Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Birthday Party of One

It's Prime Minister Harper's 56 birthday today, but even that is decidedly odd. It started with a report that blank birthday cards were being sent out to the Party faithful to sign and return to him.

I noticed the same thing last year when wife Laureen posted on Twitter a photo of Harper going though last year's haul of birthday cards. See anything odd? All the cards are the same. I've received duplicate cards once in a while for my birthday, but 200 exactly the same? What are the odds?

If that wasn't enough, to ensure Dear Leader has a happy birthday the Conservatives sent out this email today under Laureen's signature to go to a website and send little Stevie birthday greetings:

But keep it quiet - apparently it's a surprise. The website you are directed to is festive, but one of my more technical friends tells me when you send greetings you are asked to link it to your Facebook account so the app knows who your friends are. Nice. Who needs #C-51?

Several other megalomaniacs in history were photographed accepting the birthday greetings of an adoring population, but I never thought I'd see it in Canada. Quite aside from the cult of personality aspect, the contrived nature of it strikes me as kind of sad, like the kid who invites the class to his birthday party and no one shows up. 

It seems Harper's birthday truly is a "party of one."

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Canada 150 - A Logo To Ponder

The government has ended the competition for a new logo for Canada 150. It's pick is... um... colourful. While the student who designed it collected a cool $5000, she also said the diamonds and colours in her design are not representative of anything in particular. “I just wanted to go with something very simple."

On the Heritage Canada says the four diamonds at the base of the Maple Leaf represent the four provinces that formed Confederation. The nine other diamonds represent the six other provinces and three territories, or something. I guess it's in the eye of the beholder.

What do I see? I see the unholy love child of the NBC peacock and the Klingon Empire.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Harper vs Omar Khadr - You Can't Get What You Don't Argue

The big story isn't that Omar Khadr was granted bail (now under appeal). The story that many missed is that the lawyers for the government opposing his bail application simply did not present opposing evidence or contradict many of Khadr's arguments.

For example, to win on bail pending appeal, the prisoner has to show that his/her   appeal or application for leave to appeal is not frivolous (i.e.: their main case has a chance of success). Khadr's lawyers produced experts in the field of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. They (Professor Glazier and Professor Solis) said that Khadr's position on the merits of the appeal is “correct in law”. The government presented no evidence or expert opinions of their own to contradict it.

As a result the judge found (as she only could with no opposing evidence from the government), that "his appeal is not frivolous. The Respondents [government lawyers] do not suggest otherwise."

Next is whether someone is a flight risk - will they flee the country or not show up for trial. Here is what the bail judge said: "The [government] does not take issue with [Khadr's] position that he will surrender himself as required." So again, no argument from the government that Khadr will flee or not show up.

Likewise regarding one of the other key tests for bail - risk to public safety. Each side is obligated to present evidence that shows release on bail could constitute a risk to the public.

Again, the bail judge summarizes the evidence presented by both sides:

"The Applicant argues he is a low risk to public safety and that his appeal in the United States has faced an indeterminate delay. He submits that that a failure to grant pre-appeal judicial interim release will make his strong appeal nugatory. The Applicant has provided affidavit evidence that he has been entirely cooperative and a model prisoner during his detention by United States and Canadian authorities, that he has strong community support, and is therefore a low risk to public safety. The Respondents do not challenge this affidavit evidence."

Note that the government lawyers "do not challenge this affidavit evidence."

So the government lawyers didn't argue or present any evidence that Khadr (a) didn't have a reasonable chance of winning his main appeal; (b) that Khadr wouldn't show up; or (c) that he was any risk to public safety.

Instead, they tried to argue that Canadian law - including his right to fundamental justice under the Charter of Rights and that most ancient human right in British jurisprudence, habeas corpus - didn't apply to Omar Khadr because of our treaty with the USA. The bail judge spent a lot of time discussing the interplay between international treaties and Canadian domestic law - including our Criminal Code bail provisions, the Charter and pre-Charter habeas corpus rights - and concluded that these rights apply in Canada.(Thank God.)

With all their eggs in this basket, and not bringing any other arguments to the table, the government lost. Harper has already said he'll appeal, but odds are very good he'll lose. It is a tight and well reasoned bail decision. And as the government didn't present any evidence regarding public risk, possible ultimate success or flight risk, it can't reopen them on appeal.

Those who now bitterly complain that Khadr is a danger to the public should remember the Department of Justice lawyers under the direction of Harper never argued that he was a danger and didn't present a shred of evidence at the bail hearing that he was, or that he didn't have a good legal case that he would be ultimately released on appeal as others have in challenging the legal validity of his conviction under the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

None of this goes to what actually happened when he was 15. It merely affirms a legal reality more important than any individual like Khadr - the law has rules that must be followed to the benefit of us all, and the government must always argue and prove its case against any person before they can keep them in jail and throw away the key. That basic principle protects us all, whether it is you, me or someone like Omar Khadr.

Read the full bail decision here:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

They desire a better country

Harper slipped something in the 2015 budget that helps him get his mitts on the apolitical Order of Canada process. In these tough times he still plans to spend $13.4 million to "reform" the way Canadians are inducted into the Order of Canada. He hates anything he can't control in his Conservative Gleichschaltung.

We already saw his Jubilee Medal fiasco, where they handed them out to all and sundry (60,000 of them) with the help of "community groups" in the Conservative government's pocket with the result that all kinds of nutballs got them (including me, but that's another story -

The Order of Canada was set up with an impartial panel that reviews award nominations. It is not a "government award" in the sense that politicians sit down and decide which of their friends and donors get one.

Contrary to the idea that it's just artsy types who get the Order of Canada, you can't walk down Bay Street without seeing every other robber baron and captain of industry pass by with one in their lapel. My cousin just recently was awarded the Order of Canada for his work as a chemist producing new medicinal compounds or molecules, or something I don't understand. Not very artsy.

But that's not enough for Harper. He needs to give them out as yet another political plum for the loyal footsoldiers in their relentless drive to dismantle Canada. They need to go to rubes, ideologues and people high on the party donation lists.

By the way, the motto of the Order is DESIDERANTES MELIOREM PATRIAM (They desire a better country). If Harper gets his mitts on it, that will have to be the first thing to go.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Our Disappearing Charter of Rights... and a little credit.

Here's an odd situation.

Back in February I posted on Twitter one of my Photoshop creations encapsulating the erosion of Charter rights under various legislation brought forward or attempted by the Harper government. I simply started crossing off the sections under attack.

Contrary to my usual practice, I didn't add my Twitter handle (@stephenlautens) to the bottom. For some reason I felt it vaguely disrespectful of the Charter (although not as disrespectful as what the Conservatives have been doing).

It struck a nerve, as it's been retweeted about 1,200 times (thanks Twitter followers) and had more than 104,000 impressions.

I even saw it reprinted and carried as a sign by someone at the anti Bill C-51 protests.

So imagine my surprise when someone "improved it" by adding a title to it, which is fine, but then posted it as a royalty free image on Creative Commons with them as the author. I only found out about it by accident when it appeared in Press Progress and I asked where they got it. They said it came from this Flickr account:

(By the way - I have no idea why when I look at Flickr it is all in German...).

Anyway, I've never minded my political Photoshop work being shared - it's all for a good cause. I do get a little annoyed when someone else takes credit for it and then shares it with the world as their own (with minor modifications). I'm trying to get it properly attributed and pulled back from Creative Commons, but once something is out on the Interwebs it's like trying to get the aerosol cheez back in the can.

Finally, I've updated my image to reflect recent assaults on the Charter. Feel free to share this one - preferably with attribution.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Happy birthday, Charter of Rights

Happy 33rd anniversary of the signing of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - one of the most significant constitutional documents in our history and a continuing bulwark against relentless and unprecedented attempts to infringe the rights of Canadians by the present Harper government. This week the Conservatives' mandatory minimum sentences law was struck down and another ruling was made against  institutional prayer at municipal council meetings.

I've written elsewhere about how little regard the Conservatives have for the rule of law and the role of the courts in upholding the requirement that laws passed by Parliament conform to the supreme law of Canada - the Constitution and the Charter.

So happy birthday, Charter. You deserve better, and so do we.