Wednesday, December 31, 2003

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Happy New Year everyone.

I was getting all nostalgic about the year 2000 last night. Remember that? Remember Y2K? Remember back at the turn of the century?

I love being able to say that "the turn of the century" in reference to something three years ago. I love being able to refer to something that happened five years ago as happening last century.

I will be returning to Montreal soon and be back to regular blogging by Monday.

Posted by Matthew @ 4:51 PM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

MERRY CHRISTMAS...

...to all and to all a good night.

Posted by Matthew @ 11:35 AM :: (0) comments

Sunday, December 21, 2003

WINTER SOLSTICE

Officially occurs at 02:04 EST tomorrow morning.

It's the shortest day and longest night of the year. Enjoy both.

Stop reading this blog and do something fun.

'Tis the season to be jolly.

Merry Chistmas, happy holidays to everyone.

Posted by Matthew @ 11:42 AM :: (0) comments

Friday, December 19, 2003

NOTE TO SELF

Pundits and weather reporters both have an unfortunate tendency to show a distinct lack of memory with regards to their own work. They will say things like, "Chretien is now a lame duck" or "it's going to be cold and rainy tomorrow" and then when Chretien refuses to join a war and bans corporate donations to political parties under sunny and warm skies both refuse to acknowledge, in any way, the things they previously said. In weather reporters this trait can be aggravating, in newspaper pundits it can be more dangerous.

To be continually reforming the way one sees the world without acknowledging what one thought before reduces those thoughts to meaninglessness. If hundreds or thousands of people are in the habit or reading ones writing this is even more of a problem.

All this comes in reaction to John Ibbitson's column in today's Globe. If, come May, Ed Broadbent is the member for Ottawa-Centre I'm going to make sure Ibbitson remembers what he said today.

Posted by Matthew @ 4:01 PM :: (0) comments

COSH ON STANFIELD: IF YOU CAN'T SAY SOMETHING NICE...

Now, I know there's no need or desire to pull any punches in the blogosphere, harsh and hyperbolic criticism is often the name of the game. But this post from Colby Cosh on the death of Robert Stanfield is simply dissmissive and disrespectful. There's no substance or significance to it other than to trivialize the lives of the late Stanfield and, in passing, Dalton Camp. Normally, this type of post can be at best very amusing, at worst nothing more than insignificant. However, when the subject is two recently deceased men there is no call for such flipant commentary.

I can subscribe no reason to Cosh's post other than latent jealousy and an inferiority complex. Stanfield was a much more accomplished politician than anyone Cosh will ever want to vote for; as for Camp, few can match his writing ability and Cosh's, in comparison, is mere drivel. Both men were far more decent, honourable, intelligent and successful than Cosh can ever hope to be.

This is just another indication of the type of people the National Post has to stoop to hire these days.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:31 PM :: (0) comments

ANTHOTHER AZAN UPDATE

For background start here and scroll up.

Azan appeared in a Peurto Rican court either Wednesday or Thrusday morning for a preliminary hearing. He was still not provided with a lawyer so one wonders exactly how the process went but I'm not in Peurto Rico so I only know the result. Azan was released on bail ($5000 U.S) and will be allowed to return to his home in New York pending his trial set for January 7, 2004, in Peurto Rico.

This is the good news. It seems as if the legal system still has to treat people with some measure of fairness and justice, unlike the border guards Azan ran into. However, it is still important to remember, as I pointed out here that this entire situation should not have occurred in the first place.

The bad news is that Azan still does not have a lawyer. The American officials don't seem too interested in getting him one and I don't think Azan would want him/her anyway. Azan's friends are currently looking for an American or Canadian lawyer knowledgeable of immigration laws and such, and preferably with strong human rights connections, to take his case. If anyone has any suggestion let me know. Further, I have learned that Azan has also been charged with 'working without a visa'. Now, once again, I don't have all the details of this case, but this charge seems very odd because I do know that Azan has been working in the U.S for almost ten years for a major New York advertising agency (or something). He has a U.S social security number and all the proper residency papers. It would seem odd for him not to have his visa in order. Is there something too this, or is it another 'bogus' charge? I suspect the latter.

To all those who have been following this story and particularly those who have posted about it (Pogge, Talk Left, Damn Foreigner, Mambrino's Helmet and any I missed) I thank-you on behalf of Azan and his friends. I have been told that Randolph Azan's spirits were lifted when he heard that his story was news in Canada and that there were people who cared about his situation.

More updates as they come.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:23 AM :: (0) comments

Thursday, December 18, 2003

BROADBENT BACK IN POLITICS: GOOD FOR NDP, BAD FOR ME

The Toronto Star and Bourque are reporting that former NDP leader Ed Broadbent will announce a return to federal politics at a press conference set for 10:30 today.

I guess with Hon. Messrs. Jean Chetien and Joe Clark retiring Broadbent saw a vacuum of elder statesmen in the Commons.

The star article reports some commentators saying that this is a bad move for Broadbent. I don't think it is. I think the NDP is gaining momentum under Layton and that elder statesman comment was only half a joke. The combination of Layton leading the party backed up by Broadbent gives the party a great image. It shows that the party is vigorous and can change with the times while reminding people of its glory days and that they still have their basic principles. Broadbent supported Layton in the leadership race so they should be able to work well together. I think its a good move for Broadbent and the party.

However, it is not good for me on a personal level. I am, or was, enrolled to take a political theory seminar taught by Broadbent at McGill in the winter semester. The class is only open to fourth year's and is capped at 20 people. I woke up at 6:00 a.m. on the day of registration to get into the class. Now he's not teaching it. Arrg! First, it was going to be a great class, both for the content and simply for the celebrity professor. I was so looking forward to blogging all next semester on 'inside' Broadbent info. Imagine the posts:

"guess what Ed said in class today? Apparently he never really believed in socialism."

You know, fun stuff like that.

But, I suppose it's all for the greater good.

UPDATE, 01:04, 19/12/03: In the comments to this post Don cites a NewsWorld interview with Jack Layton that indicates Prof. Broadbent will continue to teach my political theory course this winter. I really just assumed that he would be too busy to still do it. But as Don says, the NDP is always looking out for the little guy.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:43 AM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

ROBERT LORNE STANFIELD 1914-2003

Four-time Nova Scotia Premier and former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party Robert Stanfield has died.

CBC News Reports:

Stanfield served as federal Conservative opposition leader from 1967 to 1976. He was known within the party as the greatest prime minister Canada never had.

He succeeded John Diefenbaker as leader after a bitter internal fight, but ran into the phenomenon of Trudeaumania in 1968. Known as a quiet humanitarian and a straight-talker, his slow-speaking style contrasted with Pierre Trudeau's youthful image.


"The greatest prime minister Canada never had" is probably an accurate way to sum up Stanfield. The wealth of political leadership the country had at that time was incredible. Consider that the Conservatives had Stanfield supported by Dalton Camp, the Liberals Pierre Trudeau, Jean Marchand and Leonard Peltier, and the NDP had Ed Broadbent. The contrast with today's leadership is particularly stark.

I also somewhat reluctantly point out that the death of one of the greatest leaders the PC party ever had comes at a time when the party has just completed effectively taking itself apart. I'm not usually one to look for omens but...

Also, with Bourque reporting that New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord is preparing to run for the leadership of the new Conservative party Stanfield's career may be instructive for Lord. Stanfield was one of the most successful Nova Scotian premiers ever but never quite made the transition to federal politics completely successful. Of course Paul Martin is not Pierre Trudeau, but neither, I susepect, is Lord another Stanfield.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:06 PM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

TORONTO STAR ON AZAN

Today's Toronto Star covered the Azan story on page A16 in the print version. For some reason the story has not appeared in the online version so I don't have a link but through a university connection to the print version of The Star I am able to quote at lenght directly from the story. It reports most of the details that I have already posted about below:


'SLIP' COSTS MAN HIS FREEDOM'
Canadian claims he mistakenly said he was U.S. citizen now stuck in detention centre 'with murderers'
Philip Mascoll, Toronto Star

A slip of the tongue when he answered an American official has landed Canadian citizen Randolph Andre Azan in a detention centre where he has been locked up for close to two weeks "with rapists and murderers," his partner says. Azan, a Toronto-raised New York resident, is charged with "misrepresenting himself as a United States citizen," after he muddled up his citizenship and his residency while being questioned Dec. 3, at the airport in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, his partner Rudy Miles said from New York last night.

The couple was on the way back from a vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands, when Azan, according to Miles, was asked his citizenship and in error, answered: "American." "He meant to say Canadian citizen... American resident. We had filled out some forms the night before with the correct information. The card was filled out correctly. It was just a simple slip of the tongue," Miles said. "He was holding in his hand a valid New York driver's licence with his picture on it."

Azan, 33, who "has lived and worked in New York since the '90s and paid taxes and has a U.S. Social Security number was not trying to deceive anyone. He made a genuine mistake," Miles said.... Initially, Miles was not told what had happened, but refused to leave his partner, so missed the flight and remained in St. Thomas, seeking answers.... But the following day, when he tried to learn more about the situation, he was told Azan had been flown to a detention centre in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Azan is to face a judge in Puerto Rico this morning but up to last night had not yet been given a lawyer, Miles said.

However, he has told Miles in telephone calls from the detention centre that he was offered the chance to sign two sets of forms. The first was a waiver that would see him instantly deported to Canada. The second would have seen him quickly in front of a judge.

"He refused to sign the forms requesting deportation, because he is not illegally in the country, and has done nothing wrong," Miles said. "And the other set of forms, which he signed, were to ensure he went before a judge quickly. It has already been 13 days and he hasn't seen a judge," Miles said.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security did not reply to the Star's e-mailed request for information on Azan. Marie-Christine Lilkoff of the Foreign Affairs department in Ottawa saidĀ information on Azan's case was being sought.



I had previously reported that Azan had been offered deportation to Jamaica, his country of birth, but not Canada. This seems to have been in error. However, the point that he refused deportation so as to protect his residency status and because he had not done anything seriously wrong still seems valid.

This story seems to further confirm that Azan made only a minor mistake. The story notes that he had all the proper domcumentation filled out properly in advance. He only made a small slip of the tongue in questioning at the border. For this he is detained for two weeks without a court appearance and without a lawyer.

There is another point that I have not been emphasising but that has come up in the comments section and also that Azan's friends have been emphasising. That is that Azan is both Black and gay, and was travelling with his partner when he was detained. Obviously I did not witness the questioning of Azan or his detainment but it is possible that these two factors contributed to his treatment. It certainly would not be the first time that accusations of discrimination along these lines have been directed towards American border officials.

Posted by Matthew @ 8:47 PM :: (0) comments

AZAN CLARIFICATION

With City Pulse News, Talk Left and Pogge picking up the story of Randolph Azan that I have been posting about for the last day, more people are taking notice and talking about it.

My blog was the first to post on this story but I think its important to let everyone know that I am receiving all of my information from people directly related to this issue but second hand none the less. I am trying to keep all information accurate but I can't make any guarantees. That's my disclaimer.

Now, here's my take on the whole issue, for background start at this post and scroll up. It seems clear that Azan should have been traveling with his Canadian passport. To not do so, particularly when one is not an American citizen opens oneself up to trouble, obviously, but the point is it shouldn't have been as much trouble as he is now facing.

When aked what his citizenship was Azan, accidentally responded 'American.' Whether he did so because he was distracted by something, or flustered by the customs agent, I don't know. Regardless, he quickly corrected himself clarifying that he was an American resident (he had the proper documention) but a Canadian citizen (no passport). At this point it seems as if Azan should have recieved some kind of warning, perhaps a detainment until his citizenship was established. Instead the customs agent threw the book at him. He charged him with 'falsely claiming to be a U.S citizen' and shipped him to a detention centre in Puerto Rico. From there things just got worse. Azan waited 13 days without a court date. During this time he was not given access to legal council, nor Canadian consular officials.

The point is, that while Azan's transgression where relatively small the resulting transgretions by American authorities were much greater. Azan's rights to a speedy court appearance, access to council and consular consultation were denied.

The larger point is that it offers another indication of how the United States is going to deal with foriegn citizens travelling within and through their country. What I'm saying is, if the American response is going to continue to be along these lines then Canada has to make sure its citizens are fully aware of the risks travel to the U.S poses and perhaps change certain policies regarding how we deal with the U.S overall.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:12 PM :: (0) comments

MAINSTREAM MEDIA ON AZAN

As mentioned in the update below the first mainstream media report on detained Canadian citzen Randolph Andre Azan is available from City Pulse News.

Another aspect of this story that I failed to mention is that while Azan is a Canadian citizen he was born in Jamaica. American officials in Puerto Rico, where he is being held, wanted him to sign papers agreeing to his deportation to Jamaica. He did not want to be deported for fear of jeoprodizing his employment and residency in the U.S. What is interesting is that the American's were willing to deport him to his country of birth, Jamaica, but not Canada. Does this sound familiar? It seems the Americans really don't trust us these days. Perhaps its time for us to stop trusting them.

For other background on this story read my two posts below.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:39 AM :: (0) comments

Monday, December 15, 2003

AZAN UPDATE

Background: Read the post directly below.

Friends of Azan have contacted various media outlets and government officials. The story should be in mainstream media soon.

The good news is that Azan has been given a court date for this Wednesday 17 December. It is unclear whether this is a preliminary hearing or his actual trial. He still has not had access to legal council, hopefully this will come soon as well. Keep in mind however that Azan has already been detained for 12 days without a court appearance and without council. We'll see how things progress.

This can't be said enough: a public inquiry into the Maher Arar deportation is needed along with a review of Canadian foriegn policy with the U.S in regards to how the Americans handle Canadian citizens entering and leaving that country.

UPDATE: 00:28 16/12/03:
The Azan story was covered tonight by City Pulse News. I didn't see the coverage but it's good to know media outlets are starting to report it. Hopefully there will be more.

Posted by Matthew @ 11:52 PM :: (0) comments

ANOTHER CANADIAN DETAINED BY CAPRICIOUS U.S. JUSTICE SYSTEM

On Wednesday 3 December Randolph Andre Azan, a Canadian citizen was arrested by American Customs and Immigration officials and he has been held in a Puerto Rico detention facility since that date.

I have learned of this story as Azan is the good friend of my mother's partner. This story is not yet being reported by Canadian media but hopefully it soon will be.

Azan is a Canadian citizen, but he holds U.S residency status. He has lived in the U.S for many years where he has has been employed with a major American company and has no prior Canadian or American criminal record. On December 3 he was returning to New York from a vacation in St. Thomas, U.S Virgin Islands. Under repeated and badgering questioning from U.S customs officials Azan mistankenly aswered 'American' to the question of what his citizenship was. He quickly corected his mistake clarifying that he was a U.S resident (he had the appropriate documentation) but a Canadian citizen. When he could not produce his Canadian passport (he was always within U.S territory he didnt' think he would need it) he was charged with falsely claiming to be an American citizen.

From St. Thomas he was flown to a detention centre in Puerto Rico. Since December 3 Azan has not had access to legal council or consular officials. Friends of Azan have contacted Canadian officials and members of the ACLU. However, Azan remains in prison with no court appearance to date. Further, he has not been told anything about the legal process he faces. Even more troubling is that he is being held with two other foriegn citizens, one from an African nation and one from the Dominican Republic. Both of these men have been in prison for months without a trial.

This story, following that of Maher Arar and comments by American ambassador Celluci indicates that the United States no longer respects basic principles of justice for detained Canadians or other foriegners. Azan's situation clearly arose out of a simple misunderstanding which could have been cleared up immediately at U.S customs. Instead he has been charged with a crime, yet he has not been given a court appearance or the proper legal council.

Post 9/11 America obviously has no qualms about bending or breaking basic legal principles. Illegal deportations, lengthy detainments without access to council and consular officials are becoming the norm. If this is the way the United States is going to act a serious re-evaluation of the way we relate to the United States is required. Canadian citizens, particulary those of colour and with foriegn names, need to be made aware that travel from and through the United States is becoming increasingly hazardours to their personal liberty.

In light of situations such as these that are becoming all too regular Prime Miniser Martin and Publis Safety minister McLellan need to evaluate how Canada is going to handle border relations with the United States.

I'll try and keep you posted on how Azan's situation develops.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:36 PM :: (0) comments

Sunday, December 14, 2003

SADDAM CAPTURED

Unless you have been living in a hole in the ground like Saddam himself, or perhaps like Matt Yglesias you have heard the outstanding news that Saddam has been captured by members of the U.S armed forces.

It is important to say again that this is excellent news. No one seems to be disputing this but some are more obviously pleased than others. Saddam was an evil dictator who held the people of Iraq captive for far too long. His capture is a major step towards greater liberty and security for the Iraqi people. I disagree with much about the war and occupation in Iraq, however, it is undeniable that deposing and capturing Saddam is a good thing and that this is the direct result of American policy and military power.

The two big questions are:

1. What does this mean for the situation in Iraq?

2. What is the proper way to deal with a captured Saddam?

As for number 1:
The President has been quick to point out that Saddam's capture will not lead to an end of violence in Iraq. This is because the degree to which Saddam was actually involved in the Iraqi insurgency is debatable. Early reports seem to indicate Saddam was cornered in a hole and quite isolated from means of communication. Of course this is not to say he had no influence and as David Mader points out the symbolic importance of his capture is extremely significant.

OxBlogger Josh Chaftez argues that the Iraqi resistance will likely intensify in the short term but fade in the long term as a result of Saddam's capture. It seems to me that there is a certain logic to this argument, however, it also seems like it is a very safe argument to make. If the resistance fades quickly then the result is better than expected. If it intensifies, then that is expected but who's to say how long this intensification is to last? One month, two, six, a year?

From my unenlightened position, I think that Saddam's capture is more important for its symbolism than for any actual technical direction he was giving. I think it is likely that, after a brief delay, resistance will increase in the short term as Saddam's hardcore loyalists redouble their efforts. The long term, being long, is even harder to predict. Essentially, it comes down to the nature of the insurgents. Do they rely more on a belief that they are fighting for Saddam or are they simply inspired by a desire to kill American infidels? I'm not really in a position to say.

As for number 2:
Most people, including our new prime minister, seem to be calling for Saddam to be tried at some kind of legitimate court proceeding or war crimes tribunal. Now, I'm as strong a supporter of civility, justice and the rule of law as the next person but I have to say that these war crimes tribunals and such have always troubled me. In one sense it seems as if a war is a human action that steps beyond the bounds of civility, justice and the rule of law. I agree that there are times when wars are justified and necessary, but all wars in a sense are crimes of humanity. What is the good in having the victors pick and choose which crimes they want to prosecute? It then simply becomes an extension of the waging of war. If we see it as such, then fine. But if the intent is to somehow legitimize a war or the killing or imprisonment of an opponent then it doesn't seem right or necessary. The United States waged war against Saddam, Saddam opposed them in war. Saddam is a captured enemy combatant and part of me thinks they can do with him as they wish.

Another part of me would really prefer that there were some kind of international standards for this type of situation. We've been working towards this from Nuremberg to Kosovo but each time these tribunals have been set up in an ad hoc manner. It is at this point that an International Criminal Court seems to be a good idea but the Americans are having none of it.

This all strikes at the fundamental question of whether relations between nations are to continue to operate as in a state of nature or whether we can agree to some kind of universal rules to collectively govern the actions of nations. Obviously the latter solution is not coming any time soon. So in its absence I would say, skip the false legitimacy and ad hoc solutions and let the Americans do what they want with Saddam. I'm satisfied that he's no longer killing anyone.

Posted by Matthew @ 5:58 PM :: (0) comments

Friday, December 12, 2003

DAY 1

The topic of discussion today is obviously Prime Minister Paul Martin and his new cabinet.

I spent much of the day following the coverage, on line, in the papers and on CBC Newsworld. What strikes me is that there is actaully very little to say at this point. I suppose it really shouldn't be so surprising because really all there is to talk about is who is in the cabinet and who is out. Once you've counted up how many Chretien ministers are left (15), how many women there are (11) and how they all divide regionally there is not too much left to work with. The real discussion will start when we see how these ministers and this new government perform, what actions they take, what ideas they have. Everything right now is just so much speculation, which is fine, and fun, for political junkies like me (and you, I suspect) but its mostly meaningless.

Some observations in passing from today:

Hearing the phrase, "Prime Minister Martin" sounded odd and remebering that when MPs and journalists refer to "the Prime Minister" they now mean Mr. Martin is taking some getting used to but I'm adapting.

The pundits seem divided on whether this will be the cabinet for the next few years or whether there will be a big shuffle after the next election. My thinking is that the only reason to make big changes would be if star candidates could be recruited and it seems like Martin tried to get big names from the provinces and the private sector before today and they turned him down. Unless these star individuals have a change of heart in the next four months I think we're looking at our prinicpal cabinet players for at least a couple of years.

Cabinet posts I noticed:

Irwin Cotler (Justice and Attorney General). Former McGill Law professor and internationally renowned human rights lawyer is an excellent addition and a great choice for these portfolios. First on my to-do list is to e-mail him asking for an inquiry into the Arar deportation.

Lucienne Robillard (Industry). One of the surviving Chretien ministers and a woman in the high profile normally male dominated portfolio. I worked on her campaign in Montreal in 2000, she has good connections and relevant experience, intelligent and a good organizer. I think she's a good choice.

David Pratt (National Defence). All I really know about him is that he supported sending Canadian troops to the the war in Iraq. It may be just a symbolic move for the American's but still it worries me about the direction this government will take towards the U.S.

Bill Graham (Foriegn Affairs, again). He lobbied hard to keep his job and he was successful. Some think he's been doing a good job in this portfolio, I disagree. However, this may be more a result of of the way Chretien approached foriegn policy but I'm not so sure becasue under Lloyd Axworthy we at least had a foriegn policy. Hopefully Martin can give Graham some much needed direction.

Finally, once again Paul Wells has the best commentary of the day on the new government. I suppose that's why he's getting paid to blog and I'm here.

Posted by Matthew @ 7:19 PM :: (0) comments

BACK AND HOME

I'm in Newmarket ON (Toronto suburb) for the holiday season. Between the things to do and people to see that I can't normally do or see most of the year blogging will probably be light, however, things are working themselves out and I decided to get back to blogging sooner than I had anticipated.

Posted by Matthew @ 6:45 PM :: (0) comments

Monday, December 01, 2003

ON HIATUS

I'm taking a leave of absence from, well...everything.

I love my blog though, so I'll be back, probably in the new year.

"The aim of life in society is the greatest happiness of everyone, and this happiness is attained only by rendering justice to each person."
- Rt. Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau, The Just Society

Posted by Matthew @ 2:30 AM :: (0) comments