By Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press - Monday, May 13, 2013 - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – A 70-year-old Palestinian man who built a family in Canada while fighting…
OTTAWA – A 70-year-old Palestinian man who built a family in Canada while fighting deportation for more than a quarter century was removed from the country over the weekend.
Mahmoud Mohammad Issa Mohammad was transported by charter flight to Lebanon, said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who described the protracted case as “almost a comedy of errors.”
“After a 26-year stay in Canada, we finally succeeded in deporting this convicted, terrorist killer,” Kenney told an Ottawa news conference.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, April 8, 2013 at 2:44 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Three teenage girls accused of luring other teens into prostitution over the…
OTTAWA – Three teenage girls accused of luring other teens into prostitution over the Internet have pleaded not guilty in an Ottawa court.
The three, two of them in custody, are facing a total of 74 charges including human trafficking, procuring for prostitution, abduction and sexual assault.
They were arrested last June in the national capital area after social media was allegedly used to lure seven girls between 13 and 17 years of age to a home in southeast Ottawa.
Two of the accused girls were 15 and the third was 16 at the time of their arrests.
The charges relate to three separate incidents in May and June last year.
A publication ban prevents identification of both the accused and their alleged victims.
By Charlie Gillis - Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 1:47 PM - 0 Comments
The much-anticipated Whatcott decision has landed, and to some surprise, the Supreme Court of Canada shied from the chance to get human rights commissions out of the business of judging speech.
You can read the decision in its entirety here. In a nutshell, the court struck down a phrase in Saskatchewan’s human rights code banning material that “ridicules, belittles or otherwise affronts the dignity of any person or class of persons,” while upholding the section of prohibiting material that exposes members of identifiable groups to hatred. Those offended can still seek remedy from the province’s human rights commission.
“The protection of vulnerable groups from the harmful effect emanating from hate speech is of such importance as to justify the minimal infringement of expression,” the judges said in their unanimous decision.
Maybe this compromise was inevitable. To get human rights bodies out of the business of supervising speech, the high court would have to overturn its 1990 Taylor decision, which validated the jurisdiction of human rights commissions over speech, and set down a legal test of what constitutes hatred. That’s a lot to ask of any court.
But civil libertarians had hoped the SCC would do just that. Back in ’90, the current Chief Justice, Beverly McLachlin, had written a dissent to Taylor voicing concern that the law could interfere with free expression. She asked pointed questions during the Whatcott hearing about the vagueness of Saskatchewan’s law. There was reason to think she and her bench-mates might make a move.
To me, their decision to stand-pat represents a missed opportunity to erect robust legal protections around a bedrock Canadian value. And yes, my employer has a stake in this. But if we learned anything from the Maclean’s-Ezra Levant human-rights fiascos, it’s that the rights process is too blunt, too one-sided an instrument to deal with such a sensitive issue as speech.
A couple of other thoughts: all eyes should now turn to the provinces that have anti-hate speech provisions in their human rights codes, some of whose leaders have echoed the above-stated qualms. They’ve been sitting on the sidelines to see whether Whatcott would give them the cover needed to do the right thing, and now the onus is on them.
Here’s what Alison Redford told the Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association about the relevant section of Alberta’s code when she was running for the provincial PC leadership:
“I want to amend and fine-tune the existing legislation, after consultations with stakeholders, to better define and protect free speech in light of challenges to the statute in recent years. Freedom of expression must be shielded, and Section 3 of the Alberta Human Rights Act should be repealed.”
Over to you, Premier. Need a roadmap?
The decision also reminds me of a conversation I had in the thick of the dispute between Maclean’s and Islamic groups that complained about the writings of Mark Steyn. I was talking to Wayne Sumner, a philosophy professor at the University of Toronto who studies hate speech, and I had raised the operative question: in the Internet era, can we get rid of anti-hate speech provisions in human rights law without giving oxygen to the hard-core hate-mongers, who are undeniably among us?
Sumner was unequivocal:
“The kinds of groups who engage in this sort of nonsense in Canada are so marginal, and regarded as so ridiculous by most people, that it’s hard to see how they have any impact at all. Did the ridiculous things David Ahenakew said in public about Jews running the world actually encourage any acts of anti-Semitism in Canada? Or did we just all laugh at them? So I think there’s a problem with the underlying justification of the law.”
But wait. Isn’t world history replete with examples of hate speech fueling violence and discrimination? Weimar Germany? Rwanda?
The professor’s answer:
“It’s important that we’re speaking specifically about Canada. If I thought there was an enormous reservoir of prejudice bubbling beneath the surface, just waiting to be released, I would think differently. But I don’t think that’s where multicultural Canada is at. The references to history don’t tell us much about our own situation.”
In other words, Canadian tolerance can stand the stress-test. It’s a bedrock value that—freely expressed—offers a better antidote to hatred than any regulatory body staffed by appointees. Time for governments to give it a vote of confidence.
By The Canadian Press - Friday, February 15, 2013 at 6:45 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – The contents of a suspicious package left on Parliament Hill have been…
OTTAWA – The contents of a suspicious package left on Parliament Hill have been determined to be non-hazardous.
Ottawa Police gave the all-clear shortly after 5 p.m. ET on Twitter.
“Situation resolved on Parliament Hill. Package examined and non-hazardous,” the force tweeted.
The RCMP said tests did not turn up any hazardous substances.
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 10:15 PM - 0 Comments
MPs helped packed the ballroom of the Fairmont Château Laurier for a reception put…
MPs helped packed the ballroom of the Fairmont Château Laurier for a reception put on by the Dairy Farmers of Canada.
By Bruce Cheadle, The Canadian Press - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 6:12 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – The federal ethics commissioner wants more freedom to speak out about investigations…
OTTAWA – The federal ethics commissioner wants more freedom to speak out about investigations and to levy financial penalties under the Conflict of Interest Act.
Mary Dawson’s recommendations are part of a mandatory five-year review of the act by Parliament.
In a written submission to the House of Commons privacy and ethics committee, Dawson complains that she can fine MPs when they miss reporting deadlines, but not when she finds clear breaches of conflict rules.
Dawson says she wants the power to impose financial penalties for infractions, such failing to report gifts or for engaging in prohibited outside activities.
Such activities could include public office holders — including cabinet ministers — lobbying arms-length tribunals such as the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission.
Dawson recently reproached Finance Minister Jim Flaherty for writing to the CRTC to advocate for a radio licence application from a business in his riding.
The Conservative government maintains that Flaherty was simply acting in his role as an MP, something Section 64 of the Conflict of Interest Act says is allowed.
Dawson, in a brief interview Wednesday, said the act does contain conflicting language and needs to be read as a whole.
But she was clear that Section 64 cannot be used to permit cabinet members and other public office holders to lobby independent government tribunals.
“You can’t have Section 64 superseding everything in the act,” Dawson told The Canadian Press.
Section 9 of the act prohibits ministers from using their position to try to influence decisions when doing so would improperly advance another person’s private interests.
And guidelines issued by the Prime Minister’s Office say cabinet members should not intervene in license decisions of tribunals such as the CRTC.
Dawson was to have presented her recommendations to the committee Wednesday afternoon but the hearing was cancelled due to late voting in the House of Commons.
Instead, her office posted her 84-page report and her planned speaking notes to ethics commissioner’s web site.
Dawson recommends that the limit for gifts to MPs that must be reported be lowered to $30 from $200.
She’d like to have more latitude to permit MPs to engage in some outside activities and to hold controlled assets, as long as she publicly reported each exemption.
And Dawson argues that she’d like to be able to address “misinformation put into the public domain in relation to investigative work.”
Currently the commissioner only comments upon completed investigations, but she’d like the chance to clear the air as issues or allegations arise.
“I therefore recommend that the commissioner be given express authority to comment where appropriate, especially in order to correct misinformation,” her prepared notes say.
One common example is when MPs publicly direct an allegation to the ethics commissioner for investigation, which usually sparks news reports. If the allegation is unsubstantiated or an investigation is dropped for some reason, Dawson says she’d like to be able to explain why.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 23, 2012 at 6:53 PM - 0 Comments
While the premiers meet in Halifax, Stephen Harper meets with Justin Bieber to present the pop star with a Diamond Jubilee Medal. (Presumably it wasn’t a choice between one or the other, but it’s impolite to turn down easy jokes.)
By macleans.ca - Friday, November 16, 2012 at 10:15 AM - 0 Comments
One Ottawa bakery is celebrating the President’s reelection; and Liberal party hopefuls talk legalization
The issue that has Justin ‘evolving’
Liberal MP Joyce Murray was giving the thumbs up as the U.S. election unfolded, with Washington and Colorado approving propositions to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Murray, a former B.C. cabinet minister likely to enter the Liberal leadership race, says that while the party’s official position on pot is legalization, many in her caucus are not supportive. (Young Liberals successfully pushed for approval at recent conventions.) Liberal leadership front-runner Justin Trudeau had been against legalization, but now says, “I’ve certainly evolved from conversations with supporters and Liberals. I am fully a supporter of decriminalization. I think the time has come for that. I am actually very open to legalization and specifically tax and regulation the way they are calling it in the States. It’s something I am looking forward to having a lot of serious discussion about.” Still, Trudeau says smoking marijuana is part of a larger problem: “As a society we are trying to convince people to live healthier lives. Not smoke so much. Not drink so much. I am worried about the message we are sending in that sense.”
Obama and the three cookies
A huge “phew” was heard in Ottawa’s ByWard Market after Barack Obama was re-elected President. Obama made his first international visit to Ottawa in February 2009. He famously stopped in at the historic market, where he purchased three maple-leaf-shaped shortbread cookies from bakery Le Moulin de Provence. Since then, the demand for the cookies has been incredible. Shop owner Claude Bonnet says before the visit he maybe sold 800 a month. At the post-Obama peak, he was turning out 20,000. It is now steady at 5,000 a month. The “Obama cookies,” as they are now called, are made from one custom-made copper cookie cutter and each one is hand-painted with red icing. Several government agencies buy the cookies in bulk to take to the U.S. to promote Canadian tourism. The cookies can also be purchased with a metal container, which includes a Barack Obama coaster and comes in a box that says “Ottawa.”
Back in 2009, that Obama visit was a blessing for the shop. A local bus strike had hurt business dramatically. Afterwards, Bonnet had to hire more staff to meet demand. Bonnet never thought he would sell this many cookies in his life. But even if Mitt Romney had won, he claims he still would have kept making the Obama cookies and maintaining his photo shrine to the U.S. President. Says Bonnet: “He made history by being the first black President. This situation is special. He is something unique. It’s the first time we saw a U.S. President on the street here.” The cookies sell for $2.45 each—the same price Obama paid for them in 2009.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Speaking to reporters after QP yesterday, Bob Rae identifies what he is not.
Reporter: What do you make of McGuinty proroguing Parliament or the Legislature?
Rae: Well, I mean I’m not going to get into a daily commentary on events in the Ontario Legislature. The Premier will make his decisions. Opposition parties will make their own decision.
Reporter: But a lot of Liberals actually slammed the Harper government when they prorogued Parliament so why doesn’t that apply in this case?
Rae: Because I’m not a daily commentator on the events in the Ontario Legislature.
By John Geddes - Monday, September 24, 2012 at 12:14 PM - 0 Comments
Living a short stroll from the banks of the wide Ottawa River lets me secretly keep in touch with the romance of our history that I first felt as a kid. If you don’t know what I mean, you might get an inkling from the way David Hackett Fischer, in his acclaimed biography Champlain’s Dream, describes the world the great explorer was entering when he first paddled my river in 1613. “The countryside was beautiful and fertile,” Fischer writes. “But there was a sense of danger in it. Onondaga and Oneida war parties were active in this region.”
So when I tell you that I took a wooded path down toward the river yesterday to see an imposing new monument that’s recently been erected near the water, you might guess it’s a memorial to that era of exploration, or to the native way of life irrevocably changed by it, or even to the fortune-making feats of the lumber barons who came later. But no. The substantial wood-and-metal sculpture, a sort of hollow half-sphere, marks the spot where a Turkish military attaché was shot when his car was stopped at a nearby red light in 1982.
By Suzanne Bowness - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
The incubator for pros and home for amateurs thrives 100 years after its first play
Rich Little was moping around the house. The 18-year-old had vague dreams of a career on the stage, so his mother took him down to Ottawa Little Theatre, where he auditioned for his first role. He got the part—and four lines. “I got a laugh,” he says. “And I walked off stage and said, ‘That’s what I’m going to do for a living.’”
Last week, Little—a master impressionist who has appeared everywhere from The Ed Sullivan Show to Laugh-In to Hollywood Squares—brought his latest one-man act, Jimmy Stewart & Friends, from Las Vegas to Ottawa for a benefit concert to honour the community theatre where he got his start. “I think if it wasn’t for the Ottawa Little Theatre I wouldn’t have gotten into showbiz,” he says. “I learned my craft there.” Although he performed in about 15 shows beginning with that first role in the mid-’50s, Little says he also used to sit in the wings and watch other performances. “It was a great education to see really skilled actors work.”
The oldest continuously producing communty theatre in Canada turns 100 this year; it predates the National Arts Centre by 56 years. Some very early shows were in what is now the Canadian Museum of Nature. Its niche is mainstream productions, the standards as opposed to the edgy and the avant-garde, offered at reasonable prices.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 9:43 PM - 0 Comments
The CBC has uploaded video of Jack Layton on the National in 1985.
The Globe and Mail editorial board considers his legacy.
With public cynicism running high, the chord that he struck with many Canadians in his final months and in his passing was a reminder that – with the right combination of decency, optimism, perserverence and grace – it is still possible for our politicians to inspire. Without painting over the more worrisome aspects of his record, that is well worth remembering.
By Jesse Brown - Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 5:46 PM - 0 Comments
Have you heard of Trapwire? It’s a formerly obscure counter-terrorist surveillance network, created by a company run by ex-CIA agents, that links together thousands of ordinary, privately owned security cameras, digitally analyzing the footage they generate and delivering it to various police departments and branches of the U.S. federal government. It’s been making headlines in the U.S. since Wikileaks exposed its existence, and online chatter has been obsessively focused on it ever since. There’s been endless analysis, opinion, misinformation and clarification (here’s a credible run-down of the story so far). Everyone from NBC to Anonymous is talking about it, but the Canadian media has yet to take notice. Which is surprising, since Trapwire is apparently live in Ottawa.
“Trapwire is in place at every HVT in NYC, DC, London, Ottawa and LA.”
In U.S. Military parlance, an HVT is a “high-value target,” like a federal government building, a military structure or a travel hub. Ottawa has lots of those, and apparently they all house cameras that are spying on Canadians and feeding the footage to Trapwire.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, July 9, 2012 at 3:37 PM - 0 Comments
Scientists will march through Ottawa tomorrow and then gather on Parliament to conduct a funeral service for the general concept of evidence.
The scientific community is sad to report the death of evidence, which passed away June 18th, 2012, after an over six year battle with Harper government policies. Objective and honest, evidence was heavily involved in all aspects of Canadian prosperity and will be sorely missed by all Canadians, whether they currently realize it or not.
More from the Citizen here. The scientists and researchers will be joined by NDP MPs Anne Minh Thu Quach and Hélène LeBlanc and Liberal MP Ted Hsu.
By Gustavo Vieira - Monday, June 11, 2012 at 8:44 AM - 0 Comments
Click here for Aaron Wherry and everything you need to know on Bill C-38. …
It’s a crucial week for Members of Parliament as the government’s highly criticized omnibus bill enters its final reading in the House of Commons.
Oppositions MPs have prepared hundreds of amendments with deletions and other changes to Bill C-38, the government’s omnibus bill implementing its budget, which aims to change more than 70 laws, as well as to create some new ones, in areas as disparate as border security, retirement and the environment.
The Speaker of the House is expected to rule on Monday at noon, how the amendments will be dealt with along the week, whether every one of them needs to be voted separately or some will be grouped or dismissed. The move to file so many amendments at once is a last-ditch effort of the opposition to force an exhausting voting marathon as they failed earlier in persuading the governing Conservative majority to split the bill into separate areas to debate individually.
“The content is flawed in many respects and they just want to bulldoze through the whole process,” said NDP deputy finance critic Guy Caron, quoted in the National Post. On the other side, the government is accusing the opposition of simply delaying the process.
“The opposition aren’t looking to change this. Let’s be frank – they’re looking to stop it, to delay it, to obstruct it,” says the government House leader Peter Van Loan to the CBC.
In the whole process, one particular MP may come out this week much more visible than she was a week ago. Green Party Elizabeth May, who as an independent MP is technically allowed to propose changes to the bill while the Liberals and the NDP can only suggest deletions. “My amendments are not about delaying,” said May to the Globe and Mail, “My amendments are about ensuring that C-38, if passed, is not a disastrous piece of legislation.”
For continuing coverage of Bill C-38, keep watch on Aaron Wherry’s blog.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 3:51 PM - 0 Comments
An individual suspected to be involved with the discovery of body parts in Ottawa and Montreal has been identified. Video of the killing may exist and the second package, the one that contained a human hand, is now said to have been bound for the Liberal party headquarters.
Before Question Period this afternoon, the NDP MP Randall Garrison delivered a statement offering the NDP’s thoughts for the Conservative staff impacted by yesterday’s discovery.
Mr. Speaker, Canadians were horrified to hear of the senseless and cowardly mailing of human remains to Conservative Party headquarters and the interception of a second package at Canada Post’s Ottawa sorting centre. Our sympathies go out to the staff at the Conservative offices who opened the package. Our thoughts are also with Canada Post employees who had to deal with the second package containing human remains. They were all victims of an outrageous and reprehensible act. We encourage anyone with information on this crime to contact police immediately. On behalf of New Democrats, and I think all members of this House across all party lines, we stand in solidarity with postal workers and especially the Conservative Party staff. We condemn these acts and stand united together against these crimes.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 11:21 AM - 0 Comments
Police have confirmed that the foot and hand were mailed from Montreal. The Gazette reports that police believe the body parts in Ottawa are linked to a torso in Montreal. The Citizen reports an arrest could be made in a matter of hours.
Conservative staff are understandably traumatized.
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Monday, May 28, 2012 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
An exhibit that teaches teens about sex came and went in Regina. In Ottawa, it’s been labelled ‘insulting.’
When Sandy Baumgartner left Ottawa and moved back home to Regina 3½ years ago, it was for the usual reasons: friends and family, cheaper housing and the slower pace of life. But now the executive director of the Saskatchewan Science Centre can add another plus to the Queen City’s ledger—it’s far less prudish than Canada’s capital. Sex: A Tell-all Exhibition, developed in consultation with teachers, doctors and sexologists to educate teenagers about their bodies and desires, won an award when it premiered at the Centre des sciences de Montréal in 2010. Last summer in Regina, it came and went with barely a complaint. When the exact same exhibit opened at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa on May 17, however, it was greeted by hundreds of public objections and denounced by James Moore, the federal minister of heritage, as “insulting” to taxpayers.
“The talk shows tried to get something going here, but it just didn’t generate any controversy,” says Baumgartner. She’d been concerned enough about the show’s frank content—which covers not just the usual biology but also sexually transmitted diseases and a vast spectrum of bedroom activities—that she had consulted widely before bringing it to town. Almost all of the feedback, including from the provincial minister of culture, was encouraging. “And the people who didn’t think it was a good idea just didn’t come.”
The controversy in Ottawa began with a socially conservative think tank, the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada. Started in 2006, with seed money from the American evangelical movement Focus on the Family, the IMFC has waded into the debate over same-sex marriage, abortion, tax policy and all-day kindergarten. Protesting the content of museums is a departure from the research-focused agenda, admits Dave Quist, the organization’s executive director, but one they felt was necessary. After being alerted to the exhibit by a member of the public, he arranged for a preview tour and was shocked by its matter-of-fact tone. “It basically reduced sex to a pleasurable act,” he said last week. “The message was, ‘If you enjoy it, go for it.’ ”
By Paul Wells - Monday, April 2, 2012 at 12:24 PM - 0 Comments
We’re all positively giddy here on the Hill, ladies and gents. The stimulation is so intense we could plotz. There are things happening. There is action. And so much of it is… why, it’s as near as the blackberry in your hand, is what it is! Fun at our fingertips! Insta-politico-tension-drama! And it’s kind of about us, about Hill types, about those who rub elbows with — with — well, with those who know those who — who — well, who are in the know!
You see, Don Martin said something to Dimitri Soudas and something happened. Who’s Don Martin, you may ask? Who’s Dimitri Soudas? What, precisely, happened? Shush. It happened at Hy’s. This is all anyone here needs to know. So there is a story about it and another and, one feels secure in predicting, more soon to come.
You see, the tall skinny Parliamentarian turned out to be pretty good at hitting the shorter stockier Parliamentarian. And le tout Ottawa was there! And it didn’t go the way Ezra Levant expected! And there was a decorous amount of blood! Frissons! Continue…
By Paul Wells and Tamsin McMahon, with Alex Ballingall - Friday, March 23, 2012 at 10:10 AM - 0 Comments
Suddenly Western money and influence are driving everything that happens in the nation’s capital
In July 2006 Stephen Harper had been Prime Minister for half a year and it was time to deliver his ﬁrst speech to a foreign business audience. He picked a friendly crowd, the Canada-U.K. Chamber of Commerce in London. He told them British investors were taking notice of “Canada’s emergence as a global energy powerhouse—the emerging ‘energy superpower’ our government intends to build.”
Canada, he said, was the world’s fifth-largest energy producer, ranking third in gas production and seventh in oil production. Canada was the world’s largest supplier of hydroelectric power and uranium. “But that’s just the beginning.”
There was “an ocean of oil-soaked sand” in northern Alberta, more than in any country except Saudi Arabia. Getting it out would be “an enterprise of epic proportions, akin to the building of the pyramids or China’s Great Wall. Only bigger.”
By Gustavo Vieira - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 1:40 PM - 0 Comments
Above-average scores across the board make Ottawa tops overall in Moneysense rankings
Is Ottawa really the best place to live in Canada? That’s what the folks at MoneySense say.
Ottawa ranked first for the third year in a row in the magazine’s ranking of best places to live among 190 Canadian cities. Completing Moneysense’s top five best places to live in Canada are Burlington, Ont., Kingston, Ont., Halifax, N.S. and Regina, Sask.
According to Moneysense, Ottawa is not the top place in any of the categories taken into account for the ranking, but scores above-average marks in all of them. Ottawa is described as a place where “residents enjoy high household and discretionary incomes, thanks to the large number of well-paying government jobs, which insulate it from some of the vagaries of the economy.”
In other “most liveable” rankings though, Ottawa ranks behind Vancouver, which for MoneySense ranks a shabby 56th place in Canada. In the most recent Mercer Quality of Living Survey, Vancouver is 5th place in the world, and Ottawa the 14th, just ahead of Toronto. For The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary are third, fourth and fifth place most liveable places in the world, but there’s no sign of Ottawa in the top spots of that list.