Sunday, October 29, 2006

Canadian News

(I meant to post this earlier, but there was no time to do so)

Yes! The Anti-Terrorism Act has been declared unconstitutional! Most of it, anyway...

(I wanted to link directly to the site of the newspaper where I read it first, but it's subscriber-only)

*In the ruling, Justice Douglas Rutherford of Ontario Superior Court "severed" the clause in the Anti-Terrorism Act dealing with ideological, religious or political motivation for illegal acts and left the rest of the law in place.
"The Superior Court annulled the definition of terrorist activity under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically the provision in the act that requires proof that a person was motivated by ideological, religious or political purpose in the activity for which they've been charged," justice department spokesman Christian Girouard said.
"Essentially, this ruling means there is no definition of terrorism," he said.*

That's one good thing, al-Hamdulillaah. Next, we need to get rid of the security certificate. It's just wrong to hold people for an indefinite period of time without even telling them what they're guilty of, and not showing them the evidence against them.

Also, people are finally realizing that Canada isn't really doing what it's supposed to be doing in Afghanistan. I'd link to the article, but again, it's subscriber-only... but here, I've typed out most of it for you to read.

*Canada is too slow in its rebuilding of Afghanstan; by Susan Riley

International development minister Josee Verner's surprise visit to Afghanistan on the weekend had exactly the opposite effect as was intended. Instead of showcasing the Canadian International Development Agency's reconstruction efforts in the country that is now our major aid recipient, it underscored how uncertain progress has been. Verner was apparently unable to visit any of her department's ongoing projects, due to security concerns and awkward timing. Her trip coincided with 'Eid, a major celebration in the Muslim world, and a holiday even for aid workers. In the end, the minister was confined to heavily guarded premises in Kabul and a staged photo-op with selected girls who were handed new school bags by the minister.

This was meant to symbolize Canada's commitment to the education of girls, but it looked more like bad advance work and tokenism. Nor did it anaswer the question: What is CIDA doing in Afghanistan? We know that close to $1 billion in development assistance has been committed over 10 years (an amount still dwarfed by the military budget).

Senior foreign affairs officials summoned journalists recently for a Power-Point presentation, replete with colourful charts, laying out Canada's development efforts - everything from bridge building to providing microcredit to supporting community governance to polio eradication.

There is no doubt that plans exist on paper, but it is harder to find evidence of concrete results. Khorshied Samad, an American-born journalist married to Afghanistan's ambassador to Canada, insists that CIDA is doing good work in Kabul and elsewhere, and expressed surprise that hte mjinister couldn't get to some of these projects.

She used to work in Kabul as bureau chief for Fox News (that alone should be enough to totally discredit her statements. Just as they declared victory in Iraq, I'll bet they're going to declare victory in Afghanistan) and says 90 percent of the country "is in a peaceful situation, there is progress and people are going about their lives" (I told you they'd be saying something like that...). But the media focuses on the other 10 percent, the war-torn southern region, "so it's making the country sound like it's going to hell in a handbasket" (yeah, I guess suicide bombings where there never used to be suicide bombings, and the pillaging, plundering, and raping done by the militias of warlords who are now members of the Afghan government is nothing much to worry about).

That said, Samada worries that the money CIDA allocates isn't getting to places that need it quickly enough. "That is very frustrating to the Afghan people because their situation is 'I need it yesterday'." She says the West, too, is impatient for results, but the problems are so immense that it will take a generation to repair Afghanistan. As for aid, "a lot of money has gone into the wrong pockets, and that's regrettable," but the majority of Afghans, she says, are honest and desperate for change (oh yes, the Afghans are - the puppet government, like other puppet government, is not).

The Harper government frequently cites women's equality as one rationale for Canada's mission. Samad believes "their hearts are in the right places" (they have hearts?), but notes that CIDA has only earmarked $2 million of its total funding directly for Afghan women.

For MacDonald, the immediate problem is displaced Afghan civilians who are starving in makeshift camps in the south, one of them 15 minutes from the main Canadian base in Kandahar. She doesn't accept that either CIDA nor the military can get food and medical help to these people, who have been displaced by bombing raids, drought, or poverty brought on by the destruction of their poppy farms. "I don't want to hear from the CIDA any more about why they can't (deliver aid). That's what the taxpayers are paying them to do."

Besides responding to humanitarian crisis, emergency aid might win Canadaiends in the area - and greater security for our soldiers, she says. Her organization wants Prime Minister Stephen Harper to push our NATO allies to organize emergency food relief, to appoint a special envoy - someone with a forceful personality - to get turf-concious agencies working together. If the military has to deliver food, she says, why not? "We're at a tipping point and there is no way the Canadian government is being upfront with the Canadian people," (ya think?!) says MacDonald, who has been working in Afghanistan since 2005. "(Kandahar) is a complete war zone." And the Taliban is winning militarily and in the battle for hearts and minds. However, the last thing that she wants is a withdrawal of troops: That, she says, would be abandoning the country to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But rebuilding efforts have to be more immediate, more visible, more widespread. That is what Samad wants, too.

It is what everyone says they want, including Verner. It is still not clear that is really happening.*

(I know, not the most brilliant of political commentaries, but whatever)

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