Posted by 23 May 2013 by Senator James Cowan
Following the exchange yesterday in the chamber on the report concerning Senator Duffy, I prepared a joint letter to be sent by Senator LeBreton and me to the chair and vice-chair of Internal Economy. Senator LeBreton has declined to sign the letter.
Click here to read the letter that I have therefore sent to the chair and vice-chair of our Committee on Internal Economy requesting it hold its future meetings on the report in public.
Posted by 21 May 2013 by Senator Grant Mitchell
The Senate Defence Committee is currently studying the topic of harassment, including sexual harassment, in the RCMP. While harassment in the force has been a longstanding issue, it was most recently brought to prominence by the courageous efforts of current members like Catherine Galliford and Krista Carle, as well as former members who have come forward with their stories. Many of these members have sustained grievous PTSD injuries as a result of their tumultuous experiences in the force.
A few weeks ago, Liberal MP and women's critic, Judy Sgro, and I hosted a roundtable in Ottawa where two of the injured, Catherine Galliford and Jamie Hanlon, presented their stories in person; two other members, Krista Carle and Sherry Benson Podolchuk presented by video. Their presentations were extremely moving. Their testimonies highlighted the fact that there is most certainly an issue of harassment in the RCMP. However, as Minister Toews and Commissioner Paulson have rightly pointed out, the individual cases also reflect a problem with the corporate culture of the institution.
The Minister and the Commissioner have presented Bill C-42 as the critical piece in their effort to fix the problems. However, I believe that C-42 is not enough and may have little impact in getting to the root of the problem, which is a cultural problem. A few of the shortcomings of the bill include:
1. Bill C-42 will increases the Commissioner's power to fire (he can delegate this to lower level officers); allow the Commissioner to restructure the grievance process; somewhat enhance the powers of the public complaints body; and improve the third party review of serious incidents involving a RCMP member. The problem with each of these is that they all deal with problems after they occur, they do not address the cultural issues which allow the problems to occur in the first place. Moreover, there is no guarantee that increased powers to fire will actually improve the situation at all. It may simply give harassers more power to fire those who they are harassing, if they complain about it.
2. The RCMP will say that the new Respectful Workplace Program, outlined in the bill, will address the cultural problem. However, in committee, I raised concerns about the degree of the organization's commitment to the program. When asking senior staff about the budget for the program, it was not clear that they knew what it was. When asking whether they had done a baseline audit to assess the problem now, and whether they have an audit plan to determine progress against that baseline, it was not clear they had either in place. When asked about national direction and standards for the plan, it was not clear that they have been determined.
The BC division did an extensive study which involved 462 members and revealed very powerful stories about harassment experiences. But that is just one division; why would they not do a similar study all across the organization? The experience in the military in the 1990's underlines how difficult it is to change the culture of an organization like the Canadian Armed Forces or an institution like the RCMP. Reforming the institution is a huge task, requiring constant vigilance and strong leadership. None of the changes will happen unless there is deep and profound commitment to changing the culture.
3. As a follow-up to the observations regarding the bill and, as a follow-up to testimony submitted by expert witnesses, there are several critical steps that should be considered by the RCMP moving forward. These steps include the following:
a. The senior staff of the RCMP should organize a conference, inviting the injured and the senior officers to hear personal stories, as we did in our own roundtable. It was a very powerful experience for us and would help raise the level of commitment to fixing the problem in the RCMP.
b. Study after study of the RCMP has recommended real, civilian, independent and non-political supervision of the RCMP. Many, if not all major city police forces in Canada have this kind of police commission. The Edmonton Police Commission, for example, has a direct role in preparing the annual policing plan and budget. This Commission hires the police chief and receives and supervises the investigation of complaints from the public. The new CRCC, the public complaints review board, proposed in Bill C-42, will only have complaints review and policy investigation powers, not direct input into policing planning etc. As a comparison, the military changes were driven by a powerful civilian monitoring board and 6 other civilian advisory boards.
c. Consider a provision for a union. Once again, major police forces across the country have unions which have demonstrated a great deal of success in ensuring the objectivity and independence from the chain of command of grievance processes.
d. Assess the services available for the PTSD injured in the RCMP. Currently, it looks as though there is very little recognition of the severity of the problem, let alone adequate health resources to care for the injured and their families. Certainly, the level of awareness and the services available do not match those in the military.
5. Almost 90% of officers in the Canadian military have post-secondary degrees while close to 50% have graduate degrees. Realizing that they had to increase the level of professionalism of their officer corps, the Canadian military made huge changes to their educational requirements and curriculum at the Royal Military College and staff Colleges, including creating a new Masters program for officers. Perhaps this is another area where the RCMP could draw parallel examples for their own training programs. As a comparison, it is interesting to note that with two of the RCMP’s key leadership training courses, the Supervisor and Manager Development programs, far fewer than half those starting them complete them.
Posted by 10 May 2013 by Senator Grant Mitchell
Bill C-279 is Private Member's Bill from the House of Commons introduced there by MP Randall Garrison, a member of the NDP. A Private Members’ Bill is a bill that is presented by any MP who is not in Cabinet. I am the Liberal lead in the Senate for C-279. I am very happy to have this role.
One of the best things I have ever done in politics was fighting for and voting for the gay marriage bill in 2005. I have the same feeling about Bill C-279. Both the gay marriage bill and this bill lay at the very foundation of our commitment as Canadians to equality, acceptance, diversity and human rights.
Bill C-279 amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to include "gender identity" and the Criminal Code to make "gender identity" a category of hate crime. It is designed to give greater protection to transgender people against discrimination, abuse, assault and sexual assault.
Transgender people are those who are assigned a certain gender at birth, but simply know in a deep personal way that they are another gender. Studies show that 60% of trans people know this before they are age 10 and 90% by age 19. They do not make this up - why would anyone willingly submit themselves to the ridicule, abuse, sexual and violent physical harassment that trans people encounter every day? They have great difficulty getting jobs, housing, adequate pay, and even health care. They are continuously harassed and often seriously physically and sexually abused. They are our friends, colleagues, neighbours and family members.
Arguments against the bill include:
1. The definition of transgender is subjective and based upon deep personal feelings and therefore cannot work in law. On the contrary, the law deals with subjective, personal feelings and state of mind all the time. Religion is protected in the two laws the C-279 addresses, and religion is deeply personal and subjective. Moreover, it is the beliefs of the discriminator which are at stake here, not really the beliefs of the person suffering the discrimination, and all beliefs upon which someone discriminates against someone else are by definition wrong and therefore cannot be anything but subjective. The law sorts this out as a matter of course, in every discrimination case, and in criminal law where it determines state of mind, intention, including manslaughter versus other levels of murder, and more generally, accident or pre-meditation.
2. The bathroom argument goes that men will dress up as women to get into a women's washroom and use the new law as a defence. This never happens in jurisdictions in the US where provisions like these have been in place — never. Moreover, how would women feel about a trans person assigned as a women at birth who now looks and acts like a man coming into their washroom? What would happen to a trans person who was a man at birth but is now a woman, dressed and acting like a woman, coming into men's washrooms?
The courts, once again, are continuously evaluating behaviour and would sort out contrived arguments based on this law very quickly and effectively.
Trans people are terrified of discrimination and abuse and are the target not the perpetrators of it.
3. ‘Trans people are already protected’ argument. They are to some extent but only with the "warping" of definitions in the laws as they exist now. Moreover, the Canadian Human Rights Act is a statement of Canadian values and recognition in it elevates the visibility of this issue and educates the public about it. Why would we not want to add "belts to suspenders" in ensuring greater protection and sending a message of support and recognition to trans people while educating the general public?
4. The argument that trans people can be "cured." We have heard this in the case of homosexuality and, of course, that has been repudiated so effectively. Transgender people are not sick any more than heterosexual people are. It is who they are.
Why don't we just fast forward and pass this? Canadians always end up doing the right thing. It took upwards of 60 years for women to get the vote and about the same for women to be considered "persons" in the Constitution. It took even longer for Aboriginal Peoples to get the vote. And, it took almost 140 years for gay marriage to be approved. But we did these things. If we fast forward transgender protections, which we will inevitably do eventually because we always end up doing the right thing, we will avert at least some of the pain and abuse that trans people will have to suffer otherwise.
Interestingly, the bill was passed in the House of Commons due to the support of 18 Conservatives, four of whom were cabinet members: Flaherty, Baird, Raitt and Moore. The Prime Minister voted against it, but did not insist on the Whip requiring party discipline. There is a good deal of support amongst Conservative senators, too.
Here's hoping we can get it to a vote and get it passed.
Click here to read my speech at second reading
Posted by 25 April 2013 by Senator Charlie Watt
Thank you for your letters on the recent changes to Canada’s cultural institutions. As Canada’s only Inuk Senator, I feel these changes at Library and Archives Canada, Parks Canada and the Museum of Civilization are of great concern to our Aboriginal population. As a Canadian, I also know that we must all take issue with the attempt to limit our access to our shared cultural heritage. Please click here to see my letter to my Liberal Senate colleagues. I will continue to press for respect for our shared historical and cultural institutions.
Nakurmiik (Thank you in Inuktitut),
Senator Charlie Watt
Posted by 19 March 2013 by Senator Grant Mitchell
I was struck by the observation that the Conservatives have not balanced a budget since 1896. And, while there is not really enough time with Conservative governments in Canada to compare, it is documented in the US that the stock market on average underperforms by 17 percentage points with Republican Presidents versus Democrat Presidents. So, why is that? And why would anyone think that the right wing should be the preferred choice for managing a budget let alone an economy? I am compelled to ask: “Where has the right wing ideology ever worked to make a better society or a better country?”
I believe that this Conservative government will never, ever (like, ever) balance the budget. Here are my reasons:
1. They hate government, so they do not understand it and do not listen to their public servants who know how to manage it. And balancing budgets is not about political spin; it is about managing.
2. Economies underperform under Conservative management for many reasons, and so they face reduced tax revenues even before they begin cutting taxes for ideological reasons. Mostly, economies underperform with Conservative governments because their ideology drives them to two fundamental mistakes. First, they think economies are all about numbers, when in reality they are actually about people. Second, Conservatives, certainly these ones, focus on making people afraid. Fear is the antithesis of optimism, and optimism, not fear, drives economies.
3. They defer to the private sector, forgetting that the private sector did not build this country as a whole. Governments must provide leadership to inspire collective action to achieve elevated objectives. No CEO has the platform or mandate to do that.
4. They are driven by an ideology to buy lots of military hardware, some of which we really cannot afford (F35's).
Don't hold your breath. They will not balance the budget (like ever).
Posted by 8 March 2013 by Senator Claudette Tardif
Each year on International Women’s Day, I find myself thinking of the women in Canada who still don’t have a voice, in spite of the progress our nation has made in gender equality. I think about the hundreds of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, whose stories are so rarely told, and whose strife garners so little public attention.
I am encouraged that the theme that the Government of Canada has named for this year’s Day is Working Together: Engaging Men to End Violence against Women.
The basic facts are shocking: indigenous women living in Canada are five times more likely to die a violent death than other women, according to a recent Statistics Canada study. Studies have also shown they are three and a half times more likely to experience violent victimization, and three times more likely to be victims of spousal violence than non-indigenous women.
Between 2000 and 2008, Indigenous women and girls represented approximately 10% of all female homicides in Canada, though they make up just 3% of the female population in Canada.
What is particularly tragic is that most of these cases involve young women and girls – more than half of the victims are under the age of 31, and 17% are girls under 18.
It is with a great deal of emotion that I am writing about this topic – both as a woman, and as a representative of the West. We know that the preponderance of these cases occur in Western provinces. A total of 16% of the over 600 missing and murdered aboriginal women come from my home, Alberta – a rate exceeded only in British Columbia, where 28% of the cases originate.
You will notice that I say “over 600,” but do not cite an exact figure. The fact that the number cannot be verified with any certainty demonstrates exactly what is so shameful about this national crisis – we have not even been able to quantify the problem. We know that women are disappearing and are being murdered by the hundreds, but we have no idea exactly how many.
It is past time to get serious about addressing this.
The efforts of determined community members across the country are inspiring. But communities organizing to raise awareness and combat stereotypes are only half of the equation. The partnership of government is needed if we are to have any hope of addressing this crisis in a meaningful way. Government action brings resources, legitimacy, and ultimately, hopefully, real change.
We need a National Inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women, to develop comprehensive, action-oriented solutions.
On International Women’s Day, and every day, I want to see this ongoing tragedy to occupy a much more significant space in the realm of our collective public awareness.
Posted by 5 March 2013 by Senator Grant Mitchell
A focus on three fundamental elements of a strong society, economy and country has been lost in this time of right wing ideology.
First, economies are more than just money and numbers. Way more. They are people.
Second, people drive strong economies when they feel optimistic.
Third, Canada is not the country that it has become because the private sector built it by itself. Historically, when government has been at its best in Canada, it has provided leadership to reconcile competing interests, inspiration to galvanize action toward shared objectives based on shared values, balanced social policy supports to give people the confidence to take risks, and measured economic intervention to stimulate economic growth and jobs.
However, at the basic root of the right wing ideology are contradictory tenets that run in the face of these three observations:
First, Conservative ideology limits economic understanding pretty much to money flows (capital), taxes (ever lower), and costs (ever lower no matter what the cost) - all numbers.
Second, Conservative ideology continuously conjures up things for people to fear, the antithesis of generating optimism. It is a dangerous world, they say, where crime is ever increasing and threatening (no, it is actually in decline and we have the understanding and psychological and social science to make it decline faster); terrorism threatens our existence and our values (actually, in a world with almost no interstate wars, the world is statistically much safer than it was even 30 years ago); and environmentalists want to destroy our jobs (no, consideration of the environment, dealing with climate change, will save our economy and create huge new economic opportunities).
Turned on their ear, viewing them as "half full" rather than "half empty" (the Conservatives' default perspective), these fears can actually become the basis for an inspired optimism. We can create a crime reduced society where everyone feels safe and lives are saved before they are ever lost and ruined by criminal activity; there is much work to be done on world peace, but progress to a safer world is being made; and protecting the environment (dealing with climate change in particular) is the engine of economic greatness, not its enemy.
Third, a government that hates government has really only one objective, less government. Undoubtedly, more efficient government is important. However, it should really be only one arrow in a quiver full of ways to reach the true objectives of a successful Canadian government, to make Canada better and give Canadians a better quality of life. Any CEO will tell you that if you set the wrong objective, you will definitely not get to the right place. We need national — the Prime Minister's — leadership on an energy strategy, a climate change strategy, a health care and public health strategy, an aboriginal strategy and a day care strategy, to mention but a few of the areas crying out for national leadership.
There is currently no national leadership on these or many other areas because the right wing ideology abhors government and reaching out to work with the provinces is seen as extending the reach of government. As hard as it is to fathom, we have a Prime Minister who will not meet with the Premiers to rally resources, seek efficiencies in the delivery of services, solve common problems and help set national priorities. It’s as if a CEO of a major firm would never call her or his vice-presidents together to deal collectively with problems, set objectives, and rally and focus resources.
Nowhere is the vacuum of national leadership more evident than on energy and climate change strategy. After 7 years in power, the Prime Minister has been unable to build a pipeline in energy rich Canada. How is a company or a Premier to bring together all the competing interests inherent in projects of the expanse, national consequence and complexity of major energy projects without the support of the Federal government?
The Prime Minister's "no-brainer" defence of the Keystone XL may prove to be a more apt description of the quality of thought he put into his Keystone "strategy". All the anti-environmental posturing from this government has sent only negative messages to BC and the US that Canada is not sufficiently committed to climate change action, among other environmental responsibilities, to be given the social license to build these projects.
The Conservative government has been pretty much absent from any other kind of messaging. And, no matter how much a company sells its credentials, it can hardly overcome a federal government's misguided air war. Imagine what will happen once the Minister of Natural Resources, charged now with building our environmental credibility, including in the US, is reminded in Washington that he refused to state acceptance of the science of climate change when asked if he did in the House of Commons.
Imagine instead what might be the product of nationally led collaboration amongst First Ministers supported by consultation with industry, First Nations and NGO leaders and Canadians at large. Imagine a Prime Minister who could inspire, rather than frighten; a Prime Minister with the spirit to pursue great nation-building objectives. It might be that Canada could be inspired to focus on three critical elements of a successful future: energy self-sufficiency, world class education (including respect for science and research) and water certainty. Consider these elements built upon our stable democracy, good transportation and communications systems, and national public health care system.
Then, throw in a government and Prime Minister that understands that government has a role to bring us altogether (whereas a CEO of some corporation simply does not have the platform), and, watch out, Canada might just end up leading the world once again.
Posted by 1 March 2013 by Senator Charlie Watt
I would like to thank my Senate colleagues for their work on Bill S-207 to Amend the Interpretation Act.
Yesterday, this bill passed the committee stage at the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, and I am so very grateful to my fellow Senators for their hard work, and their spirit of cooperation.
I would also like to thank the legal experts and Aboriginal leaders who participated in the drafting process. Thank you also to the witnesses who gave their testimony at the committee.
As this bill moves to third reading, and hopefully to the House of Commons, I look forward to the dialogue with our elected representatives and hope we can maintain a strong and cooperative approach as we discuss the use of non-derogation clauses and the need for clarity of language in federal legislation.
Nakurmiik (thank you in Inuktitut)
Posted by 25 February 2013 by Senator Mobina Jaffer
The third chapter of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights’ recent report, Cyberbullying Hurts: Respect for Rights in the Digital Age, explores how “bullying and cyberbullying have a devastating effect on the welfare of our children, are harmful to their development and their ability to take their place in society.”
(To read the report or the companion guides for youth and parents, please visit the Committee’s website.)
Some key points from the chapter:
- Research shows that immediate and long term repercussions of bullying impact “not only the victims, but also the bullies and the observers.”
o As was discussed in Chapter 2, cyberbullying is highly conducive to ‘role-switching’—so it’s more useful to talk about cyberbullying as behaviour.
- “Young people who appeared before the Committee confirmed that the trauma caused by cyberbullying was potentially more harmful [than traditional bullying] and definitely deserved special attention” (43).
- Aboriginal youth are particularly vulnerable to cyberbullying due to “numerous factors such as racism, living conditions, economic vulnerability and colonization” (43).
o “It is essential to support research in order to acquire a better understanding of the impact of these phenomena on young Aboriginal people and to be able to address their needs effectively” (44).
- “Discrimination in schools can be particularly directed towards those who are and who are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, or questioning (LGBTQ)” (44).
o Schools that have made efforts to promote inclusive cultures, including “the creation of anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia policies, the formation of gay-straight alliances, as well as integrating sexual and gender diversity into classroom teaching and addressing bigotry and intolerance, [...] students report a better climate” (45).
- Cyberbullying has a harmful impact on students’ academic success, and violates their right to an education.
- Cyberbullying also has an adverse effect on the health of young people. These include physical, mental, and emotional symptoms.
- Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Canadian teenagers between the ages of 15 to 19, according to Suzanne McLeod, Curriculum Developed at the Centre for Suicide Prevention. Our committee learned from several witnesses that it’s important “not to treat cyberbullying or traditional bullying as the sole cause of suicide among young people” (48). But we also recognize that “considerable research is still needed [to] acquire a better understanding of the links between cyberbullying and suicide” (49).
- Professor Shelley Hymel told our committee (emphasis added):
Schools are the most cost-effective place in which to address bullying. For example, several studies have now demonstrated links between early bullying and later delinquency and criminal behaviour. Take that in conjunction with research by an economist named Cohen in 1998 who determined that one high-risk youth who drops out of school and becomes a career criminal costs society $1.3 to $1.5 million over a lifetime. In Canada, it is estimated that we spend over $9 billion annually on relationship violence. I contend that the costs of prevention through our schools and through research would be far less than the cost of dealing with the aftermath.
- “Witnesses agreed that it was essential to make bullying in schools a priority with a view to reducing violence and crime and to enable young people to develop their full potential and take their place in society” (50).
Posted by 20 February 2013 by Senator Grant Mitchell
The economies that will dominate in the future will be those that embrace environmental challenge and see it as opportunity and not cost.
For the longest time, the message has been that dealing with environmental issues incurs a cost to the economy that will harm our competitiveness. More and more, however, there is a growing understanding that economic and environmental interests are two sides of the same coin, that we cannot really have one without the other.
The economic, and other, risks of the most threatening of environmental issues, climate change, are literally infinite. For those concerned that dealing with it will kill jobs, consider the number of jobs that have been killed because we have not dealt with it. Canadian forests have been diminished by the spread of the pine beetle which is impeded by the kind of sustained cold weather that we no longer see. Canadian fisheries are producing only 40% the harvest that they produced just years ago, stocks being damaged at least in part by climate change impact on their habitat.
Increasing incidence of violent, climate change fueled storms are creating enormous damage. Drought and floods are damaging our agricultural industry. How many jobs were lost and how much cost was incurred in New York as a result of Hurricane Sandy? The insurance industry estimates that increasing violent storms are causing $170 billion in annual damage world-wide, 4 times the cost of just decades ago.
On the other hand, dealing with climate change can stimulate a productive, creative, 21st century economy. Consider the economic diversification and jobs that would be created by a focus on renewable energy development, retrofitting for conservation of energy, and the "energy" that would be generated in our country and economy by leadership inspiring us to meet this challenge. With relatively little government investment, Ontario has created a $42 billion solar industry. We should not underestimate the economic significance of our tourism and out-door recreation industries, both profoundly reliant upon a pristine environment.
In addition, and ironically, getting really good on climate change and other environmental issues may be the only way to sustain our traditional oil and gas economy. Canada's single international market for oil and gas is the US, and the US is likely to be self-sufficient in both within 10 to 15 years. Moreover, as long as we are limited to North American markets, we are losing as much as $35 per barrel compared to international prices. There is tremendous pressure to diversify our markets.
It’s a new era. The delays to the Gateway and Keystone projects have underlined that we need to earn the social license, society's permission, to build our oil and gas projects and sell our traditional oil and gas products if we are to sustain this industry which is so critical to our economy. To do this, we have to demonstrate that we are serious about dealing with climate change and other environmental issues related to the industry.
There are some encouraging signs. President Obama emphasized in his inaugural speech the devastating impact of climate change. New York's Mayor Bloomberg endorsed Obama in the recent election based upon his assessment that Hurricane Sandy was a consequence of climate change. The president of the IMF stated recently that the single greatest challenge to world economies is climate change. These are important calls to action.
Many leaders in Canada's oil and gas industry are calling for a carbon tax as the most efficient way to provide them with some sense of certainty, focus the economy's attention on reducing emissions and send a particularly powerful message to earn social license. Increasingly, there are signs that Canadian political leaders are understanding how the environment, earning social license and sustaining our oil and gas industry are inextricably linked.
While there are many reasons to respect and promote our environment, its importance to the economy is especially compelling. Understanding and acting upon this relationship is not an economic threat; it will herald the emergence of a competitive, sustainable economy that will be the envy of the world.
Posted by 30 January 2013 by Senator Mobina Jaffer
Today I want to share a story that I came across in the news a few short days before Christmas. It’s a follow-up to the horrific van crash near Hampstead, Ontario that killed ten migrant workers and one Canadian last February.
Nearly a year later, survivor Juan Jose Ariza is still recovering from the mental and physical wounds from that crash in a retirement home in London, Ontario. While he is undergoing treatment, so is his wife–for brain surgery. Mr. Ariza’s wife, Edith, was in the hospital in December 2012 for a series of operations that resulted in her son being left home alone with the neighbours to look after him.
Mr. Ariza now faces a catch-22. He wants to be with his family; however, his visa expires on January 31 and leaving Canada means risking his eligibility to return. In Peru, he would not receive the same quality of medical treatment and it would be next to impossible for him to find a job with his current injuries. Ariza’s choice: poverty or permanent separation from his family.
Canada brings over 300,000 migrant workers every year to complete labour that the vast majority of Canadians find too difficult, too dirty, and not worth the pay. The Ontario-appointed Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety found that certain employers actively avoid providing their workers with proper training, supervision, safety equipment, and adequate knowledge of their health and safety rights. Out of fear for losing hours of work, losing their job, and being denied the ability to participate further in the current and future seasons of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, 76% of migrant workers who are injured on the job do not file a claim to workers compensation.
Mr. Ariza’s words echo the plight of many other temporary workers: “if I go back [to Peru], who is going to give me work? How will I be able to feed my family, take care of them? I don’t have a working future in Lima.” This is a common dilemma facing temporary migrant workers who are injured. It is important that we provide and more stringently enforce protections for temporary migrant workers, whose vulnerabilities are often exploited by their employers. Taking action will ensure that workers like Juan Ariza have access to adequate workplace safety knowledge and equipment, and can make claims and obtain treatment for workplace injuries without fear of deportation.
Boesveld, Sarah and Natalie Alcoba. “’Christmas wish’ of Hampstead crash widow is for survivor to get visa extended so he can visit sick wife.” National Post. 21 December 2012. http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/12/20/christmas-wish-of-hampstead-crash-widow-is-for-survivor-to-get-visa-extended-so-he-can-visit-sick-wife/
Dubinski, Kate. “Hampstead survivors lean on each other.” Stratford Beaconherald.com. 30 July 2012. http://www.stratfordbeaconherald.com/2012/07/30/hampstead-survivors-lean-on-each-other
Harowitz, Sara. “Peruvian migrant van crash survivors speak out.” This Magazine. 3 October 2012. http://this.org/blog/2012/10/03/peruvian-migrant-van-crash-survivors-speak-out/
Taylor, Scott. “Migrant worker who survived crash wants to return to Peru; worries he might not be able to return.” Sun News. 20 December 2012. http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/sunnews/canada/archives/2012/12/20121220-135634.html
Taylor, Scott. “Survived rural road disaster, migrant in new catch-22.” Lfpress.com. 21 December 2012. http://www.lfpress.com/2012/12/20/survived-rural-road-disaster-migrant-in-new-catch-22
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Posted by 22 January 2013 by Senator Mobina Jaffer
The second chapter of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights’ recent report, Cyberbullying Hurts: Respect for Rights in the Digital Age, paints a picture of cyberbullying, citing witness testimony on the definition of the phenomenon and the context in which it occurs.
(To read the report or the companion guides for youth and parents, please visit the Committee’s website.)
Some key points from the chapter:
- There isn’t a universal definition for cyberbullying, which is also sometimes called electronic bullying or online bullying. Students, teachers, and researchers highlighted four principal elements of cyberbullying, including
- The use of electronic devices
- A form of bullying
- Behaviour intended to harm
- High likelihood or fear of repetition
- Many witnesses “discussed the importance of supporting the development of a definition of cyberbullying and a uniform, consistent vocabulary in order to make interventions with young people more effective” (9).
- “Cyberbullying is a kind of violence that takes many forms and occurs in many environments, including the Internet, networking sites, test messages, “sexting,” and instant messaging” (12).
- There’s considerable overlap between cyberbullying and ‘traditional’ bullying. They’re both an “expression of aggressive behaviours whose purpose is generally to assert power” (15).
- Intervention by peers is hugely important. One study suggests “that bullying ceases within 10 seconds in nearly 60 percent of all cases when peers intervene” (16).
- Witnesses described to the committee how cyberbullying:
- Is distinctively more intrusive and harder to escape
- Has an almost unlimited audience
- Stems from a false impression that anyone can say anything online or over text messages
- Allows young people who bully to make comments anonymously
- Is highly conducive to ‘role-switching’
- A teacher, Bill Belsey, “compared bullying and cyberbullying to ‘a play on a stage’” (23).
- Produces a unique and harmful ‘repetition effect’
- There are “some major gaps in the research as to what ‘precursory risk factors indicate that a child may bully someone or be bullied’” (28).
- Young people “who belong to minority groups or who are perceived as different are generally more vulnerable to bullying” (28).
- “Homophobia, racism, sexism, and other forms of marginalization are apparent in cyberbullying,” said Professor Faye Mishna.
- It’s difficult to measure the magnitude of the problem because of gaps in research and a tendency among young people to not report incidents of cyberbullying.
- Young Canadians “are avid consumers of new technology…99 percent have Internet access at home, in school, or on their cell phone…more than half use the Internet for more than an hour a day, mainly to make contacts and communicate with their peers…young people send 50 to 60 test messages every day…some young people send and receive more than 100 text messages per day” (37).
- Technology is a tool: it can be used to learn and to help, or to hurt and to harm.
- Many young people “are skilled at manipulating technology.” But that doesn’t necessarily “mean that they have all the knowledge or judgement they need to navigate safely through cyberspace” (39).
Posted by 17 January 2013 by Senator Mobina Jaffer
Last December the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights tabled its report, Cyberbullying Hurts: Respect for Rights in the Digital Age. Our committee also tabled two companion guides to the report: one for young people, and one for parents.
In November 2011, the Senate authorized the Committee to “examine and report on the issue of cyberbullying in Canada with regard to Canada’s international human rights obligations under Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.” Article 19 commits states to protecting children from all forms of physical and mental violence, including cyberbullying.
As senators, we explored cyberbullying from a human rights perspective, using what we call a ‘rights-based approach’, based on three principles:
- All rights are universal and equal;
- Children are the subjects (not the objects) of their rights, and they need to be enabled and empowered to develop and promote their rights;
- States have an obligation to guarantee human rights.
The report is meant to confront an issue that affects young people across Canada. Most studies indicate that rates of cyberbullying among young people fall between ten and thirty-five percent. So cyberbullying is a growing problem; one that reminds us that the promise of new technologies also presents a responsibility to ensure the safety and security of young people who use the Internet to learn, communicate, and explore the world around them.
Our committee determined that a whole-of-community approach is necessary to prevent and address cyberbullying. In Chapter 7, our committee lists six recommendations that call for the participation of diverse community members in efforts to ensure safety on the Internet, promote positive relationships, and sustain inclusive school cultures.
Over the coming weeks, I will provide a more thorough overview of the findings presented in the report’s six following chapters:
- A Portrait of Cyberbullying
- The Repercussions of Cyberbullying
- Taking a Human Rights-based Approach to Cyberbullying
- Roles and Responsibilities of Stakeholders
- Developing Best Practices and Better Programs
- The Committee’s Recommendations and Observations
Posted by 11 January 2013 by Senator Mobina Jaffer
Today I would like to pay tribute to former Senator Laurier LaPierre, who died in December at the age of 83.
Senator LaPierre came to national prominence on the CBC program, “This Hour has Seven Days,” a weekly news and currents affairs program that aired on CBC from 1964 to 1966.
It’s well-known that Senator LaPierre irked some people with the passion and emotion he displayed publicly. That same compassionate quality impacted a lot of people in a positive way—Senator LaPierre understood their reality and, in many cases, he identified with their reality. For example, his reaction while interviewing Stephen Truscott, the 14-year-old boy sentenced to life in prison for the murder of an Ontario girl, which once again renewed debate on the death penalty. Sadly, CBC considered Senator LaPierre’s visible emotion unprofessional—he shed a tear on camera—and soon after the Truscott interview, Senator LaPierre’s contract was cancelled.
Patrick Watson, co-host of This Hour has Seven Days, said, “Some of the best times I ever had on camera were spent with Laurier.”
I had personally been a great admirer of Senator LaPierre from a distance for a long time, and I was absolutely thrilled when he and I were appointed by Prime Minister Chrétien to the Senate in 2001.
He was my seatmate. While we were both learning the rules of the Chamber, I also very quickly learned from Senator LaPierre that there were rules to be respected and there were rules to be challenged. He always followed the overarching spirit of the rules…but maybe not their particular intent.
During his time in the Senate he was a great proponent of human rights; especially Aboriginal and gay and lesbian rights. He also spoke out passionately on issues related to bilingualism.
He was a very entertaining seatmate with a great sense of humour. He once rose on a Point of Order regarding BlackBerrys; he was always irritated by my constant use of my BlackBerry. It was typical of Senator LaPierre to voice his thoughts aloud. We all know the Senator was many things—but he was not a shrinking violet. He always spoke out where others would stay silent. On October 22, 2002, he said:
Honourable senators, I rise with a certain amount of sadness to deplore a situation in this chamber that is discriminatory to some of us, if not many of us, who are finger-challenged. Many people in this august group use that little BlackBerry, blueberry, raspberry, or whatever it is called. They play with it and they get all the information they want. Those of us suffering from arthritis in our hands cannot hold a BlackBerry, a blueberry or a raspberry. The end result is that we are discriminated against because we cannot bring our computers into the chamber. The computers used by the parliamentary reporters and by Senator Gauthier do not make any noise. Most modern computers on the planet do not make any noise.
The time has come for Her Honour to take us out of the 12th century and bring us into the 21st century by allowing laptop computers to be used in this chamber, like all the civilized legislatures on Planet Earth.
Senator LaPierre’s partner, Harvey Slack, was always very solicitous of him and his friends.
Harvey, I mourn with you the loss of a great human being who truly cared about the unity of Canada and the well-being of Canadians.
Posted by 19 December 2012 by Senator Grant Mitchell
Canada not only needs a national energy strategy, we need it very urgently. Here are some thoughts about what one might look like.
There are huge energy and environmental challenges facing this country. First, Canada has one export market for oil and gas, the U.S. And the U.S is very likely to be self-sufficient in both in5 to 10 to 20 years. We also need pipelines to reach diversified international markets.
Secondly, climate change is a real and very serious problem. The risks in climate change are literally infinite. Ask the residents of New York City, or the people who used to work in Canada's east and west coast fisheries, or the people of the north. Witness the surge of inexplicable drought and floods across our farming economy.
And, history tells us in Canada that challenges of this magnitude are not going to be solved by 10 provinces and 3 territories working as silos, and the private sector working without certainty. There is a profound need for a national energy (and climate change) strategy and it begs for national leadership. There is simply a vacuum of national leadership. Prime Minister Harper is missing in action.
To kick-start a national energy strategy, real leadership would embrace and promote an understanding of several economic realities:
1. The Gateway and Keystone XL proposals have taught us that projects of this kind are never going to be built unless they earn the social license to do so. And they are not going to get that social license unless we can demonstrate real credibility on the environment, especially on climate change. We have to show real progress on greenhouse gas emission reductions. Not just rhetoric and spin.
2. Dealing with climate change will not hurt the economy. You want to hurt the economy? Just keep doing what we are doing - ignoring climate change action. Canada restructured our economy to win WWII and it did not hurt the economy - it kick-started a powerful western industrialized economy that has sustained one of the highest standards of living in the world for the past 60 years.
3. Just because renewable energy isn't economic today doesn't mean that it won't be economic tomorrow. A few years ago the oil sands were making a barrel of oil for $25 and selling it for only $10. That certainly wasn't economic, but things seemed to work out. Why? Because there was a vision that with economies of scale, technology development, and market and price changes, the oil sands would become a driving force of our economy. Why are the Conservatives so squeamish about applying that thinking to renewable energy?
4. The ideological obsession against government partnership with the private sector is just plain stupid. Once again, the oil sands got kick-started because the federal government took a 12% equity position in Syncrude. Why so squeamish about government involvement when it comes to renewable/alternative energy - oil sands in its early days were the ultimate alternative energy.
What specifically should go into a national energy strategy? In addition to seeing the Prime Minister meeting with Premiers and a structured national discussion, a national energy strategy should include:
1. A price on carbon. The Senate Committee on Energy and the Environment committee (of which I am the Vice Chair) heard from 250 witnesses in its 3 year study of national energy strategy. Even industry witnesses who appeared before the committee consistently called for a price and none called for regulation. Regulation ultimately prices carbon in the most expensive way but can easily be manipulated by a government that does not really want to deal with GHG emissions and climate change.
2. A strong and significant commitment to the development of renewable energy. Renewable energy means jobs, investment, new markets, technological innovation and creativity, as well as reduced GHG emissions.
3. Rehabilitation of the electricity grid and in particular a concerted effort to "smarten it up." This is critical for efficient use of electricity and for the development of solar energy.
4. A focus on energy self-sufficiency. Imagine what an economic advantage that would be for Canadian business and for generating international business interest in investing here.
5. Serious consideration of a West to East pipeline. It is interesting how Harper says that the Keystone is a no-brainer because our "ethical and secure" oil should replace the unethical and insecure oil the US buys from questionable sources. Well, where does Mr. Harper think that the Maritimes and Quebec buy their oil? Why is he not doing something about that problem? What about some leadership on that? Mr. Oliver says that the Conservatives would never subsidize a pipeline. Well, what makes him think it would take subsidies; maybe it would just take leadership.
6. A focus on distributed energy development as a way to support and sustain rural communities and farmers. Wind, solar, tidal, run of river and biomass energy are largely rural and provide jobs to small communities in a way that a massive coal fired electricity plant simply does not.
7. Stop attacking environmental groups. In fact, embrace them. Say repeatedly that the input of environmental groups allows us to do our energy strategy much better and enables us to get the social license to develop it. Embrace environment. Witness the forestry industry's approach in the 1990's when overwhelmed by the same kind of problems facing the energy industry today.
8. Focus on carbon capture and storage. It is essential that we perfect this technology. The world needs it and we can sell it to the world.
9. Develop a national labour strategy to support our traditional and renewable energy industries.
10. Coordinate research and development initiatives across the country in a way that supports energy and conservation technologies that reduce greenhouse emissions.
11. Consider that every solution to climate change is criticized by someone, either by industry or environmental groups. CCS is too expensive, nuclear is too dangerous, wind makes people sick, solar is not economic, hydro destroys habitat, etc. Well, we cannot wait for perfect solutions. We are running out of time and have to act.
If I seem a bit frustrated, it is because I am. There are huge challenges here, but there truly are great opportunities. If we do this right, we can unleash a new level of inspiration, creativity, entrepreneurship that will create a remarkable 21st century, sustainable economy, the envy of the world. We just need the leadership and focus to get it done. And, this kind of leadership is absolutely alien to the Conservatives.