Twenty-five organizations, including KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, are urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take action to halt construction of the Site C dam in northeastern British Columbia. The groups, among them Amnesty International and the Council of Canadians, denounced the project for violation of rights protected under Treaty 8, the Canadian Constitution, and international human rights law. A joint federal-provincial environmental impact assessment panel concluded that the dam would severely and permanently undermine Indigenous peoples’ use of the land and destroy important cultural sites and a unique ecosystem, says the group in an open letter Feb. 11. “Reconciliation requires a definitive change from the treatment of Indigenous peoples that has already caused so much harm,” said Jennifer Henry, Executive Director of KAIROS. “As Canadians concerned about social justice and the environment, we are calling on Prime Minister Trudeau and his government to make it clear that respect for Treaty rights will not be sacrificed.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement Feb. 8 that Canada is withdrawing from its combat mission against ISIS is a step backward from the country’s traditional role as fighters for human rights and international security, says Opposition leader Rona Ambrose. “For generations, our men and women in uniform have fought bravely against those who violate human rights, and those who threaten and terrorize the innocent and vulnerable,” said Ambrose. Trudeau “is taking a shameful step backward from our proud traditions by pulling our CF-18s and Canada out of a combat role against the greatest terror threat in the world.”
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says Canada could soon join a military coalition to take on ISIS in Libya, a country beset by a civil war and mounting Islamic terrorism. “I had a good meeting with my counterpart, the minister of defence from Italy, [on military intervention in Libya],” Sajjan said following a NATO defence ministers’ meeting in Brussels. “Italy is willing to take the lead on this; once we have a good understanding of the political situation, that will allow us to figure out what we need to do,” he said in an interview with Chris Hall on CBC Radio’s The House.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “admission that he will break his promise of keeping deficits at $10-billion a year” is evidence of a “Liberal spending problem,” says Official Opposition Leader Rona Ambrose. “Within the first 100 days of his mandate, Justin Trudeau has broken his promise to spend taxpayer dollars responsibly,” said Ambrose in a news release Feb. 11. “After inheriting a surplus, Justin Trudeau’s massive new deficits are solely the result of out-of-control Liberal spending.”
Former Ontario premier Bob Rae was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada at a ceremony at Rideau Hall Feb. 12. The Governor General’s citation acknowledges Rae’s work with First Nations communities and his help in bringing about reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples. “As a parliamentarian, he was known for his eloquence, good humour and passionate commitment to good governance and consensus building throughout our country,” it added.
Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance says Canadian military trainers will likely face “engagements” with enemy Islamic militants in Iraq, but that doesn’t mean they’re taking part in a combat mission. Vance, seen here at a technical briefing following the news conference Feb. 8 where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada is withdrawing from its combat mission against ISIS, said “In my view, it’s a non-combat mission in that we are not the principal combatants here.”
International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau speaks at a press conference in Ottawa on Monday, February 8. In an interview later with The Huffington Post Canada on Sirius XM’s “Everything Is Political Show,” Bibeau acknowledged that government aid could help provide food and health services to Islamic State fighters. “Médecins Sans Frontières or the Red Cross, they will use the money following their own rules,” she said. “They will give the services to whoever needs help. Obviously, we will not get involved in any way in this once we have given money to an organization. They give food and services to the people in need, no matter where they decided to go.”
The U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State (ISIL) is in utter disarray, says Peggy Mason, former Canadian disarmament ambassador to the United Nations and currently president of the Rideau Institute. “Things are going so badly that some Arab members of the coalition who left the bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria to focus on Yemen now say they are ready to come back and provide ground forces,” she said in a statement February 9. As for Syria, she said, “as long as the civil war continues unabated, ISIL cannot be effectively contained.” Mason said Canada would have far greater impact “if we pulled out of the military mission altogether and concentrated on regional stabilization, humanitarian measures and, above all, acting as a catalyst for a new strategy that puts diplomatic peacemaking in Syria and Libya and governance reforms in Iraq at the heart of coalition efforts.”
Former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations and residential school survivor Phil Fontaine is calling on Ottawa to overturn a technicality it used to avoid paying an estimated 1,000 claims for compensation, the Globe and Mail reported Feb. 2. The federal government used a technical argument to disqualify an estimated 1,000 claims for compensation made by indigenous Canadians who were abused at Indian residential schools listed in the agreement negotiated to award them for their suffering, it said. “The government should reverse this unfair decision and agree to pay compensation to these people,” said Fontaine, the former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, who is himself a residential-school survivor and who launched the efforts to obtain redress.
Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette says Christ’s message supporting the protection of children was “twisted by Saint Augustine, who created the concept of original sin.” Speaking Feb. 2 on second reading of Bill S 206, Hervieux-Payette, who introduced the bill calling for the repeal of section 43 of the Criminal Code, said, “Augustine’s skewed interpretation was what gave biblical legitimacy to child-rearing violence up until now.” Section 43 sends a message that parents can use reasonable force to discipline their children, but the fine sets out many restrictions, she said. “The reality is that parents are unaware of those restrictions, putting them at risk of criminal sanctions.” Debate on the bill was adjourned.