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Meet Senator

Larry Campbell

The Hon. Larry W. Campbell, M.B.A. One of Vancouver’s best-known and most admired citizens, Senator Larry W. Campbell served as mayor from 2002-2005 after a distinguished and high profile career primarily in law enforcement and death investigation. Since August 2, 2005, he has represented the province of British Columbia for the Senate.

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A Tribute to the Veterans of D-Day »

Posted by 20 June 2014 by Senator Claudette Tardif  

Seventy years ago, thousands of Canadian soldiers landed on the French shore amid a sea of flames to help liberate Europe and restore democracy.

On June 6 and 7, 2014, 1,800 veterans and some 20 heads of state and government gathered to honour the memory of those soldiers at ceremonies marking the march toward peace and freedom. As President of the Canada-France Interparliamentary Association, I was invited to Ouistreham by France’s President François Hollande to express Canadians’ respect and admiration for those whose dedication led them to make the supreme sacrifice.

Many Canadian veterans, the keepers of our memory, were also in attendance at the Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery in Cintheaux to salute the bravery and sacrifice of their fellow soldiers, the anonymous heroes who fell during the battle of Normandy. I was pleased and proud to have been there with our veterans to pay my respects to the great-grandfathers, grandfathers and fathers to whom our country owes a lasting debt of gratitude.

Among the Canadian veterans at the ceremony were Franco-Albertan Paul Maisonneuve, age 95, and Edmonton native Ernest Côté, age 101. Their recollections of those historic days and their journey are lessons in courage and a source of inspiration to all Canadians who want to make the world a better place. Who are these men whose commitment is an example to future generations and must never be forgotten? 

From left to right: Liliane Maisonneuve, Senator Tardif, veteran Paul Maisonneuve

Paul Maisonneuve was born in the Falher region and was deployed to Europe with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment. In 1943, he was transferred to the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade (1st Division), where he worked on codes and cyphers until being transferred shortly before D-day to the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division as a member of the Royal Canadian Army Signal Corps. In June 2014, the French government awarded Mr. Maisonneuve the prestigious Legion of Honour for his efforts during the Second World War.

Senator Tardif with Ernest Côté

Ernest Côté is a descendent of the early Franco-Albertan settlers. He served in the Royal 22nd Regiment as a platoon commander. In June 1944, he was in charge of logistics for the 3rd Canadian Division, which was composed of close to 20,000 volunteers participating in the Normandy Landing. Stationed in England, he was one of a select group of people directly responsible for planning the invasion.

In closing, my trip to France also highlighted the importance of parliamentary diplomacy, the relationship between Canadian and French parliamentarians, and the value of the personal relationships that I have developed with many French senators and members. 

Senator Tardif with US Secretary of State John Kerry and French MP Catherine Coutelle

Arctic Sovereignty—Part Five »

Posted by 16 May 2014 by Senator Charlie Watt  

In December 2013, Canada made its submission to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Canada failed to include any reference to Inuit rights to the Arctic.

As countries race for control of the seas located closest to their borders, they have forgotten that northern seas are populated by northern people. Inuit live in the Arctic – on the ice, on the land and on the water. We have always lived here and we have no plans of leaving.

The growing interest of the international community in our territory is fueled by the wealth of natural resources which lay beneath the Arctic ice and water. In this rush to claim the Arctic, the rights of the people who live there are ignored.

As Canadian Inuit we must stand together and we must support each other across the circumpolar world. Our rights to the northern territory exist in the areas of our traditional land use and occupancy; in some places this is well beyond the 200 mile limit, and beyond the limits claimed by the Canadian government at the United Nations.

As the only Inuk Senator in Canada, I am posting this report online so you can read the arguments and I look forward to hearing from you on this issue.

Nakurmiik,
Senator Charlie Watt

Please click here to read this report // Inuktitut version



Click here to read Senator Watt's first blog about Arctic Sovereignty

Click here to read Part Two

Click here to read Part Three

Click here to read Part Four

Senate Reform »

Posted by 29 April 2014 by Senator Grant Mitchell  

The Supreme Court of Canada did not kill the possibility of meaningful Senate reform with its recent ruling on term limits, elections and abolition. Don't let anyone tell you that it did.

1. Independence of the Senate: Release all Senators from their National Caucuses

One key thing that electing Senators would do would be to increase their independence from their party caucus and their leaders in the House of Commons. There is a lot of upside to that, in particular, that they could better fulfill their role of balancing the power of the executive (read Cabinet or more particularly, the Prime Minister), which is an explicit reason why the Senate was created. 

There is also a lot of downside to electing Senators. Elected Senators would be much more inclined, and in fact obligated, to exercise their complete veto over House of Commons legislation, including budget bills, that unelected Senators are not. They could hamstring Parliament, particularly since there is no way in our constitution to break an impasse between the two Chambers. Regional imbalances would also be exacerbated for provinces like Alberta, which has a greater percentage of the seats in the House of Commons than it does in the Senate. 

The good news that remains after the Supreme Court ruling is that greater independence for Senators can still be achieved in large measure without electing them. Mr. Trudeau has already demonstrated this with his decision on January 29, 2014 (Independence Day for Liberal Senators) to remove Liberal Senators from the National Liberal Caucus. This has already had a definable impact on the Liberal Senators. They have started holding caucus meetings open to the public; they have instituted a program of asking the government side in the Senate questions submitted by members of the public; and they are no longer "whipped" for votes. And, they do not ever hear arguments from the Liberal Leader or elected MPs that they should be voting one way or another.

Moreover, they have this independence without the downside of electing them before the problems of resolving impasses between the Chambers and seat distribution can be rectified; a situation which would require a constitutional amendment that it seems impossible to achieve and that no one wants to undertake. 

The irony is that Mr. Harper, who wanted to give the Senators the ultimate means of gaining independence, electing them, seems not to want to release Conservative Senators from his national caucus. But it would be easy to do and it would be an effective way of reforming the Senate. If that were really his intention, then he would jump now to release his Senators from his caucus. 

2. Selection Process

The effectiveness of the Senate and the reduction of suggestion of its being too partisan can be achieved by the kind of independent selection process envisioned by Mr. Trudeau. This is the kind of system that has served Canada very well in the selection of judges. A group of distinguished Canadians could be easily selected to review applicants/nominees for the Senate and propose a list of those who qualify to the Prime Minister for selection.

3. Televise the Senate

The Senate is the only legislative Chamber in the country that is not televised. Its committee proceedings are, but not the actual Chamber debates. This would allow Canadians to see the Senate Chamber in action and would elevate their appreciation of the Senate and the Parliamentary process generally, when they would see what is a remarkable level of respectful debate in the Senate. It is also consistent with the government's continuous claims that it wants to increase the transparency of the Senate. What better way than to televise it and let Canadians actually see what it does?

4. Arrange the Seating in the Senate Chamber by Province and Region

Currently, seating is arranged by party affiliation. So, the Conservatives sit with Conservatives, Liberals with Liberals and independents with independents. While it might seem cosmetic, seating Senators by province would engender relationships and discussion that would inevitably change perspectives and diminish the presence of partisanship. What Senators hold in common would get more emphasis than the partisan divide that is now entrenched by the partisan seating model. If you need proof of this, consider how effectively the committees function in the Senate, where Senators work very closely and almost always produce consensus reports. 

5. Electing the Leadership

The Senate Liberal Caucus has begun electing its three critical leadership positions, Leader, Deputy Leader and Whip (no longer whipping votes but still having certain management functions that need to be fulfilled, like allocating Senators to committee membership) since Mr. Trudeau has forfeited that role along with removing Senators from his caucus. So, why does Mr. Harper not do the same thing? There is no need for him to continue to appoint these positions in his Senate caucus unless he really continues to want to control it. And, of course, the one thing he would have done with electing would have been to reduce his control of his Senators. So, why not do what he can to give them their independence?

Notes on Supreme Court Decision on Senate Reference »

Posted by 25 April 2014 by Senator James Cowan  

The Supreme Court of Canada today confirmed what Senate Liberals have been saying since 2007 about Mr Harper’s proposed changes to the Senate. At that time the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, after receiving the opinions of constitutional experts and provincial governments, recommended that the Government seek guidance from the Supreme Court to ensure that the provisions in the Constitution with respect to constitutional change were followed. The Government refused and did not do so until six years later, in 2013 – when Mr. Harper’s failure to deliver on his promise of Senate reform was becoming a political problem.

Stephen Harper has been in power for 8 years, and we are no further ahead on Senate reform than on the day he took office. I have said before and continue to believe that had the Government acted on our recommendation sooner, Senate reform could have been far advanced in this country by now.

As the Court confirmed today, changes to the Senate which would alter its fundamental characteristics cannot be made solely by Act of Parliament – they require consultation with the provinces and depending on the degree of change, either agreement of all provinces or at least 7 provinces representing 50% of the population.

That is in the Constitution – and it reflects both our history and our present reality as a federation. A Senate providing equality of regional representation was an essential component of the Confederation bargain, without which the provinces would not have come together to form our federation. And the provinces have been very clear that they want their voices heard on Senate reform.

Yet this Prime Minister refuses to sit down and come to a consensus with the provinces, our constitutional partners. He would rather go before the Supreme Court – a not inexpensive option, by the way – than sit down with his elected counterparts in the provinces at a First Ministers meeting. And after all that – after 8 years of tabling bills then left to languish on the Order Paper, of arguing cases before the Quebec Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada, today the Supreme Court has been clear: As the leader of the federal government, if Mr. Harper is serious about his proposed reforms of the Senate, he is going to have to sit down with his provincial counterparts. Or else all his talk will be revealed as just that: talk, but no action.

Constitutional change is serious business and should not be undertaken lightly. Canadians have the right to expect that their political leaders will respect the Constitution. I appreciate that First Ministers meetings can be challenging – but Canadians expect their Prime Minister to be able to rise to such challenges, particularly if necessary to fulfil his promises. Mr. Harper should not have promised change if he was not prepared to do the work needed to achieve it.

So now that the Supreme Court has settled the constitutional thresholds which must be met for various Senate "reforms", the Government must make some hard decisions about what to do next.

For our part, the Senate Liberal Caucus will carefully examine the government proposals and listen to the views of experts and other Canadians who wish to express their opinions on the subject. These issues cannot be dealt with solely on Parliament Hill, and should not be dealt with through secret negotiations behind closed doors.

But just as we should not have had to wait 8 years for this decision, so Canadians should not have to wait to see the Senate function as it was intended. The primary role of the Senate is to review legislation – to act as a chamber of "sober second thought". To do this properly Senators must be prepared to think and act independently of their colleagues in the House of Commons, even when they belong to the same political party. The Senate is a political institution and Senators are politicians but they must not slavishly toe "the party line". This is particularly important when the same party holds a majority in both houses as is the case at present.

Since January 29, Liberal Senators have not been a part of the National Liberal Caucus, which is now composed solely of elected members of the House of Commons. The Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada provides no direction or advice to us and we are not bound in any way by the actions of Liberal members of the House of Commons. These developments enable us to do our part to make the Senate function more independently – insofar as it is within our power as a minority in the Senate. We have urged our Conservative colleagues to assert a similar degree of independence. Acting together, we could do a great deal to restore a proper balance between the two Houses – without the necessity of amending the Constitution in any way.

Now that the Supreme Court has clarified the rules which would govern various changes to the Senate, the Government needs to tell Canadians what it now has in mind so that an honest and serious debate can begin.

But to be clear, neither term limits nor even elections will make the Senate work as an effective house of independent sober second thought unless its members are free to exercise that independence.

Canada's Aboriginal people: What's in a name? »

Posted by 24 March 2014 by Senator Charlie Watt  

Some people are confused by the different terms used for Canada’s Aboriginal people. Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), Canada’s National Inuit Organization, has compiled a useful glossary of terms. Please see their terminology guide here:

A note on terminology

Arctic Sovereignty: Part Four »

Posted by 7 March 2014 by Senator Charlie Watt  

Dr. Dalee Sambo Dorough, an Expert Member and Vice Chairperson on the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), shares my opinion that “no state should be able to use the UNCLOS regime and treaty provisions to claim portions or territory of the Arctic Ocean and Seabed that Inuit occupy and have rights to unless Inuit are engaged and ultimately consent.”

Dr. Sambo Dorough presented Inuit concerns to the UNPFII in May of 2013, bringing attention to Canada’s lack of consultation on the upcoming submission to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and she also expressed concern over the UN process and “the lack of representation of Indigenous Peoples within the regulatory and decision making institutions of this important treaty.”

The Forum accepted our concerns and adopted them into their final report in September 2013.

We know this is just the beginning as we have also shared our concerns with the Chairperson of the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Chief Wilton Littlechild, and look forward to further initiatives on this file. Please find a clip of Dr. Sambo Dorough’s comments, and the final report here:

Clip of Dr. Sambo Dorough's comments


Dr. Sambo Dorough's comments


Final report: United Nations—Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, May 2013



Click here to read Senator Watt's first blog about Arctic Sovereignty

Click here to read Part Two

Click here to read Part Three

30th Anniversary »

Posted by 3 March 2014 by Senator Charlie Watt  

I have just celebrated an anniversary here in the Senate and would like to thank my colleagues for their kind words.

Last week, Senator Denis Patterson made a very personal speech which reminded me of some great times. We have worked together for many years, and I thank him sharing such great memories.


Please click here to read his speech

 

Arctic Sovereignty: Part Three »

Posted by 28 February 2014 by Senator Charlie Watt  

Over the past year,  Dr. Claudio Aporta of Dalhousie University has prepared a report titled, Inuit Trails and Arctic Occupancy. His work is unique, as it’s the first to clearly compile and analyze historical maps of Inuit occupancy of the Arctic. Dr. Aporta used written histories, often based on other historical documents and oral history.

While the Arctic is often thought of as barren or empty, this report shows that Inuit routes connect our culture, reflecting Inuit use of the Arctic that predates encounters with Europeans. The trails documented by Dr. Aporta allow for the flow of people, ideas, trade, culture, and language in the Arctic.

His work proves “intensive use of most of the waters and coasts associated with the proposed routes of the Northwest Passage” by Inuit. This timely work comes as the Northwest Passage takes on a new significance as use of the Passage as a shipping channel sees unprecedented growth in use as climate change opens new shipping lanes. 

This fascinating work proves an enduring connection of the Inuit to our territories and has relevance as the Arctic continues to gain geopolitical importance.


Please click here to access this report



Click here to read Senator Watt's first blog about Arctic Sovereignty

Click here to read Part Two

Arctic Sovereignty: Part Two »

Posted by 21 February 2014 by Senator Charlie Watt  

In the Fall of 2012, the Senate Liberal Caucus commissioned a report by Peter Hutchins Legal Inc, titled Inuit: Canada’s Treaty Partners or Free Agents? An Argument for an Inuit-Canada Joint Approach to Addressing Sovereignty Disputes in the Arctic. This report followed Mr. Hutchins’ earlier work which argued that Treaties with Inuit are essential to Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic and posited that the thawing of the Arctic ice had created such a fundamental change in circumstances that it was possible that the Treaties no longer applied to certain areas of the Arctic. The 2012 report examines Inuit rights in Canada, and internationally, as well as outlining the Inuit involvement in the current scramble for the Arctic. I invite you to click here to read the report and learn more about how addressing Arctic sovereignty with Inuit should be based on mutual respect and the recognition of Inuit rights and priorities in the Arctic.

Please click here to read Senator Watt's first blog about Arctic sovereignty

Mandatory Minimum Sentences – 30 Years of Criticism »

Posted by 20 February 2014 by Senator Mobina Jaffer  

Unlike the United States, there has not been a lot of research on mandatory minimum sentences in Canada. However, the little Canadian research that does exist is not supportive of mandatory minimum sentences. Mandatory minimum sentences have repeatedly been criticized by several government commissions and reviews.

In 1987, the Canadian Sentencing Commission stated that “the existence of mandatory minimums appear to be justified by a belief in their deterrent value which is dubious at best.” The Sentencing Commission found that mandatory sentences do not deter people from committing crimes because most people do not even know that the minimum sentences exist. The Commission concluded that potential offenders are deterred by the possibility of detection and not by mandatory sentences. However, the Commission did find clear evidence that mandatory minimums go against the principle of proportionality. The commission argued that mandatory minimums were unjust because they prevent sentencing judges from imposing sentences that fairly reflect the circumstances surrounding the commission of the offence and the circumstances of the offender.

Additionally, in 1984, the Law Reform Commission Working Paper on Homicide recommended that the mandatory life sentence for second-degree murder be repealed, and that judges should be given the discretion to impose a sentence. The Commission made this recommendation because, in its view, “murders… vary enormously one from another in various ways and in particular as to their moral culpability.” And, given this variety, the Commission stated that judges are “in the best position to take account of all the individual circumstances of each particular crime.”

Moreover, the Self-Defence Review, established in 1995 by the Solicitor General and Minister of Justice, recommended a modification to the mandatory life sentence for murder. The head of the review, Justice Ratushny, found cases where women plead guilty to manslaughter, rather than go to trial for murder, even though there was strong evidence to support a defence of self-defense. These guilty pleas were attributed to the pressures that the mandatory life sentence for murder placed on accused women. To solve the problem of women feeling pressured to plead guilty to manslaughter, Justice Ratushny stated, “all that is required is the creation of some discretion on the part of the sentencing judge to depart from the strict sentencing rules currently in place.”

Despite these criticisms, the use of mandatory minimum sentences continues to grow. We have gone from twenty-nine mandatory minimums in 2005 to roughly sixty in 2013. This raises the question of why the government is passing laws that have been shown to be ineffective and problematic for over thirty years.

Liberal Senators and the Caucus Decision: »

Posted by 19 February 2014 by Senator Grant Mitchell  

Mr. Trudeau's decision was to exclude Liberal Senators from his national caucus which will now include only his elected Liberal MPs.

It is the right decision and I support and applaud it. Mr. Trudeau has unleashed "in one fell swoop" a reform process that will make very significant and improved differences in how the Senate operates.

I believe that Mr. Trudeau was motivated by a desire to catalyze the restoration of Senate credibility, acknowledging that the greatest erosion of credibility has been related to increasing partisanship.

The changes will not occur precipitously or many of them even immediately. But already, we Senate Liberals are starting to act and think differently:

1. Before the change, there were inevitably implications for the Liberal Leader and the MP caucus from a position I might want to take. If I took a position that was not held by them or contradicted a position they might hold, there would be two inevitable accusations: that the Leader would be weak because there would be construed a split in caucus and/or that position would be construed as the Leader's position too and then it would be discredited and he would be criticized for "holding" it.

Now, Liberal Senators do not have to consider that problem. We can each take any position we want and it can legitimately be construed as no more than our own position. It cannot be tied to the Leader.

2. We will begin to vote quite independently. There will be no pressure whatsoever on Liberal Senators to take a common position. We may well do more policy discussion and position development in public.

3. While we will still have the person referred to as the "Whip," he or she will have one fewer than the many tasks they had before the change: they will have no reason whatsoever to talk to Liberal Senators about voting together or in any particular way at all. The "Whip" will still have an administrative/management role including ensuring that assignments are made to committees in an orderly fashion, coordinating replacements for those who have to be absent from a committee meeting, ensuring voting attendance, etc.

4. Whereas before we received research material and "bill kits" from the MP caucus (who typically study legislation first), we will have to do more research through our own resources.

5. We will no longer be able to use the Liberal Party website to disclose our expenses but are working on alternative reporting mechanisms right now.

There will be other considerations to make if and when the Liberals form the government. Because the Parliamentary system is premised upon a party system (and that has served the system well — another topic for discussion in another blog), and because an unelected body cannot be regularly defeating the laws passed by elected MPs, there will be a need for a party reflecting government values in the Senate to manage government legislation when it arrives there. The Senate has defeated only 6 government bills since 1945.

However it has, before this government arrived in 2006, frequently amended government bills and many of those amendments were accepted. This is to say that even if there needs to be some concerted voting for government legislation in the Senate there will still be room for independent Senate thinking.

So, as this evolves, it is more and more evident that the change will be significant. I am invigorated by the prospects of truly improving the Senate and making this a time of historic change to this remarkable institution.

Bill C-13 – Young people left out »

Posted by 18 February 2014 by Senator Mobina Jaffer  

On November 20, the Minister of Justice, the Honourable Peter MacKay, introduced a bill to address cyberbullying, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act. During second reading of the bill, the Minister said that its main purpose was to address the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.

However, Bill C-13 goes a lot further than that. It amends not only the Criminal Code, but others as well. As an omnibus bill, it picks up a number of issues along the way, such as the financial data of banks, the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, telemarketing and the theft of telecommunication services. According to the Minister, the bill proposes updates to offences and to the powers of police to investigate offences committed online. This would give them more powers to be able to actually complete their investigations.

A young person convicted under this bill would face a maximum of five years in prison.

As the Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, I see a number of problems with this bill. First, cyberbullying is not the main focus. By including several issues in a single bill, the issue of cyberbullying is being used to push through an ideological and political agenda while overlooking the main issues surrounding cyberbullying.

My second concern with this bill is the five-year prison sentence. Following our study on cyberbullying, we tabled the report Cyberbullying Hurts: Respect for Rights in the Digital Age. In the report, most of the witnesses said that restorative justice was the best solution. The Committee even made the following recommendation: that the promotion of restorative justice initiatives be a key component of any coordinated strategy to address cyberbullying. However, Bill C-13 runs contrary to this recommendation. As the first Senate committee to hear the stories of young Canadians, we were told that they did not want to see their friends, coworkers or bullies end up behind bars.

My third concern with this bill is that it is not focussed on young Canadians. And yet they are the best experts when it comes to managing and addressing the problem of cyberbullying. However, during the second reading of Bill C-13, at no time did the Honourable Peter MacKay say how much young Canadians are experts in this area. The advantage of our report is that we had the chance to hear from young Canadians, the group directly affected by the problem of cyberbullying. They are the ones most able to explain the problem and make recommendations.

Unfortunately, Bill C-13 may look effective on paper, but in reality it addresses only a small part of the problem without focussing on what young people have to say about cyberbullying.

Arctic Sovereignty »

Posted by 14 February 2014 by Senator Charlie Watt  

For many Canadians, the work of a Senator is a mystery. So, I would like to take the opportunity to showcase some of the work I am involved in beyond the regular committee meetings and Senate sittings.

In particular, I have an interest in the Arctic, and Canada’s claim to the Arctic through the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) limits of the continental shelf.  My Senate Liberal colleagues have been very supportive of my interest in this area as the outcome of this process will have very real implications for the Inuit and for Canada.

Research work to date has included: a legal opinion by Hutchins Legal Inc. on the subject of Inuit rights to the Arctic.  We have commissioned an Inuit historic use of Arctic sea ice by Dr. Claudio Aporta of Dalhousie University (completed January 2014), and later this month we also look forward to another legal opinion from Hutchins Legal Inc. on the subject of Canada’s December 2013 submission to the UNCLOS.

These reports have already made an impact here and at the United Nations. Last spring, I had the privilege of hosting an Inuit elders Conference on the subject of Arctic Sovereignty (February 2013) and a combined Inuit youth and elders Conference on Arctic Sovereignty (April 2013). Then in May of last year, Dr. Dalee Sambo Dorough presented our concerns to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The Forum accepted our concerns and adopted them into their final report (September 2013). We know this is just the beginning as we have also shared our concerns with the Chairperson of the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Chief Wilton Littlechild and look forward to further initiatives on this file.

I want to thank my colleagues for standing with Canada’s Inuit as we remind the world of Indigenous rights. By asserting Inuit historic use of Arctic land and sea ice and water we are strengthening Canada’s claim to the regions beyond the 200 mile limit and reasserting Inuit rights within the region.   

As Canada’s only Inuk Senator, I will use my position to strengthen Canadian knowledge of the Inuit and the challenges faced by my people.

Nakurmiik (thank you)

Senator Charlie Watt



Click here to read Part Two

Changes in the Senate »

Posted by 5 February 2014 by Senator Charlie Watt  

Thank you for your many calls and emails concerning the announcement of Mr. Trudeau. I was able to give an interview with Nunatsiaq news on this issue and for those of you who don’t subscribe; I’m including a link to the article for your interest.

The original can be found here in the original language of publication:

http://www.nunatsiaqonline.ca/stories/article/65674nunavik_senator_pins_future_hopes_on_a_fully_non-partisan_senate/

Child refugees in Syria: Moussa's Story »

Posted by 4 February 2014 by Senator Mobina Jaffer  

Today I want to take a moment to recognize the 1.1 million Syrian refugee children scattered in camps around the Middle East. The Syrian war has been devastating for children, both physically and psychologically.

I would like to take a moment to share the story of one of those million refugee children with you. Moussa is 15 years old and currently lives in a refugee camp in Jordan. This is what he told Save the Children.

I was captured by the police and put in prison for 22 days. I was tortured and I saw children dying. I’ve got scars on my feet, chest and back. There were hundreds of us in prison – I was in a big cell with the other children. The youngest ones were nine or ten, they had been captured. I was beaten up every day, and they used electricity too.

In prison, when someone died, they kept hitting the body. There were dead bodies in my cell too – they’d been there for a long time and they stank. They were decomposing – there were maggots. Eventually, they threw me out. They carried me out on a blanket. I couldn’t move.

A passerby stopped and looked at my Id. He took me to my village, where my family found me and took me to hospital. I still have back pains.

I came here with my twin brother. He’s now in hospital being cared for by our older brother. He got second-degree burns after our house was attacked. There were tanks and shelling. One of my brothers was killed – shot in the head. At that time, I was in prison. That was five months ago. They ransacked houses and shops, killed small children. They even targeted schools, hospitals and mosques.

I’ve lost my father, but my mother is here in Jordan. She ran away from the camp because she had health issues. She has heart problems and the dust in the camp was making it difficult for her to breathe. I wish I could see her. I haven’t spoken to her for 20 days.

I want people to know what’s happening in Syria.

I have one friend in the camp. I come to the child-friendly spaces every now and then, but I don’t play. I used to be more sociable, but now I’m not doing anything at all. I’m depressed. I don’t want to socialise. I don’t feel secure in my sleep.

No words can adequately describe how devastating it is to hear about a child subjected to torture. I shudder imagine the effects of the physical and psychological trauma that Moussa has endured.

We must all ask our selves, how will we heal those wounds?

If the world is to make any resolutions for 2014 it should be to end the conflict in Syria and give adequate aid to the Syrian refugees. Each of us must make a commitment to work to return the innocence to Syrian children. We must do this for the sake of an entire generation of Syrian children who will carry the scars of this war for the rest of their lives.

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