My first hostel experience ever was in Montreal. I remember thinking how cool it was to immediately have friends even though I was traveling alone. I fell in love with the idea of sharing space and feeling at home in a strange city.

There are 19+ hostels in Montreal, it is a true International city, full of so much glorious adventure and beautiful diversity. I know that Montreal is also no stranger to the concept of gentrification. As neighborhoods become trendy rent is raised. Former community spaces are converted into hot spots for young, rich, usually white, professionals.

Vibrant artistic communities, reasonable rent prices, beautiful architecture, easy access to all parts of the city and transportation, being close to nightlife hot spots, and accessibility to waterfront are important aspects of a major city.

When I realized that my city, Buffalo NY, had a hostel, I was estatic. I started volunteering there with Food Not Bombs, using the kitchen, and began to talk to the guests and realize that this is the place I must dedicate my time to.

I started working at the Hostel Buffalo Niagara, our one and only youth hostel, over two years ago now. I am proud to be a cultural ambassador for my city.

I have lived here all of my life, I know the ins and outs, the cool places that are under the radar of normal advertisement. The heart of a city is not based on money or greed, it beats because of love and passion.

Buffalo needs a comeback? How about heart. How about if it isn’t broke don’t fix it?!

I am very inspired by my friends who helped save the Cafe Cleopatra with Save the Main and preserved an important space in the Montreal red light district. If people don’t fight for things they will disappear.

I never thought that this was a place I needed to fight for, it is such a vital asset to our community. How can a city call itself accessible and international if it does not have a hostel?

Helping us stop gentrification is a statement against this global trend! NO MORE! Stop colonizing the poor. We are economically vulnerable as a non profit community driven organization. We do not bring big money into the area, but we do bring something that is monumentally more important than that. We bring culture, we provide a safe place for weary travelers, and we treat this place like home.

The term gentrification was coined by sociologist Ruth Glass:

“One by one, many of the working class quarters of London have been invaded by the middle-classes—upper and lower. Shabby, modest mews and cottages—two rooms up and two down—have been taken over, when their leases have expired, and have become elegant, expensive residences …. Once this process of ‘gentrification’ starts in a district it goes on rapidly until all or most of the original working-class occupiers are displaced and the whole social character of the district is changed.”
-Ruth Glass (1964)

I love my hometown. Buffalo is an incredible city that people have forgotten about. It peaked around the industrial revolution and is only recently seen a resurgence.

We have had a non for-profit youth hostel for the past 20+ years, with over 6,000 travelers from all over the world staying with us. Most are coming to see Niagara Falls or check out the universities and fall in love with Buffalo by accident.

We do not need any more bourgeois restaurants or luxury loft apartments! Buffalo is not freaken luxurious. I do not want the city I love to fall victim to the evils of gentrification.

As of February 1st 2017, 667 Main St, the building housing our beloved hostel, was put up for sale by the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency.

This decision was based mostly on the fact that the back half of the building was left by the city in negligent disrepair. Hostel Buffalo Niagara has continued to maintain and improve the building since the initial city investment of 1.5 million dollars in 1995.

Vibrant murals, Buffalo history, a time capsule of event posters from the past 20 years, welcoming energy, and unbridled passion cover the walls and fill the rooms here.

The Hostel’s lease will end in July 2021. We need stay here forever, not for just four short years! 30 of us walked to city hall in a snow storm to deliver our proposal, I bet no developer did that!

I cannot let this place fall into the hands of big money developers. They see this space as a dollar sign and not as a beautiful and accessible community space!

Help us control our own destiny. We want to continue serving the public and raising the bar for low priced hospitality, accessibility, and sustainability. Buffalo cannot lose our only hostel!

Our goal is to develop the back building for affordable extended stay housing and other cultural opportunities. Some thoughts are possibly a cafe that celebrates ethnic diversity and reaches out to local immigrants to fill the space.

I see infinite possibilities. Do not let gentrification take away our city’s heartbeat, we absolutely do not need more luxury lofts or overpriced restaurants. Protect the people, true culture, and flavor of what makes our city so spectacular.

We are a non-profit landing pad and safe space for travelers and community activists as well as a vital cultural asset to the city of Buffalo and Western NY. We host a wide range of beautiful humanity, people from every country imaginable: backpackers, touring cyclists, veterans, Girl Scouts, international students, refugees, doctors, law students taking the Bar Exam, Finnish folk dancers, Habitat for Humanity volunteers, entire families, circus performers, musicians, artists, and even Vermin Supreme!

All of them have shared meals, adventures, and stories of home and their journey. The best parts happen in the kitchen and common areas, people talking about their travels, connecting, sharing recipes in the kitchen, playing board games or ping pong, going on adventures with the free bike rentals.

Exploring new places with new friends is exhilarating to say the least. Travel enriches lives. Buffalo needs to remain a viable and accessible destination. If the hostel is gone those groups of people will pass this city by.


This is more than just a place to stay, we make real connections with our guests that last a lifetime! People are coming to see Niagara Falls and end up falling in love with Buffalo and all its breathtaking charm.

Hostel employees are cultural ambassadors, we share the secret gems and local favorites, we are all Buffalonians with a passion for our home. We are in a prime location in the heart of the Theatre District. Right out the door there is instant entertainment, libations, awesome architecture. It’s a stone’s throw from the waterfront and Canalside, and easy to find transportation.
We directly collaborate with cultural organizations such as The Buffalo Infringement Festival, Food Not Bombs, GOBike Buffalo, Waste Not Want Not, Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center, The Wash Project, and many more. We host a variety of entertainment, from poetry and bike breakfasts outside to music in the stairwells, ping pong tournaments, dance parties, movie nights, a vegan celebration for Indiginious people, The Box Gallery’s Art openings, and Curtain Up Buffalo are all part of our distinct charm and Queen City realness.

The Hostel is located in the heart of the theatre district and in the middle of a food desert. People ask me “why is Main Street so dead?” It is already beginning to overflow with crap. Beautiful buildings being sold to the highest bidder only to be stripped of all that matters.

I have already seen one of my favorite art galleries and my favorite book shop closed and forced to relocate due to this disturbing trend. We need to protect low income and social housing. Low income people already have instability in travel accommodations and housing, long and short term.

Montreal is grittier than most Canadian cities, and so is Buffalo. There is something special about cities with charm, places that remain true to themselves. Places that respect current residents, uplifting communities and not uprooting them!

You need to change with the people and not force them out due to a change in price. We are proud to be part of our city’s renaissance, however we recognize the dangers that cities face throughout the world as they are revitalized. Urban renewal does not mean lower class extinction.

Once vibrant cities like San Francisco and Portland are becoming shells of their former selves. The communities and culture that made them sparkle are pushed away and discarded by gentrification. True renaissance protects the people, flavor, and culture that makes out city special.

FIGHT GENTRIFICATION WORLDWIDE! STOP THE RISE OF HOUSING COSTS! SUPPORT COMMUNITY AND CULTURE! OTHERS NEED TO STAND UP WITH US, if you have ever stayed in a hostel please share this link. we need to give a shit about this place.

We have started a Go Fund Me to start the uphill battle of saving our home.

Thank you for your support!

Last week’s Montreal snowstorm was quite the disaster. People stranded in cars on Highway 13 for hours, busses just not showing up, sidewalks still not cleared days later. It was a disaster on a political level and an institutional one. Fortunately, it was not a disaster on a human or social level.

That’s not how Andrew Potter and Maclean’s Magazine see it, though. In a much shared (primarily for the purpose of criticism) editorial, the Director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada posited that the real culprits in last week’s snowmageddon were restaurants that gave two different bills, one for cash payments and one for “traceable” payments. Um, what?

I have lived in Montreal my entire life and I have never been offered a different fee depending on what payment method I chose for supper or drinks. Not saying there isn’t any sketch in Monteal’s service industry, just saying that if there is, it’s way smarter and nowhere near as obvious.

Regardless, how does this have any relevance to the issue he is discussing? Oh, yeah, it’s societal decline that led to what happened last Tuesday. People just not caring about their fellow human. No sense of community.

Clearly, Mr. Potter doesn’t have the faintest clue what he’s talking about. But I guess that doesn’t matter to right-leaning Maclean’s readers in the rest of Canada who just had their preconceived notions about Quebec and Montreal justified.

This “editorial” reads like something Potter wrote months ago and saved for an appropriate news item to come along that he could tie it to. Maclean’s must have been all too happy to get yet another article blaming Quebec culture for something.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of blame that should go around because of what happened last Tuesday. Blame our political leaders who let over 300 9-1-1 calls slide until 4am. Coderre and Couillard do have a lot to answer for. Blame their nonsensical attempt to pin what happened on a trucker who allegedly refused to be towed (unless he was stalled across all highway lanes, I fail to see how this is even an excuse).

Potter and Maclean’s let them off the hook. Instead, like the politicians, they pinned it on the community. My community.

Last Tuesday I remember seeing people helping to push cars stuck in the snow, taking people in who couldn’t make it home and stuff like this online:

Image via Facebook

That’s right, people getting out and pushing a bus that was stuck in the snow. That’s Montreal, that’s my community. Sure, we have our problems, but when the shit hits the fan, we pull together.

It’s a real shame that Maclean’s chose to publish the one guy in town who refused to see it that way, either out of ignorance or a desire to grind his favourite ax.  It truly is amateur hour.

After a train exploded in 2013 in the small town of Lac Mégantic, killing 47, many of the mourning families turned to the American justice system in hopes of getting better compensation. Four years later, the three firms representing them have charged them around $40 million in total, despite doing virtually nothing, according to information gathered by Radio-Canada’s Enquête.

40 of the 47 families have contracts with the Garcia Law Group (GLG). According to Radio-Canada, they have paid them between 10 and 15 million so far, with nothing to show for it. The firm is based in Southern Texas and owned by Wilfrido Rogelio Garcia. It was first registered there only a month after the Lac Mégantic accident.

Despite what his clients believe, Garcia is not even a lawyer. In fact the only lawyer on the firm’s payroll seems to be his daughter, Maria Garcia. GLG’s modus operandi is to pressure grieving families to sign contracts, so they can resell their cases to lawyers.

“They said to me that with some plane crashes in Europe, [Garcia] or his people were there in less than 24 hours. They were proud of that,” said Michele Whitmore, who once worked on a contract with GLG, as quoted by Radio-Canada. Garcia found clients in the aftermath of at least four plane crashes, in Peru, Greece, Russia and Indonesia, where the number of casualties ranged from 48 to 129.

GLG was the first law firm to get to Lac Mégantic after the tragedy They approached the families of victims and invited them to meetings to convince them that GLG could seek justice for them through the American system.

Ginette Cameron, who lost her daughter Geneviève in the explosion, remembers Garcia asking her several times if she would like another mother to live through what she lived through. She and her husband signed the same day.

Experts agree that such behaviour is against every deontological code. According to Bill Edwards, a lawyer interviewed by Radio-Canada, it is plainly illegal. Reporters have been unable to speak to anyone from Garcia Law Group.

Enquête’s full report will air tonight at 9pm on Radio-Canada.

* Featured image: Google Street View of the address listed on the Garcia Law Firm PLLC website

On March 7, 2017 Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould announced plans to clean up the Canadian Criminal Code and rid it of “zombie laws”. If you think of zombie laws, you probably think of the rules one would have to follow during a zombie apocalypse. Sadly, zombie laws aren’t related to the undead, but they ARE interesting, and like the zombies in fiction, can be rather annoying.

Zombie laws are laws that are no longer in force but still technically, physically, on the books.

The issue of zombie criminal laws recently came up due to the case of Travis Vader, the man convicted of murdering two elderly people in Alberta. The judge sentenced him for culpable homicide aka second degree murder.

Unfortunately, culpable homicide no longer exists in Canadian criminal law, it’s a zombie concept. If you kill someone, you can only be convicted of murder or manslaughter.

The provision the judge used to convict him – section 230 of the Criminal Code – had been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1990. Vader’s lawyers argued for a mistrial, but fortunately for the safety of everyone, they did not get one. The judge in question instead sentenced Vader to life for two counts manslaughter.

This is not the first time zombie laws have caused problems. Though the law prohibiting anal sex for people under the age of eighteen has been ruled unconstitutional by appeals’ courts, there are claims that sixty-nine people have been charged with the offense between 2014 and 2015.

Stephen Coughlan, Professor at Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University in Halifax came up with a list of zombie criminal laws. These laws include:

  • Spreading false news: This provision of the Criminal Code was struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1992 for violating constitutional protections of freedom of expression.
  • Vagrancy: This was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1994 in R v. Heywood for violating the constitutional rights to life, liberty, and security of the person, and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
  • Procuring a miscarriage aka abortion: Struck down by the Supreme Court in 1988 in R v. Morgentaler

Restrictions also still on the books include those against dueling, fraudulently pretending to practice witchcraft, and crime comic books – yes, crime comics used to be illegal.

The Canadian Criminal Code is over eight hundred forty nine provisions long.

Law enforcement, prosecutors and judges rely on it to determine who to arrest, who to charge, how to convict, and how to sentence a person for a crime. Though people in the legal and law enforcement professions are expected to stay up to date in their field, it’s impossible to keep track of every law and many will still look it up when in doubt.

If a law in a text they rely on to inform them has been declared unconstitutional but was never actually removed from that text, mistakes like the one in the Travis Vader case are inevitable, because the source material they rely on – and should rely on – is full of mistakes.

So why haven’t federal governments worked to remove these laws sooner?

The most likely reason is because governments are busy and removing something from a body of law as vast as the Canadian Criminal Code takes a lot of work they don’t have the time for.

In order to amend the Criminal Code, the government will have to present a bill calling for the changes. That bill will have to outline every single zombie provision and when it was struck down, declared unconstitutional, or why it’s not used anymore. That means that someone or a group of someones will have to go through the Criminal Code and the Canadian judicial system’s vast body of case law to determine which ones are zombie provisions. The extensive work of Professor Stephen Coughlan on the subject will undoubtedly be a useful starting point.

Once the bill is drafted, it will have to go through the same grueling process every other federal law has to go through. That means that it will have to be formally presented to Parliament, debated, debated again, and voted on. If it passes, it will have to go to the Senate for its own round of debate and votes. Either house can kill the bill.

If the law proposing to update the Criminal Code is passed, the next step is arduous process of actually doing it. That means not only removing the zombie provisions but also going over the Code in its entirety to make sure the text is clear and consistent through and through. There’s also the issue of where the current Criminal Code will stand while the updates are in the works.

Though the process is going to be a long and annoying one, removing zombie laws is a necessary job that’s long overdue. The difficulties will come not only in drafting and passing a law to actually do it, but in figuring out an efficient way to do it without leaving dangerous voids in our legal system.

Will the Federal government’s plan work? Only time will tell.

I’ve always loathed how a politician’s style and personal likability and trustworthiness seems more important to pundits and the public than the policies they put forward. After watching the first NDP Leadership Debate in Ottawa today, though, I’m inclined to push substance aside for the moment and focus on style.

I suggest New Democrats concerned with the future of their party do the same. This is the only time in recent memory that it’s actually been safe to do so in the search for a major federal party leader.

Last NDP Leadership contest, it would have been way too risky. There was a charismatic candidate who had floated the idea of cooperating with the Liberals electorally and a frontrunner who was great in the House of Commons but who was only progressive in a few areas and to the right of the Liberals in others.

The four candidates I saw today, though, seemed to be cut from the same orange cloth as Jack Layton. While there were minor differences in approach to some issues, by and large they agreed on pretty much everything. These were four voices from the left who knew that the best way forward for the party was to reconnect with its progressive base. A connection that was lost in a Mulcair-driven failed attempt to form government at all costs.

So when there was a “lightning round” of absolute fluff, stuff like favourite Quebecois movie, food and sport (that they all didn’t just answer hockey was astounding) with a couple of interesting questions mixed in (favourite feminist and last book you read), I thought good call, NDP moderators! I’m sold that they would all make great progressive Prime Ministers, let’s see who has the best chance to get there with some typical non-policy questions politicians get.

Actually, let’s now take a look at who has the best chance of bringing the NDP message forward, now that I’m confident that message will be a progressive one.

The four contenders are Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton, Guy Caron and Peter Julian. Going in, I was leaning Ashton, as I was familiar with her and voted her my #2 pick in the last leadership election. I also was familiar with Angus, but mostly as a musician who made it to Parliament. I was aware that there was an MP named Peter Julian and this is my first time hearing of Guy Caron.

Let’s see how they did:

Unique Style

When it comes to style, it’s important to remember that this is the person who will have to hold their own in debates with the selfie PM/international faux-progressive posterboy and all around great talker Justin Trudeau and whatever iteration of the right (TV businessman or true believer xenophobe) the Conservatives elect. The NDP needs a standout in that mix.

On stage today I saw three different models of NDP leader from the four candidates.

Ashton came across as fiery, like someone on a mission. She was the most passionately progressive person on that stage.

Angus, meanwhile, evoked the working class hero. Relaxed, someone you could have a beer with, but also someone who’s not afraid to call out BS and injustice when he sees it.

Caron and Julien, meanwhile, both seemed to play the part of the likable, principled middle manager/uncle who you respect but that’s about it. Think Tim Kaine but actually on the left.

Second Languages

To be elected Prime Minister (if you’re running with the NDP), you absolutely need to be bilingual. Sure, Quebec MPs don’t make up as much of the caucus as they did before the 2015 Orange Crash, but this province is still a huge factor in any roadmap to victory for the New Democrats. So is winning a decent number of seats throughout English Canada.

Caron fared the best in both official languages. His English was as solid as his French, just with an accent. His confidence and style didn’t change much when he switched languages.

Ashton and Julien were equally bilingual. Neither sacrificed the pacing of their speech in French to search for the right words. Yes, there were a few flubs, but they were barely noticeable given the confidence with which they spoke.

Angus, unfortunately, did mess up the second language test on both counts. He made quite a few errors and substituted English words on more than one occasion. That wouldn’t be so bad if his delivery remained constant. Unfortunately, it didn’t. In English he was relaxed and charming, in French, he sounded like someone reading a text for the first time.

Bringing the Progressive Message Home

All the candidates on the stage in Ottawa espoused progressive values and a return to the true left for the NDP, however, there were a few standout moments where they really drove that message home.

Ashton did this not once but twice. First, she spoke of the base that had “distanced” themselves from the party and then mentioned that the NDP lost the 2015 election because they had strayed too far to the perceived political centre that Trudeau’s Liberals were able to outflank them on the left.

Julien impressed when he acknowledged that in some cases it was impossible to reconcile the employment needs of Canadians with avoiding the potential environmental catastrophes that the Kinder-Morgan and Energy East pipelines might bring. He was the only one to answer that question in such a bold way.

Both Angus and Ashton opened the debate by acknowledging that it was taking place on unceded Algonquin territory (Ottawa). Julien also thanked Ashton for her acknowledgement, echoing the statement on stage and on Twitter.

So if, for the moment, we are safe with policy, let’s look at who’s best to deliver it.

You can watch the whole debate on ndp.ca

Featured image: CBC screengrab

An earlier version of this post said only two candidates mentioned that the debate was taking place on unceded indigenous territory

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois officially confirmed he intends to run both as Québec Solidaire’s candidate in the Gouin by-election and to become the party’s spokesperson.

“Because I am a leftist, because I am a sovereignist and because it’s time, really time, to put an end to the political impasse in Quebec, I am joining Quebec Solidaire,” he announced during his long-awaited and entirely expected press conference on Thursday morning.

He used the opportunity to call for both a fusion with Option Nationale and for the ousting of Quebec’s ruling political class as a whole.

The political class has betrayed Quebec

“I am joining a political party because I believe the political class that has ruled us, in Quebec, for 30 years must be removed from power” was the first thing out of his mouth. The new candidate did not mince his words regarding the Liberal Party of Quebec and the Parti Québécois.

“This political class has betrayed Quebec. It always puts its friends – the big corporations, the engineering firms, the doctors’ lobby – before the people of Quebec,” he accused. “Whether in power or not, whether red or blue, it always makes the same choices.”

Although he stated that he believes Quebec Solidaire could collaborate with the PQ, he made it clear that a merger between the two parties was not on the table. He made subtle jabs at Jean-François Lisée’s focus on identity politics and the party’s position on the secularism debate.

Courting parties and militants

“Québec Solidaire can and must become a leading political force,” claimed Nadeau-Dubois. He believes that Quebec Solidaire can rally the people who are interested in a sovereign, progressive Quebec, but not in identity politics.

According to him, the first step on that path is to negotiate a fusion with Option Nationale, which he called the “only party that shared our vision for a society that is progressive, independent and inclusive.”

The new leader of ON, Sol Zanetti, welcomed this overture in a prudently worded press release immediately after. It said that ON was open to the possibility of negotiating and that it could represent an “important, exciting and mobilising step for Quebec.” However, it also stated that any fusion of ON with another political party must be voted on by its members at a national congress.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois also wants to put more efforts into recruiting interesting candidates for QS. He admitted that he would love for some of his colleagues on the recent Quebec tour Faut qu’on se parle (We need to talk) to join the ranks.
Furthermore, he called on every QS supporter to get directly involved in the party.

“I am calling on everyone from my generation, in fact on everyone who still believes, to join, like me, the ranks of Québec Solidaire,” he urged, “It is still possible to do big things. I believe in it, but we will have to do it together. Come work with us to change Quebec.”

* Photos by Mirna Djukic

On Monday the Orange Administration released a new Executive Order. We all knew it was coming, for no sooner had courts struck down the original Muslim ban when the White House promised a new and improved version. It was supposed to be signed and released last week, but then something strange happened.

In his first joint-address to Congress, the Lint-Covered-Cheeto President surprised everyone by acting like a gentleman. There was no blustering, there was just a man-child giving a speech. Reporters hailed his behavior as being truly “presidential” and the White House opted not to ruin the wave of good faith by releasing the new ban immediately afterward.

No matter what the new travel ban says, it will never outshine the atrocities committed in the first ban’s name. It will never outshine the baby who was denied entry for life-saving surgery (a lawmaker intervened on the child’s behalf when the story leaked so she was saved in the end), or the child separated from his mother for hours, or the old lady who was denied a wheelchair under the enforcement of the first Executive Order. It will never undo the widespread outrage from ordinary citizens and the legal community.

Now it’s time to look at the new Executive Order.

This order replaces the previous one and provides something the first order was sorely lacking: clarifications.

The first Executive Order was so vague no one seemed to know how to enforce it. As a result, people in positions to abuse it did and people with valid documents to enter the US from permanent residents to workers to famous authors and ex diplomats with legit visas were denied or delayed.

The new Executive Order provides a list of people deemed exceptions to its travel restrictions. Among the exceptions are lawful permanent residents, foreign nationals with valid visas or other documents allowing them to legally enter the US, people with dual citizenship, and those on diplomatic visas. Also exempt are foreign business people and workers, foreign nationals granted asylum or refugee status, children needing urgent medical care, and people legally admitted to the US to stay with family.

The new Order also does something the other did not: it condemned Islamophobia.

Unfortunately, the new Order does it in the most petulant way possible by defending the previous Executive Order with a none-too-subtle “we didn’t mean it that way!” response to the displays of Islamaphobia that had ensued.

Section 1 of the new order says:

Executive Order 13769 did not provide a basis for discriminating for or against members of any particular religion. While that order allowed for prioritization of refugee claims from members of persecuted religious minority groups, that priority applied to refugees from every nation, including those in which Islam is a minority religion, and it applied to minority sects within a religion. That order was not motivated by animus toward any religion, but was instead intended to protect the ability of religious minorities — whoever they are and wherever they reside — to avail themselves of the USRAP in light of their particular challenges and circumstances.

This petulant tone is consistent throughout the beginning of the new Executive Order as section 1 is full of justifications and excuses for the first ban.

On the bright side, it also includes a subtle acknowledgment that the White House would never succeed in the courts had they continued to try and enforce the first Executive Order. The provision that replaces the first order with the current one says that it is “in order to avoid spending additional time pursuing litigation”.

People generally back out of legal disputes to due amicable resolutions, lack of funds, or the fact that they know they can’t win. The former two do not apply here.

Then there’s the list of countries banned.

One would hope that a new improved travel ban would include limitations on some of the countries that actually produce terrorists. Those states widely acknowledged as such include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Lebanon, Turkey, and Kuwait. Sadly, none of these countries are on the list of limited countries as the new Order maintains limitations on Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia from the previous version.

However, this new Order tries to back up this list with facts cherry-picked in part from the Department of State’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2015 (June 2016). The Order does not state where the rest of its justifications come from.

It maintains the discretion of the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to make exceptions to the ban and like the previous Order, gives them extra responsibilities. The Order requires them with the Director of National Intelligence to review and identify countries from which more information is needed about their people before they are admitted to the US. Once they make the list, they have to ask the countries for information and if they don’t get it in a certain amount of time, the country’s people won’t be admitted to the US.

The new Executive Order was an opportunity for the White House to redeem itself. They could have limited nationals from countries that actually produce a lot of terrorists. They didn’t. They could have used actual facts to back their rules and claims, but they didn’t.

The White House did however do one very important thing which to specify who the ban does not apply to, leaving less room for racists and xenophobes with rubber gloves and metal detectors to arbitrarily bar or detain people they don’t like. In that sense, this new order is new and improved.

Back in 1960s America there were three major news networks NBC, CBS and ABC, though as one talking head says in reference to ABC, “There are three networks but if there were four, they’d be fourth.” At the time, networks still provided gavel-to-gavel coverage of political party conventions, but ABC, lacking the resources the other two major networks had, was only able show a few hours of political party conventions in the evening.

To save their struggling network, they would have to do something drastic, something that had never been done before. And that is exactly what they did during the 1968 conventions, hiring the flamboyant left-wing author Gore Vidal and ultra-conservative editor of the right-wing magazine, National Review, William F. Buckley to debate in a ten-night after convention special.

This event is said to be the first real attempt at political punditry and this documentary is a behind the scenes look at it. Set across actual archival footage of the debates, the film is both a character exploration of Buckley and Vidal themselves as well as a fascinating examination of how punditry became the way it is today.

Buckley once asked if there was anyone he would consider not debating and responded: “A communist or Gore Vidal.” In a brilliant and conniving move, ABC asked the two to come on and they agreed. The reason was quite simple: because they actually wanted to destroy each other as Christoper Hitchens notes in the film:  “There was nothing feigned about the mutual antipathy, they really did despise each other.”

It became clear early on in the debates that it was not about the convention but about how both men saw the state of America at the time and how their political philosophy fit (or didn’t) into the landscape of political rhetoric – and both these men disagreed vehemently with the other. This point reaches its apex when Buckley, upon being called a “crypto-nazi” by Vidal, responds with the threat of physical violence on live television.

That instance of a violent threat would haunt Buckley for the rest of his life, eternally being dumbfounded as to why he reacted the way he did. In Vidal’s mind, after that moment he had won.

The point that directors Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville are trying to make in Best of Enemies is quite clear and is well-taken and a valid one: there has been a degeneration in political coverage, having morphed into vapid shouting matches. Watching CNN, one would be hard-pressed to disagree with this point, but there is indeed something lacking in their argument.

The real focus of the film clearly is to look at how we argue about politics not about the content of those arguments. As Ben Burgis from Counterpunch says in his article about the film: “you can’t separate the two without being misleading.” Yes, Buckley was intemperate but the content of his arguments was toxic.

In the film, Vidal wants to paint Buckley as racist but we are not sure why. We know Buckley may have said troubling things about the civil rights movement, but that is about it. What we do not know is the examples of white supremacist policies he wrote about in the National Review. The film lacks a lot of context in that regard in more ways than one.

The film almost falls short of wanting to go back to a period where the centrist, status quo media ruled the airwaves (it, of course, still kind of does, but not to the extent it did in the 60s). The film decries ABC’s move as a move towards the destruction of television discourse, but I would argue that it might have served to expand debate. It also, of course, has its negatives as we all know.

In sum, the critique falls somewhat short as we are left with little context for both men’s political ideologies, but that is of course not the point of the film. Despite this, it is an entertaining film and an interesting look at the relationship of both men who absolutely despised each other as well as an interesting story of television history that deserves to be watched.

Feature image courtesy of ABC 

 

Anti-Muslim hatred and domestic right-wing terrorism has hit close to home for many Montrealers late this morning/early this afternoon. Concordia University has evacuated two buildings on its downtown SGW Campus, the EV Building and the Hall Building, after receiving a bomb threat targeting Muslim students:

A group calling itself the Council of Conservative Citizens of Canada sent the threat in letter form to news outlets including the Montreal Gazette, claiming that “now that President Trump is in office south of the border, things have changed.”

Concordia is currently hosting Islamic Awareness Week until Thursday. The letter threatens bomb detonations every day until Friday unless Concordia bans what the bigots call Muslim activities (including prayer spaces in the Hall Building).

For now, these buildings are being evacuated. Classes may resume at 6pm if no explosives are found.

* Featured image from Periscope Live video via Global News

In movie treason trials, a person facing a cruel, usually male, judge and screaming prosecutors is accused of betraying their country while they plead innocence and national loyalty. Sometimes the trial will end in a hanging, other times it will end by firing squad, and still others end with electrocution. Rarely is the accused set free.

In real life, treason cases are a lot more complex.

Despite the enhanced vigilance of Canadian and American law enforcement in the face of terrorism, people are rarely prosecuted for treason.

Since Canadian and American criminal laws have their roots in the British legal tradition, it’s time to look at how we and our southern neighbors define the crime and how it should be prosecuted.

In Canada, treason is defined in our Criminal Code.

There are two types of treason: regular, called simply treason and high treason.

High treason is defined as committing one or all of the following acts if you are a Canadian citizen:

  • Killing or attempting to kill the Queen (Canada’s de jure head of State) or causing bodily harm leading to her “death or destruction”
  • Maiming, wounding, imprisoning, or restraining the Queen
  • Making or Preparing for War Against Canada
  • Assisting an enemy at war with Canada or assisting any armed forces Canadian forces are fighting regardless of whether those armed forces are at war with Canada

Treason is defined by one or all of the following acts:

  • Using force or violence to overthrow the Canadian government or the government of a province
  • Communicating “without lawful authority” scientific or military information or sketches, plans, or documents of a scientific or military character that you knew or ought to have known could be used by an agent of another state against Canada
  • Conspiring to commit the above and manifesting an intention to go through with it via an overt act
  • Conspiring to commit high treason and manifesting an intention to commit it by an overt act. Conspiring with a person to commit treason is considered an overt act.

The law not only defines the crime itself and the penalties, but also who can be convicted of either kind treason and under what circumstances.

According to the Criminal Code, the rules on treason apply to Canadian citizens.

A crime of high treason can be committed while in or outside of Canada, as can acts of regular treason.

A conviction for high treason carries the penalty of life in prison.

The penalty for regular treason is a bit more complex.

If you’re convicted of using force or violence against Canadian government or province with the intent to overthrow it, it’s life in prison. The penalty is the same for communicating military or scientific information, documents etc. knowing or having ought to know that they could be used by another country or even conspiring to do so and manifesting intention to carry it out by an overt act while Canada is at war with that country. If you communicate or conspire to communicate this stuff when Canada is not at war, the penalty becomes a maximum of fourteen years in jail.

The penalties for treason are heavy in Canada as in most countries, so the rules of evidence and procedure are extremely strict in these cases.

Proceedings against people accused of violent attempts to overthrow the government have to take place three years or less after the alleged crime was committed. For overt acts of treason, the words of information expressing the overt act have to be laid under oath before a justice within six days of the alleged overt act, and a warrant for the person’s arrest has to be issued within ten days of that.

There can be no conviction for treason on the evidence of only one witness unless that witness’ testimony is corroborated my material evidence.

Only two people in Canadian history have been tried and convicted of treason.

The first is the Métis leader Louis Riel, who was hanged in eighteen eighty five.

The lesser known, Kanao Inouye aka the Kamloops Kid, was responsible for interrogating and torturing Canadian Prisoners of War in Japanese occupied Hong Kong during the Second World War. He was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death by a British war crimes court, but his lawyer successfully appealed on the grounds that Inouye was a Canadian citizen and therefore could not be considered a war criminal. Inouye was instead tried for treason and hanged by the British Hong Kong Supreme Court in 1947.

In the United States, the laws regarding treason are similar. As the nation was born in defiance of the British Monarchy which had been known to charge people of the crime willy nilly, the crime of treason is clearly and strictly defined in the US Constitution.

Article III, section 3 of the constitution defines treason as:

“…levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

As in Canada, the rules for a conviction on the charge of treason in the US are strict. American law requires the testimony of two witnesses to the crime or a confession in open court to convict someone of treason.

As in Canada, convictions for treason are rare. Most civil war veterans, for example, were granted amnesty by the US government instead of facing treason charges. In some cases, such as that of Iva Toguri D’Aquino, the trials and investigations were corrupt and ultimately resulted in presidential pardons and apologies.

The penalty for treason in the US can be imprisonment or death.

With the implications of treason so heavy, it’s no wonder people are rarely charged with the crime. However, with the revelations of the Orange Administration’s willful conspiring with the Russian government to corrupt their elections and push an agenda hurting the American people, the only question left is whether law enforcement in the south will grow a pair and prosecute those clearly guilty of the crime.

Dammit. The following sentence is one I never wanted to type and never thought I would, either:

Kudos to CNN, The New York Times and the rest of the corporate mainstream media for fighting the good fight and speaking truth to power in the US.

Ugh. I know. But credit where credit is due.

Since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States and especially since he took offfice, they have been calling him and his administration out on absolute falsehoods, some so glaring it’s astounding they were put forward in the first place. They have also been critical of the more extreme points of his policies.

In short, they are doing their jobs, finally. And the Trump administration has been fighting back, calling them fake news and of course, who could forget:

Then yesterday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer cancelled his regular press briefing in favour of an off-camera “press gaggle” with select media outlets. ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX were there and so was Breitbart, the far-right online bastion of bigoted news presentation that used to employ Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon. Not invited: CNN, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the New York Daily News, the Hill, Politico and Buzzfeed.

That’s right, the White House invited Breitbart over CNN and the New York Times. To put this in perspective, imagine if the White House invited Breitbart over CNN and The New York Times. No real need for allegory with this administration.

There is leaked audio from inside the gaggle of Spicer trying to defend his decision:

To their credit, the Associated Press and Time were invited to this exclusive event but declined in solidarity with their colleagues. That’s right, I just used the word solidarity to describe the actions of a division of a multinational corporation. That’s just how things are now.

Clinton News Network

It wasn’t always that way. In fact, during the Primaries a few short months ago, the mainstream press, the very same outlets that I am now defending, were pulling out all the stops to defend the status quo.

Calling CNN the Clinton News Network wasn’t a Trump supporter thing, it was a Bernie supporter go-to. I remember being livid with the network for breaking away from Bernie Sanders speaking live to a shot of Trump’s empty podium before he took the stage.

Obviously, it wasn’t a move designed to help Trump, it was clearly a way to silence Sanders and make everyone think the Trump-Clinton matchup was a done deal. You see, the Democratic Party establishment thought Trump was the ideal foil, someone who couldn’t possibly win, and as such, they wanted to elevate him…and CNN helped do just that.

The New York Times also ran countless articles discrediting Sanders and his campaign. It’s clear they saw him as more of a threat than the orange buffoon reality star B-list celeb who was running for the GOP.

But it goes further back than that. For years, the mainstream press had a very cozy relationship with the powers that be, regardless of who the President was. Barack Obama, George W. Bush and even Bill Clinton enjoyed a far less critical glare than they should have.

Yes, the corporate media did question and call the leaders out on some things, especially scandals, but they were far too trusting of the official narrative most of the time. Otherwise, the whole story about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction may have not led to a war, or at least not a media-championed war.

What it took for the mainstream media to do their jobs

It’s quite possible that the Trump Administration thought that they would have an easy ride coming in. What they failed to realize is that the reason the establishment press was so cozy with previous establishments is that those administrations knew how to play the game.

Did that game involve deception? Of course it did. But clever deception. Wording things in a way that could technically be defended as factual. Rarely an outright lie and then never one that is blatant and easy to de-bunk.

The unwritten rule? Don’t insult the press or the public’s intelligence with your BS. A rule that the Trump Administration clearly never heard or considered following for a moment.

So that’s what it took for corporate press to finally start doing their jobs. A narcissistic carnival barker with the temperament of a spoiled child trying to shove outright lies down their throats and punishing them when they don’t present his ridiculous claims as absolute truth.

Well, at least there was a bridge too far for them. Now we know what it is.

Not a good day for independent media, either

As someone who has always championed independent or alternative media sources (including this one) as well as media with a declared, or at least obvious, bias (like this one), what happened yesterday in Washington was in no way a victory for the non-corporate press. In fact, it signaled a rather unwelcome transformation of the very concept of independent media.

With biased sources like One America and the Washington Times as well as biased and independent sources like Breitbart included in the press gaggle, independent media has become a mouthpiece of and propaganda tool for the government. It would be different if the White House had also granted press credentials and given special treatment to, say, The Young Turks and Democracy Now, but that’s not the case.

No, it’s the mainstream sources who haven’t investigated the President that hard and indie outlets that are so far right that in this White House they are considered mainstream which make the cut. It’s not about independent versus mainstream, it’s about kissing Presidential ass or not.

It is important for independent media to stand with their corporate colleagues on this one issue. Then we can all go back to criticizing them for lack of coverage on extremely important issues like Standing Rock.

For the corporate press, here’s hoping you don’t go back to the old ways and have finally learned that:

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”
– George Orwell

The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) will investigate allegations that the Montreal Police (SPVM) Internal Affairs division falsified evidence and reports in an effort to discredit officers who tried to blow the whistle on their corrupt peers. Neither the opposition parties nor the Montreal Police Brotherhood are satisfied with this solution.

Earlier this week, three ex-policemen came forward on TVA’s investigative journalism show J.E, accusing the SPVM of fabricating evidence against them after they tried to denounce malpractice and corruption within the service. The reporters uncovered evidence that the internal affairs investigations on ex-officers Roger Larivière, Giovanni Di Feo and Jimmy Cacchione were launched under false pretenses and based on fabricated evidence.

It is not the first scandal sparked by the SPVM’s endeavour to keep its dirty laundry from being aired in public. Only a few months ago we learned that they had no qualms about spying on journalists to uncover their confidential sources.

J.E’s findings were convincing enough that SPVM Director Paul Pichet claims he pressed the SQ to investigate them immediately after the show aired on Tuesday night. The SQ confirmed on Wednesday that a special team will be mandated to review the three cases, including past investigations and new elements.

Suspicious timing and non-existent godsons

In June 2013, Giovanni Di Feo and Jimmy Cacchione informed their superiors that they intended to write a letter to the Ministry and the media to denounce corruption and dishonest practices within the SPVM. Their long careers were brought to an abrupt end shortly after that, when an internal affair investigation turned up various charges against them, from complaints about their disrespect to superiors to suspicious connections with organized crime.

Both were two highly ranked officers of Italian origin who had served as double agents in the mafia and the Hells Angels. “For 28 years, we’ve been highly regarded for the quality of our sources, but then they became «suspicious connections»” says Cacchione.

In 2012, Di Feo and Cacchione had started pressing SPVM administration to address cases of “recurrent corruption that have lasted for several years.” Unbeknown to them, they were put under investigation instead.

The RCMP recorded multiple phone conversations that suggested suspicious friendliness between Di Feo and Luigi Coretti, a businessman accused of criminal fraud (charges were dropped due to exaggerated delays in procedures). Di Feo reportedly offered to pick up Coretti’s son from school several times. The SPVM even suggested that Di Feo might be the godfather of the child.

Coretti doesn’t even have children.

Di Feo and Cacchione’s case seems to be one of many. Ex SPVM inspector Roger Larivière told Radio-Canada on Wednesday: “the division of special investigations in SPVM are doing phony investigations. That is to say investigations that are directed by the headquarters, in order to target some individuals, like I’ve been targeted.”

In October 2014, Larivière tried to blow the whistle on internal affairs’ questionable practices. He wrote a letter to the SPVM then director Marc Parent and met with journalist Stéphane Berthomet. He was promptly investigated for leaking confidential information to the press. He was put under surveillance and his residence was searched – illegally, perhaps, as the Chief Inspector of Internal Affairs, Costa Labos was suspected of, although not charged with, lying to the judge in order to get the search warrant.

On Wednesday, a fourth ex-officer from Montreal brought a similar story to the Journal de Montréal. Ex-inspector Pietro Poletti claims that internal affairs destroyed his career with a falsified report.

SQ investigation raises controversy

SPVM Director Paul Pichet mandated the SQ to investigate. Premier Philippe Couillard and Minister of Security Martin Coîteux are both satisfied with this outcome, but the three opposition parties are rejecting the police-investigating-police route. They are unanimously calling for the Bureau des Enquêtes Indépendantes to handle the investigation.

In an interview with Radio-Canada, Pichet said that the situation was more aligned with the SQ’s mandate than with the BEI’s. “Honestly I think [the SQ] is well equipped and they have experienced investigators to do the job,” he claimed. He added that if, for whatever reason, the investigation was to be handled by the BEI or any other such institution, he would readily cooperate and do what he could “to shed some light on this.” Pichet insisted that it was important to preserve the trust of the people and of the 4600 SPVM officers in the Internal Affairs division.

For the Fraternité des Policiers et Policières de Montréal (the union representing SPVM officers), the director still has a very long way to go before they can talk about trust.  The reopening of three cases by the SQ will not suffice to correct the course, the union warned in a press release. They are calling for the immediate resignation of the Chief Inspector of Internal Affairs and for the Ministry of Security’s direct intervention to correct the practices of the division.

* Featured image by Cem Ertekin

Moms Demand Action New York State Chapter Leader Jaime Levy Pessin is a modern and efficacious woman living in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two children. As I enter her home for the interview I witness a person who makes multi-tasking seem as natural as waking up each morning.

As interview starts, some Moms Demand Action business is taken care of, a call answered, her daughter Cora and son Noah’s activities are settled and their dinner is prepared. This all happens over the course of maybe two minutes and Jaime is calm and polite as we get down to some questions.

S- For readers new to Moms Demand Action give us a brief history of the organization.

J- Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was founded the day after the horrific Sandy Hook shooting, which left six educators and 20 six and seven year-olds dead in their elementary school. A mom in Indiana, Shannon Watts, started a Facebook page with the idea that we needed to have a Mothers Against Drunk Driving for the gun violence prevention movement. And her page spread like wildfire.

New York City was one of the first chapters to form. Weeks later we held our first annual march across the Brooklyn Bridge. More than 1,000 people showed up in below-freezing temperatures to march with us.

Since then, we’ve grown to 3 million members in all 50 states. We’ve joined forces with Mayors Against Illegal Guns under the umbrella of Everytown for Gun Safety. We are a nonpartisan, grassroots group committed to passing reasonable, evidence-based laws that are proven to reduce gun violence.

Do you know Shannon Watts and in what ways is she still involved in Moms Demand Action today?

I first met Shannon at our first Brooklyn bridge march. She has since turned into a great figurehead of the movement. She is a volunteer and founder.

Shannon travels the country and meets the other volunteers. She does speaking engagements, does press and fundraisers. As she is traveling she makes a point of stopping by and seeing what all the other volunteers are doing. She has really gotten to know all the people across the country who are working as part of this thing that she created.

I think she is still a little bit baffled that she started this movement but Shannon is always very adamant in pointing out how much every person has played a part in it. She doesn’t view Moms as her creation, she sees it as if she did this one small action and then everyone else kinda filled it in throughout the country.

This is what is so cool about volunteering with Moms. There is a sense that every single person has something to contribute. Whether you have ten minutes or ten hours there is a place for you. She wants to make sure that message comes through.

Can you tell us what led you to your role as a leader in Moms Demand Action -New York?

In the days after the Sandy Hook shooting, I was devastated. I didn’t personally know anyone affected, but a six-year-old boy named Noah was killed. My son is named Noah and was four at the time. I was paralyzed by fear and grief. During that time, Shannon’s Facebook page somehow popped into my newsfeed, and I had a realization: If I am not part of the solution, then I’m part of the problem. And that’s when I started volunteering.

In the early days, we really were a motley crew of volunteers – “accidental activists” is what we called ourselves, because none of us had ever done anything like this before. My career had been as a journalist for traditional media, so I was never allowed to publicly express a political opinion – forget about planning a rally or meeting with elected officials!

I’ve been involved in the organization in a bunch of different roles since we got started. I currently run the New York state chapter, which is massive compared to how we began!

But another project that I helped start, which I think is truly special, is our Mother’s Dream Quilt Project. It’s a series of quilts that incorporates fabric from victims and survivors of gun violence. We hold quilting bees around the country that bring together victims, survivors and everyday Americans who believe we can do a better job of preventing gun violence.

With all the concerns about civil rights coming up around the Trump administration, why do you think gun violence is so important?

After the election, I did a lot of soul-searching around this question. In a way, this seems like such a small piece of the puzzle.

“I’m going to fight like hell to push back the kind of stand your ground laws that allowed Trayvon Martin’s killer to suffer no consequences.”

But then I realized: I’m worried about voter suppression; the idea of people with guns showing up at the polls to intimidate other citizens is chilling. I’m worried about immigration; what does it mean to have vigilantes with guns patrolling the border?

I’m worried about hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, and I’m worried about violence against women; we know that the presence of a gun in these situations makes them vastly more dangerous. And I’m worried about the unfair treatment of African-Americans in this country, so I’m going to fight like hell to push back the kind of stand your ground laws that allowed Trayvon Martin’s killer to suffer no consequences.

Can you tell us both about your personal experience and Moms Demand Action’s presence at the Women’s March in DC on January 21st?

I thought the Women’s March was so inspiring. I met a few fellow volunteers at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn at 4 a.m., and there was bus after bus after bus loading up for DC.

Moms Demand Action had nearly 1,000 members come in from around the country to join the march. Being in a crowd with so many passionate citizens gave me hope that this administration will not break our spirit.

I think the key takeaway, though, was that it’s not enough to march. It feels really good, and it’s important, but we have to take it home to our communities and get involved in our local politics.

We need more women running for office, whether for school board or Congress. We can’t just pay attention when it’s time to elect a president – we need to start developing a bench. So I hope – and I think that it’s happening – that the march has compelled people to start working seriously in our own neighborhoods.

What are some of the highlights of Moms Demand Action-New York’s current six month plan?

The new administration is in the pocket of the gun lobby; the NRA contributed more than $30 million to Donald Trump’s campaign – they were his single largest donor. So we are going to be working very hard to push back against the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda of guns everywhere for everyone.

“What’s crazy is that more than 90 percent of Americans – and that includes 87 percent of Republicans and 84 percent of gun owners – agree that we should have background checks on all gun sales.”

One of the major pieces of legislation we expect to be fighting is something called “concealed carry reciprocity.” The gun lobby would like for permits to carry concealed weapons to be treated like driver’s licenses, where one state’s permit would be recognized across all state lines.

Here’s the problem: The standards for getting a concealed carry permit vary wildly from state to state. In New York, you have to undergo a background check, submit character references and show a proven need to carry a concealed weapon in order to get that permit. In Arizona, there are no permitting requirements at all. New Hampshire also just rolled back their already weak permitting program.

With reciprocity, a New Yorker who couldn’t pass the rigorous standards here could travel to another state, get a concealed carry permit and legally carry a hidden weapon in Times Square or on the subway.

As a New Yorker, this is a direct threat to my safety. The idea that “guns everywhere” make people safer is patently untrue. New York State has one of the lowest rates of gun violence in the country. We also have one of the lowest rates of gun ownership, and some of the strongest gun laws. There is a direct correlation: stronger gun laws keep us safe from gun violence. Concealed carry reciprocity would make our state a much more dangerous place to live.

Another priority for the New York chapter is going to be relationship-building with our elected officials at the statehouse. We’re planning our first-ever Lobby Day this spring, and we’re going to be meeting in-district with our representatives as well.

We believe that, much like the same-sex marriage movement, the gun violence prevention movement will win at the state level. We want to continue to develop relationships with our state representatives to make sure that they will keep New York at the forefront of sound gun policy.

Our overarching goal is to ensure background checks on all gun sales in the United States. Many people don’t realize that the law as it stands leaves gaping loopholes in the system, making it very easy for a felon or a domestic abuser to purchase a gun without a background check. And background checks are proven to work: suicides, cop killings and domestic violence-related deaths all go down in states that ensure background checks on all gun sales.

What’s crazy is that more than 90 percent of Americans – and that includes 87 percent of Republicans and 84 percent of gun owners – agree that we should have background checks on all gun sales. When you take the question of gun violence directly to the citizens, they will vote in favor of common-sense gun reform.

In 2016, despite the dismal election results nationally, we actually won three out of four ballot initiatives by asking residents of California, Nevada and Washington State to pass stronger gun laws. It was one of the few bright spots in the progressive agenda last year.

We have quickly become the strongest counterweight the gun lobby has ever seen. That’s why we’re committed to getting this message to our elected officials: The other side is scared of losing their guns. We’re scared of losing our children. Who do you think is going to win in the end?

What are some things the modern, busy adult can do to stand against gun violence?

What is great about Moms Demand Action is that we offer so many different entry points for people to get involved. You can spend five minutes a week signing petitions and calling your senators, or you can get more deeply involved and meet with your elected officials or plan events. We need all levels of commitment.

The first thing you should do is text JOIN to 644-33, or visit our website to officially sign up as a member. Soon you’ll hear from someone in your local chapter about ways to get involved. Like the national organization on Facebook (or the New York chapter) and follow us on Twitter (@momsdemand) to get national calls to action.

For students, recent grads and parents: Did you know the gun lobby is pushing to allow guns on college campuses and K-12 schools? We defeated 16 guns on campus bills throughout the country in 2016. But the gun lobby is going to keep trying, and we’re preparing to fight. Ask any educators you know to join our Educators for Gun Sense campaign by sharing the link.

For people who want to spend an hour or so a week volunteering for a good cause, consider joining the Gun Sense Action Network. We do a lot of phone banking to voters in states that are playing defense against horrible bills.

This makes a huge impact. Last year, for example, the Georgia statehouse passed a sweeping guns-in-schools bill. We were able to drive at least 30,000 calls to the governor’s office, and eventually he vetoed the bill – even though he’s typically an ally of the gun lobby. People who join our Gun Sense Action Network can make calls from home, on their own time!

(ED’s Note: While most joining options are for Americans living in the US, making calls is, of course, open to Americans living abroad and Canadians as well)

How many people in America die from a gun each day?

Moms treat gun violence like a public health epidemic, which it is. What disease kills 93 Americans a day? That’s too many people so we should treat it as such. Unfortunately, Congress has barred the CBC from actually studying gun violence. The US government doesn’t actually study this even though it is a public health problem.

One thing that many people don’t realize is how prevalent gun violence is in our country. About 30,000 people a year are killed by gun violence in the U.S. – 93 a day. Twice that number are injured every day. But I think it’s the ripple effect that really makes the point.

A study came out recently that said the probability of knowing a gun violence victim is 99.85 percent. Think of that: Nearly every single American will know a victim of gun violence in their lifetimes! That’s insane.

I’ve seen it play out personally. When I started volunteering for Moms Demand Action, I didn’t know anyone (as far as I knew) who had been a victim of gun violence. But since December 2012, I have had one friend on lockdown with her daughter at the Kansas City JCC while a shooter killed two people in the parking lot. My sister’s childhood friend was shot and killed in his car in Miami. One of my husband’s relatives lost her granddaughter when the granddaughter’s husband shot her in front of their two kids in California. A close friend of mine was at the Fort Lauderdale airport baggage claim with her three kids when a gunman opened fire.

It just gets closer and closer. That’s what keeps me up at night, and that’s what motivates me to keep going.

 

Of all of the Orange Racist Misogynist’s cabinet picks, Betsy DeVos is among the most controversial. Nominated as US Secretary of Education, she was incapable of answering basic questions about education during her confirmation hearings and could not even denounce guns in schools because of the alleged threat of bears.

DeVos was confirmed only because Vice President and Religious Fundamentalist Mike Pence was the deciding vote. She is so unpopular that many parents have protested outside schools she’s visited.

It’s time we talk about the government’s role in education, so today we’ll compare Canada to the US.

In Canada education falls strictly to the provinces.

In Quebec, education is the domain of the Ministère de l’Éducation et Enseignment supérieur.

Originally run by a single minister, the department was split in 2016 and the responsibility of running it is now shared between the Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports and the Minister Responsible for Higher Education.

The main goals of the Ministère include promoting research and education and contributing to the scientific, cultural and professional education of the people of Quebec. Its main law is the Loi sur le Ministère de L’Éducation, du Loisir, et du Sport, which in its preamble recognizes that all children have the right to an education and that parents have the right to choose where their kids go to school.

The law also includes the recognition that groups have the right to establish their own independent educational establishments and if said establishments serve the common good, they are entitled to governmental support. This recognition has come under fire in recent years as many religious schools have failed to provide basic education to their students in favour of religious teaching useless outside of their communities. In 2014 a former Hasidic Jew attempted to sue the province because he was taught only Torah (the main text in Judaism) at a school in Boisbriand, claiming the government failed to get him the basic education guaranteed by law.

Despite its guarantees, the Ministère’s own laws undermine its goals for it is also charged with the enforcement of the education provisions of the Charte de la Langue Française, Quebec’ main language law. Though the government is supposed to recognize the right of parents to choose where their kids go to school, the Charte imposes strict rules on whether or not a child can get an English education in the province. The Ministry also dictates course material in primary and secondary schools, and advises the government on Education policy.

Then there’s the Ministers themselves.

Quebec’s Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports is Sébastien Proulx, is an experienced politician and lawyer. Notable highlights from his time in office include investing government funds to refurbish arenas and curling clubs and his refusal to push for more extensive changes in a high school history curriculum developed by the former PQ government. The course has been widely criticized for leaving out the contributions of the Anglophone and Allophone Quebecois.

The Minister Responsible for Higher Education is Hélène David, former Culture Minister and University Professor. In light of recent sexual assaults at the University of Laval in Quebec City, she has pledged to fight rape on campus and sponsor initiatives to teach consent.

It should be noted, however, that while she seems to be doing well, her reputation is hardly pristine. As former Minister of Culture she was pushing the signage debate in 2016 when no one wanted to hear it.

As in Canada, education in the United States is primarily a State and community matter. The US Department of Education’s mission is to promote student achievement and ensure equal access to education to prepare them for global competitiveness. The Department, however, can only do so through scholarships, fellowships, and by demanding accountability of its schools through its budget.

The Department of Education’s main activities consist of distributing federal funds for education and monitoring that money. It gives fellowships to individuals for research into disabilities and rehabilitation and offers grants to schools for low income students to fund their education.

In order to keep parents informed and measure student progress, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires annual state wide assessments. This helps keep schools accountable.

Now let’s talk about Betsy DeVos.

Despite her vacant claim about supporting accountability, the Michigan philanthropist seems to be against it.

She is in favour of Charter schools, which are independently run public schools granted a lot of flexibility in how they operate in exchange for high academic accountability. They can apparently be started by anyone who submits an application to the state and have been widely criticized as being sloppy for-profit establishments.

DeVos has no experience in education and neither she nor her children went to public school. What she has is money and the 200 million she donated to the Orange campaign got her this cushy job.

Fortunately, unlike the Canadian model, the US Department of Education has so little power DeVos is unlikely to do much damage.

* Featured image: FreeImagesLive.co.uk via Creative Commons

M-103, the Private Members’ Motion introduced in the House of Commons by Iqra Khalid, Liberal MP for Mississauga—Erin Mills, to fight Islamophobia in Canada has sadly and predictably sparked anger and debate. While most of the venom being spewed in comments sections and at rallies comes from Islamophobes afraid they may have to stop hating Muslims in public, the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) is fighting it in a different way, at least officially.

The CPC’s Religious Freedom Critic David Anderson introduced a counter-motion which doesn’t use the word Islamophobia and instead calls on the government to “condemn all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other religious communities.”

Looks like this was the kind of “doesn’t sound that bigoted” cover some were waiting for. I’m now seeing arguments on social media that start by asking why Muslims should be singled out for protection. Of course these are made by some of the same types of people who have no problem singling them out for criticism.

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly and Iqra Khalid

Generally, a few comments later, or sometimes even in the same paragraph, their cover drops and they show exactly why we need to take Islamophobia seriously. As if the recent Mosque attack in Quebec City, Friday’s “anti-Islam” blockade in Toronto and the threats received by Khalid and Heritage Minister Melanie Joly over this motion weren’t each enough to do just that.

The CPC approach sounds very familiar to that employed by opponents of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US and here in Canada as well. Instead of speaking out against police indiscriminately murdering people in communities of colour, some opted to promote the All Lives Matter narrative instead.

Basic deflection. Saying Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that other lives don’t whereas insisting that people say All Lives Matter instead means that you want everyone to ignore the disproportionate amount of young people of colour being murdered by police. No one counters a Stop Cancer fundraiser by saying All Diseases Matter.

And that’s exactly what’s happening here. Yes, there are hate crimes against other religions, too. Here in Montreal, synagogues get vandalized on a regular basis. Antisemitism is a problem that needs to be dealt with and people are trying to fight it. That doesn’t mean Islamophobia shouldn’t be attacked as well.

When there is a real and present danger to a specific group of people within a society, that danger needs to be admitted, addressed and fought. I’m not sure if a motion in the House of Commons is anywhere near enough to fight Islamophobia, but admitting that it is a problem that needs to be dealt with is essential.

The CPC would stop us from performing even that most basic of civic duties. Meanwhile, some of their leadership candidates are openly campaigning for the Islamophobic vote. It’s two sides of the same coin, like the All Lives Matter crowd and the open racists.

Defending the right of the special snowflakes in their base (two can play at that particular name game) to be bigots is no justification to block fighting Islamophobia. Muslims are a target and no amount of defensive re-wording of language will change that, only action.

* Featured image of David Anderson in the House of Commons

On Tuesday, gunmen burst into the FM 103.5 studio in San Pedro de Marcos during a live news broadcast. They shot and killed the station’s director Leonidas Martinez in his office before doing the same to journalist Luis Manuel Medina, just as he was reading the news on air. The station’s secretary, Dayana Garcia, was also injured. Mr Medina was hosting Milenio Caliente (Hot Millenium), an investigative news show.

Part of the event was livestreamed through Facebook. The video shows Luis Medina attempting to continue his program as shots can be heard in the background. Then a female voice warns “shots, shots!” before the transmission cuts off.

Three men have been arrested in relation to the attack, but no charges have been filed yet, according to Al-Jazeera and the Independant. The motive behind the attack is still unknown.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Dominican Republican as 62nd out of 179 in their 2016 World Press Freedom Index. According to RWB “Journalists who dare to tackle corruption or drug trafficking are often the victims of physical violence or even murder.”

Two years ago, Blas Olivo, the press director of the Junta Agroempresarial Dominicana, a politically active association of agribusinesses, was murdered. The crime was linked to the Latin Kings gang, though some suspected foul-play from the authorities.