.”  While I disagree with virtually everything the op-ed sought to assert, I do agree with the title, as indeed, it is clear that the rights of the oppressed are the priority in Ms. Ashton’s distinguished political career. 

Since she won her seat in Parliament in 2008, Ms. Ashton has been a champion for a broad variety of social issues.  She has spoken out repeatedly for the rights of women, and how women suffer wage discrimination and other systemic obstacles in Canada.  She has also long been a proponent of LGBTQ rights, supporting same-sex marriage and other social rights for such groups since the beginning of her political career.  

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Abuse of Prisoners Is Intolerable, Whether in Palestine or Northern Ireland

This article was originally published on May 23, 2017 in the Huffington Post.


In my final year of high school in the spring of 1981, headlines in North America chronicled the long decline of Irish Republican hunger striker, Bobby Sands.  It was my first introduction to “The Troubles” of Northern Ireland, but I came through that period with a better understanding of the two sides of that conflict.

While many Canadians might not realize it, there is a hunger strike going on today that is just as significant as that of Bobby Sands and the other Irish Republicans in 1981.  Led by Marwan Barghouti, hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails are five weeks into a hunger strike.  Yet because North American media are ignoring the strike, Canadians are hardly wiser to the plight of the Palestinian prisoners.  Unfortunately, any time Israel is involved, it is nearly impossible to get North Americans to address the realities of the situation.  

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Canadian Politicians Can’t Cherry Pick Malala Yousafzai’s Message

This article was originally published on April 18, 2017 on Ricochet.


Canadians should be proud to have hosted Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai last week.  She is an inspiration not only for what she has accomplished in her brief 19 years on earth, but for the causes she represents and defends: foremost the right for all girls around the world to have access to education.  Her wisdom, humility and poise before Canada’s Parliament should be an inspiration to all: men and women, young and old alike.

But hosting someone such as Yousafzai is about more than just photo ops, and “feel good” press statements.  It should be cause for reflection on our own action – or inaction – on the issues she raises.  And for all practical purposes, Canada’s political leaders are worlds apart from Yousafzai.

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Liberals Largely Insincere On Arms Trade Treaty Bill

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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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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